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Copyright 2018 by Khaled A. Beydoun Printed in U.S.A.
Vol. 112, No. 5

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Online Essays
LONE WOLF TERRORISM: TYPES, STRIPES, AND

DOUBLE STANDARDS†

Khaled A. Beydoun

ABSTRACT—The recent spike in mass shootings, topped by the October 1,
2017, Las Vegas massacre, dubbed the “deadliest mass shooting in modern
U.S. history,” has brought newfound urgency and attention to lone wolf
violence and terrorism. Although a topic of pressing concern, the
phenomenon—which centers on mass violence inflicted by one individual—
is underexamined and undertheorized within legal literature. This scholarly
neglect facilitates flat understandings of the phenomenon and enables the
racial and religious double standards arising from law enforcement
investigations and prosecutions of white and Muslim lone wolves.

This Essay contributes a timely reconceptualization of the
phenomenon, coupled with a typology adopted from social science, for
understanding the myriad forms of lone wolf terrorism. In addition to
contributing the theoretical frameworks to further examine lone wolf
terrorism within legal scholarship, this Essay examines how the assignment
of the lone wolf designation by law enforcement functions as: (1) a
presumptive exemption from terrorism for white culprits and (2) a
presumptive connection to terrorism for Muslim culprits. This asymmetry is
rooted in the distinct racialization of white and Muslim identity, and it is
driven by War on Terror baselines that profile Muslim identity as
presumptive of a terror threat.

AUTHOR—Khaled A. Beydoun, Associate Professor of Law, University of
Detroit Mercy School of Law; Senior Affiliated Faculty, University of
California at Berkeley, Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project

† This Essay was originally published in the Northwestern University Law Review Online on February
22, 2018. 112 NW. U. L. REV. ONLINE 177 (2018), https://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/
viewcontent.cgi?article=1257&context=nulr_online&preview_mode=1&z=1519320539
[https://perma.cc/VZ92-TSW8].

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(IRDP); and author of American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots
and Rise of Fear (University of California Press, 2018).

INTRODUCTION: A TALE OF TWO LONE WOLVES …………………………………………….. 1214

A. Las Vegas Shooting—October 1, 2017…………………………………………… 1214
B. The Orlando Nightclub Shooting—June 12, 2016 ……………………………. 1216
C. Two Lone Wolves, but Only One Terrorist ……………………………………… 1217

I. THEORIZING LONE WOLF TERRORISM ……………………………………………………. 1219
A. Defining “Lone Wolf Terrorism” …………………………………………………. 1219
B. A Typology: Lone Wolves of Many Stripes ……………………………………… 1221

II. LONE WOLVES AND RADICALIZATION……………………………………………………. 1226
A. Radicalization and Counter-Radicalization ……………………………………. 1227
B. Radicalization and Racialization ………………………………………………….. 1231

III. POLICING LONE WOLF TERRORISM ……………………………………………………….. 1236
A. Lone Wolf as a Terrorism Exemption ……………………………………………. 1237
B. Lone Wolf as a Terrorism Connection …………………………………………… 1239

CONCLUSION ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 1242

[A]t this point, we believe it is a local individual [not a terrorist], he
resides here locally.

—Clark County Sherriff Joseph Lombardo‡

As far as we can tell right now, this is certainly an example of the kind
of homegrown extremism that all of us have been so concerned about for
a very long time.

—President Barack Obama††

INTRODUCTION: A TALE OF TWO LONE WOLVES

A. Las Vegas Shooting—October 1, 2017
Stephen Paddock peered onto the concert hall across the boulevard from

the thirty-second floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.1 The illuminated Las

‡ Tom Batchelor, Nevada State Law Defines Law Vegas Mass Shooting as an Act of Terrorism,
INDEPENDENT (Oct. 2, 2017, 10:27 AM), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/las-vegas-
shooting-nevada-terrorism-state-law-act-police-stephen-paddock-a7978456.html
[https://perma.cc/X3PH-TGMC] (characterizing Stephen Paddock, the culprit of the Las Vegas shooting).
†† Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Obama Says Orlando Gunman Was Probably a Homegrown Extremist,
N.Y. TIMES (June 13, 2016), https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/14/us/politics/obama-orlando-shooter-
isis.html [https://perma.cc/6MLL-PKPD] (characterizing Omar Mateen, the culprit of the Orlando
nightclub shooting).
1 Jose A. Delreal & Jonah Engel Bromwich, Stephen Paddock, Las Vegas Suspect, Was a Gambler
Who Drew Little Attention, N.Y. TIMES (Oct. 2, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/02/us/stephen-
paddock-vegas-shooter.html [https://perma.cc/R2DX-V5FT].

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Vegas Strip was a familiar sight for the sixty-four-year-old, who for years
walked on the very grounds he looked down upon minutes after 10:00 PM
that Sunday evening, October 1, 2017.2 Thousands of people gathered for the
country music festival across Las Vegas Boulevard, celebrating a musical
genre that Paddock counted among his favorites.3 One can imagine the scene:
inches from the suite’s panorama window, Paddock’s stare was fixed and his
stance frozen, high atop the city where he satisfied his zeal for gambling
huge sums of money within the Strip’s familiar string of hotels.4

However, that evening, Paddock would aim to gratify a different kind
of zeal. He stood feet away from his stockpile of twenty-three guns,5 which
he stealthily transported into his suite. Minutes later, he used those guns to
kill fifty-eight people and injure over 500 more attending the Route 91
Harvest festival concert.6 Paddock opened fire on the crowd of 22,000 at
10:05 PM and continued shooting for the next ten minutes—a time span that
probably seemed like an eternity for those below.7

The shooting was ultimately dubbed “the deadliest mass shooting in
modern U.S. history” by a number of media outlets.8 Consequently, the City
of Las Vegas and Paddock’s name will forever be associated with one of the
darkest moments in America’s recent memory. However, hours after the
attack, before an investigation commenced, the Clark County Sherriff
disassociated Paddock from terrorism by calling him a “lone wolf,” and the
media firestorm covering the tragedy followed suit.9

2 Id.
3 Amy O’Neill and Bob Ortega, The Unknowable Stephen Paddock and the Ultimate Mystery: Why?,
CNN (Oct. 7, 2017, 9:40 AM), http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/06/us/unknowable-stephen-paddock-and-
the-mystery-motive/index.html [https://perma.cc/JP26-YGU4].
4 Id.
5 Barbara Liston et al., Las Vegas Gunman Stephen Paddock Was a High-Stakes Gambler Who ‘Kept
to Himself’ Before Massacre, WASH. POST (Oct. 2, 2017), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-
nation/wp/2017/10/02/las-vegas-gunman-liked-to-gamble-listened-to-country-music-lived-quiet-retired-
life-before-massacre [https://perma.cc/DG4Y-8VSR].
6 Id.
7 Matt Pearce, David Montero & Richard Winton, Las Vegas Gunman Shot Security Guard a Full
Six Minutes Before Opening Fire on Concertgoers, Police Reveal, L.A. TIMES (Oct. 9, 2017, 6:10 PM),
http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-vegas-shooting-20171009-story.html [https://perma.cc/AB4Q-
B8KD].
8 See, e.g., Bill Chappell & Doreen McCallister, Las Vegas Shooting Update: At Least 59 People Are
Dead After Gunman Attacks Concert, NPR (Oct. 2, 2017, 3:15 AM), https://www.npr.org/sections/
thetwo-way/2017/10/02/554976369/section-of-las-vegas-strip-is-closed-after-music-festival-shooting
[https://perma.cc/5MZA-KEJZ].
9 Delreal & Bromwich, supra note 1.

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B. The Orlando Nightclub Shooting—June 12, 2016
Before the Las Vegas massacre, the horrific shooting in Orlando on

June 12, 2016, held the designation of the “deadliest mass shooting” in U.S.
history.10 Shortly after midnight that Sunday morning, Omar Mateen opened
fire inside Pulse Nightclub, a nightlife hub and “safe space” for the
metropolitan Orlando area’s diverse LGBTQ communities.11 He killed forty-
nine people and injured fifty more12 during a night when 90% of the club-
goers were Latino.13

Like Paddock, Mateen, a “deeply disturbed”14 twenty-nine-year-old
American of Afghan heritage,15 took his own life shortly after opening fire.
But unlike Paddock, Mateen was Afghan and Muslim, identities that are
routinely conflated with—and inextricably tied to—terrorism.16 Because of
his faith and ethnicity, Mateen fit within the embedded profile of the terrorist,
and he was “raced” as such17—acting in a purely individual capacity would
not change that racial and religious equation. Law enforcement and many
voices within mainstream media labeled him a “lone wolf,” but the
“radicalized” variety: connected—not exempted—from terrorism.18

However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was well
acquainted with Mateen and previously cleared him from terror affiliation or
involvement on two occasions. FBI agents interviewed Mateen three times
during 2013 and 2014, delving deep into his personal life and assigning an

10 Maia Davis, Orlando Nightclub Mass Shooting Is Deadliest in US History, ABC NEWS (June 12,
2016, 4:06 PM), abcnews.go.com/US/orlando-nightclub-mass-shooting-deadliest-us-history/story?id=
39797486 [https://perma.cc/3VYW-U6TH] (“The 50 deaths, so far, are 18 more than . . . the second most-
fatal massacre . . . according to data from Mother Jones that goes back to 1982.”).
11 Daniel D’Addario, Orlando Shooting: The Gay Bar as Safe Space Has Been Shattered, TIME (June
12, 2016, 4:04 PM), http://time.com/4365403/orlando-shooting-gay-bar-pulse-nightclub/
[https://perma.cc/SX7S-Z5SX].
12 Hirschfeld Davis, supra note ††.
13 Steven W. Thrasher, Latino Community Mourns Pulse Shooting Victims: “90% Were Hispanic”,
GUARDIAN (June 14, 2016, 1:36 PM), https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/14/latino-
hispanic-orlando-shooting-victims [https://perma.cc/Q54J-DVP5].
14 See Mark Mazzetti et al., Omar Mateen, Twice Scrutinized by F.B.I., Shows Threat of Lone
Terrorists, N.Y. TIMES (June 13, 2016), https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/14/us/politics/orlando-
shooting-omar-mateen.html [https://perma.cc/AGN3-44E3].
15 Orlando Gay Nightclub Shooting: Who Was Omar Mateen?, BBC (June 14, 2016),
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36513468 [https://perma.cc/5S49-JRT9].
16 See Leti Volpp, The Citizen and the Terrorist, 49 UCLA L. REV. 1575, 1586 (2002) (stating that
“[v]ery few persons who appear ‘Middle Eastern, Arab, or Muslim’ are terrorists,” however, “[m]any
men who fall into this category, including law professors, have been subjected to questioning”).
17 See Natsu Taylor Saito, Symbolism Under Siege: Japanese American Redress and the “Racing”
of Arab Americans as “Terrorists,” 8 ASIAN L.J. 1, 12 (2001).
18 David K. Li, FBI Chief: Orlando Gunman Was Self-Radicalized Lone Wolf, N.Y. POST (June 13,
2016, 1:00 PM), https://nypost.com/2016/06/13/fbi-chief-orlando-gunman-had-strong-indications-of-
radicalization [https://perma.cc/5Z77-WVHP].

