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PRIME Report Summary

Project ID: 608354
Funded under: FP7-SECURITY
Country: United Kingdom

Periodic Report Summary 1 - PRIME (PReventing, Interdicting and Mitigating Extremist events: Defending against lone actor extremism)

Project Context and Objectives:
Lone Actor Extremist Events (LAEEs) are terrorist attacks carried out by individuals acting (mainly) alone. Because they have the potential to inflict considerable human, social and political harm, LAEEs have been a growing source of concern, notably in the Western world. LAEEs remain relatively rare occurrences, which is a good thing. Yet that very rarity is also what makes these terrorist events hard to detect, disrupt, and recover from. LAEEs present stakeholders with a classic "needle in a haystack" problem.
The PRIME Project aims to improve our understanding of LAEEs and to inform the design of countermeasures for the prevention of lone-actor radicalisation, the disruption of lone-actor terrorist plots, and the mitigation of terrorist attacks carried out by lone extremists.
In this endeavour, PRIME adopts an innovative multidisciplinary approach, which sets out to:
• Combine formal modelling techniques drawn from security engineering with expertise from the ecological, social, behavioural and criminological sciences, to take the modelling of LAEEs in particular, and the modelling of crime events in general, beyond the current state of the art.
• Characterise (i.e. define) the risk posed by lone actor extremists, in a way that promotes a clear conceptualisation of the risk, as well as reconciles the demands of analysis (scientific research) and operations (stakeholder constraints).
• Incorporate the product of an analysis of the context in which countermeasures are implemented, with particular attention to stakeholder constraints and public perceptions of the risk, in the formulation of countermeasure requirements, to facilitate adoption of the project's outputs and minimise unintended, negative impact.
• Produce a general (context-independent), multilevel risk analysis framework, which articulates the key factors and processes implicated in LAEEs, translating cutting-edge theories of criminal development and criminal events into a conceptual matrix that will guide the project's data collection activities, in order to progress beyond atheoretical lists of (contextlimited) 'risk factors'.
This general model will allow for the clear organisation of what is known about the factors and processes which give rise to these events, at multiple levels of analysis (individual, situational, social ecological, and systemic), and along the three main stages which characterise them: radicalisation, attack preparation, and attack. Its main purpose will be to enable the identification of "pinch points" (opportunities for intervention), at which countermeasures can be introduced.
To arrive at such a model, historical data will be collected from multiple open and privileged sources.
Organising and analysing such complex and disparate information will require the development of a scientific modelling technique (a formal scripting technique based on the approach known as crime scripting).
The process involved in the production of LAEE scripts and the formulation of countermeasures will be validated, notably, through expert and end-user involvement in the assessment of the project's methods, tools and outcomes. The end-product will be a set of decision-support tools for end-users whose remit is to deal with the lone actor terrorism threat.
These tools will be presented in two portfolios setting out, chiefly, functional and non-functional requirements for socio-physical and communication-based countermeasures to defend against lone actor extremism. PRIME seeks to inform the decisions of stakeholders, not direct them. By mapping out the full spectrum of possible interventions in terms of requirements, it will allow end-users to decide how best to address the risk, given their own unique set of circumstances, cultures and values.

