Domestic management of terrorist attacks

Tuesday 18 June 2002

Less than a year after the catastrophic events of September 11 2001, the University of St Andrews is to embark on new research into the domestic management of terrorist attacks in the UK.

The study, aimed at exploring the internal response to the events of September 11 and their aftermath, concentrating on the management of terrorist attacks in the UK, is funded by a £250,000 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The timely research, which will start in August 2002, will be led by Professor Paul Wilkinson, Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) at St Andrews, working in conjunction with experts at the University of Southampton, the Potomac Institute, USA and specialist consultants in fields ranging from criminology to disaster management.

Professor Wilkinson believes wide- ranging expertise is essential due to the broad scope of the research.

He said, “It was clear from the initial ESRC brief that they were not looking for a first response to the events of September 11 or even events post September 11.

“Our aim is to provide a comprehensive analysis of the current state of UK response to both the threat and the actuality of terrorist attack. But we will provide this through detailed study of the experience of the UK in managing terrorist attacks before and after September 11 and through a comparative analysis of the responses to terrorist threats of other liberal democratic states including the USA and some EU states.

“Our ultimate aim is to provide an empirical base for a wider consideration of steps that might be taken in the UK and elsewhere for enhancing the existing range of policy tools capable of responding to terrorism.”

New responses to terrorism are required, argues Professor Wilkinson, because the tragic events of September 11 marked the advent of a new form of terrorism. As a specialist in aviation security, Professor Wilkinson was already aware of security loopholes in the US domestic flight arrangements before September 11.

He continued, “But even in my worst nightmares I had not envisaged a multiple hijacking which would bring more civilian deaths in one day than either the Pearl Harbour attack or the Northern Ireland conflict has caused in the past half century. September 11 marks a transformation from terrorism as a form of low intensity conflict to mass destruction on an unprecedented scale.

“Mass terrorism in this form and with this scale of effect has become a strategic threat not only to the security of the United States but to the peace and security and economic well-being of the entire international community. That includes the UK, and perhaps especially the UK given its close ties to the US and its position at the centre of global finance.

“Moreover, as we have seen, terrorism in certain parts of the world has become the trigger for wider conflicts that can be even more deadly than terrorism. So it is in the interests of the entire law-abiding international community to find, where possible, the root causes of terrorism and to suppress this threat to human rights and the rule of law through the involvement and co-ordination of a wide range of civil, intelligence and paramilitary agencies within and outside the UK.

“It is our belief that exploring these research issues is the highest priority in security studies at present. We are obviously very pleased that the ESRC has chosen to support this research agenda,” he said.

This study demands a high degree of interdisciplinarity and the research effort brings together a number of different disciplines including political science and international relations, law and computer science. Researchers from St Andrews bring extensive interdisciplinary experience in the analysis of terrorist groups and state sponsors, trends in terrorist strategy, tactics and modus operandi (methods of operating). The Mountbatten Centre for International Studies at the University of Southampton specialises in terrorism and related forms of political violence and offers particular expertise in weapons of mass destruction.

Members of the project based at the University of Southampton include Professor Frank Gregory, a specialist in European law enforcement, Professor John Simpson, an expert in weapons of mass destruction and Dr Daryl Howlett, who specialises in cyber- terrorism. Research expertise in other related fields will be provided by criminologist Dr Patricia Rawlinson, leading US terrorism expert Professor Yonah Alexander, and retired senior police officer Mr Tony Moore, a lecturer at the Disaster Management Centre, Cranfield University.

Non-academic users of research from various parts of Government, police and armed forces, the private sector and the mass media have already expressed keen interest in this project. Members from these user-groups and many other potential user-groups will be invited to an agenda-refining conference to be held this September.

The involvement of private sector organisations is particularly important, Professor Wilkinson believes – “Government cannot do everything to protect against terrorism and we depend on the expertise and co-operation of the private sector to improve their defences against terrorist attacks.”

The study is one of three to be awarded ESRC funding. The second project will involve Lawrence Freedman, Professor of War Studies at King’s College London heading a consortium of institutions and specialists who will examine options for responding to the threat of terrorist attacks on the UK. The research team aim to work closely with the project led by Professor Paul Wilkinson at the University of St Andrew’s to avoid duplication and ensure the best use of resources. Meanwhile, the third research study will be led by Michael Dillon, Professor of Politics at the University of Lancaster which will take a novel slant on the management of terrorism.

Professor Wilkinson’s ESRC funding coincides with a $300,000 grant from Washington Policy and Analysis Inc. to establish a research fellowship in CSTPV, in the field of maritime security with particular reference to the threat of maritime terrorism.



Professor Paul Wilkinson can be contacted via Gayle Cook – contact details below.

For further information on the ESRC, please contact Jennifer Edwards – telephone 01793 413017.

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews

Ref: wilkinson/standrews/chg/june2002

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