CISAC Honors Program Presentations | Bryan Metzger, Andrew Lokay, and Adam Elliott



Bryan Metzger, Andrew Lokay, and Adam Elliott

Date and Time

May 14, 2020 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM


RSVP Required.


Virtual Seminar

Seminar Recording:


About this Event:

Bryan Metzger

1:30 PM - 2:15 PM 

Introductions will start at 1:30pm. Each presentation will be 20 minutes with a 10 minute discussion.

Title: Lobbyists, Public Relations and “Malign Activities”: The JCPOA as a Case Study of Foreign Influence

Abstract: In July 2015, the P5+1 announced the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known colloquially as the “Iran nuclear deal,” an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 to place limits on the Iranian nuclear program. The agreement was controversial not only within American domestic politics, but also in the eyes of American allies in the Middle East that are commonly thought to exercise significant influence over American foreign policy. Using the JCPOA as a case study on foreign influence in American political decision-making, this thesis analyzes the influence strategies of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran from 2013 to 2018 while assessing the efficacy of these strategies. Based on the theoretical literature, I propose four different influence strategies: direct and indirect lobbying, and direct and indirect shaping of the information space. As a result of nearly forty interviews with former government officials, ambassadors, policy advocates, and regional experts, this thesis finds that while foreign influence does not drive US foreign policy, it can act as an important intervening factor, raising or lowering the costs of political decision-making and amplifying existing preferences within the American political system. Thus, this thesis provides a nuanced perspective on foreign influence in American decision-making, showing the real impact that such campaigns can have while eschewing the idea that American policymakers lack agency in important foreign policy matters.



Andrew Lokay

2:15 PM - 2:50 PM

Introductions will start at 1:30pm. Each presentation will be 20 minutes with a 10 minute discussion.

Title: The Repatriation Dilemma: European Countries and Islamic State Foreign Terrorist Fighters

Abstract: This thesis explains differences in European countries’ approaches to the repatriation of Islamic State foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs). Following the territorial defeat of the Islamic State, the United States urged European countries to take back their citizens who travelled to Syria and Iraq to join the caliphate. Some have done so, while others have not. This thesis is the first study to analyze the variation in responses to this request and uses an original dataset of FTF repatriation across 16 European countries. I apply a nested analysis research design to evaluate four explanatory variables: a country’s history of jihadist attacks, justice system capability, desire for a better relationship with the United States, and domestic political pressure. I arbitrate among these potential explanations though a medium-N analysis and case studies of the United Kingdom and the Republic of North Macedonia. I suggest that NATO aspirants are more likely to repatriate FTFs. The empirical evidence I collect does not support the other three hypotheses. I also propose that high evidentiary requirements in legal systems present a challenge to FTF repatriation. This thesis advances the literature’s understanding of the responsiveness of U.S. allies and partners to Washington’s demands, and it expands the counterterrorism scholarship to address a novel question regarding a salient and divisive policy debate.



Adam Elliott

2:50 PM - 3:20 PM

Introductions will start at 1:30pm. Each presentation will be 20 minutes with a 10 minute discussion.

Title: Keeping Pace: Addressing Life Sciences Dual Use Risk Across U.S. Government Agencies

Abstract: Why do different institutions address the same security challenge in different ways? Global biosecurity governance is ill-equipped to stay apace with advances in biotechnology. While almost all necessary life sciences research incurs the risk for misuse, certain experiments with higher risk to human health if misused are labelled dual use research of concern (DURC). U.S. government policies to guide public funding for DURC experiments attempt to outline lists of experiment types or select agents that constitute DURC. However, experts argue some experiments are definitionally DURC, but they do not fall within the scope of the U.S. policy. This thesis analyzes how the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) approach funding two of these experiment types: gene drives and virus engineering for pandemic preparedness. Tracing each agency’s approach to funding these experiments, as well as their institutional history and culture, leads to several findings. First, when experiment types test the limits of what biosecurity policies are scoped to address, agencies tend to respond in accordance with their mission. However, decisions by agency directors may influence the response as well. Coherent leadership and strategies are critical for preserving the integrity of the scientific enterprise and for protecting humanity from biological threats – including natural, accidental, and deliberate release of biological products that could cause human suffering. By studying the ways different agencies respond when they have to address new biosecurity challenges, governments can better assess the effectiveness of existing biosecurity policies and design future policies in a way that allows society to enjoy the benefits of life sciences advances without undue exposure to risk.