Social Networking, 2013, 2, 19-31 Published Online January 2013 (
Terrorist Networks, Network Energy and Node Removal:
A New Measure of Centrality Based on Laplacian Energy
Xingqin Qi1,4, Robert D. Duval2, Kyle Christensen3,
Edgar Fuller4, Arian Spahiu2, Qin Wu5, Yezhou Wu4,
Wenliang Tang4, Cunquan Zhang4*
1School of Mathematics and Statistics Shandong University (Weihai), Weihai, China
2Department of Political Science West Virginia University, Morgantown, USA
3Department of Political Science Columbus State University, Columbus, USA
4Department of Mathematics West Virginia University, Morgantown, USA
5School of IOT Engineering Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
Email: *
Received November 8, 2012; revised November 11, 2012; accepted January 9, 2013
In this work we propose a centrality measure for networks, which we refer to as Laplacian centrality, that provides a
general framework for the centrality of a vertex based on the idea that the importance (or centrality) of a vertex is re-
lated to the ability of the network to respond to the deactivation or removal of that vertex from the network. In particu-
lar, the Laplacian centrality of a vertex is defined as the relative drop of Laplacian energy caused by the deactivation of
this vertex. The Laplacian energy of network with
vertices is defined as G
, where i
is the
eigenvalue of the Laplacian matrix of . Other dynamics-based measures such as that of Masuda and Kori and Pag-
eRank compute the importance of a node by analyzing the way paths pass through a node while our measure captures
this information as well as the way these paths are “redistributed” when the node is deleted. The validity and robustness
of this new measure are illustrated on two different terrorist social network data sets and 84 networks in James Moody’s
Add Health in-school friendship nomination data, and is compared with other standard centrality measures.
Keywords: Network; Centrality; Laplacian Energy; 9/11 Hijacking; Bali Bombing; Terrorism
1. Introduction
The recent growth in the use of Social Network Analysis
(SNA) to understand complex networks demonstrates the
importance of the implicit connections within groups that
arise from day to day social activity. Similarly, our in-
creasing interest in observing, detecting and analyzing
terrorist networks leads us to be extremely interested in
understanding who is central to the functionality of these
groups that form around the common goal of engaging in
terrorist activities. As a result, researchers and analysts
from several areas have a strong interest in understanding
centrality within networks for both academic and opera-
tional reasons.
SNA provides us tools for mapping and measuring re-
lationships and flows between people, groups, organiza-
tions, computers, URLs, and many other connected bits
of information/knowledge. The vertices in political net-
works, of which terrorist networks have emerged as one
of the most salient, are typically people, organizations, or
groups while the edges show relationships, connections,
or flows between the vertices. SNA provides both a vis-
ual and a mathematical analysis of these interrelation-
ships. Recent studies of networks in political science
range from such diverse topics as international conflict
[1], terrorism [2] and policy networks [3] to disciplinary
introspection about job placement in political science [4].
To understand network structure and the entities being
studied, we often start with an evaluation of their loca-
tion relative to all other actors in the network. For net-
works, the most readily examined measure of location
means how close is the object to the center, or centrality.
The finding of some important vertices with high central-
ities in order to characterize the properties of the net-
works has significant uses in many fields. These include
synchronization transition, the spread of epidemics, and
the transmission of information. For example, in diffu-
sive systems the vertices with large degree play a crucial
role, which are decisive in resolving the traffic jam at a
bottleneck [5].
The ability to measure centrality in social networks
*Corresponding author.
opyright © 2013 SciRes. SN
has been a particularly useful development. These ideas
have materialized in many well known centrality meas-
ures such as degree centrality, along with closeness, be-
tweenness, eigenvector, subgraph centrality, Katz pres-
tige and Bonacich centrality, etc. These measures are
certainly not the only measures of centrality, and it is
clear that these measures capture different aspects of the
positioning of the nodes [6]. Given how varied networks
can be, it is not surprising that there are many different
ways of viewing position, centrality or power in a net-
work. But note that these standard methods also have
their own weakness. For example, as have been stated,
“The simplicity of degree method is an advantage and
also is an disadvantage: only the local structure around a
vertex is calculated and it does not take into considera-
tion the global structure of the network; for example,
although a vertex might be connected to many others, it
might not be in a position to reach others quickly to ac-
cess resources, such as information or knowledge [7]”;
“Betweenness method considers the global network
structure and also can be applied to networks with dis-
connected components, but it is not without limitations;
for example, vertices in a network that generally do not
lie on a shortest path between any two other vertices will
receive the same score of zero [7]”. Katz prestige and
Bonacich centrality both depend on the choice of pa-
rameters heavily. Besides, these existing measures de-
scribe either the local environment around a vertex (e.g.,
degree centrality) or the global position of a vertex in the
network (e.g., closeness, betweenness and subgraph cen-
trality). For example, from its definition, “subgraph cen-
trality” tends to find the center (s) of an entire network
when in fact we are really interested in finding the center
for each community within the network. If the network
consists of more than two communities with dramatically
different sizes, the nodes in the smaller community
would exhibit lower “subgraph centrality” ranks than the
ones in larger community, so that the leader in smaller
community will not rank highly overall. Thus, an inter-
mediate (between local and global) characterization of
the vertex centrality has been claimed as a necessity for
the study of, for example, the food web in [8,9] if species
to community relations are to be understood. An inter-
mediate centrality approach is also suggested to be the
most appropriate if the relative importance of vertex is to
be quantified in social networks.
In this paper, based in part on the basic idea of spectral
graph theory, we present a novel centrality method that
takes into account the Laplacian energy of the graph, a
quantity introduced in [10] which reflects the graph's
internal connectivity. In particular, the Laplacian central-
ity of a vertex is defined as the relative drop of Laplacian
energy in the network caused by the deactivation of this
vertex from the network. Theorem 1 makes precise the
way in which the Laplacian centrality of a vertex can be
used to reveal its importance in a network. This result
says that the Laplacian centrality of a vertex not only
takes the local environment around it into account but
also the larger environment around its neighbors, making
it an intermediate between the global and local charac-
terizations of the position of a vertex in a network. We
investigate the validity and robustness of this new meas-
ure by illustrating this method on three social network
data sets of strong theoretical and substantial policy in-
terest. Examining two terrorists networks (those involv-
ing the Bali Nightclub bombing in 2002 [11] and the
9/11 hijackers network [12]) and all the 84 networks in
the Add Health in-school friendship nomination data
from James Moody, we compare the results of our
Laplacian centrality measure to other standard centrality
measures and show its reliability.
This paper is organized as follows. We first give some
notations and terminology in Section 2. In Section 3, we
introduce the new measure—Laplacian centrality, whose
simple calculation is presented in Section 4 based on
some structural studies of graph theory. Analytical and
numerical results on two different networks will be
shown in Section 5, where the rankings of vertices for
different centrality measures are presented. By compar-
ing with outputs of other methods, the effectiveness of
Laplacian centrality method is supported by both known
facts (intelligence information) and statistical analysis
(consensus comparison), see both Section 5 and Section
6. The computational complexity of various centrality
methods are further compared and discussed in Section 7,
which will show that Laplacian method has the lower
time complexity making it quite advantageous for large
scale networks. Conclusions will be reported in Section
2. Graph Theory Notation and Terminology
In most contexts, a social network can be effectively
represented by a graph where the vertices are the indi-
viduals, and the edges represent the social links (connec-
tion). In this paper, we consider the symmetric case
where social networks are represented by undirected
Let be an undirected graph, consisting of a set of
VGvvv and a set of
edges. The number of edges that are incident to a vertex
is called the degree of the vertex. Let
ij nn
AG a
be the adjacency matrix of the graph , where the ele-
ment equals 1 if there is an edge between vertices
and , and 0 if there is not.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. SN
X. Q. QI ET AL. 21
3. Laplacian Centrality
In the following, we will first introduce the definition of
Laplacian matrix and Laplacian energy for a graph, then
define the Laplacian centrality for a vertex.
Let G be a simple graph (without graph loops or mul-
tiple edges) of vertices, and
DGdiagd dd
be the diagonal matrix with the vertex degrees
of its vertices 12 . Define
as the Laplacian matrix of the
graph (note that the adjacency matrix
dd d
vv v
 
