Lone Offender Terrorism

Among the key findings:

  • 83 percent of offenders had previously exhibited behavior that was hostile or aggressive.
  • 96 percent of offenders produced writing or videos intended to be viewed by others.
  • In 25 percent of the cases, at least one other individual became aware of the offender’s research, planning, or preparation for an attack.
  • In every case, bystanders expressed concern over behaviors at some point prior to an attack.

“Absent this report and others like it, someone could see something and they’re solely relying on their gut feeling or spider sense to say, ‘That doesn’t look right,’ or ‘That’s concerning,’” Wyman said. “I think by putting this information out there, it helps people get over that barrier. It gives you something to fall back on to validate whatever your gut feeling was.”

In a message in the report, FBI Director Christopher Wray said prevention efforts are enhanced by early recognition of potential issues and reporting by those closest to a person of concern. “Bystanders need guidance to recognize concerning behaviors and overcome natural resistance to reporting,” Wray said. “Just as important as early recognition by bystanders is the need to have well-trained, skilled, and competent receivers of that reporting.”

Wyman said that most lone offenders don’t start off alone—they may have attempted to spread their ideology or tried to join like-minded groups and were rejected. They might be raising red flags that should be recognized as potentially dangerous and worth paying close attention to.

“The ideological offenders are often going to wrap an idea around their personal problems, and they typically want to try and test that idea out on other people,” Wyman explained.