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undercover agent to make contact.19 Ultimately, the FBI closed Mateen’s
case, finding that his “connections to terrorism were . . . insubstantial.”20

Despite these conclusions, and the lack of material evidence tying
Mateen’s murders to a transnational terror network or terrorist ideology,21
law enforcement and mainstream media outlets swiftly turned to the
presumption and narrative of terrorism.22 In a span of hours, law enforcement
had branded Mateen a terrorist before an investigation into his motives and
ties even commenced.

C. Two Lone Wolves, but Only One Terrorist
Two lone wolves, with no established or substantial ties to transnational

terror networks, were at the center of the tragic tales of the Las Vegas
massacre and the Orlando nightclub shooting. These two incidents, which
rank among the deadliest mass shootings in contemporary American history,
illustrate how terrorism is instantly presumed when the lone wolf killer is
Muslim, and the prospect of terrorism is typically dismissed when the actor
is white (and non-Muslim). Race and religion stand at the center of any tale
involving a lone wolf. More often than not, race and religion are the most
salient factors in determining whether law enforcement will conduct a
terrorism investigation and prosecution.

The recent list of shootings and mass killing involving white non-
Muslim and Muslim culprits has revealed a pattern in which the former are
generally designated lone wolf killers, and the latter are presumptive lone
wolf terrorists—a critical distinction whereby killers are prosecuted
criminally outside of the counterterror process,23 while terrorists are
prosecuted on both grounds. While discursive understandings of lone wolf
conceive of the concept exclusively as an exemption from terrorism applied
to white culprits,24 the designation can be tied to terrorism, conventional
criminal investigations and charges, or both. This Essay argues that these

19 Mazzetti et al., supra note 14.
20 Spencer Ackerman, Orlando Gunman Known to FBI Shows Difficulty of “Lone Wolf” Cases,
GUARDIAN (June 12, 2016, 6:22 PM), https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/12/florida-
gunman-omar-mateen-fbi-lone-wolf [https://perma.cc/7B4U-FPDD].
21 Id.
22 Mazzetti et al., supra note 14.
23 JEFFREY CONNOR & CAROL ROLLIE FLYNN, REPORT: LONE WOLF TERRORISM, GEORGETOWN
UNIV. SEC. STUDIES PROGRAM: NAT’L SEC. CRITICAL ISSUE TASK FORCE 9 (2015) (“Absent political
motivation, an attack would more closely resemble traditional forms of crime, organized violence, or hate
crimes.”).
24 See, e.g., Chuck Hobbs, “Lone Wolf” Characterization of Mass Murders Is the Epitome of White
Privilege, HILL (Oct. 3, 2017, 12:40 PM), http://thehill.com/opinion/criminal-justice/353627-lone-wolf-
characterization-of-murderers-is-the-epitome-of-white [https://perma.cc/3VGU-Y6SG].

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investigations and charges often depend on the racial and religious identity
of the culprit.

Although both Paddock and Mateen were lone wolves—culprits
carrying out mass violence in an individual capacity—their distinct racial
and religious identities altered the legal effect of that designation.
Furthermore, race and religion steered whether their mass shootings were
pursued as acts of terror or merely criminal acts. This Essay investigates the
racial and religious dimensions of the lone wolf designation, beginning with
a comparative racial analysis of white and Muslim identity, and how deeply
rooted tropes assigned to both drive criminal and counterterror framing of
lone wolf culprits. After an examination of the racial roots of this disparate
framing, this Essay proceeds to examine how the lone wolf designation
deployed by law enforcement functions as a presumption of terror exemption
when the culprit is white (and non-Muslim), and as a presumption of terror
connection when the culprit is Muslim.

In addition to investigating the racial and religious double standards tied
to law enforcement, this Essay theorizes the meaning and distinct types of
lone wolf terrorism. Further, it contributes to legal literature a useful
typology that highlights lone wolf terrorism’s myriad forms. In addition to
illustrating that lone wolf terrorism is not a strategic or structural monolith,
this typology enables critical analysis of the phenomenon beyond the myopic
racial and religious frames that stifle the discourse.

While there is robust legal and interdisciplinary literature examining
modern terrorism, generally fixating on Muslim actors and networks,25
scarce attention has been specifically paid to lone wolf terrorism,26 a pressing
area of scholarly and practical concern. By theorizing lone wolf terrorism in
relation to prevailing counterterror programs, and introducing social science
frameworks that outline the various types of lone wolf actors, this Essay fills
this void. In addition, this Essay sheds light on the origins of a double
standard whereby law enforcement presumptively exempts white culprits
from terrorism, but connects Muslim culprits to terrorism, as evidenced by
an analysis of the two deadliest mass shootings in recent history.

Part I conceptualizes the meaning of lone wolf terrorism and offers a
theoretical framework that highlights its four distinct types. Part II situates

25 See, e.g., MARC SAGEMAN, UNDERSTANDING TERROR NETWORKS (2004) (examining terrorism
and exclusively concerned with Muslim terror networks, although the title and phrase “terror networks”
is religiously neutral; a highly influential book cited widely within legal scholarship).
26 One of the few law review articles that specifically examines lone wolf terrorism conflates the
phenomenon with Muslims, illustrating the scholarly fixation on Muslim terrorists and, relatedly, the
failure to theorize lone wolf terrorism as a phenomenon beyond a stereotypical frame. See Kendall Coffey,
The Lone Wolf—Solo Terrorism and the Challenge of Preventative Prosecution, 7 FLA. INT’L U. L. REV.
1 (2011).

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law enforcement investigation and prosecution of lone wolves within the
Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) primary counterterror program,
counter-radicalization policing, that practically frames radicalization as a
Muslim phenomenon. Part III analyzes the investigative and prosecutorial
presumptions assigned to lone wolf actors, which regularly impute
radicalization as the motive if the culprit is Muslim and dismiss the
possibility if the culprit is white.

I. THEORIZING LONE WOLF TERRORISM
Despite becoming an emerging staple of counterterror policing and

parlance, “lone wolf terrorism” has no consensus definition. This is due in
part to the competing and conflicting definitions of terrorism, which is
defined broadly by U.S. law enforcement and the military, and is theorized
even more broadly by scholars.27 The term’s application drives its
multivalence, often giving terrorism distinct legal meanings when assigned
to white, minority, or Muslim actors. Moreover, lone wolf terror attacks are
a relatively new phenomenon, “increasing from thirty attacks in the 1970s to
seventy-three in the 2000s, a growth of 143 percent.”28 Therefore, popular
and political uses of the term have outpaced scholarly framing of lone wolf
terrorism, and indeed, those uses have preceded formal conceptualization
that can guide lawmakers and law enforcement.

Assessing the meaning and types of lone wolf terrorism is the focus of
this Part. Section A offers several definitions, while Section B outlines a
typology for understanding lone wolf terrorism, an essential first step before
examining the presumptive double standards tied to the racial and religious
identity of the culprit.

A. Defining “Lone Wolf Terrorism”
Lone Wolf Terrorism, a 2015 report by the Georgetown University

Security Studies Program, provides a useful definition and framework for
understanding the phenomenon.29 It defines lone wolf terrorism as “the
deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or threat of
violence committed by a single actor who pursues political change linked to
a formulated ideology, whether his own or that of a larger organization, and
who does not receive orders, direction, or material support from outside

27 See generally Cyrille Begorre-Bret, The Definition of Terrorism and the Challenge of Relativism,
27 CARDOZO L. REV. 1987 (2006) (providing a theoretical analysis of the series of definitions that U.N.
member states, including the United States, adopt to prevent and counter terrorism).
28 CONNOR & FLYNN, supra note 23, at 10.
29 Id.

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sources.”30 This definition’s mandate of a “formulated ideology” echoes the
FBI definition of terrorism, which requires violence to be tied to “furtherance
of political or social objectives.”31 Therefore, this definition does not classify
an individual culprit inspired to kill without a motive based on a formulated
(terror) ideology as a lone wolf terrorist, but rather as a lone wolf killer—an
actor that may be tried and convicted of criminal charges such as conspiracy,
murder, and related crimes.

A second definition of lone wolf terrorism focuses centrally on the
method of operation instead of the ideological motive. Political scientist
Ramón Spaaij defines lone wolf terrorism as “terrorist attacks carried out by
persons who (a) operate individually, (b) do not belong to an organized
terrorist group or network, and (c) whose modi operandi are conceived and
directed by the individual without any direct outside command or
hierarchy.”32 Spaaij’s definition echoes many of the conceptual and strategic
dimensions of the definition offered by the Georgetown Security Studies
Report, but it lacks the motive component linking the actus reus to a
“formulated [political] ideology.”33

This Essay proffers a third definition: lone wolf terrorism is
premeditated violence unleashed by an individual actor driven by discretely
held views or a cogent ideology espoused by an organization. A lone wolf
terrorist may be loosely connected to a (formally designated) terrorist
organization or hate group or act entirely in a solitary capacity. This
definition enables identification and, subsequently, prosecution of a lone
wolf who originates his own ideology entirely untethered to a terror
organization. This archetype therefore gives primacy to ideology and
premeditation instead of the connection to a terror network that drives the
narrative of terrorism as a uniquely Muslim phenomenon.

