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How to Forecast the Next Waves of Catastrophic Terrorism

NCJ Number
Joshua Sinai Ph.D.
Date Published
February 2002
6 pages
This paper presented and described the application of a risk assessment formula in forecasting terrorism attacks.
With the September 11 attacks on the United States, the threshold of terrorist warfare was crossed over, moving into weapons of mass destruction and attacks on critical infrastructure targets, such as nuclear and chemical plants, agricultural nodes, or the New York Stock Exchange, causing economic and human consequences. To anticipate and prevent more catastrophic attacks, a risk assessment formula was developed using a methodology based on several components: (1) seven attack warning indicators; (2) an elaboration of al-Qaeda’s mindset; (3) mode of operation; and (4) target selection. The seven attack warning indicators included: (1) previous terrorist attacks, failed attacks, or plots not yet executed; (2) a terrorist group’s modus operandi, mainly tactics; (3) the use of particular types of weaponry and devices that a terrorist group perceives will achieve its objectives; (4) the objectives of a group’s state sponsor; (5) the geographic factor; (6) historical dates of particular significance to terrorist groups; and (7) triggers that propel a group to launch attacks in a revenge mode. Active measures in the defense against new types of terrorist threats are essential. This risk assessment formula may provide some of the initial tools to anticipate and deter catastrophic terrorist attacks.