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In the wake of the attacks at Fort Hood, the Boston Marathon, and in Paris, here is a riveting, panoramic look at "homegrown" Islamist terrorism, from 9/11 to the present Since 9/11, some 300 Americans--born and raised in Minnesota, Alabama, New Jersey, and elsewhere--have been indicted or convicted of terrorism charges. Some have taken the fight abroad: Americans were amon In the wake of the attacks at Fort Hood, the Boston Marathon, and in Paris, here is a riveting, panoramic look at "homegrown" Islamist terrorism, from 9/11 to the present Since 9/11, some 300 Americans--born and raised in Minnesota, Alabama, New Jersey, and elsewhere--have been indicted or convicted of terrorism charges. Some have taken the fight abroad: Americans were among those who planned the attacks in Mumbai, and more recently a dozen US citizens have sought to join ISIS. Others have acted entirely on American soil. What motivates them, how are they trained, and what do we sacrifice in our aggressive efforts to track them? Paced like a detective story, United States of Jihad will tell the entwined stories of the key actors on the American front. Among the perpetrators are Anwar al-Awlaki, the New Mexico-born radical cleric who became the first American citizen killed by a CIA drone and who mentored the Charlie Hebdo shooters; Samir Khan, whose Inspire webzine has rallied terrorists around the world, including the Tsarnaev brothers; and Omar Hammami, an Alabama native and hip hop fan who became a fixture in al Shabaab's propaganda videos until fatally displeasing his superiors. Drawing on his extensive network of intelligence contacts, from the National Counterterrorism Center and the FBI to the NYPD, Peter Bergen also offers an inside look at the sometimes controversial tactics of the agencies tracking potential terrorists--from infiltrating mosques to massive surveillance; at the bias experienced by innocent observant Muslims at the hands of law enforcement; at the critics and defenders of US policies on terrorism; and more.  Lucid, rigorously researched, and packed with fascinating new details, United States of Jihad is the definitive account of the Americans who have embraced militant Islam both here and abroad.


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In the wake of the attacks at Fort Hood, the Boston Marathon, and in Paris, here is a riveting, panoramic look at "homegrown" Islamist terrorism, from 9/11 to the present Since 9/11, some 300 Americans--born and raised in Minnesota, Alabama, New Jersey, and elsewhere--have been indicted or convicted of terrorism charges. Some have taken the fight abroad: Americans were amon In the wake of the attacks at Fort Hood, the Boston Marathon, and in Paris, here is a riveting, panoramic look at "homegrown" Islamist terrorism, from 9/11 to the present Since 9/11, some 300 Americans--born and raised in Minnesota, Alabama, New Jersey, and elsewhere--have been indicted or convicted of terrorism charges. Some have taken the fight abroad: Americans were among those who planned the attacks in Mumbai, and more recently a dozen US citizens have sought to join ISIS. Others have acted entirely on American soil. What motivates them, how are they trained, and what do we sacrifice in our aggressive efforts to track them? Paced like a detective story, United States of Jihad will tell the entwined stories of the key actors on the American front. Among the perpetrators are Anwar al-Awlaki, the New Mexico-born radical cleric who became the first American citizen killed by a CIA drone and who mentored the Charlie Hebdo shooters; Samir Khan, whose Inspire webzine has rallied terrorists around the world, including the Tsarnaev brothers; and Omar Hammami, an Alabama native and hip hop fan who became a fixture in al Shabaab's propaganda videos until fatally displeasing his superiors. Drawing on his extensive network of intelligence contacts, from the National Counterterrorism Center and the FBI to the NYPD, Peter Bergen also offers an inside look at the sometimes controversial tactics of the agencies tracking potential terrorists--from infiltrating mosques to massive surveillance; at the bias experienced by innocent observant Muslims at the hands of law enforcement; at the critics and defenders of US policies on terrorism; and more.  Lucid, rigorously researched, and packed with fascinating new details, United States of Jihad is the definitive account of the Americans who have embraced militant Islam both here and abroad.

30 review for United States of Jihad: Investigating America's Homegrown Terrorists

  1. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, 330 people in the United States have been charged with some kind of jihadist terrorist crime ranging in seriousness from murder to sending small sums of money to a terrorist group. An astonishing four out of five of them are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. There has been much made of late about the threat of foreign terrorists wreaking havoc in the United States, no doubt slipping in by hiding under the skirts of Syrian mothers fleeing the Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, 330 people in the United States have been charged with some kind of jihadist terrorist crime ranging in seriousness from murder to sending small sums of money to a terrorist group. An astonishing four out of five of them are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. There has been much made of late about the threat of foreign terrorists wreaking havoc in the United States, no doubt slipping in by hiding under the skirts of Syrian mothers fleeing the destruction of their nation. US security, hugely beefed up since 9/11, has been very successful at keeping out most of the baddies. But what about the home-grown variety? The terrorist events that have taken place in the USA in the last few years have largely been the work of people who were either born here or were legal permanent residents. The Orlando shooter, for example, was born in New York City. One of the Tsarnaev brothers, of the Boston marathon bombing, was a naturalized US citizen. The other was a legal permanent resident. Bergen focuses his incisive eye on this local piece of the terrorist threat, and reports what he found. It is fascinating. Peter Bergen - from the Rochester Institute of Technology There is no journalist with more expertise in the field of terrorism than Peter Bergen, whose rolodex is probably guarded by a Seal Team. He is the author of five books, three of which have been made into documentaries. He is a producer of documentaries, a think tank director, a professor of Politics and Global Studies, and the list goes on. While he is a world-class level writer, producer, journalist and researcher, Bergen was best known for producing a CNN interview with Osama bin Laden in 1997. Instead of taking several pages to give you his bona fides, I advise you to check out the bio page on his website. I guarantee you will be impressed. In short, the man knows of what he writes, having been there and done that in various forms for a very long time. In United States of Jihad, Bergen looks at a handful of American terrorist case histories and through doing so addresses many of the wider security issues they raise. The preponderance of local citizens or legal residents involved …flies in the face of the conventional belief (largely attributable to the fact that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by nineteen foreign-born Arab hijackers) that those involved in terrorist activity in the United States are foreigners. In fact, the overwhelming number of those engaged in jihadist crimes in the States have been Americans. Moreover, more than one hundred American citizens or residents have been charged after traveling overseas to join a terrorist group, and a further thirty-nine were arrested in the States while planning to do so. While there are plenty of extremist, violent organizations in the world, the big boogey man of terrorism these days is ISIS. We tend to think of ISIS as the very model of the modern major terrorist organization. But that comes from the means they use to effect their actions. ISIS has very successfully incorporated expertise in global social media as not only a way to get their propaganda message out, but as a way to recruit new members to join them in their quest to establish a caliphate. They have shifted their orientation of late and now encourage potential recruits to stay home and cause mayhem in their native, usually Western countries. But the underlying philosophy of the organization is of an ancient sort. ISIS is a millenarian cult, certain that the End Times are approaching and that it is in the vanguard in an ultimate religious war Allah has determined it will win. There have been many such groups over the years. Thankfully few of them have had access to the sorts of resources, capital, and weaponry that ISIS does. Heaven’s Gate pops to mind, Jonestown and the Branch Davidians. There are plenty more. As ISIS and the like have broadened their appeal via the Internet, extremist propaganda has certainly propagated, along with information on how to build this or that device to inflict damage on infidels of whatever sort. The USA has done a pretty thorough job of vetting most immigrants, but we come up against serious challenges to values we hold dear when it comes to domestic spying. How much power are we are ok with allowing the government when it comes to gathering intel over the air or through the wires? How much privacy does it cost to prevent the next big strike? How much freedom does it cost to prevent the next small strike? Are we willing to pay that price, and if so what would we get for that payment? Bergen looks into the effectiveness of some of our big-vacuum data gathering. He also looks at the debate between those who favor shifting resources to focus on big-strike actors and possibilities and others who believe that lone-wolf actors should receive resource priority. USoJ looks at the changes that have taken place in jihadi telecom, and propaganda methodologies, many of which have been brought into being by Western recruits. Some of those upgraders are profiled here. The profiling includes a look at what personal and social conditions are conducive to the creation of a jihadist, and what motivates them to act or join up. He cites research done by folks who have looked very specifically at the stages involved in future jihadists moving from unhappy to violent. You will recognize these every time you read a newspaper report on the latest terrorist bomber. Despite bloviations and fear-mongering from certain interested parties, terrorism within the USA remains a remote threat. According to LifeInsuranceQuote.org, the odds of being killed in a terrorist attack are about 1 in 20 million, or about half as likely as being killed in a shark attack, that likelihood being 1 in 11.5 million worldwide. In fact, even within the terrorist spectrum, we are more at risk from right wing crazies than we are from Islamic extremists. Since 2001 forty-five Americans have been killed by jihadist terrorists in the United States. In that same period, by contrast, forty-eight Americans have been killed in acts of political violence by far-right extremists.(1)There are some items in here that might come as a surprise. For instance, for all the xenophobia stirred up by certain elements in our political spectrum, and the hatred of the USA spouted by anti-Americans of various stripes, the USA is one of the better places for Muslims to live. The reason is that all forms of Islam are accepted here. There are many countries, Islamic countries, where not all forms are allowed. Saudi Arabia, for example, looks unkindly on practitioners of Shiite Islam, the sort that is dominant in national rival Iran. Sunni and Shiite tensions in Iraq have marked that nation's history with blood. Another eye-opener informs reports of terrorist plots in the USA. …in the name of defeating Islamic terrorism, since 9/11 the FBI has instigated more jihadist terrorist “plots” in the States than al-Qaeda or any of its affiliated groups—thirty versus ten. One thing you might not have thought about before reading this book is how many international Islamic terrorists were actually made in America. If we start punishing countries that have produced international terrorists, we would have to start with good ole Number One, because we have sent our share into the world, and some of them were very influential and deadly. Another item of interest is considering which people become terrorists, by class. Many terrorists are comfortably middle class, or at least have the option of being so. Working class terrorist candidates are too busy trying to make a living to have the time needed for extremism, with turns out to be a serious time-suck. As usual, Peter Bergen has cast much-needed light on a matter of crucial concern, not only for the USA, but for all nations that face the threat of terrorist acts. This is not your bumper-sticker, Us-Good-Them-Bad, black-and-white analysis that seems to permeate some portions of the media, and some wavelengths in our political spectrum. Bergen offers insight, useable information, and incisive analysis to increase our understanding, not only of how people step, or are pushed, over to the dark side, but of how significant those steps are to our nation. Anyone who deals professionally with domestic security would profit immensely from this book. Anyone who is involved with politics would do well to learn the facts that would inform useful policies. Anyone who is at all interested in public policy (which is, or should be, all of you, right?) needs to read this in order to have some facts at the ready when those who would stoke paranoia with misinformation and fear toss off lies and obfuscations in defense of ill-considered proposals. The most important aspect of public policy is to base decisions and programs on actual, not imagined facts. Bergen has done us all a service, not only with this book, but with his career, in seeking out realities on the ground and speaking truth to anyone who would listen. Review posted – 10/21/2016 Publication date – 4/12/2016 1 – the book was written prior to the Orlando killings, so the numbers have been superseded by facts on the ground, but the point remains, that the risk from fascistic elements, which receives nothing like the attention devoted to Islamic terrorism, has been comparable since 9/11. =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal, Twitter (personal), Twitter (CNN), and FB pages Other Books by Peter Bergen Manhunt – my review -----Manhunt - my review -----The Longest War - my review -----The Osama bin Laden I Know ----- Holy War, Inc January 27, 2017 - an interesting NY Times article on the advantages of using the civilian criminal system instead of Gitmo-izing all terror suspects -vHow Civilian Prosecution Gave the U.S. a Key Informant - by Adam Goldman and Benjamin Weiser February 8, 2017 - An item on the sort of domestic terrorism we are likelier to encounter - When We Really Did Fear a Bowling Green Massacre by A.C. Thompson November 21, 2018 - The growth of cyber-tooled terrorism is alarming. This Politico piece by former assistant AG for the DoJ's security division John P. Carlin should cause you some lost sleep - Inside the Hunt for the World’s Most Dangerous Terrorist

