Professor of Practice, Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies; Director of Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism

Jason Blazakis
McGowan 210-B
(831) 647-4634

Jason Blazakis is a professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) where he focuses on threat financing, sanctions, violent extremism, and special operations related research.  He is also the Director of MIIS’s Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism where he directs research on domestic terrorism, terrorism finance, recruitment, propaganda, and the use of special operations to counter transnational threats.

From 2008-2018, he served as the Director of the Counterterrorism Finance and Designations Office, Bureau of Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State. In his former role, Jason was responsible for directing efforts to designate countries, organizations, and individuals as terrorists, also known as State Sponsors of Terrorism, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, and Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Jason previously held positions in the Department of State’s Political-Military Affairs, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Intelligence and Research Bureaus, and at U.S. Embassy Kabul.

Prior to working at the Department of State, Jason served as a domestic intelligence analyst at the Congressional Research Service. In addition, he was the national security adviser to a United States Congressional Representative. He also has worked at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Technology Administration.

Jason is an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Soufan Center.

He has published articles in Time Magazine, Foreign Affairs, The Hill, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Lawfare.  He regularly is quoted by the media (Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Reuters, ABC, CBS, NBC, amongst others) on a wide-range of terrorism and sanctions related matters.

He holds degrees from the University of Mississippi, Columbia University, and Johns Hopkins University.

Courses Taught

Courses offered in the past two years.

  • Current term
  • Upcoming term(s)

This course is designed to provide a critical introduction to the subject of terrorism, an often misunderstood phenomenon that has assumed a particular salience in the wake of 9/11. Its aim is to clarify fundamental definitional and conceptual problems, introduce students to the burgeoning literature on the subject, describe basic terrorist organizational and operational methods, survey a wide range of terrorist groups and ideologies, examine certain high-profile terrorism themes, and tentatively assess the nature of the threat posed by terrorists to global security in the future.

Spring 2020 - MIIS, Spring 2021 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

This course will provide an in-depth overview into the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (also known as the Islamic State, the Arabic acronym Daesh, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, in addition to other aliases). The rapid rise of the Islamic State has taken counterterrorism policymakers and foreign policy practitioners by surprise.

In an effort for students to come to a common understanding of key terms that will be discussed throughout the course, a session will be devoted to understanding key concepts and terms related to Islamic history. In this regard, students should take away from the course a baseline understanding of Islamic jurisprudence, meaning of the caliphate, the five pillars of Islam, and Shar’ia law.

The course will trace the history of the Islamic State’s rise and will examine the leadership figures/personalities behind the group. The course will also examine the Islamic State’s connection and ultimate divorce from al-Qa’ida. The course will all examine how the group finances its operations as well as the rise of its affiliates.

Finally, the course will also explore the group’s use of foreign fighters and social media to further its agenda. Global responses in an effort to counter the Islamic State will also be discussed.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

• Demonstrate knowledge of the history of the Islamic State from its creation to its current status as a significant power broker primarily operating in Syria and Iraq.

• Understand the key personalities and motivations of leadership figures within the Islamic State as well as methods the group utilizes to accrue wealth, territory, and general support.

• Understand the reasons for the split between the Islamic State and al-Qa’ida as well as the implications of the split to include the development of the Islamic State’s affiliates.

• Comprehend the role of women and foreign fighters within the Islamic State.

• Understand the U.S. and global response focused on countering the Islamic State through the application of soft and hard power.

Spring 2020 - MIIS, Spring 2021 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

The course examines how terrorist groups finance their operations. It also explores current policy approaches to curb financial support to terrorists through the application of U.S. and international sanctions, in particular how multilateral fora, such as the United Nations and the Financial Action Task Force, disrupt and deter terrorist financing. At the completion of the course, students will have a better understanding of the key tools, including law enforcement, diplomacy, and intelligence, that are used to counter terrorists’ financial networks and activities. Students will use structured analytic tools such as weighted ranking methods, scenario trees, causal flow programming, game theory, and logic to form analytic judgments. Prior coursework or professional experience in intelligence, (counter) terrorism, or finance recommended.

Fall 2019 - MIIS, Fall 2020 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

Areas of Interest

Jason’s areas of interests include sanctions, terrorism financing, terrorist motivation and behavior, counterterrorism methods, violent extremism, terrorist use of the internet, terrorism and the media, and the role of intelligence in informing national security decision-making.


Academic Degrees

MA in International Relations and National Security Studies, Columbia University, 2003

MA in Government, Johns Hopkins University, 2001

BA in Political Science, University of Mississippi, 1997


 “Border Security and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.”  Congressional Research Service, 2004.

Ten Years After the Mumbai Attacks, Where are They Now?” The Hill, November 9, 2018

American Terrorists: Why Current Laws are Inadequate for Violent Extremists at Home.” Lawfare, December 2, 2018

Leaving Syria Shrinks U.S. Influence in the Levant.” The Hill, December 3, 2018

Labeling Venezuela a Terror-Supporting State Doesn’t Fit.” The Hill, December 3, 2018

Lawfare Podcast on Domestic Terrorism with Mary McCord and Ben Wittes – January 2019

Walls Don’t Work In Isolation; First End the Shutdown.” The Hill, January 9, 2019

Pakistan’s Proxies: The Kashmir Attack and U.S. Policy Response.” Lawfare, February 24, 2019

A Road Map for Congress to Address Domestic Terrorism.” Lawfare, February 27, 2019

Spycast (International Spy Museum’s Podcast) on terrorism finance and domestic terrorism with Vincent Houghton. March 19, 2019

Why Trump’s Latest Move Against Iran Was Pointless – And Dangerous.” Time Magazine, April 9, 2019

The Reappearance of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.” The Hill, May 2, 2019

The Muslim Brotherhood is Not a Terrorist Organization.” Foreign Affairs, May 17, 2019

Sudan at a Crossroads: Rethinking U.S. Policy.” Lawfare, June 9, 2019

The Logistics of Terror: The Islamic State’s Immigration and Logistics Committee.” The Strategy Bridge, June 18, 2019

Hamza bin Laden’s Reported Death is not the Death of al-Qaeda.” The Hill, August 2, 2019

Domestic Terrorism is fueled by paranoid delusions. Here’s how we fight them.” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 18, 2019

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