Headhunting Among Extremist Organizations: An Empirical Assessment of Talent Spotting

Steven Windisch, Michael K. Logan, Gina Scott Ligon


In recent years, terrorism scholars have proposed that more established and popular extremist organizations make pragmatic assessments of their human capital needs and modify operating standards to acquire members with advanced training and expertise such as medical, religious, or military backgrounds that may benefit extremist activities. To examine these claims, we rely on data pertaining to 105 extremist organizations gathered throughout the Leadership of the Extreme and Dangerous for Innovative Results (LEADIR) project. The results provide empirical support for these propositions by suggesting that older and more publicly supported extremist organizations contain membership populations that possess expertise, and these organizations also become increasingly diverse across demographic characteristics of members. We conclude with suggestions for future research that extend the study of extremist recruitment and provide recommendations for practitioners in terms of addressing terrorism prevention initiatives.

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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