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Putting Students in the Hot Seat: Decision-Making During a Simulated National Security Crisis

March 15, 2010– The public will have the opportunity to observe how public officials might react in the face of a terrorist attack, at least in theory. The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law will present a live counterterrorism simulation on Friday, March 19, beginning at 12:30 p.m. and continuing through the evening. The public can watch the exercise in real time in person or via video broadcast at the law school’s Sutherland Moot Courtroom. It will be available online at

Students enrolled in Professor Amos Guiora‘s “Global Perspectives on Counterterrorism” class will role-play as high-ranking government officials, intelligence agents, and foreign officials. Invited guests include Salt Lake County Sheriff James M. Winder. An assistant U.S. attorney, a Salt Lake City police detective, a veteran print reporter and a senior staff member from the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., will also participate in the simulation exercise.

Over an intense period of several hours, students will be confronted with scenarios that include multiple terrorist attacks simultaneously occurring in various locations. Participants will be required to make time-sensitive decisions while integrating the rule of law, gathering and analyzing intelligence information, weighing policy considerations, and pondering operational issues.

The simulation provides students the opportunity to identify, address, and solve complex issues in a real-life environment. “This will be a unique learning experience for a law student where theory and practical application meet,” Guiora said. “Furthermore, since the students are the decision makers throughout the simulation exercise, this is an invaluable learning experience in leadership.”

The other component of the simulation is the live streaming on the Web for external audiences. “People can control their individual viewing experience via a Web-based dashboard that will provide camera views of all the situation rooms, a link to our simulated news site, and a live chat where our viewers can discuss the scenario with one another,” noted Aaron Dewald, director of the technology initiative at the College of Law. The dashboard will be made available days before the simulation starts.

“These intense simulations offer students the opportunity to build their own leadership capacities, in particular, through making decisions in high-pressure circumstances, with imperfect information and potentially life-altering consequences,” said Hiram Chodosh, dean of the S.J. Quinney College of Law.

Guiora believes that law students and the general public alike will learn something from viewing the simulation. “Simulations directly facilitate development of understanding the importance and relevance of teamwork under stressful, time-sensitive conditions where determining the relevance and reliability of information is of critical importance. To that end, the effectiveness of each student is measured, in part, both by an ability to forcefully present the legal and policy aspects of his or her assigned role and to articulate the critical distinctions between tactical and strategic considerations with respect to operational counterterrorism.”

For more information, or to view the counterterrorism simulation live, visit

The S.J. Quinney College of Law is located at 332 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City. For more information, please visit