Criticism of the War on Terror addresses the morals, ethics, efficiency, economics, as well as other issues surrounding the War on Terror. It also touches upon criticism against the phrase itself, which was branded as a misnomer. The notion of a "war" against "terrorism" has proven highly contentious, with critics charging that participating governments exploited it to pursue long-standing policy/military objectives, reduce civil liberties, and infringe upon human rights. It is argued that the term war is not appropriate in this context (as in War on Drugs), since there is no identifiable enemy and that it is unlikely international terrorism can be brought to an end by military means.
Other critics, such as Francis Fukuyama, note that "terrorism" is not an enemy, but a tactic: calling it a "war on terror" obscures differences between conflicts such as anti-occupation insurgents and international mujahideen. With a military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and its associated collateral damage Shirley Williams maintains this increases resentment and terrorist threats against the West. Other criticism include United States hypocrisy, media induced hysteria, and that changes in American foreign and security policy have shifted world opinion against the US.
Various critics dubbed the term "War on Terror" as nonsensical. For example, billionaire activist investor George Soros criticized the term "War on Terror" as a "false metaphor." Linguist George Lakoff of the Rockridge Institute argued that there cannot literally be a war on terror, since terror is an abstract noun. "Terror cannot be destroyed by weapons or signing a peace treaty. A war on terror has no end."
Jason Burke, a journalist who writes about radical Islamic activity, describes the terms "terrorism" and "war against terrorism" in this manner:
There are multiple ways of defining terrorism and all are subjective. Most define terrorism as 'the use or threat of serious violence' to advance some kind of 'cause'. Some state clearly the kinds of group ('sub-national', 'non-state') or cause (political, ideological, religious) to which they refer. Others merely rely on the instinct of most people when confronted with an act that involves innocent civilians being killed or maimed by men armed with explosives, firearms or other weapons. None is satisfactory and grave problems with the use of the term persist. Terrorism is after all, a tactic. The term 'war on terrorism' is thus effectively nonsensical. As there is no space here to explore this involved and difficult debate, my preference is, on the whole, for the less loaded term 'militancy'. This is not an attempt to condone such actions, merely to analyze them in a clearer way.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush articulated the goals of the War on Terror in a September 20, 2001 speech, in which he said that it "will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."  In that same speech, he called the war "a task that does not end", an argument he reiterated in 2006 State of The Union address.
One justification given for the invasion of Iraq was to prevent terroristic, or other attacks, by Iraq on the United States or other nations. This can be viewed as a conventional warfare realization of the War on Terror.
A major criticism leveled at this justification is that it does not fulfill one of the requirements of a just war and that in waging war preemptively, the United States undermined international law and the authority of the United Nations, particularly the United Nations Security Council. On this ground, by invading a country that did not pose an imminent threat without UN support, the U.S. violated international law, including the UN Charter and the Nuremberg principles, therefore committing a war of aggression, which is considered a war crime. Additional criticism raised the point that the United States might have set a precedent, under the premise of which any nation could justify the invasion of other states.
Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that on the eve of U.S. intervention in 2003, Iraq represented, at best, a gathering threat and not an imminent one. In hindsight he notes that Iraq did not even represent a gathering threat. "The decision to attack Iraq in March 2003 was discretionary: it was a war of choice. There was no vital American interests in imminent danger and there were alternatives to using military force, such as strengthening existing sanctions." However, Haass argues that U.S. intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 began as a war of necessity—vital interests were at stake—but morphed "into something else and it crossed a line in March 2009, when President Barack Obama` decided to sharply increase American troop levels and declared that it was U.S. policy to 'take the fight to the Taliban in the south and east' of the country." Afghanistan, according to Haass, eventually became a war of choice.
War on Terror seen as pretext
Excerpts from an April 2006 report compiled from sixteen U.S. government intelligence agencies has strengthened the claim that engaging in Iraq has increased terrorism in the region.
Domestic civil liberties
See also: USA PATRIOT Act, Protect America Act of 2007, and NSA electronic surveillance program
In the United Kingdom, critics have claimed that the Blair government used the War on Terror as a pretext to radically curtail civil liberties, some enshrined in law since Magna Carta. For example, the detention-without-trial in Belmarsh prison: controls on free speech through laws against protests near Parliament and laws banning the "glorification" of terrorism: and reductions in checks on police power, as in the case of Jean Charles de Menezes and Mohammed Abdul Kahar.
Former Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Menzies Campbell has also condemned Blair's inaction over the controversial U.S. practice of extraordinary rendition, arguing that the human rights conventions to which the UK is a signatory (e.g. European Convention on Human Rights) impose on the government a "legal obligation" to investigate and prevent potential torture and human rights violations.
U.S. President George W. Bush's remark of November 2001 claiming that "You're either with us or you are with the terrorists," has been a source of criticism. Thomas A. Keaney of Johns Hopkins University's Foreign Policy Institute said "it made diplomacy with a number of different countries far more difficult because obviously there are different problems throughout the world."
As a war against Islam
See also: War against Islam
Since the War on Terror revolved primarily around the United States and other NATO states intervening in the internal affairs of Muslim countries (i.e. in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.) and organisations, it has been labelled a war against Islam by ex-United States Attorney GeneralRamsey Clark, among others. After his release from Guantanamo in 2005, ex-detainee Moazzam Begg appeared in the Islamist propaganda video 21st Century CrUSAders and claimed the U.S. was engaging in a new crusade:
I think that history is definitely repeating itself and for the Muslim world and I think even a great part of the non-Muslim world now, are beginning to recognize that there are ambitions that the United States has on the lands and wealth of nations of Islam.
