A new study from the University of Chicago, The American Face of ISIS, said that the biggest terror threat in the US is homegrown.
A team of nearly a dozen authors and researchers at the University of Chicago produced the report, including Jean Decety, a professor of psychology and psychiatry, Keven Ruby, CPOST senior research associate, data manager Alejandro Albanez Rivas and research assistants Jens Jessen and Caroline Wegner. The report's authors said the interdisciplinary cooperation possible across social sciences at the University of Chicago allows for a more comprehensive analysis than it is possible for government agencies to produce.
The study analyzed more than 100 people indicted by the US Justice Department for ISIS-related offenses.
The study concluded the face of ISIS in the United States today is allegedly homegrown. Out of 112 individuals indicted on ISIS-related crimes in the past three years: 85 percent were American citizens, 64 percent were American born and only 4 percent were foreign nationals.
The study added many of the accused terrorists allegedly didn't come from Muslim communities, they converted to Islam and radicalized at the same time after watching videos on-line.
The study found that as a group, the individuals mirror average Americans more than people think and that the common perception of a terrorist as a young, single, unemployed, disenfranchised male is wrong. The average age of the 112 individuals is 27 years old, with almost a third over 30; more than 40 percent were in a relationship (one-third were married); and nearly two-thirds had been to college and three-quarters had jobs or were in school.
“The strength of ISIS is in the videos with which it can basically recruit ordinary Americans to its cause,” Ruby said. Eighty three percent of the study group had watched ISIS videos, including execution videos and lectures by terrorist leaders.
The vast majority of the 112 individuals in the cohort were allegedly born in the United States, and nearly 20 percent were naturalized citizens. This is in contrast to individuals who had been indicted for al Qaeda-related offenses between 1997 and 2011 when only 55 percent of were U.S. citizens.
For policymakers, Pape said that officials need to understand ISIS’s propaganda strategy in the U.S. and target its methods for driving recruitment and radicalization.