The Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security’s mission is to promote the national security by advancing our understanding of terrorism and the means to combat it through research, teaching, and developing partnerships between universities, industry and government.  Learn more.

Schanzer Comments on Paris Attacks and ISIS Strategy

Photo Credit: Adit Chandra

Photo Credit: Adit Chandra

David Schanzer appeared on local and national media following the Paris attacks to discuss ISIS’s evolution as an organization and how to address the growing ISIS threat.

Barring Syrian Refugees Helps ISIS

U.S. Land Invasion a Bad Idea

Countering Violent Extremism

Minnesota Public Radio:  What Does ISIS Want?


“ISIS: Terrorism at Home and Abroad” 

A conversation with Jessica Stern

Stern Poster2

The Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, the Duke Program in American Grand Strategy and the Sanford School of Public Policy held a public talk on September 10th with Jessica Stern.


Dr. Stern is a Fellow at the FXB Center for Human Rights at Harvard’s School of Public Health, a Lecturer in Government at Harvard University, and an Advanced Academic Candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Psychoanalysis.  She is the author of ISIS: The State of Terror; Denial: A Memoir of Terror; Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill, selected by the New York Times as a notable book of the year; and numerous articles on terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. She served on President Clinton’s National Security Council Staff in 1994-95 and was selected by Time Magazine in 2001 as one of seven thinkers whose innovative ideas ‘will change the world.’

Click here, for a video of the evening’s talk.

Schanzer Debates Hodding Carter on Snowden Affair

“Now That We Know, What Should We Do?: Next Steps After Snowden’s Revelations”

David Schanzer debated former Assistant Secretary of State of Public Affairs, Hodding Carter, this past Wednesday, September 02, at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. The two had an evening discussion on evolving challenges surrounding privacy in the US.

Introductions: 0:04 | David Schanzer’s opening remarks: 5:20 | Hodding Carter’s rebuttal and following points: 23:56

Report:  Law Enforcement Assessment of Terrorist Threat

Triangle Center Director David Schanzer and UNC Professor Charles Kurzman present the data supporting their research on homegrown extremism.  The key findings of this working paper are: 1) Law enforcement agencies in the United States consider anti-government violent extremists, not radicalized Muslims, to be the most prevalent threat of political violence that they face, 2) they perceive violent extremism to be a much more severe threat nationally than the threat of violent extremism in their own jurisdictions, and 3) a large majority of law enforcement agencies rank the threat of all forms of violent extremism in their own jurisdictions as moderate or lower (3 or less on a 1-5 scale).

Link to the report.

Kurzman and Schanzer:  NY Times Op-Ed on “The Other Threat”

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Triangle Center Director David Schanzer and UNC Professor Charlies Kurzman write about their research showing that local law enforcement agencies believe that anti-government extremism is a greater threat than that posed by extremists inspired by al Qaeda, ISIS, and like-minded groups.

Link to the report.

Schanzer Comments on Patriot Act Extension & Reforms

“I am in favor of allowing this program to continue with the significant reforms included in the USA Freedom Act, which passed the House with a large bipartisan majority,” says David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. Click here to listen to his full comments:

ISIS MediaSchanzer Discusses ISIS Recruitment and CVE Programs on Minnesota Public Radio

Schanzer went on MPR to discuss how to stop ISIS recruitment. The segment address the arrest of six young Somali Americans from the Twin Cities area who were indicted this week for attempting to join ISIS in Syria. This story is another example of the challenge for law enforcement and communities in preventing ISIS from successfully recruiting new members and supporters.

Listen to the segment here.

Schanzer & Nichols Critique the U.S. “Shadow War”

In a review of Mark Mazzetti’s book, “The Way of the Knife,” Professors David Schanzer and Tim Nichols discuss problems with the United States’ reliance on secret operations to combat terrorism and the costs of relying so heavily on these methods in the current counterterrorism strategy.  The review – entitled “The Costs of the Knife,” published in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, takes a candid look at the “diminishing returns” that secret counterterrorism operations are producing and suggests rediscovering the “virtue of patient, persistent diplomacy, the efficacy of soft power, and the benefit of truly reciprocal alliances rather than transactional relationships.”

Schanzer Discusses White House Conference on Countering Violent Extremism

CVE WH Summit.jpgOn Wednesday, February 18th world leaders gathered for a summit at the White House to discuss how counter violent extremism. TCTHS director David Schanzer discussed the White House’s efforts on San Francisco’s NPR on Thursday, February 19th saying, “One thing that is ignored when we kind of talk about all these themes that are going on in the conference, a lot of the problem is that a lot of this is motivated by the west and its role in the Middle East. It is greatly protested. U.S. foreign policy and western foreign policy and a lot of the interventions that we’ve done. And so unfortunately, the issues that President Obama is mentioning only deal with part of the root causes.” To hear Schanzer’s interview on San Francisco’s NPR, click here.

