Lone Wolf Terrorism


Problem background and significance

In the United States terrorism incidents such as the attack in 1995 in Oklahoma by Timothy McVeigh and the September 11th attack in 2001, have led to the realization that lone wolf terrorism posses a grave threat to the safety of the public. Terrorism analysts and law enforcement authorities have insisted that it is hard to spot lone terrorists before they strike and this is of great threat to the security of a nation. From FBI information it is evident that lone terrorism trends indicate that it is an ongoing risk both in side the United States and outside the country (Risen & Johnston, 2003)

In 2003 the director of the FBI stated that there was an increased threat from persons who are affiliated or sympathetic with the Al Qaeda and they act without having any conspiracies surrounding them or external support. Scholars in the field of terrorism have in the past concentrated on the how terrorist groups work so as to explain how individuals work. The general view of terrorism is that it is a group activity which is mainly influenced by leaders training, recruitment, obedience and conformity, solidarity and moral disengagement. Due to the imbalance that exists between the focus by scholars on terrorism that is group based on one hand and apparent threat posed by lone wolf terrorist on the other hand, necessitates the empirical and conceptual analysis of lone wolf terrorism so as to establish a good understanding of this phenomenon. The extent to which existing explanations of triggers and motivations of terrorism are associated to deeds of lone terrorist is still not clear. This paper therefore seeks to explain the history of lone wolf terrorism, the triggers and motivations of lone wolf terrorisms, the existing counterterrorism measures that can be used in combating lone wolf terrorism, the new trends in the fight against terrorism, and the alternative solutions that exist in the combating lone wolf terrorism.

Research argument


Lone Wolf Terrorism

A lone wolf/ terrorist are persons who are motivated by a terrorist organization or ideology to carryout attacks, with no well-known ties or accountability. Such terrorists are independent of fellow conspirators in carrying out attacks; they may get some support from associates bur conduct and plan the attack individually. In eliminating, minimizing and mitigating the terrorist activities of lone wolf terrorists and autonomous cells it is important to establish what motivates and triggers their actions and how the United States can stop them. The major motivators and triggers can be ideological, political, social psychological, financial or as result of coercion. Therefore, this paper seeks to discuss the triggers in detail so as to incorporate the fight against lone wolf terrorists in the national strategy of combating terrorism.

Thesis Statement:

A greater understanding of the motivations and triggers of spontaneous/lone terrorists and Autonomous Terror Cells will enhance our ability to better minimize, mitigate, or eliminate their violence aimed at the US.

Research Methodology:

This research will use the problem-solution research methodology. Data and information will be collected and analyzed from scientific studies, government reports and testimony, strategies, professional journals, web based databases and sites, news articles, books, and available counter-terrorism subject matter experts to determine what drives this type of terrorist and how to best combat them. First, known spontaneous or lone terrorists and autonomous terror cells motives and triggers will be identified and examined to understand and properly lay the groundwork of the problem. Current and evolving methods to combat these terrorists will be evaluated and analyzed in light of effectiveness, or planned effectiveness in either minimizing or eliminating motives and triggers for violent terror activities by these individuals and cells. This examination and analysis will then be used to formulate recommendations for our future counter-terrorism efforts toward the spontaneous terrorist and autonomous terror cells.


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Currently there is no precise and standard definition of terrorism; there are numerous definitions of the term. However most of these definitions view terrorism as a violent act that is committed for an ideological goal and whose purpose is to create some form of fear to an intentionally targeted civilian by disregarding the security of that civilian. According to Richardson in coining a definition of terrorism one has to consider seven crucial characteristics; it must be inspired by politics, the act should be violent, the act carried out should be in an effort to convey a message, the victim and the act should have a symbolic significance, terrorism can be state sponsored, non- state or by sub-state groups, the target and the victim are not generally the same, and the act should intentionally target civilians (non-combatants).

For many decades the question on how to define terrorism has been of major concern among nations. However, many organizations and individuals have with time formulated definitions of terrorism, they include;

-the first attempt to define terrorism was in 1937, the National convention language league define terrorism as, all types of criminal acts that are aimed at a nation with the purpose of creating a state of fear in the minds of the targeted individual, the general public or group of persons.

– In 1988, individuals formulated an academic consensus definition. They viewed terrorism as an anxiety inspiring process of repeated sadistic actions that are used by an undercover person, state or group actors for personal, political or criminal reasons, and whereby unlike assassination the people who are directly targeted are not necessarily the main targets. The victims of the violence are normally chosen selectively meaning they are symbolic or representative targets or randomly meaning that they are just targets of opportunity and such victims are used to convey the terrorist’s message.

– In 1989 the United States of America defined terrorism as a calculated, politically aggravated


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form of violence that is meted upon civilian targets by personal or sub-national agents.

-in 1992, Alex Schmid described terrorism as the peacetime correspondent of war crime.

– In 2002 the European Union defined terrorism as acts which depending on their context or nature seriously destroy a nation or an international firm with the objective of critically frightening a population.

