"The mind itself can be captured and made into a machine"

January 22, 2003
By Rick Ross

When Ohio printer R. Taggert heard about how al-Qaeda recruited and indoctrinated its members it was like déjà vu.

Taggert heard the story of how a potential recruit for the group was told to wait in a room until someone came to see him. The young man waited patiently for three days, but was dropped because he looked out the window.

Taggert remarked, "Osama bin Laden is taking thought reform to levels I haven't seen. They are sifting for someone who is extremely obedient.''

The Ohio man was a cult member for six years during the 1970s and he understands the type of thought reform techniques such groups often employ.

"If you can convince someone they are sacrificing for God&That's the key. It's getting them to believe a worldview,'' Taggert explained.

Taggert is now the vice president of Cult Information Services of Northeast Ohio and he helped to organize a conference during 2001 titled "Cults and Terrorism: Abuse of the Vulnerable,'' sponsored by the Connecticut-based Leo J. Ryan Education Foundation.

The conference brought together national cult experts.

Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, co-authors of the seminal work Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change, attended the conference and have studied cults since the 1970s.

Siegelman observed, "The government must educate our intelligence forces on this mind-set. They have almost manically denied that this has been going on for a quarter of the century.''

For example the writer related that most Americans are unaware that the first bioterrorist attack in the United States was not anthrax after 9-11, but the spread of salmonella in 1984, when the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh tried to poison the citizens of Antelope, Oregon.

Flo Conway explained how the suicide bombers are created She said thought-stopping techniques, such as extended repetition of prayers and chanting, can destroy the ability to think.

Siegelman focused upon the contents of letters by Mohamed Atta, an al-Qaeda leader who died on one of the planes that destroyed the World Trade Center. Atta went into a trance before boarding the plane Siegelman said, "Saying a prayer a thousand times, that's just a way of jamming anything human from coming into his brain.''

Another trait of destructive cults is dividing the world into good and evil, black and white. Certainly Osama bin Laden has done this, by characterizing Western nations as "infidels" and creating an "us vs. them" mentality through his self-declared holy war.

Stephen Kent, a professor of the psychology of religion at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada identified another common theme central to destructive cults, which is a charismatic leader that drives the group and defines its meaning.

Kent said, "The common refrain of former cult members is that they would've died for their leader. Suicide for a holy cause is not as mysterious as it first seems.''

Kent added groups like al-Qaeda "dip into the mainstream aspects of &[Islamic] tradition, extract an array of ideas on the value of martyrdom and use this to justify violent action.''

Conway and Siegelman say the U.S. government should make distinctions between terrorist leaders and their followers. Conway said, "The hardest thing to understand is that the mind itself can be captured and made into a machine.''

Note: This article is largely based "Experts explain terrorist training," by Thrity Umrigar, Akron Beacon Journal, October 24, 2002


Copyright © 2003 Rick Ross.

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