The cloudy crystal ball: detecting and disrupting homegrown violent extremism
Pendley, James Adam
Dahl, Erik J.
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Homegrown violent extremism (HVE) is unpredictable, but not completely absent of warning signs. This thesis evaluates how potential homegrown extremists can be identified before an attack occurs, and the use of preventive detention is considered for preempting violent acts. An evaluation of recent HVE incidents-including the Boston Marathon bombing, Charleston church shooting, San Bernardino shooting, Orlando Nightclub massacre, and Fort Lauderdale airport attack-reveals threat investigation gaps. Without a crystal ball, it is unlikely investigators could have predicted violence in these cases, but opportunities for improvement were found in hindsight. This thesis argues multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) and threat assessment tools can contribute to better outcomes in the future. Research in this thesis indicates MDTs using risk assessment instruments can add value to programs that attempt to identify individuals who are more likely to commit extremism-inspired violence, but these techniques lack the precision necessary to justify preventive detention. This thesis introduces and recommends the use of a trusted contact model to visualize how stakeholders in an MDT framework interact. This thesis also recommends a threat assessment matrix to prioritize intervention efforts. The threat assessment matrix aligns a person’s radical belief system with evidence of violent behavior to manage potential risks.
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