– In 2003 the supreme court of India in reference to Schmid’s earlier definition described acts of terrorism as the “peacetime correspondents of War crimes”

Historical Cases of Terrorism

The roots of terrorism can be traced back to the medieval times. The Jewish Zealots in the 1st century murdered Jews in public for collaborating with the Roman rule, this group was situated in the Ludaea province and they revolted against the Roman Empire. In 6 CE, Judas of Galilee together with extreme zealot followers established a group called the Sicarii (dagger men). The Sicarii mainly targeted the collaborators such as Sadducees, priests of the temple, wealth elites and Herodians rather than the Romans. They used short daggers that were concealed under their cloaks, blend with the public at large festivals, kill the victims and then vanish into the public during the resulting panic. (Gerard, 2007)

The Hashshashin (Assassins) group arose in the 11th century; this group was an offshoot of Shia Muslims sect known as the Ismaili. The group under Hassan-I Sabbah its leader, greatly


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opposed the Fatmid rule. Across Persian late in the 11


century the group apprehended Alamut and other strongholds. The group had a small number of followers and in order to confront their enemies they murdered military commanders and city governors so as to form alliances with the neighbors that were militarily powerful. For instance they murdered Janah al-Dawla who was Homs’s ruler in so as to gratify Ridwan of Aleppo. The Al-Hashshashin realized that by killing a leader or ruler directly enacts change politically. (Hoffman, 1988)

Recent Cases of Terrorism

Gunpowder plot.

In 1605, under Guy Fawkes conspirators tried to tear down the English parliament, they had hidden a very large amount of gunpowder underneath the parliament’s building. They had plotted to kill the members of both parliaments and King James 1 and thereafter initiate a coup. The group planned on bringing back the catholic faith by making the successor of the king of England a crown puppet. However, this plot was betrayed and never succeeded. (Marshall, 2005)

The reign of terror

This period lasted between 1793-1794, Jacobins who were rulers for the period of the French Revolution used violence such as mass executions by means of guillotine. This was in an attempt to compel obedience and to intimidate enemies of the regime. The Jacobins killed approximately 40,000 people and are though to have been the original users of the word terrorists as the commonly used this name in reference to themselves. (Hoffman, 1988)


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Events of the 19th century

In mid 19th century, terrorism got a new meaning as Non-governmental groups such as the anarchists started being associated with it. The persistent attacks on a number of anarchist groups resulted in the murdering of US presidents and Russian Tsars although this had modest impact politically. For instance in Russia Mikhail Bakunin an anarchist insisted that progress was only possible through destruction. As the explosives industry developed affordable, stable and powerful explosives the French and American anarchists were in a better position to deal with their respective governments. This led to the formation of Narodnaya Volya in 1878 by Bakunin and others. They used dynamite bombs on state officials so as to initiate retribution of the state and to drum up support from the public against the regime. (Chaliand, 2007)

The Ku Klux Klan

After the American Civil War in 1865, the Ku Klux Klan was formed by six learned middle class veterans who were from Tennessee in a place called Pulaski. Being a secret group, it had no local officers, membership rosters and no chapters even though the Klan’s founder bragged of having 550,000 men and could assemble 40,000 of its members in just five days this made it had to judge the actual numbers. Due to the scores of murders they had carried out they wore masked forays and also to create a sensation, the Klan advocated for racism, anti Catholicism, nativism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and white supremacy. The group used acts of intimidation and violence against its victim for example cross burning. (Jackson, 1992)

Events in the 20th and 21st century

In the early years of the 20th century there were two major events that have influenced the nature of terrorism up to today. The two world wars ignited hopes ad passion for nationalist all over the world and ruthlessly destroyed the legitimacy of governments and the international order. (Brynjar, 2006)


Lone Wolf Terrorism

In the early years of the 20th century saw the intensification of nationalism globally, it became an important tool for the inhabitants of numerous colonial empires. Though resistance and dissent were regular in most colonial possessions which resulted in open confrontation, Nationalist became the center for these actions. With time as nations developed concepts of ethnicity and race, most international political developments started to appreciate these concepts. Some ethnic groups whose nations had integrated with others and ceased to exist independently saw openings to accomplish their nationalistic objectives. Such ethnic groups resulted in the use of terrorism in an attempt to convey their struggle and get noticed by world powers that the though would be sympathetic. For instance in Europe the Macedonians and Irish organized terrorist campaigns in struggling for independence, they instigated bloody uprisings in an attempt to make their cause known. The Macedonians did not succeed but the Irish succeeded partly.

