The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)

ExamineIn the wake of the 911 tragedy and the creation of the of the U. S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the need for science-based research into the human causes and consequences of worldwide terrorism was very apparent in 2005, leading to “an initial $12 million grant from DHS to complete projects in the research areas of terrorist group formation and recruitment, terrorist group persistence and dynamics, and societal responses to terrorist threats and attacks.” As a result of this grant, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) became a reality, and another grant formulated in 2008 expanded the research projects to include the areas of radicalization within terrorist recruitment, possible intervention approaches, and community resilience in the face of terrorist threats. Based geographically at the University of Maryland, the organization supports research efforts on the fundamental questions of international terrorism at more than 50 locations throughout the world. Research on the part of START is data-driven and intended to support efforts by Homeland Security policymakers and practitioners to identify and prevent terrorist attacks. START is also a strong supporter and contributor to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD).

STARTSince its inception in 2005, the consortium has been headed by Dr. Gary LeFree, a professor of criminology who has been especially interested in the geographic concentration of terrorist attacks, motivation behind transnational violence, and factors that might increase the chances of terroristic events. Research is conducted by trained experts and directed to three primary questions:

1)      Under what conditions does an individual or a group turn to terrorism to pursue its goals? What is the nature of the radicalization process?

2)      What attack patterns have different terrorists demonstrated during the past forty years? How has terrorist behavior evolved? And, what does this indicate about likely future terrorist activity?

3)      What impact does terrorism and the threat of terrorism have on communities, and how can societies enhance their resilience to minimize the potential impacts of future attacks?

In its quest to answer these questions, START is but one of the “Centers of Excellence” organized as part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate – and various other Federal agencies, private entities, and scholastic institutions also provide the funding that sustains its investigative efforts.  Completed research on the part of the organization is a result of individual scholarly effort, using non-classified information gathered from around the world. DHS proudly advertises that START’s “expertise in the multi-faceted nature of terrorism will continue to benefit the nation’s defense against such acts through better understanding, preparedness tactics, and security measures.”

Doctor DeFree’s interest in the geographic concentration of terrorism was very evident in a study released in early 2012. Through careful analysis of data gathered from 1970 to 2008, START was able to compare each of the 3143 counties in the United States – identifying 65 of them as “hot spots” that have experienced  a higher than average rate of terrorist attacks. Some of those counties, like Maricopa County, Arizona, have experienced increased levels of terrorism since the year 2000, whereas areas like King County, Washington have diminished in such respects over the years, although they were once considered a hot spot at one time. New York City and Los Angeles have endured steadily down through the years as areas in which terrorism is a high possibility. In the same way, the motivation and typical image of a terrorist has changed over the past 4 to 5 decades, since many attacks perpetrated in the 1970s were due to left-wing groups in Berkley, San Francisco and the surrounding areas of California – rather than Islamist groups that carry that reputation today. All research for this study was based on the basic definition of terrorism and terrorist attacks as “the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation.” The report also categorized the “violent perpetrators” into ideological subgroups, such as left-wing, right-wing, religious, ethnonationalist, or single issue.


Terrorism Hotspots Within The U. S., 1970 – 2008
(click for larger map)

Aside from its very important role in providing insightful research on radical transnational violence, START has also taken a leading role in advanced education – on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Located within the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland, the START undergraduate program is hard at work training the next cohort of terrorism analysts, including those students that are intent on pursuing the subject on the graduate level. The START Graduate Certificate in Terrorism Analysis, available through the University of Maryland’s Advanced Special Student Program, can be completed in twelve months and “provides participants with advanced education on the causes, dynamics, and impacts of international and domestic terrorism.” A program offering study abroad in Sydney Australia is also another facet of the educational opportunities offered by START.

Any solution to the scourge of worldwide terrorism will require efforts like those exemplified with START, which offers a multi-faceted approach to the problem. Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of  its advancements in confronting radical violence has been the pioneering steps it has taken to actually dissect, study, and define terrorism, which has surprisingly not been accomplished on the international scene – including the United Nations, where there has been a “continuing lack of agreement … on a common definition of international terrorism.” There is no question that such a clarification of the problem must become a fixture on the world stage before any hope of postulating an answer can be established. Likewise, for any recognition of that definition to be moved forward in world consciousness, there also has to be an acknowledgement of those that have died as victims, so we urge you to click on the link below and sign the petition to which this website is dedicated.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

Posted in Posts for the Cause | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pontifically Approved: The Flag of the United Nations

unflagThe coordinators of the original United Nations Conference that met in San Francisco immediately after the end of World War II (1945) sought an emblem that could be easily used to identify delegates as they arrived to attend the proceedings. United States Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, Jr. realized that this temporary design would very likely become the permanent insignia of the United Nations, so he astutely formed a committee headed by architect Oliver Lundquist specifically for the purpose of creating an appropriate logo that would endure in time. The actual design of the flag, which was approved on October 20, 1945, is a result of the creative talents of another architect, Donal McLaughlin – who very carefully thought out the symbolism behind the familiar image that is now known around the world.