G is
defined in Section 2).
The following is a short list of some properties about
the Laplacian matrix [13].
1) is symmetric, singular and positive semi-
2) All eigenvalues i
are real and nonnegative.
3) The smallest eigenvalue =0
4) The multiplicity of zero eigenvalues equals the
number of connected components of .
Definition 1 If G is a graph of vertices, and
are the eigenvalues of its Laplacian matrix.
The Laplacian energy of is defined as the following
invariant: G
Lemma 1 [10] For any graph G on vertices
with vertex degrees , we have n
dd d
EGd d.
Lemma 2 [10] If H is an arbitrary subgraph of a
graph G, then .
 
We will see from the above lemmas Laplacian energy
reflects the internal connectivity of a network. Thus, the
relative drop of Laplacian energy in the network caused
by the deactivation of this vertex from the network can
be easily regarded as a “signal” to show the importance
of the removing vertex in the whole network .
Definition 2 If is a graph on vertices
12 , let Gn
{,,, }n
vv v
be the graph obtained by remov-
ing vertex from . The Laplacian centrality
v G
of vertex is defined as
Obviously, by Lemma 2, must be
 
4. Calculation of Laplacian Centrality, a
Graph Theory Result
4.1. Graph Theoretical Descriptions
Theorem 1 If is a graph of vertices, then the
Laplacian centrality with respect to is
== 2
CEdv dvdv
Nv is the set of neighbors of in G and v
is the degree of in .
v G
Proof. Assume that the vertex set of is
12 , and there are edges in . It is well
known that . Then
vv vm
=1 =2
 
=1 1
Gi GiGi
Without loss of generality, assume
Note that there are
n vertices and
md v edges in
 
EHd vd v
md vdv
 
Nv be the neighborhood of vertex in G,
the following is obvious: 1
0, =1;
Hi Gii
if i
dv dvifvNv
d votherwise
md vd v
md vd vd v
 
 
md vdv
mdvd vd v
md vd vd v
 
 
 
Thus, the drop of Laplacian energy with respect to
is 1
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. SN
 
 
 
 
 
dvdvdv dv
dv dvdv
dvdv dvdv
dv dvdv
 
 
 