In the Second World War, practices such as total war lead to the justification of the violations of war laws and resulted in the use of terrorism because it seemed that at that time everybody was doing it. During this period desensitization of communities and people to violence which had begun in World War 1 was further accelerated. The passion of the conflict between contrasting ideologies resulted in excesses on the participants. New strategies and weapons were invented, they focused on the destruction of the economic capacity and population of the enemies’ civilians and this exposed nearly all civilians to the danger of combatants. Some powerful nations supported resistance and partisan organizations that used terrorist strategies that targeted civilians and this was seen as acceptance of their authenticity. (Bruce, 1988)

Modern terrorism

The era of modern terrorism can be said to have begun in 1968 when an El Al airliner was hijacked the popular front for liberation of Palestine on its way to Rome from Tel Aviv. Although in the past there had been similar airline hijackings, this was unique in that it had a symbolic value as it was the first time that the passengers were deliberately used as hostages, they were used for demands that were made publicly to the government of Israel. This led to a lot of media attention and it was internationally recognized, the leader of the movement Dr. George Habash noticed that the media coverage was even greater than events such the Israeli soldiers’ battles in past operations. This in his view had made the world realize the threat of terrorism as it was now talking about it.


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By early 1970, the concept of terrorism had gained a new meaning. It was now internationalized as extremist organizations from different nations started to cooperate in carrying out terrorist operations. For instance, the cooperation between the European radicals and Palestinian groups, and the joint operations between the Japanese red Army and PFLP of Palestine. Since then there has been an increase in such cooperation of terrorists internationally and especially in operations and training up to today.

The present day incidents of terrorism

Islamic terrorists have dominated the present day terrorism incidents; such terrorists have established strategic and operational centers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The biggest terrorism act being the September 11, 2001 attack in the US. The terrorists attacked the World trade center and pentagon in New York City and Washington, DC using hijacked

Civilian airliners. Other big attacks include the Indian parliament attack in New Delhi, the car bomb attack at Bali, the subway bombings in London, the train bombings in Madrid and also the latest attack in Mumbai where a Jewish outreach center, hotels and a train station were targeted.

Motivations and triggers of Lone Terrorists/ Autonomous Terror cells

Motivation refers to the collection of processes either external or internal that stimulate will and endurance in an attempt to achieve a certain goal. They are those forces that will tune human behavior towards achieving a set goal. There are numerous theories that explore the subject of motivation; they differ on the basis of whether they focus on the learned or biological basis of behavior. A lone wolf/ terrorist is a person who is motivated by a terrorist organization or


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ideology to carryout attacks, with no well-known ties or accountability. Such terrorists are independent of fellow conspirators in carrying out attacks; they may get some support from associates bur conduct and plan the attack individually. The use of the internet has been a major catalyst and contributor of the rise in this concept; it provides target information, techniques, instruction, ideological motivations, justification and encouragement all in an environment that is anonymous. In the recent past Islamic extremists have motivated lone wolves whereby they are advocating that terrorists should not wait for instruction but rather should take action spontaneously. The factors that motivate such lone wolves include;


The main ideological motivators of lone wolf terrorism includes Islamist fundamentalism, white supremacy, anti abortion activism and separatism/nationalism. An example of an ideologically motivated attack is the one carried out by Franz Fuchs; he carried out bombing in Germany and Austria for a period of four years. His attacked injured fifteen people and killed four others. He mainly targeted immigrants, individuals or organizations that were sympathetic to foreigners. Franz was a racist and xenophobic, this was depicted in his letters which were addressed to the government urging it to change the immigration policies and also address the discrimination of German Austrians. His targets selection and statements were in line with the right-wing ideology. (Scheid, 2001)


These refer to acts of terrorism that are carried out with the sole purpose of causing political effect such as bringing change to an oppressive government. People who carry out these attacks aim at voicing their discontentment with the political government. The heads inspire rebel groups and militia to form a movement and they instill ideas of bringing political change so as to free the society from an oppressive regime. This political change can be effected by coups where the movement formed takes charge of the government. The political change will succeed if such a terrorist group is able to get the support of the public in form of resources and money. The America constitution allows freedom of speech, so this gives terrorist groups enough opportunities to give criticisms and voice opinions on the policies of their government through voting or the media (Robinson, 1997).


Lone Wolf Terrorism

A good example that depicts political terrorism is the bombing of the city federal building in Oklahoma by Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh used violence in expressing his disapproval with the actions of the government in the standoff between federal agents and Dravidians in Waco, Texas. This can be referred to as a politically motivated attack since McVeigh planned to demonstrate his displeasure of the policy of the government. However he only intended to show displeasure and did not wish to take over the government. (CNN, 2001)


Terrorism can also be motivated purely by social causes, such issues do not arise from politics but rather they are based on technological and economic aspects of the society. An example of a socially motivated act of terrorism was by Theodore Kaczynski who aimed at changing the society’s structure and its reliance on technology. Between 1978 and 1995 Kaczynski mailed sixteen letter and package bombs that led to the injury of twenty three people and the death of at least three people. His initial attacks were in airlines and universities; this earned him the name “Unabomber”. His political and social motives contained elements of Luddism and were close to Anarchism, he opposed modernity, destruction of environment and technology and this lead to his call for the demolition of the industrial system worldwide. In some of his articles he writes that the continued technical and scientific advancement in the society would certainly lead to the extinction of individual independence. He was also of the view that the society was rapidly gaining power to control an individual, he sought to establish an organization that would halt scientific research so as to avoid the unavoidable result of the extension of the powers of society.(Johnson, 1998)


