Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lone Wolf Terrorism in America

The National Institutes of Justice has released a new publication Lone Wolf Terrorism in America: Using Knowledge of Radicalization Pathways to Forge Prevention Strategies.   This work, by Indiana State University researchers Mark S. Hamm and Ramon Spaaij, studied 98 different Lone Wolf individuals in the United States between 1940 and 2013.

The profile they came up with indicated that the traditional Lone Wolf in the United States is an unemployed, single white male with a criminal record.  Compared to members of traditional terror groups they are older, less educated, and more prone to mental illness.

The researchers identified phases that tend to be worked through:
 - personal and political grievances
 - affinity with online sympathizers
 - identification of an "enabler"
 - broadcasting of terrorist intent
 - a triggering event that acts as the catalyst for the terrorist act.

Of the 98 cases investigated, 60 of them were post 9/11, however 15 of those were actually law enforcement stings, leaving 45 authentic Lone Wolf attacks after 9/11.   Pre-9/11 attacks were interesting in that 40% of the attackers were serial attackers, most famously the UnaBomber, Ted Kaczynski; racist killer Joseph Paul Franklin; and the Alphabet Bomber, Muharem Kurbegovic who had 49 different attacks between the three of them.

ALL of the post 9/11 Lone Wolves committed only a single act of terror, however several of these were quite significant in the loss of life, due primarily to the increased availability of high-capacity firearms, such as those used by Nidal Hasan (2009 Fort Hood  - killed 13, injured 30), Jared Laughner (2011 Tucson - killed 6, injured 13), or Wade Page (2012 Wisconsin - killed 6, injured 4). In the decade before 9/11, high explosives killed or wounded 234 victims, but since 9/11, no successful Lone Wolf attack has used explosives in the United States. Part of the reason for this is a much heightened ability both in technology and focus, to detect and deter such attacks.

Post-9/11 the significant change has been the targeting of law enforcement and military personal.  Prior to 9/11, no Lone Wolf targeted the military.

Another significant change is the use of the Internet for radicalization.  Pre-9/11 Lone Wolves only had the Internet as part of their radicalization process in 3% of cases, compared to 20% in post-9/11.  The authors imply that the Internet will increasingly be a focal point of radicalization in the ISIS era.