Certainly, there is no objective standard for what qualifies as a
formulated political or social ideology. Assessment of motives is deeply
politicized and, indeed, colored by the racial and religious identity of the
culprit. Most definitions of lone wolf terrorism, including that offered by the
Georgetown Report, are facially neutral. However, the biases of local law
enforcement, as well as the counterterror priorities and objectives of the
state, drive distinct and disproportionate application of the term and

30 Id. at 9.
31 28 C.F.R. § 0.85(l) (2011).
32 Ramón Spaaij, The Enigma of Lone Wolf Terrorism: An Assessment, 33 STUD. CONFLICT &
TERRORISM 854, 856 (2010).
33 CONNOR & FLYNN, supra note 23, at 9.

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subsequent investigations of mass killings as acts of terror.34 Neutral
phrasing of lone wolf terrorism must be accompanied by neutral framing and
structure, as well as a typology that highlights its myriad types.

B. A Typology: Lone Wolves of Many Stripes
Lone wolf terrorism is not strategically or politically monolithic. A

definition is foundational, but it must be accompanied by a theory of its many
stripes and forms. This Section provides a useful typology that outlines the
four principal forms of lone wolf terrorism—(1) lone soldiers; (2) lone
vanguards; (3) loners; and (4) lone followers—as well as an alternative fifth
classification: lone wolf killers.

1. Lone Soldiers
Lone wolf terrorists may be “lone soldiers” acting alone to further “the

ideological and political objectives of a larger terrorist organization.”35 Lone
soldiers are formally enlisted members of a terror organization who fully
adopt its mandate and accept its formal ideology, but commit a terror attack
in an individual capacity with the consent or support of that organization. In
short, lone soldiers may act alone, but they do so as agents of that terror
network, holding that network vicariously responsible for the attack.

Mark Stroman, “a lifelong criminal with connections to the Aryan
Brotherhood,” who shot three South Asian men in Dallas, Texas, in 2001 as
“revenge for 9/11,”36 meets the definition of the lone soldier lone wolf
terrorist. He was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood and carried out the
murders of two of the three men he perceived to be Muslims at the direction
of the organization with its consent and support.37 Because Stroman
committed the murders by himself but with the backing of the Brotherhood
and in furtherance of its white supremacist mission, he is classified as a lone
wolf of the lone soldier variety.

This typology presumes Muslim culprits of violence, or “radicals”—
who are geographically isolated from terror networks based in the Arab
World, and North and Sub-Saharan Africa— to be “lone soldiers” of a group.
Syed Farook and Tafsheen Malik, the two shooters who killed fourteen

34 See generally Beau D. Barnes, Confronting the One-Man Wolf Pack: Adapting Law Enforcement
and Prosecution Responses to the Threat of Lone Wolf Terrorism, 92 B.U. L. REV. 1613 (2012) (offering
an analysis of lone wolf terrorism within the prevailing American counterterror framework).
35 CONNOR & FLYNN, supra note 23, at 29.
36 Ben Mathis-Lilley, The Long List of Killings Committed by White Extremists Since the Oklahoma
City Bombing, SLATE (Aug. 14, 2017, 3:15 PM), http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/
2015/06/18/white_extremist_murders_killed_at_least_60_in_u_s_since_1995.html [https://perma.cc/
KLW8-3KE5].
37 Id.

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people inside of the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California,
on December 2, 2015,38 are two examples. For Farook and Malik, their
violence was instantly tied to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on
the strength of tenuous evidence,39 and they were presumed to be lone
followers of the terror network.

2. Lone Vanguards
A “lone vanguard” is a lone wolf terrorist that chooses to “act alone to

advance [an] individual ideology, which makes him or her less likely to
possess ties to formal terrorist organizations though he or she has the
requisite social skills to form relationships.”40 Lone vanguards are steered by
individually crafted ideas that may be inspired by or tied to external
ideologies but are fundamentally idiosyncratic. Thus, lone vanguards are not
tied to an external terror organization or ideology, and they instead shape
their own ideology and function as one-man organizations.41

Anders Breivik, who carried out two terrorist attacks that resulted in the
death of ninety-two people in Oslo, Norway, on July 22, 2011,42 is an
archetypal example of a lone vanguard. Breivik was fueled by a self-authored
manifesto, 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, that blamed
Islam and feminism, among other entities, for the decline of Europe.43 While
loosely inspired by other nativist and white supremacist groups, Breivik
pioneered his movement and ideology and, on July 22, carried out its vision
in an individual capacity.44 He was both leader and follower, driven by an
ideology authored by himself, thus making him a lone vanguard lone wolf.

38 See Krishnadev Calamur, Marina Koren & Matt Ford, A Day After the San Bernardino Shooting,
ATLANTIC (Dec. 3, 2015, 3:08 PM), https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/12/a-shooter-in-
san-bernardino/418497/ [https://perma.cc/52KB-QPYU].
39 Laura Wagner, Still No Evidence Linking San Bernardino Shooters to ISIS, NPR (Dec. 16, 2015),
https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/12/16/460021165/still-no-evidence-linking-san-
bernardino-shooters-to-isis-fbi-says [https://perma.cc/X82C-JYBZ].
40 CONNOR & FLYNN, supra note 23, at 30.
41 Id. (describing the ideology of the Norwegian lone wolf terrorist, Anders Breivik).
42 Peter Beaumont, Norway Attacks: At Least 92 Killed in Oslo and Utøya Island, GUARDIAN (July
23, 2011, 5:16 AM), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jul/23/norway-attacks
[https://perma.cc/XDA8-PFAP].
43 See ANDERS BREIVIK, 2083: A EUROPEAN DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE (2011),
https://fas.org/programs/tap/_docs/2083_-_A_European_Declaration_of_Independence.pdf
[https://perma.cc/PAD2-VB7F].
44 See generally Magnus Ranstorp, “Lone Wolf Terrorism:” The Case of Anders Breivik,
31 SECURITY AND PEACE 87 (2013) (examining how Breivik fits the definition of lone wolf terrorism,
and, implicitly, also the definition of a lone vanguard).

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3. Loners
“Loner” lone wolf terrorists are individuals that “act alone to advance

the goals of their individualized ideology, but their low social competence
suggests they may also lack the ability to build relationships with peers or
mobilize others to their cause.”45 Therefore, loners may have a strong desire
to become part of a terror organization or network, but unlike lone vanguards
that choose to rebuff these networks, loners are rebuffed by them because of
their low social competency. They are loners as a matter of circumstance,
not choice.

Ted Kaczynski, popularly known as the “Unabomber,” fits the profile
of the loner lone wolf. A former mathematics professor, Kaczynski wrote a
manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future,46 outlining his hatred for
modern society and his designs to thwart it. Widely regarded as “brilliant”
for his achievements as a scholar,47 Kaczynski was also known to be an
introvert and recluse who lacked the personality, charisma, or perhaps desire,
to enlist and mobilize followers. He acted entirely alone and, from 1978 to
1995, sent explosives in the mail that took “a leap in sophistication” and
became more threatening over time.48 Beyond his mode of operation and the
ideology he crafted, perhaps the most salient fact that highlights Kaczynski’s
status as a loner was his decision in the 1970s to flee the “industrializing”
society he so detested for the Montana wilderness,49 which furnished him
with the isolation he coveted as well as disconnectedness from everyone,
including a potential following that might have shared his vision.

4. Lone Followers
“Lone followers” are lone wolf terrorists that “seize the ideology of an

existing organization but lack the social competence needed to gain
acceptance into the group.”50 They may be ideologically tied to a group, but
they do not possess the social ability to become formal members of that
group. Lone followers are similar to loners on account of their kindred social
incompetence, but lone followers seek to be rank-and-file members or
soldiers of a group instead of leading their own. Unlike loners, lone followers

45 CONNOR & FLYNN, supra note 23, at 31.
46 See TED KACZYNSKI, THE UNABOMBER MANIFESTO: INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY AND ITS FUTURE
(2008).
47 Alston Chase, Harvard and the Making of the Unabomber, ATLANTIC (June 2000),
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2000/06/harvard-and-the-making-of-the-unabomber/
378239/ [https://perma.cc/RWV2-E6TU].
48 Id.
49 Id.
50 CONNER & FLYNN, supra note 23, at 31.

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would prefer to be part of an existing group, though they lack the social skills
to do so.

Dylann Roof, who killed nine African-Americans inside the Emanuel
African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June
17, 2015, fits the profile of a lone follower. Roof was driven by an ideology
built upon white supremacy and anti-Black racism, as evidenced by his
manifesto where he wrote, “Niggers are stupid and violent.”51 Roof’s views
were shaped by the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white
supremacist organization that holds that “God is the author of racism. God is
the One who divided mankind into different types. . . . Mixing the races is
rebelliousness against God.”52 Notably, this language echoes Justice Henry
Brown’s dicta in Plessy v. Ferguson justifying the “separate but equal”
doctrine.53

CCC member and spokesman Jared Taylor shared that CCC stood by
Roof’s ideology but condemned the shooting, noting that “CCC members
had never heard of Roof and that he never attended a meeting.”54 Roof, who
a neighbor characterized as “uncomfortably quiet, strangely quiet . . . [and]
really strange,”55 likely lacked the social competence and skill to become a
formal or active member of the CCC and, consequently, followed their
segregationist ideology and mandate from afar as a lone follower.

