Bombs and Networks

Accepted Wisdom

Terrorism is highly regionalized, and bomb attacks happen outside the United States.

Inference Reading

Picking Up the Critical Facts

In August 2000, we picked up news of 14 different bomb attacks within roughly three weeks in diverse places such as Germany, Spain, China, Moscow, India, South Africa and elsewhere.

The media treated these attacks as discrete events. Public officials said nothing.
This triggered a question: Are they connected?

Then this popped up:
A Philippine terrorist group kidnapped Americans and insisted on exchanging the hostages for those imprisoned for the 1994 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Finally, New Zealand police arrested members of a crime syndicate prepared to bomb the Sydney Olympics and found links between the gangsters and the Arab Afghans (a term used then but which soon became synonymous with al Qaeda).

The U.S. government issued a report in that same month saying al Qaeda operatives were in Jordan and Lebanon and had made contacts with Hamas.

Deductive Inference

Diagnosing the Change

In early September, one year before the terrorist attacks of September 11, we issued a Briefing outlining the following inferences:

The series of bombings was related.

The terrorists were "globalized" and increasingly interconnected.

The organization's members had various motivations, but they shared an interest in disrupting the economies and lifestyles of developed countries.

The network was escalating its violence, and these bombs were a classic military tactic of softening the field "prior to a wider assault" - that is, the terrorists were "setting the stage for bigger events."

Inductive Interference: Identifying Areas of Impact

Western intelligence, which had used a model of finding the leader of a threat and "decapitating" that head, was not thinking in network terms. "All-channel networks no longer have a clear central control or a single all-powerful leader."

This led us to a question:
Who is evolving faster - networked terrorist organizations and their communications systems or Western intelligence services?"

We suggested security issues would become more critical; network models would become more important; and more attacks would be occurring.
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