Articles terrorism

Gray Terrorism (by Chris Milburn)

Saturday, November 11th, 2017

Mass shootings persist within the walls of American institutions. In a country church in Texas, an individual killed 26 unsuspecting worshippers and wounded dozens more on a Sunday morning. In the aftermath of these mass killings, Americans seek ways to make sense of the seemingly senseless violence in hopes of preventing more bloodshed in the future.

Whether the shooter is branded a domestic terrorist, a violent extremist, a lone wolf, a gunman, or a terrorist, the emergence and persistence of mass shootings present significant challenges for analysts and law enforcement professionals. Security analysts and law enforcement require the analytical tools to assess and categorize such events in hopes of preventing or minimizing future incidents. But as mass violence has become a part of the social vocabulary of the age, violence against large groups of innocent civilians has increasingly been used by individuals who do not meet the traditional criteria to be accurately deemed “terrorists.”


ISIS and the Existential Threat (by Chris Milburn)

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

In the wake of violent attacks on civilians in the U.S. and Europe, ISIS, also known as the self-proclaimed “Islamic State”, poses a unique and unprecedented challenge to the western world. Americans, in particular, struggle to understand the group, its motivations, and capabilities. Among the most important points of conversation is the recurrent question: Does ISIS pose an “existential” threat to the United States?


The Wicked Problems of Low-tech Terrorism (by Gregg Favre)

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

When ideology is primary, the “means” is a matter of access

In France, the investigation into the Bastille Day attack is in its infancy. During the nation’s declared days of mourning, specialists will confer to uncover the specifics of how this horrific event occurred. Over the coming days and weeks, details will emerge about the driver, his networks and, perhaps most importantly, his motivations. But what is known now is that a rented delivery truck evaded security measures and menacingly ran down innocent men, women and children. While many share the brutality of the attack, its lack of sophistication should come as a surprise to few.


The Problem with Radicalization (by Douglas Weeks)

Monday, May 30th, 2016

The advent of ‘new terrorism’ studies that began in the 1970’s remains as robust as ever. Exacerbated by 9/11, 3/11, 7/7, the Arab Spring, the rise of the Islamic State, the two Paris attacks, and more recently the San Bernardino attack to name but a few, terrorism research is here to stay. Couched under the banner of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) governments around the globe have sought to manage risk and build resilience through securitization and engagement. Convinced that radicalization is the ultimate evil, an enormous amount of research has focused on radicalization and ‘Islamic radicalization’ in particular. However, despite years of research, what is known about radicalization is defined more by what it is not rather than what it is.


Security, Social Media and Encryption (by Joseph Campos)

Monday, May 30th, 2016

The November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris, France that killed 150 people and wounded more than 350, and the San Bernardino, U.S. on December 2, 2015, that killed 14 people, raise questions as to the conflation of security and democratic principles, especially that of privacy. Smart phones and other devices have an array of applications/tools that enable users to encrypt various forms of communication. The question for the security apparatus in democratic societies is how do we continue to promote ideals of freedom and privacy while ensuring security.


Counter Terrorism through Dialogue (by Joseph Campos)

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

The anti-immigration, pro-security, and pro-enhanced tactics rhetoric over the past eight months, in various debates to secure the presidential nomination for both parties, is not a new phenomena. This fevered rhetoric traces its origins to the very beginnings of Operation Enduring Freedom and the U.S. “war on terrorism”. Specifically, George W. Bush announced on June 12, 2001, that the world had to address the “new threats of the 21st century if we’re to have a peaceful continent and a peaceful world.”[1]

The rhetoric of the United States’ “War on Terrorism” has come to contains a specific discourse that conjoins moral authority, application of meaning, infinite justice, and a prescribed search for peace with terrorism’s overarching incorporative aspect, revealing an ideological and cultural interpretation of both the U.S. state and its position in the world as the archetypal virtuous state.


On the Brussels Attack (by Bruce Hoffman)

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Today’s tragic events in Belgium once again underscore the complexity of the current terrorist threat. ISIS has built a terrorist infrastructure in Belgium that facilitated these attacks. They were carried out by determined individuals with the requisite skill set, tradecraft, technical knowledge and discipline to execute simultaneous suicide attacks. There is a world of difference between this type of terrorist operation–and the infrastructure that has long been in place to support it–and the more spontaneous, often idiosyncratic violence coming from isolated individuals or lone wolves, such as the husband and wife team responsible for last year’s shootings in San Bernadino. Today, the terrorist threat for law enforcement and intelligence agencies is not an either/or proposition: it is posed by both lone wolves and established terrorist cells within existing organizations. The threat from the established cells has always shown itself to be more lethal and consequential in terms of body count.  The challenge is to avoid becoming so consumed and preoccupied with the former so that insufficient attention is paid to and inadequate resources are devoted to that latter. Overwhelming law enforcement and intelligence with isolated, individual threats is an intrinsic part of the strategy of terrorist groups today.