The lone follower lone wolf designation is regularly applied to Muslim
culprits, including the “Boston Bombers,” Tamerlan and Dzhokhar
Tsarnaev. The brothers Tsarnaev killed three people and injured 264 more
on April 15, 2013,56 in a premeditated attack on the Boston Marathon.57
Investigators sought to confirm speculation that the elder brother, Tamerlan,
was radicalized during a visit to Dagestan, Chechnya, where, his mother said,

51 Dylann Roof’s Manifesto, N.Y. TIMES (Dec. 13, 2016), https://assets.documentcloud.org/
documents/3237779/Dylann-Roof-manifesto.pdf [https://perma.cc/D76Q-R8FA].
52 Council of Conservative Citizens, S. POVERTY LAW CTR., https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-
hate/extremist-files/group/council-conservative-citizens [https://perma.cc/CN7L-6J2R].
53 163 U.S. 537, 548 (1896) (“[E]nforced separation of the races, as applied to the internal commerce
of the State, neither abridges the privileges or immunities of the colored man, deprives him of his property
without due process of law, nor denies him the equal protection of the laws.”).
54 Josh Sanburn, Inside the White Supremacist Group that Influenced Charleston Shooting Suspect,
TIME (June 22, 2015), http://time.com/3930993/dylann-roof-council-of-conservative-citizens-charleston
[https://perma.cc/8EPF-DP4S].
55 Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof, GQ (Aug. 21,
2017), https://www.gq.com/story/dylann-roof-making-of-an-american-terrorist [https://perma.cc/QZE5-
JCC5].
56 Leti Volpp, The Boston Bombers, 82 FORDHAM L. REV. 2209, 2209 (2014).
57 See Khaled A. Beydoun, Boston Explosions: ‘Please Don’t Be Arabs or Muslims’, AL JAZEERA
(Apr. 16, 2013), http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/04/201341681629153634.html
[https://perma.cc/WN74-B53Q].

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“He was reading, always in front of the computer—he was taking classes on
the Koran.”58 Law enforcement officials argued that Tamerlan was
instrumental in radicalizing his younger brother, Dzhokhar, while
“[p]rosecutors claim he was a self-radicalized jihadist who pored over
militant writings, including an article, ‘How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen
of Your Mom.’”59

Although the brothers may have aspired to be more formally linked to
an existing terror network, and they posed in front of a black flag “not unlike
the kind used by extremist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS,”60 the two lacked
the social competency, the knowhow, or, most likely, the desire to enlist.
From the vantage point of law enforcement, they are lone followers of ISIS
or another terror network.

5. Lone Wolf Killers
Outside of the framework of this four-part typology of lone wolf

terrorists is a fifth and final classification, that of the “lone wolf killer.” This
is an actor that law enforcement does not investigate as a possible terrorist
or, after a formal investigation, concludes has no terror ties or motives. The
terrorist killer may be liable for criminal charges, but is prosecuted beyond
the parameters of terrorism.

Many white male mass killers, who account for 62% of mass shootings
since 1982,61 are designated as lone wolf killers because, in great part, the
organizations that inspired their violence are not pegged as terrorist groups.
Alternatively, these killers receive this designation because the racial and
religious presumption of terror assigned to Muslim culprits is not extended
to white culprits of the very same or similar acts.

However, despite this double standard, “a tally kept by the Southern
Poverty Law Center indicates that the murder of law enforcement officials
and innocent civilians by race obsessives, anti-government paranoiacs, and

58 Alissa de Carbonnel & Stephanie Simon, Special Report: The Radicalization of Tamerlan
Tsarnaev, REUTERS (Apr. 23, 2013, 5:00 AM), https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-explosions-
radicalisation-special/special-report-the-radicalization-of-tamerlan-tsarnaev-
idUSBRE93M0CZ20130423 [https://perma.cc/6J9Q-7FFB].
59 Ann O’Neill, The 13th Juror: The Radicalization of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, CNN (Mar. 30, 2015,
4:17 PM), http://edition.cnn.com/2015/03/27/us/tsarnaev-13th-juror-jahar-radicalization/index.html
[https://perma.cc/VA7X-ZE22].
60 Ashley Collman, Inside the Bedroom of the Boston Bomber: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Poses with Jihadi
Black Banner in the Home Where He and His Brother Hatched Terrorist Attack, DAILY MAIL (published
March 17, 2015; updated March 18, 2015, 5:30 AM), http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-
2998654/Boston-Marathon-bombing-trial-focus-suspects-arrest.html [https://perma.cc/F2KT-5MRC].
61 Mark Follman, Gavin Aronsen & Deanna Pain, US Mass Shootings, 1982–2017: Data from
Mother Jones’ Investigation, MOTHER JONES (Oct. 2, 2017),
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-mother-jones-full-data [https://perma.cc/
EHE3-LZ39].

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other believers in white fringe movements has been depressingly common”
since the Oklahoma City bombing of April 19, 1995.62

Although the majority of lone wolf killers are white males, counter-
radicalization—the cornerstone of modern counterterror policing—has
institutionalized the presumption that lone wolf terrorism is
disproportionately linked to Muslim culprits. Shifting from the prevailing
conception of terrorists as foreign agents formally tied to a terror network,
counter-radicalization conceptualizes Muslim threats as homegrown and
looming in the form of Muslim citizens and residents who are not soldiers or
followers of a terror network, but may be inspired by them from afar.
Consequently, mainstream structural Islamophobic policy facilitates the
presumption, investigation, and prosecution of Muslim culprits—who may
be acting in an entirely individual capacity inspired by motives not related to
terrorism—as lone wolf terrorists.

II. LONE WOLVES AND RADICALIZATION
In line with the shifting concern from foreign terrorists to “homegrown

terrorism,”63 President Barack Obama formally implemented Countering
Violent Extremism (CVE) in 2011. CVE, the cornerstone of DHS’s counter-
radicalization program, has been referred to as the “signature
counterterrorism policy of the Obama Administration.”64 Beyond the Obama
Administration, counter-radicalization remains the crux of President Donald
Trump’s domestic counterterror strategy, which he is poised to focus entirely
on “radical Islam.”65

This Part investigates the theoretical ties that bind radicalization with
lone wolf terrorism. It also examines the counterterror enforcement that
presumes that Muslims, and specific expressions of Muslim identity and
expression, are predictive of terrorism. Section A provides a summary of
radicalization theory and counter-radicalization policing, while Section B
examines the potent role whiteness and the “racialization” of Muslim identity

62 Mathis-Lilley, supra note 36.
63 See Sahar Aziz, Caught in a Preventive Dragnet: Selective Counterterrorism in a Post-9/11
America, 47 GONZ. L. REV. 429, 432 (2012).
64 Samuel J. Rascoff, Establishing Official Islam? The Law and Strategy of Counter-Radicalization,
64 STAN. L. REV. 125, 127 (2012).
65 Julia Edwards Ainsley, Dustin Volz & Kristina Cooke, Exclusive: Trump to Focus Counter-
Extremism Program Solely on Islam, REUTERS (Feb. 1, 2017, 5:17 PM), https://www.reuters.com/
article/us-usa-trump-extremists-program-exclusiv/exclusive-trump-to-focus-counter-extremism-
program-solely-on-islam-sources-idUSKBN15G5VO [https://perma.cc/3NTT-SWP3].

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plays in shaping and enabling the respective presumptions tied to lone wolf
terrorism.66

A. Radicalization and Counter-Radicalization

1. Radicalization Theory
Radicalization is built upon the tenet that Muslims living the United

States may be inspired to adopt a terrorist ideology and take action from a
catalyst located within the country or beyond its borders. Therefore, lone
wolves may be moved to attempt or commit violent acts without ever
enlisting in a terrorist organization or fully adopting its ideology.

The 9/11 terror attacks spurred the restructuring of the state’s national
security institutions, most notably the creation of the DHS, and shifted the
state’s counterterror philosophy “from reactive to proactive, from response
to prevention.”67 Law scholar Aziz Huq writes, “The authors of
‘radicalization’ literature attempt to construct a descriptive taxonomy of
terrorist motivations and interactions to enable prediction of future acts of
violence. ‘Radicalization’ so defined appears to be a new object of state
scrutiny and epistemological investment.”68

Predicting who may develop into a terrorist and preventing them from
committing the act are the pillars of this new counterterror approach.
Essentially, “[r]adicalization suggests that the path from Muslim to terrorist
is a predictable one.”69 This radicalization process is broken up into four
stages: (1) “preradicalization,” (2) “identification,” (3) “indoctrination,” and
(4) “action.”70 Therefore, the objective is intervention before a subject
identifies a terror ideology, is indoctrinated by it (or a terror group), and takes
material steps toward committing an act of terror. In short, the earlier law
enforcement acts, the better.

Radicalization theory was framed to grapple exclusively with Muslim
threats. Although its baselines, ideas, and arguments are articulated in racial
and religious terms, radicalization philosophy is driven by four principal
ends: (1) identifying Islamic ideas or elements that inspire radicalization, (2)
identifying Muslim radicals or probable radicals, (3) preventing the

66 “Racial construction” or “racialization” is defined as “an unstable and ‘decentered’ complex of
social meanings constantly being transformed by political struggle.” MICHAEL OMI & HOWARD WINANT,
RACIAL FORMATION IN THE UNITED STATES: FROM THE 1960S TO THE 1990S 55 (1994). For an analysis
of the legal origins of Muslim racialization in the United States., see Nagwa Ibrahim, The Origins of
Muslim Racialization in U.S. Law, 7 UCLA J. ISLAMIC & NEAR E.L. 121 (2008).
67 U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, COUNTERTERRORISM SECTION, COUNTERTERRORISM WHITE PAPER 3
(2006).
68 Aziz Z. Huq, Modeling Terrorist Radicalization, 40 DUKE F. L. & SOC. CHANGE 39, 41 (2010).
69 Amna Akbar, Policing “Radicalization”, 3 U.C. IRVINE L. REV. 809, 811 (2013).
70 Id. at 820.

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radicalization of vulnerable Muslim communities, and (4) preventing acts of
terrorism. The law enforcement programming that converts radicalization
theory into robust War on Terror policing, while not patently clear in the
language of the theory, reveals this fixation on Islam.

2. Counter-Radicalization Policing
Ten years after the 9/11 terror attacks, the creation of the DHS,71 and

enactment of the USA PATRIOT Act,72 Obama implemented a collaborative,
community-based approach to keep tabs on Muslims in the United States.
Counter-radicalization policing, dubbed “Countering Violent Extremism”
(CVE) by DHS,73 would become the new counterterror paradigm and lead
policing program.