Project Results:
WP1 Management put in place the means and structure to achieve efficient financial, administrative and technical management of the project; involved the adoption of procedures for quality control of the scientific work and channels of communication between partners, above and beyond the conduct of regular Project Steering Committee meetings; created awareness of the project among key scientific partners and stakeholders in the security and broader policy domains; and communicated with the EC as required. No deliverable was associated with WP1 during the period.
WP2 Context Analysis delivered an in-depth analysis of the range of contextual elements which could affect the adoption and successful implementation of the countermeasure portfolios and associated outputs (D2.6). WP2 also delivered an ethical framework (D2.1) and a number of associated tools (D2.2, D2.3, D2.4, D2.5) to ensure compliance of project activities with institutional, national and European ethical and legal principles, under the advice and monitoring of the project's Independent Ethics Advisor (D2.7).
WP3 Data Requirements resulted in a set of analytical and operational definitions of key terms, a review of the state of knowledge on lone actor extremists events, the articulation of the project's theoretical background, the formulation of a Risk Analysis Framework synthesised in a Risk Analysis Matrix identifying key categories of factors to be targeted for data collection and the relative likelihood of data being available regarding different categories (D3.1). This conceptual work was then translated into data needs (e.g. sample sizes, data categories, sources) and a set of data collection instruments (e.g. Large-N Codebook, Medium-N Timeline Instrument; D3.2) for use inWP5.
In WP4 Meta-Script Technical Development, a methodological framework was produced (D4.1), to be adopted by Task Leaders inWP5 andWP6 for the purpose of subscript and script development. It built upon the state of the art in scripting and articulated the meta-model which would inform the design of the scripting tool. A Bayesian Network approach to scripting was developed. Guidelines on tool use were provided in the form of an example, using the Medium-N Attack Dataset (D4.2; see Figure 1 below). This work package was key in enabling the interdisciplinary goal of the project, which is one of the project's main areas of innovation, bringing together social science and engineering methods.
WP5 Events Scripting, which is in many ways the project's core work package, delivered operationalization of the Risk Analysis Framework's key mechanisms and causal categories, followed by extensive collection of empirical data on each phase of the lone actor extremist event (radicalisation, attack preparation, attack), as well as very preliminary (descriptive) findings (D5.1, D5.2, D5.3). A reassessment of data needs, set as a milestone in WP5, resulted in specifications for further data collection in the remainder of the work package lifetime.
Early work carried out in WP6 Script Integration, which started at Month 16, has involved discussion with WP5 Task Leaders regarding anticipated gaps in the subscripts, contributing to the aforementioned reassessment of data needs and additional data collection activities.
WP7 Counter-Measures Requirements led to the submission of a review of existing responsemeasures at all three stage of the lone actor event (D7.1). Given the level of access achieved by the researchers, the material provided in the review is uniquely informed by the perspective of security practitioners tasked with handling the lone actor threat at the present time.
Likewise, WP8 CommunicationMeasures Requirements produced a review of existing communication measures against LAEEs (D8.1), focusing its empirical work (e.g. interviews and workshops with policymakers; media analysis) notably on the UK and Denmark as sites of comparison. The review provides the background for the delivery of D8.2, by identifying gaps and weaknesses in the communication context in which LAEEs are addressed.
Finally, WP9 Dissemination delivered the project's Dissemination Strategy and Dissemination Action Plan (D9.1). WP9 has produced the project's website, promotional material (leaflet) and press releases, and an extensive array of varied dissemination activities (e.g. conference presentations, papers, media publications, briefings) involving end-user, scientific, civil, and public audiences.

Potential Impact:
The 22 July 2011 bombing and mass shooting in Oslo carried out by Anders Behring Breivik was a shocking reminder of the threat posed by lone extremists. Although it is important to recognise that the majority of lone extremists fail to carry out attacks as destructive as that orchestrated by Breivik, their actions have the potential to result in significant loss of life, and to be highly damaging to local and national communities. In a testimony before the US Congress, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta observed that so-called 'lone-wolves' now stood as the security threat which deserved the most attention from security services. While the growing threat of Daesh has brought the risk posed by organised terrorism back to the fore, the group's documented efforts to inspire individuals to take violent action in acts of home-grown terrorism have kept lone actor terrorism at the forefront of law enforcement and security service's concerns.
The expected final result of PRIME will be a set of portfolios that inventory countermeasures to defend against lone actor terrorism, based on empirically-derived scripts of these events and associated analytical products. The portfolios will elaborate on the measures' functional and nonfunctional requirements. As defined in systems engineering, requirements refer to the functions that a protection measure or system must perform, and the range of constraints it must satisfy, in order for the objective to be achieved to the benefit and satisfaction of the user(s) or problem-owner(s).
Well-developed requirements allow users to optimise a measure in light of their specific needs and objectives (i.e. their own context of implementation). This will be a step-change in the way the conclusions and recommendations of this type of research are communicated to end-users.
In terms of impact, PRIME will make, and to some extent already has made, significant contributions with regards to:
• The development and dissemination of international, multi-disciplinary mechanisms of collaboration and networking between social scientists and engineers in the security domain, allowing, notably, for the integration of qualitative and quantitative data.
• The creation of several datasets drawn from open and privileged sources, including a large-N international dataset of lone actor extremist events, which includes data relevant to radicalisation, as well as attack preparation and attack.
• The contribution of general models of radicalisation and terrorist action, applicable across contexts and beyond the sole lone-actor threat, and which can serve as the foundation for the design of context- and problem-specific risk assessment tools.
• The development of methods and tools for crime scripting, a crime prevention practice which, to date, arguably belongs more to the domain of art than science.
• The systematic elicitation of requirements from security stakeholders to better understand their needs and constraints, in order to deliver a more relevant and action-orientated knowledge-base in the defence against lone actor extremism. To our knowledge, this systems engineering-inspired approach has not yet been used in the design of research-driven sociophysical and communication-based security technologies and is an innovative application.
• The delivery of empirically-informed portfolios of countermeasure requirements to defend against lone actor extremism, and supporting analytical products, which organise countermeasures at several levels of intervention and are anticipated to highlight interventions that require involvement of communities, civil society organisations, and private sector stakeholders, as well as law enforcement and security services. These products will support both the widening of the stakeholder community with regards to the lone actor extremism threat and the consolidation of evidence-based, rationale counterterrorism policy-making and practice.

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Noemie Bouhana, (Lecturer)
Tel.: +44 7914663166


Record Number: 186764 / Last updated on: 2016-07-21