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Book Review: Lone Wolf Terrorism

The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism. By Mark S. Hamm and Ramon Spaaig. ​Columbia University Press;; 336 pages; $35.​

Well written and exhaustively researched, The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism is an encyclopedia of information on the history, characteristics, methodology, and evolution of the lone wolf threat. Historical data is broken into pre-9/11 and post-9/11 groupings for analysis. The book presents holistic information succinctly and in a readable fashion. Reviewing this comprehensive list of attacks condensed in summary form with the ability to compare and contrast each event provides an outstanding reference for those in security.  

Professionals tasked with identifying and stopping lone wolf actors will find that this resource provides information not found in previous material. The authors take up the challenge to classify these attacks and help to form a critical look at potential patterns and instigating events.

The book provides information and lessons learned from past attacks while acknowledging the difficulty in proactively identifying the lone wolves. For example, Chapter 11 examines two terrorists who each committed lone wolf attacks. Each had broadcasted for some time their radical beliefs through social media. One attacker, Carlos Bledsoe, was even on the FBI’s Terrorism Watch List prior to his attack. Yet, neither man presented enough of a threat to warrant arrest, questioning, or even surveillance by law enforcement.  

The book proposes sting operations as a preventive measure but warns of such challenges as racial profiling accusations and potential defamation of character lawsuits. 

The radicalization process is also worth the attention of security professionals. Some lone wolf actors are indoctrinated by terrorist groups and others by their local environments, such as those bullied in school or at work. This book presents a compelling look at how lone wolf terrorists are made over time, not born.

For security professionals trying to understand the lone wolf threat, this book provides an excellent reference. It will engage both experienced professionals and those who are new to the topic.  

Reviewer: Bill Scott, CPP, PMP (Project Management Professional), is a senior director with ABS Group focused on security and emergency response operations planning. He is former chair of the ASIS Global Terrorism, Political Instability, and International Crime Council and a member of the committee writing the ASIS workplace violence standard.