CVE is built upon a collaborative structure whereby federal
counterterror agencies, most notably the FBI, work closely and
collaboratively with local law enforcement departments in communities of
concern or, more specifically, concentrated Muslim communities. CVE
seeks to “empower local partners to prevent violent extremists and their
supporters from inspiring, radicalizing, financing, or recruiting individuals
or groups in the United States to commit acts of violence”74 and, namely, to
enlist members of Muslim communities as informants to gather data and
keep tabs on subjects of interest. These informants may be religious leaders
and clergy,75 family members, classmates, colleagues, neighbors,
acquaintances, or anyone who has an established rapport, or can easily build
one, with a subject of interest.

By infiltrating Muslim places of worship, community centers, student
groups, neighborhoods, and households, the most intimate proxies deputized
as informants engage in surveillance and data collection simultaneously.
This, in turn, relieves law enforcement agents from these tasks, which are
often compromised, if not wholly undermined, by the culture of mistrust

71 DHS was created pursuant to the Homeland Security Act of 2002, § 101, 6 U.S.C. § 111 (2012).
72 See Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and
Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272 (codified in
8 U.S.C. § 1701).
73 See generally U.S. DEP’T HOMELAND SEC., EMPOWERING LOCAL PARTNERS TO PREVENT
VIOLENT EXTREMISM IN THE UNITED STATES (Aug. 2011),
https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/empowering_local_partners.pdf
[https://perma.cc/T84E-VW6P] [hereinafter 2011 DHS Counter-Radicalization Program].
74 FBI NAT’L SEC. BRANCH, A New Approach to Countering Violent Extremism: Sharing Expertise
and Empowering Local Communities, L. ENFORCEMENT BULL. (Oct. 7, 2014), https://leb.fbi.gov/
articles/featured-articles/a-new-approach-to-countering-violent-extremism-sharing-expertise-and-
empowering-local-communities [https://perma.cc/EFM4-N56V].
75 See Dawud Walid, The Danger of Imams Being Involved in CVE, AL MADINA (Sept. 7, 2016),
http://almadinainstitute.org/blog/the-danger-of-imams-being-involved-in-cve [https://perma.cc/UEF2-
9KXP].

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between Muslims and local and federal police during the War on Terror. By
deputizing Muslims to spy on Muslims, CVE strategy policing brings with it
the perils of dividing communities, intensifying sectarian tension, and
carrying forward baseless investigations and prosecutions.

“[W]hile purportedly aimed at rooting out all violent extremism, [CVE
programs] have previously focused only on Muslims, stigmatizing them as a
suspect community.”76 The founding document outlining CVE policing
explicitly identified Wahhabi-inspired terror networks, with a focus on Al-
Qaeda, as the “challenge.”77 Furthermore, the memo stated that threats were
“inspired or directed by al-Qai’ida and its affiliates and adherents” in
addition to neo-Nazis, hate groups, racial supremacists, and “international
and domestic terrorist groups” generally.78 However, in light of the threat
posed first by Al-Qaeda and its sympathizers, and then by ISIS,79 of “lur[ing]
Americans to terrorism in order to create support networks and facilitate
attack planning” from inside the bounds of American communities—
particularly those populated by Muslims80—DHS marshaled the bulk of its
resources and manpower to combat Muslim radicalization. And, as examined
in Section II.B.2, CVE policing has turned a blind eye to the non-Muslim
variety of radicalization, particularly that of domestic white terror groups.

CVE’s fixation on Muslims was again evidenced by the cities DHS
chose to pilot its policing programs. In 2014, DHS announced that Boston,
Los Angeles, and Minneapolis would be the first cities to have hardline CVE
policing programs.81 Contrary to the motives provided to the public for its
choices,82 DHS locked in on these cities on the grounds of their geographic
proximity, experience of a recent attack or (perceived) vulnerability to an
attack and, most of all, Muslim demographics.

76 Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): A Resource Page, BRENNAN CTR. FOR JUSTICE (published
Feb. 12, 2015; updated Dec. 5, 2017), https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/cve-programs-resource-
page [https://perma.cc/G4PB-3DC6].
77 2011 DHS Counter-Radicalization Program, supra note 73, at 1–2.
78 Id. at 1.
79 For a comprehensive and recent history of ISIS, examining its origins and ideological departure
and distinctions from Al-Qaeda, the terror organization that preceded it, see FAWAZ GERGES, ISIS: A
HISTORY (2016).
80 2011 DHS Counter-Radicalization Program, supra note 73, at 2.
81 See Pilot Programs Are Key to Our Countering Violent Extremist Efforts, DEP’T OF JUSTICE (Feb.
18, 2015), https://www.justice.gov/archives/opa/blog/pilot-programs-are-key-our-countering-violent-
extremism-efforts [https://perma.cc/4NFA-NCN4] (listing the public motive for selecting these three
cities).
82 See id.

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Boston may have been chosen as a result of the 2013 Boston Marathon
bombings, which was committed by the Tsarnaev brothers.83 There was
growing concern among law enforcement after the bombings that the
incident might inspire local radicalization and drive subsequent attacks.

Second, Los Angeles may have been selected as a pilot because of its
proximity to the Mexican border, believed to be an entryway for terrorists.
There are also 246 mosques scattered across the state of California, including
scores in metropolitan Los Angeles.84 Notably, these mosques are situated in
communities that the Los Angeles Police Department began “mapping”
seven years before it formally piloted its CVE program in 2014.85

Finally, Minneapolis and the metropolitan Twin Cities area is home to
the largest Somali population in the country, largely a recent-immigrant and
Sunni (Muslim) population with strong ties to their homeland and perceived
connections to the terror network Al-Shabaab.86 The largest number of CVE-
based prosecutions has involved Somali youth and men from the
metropolitan Minneapolis area, with ten prosecutions conducted in 2016
alone.87

Reflecting CVE’s purchase across political lines, President Trump has
maintained, and promised to intensify, counter-radicalization against
Muslim communities in the United States. Furthermore, Trump traded in the
CVE name used by the Obama Administration for a program that is “likely
to be renamed Countering Radical Islam or Countering Violent Jihad.”88
President Trump’s rejiggered counter-radicalization program will be based
on the very “clash of civilizations” worldview that views Islam as a

83 Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev, Sunni Muslims of Chechen origin, carried out the Boston
Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013. Tamerlan was killed in the aftermath of the attack, while Dzhokar
was imprisoned and sentenced to death. See Nina Burleigh, The Brothers Who Became the Boston
Marathon Bombers, NEWSWEEK (April 6, 2015, 12:02 PM), http://www.newsweek.com/brothers-who-
became-boston-marathon-bombers-319822 [https://perma.cc/M6NV-DHUE].
84 Richard Ostling, U.S. Muslims: Where? How Many?, PATHEOS (May 14, 2013),

U.S. Muslims: Where? How many?

[https://perma.cc/LY5Z-WXXZ].
85 See Richard Winton, Teresa Watanabe & Greg Krikorian, LAPD Defends Mapping Effort, L.A.
TIMES (Nov. 10, 2007, 12:00 AM), http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-lapd10nov10-story.html
[https://perma.cc/SET6-FYKY].
86 Khaled A. Beydoun, Between Indigence, Islamophobia and Erasure: Poor and Muslim in “War
on Terror” America, 104 CALIF. L. REV. 1463, 1496 (2016).
87 See Julia Edwards, Exclusive: White House Plans Community-Based Prevention of Violent
Ideologies, REUTERS (Oct. 19, 2016, 6:04 AM), https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-justice-
counterterrorism/white-house-plans-community-based-prevention-of-violent-ideologies-
idUSKCN12J15A [https://perma.cc/HA79-49U2].
88 Michael Crowley, Trump’s Terror-Fighting Team Yet to Take Shape, POLITICO (Dec. 20, 2016,
7:17 PM), https://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/donald-trump-terrorism-232870 [https://perma.cc/
UQ3H-XHDA].

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monolithic bloc and a sworn rival to the United States.89 As evidenced by his
rhetoric and policies toward Muslims, this demonization of Islam is, in part,
driven by an Orientalist blend of racial and religious animus.90

B. Radicalization and Racialization

1. Radicalization as a Muslim Phenomenon
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the beginning of the “War on

Terror” days later,91 law scholar Natsu Saito marked this critical juncture as
the moment Muslims were “‘raced’ as ‘terrorists’: foreign, disloyal, and
imminently threatening.”92 Law scholar Leti Volpp echoed Saito, stating,
“We are witnessing the redeployment of old Orientalist tropes. Historically,
Asia and the Middle East have functioned as phantasmic sites on which the
U.S. nation projects a series of anxieties regarding internal and external
threats to the coherence of the national body.”93 Thus, individuals from (or
believed to be from) these regions—even if citizens94—are regularly raced
as Muslims and, hence, (possible) radicals.

This racialization of Muslims as terrorists echoes what is commonly
understood today as Islamophobia, that is, the “presumption that Islam is
inherently violent, alien and inassimilable [tied to] . . . the belief that
expressions of Muslim identity are correlative with a propensity for
terrorism.”95

However, the racialization of Muslims as terrorists did not arise after
the 9/11 terror attacks. Rather, the demonization of Islam as a rival
civilization or race is meticulously critiqued in Edward Said’s magnum opus

89 SAMUEL P. HUNTINGTON, THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS AND THE REMAKING OF WORLD ORDER
4 (1998). Huntington’s theory, dubbed the “clash of civilizations,” did not narrowly pit the United States
against “Islamic fundamentalism,” but the entire whole of Islam. Id.
90 See Khaled A. Beydoun, “Muslims Bans” and the (Re)Making of Political Islamophobia, 2017 U.
ILL. L. REV. 1733, 1737 (2017) (“Extending the Orientalism framework, Islamophobia is based upon the
beliefs that Islam is a hostile faith, and that Muslims—even while citizens—are a foreign, violent, and
unassimilable people.”).
91 See Text of George Bush’s Speech, GUARDIAN (Sep. 21, 2001, 11:31 AM),
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/sep/21/september11.usa13 [https://perma.cc/Y7DP-WJPT]
(quoting President Bush’s declaration that “[o]ur war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end
there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated”).
92 Saito, supra note 17.
93 Volpp, supra note 16.
94 Immigration law scholar Linda Bosniak writes that Muslim Americans “may now enjoy nominal
citizenship status, but their members are, in fact, afforded less in the way of substantive citizenship than
others in society.” LINDA BOSNIAK, THE CITIZEN AND THE ALIEN: DILEMMAS OF CONTEMPORARY
MEMBERSHIP 30–31 (2008).
95 Khaled A. Beydoun, Islamophobia: Toward a Legal Definition and Framework, 116 COLUM. L.
REV. ONLINE 108, 111 (2016).