The Flag of the UN is White on a Blue Background

The Flag of the UN is White on a Blue Background
Photo credit: ¥§•ªˆ¨ˇ© LOVE © ˇ¨ˆª•§¥ / / CC BY

McLaughlin, who passed away on September 27, 2009 at the age of 102, was the chief of the graphics presentation branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which later became known as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). “It was my good fortune to be assigned the problem of designing a lapel pin for conference identification,” he later recalled in a 1995 publication entitled “Origin of the Emblem and Other Recollections of the 1945 U.N. Conference.” After his graduation from the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in 1937, he was able to acquire employment with the National Parks Service – but eventually established an architectural career in New Your City, designing things such as 2 pavilions at the New York City World’s Fair and the interior of Tiffany and Co.’s flagship store, which is now recorded as a building of prominence with the National Register of Historic Places. Following its establishment on June 13, 1942, McLaughlin took up employment with the OSS, helping to create wartime visual designs for the presentation of material that could be easily understood and implemented, including the courtroom that was used in the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals.

Working with a team of fellow designers, McLaughlin came up with a total of 9 different designs from which to choose, with the task of fitting the image on a circular pin measuring 1/6th of an inch in diameter. Having written a thesis on circular design while studying architecture, he fell back on that experience, drawing the planetary globe as an azimuthally equidistant projection with all the nations of the world fitting into a circle. “The hardest part of the project was fitting the design and copy onto the small, circular pin,” he recalled in July of 2008 – adding that the main intention “was to represent one world through this projection.” One year after the group submitted their final representation, “the map was turned a quarter to the left so the east and west were in balance” McLaughlin also remembered. Olive branches surround the tilted map, in an obvious visual reference to world peace and the unity of humankind. When applied to the adoption of the UN flag, the emblem created by McLaughlin was imbedded as a white design on a blue background. Although the exact shade of the color used in the flag has never been specified by the United Nations, the background is blue because it is considered to be the opposite of red, which is the color of war. The exact shade now used on UN flags that fly around the world is Pantone 279. It is considered to be a protective sign for all UN personnel on peace keeping missions, as dictated by the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, which has now been ratified by 91 states around the world. Nevertheless, statistical records kept on UN peacekeeping efforts since 1948 demonstrate that over 3,000 UN personnel have given their lives in an attempt to bring peace to a variety of locations in the world.

The Secretary General of the UN Greets Pope Benedict XVI

The UN Greets Pope Benedict XVI
Photo credit: United Nations Photo / / CC BY-NC-ND

One would think that a banner honored by the Pope should be held in high esteem by all nations of the world, but at times this reverence has been tarnished – even by the United States. While appearing at the UN General Assembly on April 18, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI reached out to touch and bless the UN flag – as he delivered very pointed words of warning to political leaders around the globe. “Countries that act unilaterally on the world stage undermine the authority of the United Nations and weaken the broad consensus needed to confront global problems,” he said. In some respects, the Pope’s words seemed leveled directly at the United States, which acted in disregard for UN Security Council Resolution 1441 when it invaded Iraq in 2003. What would it take for this disrespect for the UN to disappear, and for the UN flag to be considered in the same light as Pope Benedict proposed that day? If

aliens from outer space were to attack the world, would humanity put down its violent differences and finally unite to confront a common enemy? Is it possible that terrorism would disappear from the earth long enough to ensure the defeat of this common enemy?  Such an occurrence would require a respect for the common things that bind us together as humans, rather than a violent obsession with the superficial qualities that make us different from each other – but the proponents of this web site believe it is possible. Apparently, Pope Benedict XVI does too! Take a chance on humanity and light one candle in the midst of darkness, would you? Sign the petition you can reach by clicking the link below.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

Posted in Posts for the Cause | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment