A Roundtable Conversation on Intelligence and Terrorism Part One: The Changing Nature of Terrorism 1
The participants in this conversation were guaranteed anonymity to encourage a frank discussion of sensitive issues. Their opinions are their own and do not reflect the official policy or positions of the U.S. government or any other government, agency, or official entity. The icons at the beginning of paragraphs are assigned to individual speakers.
MODERATOR: Has terrorism changed in any ways that have changed intel¬ligence requirements, or the way in which the business of gathering informa¬tion about terrorists and their organizations has to be done?
I believe there is a fundamental change in the objectives of terrorists and what they are after. Back in the days when we were chasing after statesponsored terrorist groups, most of the groups had rather specific and somewhat limited objectives. This was true of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, for example. They started out with a very specific objective, which was to destroy the American presence in Germany because of the gang's opposition to the American role in Vietnam. The difference today is that we are dealing with people whose objectives are millennial, global, and perhaps not even clear to themselves in many cases. I was involved in a project that looked at Libyans and others coming through Syria into Iraq. The real thing that bothered me was the number of people who just wanted to commit suicide. That was their stated goal. They wanted to go to Iraq to get killed in a terrorist bombing and take out people with them. In Bosnia and Croatia, we had information on hundreds of Arab and Asian volunteers who were being expelled from Bosnia. What was amazing was their absolute lack of any kind of central direction in life. They were generally young men or men who were failures in one capacity or another, estranged from their families in almost all cases, complaining about not getting their share of the family inheritance, and with a desire to kill. Why? They didn't even know. That is the only real change I have seen. The rest of it to me is just tactics.
I agree completely. There are two periods of terrorism. The first period was tied to Middle Eastern problems, roughly from the end of the 1960s to the end of the 1980s. The groups were more or less organized, were tied with states, and shared the goals of those states. Then in France at the beginning of the 1990s, we saw the change to a kind of global terrorism. The GIA [Armed Islamic Group] in Algeria at this time was backed by the anti-Soviet mujahedeen in Afghanistan and trained in Afghanistan. The GIA published a magazine in London [al Ansar], and the GIA was supported by the people in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a good example to follow. From the beginning of the 1990s, we saw people going to Bosnia from France, who came back to France with weapons and materials and wanted to take action in France. Later we also had people going to Pakistan, most of the time through London because the pipeline was well organized by the Islamists there, and then we see Chechnya and so on. And these are largely self-recruited people.
But for intelligence, there is no change of methods. It is a problem of discovering these people. They come from our population, are born in our countries, are upset about their social status, as you say. The problem is to have enough resources to discover these people. Most of them don't know what they want. That's true. But security, intelligence, and law enforcement services cannot solve that problem. We do our best to arrest people, to prevent actions, but the solution will come from society.
Yes, I broadly agree with most of what the previous speakers have said, but I do think there are some fundamental differences between the terrorism that we are engaging with today and previous forms of terrorism, in the following respects. First, the terrorism that we experienced in the 1970s, 1980s, and to a certain extent the very early 1990s was in general linked to some form of nationalist agenda. When people talk about the changes in scale since the 1990s, as the previous speakers have, I think that is absolutely right because what we now have is a nearly global rejectionist philosophy that has been embraced by a broad sector within the Muslim communities in a number of different countries. It has also tapped into the personal disgruntlement and alienation that those individuals have felt as a result of whatever socioeconomic or political conditions may exist in individual countries. I think that is fundamentally different from what came before, because now a young man of Pakistani ethnic origin in the UK, who has never been to Pakistan, all of a sudden can feel an emotional engagement with events that are taking place on the other side of the world. At the same time, this can fuel a personal sense of grievance that this individual may have.
