Forensic psychological mindset of a terrorist

More questions than answers for public safety threat risk assessments

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In 2012, a team of US air marshals forced a Delta Airlines overseas flight to return and evacuate because two passengers were thought to be working as a terrorist team, which proved to be false after investigation. This incident plus two other on-plane psychological meltdowns of in-flight personnel are alarming reminders of the snap decisions that are currently made without much guidance to inform such threat assessments. Preflight security measures have addressed many of the post-9/11 threats of terrorism. Nonetheless, successful and thwarted acts of terrorism and reconnaissance response probes have fueled a growing need for homeland security, military and public safety personnel's reflexive instincts to engage, 'what if' as a guiding principle in threat assessments. There is an elusive nexus between timely intelligence gathering, acts of terror and understanding the mindset of a terrorist. An internalized homeland security decision-making approach to 'think like a terrorist' is instructive in coming up with actionable information for many contraterrorism efforts. This article raises several issues related to the mindset of a terrorist. Such mindset is reviewed from two traditional theoretical frameworks (that is, criminological and psychological theories). The article also explores the applicability of these theories to public safety from a risk assessment perspective. The article concludes with implications for public safety research, practice and training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-197
Number of pages13
JournalSecurity Journal
Volume29
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

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Risk assessment
risk assessment
terrorism
Terrorism
National security
threat
Homelands
flight
personnel
Personnel
safety research
instinct
psychological theory
research practice
overseas
incident
Decision making
air
Military
decision making

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Safety Research
  • Strategy and Management
  • Law

Cite this

Forensic psychological mindset of a terrorist : More questions than answers for public safety threat risk assessments. / Johnson, Ronn.

In: Security Journal, Vol. 29, No. 2, 01.04.2016, p. 185-197.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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