Related Research

Sidebar to the article Organizational Learning and Islamic Militancy by Michael Kenney

A number of NIJ-funded studies have contributed to our understanding of how terrorists learn:

Brian Jackson led a team of RAND Corp. researchers who examined how several terrorist groups gather information and develop tactical innovations in their attacks.[1] The study suggests that counterterrorism efforts become more effective as law enforcement officers assess and anticipate terrorists' efforts to change how they operate.

Mark Hamm drew on court documents from the American Terrorism Study and criminological literature on social learning to explore how terrorists carry out violent attacks.[2] The study examined how certain opportunities and skills contributed to terrorists' ability to commit crimes. In other cases, events or lack of skill prevented planned crimes.

Other scholars have explored how terrorists train their supporters in the tactics and techniques of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.[3] Combined with earlier literature on terrorism contagion[4] and recent scholarship on suicide bombings,[5] these studies are helping us develop more effective counterterrorism policies and practices, providing clues to short-circuit terrorists' learning process.


[1] Jackson, B.A., J.C. Baker, K. Cragin, J. Parachini, H.R. Trujillo, and P. Chalk, Aptitude for Destruction, Volume 1: Organizational Learning in Terrorist Groups and Its Implications for Combating Terrorism (pdf, 106 pages) Exit Notice, report prepared for the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC: 2005 (NCJ 211208); and Jackson, B.A., J.C. Baker, P. Chalk, K. Cragin, J.V. Parachini, and H.R. Trujillo, Aptitude for Destruction, Volume 2: Case Studies of Organizational Learning in Five Terrorist Groups, Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corp., 2005.

[2] Hamm, M.S., Crimes Committed by Terrorist Groups: Theory, Research, and Prevention (pdf, 258 pages), final report submitted to the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC: September 2005 (NCJ 211203). Also see Hamm, M.S., Terrorism as Crime: From Oklahoma City to Al-Qaeda and Beyond, New York: New York University Press, 2007.

[3] Forest, J., ed., Teaching Terror: Knowledge Transfer in the Terrorist World, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006; Forest, J., ed., The Making of a Terrorist: Recruitment, Training, and Root Causes, Volume Two: Training, Westport: Praeger Security International, 2006; Kenney, M., From Pablo to Osama: Trafficking and Terrorist Networks, Government Bureaucracies, and Competitive Adaptation, University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007; Nesser, P., "How Did Europe's Global Jihadis Obtain Training for Their Militant Causes?" Terrorism and Political Violence 20 (2) (2008): 234-256; and A. Stenerson, "The Internet: A Virtual Training Camp?" Terrorism and Political Violence 20 (2) (2008): 215-233.

[4] Heyman, E., and E. Mickolus, "Observations on Why Violence Spreads," International Studies Quarterly 24 (2) (1980): 299-305; Russell, C.A., L.J. Banker, Jr., and B.H. Miller, "Out- Inventing the Terrorist," in Terrorism: Theory and Practice, ed. Y. Alexander, D. Carlton, and P. Wilkinson, Boulder: Westview, 1979: 3-42; R.T. Holden, "The Contagion of Aircraft Hijacking," American Journal of Sociology 91 (4) (1986): 874- 904; and Midlarsky, M.I., M. Crenshaw, and F. Yoshida, "Why Violence Spreads: The Contagion of International Terrorism," International Studies Quarterly 24 (2) (1980): 262-298.

[5] Bloom, M., Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror, New York: Columbia University Press, 2005; Pape, R.A., Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, New York: Random House, 2005; Gambetta, D., ed., Making Sense of Suicide Missions, expanded and updated edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Date Created: April 15, 2010