An intelligence assessment framework for identifying individuals at risk of committing acts of violent extremism against the West
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This article aims to review the potential of a risk assessment model for the purpose of counter-terrorism intelligence gathering, and discuss potential factors. First the literature on offender profiling is reviewed and applied to Islamist violent extremism. The difficulty of applying this approach to general offending is noted, particularly with regard to predictive accuracy and the fact that influential situational factors are often unknown. Next, risk assessment ‘models’ for identifying risk in general offenders are outlined and applied to violent extremism. There is not sufficient evidence to create a risk assessment model to predict who is intending to commit violent extremism and distinguish them from those who are not. However, from a review of the available literature, a number of factors, mainly attitudinal, appear to be associated with increased risk of violent extremism including beliefs by violent extremists that they are retaliating, that potential victims are less than human, and that their actions are religiously justified. In addition, violent extremists isolate themselves from positive influences, have a capability for violence and typically access violent materials. Factors are outlined in turn and discussed in light of how this information might be usefully applied within an intelligence-led counter-terrorism context and the associated limitations.