9/11 + 3/11 + 7/7 = ? What Counts in Counterterrorism

61 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2006

See all articles by Jonathan H. Marks

Jonathan H. Marks

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics; Pennsylvania State University


The recent bombings in London and Madrid raise the specter of episodic terror attacks in the United States that fall short of the "mushroom cloud" scenarios discussed in the aftermath of 9/11 and the run-up to the Iraq war. Despite the smaller scale of these attacks, they have the potential to generate widespread fear and anger. This article builds on new work in behavioral law and economics to show how these emotional responses can generate systematic biases that motivate and direct counterterrorism policy. These biases should be cause for concern, not least when they lead us to adopt policies that are more burdensome on others instead of those that are most effective at preventing further attacks. Not surprisingly, policies which impose burdens on others - and therefore appear less costly - tend to interfere with civil liberties, particularly those of non-citizens. Recent psychological studies offer an unprecedented opportunity to recognize and understand these biases, and to take action to correct them. One process-oriented corrective that I propose here is to conduct systematic human rights impact assessments during the formulation of counterterrorism law and policy. These assessments should lead to measures more protective of both liberty and security.

Keywords: terrorism, counterterrorism, national security, emotion, cognitive bias, behavioral psychology, behavioral law and economics, human rights, civil liberties

JEL Classification: D78, D81, I18, K33, K39

Suggested Citation

Marks, Jonathan H., 9/11 + 3/11 + 7/7 = ? What Counts in Counterterrorism. Columbia Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 37, No. 3, Spring 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=896534

Jonathan H. Marks (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.ethics.harvard.edu

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

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814-865 3047 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.personal.psu.edu/jhm20

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