Team Room & ‘REP Mafia,

I realized today that I had never posted something exclusively for your consumption, so I wanted to fill that gap and share the following eight pages of love with you.  The following are a series of notes I compiled (how kind of me, I know) while reading Bruce Hoffman’s book Inside Terrorism several years back while in an Intelligence Studies course taught by a CIA case officer.  He had strongly recommended it, so I decided to shut up, color, and even took notes along the way.  It’s nothing ground-breaking but will hopefully prove useful for a quick and simple refresher on all things terrorism.  For those of you that have read this one before, here’s the cliff notes version so you don’t have to read it again, although that wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

One quick note, all of the following was derived directly from Hoffman’s book, so try not to drop these notes into your next manifesto without doing some proper citing along the way.  Or else I’ll have to add plagiarism to my list of offenses currently being tracked by the NSA, Chinese, Russians, and MLA format nazis.  Many thanks, and enjoy!


Notes from Inside Terrorism, by Bruce Hoffman

ISBN 978-0-231-12698-4

  • Beginning to Define Terrorism

o   Cast perpetually on the defensive and forced to take up arms to protect themselves and their real or imagined constituents, terrorists perceive themselves as reluctant warriors, driven by desperation – and lacking any viable alternative – to violence against a repressive state, a predatory rival ethnic or nationalist group, or an unresponsive international order

  • The terrorist…will never acknowledge that he is a terrorist and moreover will go to great lengths to evade and obscure any such inference or connection

o   Terrorism (as opposed to criminals or irregular fighters) is:

  • Political in aims and motives
  • Violent, or threatens violence
  • Designed to have far-reaching psychological repercussions beyond the immediate victim or target
  • Conducted either by an organization with an identifiable chain of command or conspiratorial cell structure or by individuals or a small collection of individuals directly influenced, motivated, or inspired by the ideological aims or example of some existent terrorist movement and/or its leaders,
  • Perpetuated by a subnational group or nonstate entity

o   Terrorism as an act: the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence in the pursuit of political change

  • Internationalization of Terrorism

o   Primarily due to the efforts of Palestinian terrorists

o   The advent of what is considered modern, international terrorism occurred in 1968, when Palestinian terrorists hijacked an Israeli flight en route from Rome to Tel Aviv

  • Plenty of hijackings had occurred in previous years, but this was the first one where the purpose was not simply diverting the scheduled flight from one destination to another
    • The hijacking was a bold political statement in that the terrorists who hijacked it did so with the express purpose of trading the passengers they held hostage for Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel
    • The flight was a readily evident national “symbol” of the Israeli state and was specifically and deliberately targeted by the terrorists
    • The terrorists succeeded in forcing their avowed enemy, Israel, to communicate directly with them and therefore the organization to which they belonged
  • New trends from the hijacking
    • Terrorists began traveling regularly from one country to another to carry out attacks
    • Terrorists began targeting innocent civilians from other countries who often had little if anything to do with the terrorists’ cause or grievance, simply in order to endow their acts with the power to attract attention and publicity

o   The Munich 1972 Olympics terrorist incident provided clear evidence that even terrorist attacks that fail to achieve their ostensible objectives can nonetheless still be counted successful provided that the operation is sufficiently dramatic to capture the attention of the media

  • Following the incident, thousands of Palestinians rushed to join terrorist organizations
  • The PLO, a nonstate actor, had formal diplomatic relations with more countries (86) than the actual established nation-state of Israel (72)
  • The Palestinian example continued to loom large for ethno-nationalist/separatist groups seeking international recognition and self-determination

o   The Palestinians pioneered the “networking” dimension of international terrorism still in evidence among many groups today

o   The PLO overall:

  • The first truly “international” terrorist organization that consistently embraced a far more internationalist orientation than most other terrorist groups
    • At least 40 different terrorist groups had been trained by the PLO at its camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Yemen, among other places

o   Participants in courses were reportedly charged $ for programs of instruction and also later recruited to participate in joint operations alongside Palestinian terrorists

o   Actively pursued the accumulation of capital and wealth as an organizational priority

o   Random Left-Wing terrorist note:

