The lone wolf attacks of the past few years have been called a leaderless Jihad. This is essentially correct. From the Boston Bombers to the attacks in Orlando, we are seeing those with mental illness to one degree or another, marginality, and difficulty sustaining relationships becoming cyber-radicalized. The problem of cyber radicalism is a current one that sees no sign of abatement.
This discussion could easily go off on tangents, however, just as very few children who play Grand Theft Auto have a desire to go out and steal a Chevy Truck, or fight with the police, it only takes one to bring about a tragedy. Such is the case of cyber-radicalized. The effectiveness of counter terrorism has been such that very few major attacks have reached the operational stage. The Patriot Act, and forming of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, has made America a much safer place. Due to an increased vigilance n a global scale, the internet has been more of a breeding ground for terror than clandestine meeting places.
As problems such as identity theft have risen, not only criminals, but also honest citizens and banks have developed new technology to encrypt information. While keeping the honest brokers of information safer, these new technologies make the problem of monitoring communication between criminals more difficult. It is a necessary side effect of evil, we developed technology to maintain privacy as the threats to our livelihood and savings are very real. However, covert communication is very important to the terrorists, and they will use this technology to cover their tracks.
The radicals who use face-to-face communication are becoming increasingly rare. The limited scope of this face-to-face communication means the internet communication may in fact be one-sided. The person who is radicalized may not make his master aware of this recruitment until after an attack has transpired. In the past, our own neo Nazi group leaders and others were careful not to use language that would leave them open to an incitement to violence charge or accessory charge. Those living outside of the country have no such reluctance.
The looser and more decentralized the confederation, the more difficult to pinpoint and detect. These individuals, likely to be radicalized, seem to have a shared narrative. Seldom have they endured true hardship, but they are able to rationalize some wrong or shortcoming of their own as a justification to inflict human death and suffering upon an innocent population. The hierarchal model for radicalization is outmoded—at least in developed countries. Rather, the person who becomes radicalized is able to bypass the legitimate news media and go to other sources for information.
This person supports the enemies of the United States, and while a large portion of the population may have the same belief and attitude, few act upon it. Major Nidal Malik Asan was radicalized and acted upon this evil vision at Fort Hood Texas. Adam Gadahn acted in Boston. These men were in contact with like-minded individuals but not personal contact. They were living in the real world but the digital world was their most meaningful experience due to their inadequate personalities. Radical Islam was—for them—a rationalization for murder and even death or suicide.
The problem is how much surveillance and intrusion we are willing to accept in our daily lives to detect and capture these criminals. Most Americans want no intrusion and no limits on liberty. I am foursquare American in this regard. We are not akin to the United Kingdom and other areas where privacy and freedom are more aspirational than operational. Irish have been jailed for nonviolent dissension—we do not wish to reach that point, and we will not as long as we are vigilant.
There is a well-reasoned standpoint that everything isn’t subject to analysis and some things cannot be completely understood or monitored. The reality is that we are winning the war on terror on the home front, and the organized terror attack is far less likely than an organized full-scale attack. (The possibilities remain endless however.) The lone wolf attacker is a threat the individual armed citizen is most likely to face, and the one threat and one he or she has the ability to address and defeat. Be vigilant, be prepared, and train for the worst.
While many seem not to get it, I come from a background in which public safety was more important than personal safety. Like then, my personal carry piece isn’t an ineffective pocket piece. I carry a handgun that will give me a fighting chance against a gang or an armed individual well past conversational distance. In my vehicle, I have a firearm to reach targets at farther distances or those behind soft cover. I have training in emergency medical procedures—both for others, and should the need arise, myself. Perhaps you should as well.
What measures have you taken or do you take should you be caught in a lone wolf attack? Share your answers, ideas, and recommendations in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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