Each month, there are more suicide terrorists trying to kill Americans and their allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, as well as other Muslim countries than in all the years before 2001 combined. From 1980 to 2003, there were 343 suicide attacks around the world and at most 10 percent were anti-American inspired. Since 2004, there have been more than 2,000, over 91 percent against U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, as well as other countries.
University of Chicago professor and political scientist, Robert Pape has written extensive work on suicide terrorism and states that it is triggered by military occupations, not extremist ideologies. In works such as Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism and Cutting the Fuse, he uses data from an extensive terrorism database and argues that by increasing military occupations, the US government is increasing terrorism. Pape is also the director and founder of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism (CPOST), a database of every known suicide terrorist attack from 1980 to 2008.
In 2006, a National Intelligence Estimate stated that the war in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism. The estimate was compiled by 16 intelligence agencies and was the first assessment of global terrorism since the start of the Iraq war.
Cornelia Beyer explains how terrorism increased as a response to past and present military intervention and occupation, as well as to 'structural violence'. Structural violence, in this instance, refers to economic conditions of backwardness which are attributed to the economic policies of the Western nations, the United States in particular.
British Liberal Democrat politician Shirley Williams wrote that the United States and United Kingdom governments "must stop to think whether it is sowing the kind of resentment which is the seedbed of future terrorism." The United Kingdom ambassador to Italy, Ivor Roberts, echoed this criticism when he stated that President Bush was "the best recruiting sergeant ever for al Qaeda." The United States also granted "protected persons" status under the Geneva Convention to the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, an Iranian group classified by the U.S. Department of State as a terrorist organization, sparking criticism. Other critics further noted that the American government granted political asylum to several alleged terrorists and terrorist organizations that seek to overthrow Fidel Castro's regime, while the American government claims to be anti-terrorism.
Hypocrisy of the Bush Administration
The alleged mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 attacks was part of the mujahideen who were sponsored, armed, trained and aided by the CIA to fight the Soviet Union after it intervened in Afghanistan in 1979.
Venezuela accused the U.S. government of having a double standard towards terrorism for giving safe haven to Luis Posada Carriles. Some Americans also commented on the selective use of the term War on Terrorism, including 3 star general William Odom, formerly President Reagan's NSA Director, who wrote:
As many critics have pointed, out, terrorism is not an enemy. It is a tactic. Because the United States itself has a long record of supporting terrorists and using terrorist tactics, the slogans of today's war on terrorism merely makes the United States look hypocritical to the rest of the world. A prudent American president would end the present policy of "sustained hysteria" over potential terrorist attacks..treat terrorism as a serious but not a strategic problem, encourage Americans to regain their confidence and refuse to let al Qaeda keep us in a state of fright.
In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush and members of his administration indicated they possessed information which demonstrated a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Published reports of the links began in late December 1998. In January 1999, Newsweek magazine published a story about Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda joining forces to attack U.S. interests in the Gulf Region. ABC News broadcast a story of this link soon after. The Bush Administration believed there was a possibility of a potential collaboration between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath regime following the U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan. Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan criticized the use of pro-humanitarian arguments by Coalition countries prior to its 2003 invasion of Iraq, writing in an open letter: "This selective attention to human rights is nothing but a cold and calculated manipulation of the work of human rights activists. Let us not forget that these same governments turned a blind eye to Amnesty International's reports of widespread human rights violations in Iraq before the Gulf War."
Torture by proxy
Main articles: Extraordinary Rendition and Torture and the United States § Torture and Extraordinary Rendition
See also: Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture
The term "torture by proxy" is used by some critics to describe situations in which the CIA and other US agencies transferred supposed terrorists, whom they captured during their efforts in the 'War on terrorism', to countries known to employ torture as an interrogation technique. Some also claimed that US agencies knew torture was employed, even though the transfer of anyone to anywhere for the purpose of torture is a violation of US law. Nonetheless, Condoleezza Rice (then the United States Secretary of State) stated that:
the United States has not transported anyone and will not transport anyone, to a country when we believe he will be tortured. Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured.
This US programme also prompted several official investigations in Europe into alleged secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers involving Council of Europe member states, including those related with the so-called War on Terrorism. A June 2006 report from the Council of Europe estimated that 100 people were kidnapped by the CIA on EU territory with the cooperation of Council of Europe members and rendered to other countries, often after having transited through secret detention centres ("black sites"), some located in Europe, utilised by the CIA. According to the separate European Parliament report of February 2007, the CIA has conducted 1,245 flights, many of them to destinations where these alleged 'terrorists' could face torture, in violation of article 3 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
Religionism and Islamophobia
One aspect of the criticism regarding the rhetoric justifying the War on Terror was religionism, or more specifically Islamophobia. Theologian Amir Hussain, who studies contemporary Muslims societies in North America, defines this concept as a stereotyping of all followers of Islam as real or potential terrorists due to alleged hateful and violent teaching of their religion. He goes on to argue that "Islam is reduced to the concept of jihad and Jihad is reduced to terror against the West." This line of argument echoes Edward Said’s famous piece Orientalism in which he argued that the United States sees the Muslims and Arabs in an essentialized caricatures – as oil supplies or potential terrorists.