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  • The Red Army Faction (Baader-Meinhof Group)…encapsulated the revolutionary spirit and antiestablishment attitudes of typical left-wing terrorists in other Western countries at the time
    • Emerged from the communes and student associations that were part of 1960’s counterculture in W Germany
  • Religion and Terrorism

o   AQ is prime example

  • Objective is to restore a pan-Islamic caliphate that is at once as idealized as it is venerated
    • The caliphate disappeared with the demise of the Turkish Ottoman Empire (the “golden age” of Islam when the theocratic structure of law and governance bequeathed by the Mohammed to his successors reigned and divinely Sacred Law took precedence over secular arbitrary or natural law)
  • In thanking his god for the death and destruction that AQ wrought on 9/11, UBL clearly had cast his struggle in incontrovertibly theological terms
  • To AQ, the US is the “far enemy” that must be defeated because:
    • Of America’s alleged opposition to Islam and
    • Its active support that it gives to the so-called “near enemy” – the corrupt, reprobate, and authoritarian anti-Islamic regimes in the Middle East and around the world that would otherwise not be in power
  • Many historical and contemporary terrorist groups in addition to AQ also evidence a strong religious component
    • In all these groups (such as FLN in Algeria, Catholic LRA, Protestant groups like the Ulster Freedom Fighters, the Muslim PLO, etc) however, it is the political, not the religious aspect of their motivation that is dominant; the preeminence of their ethno-nationalist and/or irredentist aims is incontestable
    • AQ’s religious motive is overriding, and therefore different from those groups
  • UBL deliberately framed AQ’s struggle in stark, uncompromising theological terms at a time when economic determinism and globalization were thought to have dominated the world sphere of influence
    • UBL melded the strands of religious fervor, Muslim piety, and a profound sense of grievance into a powerful ideological force
    • UBL repeatedly defined AQ’s fundamental raison d’être in terms of the “clash of civilizations” religious typology that America and its allies have tried so hard to avoid

o   Another good example of religious terrorism:

  • The Zealots from the time of Roman occupation of what is now Israel
    • Zealots relied on dramatic public acts of violence that were designed to have psychological repercussions far beyond the immediate victims of the terrorist attack and thereby to send a powerful message to a wider, watching target audience

o   Iran and its Islamic revolution  in 1979 was responsible for the majority of the reemergence of modern religious terrorism (great mix of faith, fanaticism, and violence)

  • Iran’s aim was to extend the fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law espoused in Iran to other Muslim countries
  • Their revolution and stance on Islam reflects the belief and history of Shi’a Islam as interpreted by Khomeini
    • Legitimacy in Islam can be conferred only through the adoption of Islamic law in order to facilitate the return of the Prophet Mohammed to earth as the Messiah
    • Iran is the only state to have begun this process of redemption by creating a “true” Islamic state and must be the advocate for the oppressed and aggrieved everywhere

o   Violence and coercion are permissible and also a necessary means to a divinely sanctioned end

  • The role of clerical authority in sanctioning terrorist operations has always been critical to both Shi’a and Sunni organizations

o   Religious terrorism overall:

  • The salience of religion as the major driving force behind international terrorism in the years preceding 9/11 is further evidenced by the fact the most serious terrorist acts of the decade…all had a significant religious dimension and/or motivation
  • Terrorism motivated in whole or in part by religious imperatives has often led to more intense acts of violence that have produced considerably higher levels of fatalities than the relatively more discriminating and less lethal incidents of violence perpetrated by secular terrorist organizations
    • The reasons that terrorist incidents perpetrated for religious motives result in so many more deaths may be found in the radically different value systems, mechanisms of legitimation and justification, concepts of morality, and worldviews embraced by the religious terrorist and his secular counterpart
    • When in religious context, terrorism assumes a transcendental dimension, and its perpetrators often disregard the political, moral, or practical constraints that may affect other terrorists
    • Secular terrorists rarely attempt indiscriminate killing on a truly massive scale because such tactics are not consonant with their political aims and therefore are regarded as counterproductive

o   Religious terrorists often seek the elimination of broadly defined categories of enemies and accordingly regard such large-scale violence not only as morally justified but as necessary expedients for the attainment of their goals

