Home Commentary and Analysis What Can Be Done About The Lone Wolf Terrorist Threat?
What Can Be Done About The Lone Wolf Terrorist Threat?

What Can Be Done About The Lone Wolf Terrorist Threat?


By Jeffrey D. Simon

As President Donald Trump and his administration formulate their plans to combat terrorism, they will discover that dealing with the threat of lone wolf terrorism will prove to be the most difficult and frustrating part of any counterterrorism policy.

Traditional counterterrorism measures—such as military, economic, and diplomatic actions—will not work against the individual terrorist. Neither will travel bans from various countries, since lone wolf attacks are equally likely to originate from individuals already residing in the United States as they are to originate from recent immigrants.

A Department of Homeland Security draft document found that more than half of the 82 individuals inspired by a foreign terrorist group to perpetrate or attempt a terrorist attack in the United States were American citizens born in the States.

A lone wolf does not have to be inspired by a foreign terrorist group. Any policy regarding lone wolves that focuses exclusively on the threat of Islamic extremists or the influence of the Islamic State or Al Qaeda is misguided. Lone wolf terrorism cuts across the entire political and religious spectrum. There are Islamic extremist lone wolves and white supremacist lone wolves. There are “single issue” lone wolves who act in the name of a particular issue, such as anti-abortion, environmental and animal rights, and so forth. There is also the “wild card” lone wolf, namely the idiosyncratic lone wolf who uses ideology, real or self-created, in order to justify their actions.

What makes lone wolves so difficult to deal with is that they are not burdened by any group decision-making process or inter-group dynamics that can sometimes stifle creativity in formulating plans and operations. Therefore, lone wolves are free to think up any scenario and act upon it since they are accountable only to themselves. This freedom to think outside the box is why lone wolves are responsible for introducing several new terrorist tactics in the United States. These include the first vehicle bombing (1920), major midair plane bombing (1955), hijacking (1961), product contamination (1982), and anthrax letter attacks (2001).

Furthermore, because lone wolves are not part of a group, they may not be concerned, as some terrorist groups are, about alienating supporters, using weapons of mass destruction, or attacking the wrong type of target.

Read the full article at HSToday.