THE MAGAZINE

Breaching the Fortress Wall: Understanding Terrorist Efforts to Overcome Defensive Technologies

By Brian A. Jackson et al; Reviewed by Paul D. Barnard, CPP, CISM

***** Breaching the Fortress Wall: Understanding Terrorist Efforts to Overcome Defensive Technologies. By Brian A. Jackson et al.; published by RAND Corp., www.rand.org (Web); 153 pages; $25.

The United States and other nations continually deploy new tactics and techniques to combat terrorists and disrupt their operations. The enemy, however, is an inherently agile and adaptive one. This book from the renowned RAND Corp. assesses how major terrorist groups have responded to counterterrorism efforts with their own countermeasures and counter-countermeasures.

 This succinct text is based on case studies of four major terrorist movements: Palestinian groups, Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and Oceania’s Jemaah Islamiyah.  The authors examine the different groups’ responses to five primary classes of defensive technologies relative to the terrorists’ specific tactical goals. Some of the terrorists’ counterstrategies include altering operational practices, making technological changes or substitutions, avoiding defensive technology, and attacking defensive technology. 

While technology is indispensable in fighting terror, the authors note that it is not a “silver bullet.” They highlight the importance of other tools, such as human intelligence. Here, the book’s value is most evident. By noting the failures of some established defensive technologies, the forward-thinking authors pave the way for invention of better technologies and integration of holistic approaches for combating terrorism. To that end, the book is not just a collection of facts and statements but an open-ended analysis that can aid the reader’s comprehension of the issue.

Also extremely beneficial are assessments and evaluations of how security officials around the world have leveraged scarce resources to enhance protection. Here, the reader can glean ideas for redirecting resources to maximize return on investment.

RAND and its research staff have a long-standing reputation for high quality work in the terrorism arena and have readily kept pace with evolving international and homeland security environments.  Because of its unique approach, this book would be of interest both to the accomplished security practitioner and to the student of the trade.  This is truly a book to add to your professional bookshelf.


Reviewer: Paul D. Barnard, CPP, CISM (Certified Information Security Manager), is a security manager for the Department of Defense. He is a member of ASIS International. The opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer and do not imply a view of the U.S. government or any other organization.

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