Decreasing international support
In 2002, strong majorities supported the U.S.-led War on Terror in Britain, France, Germany, Japan, India and Russia, according to a sample survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. By 2006, supporters of the effort were in the minority in Britain (49%), Germany (47%), France (43%) and Japan (26%). Although a majority of Russians still supported the War on Terror, that majority had decreased by 21%. Whereas 63% of Spaniards supported the War on Terror in 2003, only 19% of the population indicated support in 2006. 19% of the Chinese population still supports the War on Terror and less than a fifth of the populations of Turkey, Egypt, as well as Jordan support the efforts. The report also indicated that Indian public support for the War on Terror has been stable. Andrew Kohut, while speaking to the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, noted that and according to the Pew Research Center polls conducted in 2004, "the ongoing conflict in Iraq continues to fuel anti-American sentiments. America’s global popularity plummeted at the start of military action in Iraq and the U.S. presence there remains widely unpopular."
Marek Obrtel, former Lieutenant Colonel in Field Hospital with Czech Republic army, returned his medals which he received during his posting in Afghanistan War for NATO operations. He criticized the War on Terror as describing the mission as "deeply ashamed that I served a criminal organization such as NATO, led by the USA and its perverse interests around the world."
Role of U.S. media
Researchers in communication studies and political science found that American understanding of the "War on Terror" is directly shaped by how mainstream news media reports events associated with the conflict. In Bush's War: Media Bias and Justifications for War in a Terrorist Age political communication researcher Jim A. Kuypers illustrated "how the press failed America in its coverage on the War on Terror." In each comparison, Kuypers "detected massive bias on the part of the press." This researcher called the mainstream news media an "anti-democratic institution" in his conclusion. "What has essentially happened since 9/11 has been that Bush has repeated the same themes and framed those themes the same whenever discussing the War on Terror," said Kuypers. "Immediately following 9/11, the mainstream news media (represented by CBS, ABC, NBC, USA Today, The New York Times, as well as The Washington Post) did echo Bush, but within eight weeks it began to intentionally ignore certain information the president was sharing and instead reframed the president's themes or intentionally introduced new material to shift the focus."
This goes beyond reporting alternate points of view, which is an important function of the press. "In short," Kuypers explained, "if someone were relying only on the mainstream media for information, they would have no idea what the president actually said. It was as if the press were reporting on a different speech." The study is essentially a "comparative framing analysis." Overall, Kuypers examined themes about 9-11 and the War on Terror that President Bush used and compared them to themes that the press used when reporting on what he said.
"Framing is a process whereby communicators, consciously or unconsciously, act to construct a point of view that encourages the facts of a given situation to be interpreted by others in a particular manner," wrote Kuypers. These findings suggest that the public is misinformed about government justification and plans concerning the War on Terror.
Others have also suggested that press coverage contributed to a public confused and misinformed on both the nature and level of the threat to the U.S. posed by terrorism. In his book, Trapped in the War on Terror political scientist Ian S. Lustick, claimed, "The media have given constant attention to possible terrorist-initiated catastrophes and to the failures and weaknesses of the government's response." Lustick alleged that the War on Terror is disconnected from the real but remote threat terrorism poses and that the generalized War on Terror began as part of the justification for invading Iraq, but then took on a life of its own, fueled by media coverage. Scott Atran writes that "publicity is the oxygen of terrorism" and the rapid growth of international communicative networks renders publicity even more potent, with the result that "perhaps never in the history of human conflict have so few people with so few actual means and capabilities frightened so many."
Media researcher Stephen D. Cooper's analysis of media criticism Watching the Watchdog: Bloggers As the Fifth Estate contains several examples of controversies concerning mainstream reporting of the War on Terror. Cooper found that bloggers' criticisms of factual inaccuracies in news stories or bloggers' discovery of the mainstream press' failure to adequately verify facts before publication caused many news organizations to retract or change news stories.
Cooper found that bloggers specializing in criticism of media coverage advanced four key points:
- Mainstream reporting of the War on Terror has frequently contained factual inaccuracies. In some cases, the errors go uncorrected: moreover, when corrections are issued they usually are given far less prominence than the initial coverage containing the errors.
- The mainstream press has sometimes failed to check the provenance of information or visual images supplied by Iraqi "stringers" (local Iraqis hired to relay local news).
- Story framing is often problematic: in particular, "man-in-the-street" interviews have often been used as a representation of public sentiment in Iraq, in place of methodologically sound survey data.
- Mainstream reporting has tended to concentrate on the more violent areas of Iraq, with little or no reporting of the calm areas.
David Barstow won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting by connecting the Department of Defense to over 75 retired generals supporting the Iraq War on television and radio networks. The Department of Defense recruited retired generals to promote the war to the American public. Barstow also discovered undisclosed links between some retired generals and defense contractors. He reported that "the Bush administration used its control over access of information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse".
The Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK, Ken McDonald, Britain's most senior criminal prosecutor, stated that those responsible for acts of terrorism such as the 7 July 2005 London bombings are not "soldiers" in a war, but "inadequates" who should be dealt with by the criminal justice system. He added that a "culture of legislative restraint" was needed in passing anti-terrorism laws and that a "primary purpose" of the violent attacks was to tempt countries such as Britain to "abandon our values." He stated that in the eyes of the UK criminal justice system, the response to terrorism had to be "proportionate and grounded in due process and the rule of law":
London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered...were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, 'soldiers'. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London there is no such thing as a war on terror. The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement.
Stella Rimington, former head of the British intelligence service MI5 criticised the War on Terror as a "huge overreaction" and had decried the militarization and politicization of U.S. efforts to be the wrong approach to terrorism.David Miliband, former UK foreign secretary, has similarly called the strategy a "mistake".Nigel Lawson, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, called for Britain to end its involvement in the War in Afghanistan, describing the mission as "wholly unsuccessful and indeed counter-productive."
