International Center for the Study of Terrorism

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Group.png International Center for the Study of Terrorism Powerbase WebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
HeadquartersDepartment of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University
An international group affiliated with a number of research universities in Britain and the United States.


According to the ICST’s website the Center was formally launched at a meeting of US and UK security experts in London on 20 May 2006.[1] This description is somewhat misleading since it would seem from other sources that the conference in question was the annual meeting of the Worldwide Universities Network. As the photo on the left shows, present at the launch was Graham Spanier, President of The Pennsylvania State University, Eric Thomas chair of the Worldwide Universities Network and Vice Chancellor of the University of Bristol, and Kevin Murphy who became the Center’s first Director. A press release suggests that Murphy was the main driving force behind putting ICST together:

In 2003, thinking about ways to improve the quality of the science in the field of "terrorism" and counterterrorism, Murphy began putting together a team of psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, religion scholars and historians from Penn State and numerous other institutions, with the aim of creating a multidisciplinary center.[2]

A year before his brainwave, Kevin Murphy had assisted the US Marine Corps in evaluating and enhancing its recruitment process.[3]

On 1 November 2007 John Horgan, a Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence became the ICST’s new director.[4]


A preoccupation of the Center seems to be what it calls ‘actionable knowledge’; in other words scholarly and scientific research that can serve the state and corporate ‘national security’ agenda. ICST’s website currently provides the following summary of its activites:

Develop & Disseminate

  • Threat warning systems that provide specific, consistent, accurate and clear information about the threat as well as guidance about actions individuals should take in response to the threat
  • Training materials for frontline responders, mental health providers and community agencies involved in providing emergency and follow-up care.

Develop Computer Systems, Software & Analytic Methods for

  • Performing automated analysis of public information to be used in forecasting "terrorism" levels.
  • Detecting behavioral patterns and physical characteristics, such as gait, or facial expression, of suicide bombers as they approach the target.

Develop Tactics & Intervention Programs for

  • Tracking terrorist communication patterns and identifying the structural gaps in terrorist networks in order to target boundary spanners linking diverse cells
  • Undermining the confidence of members of terror groups in the abilities, judgment, and success of their leaders.
  • Disrupting the organization of diffused terror networks

Develop Databases & Analytic Capabilities for

  • Cataloging the actions, decisions and life-cycles of armed political action groups, including assessments of the circumstances, interventions and strategies associated with the demise of these groups.
  • Cataloging both historical and real-time data relevant to the motivations of terrorists, characteristics of terror attacks, and connections between terrorist organizations.[5]

Affiliated institutions

At the time of the launch the ICST stated that in addition to Penn State, the following institutions were involved:

Naval Postgraduate School, Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania, Saint Louis University, Drexel University, University of Pittsburgh, University of Kansas, Binghamton University, University of New Mexico, University of Bristol, University of Leeds, University of Southampton, Manchester University, the Institute for Counter-Terrorism and the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies; Nanjing University and Zhejiang University, People's Republic of China; Oslo and Bergen universities, Norway; and University of Utrecht, Netherlands.[6]


  1. Screen Grab of ICST Mission & History page, created 26 June 2008, 16:32:14
  2. Penn State press release, ‘WUN launch International Center for the Study of Terrorism’ 25 May 2006
  3. Penn State press release, ‘WUN launch International Center for the Study of Terrorism’ 25 May 2006
  4. see Screen Grab of John Horgan's page at International Center for the Study of Terrorism, created 26 June 2008, 10:55:31
  5. ICST Website, ‘Actionable Knowledge’, (accessed 27 June 2008)
  6. Penn State press release, ‘WUN launch International Center for the Study of Terrorism’ 25 May 2006