The “War on Terror,” Civil Liberties, and Flawed Scholarship

The effectiveness of counterterrorism efforts by the Bush Administration is compromised by flawed analyses based on sloppy scholarship by two leading experts relied on by policymakers: Marc Sageman and Bruce Hoffman.

The resulting programs of government surveillance and computerized data-collection are unnecessarily undermining the civil liberties of millions of Muslims and Arabs living in this country…as well as the rights of all Americans.

This is because different investigative techniques with different levels of government intrusiveness are justified as appropriate depending on the specific social movement configurations of potential terrorists. Both Sageman and Hoffman have made errors in analyzing Leaderless Resistance and Right-wing Insurgency in the United States, and how domestic terror cells are organized. The government polices based on these flawed analyses, therefore, need to be rethought.

Sageman and Hoffman are embroiled in a titilating public dispute over their theories of terrorist cells. But their flawed analyses about "leaderless" cells threatening America are being used to justify intrusive and sweeping government investigative techniques—including police planning for the 2008 political conventions in Denver and Minneapolis.

In two cases, perceptive text in Sageman's book Leaderless Jihad originates in the published work of other scholars, yet is not cited. This is a form of academic plagiarism.
See: Sageman & Plagiarism.


Why Does this Dispute Matter?

Consider the following from Phil Leggiere, "Al Qaeda: Regrouping or Decomposing? HSTODAY, July 7, 2008.

Debate among experts could have major implications for counter-terror strategy.

Though there’s more common ground between the two positions than such polemical heat suggests (for example Sageman acknowledges that destroying Al Qaeda’s high level cadre is a priority while Hoffman, for his part, acknowledges that targeting locally based terrorist networks are a tactical necessity) their contentious distinctions signal potentially huge differences in future policy orientation. For that reason we can expect this debate to shape the strategic decisions that will need to be made by the next administration and its senior leadership in intelligence, law enforcement, Defense and DHS.  Read it Here!.

PRA agrees that the Sageman/Hoffman debate is shaping counter-terrorism policy, but argues that neither Sageman's nor Hoffman's research should define the parameters of the debate. Currently, Sageman, Hoffman, Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson dominate the public policy debate.

Other scholars and researchers, especially Jessica Stern, Mark Juergensmeyer, Fawaz A. Gerges, Gershom Gorenberg, Khaled Abou El Fadl, Jeffrey Kaplan, David Cook, Brenda Brasher, Simson Garfinkel, Bassam Tibi, and George Michael need to be brought into the public debate. (See the bibliography page)

Critique of Current Analysis & Policy Debate



Expanding the Analysis

Conservative Terrorism Analyses

Four high profile men dominate public discussion of anti-terrorism efforts: Sageman, Hoffman, Pipes and Emerson. They each stake out a conservative analytical viewpoint, while drowning out the views of other scholars and researchers.

Leaderless Resistance - What is it?

Archival documents on Leaderless Resistance obtained through the Wisconsin Historical Society priodical archive, Burlington (MA) Public Library, interlibrary loan, Michael Paulding, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Background Bibliographies & Research
Remedial Bibliography, Definitions, and Article Links:
Leaderless Counterterrorism Strategy:
The “War on Terror,” Civil Liberties, and Flawed Scholarship

The Public Eye Magazine. Read the article.
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