A Conversation with John Horgan

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on OCTOBER 23, 2014: 

This morning, as part of an academic visit to Duke, renowned terrorism scholar and criminal psychologist John Horgan sat down with Duke University public policy professor and national security expert David Schanzer for a taped conversation about yesterday’s terrorist attack in Ottawa, Canada and what Horgan has learned from his research.

Horgan directs the Center for Terrorism & Security studies at UMASS. The main focus of Horgan’s research is on the psychology of terrorist behavior. He is interested in how people become involved, remain involved, and disengage from terrorist movements, and studies these issues across a wide variety of different non-state groups. He has examined these processes from the perspective of the individual militant as well as how the terrorist group and organization manages the processes of recruitment, selection, and disengagement. His research has included several interviews with former terrorists.

Schanzer directs the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security – a collaborative effort between Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and RTI International to enhance the understanding of terrorism and the means to combat it through education, research and the development of partnerships between universities, industry and government.

In the following video the two discuss the news and commentary coming out about the suspected gunman in yesterday’s attacks in Ottawa — including that he was a Muslim convert — and speculation about his connection to international terrorist groups.

While the two scholars agreed that yesterday’s attacks can’t come as a complete surprise to Canadian national security experts, they cautioned about the need for restraint by journalists and pundits in the characterization of the suspect and coverage of yesterday’s events.

Look for a more in-depth conversation (on video) between Schanzer and Horgan in the coming days on ISLAMiCommentary. The next video will cover more of their research including prevention of violent extremism and de-radicalization strategies (effective or not?), and an exploration of why people join terrorist groups, why they leave, and how policymakers can approach re-integration.

John Horgan is Professor of Security Studies at the School of Criminology and Justice Studies of the University of Massachusetts Lowell where he is also Director of the Center for Terrorism & Security Studies. An applied psychologist by training, his research focuses on terrorist behavior. He has over seventy publications on terrorism and political violence, and his books include The Psychology of Terrorism, Walking Away from Terrorism, Leaving Terrorism Behind, and Terrorism Studies: A Reader. His latest book Divided We Stand: The Strategy and Psychology of Ireland’s Dissident Terrorists was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. Horgan is also a member of the Research Working Group of the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.

David H. Schanzer is an Associate Professor of the Practice at the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy and the Director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. He teaches courses on counterterrorism strategy, counterterrorism law and homeland security at Duke. Prior to his academic appointments, he was the Democratic staff director for the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security from 2003 to 2005. His positions in the executive branch include special counsel, Office of General Counsel, Department of Defense (1998-2001) and trial attorney, U.S. Department of Justice (1992-1994). Schanzer is also affiliated faculty with the Duke Islamic Studies Center and a regular contributor to ISLAMiCommentary.

The original article can be viewed here.