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Orientalism96 and evident during the earliest stages of American political and
legal history. In fact, from 1790 until 1944, civil courts viewed Islam as
irreconcilable with American identity, and Muslims were prohibited from
becoming naturalized citizens.97 This prohibition was rooted in Orientalist
baselines that cast Muslims as backwards, subversive, violent, and
threatening to American values and life,98 tropes that form the foundation of
the modern terrorist stereotype and what Saito and Volpp call the
racialization of Muslim as terrorists following 9/11.

The formative racialization of Islam and Muslims, propelled by
Orientalism, drives the modern racing of Muslims as terrorists during the
War on Terror. This racialization forms the crux of Islamophobia by
tethering expressions of Muslim identity to terrorism—initially in the form
of a foreign, organized threat, and increasingly in the mold of the
“radicalized” homegrown lone wolf. Therefore, if Muslim identity is
correlative with a propensity for terrorism, radicalization theory echoes the
idea that the inchoate process leading up to terrorism can be tied to specific
expressions of Muslim identity—namely, “radical” or “suspicious
expressions” that suggest that the radicalization process is imminent or
already underway.

2. Of Sheep, Lone Wolves, and Good/Bad Muslims
The modern War on Terror is built upon pitting Muslims against one

another as either “sheep” whose religion has been “hijacked,” or as “wolves”
who carry forward terrorism.99 This binary spawns rivalries among Muslims,
as evident in CVE policing, and ties specific expressions of religion or
political speech as “radical” or “moderate.”

96 See generally EDWARD SAID, ORIENTALISM (1979) (examining how the work of Western scholars,
artists, and politicians spawned a master discourse whereby the “Occident” (or the West) was defined in
mirror opposite of the “Orient” (or the Muslim World), which was cast in disparaging terms in relation
to the glowing terms applied to Europe and, subsequently, the United States).
97 Khaled A. Beydoun, Between Muslim and White: The Legal Construction of Arab American
Identity, 69 N.Y.U. ANN. SURV. AM. L. 29, 31–35 (2013).
98 See Nagwa Ibrahim, The Origins of Muslim Racialization in U.S. Law, 7 UCLA J. ISLAMIC &
NEAR E.L., 121, 131 (2009) (noting that there “ is [a] fictitious, crude narrative produced by the West
projecting itself as civilized, democratic, modern, rational, and all that is good, while the East is projected
as uncivilized, barbaric, violent, undemocratic, and in need of being saved and transformed by the West
through conquest”). For a thorough history of the political vilification of Islam during the embryonic
stages of American nationhood, see ROBERT J. ALLISON, THE CRESCENT OBSCURED: THE UNITED
STATES AND THE MUSLIM WORLD, 1776–1815 (1995).
99 This rhetoric is not unique to politicians and law enforcement agents. It is also used by Muslims
that subscribe to the good versus bad Muslim binary, including the prominent religious leader Hamza
Yusuf, who said a month after 9/11, “Islam has been hijacked by a discourse of anger and a rhetoric of
rage.” Kate Goldberg, Islam ‘Hijacked’ by Terror, BBC NEWS (Oct. 11, 2001, 12:16 PM),
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1591024.stm [https://perma.cc/GNL2-7K2Q].

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Counter-radicalization and the broader War on Terror create a system
whereby Muslims that perform behavior palatable to the state are tabbed
unsuspicious, while those that freely exercise their faith and unabashedly
express their devotion to Islam are vulnerable to surveillance and
suspicion.100 CVE capitalizes on a binary understanding of Muslims as
“moderate” or “suspicious,” pitted against one another, to further its strategy.
“Moderate Muslims” are willing to perform their religious identities in ways
that align with positive counterterror stereotypes, either conforming or
concealing Muslim identity traits and behavior in ways that mitigate
suspicion and underscore patriotism.101

For instance, a Muslim American woman that dons an American flag
as a headscarf102 transforms a symbol of perceived subversion or
subordination into an article signifying allegiance or assimilation. Another
example is a Muslim that “continually condemn[s] terrorism while avoiding
discussion of United States foreign policy in the Middle East,”103
simultaneously heeding calls from the state and mainstream media for more
“Muslims to denounce terrorism”104 and endorsing the War on Terror abroad
and domestically.

On the other hand, “suspicious Muslims” are subjects that exercise their
faith and express their Muslim identities in ways that raise the presumption
of radicalization. They are the very subset of people feared to be lone wolves
in the making. This suspicion of radicalization is often linked to
constitutionally protected activity—most notably free exercise of religion,
free speech, or association rights protected by the First Amendment105—and
to Muslim subjects that engage in “identity-affirming expression of Muslim

100 See generally Khaled A. Beydoun, Acting Muslim, 53 HARV. C.R.-C.L. L. REV. (forthcoming
2018) (theorizing about the myriad ways Muslim Americans exercise their faith and perform their
religious identities in the face of prevailing counterterror stereotypes and presumptions).
101 Id.
102 Consider the case of Saba Ahmed, head of the Muslim Republican Coalition, who famously wore
an American flag headscarf, or hijab, on Fox News during the 2016 presidential campaign season, stating,
“I just wanted to show that Muslim Americans celebrate our patriotism, too.” Alexandra Klausner,
Republican Defends Her Decision to Wear an American Flag Hijab and Says, ‘I Just Wanted to Show
that Muslim Americans Celebrate Our Patriotism, Too’, DAILY MAIL (Nov. 18, 2015, 6:32 PM),
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3324466/Republican-defends-decision-wear-American-flag-
hijab-says-just-wanted-Muslim-Americans-celebrate-patriotism-too.html [https://perma.cc/86PZ-
32GC].
103 Karen Engle, Constructing Good Aliens and Good Citizens: Legitimizing the War on Terror(ism),
75 U. COLO. L. REV. 59, 63 (2004).
104 Colby Itkowitz, With Prejudices Spreading, Muslims Find Heartening Ways to Show Solidarity
with Paris, WASH. POST (Nov. 19, 2015), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/
2015/11/19/after-paris-muslims-around-the-world-forced-to-deny-theyre-terrorists
[https://perma.cc/UL52-W636].
105 U.S. CONST. amend. I.

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identity that comports with a Muslim American actor’s religious convictions
and sense of self.”106

Therefore, suspicious Muslims are not only those individuals with bona
fide ties to terrorism but also—according to radicalization theory and
counter-radicalization policing—any Muslim that engages in religious or
political expression that raises the FBI’s interest. Political expressions, and
particularly religiosity, have become a “proxy for terrorism.”107 In turn, there
now exists a landscape, particularly within concentrated Muslim American
communities, where large swaths of Muslims could be, and have been,
investigated as homegrown, lone wolf radicals.108

3. Counterterror Neglect of White Radicals
Whereby whiteness generally insulates white culprits of violence, like

Paddock, from the presumption of terror conspiracy and the reciprocal
burden of collective guilt, Muslim culprits of violence—and those who have
not engaged in any affirmative act at all—are bound to this presumption and
burden, even when the evidence is nonexistent or tenuous. This law
enforcement presumption that casts white lone wolves as being untied to a
terror network, or as not motivated by a terror ideology, is rooted in the very
construction of whiteness itself.

Even before the independence of the United States as a sovereign
nation, statesmen began to craft and construct whiteness as the gateway
toward not only citizenship and the rights and privileges attached to it, but
also the highest status in society’s (de jure historically, and today, de facto)
“racial hierarchy.”109 In the seminal article Whiteness as Property, law
scholar Cheryl Harris writes:

Whiteness defined the legal status of a person as slave or free. White identity
conferred tangible and economically valuable benefits and was jealously
guarded as a valued possession, allowed only to those who met a strict standard
of proof. Whiteness—the right to white identity as embraced by the law—is
property if by property one means all of a person’s legal rights.110

As the racial pinnacle, whiteness extended the full range of rights—and
the positive presumptions and privileges that emanate from these rights—to
those who were deemed to be included within it.

106 Beydoun, supra note 100.
107 Aziz, supra note 63, at 434.
108 See generally Beydoun, supra note 86 (examining how CVE is disparately enforced in indigent,
working class and immigrant-heavy Muslim communities and, consequently, disproportionately threatens
the civil liberties of these segments of the Muslim American population).
109 See Khaled A. Beydoun & Erika Wilson, Reverse Passing, 64 UCLA L. REV. 282, 288 (2017).
110 Cheryl I. Harris, Whiteness as Property, 106 HARV. L. REV. 1707, 1776 (1993).

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Non-white groups—Black, Native, Asian, and Muslim (as a racialized
group)111—were not only denied those rights and what came with them but,
for much of American history, were enslaved, displaced, decimated, and
denied entry into the country or its citizenry. As observed by author and
activist Bryan Stevenson, in addition to the pages of history and the letter of
the law, “[t]he demographic geography of this nation was shaped by racial
terrorism,”112 and enabled by the enshrinement of white supremacy, its
modern residual effects, and its practical incidents. Law scholar Ian Haney
López states, “Whatever the language used, it is clear that White identity is
tied inextricably to non-White identity as its positive mirror, its superior
opposite,”113 a binary that persists today.

