Defanging Those “Lone Wolves”

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Lone wolf....

...or stray dog?

In this week of massive 9/11 coverage, it’s important to keep terror threats in perspective. The recent hot threat seems to be “lone wolves” who become jihadists over the Internet while living somewhere in America. To be sure, there are such animals; Exhibit A is Army Major Nidal Hassan, who killed 13 at Fort Hood in 2009. Nonetheless, Brian Jenkins of the Rand Corp., one of the nation’s leading terror experts, has just issued a report warning against exaggerating the peril they pose:

Radicalization and recruitment to terrorism, in person or on the Internet, does not appear to be a community phenomenon; rather, it is an individual decision. In fact, a majority of the 82 cases described in this paper involve the actions of a single individual attempting to join a jihadist front abroad or plotting to carry out a terrorist attack in the United States. Analysts have tended to call such individuals “lone wolves,” in my view, a romanticizing term that suggests a cunning and deadly predator. A few of those recorded here display this kind of lethal determination, but others, while still dangerous, skulk about, sniffing at violence, vocally aggressive but skittish without backup. “Stray dogs,” not lone wolves, more accurately describes their behavior.

Read his full study here.