Is there a Typical Homegrown Terrorist?

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Is there a Typical Homegrown Terrorist?

Is there a Typical Homegrown Terrorist?

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Terrorism is like a cancer of the soul of humanity. It is metastasizing everywhere. This year we have seen what terrorism has done in Syria creating the world’s greatest refugee crisis and now we have seen terrorism in San Bernardino and most recently in Orlando, Florida. What prompts an American citizen to succumb to ISIS ideology and to act out by killing innocent people. Perhaps it is not what we think.

Homegrown terrorism or domestic terrorism is commonly associated with violent acts committed by citizens or permanent residents of a state against their own people or property within that state without foreign influence in an effort to instill fear on a population or government as a tactic designed to advance political, religious, or ideological objectives. The definition of homegrown terrorism includes what is normally considered domestic terrorism. Since the September 11 attacks in the United States, and U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the term has often been applied to violence that is perpetrated against people or property by their own citizens or permanent residents of a state under jurisdiction of that state in order to promote political, religious, or ideological objectives. Domestic terrorists have identical, or nearly so, means of militarily and ideologically carrying on their fight without necessarily having a centralized command structure regardless of whether the source of inspiration is domestic, foreign, or transnational.

The Congressional Research Service report, American Jihadist Terrorism: Combatting a Complex Threat, describes homegrown terrorism as a “terrorist activity or plots perpetuated within the United States or abroad by American citizens, permanent legal residents, or visitors radicalized largely within the United States.”

Under the 2001 USA Patriot Act, domestic terrorism is defined as “activities that (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the U.S. or of any state; (B) appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.”

We know that the Internet and social media have been used to radicalize and recruit Americans but is there a typical pattern found as to why an American-born person would become a jihadi? Peter Bergen, the national security analyst for CNN and author of “United States of Jihad” has spent two and a half years researching this. What he has found is that the more you look at each individual case, the more individual the case becomes. His research has shown that it is not about someone necessarily following a bin Ladenist ideology but more about one’s personal life and what may be lacking in it. Sometimes personal disappointments or inner conflicts drive someone’s behavior. Perhaps it is a need for recognition to fill a very empty life, or a need to belong somewhere or to something like a cause. And although horrific crimes are committed, mental illness is found to be lower than what is found in the general public. It takes quite a bit of planning to pull off a terrorist attack.

If anything, what you are really looking at is someone coming from the middle-class. They are not necessarily young hotheaded people that we might imagine them to be. On the contrary many are married, with kids, and in their late 20s. We have seen this with one of the attackers in the San Bernardino shooting who was 28, married, with a child. The male perpetrator had a job earning $70,000 a year. They were very much solidly part of the American middle class. So why did they turn to violence and kill 14 people just arbitrarily? It truly is a mystery which may never be explained. Perhaps we need to understand the nature of evil itself and even that would be difficult to understand no less predict when it would rear its ugly head.


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Dr. Eileen Borris Offers Journalists Workshops For Conflict Sensitive Journalism

Conflict Sensitive Journalism and Multi-Track Diplomacy Training Program

Ali Rezaian sits next to a photo showing his brother, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, and their mother, during a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing for families with relatives jailed in Iran. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

Ali Rezaian sits next to a photo showing his brother, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, and their mother, during a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing for families with relatives jailed in Iran. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

Good journalism is difficult work during the best of times. However, when working in areas threatened by violent conflict journalists face greater difficulties including personal risk. This is evident around the world, most recently in Turkey where there are more journalists in prison than any other place in this world.

With conflict and violence being reported around the world, how it is reported will influence the situation at hand. What is reported can either become part of the problem or part of the solution. This is a training program designed to strengthen the skills of professional journalists working in conflict sensitive areas to enable them to analyze conflicts objectively without inflaming the conflict and to be aware of how their reporting influences the conflict. The training includes exploration of conflict resolution possibilities as an integral part of objective reporting. It covers techniques for improved reporting on conflict, pitfalls to avoid, and specific challenges facing journalists reporting on violent conflict such as reflecting gender sensitivity, dealing with hate speech and recognizing trauma.

A record number of journalists are behind bars in China, and the number of journalists jailed in Turkey and Egypt also rose dramatically in 2015, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has found. Overall, the number of journalists imprisoned around the world declined modestly from record levels recorded in the past three years. The CPJ identified 199 journalists in prison because of their work in 2015, compared with 221 the previous year. Iran, Vietnam, and Ethiopia were among those countries holding fewer journalists prisoner, but in all three countries a climate of fear for the media persists, with many of those released continuing to face legal charges or harsh restrictions, including forced exile­.

Perhaps nowhere has the climate for the press deteriorated more rapidly than in Egypt, now the second worst jailer of journalists worldwide. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi continues to use the pretext of national security to clamp down on dissent. Cairo is holding 23 journalists in jail, compared with 12 a year ago. As recently as 2012, no journalists were in jail for their work in Egypt. Those behind bars include Ismail Alexandrani, a freelancer who focuses on the troubled Sinai Peninsula and who was recently arrested on arrival in Egypt from Germany. (Read detailed accounts of each prisoner here.)

Conditions for the media have also taken a turn for the worse in Turkey, which doubled the number of journalists in jail over the year to 14. The country released dozens of journalists in 2014 after being the world’s worst jailer for two consecutive years, but in 2015—amid two general elections, further entanglement in the Syrian civil war, and the end of a fragile ceasefire with fighters of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—fresh arrests make it the fifth worst jailer globally. Most recently, Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, senior staff members of independent daily Cumhuriyet, were arrested on charges of espionage and aiding an alleged terrorist group after publishing reports that alleged Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) had transferred weapons to Syria under cover of humanitarian aid.

This is a three-day training program for journalists new to the field, mid-level journalists, and editors and producers working or reporting about conflict sensitive areas. Because this training program alternates between theory and practice there is a lot of interaction involving small group work. Therefore, twelve to eighteen participants will be accepted for the training program. A certificate will be given at the completion of the training.

The Presenter – Dr. Eileen Borris

Dr. Eileen Borris is a political psychologist and international expert on conflict resolution.
As a political psychologist, Dr. Borris was invited by the President of the General Assembly to offer her insights to the General Assembly. Her experiences helping to rebuild war torn countries such as Liberia, Nigeria, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Israel, and the Occupied Territories, qualified her speaking on the issues inherent in resolving conflict. She has worked in Indonesia for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), developing conflict resolution and reconciliation programs, and throughout Liberia with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), implementing trauma healing programs.

Dr. Borris began her career as the Director of Training for the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy in Washington, DC. She is adjunct faculty at Thunderbird: School of Global Management, a unit of Arizona State University Knowledge Enterprise Office where she has taught global negotiation, cross cultural communication, conflict management and social change and international corporate diplomacy. She is involved with the Thunderbird for Good program where she trained a number of Afghan broadcasters working in conflict sensitive areas in conflict sensitive journalism and the role of media in multi-track diplomacy. Currently through the Thunderbird for Good Program Dr. Borris is working on a USAID funded project in Afghanistan jointly with the U.S. and Afghan governments that will work to empower 75,000 women focusing on promoting more effective advocacy for women’s equality and empowerment and implementation of public gender policies.