Tactical Means, Strategic Ends: Al Qaeda's Use of Denial and Deception

by Devin D. Jessee, The Fletcher School, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, USA

This analysis surveys Al Qaeda's employment of denial and deception (D&D) and shows that it uses D&D on tactical and operational levels in order to achieve strategic results. It defines denial and deception and explains how they relate to Al Qaeda, overviews Al Qaeda's changing network structure and seeks to summarize how Al Qaeda employs D&D throughout its operations. This paper is structured to show that denial and deception are institutionalized factors that manifest themselves through all aspects of bin Laden's organization and that the traditional conception of D&D—that nonstate actors are incapable of employing deception as an element of grand strategy—is incorrect.

Keywords deception, denial, Al Qaeda, terrorism, counter-terrorism, September 11, terrorist strategy

David C. Rapoport

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