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Police chiefs meet on US terror

19 January 2012, 11:55

Washington - State and local law enforcement officials convened at the White House on Wednesday for a daylong discussion about how police can maintain the trust of their communities while identifying and preventing violent extremism and home-grown terrorism.

The Obama administration considers such efforts critical to national security.

Violent extremism has erupted across the US in the past few years, motivated by ideologies, whether a violent interpretation of Islam or white supremacist beliefs.

Ideologies in and of themselves are not illegal. But police now find themselves struggling to identify ideologues who plan to commit violence among the many others who hold similar beliefs but have no intention of hurting anyone.

There has been an uptick in attempted attacks by Americans and other legal US residents in the past few years, prompting the administration to place a priority on finding ways to stop this type of violence. The administration rolled out a thin strategy last year that put local communities instead of Washington in charge of countering violent extremism.

Analysts from the FBI, Homeland Security Department and National Counterterrorism Centre studied 62 cases of homegrown violent extremists and identified basic similarities that might help local law enforcers better understand and detect threats.

The warning signs identified for police include someone joining a group advocating violence, receiving support from a network that plans attacks or seeking out charismatic leaders who encourage violence. An overview of the findings was shared with the AP.

In the 62 cases reviewed, the subjects increasingly spoke out against the government, blamed the government for perceived problems and did so in a way that caught the attention of other people in their communities, according to a senior counterterrorism official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private White House event. Subjects became active on the Internet to espouse extremist views. And in some cases, the subjects bought weapons, ammunition or explosive materials.

Analysts also found that a person's origin, ethnic background and socioeconomic status are not good indicators for potential violent extremist activity, the senior counterterrorism official said.

The conference marked the first time the Obama administration hosted a meeting with so many of the nation's top law enforcement executives on how to counter violent extremism.


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