From Theorem 1, we notice the following facts:
First, the Laplacian centrality agrees with the standard
measures on assignment of extremes. For example, it
gives the maximum value to the central vertex of a star,
and equal value to the vertices of a cycle or a complete
Second, it is well known that the degree centrality of
only considers the information contained in the num-
ber of vertices which can be reachable from directly.
The Laplacian centrality of a vertex involves the infor-
mation of vertices that can be reachable to within two
steps and as a result the Laplacian centrality of a vertex
takes not only the local environment around it into ac-
count but also the larger immediate environment around
its neighbors. It is thus an intermediate measure between
global and local characterizations of the position of a
vertex within networks. Because of this we should an-
ticipate that it will reveal differences in network structure
that emerge out of significant local influence upon areas
of the graph. Intuitively, this means that we should ex-
pect the Laplacian centrality to yield a more useful vertex
characterization when the overall graph structure has
subgroups that contribute disproportionately to the over-
all goals of the network. Hence we should see an increase
in the relative importance of actors whose removal from
the network would do the most damage to the graph
structure. In the case of monitoring terrorist groups, La-
placian centrality may offer significant operational coun-
terintelligence benefits due to its strong association with
vertex inactivation. These expectations have been veri-
fied by the experimental results in Section 5.
4.2. Comparison with Local and Global
Centrality Methods
In this section, we will give two simple examples to
show the differences between Laplacian methods with
the popular existing centrality measures respectively.
Here, degree method and subgraph method are chose to
represent local and global standard method respectively.
Please see Figure 1 for the first example. Based on
degree centrality, has higher ranking than v be-
cause the degree of is 4 while the degree of is 3.
Figure 1. Example 1 for comparison of degree centrality
and Laplacian centrality method.
But based on Laplacian method, would have higher
ranking than because v
Edudu dv
 
