No Scientific Backing For Most Counter-Terror Strategies


Only 7 of 20,000 known studies on counter-terrorism strategies were based on even moderately rigorous scientific methods, says a review by the Campbell Collaboration Crime and Justice Group. The findings were presented yesterday by Cynthia Lum of George Mason University at the sixth annual Jerry Lee Crime Prevention Symposium in Washington, D.C. “We have no idea of the effectivness of the vast majority” of anti-terrorism projects, Lum said, adding that some may actually increase the likelihood of terrorism.

The Campbell project reviewed studies on such measures as airport metal detectors, fortifying embassies, and increased penalties for terrorists. Noting that U.S. spending on homeland security has ballooned to $32 billion annually since Sept. 11, 2001, the study said the cost effectivenss is “open to debate” given the lack of scientific backing. Gary LaFree, director of a University of Maryland center on behavioral and social reearch on terrorism, said that terrorism research is difficult because there is no agreement on a definition of terrorism. Yesterday’s session was sponsored by the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland criminology department.


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