New Tactics to Combat Terrorism

By Dialogo
June 18, 2013

Without a doubt, the 21st Century terrorism is different than the terrorism of the 2000s, which was characterized by major attacks sponsored by international networks, resulting in many deaths.

With the Al Qaeda dismantlement, the most important international network linked to the Islamic extremism, and the death of their main leaders, the terrorist acts were substantially reduced, to the point that some analysts believe that their main nucleus has finally been eliminated.

They were partially correct. The beginning of the current century was marked by small attacks, led by supporters of extremism, not members of any established group or international cells, performing individual actions, using rudimentary materials. They were called “lone wolves,” and their actions were similar to traditional crimes, such as that of gangs and criminal organizations linked to the drug trafficking.

Currently, this new form of terrorism has been increasing in many countries and it represents a complex situation to government security agencies, in regard to the possibility of early detection and neutralization. The biggest challenge resides in the lack of trails that can be monitored by traditional methods, such as the purchase of suspect material, property rentals, group meetings, and constant traveling to particular regions or any indication that may lead to or raise suspicion.

Many of these attacks have occurred due to opportunities driven by the occasion or the moment, lacking the detailed planning or study of escape routes, because some of the perpetrators live in the communities where the actions occur. For instance, this is the case of the recent attacks in Boston and in London.

Likewise, the new technologies, especially the internet and the social networks, with undeniable public and private utility, help facilitate and to some extent cover up their intentions, due to the communication confidentiality agreement existing in democratic regimens. In this respect, although it is a step backwards, one of the most efficient ways to detect and neutralize future terrorist actions is to intercept and monitor personal data of certain individuals through online cross-checked information using key words that lead to establishing a criminal profile.

This situation entails a big and controversial dilemma regarding the governments’ direct responsibility, imposed by the current vulnerable status of human safety. This is a matter of selecting priorities, resulting in political and institutional frictions, regardless of the choice.

*André Luís Woloszyn, Strategic Intelligence Analyst