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Counterterrorism Cooperation and the Silver Bullet: A Game Theory Illustration

Jeff Breinholt

U.S. Department of Justice

June 7, 2006

This article uses game theory analysis to address bilateral counterterrorism cooperation and the sharing of intelligence, national security areas where there is a tendency to oversimplify the issues at stake. Contrary to widespread belief, the sharing of terrorism-related intelligence between allied nations is not simply a matter of having the political will that leads to make a decision to cooperate. Instead, a refusal to share sensitive intelligence often reflects a rational decision, one based on accurate assessments and the legitimate need to protect national sovereignty. This article illustrates this dilemma, using the tools of game theory to show how the rational equilibrium will be joint non-cooperation. From there, it offers some institutional changes designed to alter the players' calculus and lead to a cooperative equilibrium. These changes are realistic, and similar to the negotiations that occurred between the United States and Canada in an important terrorist financing case that was successfully prosecuted in Charlotte, North Carolina. The article concludes with a discussion of how these lessons can be institutionalized to maximize bilateral cooperation and intelligence sharing between countries.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 19

Keywords: Terrorism, Counterterrorism, National Security, International Relations, Intelligence

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Date posted: June 11, 2006  

Suggested Citation

Breinholt, Jeff, Counterterrorism Cooperation and the Silver Bullet: A Game Theory Illustration (June 7, 2006). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=907342 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.907342

Contact Information

Jeffrey A. Breinholt (Contact Author)
U.S. Department of Justice ( email )
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
United States
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