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

Commentary

ACLU Fights Dems’ Dishonest War on Due Process

By Nat Hentoff and Nick Hentoff. Cato.org. June 27, 2016.

Defund REAL ID

By Jim Harper. Huffington Post. June 21, 2016.

REAL ID Threatens Privacy without Adding Security

By Jim Harper. The Buffalo News. June 15, 2016.

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.

Articles

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

Events

Chasing Ghosts: The Policing of Terrorism

Featuring John Mueller and Christopher A. Preble. April 4, 2016. Book Forum.

America’s Invisible Wars

Featuring Emma Ashford. March 21, 2016. Policy Forum.

Power Wars: Inside Obama’s Post-9/11 Presidency

Featuring Gene Healy. January 5, 2016. Book Forum.

Downsizing the Federal Government