Allow me to briefly preface my thoughts with the statement that this is part of research that I am conducting for a broader analysis of "what motivates extreme jihadists - religion, culture, or politics(?)." For the time being, my comments are a response to Pat's post entitled, "Anwar al Awlaki: A 'Confidant' for Nidal Hasan."
Of particular interest, Pat states: "In the specific case of Nidal Hasan, intelligence officials were aware of the contact between Hasan and Awlaki, but assessed that this did not pose a threat; how can we improve our analytical processes and include additional factors when analyzing situations like this?" In short, I argue - as I have always - that theology must be a factor when assessing a) the meaning of radical leaders like Awlaki and b) the value of pursuing a situation in light of intelligence analysis.
This perspective is, as many scholars and professionals argue, "out-of-bounds" [to a degree] as a quantifiable and justified factor for conducting intelligence briefings. Simply stated, this factor has proven itself to be a driving force behind motivations for extreme jihadists - both leader and follower alike. The way to harvest accurate and timely insights is to understand the driving force(s) of the enemy, which in Hasan's case showcases itself in his political statements grounded in religious ideology. The rate and impact of his statements are quantifiable factors for measuring his progressive thought process, and thus an indication of his possible and/or probable actions.
This method reflects the gameboard of chess in that each player must, above all, understand the opposition. Terrorism, on both the domestic and international level, runs its course like a spoked wheel: the issue of terrorism lies at the center while each spoke represents a method by which the phenomenon is spread. Therefore, we need experts from various disciplines to remain ahead of the morphing enemy: finance and economics, sociology and psychology, religion and culture, history and warfare, science and technology, etc.
As presented above, intelligence officials need more religiously-minded scholars to hone in on the theological implications of diversified perspectives exposed by multiple sects in geographical locations. There is much division within Islamic sects horizontally, and the article in the Washington Post today highlights that messages presented by persons like Awlaki are left to "general interpretation" for suspected terrorists. Intelligence officials would prosper from having briefings on how and why these fundamental concepts relate to defensive jihad, offensive jihad, sahwa, dawah, and shariah - and the interconnection of each to the violent tactics and strategies employed by AQ operatives.
Please allow me to end by quoting a statement from the article above by a radical leader himself, an example of the place where we can start our analysis in this manner:
"These armies are the defenders of apostasy," Anwar al-Aulaqi wrote in English on his Internet site July 15 from Yemen, according to the NEFA Foundation, a private South Carolina group that monitors extremist sites. "Blessed are those who fight against them and blessed are those shuhada [martyrs] who are killed by them."
Do we understand this as offensive or defensive jihad, and what are the legal and human-rights implications of such an assessment? It is another factor in determing how we move forward, and in so doing encourages collaboration and coordination among intelligence officials and agencies.