The supreme status and complete corpus of rights extended to Whites
also extended a range of positive tropes and presumptions. In popular
culture, most notably cinema, “whiteness is often associated with innocence
and goodness,”114 and these tropes trickle down into the law and its
enforcement. Furthermore, if the law has long cast whiteness and classed
whites as the very embodiment of good citizens and archetypal Americans,
then the presumptions attached to the foundational caricatures will likewise
be positive—in the popular imagination and, indeed, through law
enforcement.

Whiteness extends the presumption of innocence not only to the entire
collective, but also to the individual—even after she has committed a
criminal or violent act. Meanwhile, Blackness infers the presumption of
criminal deviance onto an individual because of the negative trope applied
to the entire group, and Muslim identity creates the presumption of terrorism
onto an individual because of the stereotype assigned to the entire group.

The distinct racialization of Whites and non-Whites, and how it informs
the modern framing of terrorism, is vividly illustrated by the underpolicing
of white hate and terrorist groups. In a 2015 study, titled Terror From the
Right, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) detailed the list of mass
shootings, violent acts, and terrorism by white, non-Muslim culprits since
Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, two white men, conspired to bomb the
Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and killed 168 people.115

111 Beydoun, supra note 97, at 31–35.
112 Kai Wright, On White Identity Politics and American Terrorism, NATION (Sept. 12, 2017),
https://www.thenation.com/article/on-white-identity-politics-and-american-terrorism [https://perma.cc/
B5HN-W48K].
113 IAN HANEY LÓPEZ, WHITE BY LAW: THE LEGAL CONSTRUCTION OF RACE 29 (2006).
114 RICHARD DELGADO & JEAN STEFANCIC, CRITICAL RACE THEORY: AN INTRODUCTION 85 (2017).
115 S. POVERTY LAW CTR. TERROR FROM THE RIGHT: PLOTS, CONSPIRACIES AND RACIST
RAMPAGES SINCE OKLAHOMA CITY 2 (Nov. 1, 2015),

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With one hundred plots outlined in the study, the SPLC highlights that the
vast majority of foiled and completed violent attacks in the United States in
the two decades after the Oklahoma City bombing were committed by some
strand of white male terrorism.116

Despite murders driven by neo-Nazi National Alliance members,117 a
foiled Ku Klux Klan “plot to blow up a natural gas refinery . . . [where
authorities claimed] as many a 30,000 might have died,”118 and the arrest of
two white supremacists for “plotting to assassinate Barack Obama and
murder more than 100 black people” in 2008,119 no CVE programs have been
piloted or implemented in neo-Nazi, KKK, or white supremacist strongholds
despite their heavy presence across the country.120 Further, there has been
little manpower and attention marshaled to fighting this brand of terrorism,
as the groups are oftentimes not even viewed by law enforcement as bona
fide terrorist organizations, but rather as hate groups.

Despite the documented uptick in white male terrorism, the
counterterror apparatuses of the state have instead marshaled the vast bulk
of their energy and resources to deter and defeat Islamic terrorism.
Moreover, the War on Terror has shifted its focus to combating homegrown
radicalization solely of the Muslim variety, not the types of organizational
and lone wolf incidents unleashed by white culprits.

III. POLICING LONE WOLF TERRORISM
Although lone wolf terrorism is fueled by a range of ideologies and

carried out in a myriad of ways, investigation and prosecution of it by law
enforcement generally fixates on (nominal or bona fide) Muslim actors. This
is, in large part, driven by embedded and institutionalized stereotypes that tie
Muslim identity to terrorism and, most potently, the prevailing counterterror
priorities of the War on Terror.121

Race and religion, as illustrated in Section II.B, become the principal
loci whereby the lone wolf designation is extended as a presumptive
exemption from terrorism when the culprit is white, and as a presumptive

https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/d6_legacy_files/downloads/publication/terror_from_the_ri
ght_2012_web_0.pdf [https://perma.cc/DY6J-GFK3].
116 Id.
117 Id. at 5.
118 Id. at 9.
119 Id. at 32.
120 Id. at 45 (providing a map and distribution of where the KKK, neo-Nazi, white nationalist, racist
skinhead, Christian Identity, and neo-Confederate groups are located).
121 See Beydoun, supra note 95, at 111 (defining Islamophobia as “the presumption that Islam is
inherently violent, alien, and inassimilable . . . [which drives] the belief that expressions of Muslim
identity are correlative with a propensity for terrorism”).

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connection to terrorism when the culprit is Muslim. This is most evident in
the immediate aftermath of mass killings, including the Las Vegas and
Orlando shootings, whereby Paddock was swiftly presumed to be a lone wolf
killer, while Mateen was immediately suspected of being a lone wolf
terrorist. For Paddock, the lone wolf designation was applied as a
presumptive exemption from terrorism, while it was assigned as a
presumptive connection to terrorism in the case of Mateen. Section A
examines the former, while Section B investigates the latter.

A. Lone Wolf as a Terrorism Exemption
Within the popular discourse, the lone wolf tag is generally understood

as an exception assigned to white culprits of violence to disconnect them
from culpability of terrorism.122 In this vein, the “lone wolf” designation is
regarded as one of many “excuses” afforded to white culprits to sustain their
individuality, and it propagates the narrative that terrorism is largely a
Muslim phenomenon. Although in line with the lone wolf typology outlined
in Section II.B, this is technically not true; the framing of radicalization as a
Muslim phenomenon has aligned the discursive understanding of lone wolf
to be virtually congruent with terror investigation and prosecution realities.
Because Muslim identity alone raises the presumption of radicalization, the
racial identity of a white (non-Muslim) culprit tends to diminish the
possibility, and, in turn, the investigation, into terrorism.

This is most manifest in cases where evidence of a terrorist connection
is absent or tenuous, such as those of Paddock and Mateen. While the FBI
carried forward an extensive investigation into Mateen’s case, the formal
inquiry into Paddock’s possible organizational or ideological ties with
terrorism were stunted hours after his dead body was found on the thirty-
second floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel on October 1, 2017.

Several hours after the incident, Clark County Sherriff Joseph
Lombardo identified Paddock as a “lone wolf.”123 Here, Lombardo’s
classification of Paddock aligned with the popular definition of “lone
wolf,”124 exempting Paddock from connections to any terror organization or

122 Laila Lalami, The Color of Terrorism and the Whiteness of the Lone Wolf, NATION (Oct. 11,
2017), https://www.thenation.com/article/the-color-of-terrorism-and-the-whiteness-of-the-lone-wolf
[https://perma.cc/ZJQ3-UZLE].
123 See Moustafa Bayoumi, What’s a ‘Lone Wolf’? It’s the Special Name We Give White Terrorists,
GUARDIAN (Oct. 4, 2017, 7:19 PM), https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/04/lone-
wolf-white-terrorist-las-vegas [https://perma.cc/SCU2-Q79E].
124 Id.

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ideology.125 A day after the incident, Aaron Rouse, FBI Las Vegas Special
Agent in Charge, echoed Lombardo, stating that Paddock “to this point, [had]
no connection with an international terrorist group.”126

It is likely that Paddock’s motive was not tied to a specific terrorist
ideology or inspired by a hate or terror group. But, the statements made by
Lombardo and Rouse in the immediate aftermath of the attack illustrated the
force of the presumptive exemption from terrorism applied to white culprits.
To investigate this presumption more closely, Lombardo’s use of “local” was
used to negate the possibility of terror involvement.127 Although Muslims
suspected of radicalization are dubbed “homegrown,” a synonymous term,
the designation of “local” is not extended to Muslim suspects or culprits of
violence.128

A day following the Las Vegas shooting, I made that very observation
in the Washington Post:

But why is one person “homegrown” while someone else [Paddock] is a “lone”
or “local wolf”? An extensive list of exemptions has become available to white
culprits of mass violence, most notably “lone wolf” or “insane,” and the Las
Vegas shooting adds the status of being a “local individual” to the roster.
Certainly, many of the Muslim Americans pursued as prospective radicals in
Minneapolis, Boston, Los Angeles or Washington, D.C.—cities where counter-
radicalization programs are robustly enforced—are tied to specific
communities. They, too, are local.129

However, the practical effect of being a “local” person invites suspicion
and possible surveillance for Muslim actors. If Paddock were Muslim, his
status as a local would be emblematic of imminent threat, and “the motive
of ‘Islamic terrorism’ or ‘jihad’ would likely be immediately assumed, even
without any evidence.”130

As counter-radicalization theory outlines, and CVE policing enforces,
all Muslim radicals are homegrown and, hence, local. For Muslims,
however, being a local is not an exemption from, but rather a connector to,
homegrown radicalization and terrorism.

125 However, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Undersheriff Kevin McMahill, according
to NPR’s Leila Fadel, “described the shooting as an act of ‘domestic terrorism.’” Chappell & McCallister,
supra note 8.
126 Id.
127 Batchelor, supra note ‡.
128 Khaled A. Beydoun, ‘Lone Wolf’: Our Stunning Double Standard When It Comes to Race and
Religion, WASH. POST (Oct. 2, 2017), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/
10/02/lone-wolf-our-stunning-double-standard-when-it-comes-to-race-and-religion
[https://perma.cc/4PY2-9C5S].
129 Id.
130 Id.

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B. Lone Wolf as a Terrorism Connection

1. Lone Wolf Terrorists
Muslim culprits of violence are routinely presumed to be, and

subsequently investigated as, lone wolf terrorists. Again, a lone wolf terrorist
is a culprit carrying out an ideologically-motivated attack in an individual
capacity who falls within one of the four types outlined in Section I.B: (1)
lone soldiers, (2) lone vanguards, (3) loners, or (4) lone followers.

Hours after Mateen killed forty-nine people inside Pulse Nightclub, the
FBI and President Obama pegged his actions as “homegrown extremism,”131
effectively concluding that he was a lone wolf terrorist before conducting an
official investigation.132 FBI officials, who were the first people to call the
massacre an “act of terror,” did not issue particulars about Mateen’s
motive.133 However, his intentions were seemingly apparent on account of
Mateen’s ethnic heritage and, most potently, his religious identity as a
Muslim.