Some people have argued that terrorists are psychologically dissimilar to people who are not terrorists, however there is no systematic evidence to prove this. Therefore terrorists should not be viewed mad or be associated with any identifiable psychopathology. It has been noted that in fact the outstanding similar characteristics of terrorists is in their normality and that terrorism acts as the connecting link for the different personalities. (Crenshaw, 1981)


Lone Wolf Terrorism

The most important question that should be addressed is to what extent, and if this phenomena applies to lone-wolf terrorists as it applies to members of terrorist organizations. It has been noted that even though most terrorists are considered normal, there is a higher rate of psychological disturbance among lone wolves. (Hewitt, 2003). To explain this we look at the case of David Copeland. Copeland claims to have had sadistic dreams when he was 12 years old, he even admitted to have contemplated killing his classmates. He also claimed that from 16 years old he wanted to become an SS commander and wished to have female sex slaves. However friends and family said they couldn’t remember Copeland showing interest in white supremacy or Nazism though he claimed to be an admirer of Hitler. Copeland hated gay men and felt the desire to kill and maim them, psychologists thought that he was sexually confused, he had fantasies about drugging and killing women and this could only be associated with the humiliation he went through as a teenager. In 1998, Copeland was put on mild anti-depressants to help him deal with anxiety attacks. He claimed that the idea of carryout a bomb attack was persistent in his mind; he said that even though he did not want anyone to be hurt the idea that he would kill didn’t bother him either. It is claimed that Copeland was suffering from schizophrenia as in his visions he talk of his life as a teenager.

Monetary/ financial considerations

Financial considerations also act as a source of motivation for lone-wolf terrorists, though they act individually lone wolf terrorists receive funding from organizations that support their cause, such funding is a source of motivation as they use such money to support themselves and their families. In a case where an individual feels that the government has failed to address his financial issues, he can launch an attack against it blaming it for his financial difficulties.


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Terrorists use destruction and violence to attain their objective and produce the desired results. This kind of violence and destruction even if it does not result in terrorist operation has the potential to produce the desired effect. For instance when hostages are held and freed unharmed after bargaining and negotiations the threat to maim or kill such hostages will lead to the demands of the terrorists being addressed.

Existing counter-terrorism measures/solutions

Counter-terrorism refers to those tactics, practices, strategies and techniques that militaries, governments, corporations and police department implement in responding to acts or threats of terrorism, both imputed and real. Despite the growing importance in counter-terrorism measures dealing with warfare, the military might and security, counterterrorist measures are comprised of a huge number of legal, political, military, cultural and economic affairs that are usually not in agreement with each other. This is noticeable at the level of formal government institutions which are granted powers to enforce the laws on terrorism. Police institutions view terrorism specifically as a criminal enforcement issue that needs to be dealt with using technically advanced means of policing. Therefore, at the international and national level police counter terrorism measures depict the relative independence of the police to verify the appropriate methods and objectives of these activities.

Due to the international nature of terrorism, it is necessary to establish international counter terrorism cooperation among nations. This will be implemented establishing counterterrorism measures in diplomatic effort, international laws treaties, military operations coalitions, use of economic sanctions against governments that support or harbor terrorists, cooperation by police among nations and involvement of international police organizations like Europol and Interpol.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS), federal, state and local law enforcement


Lone Wolf Terrorism

The highest priority and founding principle of the DHS is giving the American people protection against terrorists. The state, the private sector, local government, communities, families, first responders, and the federal government have a crucial role in counter terrorism. The objective of DHS is to direct all available resources towards preparedness and prevention so that all Americans live in a state of readiness as opposed to fear. Counter terrorism measures include;

Establishment of domestic and international partnerships

-DHS has put in place numerous new agreements on law enforcement. This includes the two agreements made between the department of justice and DHS that aims at combating drug trafficking and arms. Another agreement is the one made with Germany, Italy, Canada, Portugal, Spain and Mexico to fight serious crime, collaborate technology and science and to share information.

-DHS has made formal agreements and collaboration with Germany and Spain and scientific research on ways of fighting transnational threats.

-DHS together with Canada have also made the Shiprider agreement which entails carrying out patrols at maritime borders.

-DHS has also established 72 fusion centers in major cities and in each state to make sure that critical intelligence information flows freely between DHS and state, local, tribal and federal partners.


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Safer and secure transportation infrastructure.

-DHS has invested over $1billion in a state of the art system for detecting explosives at every airport.

-the department through the Transportation Security Administration has initiated the 59% screening of domestic air cargo in line with the 9/11 act requirements.

-the TSA has also started the secure flight program; this program will advance the watch list checks and restrict the persons not allowed to fly from boarding aircrafts.

-DHS has initiated a program called transportation worker identification credential that uses biometric technology in identifying airport workers.

-DHS has implemented an act referred to as the chemical facility Anti-terrorism that seeks to monitor facilities that produce or use chemicals that are hazardous.