The second area where I think there is a fundamental difference today is that, whereas previously a lot of the terrorism that we had to fight was state sponsored or state supported in some way, that no longer exists. For instance, the IRA [Irish Republican Army] was supported by the Libyan regime [of Moammar Qaddafi] in a number of different ways. A lot of the Palestinian extremist organizations in the 1970s and 1980s had support from various countries in the Middle East. In fact, their operational headquarters were based in those countries and derived significant amounts of support in terms of personnel, materiel, financing, and so on. The disappearance of state support makes a big difference. The approach the intelligence community took for tackling those forms of terrorism was to target the intelligence services of those countries and engage at the political level with them. For instance, if you were trying to tackle the PFLP–GC [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command], then you knew that you had to try to penetrate the Syrian services. There were fixed points where you knew you could stop the operational activity. That no longer exists. What we are dealing with is a transnational terrorist problem that forces us to engage in a completely different way. It is about trying to find terrorists hidden among populations. The problem is compounded by the fact that the terrorists are in countries that are at best fragile or, at worst, completely dysfunctional. Therefore, again, one of the tools that we were able to use in the past no longer exists. In the past, we could try to either penetrate a country's intelligence services to get a better idea of the level of support that they were providing to certain terrorist organizations, or engage with those intelligence services in order to co-opt them into helping us fight the terrorist problem. That is no longer a useful approach.
Hasn't religion been one of the changes that has taken place in terrorism? When I think of the first stage of terrorism from the late 1960s through the 1980s, when I think of plane hijackings, for example, and those sorts of things, the purpose wasn't necessarily to kill large numbers of people. There were specific goals, maybe to broker the release of prisoners someplace. With al Qaeda and the terrorism that we saw developing in the early to mid-1990s to the present day, advancing religious purposes was at least a kind of guiding purpose or aim—for example, the establishment of a worldwide Caliphate or shari'a law here and there. So I am wondering if others see that as a significant change in terrorism.
I would say religion may be the motivation of the individual terrorist, but not necessarily the motive of those who are directing the movement. Osama bin Laden had a very clear goal in mind, and that was to get rid of the Saudi monarchy. The method that he chose was to harness the disillusionment or the religious grievances of thousands of people around the Middle East. But I would say that he was not a religious leader. Bin Laden and people like him, Abu Nidal and others going back generations, are just very clever public manipulators of people, and they will take on whatever cloak they need to get other people to do what they want them to do. They don't risk their own lives. The real question is what is driving terrorism, what guides it, what directs it, what manipulates it—that may be something very different.
But does the motivation matter? I mean, in this sense, if you talk about religious motivation, would that change the way people organize? Would it change the way they think about targets? Would it change the things that terrorists do if they have a religious motivation as opposed to a nationalist motivation? Would that change any of those things?
The difference is, as we said before, that they are ready to die. As somebody mentioned, the people who went to Iraq wanted to be killed. I remember a case where we had put a family on telephone taps. The son was in Iraq, and he telephoned every day, and he said, "One day if I don't come back to you, it means that I will be in heaven."
If the question is about fundamental changes in terrorism, I would mention a couple of things. One is the rise of suicide terrorism attacks, which were not common before the 1980s and have become more common. The other one is that the rise of the internet allows groups to communicate with their target audience in a less mediated way. They can generate propaganda and distribute it more directly to people of interest. So that may influence their ability to recruit supporters and do other things. Of course, it was a lot more difficult before maybe 10 or 15 years ago. The internet is new, but even earlier, students put cassette tapes together and sent them to Iran, and that is what built Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's popularity.
I don't think the form of international terrorism that al Qaeda represents today is fundamentally different. The brilliance of the al Qaeda narrative taps into the sense of grievance that so many young Muslims apparently feel across any number of countries, and that is fundamentally different. Furthermore, I think now that we are in the internet age, for instance, the barriers to entry for terrorism are very low. That is also fundamentally different from before. Previously, just going about training yourself was much more complicated. Now we see any number of self-starters who are able to go online and find out what the best way of making a bomb might be, and away they go. I think the barriers to entry from the cyberterrorist perspective are even lower. That has made a fundamental difference in terms of the philosophy, if you can call it that, that motivates young men and some women to commit terrorism. The barriers to entry for terrorism are now so low that the internet creates a fundamentally different situation for us all to confront.
