Not One Lead from NYPD Spying on Muslims

Further Evidence Against Effectiveness of Controversial Counterterrorism Policies

Six years of spying on Muslims by the New York Police Department resulted in not one lead or terrorism investigation, underscoring complaints that religious profiling and massive surveillance after 9/11 were counterproductive anti-terrorism tactics.

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Terrorism Is Not An Apocalyptic Threat

At present rates, an American's chance of being killed by a terrorist is about one in 3.5 million per year. The number of people killed worldwide outside of war zones since 2001 by Islamist extremists of all shapes and varieties is a few hundred per year. This number is regrettable, of course. But it scarcely presents an existential or apocalyptic threat.

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For Counterterrorism Words Matter

Every good academic course on terrorism should begin with an inconclusive argument over the definition of the term 'terrorism.' The purpose of that debate is to explore the troublesome questions of legitimacy, targeting, and group dynamics that make terrorism not just a difficult word to define, but a vexing phenomenon to counter. As Menachem Begin recognized when he eschewed the convention of earlier anarchist militants to claim the title 'terrorist' and instead referred to the Irgun as "freedom fighters," terrorism is often a fight over language.

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Terrorism as Performance Art

By crafting attacks designed to provoke a draconian state response, terrorists hope to exploit the inevitable societal polarization that results to attract new recruits to their banner while undermining the state's own claim to be acting legitimately.

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National Security

While much of the national debate since 9/11 focused on the legality and morality of tactics like waterboarding and preventative detention, Breakthrough Institute asked a different question: is there any evidence that these controversial tactics work?

Two years later, Breakthrough published an exhaustive liberature review and found, contrary to widespread perception, that there is no credible evidence that any of the controversial CT measures put in place after 9/11 helped to disrupt plots, end terrorist networks and campaigns, or deliver better intelligence. More damning, our review found that evidence that several controversial tactics can be self-defeating. In fact, the long sweep of history shows that states becomes increasingly surgical, internalized, and humane as societies prosper and citizens are empowered to both enforce the law and demand freedom.