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Counter-terrorism (also spelled counterterrorism) incorporates the practice, military tactics, techniques, and strategy that government, military, law enforcement, business, and intelligence agencies use to combat or prevent terrorism. Counter-terrorism strategies include attempts to counter financing of terrorism.
If terrorism is part of a broader insurgency, counter-terrorism may employ counter-insurgency measures. The United States Armed Forces use the term foreign internal defense for programs that support other countries in attempts to suppress insurgency, lawlessness, or subversion or to reduce the conditions under which these threats to security may develop.
In response to the escalating terror campaign in Britain carried out by the militant Irish Fenians in the 1880s, the Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt, established the first counter-terrorism unit ever. The Special Irish Branch was initially formed as a section of the Criminal Investigation Department of the London Metropolitan Police in 1883, to combat Irish republican terrorism through infiltration and subversion.
Harcourt envisioned a permanent unit dedicated to the prevention of politically motivated violence through the use of modern techniques such as undercover infiltration. This pioneering branch was the first to be trained in counter-terrorism techniques.
Its name was changed to Special Branch as it had its remit gradually expanded to incorporate a general role in counterterrorism, combating foreign subversion and infiltrating organized crime. Law enforcement agencies, in Britain and elsewhere, established similar units.
Counterterrorism forces expanded with the perceived growing threat of terrorism in the late 20th century. Specifically, after the September 11 attacks, Western governments made counter-terrorism efforts a priority, including more foreign cooperation, shifting tactics involving red teams and preventive measures.
Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
See also: Intelligence cycle management, Intelligence analysis, HUMINT, and Counterintelligence
Most counter-terrorism strategies involve an increase in standard police and domestic intelligence. The central activities are traditional: interception of communications, and the tracing of persons. New technology has, however, expanded the range of military and law enforcement operations.
Domestic intelligence is often directed at specific groups, defined on the basis of origin or religion, which is a source of political controversy. Mass surveillance of an entire population raises objections on civil liberties grounds. Homegrown terrorists, especially lone wolves are often harder to detect because of their citizenship or legal status and ability to stay under the radar.
To select the effective action when terrorism appears to be more of an isolated event, the appropriate government organizations need to understand the source, motivation, methods of preparation, and tactics of terrorist groups. Good intelligence is at the heart of such preparation, as well as political and social understanding of any grievances that might be solved. Ideally, one gets information from inside the group, a very difficult challenge for HUMINT because operational terrorist cells are often small, with all members known to one another, perhaps even related.
Counterintelligence is a great challenge with the security of cell-based systems, since the ideal, but nearly impossible, goal is to obtain a clandestine source within the cell. Financial tracking can play a role, as can communications intercept, but both of these approaches need to be balanced against legitimate expectations of privacy.
Main article: Anti-terrorism legislation
In response to the growing legislation.
- United Kingdom
- The United Kingdom has had anti-terrorism legislation in place for more than thirty years. The Prevention of Violence Act 1939 was brought in response to an Irish Republican Army (IRA) campaign of violence under the S-Plan. This act had been allowed to expire in 1953 and was repealed in 1973 to be replaced by the Prevention of Terrorism Acts a response to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. From 1974 to 1989 the temporary provisions of the act were renewed annually.
- In 2000 the Acts were replaced with the more permanent Terrorism Act 2000, which contained many of their powers, and then the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.
- The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 was formally introduced into the Parliament November 19, 2001 two months after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. It received royal assent and went into force on December 13, 2001. On December 16, 2004 the Law Lords ruled that Part 4 was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, but under the terms of the Human Rights Act 1998 it remained in force. The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 was drafted to answer the Law Lords ruling and the Terrorism Act 2006 creates new offences related to terrorism, and amends existing ones. The Act was drafted in the aftermath of the 7 July 2005 London bombings, and like its predecessors some of its terms have proven to be highly controversial.
Since 1978 the UK's terrorism laws have been regularly reviewed by a security-cleared Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, whose often influential reports are submitted to Parliament and published in full.
- United States
- U.S. legal issues surrounding this issue include rulings on the domestic employment of deadly force by law enforcement organizations.
- Search and seizure is governed by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
- The U.S. passed the USA PATRIOT Act after the September 11 attacks, as well as a range of other legislation and executive orders relating to national security.
- The Department of Homeland Security was established to consolidate domestic security agencies to coordinate anti-terrorism, as well as national response to major natural disasters and accidents.
- The Posse Comitatus Act limits domestic employment of the United States Army and the United States Air Force, requiring Presidential approval prior to deploying the Army and/or the Air Force. Pentagon policy also applies this limitation to the United States Marine Corps and the United States Navy, because the Posse Comitatus Act doesn't cover naval services, even though they are federal military forces. The Department of Defense can be employed domestically on Presidential order, as was done during the Los Angeles riots of 1992, Hurricane Katrina, and the Beltway Sniper incidents.
- External or international use of lethal force would require a Presidential finding.
- In February 2017, sources claimed that the Trump administration intends to rename and revamp the U.S. government program Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) to solely focus on Islamist extremism.
- Australia has passed several anti-terrorism acts. In 2004, a bill comprising three acts Anti-terrorism Act, 2004, (No 2) and (No 3) was passed. Then Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, introduced the Anti-terrorism bill, 2004 on March 31. He described it as "a bill to strengthen Australia's counter-terrorism laws in a number of respects – a task made more urgent following the recent tragic terrorist bombings in Spain." He said that Australia's counter-terrorism laws "require review and, where necessary, updating if we are to have a legal framework capable of safeguarding all Australians from the scourge of terrorism." The Australian Anti-Terrorism Act 2005 supplemented the powers of the earlier acts. The Australian legislation allows police to detain suspects for up to two weeks without charge and to electronically track suspects for up to a year. The Australian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005 included a "shoot-to-kill" clause. In a country with entrenched liberal democratic traditions, the measures are controversial and have been criticized by civil libertarians and Islamic groups.
