PTSS Poster

The Impact of COVID-19 on Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Marshall Center Program in Terrorism and Security Studies Colloquia

July 2020, Number 001

In April 2020, the Marshall Center’s Program in Terrorism and Security Studies (PTSS) team launched a colloquium series to share their thoughts and insights on the impact of the coronavirus on terrorism and counter terrorism. The colloquia aimed to facilitate the sharing of analysis and perspectives with PTSS alumni and other listeners around the world and invite their perspectives on the evolving impact of the pandemic in their countries and regions. Prior to the launch of the first colloquium, PTSS alumni were invited to read an Occasional Paper by Professor James K. Wither that provided a preliminary assessment of the impact of the pandemic.

The first colloquium was released on April 22, 2020 on GlobalNet and Marshall Center Facebook and LinkedIn sites. The 20-minute colloquium was moderated by Colonel Gary Reidenbach USMC, Director of the PTSS. Faculty members provided their views on the impact of the pandemic on the following terrorism related subjects:

  • Dr. Tova Norlen – Salafi-jihadist terror groups and propaganda
  • COL. Ralf Klewin von Fintel – the threat of bio-terrorism
  • Prof. James K. Wither – right-wing extremist exploitation of the pandemic
  • Prof. Robert Knotts – crime/terror nexus


The second colloquium was released on June 3, 2020 and was again moderated by Colonel Reidenbach. This colloquium addressed the following coronavirus and terrorism related topics:

  • Dr. Benjamin Nickels – prison radicalization during the pandemic
  • Dr. Tova Norlen – exploitation of pandemic conspiracy theories and narratives by violent extremists
  • Prof. James K. Wither – the impact of the pandemic on security force readiness 


The third and last colloquium in the current series was released on July 27, 2020. As usual it was moderated by PTSS Course Director, Colonel Reidenbach. The colloquium addressed the following terrorism related issues that have arisen during the current pandemic:

  • Dr. Tova Norlen – the “Boogaloo Movement” and related right wing extremism in the United States  
  • Prof. James K. Wither – “Antifa” and left wing radical activity during the pandemic
  • Prof. Jonathan Odom – Legal challenges facing the United States and other countries dealing with domestic terrorism during the pandemic

The colloquia have provided a valuable opportunity for PTSS alumni and other listeners to access pandemic related research being undertaken by the Marshall Center and, in particular, the PTSS team. The colloquia are further intended to maintain ties to the PTSS alumni network as well as help inform pandemic-related counter terrorism policy considerations in their countries.

The colloquia have generated a great deal of interest. A significant number of alumni have listened to the sessions, commented on their content, and described how the subjects under discussion relate to experiences in their countries/regions. Additionally, the alumni have offered suggestions to help shape future colloquium and other potential alumni engagements.