J.M. Berger: Co-Author of "ISIS: The State of Terror" and "Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam"; Non-Resident Fellow, Brookings Institution Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World

Author, analyst and consultant on extremism

J.M. Berger is a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern. Berger publishes the web site Intelwire.com and a contributor to Politico and Foreign Policy.



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



  • "...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

    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

    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


  • On Point (NPR): The Tsarnaev Verdict
  • NYT: J.M. Berger's ISIS Twitter Study
  • NPR: ISIS Dilemma for Social Media Firms
  • NYT: 'Jihadi John' Watched by UK Intel
  • MCCLATCHY: Questions about Mosul strategy
  • GPS on CNN: Battling ISIS Online
  • NYT: Hints of ISIS Ties to Boko Haram
  • CBS NEWS: The delicate balance fighting ISIS online
  • POLITIFACT: Does ISIS post 90K tweets per day?
  • WASHINGTON POST: Death of U.S. ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller
  • ABC NEWS: Deadline passes for Japanese hostages
  • NYT: AQAP claims Charlie Hebdo attack
  • NPR: AQAP takes responsibility for Paris attack
  • BBC: ISIS hijacks CENTCOM Twitter account
  • MSNBC: Panel on Paris terrorist attacks
  • NYT: Awlaki's Voice Echoes in New Era of Terrorism
  • THE WORLD: The Face of ISIS Twitter
  • DAILY BEAST: The Fall of @ShamiWitness
  • BOSTON GLOBE: The Jihadi Hunters
  • FRONTLINE: What Allegiance to ISIS Means
  • AL JAZEERA: What would Baghdadi's demise mean?
  • NYT: ISIS Reaps Wealth as It Advances
  • NPR: How ISIS uses social media
  • CNN: Social media battle augments Iraq bloodshed
  • CBS: Jihadists on the move with weapons, hashtags
  • NBC NEWS: Domestic Terror Task Force 'Overdue'
  • WASHINGTON POST: Terror in the American Desert
  • CNN: Are Mass Murderers Using Twitter as a Tool?
  • NEW YORK TIMES: Review of Jihad Joe
  • PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY: Review of Jihad Joe
  • More Reviews of Jihad Joe

  • 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 researcher, analyst and writer covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of the forthcoming ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.

    Berger has testified on terrorism before House and Senate committees. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, Foreign Policy, the CTC Sentinel, the New York Daily News and the Boston Globe, and on National Public Radio, Public Radio International and the National Geographic Channel. Berger has discussed terrorism and extremism on CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets.

    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 often presents in academic settings and was, most recently, keynote speaker and a panelist at the annual 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