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    Peter Bergen, prolific author, and CNN national security analyst has written a number of important books dealing with terrorism. They include monographs on Osama Bin-Laden and three others which were New York Times best sellers. His latest work UNITED STATES OF JIHAD: INVESTIGATING AMERICA’S HOMEGROWN TERRORISTS is an important addition to two other recent books, Scott Shane’s OPERATION TROY and Charlie Savage’s POWER WARS: INSIDE OBAMA’S POST 9/11 PRESIDENCY. Bergen builds on the work of these Peter Bergen, prolific author, and CNN national security analyst has written a number of important books dealing with terrorism. They include monographs on Osama Bin-Laden and three others which were New York Times best sellers. His latest work UNITED STATES OF JIHAD: INVESTIGATING AMERICA’S HOMEGROWN TERRORISTS is an important addition to two other recent books, Scott Shane’s OPERATION TROY and Charlie Savage’s POWER WARS: INSIDE OBAMA’S POST 9/11 PRESIDENCY. Bergen builds on the work of these authors in trying to explain why American citizens have engaged in treason against their country by engaging in, or planning acts of terrorism. Bergen further explores how American institutions and the Moslem community have responded to the terror threat and how this threat on American soil has changed us. One could argue that Bergen’s book is a who’s who of American jihadism, beginning with the Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, Omar Hamami who grew up in Alabama and fought for al-Shabaab in Somalia, David Coleman Headley who helped plan and carry out the Mumbai massacre, and numerous others. Bergen concentrates on the 330 militants who have been arrested and charged with terrorism crimes in the United States, 80% of which are American citizens or legal permanent residents. He argues that they appear to be as average, well educated, and emotionally stable as typical Americans. According to Bergen their average age is 29, more than a third are married – many with children, and one out of six are women. There is nothing particularly special about them as they are just ordinary people. If this is so, then why have so many engaged in terrorism, and why is the “home grown” threat a major source of concern in the intelligence community? Bergen argues forcefully that it is due to a number of criteria. First, Moslem outrage at United States foreign policy in the Middle East is a dominant theme. Anger about American wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, American drone strikes in Yemen causing tremendous collateral damage, the bombing of Syria, and U.S. support for Israel all contribute to this feeling. Secondly, jihadism offers people an opportunity to be somebody, and at the same time belong to something bigger than themselves. What is interesting about this threat to the American homeland is that since 9/11, 45 Americans have been killed by Islamic terrorists, but at the same time 48 Americans have been killed by right wing extremists. Bergen examines a wide range of terrorists who originated on American soil drawing on his vast network of sources in the intelligence world. He argues that most are second generation immigrants who did not start out as observant Muslims. However, once they became devout they often left their mosques because what was being preached was not radical enough. In addition, they would congregate with like-minded individuals and bond by watching jihadi videos, and simulate combat by playing “paint-ball.” Bonding activities are extremely important in creating a jihadist community with an ultra-fundamentalist outlook. Bergen also dispels a number of myths in dealing with his subject by arguing that most of these jihadist had no formal links to outside terror organizations, further most terrorists began their education in a secular environment, not madrassas. In reviewing their studies it is clear that there is a strong link between their technical education and their terrorist activities, as 50% of them attended college. Overall, social bonds between jihadists were more important than ideology. In presenting his thesis Bergen explores the activities of numerous terrorists, many of which are known to those who follow the news. The individual who takes up more time than any other is the American born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki who was the mentor to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “underwear bomber” who tried to take down a Northwest Airliner over Detroit Christmas day, 2009. Awlaki is also linked to Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood killer and numerous others. Awlaki stands out as a sophisticated individual who used his American upbringing and cultural knowledge with his social media savvy to recruit jihadist in the United States and eventually was killed by an American drone in Yemen authorized by President Obama which had sparked an intense debate as to whether it was legal for the United States government to assassinate one of its citizens. Scott Shane’s book explores this controversy in greater detail than Bergen, but the author does a good job summarizing the most salient points in the debate and points out that “t follow the trail of Awlaki’s influence is to trace the post 9-11 evolution in evolving Americans.” Of the 330 jihadists charged or convicted in the United States, more than 80 had Awlakis writing and sermons in their possession, and another 7 more corresponded with him or traveled to Yemen to meet him. Bergen labels these American terrorists as “lone wolves.” One of these individuals described is Carl Bledsoe, a native of Memphis, TN who was self-radicalized and wound up killing one marine and wounding another at a marine recruiting center in Little Rock, AK on June 1, 2009. He follows this with an in depth exploration of the motivations and actions of Major Nidal Hassan, a military psychiatrist whose conversion to fundamentalism differed from Bledsoe in that he was already a Muslim. But their radical journey had many similarities including their gradual isolation from their families, preoccupation with piety, and what was considered to be a true Muslim. They both embraced Salafist ideas and practices as do most jihadists, and as they looked at US foreign policy they became obsessed with the idea of Jihad to defend Islam. Bergen reviews the close calls that have occurred since 9-11 discussing the case of Najibullah Zazi, who along with two others tried to replicate the London underground bombing of 2005 on the New York City subway system. He was thwarted by the FBI after receiving a tip from the British intelligence. Another case is that of Faisal Shazad, who drove a bomb laden van into Times Square in Manhattan on May 1, 2010. Trained by the Pakistani Taliban, the bomb did not explode due to poor components. The focal point was not any intelligence, but US drones over Pakistan that did not allow for sufficient training. The key for Bergen is that these individuals fit the profile he discusses which was also accepted by American intelligence analysts. But in fairness to law enforcement, Bergen points out the difficulties in tracking lone wolves. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is how the Obama administration has approached the domestic terror threat. Soon after the failure of the “underwear bomber” over Detroit, President Obama ordered a vast increase in the use of drones and NSA surveillance programs, the most controversial of which was the bulk collection of American telephone Meta data. After the Edward Snowden fiasco this program was rolled back and Bergen argues it had little effect on preventing terrorism and traditional approaches to intelligence were more reliable. Today, Republican presidential candidates describe Obama’s approach to the war on terror as rather feckless, however if one examines his role as commander and chief one sees a continued involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a marked increase in the use of drones as compared to the Bush administration. According to conservative estimates, by the end of 2015 the Obama administration had presided over the killing between 3-4,000 people in drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Bergen aptly summarizes his view as Obama dryly remarked, “Turns out I’m really good at killing people.” Didn’t know that was going to be a strong suit of mine.” If you are interested in an in depth analysis of Obama administration practices and their legalities consult Charlie Savage’s POWER WARS. Another important aspect of Bergen’s narrative is the approach taken by American intelligence agencies. We witness the development of the NYPD’s separate intelligence department that is almost up to par with the CIA and FBI. We also witness the continued issue of sharing intelligence and acting in concert for the greater good of the American people. The major change in the FBI’s approach to terrorism after 9/11 would be its transformation from a crime solving organization into entities whose primary mission was to prevent terrorist attacks. The NYPD’s creation of a separate intelligence component allowed it to pursue a similar approach. Over the last decade and a half over 15,000 informants have been employed, and numerous sting operations of suspected terrorists designed to root out terror plots, but this has resulted in an increasing number of complaints of entrapment. In addition, in 2004 the National Counterterrorism Center was created to connect “the dots” between all intelligence agencies. Bergen provides an astute analysis of American intelligence policies including their concrete successes, ”near misses,” and failures, including a useful chapter on the Tsarnaev brothers who were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing in April, 2013. Bergen correctly arguing that the older of the brothers, Tamerlan fit the NYPD terror profile and radicalized his younger brother, Jahar who was extremely secular and Americanized. The bombing could have been prevented if not for another case of missed signals, and of a lack of communication between U.S. law enforcement agencies. If FBI allegations are correct, Tamerlan was involved in a triple murder in Waltham, MA in 2011 and was a dangerous killer long before April, 2013; one must ask how did he not appear on the “no-fly list,” particularly after warnings from Russian intelligence in 2011? Tamerlan would fly to Dagestan in the Caucasus and try and join the Union of the Just, an anti-American Islamist group to fight the Russians, as well as attending Salafist mosque. By his return to the United States in July, 2012 Tamerlan was fully radicalized. Both Tamerlan and Jahar came to believe that 9/11 was engineered by the US government to create mass hatred of Muslims. With these beliefs, it is not surprising they carried out their attack. The rise of ISIS is not explored until the final chapter of the book. Here Bergen reviews and synthesizes much of the material that has been presented by Joby Warrick, Michael McCants, Jessica Stern, J.M. Berger, Michael Weiss, and Hassan Hassan. The use of social media and the virtual world has allowed ISIS to be the next generation of al-Qaeda and attract over 30,000 foreign fighters and claim to have established a caliphate, successes that Osama Bin-Laden could never fathom because of his world view. Bergen dissects American fears of an ISIS attack in the United States, and despite what occurred in San Bernardino he correctly argues that “lone wolf” attacks are a threat, but they are a minimal threat because of the safeguards that have been put in place. We must realize that we can never be 100% secure and that there always will be a low level threat in the United States for years to come. But as Bergen shows in his closing argument, presenting the wife of a murdered victim of the Fort Hood massacre, and her support of an organization created by Nidal Hassan’s cousin to foment better understanding and relationships between Muslim and non-Muslim Americans, there are many ways to fight terrorism. Bergen has written another excellent book that should be read by all who want to try and understand the problems that contribute to the enlistment of jihadists in America and how that has changed our country.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    When America began experiencing religious-motivated extremism in the 1990's, officials theorized that the people perpetrating acts of terror were psychiatric cases, loners, angry and destitute, or out of step with society. Bergen asks several questions in this book: who are the terrorists, what is their path to radicalization, and is there a way to short circuit their deadly plans? Looking over hundreds of cases of homegrown jihadism, Bergen chooses several that illustrate some “classic” charact When America began experiencing religious-motivated extremism in the 1990's, officials theorized that the people perpetrating acts of terror were psychiatric cases, loners, angry and destitute, or out of step with society. Bergen asks several questions in this book: who are the terrorists, what is their path to radicalization, and is there a way to short circuit their deadly plans? Looking over hundreds of cases of homegrown jihadism, Bergen chooses several that illustrate some “classic” characteristics and discusses how those cases ended up. He tells us that we may never know why an individual chooses to become a suicide bomber among innocents, but if we recognize the patterns, we might be able to intervene at some critical stage to turn the motivation. Shortly after 9/11, the work of a long-time CIA psychiatrist contravened most of the then-current suppositions about terrorists, revealing that the majority of “men who joined were middle-class, relatively well-educated, mentally stable and often married with children.” But another man, a radical jihadist himself, thought the top-down bureaucracy of Al Qaeda too inflexible to last and recommended spontaneous operations, or leaderless jihad. No direct affiliation with a terrorist organization has become a prevalent form of successful terrorism in this country in the decades since 9/11, though individuals might receive encouragement, perhaps training, and some resources from overseas, or from websites created overseas. The type of person involved often has some education and appears adjusted until there is a “cognitive opening” (a shock, disappointment, or tragedy) that makes individuals question their place in the world. Gradually they may begin to limit their circle of friends to those who agree with their worldview, may change their appearance, and try to convert others. Only a third of those examined were employed at the time of their change because the radicalism takes over one’s life. Bergen suggests mosques could have an important role in recognizing and defusing Islamic-type radicalism. There were seventy-two plots against America by homegrown jihadists since 9/11, and Bergen details some of them here. He also points out that the NYPD and the FBI were aggressive in pinpointing nascent aggression and set up stings to get individuals out of circulation. “Al-Qaeda’s core group in Pakistan has mounted six terrorist plots (of varying sophistication); al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen has mounted two; the Pakistan Taliban and al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate have each mounted one. Three other plots were engineered by the NYPD. The FBI has been responsible for thirty.” Bergen discusses the U.S. administration’s preferred way to deal with terror cells: drone strikes. “Under the Bush administration, there was an American drone attack in Pakistan every forty-three days. During the first two years of the Obama presidency, there was one every four days. And in 2011 and 2012, just as strikes in Pakistan began to slow, Obama vastly accelerated the campaign in Yemen. Just one drone strike occurred in Yemen under Bush; under Obama the numbers climbed to 120 drone and cruise missile strikes.”Bergen discusses the circumstances and lead-up to the death of the American cleric al-Awlaki and, separately, his son in Yemen. When some American officials expressed concern over the targeting of an American overseas, after looking at the vast body of evidence, they concurred with the decision. Awlaki’s son was “collateral damage,” killed because someone with whom he was travelling was targeted. I have watched Jeremy Scahill’s film, Dirty Wars, which addresses this incident, among others. I do not find myself troubled by the questionable legality of targeting of al-Awlaki, Sr. Collateral damage will always be a stain on us, however, and even if it does not trouble us, it troubles others, and will be something we will be defending forever, as this is the radicalizing element. Bergen addresses the means of collecting information about possible terrorists and concludes that among homegrown terrorists, “sixteen [plots] involved a terrorist act that was not prevented by any type of government action, such as the failed attempt by Faisal Shahzad to blow up a car bomb in Times Square on May 1, 2010. Of the remaining fifty-six plots, the public record shows that forty were uncovered by traditional law enforcement methods, such as the use of informants, community tips about suspicious activity, and standard policing practices….With regard to the 330 individuals involved in jihadist crime in the United States since 9/11, surveillance of American phone data had no discernible role in preventing acts of terrorism and only a marginal role in preventing terrorist-related activity, such as fund-raising for a jihadist group.” While Bergen’s numbers do not precisely add up, we can take his analysis to mean that the NSA program is not as effective as previously touted, but it may have been something we needed to try to see if it netted information we were missing. It didn’t. We can therefore rest easy that the law has been changed not to allow it with little fear about our ability to stave off threats. One final thing Bergen raises at the end of the book is the increasing role of women in jihad. The one thing that was different about the San Bernadino attacks is that a woman was involved. He notes that women travelling to the Middle East to join ISIS also have a prominent place in the media surrounding the camps there, tweeting to possible recruits about how cool it is to be part of a movement. What makes this book special is its exquisite fluency, clarity, and roundedness: it addresses most of the questions ordinary citizens might have about the nature of the threat in America and is so interesting it is difficult to put it down. We get details about events we only marginally understood at the time it was happening. We get the background theory behind administration policies and the radicalization of citizens that make those policies necessary. It is a fascinating look at the work done by law enforcement to try to understand where the limits to privacy begin and end. It’s a great read. I’d heard of Peter Bergen before but I’d never read anything by him before this book. Bergen, with Peter Arnett, was responsible for the first TV interview of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1997. Bergen is now CNN’s national security analyst, a print and broadcast journalist and documentary filmmaker. He is also a Vice President at the New America non-partisan think tank based in Washington. Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, was a former president of New America, an institution now led by Anne-Marie Slaughter. Anand Gopal, author of No Good Men Among the Living, is a fellow in the International Security Program at New America. Bergen's long list of books on security threats have won many awards, but it wasn't until I heard Bergen interviewed by Trevor Noah at Comedy Central and heard Bergen's laugh that I wanted to look at this book. Call me shallow.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Scott Rhee