In fact, the immediate conclusion that Mateen was a lone wolf terrorist
conflicted with three FBI interviews that cleared Mateen of any involvement
or affiliation with terror groups. These interviews were all held in 2014 and
2013—one and two years, respectively, before the Orlando shooting—and
were closed when FBI agents were “unable to verify any suspicious ties.”134
Although Mateen exhibited symptoms of volatility and reports alleged that
he may have been a “closet homosexual,”135 which his ex-wife confirmed,136
numerous FBI interviews and investigations cleared him of any connections
to terrorism.

Yet, despite being cleared of terrorism on two separate occasions, FBI
brass and President Obama still characterized Mateen’s violent shooting as
a terror attack and labeled his actions as homegrown extremism the day
after.137 This illustrates the force of the presumptive connection to terrorism
when the actor is Muslim, particularly when the evidence establishing a

131 Hirschfeld Davis, supra note ††.
132 Ackerman, supra note 20.
133 Id.
134 Id.
135 Harriet Alexander et al., Orlando Shooting: Gunman Omar Mateen Was a Closet Homosexual,
Say Friends—As Wife Faces Charges After “Helping Him Scope Out Attack”, TELEGRAPH (June 15,
2016, 7:30 AM), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/14/orlando-gunman-was-a-regular-at-lgbt-
nightclub-pulse-before-atta [https://perma.cc/FFH8-E6WD].
136 “She [Sitora Yusifiy] said that Mr. Mateen might have been gay but chose to hide his true identity
out of anger and shame.” Mazzetti et al., supra note 14.
137 Hirschfeld Davis, supra note ††.

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motive—in the form of being inspired by a specific ideology or a nexus to a
terror group—is meager.

The FBI investigated Mateen in the way they routinely investigate
Muslim culprits: in reverse. They designated him a lone wolf terrorist with
alleged ties to ISIS based on Internet activity138 and a pledge he made for the
first time by phone before taking his life.139 But the facts around this
connection were vague and, moreover, it was isolated from any contextual
or corroborating evidence that established, or even implicated, a material
connection to the terror network. In fact, “ISIS also made it clear that the
shooting had not been commissioned by senior commanders in the Middle
East, as was the case in with the Paris attacks in November.”140 However, the
FBI persisted, seeking to draw a connection with ISIS that established the
theory that he was in fact an “Islamic State fighter.”141

Again, three FBI interviews before Mateen fired shots in Pulse
Nightclub found otherwise.142 Nothing in the years between those interviews
and the shooting suggested that Mateen enlisted in ISIS or informally
developed relationships with ISIS leadership or rank-and-file members.
However, the FBI continued a thorough and prolonged investigation seeking
to deliver on the hasty conclusion they rendered on the morning after the
Orlando shooting, reaching far for any piece of evidence that could justify a
theory that Mateen was a loner143 or lone follower144 lone wolf.

However, as the investigation dragged on and failed to unearth evidence
that Mateen was a loner or follower tied to ISIS, it became patently clear that
the conclusion made by the FBI and President Obama was driven, almost
entirely, by the racial and religious identity of Mateen. His identity as Afghan
and Muslim stood as the only evidence of terrorism, which, in turn, revealed
the force of the presumptive connection to (lone wolf) terrorism assigned to
Muslim culprits during the War on Terror. Further highlighting the

138 Del Quentin Wilber, The FBI Investigated the Orlando Mass Shooter for 10 Months—and Found
Nothing. Here’s Why, L.A. TIMES (July 14, 2016, 3:00 AM), http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-fbi-
investigation-mateen-20160712-snap-story.html [http://perma.cc/8M24-QZRS] (“After the shooting, the
FBI determined that Mateen’s laptop computer had been used in recent years to view extremist videos
online, including grisly beheadings.”).
139 Jason Burke, Was Pulse Nightclub Shooter Omar Mateen Directed by ISIS?, GUARDIAN (June
13, 2016, 2:34 AM), https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/12/orlando-nightclub-shooter-
omar-mateen-isis-affiliation [http://perma.cc/KC8J-NUJJ].
140 Id.; see also Khaled A. Beydoun Beyond the Paris Attacks: Unveiling the War Within French
Counterterror Policy, 65 AM. U. L. REV. 1273, 1273–76 (2016) (describing the Paris attacks of November
13, 2015, and the counterterror response of the French government).
141 Burke, supra note 139.
142 See Ackerman, supra note 20.
143 CONNOR & FLYNN, supra note 23, at 31.
144 Id.

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dubiousness of his terror ties, the FBI indicated that “[w]hen Mateen said he
was a member of Hezbollah, a Shiite group, and had family ties to Al Qaeda,
a Sunni group, it was clear he didn’t know or care they were bitter [sectarian]
rivals.”145

The force of the immediate presumption of terrorism tied to Muslim
lone wolves is vividly evident in Mateen’s case. Despite the scant evidence,
law enforcement still persisted in its attempts to uncover terror ties that
investigation after investigation failed to reveal. “If terrorism is defined as
ideological violence . . . should an attacker who has merely ranted about
religion, politics or race be considered a terrorist?”146 wrote Scott Shane of
the New York Times, arguing that the threshold for an ideological motive is
far higher than a scattered set of statements that may be elevated and
embellished to deliver the conclusion rendered well before an investigation
commenced, as in the case of a Muslim lone wolf like Mateen.

2. Lone Wolf Radicals
Muslims that commit no crime, let alone an act of violence, are

routinely presumed to be lone wolf radicals. Lone wolf radicals have not
committed an act of violence and oftentimes have not exhibited a material
threat of violence, and thus are not yet terrorists, but are believed to “hold
extremist or radicalized views” that foreshadow terrorism.147

Thus, as outlined in Section II.A, radicalization theory drives the double
standards associated with lone wolf terrorism in an additional, more
damaging, regard. By holding specific expressions of Muslim identity as
predictive of radicalization, Muslim subjects are presumptively guilty based
on their mere free exercise of religion and other core First Amendment
rights, even when no criminal or violent acts have been undertaken by the
subject.148

In short, the possibility of (terror) guilt looms with Muslims just
because they are Muslim, juxtaposed with the reality that white, non-Muslim
culprits of violence—like Paddock—are seldom guilty of terrorism even
after they commit an act of violence. This absurd state of affairs indicates
that the predictive logic of counter-radicalization is, in essence, a new brand

145 Wilber, supra note 138.
146 Scott Shane, Homegrown Extremists Tied to Deadlier Toll Than Jihadists in U.S. Since 9/11,
N.Y. TIMES (June 24, 2015), https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/25/us/tally-of-attacks-in-us-challenges-
perceptions-of-top-terror-threat.html [https://perma.cc/EQ65-UFAK].
147 CONNOR & FLYNN, supra note 23, at 9.
148 See Akbar, supra note 69, at 868–81. As a result, “[Muslims] cannot [be] guarantee[d]
confidential space in their mosques or cannot be sure who is an informant, and Muslim student groups
have banned political discussions from their campus offices. Muslims feel the stigma in their bodies, and
in their ability to move and speak in the world.” Id. at 870.

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of religious and racial profiling which, like its predecessors, taps whiteness
as the ultimate exemption from terror suspicion and holds Muslim identity
as the very essence, and evidence, of terror suspicion.

CONCLUSION
The tales of Paddock and Mateen, lone wolves that unleashed two of

the greatest mass killings in modern American history, are more similar than
distinct. The force of the facts reveals that both men were troubled and
volatile; one loved country music while the other “loved Afghan music.”149
Ultimately, both possessed characters riddled with contradiction, driven to
commit violence of a horrific scale.

Depending on the denotation used, both very well could be branded
terrorists, or otherwise. Yet, their racial and religious identities—Paddock a
white male, and Mateen an Afghan Muslim—relegate the importance of the
definition of terrorism in favor of law enforcement’s fixation on racial and
religious identity, which is evidently in the driver’s seat when the lone wolf
designation is assigned as a presumptive exemption or connection to
terrorism.

The lone wolf terrorism double standards this Essay highlights not only
affect individual actors, but also have a spillover impact on Muslim
Americans that exposes them to private backlash and state surveillance.
Essentially, “[t]he burden of collateral and collective guilt has become a
central component of the modern Muslim American experience,”150 while the
broader white population is never tied to the misdeeds and violence of
culprits like Paddock, Roof, Kaczynsky.

This collateral and collective guilt is vividly highlighted in the War on
Terror, most strikingly after a terror attack. “Days after the terrorist attack
by Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik in San Bernardino, California, for
example, Donald Trump, then still a presidential candidate, called for ‘a
complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.’”151
Since proposing the “Muslim Ban” on the campaign trail, President Trump
has passed three renditions of the travel ban, most recently an order calling
for “enhanced vetting” on September 24, 2017.152

Yet, the institutional response to assign collective guilt to all Muslim
Americans precedes Trump and supersedes political lines. President Barack

149 Mazzetti et al., supra note 14.
150 Beydoun, supra note 128.
151 Lalami, supra note 122.
152 Trump Signs New Travel Ban with Enhanced Vetting, CBS NEWS (published Sept. 24, 2017, 7:40
PM; updated Sept. 24, 2017, 9:10 PM), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/donald-trump-new-travel-ban-
enhanced-vetting [http://perma.cc/7PW8-WC78].

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Obama visited a Baltimore mosque on February 3, 2016—his first visit to a
U.S. mosque since becoming President in 2008—to ratchet up support for
CVE policing.153 Therefore, the racial and religious conflation of terrorism
with Muslim identity that enables the immediate presumption that any and
every Muslim lone wolf is a terrorist does not only affect the individual
culprit, but also stigmatizes Muslim Americans as an entire class and opens
the floodgates for private backlash and enhanced state surveillance.

Muslim lone wolves, from the vantage point of the state, rise from a
flock of rabid and radical wolves, while others, like Stephen Paddock, act
entirely alone and apart from the flock they resemble.

153 See Khaled A. Beydoun, Un-Mosquing Obama’s First U.S. Mosque Visit, AL JAZEERA ENG. (Feb.
4, 2016), http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/02/mosquing-obama-mosque-visit-
160204094052554.html [https://perma.cc/WSQ6-FEM9].

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