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All excellent points.  The analogy is a bit of a strain, and you're
right that "second-in-command" is more a hierarchical designation.  Such
people may or may not be central for flow of information or materiel,
but, I suppose, could be.  I guess I was more focused on the idea that,
in contrast to the networks that most of use live in, one might expect
that criminal (or terrorist) networks would be far more fluid, which
makes the idea of targetting people less viable, but which, as our point
out in the comment about forgers, makes the position important .

Thanks much.


Iain Lang wrote:

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>I'm not sure about your electrons-people analogy, but I think the second
>part of what you say isn't quite right.
>The idea that 'empty central positions are a vacuum' is not served well
>by your example of the removal of the 'second in command' from a
>situation, because the second in command is a position described in
>hierarchical rather than relational terms. Removing a person from a
>network will have an effect related to relational as well as functional
>role: if he or she is the only person linking two halves of a network
>then removing them will be key--the matter (for both those trying to
>maintain the network and those trying to disrupt it) then becomes one of
>how easy it is to replace that person, in functional terms. Stopping a
>flow (of information, or of HIV, or anything else) in any network would
>ideally involve identifying all such points and removing them (as well
>as, perhaps, removing those who could take the place of those already
>I believe (though don't remember the reference--perhaps someone on this
>list knows it) that the French made some progress in counter-terrorism
>in Algeria by identifying forgers as key points in the networks of
>insurgents and selectively 'removing' them. Such a strategy depends,
>evidently, on having an awareness of both the attributional and
>relational properties of nodes.
>Dr Iain Lang
>Epidemiology & Public Health Group
>Peninsula Medical School
>RD&E Wonford Site
>Barrack Road
>Exeter EX2 5DW
>tel. +44 (0)1392 406749
>email. [log in to unmask]
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Social Networks Discussion Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
>Behalf Of Richard Rothenberg
>Sent: 12 October 2005 17:25
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: Targeting critical nodes in criminal networks
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>Let me try out a thought with this group.  Predicting where an electron
>is going to be at any instant is a statistical exercise, and carries
>with it a certain measurable variability.  I don't want to strain the
>metaphor, but a human network also changes (albeit a bit more slowly)
>and predicting "where" an individual is going to be is also subject to
>numerous sources of variation.  It may be that networks are great tools
>for understanding the context in which persons are embedded, but not a
>great tool for specifying exactly what any individual is going to be or
>do.  In the area of disease dynamics and transmission, for example,
>predicting who in a network will actually get HIV (or some other
>transmissible disease) is problematic, as opposed to predicting which
>individuals may be a greater risk because of their personal decisions
>and network occupancy.
>If this is a reasonable thought, than it casts the notion of "targeting
>individuals" in a different light.  To be specific, targeting persons
>may not make a lot of sense, and the results of "removing" a person from
>a criminal network may or may not have the desired impact.  My guess is
>that it won't, and that empty central positions are a vacuum just
>waiting to be filled.  (In Iraq, there have been frequent announcements
>that the second in command has been caught, but their capture seems to
>have had little effect on the insurgency.)  But just as important, the
>ethical and IRB implications--which are moot to begin with, and largely
>a byproduct of the power IRBs have amassed--can also be cast in a
>different light.
>Rich Rothenberg
>SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social
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Richard Rothenberg, MD
Professor, Department of Medicine
Division of Infectious Disease
Emory University School of Medicine
Editor, Annals of Epidemiology
64 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive
Atlanta, GA 30303
T: 404-616-5606
F: 404-616-6847
E: [log in to unmask]

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