TerrorismNew Book Examines Threat of ISIS in the United States

Published 1 December 2020

Despite the large amount of media reporting, there had yet to be a definitive accounting of what ISIS supporters in the U.S. looked like. Researchers have collected mountains of data to try to paint at least a partially representative picture for the public, explaining why some Americans are attracted to jihadist ideology—and what we can do about it.

For Bennett Clifford, F21, the Boston Marathon bombing felt close to home, and not just because he grew up in nearby Lexington, Mass.

An undergraduate studying religion and international politics at the time of the 2013 attack, Clifford had spent a summer in the country of Georgia researching violent extremism in the Caucasus. That’s the region from which the Tsarnaev brothers, who were arrested for the bombing after a deadly manhunt, had emigrated.

“There was a lot of discussion around that time about folks with American backgrounds being recruited, and ISIS [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] had started popping up on the map,” he says. “But I thought everything that happened with regard to terror in the Caucasus happened over there.”

The attack on U.S. soil by radicalized young men who lived here spurred Clifford to continue his research, first as a research fellow at the George Washington University Program on Extremism and now at The Fletcher School. At George Washington, he met Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens and Seamus Hughes, who would become his co-authors on the new book Homegrown: ISIS in America. Tufts Now’s Elizabeth Gehrman  Here, he discusses what they learned.

Elizabeth Gehrman: How did this book come about?
Bennett Clifford
: Despite the large amount of media reporting, there had yet to be a definitive accounting of what ISIS supporters in the U.S. looked like. We collected mountains of data to try to paint at least a partially representative picture for the public.

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