Required Essay 4 (RE4)

You are an intelligence analyst for the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). Your group brings together analysts and specialists from the CIA, the FBI, the DoD, and other federal agencies. "With the personnel changes arising from the transition between two presidential administrations, you are in charge of writing and disseminating a brief report explaining the Center’s accepted definition of terrorism, the differences in types of terrorism, and the possible avenues for terrorists to acquire nuclear-explosive materials or nuclear weapons. This report will serve as an introductory document to facilitate a more productive discussion of concerns about nuclear terrorism.

Your essay should be at least 2.5 pages in length but must not be longer than 3 pages when printed in the format specified in the Student Handbook, including the title, headers, and footers. To check this, you should print the exact version you are going to submit. If your paper is longer than 3 pages when printed, it will be given a score of zero.

The Student Handbook provides complete guidance for preparing and submitting writing assignments. Before you turn in your essay, be sure to review the writing assignment submission checklist in the Handbook.

Your report should have the following structure:

  • A title
    • 16-pt font, centered and bolded
    • Should describe concisely the content/purpose of the report
  • An Executive Summary section
    • “Executive Summary” as a section heading in bold, 14-pt font.
    • Should summarize the content of the report in a few sentences
      • Do not include anything that is not found in the report
      • Readers should know the full content from this summary
  • A section on definitions and types of terrorism
    • An appropriate section heading in bold, 14-pt font.
    • The introductory paragraph of this section should include a one-sentence definition of terrorism and state the purpose of the report. Use Richardson's definition. (You could say, for example, "Following Richardson, the NCTC defines terrorism as...") Be sure to include all four essential elements of this definition.
    • In one or two paragraphs, explain and describe the four essential elements of terrorism (from Richardson's definition) to help clarify actions that would or would not be considered terrorism under this definition.
    • Include a paragraph that introduces and defines state-sponsored (sub-state) terrorism and distinguishes it from state terrorism and war terrorism. Include two historical examples of each of these three types of state-related terrorism.
  • A section on nuclear terrorism
    • An appropriate section heading in bold, 14-pt font
    • Include an introductory paragraph that lists the three possible pathways for terrorists to obtain nuclear weapons and which is considered most likely to occur.
    • Include one paragraph for each of the three pathways, briefly describing the difficulties involved for terrorists and the most likely sources of materials or weapons.

Writing style for NCTC:

Intelligence briefs or background reports often follow the “Bottom Line Up Front” (BLUF) writing style. Each paragraph should begin with a sentence that sums up all the information in that paragraph. If a paragraph includes information not found in the first sentence, either remove that information or rewrite the first sentence.

The first sentence of each paragraph should be italicized.

BLUF-style documents also organize information within a paragraph from most to least important. Following the first sentence, the most crucial information should precede less important details.

Following the BLUF style tells readers what information is most important and makes that information easy to find.

See the following document for an explanation of this style and an example document.


Citation of sources:

You should cite your sources using footnotes.

You do not need to use quotation marks or give citations when the information you use is common knowledge. In deciding what is common knowledge, consider what is known by a typical University of Illinois student who is not a student in Physics 280.

As the sources to use in preparing this essay are specified above, there should be no doubt about which sources are being used in this assignment. Nevertheless, for practice we require explicit citations of all sources used in the Required Essays.

To save space in the Required Essays, which are only a few pages long, we recommend referring to the pertinent sources using the following styles:

What Terrorists Want WTW, p. 64
Nuclear Terrorism NT, p. 102
Terrorism Slides 17p280 Terrorism, slide 3

You do not need to place standard definitions in quotes, but you do need to give citations for them.

Do not include a bibliography or a list of references. (More complete citations will be required in the Research Paper for sources other than Physics 280 slides.)

Further guidance:
  • In writing your essay, assume your audience is a typical University of Illinois student who is not a student in Physics 280 and who is therefore unfamiliar with the definitions we use in this course.
  • Omit any information that is not essential.
  • Begin each paragraph with a strong topic sentence and omit any information that is not essential for addressing the points listed above.
  • Make your paragraphs clear, concise, and to the point. Avoid repetition and unnecessary words, especially adjectives and adverbs, and use active voice.