Understanding Terrorist Network Topologies and Their Resilience Against Disruption
CentER Discussion Paper Series No. 2009-85
14 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2009
Date Written: November 4, 2009
This article investigates the structural position of covert (terrorist or criminal) networks. Using the secrecy versus information tradeoff characterization of covert networks it is shown that their network structures are generally not small-worlds, in contradistinction to many overt social networks. This finding is backed by empirical evidence concerning Jemaah Islamiyah's Bali bombing and a heroin distribution network in New York. The importance of this finding lies in the strength such a topology provides. Disruption and attack by counterterrorist agencies often focuses on the isolation and capture of highly connected individuals. The remarkable result is that these covert networks are well suited against such targeted attacks as shown by the resilience properties of secrecy versus information balanced networks. This provides an explanation of the survival of global terrorist networks and food for thought on counterterrorism strategy policy.
Keywords: terror networks, terrorist cells, network structure, counterterrorism
JEL Classification: C02, C79
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation