Earlier this week, Matthew Alcoke, the FBI’s deputy assistant director for its Counterterrorism Division, delivered remarks on the “ever-evolving” terrorism landscape, with a focus on its implications for the homeland. Alcoke began by describing how the FBI works counterterrorism cases, explaining how his agency categorizes terrorism. He acknowledges the threats that continue to be posed by overseas terrorist groups, in particular al Qa’ida and the Islamic State and in spite of the setbacks they’ve experienced, but he states that “the greatest threat we face in the homeland emanates from self-radicalized lone actors, of any ideology, who look to attack soft targets with easily accessible weapons.” Speaking about how this threat has evolved, he explains homeland plots used to originate through local, in-person organizers but now self-starting violent extremists are motivated through a person or material they find online, the origins of which may be thousands of miles away. Alcoke offers some interesting and potentially useful statistics regarding self-radicalized lone actors, revealed through the FBI’s own investigations. For one, the average age of attackers has decreased over the past two years. And particularly among juvenile offenders, the FBI has witnessed perpetrators mix multiple extremist ideologies to develop unique personalized justifications for violence. Studies have also revealed that most successful attackers typically mobilize to violence in less than six months, meaning there might not be much time to act to prevent an attack. Read the transcript at the FBI.
While many things have changed about the domestic terrorism threat environment over just the last few years, what has not is the importance of the involvement of all people and organizations in maintaining vigilance. Alcoke notes “It takes a network to defeat a network,” and he advocates for a “whole-of-society approach” to mitigate the evolving lone offender terrorism threat within our borders. To contribute to this effort, the importance of which cannot be overstated, WaterISAC encourages its members to report incidents or suspicious activities, by emailing email@example.com, calling 866-H2O-ISAC, or filling out the outline Confidential Incident Reporting Form.