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Headliners, the University of Minnesota's popular current events series, is your chance to meet, once a month, with University and community experts as they share firsthand knowledge of today's newsworthy topics. From medical breakthroughs and culture clashes to social trends and foreign affairs, you'll discuss what's making the headlines.
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The Shifting Tides of Global Terrorism
Who: Dr. Jarret Brachman, internationally recognized specialist on counterterrorism and violent extremist movements
When: Thursday, February 5, 7 p.m.
Where: Continuing Education and Conference Center, St. Paul campus, University of Minnesota
Al-Qaida, ISIS, ISIL, the Islamic State… A lot has transpired since May 2011 when the death of Usama bin Laden forced Al-Qaida to question whether it could sustain its identity in the absence of its founder. Yet, despite the efforts of bin Laden’s longtime deputy to maintain control of his unwieldy supporters, Al-Qaida’s complete silence during the Arab Spring further eroded the authority and relevance of Al-Qaida’s leadership.
It wasn’t long before the movement’s supporters were so disgruntled with the repetitive messages of an outmoded leadership that they began to shift their focus to more dynamic Internet-based social media sites and mobile applications such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. It was through the use of these websites and applications that Al-Qaida’s adherents began remaking their movement from a culture of elitism, hierarchy, and exclusivity, to one of populism and grassroots do-it-yourself resourcefulness. What we now see is a collection of individuals who have grown increasingly radicalized and are dedicated to waging violence throughout the world.
In June 2014, ISIS proclaimed itself to be a worldwide caliphate under the name “Islamic State.” Noted for their use of high-end (and well-funded) propaganda—including notorious videos of the beheadings of journalists, soldiers, aid workers, and citizens—the group also uses social media to radicalize and recruit sympathizers.
Significantly, the U.S. Treasury Department estimates that ISIS earns between $1 million and $2 million a day from oil sales. (The jihadist organization opened a bank in Mosel, Iraq, just months after taking control of the city.) Now considered the world’s wealthiest terror group, the Islamic State recently projected a surplus of $250 million in its 2015 budget of $2 billion. The surplus, they say, will be used for the “war effort.”
So what then—given these quickly shifting tides of global terrorism—is the current state of groups such as the Al-Qaida movement and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria?
Join us February 5, when Dr. Jarret Brachman, an internationally recognized specialist on counterterrorism and violent extremist movements, will discuss the movements’ online spaces, internal documents, and conversations, and assess their current capabilities and future trajectories. From #greenbirds to #blackflags and beyond, Brachman will also share several case studies that highlight the groups’ continued use of social media to radicalize and mobilize sympathizers in the West.
Jarret Brachman, Ph.D., University of Delaware, is an internationally recognized specialist on counterterrorism and violent extremist movements, who has testified multiple times before Congressional subcommittees and the British House of Lords. Described as an "information warrior" by the Associated Press and a "laptop James Bond" by Esquire, Brachman began his career as a graduate fellow at the CIA's Counterterrorist Center where he tracked Al-Qaida’s senior leadership. In 2004, he joined the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and became its first director of research, overseeing projects related to terrorist ideology, strategy, and use of the Internet for recruitment and propaganda. He later launched a law-enforcement training center at North Dakota State University. The author of Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2008), Brachman now directs the Global Threat Intelligence program for a major financial institution.