Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 21, 2007

Terrorism Index Released

Filed under: Risk Assessment,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 21, 2007

Yesterday included a post here highlighting a number of critical questions posed by the GAO in a wide ranging study of national challenges that will take about 100 years to address.  Among them was a set of questions dealing with homeland security that I believe would be excellent fodder for a presidential debate leading up to 2008.  The Center for American Progress decided not to wait for the politicians.  They ran their third annual Terrorism Survey of policy wonks earlier this summer and released the findings yesterday. 

By querying 108 experts (representing a weighted breakdown of an equal number of conservatives and liberals, as well as a bulk identifying themselves as moderate), CAP – in partnership with Foreign Policy – gives us a stark assessment of where we stand in terms of combating terrorism and generally keeping America safe from deadly adversaries.  The survey asks 30 direct questions (and a number of questions about the participants themselves).  The results are insightful and the authors provide their own analysis here. 

A few specific questions are worth noting: 


The single greatest threat as “Nuclear materials/weapons” shows the only perfectly even breakdown that I could find so far.  28 Conservatives and 28 Liberals considered this the singled greatest threat.  Its unclear if they meant nuc weapons generally or in the possession of someone or some country in particular.  Perhaps another line in this answer set sheds light on this: Iran ranks as dangerously as climate change according to the weighted totals. 


No one strongly believes that we are winning a war on terror.  Judging by the totals, this one isn’t even remotely close.  The survey’s methodology shows the cross-section of participants.  This is a group representing an even spread across the political spectrum.

The following is the fifth question with only the top two options listed.  They are the most surprising of the answers: 


Not a single conservative chose a stable and secure Iraq as the most important U.S. policy objective.  But 26 liberals did.  At least the so-called “hearts and minds” issue remains in the top slot.  Just how we pursue that objective would take another survey entirely.

The eighth question in the survey gets down to judging the institutions responsible for improving the picture:

Below are departments and agencies involved in protecting the American people from global terrorist networks and in advancing U.S. national security goals. Thinking about the period from 9/11 to the present day and recognizing that different offices within U.S. government agencies/ departments perform at different levels, please rate each agency /department overall on a scale of 0 to 10.

 Survey says:


No HSC?  The Department of Homeland Security is ranked slightly below average across the board.  It is helpful that the surveyors included the National Security Council, which fared worse than any of the other eight agencies on the list.  But no mention of the White House Homeland Security Council?  Perhaps that’s a worse fate. 

The following question helps to convey the political balance that the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy strove for.  The former is not known for doing this, but its not their role anyway.  This topic, however, is too important to represent only half of the political spectrum. 


According to this response, the breakdown between conservative and liberal gradients is almost perfectly equal.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

August 21, 2007 @ 1:15 pm

But what does the survey mean? Helpful background info and clearly many of the surveyed have access to info that the general public does not. Question–How will the US be impacted by the next large scale event?
Will the country be resilient and keep the event in proportion or will it again generate renewal or expansion of current efforts that were more emotional than intellectual. What if no event? What would the survey members conclude if after another decade no new large-scale event occurs domestically? Could it be that the targets are softer and more likely to impact domestic US attitudes outside the US? What about the lessons being learned by the NATO countries and Western Europe from current events. Will they foster closer or more distant relationships with the US? Should we care? If we look at the issue beneath the horizion-namely energy-and what would happen to a Presidential candidate that said energy not terrorism is the biggest threat to Western culture-what would be the result? Suppose we announce to the world that yes it is about cheap energy and those who want to end the period of US dominance since the Spindle Top discovery in the early 1900’s are going to have to recognize that energy is as announced by President Jimmy Carter in his single-term the issue that most impacts US national security and means a fight to the death over the mid-east. By the time of the election of 2008, Russia, Iran, Venzuela, will have moved to the top of the terrorism list because of their insistence on high energy prices. The sister seven or their remainder actually are more important that the Pentagon. By the way why is there no Assistant Secretary or Under Secretary in DOD for Energy Related National Security issues. DOE and its labs never took detection of radiation sources seriously (basicaly the cupboard is bare) nor with respect to energy shortfalls. By the way their is no current DOE authority or Presidential authority to allocate or apportion energy in the US as discussed in detail in a 1982 DOJ-OLC opinion produced under mandate from Congress. So where does that leave us. No candidates with either Homeland Security or Energy policies. No candidates that truly believe unilateral military
solutions may not be the only or best option and no candidates willing to rebuild technical expertise in the Executive Branch, or at a minimum allow the government to have honest statistical info. This is going to be interesting to watch. Between religions sponsoring terrorism and energy rich states sponsoring high energy prices care to bet on the greater threat. Get ready for the new dark ages.

Comment by nicholas

August 22, 2007 @ 5:17 pm

America has more voices than most countries but continues to find only two acceptable political voices: conservative and liberal? That is indeed a narrow political spectrum. Most democracies float on a wider range of views.

I think debate is too focused on elections, as the two major political forces jostle for position anything by conservative or liberal views are stymied. The American Democratic party seems closer to more right wing parties in Europe then the left wing parties as the Republican party is enacting totalitarian policies.

The survey shows political loyalty extends towards the center – but politicians seem to have learned the value the extremes.

It is a very dangerous situation.

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Where Are We Six Years After 9/11?

September 11, 2007 @ 8:18 am

[…] the terrorists are unlucky — or at least unsophisticated.  Both of these mitigating factors are due to change, and so is the venue.  This puts the “we fight’em over there so we don’t have to […]

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