• Extremism

    Europol, the European police agency, issued a “Strategic Report” earlier Tuesday, saying that right-wing violence is on the rise in many EU states. The confidential report, cited by German media, says that the extremist groups seek to boost their “combat skills” by recruiting military and police members. The report noted that extremist groups are getting “increasingly popular among younger and better educated demographics.”

  • Perspective

    White supremacist terrorism around the globe is being manipulated by Russia for political ends, senior U.S. national security officials have warned. Such white supremacist groups are “emulating” jihadists like Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant by forging a “transnational” community of followers, using social media and encrypted communications platforms, the experts said. Joshua Geltzer, former U.S. senior director of counter terrorism, said: “The Russian government adds violent energy to the emerging transnational network of white supremacists, spreading its cause in part through disinformation aggressively disseminated online.” Ali Soufan, a former FBI supervisory special agent, told lawmakers that the “emerging epicenter” of white supremacist extremism is Russia and Ukraine. “There are extensive ties between the Russian government and far-right groups in Europe.”

  • Perspective

    On 18 August 2008—after almost seven years, nearly 10,000 interviews, and millions of dollars spent developing a whole new form of microbial forensics—some of the FBI announced that it had concluded that Army biodefense researcher Bruce Ivins was the person responsible for the fall 2001 anthrax letter attacks. “It’s been 10 years since the deadliest biological terror attack in U.S. history launched a manhunt that ruined one scientist’s reputation and saw a second driven to suicide, yet nagging problems remain,” Noah Shachtman writes. “Problems that add up to an unsettling reality: Despite the FBI’s assurances, it’s not at all certain that the government could have ever convicted Ivins of a crime.”

  • Perspective

    Big online platforms tend to brag about their ability to filter out violent and extremist content at scale, but those same platforms refuse to provide even basic information about the substance of those removals. How do these platforms define terrorist content? What safeguards do they put in place to ensure that they don’t over-censor innocent people in the process? Again and again, social media companies are unable or unwilling to answer the questions. Facebook Head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert claimed that more than 99 percent of terrorist content posted on Facebook is deleted by the platform’s automated tools, but the company has consistently failed to say how it determines what constitutes a terrorist⁠—or what types of speech constitute terrorist speech.

  • Perspective: Domestic terrorism

    Domestic terrorism and mass attacks are as great a threat to the United States today as foreign terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security said in a new strategy report unveiled Friday. The strategy recognizes that foreign terrorist groups continue to plot against the United States but notes there has been a disturbing rise in attacks motivated by domestic terrorist ideologies — and that white supremacy is one of the most potent drivers. “In our modern age, the continuation of racially based violent extremism, particularly violent white supremacy, is an abhorrent affront to the nation,” acting homeland security secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a speech Friday in Washington, saying the trend “has no place in the United States of America, and it never will.”

  • Perspective: Exaggerations

    A recent article in the Guardian by Sindre Bangstad, a Norwegian social anthropologist describes Norway as being in the grip of pervasive, far-right nationalism, with violence simmering just below the surface. “Norway is in denial about the threat of far-right violence,” reads the bombastic headline. Kathrine Jebsen Moore, a fellow Norwegian, writes that Bangstad misrepresents and misleads: she motes that the Norwegian Police Security Service still regards Islamist terror threats as the most serious threat to Norway, even if it has upgraded the threat of far-right extremism from “unlikely” to “possible” after an attempted mosque attack in August. But “to see in the upgrading of the terrorist threat posed by far-right groups a general mood of irrational hatred for immigrants and Muslims, and portray Norway as a hotbed for racism, is just wrong,” Moore writes, adding: “Norway, like other European countries, is faced with a new set of challenges as it changes from a homogenous nation to a country with a growing immigrant population” – and that “Norway is coping with this influx a lot better than Sweden. So, is Norway in denial about its far-right problem? Don’t believe it.”

  • Extremism

    Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was dismissed from the board of directors of the Women’s March on Wednesday, only two days after she was appointed to the board on Monday. “We found some of her public statements incompatible with the values and mission of the organization,” the board said. Billoo has called herself a “proud anti-Zionist” and said that she does not believe Israel has a right to exist. She also has accused Israel of committing war crimes “as a hobby,” and wrote: “the Israeli Defense Forces, or the IDF, are no better than ISIS. They are both genocidal terrorist organizations,” and that “racist Zionists who support Apartheid Israel” scares her more than “the mentally ill young people the #FBI recruits to join ISIS.”

  • Surveillance state

    The Uighurs, a Muslim minority ethnic group of around 12 million in northwest China, are required by the police to carry their smartphones and IDs listing their ethnicity. As they pass through one of the thousands of newly built digital media and face surveillance checkpoints located at jurisdictional boundaries, entrances to religious spaces and transportation hubs, the image on their ID is matched to their face. If they try to pass without these items, a digital device scanner alerts the police. The Chinese state authorities described the intrusive surveillance as a necessary tool against the “extremification” of the Uighur population. Through this surveillance process, around 1.5 million Uighurs and other Muslims were determined “untrustworthy” and have forcibly been sent to detention and reeducation in a massive internment camp system. Since more than 10 percent of the adult population has been removed to these camps, hundreds of thousands of children have been separated from their parents. Many children throughout the region are now held in boarding schools or orphanages which are run by non-Muslim state workers.

