FORT HOOD REPORT DIGESTED (Pt. 2) (Violent Radicalization)

FORT HOOD REPORT DIGESTED (Pt. 2) (Violent Radicalization)

[10/23/14-  In the wake of the Jihad attack in Canada yesterday, this piece sadly becomes “timely” once again… ]

[4/16/13-  Once again, due to the Boston Marathon attack, I find myself moved to update this post with a few brief words.  Early reports say that an injured male of a certain nationality is a “person of interest” in the attack.  Regardless of the ultimate motivation behind this attack, this article applies equally to religious, political and social radicalization.]

[8/6/12- Sadly, with the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek Wisconsin, the process of violent radicalization outlined in this post is relevant once again.  Early reports state that the shooter may have been a white supremacist.  This article applies equally to religious, political and social radicalization.]

This article originally published 7/24/12.

This is the 2nd in a series of articles digesting the Fort Hood report.  To start with the 1st one go here.


Violent radicalization is a persistent threat.  Radicalization can be based on religious, political, social or other causes.  Radicalism is NOT illegal.  Radicalization alone, without incitement to violence may not be a threat.  However, the Constitution does NOT protect those who, in pursuit of radical ends, would cause harm NOR does it protect those who would incite or support those who would cause harm.

Nidal Malik Hasan’s transformation into a killer illustrates the difficulty facing the FBI.  Other then 18 communications with Anwar al-Aulaqi, Hassan had no known contact or relationship with criminal elements or potential terrorists.

The Process of Violent Radicalization

The FBI Model describes the process of violent radicalization as four incremental stages of development:

Preradicalization → Identification → Indoctrination → Action

Preradicalization is measured by the subject’s motivation, stimuli and opportunity to radicalize.

Identification is marked by acceptance of and devotion to the cause.

Indoctrination involves a conviction that the cause requires violent action.  In religious contexts, extremist clerics can play a major role in indoctrination due to their ability to provide spiritual justification for violence.

Action is the manifestation of a commitment to engage in violence.

Radicalization to the action stage is not inevitable.  Many persons only reach the first or second stage.

The early phases of radicalization may take place in ways that implicate the liberties and privacy interests of U.S. citizens thereby requiring investigative restraint.  A person’s opportunity to radicalize does NOT alone justify investigation.  Even belief that a cause requires action may not justify investigation if that person shows no inclination to take violent action.

The difficulty of detecting VIOLENT radicalization and justifying FBI intervention are exacerbated because the four stages of radicalization can proceed with unpredictable speed.

The “Lone Actor” and Internet Radicalization 

Lone actors can pass through the four stages of radicalization with no personal contact with a leader or another violent radical.  The internet plays an increasingly important role in the development of the lone actor. The internet can supplant the typical real-world meeting places typically used to radicalize thereby thwarting the traditional investigative techniques used by the FBI to identify violent radicals.

The crucial lesson of Fort Hood is that the information age demands changes in the way the FBI assimilates and acts on intelligence.

Next: The FBI’s investigation of Anwar al-Aulaqi

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