Can terrorists be deradicalized?

Q: How should a good program evaluation be structured?

A: In each program, there are multiple factors like staff training, risk assessment, case ranking, individually adapted treatment methods, double-blind peer review, etc. Each can be graded by an evaluator and an overall score can provide a measure we call structural integrity. This does not necessarily measure a program’s impact in any particular case, but rather whether it’s capable of having a positive impact. Any individual outcome depends on so many additional uncontrollable variables, but a program’s structural integrity tells us whether it can work at all.

Q: Can deradicalization programs help with “lone wolf” attackers who aren’t formally part of any terrorist group?

A: We know that in the vast majority of “lone wolf” cases, family and friends knew about the radicalization process or attack plan. Just look at the recent Manchester concert bombing case, where the attacker’s friends and community members made multiple attempts to alert the authorities. What deradicalization provides is a program in the middle acting as some sort of communicative bridge between security officials, family members, and communities. But the basic mechanism is the same across all groups: You need to have access to the radicalized person, identify the factors driving their ideology, design an intervention plan, and then track its impact.

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