    Arguably one of the foremost experts on terrorism, Peter Bergen has spent many years researching and reporting on terrorism and terrorists. He has published four previous books on terrorism, and in his most recent book, “The United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists”, Bergen shatters some of the prevailing myths and so-called “common knowledge” that the general public has about terrorists. Here are a few interesting facts: *Since 9/11, there have been 330 jihadist terror Arguably one of the foremost experts on terrorism, Peter Bergen has spent many years researching and reporting on terrorism and terrorists. He has published four previous books on terrorism, and in his most recent book, “The United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists”, Bergen shatters some of the prevailing myths and so-called “common knowledge” that the general public has about terrorists. Here are a few interesting facts: *Since 9/11, there have been 330 jihadist terrorist arrests in this country. (p.10) *Four out of five of these criminals are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. (p.10) *More than a hundred American citizens have been arrested overseas for joining a terrorist group. (p.10) *Thirty-nine U.S. citizens have been arrested in this country for attempting to join a terrorist group. (p. 10) As dubiously-fought as the War on Terror seems to many people, including pundits and elected officials, the fact that there has not been any comparable attack on the grand scale of the World Trade Center attack in 2001 seems promising. Unfortunately, there have been many small-scale, and equally devastating, attacks in the U.S., from Fort Hood to the Boston Marathon bombing to San Bernardino. In all of these cases, the perpetrators were radical Muslims. In all of these cases, as well, the perpetrators were “lone wolves”. In other words, they were not acting upon the orders of any overseas organization. It’s understandable to have the need to believe that these acts of violence were committed by foreigners, driven by anti-American impulses rooted in poverty and desperation. It’s disturbing to realize that they are not. As Bergen writes, “It is tempting to assume that the decision to turn to terrorism must be rooted in some traumatic life experience; that these men must be young hotheads without family obligations; that they are pathologically disturbed, or career criminals, or, at the very least, not very bright. Among the 330 militants examined for this book, none of these generalizations hold. Their average age is twenty-nine; more than a third are married and a similar proportion have children; 12 percent have served time in prison, compared to 9 percent of the American male population, while around 10 percent had mental health issues, a lower incidence than in the general population. They are, on average, as well educated and emotionally stable as the typical citizen. They are ordinary Americans. (p. 15)” So, what causes ordinary Americans to take such extraordinary violent and anti-American measures? It’s not an easy question to answer. Still, Bergen attempts to answer the question with all of the knowledge and statistics currently available. He also manages to wade through and destroy much of the misinformation, false assumptions, and political rhetoric that muddles the conversation. According to Bergen, American jihadists, since 9/11, have adopted what is dubbed “Binladenism”, an ideology based on statements made by the late Osama bin Laden. This ideology strives to create a “perfect world” which includes a Taliban-style caliphate (Islamic government) that encompasses the entire Middle East, and parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe. It also involves the destruction of forces which they view as evil: the United States, Israel, and any Middle Eastern regime that doesn’t follow Taliban-style rule. Binladenism represents a wave of revolutionary ideologies based on religion that started in the late 1970s. When the Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers overthrew the Shah of Iran in 1979, it began a revolutionary trend of Islamist-backed groups attempting to topple U.S.-backed governments. The Arab Spring, in 2010, which was another series of revolutions, was a reaction to the highly oppressive fundamentalist Muslim governments (such as Bin laden’s al-Qaeda in Afghanistan) that rose up since 1979. This has led to many burgeoning democracies in the Middle East, some successful and some not. Binladenism is, according to Bergen, “one of the last violent revolutionary ideologies left standing. (p. 12)” American adherents of Binladenism may not share common traits that make them easy to profile, but they do tend to follow a common path to becoming a terrorist. Mitchell Silber, a former financial analyst who studied international affairs specializing in the Middle East, and Arvin Bhatt, an intelligence analyst at the NYPD, published a report in 2007 that explained the “process” by which young men transformed into terrorists. It is interesting to note that, according to Silber/Bhatt, American jihadists are generally males between the ages of 15 and 35, well-educated, and of the middle class. Many of them grew up as non-practicing Muslims or adherents of another religion who later converted to Islam. (p.47) The first stage of American jihadist development involves what Silber/Bhatt refers to as a “cognitive opening”, any kind of personal crisis---ranging from a job loss to a death in the family to something as innocuous as watching a news story that has a powerful emotional effect---that opens the mind to Salafist (ultra-conservative fundamentalist Muslim doctrine) beliefs. (p.47) It is at this stage that the jihadist-to-be is essentially “trying on for size” the role of a fundamentalist Muslim: the robes, long beards, quoting the Koran, etc. Some never leave that stage, remaining at a nonviolent level of fundamentalism that allows them to still go to work (assuming employers don’t have a strict dress code), watch movies, listen to music, and hang out with non-Muslim family and friends. Unfortunately, some young men move on to the next stage, a “politicization” in which they separate from society, hanging out solely with other like-minded radical Muslims. The penultimate stage is “jihadization”, the point at which the young man decides to perform a terrorist act. Of course, they don’t refer to it as “terrorism”. In their mind it is “jihad”, an often misused Islamic term that means “holy war”. For the vast majority of Muslims, jihad refers to the internal struggle between good and evil that takes place in every person’s soul. Radical Muslims pervert the meaning of the word to refer to a real, violent holy war between true men of faith and infidels. The last stage, of course, is becoming an actual terrorist. The problem with knowing all of this is figuring out a way to use the knowledge to prevent terrorist attacks from happening. It makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to know how many or which young men who are in the “politicization” stages will move on to the next stage. It makes for some very tricky legal issues for investigating these men: privacy, first-amendment rights, entrapment. In many cases, law enforcement agencies have simply “lucked out” thanks to anonymous tips and information that accidentally falls in their laps. The belief that most law enforcement agencies know what the hell they are doing in rooting out terrorists in this country is a myth. Granted, it’s not their fault. When a vast majority of homegrown terrorists are lone wolfs, or “leaderless jihadists”, it makes it all the more difficult to predict their actions. In recent years, groups such as ISIS have created an even more difficult and frightening job for law enforcement. This is a group that even al-Qaeda says is too extreme. That says a lot. ISIS advertises itself as an “Islamist utopia” that is open to anyone, regardless to race, nationality, or even gender. (p. 255) In the latest intelligence from 2015, ISIS was comprised of members from over ninety countries. Westerners comprised roughly 4500 members. Here is the breakdown: France---1,500; United Kingdom---750; Germany---700; Belgium---500; the Netherlands---150; Austria---150; Denmark---150; Canada---150. Nearly 100 Americans have been arrested for joining or attempting to join ISIS. (p. 256) Women have even played a larger role than expected within ISIS. More than one in six of American ISIS supporters have been female, a completely unprecedented phenomenon as compared to past jihadist campaigns. (p. 257) To be sure, ISIS is a serious threat, and one that our government and all law enforcement agencies are taking seriously. Still, (and Bergen himself makes the point), there is a growing hysteria about ISIS that is perpetrated by scare-mongering and misinformation from media outlets and politicians. Bergen says that the right-wing conspiracy theories that say that ISIS is attempting to take over the U.S. and create an Islamist government is absurd: “To claim that nationwide sharia law is imminent is to ignore simple facts: Muslims make up around 2 percent of the U.S. population; there isn’t a jurisdiction in the states where sharia is the law; nor is anyone demanding its imposition. Short of a mass conversion of hundreds of millions of citizens to Islam, the chances of One Nation Under Sharia seem slight. (p. 270)” Bergen’s level-headed approach in his book points out the real dangers of radical Muslims while dismantling the myths and misinformation regarding Islam and terrorism.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marija