MODERATOR: May I ask you if you see those changes you were mentioning as fundamentally organizational issues? In other words, the original groups recruited people. They trained people, to one degree or another. So there were specific organizations—you mentioned the PFLP–GC. And that meant each of those organizations had a context, a state sponsor perhaps or a geographic location, and that determined how you went about targeting them and trying to deal with them. So would it be fair to say that the difference, the fundamental change, is an organizational change, so that you no longer have to be part of a group to learn how to make a bomb, and that group no longer has to maintain expertise and try to pass it on to new recruits? Again, from the viewpoint of intelligence, it may be much more difficult now to target or to think about how you target the people who are involved.
Yes, that's true. I think there are three aspects to this. First, the narrative has tapped into a sense of grievance among many people. Just consider the example of the recent murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in London.2 Only one of the two men had some connection to groups and individuals who were known to the intelligence community as being potentially of terrorist interest. That demonstrates that there are potentially any number of young terrorists within our communities. Second, you don't need to go anywhere to get the training. The consequence is that targeting individuals becomes much more difficult. The third element is that it is very easy to commit a terrorist act. You can go to a shop and buy a kitchen knife. If you run amok in a shopping mall and stab lots of people, that in itself would be a very frightening event, which will have a disproportionate impact on a government. Why? Strategically, I am afraid, the death of one soldier on the streets of London makes absolutely no difference whatsoever to government policy, to national security. But the psychological impact that this one act has is grossly disproportionate.
I want to bring the conversation back to the idea of the historical perspective of terrorism and the relevance of religion. Religion has always been one of the prime motivating factors of terrorism. Beginning back in the first century BC, we could be a group of Roman centurions discussing the assassins of the Sicarii in Jerusalem for all that it matters. Even the issue of suicide terrorism is not necessarily new. It is simply a recurrence of the cycle that we are seeing. We see different methods, we see greater effect, but it is not something new. I am speaking from a law enforcement perspective in the sense that, as we investigate these domestic cases, we are not really seeing anything new. We are just seeing new ways that terrorists are trying to implement these methods.
I think that is wrong, because you have to ask, "What is the endgame?" If you asked your PFLP–GC or Abu Nidal terrorist, "What is your endgame?" they would have said that the endgame is either the end of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian state, or that a Palestinian state and Israel had to live in some form of coexistence. There was an endgame. If you asked the young Nigerians who killed Drummer Rigby, "What is your endgame? What do you hope to achieve? Was there any deal that we could have done with you before you committed this act that would have made you not do this?" I think they would have struggled to respond. I think they would have eventually come up with, "You need to get out of Afghanistan. You have got to stop killing Muslims." There was no positive endgame that they could have identified that would have enabled us to have any kind of rational engagement. I think that is why the phenomenon today is fundamentally different.
Maybe, but look at Hamas. A lot of their leadership came over from socialist movements that failed at the end of the Soviet Union. So they were looking for a new organizational tool.
But a new organizational tool to achieve what?
A very limited goal: a Palestinian state.
Yes, and as a goal, you could have a discussion with them about that. I am sure that people a lot more clever than myself can draw up an interesting graph that indicates the number of terrorist attacks conducted against the state of Israel while there were ongoing discussions between the Israelis and the Palestinians brokered by the United States. There is a correlation, isn't there, between the possibility of the creation of a Palestinian state and the level of terrorism in that part of the world? Whereas there is no correlation, from our perspective, when it comes to terrorist acts that are conducted in the UK and elsewhere, with whatever outcome or endgame might be intended. There is no discussion. There is no stated end state other than Osama bin Laden's desire to return to some golden age of the Caliphate, which in reality never existed.
It seems as if we are talking about al Qaeda as the new terrorism, right? We are obsessed with that for good reasons, but then the debate seems to be whether al Qaeda is the future as a dispersed network, using the internet, with religious millennial goals. Are they the future, or are they the aberration? Are they the abnormality and groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and, until a few years ago, the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam], the Taliban, the norm? Some of these groups still have state sponsors. You have a lot of those groups that are still out there, but you also have groups like al Qaeda, or at least affiliates or people connected to them, killing people on the streets of London. So I think the debate we are having is whether al Qaeda represents the future or is a one-off exception to the norm of terrorism that has existed for thousands of years. That is what we are really coming back to. I don't know what the answer is. I think 10 years from now or 20 years from now, maybe we will know, but I think that is where we are at right now.
