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Are terrorists beyond redemption?

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To be sure, there have been many failures. Bagus Budi Pranoto, a JI member involved in an attack on the Australian embassy in 2004, was released from prison after going through Indonesia's program. In 2009, he was involved in bomb attacks against Jakarta's Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels that killed seven people, and was later gunned down in a raid of a JI safe house in Central Java.

Former Guantánamo Bay inmate Said Ali al-Shahri, a member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was released to Saudi custody in 2007 and quickly cycled through its rehabilitation program. By 2009, he had resurfaced as an Al Qaeda leader in Yemen. Unconfirmed reports last year claimed he had been killed.

Proponents of a deradicalization approach argue that occasional failures don't mean the programs are not working.

"The Saudi program is occasionally criticized because some graduates occasionally return to radical activities.... I think that's a misunderstanding," says Arie Kruglanski, a psychology professor at the University of Maryland who studies radical groups and will be leading the Pentagon-funded research program.

"If a person leaves the program and is inserted into a social milieu that influences him to return to previous beliefs, that doesn't mean it didn't work: People can always be reradicalized," he says.

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