The Effectiveness of Counter-Terrorism Strategies: A Systematic Review
Crime and Justice
Since September 11th, there have been massive increases in personal, commercial, and governmental expenditures on anti-terrorism strategies, as well as a proliferation of programs designed to fight terrorism. These increases in spending and program development have focused attention on the most significant and central policy question related to these interventions: Do these programs work? To explore research evidence regarding this question, we conducted a Campbell systematic review on counter-terrorism strategies to determine the scope and strength of evaluation research in this area.
In the course of our review, we discovered that there is an almost complete absence of evaluation research on counter-terrorism strategies. From over 20,000 studies we located on terrorism, we found only seven which contained moderately rigorous evaluations of counterterrorism programs. We conclude that there is little scientific knowledge about the effectiveness of most counter-terrorism interventions. Further, from the evidence we were able to locate, it appears that some evaluated interventions either didn’t work or sometimes increased the likelihood of terrorism and terrorism-related harm.
The findings of this review dramatically emphasize the need for government leaders, policy makers, researchers, and funding agencies to include and insist on evaluations of the effectiveness of these programs in their agendas. These agendas would include identifying ways to overcome methodological and data challenges often associated with terrorism research, increasing funding to evaluate existing programs through methodologically rigorous evaluation designs, and paying attention to existing evaluations of programs when implementing them. Further, programs should be assessed to establish if they cause more harm than good or if they create unanticipated consequences.