Assessing Terrorism Threats to New Zealand: The Role of the Combined Threat Assessment Group

Author/s: Combined Threat Assessment Group (CTAG)
Published in National Security Journal, 27 November 2020

CTAG’s Threat Assessment Methodology

CTAG analysts assess the likelihood of the threat of physical harm from terrorism, violent protest or violent crime (abroad) occurring in a specific environment, targeting a specific entity, or emanating from a specific individual or group by assessing the intent and capability of relevant threat actors and considering broader environmental factors. Methodologies have been adapted to meet New Zealand National Security System requirements and are intended as analytical guides to provide analysts with greater confidence during assessment development. Robust analysis is achieved through application of structured analytical techniques and logical reasoning techniques, which draw upon well-regarded international academic and institutional research, as well as analyst training in the identification and mitigation of conscious and unconscious bias.

The process of using multiple analytical and logical reasoning techniques helps analysts understand incomplete data sets and test different hypotheses. The assessment of the likelihood of a threat manifesting is therefore a product of robust and thorough intelligence analysis of the factors constituting the threat (intent and capability). Techniques used include, but are not limited to, the Inference Development Model (IDM) and Pattern and Trend Analysis (PTA):

  • The IDM encourages strong logical reasoning by using identified indicators to develop premises, which together form an inference or explanation of what available information means or could mean.
  • PTA employs an analyst’s understanding of the environment’s past or current patterns or trends (subject matter expertise), and requires the analyst to recognise and articulate assumptions that a past pattern of activity will repeat or current trends will hold true.

The final likelihood assessment is reliant on analytical judgements specific to the particular environment. These judgements are clearly articulated and recorded. Similarly, intelligence gaps hindering analytical confidence in assessments are clearly articulated. CTAG acknowledges, for example, that the threat of the unknown actor will always be present and is unavoidable in intelligence analysis. Use of structured analytical techniques and logical reasoning techniques therefore also assist in developing an understanding of the likelihood of individuals being present in the environment with the intent and capability to cause harm who are unknown to authorities.

A brief overview of the three types of Threat Assessment produced by CTAG, based on the above methodologies, is provided below.