They connect via online services, especially Twitter, and in everyday life. They are between 15 and 47 years old (averaging 26), and their roles range from cheering attacks to plotting violence. There are 900 active investigations into ISIS sympathizers in every U.S. state. NPR says those are among findings of a new study from George Washington University that glimpses life “inside the bubble of American ISIS sympathizers, a diverse and diffuse scene that the FBI estimates include hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals.” The report by Lorenzo Vidino and Seamus Hughes focuses on 300 people who have been identified as American recruits or supporters of ISIS.
Vidino, who directs the university’s Program on Extremism, says, “the size of the ISIS-related radicalization and mobilization is unprecedented.” The group is very diverse — both in their demographics and in what motivates them. “While some seek to join the self-declared caliphate in ISIS-controlled territory, others plan attacks within the U.S.,” Vidino says. “It’s a growing and disturbing phenomenon.” Of 71 people indicted in the U.S. for ISIS-related activities, except for seven suspects whose legal residency status hasn’t been determined, “the vast majority of individuals charged are U.S. citizens (58) or permanent residents (6), underscoring the homegrown nature of the threat.”