Tags: MidPoint | Mark Potok | SPLC | terrorism | lone wolves

Hate Crimes Expert: Lone Wolves, 'Leaderless Terrorism' on the Rise

By    |   Wednesday, 18 February 2015 03:47 PM

The great majority of recent terror attacks or plots inside the United States are the work of individuals — lone wolves who may be radicalized online but ultimately act on their own to plan and carry out acts of ideological violence, says the author of a new study on domestic terrorism.

While the motives were mixed in the 63 domestic attacks and foiled plots identified in the study, almost three-quarters of the perpetrators "were acting entirely on their own," Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV Wednesday.

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"That really has been a long running trend within the country and you're beginning to see it among a lot of jihadists as well … people who are essentially radicalized over the Internet or in other ways but act on their own," said Potok.

"Age of the Wolf: A Study of the Rise of Lone Wolf and Leaderless Terrorism," covers the period between April 1, 2009 and Feb. 1, 2015.

Its six-year "Timeline of Terror" includes self-styled jihadists such as the Fort Hood gunman, Nidal Hasan, as well as assorted anti-government cop killers, homicidal racists, anti-religious arsonists and, in the case of Elliot Rodger, a woman-hating spree killer.

The Boston Marathon bombers, brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, are represented as one of the rarer instances of a domestic terror attack carried out by more than one person, but still fitting the profile of self-motivated attackers with no formal links to organized terror groups.

The study leaves out the mass killings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., attributing those massacres to mentally disturbed attackers — Adam Lanza and James Eagan Holmes, respectively — lacking any coherent political or ideological rationale.

Potok cautioned that "motives inevitably and virtually in all criminal matters are somewhat mixed and hard to disentangle," but he added that in the 63 incidents he studied, the complexity of motives "does not give us license to say that ideology plays no part in these kinds of things."

Conversely, he said, mental illness can also figure into ideologically motivated attacks. Potok cited one of his case studies: Andrew Joseph Stack, who flew a single-engine plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, in February 2010, killing himself and an IRS employee.

"He was somebody who was quite insane," said Potok, "but at the same time, he was somebody who had been influenced by various tax protest groups."

Incidents continue to occur beyond the study's cut-off date, but the motives are still being sorted out. Potok mentioned the murders last Wednesday of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, N.C., which may turn out to have been a dispute over parking, as police initially said.

"But there is also evidence that the man may have had real animus towards the women in particular wearing hijabs," said Potok.

Also last week, he said, police in Houston arrested a homeless man and charged him with burning down a building at a local Islamic center and school.

"Again, there was a lot of speculation," said Potok. "Was this an attack on Muslims because they're Muslims, or was it essentially a kind of crazy homeless guy who wound up setting fire to this building for whatever reason?

"Well, this morning he was in court and there is evidence that the authorities there have found that after the arson, he went to a convenience store clerk across the street and started to talk about how much he hated Muslims and how these people who had their building burned down deserved it," he said.

"All I'm saying is that there is ideology involved in many of these acts," said Potok, "although I am not trying to claim that they are all 100 percent political."

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The great majority of recent terror attacks or plots inside the United States are the work lone wolves, says the author of a new study on domestic terrorism.
Mark Potok, SPLC, terrorism, lone wolves
Wednesday, 18 February 2015 03:47 PM
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