Presentation on theme: "Psychology of Terrorism Kirk Kennedy, Ph.D. Chief, Center for National Security Psychology Behavioral Sciences Directorate DoD/Counterintelligence Field."— Presentation transcript:
Psychology of Terrorism Kirk Kennedy, Ph.D. Chief, Center for National Security Psychology Behavioral Sciences Directorate DoD/Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA)
Psychology of Terrorism 17 Years GOV Experience: All in Intelligence Community -- Offensive operations; counterintelligence; asset validation; behavioral consultation and employee assistance programs Current Focus: Adapting behavioral sciences to solve problems in operations and investigations Today: Psychology of Terrorism Why do people commit terrorist acts? What about “suicide terrorists”?
Definitions What is Psychology? The study of human behavior What is Terrorism? The unlawful use of – or threatened use of – force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives. Why is Psychology relevant? Essential to understand why humans engage in terrorism in order to prevent terrorism Why? Behavior is explainable & predictable
Psychological Understandings Psychology of violence Understanding Motivation Frustration, Solidarity Psychopathology often not a factor Understanding other Cultures Ideology, politics, religion Opportunity, education, socioeconomic status (SES) Understanding Terrorists Individuals Cells
How Psychology Can Help Prevent Terrorism Analysis of Trends Means (bombs, planes, firearms) Targets (citizens, politicians, symbolic landmarks) Times (holidays, parades, dates of historical significance or symbolic events) How to Infiltrate How outsiders can best infiltrate a Cell How to gain trust of Cell members Vulnerabilities of Terrorists Interviewing Captured Terrorists Understanding reasons behind the attack; why it failed; why they backed out How to interview to get valuable information on other plans, cells, etc.
Suicide Terrorism Research Summary of Suicide Terrorism Research Conference co-sponsored by NIJ, DOJ, DHS Accepted Definition Basic Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Statistics Common Themes Areas of Disagreement Israeli Countermeasures
Suicide Terrorism Research Accepted Definition of Suicide Terrorism: “Intentionally killing oneself for the purpose of killing others in the service of political and/or ideological goals.” Were the 9/11 attacks incidences of “Suicide Terrorism? Is the term “Suicide” misleading? It is the wrong term because the act itself has little to do with traditional psychological definitions of suicide.
Basic Statistics Mean Age: 22 Marital Status: 91% Single Gender: 95% Male SES: Representative of population in the Occupied Territories; NOT impoverished Education: Higher than population on avg. Motivations: National Humiliation; Religious (“to do God’s will”); Personal Revenge; Religious (“Paradise”) Victims: 89% Civilians;11% Security Forces
Common Themes Involves rational decision-making process to execute these types of military operations: Conclude that they have inadequate weaponry to penetrate into the heart of enemy territory Tactic offers better control re: timing and location; “smart bomb” Spreads “terror” and demoralization even if no enemy losses Cheap, easy, simple, feasible A group phenomenon Indoctrination – two types: general public atmosphere in favor of this tactic PLUS mission-specific indoctrination Group decision and commitment followed by personal decision/commitment Not caused by individual psychopathology, poverty, or lack of education “Suicide” is wrong term No common personality type
Areas of Disagreement Primary Motivation: Political or Religious? For Palestinians, Paradise=Nation/State of Palestine Some see some psychopathology: Israeli researchers report 1/3 with minor depression or PTSD but none of the typical risk factors. Also, some are “weak” personalities, socially marginal; women with “problems.” Palestinians report “model youth” worthy of emulation. Majority are middle class, most well-educated. Serious, studious, very religious, very helpful, kind, generous, devoted sons/brothers, active in mosque’s youth programs, keen interest in sports Whom to include in studies? Those caught before detonating? Those who had an equipment malfunction? Those who were killed by enemy prior to detonation? Those killed on impossible “suicide” missions who did not have explosives strapped to their backs?
Israeli Countermeasures Thwarting Suicide Attacks in Israel: By targeted killing of operatives involved in the preparations for the intended attacks By military raids on terrorists’ hideouts, designed to arrest perpetrators and seize explosives and materials used for their preparation Quite successful in thwarting attacks: 406 of 541 (75%) attempts have been foiled
Israeli Countermeasures Israeli measures designed to deter attacks: Impose a cost on the families by demolishing homes. Success: some families have turned in would-be attackers. However, most attackers do not inform their families in advance Inflict severe punishment on perpetrating group, especially by targeting operatives and leaders Punish the Palestinian community through roadblocks, checkpoints, curfews, searches, destruction. Very little success in deterring attacks.
Future Directions Suicide Terrorism Research Need to share the data with others Need to understand the world-wide picture