Monitoring and Disrupting Dark Networks A Bias toward the Center and What It Costs Us
Roberts, Nancy C.
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The goal of this article is to explore this analytic bias--how it is manifested, why it appears so extensive, and what unwitting limitations it imposes on our strategic options to counter terrorism. We use data from a study of the Syrian opposition network that was conducted in the CORE Lab at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey California (Lucente and Wilson 2013). The original study sought to provide a window into the armed opposition units against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. This article proceeds as follows: We begin by reviewing the various strategies that can be used for disrupting dark networks. These can be broken down into two broad categories -- kinetic and non-kinetic. The former uses coercive means for disruption while the latter seeks to undermine dark networks using with subtler applications of power. Drawing on a previous analysis, we illustrate how some of these strategies can be implemented, while at the same time highlighting our own bias in that study toward central actors. We then turn to an analysis of the Syrian opposition network, highlighting how a central focus can blind analysts to other important aspects of a network; in this case, elements that ultimately aligned themselves with the Islamic State of Syria (ISIS). We conclude with some implications for the future use of SNA to monitor and disrupt dark networks.
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