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View Point: Risk Analysis and the Terrorism Problem in Two Parts

journal contribution
posted on 1990-04-01, 00:00 authored by Lester B Lave

As Israel has found, it is impossible to prevent suicide bombers from killing a few people. That level of risk seems to be a part of living in an open society. We can and must deter actions that could kill thousands of people and destroy billions of dollars of property. Doing so rests in small part on risk analysis—finding the sensitive points where a group of terrorists could cause this level of destruction and then designing a system to prevent it. Since the United States has not attempted to prevent this kind of attack, taking these precautions is likely to be expensive and disruptive—at least until the system has been reconfigured to account for them. Certainly, it is now unlikely that terrorists will be able to hijack a large aircraft and crash it into a large building. There are many other targets, such as transmission lines that could be extremely disruptive. But anthrax has proven to be a psychological weapon, not a significant threat.




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