Terrorexpertise:Georgetown University

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N.B. This page relates to Georgetown University’s terrorism related activities. A separate page deals with Georgetown University in general.

Georgetown University is a private university based in Washington DC. It is one of the most important education institutions in the world of terrorism expertise. Some of the most prominent ‘terrorism experts’ have studied and/or taught there and until July 1987 it housed the highly influential CSIS.[1] In her study of the terrorism research field, Edna Reid describes how terrorism research at Georgetown University and its Center for Strategic and International Studies developed over the years in collaboration with other right-wing research centres and think-tanks:

During the 1970s, governments, international organizations, and research centers such as the RAND Corporation, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Georgetown University, and the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University…sponsored numerous terrorism conferences, research projects, specialized anthologies, study groups, and official inquiries into terrorism. The efforts helped to nurture terrorism research and create numerous forums which allowed cross-fertilization of ideas, sharing of resources, and creation of an invisible college of terrorism researchers. [2]


The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) emerged from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service (see below) at the height of the cold war. It was founded in 1962 by Arleigh Burke, who had just served three terms as US Chief of Naval Operations and David Abshire, a West Point graduate who had studied his PhD at Georgetown. The Center became a hub of Cold War propaganda and later developed into an important center of terrorism studies. During the 1980s the semi-permanent terrorism experts at CSIS were Michael Ledeen, Walter Laqueur, Robert H. Kupperman and Ray Cline, but Yonah Alexander, Claire Sterling, Paul Henze, Arnaud de Borchgrave, and Robert Moss were also occasional participants in CSIS's activities bearing on terrorism.[3]

The link between Georgetown and CSIS was severed after the university launched a committee to evaluate the centre in 1986. That year The Washington Post reported concerns that CSIS had focused too much on its media presence whilst producing poor scholarship.[4] Whilst the Center itself moved elsewhere, some of the CSIS men remained with the university. Anthony H. Cordesman still a strategic analyst at CSIS, remained an associate professor at Georgetown until very recently, and CSIS founder David Abshire remained an adjunct professor at Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service for many years. He was awarded an honorary degree by Georgetown in 2006.[5]

CSIS became the think tank where most out-of-office intelligence officers congregated. During the Carter presidency, Stansfield Turner was appointed to head the CIA, and one of his primary activities was to get rid of the ultra-right-wing personnel, e.g., Cuban exiles, right-wing ideologues, or those involved in illegal covert activities. The more educated of the fired bunch ended at CSIS where the brooded and plotted to regain their previous posts or influence. During this time CSIS fellows were the source for many articles meant to fan the Cold War fears or indicate that the current intelligence efforts were not "defending America". Robert Moss and de Borchgrave published The Spike, a book which was basically the CSIS's Cold Warriors' fantasies. After the Carter's defeat and Reagan's accession to office, most of the CSIS Cold Warriors returned to the intelligence agencies, or principal roles within the government.

The Edmund Walsh School

Although the CSIS link was severed over twenty years ago, Georgetown continues to be a centre of ‘terrorism expertise’, pro-government propaganda and rightwing ideology. The bundle of ‘experts’ at Georgetown are mostly connected to its Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, which was the birthplace of CSIS. The School was founded in 1919 by the college dean, a Catholic priest and fanatical anti-communist called Edmund Walsh, who whilst at Georgetown had worked at the US War Department on a programme “designed to mobilise higher education’s resources for the war effort”.[6] Walsh is described by his biographer as a “proponent of American exceptionalism” who “viewed the [American] nation as a beacon of liberty and equality for the world.”[7] During the 1930s Walsh publicly opposed Roosevelt’s New Deal measures and during the cold war he endorsed a nuclear first strike on the basis that the Soviet were inherently immoral.[8] Expressing an ideological zeal common amongst neo-conservatives today, Walsh advocated what he called “the argument of strength justly and righteously employed.[9]

Center for Peace and Security Studies

Today a particular focal point for terrorism experts within the School of Foreign Service is the Center for Peace and Security Studies. Established in 2000 by Michael E. Brown, the Center’s declared mission is to ‘create a hub where the academic and policy communities meet’[10] The Center’s founder left to join George Washington University in 2005 and since then the Center has been headed by terrorism expert Daniel Byman. Byman is currently an expert at the Brookings Institution and previously spent five years at the RAND Corporation. One of Byman’s colleagues at the Center Bruce Hoffman is perhaps the most significant addition to Georgetown’s staff in recent years. Hoffman, whose employment at Georgetown was announced on 12 July 2006[11], is also a former RAND analyst. He helped set up the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St. Andrews University and is one of America’s most high profile terrorism experts. The Center for Peace and Security Studies also houses Paul Pillar, a former CIA analyst, prolific media pundit and Brookings Institution analyst.

Terrorism Research Center

An independent institution with strong affiliations to Georgetown is the Terrorism Research Center, a company funding largely by US government contacts with close associations with a number of corporate security companies. The Terrorism Research Center was founded in 1996 by Matthew Devost and Neal Pollard, both of whom are still adjunct facility members at Georgetown. The Center’s staff are made up almost entirely of Georgetown graduates. DFI International, which worked on a major government contract with the Terrorism Research Center was founded by Barry Blechman who studied his PhD at Georgetown and also taught there for a time.

Other Adjunct terrorism professors at Georgetown

  • Seth Jones, a RAND analyst who has a substantial media presence particularly on Afghanistan.

More former staff, students and other connections

The rightwing ideologue Jeane Kirkpatrick taught at Georgetown for many years, and security consultant and lobbyist Neil Livingstone once served as an adjunct professor in Georgetown University's National Security Studies Program. Judith C. Areen, the current Dean of Georgetown University’s Law Center is a Non-Executive Director at the corporate security company Kroll WorldWide Associates Inc. which has been involved in counter-terrorism. Several other prominent ‘terrorism experts’ are known to have studied at Georgetown. These include Mia Bloom, author of Dying to kill: the allure of suicide terror, Michael Noone a collaborator of Walter Laqueur, and the amateurish cyber-terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann.


  1. RIGHT WEB, Group Watch Profile: Center for Strategic and International Studies, (accessed 19 June 2008)
  2. Edna F. Reid, Hsinchun Chen, ‘Mapping the contemporary terrorism research domain’, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 65 (2007) 42–56
  3. see Center for Strategic and International Studies, extract from The "Terrorism" Industry
  4. Alison Muscatine, ‘Georgetown's Media Profs; A University Thinks Hard About Its Think Tank’, The Washington Post, 11 May 1986
  5. Center for the Study of the Presidency, DAVID M. ABSHIRE, Ph.D. President and CEO (accessed 26 June 2008)
  6. Patrick McNamara, A Catholic Cold War: Edmund A. Walsh, S.J., and the Politics of anti-communism (Fordham University Press, 2005) p.5
  7. Patrick McNamara, A Catholic Cold War: Edmund A. Walsh, S.J., and the Politics of anti-communism (Fordham University Press, 2005) p.xv
  8. Patrick McNamara, A Catholic Cold War: Edmund A. Walsh, S.J., and the Politics of anti-communism (Fordham University Press, 2005) p.xvi
  9. quoted in Patrick McNamara, A Catholic Cold War: Edmund A. Walsh, S.J., and the Politics of anti-communism (Fordham University Press, 2005) p.141
  10. CPASS, About the Center for Peace and Security Studies, (accessed 19 June 2008)
  11. Georgetown University New, ‘Terrorism Expert Bruce Hoffman Joins Faculty’, 12 July 2006
  12. Global Terrorism Analysis