Jihadi Vampires, Jihadi Zombies

 

GarlandThe attack in Garland appears to confirm the observation that there are two kinds of terrorist attacks. The first kind – which we saw on 9/11, the London Tube and Madrid train attacks, the Mumbai attack, and in the Charlie Hebdo massacre – are made by hardened, patient, and well-trained semi-professionals, whose activities are funded (and often directed) from overseas. In contrast, the second kind — think of the Tsarnaevs or Major Hasan — is typified by amateurishness, lack of planning, and poor impulse control. Moreover, it seems that failure to join the ranks of the former often leads to the latter.

As if their nearly complete failure wasn’t evidence enough, the news in this New York Times piece should confirm that the Garland attack was a strong instance of the latter:

But any secret ties that officials might find may be less important than the public exchanges of messages on Twitter by one of the gunmen, Elton Simpson, in the weeks before the attack. Mr. Simpson, a convert to Islam with a long history of extremism, regularly traded calls for violence on Twitter with Islamic State fighters and supporters, as well as avowed enemies of Pamela Geller, the organizer of the cartoon contest.

His Twitter contacts included Junaid Hussain, a British fighter with the Islamic State in Syria known as Abu Hussain al-Britani, and Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan, a Somali-American now in Somalia who uses the name Mujahid Miski and frequently promotes the Islamic State. Both men called for violence, and Mr. Hassan had suggested the Texas event as a possible target.

On April 23, 10 days before the Texas attack, Mr. Hassan linked to the planned cartoon event in Texas, praised the January shootings at a satirical newspaper in Paris and called on jihadists in the United States to follow that example…

It goes on from there. These guys weren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer.

Notably, both kinds of terrorists are dangerous, albeit for very different reasons. The former are like vampires in that they have a plan, can learn, and are willing to be patient (though they have their weaknesses and strange obsessions). The latter are more like zombies in their relative brainlessness and the ease with which they are identified, but also because they can live among us before turning and because they have a potential (unrealized, so far) to grow in numbers.

From the outside, our national security and law enforcement agencies seem to have focused their energies on the former kind of terrorist, as evidenced by their affinity for trolling metadata in search of clandestine cells communicating with allies around the world. This focus, however, causes them to either miss or fail to adequately follow-up on Islamists who telegraph their intentions with painful openness.

A few questions for members, especially those with more expertise on the matter than I:

  1. Are these two types an accurate description of what’s happening. Did I miss anything?
  2. On the assumption I have it right, do the different types warrant different kinds of prevention and response? If so, please elaborate.
  3. On that same assumption, why do our political leaders and national security officials appear to make little — if any — distinction between the two?

There are 4 comments.

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  1. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    while I certainly don’t know more about the matter than you do, I can say – regarding #2 – that the latter should be pretty easy to keep tabs on with a relatively simple information network.  But simple is the key word; what we have right now, even in our spy and enforcement agencies, seems to be a whole lot of bureaucratic mess.  Simplify, perhaps, and allow for cooperation between agencies rather than competition among them.  I don’t think that it helps when people have to worry that the next president might go on a witch hunt for political reasons, either…  So there’s my short, uneducated, answer.  Simplify and do a little bit more to shield our existing agencies from politically motivated attacks.  That way, the Zombies will be relatively easy to thwart, and more attention can be paid to the Vampires.

    • #1
  2. user_82762 Thatcher
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Tom,

    I like your analysis but let me state it the way I see it. The fundamental link is Jihad. Jihad is the poison that is the motivator of the violence. Let’s follow the path.

    1) Young Muslim male comes under the influence of a Jihadist Khatib who delivers the sermon and religious instruction at his local Mosque. This happens not because the young Muslim is recruited directly but because he is searching for his Religious faith. The Jihadist is taking advantage of the situation not creating it.

    2) The young Muslim may take years before the Jihadist poison sinks in. No one is prepared for a suicide-homicide mission after one sermon.

    3) When the young Muslim starts to completely ingest and absorb the poisonous religious ideology of Jihad he himself starts to look for ‘opportunities’. Now a more sophisticated handler makes contact and he will go for military training. How sophisticated his training depends on how sophisticated he is and how sophisticated the handler is.

    4) Most important of all, once ideologically confirmed and militarily trained the Jihadist is now a walking time bomb waiting to go off. Whether his intellect and capabilities are high or not doesn’t matter. If the two who attacked at the Texas Geller function had attacked a softer target they could easily have killed 5, 10, 25 people with their AK-47s.

    As the preaching of Jihad is incitement to violence, sedition, and subversion, as events have proved over and over, I believe it alone should be cause for arrest. Just following the money is not enough. The ideology itself must be challenged and stamped out. This is just self-defense. If we don’t see it that way then we will never do better than just waiting for the bomb to go off.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #2
  3. Herbert E. Meyer Contributor
    Herbert E. Meyer
    @HerbertEMeyer

    I like your way of looking at the terrorist threat as two distinct problems — the threat from overseas professionals, if you will, and the newer threat from local amateurs.

    In a sense, this new threat from local amateurs is somewhat like the threat from mentally-disturbed killers: they live and work among us, and only after they attack do their neighbors and co-workers tell us they always knew something awful was going to happen….

    In short, we now live in an age where the slogan: If you see something, say something becomes ever-more relevant.  And in this broadest sense, all of us need to re-think the issues of security and privacy.

    As for the specific threat from local amateurs inspired by ISIS, this is yet another reason why we should have exterminated ISIS the moment it emerged.

    • #3
  4. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Herbert E. Meyer:As for the specific threat from local amateurs inspired by ISIS, this is yet another reason why we should have exterminated ISIS the moment it emerged.

    It’s still not too late.

    • #4

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