New Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently announced that he believes with another 20 kills, Al Qaeda will effectively be destroyed … or something to that effect.

Is he out of his mind?

Granted, Panetta knows more than I do about intelligence gathering. I am briefed every morning on the porch by our cat and the neighbor’s dog. Panetta is briefed at the Pentagon.

Still, I wonder if there is a disconnect between the reality of fighting terrorists and what the government tells us about fighting terrorists.

That’s why Erick Stakelbeck’s book, “The Terrorist Next Door: How the Government is Deceiving You About the Islamist Threat,” is so timely and informative. Outlining the jihadist threat within our own borders, Stakelbeck presents a chilling picture of just what we’re up against on our tree-lined residential streets in America.

Stakelbeck, an investigative reporter, has put his journalistic boots on the ground, and experienced the atmosphere in mosques. He’s interviewed terrorists. He has uncovered plans to build mosques not only in our famous urban centers, but also … in rural America!

As a rural American, I need to pay attention to that. In fact, I urge all Americans to Read “The Terrorist Next Door.” Yes, it’s scary, but it’s also fascinating in the extreme.

The book begins with Stakelbeck recounting a conversation with one of his sources, a man who had traveled on a flight from Yemen on October 29, 2010. The source told the author that he wasn’t surprised a bomb had been found on the plane.

“You wouldn’t believe the scene at the airport in Yemen,” he said. “Total chaos.”

On that flight from Yemen to Dubai, the source also noted that plenty of women were wearing burqas, yet not one was checked. This is alarming, since terrorists have been known to disguise themselves as women.

Of course, this scene took place in the Middle East and you might feel relieved. Don’t be relieved. Stakelbeck quickly outlines just why terrorism is truly a global fight, as he takes us behind the scenes in the good ol’ USA.

As an astute journalist, Stakelbeck realizes that often the real story lies behind the story everyone is focused on. While the country watched the controversy over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” last year, the author was in the heart of the Bible Belt, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

It seems the Rutherford County Commission had taken only two-and-a-half weeks to approve a request for a sprawling, 15-acre Islamic center. Included in the complex will be a mega-mosque, Islamic school and living quarters for an imam.

This at a time when church officials have to wait more than a year in some cases for approval to build their structures.

In Chapter 5 (“Freaks, Geeks, and Jihadis”), Stakelbeck recounts the spooky story of a man who detonated a bomb on the University of Oklahoma campus in the fall of 2005. University officials quickly concluded that he was a “loner” who posed no real threat to anyone else, but since the “suicide” is now gone, we can’t know that for sure.

In fact, Stakelbeck went to the sources and did some investigation on the OU campus. This included a trip to a local university mosque, where he was met with a cool denial that the bomber had anything to do with the mosque – even though independent witnesses told the author the bomber had been seen inside the mosque, and that whereas he had been clean-shaven at one time, he now sported an Islamic-style beard.

Stakelbeck, a reporter for CBN, received the standard Islamic line that Christian bias against Islam was at play here. The author’s account of this incident in “The Terrorist Next Door,” however, is compelling.

There is also a scary section entitled “The Problem Children” in the same chapter. This story involves two natives of North Jersey suburbs who had been picked up and detained (they are now awaiting trial on terrorism charges) after they tried to board a plane for Somalia.

The two young men, one of them raised Catholic, the other with a Palestinian father and a Jordanian mother, wanted to out-do each other in terrorist infamy. The story points to the very serious problem of homegrown terrorists for Allah.

Stakelbeck also makes a bold statement that “The Terrorist Next Door” backs up with research: “The reason why the military, the Justice Department, the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security and every other branch of government are willfully blind to jihadist ideology is because that attitude is enforced from the very top.”

Indeed, during Barack Obama’s visit to Mumbai, India, in 2010, the president answered a student’s question about the nature of jihad. Obama, naturally, praised Islam and downplayed the infidel-killing agenda of jihadists. Is it any wonder terrorists are emboldened on American soil?

“The Terrorist Next Door” is brilliantly written and researched. Since our own government wants us to stick our heads in the sand, it is incumbent on all of us to read this book and face reality.

Discover how real and relevant Bible prophecy is to you with Jim Fletcher’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine): How to stop worrying and learn to love these end times”

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