The young people who live in our country, they are asocial people who have a problem with society. They know nothing about religion. Absolutely nothing. With Sunni Islam—tell me if I am wrong—anybody can preach. In France, there was a young preacher. He pushed more than 20 people to go to Iraq after the American operation. He was not trained, but he was preaching very fervently, and all those young people were waiting for that because they want to fight society. I repeat—they don't know anything about religion. They see only black and white. They are white, and the society is black. So they want revenge. They want to do something. This is more a social than political problem.
You were mentioning earlier the problem of the traditional organizations, such as Abu Nidal, Hezbollah, and so on. You think it was easier to penetrate them? I don't think so. Who has ever penetrated Hezbollah? I think nobody. When they put bombs in Paris in 1995 and 1996, it took a month to get information, and we did so only because one of the people we arrested before was tempted by the reward of one million francs and wanted revenge against the organization. So it is not as easy as that. I think the real problem, which has not changed, is that you need to have a system. We must develop more sources because it is more difficult to detect the terrorist within society. It is a question of organization, international cooperation, national cooperation, and resources, more than the fact that terrorists have changed or not changed.
I used to keep in my office in Beirut a picture of a soccer team, 11- and 12-year-old kids, who were in a sporting club. Among that group were Hassan Izz-Al-Din, Imad Mugniyah, one of the Nasrallah brothers—you don't penetrate an organization like that. These kids grew up together, and it would be like trying to penetrate Tony Soprano's gang. You can gather intelligence from the outside, you can gather intelligence electronically or using various means, but you don't penetrate the core group. Nobody ever penetrated Hezbollah because they all grew up together. They all know each other.
I think the important question from my perspective is this. When we pull out of Afghanistan, and if there is some success in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, would that decrease the likelihood of support for al Qaeda within the Muslim communities in our countries? Ostensibly, two of the greatest motivating factors that promote the idea of violence among young men within our Muslim communities will be eliminated.
It's a rhetorical symbol, though, for al Qaeda, right? They didn't fly those planes into buildings in Tel Aviv. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is just a rhetorical symbol to rally people. They have a few limited goals related to politics, primarily in Saudi Arabia, and then by extension in the region.
That is my point. There is no endgame for a lot of these people. There is no goal, there is no negotiated outcome.
If we take away the goalless quality of the violence, does that return us to the situation we had with the IRA and PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party] and all the other groups that we are familiar with?
The Mahdist movement in the Sudan lasted for 100 years after the Mahdi died. It just kept up because there were certain people who were disaffected, who were always willing to do something. But the Mahdi was long dead.
You raised the question of Palestinians. I argue that the Palestinian problem is the root of all the terrorist organizations. Solving the Palestinian and Israeli problem will not end terrorism, but it will affect it very much, and it will help our narratives in countering terrorism. The terrorists don't care about the Palestinians. They are now in Syria fighting the regime that is against Israel. But they still have the narrative that they are fighting against Israel. So the narrative is supporting them a lot if we consider recruitment, especially in the Middle East, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia—the governments that have good relationships with the West. [The people they target for recruitment] feel that there is no hope, that their governments cannot deal with Western governments. They arrive at the point that they have to do something. That is when the recruiters, the smart people that you mentioned, take the chance and tell them, "Okay, now you know what? You have to do something. This is your duty and honor, and you have to go." That is how these people are recruited. That narrative is behind the terrorists. We are just waiting for them to pop up to try to fight them and will continue doing the same thing, no matter how techniques and our technology to kill them and target them develop. You are targeting a man, not the ideas and the narratives behind the man.
But we have to pay attention to the environment that is around the terrorist organization. In my opinion, the Israeli-Arab conflict is not the main issue now in the Arab world or the Muslim world, because the people watching the news are watching Syria. They are watching Egypt, they are watching Libya. Most of them do not know that there are negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. So the change in the environment will decrease or increase the numbers of organizations and groups. Syria now is full of terrorist organizations. Before the Arab Spring, no terrorist groups were found in Syria, just some Palestinian groups. So this changed environment will increase terrorism in the Arab world.
