Intelligence Constraints of the 1970s and Domestic Terrorism

Volume I, Effects on the Incidence, Investigation, and Prosecution of Terrorist Activity

by Sorrel Wildhorn, Brian Michael Jenkins, Marvin Lavin


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This Note addresses the question: To what extent did the post-Watergate intelligence "rules" affect law enforcement's ability to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic terrorism? The Note assesses the effects of stricter rules and of perceptions or uncertainties regarding those rules on the investigation of domestic terrorist groups or crimes. It examines 23 cases involving prosecutions under the "older" intelligence rules — that is, those of the period ending in 1974 — and another 28 cases involving prosecutions under the "newer" intelligence rules — those of the period 1975 to 1980. Three major findings emerged: it appears that intelligence operations are more important than other investigative techniques such as gathering physical evidence or seeking eyewitness identification of suspects or their property in terrorist-related cases; the data suggest that the newer rules affected primarily the timing and availability of preventive intelligence; and both investigative and prosecutorial law-enforcement entities seemed to adapt successfully to the newer rules.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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