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Elizabeth Allington
IU School of Law at Indianapolis

Last modified: Friday, January 15, 2010

Groundbreaking counter-terrorism simulation documentary involving IU law students premieres Jan. 21

Jan. 15, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana University students are featured in Tough Decisions: Defending the Homeland, a compelling documentary that takes viewers behind the scenes during a groundbreaking simulation of terrorism in Indiana's capital city.

Counter-terrorism Simulation

Students in law professor Shawn Boyne's Seminar in Comparative National Security Law participated in a counter-terrorism simulation on Oct. 23.

Produced in partnership with the IU School of Law-Indianapolis, at Indiana Uninversity-Purdue University Indianapolis, and the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Tough Decisions, premieres on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 7:30 p.m. on WFYI 1 (20.1 DT). The documentary chronicles the minute-by-minute response as law and SPEA students role-play government and civilian officials attempting to deal with sometimes faulty or incomplete information in an unfolding terrorist attack.

If terrorists decide to strike in the Heartland, how will local and national authorities respond? In the event of terrorist attack on American soil, what rights and responsibilities do public officials have to protect citizens? How far can officials go in limiting freedoms while still maintaining constitutionally protected rights? What are the potential conflicts between or within agencies that might hinder or complicate government responses? What are the short- and long-term legal consequences of actions taken in the chaotic moments after an attack?

These are some of the questions and problems government officials in cities across the nation, like Indianapolis, may one day face. Approximately 50 students from the Seminar in Comparative National Security Law, taught by Shawn Boyne, associate professor of law and Dean's Fellow, along with students from SPEA, faced those very questions on Oct. 23, 2009, as they worked side-by-side with local and state government officials to respond to simulated counter-terrorism events taking place locally and throughout the world. The entire event was broadcast live over the Internet so college or high school students in their classrooms, first responders in emergency networks, or private citizens at home were able to watch and learn from the decision-making processes sparked by the simulation.

"We created this simulation in the interest of preparing a new generation of global leaders and citizens," said Boyne.

The students participating in this exercise acted in assigned roles ranging from mayor and governor to president of the United States. At the conclusion of the simulation, participants received feedback from international counter-terrorism experts.

"To enhance realism, we invited several experts in the field of counter-terrorism to work with the students throughout the program," Boyne said. "One of the things that made this exercise truly unique is that it aimed to expand this experiential learning opportunity to as wide of an audience as possible."

The experiential learning also involved students from a video production class taught by video production expert Michael R. Maitzen in IUPUI's school of Liberal Arts. Undergraduate students from the class filmed the action featured in Tough Decisions as it unfolded, right along side the professional documentary team from WFYI Productions -- a service of WFYI Public Broadcasting.

For more information about the simulation or the documentary, visit the law school's Web site at or contact Elizabeth Allington at