-The secretary of DHS Napolitano received a grant of $388 that will be used in protecting the transportation infrastructure from terrorists.

Cyber security

-DHS is involved in activities that deal with cyber crime and work with private and public sectors to prevent, defend, detect and deter cyber attacks and also to recover swiftly from any damage or disruptions. It is also responsible for controlling federal civilian networks. (Walker, 2006)


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Border nation methods.

The Customs Border Protection (CBP) is an agency that enforces federal laws of the Department of Homeland Security. It is responsible for collecting import duties, enforcing US laws on immigration and drugs, facilitating and regulating international trade. The primary mission of CBP is to restrict terrorist weapons and terrorists from entering the United States. Methods implemented by CBP in counter-terrorism include;

-CBP through the Joint terrorism task force and Advance passenger information system is able to monitor and assess all entrants who are coming into the uses via aircrafts.

-CBP also collaborates with the Food and drug administration and screen food shipments that are considered as high risk so as to avoid agro/bio terrorism.

-the Container security initiative is a joint effort by the US and other nations to screen and identify containers that are suspicious at the port of the countries where they are coming from so that when such a container is loaded in the vessels bound for the US they are considered safe.

-CBP has also coordinated with Canada and implemented the NEXUS program and the Free and secure trade program which use transponder technology and shipment information before arrival to monitor trucks arriving on its borders. There is also a similar agreement with Canada that examines targets and screens all goods coming to the US through rail. CBP has also established a system an agreement with Mexico and implemented a traveler inspection system that allows low risk and prescreened immigrants from Mexico to be monitored through separate lanes.


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– CBP has also been authorized to search inbound and outbound shipments using targeting technology. In collaboration with the bureau of the census and department of state CBP has enforced laws on electronic export information to spot cargo that may pose great danger to the country.

Department of Defense (DOD)

The DOD has initiated counter terrorism efforts that involve numerous rapid response expert capabilities and elements that work hand in hand with the FBI. They include;

-the establishment of a command center that works for 24 hrs all year round whose sole purpose is to counter any terrorist incident. This command and control center is well equipped to respond to any terrorist attack, it is made up of military units that are always on high alert and respond immediately to any incident

– The DOD works together with the FBI in deploying teams for foreign emergency support

– It also supports special security events and provides technical support like logistics, medical, diagnostic, bio/chemical detection, blast analysis, decontamination, personnel protection, treatment and evaluation of threat.

– The department also has a well established interagency mechanism for acting to incidents of terrorism, this interagency mechanism is well organized, exercised and attends to any emergency calls on terrorism incidents.


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Developing counter terrorism measures

Human Terrain Mapping (HTM)

The Human terrain mapping is a program that was developed by the United States Army which embeds social scientists such as anthropologists with combat brigades to enable tacticians who are located in the fields to comprehend the local cultures of the inhabitants. HTM was incorporated in 2005 as an experimental program in Afghanistan and Iraq for counterinsurgency; it uses expertise from social scientists such as sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists and also combines intelligence, linguistics and regional studies.(Gonzalez, 2008)

The Human Terrain System gives military staff and commanders a clearer perceptive of the local population by carrying out research, archiving and interpreting cultural knowledge and information. It enables these commanders to understand the culture of a population so as to be able to enforce operational efficiency and decrease civilian and military conflict. The HTM uses a five persons team called Human Terrain Teams(HTT) that are responsible for giving advice to brigade commanders on the various traditions and local customs, tribal structures, economic development and political systems.

The use of HTM is notable in operations, in 2007 it was used in the Khyber operation where 1000 US and Afghan soldiers attempted to clear around 250 insurgents out of Paktia province, secure the most important road n the southeastern part of Afghanistan and stop suicide attacks that were intended for the local governors and US troops.

According to Tracy an HTT anthropologist, she identified a very high number of widows in the


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poor areas and this she learnt had resulted in pressuring their male children to join the insurgents who were well paid. As a result US officers came up with programs for job training for these widows. Tracy was also of the view that the beheading of a local elder was in an attempt to weaken and divide the Zadran and not to merely intimidate them. This led to the US and Afghan officials focusing on joining the Zadran and this hindered the operations of Talibans in this area.

The other operation is Maiwand, US and Afghan policemen and soldiers initiated an operation in which houses of militant suspects were raided. HTT enabled Captain Aaron White a negotiator to understand the body language of the inhabitants of Pashtun village in the context of their culture. This was instrumental in helping him identify leaders in the process of negotiation and also helped him to strengthen the perception of leadership as a result of not talking to the other officers and by showing good faith, this was through the projects that were sponsored by the reconstruction team of Ghazni province which included irrigation projects roads and the mobile medical clinic.

Geospatial Analysis of Terrorist Activities (GATA)

Studies carried out using geospatial analysis on American Terrorism show that terrorists are less spontaneous, involve in considerable planning activities and carryout preparatory and ancillary crimes before the actual incident this is quite different from traditional criminals.

