Armed Hostilities

Intelligence Implications for Self-Radicalized Terrorism

Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. The radicalization process
  3. Emergent methods of combating homegrown terrorism
  4. Reference


Since the 9/11 terrorist attack, violent criminal tactics used by extremists have evolved drastically. Self-radicalized terrorism is gaining prevalence in the USA. Consequently, the policies and practices guiding the prevention of criminal threats are changing to keep pace with the evolving criminal environment (Carter & Carter, 2012, p.138).

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Carter and Carter (2012, p.138) explore the interrelationship between enforcement intelligence practices, Suspicious Activity Reports (SAR), and community partnerships about the prevention of self-radicalized terrorism.

The radicalization process

According to Carter and Carter (2012, p.139), most criminal extremists derive motivation from global terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda. The radicalization process involves the transformation of people’s beliefs, attitudes, and values into extremist ideologies.

Though the radicalization process may vary from one person to another, the four primary stages in the process include pre-radicalization, self-identification, indoctrination, and use of soldiers (Carter & Carter, 2012, p.140). Mentorship is another important element of radicalization.

Mentors often provide ideological support; not logical or financial support. Irrespective of how an individual becomes radical, there are many opportunities that may direct law enforcement in collecting information for intelligence processes.

Emergent methods of combating homegrown terrorism

Intelligence-Led Policing (ILP) is an emerging prevention philosophy that aims at analyzing raw information to guide decision making. ILP is an information management process comprising of the intelligence cycle. The intelligence cycle includes planning and direction, collection, processing and collation, analysis, and dissemination (Carter & Carter, 2012, p.141).

These steps highly depend on formal and informal partnerships between citizens and law enforcement on the protection of civil liberties and policies guiding ethical police conduct. The intelligence cycle enables law enforcement to obtain information on previously unknown threats from the community and use it to prevent terrorism (Carter & Carter, 2012, p.141).

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Reporting suspicious activities is a formal process of documenting and sharing suspicious criminal behavior. Information Sharing Environment – Suspicious Activity Report is the documentation of suspicious terrorist behavior (Carter & Carter, 2012, p.142). It helps in identifying self-radicalized terrorism.

The Manager’s Office for Information Sharing Environment works with its federal partners in ensuring a balance between national security and civil liberties. Accordingly, the suspicion must depend on a reasonable belief that a person is likely to commit a terrorist act (Carter & Carter, 2012, p.143).

Law enforcement is taking a unique approach with community organizations and members in promoting two-way communication flow. According to Carter and Carter (2012, p.144), these partnerships are important in channeling raw information on the suspicious behavior to law enforcement agents.

Law enforcement intelligence prevents criminal threats and attacks using the information on criminals, their methods, motives, and targets. Carter and Carter (2012, p.145) suggest that Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) provide a basis for gaining raw information. SARs help in making proactive assumptions, identifying criminal patterns, and determining criminal opportunities.

The complexity of planning a terrorist attack increases indicators and the likelihood of law enforcement to intervene in the planning and execution of the incident (Carter & Carter, 2012, p.146). Law enforcement, for instance, managed to prevent the plot to attack the Fort Dix soldiers through a citizen tip (Carter & Carter, 2012, p.148). The attack on Fort Hood is another incident that illustrates the complexity of combating terrorism.

Prevention of terrorism requires proper planning because it has lesser indicators than conventional crimes. Carter and Carter (2012, p.151) conclude that the effectiveness of SARs depends on the level of trust and familiarity between law enforcement officers and the community.


Carter, J. G., & Carter, D. L. (2012). Law Enforcement Intelligence: Implications for Self- Radicalized Terrorism. Police Practice and Research, 13(2): 138-154.

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