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The Terrorism Index

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Executive Summary

Since the attacks of September 11, the United States has been engaged in what administration officials call the "global war on terror." The diffuse nature of the enemy in this "long war" and the global reach of the war have often left Americans wondering about U.S. progress in its campaign against global terrorist networks.

The Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy magazine teamed up to ask over 100 of America's most esteemed terrorism and national security experts for their assessment. This survey seeks for the first time to mine the highest echelons of the U.S. national security establishment across the ideological spectrum for their insights on the war on terrorism.

Surprising consensus exists among the experts about terrorism and U.S. national security. A vast majority think that the world today is more dangerous for the American people. Fewer than two in 10 believe the United States is winning the war on terror. More than eight in 10 believe we are likely to face a terrorist attack on the scale of September 11 within the next 10 years. Over half list Islamic animosity and the Iraq war as the main reasons why the world is becoming more dangerous. The experts put nuclear weapons and materials as the top threat followed closely by weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as a whole and then terrorism. Only four percent rank Iran as the greatest threat.

The experts also have serious concerns about the effectiveness of the U.S. national security apparatus and sharply criticize the U.S. government's efforts in numerous areas of national security, including public diplomacy, intelligence, and homeland security. They give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) a score of 2.9 out of 10 in its functions related to national security, and more than 80 percent of the surveyed experts characterize efforts at intelligence reform to date as "fair" or "poor."

The major correctives suggested by the experts for defeating terrorist networks and enhancing U.S. national security are increasing the budget for the Department of State (87 percent), reducing dependence on foreign oil (82 percent), and improving intelligence capabilities (76 percent).

Furthermore, specific U.S. policies are cited by experts as contributing to our lack of progress in winning the war against terrorist networks. Majorities believe that the war in Iraq (87 percent), the detention of terrorist suspects in Guantanamo and elsewhere (81 percent), U.S. policy towards Iran (60 percent), and U.S. energy policy (64 percent) have had a negative impact on our national security.

The survey's conclusions aid our understanding of the threat, as well as the current capabilities and missteps of the U.S. government in fighting terrorism.

Methodology

The Terrorism Index is based on the results of a survey designed by the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy magazine. Participants in the survey were selected by the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy for their expertise in terrorism and U.S. national security. No one currently working in an official U.S. government capacity was invited to participate.

The nonscientific survey was administered online from March 6 to April 21, 2006. In the survey, respondents were asked to self-identify their ideological bias from choices across a spectrum: very conservative, conservative, somewhat conservative, moderate, somewhat liberal, liberal, and very liberal. Thirty-one people identified themselves as some level of conservative, 40 identified as moderate, and 45 identified as some level of liberal. In order to ensure balance, the survey was weighted according to ideology to make the number of weighted liberal respondents equal to the number of conservative respondents. Moderate and conservative respondents remained unweighted.

Participants

David Albright, Jon Alterman, John Arquilla, Ron Asmus, Scott Atran, Andrew Bacevich, Rand Beers, Daniel Benjamin, Peter Bergen, Mia Bloom, Philip Bobbitt, Joseph Bouchard, Jarret Brachman, Matthew Bunn, Dan Byman, Kurt Campbell, Ted Carpenter, Ashton Carter, Joseph Cirincione, Richard Clarke, Steve Coll, Roger Cressey, Sheba Crocker, PJ Crowley, Arnaud deBorchgrave, Mary DeRosa, Matthew Devost, Larry Diamond, Dana Dillon, James Dobbins, Tom Donnelly, Lawrence Eagleburger, RP Eddy, Michael Eisenstadt, Clark Ervin, John Esposito, Gareth Evans, Douglas Farah, Michele Flournoy, Stephen Flynn, James Forest, William Frenzel, Francis Fukayama, Kathy Gannon, Gregory Gause, Leslie Gelb, Fawaz Gerges, William Gertz, Larry Goodson, Mort Halperin, Peggy Hamburg, Gary Hart, David Heyman, Philip Heymann, Joseph HoarBruce Hoffman, Laura Holgate, John Hulsman, Jo Husband, G. John Ikenberry, Larry Johnson, Robert Kagan, Kenneth Katzman, Juliette Kayyem, Geoffrey Kemp, Daryl Kimball, Larry Korb, Charles Kupchan, Ellen Laipson, Anthony Lake, Randall Larsen, Thomas Lippman, Jane Holl Lute, Robert Malley, Thomas Marks, John McCarthy, Mary McCarthy, Michael McFaul, Merrill McPeak, Doris Meissner, Joshua Muravchik, William Nash, William Odom, Michael O'Hanlon, Martha Brill Olcott, Charles Pena, Paul Pillar, Walter Pincus, William Potter, Christopher Preble, Charles Pritchard, Kenneth Roth, Barnett Rubin, Marc Sageman, Robert Scales, Teresita Schaffer, Michael Scheuer, Steven Simon, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Gayle Smith, Amy Smithson, James Steinberg, Jessica Stern, Raymond Tanter, Shibley Telhami, Loren Thompson, Jack Vessey, Edward Walker, Stephen Walt, William Wechsler, William West, Lawrence Wilkerson, James Woolsey, Daniel Zelikow, Anthony Zinni, James Zogby

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Katie Peters (economy, education, poverty, Half in Ten Education Fund, women's issues)
202.741.6285 or kpeters@americanprogress.org

Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, health care, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention, the National Security Agency)
202.481.7141 or tcaiazza@americanprogress.org

Print: Chelsea Kiene (energy and environment, Legal Progress, higher education)
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Tanya Arditi
202.741.6258 or tarditi@americanprogress.org

TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or rrosen@americanprogress.org

Radio: Chelsea Kiene
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org