Edvdv dv
 
Please see Figure 2 for the second example. Centrality
method based on global characterization of network
tends to find the center(s) of whole network. But at the
most time what we are really interested is to find the
center for each community in the network. If the network
is consist of more than two communities and with dra-
matically different sizes, the nodes in smaller community
would get lower ranks than the ones in larger community,
so that the leader in smaller community will not come up
with high rank. We specify this fact by the example in
Figure 2. The network is consisting of two communities
with centers 60 and 10 respectively. From the following
table, we will see that based on Laplacian method, we
always can find the two communities’ centers (#10 and
60), but with subgraph centrality method, all nodes in
the left bigger community all get higher ranks than nodes
in right smaller community, which will regard node
11 as the second center of the network wrongly.
node# Laplacian method subgraph method
60 1st 1st
10 2nd 51st
11 3rd 2nd
Here we only present particular examples which show
that sometimes local or global centrality methods can not
give the reliable results. Thus in practice, we need inter-
mediate method often.
5. Applications and Experimental Results
To demonstrate the effectiveness of Laplacian centrality,
we will test it on two terrorist networks: the Jemaah
Islamiyah Network collected by Stuart Koschade [11],
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. SN
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. SN
Figure 2. Example 2 for comparison of subgraph centrality and Laplacian centrality method.
and the 9/11 hijacker network assembled by Valdis
Krebs [12], and all the 84 networks in the Add Health
in-school friendship nomination data. We compare the
Laplacian results with the most classical methods in-
cluding degree, closeness, eigenvector and betweenness
centrality methods except Katz prestige and Bonacich
centrality methods, because the latter two all depend on
the parameters users choice heavily, which means dif-
ferent choice of parameter would affect the results sig-
5.1. Data set 1: Jemaah Islamiyah Graph—Bali
2002 Terrorist Attack
Th e Jemaa h Is lamiya h ne twork is co mpri sed of 17 mem-
bers of the group that participated in the nightclub bomb-
ing on December 2002, Bali, Indonesia. The network is a
good example of a tight network with two clear clusters
(cliques) and a significant actor with strong measures of
betweenness and closeness. This terrorist attack was also
studied intensively in [14].
5.1.1. Output Analysis Based on Known Evidence
The information provided by the four standard centrality
measures and our Laplacian centrality measure as applied
to the 17 members of the terrorist group directly involved
in the operation are provided in Table 1, where the cen-
trality scores are normalized (dividing by the highest
score of each method). We also list the rank for each
terrorist. Note that frequently actors will exhibit the same
scores for a number of measures. In the case when ties
occur, we usually assign them the same rank. For exam-
ple, Sarijo, Imron, Dulmatin, Azahari, Patek and Ghoni
all get the same Laplacian score 0.5778, thus we will
rank all of them No. 3 since there are only two scores
1.000 0 ( S a mudra ) and 0.6 222 (I dr i s) greater than 0.5778.
The terrorist Samudra, in fact, provides the only link
between the bomb makers and Team Lima, the group
setting off the bombs (see Figure 3), and not surprisingly
scores rather high based on Laplacian and all other four
standard centrality methods. Idris, in his role as logistics
commander, yielded a high centrality score also, al-
though it is not as significant as that of Samudra. He is
ranked as the second most central actor in the network
based on Laplacian, degree, closeness and betweenness
centrality methods, but is ranked 8 th on eigenvector cen-
trality. And we also find that the members in the bomb
construction team (for example, Sarijo, Imron, Dulmatin,
etc.) also get high scores based on Laplacian centrality,
which support Koschade’s conclusion that “the members
of the Palau Manjangan residence (bomb construction
team) seemingly the center of the operation [11]”. We
also find that Mubarok is given the lowest rank on
Laplacian method, which is consistent with the conclu-
sion in [11] that “the lowest centrality scores were re-
served for the contingency members who were kept to
the periphery except when called upon for assistance.
Mubarok had the lowest scores as he was kept very iso-
lated and did not play any significant part in this stage of
the operation.” Lastly, the two actual suicide bombers,
Feri and Arnasan, have their highest combined rank us-
ing Laplacian centrality. To see the different rankings among the five centrality
Table 1. The scores and ranks based on five centrality methods for the 17 actors in Jemaah Islamiyah’s network
Scores Ranks
Names Laplacian Degree Betweenness ClosenessEigenvectorLaplacianDegreeBetweenness Closeness EigenvectorConsensus
Samudra 1.0000 1.0000 1.0000 1.0000 1.0000 1 1 1 1 1 1
Idris 0.6222 0.6667 0.1008 0.7727 0.8917 2 2 2 2 8 2
Imron 0.5778 0.6000 0.0381 0.7391 0.8946 3 3 3 3 2 2
Sarijo 0.5778 0.6000 0.0273 0.7391 0.8946 3 3 4 3 2 2
Dulmatin 0.5778 0.6000 0.0273 0.7391 0.8946 3 3 4 3 2 2
Azahari 0.5778 0.6000 0.0273 0.7391 0.8946 3 3 4 3 2 2
Patek 0.5778 0.6000 0.0273 0.7391 0.8946 3 3 4 3 2 2
Ghoni 0.5778 0.6000 0.0273 0.7391 0.8946 3 3 4 3 2 2
Muklas 0.5689 0.6000 0.0273 0.7391 0.8661 9 3 4 3 9 9
Junaedi 0.2222 0.3333 0.0000 0.6071 0.2108 11 11 11 10 13 10
Hidayat 0.2222 0.3333 0.0000 0.6071 0.2108 11 11 11 10 13 10
Octavia 0.2222 0.3333 0.0000 0.6071 0.2108 11 11 11 10 13 10
Rauf 0.2222
0.3333 0.0000 0.6071 0.2108 11 11 11 10 13 10
Arnasan 0.2222 0.3333 0.0000 0.6071 0.2108 11 11 11 10 13 10
Feri 0.3333 0.4000 0.0000 0.5152 0.6125 10 10 11 17 10 15
Amrozi 0.2089 0.2667 0.0055 0.5862 0.3447 16 16 10 15 11 16
Mubarok 0.1556 0.2000 0.0000 0.5667 0.2536 17 17 11 16 12 17
