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Self Initiated Violent Actors

Self Initiated Violent Actors

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Published by IAHN Negotiator
Self Initiated Violent Actors (SIVA)
Self Initiated Violent Actors (SIVA)

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Published by: IAHN Negotiator on Jul 12, 2011
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Self Initiated Violent Actors
A.K.A. Lone Wolves
Jonathan D. GreensteinJune 17, 2011
Recent events within our borders have again highlighted the dangers posed by seeminglydisconnected individuals who are intent on sowing violence. They have come from all walks of life withwidely varying socioeconomic backgrounds. Compounding the difficulty in predicting and preventingthese individuals from waging a random hit-and-run campaign of violence on American soil is the fluidityof their tactics and the tools available to engage in acts of violence. Difficulties aside, I proffer that byusing commonalities of these criminals, as with other criminal types, we may develop reliable detectionmethodologies.In researching background information for another article, I developed a different perspective that Iwould like to proffer; that being the identification of these individuals as Self Initiated Violent Actors(
). Not to supplant previous work of others and subsequent application of the term lone wolf toindividuals who for whatever reason choose to move from violent postulation to action, but to addressthe connotation that comes to mind when you first hear the term lone wolf. Relying on the sometimesdubious resources of Wikipedia
I culled the following:
 A lone wolf is a wolf that lives independently rather than with others as a member of a pack. The term is also used in reference to people who exhibit characteristics of introversion or a strong preference for independence
While I would tend to agree with this definition of a lone wolf, I do not believe it appropriately fits thetrue model and personality type of recent violent actors acting under the auspices of terrorism. This isnot to say that a lone wolf personality alone contributes to potential for violence, nor do I maintain thata self initiated violent actor will act in concert with other like minded individuals. What I argue is thatthe term lone wolf creates potential mental roadblocks. Recent event s have again demonstrated thedifficulty of typing personality types into a neat little box from which we can accurately predict potentialfor violence. They have been immigrants, American born, visitors. They have been part of complexnetworks and acted from within small cells.When we use the term lone wolf, we inadvertently narrow our perspective to individuals with asomewhat rigidly defined personality type; thus the proffer to identify violent actors as self initiatedviolent actors.
I also believe that SIVA can in some cases replace the newly coined term Homegrown Violent Extremist(HVE), as it too narrows the focus on the homegrown threat. SIVA covers a wide swath of violent actorsand removes any preconceived notions as to their origin, motivations and personality type.SIVAs can either act alone or in concert with other violent actors. Their participation can be active orpassive; carrying out the attack or supporting it through logistics, intelligence or otherwise. Where thisnew classification differs from previous typing is that it distinguishes them from already motivatedindividuals who are either programmed to carry out a specific tasking or are radicalized for the purposeof carrying out an attack. SIVAs self-initiate whereas other violent actors tend to be mission taskedfollowing a period of radicalization. They can be motivated out of personal loss, perceived injustice,skewed views of the world or any number of personally impacting events.By taking this step back and creating a new definition for inclusion into the lexicon I believe we will bebetter able to assess potential violent actors and the behaviors they may exhibit.Before we move any further, I want to clarify again that previous work done to identify potentialindicators of violence are immeasurably valuable in our fight against terrorism. Considerable researchhas been conducted, best practices identified and processes improved. This has been
Yeoman’s work
and work I sincerely appreciate. It has helped me in my refinement of potential indicators of terrorismand will surely motivate others in the field to identify additional tools and processes.Back to the subject at hand; SIVAs. The tangible motivators that fuel them on their path to action areseemingly quantifiable. In nearly every recent case SIVAs were consumers of anti-American propagandaand images of Jihad. This served to reinforce their hatred and bolster their belief that their actions weregloriously blessed by Allah. What is important to note is that most SIVAs made this foray into violenceon their own. While Al Qaida propaganda is plentiful and readily available through various social mediasites, on YouTube and on the printed pages of Inspire, it is the SIVA who seeks it out time and timeagain.This reinforces my assessment that they are self-initiated. They need these footholds to continueonward and seek it to sustain their rage. For whatever reason, they seek what they perceive to be theglory of battle. While no recent SIVAs have openly stated so, I believe they held misconceptions bornefrom a skewed view of what battle is and the horrors it causes. They saw the glory that was portrayedthrough increasingly savvy marketing by Al Qaeda and their affiliates and moved from follower to actorin short order. The same applies to individuals groomed for action through Al Qaida s terrorist pipeline,but for SIVAs the act they undertake may vary greatly from documented tactics demonstrated by AQ.As with an addict, they are drawn back time and time again. Unlike individuals who are groomedthrough a process of structured indoctrination and radicalization, SIVAS do it on their own schedule.While they may affiliate with a radical proselytizer, they likely seek out the fuel for their fire throughother sources such as those already noted. This is where identifying them through traditional meanssuch as confidential sources or targeted surveillance experiences a shortfall since most of a SIVAsactivity is done out of view.
Should the broader and less exclusionary concept of self-initiated violent actors be adopted we mustthen identify potential indicators. Most of these are not new but they have been adjusted to reflect thisnew thought process for the identification of type specific violent actors.As noted earlier, while some of the typical methods used to identify potential violent actors areimpaired by virtue of their self driven behavior, we can look at a SIVAs observable conduct for potentialindicators. This is provided with the obvious caveats that these are potential indicators; violence cannotbe predicted with certainty but potential can be assessed. Their presence or absence is not an absoluteindicator one way or the other; this is not a clinical or diagnostic tool but a general guide.
For the sake of brevity I have referenced Al Qaida; however these potential indicators can be translated to any parent group of similar construct.
Potential SIVA Behavioral Indicators
-Have they expressed a conviction to engage in violence?-Has the individual shown a marked change in behavior following a significant victory by Al Qaida?This can include attacks, media releases, favorable coverage or other positive incidents-Has the individual shown a marked change in behavior following a significant loss by Al Qaida?This can include the death of a major player in AQ, battlefield losses, disruption of an attack and the like-Is there a change in behavior or activities leading up to a significant date?Included would be September 11
, July 4
, January 25
and May 4
.-Has previous rhetoric changed in frequency, tone or message?-Immersion in materials related to violent Jihad-Alignment with proselytizers of violence
In cases where the SIVA intends to commit a suicide attack there may be additional potentialindicators such as:
 -Agitated or excited state quickly changing to an apparent calm demeanor.-Gifting of important or valuable possessions-Marked change in appearance such as shaving of a long worn beard-Writing of a will, filming of a goodbye video or similar acts

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