The Mark of a Terrorist Is Behavior, Not Ideology

Aug 20, 2019 | 10:00 GMT

Dylann Roof, the suspect behind the church shooting that left nine dead in the U.S. state of South Carolina, appears in court the day after the attack on July 15, 2015.

Dylann Roof was convicted for perpetrating the deadly 2015 attack on the predominately black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Federal prosecutors said Roof was "self-radicalized" in that he sought out white supremacist content online on his own volition.

(Photo by Grace Beahm-Pool/Getty Images)


  • Terrorism is a tactic used by radical extremists of many different ideologies, which means there is no fixed ethnic, religious or gender profile for what a "terrorist" looks like.
  • But while their motives may vary, all would-be attackers are still bound to generally follow the same attack cycle. Thus, tactics used to disrupt terrorism of one strain can also be successfully used against others.
  • Combating terrorism, however, is not just the responsibility of the government but of society at large. "See something, say something" works, which is why the public must be educated on how to spot activities associated with the terrorist attack cycle. 

The Las Vegas Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested a 23-year-old man Aug. 8 who was allegedly plotting to attack Jewish houses of worship and bars frequented by the LGBTQ community in the city. In many ways, the Las Vegas man's actions and path to radicalization were quite similar to those of the jihadist security guard in Orlando who shot up the Pulse nightclub in 2016. This suspect, however, was radicalized not by the Islamic State but by U.S.-based white supremacist groups like Atomwaffen Division. This highlights that terrorism is not owned by a particular organization or ideology. Rather, it's a tactic deployed by anyone looking to use violence for some political or religious aim. And having not only government officials but everyday people understand that is key to catching additional would-be attackers before it's too late....

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