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 detection of pedestrian suicide bombers, although such sensors are not yet sufficiently affordable and reliable to justify widespread deployment. 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 resulting from pedestrian suicide bombings 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-detector 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.
The article of record as published may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1073 pnas.0500567102
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