CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A former Charlotte man turned al Qaeda operative is now in the top five or six people in the terrorist organization in the Arabian Peninsula today.
"Samir Khan is working directly under Anwar al-Awlaki," said North Carolina Rep Sue Myrick, member of the House committee which oversees the country's entire intelligence community. "He's not actually doing terror acts, but as far as running al-Qaeda and helping recruit, he's one of the main guys."
WBTV has been following Samir Khan for years. He started a terrorist blog at his parent's house in north Charlotte. Myrick says the current concern is that Khan is not the only American recruiting for al Qaeda online. Others are following in his footsteps, trying to rope your kids into their way of anti-American thinking.
"I mean anybody can access these websites," said Myrick. "They're open to anybody. In particular the Muslim community's parents across the country are the ones who have come forward and said, 'Hey, you know my son is involved in this… please help me.' But you know it can be anybody. Literally. Because this looks exciting. The way these sites recruit is unbelievable. And they don't talk about the death part of it."
Izzat Saymeh is the Outreach Coordinator at the Islamic Center of Charlotte. We met up with him at a large prayer service in Center City celebrating the Islamic holiday Edi Al Adha. He agree to be interviewed about these websites. He told us first and foremost, most Muslims aren't terrorists. He went on to say he's not concerned about these sites recruiting his kids.
"The internet has some good things to offer and it has some terrible things to offer children," Saymeh said. "I think it's more about watching what your children do."
We came across several sites ourselves. Through a Skype interview we asked author of Global Jihadism and terrorism expert Jarret Brachman about the sites we found. (Watch the story online to see specific website domains.) He said none are directly connected to al Qaeda. He then added just because a website looks innocent, doesn't mean it is.
"A lot of times these guys are smart enough to go to the places that aren't the worst sites because they don't think we'll be watching them," he said. "So that's definitely a problem. They're very adaptive. A lot of what is going online is not illegal, so you can monitor it… but you can't prosecute it because it's protected speech."