Making of a Terrorist

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

While liberal media pundits and so-called experts rail against America for not integrating the Boston Bombers—the Tsarnaev brothers— into society, Clint Watts, a senior research fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, offers an analysis of the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his psyche and the bureaucratic inadequacies of law enforcement when it comes to terrorism.

Watts served as a U.S. Army infantry officer, an FBI Special Agent on a Joint Terrorism Task Force, and as the Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. He notes that movement from Introduction to Resolve varies, depending on additional emotional triggers, such as family issues (death or divorce), professional failures, financial struggles and psychological and traumatic events. Watts also warns of the presence of “catalysts” –events, people or places—that may play a part in guiding vulnerable individuals to complete their radicalization.

Some of the emotional triggers varied in Tamerlan’s life. According to some sources, his wife was supporting the family as his boxing career stalled and he struggled to keep a job. Additionally, Tamerlan was introduced to Islam by his mother, who feared his life was going off the rails with drugs, girls and the like. Then enters the catalyst in his life, an Armenian convert to Islam named “Misha,” who helped push Tamerlan toward radicalization to the point that he would protest and argue with other Muslims at his local mosque.

But this still does not answer the question: Is law enforcement to blame for the Boston bombings?

Watts says they deserve some of the blame, but it is hard for the FBI and other federal agencies to detect radicalization. The FBI investigated his extremism, based on intelligence gathered by the Russian FSB, but Watts says they did not have enough information to justify surveillance of Tamerlan. Why? Tamerlan was still not completely radicalized when he was interviewed in 2011. Without indicating a possibility of a violent outbreak in the future, the FBI elected to return to their heavy caseload of terrorism cases on hand.

From Tamerlan’s timeline, it seems that he reached the Resolve, or the last, stage quicker than anticipated. His trip to Dagestan, a volatile Islamist region in south-central Russia, triggered his commitment to violence to satisfy the demands of radical Islam. As Watts states, Tamerlan’s brother Dzhokhar admits the Boston Marathon attack was planned a few short weeks before being executed.

Nevertheless, Watts claims that “law enforcement and the military lack a well-researched and defined list of indicators and warnings associated with cases of violent extremism.” In other words, Watts argues that there is no defined method of defining and labeling “violent extremism.”

Second, Watts concludes there is still a coordination and communication gap between the law enforcement and homeland security agencies, or what is often referred to as bureaucratic red tape. He also says that though America has suffered from many acts of violent extremism, counterterrorist policies have not changed.


Spencer Irvine is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.
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