- Israel monitors a list of designated terrorist organizations and has laws forbidding membership in such organizations, funding or helping them in any way.
- On December 14, 2006 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled targeted killings were a permitted form of self-defense.
- In 2016 the Israeli Knesset passed a comprehensive law against terrorism, forbidding any kind of terrorism and support of terrorism, and setting severe punishments for terrorists. The law also regulate legal efforts against terrorism.
One of the primary difficulties of implementing effective counter-terrorist measures is the waning of civil liberties and individual privacy that such measures often entail, both for citizens of, and for those detained by states attempting to combat terror. At times, measures designed to tighten security have been seen as abuses of power or even violations of human rights.
Examples of these problems can include prolonged, incommunicado detention without judicial review or long periods of 'preventive detention'; risk of subjecting to torture during the transfer, return and extradition of people between or within countries; and the adoption of security measures that restrain the rights or freedoms of citizens and breach principles of non-discrimination. Examples include:
- In November 2003 Malaysia passed new counter-terrorism laws that were widely criticized by local human rights groups for being vague and overbroad. Critics claim that the laws put the basic rights of free expression, association, and assembly at risk. Malaysia persisted in holding around 100 alleged militants without trial, including five Malaysian students detained for alleged terrorist activity while studying in Karachi, Pakistan.
- In November 2003 a Canadian-Syrian national, Maher Arar, alleged publicly that he had been tortured in a Syrian prison after being handed over to the Syrian authorities by U.S.
- In December 2003 Colombia's congress approved legislation that would give the military the power to arrest, tap telephones and carry out searches without warrants or any previous judicial order.
- Images of unpopular treatment of detainees in US custody in Iraq and other locations have encouraged international scrutiny of US operations in the war on terror.
- Hundreds of foreign nationals remain in prolonged indefinite detention without charge or trial in Guantánamo Bay, despite international and US constitutional standards some groups believe outlaw such practices.
- Hundreds of people suspected of connections with the Taliban or al Qa'eda remain in long-term detention in Pakistan or in US-controlled centers in Afghanistan.
- China has used the "war on terror" to justify its policies in the predominantly Muslim Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region to stifle Uighur identity.
- In Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Yemen and other countries, scores of people have been arrested and arbitrarily detained in connection with suspected terrorist acts or links to opposition armed groups.
- Until 2005 eleven men remained in high security detention in the UK under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.
Many would argue that such violations could exacerbate rather than counter the terrorist threat. Human rights advocates argue for the crucial role of human rights protection as an intrinsic part to fight against terrorism. This suggests, as proponents of human security have long argued, that respecting human rights may indeed help us to incur security. Amnesty International included a section on confronting terrorism in the recommendations in the Madrid Agenda arising from the Madrid Summit on Democracy and Terrorism (Madrid March 8–11, 2005):
Democratic principles and values are essential tools in the fight against terrorism. Any successful strategy for dealing with terrorism requires terrorists to be isolated. Consequently, the preference must be to treat terrorism as criminal acts to be handled through existing systems of law enforcement and with full respect for human rights and the rule of law. We recommend: (1) taking effective measures to make impunity impossible either for acts of terrorism or for the abuse of human rights in counter-terrorism measures. (2) the incorporation of human rights laws in all anti-terrorism programmes and policies of national governments as well as international bodies."
While international efforts to combat terrorism have focused on the need to enhance cooperation between states, proponents of human rights (as well as human security) have suggested that more effort needs to be given to the effective inclusion of human rights protection as a crucial element in that cooperation. They argue that international human rights obligations do not stop at borders and a failure to respect human rights in one state may undermine its effectiveness in the international effort to cooperate to combat terrorism.
Some countries see preemptive attacks as a legitimate strategy. This includes capturing, killing, or disabling suspected terrorists before they can mount an attack. Israel, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Russia have taken this approach, while Western European states generally do not.
Another major method of preemptive neutralization is interrogation of known or suspected terrorists to obtain information about specific plots, targets, the identity of other terrorists, whether or not the interrogation subjects himself is guilty of terrorist involvement. Sometimes more extreme methods are used to increase suggestibility, such as sleep deprivation or drugs. Such methods may lead captives to offer false information in an attempt to stop the treatment, or due to the confusion brought on by it. These methods are not tolerated by European powers. In 1978 the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the Ireland v. United Kingdom case that such methods amounted to a practice of inhuman and degrading treatment, and that such practices were in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights Article 3 (art. 3).
The human security paradigm outlines a non-military approach which aims to address the enduring underlying inequalities which fuel terrorist activity. Causal factors need to be delineated and measures implemented which allow equal access to resources and sustainability for all people. Such activities empower citizens providing 'freedom from fear' and 'freedom from want'.
This can take many forms including the provision of clean drinking water, education, vaccination programs, provision of food and shelter and protection from violence, military or otherwise. Successful human security campaigns have been characterized by the participation of a diverse group of actors including governments, NGOs, and citizens.
Foreign internal defense programs provide outside expert assistance to a threatened government. FID can involve both non-military and military aspects of counter-terrorism.
A 2017 study found that "governance and civil society aid is effective in dampening domestic terrorism, but this effect is only present if the recipient country is not experiencing a civil conflict."
