NEW PUBLICATION: Islamic Radicalization in the U.S. by Samuel Bendett & Samuel Musa (CTNSP)
Defense Technology Paper, Center for Technology & National Security Policy
"Islamic Radicalization in the United States: New Trends and a Proposed Methodology for Disruption"
By Samuel Musa and Samuel Bendett
Over the past several years, the United States government and law enforcement agencies have become increasingly concerned with the spread and influence of Islamic radicalization amongst U.S. citizens and naturalized American individuals. Many such individuals are taking action intended to harm Americans and American interests domestically or abroad. Evidence points to a sophisticated and evolving indoctrination campaign that targets not just Americans of Muslim faith, but the larger population. It is becoming essential to view the spread of this radicalization as a technologically advanced phenomenon that should be addressed within the context of the evolving nature of the threat.
To help policymakers understand and discuss the approaches to countering Islamic radicalization in the United States, the Center for Technology and National Security Policy (CTNSP) Homeland Security team is conducting a study on practical and realistic
assessments of this threat and proposals to mitigate it. This paper addresses the growing and evolving threat of domestic terrorism that is advocated and perpetrated by radical Islamic ideologues. Specifically, we will review terrorist attempts on American soil and against the American population in order to offer recommendations. For the purpose of this study, only Islam-inspired terrorist activity will be reviewed; other activity related to fundamentalist Christian or activist anti-U.S. government actions will not be discussed.
This paper does not attempt a discourse on the Islamic religion in general. Rather, specific ideological underpinnings that have inspired a few people to acts of terrorism for the sake of Islam will be scrutinized and reviewed. This study is necessary for several reasons. The first and most fundamental is the fact that the nature of terrorism in the United States is changing; over the past several years, major terrorist attempts were conducted by American-born or naturalized citizens.
Second, there is no longer a definite profile for an individual ready to commit terrorist acts in the name of radical Islam: "The profile is broken, [and] it's women as well as men, it's lifelong Muslims as well as converts, it's college students as well as jailbirds," according to a terrorist expert at the Georgetown University.
Third, the proliferation of personal technology is making it easy—and increasingly likely—for aspiring terrorists to gather intelligence, conduct surveillance, and design and carry out a terrorist act. The most notable factor linking the latest terrorist attempts is the Internet, which also offers a plethora of information on the religious ideology and indoctrination of the latest terrorist actors and suspects. Countering this latest technological trend is a formidable task for the intelligence and law enforcement community that requires development of different approaches to tracking and monitoring potential threats.
Fourth, dealing with Islamic radicalization requires improved understanding of and familiarity with the larger Muslim community in the United States, which is diverse along ethnic, social, confessional, and geopolitical lines and does not represent a single
Islamic point of view.
Lastly, a review of radicalization timelines is necessary to better understand—and continuously update—the process of personal radicalization in the name of religion in order to develop better observation and prevention techniques. “It is difficult to say
whether the uptick in [terrorist] cases is because law enforcement has gotten better at catching suspects or if there are simply more to catch,” according to the homeland security publication on the increase in the number of Americans arrested for al-Qaeda related terrorism.
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