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Working with al-Qaeda Documents: An Analyst's View before 9/11'


Working with al-Qaeda Documents: An Analyst's View before 9/11'

April 27, 2012Jessica Rivinius

Former START fellow publishes new paper on analytic challenges In a new paper, "Working with al-Qaeda Documents: An Analyst's View before 9/11," former START fellow and CIA analyst Cynthia Storer offers insight into the challenges faced by analysts before 9/11, the ways they tackled those challenges, and, from these, some lessons for the academic and intelligence communities about how to approach and work with primary documents on al-Qaeda.

"We knew enough by 1991 to lobby hard for inclusion of the potential threat from bin Laden and his associates in assessments of the potential repercussions of war with Iraq," Storer writes in the paper. "Despite support from some forward-thinking Saudi analysts, who were assessing the Islamic Awakening in that country, we did not succeed. This was not the last time that strategic foresight by analysts and operations officers would be disregarded or even belittled."

STORER_911Conference Storer's paper is part of the recently published proceedings from a September 2011conference marking the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Nearly 250 academics, policymakers and practitioners attended the event, which was hosted by the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC) at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), National Defense University (NDU) and the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Center for Advanced Governmental Studies.

The conference proceedings, "Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda's Past & Future through Captured Records, Conference Proceedings," contains essays from the panelists which explore what scholars and policymakers knew about al-Qaeda and Associated Movements (AQAM) before 9/11 as well as what they have learned since. The essays also offer thoughts about the future of AQAM as well as directions for counterterrorism research and policy.

After a 20-year career CIA analyst focusing on terrorism, Storer is now a lecturer at Coastal Carolina University and serves as an instructor and consultant specializing in terrorist organizations. She served as an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland and, in work with START, helped develop its Graduate Certificate in Terrorism Studies. In her new paper, Storer thanks START and its researchers for the significant contributions made to improving analytical thinking in herself and numerous other analysts.