    Extremely well researched. I would like to have had information about women who join ISIS, which seems more complex than why men join.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    The shocking spate of terrorist attacks perpetrated by homegrown terrorists in Europe and America has caused much alarm in the Western world. How do you stop a terrorist attack when the terrorist could be your neighbor, friend, or sibling? Thus, Mr. Bergen's book is very timely as it examines not only the growth of homegrown terrorism in the Western world since 9/11, but it also examines the methods that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have used to track down homegrown terrorism, The shocking spate of terrorist attacks perpetrated by homegrown terrorists in Europe and America has caused much alarm in the Western world. How do you stop a terrorist attack when the terrorist could be your neighbor, friend, or sibling? Thus, Mr. Bergen's book is very timely as it examines not only the growth of homegrown terrorism in the Western world since 9/11, but it also examines the methods that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have used to track down homegrown terrorism, sometimes using unconstitutional methods. Of particular interest to Mr. Bergen is the story of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American cleric who appeared to be the voice of disaffected Muslims in America only to, overtime, move to Yemen, take on a leadership role in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and encourage acts of terrorism against the United States. But al-Awlaki's story is just one of many stories Mr. Bergen tells. He also relates tales of less successful homegrown terrorists or even those of Americans who were maneuvered by law enforcement agencies into attempting acts of terrorism only to be caught, which would be considered entrapment in any other case, but has never been an effective defense in a terrorism case to date. The tale of Steve Llaneza is a particularly tragic example of this. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this book though is Mr. Bergen's citation of influential reports by law enforcement and intelligence officials as well as behavioral psychologists to determine how to identify people who may be on the path to committing acts of terrorism. One of the key findings of these reports is that homegrown terrorists are not what the popular imagination has picked them out to be. Indeed, they could be just about anyone who has experienced a significant tragedy in their life, which causes a "cognitive opening" to fundamentalist and even violent ideologies. While some of these reports are not without controversy, its hard not to see how their conclusions could be applied to anyone. In fact, Mr. Bergen points towards the case of Dylan Roof, the white supremacists who killed nine African-Americans in a South Carolina church. Obviously Dylan Roof was not an Islamic extremist, but not only did his path towards violence mirror homegrown Islamic extremists in America, but his desire to start a race war by killing people was a political statement, which would define his act as textbook terrorism. Mr. Bergen also has some good final thoughts in his last few pages about how the threats from terrorism, even homegrown terrorism, pale in comparison to any number of other threats Americans face on a daily basis from cancer, car accidents, and even random gun violence, which is higher than any other industrialized country in the world! However, the one downside to this book is that he only gives passing mention at the end of this book to the fact that more women are being attracted to Islamic extremism than ever before. This may be because it is such a new phenomenon in terrorism studies, so I am willing to give him the benefit of a doubt on this one. Bottomline, this is a clear, fair-minded and well-researched book on homegrown terrorism that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the issue.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

