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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Dark networking terrorism under university scrutiny

UA researchers are examining how terrorists organize and interact with one another. A million-dollar federal grant will help fund this research.

The investigation will distinguish between greed-driven, illegal drug cartels or human sex traffickers and grievance-driven covert networks, like suicide bombers. It will also examine what cues those illegal networks take from legal ones.

Ronald Breiger, a UA sociology professor, is a primary investigator on the project, with co-investigator H. Brinton Milward, director of the School of Government and Public Policy.

“”We proposed to develop advanced quantitative models of social network analysis and to apply them to public data on violent groups,”” Breiger said.

The probability of al-Qaida networks developing weapons of mass destruction in the future is also one of the focuses of the research. Another focus is social networking strategies.

Networks can be broken down into legal-overt, like health care networks, legal-covert, like the CIA, illegal-overt, like legitimate heads of terrorist networks and dark networks, which are illegal and covert.

This grant will focus on dark networks, such as al-Qaida.

Breiger noticed much of the foundational research to be a practical application of the basic skills students learn in the classroom.

“”Those introductory courses in quantitative methods and what (students) learn in that course can be used for important national problems, same as similar courses of mathematics and social sciences,”” Breiger said.

Milward shares many of the goals that Breiger has for this research.

“”The grant is for basic research,”” Milward said. “”We’re not policy makers; we don’t work for the government.””

He feels that the point of it all is to compile data and publish it, for anyone to see. It is also for the benefit of the federal government.

Albert Bergesen, the sociology department head who teaches classes on terrorism, sees the importance of the topic and agrees about the benefits of the research. “”Some people think of terrorism as a label they slap on people.

Understanding what it is and how it works can give a better handle on how to stop it,”” he said.

Their results will be published in academic journals so students and government bodies can access the information.

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