The Terrorist Mindset and Terrorist Decisionmaking: Two Areas of Ignorance

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The following paper identifies two areas of ignorance in the current study of the phenomenon of terrorism: how terrorists think (is there such a thing as a terrorist mind?) and how terrorists groups make their decisions. The organization, financing weaponry, and tactics of terrorist groups have been studied. We have acquired a great deal of what might be called 'order of battle' information about terrorist groups. In some cases, a sizable portion of their membership has been identified; we know their names. Articles, or in some cases, books have been written about a few of the more notable leaders of terrorists groups: Ulrike Meinhof, Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, Leila Khaled, Yasir Arafat. A few have written about their own experiences in terrorist groups; Sean MacStiofain about his Irish Republican Army career and Susan Stern about her experiences in the Weather Underground. Some terrorists in prison have agreed to interviews. Some terrorists still at large have even been interviewed by journalists. It has been reported that the West German Bundeskriminalamt maintains a vast file that includes information on the reading habits, dental records, and musical preferences of known terrorists.

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