Nearly eight years ago, the Norwegian extremist Anders Behring Breivik set the bar for what an individual terrorist could accomplish—detonating a truck bomb in Oslo that killed eight, then murdering 69 more, mostly teenagers, with semiautomatic weapons in another nearby location. All this was done in the name of a twisted ideology he had compiled largely from the internet, cobbled together into a sprawling, 1,518-page tract titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence,” in which he raged against multiculturalism, liberalism, and Muslims, while describing his attack preparations in considerable detail.
Breivik was not the first high-profile, lone-actor terrorist to publish his motivations at length—that distinction belongs to Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber. Breivik’s innovation was operational rather than ideological: the deadliest lone-actor terrorist attack in history. Breivik’s success was always destined to cast a long shadow, and its implications are now becoming depressingly clear.
The most recent manifestation came last week, with news that U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Christopher Hasson was charged with planning a mass-casualty attack modeled in significant part on Breivik’s strategy, and bearing the marks of his belief system. The plot, first reported by George Washington University’s Project on Extremism, was only in its preparatory stages, but the indictment spells out how Hasson closely followed Breivik’s manifesto in amassing weapons and performance-enhancing drugs, and in creating a carefully categorized list of assassination targets. Hasson was influenced by others, to be sure, including the American neo-Nazi author Harold Covington and (as evidenced in his Google searches) the president of the United States, but Breivik appears to be the guiding force that shaped his specific plans.