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Violent Extremism, 2021: A Threat Assessment Update (Virtual)

Domestic terrorism and extreme belief communities are on the rise in the United States as social and political polarization continues unabated. The recent attack on the US Capitol has dramatically demonstrated how serious and how dangerous these trends are in their reach and influence in our culture.

With a violently contested election, widespread civil unrest, ongoing losses from the pandemic, and a furiously active internet, how do threat assessors identify, assess, and manage individuals who may pose a risk of extremist violence? Are there ways to separate the supporters of various causes from those who intend to act and mobilize for violence?

This virtual seminar, building upon our extremism seminar last September, will be expanded to four, half-day sessions (16 hours). 50% of the content in this program will be new. We will discuss findings and insights from research and in-depth case studies that reveal the psychology of extremist communities and lone actor terrorists. Participants will be instructed on the use of investigative techniques and structured assessment strategies that inform case management decision-making.

Initial topics will include the rising prevalence of violent extremism, conspiracy theory, extreme overvalued beliefs, and stochastic terrorism, including incitement to violence from political leaders. The training will continue with a focus on specific belief systems and movements, including: accelerationism and anti-government, militia extremist movements (including Boogaloo and the Oath Keepers); white supremacist violence and The Great Replacement theory; the Incels and other extreme misogynists; present-day conspiracy theories including QAnon and COVID-19 belief systems; ideologically-motivated groups including Antifa and the Proud Boys; and other domestic terrorists specifically targeting law enforcement. Intensive case studies will deepen understanding of the factors contributing to radicalization and culminating in the various pathways to extremist violence. Cases will include the Michigan anti-government plot, the Christchurch massacre, and the influence of the first “Incel” mass murder in 2014 in Isla Vista, California. As events are continuing to unfold in our current atmosphere of unrest and transition, more recent incidents may be included. The importance of both online and on the ground investigations will be stressed. The training will be framed by the TRAP-18, a validated risk assessment instrument for lone actor terrorist violence.

Emphasis will be placed upon the application of theory and research to the assessment of individuals of concern. A range of intervention strategies will be discussed, incorporating an understanding of the processes of radicalization and deradicalization as well as psychological factors contributing to extremist beliefs. We will identify symptoms of mental illness that may contribute to extremism in individual cases, and how to distinguish these from extreme beliefs per se.
Workshop Content:
1. Extremist Worldviews and their nexus with violence
2. Conspiracy Theories: understanding their elements and the factors that make people susceptible to adopting them
3. The Terrorist Radicalization Assessment Protocol (TRAP-18) for assessing risk
4. Extreme Overvalued Beliefs and cognitive-affective drivers for fixations
5. Specific Extremist Movements: their beliefs and case examples of violence
6. Specific Conspiracy Theories and case examples of violence
7. Stochastic terrorism and leadership incitement to violence
8. The role of social media in online radicalization and conspiracy theory
9. Mental disorders, psychological factors and extremism, and how the loss of “masculine honor” may attract individuals to extremist communities 
10. Risk assessment interviewing strategies
11. Debunking conspiracy theories and countering extremist beliefs: A review of what works, what doesn’t, and the challenges we face.

Workshop Objectives:
1. Participants will be able to state the 4 elements of conspiracy theories.
2. Participants will be able to list three differences between extreme overvalued beliefs and delusions.
3. Participants will describe the three cognitive-affective drivers for fixations.
4. Participants will be able to define the general tenets of accelerationism, The Great Replacement Theory, and the anti-fascist movement.
5. Participants will be able to define the core beliefs and features of the Boogaloo, the Oathkeepers, The Base, the involuntary celibates (Incels), QAnon, Antifa and the Proud Boys.
6. Participants will be able to name the eighteen indicators of the TRAP-18
7. Participants will learn the three most important proximal warning behaviors for separating those who only talk extremism and those who are mobilizing for violence.

Presented by

Molly Amman, JD
Molly Amman, JDMolly Amman, JD, is a retired FBI profiler specializing in threat assessment and management related to school and workplace violence, threatening communications, active shooter and other types of planned attacks, public figure threats, stalking and extortion, active crisis incidents such as riots and hostage scenarios, and more; she has extensive experience with both ideologically-motivated (terrorism) and personal grievance-oriented offenders. Molly has collaborated extensively with law enforcement and public safety partners both at home and abroad, intelligence agencies, professional organizations, members of academia, and private sector partners, in assessing threats of violence posed by individuals and groups. She has conducted training around the world and has authored several publications on topics related to threats and targeted violence, including co-authoring the FBI publication Making Prevention a Reality: Identifying, Assessing and Managing the Threat of Violent Attacks. Molly completed several long-term overseas deployments with the FBI to further US and allied threat mitigation and anti-radicalization efforts.

Prior to joining the BAU as a profiler, Molly served as a faculty member at the FBI Academy, teaching communications, investigative interviewing, and detection of deception. Molly also served as a supervisor in the FBI Special Events Management Program, designed to manage public safety assets for crisis response and management, intelligence, and investigations in relation to major special events such as professional sports championships and Olympic games.

Prior to joining the FBI, Molly practiced law as a prosecutor in the Midwest, specializing in violent crime. Since retiring from FBI service in 2020, Molly is now engaged in private practice threat assessment and management. Molly collaborates with other threat management professionals, participates in research and publishing, and is a recognized leader in the field. She currently serves as the national Certification Chair for the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP).

