Research team in Chicago analyzes patterns of terrorists as part of War on Terror

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Data pix.

CHICAGO -- Terrorist threats are grabbing headlines daily. If it's not overseas, it's fears and realities right here on U.S. soil.

One expert says in order to understand what could happen next, we need to look back at history and patterns of conduct.

A team of researchers in Chicago is an important part of this analysis.  Their data is so valuable, the federal government is largely funding their work and often turning to students for answers.

Dr. Robert Pape is the director of University of Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism .  Dr Pape is a curious scholar who is bringing a bit of Washington D.C. to the Midwest. He and his team of 39 researchers at the University of Chicago are focusing almost exclusively on suicide attacks.  His team is made up of students and full time staff, some with their masters and PhD's studying the  patterns of suicide bombers since 2004.

"Suicide terrorism is the lung cancer of terrorism,” Dr. Pape says.  “It is the biggest killer in the category of terrorism because a suicide attacker is like a precision guided weapon."

That was the case in Paris last month with coordinated attacks and like the ones we saw in New York in 2001.

Another aspect of Dr. Pape's studies: Martyr videos.  Video clips were retrieved and analyzed by his students in the Middle East and turned over to the government following the 9-11 attacks. The men on the tapes were the actual hijackers. The martyr videos are invaluable to the government in understanding the motivation of the terrorists then and now.

"This collection of martyr videos is something that the government didn't really have, so I was able to collect them , translate them and subtitle them,” Dr. Pape says.

And more recently, the team has begun to examine recruitment videos. They study the tapes to learn how they engage and inspire people across the globe to join the cause.

Dr. Pape has penned a half dozen books over the years on the topic of suicide attackers. And the government is reading every page.

Just this week, The Atlantic suggested President Obama stole a page from Pape's playbook in his recent Oval Office address.

Pape and his people continue to tirelessly comb through maps, stats, videotape and even old newspapers for a glimpse into yesterday. There are patterns from the past that could influence our tomorrow.

The government largely funds the CPOST research and uses the information as well. Dr. Pape calls his students, staff and assistants, seasoned on the subject of suicide attacks,  as "black belts" in the industry.



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