LaplacianDegreeBetweennessCloseness Eigenvector
diviation36 72 139 48 156
Figure 3. Stuart Koschade’s (2006) data on Jemaah Islamiyah’s attack on the Bali nightclub in 2002.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. SN
X. Q. QI ET AL. 25
measurements visually, we plot the scores for each me-
thod in Figure 4. Ranks obtained by all centrality mea-
sures generally agree with each other for this data set.
Some noticeable minor disagreements are the ranks of
terrorists Muklas and Feri. However, the ranks by Lapla-
cian centrality are consistent with the majority of other
5.2. Data Set 2: Valdis Krebs’ (2002) Data on the
9/11 Hijackers
Another widely discussed example of network analysis
of terrorist activity is Krebs’ now classic analysis of the
9/11 hijackers [12]. Through public data, the network
centered around the 19 hijackers of these events were
examined by Krebs [12]. We use the larger network (Fi-
gure 4 in [12]) which contains numerous additional indi-
viduals involved in the support network behind the 19
hijackers who actually conducted the suicide mission.
These co-conspirators were conduits for money, commu-
nications routes, and provided needed skills and know-
ledge. Figure 5 shows the hijackers and their network
neighborhood—their direct and indirect associates.
The ranking of actors based on four standard centrality
measures and Laplacian centrality measure are provided
in Table 2, where we only list the centrality scores for
these 19 hijackers. The values are normalized (dividing
by the highest score of each method). We also rank these
19 hijackers according to their scores and when ties hap-
pen we use the same criterion as used in the Jemaah
Islamiyah network.
5.2.1. Output Analysis Based on Known Evidence
(Team Leaders of Hijacking Groups).
There were four commercial airplanes hijacked in this
Figure 4. Plots of normalized scores for 17 actors in Bali
Operation under five centrality measurements.
terror plot. The following is the list of all hijackers on
these airplanes.
American Airlines (AA11): Mohamed Atta (pilot),
Abdulaziz al-Omari, Satam al-Suqami, Wail al-Shehri,
Waleed al-Shehri.
American Airlines (AA77): Hani Hanjour (pilot),
Nawaf al-Hazmi, Salem al-Hazmi, Khalid al-Mihdhar,
Majed Moqed.
United Airlines (UA175): Marwan al-Shehhi (pilot),
Fayez Ahmed, Hamza al-Ghamdi, Ahmed al-Ghamdi,
Mohand al-Shehri.
United Airlines (UA93): Ziad Jarrah (pilot), Ahmed
al-Haznawi, Saeed al-Ghamdi, Ahmed al-Nami.
We can see from Table 2, Mohamed Atta (AA11) is
unanimously identified as the most important actor by all
measures. This result is consistent with the findings of
The 9/11 Commission Report [15] and verified by state-
ments of Osama bin Laden.
However, beyond that, we observe a significant dif-
ference between the Laplacian measure and the other
traditional measures (degree, betweenness, closeness and
eigenvector centrality). While Mohamed Atta (AA11),
Marwan Al-Shehhi (UA175), and Hani Hanjour (AA77)
are also the top three in the traditional centrality scores,
the increased prominence of Ziad Jarrah (UA93) in
Laplacian centrality is striking and noteworthy. Based on
Laplacian centrality, the four most important centers
comprise all four pilots of the different flights. However,
Ziad Jarrah (UA93) scores as either the 5th (degree cen-
trality), 6th (betweenness), or 9th (closeness) most im-
portant actor in traditional measures. Eigenvector cen-
trality also places Ziad Jarrah in the top 4, but does so at
considerable cost to the assessment of Nawaf Alhazmi.
Alhazmi is in the top 5 of the other four centrality meas-
ures, and is second in betweenness, indicating his impor-
tance as a communications conduit. Eigenvector central-
ity moves him to 11th place, perhaps too great a reduc-
tion for an individual who also trained as a pilot, and met
several times with Atta in the planning of the attack. The
Laplacian results are somewhat more intuitively appeal-
The normalized values of the five measures provided
in Figure 6 shows more variation in various measures,
relative to the Laplacian measure. In fact, certain indi-
viduals, such as, Ziad Jarrah (UA93) and Nawaf Al-
Hazmi (AA77) shift substantially from index to index.
Unlike the Bali data, these are noticeable shifts in the
relative importance of various members of the terrorist
5.3. The Add Health in-School Friendship
Nomination Data
The third data set we use here is the Add Health in-
school friendship nomination data, which are constructed
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. SN
Figure 5. Valdis Krebs’ (2002) data on the 9/11 hijackers. Hijackers in different flights can be distinguished by their different
node shapes. Square: hijac kers in Flight AA11; Up triangle: hijackers in Flight AA77; Box: hijackers in Flight UA93; Cycle
in box: hijackers in Flight UA175. Larger size nodes are the pilots on each flight.
Figure 6. Normalized ranking for 19 actors in 9/11 under
five centrality measurements.
from the In-School questionnaire. Each student was
given a paper-and-pencil questionnaire and a copy of a
roster listing every student in the school and one “sis-
ter” school if it has. The question was, “List your closest
(male/female) friends. List your best (male/female)
friend first, then your next best friend, and so on.
(Girls/Boys) may include (boys/girls) who are friends
and (boy/girl) friends.” Students listed the names and
corresponding numbers across a grid. Because nomina-
tions to friends in the sister school were allowed, the
networks are given at the “school-pair” level. The whole
data set contains 84 valued networks covering 75,871
nodes (students) in a total of 129 unique schools.
From above information, we construct the corre-
sponding undirected networks by taking each student as a
node, adding an edge between two nodes if there are
nominated relationship between them. We test all five
centrality methods including Laplacian method on all of
these 84 networks1. To savere we just present space, he
1Most of the networks are composed with a dominated connected com-