That is exactly what countries in Europe are concerned about: the consequences of the Arab Spring. If you have a huge Muslim community [in your country], 100 people are concerned by this Syrian fighting and will go to Syria, through Jordan or Lebanon. According to past experience, a lot of the people we have arrested came from Bosnia; they went through Chechnya. The jihadis were from Iraq before, and now they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan's tribal areas. They have learned how to bomb, and they come back with the will to commit terrorist attacks. In our country, for instance, where the majority of the Muslim community is Arab, the Palestinian problem remains a very important problem. When you go into a mosque, the people that give zakat, they give money for the Palestinian cause.
Most of the things you are saying apply to India. But the fundamental difference is that the funds that used to come to the terrorists because of state sponsorship have dried up. When those funds were there, it attracted the wrong kind of people. Criminals actually got into terrorism because it was an easy way to make money. You get money from the sponsors, but they can't keep track of how you spend it. Then, in the name of terrorism, you can loot banks and all of that and make money. So attracting the wrong kind of people meant that the movement was going in a downward direction. It was losing the narrative and the popular support it was trying to gain. Now, the terrorists are not flush with funds, but they don't need that much money to make these IEDs they use. They want to make news; they have to make news. The more people they kill, the better. Even just making a blast without killing someone can make national news.
Now when it comes to the future, if we can manage to stop the state sponsorship and control, then that kind of organized terrorism, with particular objectives, is going to decline because they need some kind of organization for that. But then you will have individuals to deal with. Some two or three people can decide what to do. They have the internet from anywhere and can decide what to do. It is hard to track them. We can't do much, except that we have to handle the border and what is coming in both from a state and from a non-state actor abroad. But inside India, they don't use modern communications. You don't have lines to tap, or other things like social networking from which you can try to guess who is what, and how it is working.
I wouldn't necessarily subscribe completely to the view that state sponsorship is no longer an issue. There are still links between, for instance, Iran and some of the terrorism that takes place in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I think in Iraq, we only truly became aware of the extent of the problem that we faced among some of the Shi'a groups by actually discovering both Iranian and Hezbollah links supporting those groups. So, I wouldn't preclude the fact that we are going to have to carry on [targeting states and their intelligence services]. But not by any stretch of the imagination is targeting state sponsors the only solution.
MODERATOR: May I put you on the spot? You worked against the Puerto Rican Nationalists and against the Abu Nidal group in Puerto Rico, but also more recently against the ALF/ELF [Animal Liberation Front/Earth Liberation Front]. From the viewpoint of law enforcement, do you see any fundamental changes in those groups, how they operated, or how it was necessary to operate against them? I ask because the environmental group is often cited as an example of the new kind of terrorism we face, networked, leaderless, and so on.
Except that it is not really. It still fundamentally involves small cells, clandestine activity. It is no different trying to penetrate a group like that than it was trying to penetrate a cell structure of the Abu Nidal organization that existed in Puerto Rico in 1984. If you are going to develop human intelligence, you have to target people who show the greatest vulnerabilities for recruitment, which is exactly what happened in regard to the clandestine cell known as The Family that was conducting a number of environmentally motivated arsons in the Pacific Northwest [of the United States]. If you are going to try to penetrate a clandestine cell of suspected terrorists, you are going to try to target those who have the most vulnerabilities, the weakest sense of self, and exploit those vulnerabilities. Now, that takes a very strong development of intelligence about the individuals in the group. But it is basic law enforcement work that you are doing in trying to target them.
May I add something? The difference between what we faced in the past and what we have to face now is that, in the previous case, the people involved rarely lived in the country they were targeting. They came from the outside. Sometimes they had some accomplices inside, but they were state sponsored. So the intelligence service was enough to work against them, and the intelligence service members were specialists. Now, with the new type of terrorism coming from the population, we have to mobilize all the services on the ground. You see? Everybody must be concerned—police, educators, prisons, social organizations, everything—in order to find the terrorist.
