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Social Network Analysis and Small Group ‘Dark’ Networks: An Analysis of the London Bombers and the Problem of ‘Fuzzy’ Boundaries

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Global CrimeJournal abstract

Social network analysis (SNA) is believed to be capable of revealing significant insights into crime and terror groups, including identifying important individuals and unique approaches to disruption. However, SNA has a number of theoretical and practical limitations, particularly when applied to ‘dark’ networks. While most analysts certainly acknowledge at least some of these limitations, we need to know more about their potential impact in a crime intelligence context. This article aims to go some way towards that end by placing greater scrutiny on the problem of ‘fuzzy boundaries’ when applied to small group networks. SNA is applied to the groups responsible for the 7 July 2005 London bombings and the 21 July 2005 attempted London bombings. The article concludes that while SNA is a valuable tool for understanding crime and terror groups, the age-old problem of fuzzy boundaries can have a profound impact on the analysis of small dynamic networks.

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