Geospatial analysis discovered the temporal and geospatial patterns of preparatory behavior differ by group type. These trends were most noticeable among environmental and international terrorists. From these observations, the aim of the present project was to substantiate whether these trends were just an observation of minute sample sizes or if more data could substantiate these patterns of behavior connected with the two terrorist types. To attain the above objective, experts were chosen to identify more environmental and international terrorists’ incidents and groups that occurred or operated in the US. Geospatial analysis was done on these groups; this analysis showed that, indeed most terrorists lived near the target of the incident. Over 50% of the terrorist live in about 30 miles from the location of the target, while about 20% of the terrorists reside approximately 800miles from the location of the incident. Also over 50% carried


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out their preparatory and planning activities within 30 miles from where they live, in addition more than 60% of the preparatory and planning behaviors were carried out within 30 miles from the eventual location of the incident. From this analysis, the trends were similar for both international and environmental terrorists. Despite the spatial analysis of environmental and spatial terrorists being similar, there was a significant difference in their temporal analysis. In the case of environmental terrorists, they depicted a much more spontaneous behavior than the international terrorists; they had a shorter planning cycle and lesser preparatory behaviors. Nearly 85% of the preparatory and planning activities were carried out approximately six days of the incident. International terrorists on the other hand conducted more preparatory and planning activities in a cycle whose duration is around three to six months. From this analysis we gain useful insights on how the terrorists carry out their activities, how far from the target they live and their preparatory and planning behaviors. In as mush as terrorists think globally they usually act locally, this is very crucial for local law enforcers. Therefore post incident investigations and preventive efforts should concentrate on local persons and events as the main resource of information concerning terrorists and their activities.

Discussion of alternative solutions

Alternative solution 1: Counter Terrorism Diplomacy

Diplomacy can be defined as sequential conduct of dealings between one set of human beings and another set of individuals alien to themselves. The chief intention of diplomacy is to establish communication and consequently achieve peace. Diplomacy is very important in influencing the attitudes of the public and also has an influence on the actions of the government. It should be implemented as the first course of action before any use of military force because it has the ability to reduce conflicts with terrorists. Diplomacy too has the potential to control the activities of lone wolf terrorists. Advocates for diplomacy are of the view that diplomacy plays a very crucial role in winning the minds and hearts of the people, this is achieved by working closely with the media to mobilize the opinion of the public in foreign countries to influence these governments to act against terrorists. From the perspective of terrorists, media coverage is a very critical in assessing the success of an act of terrorism. Diplomacy can be used in counterterrorism in the following ways; developing multilateral and bilateral anti- terrorist policies, instituting the appropriate sponsors or sanctions of terrorism, organizing the sharing of intelligence, and enabling law enforcers in one country to be allowed access to another country to interrogate or arrest terrorists in other countries. Instances where diplomacy has been successful include; the 1975 OPEC hostage crisis in Vienna, the 1994 capture of Carlos the jackal, the 1998 agreement by the IRA to lay down arms, and the Israeli and Palestinians ceasefire between 2001 and 2003.


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Alternative solution 2: Financial sanctions

Financial controls can be implemented in two ways to combat terrorism; the freezing of finances owned by terrorist groups, individual terrorists such as lone wolf terrorists and other state sponsors, and by barring material support to terrorists and their sympathizers. Attacks like the 9/11 were made possible by funding which enable the traveling and training of the perpetrators and this has led to the importance of controlling assets belonging to terrorists, this has lead to the signing of numerous multilateral treaties on terrorism like the convention in 2000 on the suppression of the funding of terrorism. In accordance with executive order 13224, the department of treasury occasionally spots organizations that are suspected of financing terrorism activities. In addition, all member states of the UN are required to block assets of terrorism funding organization in compliance with the 1390 resolution of the Security Council. With reference to non-states, financial restrictions can be classified as; foreign assistance, technology transfer, trading, guarantees and export credits, economic access, capital transactions, and foreign exchange. Sanctions will entail suspension of foreign aid, abrogation of commerce navigation or friendship treaty, a partial or total embargo, financial transactions embargo, and suspension on ship or aircraft traffic.

Terrorist financiers in most cases establish humanitarian Aid organizations to disguise their operations a good example is the Benevolence International Foundation which was realized to belong to the Al Qaeda. The knowledge of the structure of organizations is very important in enabling authorities to counter terrorism on economic lines be it through freezing or blocking of assets. According to recent observations, terrorists groups display similar organizational principles and are organized along similar trends regardless of the cause.

The use of such sanctions has been effective; in 2001 executive order 13224 was signed by President Bush. This led to freezing of assets belonging to 27 organizations and individuals related to Bin Laden’s network, it also gave powers to the secretary of treasury to impose sanction on financial institutions such as banks worldwide that give access to funds for these terrorist. By 2002 the list of assets freeze was stretched out to incorporate supporters, financiers and terrorist groups.


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Alternative solution 3: Covert Action.

