Intelligence most powerful weapon in war on terror, survey finds
31 October 2006 - INTELLIGENCE is the most powerful defence against both international and home-grown terrorism, according to a new survey of some of the world's leading experts on terrorism.
The 90 experts who participated in the survey were asked what they considered the most effective counter-measures against both international and home-grown terrorism and what lessons they have learned from their own country's experience of terrorism.
Global inter-agency information sharing and cutting off terrorist funding sources were considered the second and third most effective counter-measures against international terrorism after intelligence, while visible counter-terrorism police work and preventative detention were considered the second and third most effective measures against domestic terrorism.
The importance of building international cooperation was the most important 'positive lesson' learned, according to the experts, while the conclusion from US experience in Iraq that military interventions are not necessarily effective was the most important 'negative lesson' learned.
A number of experts also recommended deterring terrorists by toughening physical security measures and increasing technological surveillance.
The survey was carried out by Professor Alex P. Schmid, Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews and former Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Terrorism Prevention Branch.
He surveyed responses from 90 terrorism experts from the fields of politics, law, psychology, law enforcement, sociology, the military, history, economy, philosophy, journalism, biology, criminology, mathematics and medicine. The experts represented 20 countries.
He is presenting his findings for the first time at the Smiths Detection Security and Resilience Forum today at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in central London.
Professor Schmid said: "These findings are important because they represent the opinions of many leading experts. However, they should not be accepted uncritically. Preventive detention – internment – had, for instance, the opposite effect than the one intended in the early 1970s in Northern Ireland.
“What we need is more evidence-based research, which is harder to come by than results from opinion polls. The importance given by the experts to 'good intelligence' is correct but good intelligence is, in most cases, 'human intelligence' rather than technical 'signal intelligence' and it takes many years to build up a good enough human intelligence network. There are no quick fixes in this area".
These and other findings will be published next year in Professor Schmid’s book, the Handbook of Terrorism Research.
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Professor Alex Schmid’s 12 rules for combating terrorism
The 10 most effective counter-measures against international terrorism
- Inter-agency info sharing
- Cutting off funding
- Prudent foreign policy
- International consensus about definition and scope of terrorism
- Limiting spread of terrorist ideology through propaganda and internet
- Educating public about what to do if attack is suspected and after attack
- Providing counter-terrorism assistance to countries lacking expertise
- Military cooperation
- Improved border, airport and maritime security
The 10 most effective counter-measures against domestic terrorism
- Visible counter-terrorism police capabilties
- Preventative detention
- Financial tracking of suspects
- Inter-agency information-sharing
- Media compliance with information policy
- Government cooperation with civic groups, religious institutions
- Prohibiting external actors to define spiritual and political life of local communities
- Adequate anti-terrorism legislation
- Law enforcement and assurance of human security for all
Positive lessons learned from experience of terrorism
- Build international cooperation
- Common understanding of the problem
- Protect civil liberties while ensuring security
- Effective preparations (training) to enhance capability to cope with terror
- Need to improve communication between law enforcement and intelligence
- Sufficient political culture (tolerance) to refrain from hostile/revenge acts
- Treat terrorism as a law enforcement issue; design stronger counter-terrorism laws
- No local support for terror group agitation
- Terrorists cannot destroy the soul of a nation
Negative lessons learned from experience of terrorism
- US experience in Iraq suggests that military interventions are not necessarily effective
- Loss of human rights
- Failure of intelligence
- Arrogance in foreign police decision-making can breed terrorism
- There is always a danger of repeat attacks
- Re-examine barriers between law enforcement and intelligence
- Training frontline troops is useless unless command elements have matching training
- The connection between Iraq and terrorism was weak
- Military measures without political solutions are likely to increase violence
- Defining efforts to defeat terrorism as a ‘war’ in the first place
Professor Alex P. Schmid
Prof. Alex P. Schmid holds a chair in International Relations at the University of St. Andrews, where is Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV).
Prior to this appointment in May 2006, Dr. Schmid served as Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Terrorism Prevention Branch in Vienna, where, from 1999 to 2005. This is the UN’s senior most counter-terrorism position.
Before joining the United Nations, Prof. Schmid held the Synthesis Chair on Conflict Resolution at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
He was an Einstein Fellow at the Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, and served on the Executive Board of the International Scientific and Professional Advisory Council (ISPAC) of the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme.
Dr. Schmid is a Member of the World Society of Victimology and a Senior Fellow of the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. Prof. Schmid is also a Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences of the Netherlands and a Member of the European Commission’s Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation. He is editor of Terrorism and Political Violence, a leading journal in the field. Alex P. Schmid has authored and edited more than 150 reports and publications, including the award-winning ‘Political Terrorism’. Currently he works on a Handbook of Terrorism Research.
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