J.M. Berger: Co-Author of "ISIS: The State of Terror" and "Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam"; Fellow, George Washington University Program on Extremism

Author, analyst and consultant on extremism

J.M. Berger is a researcher, analyst and consultant, with a special focus on extremist activities in the United States, and extremist propaganda and use of social media. He is an associate fellow with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, The Hague, a fellow with George Washington University's Program on Extremism, and was previously a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution. Berger is co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern and author of Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam. Berger has written for the New York Times, Politico, The Atlantic and Foreign Policy. He has served as an on-air consultant with PBS and as a producer for NPR. | Selected Works and Citations

"...smart, granular analysis..."

ISIS: The State of Terror
"Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger's new book, 'ISIS,' should be required reading for every politician and policymaker... Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations... a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group." -- Washington Post

  • Now in paperback!
  • Wall Street Journal Book of the Month, February 2016
  • Foreign Affairs: Best books of 2015
  • Wall Street Journal: Must-reads on terrorism
  • Washington Post: Notable nonfiction of 2015
  • New York Times: The top books of 2015

    More on ISIS: The State of Terror

    "...a timely warning..."

    Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam:
    "At a time when some politicians and pundits blur the line between Islam and terrorism, Berger, who knows this subject far better than the demagogues, sharply cautions against vilifying Muslim Americans. ... It is a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective." -- New York Times

    More on Jihad Joe

  • GWU: ISIS's Diminishing Returns on Twitter
  • Brookings Institution: The ISIS Twitter Census
  • ISIS Recruiting: Tailored Online Interventions
  • ISIS Social Media: The Metronome of Apocalyptic Time
  • Who Matters Online: Measuring Extremist Influence
  • ISIS: The State of Terror
  • J.M. Berger, Senate testimony on ISIS recruitment
  • J.M. Berger, House testimony on ISIS social media
  • Panel Video: New Technology, Bad Actors
  • Panel Video: ISIS Propaganda and Ideology


    A new white paper from the Program on Extremism at the George Washington University's Center for Cyber and Homeland Security found that Twitter's consistent suspensions of ISIS-affiliated accounts has reduced the terrorist network's reach and pace of activity.

    Full paper at Program on Extremism


    The Islamic State has devoted significant resources to implementing a distinct online recruitment strategy, which follows targets from their introduction to the organization's message, through a careful pruning of their social networks, before culminating in a call to action. The strategy relies on scores of users who maintain a high level of availability online, allowing them to lavish attention on potential recruits, and who provide a drumbeat of incitement to action, such as social media activism, migration to Islamic State territories, or the commission of terrorist attacks.

    Full article at CTC Sentinel


    The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is a hybrid organization with many facets, one of the challenges we face in understanding and countering its actions. While there are clear political dimensions to this phenomenon, ISIS has an equally clear apocalyptic and millenarian bent, both as a social movement and an organization. While its prominence varies in different aspects of the organization, it is especially prominent in ISIS's online messaging and social media activity. The newest generation of electronic social media is an important tool in ISIS's call to action, relative to both foreign fighter recruitment and the encouragement of so-called "lone wolf" terrorist attacks. New technology offers significant new complications in dealing with the age-old problem of apocalyptic movements and their radically destructive potential.

    Full article at Perspectives on Terrorism


    In a groundbreaking study for the Brookings Institution's Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, , J.M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan identified 20,000 ISIS-supporting Twitter accounts and analyzed their characteristics, profiles, locations and tweeting activity. The study estimates a minimum of 46,000 ISIS-supporting accounts were active in October and November 2014, and provides data and insights on how the suspension of thousands of accounts have impacted the performance of the network. For more reporting on ISIS and its use of media, read ISIS: The State of Terror, the new book by J.M. Berger and Jessica Stern, on sale everywhere.