But that is a European-centric problem because it has always been that way in the United States, in the sense that homegrown terrorism is an American phenomenon, and it has been since the United States was founded.
But teachers in high schools in the United States don't think of themselves as intelligence collectors.
They do in regard to gangs, though.
But the suggestion is that we need to turn all of the social institutions— doctors, teachers, all of them—into collectors of information.
Also the religious leaders. In France, for instance, we believe that the Muslim authorities should help because they are moderates. They don't do it because it is too complicated for them. I think in Great Britain, it is different.
That is absolutely right. We have found ourselves in a situation where the lead government department for the prevention strategy, which is basically tackling the causes of radicalization, is the Department for Communities and Local Government. Now, that department 10 or 15 years ago would never, ever have imagined that it would be part of the UK counterterrorism strategy. It has required from our perspective a fundamental rethinking. Unless you mobilize all of these people, the chances of the intelligence or the law enforcement community ever being able to identify potential terrorists is that much more difficult.
In the United States, there are significant restrictions on law enforcement getting access to education records and medical records, so it is very difficult.
It is the same in Britain. I think what we are saying is that there is a focus now on these organizations, and getting the people who work in them to understand that they are part of the solution in a way that would have never occurred to them before.
Terrorism is not a onetime incident. Leaders have to have a strategy and the means to carry it out. It is hard to change objectives. If you change the objectives as a leader, people in the organization will question you. When you are questioned as a leader, you will lose your support. It means the end of your organization. So, it is hard to change objectives. If the intelligence community focuses on the objectives or the goals of the terrorist organizations, then it slowly will be able to define the ways and means of the terrorist organizations. If not—if you focus on the ways—most probably you will not get the target. The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia, for example, may reappear for the one hundredth anniversary of the 1915 Armenian incidents. It will emerge again with the same name or another one, but from the same ethnic group, and try to accomplish the same goals. So, if we can define the goals of the terrorist organizations or if we focus on those as an intelligence community, most probably we would get the target, and we will accomplish our goals.
As for the goals, I ask myself, "Does a terrorist organization have a religion or not?" I don't think so. There are lots of organizations, not only al Qaeda or Hamas. For example, the Red Army Faction didn't have a religion. Maybe the members of terrorist groups have a religion, but the terrorist organization itself, I think, doesn't have a religion. We should also consider some organizations recruiting members of various religions. For instance, the PKK. As far as I know, there are Zoroastrian, Christian, and Muslim members of the PKK.
In India, we have some homegrown terrorism, but sponsored and trained from outside. Earlier they had to go outside the country for training. That was a chance for you to notice that somebody was missing, and if you had the support of the community, as a law enforcement agency, you should be able to know [somebody was missing]. It was a failure on the ground if you couldn't get that intelligence in time. But if your penetration into certain areas is limited, you might not notice somebody going out. It is a huge country. But going across the border has decreased now because these guys don't actually train in handling guns and all; they just know how to make IEDs. That is good enough to make a terrorist attack.
As for religion, you have to distinguish between religion as a motivation and knowledge of religion and how religious someone is. Those are different things. The biggest motivation, or the satisfaction, that a suicide bomber has is that he is immediately going to heaven. If that solace is missing, you don't find a suicide bomber there. Our terrorists have all been linked to religion, and madrassas have been used for instilling that feeling that Islam is under threat unless you do something, and Allah is there with you. These guys, they don't understand the Qur'an or any of that. But they know this equation: I am fighting jihad here; I go [to heaven], so I don't care.
