Monday, September 08, 2008
Reviewing: "Hunting The American Terrorist: The FBI's War On Homegrown Terror"
Written by Terry D. Turchie and Dr. Kathleen M. Puckett this book chronicles the hunt for several American terrorists. Unlike traditional terrorists who operate in cells and therefore by sheer numbers could make mistakes leading to their capture, the American terrorist proceeds as a "lone wolf." Folks like Theodore Kaczynski better known as the "Unabomber" and Eric Rudolph, the bomber of several abortion clinics and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics are two examples of this different kind of terrorist. While these individuals may share ideological beliefs with various organizations, they never fit in with those organizations primarily because of their personalities. As such, ostracized and alone, they carry a one person war against their targets.
Being one person as opposed to a group makes them harder to catch assuming they don't make mistakes. This means that psychological profiles are of huge importance and must change as the suspect and the case evolves. That is where the work of co-author Dr. Kathleen M. Puckett and others involved in profiling or behavioral sciences becomes so important.
While the Unabomber began in 1978, the person still wasn't caught when Terry D. Turchie took over the case in 1994. It had been a little over a year since the latest violent attacks and the task force was no closer to solving the case. The book chronicles the next seven years of the hunt as Mr. Turchie leads the task force. Seven years that were fraught with some success, bureaucratic power struggles, and inaccurate profiling until Special Agent and Behavioral Expert, Dr. Puckett was added to the task force among other issues. As the Unabomber Task Force evolves to hunt this new type of criminal, it makes waves inside the FBI and outside making the bureaucracy almost a bigger problem than the Unabomber.
While Mr. Turchie chronicles the bureaucratic side of things, in the second half of the book Special Agent Dr. Kathleen M. Puckett shares her thoughts from the behavioral analyst point of view. One of the things made clear is that the analysis must change as the events happen. The original profile offered by analysts at Quantico regarding the Unabomber was fundamentally wrong from the very start. Sixteen years later, the profile hadn't changed when Mr. Turchie took over the task force and that grossly incorrect profile had failed the case for years. Through her section, Dr. Puckett chronicles the case and how she looked at things differently than others did over the years.
Also covered in smaller pieces are the hunts for Eric Rudolph and Timonthy Mcveigh. Also covered and discussed is the study Dr. Puckett provided for the Counter Terrorism division, regarding the profile of the lone terrorist. A phenomenon that could create an international lone terrorist just as easily as an American lone terrorist. The implications of that are chilling.
This 294 page book including index provides an interesting look into some of the most notorious cases in American history. While there is a tone of self congratulatory praise running through the work, the book through text and photographs explains well how two high level insiders considered the cases and the events and people surrounding them. It is not a totally objective view of events nor is it intended to be as accounts by insiders are always biased towards the authors. The book recounts in interesting detail the author's perspectives on these cases and serves as an example of how such these types of investigations will most likely be conducted in the future when another one strikes.
Hunting The American Terrorist: The FBI'S War On Homegrown Terror
Terry D. Turchie & Kathleen M. Puckett, Ph.D.
History Publishing Company
294 Pages (including index)
Review copy provided directly by the History Publishing Company in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2008