    Brand new book from terrorism expert Peter Bergen, highly recommended for anyone interested in terrorism and counterterrorism broadly speaking. Bergen does a lot of interesting things with a book that, in a less knowledgeable author's hands, would have just been a series of chronicles about radicalized individuals. Here are some of the things I liked in no particular order: First, the stories themselves are very interesting. Bergen organizes them in ways that illustrate the major points of the bo Brand new book from terrorism expert Peter Bergen, highly recommended for anyone interested in terrorism and counterterrorism broadly speaking. Bergen does a lot of interesting things with a book that, in a less knowledgeable author's hands, would have just been a series of chronicles about radicalized individuals. Here are some of the things I liked in no particular order: First, the stories themselves are very interesting. Bergen organizes them in ways that illustrate the major points of the book, and goes into just the right amount of depth that you really get to see the radicalization process. Second, he provides interesting social sciences terms and tools for thinking more broadly about radicalization and violence, not just of the Islamist flavor. For example, he discusses the term "cognitive opening," which refers to the event(s) in a person's life that first turn them toward a more fundamentalist belief. It then often takes another cognitive opening as well as the closing of all non-extremist social and intellectual influences to push a small percentage of the fundamentalists into violence. Bergen doesn't use these social science concepts rigidly, but they do help as tools for thinking more generally about the problem. It's a fascinating set of psychological profiles. Third, Bergen gives an interesting overview of major ideas and debates in counterterrorism. For example, should the US focus on homegrown, lone wolf or small pack style attacks by people who are inspired by online propaganda or other forms of politicization? Or is the bigger threat . This question has serious policy consequences, and Bergen offers some solid evidence that foreign-trained jihadis, while more rare, are usually better trained and have better equipment. The story of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is instructive here. UFB went to Pakistan for training, where he was given a type of plastic explosive that had worked before in suicide attacks and could pass metal detectors. The only reason UFB didn't down the flight . It seems that this kind of catastrophic attacks requires the careful planning, knowhow, and resources of more central groups like IS, the Taliban, AQ, and AQ branches. Bergen is also one of the few commentators in American policy circles with a balanced view of the drone policy. I'm still struggling to see the problem with the Awlaki killing, for example. He was clearly central to AQAP's planning and propaganda, and reaching him would have been prohibitively risky. The only thing you can really criticize is that Obama didn't go to a judge for approval, although it seemed pretty clear to me that Awlaki had become a combatant. Bergen patiently shows that the vast majority of drone strike victims have been militants and that the US has become much more accurate in their use. THere's a lot of paranoia and hyperbole, as well as exaggeration of effectiveness, in regards to drones, and it's great to have Bergen around to report the facts. Bergen squashes a number of other inaccuracies about terrorism in this book. The 330-odd Americans who have been arrested for and/or carried out Islamically inspired attacks were not unusually poor. Nor were they unusually mentally ill (think about it: If you were organizing a terrorist cell or group, would you want truly mentally unstable people in it? There's a difference between radicalization and insanity). Nor were they uneducated. In fact, they were quite well educated. What makes this trend so difficult to understand is that Muslims are generally one of the most well adjusted minority groups in the US. In addition, Bergen doesn't naively or disingenuously try to argue that these attacks have nothing to do with Islam or are un-Islamic. Like most holy texts, there is ample room to be a total jerk and a great person from one's reading of the texts, and the Quran (like the Bible) offers tons of exhortations to violence against unbelievers. Bergen says that one would never argue that the Crusades had nothing to do with Christianity or that many Israeli's claims to Jerusalem or "Greater Israel" has nothing to do with Judaism. Both of these actions/positions have textual support, as do most of the actions of Islamic extremist groups. This shedding of political correctness is refreshing. Bergen also praises and highlights Muslims who have devoted their lives to intervening to stop radicalization, including Nidal Hassan's cousin, who became an anti-extremist activist after him cousin carried out the Fort Hood shooting. He adds that we should not forget the cost of white supremacist and Christian terrorism in the US, which has killed around 50 people since 9/11. My last favorite thing about this book is Bergen's balanced assessment of the terrorist threat as a whole. It is not, as many have argued, another world war. This is not a threat like the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, either in degree or type. This is, and will likely remain, a low lying problem, and we will need to learn to live with a certain amount of risk if we are to keep our freedoms and our sanity. It is, however, still a serious threat, and there are thousands of potential recruits out there in the West as a whole. In sum, this is a great book, and I highly recommend picking it up.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Linda B

    From the back cover: “Since 9/11, more than three hundred Americans—born and raised in Minnesota, Alabama, New Jersey, and elsewhere—have been indicted or convicted of terrorism charges. “ Page 23: “Jihad was already being waged in America many years before 9/11. Most Americans just weren’t aware of it. Peter Bergen comprehensively examines the lives of American jihadists. It is a frightening and sometimes infuriating look at those who are being radicalized here in the United States, some even tra From the back cover: “Since 9/11, more than three hundred Americans—born and raised in Minnesota, Alabama, New Jersey, and elsewhere—have been indicted or convicted of terrorism charges. “ Page 23: “Jihad was already being waged in America many years before 9/11. Most Americans just weren’t aware of it. Peter Bergen comprehensively examines the lives of American jihadists. It is a frightening and sometimes infuriating look at those who are being radicalized here in the United States, some even traveling to join ISIS. It is well researched and extensively footnoted. Late in the book it becomes somewhat of an attack on the political “right” or “paranoid right” as Mr. Bergen calls it. He claims that the fear of Sharia law defies common sense and uses terms like endemic paranoia. It is an interesting book, but personal political views tarnish it. There will be a companion HBO documentary, Homegrown, which will air in the spring of 2016.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Leftbanker

