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US Capitol suicide bomb plot foiled: How to catch a 'lone wolf'

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At the same time, security officials aren't convinced that using undercover agents to act as accomplices has actually proven effective in defusing the overall threat of lone wolf terrorism.

“While this approach has proven very effective in catching would-be terrorists, it is not at all clear whether it is something that actually is eliminating – or accelerating – the problem of lone wolf terrorism,” writes Raffaello Pantucci , an associate fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization, in a recent Homeland Security Today article. “The approach of identifying possible lone wolves and then persuading them that they are part of a plot might be having the effect of turning armchair observers into active radicals. Who is to say they would have progressed to the point of actually carrying out an attack if they had not had the support of the network of undercover law enforcement operatives around them?”

Other experts have also rebutted growing official concerns about lone wolf terrorism, suggesting that actual evidence shows the real terror threat receding as the number of terror arrests have steadily declined since spiking in 2009.  The profile of alleged plotters like El Khalifi proves this theory, they say.

“We're not seeing a high level of spycraft among these individuals,” University of North Carolina professor Charles Kurzman, author of “The Missing Martyrs,” told the Monitor recently. “They're for the most part not professional killers, and their plots come to the attention of authorities fairly quickly.”

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