Report shows most U.S. terrorism cases last year involved foreign fighters going to Syria

Kurzman_2014This is the sixth annual report on Muslim-American terrorism suspects and perpetrators published by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. “Over the 13 years since 9/11, the US government’s counterterrorism efforts have identified 109 Muslim-Americans plotting against targets in the United States. […] Two thirds of the domestic plots were disrupted early, with weapons or explosives provided by undercover agents or informants,” Kurzman explains in the report. “US plots remain rare and unsophisticated,” he continues, “while small numbers of Muslim-Americans continue to be indicted for terrorism-related offenses, the publicly-known cases of domestic plots does not suggest large-scale growth in violent extremism or more sophisticated planning and execution than in recent years.

For the full report click here or to view the press release, click here.These reports, and the data on which they are based, are available at

Charlie Hebedo

Audio: Responding to the Terrorist Attack in Paris

On Wednesday, TCTHS director David Schanzer spoke on air with Scott Briggaman on WPTF about the massacre at Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The deadly attack left twelve dead early Wednesday morning in an attack on the magazine office, while the manhunt for the suspected killers continues. To hear the full segment, listen below.

Schanzer, Dunlap Comment on Senate Intelligence CIA Interrogation Report

David Schanzer and Charlie Dunlap comment on the Senate Committee on Intelligence’s decision to disclose new details about the CIA’s interrogation methods. The report released Monday, December 9, 2014 has been a lightning rod for criticism.

Dunlap, Duke University law professor, a retired Air Force major general and an expert on warfare policy and strategy, says, “While I haven’t seen the report, media accounts suggest that it will give more grist to those already hostile to U.S. interests. A lot of people will ignore the fact that America’s interrogation policies have long since changed because doing so will fit the narrative that they want to believe about the U.S. today. And they won’t pay any attention to those who are saying, as some already are, that the report is deeply flawed.”

For more, click here.

130925-D-BW835-074Audio: Assessing Ash Carter’s Nomination for Secretary of Defense

On Wednesday, TCTHS director David Schanzer spoke on air with Scott Briggaman on WPTF about Ashton Carter’s nomination for Secretary of Defense. Schanzer also commented on the current challenges the new secretary will face in taking office. Notably, Schanzer pointed to the Middle East saying, “We have multidimensional chess going on in the Middle East right now.” To hear the full segment, listen below.


Video: Triangle Center Faculty Discuss Guantanamo and Interrogation

Tim Nichols from Duke University spoke with TCTHS director David Schanzer and student participants about the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and the use of interrogation in US counterterrorism efforts. Click here to watch.

 Turmoil Middle EastVideo: A Public Discussion on the Middle East in Turmoil

With a war raging in Syria that’s spilled over into Iraq, militant groups jockeying for attention and control, and a sobering post-Arab Spring reality that’s seen traditional alliances upended, political Islam scrutinized, and dissent stifled, four Duke faculty members will put the latest developments and their relevance for America in perspective. What’s next for the Middle East? Panelists including TCTHS director David Schanzer discussed the current situation in the Middle East in a public talk Monday, October 27.

To watch the full recording of the discussion, click here.

IMG_8777Video: Expert on the Psychology of Terrorism John Horgan Argues No Single Pathway to Terrorism

On Thursday, the TCTHS hosted John Horgan, one of the foremost experts on the psychology of terrorism. In a joint ISLAMiCommentary interview with director David Schanzer, the two discuss the news and commentary coming out about the suspected gunman in Wednesday’s attacks in Ottawa — including that he was a Muslim convert — and speculation about his connection to international terrorist groups.

While the two scholars agreed that yesterday’s attacks can’t come as a complete surprise to Canadian national security experts, they cautioned about the need for restraint by journalists and pundits in the characterization of the suspect and coverage of yesterday’s events.

Click here to watch the interview.

courseResponding to 9/11: Counterterrorism Policy in the 21st Century Course Now Open for Registration

Click here to preview the course. Click here to register.

This course will examine and evaluate the counterterrorism policies pursued by the United States in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  The core learning goal will be for student to learn how to think strategically – that is, to determine what the key objectives the U.S. has been pursuing, critically evaluate whether the policies that have been put in place are achieving these objectives, and consider whether and how these policies should be modified to better meet the U.S.’s strategic goals.  Students will have the opportunity to examine counterterrorism policies in three different areas: the use of military force (Afghanistan, Iraq and drones), intelligence and law enforcement authorities (interrogation of enemy combatants, electronic surveillance and government access to data), and homeland security (aviation security and countering violent extremism policy).  Each of these topics will require students to grapple with not only questions of efficacy, but also legality and morality.


