INTELWIRE.com -- Open-source intelligence, primary source documents, analysis by J.M. Berger, co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror, author of Jihad Joe: Americans Who Got to War in the Name of Islam
               

SITE TOPICS INDEX

  • The Islamic State aka ISIS
  • American jihadists; Anwar Awlaki, Omar Hammami
  • Domestic U.S. extremists
  • Countering Violent Extremism (CVE)
  • Social Media and Big Data
  • Law enforcement tactics against extremists
  • Primary Sources, 9/11, Al Qaeda and More
  • J.M. Berger biography
  • Recent video

    SELECTED WORKS ON ISIS

  • J.M. Berger, Senate testimony on ISIS recruitment
  • J.M. Berger, House testimony on ISIS social media
  • The Irregulars: Should we let ISIS claim just any attack?
  • ISIS vs. al Qaeda: The next jihadi superpower
  • Threat vs. Impact in Terrorism
  • ISIS Twitter: Resistible Force Meets Movable Object
  • IS/ISIS/ISIL: What's in a Name?
  • Zawahiri's Silence Raises Concerns With Nusra Supporters
  • Islamic State Massacre Provokes Backlash
  • The Daily Beast: ISIS Takes a Big Gamble
  • The Atlantic: How ISIS Games Twitter
  • Analysis: How Online Fundraising Networks Are Reacting to ISIS
  • A New Day for ISIS: Considerations
  • War on Error: Understanding the evolution of al Qaeda

    BIG DATA AND EXTREMISM

  • #Unfollow: Why Kicking Terrorists Off Twitter Works
  • How Metadata Works: What the NSA Does with Phone Records
  • Who Matters Online: Metrics for Monitoring Extremism Online
  • Foreign Policy: Fringe Following
  • Understanding the NSA's Location Data
  • Visualizing CVE Audiences
  • Recalculating the SPLC's Hate List

    COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM (CVE)

  • A Way Forward for CVE: The Five Ds
  • Monsters and Children: Politics And How We Talk About Muslims
  • The Value of Exposing Collaborators
  • The 'You Name It!' Problem
  • White House CVE Strategy Full of Sound and Fury
  • Terrorist Acts, Terrorist Thoughts

    ONLINE EXTREMISM AND CVE

  • 10 Things to Know About Reporting on Terrorists on Social Media
  • How the West made a laughable terrorist magazine into a success
  • Terrorists on Social Media: Arguments That Don't Impress Me
  • I've Got a Little List
  • Buzzfeed: How to Ruin Al Qaeda's Day on Twitter
  • #Unfollow: The Case for Kicking Terrorists Off Twitter
  • Who Matters Online: Metrics for Monitoring Extremism Online
  • Yellow and Black is the New Black Flag
  • Interview with Online Jihadist Abu Suleiman Al Nasser
  • Internet provides terrorists with tools -- just like everyone else
  • The Trolls of Jihad
  • Don't Be Evil: Why Terrorists Love Google Services

    FBI USE OF INFORMANTS

  • Sex as a Weapon: The Blurry Line Between Informants and Agents
  • Patriot Games: FBI Undercover Operations And Timothy McVeigh
  • White Paper: PATCON infiltration and Oklahoma City
  • Video: Panel on infiltration, New America Foundation
  • A Nation of Spies and Snitches

    ANWAR AWLAKI

  • The Enduring Appeal of Awlaqi's "Constants on the Path of Jihad"
  • The Myth of Anwar Awlaki
  • Gone But Not Forgotten
  • Anwar Al-Awlaki's Links to the September 11 Hijackers
  • Anwar Awlaki's Emails with Fort Hood Shooter
  • U.S. Gave Millions To Charity Linked To Al Qaeda, Anwar Awlaki

    OMAR HAMMAMI

  • Omar and Me: My Strange Relationship with an American Jihadi
  • Bum Rap: Omar Hammami Disavows Jihadist Raps
  • Best-Liked on the Most-Wanted
  • Former Jihadist Friend Rips Hammami in Online Post
  • Foreign Policy: Me against the World
  • Omar Hammami and the Trolls of Jihad

