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Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why?

NCJ Number
Rex A. Hudson
Date Published
133 pages
This study focused on the types of individuals and groups that were prone to terrorism.
The study examined the relevant literature and assesses the current knowledge of terrorist groups and individuals, and provided case studies of a dozen terrorist groups. In the 1970's and 1980's, it was commonly assumed that terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) would be counterproductive because it would be widely condemned, based on the assumption that if terrorist behavior exceeded certain constraints it would alienate the public and provoke harsh retaliation. Most of the groups making headlines during this time were groups with political or nationalist-separatist agendas. Recently, the trend has been the emergence of religious fundamentalist and new religious groups who seek to maximize violence against anyone who is not a fundamentalist member. The most dangerous terrorist is likely to be the religious terrorist. The six psychological types that would be most likely to threaten or try to use WMD are paranoids, paranoid schizophrenics, borderline mental defectives, schizophrenic types, passive-aggressive personality types, and sociopath personalities. The potential threat posed by terrorists has increased and terrorist actions are aimed at achieving a larger scale of destruction than the conventional attacks of the previous three decades of terrorism. The four groups now capable of perpetrating a horrific act of terrorism in the United States are the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE), Hizballah, al-Qaida, and Aum Shinrikyo. If the LTTE perceives this country as actively aiding the Sri Lankan Government’s counterinsurgency campaign, they are capable of attacks in this country. Hizballah is quite dangerous and carries out attacks for what it perceives to be Western military, cultural, or political threats to the establishment of an Islamic republic in Lebanon. Osama bin Laden of al-Qaida is a potent terrorist threat to U.S. interests worldwide and is the prototype of a new breed of terrorist – the private entrepreneur who uses modern enterprise in a global terrorist network. Aum Shinrikyo has already used WMD with its sarin attack against the Tokyo subway system in March 1995. 6 tables, glossary, bibliography