    This book presents an excellent case study of post 9/11 Islamic terrorist attacks in the USA. It is also like Mindhunters for terrorists. I have said this before in other forums, but most of this terrorism has very little to do with religion. What I have noticed over the years are the following qualities that most of the lunatics share: 1. Mental Illness (sociopaths or psychopaths) 2. Profound Stupidity and Lack of Education 3. Losers 4. Sexual Disfunction 5. Their Main Goal is Suicide, Prohibited in This book presents an excellent case study of post 9/11 Islamic terrorist attacks in the USA. It is also like Mindhunters for terrorists. I have said this before in other forums, but most of this terrorism has very little to do with religion. What I have noticed over the years are the following qualities that most of the lunatics share: 1. Mental Illness (sociopaths or psychopaths) 2. Profound Stupidity and Lack of Education 3. Losers 4. Sexual Disfunction 5. Their Main Goal is Suicide, Prohibited in Islam I hate it when the press uses terms like “mastermind” to describe the complete half-wits who carry out attacks against innocent people. How much of a mind does it take to buy a gun and fire it into a crowd of unarmed people? Many of the losers cared very little for Islam before carrying out their cowardly deeds. I suspect that the fierce orthodoxy of their religion warped their minds to a degree that they came to the moronic conclusion that they were somehow doing god’s will by killing innocent strangers at random. I also suspect that most of this “jihadists” have a lot in common with every other mass shooter loser we produce in such high quantities in the USA. Back in my military service, I paid a lot of attention to radical organizations in Lebanon: PLO, Hizballah, Druze Militia, and others. Most of these guys were about my age back then. All I could think about was that when I got off work, I would change clothes and go out on the town, either with a current girlfriend or earnestly looking for another while my Muslim counterparts across the Mediterranean Sea would be holding hands with their brothers in arms because women were forbidden. That would have driven me to violence. Homosexuality is a common outlet in the Muslim world for young men denied any sort of access to the opposite sex. This is fine if you are a homosexual, but if you have any inklings of heterosexuality, it must be thoroughly creepy—like dudes in prison. Even if you are gay, you can’t admit it in the Muslim world, which leads to its own set of pathologies. What I am getting at in all of this is that we have gone about this war on terrorism all wrong. There is no military solution. Bush’s reaction to 9/11 created even more fervor among the faithful. We can only win through a propaganda war on two fronts. On one side we do good deeds around the world to win hearts and minds (something military leaders talk about while dropping bombs on innocent people). Then we need an aggressive campaign to malign radical Muslim clerics while promoting moderate religious leaders. Example: When Osama bin Laden was hunted down and killed, the SEAL team found an enormous amount of porno on his computer. Why haven’t we heard all of the details of what the big-shot Al Qaeda leader was jerking off to? If I had to venture a guess, I’d say it was heavy on the “chicks with dicks” genre, not that there is anything wrong with that, bit hardly what you would expect as flogging material for a conservative imam. More on this theme here: https://leftbankview.blogspot.com/201...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    The author takes a critical look at terrorism, especially acts of terrorism committed by Americans both in our country and elsewhere in the world. He discusses major players such as New Mexico-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan who wrote a webzine Inspire that was read worldwide, influencing terrorists everywhere. He writes about how social media is a major player in this arena. He also looks at various “lone-wolf” terrorists who act apparently without outside terrorist influences as wel The author takes a critical look at terrorism, especially acts of terrorism committed by Americans both in our country and elsewhere in the world. He discusses major players such as New Mexico-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan who wrote a webzine Inspire that was read worldwide, influencing terrorists everywhere. He writes about how social media is a major player in this arena. He also looks at various “lone-wolf” terrorists who act apparently without outside terrorist influences as well as what our various government agencies are doing to combat these attacks. This is a fascinating look at who becomes a terrorist and why they do it, as well as how attempts to deal with it is working.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Heare Watts

    A look at the faces and personalities of those who carry out acts of terror and side with the enemy. I won a copy of this book during a Goodreads giveaway. I am under no obligation to leave a review or rating and do so voluntarily. I am paying it forward by passing this book along to my son, a US soldier who has deployed seven times who I think will enjoy it too.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Leila Crawford