  • Suicide Terrorism

o   The dominant force behind suicide terrorism is religion

  • Of the 35 terrorist organizations employing suicide tactics in 2005, 86% were Islamic

o   Terrorists have been increasingly attracted to suicide attacks because of their unique tactical advantages compared to those of more conventional terrorist operations

  • Suicide tactics are devastatingly effective, lethally efficient, have a greater likelihood of success, and are relatively inexpensive and generally easier to execute than other attack modes
  • The decision to employ a suicide tactic is neither irrational nor desperate, as is sometimes portrayed
    • It is an entirely rational and calculated choice, consciously embraced as a deliberate instrument of warfare
    • Must be noted that suicide bombers themselves have grievances that are real and might distort their views to the point of them committing a suicide attack

o   The organizational employment of suicide operations is an instrumental decision regardless

o   Suicide terrorism is guaranteed to provide media coverage, given its irresistible combination of savagery and bloodshed

  • Also an especially powerful psychological weapon
  • Express purpose of intimidating government and citizens alike and create a climate of profound fear and insecurity that the terrorists seek to manipulate and exploit to their advantage

o   Palestinian use of suicide terrorism:

  • Hamas (created 1987) had to distinguish itself from competing terrorist organizations, some of which had been fighting for decades
    • Also had to delineate itself from a long-standing and powerful representative body – the PLO
    • Hamas’ fundamental raison d’être became the liberation of Palestine and the establishment of an Islamic state in all Palestine by means of a popular jihad

o   Referred not only to a collective struggle but also the belief that the use of organizational violence was the only way to do it

o   Once the territorial imperative was achieved, Islamic social and moral norms would then be rigorously enforced in the new state

o   Hamas’ religious ideology and maximalist political aims were thus resolutely opposed to the minimalist aims pursued by the PLO

  • Palestinian terrorist organizations have created an inverted sense of normality regarding martyrdom and suicide operations
    • The use of religion and theological justification in regards to these operations has been communicated and encouraged by Muslim clerical authorities

o   Clerical authorities frame the popular attitudes towards suicide operations and encourage their followers to carry out acts of self-sacrifice on behalf of their community

  • Reinforced by Palestinian TV channels
  • Palestinian terrorists have worked hard to endow suicide operations with a positive social imprimatur and to build support for this tactic among their political constituents

o   Suicide has become accepted and commonplace, with demonstrably positive connotations

  • The veneration of martyrs reinforces this view

o   Religious context of suicide terrorism:

  • The Qur’an expressly forbids suicide and is considered as one of the “greatest wrong-doings” a Muslim can commit
  • Circumvented with the concept of martyrdom

o   Countering suicide terrorism:

  • Understand the terrorists’ mind-set and their operational environment
  • Develop strong confidence-building ties with the communities from which terrorists are most likely to come or hide in, and mount communications campaigns to eradicate support from these communities
  • Encourage businesses from which terrorists can obtain bomb-making components to alert authorities of large or unusual purchases, etc
  • Force terrorists to pay more attention to their organizational and personal security than to planning and carrying out attacks
  • Make sure ordinary materials don’t become shrapnel…AT measures (harden buildings, etc)
  • Civil defense and public efforts that enlist the help and support of citizens in remaining alert for strange or suspicious behavior, etc
  • Teach law enforcement awareness
  • The Old Media, Terrorism, and Public Opinion

o   All terrorist groups have one trait in common: they do not commit actions randomly or senselessly

  • Each wants maximum publicity to be generated by its actions and aims at intimidating and subjection to attain its objectives
  • Only by spreading the terror and outrage to a much larger audience can the terrorists gain the maximum potential leverage that they need to effect fundamental political change

o   The emergence of satellite TV and news reporting and other broadcasting technologies has had equally profound consequences for the content of the news and its impact on government

  • The ability to transmit a breaking story live spawned intense competition among rival networks to “scoop” one another
  • The priority becomes to hold the attention of the viewers with equally gripping follow-on reports
  • For media-savvy terrorists, these conditions are ripe for exploitation

o   Terrorism and the media are bound in an inherently symbiotic relationship, each feeding off and exploiting the other for its own purposes