onent and several isolated vertices which have no edges with others,
thus during the practical process, we actually test on the biggest con-
nected component for each network so that we can get the two popula
methods—betweenness and closeness which only work on connected
graphs included to c ompare.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. SN
X. Q. QI ET AL. 27
Table 2. The centrality scores based on five methods for the 19 hijackers in 9/11 network; the ranks and the consensus rank.
Scores Ranks
Names Laplacian Degree Betweenness ClosenessEigenvectorLaplacianDegreeBetweennessCloseness Eigenvector Consensus
Mohamed Atta 1.0000 1.00001.0000 1.0000 1.0000 1 1 1 1 1 1
Al-Shehhi 0.7628 0.81820.1495 0.7939 0.9684 2 2 4 2 2 2
Hani Hanjour 0.4817 0.59090.2147 0.7591 0.6044 3 3 3 3 4 3
Ziad Jarrah 0.3716 0.45450.0289 0.7222 0.6262 4 5 9 5 3 4
Nawaf Alhazmi 0.3472 0.50000.2617 0.7536 0.3495 5 4 2 4 11 4
Abdul Aziz
Al-Omari 0.3399 0.40910.0387 0.7222 0.5752 6 6 7 5 5 6
Satam Suqami 0.2738 0.36360.0857 0.6980 0.4660 7 7 5 7 7 7
Fayez Ahmed 0.2714 0.36360.0438 0.6933 0.4879 9 7 6 8 6 8
Salem Alhazmi 0.2738 0.36360.0217 0.6228 0.4296 7 7 11 11 9 9
Wail Alshehri 0.2249 0.27270.0042 0.6842 0.4466 10 11 15 9 8 10
Hamza Alghamdi 0.1883 0.31820.0376 0.6154 0.2379 11 10 8 12 12 10
Waleed Alshehri 0.1809 0.27270.0013 0.5714 0.3762 12 11 16 14 10 12
Ahmed Al
Haznawi 0.1345 0.18180.0260 0.6797 0.2282 15 16 10 10 13 13
Al-Mihdhar 0.1540 0.27270.0095 0.5652 0.1966 13 11 14 15 15 14
Ahmed Alghamdi 0.1369 0.22730.0118 0 .5778 0.2257 14 15 13 13 14 15
Saeed Alhazmi 0.1296 0.27270.0198 0.5652 0.1238 16 11 12 15 17 16
Majed Moqed 0.1174 0.18180.0000 0.5591 0.1820 17 16 18 17 16 17
Ahmed Alnami 0.0733 0.13640.0000 0.5503 0.0825 18 18 18 18 18 18
Mohand Alshehri 0.0440 0.09090.0009 0.5306 0.0825 19 19 17 19 18 19
LaplacianDegreeBetweennessCloseness Eigenvector
Diviation13 52 125 30 73
Figure 7. Net1 in the Add Health in-school friendship nomination data.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. SN
Table 3. The centrality scores based on five methods for top 15 vertices in Net 1; their ranks and consensus rank in all 69
Scores Ranks
number Laplacian Degree Betweenness ClosenessEigenvectorLaplacianDegreeBetweenness Closeness EigenvectorConsensus
#34 1 1 0.8902 0.9869 1 1 1 2 2 1 1
#51 0.9306 0.9286 1 1 0.8879 2 2 1 1 3 2
#66 0.7269 0.7857 0.4303 0.9379 0.8048 5 4 7 4 4 3
#61 0.7546 0.7857 0.3080 0.9379 0.9034 3 4 19 4 2 4
#33 0.7546 0.8571 0.7181 0.8118 0.5134 3 3 3 17 11 5
#29 0.5787 0.7143 0.3812 0.8728 0.6311 9 7 10 6 7 6
#31 0.6204 0.6429 0.3219 0.9497 0.7546 7 10 18 3 6 7
#54 0.5278 0.6429 0.4113 0.8629 0.5562 13 10 8 9 10 8
#43 0.5185 0.6429 0.4357 0.8436 0.3713 14 10 6 14 13 9
#60 0.6759 0.7857 0.3557 0.8297 0.3157 6 4 13 16 20 10
#16 0.4815 0.6429 0.1666 0.8032 0.4308 19 10 24 18 12 11
#35 0.4630 0.5714 0.4587 0.8678 0.2510 20 19 5 8 32 12
#8 0.6157 0.7143 0.2147 0.7947 0.2948 8 7 21 23 26 13
#26 0.3935 0.5000 0.3599 0.8629 0.3558 25 25 12 9 16 14
#36 0.5509 0.7143 0.3395 0.7989 0.2422 10 7 15 21 35 15
LaplacianDegreeBetweennessCloseness Eigenvector
Diviation3314 4071 7182 5267 5854
the results for the first network Net1, which contains 71
nodes totally (a big component with 69 vertices and two
isolated vertices), detailed see Figure 7. Table 3 shows
all the centrality scores and ranks for 15 of these 71 ver-
Since we are lacking of the background information of
this school, it is hard for us to discuss these centrality
results from known evidence. Thus in next section, we
will use “deviation from consensus rank” for each cen-
trality method to evaluate its performance. The outper-
formance of Laplacian method is illustrated in Table
3—the smallest deviation. For example, degree method
can not distinguish the importance between node
and since they have the same number of immediate
neighbors, but they are distinguished by Laplacian me-
thod because Laplacian method considers the bigger en-
vironment (neighbors with 2 steps) around them.
6. Consensus Analysis and Degree of
Consensus analysis of outputs is a widely used method in
bioinformatics for finding “consensus DNA or RNA (sub)
sequence(s)” [16,17]. A similar consensus method is
adapted here to evaluate the performence of various
methods and, therefore, to verify the validity of Lapla-
cian centrality method. Outputs from several standard
methods are taken in consideration, and would be further
compared with the consensus result. A method is re-
garded as more robust and has greater confidence if its
output is closer (smaller deviation, or better matching) to
the consensus result. Here, to save space, we demonstrate
the consensus analysis only for the 9/11 hijackers.
6.1. Consensus Rank
Different from DNA sequences whose terms are nucleo-
CGT2. The ranking of hijackers are nu-
merically scored (natural numbers). Hence, the subjects
for consensus are rather different. In this research project,
we adapt the similar ideas and principles of consensus
applied in bioinformation in the ranking study of social
networks. The consensus ranks are calculated as follows.
At first, for each terrorist, we calculate the mean of its
five ranks from various methods. For example, Marwan
Al-Shehhi (UA175) gets ranks
from five
2Abbreviations of nucleotides: =
adenine , , =Ccytosine
=Gguanine , . =Tthymine
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. SN
X. Q. QI ET AL. 29
centrality methods respectively, thus its mean of rank is
2.4 (a fractional number); secondly, we sort the mean
values of these 19 hijackers from smallest to largest, the
output of order is defined as the consensus rank of these
19 hijackers. Note that when ties happen (i.e., more than
one hijackers have the same mean value) we follows the
same criterion as used in Jemaah Islamiyah network and
9/11 network. We list the consensus rank of these 19
hijackers at the last column of Table 2.
6.2. Deviation of Each Method from Consensus
To further analyze, we use the following “deviation”
score to numerically evaluate the distance from the out-
put based on each centrality method to the consensus
 
