Dr. Erroll Southers, TAL Global’s Managing Director, Counter-Terrorism & Infrastructure Protection, and Director of Transition and Research Deployment at the Department of Homeland Security National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), opened a panel debate hosted by Rep. Karen Bass at the Culver City Senior Center, in Culver City, CA on the President’s request for the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against the self-declared Islamic State (also called ISIL, or ISIS). Dr. Southers provided an overview of the history of the ISIS. .
The following week, Dr Southers joined Ehsan Zaffar, Senior Advisor to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, in Staten Island and Manhattan, New York, to speak at the Civil Liberties and Civil Rights Roundtables. He presented a talk entitled, “Homegrown: Educating Communities About Violent Extremism.”
The Roundtable events featured representation from the Muslim, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish faiths, law enforcement, representatives of elected officials and immigrant community. The talk offered a wider discussion of the various extremist ideologies that threaten our national security, while also providing an exploration of the nexus between ideology, radicalization and homegrown terrorism.
Dr. Southers proposed that to address the broader challenge of preventing terrorist attacks that originate with citizens and residents (rather than foreign adversaries), we must take on a more nuanced, thoughtful and intelligent perspective of homegrown violent extremism, its origins, and the methods for interrupting those on a pathway to violence. Part of this strategy includes focused efforts to counter the extremist ideologies and messages that propel individuals through the radicalization process.
Dr. Southers said that “I believe the emerging phenomenon of homegrown violent extremism necessitates a more robust and interdisciplinary understanding of how individuals progress through radicalization and engage in violent activity, revealing the factors and motivations that can lead to acts of terrorism.”
Dr. Southers added that: “The Foreign Fighter issue is a formidable challenge, exacerbated by my research that suggests the face-to-face contact by terrorist recruiters is more prevalent than it is being acknowledged. As I have said before, there are three elements to someone becoming a terrorist – an alienated and possibly altruistic individual, a legitimizing ideology and an enabling environment. Of the three, the environment is the one we, as a community may have the ability to influence.”
Dr. Southers offered the attendees a way to enhance being “S.A.F.E.”:
S – Social networks: everyone has one, including violent extremists and terrorists. Everyone should pay attention to their circle of associates.
A – Act: “See Something, Say Something” had to be accompanied by Doing Something! Know who to contact regarding concerns of suspicious behavior or questions regarding one’s social network.
F – Fight intolerance: Intolerance is an element of all extremist ideologies. It should be challenged and rejected.
E – Educate yourself: Learn what is happening in your community as it relates to this issue, what is being done about it and how you can contribute.