I spent this fall in Washington D.C. as part of the Maxwell-in-Washington program. After spending a wonderful summer here, I had decided to continue my studies here this past fall. It was important for me to get the most out of my final semester in the program, and so I took two classes and participated in an internship as well.
My internship was at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), which is a research center at the University of Maryland. It focuses its studies on the causes and consequences of terrorism, as well as on national and international responses to terrorist groups and activities. START conducts extensive firsthand and secondhand research and works with vast quantities of data, as evidenced by its Global Terrorism Database (GTD) which it describes on its website as “the most comprehensive unclassified data base on terrorist events in the world.”
More specifically, I have been part of the Unconventional Weapons and Technology (UWT) division. This division studies terrorist use or potential use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. The project that I have been working on is the Aviation Insider Threat project, which is working on the development of the Cargo Aviation Insider Threat Assessment Tool (CAITAT) to help detect vulnerabilities within the air cargo supply chain which may potentially be exploited by insiders looking to commit illicit or terrorist activities. My tasks have included, but have not been limited to, conducting research on air cargo supply chains and potential vulnerabilities within them, conducting red-teaming exercises with CAITAT to help refine it before it is finalized in December, and assisting with the preparation and editing of
CAITAT training materials.
I am eternally grateful for the wonderful opportunities that I had this fall, as it was certainly one to remember. This has been quite a unique experience for me, as my previous two internships were very different from this one, and I have learned a great deal about national security and counterterrorism. I will always look back at this fall as an important building block in the person that I will become and am beyond excited to find out what lies ahead in my future.
Ivan Ponomarev is a recent MAIR graduate. He also interned at Nonviolence International and the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy in DC.