Counterterrorism Experts Speak at Duke

Fran Townsend and Daniel Benjamin discussed “The Evolving Threat of Terrorism – What Should be Done?” in front of a packed audience last Wednesday, 10 September. The two experts elaborated on concerns about ISIS hours before President Obama addressed the nation, outlining potential options on how the U.S. could respond. For more on the event, click here.

President Obama delivering an address to the nation about U.S. policy toward ISIL 9/10/14.
     President Obama addresses the nation about U.S. policy toward ISIL 9/10/14.

Schanzer discusses Syrian conflict with Voice of Russia Radio

On Friday, September 12, TCTHS director David Schanzer responded to questions from Moscow’s Voice of Russia Radio about the effect the new U.S. strategy in Syria will have. In the segment, Schanzer discusses Obama’s strategy to destroy ISIS and U.S. intentions for Syria.

To listen to the segment, click here.

isisWUNC: Nichols Says “Take a Deep Breath” on ISIS

National security expert LT COL Tim Nichols (USMC RET) appeared on WUNC’s “The State of Things” today to discuss President Obama’s plan to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Nichols discussed the Islamic State and the American response outlined in the president’s address to the nation last night.

Schanzer and Nichols: ‘Cool Down the Rhetoric’ on ISIS

TCTHS director David Schanzer and fellow national security expert LT COL Tim Nichols (USMC RET), address the U.S.’s response to the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in their jointly-written op-ed for ISLAMiCommentary. Schanzer and Nichols played down the ISIS threat to the homeland and urged the US to build an international coalition. “What we cannot do is let fear and hyperbole lead us into the trap that ISIS is setting for us. Like al Qaeda before it, ISIS is eager to draw America into a conflict in the Middle East and satisfy its bloodlust on American targets in its own backyard.”

Schanzer and Nichols said it is time to “cool down the rhetoric (especially the quasi-religious references to the ‘gates of hell’), beef up what we need to do to protect the homeland from returning fighters, and build an enduring coalition to confront ISIS and other extremist organizations.”

Upcoming Event: Wednesday, September 10

“The Evolving Terrorist Threat: What Should be Done?”

Fleishman Commons, Sanford School, Duke University

The 2014 Robert R. Wilson Lecture this year will be a discussion between two leading counterterrorism experts froWilsonLecture2014_Plasma1920x1080m the Bush and Obama administrations. Fran Townsend, former chair of the Homeland Security Council for the George W. Bush administration, and Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, principal counterterrorism advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will discuss the changing terrorist threats. TCTHS director David Schanzer (@schanzerdavid) will moderate.

This event is free and open to the public. Parking will be available in the Science Drive Visitors lot ($5/vehicle, cash only). For more information or media inquiries, please contact Alexandra Pfadt (

Link to the event live stream:

“Israel Can’t Afford to Lose More Jews Like Me.”

In his response to Shmuel Rosner’s op-ed in The New York Times, TCTHS director David Schanzer pushes back against Rosner’s claim that non-Israeli liberal Jews are “fair-weather fans” when it comes to supporting Israel. Schanzer defends Israel’s incursion into Gaza to seal off the tunnels and punish those behind the rocket launches, but criticizes the IDF’s “lack of strategic vision.” Click here for the full article.

A Call for Change to the National 9/11 Memorial Museum al-Qaeda video

TCTHS director David Schanzer calls for changes to the National 9/11 Memorial Museum al-Qaeda video. Schanzer says, “There is a way to talk about 9/11 that accurately reflects the religion of the perpetrators, explains why they attacked, and avoids conflating the religion of Islam with the ideology of al-Qaeda extremism. It is not too late for the museum to back down and achieve all of these important goals.” “To devise an acceptable way to talk about 9/11, we have to be guided by certain truths,” he says, and problems arise when we fail to make these important distinctions.” Read the full article here.

5 Counterterrorism Fellows Present Research on Leadership, Threats, Diversity and Emergency Response

On April 25, 2014 five Duke University Fellows in Counterterrorism and Public Policy (CTPP) presented their year-long research in the program’s second annual conference “Embracing Strategic Uncertainty: Preparing for the Unknown.” The topics were:

  • The Delta of Command: The Increasing Gap Between Character and Competence in the Navy’s Commanding Officer Screening and Selection” CAPT (Sel.) M. Jamie Sands
  • “The Army’s Role in Domestic Disaster Response” -LTC Neal Mitsuyoshi
  •  “Embracing the Dragon: Bringing Stability to Asia through Effective Deterrence” LTC Paul Darling
  • “Counterterrorism Partners for the Future: Indicators of Effective Partner Relationships” -COL James Wanovich
  • “Growing the Ranks of African-American Infantry and Armor Officers” -COL Ron Clark

Biographies for each of the CTPP fellows can be found here. The research reports will be made available soon.

