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Counter Terrorism and Global Learning

 

 
 
By Dr Vivek Lall Published: May 2012
 
 
 
 
   

Terrorism is a global phenomenon, and developed and developing countries around the world have equally felt the scourge of terrorist attacks.

 

The events of 9/11 in the US in 2001, those in the UK , and 26/11 in India have highlighted vividly the links between security, terrorism, and globalization and drew into sharp focus the need to understand and counter the threat of international terrorism. As more sophisticated technologies emerge, new risks proliferate at an exponential rate.

The information technologies of the 1980s facilitate international crime and assist terrorism. The technologies are good for good citizens as also the evil. We live in an age of globalization and it is now accepted wisdom that the risks we face are more catastrophic than those of the past because they are global.

Experience from across the world shows us that terrorism may be contained or reduced but not completely eradicated.

Nonetheless, some countries that have succeeded in controlling terrorist attacks include France , England , Germany , USA and, nearer home, Indonesia and Sri Lanka . Based on their experience in handling terrorist activities in their respective territories, various countries have adopted diverse strategies and different measures to counter terrorist threats.

Some of the common themes adopted by countries in countering terrorism are:

Effective Counter-Terrorism Strategy: An effective counter- terrorism strategy based on domestic, regional and global threat perception is vital. Such a strategy should be articulated in clear terms to avoid mis-interpretations by stakeholders at the federal as well as at the state levels. The strategy should incorporate multi-dimensional threats and lay out comprehensive national objectives. A regular review of the strategy should become part of the strategy itself.

Following 9/11, the United States launched a large scale, multi-dimensional global war against terrorism. This war includes military, diplomatic and intelligence efforts that transcend America 's shores to cover operations across the world. Measures relating to immigration; prevention and reversing radicalization or extremism; international cooperation; securing critical infrastructure; institutional development; attacking terror financing; empowering the police and other agencies are all components of this strategy. The US set up National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) in 2004 as the Government’s primary organization for analyzing and integrating all intelligence possessed or acquired by various US Government agencies pertaining to terrorism and counter terrorism except purely domestic counter terrorism information.

The NCTC conducts strategic operational planning for counter- terrorism activities, assigns operational responsibility to lead agencies and serves as the central, shared knowledge bank on terrorism. Composed of representatives of all intelligence agencies, the NCTC coordinates all counter-terrorism activities on US soil.

The PATRIOT Act provides leeway for law enforcement agencies in dealing with matters pertaining to national security. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was inaugurated in March 2003 as the lead federal agency to secure the nation which is now the third largest department with 180,000 employees with the Secret Service, Customs, Coast Guard, Immigration and Naturalization Service as well as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) under its control. In order to reduce the impact of any large scale terror attack, the DHS is responsible for crisis preparation, management and response.

A major focus of the UK and Netherlands counter-terrorism strategy is to educate the public about the steps taken to prevent terrorist attacks, and also be on alert.

Protect homeland: Homeland security should be the pivot of an effective counter terrorism strategy. This calls for identifying threats posed not only from outside but within, disseminate the information about the threats and steps to mitigate such threats among the security forces as well as the general public. An effective homeland security not only needs an extraordinary coordination among intelligence agencies but also should incorporate security forces as well as investigating agencies of non-security wings of the government.

France’s counter terrorism strategy is considered one of the most effective in Europe.

The country experienced violence from muslim activists since the 1980s through 1995/96.The key elements of France ’s strategy were privileged relationship between intelligence agencies and the magistracy, qualification of terrorist acts as autonomous offences and centralization of terrorist related judicial proceedings. Vigipirate (security alert plan) a nation-wide pre-planned security measure was formulated.

Other preventive measures included movement control to “risky” countries, provision of personal data by airlines and shipping companies to state, retention of data by cyber cafes and telecom providers for one year, major expansion of video surveillance and easier access to files by investigators.

The strategy also visualizes the use of military, law enforcement, intelligence and other resources to identify, circumvent, and neutralize terror groups within France.

For overseeing and coordinating anti-terror activity, the Inter Ministerial Liaison Committee was set up that supervises the Anti Terrorism Coordination Unit with members from Interior and Defence Ministries.

Invest in prevention: Prevention should be the driving force of an effective counter-terrorism strategy.

This calls not only for greater coordination among security forces and intelligence agencies but also considerable investments in these agencies to expand their areas of operation and mandate. An effective preventive strategy will necessarily call for a greater cooperation with security agencies and governments across the world.

This means a more robust working relationship between diplomacy and security agencies at the decision-making as well as operational level. In other words, there is a need for policemen to increasingly understand the nuances of diplomacy and diplomats to realise the security imperatives.

A successful preventive strategy also calls for a greater engagement between the government or the security forces with the civil society. Such an engagement not only acts as a force multiplier for security and intelligence agencies but also enable the government to effectively implement programmes like de-radicalisation, civil-police interface or to defuse communal, sectarian and other identity tensions.

The UK ’s Prevent strategy, launched in 2007, seeks to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. It is the preventative strand of the government’s CONTEST strategy. The Prevent strategy includes responding to the ideological challenge of terrorism and the threat from those who promote it; preventing people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure that they are given appropriate advice and support; and working with sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalisation that need to be addressed.

Effective investigation and prosecution: Investigation and prosecution of terrorist incidents and terrorists are often the key to help prevent future terrorist activities and attacks.

An effective, credible investigation can often lead to terrorist hideouts, networks, support bases, financial networks and other crucial information which can help prevent future attacks. Not only does such successfully executed investigations boost the morale and capability of the investigating agencies but also instill a sense of confidence in the general public.

It also does defuse fears and doubts about unfair targeting of certain select groups or communities. A successful investigation, backed by credible forensic evidence, leads to an effective prosecution of terrorism cases which establishes the credibility and strength of the state as well as create a sense of security among the people. Poor investigations often lead to prosecution failures with detrimental consequences for the CT officials as well as the country as a whole.

India and counter terrorism: India ’s vulnerability to terrorism to a large measure is attributable to its geography – its borders are not secure. An open border with Nepal, a porous border with Bangladesh as well as the long Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir which allows for infiltration, contribute to the unhindered movement of terrorists from across the borders.

India’s coastal security also needs to be beefed up, as the Mumbai terrorist attack has demonstrated. Homegrown terrorist groups, abetted and aided by external help, have also established a foothold. Socio economic and political motivations have also been contributing factors to violent activities.

Homeland Security in India is a very complex issue and the Government will have to put in place measures that address all these threats. Whatever the measures are decided upon, they would need to be implemented on a ‘NOW’ basis. Delays would mean harm and casualties.

The author is President & CEO of New Venture, Reliance Industries Ltd., and Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation.

 
     
     
   
 
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