Indiana State University Newsroom

Prof awarded $250,000 Department of Justice grant

October 8, 2012

Mark Hamm, Indiana State University professor of criminology, has received a more than $247,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to study lone wolf terrorism.

Hamm, and his co-investigator Ramon Spaajj, senior research fellow at La Trobe University in Australia, will compile a database of lone wolf terrorists in the United States and select five for case studies and interviews.

Such a study has become important because lone wolves have become a bigger threat, according to Hamm.

"After the mass murder in Oslo by Anders Breivik in June 2011, that was a turning point in counterterrorism. (President) Obama said the biggest threat we face is lone wolf terrorism," Hamm said. "He said the probability of an Oslo terrorist-type of attack is more probably than a 9/11. That's from our commander in chief. That's a pretty dramatic statement."

The database will start with 77 individuals that meet the four-part definition of a lone wolf. Each person will be examined through 20 categories such as weapons, number of fatalities, grievances, enablers and triggering events.

"Nobody's looked at enablers or triggering events," Hamm said.

Hamm cited the 2009 case involving Maj. Nidal Hasan, who has been charged with killing 13 people and wounding more than two dozen at Fort Hood in Texas, as an example of both an enabler and a triggering event.

Hasan traded emails with Anwar al-Awlaki, an imam linked to other attacks by radical Muslims.

"There's no evidence that al-Awlaki contributed to the execution of the attack, but without him it was unlikely to happen," Hamm said. "Maj. Hasan had received orders some 30 days prior. Some have speculated that this set him off and sent him over the edge."

Spaajj has defined a lone wolf as someone who has a political agenda; is unaffiliated with a group; does not take attack directions from anyone; and involves no one else in planning the attack or procuring weapons for the attack.

"The FBI doesn't have a definition of lone wolf terrorism. Homeland Security doesn't have a definition," Hamm said. "You have to have a definition that is different from duos or groups or state-organized terrorism."

So Timothy McVeigh, who was assisted in bombing the Oklahoma City federal building by Terry Nichols, would not qualify as a lone wolf. However, Ted Kaczynski, the "Unabomber," would be a serial lone wolf terrorist while Hasan would be a mass murder lone wolf terrorist.

For the five interviews, Hamm said they would consider post-9/11 cases involving lone wolf terrorists who align themselves with jihadists, al-Qaeda or the radical right wing and who are on death row or serving life in prison. Interviewers would look for commonalities such as enablers, triggering events and mental illnesses.

Such a research project, which will involve graduate students, not only excited the faculty but also the students, according to DeVere Woods, criminology department chair. He said that in recent years there's been little money available for research.

"For Mark to get this grant, this is a huge accomplishment. It was very competitive," Woods said. "It speaks to the quality of his status nationally and internationally."

Photo: Hamm

Contact: Mark Hamm, Indiana State University, professor of criminology, at

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, associate director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or


Story Highlights

Mark Hamm, Indiana State University professor of criminology, has received a more than $247,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to study lone wolf terrorism.

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