This refers to the activities involving gathering and analysis of intelligence information and terrorist groups’ infiltration. A lot of activities involve passive monitoring whose purpose is to establish the vulnerabilities intensions and capabilities of terrorist organizations. Active covert activities are carried out during events like a hijacking or a hostage crisis, where by a country may ask for equipment, advice tactical or technical support from a foreign country. This action also aims at exploiting or creating susceptibilities of terrorist organizations. For instance, they might encourage defections, promote division among factions, spread wrong information about leaders, and induce conflicts between organizations.

Some countries have occasionally used unconventional means in preventing pre-planned attacks and neutralizing imminent terrorists. Some of these means include sabotaging or intercepting delivery of weapons or funding to terrorist organizations, destruction of weapons of mass destruction facilities before the fully develop such weapons, transporting or seizing a wanted terrorist. For such intelligence information to be considered useful it must add value to the existing body of knowledge meaning it has to give warnings and indicators of the possibility of an attack. Indicative intelligence refers to information about what is likely to happen if an attack occurred

Pros and Cons of alternative 1

Diplomacy is the most successful and frequently used tool for counter terrorism. It should be used as the first course of action and military force as the last resort, this is because it less expensive as compared to security and military operations and has the potential to reduce conflict. The use of diplomacy together with a mix of policies on combating terrorism has proven


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successful against the Al Qaeda network, infrastructure, financial sources and operatives. However, some people argue that no diplomatic negotiations should be made with the terrorists as it has been proven to be ineffective for terrorists who are determined. Countries like the US has a policy of not allowing negotiations with hostage takers and terrorist but some observers are of the view that communication with terrorists will in some cases prove beneficial. The former director of CIA, Woolsey James was skeptical of engaging with terrorists he stated that “terrorist not only want a place at the table, they also want to blow the table up and everyone sitting at the table”

Critics are also against the idea of negotiations with individuals, key terrorist leaders, organizations and states supporting acts of terrorism. They consider it as troublesome and have little utility. Specifically for lone wolf terrorists, it is hard to establish channels of communication because they work individually. There are also no accepted or formal rules of conduct between such individuals and the government agencies.

Pros and Cons of alternative 2

The use of financial sanctions has been very instrumental in countering terrorism because without funds individuals and groups of terrorists cannot function properly. However the use of such sanctions faces two major problems; first, lone wolf terrorists do not need large scale financing they work individually and it is relatively inexpensive to traffic arms and to carry out their activities. The second problem is that flow of money by terrorists is tremendously hard to track. They use financial intermediaries and fake account names and commingle funds for illegitimate and legitimate uses. Much movement of money is done outside the formal system of banking through informal arrangements. This makes the use of financial sanctions uncertain because funds flow through informal banking systems by money brokers called “hawala”. In addition organizations such as Al Qaeda hold their assets in diamond or gold form this makes tracing of this money impossible through the normal banking system.

Pros and Cons of alternative 3


Lone Wolf Terrorism

The use of intelligence information should be used even before a terrorist attack. Authorities should be proactive so as to prevent imminent attacks, as it gives important indication of where threats exist or where they don’t. The guidance it gives in managing terrorism risks is invaluable; this ranges from major decisions on matters of security to even major policies on the distribution of resources to counter terrorist activities. However, this technique has a number of shortcomings. First, it is very rare to get tactical and specific intelligence that is credible to enable authorities thwart an attack. This is because it is hard to gather such information as it entails penetration of small groups that are secretive, suspect outsiders and are very cautious of their security. For lone wolf terrorists the use of this strategy is further complicated, as they act individually and spontaneously and this makes it harder to acquire information on their operations.

Another drawback of this method is that most information about terrorist groups is ambiguous and fragmentary meaning it lacks credibility. The collection of information is not really enough to give a coherent picture of terrorism rather such information is used in the strategic sense. Intelligence information is thus used in answering questions such as which groups exhibit greater risks of attack, and which regions are more dangerous, what targets or tactics are likely to be implemented.

Recommendations for Combating Lone Terrorists and Autonomous Terrorist Cells

Scholars have insisted that large terrorist organizations have a much bigger impact as compared to lone wolf terrorists. This has been attributed to the resources and organizational capability that is attributed this large organizations that have the capability to organize high profile attacks and campaigns that are well coordinated. In as much as this may be seen as true, it is evident that lone wolf terrorists too have the ability to carry out destructive attacks. (Stern, 2003)

If lone wolves can be able to access advanced technology they can be quite dangerous, they are also more likely to use weapons of mass destruction. Lone terrorists also are harder to detect, track down or even to identify before they act and this makes the work of authorities harder in countering terrorism. The use of intelligent information on lone wolves is rendered


Lone Wolf Terrorism

useless as they act individually and spontaneously.

