The threat of terrorism, which created the vogue for a national ‘‘homeland security’’ infrastructure, must be understood in a strategic context. Terrorist attacks have direct costs, but they also seek self-injurious overreaction, such as the waste of blood and treasure on the part of the victim state; recruitment and sympathy gains when the victim state misdirects a violent response; and the weakening of the political order in the society attacked so that it is induced to act wrongly. When it does so, it cedes the moral and ideological high ground, making terrorists groups look relatively more legitimate.

Policymakers should use risk management to prioritize security efforts, and they should avoid holding out the promise of perfect security, as there is no such thing. Civil liberties must be fully protected, and doing so is consistent with proportionate and well-focused domestic security efforts.

More on Counterterrorism and Homeland Security


Relax, Minnesota: REAL ID Deadline Isn’t for Real

By Jim Harper. StarTribune. September 30, 2015.

Why Are FBI Agents Trammeling the Rights of Antiwar Activists?

By Patrick G. Eddington. Newsweek. September 25, 2015.

Legislative Cyber Threats: CISA’s Not the Only One

By Patrick G. Eddington. Just Security. July 29, 2015.

Cato Studies

Responsible Counterterrorism Policy

By John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart. Policy Analysis No. 755. September 10, 2014.

REAL ID: A State-by-State Update

By Jim Harper. Policy Analysis No. 749. May 12, 2014.

Privatizing the Transportation Security Administration

By Chris Edwards. Policy Analysis No. 742. November 19, 2013.


Evaluating Counterterrorism Spending

John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart. Journal of Economic Perspectives. Vol. 28. No. 3. Summer 2014.

Cost-benefit Analysis of Airport Security: Are Airports Too Safe?

Mark G. Stewart and John Mueller. Journal of Air Transport Management. 2014.

Terrorism Risks and Cost-Benefit Analysis of Aviation Security

John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart. Risk Analysis. October 4, 2012.

Public Filings

Reducing Wasteful Federal Spending

By Chris Edwards. Testimony. June 10, 2015.

Hearing on “Continued Oversight of U.S. Government Surveillance Authorities”

By Julian Sanchez. Testimony. December 11, 2013.

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Passenger Screening Using Advanced Imaging Technology

By Jim Harper, John Mueller, and Mark G. Stewart. Public Comments. June 21, 2013.

Cato Reviews & Journals


The 2014 Cato Institute Surveillance Conference

Featuring Julian Sanchez and Patrick G. Eddington. December 12, 2014. Conference.

Reddit AMA: I Am Flemming Rose

Featuring . November 13, 2014. Special Event.

Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History?” 25 Years Later

Featuring John Mueller and Christopher A. Preble. June 6, 2014. Conference.

Downsizing the Federal Government