Monday, November 28, 2016

QUESTION - Reverse Radicalization?

"Can we reverse radicalization with counseling?" PBS NewsHour 11/22/2016


SUMMARY:  Can aggressive counseling bring someone back from the brink of radicalization?  Science correspondent Miles O'Brien explores the psychological basis for why people are drawn to extremist groups and how a bold experiment in criminal justice and clinical psychology taking place in Minnesota may offer a solution.

MILES O'BRIEN (NewsHour):  In a federal courtroom in Minneapolis, they are facing the threat of homegrown terrorism in a manner that has never been tried before in this country.  It is a bold experiment in criminal justice and clinical psychology.  The question?  Can aggressive counseling bring someone back from the brink of radicalization?

MANNY ATWAL, Federal Defender:  What we have started here is revolutionary.  I think it's great.

MILES O'BRIEN:  Manny Atwal is a federal public defender representing 20-year-old Abdullahi Yusuf.  He (Yusuf) is one of eight first-generation Somali Americans, all in their teens or early 20s, convicted in May of plotting to go to Syria and fight for the Islamic State.

MANNY ATWAL:  I know we punish juveniles.  I get that, and I understand that.  And I know we punish young adults, and I get that and understand that.  But, at the same time, to say let's just lock them up for a lifetime is not the right solution.

MILES O'BRIEN:  While he was in jail awaiting sentencing, Abdullahi Yusuf became the nation's first convicted terrorist to undergo terrorism rehabilitation.  He has two mentors who counsel him regularly and a wide-ranging reading list.

MANNY ATWAL:  He will have like a week to read this, write up a book report and then discuss it with us.

MILES O'BRIEN:  So, it's a real assignment for him?

MANNY ATWAL:  Yes.  Yes.

Learning American civics, learning about American culture, learning about the East and West just — it just opened up his eyes.  And that, I think, is the disengagement that I speak of, to try and get these kids to disengage from some of their thinking that's been put in their heads, and to get them back to be good citizens that they were before this all happened.

MILES O'BRIEN:  It appears the effort might have held sway with the judge.  Yusuf, who also testified against his friends, was sentenced to time served.  Most of the others received long prison terms.  The case of these men is one chapter in a long, sad story.

CHIEF JUDGE JOHN TUNHEIM, District of Minnesota:  Minnesota has the greatest number of terrorism prosecutions of any of the federal districts in the United States.

MILES O'BRIEN:  John Tunheim is the chief federal judge for the District of Minnesota, home to the largest Somali American community in the U.S.

He watched from the bench as a tragic exodus began in 2007; 23 young Somali Americans from Minnesota joined the ranks of the al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabaab terror group as it tried to topple the government of Somalia.  More recently, the call to arms has come from the Islamic State.

For judges trying to mete out fair sentences, it is uncharted territory.  There are no guidelines.

CHIEF JUDGE JOHN TUNHEIM:  They're different from a bank robber or someone who sells drugs.  I mean, we understand those cases.  We have had many of those cases in our courts.  We haven't had many terrorism cases.  We need to understand them.  We need to make sure that we can keep them, to the best effort that we possibly can, from becoming terrorists again.

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