Carnegie Mellon Press Releases

Back to Press Releases

Carnegie Mellon News Service Home Page

Carnegie Mellon Today

8 1/2 x 11 News

News Clips

Web News Stories

Calendar of Events

Press Release

Jonathan Potts

For immediate release:
March 12, 2003

Eliminating Individual Leaders May Not Be Enough To Destroy Terrorist Networks, Says Carnegie Mellon Professor

PITTSBURGH—Terrorist networks can spread information rapidly and are highly adaptive to change, so permanently disabling them will require a sustained and multi-pronged campaign, said Kathleen Carley, professor of computer science and organizations at Carnegie Mellon University.

Carley and her students are engaged in dynamic network analysis, which examines the relationships and tasks of members of various networks and how those change over time. This can reveal how networks can operate more efficiently and how they can be disrupted.

"Most networks are capable of healing themselves. Exactly how fast depends on the kind of network it is. Since networks can heal themselves you can't take just a one-shot strategy - such as go in and get this person, and you'll be done," Carley said.

Carley will speak at 11 a.m. March 25 at the sixth annual Stonecipher Symposium on Technology, Communication and Culture at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tenn. The theme of this year's conference is "Homeland Security in a High-Tech Age."

Carley is the director of the Center for Organizational Analysis of Social and Organizational Change at Carnegie Mellon. She holds appointments in the departments of Social and Decision Sciences and Engineering and Public Policy; the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management; and the Institute for Software Engineering, International at Carnegie Mellon.

Networks that are organized into self-sufficient cells‹such as al-Qaida‹are hard to destroy in part because they can quickly isolate and eliminate their own weaknesses, Carley said. When such a network is attacked, it can reform quickly, learn from its mistakes, develop new leaders and emerge even stronger than it was before.

Terrorist networks must be attacked multiple times and with multiple methods, according to Carley. This is the challenge that confronts the United States as it hunts for Osama bin Laden and celebrates the recent capture of one of his top lieutenants.

"You can't just go in and remove the head because then the network turns into a hydra with multiple heads, and that can be worse," she said. To schedule an interview with Carley, call Jonathan Potts at 412-268-6094.


Other Carnegie Mellon News || Carnegie Mellon Home