Terrorism has often been used to justify military intervention in countries like Pakistan where terrorists are said to be based. That was the main stated justification for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. It was also a stated justification for the second Russian invasion of Chechnya.
Military intervention has not always been successful in stopping or preventing future terrorism, like during the Malayan Emergency, the Mau Mau uprising, and most of the campaigns against the IRA during the Irish Civil War, the S-Plan, the Border Campaign (IRA) and the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Although military action can disrupt a terrorist group's operations temporarily, it sometimes doesn't end the threat completely.
Thus repression by the military in itself (particularly if it is not accompanied by other measures) usually leads to short term victories, but tend to be unsuccessful in the long run (e.g. the French's doctrine described in Roger Trinquier's book Modern War used in Indochina and Algeria). However, new methods (see the new Counterinsurgency Field Manual) such as those taken in Iraq have yet to be seen as beneficial or ineffectual.
Police, fire, and emergency medical response organizations have obvious roles. Local firefighters and emergency medical personnel (often called "first responders") have plans for mitigating the effects of terrorist attacks, although police may deal with threats of such attacks.
Whatever the target of terrorists, there are multiple ways of hardening the targets to prevent the terrorists from hitting their mark, or reducing the damage of attacks. One method is to place Hostile vehicle mitigation to enforce protective standoff distance outside tall or politically sensitive buildings to prevent car and truck bombing. Another way to reduce the impact of attacks is to design buildings for rapid evacuation.
Aircraft cockpits are kept locked during flights, and have reinforced doors, which only the pilots in the cabin are capable of opening. UK railway stations removed their rubbish bins in response to the Provisional IRA threat, as convenient locations for depositing bombs.
Scottish stations removed theirs after the 7 July 2005 London Bombings as a precautionary measure. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority purchased bomb-resistant barriers after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
A more sophisticated target-hardening approach must consider industrial and other critical industrial infrastructure that could be attacked. Terrorists need not import chemical weapons if they can cause a major industrial accident such as the Bhopal disaster or the Halifax Explosion. Industrial chemicals in manufacturing, shipping, and storage need greater protection, and some efforts are in progress. To put this risk into perspective, the first major lethal chemical attack in WWI used 160 tons of chlorine. Industrial shipments of chlorine, widely used in water purification and the chemical industry, travel in 90 or 55 ton tank cars.
To give one more example, the North American electrical grid has already demonstrated, in the Northeast Blackout of 2003, its vulnerability to natural disasters coupled with inadequate, possibly insecure, SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) networks. Part of the vulnerability is due to deregulation leading to much more interconnection in a grid designed for only occasional power-selling between utilities. A small number of terrorists, attacking key power facilities when one or more engineers have infiltrated the power control centers, could wreak havoc.
Equipping likely targets with containers (i.e., bags) of pig lard has been utilized to discourage attacks by suicide bombers. The technique was apparently used on a limited scale by British authorities in the 1940s. The approach stems from the idea that Muslims perpetrating the attack would not want to be "soiled" by the lard in the moment prior to dying. The idea has been suggested more recently as a deterrent to suicide bombings in Israel. However, the actual effectiveness of this tactic is probably limited as it is possible that a sympathetic Islamic scholar could issue a fatwa proclaiming that a suicide bomber would not be polluted by the swine products.
Command and control
In North America and other continents, for a threatened or completed terrorist attack, the Incident Command System (ICS) is apt to be invoked to control the various services that may need to be involved in the response. ICS has varied levels of escalation, such as might be needed for multiple incidents in a given area (e.g., the 2005 bombings in London or the 2004 Madrid train bombings, or all the way to a National Response Plan invocation if national-level resources are needed. National response, for example, might be needed for a nuclear, biological, radiological, or large chemical attack.
Fire departments, perhaps supplemented by public works agencies, utility providers (e.g., gas, water, electricity), and heavy construction contractors, are most apt to deal with the physical consequences of an attack.
Again under an incident command model, local police can isolate the incident area, reducing confusion, and specialized police units can conduct tactical operations against terrorists, often using specialized counter-terrorist tactical units. Bringing in such units will normally involve civil or military authority beyond the local level.
Emergency medical services will triage, treat, and transport the more seriously affected victims to hospitals, which will also need to have mass casualty and triage plans in place.
Public health agencies, from local to national level, may be designated to deal with identification, and sometimes mitigation, of possible biological attacks, and sometimes chemical or radiologic contamination.
Today, many countries have special units designated to handle terrorist threats. Besides various security agencies, there are elite tactical units, also known as special mission units, whose role is to directly engage terrorists and prevent terrorist attacks. Such units perform both in preventive actions, hostage rescue and responding to on-going attacks. Countries of all sizes can have highly trained counter-terrorist teams. Tactics, techniques and procedures for manhunting are under constant development.
Most of these measures deal with terrorist attacks that affect an area, or threaten to do so. It is far harder to deal with assassination, or even reprisals on individuals, due to the short (if any) warning time and the quick exfiltration of the assassins.
These units are specially trained in tactics and are very well equipped for CQB with emphasis on stealth and performing the mission with minimal casualties. The units include take-over force (assault teams), snipers, EOD experts, dog handlers and intelligence officers. See Counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism organizations for national command, intelligence, and incident mitigation.
The majority of counter-terrorism operations at the tactical level, are conducted by state, federal and national law enforcement agencies or intelligence agencies. In some countries, the military may be called in as a last resort. Obviously, for countries whose military are legally permitted to conduct police operations, this is a non-issue, and such counter-terrorism operations are conducted by their military.
See counter-intelligence for command, intelligence and warning, and incident mitigation aspects of counter-terror.
