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The level of threat posed by a terrorist group is determined in large part by its ability to build its organizational capabilities and bring those capabilities to bear in violent action. As part of homeland security efforts, technology systems play a key role within a larger, integrated strategy to target groups’ efforts and protect the public from the threat of terrorist violence. Terrorist organizations are acutely aware of government efforts to deploy these systems and actively seek ways to evade or counteract them. This study draws on relevant data from the history of a variety of terrorist conflicts to understand terrorists’ counter-technology efforts. Depending on the adaptive capabilities of the adversary, a defensive model built of a variety of security measures that can be adjusted and redeployed as their vulnerable points are discovered provides a superior approach to addressing this portion of terrorist behavior. Fully exploring adversaries’ counter-technology behaviors can expose vulnerabilities in U.S. defenses and help the nation make the best choices to protect it from the threat of terrorism.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Palestinian Terrorist Groups

  • Chapter Three

    Jemaah Islamiyah and Affiliated Groups

  • Chapter Four

    Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

  • Chapter Five

    Provisional Irish Republican Army

  • Chapter Six

    Conclusions: Understanding Terrorists’ Countertechnology Efforts

  • Appendix

    Prominent Acts of LTTE Suicide Terrorism, 1987–2002

Book Review Excerpts

"This book is an excellent real-world analysis of the somewhat discouraging history of attempting to combat improvised terrorism with innovative technology. Technology alone is inadequate because, 'terrorist organizations will eventually develop counterstrategies that limit [its] value,' however, 'the value of a defensive technology is not necessarily that it can exact a high enough one-time price on a terrorist organization to overwhelm it, but that the technology is a drag on the terrorist group's operations over time.'… I recommend this monograph to anyone tasked with planning and implementing a long-term strategy against terrorism. It demonstrates the importance of a multilayered defense and the vital need for 'multistep' policy analysis to anticipate possible countermeasures before an expensive technology is deployed."

- Strategic Studies Quarterly, Maj Glen Shilland, USAF Air Force Institute of Technology, ENS2

"The United States and other nations continually deploy new tactics and techniques to combat terrorists and disrupt their operations. The enemy, however, is an inherently agile and adaptive one. This book from the renowned RAND Corp. assesses how major terrorist groups have responded to counterterrorism efforts with their own countermeasures and counter-countermeasures… While technology is indispensable in fighting terror, the authors note that it is not a 'silver bullet'. They highlight the importance of other tools, such as human intelligence. Here, the book';s value is most evident… The book is not just a collection of facts and statements but an open-ended analysis that can aid the reader';s comprehension of the issue… RAND and its research staff have a long-standing reputation for high quality work in the terrorism arena and have readily kept pace with evolving international and homeland security environments. Because of its unique approach, this book would be of interest both to the accomplished security practitioner and to the student of the trade. This is truly a book to add to your professional bookshelf."

- Security Management, May 2008

"The [authors] examine a number of terrorist organizations and their attempts to defeat or counter the technological systems utilized by the United States and its allies to guarantee security. By analyzing a number of case studies detailing terrorist attempts to counter the technologies currently used, the authors are able to present a picture of potential weaknesses, thereby providing the basis for improving design and capability. The authors have provided a work that should be of great interest to any security policymaker or student of domestic security issues."

- Parameters, US Army Ware College Quarterly, Winter 2007-08

"The research in this group endeavor was sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security. Its purpose is to identify potential weaknesses in defensive technology systems and thereby provide a basis for improving the design of 'future defensive technologies'… Readers in fear of technocrats (as I am) will be grateful for the book's prevailing view that technology alone cannot combat terrorism. Rather, human intelligence is 'the most important element of an effort to combat terrorists' activities… While alarming, the good news in this extensively researched book is its confirmation of terrorist capabilities in the high-tech realm. Unwritten here is the bad news: Our curious national reluctance to face the facts—as with the World Trace Center bombing in 1993. According to polls in mid-June 2007, public views that terrorist attacks in America are imminent were at their lowest point in two years. I fear that recent incidents in London and Glasgow will only temporarily reverse that trend."

- Proceedings, US Naval Institute, August 2007

This research was sponsored by the United States Department of Homeland Security and was conducted under the auspices of the Homeland Security Program within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment.

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