Another Senseless Act by a Deranged Terrorist

by PATRICK DUNLEAVY September 29, 2014

The signs were all there, glaring, waiting to be seen.  The predisposition to violence, time spent in prison, emotionally unstable, website postings.   Alton Nolen was not an aberration.  He was if anything a ticking time bomb with a short fuse.  His firing from Vaughn Foods was simply the catalyst that tripped the trigger in his mind to move from jihadi thoughts to violent action. 

One small switch, one perceived slight and he was gone.  Doing what he had heard and seen of others, specifically ISIS members beheading innocent victims in the Middle East.  The call to him was clear, at least in his twisted mind.  Several radical Islamist groups had recently urged American "lone wolfs" to act in the name of Allah and attack innocents where ever they could.

Could this action have been stopped before it started? Should authorities have known beforehand what an individual like this could do?  Is there a profile or tell-tale signs that authorities should have picked up on?   The answer is yes.

Over ten years ago a US Intelligence agency report on the profile of potential terrorist (violent extremists) was issued that stated in part;

"Based on a variety of reporting - including a preliminary analysis of a small sample of US converts to Islam who become associated with extremist violence...we assess... Some individuals, particularly those who convert in prison, may be attracted directly to jihadi violence at the outset of their conversion for opportunistic rather than ideological reasons.  For this group, jihad represents a convenient outlet for aggressive behavior." 

The report goes on to say:  

 "In an apparent play on this psychological vulnerability...extremist groups are actively recruiting prisoners..."

The fact that Alton Nolen spent time in Oklahoma Department of Corrections does not in and off itself make him a terrorist.  However the additional signs, the exposure to radical Islamic teachings, the conversion, the Facebook postings, the rants against America and the West, he incessant attempted at proselytizing co-workers all should have been picked up by authorities before the attack on his co-workers.

If we think that groups like ISIS do not seek individuals just like Alton Nolen to do the dirty work of Jihad, we are gravely mistaken. They are not seeking "a few good men"

One crazy is sufficient for them.  Another Jose Padillia, or Richard Reid will do just fine.

Authorities need to recognize the traits beforehand.  Predictive policing, that is the use of metadata collection and analysis as well as other techniques to identify not only where a crime is most likely to occur but also who is most likely to commit such an act,  can be applied in the area of Counter Terrorism.  Major Metropolitan police agencies such as LAPD and NYPD are currently utilizing this format to lower the number of overall crimes committed in the U.S.  It sounds futuristic, but it is relevant in today's battle against home grown terrorism.  Radical Islamic terrorists groups have had the ability to adapt to counter terrorism strategies since 9-11. They are constantly changing their methodology of getting their message out.  Nowadays they utilize various forms of communication, such as social media to attract and convert, but their core audience is the same as outlined in the 2004 reports.

That is why law enforcement agencies like the FBI and intelligence agencies like the CIA and the NSA need to constantly monitor chat rooms and websites in addition to mining intelligence data from prisons and other areas of concern, including mosques  to stay ahead of the "lone wolf" crazies listening to the voices of ISIS.  

The threat is real and so are the signs.

Patrick Dunleavy is the former Deputy Inspector General for New York State Department of Corrections. He is the author of "The Fertile Soil of Jihad: Terrorism's Prison Connection," details of which can be found at his website, and he can be contacted at:   Mr. Dunleavy is currently a Senior Fellow with the Investigative Project on Terrorism. He  teaches a class on terrorism for the United States Military Special Operations School, "Dynamics of International Terrorism"  and has testified as an expert witness before the House Committee on Homeland Security regarding the threat of Islamic Radicalization in the U.S. Prison System.

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