Terrorism can be rational
May 24 2003
An expert on the psychology of terrorism who spent 20 years in the CIA says suicide
bombers are not crazy and are often seen as models of exemplary behaviour in their
Jerrold Post, who founded the CIA's Centre for the Analysis of Personality and Political
Behaviour, interviewed 21 Islamic extremists in Israeli and Palestinian prisons.
"We should not think of these individuals as crazed fanatics, as seriously psychiatrically
ill," he told the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting on Thursday. "Quite to
the contrary, this represents a norm within society, within this society."
"Mental illness is incompatible with being a political terrorist," he said. "It is a security risk
to have an emotionally unstable individual in your terrorist group just as it would be in the
Professor Post, who today teaches at George Washington University, said the Palestinian
militants he interviewed talked calmly and rationally about their violent acts, including
"These are very normal-sounding individuals who have basically been bred to hate from
very early on," he said.