Ali shares expertise on domestic terrorism amid intense media attention on Michigan

October 18, 2020

Ford School Towsley Policymaker in Residence Javed Ali has spent years working on security issues, and in particular the threat of domestic terrorism. In the wake of the announcement of the arrest of 13 men in an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, national and international media have turned to him for insight and explanation about the forces behind the plot and appropriate security responses.

When the news first broke, Ali was quoted in a story in the Detroit Free Press saying that the threat of domestic terrorism is growing and addressing it is not as simple as creating a profile of a would-be terrorist.

"With the 13 people … they do seem to come from a certain socioeconomic sort of background, or demographic," said Javid Ali, a former FBI counterterrorism analyst who's now a visiting professor at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. "But I don't know. You can't make broadly sweeping general observations about that to describe the overall threat of far-right extremism or domestic terrorism writ large."

He told Fox2 Detroit, that domestic terrorism is on the rise based on the large numer of FBI investigations -- 800 in all, which is more than when he was with the FBI -- the number of disrupted plots, including a lethal attack, and the almost daily news about social media companies shutting down accounts that fuel these beliefs. 

He said law enforcement agencies were on high alert but faced problems, saying in an article in the Christian Science Monitor: A recent parade of armed Americans flying flags from a pickup truck convoy in Portland “reminded me of the scenes of ISIS mobilizing in armored columns in Mosul. And I thought, ‘Wow, this is the United States, and yet we’re seeing something that has the iconography of terrorism overseas.’ It’s unprecedented ... and it’s a real sort of challenge: What is the line between protected activity for U.S. citizens and what’s the line into something that looks like terrorism?”

Here is a compendium of Ali’s recent media appearances on the issue:

Detroit News, Oct. 10, Kidnapping plot against Whitmer shines spotlight on domestic terrorism

AP, Oct. 10, Men accused in plot on Michigan governor attended protests

Detroit Free Press, Oct. 11, 13 men charged in alleged kidnapping plot, many with troubled pasts

Detroit News, Oct. 12, Inside alleged Whitmer plotters' training site: shotgun shells, human silhouettes

Fox2 Detroit, Oct 12, Is terrorism growing in the U.S.?

Detroit Free Press, Oct. 12, Michigan law enforcement on alert in response to 'plan to target and kill police'

WNEM, Oct. 12, Counter-terrorism expert says domestic terrorism is on the rise

Wisconsin Public Radio, Oct. 13, Accused Michigan Terrorists Have Ties To Extremist Group Active In Wisconsin

Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 15, With militias on the rise, states boost vigilance

Fox2 Detroit, Oct. 15, Fallout from alleged militia plot to kidnap Whitmer

WDET One Detroit, Oct. 15, Domestic Terrorism & the Power of Words