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Facing Catastrophe - Risk and Response: The 9-11 and 11-M Commissions' Blind Sides

Abstract : Background thinking for the upcoming Madrid terrorism summit stems partly from the 9/11 Commission and Spain's Comisión 11-M. Their presentations fall short on pinpointing the sources of attacks that carry the most risk and how best to respond. Terrorist attacks over the last decades follow a power-law distribution, which anticipates future terrorist events with ever broader effects. Intelligence estimates based on models keyed to frequency and recency of past occurrences make us less secure even if they predict most terrorist events. Evolution, complex adaptive systems, and WWII experience from British intelligence provide salutary lessons for thinking “outside the box” with decentralized expertise. History shows that people do not readily panic in surprise attacks and that local actors may be best able to organize response efforts. Proposals to centralize intelligence and unify command and control are not promising given recent transformations in terrorist networks in the wake of Al-Qaeda's operational demise.
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Contributor : Scott Atran <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, March 15, 2005 - 9:24:14 PM
Last modification on : Friday, July 2, 2021 - 9:58:02 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Saturday, April 3, 2010 - 8:43:36 PM


  • HAL Id : ijn_00000597, version 1



Scott Atran. Facing Catastrophe - Risk and Response: The 9-11 and 11-M Commissions' Blind Sides. AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, AEI-Brookings, 2005. ⟨ijn_00000597⟩



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