  • The real issue however, is determining whether it actually affects public opinion and government decision making
  • Most Americans have little sympathy towards groups that sponsor or commit terrorist acts, but nonetheless evince a profound and abiding fascination with both terrorists and terrorism
    • The distortion in perception that results in higher probabilities’ being accorded to terrorism than to other life-threatening acts is in large measure doubtless a direct reflection of the disproportionate coverage accorded terrorism by the American media
  • The New Media

o   The internet

  • A tool used by terrorists for rapid mass-communication and allowing them to undertake perception management of their cause
  • Middle East Arab terrorist organizations in particular are seen as being on the cutting edge of organizational networking, having demonstrated an ability to harness information technology for offensive operations, as well as using the more typical propaganda, fund-raising, and recruiting purposes of other groups
    • Ex. Hezbollah: has maintained as many as 20 sites in 3 different languages, with each site having a different purpose, orientation, and intended audience
  • AQ
    • From the start, AQ grasped the enormous communicative potential of the internet by using it to both further the movement’s strategic aims and to facilitate its tactical operations

o   Propaganda for recruitment in the Muslim world

o   Terrorist training and instruction

o   Operational planning

  • The Modern Terrorist Mindset, TTPs, etc

o   Terrorist attacks are generally both premeditated and carefully planned

  • Are specifically designed to communicate a message
  • Conceived and executed in a manner that simultaneously reflects the terrorist group’s particular aims and motivations, fits its resources and capabilities, and takes into account the “target audience” at which the act is directed
    • Ex. Left-wing terrorists:

o   The overriding tactical and ethical imperative has been the deliberate tailoring of their violent acts to appeal to their perceived “constituencies”

o   Innocent people were not the victims of terrorist acts that were directed against the state

  • As a result, left-wing use of violence was heavily constrained
  • Their self-styled crusade for social justice is typically directed against governmental or commercial institutions, or specific individuals who they believe represent capitalist exploitation and repression
  • Therefore are careful to not alienate potential supporters or their perceived constituency
  • Violence is highly discriminative, selective, and limited
  • Ex. Right-wing terrorists

o   Also seek targets that are likely to advance their cause

o   As calculated as left-wing organizations

  • Publicity and attention are paramount aims

o   Terrorist evolution:

  • An almost Darwinian principle of natural selection also seems to affect terrorist organizations, whereby every new terrorist generation learns from its predecessors, becoming smarter, tougher, and more difficult to capture or eliminate

o   Terrorism is where politics and violence intersect in the hope of delivering power

  • All terrorism involves the quest for power: power to dominate and coerce, to intimidate and control, and ultimately to effect fundamental political change

o   Key objectives of terrorism:

  • Attention
  • Acknowledgement
  • Recognition
  • Authority
  • Governance
  • Terrorism Today and Tomorrow

o   State-sponsored terrorism

  • Some governments have now come to embrace terrorism as a deliberate instrument of foreign policy: a cost-effective means of waging war covertly, through use of surrogate warriors
  • Pivotal event in state-sponsored terrorism as a weapon of the state and an instrument of foreign policy was the Tehran hostage crisis in 1979
  • The benefits of state sponsorship are great for terrorists
    • A state sponsorship enhances the capabilities and operational capacity of otherwise limited terrorist groups
    • Place at their disposal established nation-state’s entire diplomatic, military, and intelligence apparatus and thus greatly facilitating planning and intelligence, logistical support, etc
  • State-sponsored terrorism is geared less to obtaining publicity than to pursuing specific foreign policy objectives by covertly bringing pressure to bear on the sponsor’s opponents through acts of violence
    • State-sponsored terrorists do not depend on the local population for support and therefore don’t need to concern themselves with the risk of alienating popular support or provoking a public backlash

o   During the 1980s identifiable state-sponsored terrorist attacks were 8x more lethal than those carried out w/o state support or assistance

  • Has also been used to stifle external dissent

o   AQ Movement Today

  • Best described as a networked transnational constituency
  • The current AQ exists more as an ideology that has become a vast enterprise – an international franchise with like-minded local representatives, loosely connected to a central ideological or motivational base but advancing the remaining center’s goals at once simultaneously and independently of each other
  • The movement’s strength is not in geographical possession or occupation of a defined geographical territory but in its fluidity and impermanence