Just like the other forms of terrorism, lone wolf terrorism should be dealt with in accordance with the counterterrorism policies that are in existence. However with the 9/11 attack on the US, there has been numerous proposals to change the approach towards counter terrorism and in extension on the legal processes for preventing and dismantling lone wolf terrorism. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act required that in prosecuting an individual a government should demonstrate probable cause that the individual targeted was acting in place of a foreign power. The definition of foreign power consists of groups that are involved in terrorism but is exclusive of unaffiliated individuals who participate. The 2003 domestic security enhancement act incorporated new powers that are much advanced than the one’s contained in the 2001 USA patriotic act. This act amended the definition of “all” individuals to include lone terrorists regardless of the fact that they could be related or belong to a group of terrorists that are involved in terrorism activities. This amendment is seen as helpful in regard to investigation of autonomous terrorist cells and lone wolf terrorists who may not have active relationship with an already existing group of terrorists.(Scahill, 2006)

In 2004, the congress made another important amendment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It changed the term “agent of a foreign power” to include a “lone wolf” provision. Under this provision, a person who is not a US resident and who is involved in activities of international terrorism or is involved in the preparation for such an activity is viewed as an agent of foreign power. This change in that act enables the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court give a court order that will permit a physical search and electronic surveillance with no need to show the existence of a relationship between a terrorist group or foreign government and the target of the physical search or the electronic surveillance. This provision is very crucial for the US government as it is easier to carry out surveillance and searches of suspected lone wolf terrorists that do not depict any substantial connection with a terrorist organization or who may be acting in sympathy with the goals of an international terrorist organization. (Bazan, 2004)



Lone Wolf Terrorism

In this paper we have sought to define Spontaneous Terrorists and Autonomous Terrorist Cells, identify what motivates them, the existing counter terrorism measures with respect to lone wolf terrorists, new trends and counter terrorism measures and finally the alternative solutions to this problem.

The paper began with giving the various definitions of terrorism according to conventions and others by individuals. In defining terrorism we realized that there are seven important characteristics that should be incorporated in a definition. We then looked at the historical cases of terrorism from the time of the Jewish zealots who murdered Jews for collaborating with the Roman Empire and the 11th century Hashshashin of the Shia Muslim sect, I also discussed the 1605 gun powder plot and the reign of terror by the French revolution between 1793 and 1794. This gives a basic foundation of the origins of terrorist activities. In the 19


century terrorist activities equivalent to lone wolf terrorism were witnessed this is in the form of anarchism and the white supremacist which was had no leaders or belong to a formal group. In the modern cases of terrorism, lone wolf terrorism is clearly illustrate in cases that involved terrorists and white supremacists like Timothy McVeigh bombing of the city federal building in Oklahoma, Franz Fuchs, Theodore Kaczynski and David Copeland.

The paper further discusses the triggers and motivations of lone wolf terrorism the include; ideological like the terrorist activities of Franz Fuchs a racist in Germany and Austria, political like the bombing of the city federal building in Oklahoma by Timothy McVeigh who disapproved the actions of government, social like the activities of Theodore Kaczynski who opposed modernity and use of technology, psychological motivation like in the case of David Copeland who had schizophrenia and other motivators like financial considerations and coercion.

The paper then goes on to discuss the existing counter terrorism measures in the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the border nation methods used by the Customs Border Protection department. We then discuss the current developing trends such as the Human Terrain Mapping which enables tacticians who are located in the fields to comprehend the local cultures of the inhabitants and hence are able to enforce operational efficiency and decrease civilian and military conflict. Another important emerging tool is the Geo spatial Analysis of Terrorist Activities (GATA) enables one to study the prevalence of terrorist and their temporal and geographical analysis. According to statistics lone wolf terrorism


Lone Wolf Terrorism

contributes to 1.28% of all other terrorist activities, it is more prevalent in the US with 42% of all such incident of lone wolf terrorism happening in the US. This is associated with the use of this strategy by anti-abortion activists and white supremacists in the United States.

This paper then looks at three alternative solutions namely; the use of diplomacy, financial sanctions and covert action which involves gathering and analysis of intelligence information and terrorist groups’ infiltration. However all of these methods have their pros and cons and especially when dealing with lone wolf terrorists. With diplomacy it is hard to establish channels of communication because they work individually and spontaneously. In using financial sanctions it is mostly effective for large terrorist organization but has been proved less effective for lone wolf terrorists because they require less money to run their activities and use informal banking systems by money brokers known as “hawala”. For covert actions it is hard to gather such information as it entails penetration of small groups or individuals such as lone wolf terrorists who are secretive, suspect outsiders and are very cautious of their security.

Finally the paper discusses the recommendations on how to Combat Lone Terrorists and Autonomous Terrorist Cells. Some scholars view the effect of lone wolf terrorism as limited and attacks are committed at the national rather than on the international level. However, of major concern is that lone wolf terrorism is hard to detect and prevent this is due to their nature in that they act individually and spontaneously. Terrorist like Franz Fuchs and Theodore Kaczynski eluded authorities for a long time and this gave them time to carry out repeated attacks. Therefore in dealing with lone wolf terrorists authorities should bear in mind the combination of all these aspects


Lone Wolf Terrorism


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