Leaderless Resistance

The History,
Definition, &
Use of the Term
"Leaderless Resistance"

The terms “Leaderless Resistance” or “Phantom Cells” generally refer to spontaneous, autonomous, unconnected cells seeking to carry out acts of violence, sabotage, or terrorism against a government or occupying military force. The concept is often attributed to Louis Beam, but Beam himself credits the concept to Ulius “Pete” Louis Amoss, although Beam cites a 1962 version, when in fact, Amoss first wrote about Leaderless Resistance in 1953.

As Simson Garfinkel explains, the term is sometimes used too loosely “to refer to networked organizations with hub-and-spoke architecture. Such terminology is incorrect. Rather, ‘Leaderless Resistance’ applies specifically to groups that employ cells and that lack bidirectional vertical command links — that is, groups without leaders.”

The theory of Leaderless Resistance as proposed within U.S. right-wing insurgents, many with ties to militant religious ideologies, is frequently discussed among those making policy suggestions for combating domestic terrorism. Therefore an accurate assessment of its roots and application would seem imperative, but misperceptions are common, and some of them trace back to Marc Sageman and Bruce Hoffman.

Leaderless Resistance


Leaderless Counterterrorism Strategy:
The “War on Terror,” Civil Liberties, and Flawed Scholarship

The Public Eye Magazine. Read the Article


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