Cruel Intentions

I’ve read a few articles on the young couple from Mississippi who were arrested as they attempted to leave (under false pretenses) and join ISIS.

I’m curious about a process that probes potential threats for months, yet never lets on to anyone else what they’re seeing in these two teenagers.  I wonder how this story might have been different if somehow the families of these youth could have been discretely warned about what was going through their kids’ heads.  I question whether every story like this has to end only in arrest, whether intervention might not often be possible and preferable.

Granted, there are hardcore people who are not going to be successfully intervened upon.  Who determines that is the case or not is another thorny subject.  But it seems pretty clear that these two young people in Mississippi might have benefited from intervention, whether it was obvious or not.  I’m guessing that there aren’t many secret agents who are instructed not just to probe for condemning statements and evidence, but actually to try and dissuade people from pursuing a path with false information.  In the stories I’ve read so far, neither of them were likely to go out and try to blow up or kill anyone here.  Perhaps there is more to this story than we have been informed of?

I find it interesting that the article goes to great lengths to demonstrate the moderateness of the boy’s Islamic parents, but says nothing about the girls’ upbringing other than that it was Christian and she wasn’t particularly zealous.  What does that mean?  How did her parents feel about her conversion to Islam?  How did her pastor feel?  Did anybody know?  Her assumptions about the reliability of the Bible vs. the Quran were erroneous on multiple levels, but was any of her church family or actual family talking with her about these things?  If she felt that Western reports about ISIS were inaccurate, what sorts of reports was she being fed instead – and by whom?

Presumably, given the level of shock indicated in this story, if either of the youth’s parents had been brought into the loop, they might have worked to dissuade them from their intended course of action.  Hopefully this would have included education, not simply threats.  And perhaps it would have resulted in a broader net being cast to indict those responsible for working to recruit these youth.  Why am I left feeling that there is a lot more to this story that we don’t know, or aren’t being filled in on?

There might have been the possibility of salvaging at least one of these young lives.  Instead, they face decades in prison.  Let me be clear – I’m grateful for and acknowledge the necessity of individuals who help identify dangerous elements and engage them to determine the threat they might pose.  I just wonder if perhaps there is more that could be done for some of them than encouraging them to the point that you have enough evidence to just arrest them.


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