Examples of actions
Some counterterrorist actions of the 20th and 21st century are listed below. See list of hostage crises for a more extended list, including hostage-taking that did not end violently.
|Incident||Main locale||Hostage nationality||Kidnappers|
|1972||Sabena Flight 571||Tel Aviv-Lod International Airport, Israel||Mixed||Black September||Sayeret Matkal||1 passenger dead, 2 hijackers killed. 2 passengers and 1 commando injured. 2 kidnappers captured. All other 96 passengers rescued.|
|1972||Munich massacre||Munich Olympics, Germany||Israeli||Black September||German police||All hostages murdered, 5 kidnappers killed. 3 kidnappers captured and released.|
|1975||AIA Hostage Incident||AIA building, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia||Mixed. US and Swedish||Japanese Red Army||Special Actions Unit||All hostages rescued, all kidnappers flown to Libya.|
|1976||Entebbe raid||Entebbe, Uganda||Israelis and Jews. Non-Jewish hostages were released shortly after capture.||PFLP||Sayeret Matkal, Sayeret Tzanhanim, Sayeret Golani||All 6 hijackers, 45 Ugandan troops, 3 hostages and 1 Israeli soldier dead. 100 hostages rescued|
|1977||Hijacking of Lufthansa Flight 181||Spanish airspace and Mogadishu, Somalia||Mixed||PFLP||GSG 9, Special Air Service consultants||1 hostage killed prior to the raid, 3 hijackers dead, 1 captured. 90 hostages rescued.|
|1980||Casa Circondariale di Trani Prison riot||Trani, Italy||Italian||Red Brigades||Gruppo di intervento speciale (GIS)||18 policemen rescued, all terrorists captured.|
|1980||Iranian Embassy Siege||London, UK||Mostly Iranian but some British||Democratic Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Arabistan||Special Air Service||1 hostage, 5 kidnappers dead, 1 captured. 24 hostages rescued. 1 SAS operative received minor burns.|
|1981||Hijacking of "Woyla" Garuda Indonesia||Don Muang International Airport, Thailand||Indonesian||Jihad Command||Kopassus, RTAF mixed forces||1 hijacker killed himself, 4 hijackers and 1 Kopassus operative dead, 1 pilot wounded, all hostages rescued.|
|1982||Liberation of General James L. Dozier||Padua, Italy||American||Red Brigades||Nucleo Operativo Centrale di Sicurezza (NOCS)||Hotage saved, capture of the entire terrorist cell.|
|1983||Turkish embassy attack||Lisbon, Portugal||Turkish||Armenian Revolutionary Army||GOE||5 hijackers, 1 hostage and 1 policeman dead, 1 hostage and 1 policeman wounded.|
|1985||Capture of Achille Lauro hijackers||International airspace and Italy||Mixed||PLO||US military, Italian special forces, Gruppo di intervento speciale turned over to Italy||1 dead in hijacking, 4 hijackers convicted in Italy|
|1986||Pudu Prison siege||Pudu Prison, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia||Two doctors||Prisoners||Special Actions Unit||6 kidnappers captured, 2 hostages rescued|
|1993||Operation Ashwamedh||Amritsar, India||141 passengers||Islamic terrorist (Mohammed Yousuf Shah)||NSG commandos||3 hijackers killed, all hostages rescued|
|1994||Air France Flight 8969||Marseille, France||Mixed||GIA||GIGN||4 hijackers killed, 3 hostages killed prior to the raid, 229 hostages rescued|
|1996||Japanese embassy hostage crisis||Lima, Peru||Japanese and guests (800+)||Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement||Peruvian military & police mixed forces||1 hostage, 2 rescuers, all 14 kidnappers dead.|
|2000||Sauk Arms Heist||Perak, Malaysia||Malaysian (2 policemen, 1 soldier and 1 civilian)||Al-Ma'unah||Grup Gerak Khas and 20 Pasukan Gerakan Khas, mixed forces||2 hostages dead, 2 rescuers dead, 1 kidnapper dead and the other 28 kidnappers captured.|
|2002||Moscow theater hostage crisis||Moscow||Mixed, mostly Russian (900+)||Chechen||Russian Spetsnaz||129–204 hostages dead, all 39 kidnappers dead. 600–700 hostages freed.|
|2004||Beslan school hostage crisis||Beslan, North Ossetia-Alania, (an autonomous republic in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation).||Russian||Chechen||Mixed Russian||334 hostages dead and hundreds wounded. 10–21 rescuers dead. 31 kidnappers killed, 1 captured.|
|2007||Lal Masjid siege||Islamabad, Pakistan||Pakistani students||Lal Masjid students and militants||Pakistani Army and Rangers SSG commandos||61 militants killed, 50 militants captured, 23 students killed, 11 SSG killed,1 Ranger killed,33 SSG wounded,8 soldiers wounded,3 Rangers wounded, 14 civilians killed|
|2007||Kirkuk Hostage Rescue||Kirkuk, Iraq||Turkman child||Islamic State of Iraq Al Qaeda||PUK's Kurdistan Regional Government's CTG Counter Terrorism Group||5 kidnappers arrested, 1 hostage rescued|
|2008||Operation Jaque||Colombia||Mixed||Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia||15 hostages released. 2 kidnappers captured|
|2008||Operations Dawn||Gulf of Aden, Somalia||Mixed||Somalian piracy and militants||PASKAL and international mixed forces||Negotiation finished. 80 hostages released. RMN including PASKAL navy commandos with international mixed forces patrolling the Gulf of Aden during this festive period.|
|2008||2008 Mumbai attacks||Multiple locations in Mumbai city||Indian Nationals, Foreign tourists||Ajmal Qasab and other Pakistani nationals affiliated to Laskar-e-taiba||300 NSG commandos, 36–100 Marine commandos and 400 army Para Commandos||141 Indian civilians, 30 foreigners, 15 policemen and two NSG commandos were killed. |
9 attackers killed,1 attacker captured and 293 injured
|2009||2009 Lahore Attacks||Multiple locations in Lahore city||Pakistan||Lashkar-e-Taiba||Police Commandos, Army Rangers Battalion||March 3, The Sri Lankan cricket team attack – 6 members of the Sri Lankan cricket team were injured, 6 Pakistani policemen and 2 civilians killed.|
March 30, the Manawan Police Academy in Lahore attack – 8 gunmen, 8 police personnel and 2 civilians killed, 95 people injured, 4 gunmen captured..