19 2
deviation Crankiconsensus i
where is the rank of -th terrorist based on
centrality measurement ( {Laplacian, degree,
closeness, betweenness, eigenvector centrality}), and
is the consensus rank of -th terrorist.
rank i
ensus i
cons i
Clearly, the smaller the deviation, the better is the
output. A method with the smallest deviation is regarded
as the one with “the best fit”. The deviations for all cen-
trality methods are presented at the last two rows of Ta-
ble 2, which shows that Laplacian method has the small-
est deviation. That is, Laplacian centrality method has
the best fit to the consensus ranking results, which is a
further evidence of its effectiveness and reliability to
identify major players in social network.
We apply the same strategy on the Jemaah Islamiyah
data set, and find that Laplacian method also has the
smallest deviation, see Table 1.
We also apply the same strategy on all the 84 networks
in the Add Health in-school friendship nomination data.
We find that Laplacian method’s deviations for all these
84 networks are always the minimum, which imply
Laplacian method is the most fit centrality method for all
these 84 networks. This is another strong evidence that
shows the Laplacian method’s advantages.
Remark The validity and robustness of Laplacian
centrality measure have been illustrated on two different
terrorist social network data sets and 84 networks in
James Moody’s Add Health in-school friendship nomi-
nation data, and is compared with other standard central-
ity measures. Note that this method also could be applied
on large networks (e.g. number of nodes ) with
high effectiveness (and low time-consuming) because
Laplacian centrality measure has low computational
complexity, and we will see in the following Section 7.
7. Computational Complexity
In this section, we discuss the computational complexity
of Laplacian centrality method. By glancing at the defi-
nition of Laplacian centrality (Definition 2), one might
initially guess that the computational complexity would
be relatively high since it involves the calculation of ei-
genvalues. However, by applying an algebraic graph
theory result (Theorem 1), we are able to design a very
fast algorithm. Theorem 1 provides a structural result that
graphically describes the Laplacian centrality.
For the sake of comparison, we first present the com-
plexity of all standard methods. Let be a graph with
vertices and edges. The data structure of the in-
put graph is the adjacency list of , which presents the
adjacency relation of all edges of the input graph .
nm GG
Closeness and Betweeness Centralities. The most basic
step in these two algorithms is the search for the shortest
paths between every pair of vertices. Computing the
shortest paths between any two vertices is the necessary
step. Its fastest algorithm is Floyd-Warshall algorithm
whose time complexity is [18]. Hence, the total
time complexity for either closeness method or between-
ness method is at least
On .
Eigenvector Centrality. Given a graph, there are sev-
eral approaches for estimating the eigenvector. One of
the most popular approaches involves the inverses of
matrices. Computational complexity is at least
for the computation of inverses [19].
Laplacian centrality. The degrees of all vertices and
the corresponding neighborhood are estimated by scan-
ning the adjacency list. That is, the time complexity for
this step is at most
Om. Then, by Theorem 1, Lapla-
cian centralities for each one vertex needs
additive operations and 2 multiplication operations, thus
the computations of centrality scores for all vertices can
be finished in
4n2Om units of time. Thus, the
computational complexity of Laplacian method is
Degree Centralities. Though degree measuring is
rather intuitively heuristic and its processing is pretty
straightforward, the time complexity remains
Om, not
smaller than that of Laplacian centrality.
To summary, we present the following table showing
the time complexity of each method. We would see that
Laplacian centrality offers substantial advantages to the
other measures when examining large scale networks.
We admit that degree method run faster than Laplacian
method, but it only supplies us very local information for
each vertex, which is less reliable.
time complexity
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. SN
8. Concluding Remarks
In this final section, we survey some properties of the
new method: its balanced global/local measurement quai-
lties, its accuracy and effectiveness, efficiency, and its
future applications. The review is conducted from several
very different angles: graph structure, verification of
known facts from experimental testing, and the consen-
sus for comparison.
From the graph theoretical point of view, graph cen-
trality measurements can be roughly classified as two
types: local or global. Degree centrality is a typical ex-
ample of local measurement since it only considers the
information of the number of vertices which are reach-
able from directly, while betweeness, closeness and
eigenvector, are more global. Laplacian centrality reveals
more connection information beyond its immediate sur-
rounding neighborhood, thus serves as an intermediate
between global and local characterizations.
Centrality measurement based on shortest path calcu-
lations (such as, betweeness, closeness, etc.) are powerful
tools for the detection of bottlenecks in networks—the
cut-vertices of connected graphs. Consequently, these
types of vertices are scored more favorably if global con-
nectivity is relatively low. In these lower connectivity
examples, Laplacian centrality will provide a more ba-
lanced measurement, which takes both bottleneck infor-
mation and local density information into account. As we
discussed above, from a graph theoretical point of view
