International Terrorism Cyclicality: Predictions and Concerns regarding Private Commercial Buildings

Article excerpt


The paper explores overall worldwide terrorism attacks and those targeting separately commercial and government facilities, through statistical analysis and cycling with a 40-year dataset. The results indicate a surge of lethal attacks after the Gulf War and the existence of cycles. The cyclicality of terrorist incidences in commercial buildings is estimated at 18.4 years (injury and fatality cycles are 7.8 and 8.4 years, respectively). Projections are offered until 2020, with the next period of increased casualties predicted from the end of 2008 through 2010. Concerns are raised on improvised explosive devices (IEDs), "Trojan-horses," and building-system tampering. Vigilance, information-sharing, and use of technology by building personnel may reduce the predicted casualty trends.

Historically, terrorist groups shared techniques (DHS, 2007) and improved those most likely to achieve their objectives. A shift in terrorist strategy towards an increase in the number of casualties was detected since the 1990s.1 This shift towards mass casualties, along with the concentration of people in high-density commercial structures (World Trade Center attacks (1993 and 2001)] and mass transit facilities [Madrid (2004) and London (2005) train bombings] has raised significant security concerns in recent years. Terrorists have always tried to exploit the vulnerabilities of their targets and selected the path of least resistance (Enders and Sandler, 1993; and Sandler and Enders, 2004). This type of attitude is an indication of a rational actor (in economics) who tries to maximize his ultimate goal with a given amount of resources and constraints (Landes, 1978; and Sandler, Tschirhart, and Cauley, 1983).

The paper presents an empirical analysis of terrorist activity (incidents and casualties) using statistical and cyclicality modeling. Also raised are five concerns regarding private commercial buildings: (1) the possible use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs); (2) suicide attacks; (3) the possibility of an implanted "Trojan horse" by a terrorist organization as an employee of an unaware tenant, as a contractor or a vendor with the main goal of information gathering and eventually inflicting mass casualties in the building or surrounding buildings; (4) the need to secure HVAC systems; and (5) oversight of centrally controlled building systems. More specifically, the dataset consists of the worldwide MIPT transnational terrorism data (1968-2006) in the form of overall attacks and their dissection in attacks targeting government and private commercial buildings. The methodology used verifies the general belief that the number of casualties increased in recent years and argues the existence of cycles in terrorism activity based on the forty years of observations. The results of the study indicate that the end of the Gulf War marked the beginning of a new and deadlier chapter in worldwide transnational terrorism, with overall fatalities increasing more than 100% and private commercial building fatalities increasing by almost 300%. The testing for the existence of cycles in terrorism activity (incidents and casualties) also proved to be true, allowing a short-term prediction through 2020. The empirical results suggest an increased likelihood of significant casualties (both injuries and deaths) caused by terrorist attacks targeting private commercial buildings with peaks estimated in 2009 and 2018-19. These results along with the downsizing of building security measures (due to the absence of another major incident in a commercial building and the high maintenance cost) are at least troubling considering the ultimate goal of a safe building environment. Awareness needs to be raised among building owners and security personnel to become proactive rather than reactive in defending their facility. After September 11, 2001 (9/11), a number of measures were taken but a continuous revaluation of security threats in coordination with local law enforcement and the Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) is needed to apply new surveillance tactics/ techniques and detect/deter a possible attack. …