    Full report | News story | ISIS: State of Terror


    Through the analysis of thousands of Twitter accounts following prominent white nationalists and anarchists, "Who Matters Online: Measuring influence, Evaluating Content and Countering Violent Extremism in Online Social Networks" offers new quantitative tools to identify highly engaged extremists in large social networks and to evaluate tactics for combating violent extremism (CVE) online. Authored by ICSR Associate Fellow J.M. Berger and Bill Strathearn, Who Matters Online: Measuring influence, Evaluating Content and Countering Violent Extremism in Online Social Networks demonstrates how quantitative analysis can identify highly engaged extremists in large social networks.

    Full report


  • Misunderestimating ISIS
  • The Middle East's Franz Ferdinand Moment
  • J.M. Berger, Senate testimony on ISIS recruitment
  • J.M. Berger, House testimony on ISIS social media
  • The Irregulars: Should we let ISIS claim just any attack?
  • ISIS vs. al Qaeda: The next jihadi superpower
  • Threat vs. Impact in Terrorism
  • ISIS Twitter: Resistible Force Meets Movable Object
  • IS/ISIS/ISIL: What's in a Name?
  • Zawahiri's Silence Raises Concerns With Nusra Supporters
  • Islamic State Massacre Provokes Backlash
  • The Daily Beast: ISIS Takes a Big Gamble
  • The Atlantic: How ISIS Games Twitter
  • Analysis: How Online Fundraising Networks Are Reacting to ISIS
  • A New Day for ISIS: Considerations
  • War on Error: Understanding the evolution of al Qaeda


  • #Unfollow: Why Kicking Terrorists Off Twitter Works
  • How Metadata Works: What the NSA Does with Phone Records
  • Who Matters Online: Metrics for Monitoring Extremism Online
  • Foreign Policy: Fringe Following
  • Understanding the NSA's Location Data
  • Visualizing CVE Audiences
  • Recalculating the SPLC's Hate List


  • A Way Forward for CVE: The Five Ds
  • Monsters and Children: Politics And How We Talk About Muslims
  • The Value of Exposing Collaborators
  • The 'You Name It!' Problem
  • White House CVE Strategy Full of Sound and Fury
  • Terrorist Acts, Terrorist Thoughts


  • 10 Things to Know About Reporting on Terrorists on Social Media
  • How the West made a laughable terrorist magazine into a success
  • Terrorists on Social Media: Arguments That Don't Impress Me
  • I've Got a Little List
  • Buzzfeed: How to Ruin Al Qaeda's Day on Twitter
  • #Unfollow: The Case for Kicking Terrorists Off Twitter
  • Who Matters Online: Metrics for Monitoring Extremism Online
  • Yellow and Black is the New Black Flag
  • Interview with Online Jihadist Abu Suleiman Al Nasser
  • Internet provides terrorists with tools -- just like everyone else
  • The Trolls of Jihad
  • Don't Be Evil: Why Terrorists Love Google Services


  • Sex as a Weapon: The Blurry Line Between Informants and Agents
  • Patriot Games: FBI Undercover Operations And Timothy McVeigh
  • White Paper: PATCON infiltration and Oklahoma City
  • Video: Panel on infiltration, New America Foundation
  • A Nation of Spies and Snitches


  • The Enduring Appeal of Awlaqi's "Constants on the Path of Jihad"
  • The Myth of Anwar Awlaki
  • Gone But Not Forgotten
  • Anwar Al-Awlaki's Links to the September 11 Hijackers
  • Anwar Awlaki's Emails with Fort Hood Shooter
  • U.S. Gave Millions To Charity Linked To Al Qaeda, Anwar Awlaki


  • Omar and Me: My Strange Relationship with an American Jihadi
  • Bum Rap: Omar Hammami Disavows Jihadist Raps
  • Best-Liked on the Most-Wanted
  • Former Jihadist Friend Rips Hammami in Online Post
  • Foreign Policy: Me against the World
  • Omar Hammami and the Trolls of Jihad


  • Newtown and the Doomsday Preppers
  • White Nationalists See Opportunity After Election
  • How the Recession Helps Extremists
  • Recalculating the SPLC's Hate List
  • New York Times: Has threat from hate groups been overlooked?
  • J.M. Berger: Temple shooting suspect linked to Florida terror probe
  • Did You Hear The One About U.S. Internment Camps?
  • Unplaying the Race Card in the Patriot Movement
  • The Evolution of Race in the Patriot Movement
  • Mongol Hordes Take Manhattan


  • Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam
  • Exclusive: Omar Hammami on why Al Shabab wants to kill him
  • Bun Rap: Omar Hammami Disavows Propaganda Beats
  • The Boy Who Cried Lone Wolf
  • Why U.S. Terrorists Reject the Al Qaeda Playbook
  • Baltimore's Jamaat al-Muslimeen: Radical But Disciplined
  • Al Qaeda's Gun Fixation
  • The History of Chechen Jihadists in Boston


  • FBI's Investigative Files on 9/11
  • CIA records on Al Qaeda and bin Laden
  • Beatings and Bureaucracy: Al Qaeda's Founding Memos
  • State Department Secretly Met With Followers of Blind Sheikh
  • Oklahoma City Bombing Documents
  • The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto



  • The Turner Legacy

    The Turner Diaries, the infamous racist dystopian novel by neo-Nazi William Luther Pierce, has inspired more than 200 murders since its publication in 1978, including the single deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, the Oklahoma City bombing.

    The book is arguably the most important single work of white nationalist propaganda in the English language, but it is not a singular artifact. The Turner Diaries is part of a genre of racist dystopian propaganda dating back to the U.S. Civil War. A new paper from J.M. Berger documents the books that directly and indirectly inspired Turner and examine the extensive violence that the novel has inspired.

    Related posts on World Gone Wrong: 
    Nazis vs. ISIS on Twitter

    A new paper by J.M. Berger for George Washington University's Program on Extremism finds that white nationalists are thriving on Twitter and outperforming the Islamic State, which has been notorious for its success using social media, in both recruitment and messaging. The paper found that hashtags referring to presidential candidate Donald Trump outperformed almost every other subject. A companion article on INTELWIRE examines the outlook for extremist use of social media and forecasts dangerous times ahead. 


    ICCT -- The Hague: Making CVE Work
    One of the biggest barriers to designing a comprehensive Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program is defining its scope. This paper argues for a narrow approach, focusing on disengagement and the disruption of recruitment, a simplified model of radicalization, and concrete themes for disruptive intervention and messaging. After analyzing case studies of disengagement, a specific program of action is recommended. 
    Read the full paper (PDF) | Read the Policy Brief (PDF)

    Foreign Policy: ISIS and the Dystopian Spectacle

    One of the most popular tropes in dystopian fiction is the “violent spectacle.” Immortalized in recent years by The Hunger Games series, the concept is simple: A corrupt society uses some public display or broadcast of violence to manipulate the masses. But it’s never been purely fiction.

    New blog: World Gone Wrong

    After years of rumours, Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al Nusra is expected to sever its longstanding affiliation with al Qaeda at any moment. As news of the impending split broke, many questions arose: Was it simply a smokescreen? Would al Qaeda still be pulling al Nusra’s strings? Won’t al Nusra still represent an extremist, violent ideology? Healthy skepticism is definitely called for, but this extraordinary development is far from inconsequential. Even if the ideology remains the same, even if al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri continues to influence al Nusra’s ranks and its leaders, the shift in allegiance will reverberate around the globe.

    New GWU Paper: What Sovereign Citizens Believe
    Members of the sovereign citizen movement are increasingly in the news for their violent confrontations with law enforcement, but their confusing ideology can be difficult to understand. This paper explains in simple language what sovereigns believe, and where those beliefs originated. | Read the full paper (PDF) 

    The Islamic State's Diminishing Returns on Twitter
    Since late 2014, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) social networks on Twitter have been subjected to periodic account suspensions. In a study of metrics for a network of English language ISIS supporters active from June to October 2015, suspensions held the size and reach of the overall network flat, while devastating the reach of specific users who have been repeatedly targeted. | Read the full paper (PDF)

    The Dog-Days of Terrorism

    Most annual holiday traditions are overrated, but this might be the worst. Every year, starting in late June, the same alarm goes out. Officials express heightened concerns about terrorist attacks on Fourth of July celebrations, but they take pains to mention the warning is not based on specific intelligence or a specific threat. This year was no different: The week leading up to Independence Day was filled with dire warnings about how this year represented the worst "threat environment" since September 11th, how, in the words of Matt Olsen, the former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, "this time is different."

