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Adam Lanza and Dangerous Minds

We asked Chris Flaherty, author of the recent OODA sponsored monograph entitled “Dangerous Minds: The Relationship between Beliefs, Behaviors, and Tactics” for his thoughts regarding the recent Adam Lanza attacks. What follows is his response.


“Adam Lanza, has been the subject of much media speculation, however if some of the reporting is to be credited then we are at least seeing a character emerging who shares common traits with many of the recent terrorist-like attacks experienced in the US, and Europe over the last two years.

If we believe the media reports currently, it is claimed that Adam Lanza lived a life isolated from the world, where his mother home schooled him, because of an inability to fit-in at the local elementary school, which he attacked. And that this isolated home world, it appears since 2009, demonstrates a common thread:

·Trained in gun craft.

·Played combat games.

·Influenced by a believer (the Mother) in the coming end-days.

In the case of Breivik, he increasingly immersed himself in the video game world of Modern Warfare 2, as a training simulation, as well as using World of Warcraft for his extended period of isolation. He enacted the fantasy of an anti-hero fighting a supposed enemy invading Norway.

Is the face of contemporary terrorism changing? What we have to recognise, is that a form of ‘nihilist’ terrorism, devoid of any actual political agenda or organisational backing is out there. Lone individuals who have no connection, but nevertheless represents a broad anti-social movement swarming toward targets full of vengeance, grief, resentments, hate and malice. Trained in weapons, and heavily armed acting like some urban combat veteran from a future apocalyptic landscape. Possibility suffering from some type of mental delusion; yet the current professional community is yet to offer a satisfactory assessment that can adequately explain pre-mediation, precision weapons handling, pre-planning and the concealment of intent weeks, months or years from people. The weapons used – the fireworks nail bomb (David Copeland, UK 1999); the fertilizer IED (Tim McVeigh, US 1995; Breivik, Norway 2011); and firearms (Lanza, US 2012; Breivik, Norway 2011; Nordine Amrani, Belgium 2011; James Holmes, US 2012), are perfectly suited to his type of attack, as these are commonly available, easy to operate and deadly effective. Above all a lone individual can implement these attacks – one-off events, without any connection to actual terrorist agendas (however conventionally defined), utilising actual combat techniques, dressed in uniforms, fatigues and body armour.

All this points to a phenomenon which will come to dominate modern security in 2013, the prospect of many ‘little -Mumbai styled attacks’, armed assailants erratically moving through the urban landscape intent on the destruction of all that is social – the children in school, the youth camp, the shoppers in a public market space, theatres, and offices. From where will they come? The future of security will be dominated by the ‘little Wacos’. People, hunkered-down in hidden places, fenced homes and rural compounds expecting the end of the world, armed and looking to enact a fantasy.”

Chris Flaherty

Chris Flaherty

Dr. Chris Flaherty is a commentator on security, defence and counter terrorism research, its application, and project management. Currently living in London. He is involved in the development of a "Scripted Agent Based Microsimulation Project". This project began at the University of New South Wales, and has moved to the University of Wollongong (NSW, Australia). As well, this research incorporates affiliate team membership with the London Metropolitan Business School: Centre for International Business and Sustainability. He has also developed basic research and tools for vulnerability and resilience analysis. His current research work is on 3D Tactics and counter terrorism building vulnerability analysis for mass gathering commercial, industrial and shopping areas. He is currently a Senior Risk Consultant at Greymans Limited. And was recently made a Fellow of the UK Security Institute (April 2010).