FBI study: The Fundamentals of Islamic Extremism- Psychological Considerations for Developing & Managing Counterterrorism Sources

This paper outlines some psychological considerations for planning and running a source operation against Islamic extremist targets.

The objective is simply to provide information for Special Agents to ponder as they develop operational scenarios and spot potential sources. As is true with successful interrogations, it is critical to understand the culture and mindset of the both source and target. Additionally, it is important to understand the adversary’s recruitment and radicalization processes, as well as the contexts in which screening and recruitment occur. Detailed descriptions of known Islamic extremists are offered, so that potential sources can be selected or shaped to provide a good fit with others in the target group. Finally, detailed source assessment questions, recruitment criteria used by the adversary, and several case studies are provided in the appendices.

Source operations provide a window to the mind of the adversary. Penetrating a network of known extremist cells offers clues to the adversary’s capability and intention that routine physical and technical surveillance cannot. Under the new operational mandate of preemption and proaction, the goal is to interrupt forward motion and prevent attacks before they occur. These objectives can be advanced more efficiently by learning about the inner-working of attack plans and preparation than by any post-attack investigation, with use of far fewer resources and no tragic loss.


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