National Security

Report: ‘Unprecedented’ Support For Islamic State Within U.S.

ISIS
ISIS militants / AP

A new report released by George Washington University's program on extremism Tuesday morning found that the Islamic State is enjoying "unprecedented" support within the U.S.

The report, titled "ISIS in America: From Retweets To Raqqa," primarily focuses on how the terrorist organization attempting to establish an Islamic caliphate recruits Americans to join their cause.

"What we do see in the United States is an unprecedented mobilization," said Lorenzo Vidino, one of the authors of the report, said. He also said it is "bigger than any other mobilization we have seen since 9/11."

U.S. authorities have spoken to 250 Americans who have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria or Iraq to join the Islamic State. There are 900 active investigations against the terror group's sympathizers in all 50 states. Since March 2014, 71 Americans have been charged with supporting the terrorist organization with a dramatic uptick in arrests in 2015.

As part of the report, GW’s Program on Extremism identified some 300 U.S.-based Islamic State sympathizers and analyzed their activity online. The report’s findings stress the uniqueness of each case in which Americans are radicalized over social media.

"The profiles of individuals involved in ISIS-related activities in the U.S. differ widely in race, age, social class, education, and family background," Vidino said during his presentation of the report. "Their motivations are equally diverse and deny easy analysis."

Hughes said that sympathizers of the terror group place themselves in an extremist echo chamber, reinforcing the belief system without any dissent. The end result varies—some keep their support within the confines of the Internet by helping spread propaganda, while others turn to actual militancy.

Former Los Angeles Police Chief Michael Downing suggested law enforcement’s approach to identifying those at-risk of radicalization must be as unique as the backgrounds of those involved with ISIS and each case should involve individual attention.

Ambassador Alberto Fernandez said there could not be a blanket counter-narrative used to "off-ramp" people the terror group is trying to reach. Instead, he said the focus should be on poking holes in the terrorist organization’s narrative and disrupting the echo chamber because the U.S. already has its own story to tell of freedom and liberty.

The GW report comes just weeks after the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.