Al-Qa`ida Critical Infrastructure Project

While much attention has been given to Islamist terrorists' proven desire to inflict mass-casualty attacks, disturbingly little formal consideration has been given to al-Qa`ida's targeting aspirations vis--vis physical systems that a community depends on to maintain its security, governance, public health and safety, economy and public confidence— so-called critical infrastructure (CI). Accordingly, CETIS has undertaken a detailed and multifaceted study of al-Qa`ida's past and present interest in attacking CI.

Specifically, CETIS has conducted a meticulous investigation into primary and secondary sources relevant to the precarious nexus between terrorism and CI. Relevant primary sources fall broadly into four categories: U.S. judicial materials deriving from trials of al-Qa`ida and other Islamist terrorists; interrogation reports (or summaries) of captured al-Qa`ida leaders and members; al-Qa`ida documents (including public statements made by recognized al-Qa`ida spokesmen such as Usama bin Ladin and `Ayman al-Zawahiri) as well as materials found on various websites linked to al-Qa`ida and affiliated terrorist networks. Moreover, CETIS has bolstered its investigation with interviews and field research.

Throughout the project, CETIS researchers have utilized their expertise of Arabic, Farsi, French and other languages – insuring that all relevant resources have been consulted in preparation of this seminal study.

Global Terrorism Database

If, as anticipated, terrorism continues to be a grave national and international security threat, an empirical understanding of the phenomenon is vital. Unfortunately, both before 2001 and after, much of the literature on terrorism—well over 90 percent—has been based on informed opinion, anecdotal evidence or intuition rather than on the more rigorous social science methodologies of case study, comparative case study or statistical analysis.

Recently, a new development has promised to change this equation. During 2003 and 2004, researchers coded and computerized a dataset which contains both domestic and international data, and therefore includes a substantially larger number of incidents than extant datasets. This data provides a basis and partial framework for the creation of a Global Terrorism Database that will be the most comprehensive open-source database on terrorism ever assembled. By helping to create this database, CETIS, along with partnering academic institutions and governmental agencies, is providing a sorely-lacking “gold standard” for terrorism data—a comprehensive and robust dataset on global terrorism which can be utilized to derive methodologically robust insights into the phenomenon of terrorism and effective counter measures.

Researchers with the Global Terrorism Database

Critical Infrastructure Terrorist Attack (CrITerA) Database

Recognizing the need to protect itself from debilitating terrorist attacks, the United States is developing strategies to safeguard its critical infrastructure(CI)— those physical systems that a community depends on to maintain its security, governance, public health and safety, economy and public confidence . Consequently, CETIS has partnered with specific institutions to develop accurate analytical frameworks for terrorist attacks against CI. A indispensable component of this effort is CETIS' creation of a dataset that serves as a representative sample of terrorist attacks against infrastructure over a measurable and comparable period of time—the Critical Infrastructure Terrorist Attack (CrITerA) Database.

With almost 3,000 thoroughly researched cases—ranging from 1933 to present— the CrITerA Database is used to analyze, on multiple levels, terrorist capability and motivation, such as operational technique, desired effects of attack, specific motive, claims of responsibility, type of infrastructure attacked, and the effects of attacks. Such detailed, coded information is then used to generate descriptive statistics from which comprehensive, statistical analysis of CI attacks is conducted. Moreover, the database also serves to identify qualitative case studies that are needed to support on-going empirical studies. In short, the CrITerA Database represents a unique effort to collect information on terrorist attacks specifically related to critical infrastructure, serving analysts and policymakers with a critical tool in developing effective policies and measures to protect the United States from incapacitating terrorist attacks.

South-East Asian Security Project

Partnering with an international company that focuses on the application of complexity science to organizational practice and management, CETIS provided extensive data on South-East Asian security issues to a key government of that region. Utilizing so-called “Sense Making Items,” CETIS researchers specifically examined past and potential intersections between terrorism and the economies, healthcare systems and transportation industries of South-East Asia .