Dan Korem on CNN – Transcript


1ST Female European Suicide Bomber from Belgium who isn’t Middle Eastern

Broadcast: “Live From” — Host: Kyra Phillips

Aired December 1, 2005 – 13:00   ET

PHILLIPS: The many faces of terrorism. What do you think a terrorist looks like, sounds like? Swarthy young man with wild eyes spewing hate slogans? Well, you’d be so very wrong. Just check the news.

A suicide bomber in Iraq last month, believed to be a woman born and raised in Belgium. She hardly fits anybody’s profile of a die- hard militant.

2002, the Chechens who took over that theater in Moscow, half of them, women, the so-called black widows, blamed for attacks around Moscow and for bringing at least two airliners down.

Then there’s Beslan. At least two of the attackers who held an entire school hostage were Chechen women, pointing rifles and strapped to bombs. They all died when Russian troops freed the hostages.

And in Sri Lanka, an entire military wing of the anti-government Tamal Tigers is made up only of women. They’ve blown themselves up or attacked police and political targets for nearly two decades. Most noticeably, a Tamal woman killed herself and former Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in 1991.

Palestinian groups use women as suicide bombers. One of the top leaders of Spain’s guerrilla group allegedly is a woman. And remember Germany’s red army faction that terrorized Europein the ’70s and ’80s? Several of their most notorious members weren’t men, Middle Eastern or anything that fits the stereotypical terror profile.

The book “Rage of the Random Actor” aims to decode some mysteries about the people behind some of the most horrific human acts. Dan Korem wrote it. He joins me now live fromDallas.

Dan, good to see you.


PHILLIPS: Well, I think we should define random actor. I asked you, why call this — an individual random actor, not just say a suicide bomber? Explain the term.

KOREM: The random actor’s an actual behavioral profile. And almost every suicide attacker, mass school shooter, postal shooter, serial killer, has this profile. Let me walk you through it real quickly. If there’s two sides a profile, how a person communicates and how they perform tasks and make decisions, which side of the profile do you think the random actor operates out of? Which part kills you: how they talk or how they perform tasks and make decisions?

PHILLIPS: It’s a good question.

KOREM: It’s how they perform tasks and make decision. How they talk is irrelevant. That’s why when people say he seemed like — or she seemed like such a nice person, they’re looking at the wrong part of the profile.

Second, there’s two basic core performance traits. How a person walks, if you will. One, are they conventional or unconventional? In a company, for example, conventional would beaccountant, unconventional might be research and development. Why side do you think that the suicide attacker operates on: conventional or unconventional?

PHILLIPS: I don’t know. What would you…

KOREM: Just your best guess. What would be your best guess, your intuition as a reporter?

PHILLIPS: Conventional.

KOREM: Actually, it’s unconventional. They’re doing something that’s out of the box, not something that people expect. Second, how do they make decisions? That’s the second trait you have to look at. Do they make decisions out of confidence or do they make decisions out of fear, which reveals itself in despondency, futility. They feel the world’s against them. Which side…

PHILLIPS: Oh, fear. KOREM: Which side do you think — exactly. You just described the two behavioral traits of every virtually every suicide attacker, masked school shooter, the Londontube attackers, et cetera.

PHILLIPS: So, you…

KOREM: That’s the random actor profile.

PHILLIPS: OK, so when we’re talking about female suicide bombers, then I have a number of questions. I think of a number of these suicide bombers — these female — they’re mothers. I mean, how can you — how can you leave your children orphaned like that?

KOREM: In fact, that’s the very point. Women, for example, are less likely to commit violent crimes than men. So something has to be a tipping point. In a suicide attacker environment, first you find a female, a woman or young teen who has the profile. In other words, these two traits I just described, the random actor traits.

Second, something goes south in their personal life. A father was killed, a brother was decapitated by a shell. In one case, the first suicide attack in Israel, the young woman was found infertile, husband divorced her. So for a woman to commit this type of an irrational act, in virtually every single case, something has gone south in her personal life.

PHILLIPS: So this woman…

KOREM: So you have the random actor…

PHILLIPS: OK, so this woman in Belgium, OK, a lot of people are saying, oh, she was brainwashed by her husband. Could that be the case? Or is it, like you said, something happened in her life, something went south?

KOREM: Yes. One, the random actor traits are always extreme. There’s always an extreme behavioral paper trail. So as the story about her tumbles out, look for the type of things that she did and she was interested in. You’ll find she was typically interested in things that were unconventional and that she was filled with some sort of despondency from some sort of an incident. Then her attachment to her husband could create the packaging, what we call packaging or thought reform process, to ship her out the door.

Interestingly enough, though, many women don’t complete their attack if they see anything that reminds them of former stability in their personal life. For example, in the Beslan incident that, you, you know referenced in Russia, the women did not want to blow themselves up. The leader of the — of that pack, actually was the one who pressed the detonation button and killed them. So women…

PHILLIPS: So what do they think they’re getting out of this?

KOREM: Release from pain. I mean, at the bottom, at the end of the day, they’re not really getting anything out of it except relief from the misery. And it’s very unfortunate. PHILLIPS: So it’s not necessarily…

KOREM: But fortunately…

PHILLIPS: … a religious goal like we see in these Muslim extremists. You’re saying…


PHILLIPS: … in a situation like this, it’s more some type of pain in their heart and their mind and their soul and this is the best way to release it in their mind.

KOREM: And not even the best way. It’s the option that they see in front of them. Mohammed Atta, for example…

PHILLIPS: So it’s timing, whoever gets in there.

KOREM: Well, what most people don’t know is, he was an affluent individual. He was educated. Most suicide attackers are educated, affluent, come from suburbs, small towns. Atta’sfather divorced his mother after 40 years of marriage and that was the tipping point when he decided to become an extremist.

People just don’t all of a sudden one day wake up and say I’m going to be a suicide attacker. First they have the random actor profile, then something goes south in their personal life, stresses are added. Then you get detonation.

PHILLIPS: So is there any — I’m sorry, go ahead.

KOREM: Yes. In Iraq, there was an elite cadre, if you will, that we trained.

PHILLIPS: Oh, we lost our satellite connection there to our guest. I apologize. We were talking about the book “Rage of the Random Actor,” tying in to why this female in Belgium would become a suicide bomber. We were talking with Dan Korem. We’ll try to reconnect with him via our satellite connection there and see if we can continue our conversation.