    DOMESTIC EXTREMISM

  • Newtown and the Doomsday Preppers
  • White Nationalists See Opportunity After Election
  • How the Recession Helps Extremists
  • Recalculating the SPLC's Hate List
  • New York Times: Has threat from hate groups been overlooked?
  • J.M. Berger: Temple shooting suspect linked to Florida terror probe
  • Did You Hear The One About U.S. Internment Camps?
  • Unplaying the Race Card in the Patriot Movement
  • The Evolution of Race in the Patriot Movement
  • Mongol Hordes Take Manhattan

    AMERICAN JIHADISTS

  • Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam
  • Exclusive: Omar Hammami on why Al Shabab wants to kill him
  • Bun Rap: Omar Hammami Disavows Propaganda Beats
  • The Boy Who Cried Lone Wolf
  • Why U.S. Terrorists Reject the Al Qaeda Playbook
  • Baltimore's Jamaat al-Muslimeen: Radical But Disciplined
  • Al Qaeda's Gun Fixation
  • The History of Chechen Jihadists in Boston

    EXCLUSIVE PRIMARY SOURCE DOCUMENTS

  • FBI's Investigative Files on 9/11
  • CIA records on Al Qaeda and bin Laden
  • Beatings and Bureaucracy: Al Qaeda's Founding Memos
  • State Department Secretly Met With Followers of Blind Sheikh
  • Oklahoma City Bombing Documents
  • The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

    J.M. BERGER

    JIHAD JOE


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    LATEST WORK FROM J.M. BERGER

    LONDON AND THE CLASH OF EXTREMISTS

    Violent extremists march over the bodies of the innocent in an effort to rip societies apart and rebuild them in a darker image. While extremists do sometimes fight each other directly, they rely on the tool of terrorism to aim their fire at the center of society. The immediate effect is to cut down people who are simply trying to live their lives in peace. The ultimate goal is to destroy the center entirely. The London Bridge and Finsbury Park attacks in London this month show that the center is under a symbiotic assault from more than one direction. 



    DECONSTRUCTION OF IDENTITY CONCEPTS IN ISLAMIC STATE PROPAGANDA

    In a March 2017 paper published by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism—The Hague, this author introduced a framework for studying the construction of extremist identity through ideological texts. This Report will examine the framework against a historical example of the so-called Islamic State (IS) propaganda to illustrate how messaging strategies can be based on insights derived from the framework and the resulting analysis.

    Read the full paper

    MAJOR WORKS

    Major publications in 2017:
    Major publications in 2016:
    Selected earlier works: 

    UNDERSTANDING ISIS IDEOLOGY 

    As surely as night follows day, demands to defeat “the ideology” emerge after a terrorist attack, in increasingly urgent tones. After the terrorist attack Saturday night in London, Prime Minister Theresa May offered the latest iteration of that ritual, a refrain heard since the days of George W. Bush. Yet it should be obvious that the West’s obsessive focus on combatting ideology has produced no quantifiably positive results.

    Read the full analysis at ICCT -- The Hague

    EXTREMIST CONSTRUCTION OF IDENTITY


    This International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, Counter-Terrorism Strategic Communications Project Research Paper examines how the white supremacist movement Christian Identity emerged from a non-extremist forerunner known as British Israelism. By examining ideological shifts over the course of nearly a century, the paper seeks to identify key pivot points in the movement’s shift toward extremism and explain the process through which extremist ideologues construct and define in-group and out-group identities. Based on these findings, the paper proposes a new framework for analyzing and understanding the behavior and emergence of extremist groups. The proposed framework can be leveraged to design strategic counter-terrorism communications programs using a linkage-based approach that deconstructs the process of extremist in-group and out-group definition. Future publications will continue this study, seeking to refine the framework and operationalize messaging recommendations.

    Read the full research paper

    Related: The Dangerous New Americanism

    TRUMP ADMINISTRATION CVE SHIFT IS PART OF A PRO-WHITE NATIONALIST PATTERN

    Government efforts to counter violent extremist among white nationalists were always symbolic, but the decision to end them is also a powerful symbol of the new administration's wider embrace and empowerment of white nationalism.

