New report on countering domestic radicalization

My New America Foundation colleague Brian Fishman and I released a report today on “best practices” for domestic counterterrorism and counterradicalization, based on case studies in the U.K., New York and L.A. Below is the executive summary, and you can find the full paper here.

Terrorism is not a new phenomenon, but since the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks the United States and the United Kingdom have significantly altered their counterterrorism programs or created new programs, laws, and institutions to cope with changing understandings of the threat posed by individuals living in the West attracted to al-Qaeda’s cause. While the programs the United Kingdom and the cities of New York and Los Angeles have put in place have varied, police and security officials on both sides of the Atlantic recognize the importance of local communities to the struggle against terrorism and radicalization. Based on evaluations of successes and mistakes from these three cases, the authors have created the following list of “best practices” for domestic counterterrorism and community outreach in the United States:

  1. Reduce the role of government in counter-radicalization programs
  2. Treat Muslim-Americans as citizens, not suspects
  3. Maintain dedicated counterterrorism commands or divisions within law enforcement agencies
  4. Use informants carefully and sparingly, especially in prosecutions
  5. Encourage and enable Muslim-American groups to push back against extremists
  6. Improve counterterrorism education guidelines and standards

These practices are not a panacea and do not aim to encapsulate the entirety of useful counterterrorism practices. Indeed, many techniques must change depending on the local context. Nonetheless, applying these concepts is likely to reduce the occurrence of jihadis being radicalized in the West and improve the chances, over the long-run, that radicalizing terrorists will be observed and disrupted.

Also, while I intend to do some more detailed writing on this in the future, be sure to read the U.K. section of the paper if you want to know what I think about the Prevent program.


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