    Full story at Politico

    Al Qaeda's American Dream Ends

    The public first met Adam Gadahn in October 2004, under the name "Azzam the American," in an Al Qaeda video Q&A that seems almost quaint by today's gruesome standards. Gadahn's real name and strange life story soon emerged. A Jew raised on a California goat farm who dabbled in heavy metal before converting to Islam and subsequently joining Al Qaeda, he became one of the most prominent members of the pantheon of Americans in the terror group. His death closes a chapter. Al Qaeda's array of American recruits once inspired alarm at the highest levels of government; today they are a spent force.

    Full story at Politico

    Europe's New Crackdown

    They can take our lives, but can they also take our freedom? The Charlie Hebdo assault in Paris last week is only the latest chapter in a months-long series of attacks, which built in turn on a yearlong escalation of concerns about the extraordinary number of Europeans traveling to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State, al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, and a host of other jihadi groups.

    Full story at Foreign Policy

    The Islamic State's Irregulars

    In a number of recent cases, it's unclear whether jihadist-style attacks were inspired by the Islamic State and its extremist ideology, or whether IS provided a convenient excuse for violence that was already brewing in the hearts of the perpetrators.

    Full story at Foreign Policy



  • No, We Are Not Losing the War of Ideas to ISIS
  • The Ideologies of the Oregon Standoff
  • On Point: San Bernardino And The Islamic State
  • On Point: San Bernardino Mass Shooting
  • CBC: Obama appeals to Silicon Valley to fight ISIS
  • WSJ: ISIS: The State of Terror a "must-read book"
  • Washington Post: Notable books of 2015
  • Today: Social media companies called to fight ISIS
  • Politico: ISIS and the Capabilities Fallacy
  • The World: ISIS'S 'escalating provocations'
  • On the Media: Terrorism tropes, ISIS's Dabiq

  • The Middle East's Franz Ferdinand Moment
  • Al Qaeda's American Dream Ends
  • The Islamic State's Irregulars
  • War on Error: The New Shape of Al Qaeda
  • What Intelligence Agencies Do With Metadata
  • Monsters and Children: Politicians and Muslims

  • The Islamic State aka ISIS
  • American jihadists; Anwar Awlaki, Omar Hammami
  • Domestic U.S. extremists
  • Countering Violent Extremism (CVE)
  • Social Media and Big Data
  • Law enforcement tactics against extremists
  • Primary Sources, 9/11, Al Qaeda and More
  • J.M. Berger biography
  • Recent video


    J.M. Berger is a fellow with George Washington University's Program on Extremism. He is researcher, analyst and consultant, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and use of social media. Berger is co-author of the critically acclaimed The State of Terror with Jessica Stern and author of Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement.

    Berger publishes the web site Intelwire.com and has written for Politico, The Atlantic and Foreign Policy, among many others. He was previously a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World and an associate fellow with the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.

    In addition to writing for the media, Berger consults for and trains private companies and government agencies on issues related to homegrown terrorism, online extremism, foreign fighters and advanced social media analysis. He has lectured at Harvard University, American University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He was keynote speaker and a panelist at the 2015 conference of the Society for Terrorism Study, hosted by the University of Massachusetts.


  • Homegrown violent extremism (HVE and CVE)
  • Terrorist and extremist use of the Internet
  • Lone wolf and loosely networked terrorism
  • American jihadists including Anwar Awlaki
  • History of jihadist terrorism in the U.S.
  • History of right-wing extremism in the U.S.
  • Al Qaeda infiltration and targeting of U.S. military
  • Early Al Qaeda history and structure
  • Terrorist tactics and financing
  • Jihadist activity during Bosnian civil war
  • Document research and FOIA