    This book was a requirement for my INTL course that focused on Lone Wolves and Homegrown Threats. It is an easy and interesting read for anyone who is interested in the topic. If you are an International Relations major this book may be boring and redundant.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    Fantastic read, although I still have questions. Post 9/11, terrorism has become something people in the US have lived with. How to define it, how to prevent it, how to investigate it, the question of civil liberties, etc. Author Bergen looks at the "homegrown" terrorists, specifically those who purport to commit it in the name of Islam.   At its core the book spends its time looking at various cases and situation of terrorism post 9/11. The airplane shoe bomber. The Boston bombers. The San Bernar Fantastic read, although I still have questions. Post 9/11, terrorism has become something people in the US have lived with. How to define it, how to prevent it, how to investigate it, the question of civil liberties, etc. Author Bergen looks at the "homegrown" terrorists, specifically those who purport to commit it in the name of Islam.   At its core the book spends its time looking at various cases and situation of terrorism post 9/11. The airplane shoe bomber. The Boston bombers. The San Bernardino shooters. And on and on. There isn't really an overarching arch or player to weaves in and out (which is both understandable and frustrating). It's not about any one person (for example, Anwar al-Awlaki is killed and the ramifications are discussed and we move on). Thankfully the author keeps most of the non-essential player names out of the narrative. It'd be way too easy to get lost in the myriad of suspects, law enforcement, victims and their families, etc. and the author doesn't fall into that trap.   Bergen discusses cases, blending paths if they cross (with say al-Awlaki if it's relevant) and how it ends: in death, in arrests, or even in some cases people turning away. While this was interesting, it was also frustrating. I had hoped this would answer a bit of the WHY. What is it that draws these people (Bergen looks mostly at men but mentions a few women) to terrorism? Many are educated, have jobs, families, etc. That is not always the case but the closest Bergen comes to for an answer is that there is some major event: a death of a family member, loss of a job, etc. that provides an opening that these ideologies seek to fill.   But even then that is not always the case. We follow one young man who was friendless and was diagnosed as mentally ill. His only "friend" was an undercover FBI agent who entrapped him into making bombs. This young man was mentally ill, his family KNEW and tried to get him help. Was his mental illnesses (he has more than one) a deciding factor? Should the FBI engage in such tactics in "entrapment"? But what about the people who are not mentally ill and say yes, I will commit these acts? I'm not sure what the answer is.   After awhile the reading got really depressing. Which shouldn't be a surprise considering the material, but so many of these situations usually end in death, a few end in arrests. And there are still so many questions to be answered.   I probably liked his ending chapter the best. Bergen asks about the nature of terrorism and how we identify it: for example, the Charleston Church shooter sparked a debate as to whether he committed terrorism. Bergen believes it is and notes that jihadist terrorism continues to debate the news despite events like the Charleston Church shooting. He also talks about the continued tactics the FBI and other organizations use to counteract it (including drones, which was more in the sections about al-Awlaki).   Bergen ends on a hopeful note that some good has actually come out of it. The cousin of Fort Hood shooter and a woman who lost her dad to that shooter actually began to correspond after the shooter's cousin Nader Hasan started a foundation to to counteract extremism. The woman, Kerry Cahill, and her family met Nader and she came to understand that the shooting affected the shooter's family too, through no fault of their own. Bergen concludes that this step in trying to understand and opening a dialogue might be the ultimate way of defeating terrorism and that the US will survive.   I really liked it overall. Typically I find these type of books too in the weeds for me (someone who reads the news but has no special training in say counterterrorism or similar topic), too slanted one way or another, etc. As a book for a layperson I thought it was very approachable, although some degree of knowledge is probably helpful (you don't need to know all the suspects but having knowledge of say al-Awlaki would be a good idea).   It did not answer the "why" for me and I'm sure people who are unhappy about drones or domestic surveillance won't have their minds changed. But so far it's the best non-fiction read for me this year and I would recommend it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I liked this book well enough until I was reading the last half of the last chapter. This book is very well researched and is extremely informative, but once the author started jutting in his own opinions, which were just opinions for which he didn't offer much support other than more of his own opinions (which were all political opinions, I might add), was when it got super annoying to read. Thankfully, though, that was not the entire book. Just a good portion of the last chapter and the epilog I liked this book well enough until I was reading the last half of the last chapter. This book is very well researched and is extremely informative, but once the author started jutting in his own opinions, which were just opinions for which he didn't offer much support other than more of his own opinions (which were all political opinions, I might add), was when it got super annoying to read. Thankfully, though, that was not the entire book. Just a good portion of the last chapter and the epilogue. The United States of Jihad examines the history of terrorism in the west, particularly focusing on the 9/11 attacks and terrorism since that time. It illustrates very well the threat of lone wolf terrorism here in the United States and goes through every successful terrorist attack (and even some unsuccessful ones) on American soil since 9/11 pointing out that every successful attack was carried achieved through "lone wolf terrorism", though 9/11 itself was not. Reading this books shows how drastically our criminal justice system and government changed after 9/11. Before the attacks, there was really no special protocol or policies pertaining to acts of terrorism. The attacks on September 11, 2001 woke our whole country up to the threat of terrorism and prompted the creation of special departments dedicated to preventing and dealing with terrorism at both local and national levels. Though we have come a long way in our response to terrorism, we still have a long way to go. The book highlights cases in which the FBI missed crucial information when investigating potential terrorists and even dismissed cases and concerns that were raised to them about people who ended up committing fatal terrorist attacks. It must also be considered, however, that the FBI receives numerous tips and most of the tips they receive will not lead them to a potential terrorist and it is impossible for them to prevent all lone wolf terrorist attacks and to identify everyone who is a potential threat, although they have succeeded in some cases. Another thing the book does well is show the significant impact social media now has on lone wolf terrorism. Most terrorists get their inspiration and motives from people they speak to on social media. This is also where they learn how to evade suspicion and create weapons. Because social media is the biggest aid to American terrorists who, though the internet, are able to communicate directly with ISIS members and supporters, it makes it impossible for law enforcement to be able to identify and monitor everyone who would commit an attack. These are all things I think the book does well, but there are things about it, mainly in his analysis, that force me to drop this from a four star rating to a three star rating. Early on in the book, Bergen writes: "Islamist terrorism does have some kind of relationship to the religion of Islam, something that cannot be wished away by claims that Islam is simply a religion of peace, or by the desire not to offend, or because it is too easy to underestimate the strength of others' religious beliefs in our increasingly secular world. The worldview of jihadist militants is informed by a certain reading of Islamic texts, and there is more than sufficient ammunition in the Koran...to buttress their assertions that jihad is necessary against the perceived enemies of Islam". This is something that I tend to agree with, but Bergen seems to contradict himself in the last chapter where he starts getting political and attempts to separate the religion of Islam and Islamic terrorism. He also tries to say that Islamic terrorists are no different than people of other religions who commit acts of violence, giving, as an example, Christians and the crusades. I mean forget that the last crusades were hundreds of years ago, they were very different than the Islamic terrorism of today. We can all understand that members of any religion can be violent, and Islam is not the only religion that has had violence committed in its name, but saying it is no different than some attacks from hundreds of years ago or isolated incidents is simply inaccurate. Also, today, though there may be some hateful groups of different religions here and there, but the one that is currently attacking people in different countries around the world is Islam and trying to downplay it is dishonest. But, again, the last chapter is where it really starts to get ridiculous, in my opinion. When he starts asserting his opinions, he stops offering research. He claims that "Donald Trump called for an immediate end to all Muslim immigration to the States" which he actually did not do and called the temporary travel ban "un-American", saying that we didn't ban Italian immigrants in the 20's because a few of them joined the mafia. First off all, this is a faulty comparison because the Islamic terrorism threat is significantly larger and a more prominent issue than the mafia. Secondly, he failed to mention that we did put a halt on naturalization proceedings for German, Italian and Japanese immigrants after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and that Obama halted immigration for Iraqi refugees for six months in 2011, which is far more similar to the issue of terrorism than the mafia was. He also uses the last chapter to remind us that bad people like Dylan Roof exist, gun violence exists and we're more likely to die in a car accident than a terrorist attack, all of which are irrelevant to the issue of Islamic terrorism and do nothing to make it less of a threat. Yes, we're more likely to die in a car accident, but Islamic terrorism is still a problem and people are right to be concerned about it. Just want to say, I'm not trying to say anything against Muslims, and I don't care if he or anyone else doesn't like Donald Trump, I just have a problem with his false comparisons and trying to divert our attention to other acts of violence in an attempt to show how much of a threat he thinks terrorism isn't. For a book that was so well researched for the most part, it seems a shame he couldn't share much research in the last chapter to help make his point. The only reason I even mentioned any of this is because when he started giving us his opinions and analysis, he stopped giving us the research. Overall, this book was informative and I would recommend it if you are interested in learning about lone wolf terrorism and how terrorism and our response to it has evolved over the last few years, but I would ignore the last chapter because it's not research, it's just him trying to support his political agenda. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. Author's website: http://peterbergen.com

  15. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Romero

    Mr. Bergen is well known for his books on terrorism as well as his work as a security analyst on CNN. In this book he explores homegrown terrorists. Those who leave our country to train as well as the lone wolves who act entirely on their own. The book follows the stories of some of the key players over the years since 9/11 and even before. It did read like a true crime novel, which I enjoyed. We hear these stories on the news, but there is usually not a lot of in depth coverage or follow up. Even Mr. Bergen is well known for his books on terrorism as well as his work as a security analyst on CNN. In this book he explores homegrown terrorists. Those who leave our country to train as well as the lone wolves who act entirely on their own. The book follows the stories of some of the key players over the years since 9/11 and even before. It did read like a true crime novel, which I enjoyed. We hear these stories on the news, but there is usually not a lot of in depth coverage or follow up. Even now I wonder how many people know where the Boston bomber Tsarnav is or what we have learned from him? His research is well documented in the end notes and I learned quite a bit of information I did not know before. I don't think this book could have come at a better time. For anyone wanting more information on the subject of terror at home and why this cause can seem so compelling to our youth, this is a must read. Mr. Bergen's writing style is straightforward and easy to read which is a big plus when trying to understand another culture and language. I would highly recommend this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jimmie

    I read United States of Jihad after seeing the book referenced on national news programs. I'm glad I took the time to read this book as it was an outstanding book. Mr. Bergan does and outstanding job of providing on overview of Islam, radical Islam, an review of the major radical terrorism actions the past few decades and providing the read with an understanding of how terrorism works. Mr. Bergan also provides a path ahead to bridge the gap between terrorism and victims. After reading this book, I read United States of Jihad after seeing the book referenced on national news programs. I'm glad I took the time to read this book as it was an outstanding book. Mr. Bergan does and outstanding job of providing on overview of Islam, radical Islam, an review of the major radical terrorism actions the past few decades and providing the read with an understanding of how terrorism works. Mr. Bergan also provides a path ahead to bridge the gap between terrorism and victims. After reading this book, I realize we will never eradicate terrorism, but I feel more informed about the roots of such senseless acts. The book covers a great deal about the biggest threat to terrorism on our own soil, the lone wolf terrorist. One of the greatest lessons learned after reading this book is reading about the heroic acts from those that fought against active terrorist acts. If you are looking for a good book on the history of terrorism and radical Islam, this book is a great resource for you to have in your library.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I really enjoyed this book. I picked it up after seeing the author on The Daily Show. There are no new revelations, but a lot of detail about cases that have been in the news. Each chapter kind of stands on it own and presents a stance and then details a case that illustrates it. The author writes in a very engaging manner and has clearly examined this topic from a variety of view points. There is an HBO documentary that is inspired by the author's research that is also very good.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Blaine Morrow

    Bergen's synopsis of home-grown terrorists is limited to the jihadists (although he mentions others), and it provides a good reference source for anyone interested in how they became radicalized and how the American security forces have responded to the threat of Americans conducting or plotting terrorist operations.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carol Storm

    Pretty good book, but it's very episodic -- mostly case studies of poor slobs who dropped out of American life and became terrorists because being a drug addict required too much character and hard work!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Phil Melton

    Excellent accounts of homegrown jihadists and the lone wolf threats encouraged from the Internet. This would be a five star book if not for Bergen's pedestrian, PC view of Islam as a whole.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Neil Pierson

