A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

START graduate student earns IALEIA honors

The International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysis (IALEIA) recently honored Jason Bakas, a START graduate certificate student, with an award and scholarship for his research on the use of violence risk assessment tactics in counterterrorism efforts, focusing specifically on lone actor terrorism incidents.

Bakas, an analyst for Canadian law enforcement, submitted a revised version of his START paper “’Risky Business’: Adapting Violence Risk Assessment for Criminal Intelligence Analysts” to IALEIA and won the Jorge Espejel-Contreras Scholarship. The award recognizes work that expands the capabilities and enhances the intelligence analysis profession.

According to Bakas, counterterrorism policy and practice has not kept pace with changes to the threat as well as changes in other fields. His paper suggests that the counterterrorism field should consider expanding the implementation of violence risk assessment instruments. These tools are used regularly by psychologists and psychiatrists in forensic mental health institutions.

“When it comes to combating terrorism, law enforcement needs every advantage it can get,” Bakas said. “If we look across fields of study and find tools and instruments that show reliability in intelligence collection efforts, it could be a real game-changer in counterterrorism investigations.”

Bakas said that he thinks counterterrorism analysts should expand their risk assessment practices beyond interviews of detained terrorism suspects and delve into new tactics such as surveillance, human sources, open sources/social media, and communication intercepts.

“As more and more jihadists look for community online, there is a greater opportunity for undercover security agents to forge relationships virtually and collect assessment information,” Bakas said. “It presents us with a whole new slew of tactics to use to uncover critical information.”

 Bakas said the concepts and theories he’s learned at START have helped him to provide more in depth analysis at his job investigating extremist violence for Canadian law enforcement.

“My studies at START have really upped my game,” Bakas said. “Outside of working directly on terrorism, the interdisciplinary nature of my studies has instilled in me greater understanding, the flexibility that comes with diverse perspectives and ability to identify links among complex strategic and global security challenges.”

In addition to finding on-the-job value in his curricular work at START, Bakas has found comradery in his peers.

“In my experience, START has attracted an incredible, diverse collection of students, with very different backgrounds and experiences – I enjoy working in a team and bouncing ideas of others,” Bakas said. “Engagement and discussions with from my fellow students have really aided in my learning and growth.”