- Introduces the Conjunction of Terrorist Opportunity (CTO), the main Crime Framework addressing terrorism
- Describes how design can contribute to security; in particular, how the Security Function Framework (a design approach to specification of secure products, buildings etc) has been used to specify potential anti-terrorism designs; and how it may be possible to make creativity and innovation by terrorists somewhat more difficult
- Lists publications on terrorism, evolution, design and technology
The themes on this page cross-relate to other topics on this website, including the affordance of terrorist acts, and various evolutionary approaches. Evolution is particularly relevant because terrorists often constitute advanced persistent threats likely to engage in protracted arms races with the security side. Another evolutionary perspective is that of cultural evolution and violent extremism.
Toolkits for countering hostile reconnaissance and terrorism/ crime at complex stations are described here, and an associated glossary for the latter is set out here.
The concept of disruption is relevant to both terrorism and organised crime, and is discussed here.
The Conjunction of Terrorist Opportunity
The Conjunction of Terrorist Opportunity Framework (CTO) is an offshoot of the Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity. It was prompted by Jason Roach and co-developed with him and a security practitioner, Richard Flynn.
The CTO Framework aims to provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ for thinking about the range of immediate causes of terrorist events (and how these in turn are caused by more distant factors such as political conflicts), and the counterpart range of intervention principles intended to block, weaken or deflect those causes. The causes in question are both terrorist offender-oriented (e.g. predisposition to extremist violence) and situational (e.g. unprotected target of attack).
For further explanation of the terms, see the original Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity Framework. The main modification from the CCO is to divide the target of crime into target vectors (the people or assets attacked in order to deliver the message) and target audience (the government, population etc whom the terrorists seek to influence). The concept of the terrorist’s predisposition is also given an ideological slant, though.
The CTO paper (Roach et al. 2005) also discusses a range of dynamics surrounding terrorist attacks and identifies several distinct levels of analysis for understanding and preventing them.
The paper contains this diagram summarising the causal elements:
A presentation introduces the CTO Framework, with particular focus on surveillance.
More recent thinking on the causes of terrorism and terrorist events is well-covered by Bouhana (2019). A discussion of how her S5 framework on the Moral Ecology of Extremism relates to the original Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity Framework is here.
Insights from the CTO Framework have been incorporated in the terrorism toolkits described here.
Terrorism and design
Much use has been made of the protective design of buildings and public spaces in general (e.g. see here for UK official guidance).
The Security Function Framework has been applied to produce an in-principle design specification for explosion-resistant rail carriages (Meyer and Ekblom 2011; presentation here) and for securing a city-centre government quarter against terrorist attack (Meyer et al. 2015).
Applying concepts from research on creativity to make it harder for terrorists to design attack procedures and equipment is addressed in this 2012 presentation on anti-innovation.
Publications – terrorism, evolution, design and technology
The following publications cover the relation between terrorism and evolution, both psychological, cultural and technological.
Ekblom, P. and Gill, P. (2018). ‘Evolution, crime science and terrorism: the case of Provisional IRA weaponry’ in R. Wortley, A. Sidebottom, N. Tilley and G. Laycock (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Crime Science 252-270. Milton Park: Routledge.
Taking a long-term, evolutionary perspective, this chapter brings together Crime Science and ideas from cultural and biological evolution. It discusses in detail how co-evolutionary ‘arms race‘ processes operating at the technological and tactical level played out in a specific, prolonged period of conflict between the Provisional Irish Republican Army and the UK security services including the police and the military from 1970-1998. It enables us to detach ourselves from immediate battles and view the conflict strategically. It discusses practical implications of the anticipation of counter-moves, handling arms races and drawing on design. The co-evolutionary approach can equally apply to the struggles with organised crime or indeed to any offending which develops and exploits technological and operational advances.
Ekblom, P., Sidebottom, A. and Wortley, R. (2016). ‘Evolutionary psychological influences on the contemporary causes of terrorist events’ in M. Taylor, J. Roach and K. Pease (Eds.), Evolutionary Psychology and Terrorism. London: Routledge.
Evolutionary psychology has something useful to say about how we respond to and act on information in the immediate environment – so a better appreciation of evolutionary influences on person-situation interactions might helpfully inform efforts to reduce the proximal causes of terrorist behaviour and disrupt their pursuit of tactical goals. Since terrorism per se is difficult to characterise in a way that has meaning over human evolutionary history, we focus on the broader issue of tribalism. A presentation is here.
Ekblom, P. (2016b). ‘Terrorism – lessons from natural and human co-evolutionary arms races’ in M. Taylor, J. Roach and K. Pease (Eds.), Evolutionary Psychology and Terrorism. London: Routledge.
An exploration of the lessons for counterterrorism from evolutionary studies of adaptation in both human and natural domains. It aims partly to come up with some practical suggestions at tactical and strategic levels; but partly also to foster a distinctive way of thinking among policymakers, security services, engineers, planners and designers.
Ekblom, P. (2012d). ‘Conceptual and Methodological Explorations in Affordance and Counter Terrorism’ in Taylor, M. and Currie, P. (Eds.) Terrorism and Affordance. London: Continuum.
The concept of affordance – seeing utility in people, places, products and systems – can help understand how terrorists exploit their environment and the opportunities it engenders, and inform prevention.