MITIGATING POTENTIAL LONE WOLF TERRORIST ATTACKS AGAINST AVIATION SECTOR INFRASTRUCTURE
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This thesis proposes two primary concepts: (1) that the effective degradation of terrorist organizations by the U.S. and allied nations has contributed to the proliferation of lone wolf terrorism, and (2) that the greatest vulnerability to lone wolf terrorism is critical infrastructure, with the aviation sector being the most desirable target. To determine the validity of these concepts, this thesis analyzes existing literature pertaining to terrorist behavior, causes of radicalization, and common attack modalities, and then introduces statistical and quantitative data to determine if lone wolf terrorists display a proclivity towards targeting specific locations. Data reveals that domestic lone wolf terrorism is increasing both in frequency and lethality. This is partially attributable to propaganda that concentrates on recruiting and inspiring lone wolf terrorists and encourages them to develop plots and self-mobilize. An assessment of established terrorist target selection criteria indicates that the aviation sector represents a highly desirable target relative to other critical infrastructure targets. An analysis of common lone wolf terrorist attack modalities indicates that firearms and explosives are the most frequently used weaponry, and that the aviation sector, specifically airports, are vulnerable to such attack modalities. Various security measures can be implemented to mitigate potential terrorist attacks. These measures include: (1) physical security measures, (2) preemptive investigatory processes, and (3) preventive de-radicalization programs. Physical security measures can be incorporated into the design of airports and include physical barriers, blast-resistant materials, and ballistic glass, all of which reduce the potential for injury during an attack but can be costly and sometimes aesthetically displeasing. Law enforcement officials conduct explosive detection investigations using a combination of machine detection devices and animal detection. Both methods have proven effective in detecting common energetic materials but also have inherent limitations that reduce their utility. Counter-radicalization programs proactively mitigate root causes that lead to violent radicalization. Such programs have yielded mixed results and have been wrought with controversy stemming from accusations of racial bias. Ultimately, a combination of these mitigation techniques has the potential to reduce the threat that lone wolf terrorism poses to the aviation sector.