No Easy Day: Government Roadblocks and the Unsolvable Problem of Political Violence

HuffPost LiveTCTHS director, David Schanzer’s response to Marc Sageman’s article “The Stagnation in Terrorism Research” criticizing the current state of terrorism research. Read the full article here.

“Uncovering the Face of Homegrown Terrorism” on Huffington Post Live

Tune in at 1:35pm here

The Boston Marathon bombing continues to raise new questions on th

e growing threat of homegrown terrorism. As law enforcement become adept at identifying terrorists outside the U.S., how do we stop the extremists in our own backyard? Listen in live at 1:35pm as TCTHS director David Schanzer participates in “Uncovering the Face of Homegrown Terrorism.”

Year after Boston bombing, it’s clear that threat of homegrown terrorism overhyped

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing one year ago Tuesday, many commentators and public officials called this

Photo by John Tlumacki — Associated Press

Photo by John Tlumacki — Associated Press

tragedy a harbinger of more homegrown terrorist attacks to come.While

only one year has passed, much of this concern appears to have been hyperbole, says TCTHS director David Schanzer and Charles Kurzman. Read the full article here.

David Schanzer discussed the Boston Marathon Bombing and America’s terror threat now on WBUR’s “On Point” with Tom Ashbrook on April 15. For more on the show, click here.

“Time for Full Disclosure of CIA Interrogations,” says TCTHS Director

In his article “Time for Full Disclosure of CIA Interrogations” published in The Huffington Post, David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, says it is time for the CIA “to come clean, move on, and let history be the judge.” “There is no undoing this damage,” Schanzer says, “the best that can be done is to stop the bleeding and manage the consequences.”  Read the full article here.

DespKurzman Report 2013ite Boston, Number of Muslim-American Terrorists Remains Low

The TCTHS announces the fifth annual report on Muslim-American terrorism suspects and perpetrators written by Charlie Kurzman.  “Despite concerns that the Boston Marathon bombing or the civil war in Syria might lead to an upsurge of violence in the United States, the number of Muslim-American terrorism plots remained low in 2013,” said the author of the report, Charles Kurzman, a professor of sociology at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “Foreign terrorist organizations continued to have difficulty recruiting Muslim-American communities.”

For the full report click here. These reports, and the data on which they are based, are available at

Staying Off the Snowden Bandwagon: TCTHS Discusses Time’s “Man of the Year”

TCTHS Director David Schanzer responds to the media buzz around Edward Snowden after a U.S. district judge ruled yesterday the National Security Agency’s metadata program is unconstitutional. To see why Schanzer says “the Snowden bandwagon may be crowded these days, but there are many reasons to stay off of it,” read the full article here.

Gellman and Hayden Debate Implications of Leaking National Security Information


Photo courtesy of Duke Photography

The former director of the CIA and NSA, Gen. Michael Hayden (USAF, Ret.) and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Barton Gellman, squared off last week over the implications of national security reporting.  A lively and informative debate covered ethical obligations of journalism, the need for discretion in reporting of sensitive issues, and the imperative for secrecy in protecting national security priorities.  For more, watch a recording of the event on the Sanford School of Public Policy YouTube page here.

Upcoming Event: Monday, 11 November

Leakers or Whistleblowers plasma

TCTHS director David Schanzer will moderate a discussion between former director of the NSA and CIA, General Michael Hayden (USAF – Retired) and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Barton Gellman on the implications of national security leaks and the media.

For more information on the event, click here.

White House National Security Staff Member Encourages Students to Pursue Public Service

george-selimThe TCTHS hosted White House National Security Staff Member and director for Community Partnerships, George Selim, Nov. 4-5 for a series of meetings with students to discuss careers in public service.  Selim encouraged students to develop their personal networks through relationships and focus on the human element of breaking into the field.  In his time with students, Selim also fielded questions about his role in community engagement and outreach to which he explained the desire for and necessity of cultivating and maintaining strong relationships with communities and individuals rather than just community leaders.

9/11 and Itsnew-york-city-78181 Aftermath Launches On Coursera

TCTHS Director David Schanzer is preparing to launch a mass online course on 9/11 and its Aftermath in September.  This course will explore the forces that led to the 9/11 attacks and the policies the United States adopted in response. In the course, students will examine the phenomenon of modern terrorism, the development of the al Qai’da ideology, and the process by which individuals radicalize towards violence.  For more information or to register for the course click here.