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Counterterrorism Tactics: A Model of Cell Dynamics

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Master's thesis

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The modus operandi of various terrorist organizations have been studied extensively, and databases such as ITERATE collate details about terrorist attacks, to include the types of technology used by the terrorist organization and the number of resultant casualties. Surprisingly, however, a generalized model of how terrorist organizations plan their attacks is unavailable in the extant literature. Drawing from organizational theory, particularly the command and control literature and case study methods, this paper posits a generalized model of terrorist attack planning. By extending this model into the counterterrorism domain, the author considers how to more optimally detect terrorist attacks. One thing this model must take into consideration is the assertion that terror cell origins today have changed from the origin of terror cells like the 9-11 attackers. There was a shift from an Al Qaeda operational model based on an all-star team of operatives that was selected, trained and dispatched by the central leadership to the target, to an operational model that encourages independent grassroots Jihadists to conduct attacks, or to a model in which Al Qaeda provides operational commanders who organize grassroots cells. This work conducts research into the following three thwarted terrorist attacks 1 the Brooklyn Bridge attack by Iyman Faris 2 the Millennial Bombings at the Los Angeles Airport by Ahmad Ressam and 3 Operation Bojinka, a plan in the mid-1990s to attack airliners over the Pacific Ocean along with a series of simultaneous attacks around the world, masterminded by Ramzi Ahmed Yousef. Occasionally, the author makes reference to other terrorist attacks to better illustrate a specific point. However, primary emphasis is placed on the terrorist plots outlined above.

Subject Categories:

  • Administration and Management
  • Psychology
  • Unconventional Warfare
  • Command, Control and Communications Systems

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