FBI Reports on Lone Offender Terrorism

extended arm with a gunThe Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Behavioral Threat Assessment Center released the Lone Offender Terrorism Report reviewing 52 lone offender terrorist attacks committed in the United States between 1972 and 2015. The study focuses on the backgrounds, behavioral characteristics, and circumstances surrounding the attacks. Additionally, the report provides an insight into pre-attack clues that some bystanders witness but rarely act upon.

Significantly, the study analyzed attacks by individuals who acted independently from any terrorist group or organization. By providing a holistic approach to identifying high-risk individuals, the study aims to inform communities, law enforcement, and policy makers on how to act on potential threats. In particular, the researchers highlight the importance of recognizing “when and how to report potential threats.” As such, early red flags are likely to be identified by friends and family, who have the ability to put unusual behaviors into context of prior history.

The report provides the following key data points:

  • 83 percent of offenders had history of hostile or aggressive behavior;
  • 96 percent of offenders produced statements in writing or videos;
  • In 25 percent of the cases, at least one other individual was aware of the offender’s intent to attack;
  • In all cases, bystanders expressed concern over unusual behaviors prior to an attack.

Reflecting upon these key findings, FBI Director Christopher Wray argues that “[b]ystanders need guidance to recognize concerning behaviors and overcome natural resistance to reporting.” Furthermore, well-trained, skilled, and competent receivers of such reporting are equally essential in managing threats. Consequently, the report underscores the importance of relationships and communication between families, law enforcement, and community authorities.

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