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  • Assignment 1 - McQuillin
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As a University of Arkansas alum, I decided to look at the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies website ( listed in our book.  While much of the work the CAST has done in the past tended to focus on land use analysis and the mapping of environmental features, I was most interested in the work they have done recently in collaboration with the University's Fulbright College Terrorism Research Center.  The two organizations have been working together as part of the American Terrorism study to "facilitate research on terrorism, extremist violence, and the effectiveness of intervention strategies."  One of CAST's major contributions to this study was the Geospatial Analysis of Terrorist Activities (GATA), which confirmed the findings of an earlier, smaller scale analysis of the Pre-Incident Indicators of Terrorist Activities (PIITA).
The GATA study looked at international and environmental terrorist groups or acts that "operated or occurred within the United States."  Most of the data came from the Terrorism Research center database, and the study included the analysis of terrorist residences, planning locations, preparatory activities, and incident locations.  "Terrorists" included those persons indicted in federal courts as a result of FBI terrorism enterprise investigations.  Geospatial analysis conducted on 173 terrorist incidents confirmed that many terrorists lived close to the incident target.  The study found that over one half of terrorists lived within 30 miles of the incident target, and nearly half conducted preparatory activities within 30 miles of the eventual target location.  These patterns held true for both international and environmental terrorists.  A temporal analysis was also conducted, by which it was determined that environmental terrorists were much more spontaneous than international terrorists, and participated in far fewer preparatory acts.
Unfortunately, many of the maps used for this study are not readily available on-line.  A few of the maps and graphics used in the PIITA study are available at  It is possible that there are security and/or privacy concerns related to releasing this information to the public.
The spatial analysis component of the Geospatial Analysis of Terrorist Activities provided significant findings for law enforcement officials to consider.   Results from the analysis may improve law enforcement's ability to predict and respond to acts committed by terrorists groups.  Because it was found that terrorists tend to "think globally, but act locally", law enforcement officials can focus investigations on events and people located near the target location.  Based on the needs of the Terrorism Research Center to find accurate and reliable information to help predict and respond to terrorist actions, it is unlikely that this project could have been accomplished without mapping or spatial analysis.
A question that I would like to see further explored in this project is related to those terrorist groups that did not "act locally".  While the study found that more than half of all terrorists lived within 30 miles of the incident target, the analysis also revealed that about ¼ of terrorists lived further than 800 miles from the target site.  I am interested in the implications of this finding - how does law enforcement have to change their approach when dealing with this group; is there any way to predict where and when these terrorists will act; what is the profile of the terrorists living further than 800 miles from their target, etc.  Delving into these questions would likely include an analysis of both spatial and non-spatial information.

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