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The Science and Technology of Counterterrorism by Carl Young

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Chapter 3

Uncertainty and Terrorism

3.1 Introduction

Uncertainty is an inherent feature of terrorism that is exploited by its practitioners to great effect. Although uncertainty is linked to the notion of “randomness,” a term with a mathematical definition, the two terms are not equivalent. Acts of terrorism are not generally predictable, but neither are they random in the strict sense of the word.

Predicting the exact time and location of a future act of terrorism is mostly a fruitless exercise. The problem of predicting terrorism is exacerbated by a lack of historical terrorism incidents and a highly dynamic risk profile. However, this does not mean that we are helpless in estimating the risk associated with specific attack vectors. For example, ...

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