Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 16, 2007

NYPD Intel Unit Releases Study on Terror Radicalization in U.S.

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 16, 2007

The NYPD released a study created by their Intelligence Division that analyzes the nature and evolution of terrorism radicalization and recruitment.  Entitled Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat, the report presents a “conceptual framework for understanding the process of radicalization in the West,” which is based on an analysis of five U.S.-based incidents: 

Lackawana, New York
Portland, Oregon

Northern Virginia

New York City –
Herald Square Subway
New York City – The Al Muhajiroun Two (see page 66 of the report)

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly introduces this new study by explaining that “understanding this [terrorist recruitment] trend and the radicalization process in the West that drives it is vital for developing effective counterstrategies.”  This is why, Kelly continues, the “NYPD places a priority on understanding what drives and defines the radicalization process.” 

The NYPD suggests that a prime differentiator in the cases of the five incidents studied is that the perpetrators are “unremarkable.”  The authors of the report, Mitchell D. Silber and Arvin Bhatt of the NYPD Intelligence Division, apply the term about a dozen times in the report to suggest a new evolution of the terrorist threat in the U.S.: It could be anybody.

By this the report intends to explain that the traditional antecedents to an attack – perpetrators with criminal records, a presence on watchlists, observable anti-American behavior, travel to certain overseas locations – no longer necessarily present themselves even when a terrorist plan has become operational.  The report explains that the process of radicalization and recruitment can be characterized as follows: 


Each of the four stages is treated with detail.  In addition to a serious, if somewhat academic, definition of radicalization, the report provides an in-depth threat assessment from the perspective of the NYPD as informed by such well known experts as RAND’s Brian Jenkins.  In the end, the treatment given by this report may do well to highlight the interconnected nature of this threat across national boundaries and thereby give better impetus to a collaborative approach with allies and friends.  This is something the NYPD is known for doing well.  Another byproduct could be a more intentional assessment of drivers, which we called “root causes” years ago before the use of that phrase fell out of popular favor. 

This vitally important subject is covered in other posts here with links to related content from across the policy community.

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Comment by Art Botterell

August 16, 2007 @ 6:57 pm

I wonder if we risk missing a much larger insight if we accept the implication that the pattern described in this report is somehow unique or peculiar to Islamic radicalization.

From homegrown militias to the Aum Shinrikyo, from Columbine to Jonestown to our urban streets, any number of ideologies can be the vehicles by which the disaffected travel through self-isolation toward destruction.

Comment by Pat Rogers

August 17, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

According to the newly released New York City Police Department report, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat” (PDF) by Mitchell D. Silber and Arvin Bhatt Senior Intelligence Analysts NYPD Intelligence Division, prisons are “A Radicalizing Cauldron”.

“Prisons can play a critical role in both triggering and reinforcing the radicalization process. The prison’s isolated environment, ability to create a “captive audience” atmosphere, its absence of day-to-day distractions, and its large population of disaffected young men, makes it an excellent breeding ground for radicalization.”

So one wonders why America pursues a drug war policy that gives our nation a world record prison population.

SEE: U.S. drug war prisons: “A Radicalizing Cauldron”

Another recent national security essays:
U.S. national security “creating chaos and instability”

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