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Robert Axelrod, Scott Atran pen op-ed, "Why we talk to terrorists"

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Robert Axelrod and Scott Atran wrote an op-ed for the New York Times defending their right, as social scientists, to talk to U.S. classified terrorist organizations without threatening national security. The op-ed was written in response to a recent Supreme Court decision, Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project, that upheld a ban on the "material support" of foreign terrorist organizations. Material support, as Axelrod and Atran explain, includes talking to terrorists or the communication of expert knowledge and scientific information. Material support, as Axelrod and Atran explain, includes talking to terrorists or the communication of expert knowledge and scientific information.

Axelrod and Atran write, "the two of us are social scientists who study and interact with violent groups in order to find ways out of intractable conflicts. In the course of this work and in our discussions with decision makers in the Middle East and elsewhere we have seen how informal meetings and exchanges of knowledge have borne fruit. It’s not that religious, academic or scientific credentials automatically convey trust, but when combined with a personal commitment to peace, they often carry weight beyond mere opinion or desire."