START researchers were invited to Capitol Hill this month to provide briefings for staff members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (Chairman Senator Tom Carper, D-Del; Ranking Member Tom Coburn, R-Okla). The committee sought out START's expertise on methods of combating violent extremism in the United States, specifically as related to the radicalization process.
During the first briefing, Gary LaFree, Director of START Consortium, provided a background of the radicalization process, based on empirical research. Drilling down through U.S. cases over time, he set up the context for talking about which groups are most important in the past and now. Based on recent research, he also discussed the relationship between counties' characteristics and incidents of terrorism.
START Executive Director Bill Braniff then spoke about START's wide portfolio of research in the subject area, highlighting recent findings from a variety of projects. He offered a pragmatic set of suggestions related to combatting the radicalization process and countering violent extremism, speaking to a need for more empirically grounded training for state, local and tribal professionals that engage with American communities.
In the second briefing, START Researcher Clark McCauley, explained the individual mechanisms of radicalization and trajectories that move people to violence. He spoke about his research, updating theories from his book with Sophia Moskalenko, "Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us."