Presented by

Reid Meloy, PhD, ABPP
Reid Meloy, PhD, ABPPDr. Meloy is a board-certified forensic psychologist (ABPP) who consults on criminal and civil cases throughout the U.S. and Europe. He is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, and a faculty member of the San Diego Psychoanalytic Center. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and is past president of the American Academy of Forensic Psychology. He has received a number of awards and honors, including the first National Achievement Award in 1998 from the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals. He was the Yochelson Visiting Scholar at Yale University in March, 2015, and Visiting Scholar at the Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich—originally the Burgholzli Clinic--in May, 2018. Dr. Meloy has authored or co-authored over two hundred fifty papers published in peer-reviewed psychiatric and psychological journals, and has authored, co-authored or edited thirteen books. He has been consulting, researching and writing about personality disorder, psychopathy, stalking, narcissism, criminality, mental disorder, and targeted violence for the past thirty years. His first book, The Psychopathic Mind (Aronson, 1988), was an integration of the biological and psychodynamic understanding of psychopathy. His co-edited book with Drs. Hoffmann and Sheridan, Stalking, Threatening and Attacking Public Figures (Oxford University Press, 2008), led to a commissioned study for the National Academy of Sciences on threats toward public figures published in 2011 (www.nap.edu). The first edition of the International Handbook of Threat Assessment was published in 2014, and the second edition in 2021 (Oxford University Press). Dr. Stephen White and he created the WAVR-21 V3 (www.wavr21.com), a structured professional judgment instrument for targeted workplace and campus violence. Dr. Meloy has been a consultant to the Behavioral Analysis Units, FBI, Quantico, for the past twenty years, and is the originator and developer of the TRAP-18 (Terrorist Radicalization Assessment Protocol, mhs.com). He was a member of the Fixated Research Group for the United Kingdom’s Home Office concerning threats to the Royal Family and British political figures, and is a consulting member of Work Trauma Services, Inc., headquartered in San Francisco, and Team Psychology and Security in Darmstadt, Germany. He was also a founding associate editor of the Journal of Threat Assessment and Management.

Presented by

Philip Saragoza, MD
Philip Saragoza, MDPhilip Saragoza, MD, is a board-certified forensic psychiatrist and Senior Associate threat assessment consultant with Work Trauma Services, Inc. He performs direct and indirect threat assessment consultations for WTS, workplace and campus violence prevention and WAVR-21 training, and assists other WTS associates with psychiatric consultation issues. Dr. Saragoza is an adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School. He is the psychiatric consultant for the University of Michigan's integrated disability management program and the University health system’s employee assistance program. Through these agencies, he has conducted case consultations involving claims of hostile work environments, workplace harassment, employee violence risk and fitness for duty. Previously, Dr. Saragoza served as the Director of UM’s Forensic Psychiatry Clinic, conducting evaluations and consultations on issues related to violence risk, fitness for duty, psychiatric disability, civil commitment, and other forensic issues. Dr. Saragoza worked for several years as a Consulting Forensic Examiner at the State of Michigan’s Center for Forensic Psychiatry, a maximum security hospital for mentally ill offenders. There, he treated inpatients found Incompetent to Stand Trial or legally insane, performed release-planning risk assessments, and conducted court-ordered examinations of competency and sanity, primarily for violent offenses. Dr. Saragoza has conducted hundreds of assessments of individuals who have engaged in threats, stalking and violent behavior, and has served as an expert witness on civil and criminal psychiatric issues in numerous courts. As an educator, Dr. Saragoza supervises residents and fellows in forensic psychiatry and provides lectures and seminars to a wide variety of professionals, including mental health professionals, corporate and human resource managers, and campus audiences. His peer-reviewed publications include topics such as psychopathy, malingering, workplace violence risk, and the role of expert opinion in various criminal contexts.

Presented by

Stephen White, PhD
Stephen White, PhDStephen G. White, Ph.D., is a psychologist and the President of Work Trauma Services Inc., a consulting group he originally founded in 1982 to assist employers with serious workplace crises. His extensive work in organizational trauma reduction led to his specializing, since 1989, in the assessment and management of workplace and campus violence risk. Dr. White has consulted nationally and internationally on over 4,500 threat cases for numerous Fortune 500 companies, private and public organizations, law firms and their clientele, colleges and universities, and law enforcement, military and governmental entities. He has testified before the California State Legislature on behalf of workplace violence prevention legislation. Dr. White has authored or co-authored peer-reviewed publications on stalking, workplace and campus mass murder, violence risk assessment, autism and violence, and workplace trauma management. Dr. White, in collaboration with Dr. Reid Meloy, developed and published in 2007 The WAVR-21. Now in its third edition, the WAVR-21 is an evidence-based structured professional judgment guide for assessing workplace and campus violence risk. Dr. White has contributed chapters on workplace violence in the first and second editions of The International Handbook of Threat Assessment, published by Oxford University Press, and is a Contributing Editor for the Journal of Threat Assessment and Management. He was a member of the expert panel of the 2012 US Army-sponsored Workplace Violence in the Military Program, providing peer reviews of scientific proposals to study predictors of targeted violence across Department of Defense service areas. Dr. White has served as an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, where he co-facilitated professional development groups for medical students. He is a sought-after trainer and a frequent guest lecturer at regional, national, and international forums for security, human resource, and mental health professionals, campus administrators, law enforcement agencies, and employment law attorneys.