Sean Everton on Dark Networks
Date: December 26th, 2011

Dark networks are clandestine organizations that often, but not always, engage in nefarious behavior.  Over the past several decades, scholars and minitary strategists have become increasingly interested in how these dark networks operate and how they can be disrupted.  Prof. Sean Everton, assistant professor in the Department of Defense Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), discusses how he has used network theory to understand such clandestine organizations.  We begin by chatting about how a graduate student in sociology with no military background ended up at the NPS and also what the NPS is all about, including who the students are and what they are taught.  We then go on to define “dark networks,” noting that although they are mostly associated with nefarious activities such as drug smuggling or terrorism, sometimes such underground organizations can have beneficial purposes.  As for the latter, Prof. Everton points to the efforts of Catholic nuns to shelter Jewish children in Germany during the Holocaust.  We then discuss how and why religious groups often enhance the effectiveness of dark networks, noting the work of Larry Iannaccone and Eli Berman on this subject.  We then turn to Prof. Everton’s research with Nancy Roberts on how such networks can be disrupted, focusing on two general strategies: kinetic and non-kinetic.  The former (kinetic) strategy includes the direct targeting and (often violent) removal of key individuals from networks with the intent of disrupting its operation.  We also talk about how militaries around the world are trained to identify and break apart dark networks, a process known as “capacity bulding.”  The non-kinetic approach to network disruption includes various tactics such as psychological operations, misinformation campaigns, institution building, and the rehabilitation of members within these dark networks.  Our conversation finishes with a few observations on one of Sean’s other passions, baseball.  Recorded: December 13, 2011.


Sean Everton’s profile at the Department of Defense Analysis, Naval Post Graduate School.

Common Operational Research Environment (CORE) Lab on Facebook.

God, Politics, and Baseball – Sean Everton’s personal blog.


Eli Berman on Religious Terrorism.

Monica Toft on Religion, Violence, and Civil War.

Ron Hassner on Sacred Space and Conflict.

Byron Johnson on More God, Less Crime.


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