  • Counterterrorism

    A lack of evaluation of the impact of countering violent extremism (CVE) and counter-terrorism (CT) efforts may actually be increasing the threat and risk of terrorism, a new study points out. Researchers say that national and international agencies’ efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism have lacked two key ingredients - a clear and coherent theory of how individuals change and consistent evaluation of evidence of their changing attitudes.

  • Perspective

    Prior to September 25, 2001, the United States used two primary tools to designate terrorists. In 1995, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 12947 in an effort to provide the State and Treasury Departments the legal authority to designate terrorist groups who were disrupting the “Middle East Process.” E.O. 12947 was narrowly scoped and did not provide the United States the ability to sanction groups or individuals disconnected from violence in the Middle East. Two years later, Congress passed legislation providing the State Department the ability to designate Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act. “Simply put, terrorism designations, much like the threat posed by al-Qaeda, were an afterthought before 9/11,” Jason Blazakis writes. That changed last week when President Donald Trump updated E.O. 13224 to expand both State and Treasury’s ability to wield sanctions against terrorists.

  • Perspective: Homegrown terrorism

    The United States faces a surging domestic terrorism threat in the homeland. In the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton shootings in the first weekend of August, more than 40 people were   arrested for threats to commit mass attacks by the end of that month. GW Program on Extremism suggests two ways to achieve a more effective and coordinated multisector response to the domestic terrorism threat. First, specific criminal statutes for domestic terrorism offenses need to be enacted that penalize the commission of specific violent crimes. Acknowledging concerns that new criminal statutes related to property damage may stifle legitimate protest, new criminal statutes could be limited to violence against persons and providing material support to terrorists. Second, the list of proscribed foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) should include far-right actors outside of the United States.

  • Internal displacement

    More than 10 million new internal displacements were recorded between January and June 2019, according to a new report. Of the total, 3.8 million were triggered by conflict and violence, while disasters triggered a record seven million new displacements. The fact that the vast majority were associated with storms and floods suggests that mass displacement by extreme weather events is becoming the norm. 

  • Perspective

    In her new book, How to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bari Weiss writes that Jews in the West, especially in Europe, are confronted by a “three-headed dragon.” First, there is an antagonistic environment for Jews, thanks in large measure to the rapid growth of Islamism on the Old Continent. Second, there is ideological vilification by the political Left, which increasingly regards Israel as an illegitimate state serving no other purpose than as a bastion of Western (read: white) colonialism. Third, there is a recrudescence of reactionary populism on the political right that, while often professing sympathy for Israel, evinces a fervent commitment to blood-and-soil politics that seldom ends well for Jews.

  • Perspective

    In the last three years, Israel has engaged in a broad campaign to eliminate Iran’s strategic footprint in the Levant, which has grown exponentially over the past half-decade as a result of the Islamic Republic’s campaign in support of the Syrian regime. Iran’s effort has allowed it to establish an expeditionary presence along Israel’s northern border—one that, over the past few years, has prompted a significant Israeli military response.

  • Perspective

    Gavin Mortimer, a British historian living in France, writers in The Spectator that the claim that there are “no go” zones in Paris and other French cities – that is, areas where the police does not patrol for fear of encountering violence — is wrong. “There aren’t any no-go zones in France for the police,” he writes. “There are, however, a growing number of zones that the police enter knowing their chances of emerging unscathed are slight. In the parlance of politicians and the press, these districts are described as sensible (sensitive) or défavorisé (disadvantaged), and last year the government launched an ‘urban reconquest’ of sixty of the most troublesome with the deployment of foot patrols by police.” Mortimer quotes the French historian Georges Bensoussan, who wrote that in many French urban areas, a parallel society has taken root.

  • Extremism

    Extremism has tended to refer to both violent and non-violent forms of political expression, whereas terrorism is predominantly violent. To be an extremist could mean anything from being a nationalist, a communist, to being an animal rights activist – as long as this ideology is regarded as extreme relative to the government’s position. But extremism and terrorism should not be simply interlinked, and it is worrying that more and more the meaning of terrorism is extended to cover both violent and non-violent extremism.

  • The Troubles

    This month marks the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of violence in Derry, Northern Ireland, in what has become known as the Battle of the Bogside. The August 1969 riots, involving local communities and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), are often referenced as the events which marked the beginning of the 30-year conflict commonly known as the Northern Ireland Troubles.

  • Perspective

    Far-right ideology in the military and among veterans must be stamped out as it has “nothing in common” with the U.K. armed forces’ values, Johnny Mercer, a new defense minister, has said. Mercer, now presiding over the new Office for Veterans’ Affairs, created by Boris Johnson, asserted that many voters feel dispossessed by the political make-up of parliament, and that hard-right groups were trying to attract soldiers and veterans with undeliverable promises. “I get it,” he said, “but going to these people is a fool’s errand and I’ll do everything I can to stamp it out. It’s totally out of keeping with our ethos, values and standing as an organization.”

  • 9/11: 18 years on

    Americans paused Wednesday to mark the 18th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor in 1941, the events of September 11 permanently changed America’s perception of national security and prompted then-President George W. Bush to declare war on terrorism and invade Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda had training grounds.

  • Perspective

    Sept. 11, 2019 marks the 18th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack in world history. It also marks a generational shift, with American children born after that date entering adulthood having grown up with their country perpetually fighting a so-called war on terror. “The events of 9/11 are increasingly a memory, and without education that memory can easily become a caricature,” Daniel Byman writes in Foreign Policy. “Capturing all the nuances surrounding 9/11 is vital, but the proper response today also requires recognizing that terrorism is constantly evolving, and when it strikes again it may not come from an expected or familiar source.”