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
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Click to buy now! The Islamic State, known as ISIS, exploded into the public eye in 2014 with startling speed and shocking brutality. It has captured the imagination of the global jihadist movement, attracting recruits in unprecedented numbers and wreaking bloody destruction with a sadistic glee that has alienated even the hardcore terrorists of its parent organization, al Qaeda.

Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger, two of America's leading experts on terrorism, dissect the new model for violent extremism that ISIS has leveraged into an empire of death in Iraq and Syria, and an international network rapidly expanding in the Middle East, North Africa and around the world.

Buy now! | Excerpt in The Atlantic | Audiobook excerpt

ISIS: The State of Terror traces the ideological innovations that the group deploys to recruit unprecedented numbers of Westerners, the composition of its infamous snuff videos, and the technological tools it exploits on social media to broadcast its atrocities, and its recruiting pitch to the world, including its success at attracting thousands of Western adherents. The authors examine ISIS's predatory abuse of women and children and its use of horror to manipulate world leaders and its own adherents as it builds its twisted society. The authors offer a much-needed perspective on how world leaders should prioritize and respond to ISIS's deliberate, insidious provocations.

Jessica Stern is author of the seminal text Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. J.M. Berger is author of the definitive book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam.

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Reza Aslan, best-selling author and religious scholar: "By far the most important contribution yet to our understanding of an organization that remains cloaked in mystery and misunderstanding... A brisk, readable, and eye-opening account of ISIS's past, present, and future. This is a book every American should read."

Best-selling author and CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen: "The first serious book to analyze the rise of ISIS... Stern and Berger write clearly and persuasively and marshal impressive primary research from ISIS's prodigious propaganda to help explain how ISIS became the dominant jihadi group today. It's a terrific and important read."

Dr. John Horgan, author of The Psychology of Terrorism: "A timely and urgent book that is essential reading for analysts and policy makers alike. In what is already a cornerstone contribution, Stern and Berger offer the kind of cold-blood analysis so desperately needed on the poorly understood phenomenon that is the so-called Islamic state."

Aaron Zelin, fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy: "A penetrating analysis . . . The book provides important context for an evolving organization and proto-state that is attempting to rewrite the jihadi playbook."

Mike Walker, former undersecretary and acting secretary of the United States Army: "Stern and Berger pull back the curtain to expose facts and myths about the violent Salafi apocalyptic cult calling itself the Islamic State. A must-read."

Kecia Ali, associate professor religion, Boston University: "ISIS emerged in territory occupied by American soldiers, governed by dictatorial regimes, and fought over by sectarian extremists. Stern and Berger provide context for understanding ISIS's past and considering how its media model may affect future extremist movements."




Reviews of ISIS: The State of Terror


  • J.M. Berger: Has ISIS sparked a regional ME war?
  • Jessica Stern: How ISIS Lures Westerners
  • Audio: Book launch at Brookings Institution
  • Audio: Stern and Berger on All Things Considered
  • Audio: Stern and Berger on The Diane Rehm Show
  • Video: Stern and Berger on HuffPostLive


    Washington Post: "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... Stern and Berger offer a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group.”

    Salon: "Understanding ISIS, who it appeals to and why, as well as how it sees itself, isn't something we're supposed to do. One purpose of ISIS' savagery is to make us react without thinking, to compel us to view the world as it does, as a stark conflict between good and evil demanding immediate, dramatic action. In that light, consider 'ISIS: The State of Terror,' a profound act of counterterrorism."

    The Telegraph: "Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger have produced a clear and succinct account of the rise of the fanatics... This book's achievement is to demonstrate how ISIS fits within the spectrum of blood-soaked jihadism."

    Evening Standard: "One can only conclude, with the clarity of recent hindsight, that we should have seen it coming -- at least when seen through the lens of ISIS: The State of Terror, a new history of the threat by US academics Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger. ... a timely and important history of a movement that now defines the 21st century."

    New York Times: "The authors do nimble jobs of turning their copious research and their own expertise on terrorism into coherent, accessible narratives that leave us with an understanding of the Islamic State's history and metastasis, and its modus operandi. ... The most compelling sections of the Stern-Berger book are devoted to comparing ISIS and Al Qaeda. ... The authors describe Al Qaeda as an exclusive 'vanguard movement,' a 'cabal that saw itself as the elite intellectual leaders of a global ideological revolution that it would assist and manipulate.' ... ISIS, in contrast, is more of a populist start-up operation."

    The Independent (Ireland): "...an engrossing book in which two scholars of Islamic terrorism describe the rise of a formidable jihadi movement... The jihadis are master propagandists, and the authors' description of the workings of the ISIS publicity machine is one of the strongest parts of a book full of insights... illuminating..."

    Kirkus Reviews: "A detailed study of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from its rise out of al-Qaida to its intended fulfillment of apocalyptic prophecies. ... this book offers much to learn about ISIS and an expanded understanding of current events."

    Mick Endsor: "ISIS: The State of Terror is a brilliant analysis of a group that, in a matter of years, has gone from the verge of extinction to one of the single greatest threats to peace and stability in the Middle East and beyond. Many more pages will undoubtedly be written on ISIS in the coming years but Stern and Berger have set the standard here."

    The Malaysian Reserve: "The book expertly focuses on the timelines and events that led to ISIS as well as the people within the organisation... A serious in-depth look into ISIS that doesn't feel as if it's just another Western 'liberal' propaganda. A must read, especially for those living in Muslim countries whether you're a Muslim or not."

    New York Times: "[Stern and Berger] dissect the Islamic State's messaging in some detail, showing how the cruelty is aimed at recruiting a very specific demographic, 'angry, maladjusted young men' attracted to a total war against unbelief. ... The authors contrast the Islamic State's messaging with Al Qaeda's, and show why ISIS has ultimately been more successful."

    Buy it now! | Buy the Kindle edition!


    Author, analyst and consultant on extremism


    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 ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern. Berger also publishes the web site Intelwire.com and is a contributor to Foreign Policy.


    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 March 12.

    Full report | News story | ISIS: State of Terror



    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



    Read the full story at Foreign Policy

    Read the full story at Foreign Policy

  • Who Matters Online: Metrics for Monitoring Extremism Online
  • What Intelligence Agencies Do With Metadata
  • Monsters and Children: Politics And How We Talk About Muslims


  • J.M. Berger Congressional 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





    Please contact Ashley Garland at HarperCollins/Ecco books with requests for interviews or appearances:

    Recent television appearances


  • Recent TV and video
  • 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
  • Books and longform journalism by J.M. Berger
  • J.M. Berger biography


  • 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


    New York Times: "a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective"

    Washington Times: "How these American jihadists became radicalized, recruited and trained... constitute the core of Mr. Berger's important book."

    Zenpundit: "Berger neither condemns nor excuses: he sees, he asks, he researches, he reports. ... a book to read... a book to admire."

    Redstate.com: "well-researched and incredibly accessibly presented history of American involvement in violent jihad."

    Publisher's Weekly: "lifts the veil on the phenomenon of American jihadists..."

    Library Journal: "an easy read... the better choice for those seeking ... objective [journalism]."

    Buy "Jihad Joe" now!


    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.

    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