    Full analysis at the Washington Post

    THE JIHADI THREAT: ISIS, AQ AND BEYOND

    coverTwenty experts from think tanks and universities across the United States explore the world’s deadliest movements, their strategies, the future scenarios, and policy considerations. This report reflects their analysis and diverse views, worked out during a series of conferences between August and November 2016. “The Jihadi Threat” reflects the broad — and often diverse — views of the coauthors. The United States Institute of Peace was the primary sponsor of this initiative, with the backing of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. J.M. Berger contributed to this report on behalf of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism -- The Hague.

    Read the full report

      COUNTER-TERRORISM STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS AT ICCT -- THE HAGUE

      J.M. Berger is a fellow with the Counter-Terrorism Strategic Communications (CTSC) Project, led by the International Centre for Counter Terrorism – The Hague, a collaborative project bringing together experts from Europe, the United States and Australia as well as researchers from the Middle East and South Asia. It was set up to tackle one of the most significant national and global security challenges facing the world today: how to understand and confront the propaganda messaging of violent extremists. Through empirical research, based largely on primary source materials and in-country fieldwork, the project aims to test assumptions and evaluate past campaigns in order to develop key principles and guidelines for counter-terrorism strategic communications efforts. Other CTSC fellows and experts include Dr. Alastair ReedDr. Haroro J. IngramCharlie Winter and Dr. Craig Whiteside. For publications and more information, click here.

      HOW DONALD TRUMP WON THE VOTE FROM SKEPTICAL WHITE NATIONALISTS



      Donald Trump has become a darling of white nationalists in the United States. He has been endorsed by the nation’s most prominent neo-Nazis and both current and former Klansmen, and he is supported online by a legion of racist and anti-Semitic trollsThe candidatehis son and his surrogates have tweeted white nationalist content, and the RNC even displayed a white nationalist’s tweet during the Republican convention.
      But it wasn’t always like this. Even after years of championing racially tinged questions about President Barack Obama’s birthplace, as recently as 2015 Trump was treated with disdain and suspicion by most white nationalists. Many claimed he was secretly Jewish, or in thrall to Jewish interests. Others saw him as a blowhard and egomaniac, a mercenary who was out only for himself. This is the story of how Trump won not only their votes but, eventually, their enthusiasm. 

      Full story at Politico

      THE TURNER LEGACY

       
      The Turner Diaries, the infamous racist dystopian novel by neo-Nazi William Luther Pierce, has inspired more than 200 murders since its publication in 1978, including the single deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, the Oklahoma City bombing.

      The book is arguably the most important single work of white nationalist propaganda in the English language, but it is not a singular artifact. The Turner Diaries is part of a genre of racist dystopian propaganda dating back to the U.S. Civil War. A new paper from J.M. Berger documents the books that directly and indirectly inspired Turner and examine the extensive violence that the novel has inspired.


      Related posts on World Gone Wrong: 
      Nazis vs. ISIS on Twitter


      A new paper by J.M. Berger for George Washington University's Program on Extremism finds that white nationalists are thriving on Twitter and outperforming the Islamic State, which has been notorious for its success using social media, in both recruitment and messaging. The paper found that hashtags referring to presidential candidate Donald Trump outperformed almost every other subject. A companion article on INTELWIRE examines the outlook for extremist use of social media and forecasts dangerous times ahead. 

      MORE RECENT UPDATES


      ICCT -- The Hague: Making CVE Work
      One of the biggest barriers to designing a comprehensive Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program is defining its scope. This paper argues for a narrow approach, focusing on disengagement and the disruption of recruitment, a simplified model of radicalization, and concrete themes for disruptive intervention and messaging. After analyzing case studies of disengagement, a specific program of action is recommended. 
      Read the full paper (PDF) | Read the Policy Brief (PDF)

      Foreign Policy: ISIS and the Dystopian Spectacle


      One of the most popular tropes in dystopian fiction is the “violent spectacle.” Immortalized in recent years by The Hunger Games series, the concept is simple: A corrupt society uses some public display or broadcast of violence to manipulate the masses. But it’s never been purely fiction.

