A Washington, D.C. think tank dedicated to studying extremism hired former al-Qaida recruiter Jesse Morton Monday to research effective methods to de-radicalize potential terrorists.
Morton told The New York Times he was radicalized in prison before 9/11, and began to pursue his education. While attaining a masters degree from Columbia University in 2007, he affiliated himself with radical Islamist groups in New York City. Morton then started Revolution Muslim, a website and Youtube channel that would become one of the most prolific Islamic radicalization efforts in the U.S.
Over the course of three years Morton recruited countless terrorists, while pushing the boundaries of free speech to the limit. Eventually Morton fled to Morocco, where he was apprehended and extradited back to the U.S. in 2011.
Morton’s bio at the Program for Extremism at The George Washington University notes that “After his incarceration in 2011, Morton de-radicalized, and today he rejects Salafi jihadi and Islamist ideology.” He told The New York Times he vomited, after reading a letter from a person he recruited in Syria who bragged of beheading Iraqi soldiers.
“It’s like Frankenstein. I didn’t create it, but I certainly contributed to it,” he said describing the incident. Morton told CNN he felt a “tremendous amount of guilt” for his actions.
Nadia Oweidat, an expert at the New America Foundation, told the network she trusted Morton’s de-radicalization saying, “When an extremist defects, they risk being completely targeted by their community — it’s like saying you’re gay publicly.” She elaborated “There are life-altering consequences, and you don’t approach it lightly.”
Morton’s bio notes that he now “focuses on issues such as the propaganda of terrorist organizations, Islamic and jihadist ideology, countering radicalization and extremism and promoting disengagement. He considers this work an opportunity to repair some of the damage caused by his radicalization.”
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