But there are cases where terrorists have a conscience and they give up detonating the bomb, and they believe in the same religion [as those who carry out attacks]…
Yes, yes, it is like people going and trying to commit a suicide attack, and at the last minute, they call their parents, who stop them from committing suicide. So that happens. We are human beings; the determination may not be as strong in some as in others. But religion has played a role in generating this feeling of injustice. Not only in India but all over the world. They keep targeting Israel, the United States. Of course, in madrassas, there are people who will help you in identifying and noticing what is happening. There are activities like Tablighi Jamaat [Society for Spreading Faith] in which people go around talking about Islam. There is nothing wrong with that. It is a constructive approach. But then, there may be one person planted there, who tries to locate recruits for terrorist activities. The community is the way you know about such things, because intelligence services cannot plant somebody everywhere. We had a sponsored attack in Mumbai, the biggest attack we have had.3 They were all outsiders, they came from Pakistan…
Yes, and they are still in Pakistan. Nobody has done anything with them. There is state sponsorship, some kind of involvement by the state to handle them, and some linkages at the lower level of operations. That is still going on. But this new phenomenon is something we need to watch out for because it is a more difficult, more challenging thing for law enforcement because you don't have linkages to tap on. You have to totally depend on this social interpretation to guess which person [is involved]; otherwise, he looks like a simple, ordinary person. How do you [identify potential recruits] when even the parents and the close family cannot guess that this boy is in that small group, a peer group, that is into this kind of activity? So to get at them is very difficult.
I would like to make a comment on the fundamental change in terrorism. At the end of the Cold War, it is true that state-sponsored, state-supported terrorism declined, but we should not forget countries like North Korea. They are still supporting terrorism, setting up cells in South Korea and in Japan as well. They are apparently very quiet now. But in a crisis, I don't think they will launch a missile attack. They will use terrorism. Second, I think that amateur terrorism based on religion will become very popular. I am not an expert on al Qaeda, but the comparison some like to make between al Qaeda and kamikazes is not true. The motivation is completely different. The typical kamikaze suicide was pressured by the organization. The pilots were not happy at all. But al Qaeda members feel very happy. Also, in 1995, Aum Shinrikyo was the first terrorist group that used chemical weapons. They were very intelligent young people. So it is very difficult for the police to find the candidate for a terrorist organization. This is a very big problem these days.
But if you talk about religion and terrorism, the number of religious people is much greater than the number who engage in terrorism.
Yes, yes, India has a population that is 14 percent Muslim [about 176 million people]. It is the second biggest Muslim country, in that sense. You can imagine that if the percentage of people wanting to do terrorism was a little more, India would be in big trouble.
So terrorism is not just a religious or Islamic phenomenon.
I would like to add something to the picture. I am puzzled by the conversation. Take Anders Breivik.4 Put aside all the stuff about motivation. The interesting thing is how he did it. I learned in our discussion that you need a motivator. There has to be somebody behind you. But as far as we know, that guy was totally self-radicalized, building a fertilizer bomb of about 1,000 pounds, which he blew up in central Oslo, driving up to a remote island and killing 69 youth. These guys are really hard to find. I agree so much with our British colleague here, that when you look at this case in particular, if somebody was to find out what he was doing, it would be in his school time. There was a history of some mental issues, but that is a closed chapter for security services. This could be just this guy, but it is a bad sign when in a rather transparent country like mine—transparent because if I go and buy fertilizer, I will pop up on a list—he masterminded this from a remote farm, building a bomb, making his own police uniform, taking legal education to acquire firearms, and that is what happened. And 77 people were killed.
The Breivik example brings out what the problem is because [even if we knew about the mental problems] there is no way to predict. In other words, somebody can engage in all sorts of activity that is perfectly legal and then it goes beyond that, but there is no way to predict or even to anticipate what would be the event that pushes somebody over that line.
1. This discussion was edited for length and clarity. Every effort was made to ensure that the meaning and intention of the participants were not altered in any way. The ideas and opinions of all participants are theirs alone and do not represent the official positions of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. government, or any other government or official entity.
2. Drummer (Private) Lee Rigby, a British soldier who had served in Afghanistan, was murdered on a London street by two men who called themselves soldiers of Allah. See "Two Guilty of Lee Rigby Murder," BBC News, 19 December 2013: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25450555
4. For more on the Breivik massacre, see David Blair, "Anders Behring Breivik's Norway Shooting Spree Relived in Chilling Detail," Telegraph, 20 April 2012: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ news/worldnews/europe/norway/9217315/Anders-Behring-Breiviks-Norway-shooting-spree-relived-in-chilling-detail.html