      New blog: World Gone Wrong




      After years of rumours, Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al Nusra is expected to sever its longstanding affiliation with al Qaeda at any moment. As news of the impending split broke, many questions arose: Was it simply a smokescreen? Would al Qaeda still be pulling al Nusra’s strings? Won’t al Nusra still represent an extremist, violent ideology? Healthy skepticism is definitely called for, but this extraordinary development is far from inconsequential. Even if the ideology remains the same, even if al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri continues to influence al Nusra’s ranks and its leaders, the shift in allegiance will reverberate around the globe.

      New GWU Paper: What Sovereign Citizens Believe
      Members of the sovereign citizen movement are increasingly in the news for their violent confrontations with law enforcement, but their confusing ideology can be difficult to understand. This paper explains in simple language what sovereigns believe, and where those beliefs originated. | Read the full paper (PDF) 

      The Islamic State's Diminishing Returns on Twitter
      Since late 2014, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) social networks on Twitter have been subjected to periodic account suspensions. In a study of metrics for a network of English language ISIS supporters active from June to October 2015, suspensions held the size and reach of the overall network flat, while devastating the reach of specific users who have been repeatedly targeted. | Read the full paper (PDF)


      BOOKS BY J.M. BERGER

      "...smart, granular analysis..."

      ISIS: The State of Terror
      "Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger's new book, "ISIS," should be required reading for every politician and policymaker... Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations... a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group." -- Washington Post

    • Foreign Affairs: Best books of 2015
    • Wall Street Journal: Must-reads on terrorism
    • Washington Post: Notable nonfiction of 2015
    • New York Times: The top books of 2015

      More on ISIS: The State of Terror

      "...a timely warning..."

      Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam:
      "At a time when some politicians and pundits blur the line between Islam and terrorism, Berger, who knows this subject far better than the demagogues, sharply cautions against vilifying Muslim Americans. ... It is a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective." -- New York Times

      More on Jihad Joe

      RECENT UPDATES

    • All recent posts
    • Politico: The Dog-Days of Terrorism
    • Politico: Misunderestimating ISIS
    • Politico: Al Qaeda's American Dream Ends
    • ISIS: State of Terror Review Roundup
    • Social Media: An Evolving Battleground
    • Documents: Garland shooter's jihadist history
    • Berger's Rule of Radicalization
    • About J.M. Berger


      EXCLUSIVE: THE 9/11 ARCHIVE

      FBI Documents on 9/11:

    • By 9/11 Report Chapter
    • 1995 to 2000
    • 1/1/2001 to 9/10/2001
    • 9/11/2001
    • 9/12/2001
    • 9/13/2001 to 9/30/2001
    • 10/01/2001 to 12/31/2001
    • 01/01/2002 to 04/30/2002
    • 5/2002 to 12/2002
    • 1/2003 to 12/2003
    • 1/2004 to FBI FOIA complete

      CIA Documents on 9/11:

    • Binder 1
    • Binder 2

      Spotlight documents:

    • FBI Chronology of Hijackers' Activities
    • FBI Timeline of Investigation, Sept. 12-13, 2001
    • June 2001 Warning of Terrorist Attack
    • State Dept. Secret Post-9/11 Briefing to World Leaders
    • Al Qaeda Internal Records of Its Founding in 1988
    • 1994 State Dept. Document Referencing Al Qaeda
    • Anwar Awlaki FBI Investigative Documents
    • Descriptions of U.S. Border Security Programs
    • 9/11 Commission Memoranda, State Dept. Interviews
    • 9/11 Commission Memoranda, CIA Budget
    • 9/11 Commission Memoranda, Extremism In Pakistan
    • 9/11 Commission Memoranda, Various Interviews
    • 9/11 Commission Memoranda, FBI Interviews, Part I
    • 9/11 Commission Memoranda, 1990s CT Policy
    • State Department Analysis: Exporting Terrorist Tactics From Iraq


    • ARTICLES BY J.M. BERGER

      Al Qaeda's American Dream Ends
      The public first met Adam Gadahn in October 2004, under the name "Azzam the American," in an Al Qaeda video Q&A that seems almost quaint by today's gruesome standards. Gadahn's real name and strange life story soon emerged. A Jew raised on a California goat farm who dabbled in heavy metal before converting to Islam and subsequently joining Al Qaeda, he became one of the most prominent members of the pantheon of Americans in the terror group. His death closes a chapter. Al Qaeda's array of American recruits once inspired alarm at the highest levels of government; today they are a spent force.

