Operational Effectiveness of Suicide Bomber Detector Schemes: A Best-Case Analysis
Kaplan, Edward H.
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Standoff explosives-detection technologies allow, in principle, for the detectioin of pedestrian suicide bombers, although such sensors are not yet sufficiently affordable and reliable to justify wide-spead development. What if they were? Assuming the availability of cheap, perfectly sensitive and specific suicide-bomber-sensing devices, we analyze the operational effectiveness of sensor-based detector schemes in reducing casualties from random suicide-bombing attacks. We model the number of casualties from pedestrian suicide absent intervention, the reduction in casualties from alternative interventions, given timely detection of a suicide-bombing attack, and the probability of timely detection under best-case assumptions governing the performance of suicide-bomber-detection schemes in two different urban settings. Even under such optimistic assumptions, we find that the widespread deployment of suicide-bomber detectors will not reliably result in meaningful casualty reductions. Relaxing the best-case assumptions only makes matters worse. Investment in intelligence-gathering to prevent suicide bombers before they attack seems a wiser strategy than relying on sensor-based suicide-bomber-detector schemes.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Vol. 102, No. 29, pp. 10399-10404.http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0500567102
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