CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Barnes on Responses to Lone Wolf Terrorism

Beau Barnes has posted Confronting the One-Man Wolf Pack: Adapting Law Enforcement and Prosecution Responses to the Threat of Lone Wolf Terrorism (Boston University Law Review, Vol. 92, No. 1613, 2012) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

In recent years, a new type of terrorist threat has emerged: the "lone wolf." Lone Wolves present a challenge for current law enforcement and prosecutorial approaches to combating terrorism because these individuals are radicalized without significant contact with others and operate alone. The tools currently available to law enforcement and prosecutors focus on exploiting the vulnerabilities and liabilities created through group interactions, a "preventive" approach to terrorism that is inapplicable to the solitary terrorist.

This Note argues, however, that lone wolves - poorly trained individuals operating alone with minimal equipment against relatively unimportant targets - do not pose a significant threat to the United States. Indeed, the very traits that make lone wolves difficult to apprehend mitigate the damage lone wolves can effect. Therefore, a heavy-handed policy response is unnecessary and, in light of a proper understanding of the concept of "national security," ultimately counterproductive. Because of lone wolves' isolation, no readily available set of policies is likely to have a significant effect. Even if it were feasible to completely eliminate lone wolf terrorism, such an effort would not be worth the inevitably high cost, both in the allocation of scarce resources and the necessary infringements on civil liberties.

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