different methods reveal different measurements of im-
portance due to their different structural emphasis.
Test results from some benchmark data sets also sup-
port the conclusion that Laplacian centrality is a balanced
global/local measurement. It is able to identify not only
the cut point of the network of the connection, but also
the leaders or key personnel in each cluster, such as the
team pilot of each 911 hijacking group and the suicide
bombers of bomb delivery group in the Bali nightclub
Applying the new method along with other popularly
used methods to two terrorist networks and all 84 friend-
ship networks yields strong evidence that the Laplacian
method provides a better performance as a network ana-
lysis tool. This is supported by two different approaches:
confirmation of analyses based on known intelligence
information, and consensus comparison, where the study
shows that the Laplacian method has the smallest devia
tion from the consensus result, providing additional
evaluation of the reliability of Laplacian centrality.
In situations where scarce resources must be commit-
ted to counterterrorism programs, diversion of monitor-
ing and surveillance from one actor to another may be a
critical decision. A relatively effective and reliable me-
thod is needed for such analysis and decision making.
Based on our graph theore tical analysis, testing of bench-
mark data, and statistical comparisons, this newly de-
signed method is a potentially significant candidate for a
reliable tool to be used in the identification of major
players in future terrorist attacks.
We have illustrated the similarities and dissimilarities
with respect to the standard measures adopted in socio-
metry by considering some important examples of po-
litical networks. As we know, for any particular research
project we will have to identify which centrality measure
is most meaningful or useful. It remains to be seen, in the
light of further empirical work, if and in which cases the
new measure is clearly more appropriate than the others.
Yet at this preliminary exposition, Laplacian centrality
provides results that seem potentially compelling in cer-
tain situations where the overall degradation of the net-
work based on vertex deletion may yield superior results.
Network analysis in support of counterterrorism might
well be an area where Laplacian centrality rises to such
9. Acknowledgements
This research project is partially supported by a WV
EPSCoR grant and an NSA grant H98230-12-1-0233.
This work is also su pported partly by Sh andong Pro vince
Natural Science Foundation of China with No.
ZR2010AQ018 and No. ZR2011FQ010, partly by Inde-
pendent Innovation Foundation of Shandong University
with No. 2010ZRJQ005, Q. Wu’s wo rk is also suppo rted
by National Natural Science Foundation of China (NO.
[1] Z. Maoz, D. Kuperman, L. Terris and I. Talmud, “Struc-
tural Equivalence and International Conflict: A Social
Networks Analysis,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol.
50, No. 5, 2006, pp. 664-689.
[2] M. Sageman, “Understanding Terror Networks,” Phila-
delphia, University of Pennsylvania Press. 2004.
[3] J. T. Scholz, R. Berardo and B. Kile, “Do Networks En-
hance Cooperation? Credibility, Search, and Collabora-
tion,” Journal of Politics, Vol. 70, No. 2, 2008, pp.
[4] J. Fowler, B. Grofman and N. Masuoka, “Social Net-
works in Political Science: Hiring and Placement of Ph.
Ds, 1960-2002. Political Science: 2007, pp. 727-739.
[5] S. Sreenivasan, R. Cohen, E. Lopez, Z. Toroczkai and H.
E. Stanley 2007. Phys. Rev. E 75, 036105.
[6] M. O. Jackson, “Presenting and Measuring networks,”
Chapter 2, Social and Economic Networks, Princeton
University Press, Princeton, 2008.
[7] T. Opsahl, F. Agneessens and J. Skvoretz, “Node Cen-
trality in Weighted Networks: Generalizing Degree and
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. SN
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. SN
Shortest Paths,” Social Networks, Vol. 32, No. 3, 2010,
pp. 245-251. doi:10.1016/j.socnet.2010.03.006
[8] F. Jordan and I. Scheuring, “Network Ecology: Topo-
logical Constraints on Ecosystems Dynamics,” Physics of
Life Reviews, Vol. 1, No. 3, 2004, pp. 139-172.
[9] F. Jordan, W. C. Liu and A. J. Davis, “Topological Key-
stone Species: Measures of Positional Importance in Food
Webs,” Oikos, Vol. 112, No. 3, 2006, pp. 535-546.
[10] M. Lazic, “On the Laplacian Energy of a Graph,” Cze-
choslovak Mathematical Journal, Vol. 56, No. 131, 2006,
pp. 1207-1213.
[11] S. Koschade, “A Social Network Analysis of Jemaah
Islamiyah: The Applications to Counterterrorism and In-
telligence,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 29,
No. 6, 2006, pp. 559-575.
[12] V. Krebs, “Uncloaking Terrorist Networks,” First Mon-
day, Vol. 7, No. 4, 2002, 1st April.
[13] F. Chung, “Spectral Graph Theory,” American Mathe-
matical Society, USA1997..
[14] J. Magouirk, S. Atran and M. Sageman, “Connecting
Terrorist Networks,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism,
Vol. 31, No. 1, 2008, pp. 1-16.
[15] T. H. Kean et al., “The 9/11 Commission Report,” W. W.
Norton and Company, New York, 2004.
[16] M. Hamada, K. Sato and K. Asai, “Improving the Accu-
racy of Predicting Secondary Structure for Aligned RNA
Sequences,” Nucleic Acids Research, 1-10. 2010.
[17] M. Xu, Z. Su, “Computational Prediction of cAMP Re-
ceptor Protein (CRP) Binding Sites in Cyanobacterial
Genomes,” BMC Genomics, 10-23. 2009.
[18] S. Pemmaraju and S. Skiena, “All-Pairs Shortest Paths
and Transitive Closure and Reduction. In: Computational
Discrete Mathematics: Combinatorics and Graph Theory
in Mathematica. Cambridge, England, Cambridge Uni-
versity Press, 2003. pp. 330-331 and 353-356.
[19] B. C. Csaji, R. M. Jungers and V. D. Blondel, “Pagerank
Optimization by Edge Selection,” The Computing Re-
search Repository abs/0911.2280. 2009.