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Aptitude for Destruction Volume I: Organizational Learning in Terrorist Groups and its Implications for Combating Terrorism

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2005
103 pages
This first volume of a two-volume report on an analysis of organizational learning in terrorist groups and its implications for counter-terrorism efforts focuses on what is known about how terrorist groups learn and whether such knowledge can be used by law enforcement and intelligence personnel in their counter-terrorism planning.
Researchers examined theory and data about how organizations learn based on a review of literature on organizational behavior and management. They also developed in-depth case studies of learning in a variety of terrorist groups, based on a literature review and interviews with intelligence and law enforcement professionals having direct experience with terrorist groups. Based on the findings of this study, the authors propose a counter-terrorism strategy for detecting terrorist groups' efforts to change, for anticipating the outcomes of such efforts to change, and for acting more effectively to thwart terrorist efforts. Regarding the detection of terrorist groups' efforts to change, the study recommends using frameworks that describe organizational learning by terrorist organizations to focus intelligence collection and ensure that necessary information is collected and terrorists' efforts to achieve organizational change are not overlooked. A learning-focused analytical framework should be used to assess collected intelligence and help develop an understanding of the learning implications of group activities. Anticipating the outcomes of terrorist groups' efforts to change requires the collection and analysis of information on the characteristics of terrorist groups' structures and interconnections, membership, environment, and activities relevant to assessing the likely outcome of attempts to adapt and evolve. Acting to thwart terrorist efforts involves applying models of terrorist groups' learning behaviors to the design of countermeasures that target their ability to adapt and change. 10 figures, an appended overview of the case study groups, and 126 references

Date Published: January 1, 2005