|2011||Operation Dawn of Gulf of Aden||Gulf of Aden, Somalia||Koreans, Myanmar, Indonesian||Somalian piracy and militants||Republic of Korea Navy Special Warfare Flotilla(UDT/SEAL)||4+ killed or missing, 8 killed, 5 captured, All hostages rescued.|
|2012||Lopota Gorge hostage crisis||Lopota Gorge, Georgia||Georgians||ethnic Chechen, Russian and Georgian militants||Special Operations Center, SOD, KUD and army special forces||2 KUD members and one special forces corpsman killed, 5 policemen wounded, 11 kidnappers killed, 5 wounded and 1 captured. All hostages rescued.|
|2013||2013 Lahad Datu standoff||Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia||Malaysians||Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo (Jamalul Kiram III's faction)||Malaysian Armed Forces, Royal Malaysia Police, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and joint counter-terrorism forces as well as Philippine Armed Forces.||8 policemen including 2 PGK commandos and one soldier killed, 12 others wounded, 56 militants killed, 3 wounded and 149 captured. All hostages rescued. 6 civilians killed and one wounded.|
Designing Anti-terrorism systems
The scope for Anti-terrorism systems is very large in physical terms (long borders, vast areas, high traffic volumes in busy cities, etc.) as well as in other dimensions, such as type and degree of terrorism threat, political and diplomatic ramifications, and legal issues. In this environment, the development of a persistent Anti-terrorism protection system is a daunting task. Such a system should bring together diverse state-of-the-art technologies to enable persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, and enable potential actions. Designing such a system-of-systems comprises a major technological project.
A particular design problem for this system is that it will face many uncertainties in the future. The threat of terrorism may increase, decrease or remain the same, the type of terrorism and location are difficult to predict, and there are technological uncertainties. Yet we want to design a terrorism system conceived and designed today in order to prevent acts of terrorism for a decade or more. A potential solution is to incorporate flexibility into system design for the reason that the flexibility embedded can be exercised in future as uncertainty unfolds and updated information arrives. And the design and valuation of a protection system should not be based on a single scenario, but an array of scenarios. Flexibility can be incorporated in the design of the terrorism system in the form of options that can be exercised in the future when new information is available. Using these 'real options' will create a flexible Anti-terrorism system that is able to cope with new requirements that may arise.
While some countries with longstanding terrorism problems, such as Israel, have law enforcement agencies primarily designed to prevent and respond to terror attacks, in other nations, counter-terrorism is a relatively more recent objective of civilian police and law enforcement agencies.
While some civil-libertarians and criminal justice scholars have called-out efforts of law enforcement agencies to combat terrorism as futile and expensive or as threats to civil liberties, other scholars have begun describing and analyzing the most important dimensions of the policing of terrorism as an important dimension of counterterrorism, especially in the post-9/11 era, and have argued how police institutions view terrorism as a matter of crime control. Such analyses bring out the civilian police role in counterterrorism next to the military model of a 'war on terror'.
Counter-Terrorism and American Law Enforcement
Pursuant to passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies began to systemically reorganize. Two primary federal agencies (the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)) house most of the federal agencies that are prepared to combat domestic and international terrorist attacks. These include the Border Patrol, the Secret Service, the Coast Guard and the FBI.
Following suit from federal changes pursuant to 9/11, however, most state and local law enforcement agencies began to include a commitment to "fighting terrorism" in their mission statements. Local agencies began to establish more patterned lines of communication with federal agencies. Some scholars have doubted the ability of local police to help in the war on terror and suggest their limited manpower is still best utilized by engaging community and targeting street crimes.
While counter-terror measures (most notably heightened airport security, immigrant profiling and border patrol) have been adapted during the last decade, to enhance counter-terror in law enforcement, there have been remarkable limitations to assessing the actual utility/effectiveness of law enforcement practices that are ostensibly preventative. Thus, while sweeping changes in counter-terrorism rhetoric redefined most American post 9/11 law enforcement agencies in theory, it is hard to assess how well such hyperbole has translated into practice.
In intelligence-led policing(ILP) efforts, the most quantitatively amenable starting point for measuring the effectiveness of any policing strategy (i.e.: Neighborhood Watch, Gun Abatement, Foot Patrols, etc.) is usually to assess total financial costs against clearance rates or arrest rates. Since terrorism is such a rare event phenomena, measuring arrests or clearance rates would be a non-generalizable and ineffective way to test enforcement policy effectiveness. Another methodological problem in assessing counter-terrorism efforts in law enforcement hinges on finding operational measures for key concepts in the study of homeland security. Both terrorism and homeland security are relatively new concepts for criminologists, and academicians have yet to agree on the matter of how to properly define these ideas in a way that is accessible.