Terrorism expert says extremism can be hard to spot

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Friends and family of three men charged in the Kansas bomb plot reacted to the news with shock and disbelief. Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen were arrested last week for plotting to bomb a Garden City apartment complex with a large Muslim population.

Investigators say the men referred to Muslims as "cockroaches" and said their plan would "wake people up."

There are still many questions in the case, including how the three men ended up in this situation. We asked a terrorism expert in Washington DC how a person becomes radicalized.

"It's really hard to identify the drivers," said Robert McKenzie, a fellow with the Brookings Institution. "Whether we're talking about white supremacists or whether we're talking about Muslims. It's very difficult to try to identify why one person can become radicalized and mobilizes and one does not."

McKenzie says it's difficult to detect when someone has crossed over to radicalization. He says the best indicators of extremism are often found on social media. But in some cases, there are no warning signs.

"There is a significant amount of fear mongering at a very high level talking about Muslim communities. And I think what we're seeing is that this rhetoric has consequences," said McKenzie.

McKenzie says he thinks the best approach to prevent domestic terrorism is early intervention. That means contacting people who may have recently joined an extremist group and speaking to them before they take action.