The Travelers: American Jihadists in Syria and Iraq

On February 6, 2018, the Program on Extremism released a new report entitled "The Travelers: American Jihadists in Syria and Iraq."  This study, authored by the Program's research director Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, deputy director Seamus Hughes, and research fellow Bennett Clifford, reflects the most comprehensive, publicly available accounting of Americans who traveled to join jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq since 2011. 

These individuals and their stories were uncovered during a multi-year investigation. The authors interviewed law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, and attended relevant court proceedings in several states. Additionally, they reviewed thousands of pages of legal documents, filing information requests and federal court motions to unseal records where necessary.  Finally, the authors conducted several interviews with American jihadist travelers who returned from the territories held by the Islamic State. 

To highlight the findings of this report, and explore avenues for the U.S. government and other relevant actors to respond to the threat from American jihadist travelers, the Program on Extremism hosted a panel discussion in conjunction with the release of the report on February 6, 2018. Speakers included:

  • Mary McCord, Visiting Professor of Law and Senior Litigator, Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law; Former Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice
  • Brian Michael Jenkins, Senior Adviser to the President, RAND Corporation
  • Seamus Hughes, Deputy Director, Program on Extremism
  • Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, Research Director, Program on Extremism