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School of LEJA Faculty Alexander Addressed Terrorism Legal Responses at NATO Conference

February 16, 2010

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MACOMB, IL -- How do you stop terrorism? For many years, many great minds have considered this difficult question, and recent terrorist- and terrorism-related activities and news reports -- such as those of the "Christmas Day Bomber" and of the U.S. unmanned aircrafts targeting Al Qaeda and Taliban members -- keep it top of mind for many Americans today, almost a decade after the 9/11 attacks on U.S. soil.

Dean Alexander, associate professor in Western Illinois University's School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration (LEJA), author of two books on terrorism and who has served as a consultant for the U.S. State Department and World Bank, was among many of those expert minds tackling this difficult question at a NATO Centre of Excellence -- Defence Against Terrorism (COE-DAT) conference held in Ankara, Turkey, in January.

Invited to present two lectures at the five-day COE-DAT conference, "Legal Aspects of Combating Terrorism," Alexander delivered, "The Overview of Legal Response to Terrorism" and "Legal Aspects of Cyber-Terrorism" to the attendees. Most of the conference goers, said Alexander, were military officers from NATO countries and senior government officials from ministries of foreign affairs from many NATO nations.

"The vast majority of attendees were not academics," Alexander explained. "This COE-DAT training provided military officers, professionals and civil servants with a better understanding of distinct terrorism-related issues, which strengthened their individual, as well as collective, knowledge base. It will also enable them to incorporate what they learned into practices and policies applied in their respective countries. My presentations touched on some of the more recent reports about terrorism. For example, I discussed the charges against Mr. Abdulmuttalab, a.k.a., 'the Christmas Day bomber,' and compared them to the guilty plea submitted by the 'Shoe Bomber,' Richard Reid, who attempted a U.S. attack in December 2001, also on an airplane. I discussed the legal instruments that can be used against terrorists, including what has been used in the United States and abroad. I provided case studies to illustrate these points."

Alexander also noted that the COE-DAT conference had more than 90 attendees from 23 countries, including a delegation from Iraq (a non-NATO nation).

"The Iraqi delegation was comprised of military personnel, including a general, and various intelligence and security services personnel. It was the first time NATO had an Iraqi delegation attend, and many of the Iraqi officials who attended commented that they were experiencing terrorism on a daily basis. They seemed eager to learn best practices about how to respond to terrorism."

Expertise like Alexander's provides Western LEJA students with the opportunity to learn from an emerging scholar researching anti-terrorism practices. He noted that at the undergraduate level, the program offers a homeland security minor that provides students exposure to various foundational, legal and tactical principles, which can be put into practice once they are employed at law enforcement departments.

"We also offer a graduate course on terrorism," he said. "After having traveled across the United States and internationally, I believe our students have a better understanding of terrorism than many specialists working in law enforcement departments around the country," Alexander added.

Alexander noted that he was invited to speak at COE-DAT's "Legal Aspects of Combating Terrorism" through a contact he made at another terrorism-focused conference he spoke at in Antalya, Turkey, in November 2009.

"Terrorism is a global problem that NATO's Centre addresses through its activities. It was an extraordinary opportunity for me to speak at the conference in January, and the staff at COE-DAT has invited me to speak at other programs in the future," he added.

Alexander's recent research is concentrated on the radicalization and recruitment of extremists and terrorists, Jihadist activities on U.S. soil and emerging legal issues in combating terrorism.

Learn more about Alexander at Visit WIU's School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration at More information about NATO's Centre of Excellence -- Defence Against Terrorism is available at

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Relations