Study: Islamic State Recruitment In U.S. Is Varied, ‘Unprecedented’

Islamic State Recruitment In U.S.
Islamic State recruits in the United States vary widely, defying any single profile in "unprecedented" numbers, a report from George Washington University’s Program on Extremism found. Image from GW Program on Extremism

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (UPI) — From a 15-year old Philadelphia-area boy to a 47-year old former Air Force officer, Islamic State recruits in the United States vary as widely as the country’s diverse landscape, defying any single profile and creating an unprecedented IS mobilization in the United States, a new study found.

So far this year, authorities have arrested 56 people in the United States trying to support or plot with the known militant group also identified as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh. Since March 2014, 71 people have been arrested on terrorism-related activities, forging a complex patchwork of potential jihadist soldiers throughout the country, researchers at George Washington University found.

The study, “ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa,” found, as of fall 2015, some 250 Americans have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria or Iraq to join the IS. Also, there are 900 active investigations into IS sympathizers in the same time period across every state.

Lorenzo Vidino, director of the university’s Program on Extremism, said there is “no method to the madness” regarding the diversity of IS recruits in the United States. That said, political and civic leaders must “be bold, experimental and receptive to novel policies and initiatives.”

“It is obviously something unprecedented and of concern to law enforcement,” Vidino said. “It’s always been diverse but never to this extent.”

The study, conducted over six months, found the United States, when compared to countries including France, Britain, Belgium and Denmark, has seen fewer radicalizations due to an integrated American Muslim community and limited “radicalizing agents.” The movement in the United States is being propelled by social media, mostly starting on Twitter but now moving to other platforms including Telegram.

Of the 71 charged with IS-related activities since March 2014:

— The average age is 26. ‚ — 86 percent are male.

-‚- They are located in 21 states.

— 51 percent traveled or attempted to travel abroad.

— ‚27 percent were involved in plots to carry out attacks on U.S. soil.

— ‚ 55 percent were arrested in an operation involving an informant and/or an undercover agent.

Among those who have become entangled with the extremist group was 33-year-old Douglas McCain from San Diego Calif., an aspiring rapper killed in Syria fighting for the IS in 2014, shocking his family and friends. Tairod Pugh, a 47-year-old former Air Force officer, pleaded not guilty in March for trying to join and assist the IS. An unnamed 15-year-old boy was arrested outside Philadelphia for threatening an IS-inspired attack on Pope Francis during his U.S. visit in August.

Researchers said the diversity of those arrested underscores the growing need for strong, uniform national policy to contend with the changing outlook. That includes more funding for programs to counter violent extremism and alternatives to arrest that will “help sway individuals from the path of radicalization.”

Vindino said former IS soldiers who have given up on the extremist group may play a crucial role in stopping the tide of new U.S. recruits. Researchers recommend “limited immunity for some returning foreign fighters, as their messages are more likely to resonate than those delivered by most other counter-messaging programs.”

While such a program would have to be approached carefully, it could help spoil the idealized image the IS holds with potential recruits. Vindino said it is already being considered by security agencies including the Justice Department independent of the study.

“There is something to granting immunity and using them from a public relations point of view to publicize what it really is,” he said.

Islamic State recruits in the United States vary widely, defying any single profile in “unprecedented” numbers, a report from George Washington University’s Program on Extremism found. Image from GW Program on Extremism


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