Kevin Johnson

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Islamic State’s Sophisticated Recruiting Campaign Poses Persistent Threat in U.S.

by Kevin Johnson 04-27-2015
ISIS online. Image via aradaphotography/shutterstock.com

ISIS online. Image via aradaphotography/shutterstock.com

The arrests of six Minnesota men accused earlier this month of attempting to join the Islamic State group highlights an unprecedented marketing effort being waged by the militant group in Iraq and Syria, U.S. law enforcement officials and terror analysts said.

It’s a campaign that is finding resonance from urban metros to the American heartland.

“This is not so much a recruitment effort as it is a global marketing campaign, beyond anything that al-Qaida has ever done,” said a senior law enforcement official.

The official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said the Islamic State’s slick multimedia productions, its use of social media, and personal “peer-to-peer” communication are proving to be effective parts of a sophisticated program aimed at the West.

“I don’t think there has been one case in which we haven’t found some connection to the videos or other media the group has produced,” the official said.

Federal authorities have identified more than 150 U.S. residents who have sought to join the ranks of the terror organization or rival groups in Syria. There is evidence that about 40 of those have traveled to the region and returned to the U.S. Most have been charged; an undisclosed number are free and subjects of intense surveillance, the senior official said.

The smallest subset of the group, an estimated dozen, represents those who have actually joined the fighting ranks.

Boy Scouts' Gay Leader Ban Preserves Worst Stereotypes, Holder Says

by Kevin Johnson 06-12-2014

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Creative Commons image by Ola Thorsen via the U.S. Department of State

Taking aim at the Boy Scouts of America’s continuing ban on gay adult leaders, Attorney General Eric Holder said the prohibition perpetuates “the worst kind of stereotypes.”

“It’s a relic of an age of prejudice and insufficient understanding,” Holder said Tuesday to Lambda Legal, an advocacy group for LGBT rights.

Referring to the group’s work a decade ago to challenge the termination of a gay assistant scoutmaster, Holder said that “too many organizations, policies, and practices that discriminate against LGBT individuals remain persistent concerns.”

“Unfortunately, the continuation of a policy that discriminates against gay adult leaders — by an iconic American institution — only preserves and perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes,” he said.

Shifts Seen in Support for Death Penalty

by Kevin Johnson 04-25-2012
Protesters at a Anti-Death Penalty Rally, Robert J. Daveant / Shutterstock.com

Protesters at a Anti-Death Penalty Rally, Robert J. Daveant / Shutterstock.com

The campaign to abolish the death penalty has been freshly invigorated this month in a series of actions that supporters say represents increasing evidence that America may be losing its taste for capital punishment.

As early as this week, Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, is poised to sign a bill repealing the death penalty in Connecticut. A separate proposal has qualified for the November ballot in California that would shut down the largest death row in the country and convert inmates' sentences to life without parole.

Academics, too, have recently taken indirect aim: The National Research Council concluded last week that there have been no reliable studies to show that capital punishment is a deterrent to homicide.

Study: No Evidence That Death Penalty Deters Crime

by Kevin Johnson 04-19-2012

In the more than three decades since the national moratorium on the death penalty was lifted, there is no reliable research to determine whether capital punishment has served as a deterrent, according to a review by the National Research Council.

The review, partially funded by the Justice Department's National Institute of Justice, found that one of the major shortcomings in all previous studies has included "incomplete or implausible" measures of how potential murderers perceive the risk of execution as a possible consequence of their actions.

Another flaw, according to the review, is that previous research never considered the impact of lesser punishments, such as life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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