US intervention the reason for homegrown terrorism – FBI study

A U.S. soldier watches as a statue of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein falls in central Baghdad, Iraq April 9, 2003.© Goran Tomasevic
A secret FBI report uncovered by The Intercept demonstrated once again that the agency believes the number one factor in the creation of homegrown terrorism is US military action overseas.

The FBI published a study in December 2012 which surveyed intelligence analysts and special agents involved in cases of “homegrown violent extremists,” according to The Intercept.

The study, titled ‘The Homegrown Violent Extremists: Survey Confirms Key Assessments, Reveals New Insights about Radicalization’, was viewed by the news outlet. It states that the greatest factor driving extremism is the fact that individuals “frequently believe the US military is committing atrocities in Muslim countries.”

The study appears to only examine cases of Muslim extremism, and states the close to 200 cases surveyed are only a fraction of all “pending, US-based Sunni extremist cases” in the US at that time.

The survey asked agents more than 100 questions about their cases to identify what factors played a part in radicalization.

The options included propaganda, web forums, travel, “religious, student or social organizations where extremist views are expressed,” military experience, and time in prison.

US military action overseas showed up “overwhelmingly” in the results, the Intercept reports. In 18 percent of all cases, US military action was the most pressing reason for extremist leanings, with “War against Islam” and “discrimination” and other more specific incidents cited in other cases.

Other “key factors” identified include exposure to militant propaganda and influential figures, such as Al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki.

The survey found the path to radicalization was a personal one, making it challenging to predict radicalization before it happens.

“It can be difficult, if not impossible, to predict for any given individual what factor or combination of factors will prompt that individual’s radicalization or mobilization to violence,” the report stated.

The study revealed a number of factors which didn’t “significantly contribute” to radicalization. Prison, military service and international travel were found to have a minimal impact.

The report concluded by recommending agents focus on social media, online forums and increase surveillance on “known radicalizers”.

A 2011 study by the FBI and the Joint Regional Intelligence Center (JRIC) revealed similar findings, mainly that the US’s military presence overseas was the greatest factor in motivating would be attackers.

“Much of the activity stemmed from a perception that the United States is at war with Islam and jihad is the correct and obligatory response,” the report found.

The news that American intervention overseas is a cause of terrorism isn’t new. In 2004, Donald Rumsfeld commissioned a report to question the the causes of terrorism. It found that “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom’, but rather, they hate our policies,” particularly “the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.”