It is possible to discern potentially significant patterns in terrorist activity through an analysis of geospatial intelligence information concerning terrorist incidents, the DNI Open Source Center (OSC) says.
A recent OSC study of terrorism in Afghanistan (large PDF) illustrates the growing sophistication of geointelligence analysis tools. By analyzing parameters such as location, timing, frequency, lethality and other such characteristics, the OSC study identified “hotspots” for terrorist activity and changes over time. It also provided data for evaluating an OSC predictive model of terrorism in Afghanistan.
The study “revealed spatial patterns and a distribution of incidents that would be valuable to those interested in the dynamics of Afghanistan’s security.”
Some of the resulting conclusions are trivial or obvious. Thus, OSC found that terrorist incidents are more likely to occur in populated areas of the country than in barren wastelands. Other conclusions concerning seasonal variations and changes in target distributions may have more practical significance.
The OSC study has not been approved for public release, but a copy was obtained by Secrecy News. See “Afghanistan — Geospatial Analysis Reveals Patterns in Terrorist Incidents 2004-2008,” Open Source Center, April 20, 2009 (in a very large 19 MB PDF file).
The study features “interactive GeoPDFs” that are embedded in the document. In order to open them, it is necessary to activate the “Layers” function in Adobe Reader. To do so, click on “View,” then select “Navigation Tabs” and click on “Layers.”
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