US military action is driving terrorism, according to FBI

25th Nov 2016
US military action is driving terrorism, according to FBI

According to a FBI report US military action is the main factor driving home-grown terrorism in America (Photo: Creative Commons)

Ala Abbas

US military action was found to be the main factor driving home-grown terrorism in America according to a FBI report acquired by the news site The Intercept last month. Additional cases cited a “perceived war against Islam,” and “perceived discrimination,” as factors that contributed to radicalisation.

The 2012 report, titled “Homegrown Violent Extremists: Survey Confirms Key Assessments, Reveals New Insights about Radicalization” published the findings of a unit in the FBI’s counterterrorism division. The unit surveyed intelligence analysts and FBI special agents who were responsible for nearly 200 cases involving “homegrown violent extremists.”

It found that grievances over US military action ranked far above any other factor, turning up in 18 percent of all cases. The report notes that between 2009 and 2012, 10 out of 16 attempted or successful terrorist attacks in the United States targeted military facilities or personnel.

One of the conclusions in the report was that such individuals “frequently believe the US military is committing atrocities in Muslim countries, thereby justifying their violent aspirations.”

The report also found online relationships and exposure to English-language militant propaganda and “ideologues” were additional “key factors” driving extremism. The report notes, “The FBI historically has been concerned about the potential for prison radicalization,” but in fact, “survey results indicate incarceration was rarely influential.”

The study echoes previous findings, including a 2011 FBI intelligence assessment, recently released to MuckRock, another news site, which concluded that “a broadening US military presence overseas” was a motivating factor for a rise in plotted attacks, specifically the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Insofar as there is an identifiable motivation in most of these cases it has to do with outrage over what is happening overseas,” says John Mueller, a senior research scientist with the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, at Ohio State University.

“People read news reports about atrocities and become angry,” Mueller said, adding that such reports are often perceived as an attack on one’s own in-group, religion, or cultural heritage.

“It doesn’t have to be information from a jihadist website that angers someone, it could be a New York Times report about a drone strike that kills a bunch of civilians in Afghanistan.”

Perpetrators of more recent attacks have used American foreign policy to justify their actions. The journals of Ahmad Rahami, accused of the bombings in Manhattan and New Jersey last September, cited wars in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

“They share common behavioral and psychological characteristics,” said John Cohen, a criminal justice professor at Rutgers University and the former counterterrorism coordinator at the US Department of Homeland Security. “They’re the same people.”

“The attackers themselves act and feel like victims,” said Adam Lankford, a criminologist at the University of Alabama. “Various words are used. Persecution. Discrimination. Bullying. Humiliation. Mistreatment. The sense that someone else is picking on me and is out to get me.”

“Omar Mateen has more in common with Dylann Roof than he does with Osama bin Laden,” Lankford said, referring to the white supremacist who allegedly shot and killed nine black churchgoers last year in Charleston, South Carolina.

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