      Europe's New Crackdown
      They can take our lives, but can they also take our freedom? The Charlie Hebdo assault in Paris last week is only the latest chapter in a months-long series of attacks, which built in turn on a yearlong escalation of concerns about the extraordinary number of Europeans traveling to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State, al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, and a host of other jihadi groups.

      The Islamic State's Irregulars
      In a number of recent cases, it's unclear whether jihadist-style attacks were inspired by the Islamic State and its extremist ideology, or whether IS provided a convenient excuse for violence that was already brewing in the hearts of the perpetrators.

      Full story at Foreign Policy

      RECENT VIDEO



      TOP STORIES AND RESEARCH


      THE ISIS TWITTER CENSUS

      In a groundbreaking study for the Brookings Institution's Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, , J.M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan identified 20,000 ISIS-supporting Twitter accounts and analyzed their characteristics, profiles, locations and tweeting activity. The study estimates a minimum of 46,000 ISIS-supporting accounts were active in October and November 2014, and provides data and insights on how the suspension of thousands of accounts have impacted the performance of the network. For more reporting on ISIS and its use of media, read ISIS: The State of Terror, the new book by J.M. Berger and Jessica Stern, on sale everywhere.

      Full report | News story | ISIS: State of Terror




      WHO MATTERS ONLINE: METRICS FOR ANALYZING EXTREMIST SOCIAL NETWORKS

      Through the analysis of thousands of Twitter accounts following prominent white nationalists and anarchists, "Who Matters Online: Measuring influence, Evaluating Content and Countering Violent Extremism in Online Social Networks" offers new quantitative tools to identify highly engaged extremists in large social networks and to evaluate tactics for combating violent extremism (CVE) online. Authored by ICSR Associate Fellow J.M. Berger and Bill Strathearn, Who Matters Online: Measuring influence, Evaluating Content and Countering Violent Extremism in Online Social Networks demonstrates how quantitative analysis can identify highly engaged extremists in large social networks.

      Full report


    • Al Qaeda's American Dream Ends
    • The Islamic State's Irregulars
    • War on Error: The New Shape of Al Qaeda
    • What Intelligence Agencies Do With Metadata
    • Monsters and Children: Politicians and Muslims

      INTELWIRE EXCLUSIVE DOCUMENTS

    • Al Qaeda's Founding Documents
    • FBI Investigative Files on 9/11
    • CIA records on Al Qaeda and bin Laden
    • State Dept. Meetings With Gama'a Islamiyah
    • Oklahoma City Bombing Documents
    • The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

    • ABOUT J.M. BERGER

      J.M. Berger is a researcher, analyst and consultant, with a special focus on extremist activities in the United States, and extremist propaganda and use of social media. He is an associate fellow with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, The Hague and was previously a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution. Berger is co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern and author of Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam. Berger has written for the New York Times, Politico, The Atlantic and Foreign Policy. He has served as an on-air consultant with PBS and as a producer for NPR. | Selected Works and Citations

      In addition to writing for the media, Berger consults for and trains private companies and government agencies on issues related to homegrown terrorism, online extremism, foreign fighters and advanced social media analysis. He has lectured at Harvard University, American University, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and Utrecht University, the Netherlands.



      J.M. BERGER RESEARCH AREAS

    • Homegrown violent extremism (HVE and CVE)
    • Terrorist and extremist use of the Internet
    • Lone wolf and loosely networked terrorism
    • American jihadists including Anwar Awlaki
    • History of jihadist terrorism in the U.S.
    • History of right-wing extremism in the U.S.
    • Al Qaeda infiltration and targeting of U.S. military
    • Early Al Qaeda history and structure
    • Terrorist tactics and financing
    • Jihadist activity during Bosnian civil war
    • Document research and FOIA