    What is the profile of the "typical" jihadist terrorist who launches an attack in the U.S.? He is a young, single man, no kids; immigrant, perhaps arrived in the U.S. in the past 12 months. He has a low education level. He is unemployed or working at a menial job. He has experienced severe discrimination due to his religion or national origin. He is receiving orders and material support from Al Qaeda or ISIS. Well, the "He" is (probably) right. As for the rest... Since September 11, 2001, governme What is the profile of the "typical" jihadist terrorist who launches an attack in the U.S.? He is a young, single man, no kids; immigrant, perhaps arrived in the U.S. in the past 12 months. He has a low education level. He is unemployed or working at a menial job. He has experienced severe discrimination due to his religion or national origin. He is receiving orders and material support from Al Qaeda or ISIS. Well, the "He" is (probably) right. As for the rest... Since September 11, 2001, government authorities (mainly the FBI and the New York Police Department) have devoted great resources to intercept future attacks. They have used a number of approaches, including profiling, infiltrating Islamic organizations, stings, pre-emptive strikes, "see something, say something" campaigns, and identifying the phases a would-be terrorist goes through before acting. Overall, the government has been successful and occasionally lucky in preventing large, complex assaults like September 11. It has had mixed results in foiling the smaller, "group of guys" or "lone wolf" attacks. The author has found an interesting, readable way to describe these approaches by detailing the histories of would-be and actual terrorists. The strengths and weaknesses of each anti-terrorism strategy are illustrated in these case studies. For example, sting operations do occasionally disrupt plans before they happen. But mainly, they catch half-wits and blowhards who would never get to first base without government help. Informers provide valuable information, but they raise troubling privacy issues, diminish trust of authorities and make voluntary cooperation less likely. "See something/say something" can spot a smoking car in Times Square, but it generates truckloads of false leads and noise. And so on. Many studies have shown that human beings aren't very good at identifying and prioritizing risks. We're afraid to get on an airplane but not into a car. We take steps to avoid being hit by lightning but not by diabetes. Etc., etc. We are similarly addled when it comes to terrorism. In numbers, the loss of life due to Islamic terrorist attacks in the U.S. since 2001 have been quite small. In fact, more people have been killed by right-wing violence such as bombings, abortion clinic attacks, assassinations, and so forth. This book should help us see things more realistically. But then, most of its readers are human.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paolo Aguas

    This book is pretty good, it really makes you look at the terrorist attacks that happened in the US and you get to truly realize that there are a lot of homegrown terrorists. It makes you see that even if these people grew up in a society like the US (where compared to the countries where terrorists are from) they have a good life. It shows that it just takes a charismatic person to convince these people that extremism is the way and it takes people who are looking for a higher purpose to fall f This book is pretty good, it really makes you look at the terrorist attacks that happened in the US and you get to truly realize that there are a lot of homegrown terrorists. It makes you see that even if these people grew up in a society like the US (where compared to the countries where terrorists are from) they have a good life. It shows that it just takes a charismatic person to convince these people that extremism is the way and it takes people who are looking for a higher purpose to fall for this. I personally do my best to keep myself looped in the news about any current events, but what surprised me was how there are people who are fighting for these terrorists groups who are not from that country or not even descendants of those races which shows that terrorism is not based on race at all but based on people who need a higher purpose, who need to believe that they are more than what they currently are. I hope that people will read this book and realize that again terrorism knows no religion, knows no race but it only knows how to make people believe in their cause.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    In the end it is very hard to tell with Bergen thinks we've done all the right things, any of the right things, or none of the right things in dealing with the terrorists who have sworn to wipe us out. He makes a quite persuasive case that the incidence of home-grown radicalization is a real, and growing, thing. However, in a nation of 350M people, the 300 known cases that serve as his focus really need to be held in the perspective they deserve. Of course, this book was written before the Las V In the end it is very hard to tell with Bergen thinks we've done all the right things, any of the right things, or none of the right things in dealing with the terrorists who have sworn to wipe us out. He makes a quite persuasive case that the incidence of home-grown radicalization is a real, and growing, thing. However, in a nation of 350M people, the 300 known cases that serve as his focus really need to be held in the perspective they deserve. Of course, this book was written before the Las Vegas shootings, of which we know, at this point, almost nothing. Is it possible that Stephen Paddock is just the latest iteration of this radicalization process - Muslim, or not? That would likely be the icing on the cake should the Isis claim of responsibility for his actions be actually traceable to them. All in all, there are enough scary parts to Bergen's story to give us all pause - but ,,,?

  24. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    It's an okay read. A bunch of individual stories comprising terrorism gone awry or incited by the government or some savvy use of social media to spread influence. Although the author offers a few caveats of not rushing to judgment and invoking an Islamophobic outlook, the book veers into one by failing to realize how central social media is to all social movements and how some US foreign and domestic policy actually helps incite a radicalized outlook. The author sometimes throws up his hands an It's an okay read. A bunch of individual stories comprising terrorism gone awry or incited by the government or some savvy use of social media to spread influence. Although the author offers a few caveats of not rushing to judgment and invoking an Islamophobic outlook, the book veers into one by failing to realize how central social media is to all social movements and how some US foreign and domestic policy actually helps incite a radicalized outlook. The author sometimes throws up his hands and suggests that the reasons behind a reactionary view are inexplicable. At its worst moments, it's an apology to Obama-era policies-- please.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Doug Cornelius

    With our current government focused on protecting our borders form Islamic terrorists, I found this book to be a great factual take on our home-grown Islamic terrorists. Since 9/11, all of the terrorist attacks in the US have been committed by US citizens. The book downplays the role of ISIS and Al Queda as more thought influencers than attack planners. Most of the criminals depicted in the book were influenced by the teachings of the radical Islam groups, with no evidence to show that they were With our current government focused on protecting our borders form Islamic terrorists, I found this book to be a great factual take on our home-grown Islamic terrorists. Since 9/11, all of the terrorist attacks in the US have been committed by US citizens. The book downplays the role of ISIS and Al Queda as more thought influencers than attack planners. Most of the criminals depicted in the book were influenced by the teachings of the radical Islam groups, with no evidence to show that they were instructed to engage in the attacks. The book is well-written and was given to me by the publisher in the expectation of a review.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    This is a comprehensive history of terrorism in the U.S. post-9/11. I appreciate how Bergen reviews what has worked and what has not in actions to prevent terrorism. A lot of what seems obvious has not worked and has wasted tremendous resources for very little in return. At the same time, a lot of people have worked so hard to prevent violence, and the ability of terrorists to replicate 9/11 has been destroyed. However, the impacts of those decisions are complex. This is for political fiends tho This is a comprehensive history of terrorism in the U.S. post-9/11. I appreciate how Bergen reviews what has worked and what has not in actions to prevent terrorism. A lot of what seems obvious has not worked and has wasted tremendous resources for very little in return. At the same time, a lot of people have worked so hard to prevent violence, and the ability of terrorists to replicate 9/11 has been destroyed. However, the impacts of those decisions are complex. This is for political fiends though, it is kind of dense though extremely well-written.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Standish

    Peter Bergen does a magnificent job of describing a very complicated problem for the United States. He clearly shows how, since 9/11, the terrorist threat that the United States faces has evolved from a centrally controlled cell structure to lone wolf terrorists that are inspired by distant terror organizations. The results of his analysis are eye-opening and clearly laid out. In the end, he reminds his audience that, as Americans we are more likely to die in car crashes than in a terrorist atta Peter Bergen does a magnificent job of describing a very complicated problem for the United States. He clearly shows how, since 9/11, the terrorist threat that the United States faces has evolved from a centrally controlled cell structure to lone wolf terrorists that are inspired by distant terror organizations. The results of his analysis are eye-opening and clearly laid out. In the end, he reminds his audience that, as Americans we are more likely to die in car crashes than in a terrorist attack. I highly recommend this fantastic book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ella

    Should have read on an e-reader, because there were lots of statistics that I'd like to quote. The one that I think everyone should know is basically 4 out of 5 people arrested in "terrorist" plotting or crimes in the US are US citizens. Also, he's done documentaries (perhaps by the same name) that keep telling us this fact, but nobody seems to listen. This is why I'm back to fiction in 2018. A good, if not happy, read. I'm a Peter Bergen fangirl, though. Go read someone else's review on this on Should have read on an e-reader, because there were lots of statistics that I'd like to quote. The one that I think everyone should know is basically 4 out of 5 people arrested in "terrorist" plotting or crimes in the US are US citizens. Also, he's done documentaries (perhaps by the same name) that keep telling us this fact, but nobody seems to listen. This is why I'm back to fiction in 2018. A good, if not happy, read. I'm a Peter Bergen fangirl, though. Go read someone else's review on this one.

  29. 4 out of 5

    V

    Very informative but extremely frustrating situation. If I learned anything from this book is the FBI is too big for its britches, NYPD is too big for its britches, CIA knew shit but held out because they were sidelined by the FBI. Also the US completely stops investigating Christian fundalmentalists, eco terriorists, and nationalist and hate groups, and rise of freaking violent prison gangs which run drugs and sex trade, oh and shady white collar crimes. ugh

  30. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    I enjoyed this book until the last chapter. Peter Bergen is a terrorism expert, no doubt. However, his liberal views (which he has a right to) should have been left out. I read this book to get a better understanding of these terrorists and what led to the attacks. That he did an excellent job of. But the dangers of climate change? He can save that for another book.

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