Handbook, Part IV: Prevention of, and Preparedness for, Terrorist Attacks

8 Mar 2021
 

In the fourth part of the Handbook of Terrorism Prevention and Preparedness, the authors explore the interaction between prevention and preparedness. These chapters explore what can, and what has been done, ranging from early warnings to the prevention of cyber-terrorism. The full table of contents can be found here.

The Handbook consists of five parts. New chapters will be released on a weekly basis. To receive a monthly update on chapter releases, subscribe here.

Part IV: Prevention of, and Preparedness for, Terrorist Attacks

by Kenneth A. Duncan

Abstract
This chapter outlines how intelligence has adapted to the ever-changing threat of terrorism, and the crucial role “warning” has played and will continue to play in countering and mitigating this threat. To better understand warning’s capabilities and limitations, it also explores the nature of intelligence as well as the factors underlying warning’s collection, analysis, production, dissemination, and reception. It traces the relationship between intelligence and law enforcement agencies as it evolved as part of the US government’s organizational response to terrorism from the late 1960s onward, highlighting both its strengths and weaknesses. Finally, it discusses problems arising from the often-troubled relationship between intelligence producers and consumers – from policymakers to the general public – which can lead to obstacles in turning an early warning into an early response.

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by Joshua Sinai

Abstract
This chapter examines the magnitude of the threat posed by ideologically extremist lone actors who are considered domestic terrorists in the US during the almost 50-year period of the early 1970s to 2019. This should enable us to formulate best practice-based measures to counter them, particularly during the formative pre-incident attack phases. This categorization of terrorist actor types excludes operatives belonging to US or foreign-based organized terrorist groups or their loosely affiliated networks that operate in the US This is done by outlining the selection criteria for determining the factors that constitute a lone actor terrorist, a listing of significant attacks and plots by a representative sample of 52 perpetrators from the early 1970s to late 2019 (see Appendix A), and, based on these events and how they ended, an assessment of the extremist ideologies and psychological factors that motivated them, their modus operandi, including selection of weaponry and targets, and the measures that will be effective in preventing them during their attacks’ formative pre-incident phases. Also examined is how these incidents and plots were resolved, particularly the measures used in preventing the ones that had failed to be executed. Several security technologies that are being employed to counter such perpetrators’ pre-incident suspicious activities are also discussed. As an empirical study, the statistically-based findings are based on the chapter’s database of actual cases during the almost 50-years that are covered. The conclusion presents the chapter’s overall findings.

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by Annelies Pauwels

Abstract
Lone-actor terrorism is an emerging phenomenon that challenges Western law enforcement agencies. This chapter adds to previous research on the prevention and detection of attacks by single terrorists and does so by focusing on limiting their access to weapons. It analyses the weapons that have been most commonly used by lone offenders in Western Europe over the last twenty years: firearms, knives, explosive and incendiary devices. For each of these weapon types a case study of a recent lone-actor attack is analyzed. The chapter concludes that downstream preventive measures aimed at curbing access to weapons and practical training opportunities can be useful. They can direct lone actor terrorists to more readily available weapons, reducing the lethality of their attacks. The research presents recommendations aimed at further restraining access to weapons and limiting online and on-hands training in the use or manufacturing of weapons. Lone-actor terrorism will most probably continue to exist and possibly rise, as it is a direct response to increasing pressure from law enforcement and is actively promoted by terrorist strategists. While a hundred percent safety from lone-actor attacks is probably unattainable, it is possible to diminish their ability to successfully carry out an attack and limit their lethality.

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by Rachel Monaghan and David McIlhatton

Abstract
In recent times, a significant amount of policy development has been directed towards assessing, countering, and mitigating the threat from improvised explosive devices (IED) in urban environments. Much of this has been in direct response to the impact of specific terrorist attacks that have occurred in recent times in many cities. Less attention has been positioned towards understanding how policy- and practice-based approaches in disciplines that are not considered mainstream in the counterterrorism discourse could be used to enhance the resilience of new developments linked to the protection of crowded places. This chapter seeks to overcome this by critically analyzing the fundamental questions of “what measures have been undertaken” and, to a lesser extent, “who should be responsible for counterterrorism related protective security measures?”

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by Alex P. Schmid

Abstract
This chapter will look into what can be done to prevent kidnappings and acts of hostage taking, focussing on the seizure phase and the negotiation phase, in which the prevention of loss of lives among the hostages becomes paramount. This chapter will present an overview of the recent and contemporary prevalence of kidnappings and hostage takings and the outcome of such acts of terrorism, based on two, partly overlapping, ITERATE datasets. In doing so, this chapter will utilize roughly 4,000 kidnapping and hostage taking incidents over a fifty-year period (1968-2018). This will be followed by a presentation of some of the best practices which have evolved over the years to prevent these crimes and, failing that, to prevent loss of lives during captivity with the help of smart negotiation techniques. Criminal and political acts of kidnapping and hostage-taking, local and transnational abductions, and barricade and non-barricade types have their own dynamics and are, therefore, not always comparable. Successful kidnappings (e.g. the kidnappers collected a ransom payment, obtained the release or exchange of prisoners, were granted safe conduct, or gained publicity) can encourage imitations and become contagious, thereby trading short-term prevention of loss of lives for long-term higher future risks of further abductions. The chapter’s Appendix reproduces Al-Qaeda’s kidnapping manual while a bibliography lists the most important literature on the subject.

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by Susanne Martin

Abstract
Suicide attacks have been a feared tactic of terrorism since the initiation of suicide bombings in Lebanon in the 1980s and, perhaps even more so, since their adaptation in the airplane attacks on the US on 11 September 2001. The numbers of suicide attacks, especially suicide bombings, have increased over time, in some cases dramatically. Is it possible to prevent suicide attacks by terrorists, and, if so, by what means? In fact, there are examples of effective efforts to prevent suicide attacks. One example involves the prevention of suicide bombings in Israel. Another example involves the prevention of one type of suicide attack – attacks using commercial airplanes. Suicide bombings peaked in Israel in 2002 and 2003, but decreased between 2003 and 2005. One explanation for this decrease is effective counterinsurgency (COIN) and counterterrorism efforts implemented during and following the second Palestinian Intifada. Terrorism has continued – even increased – in Israel, but suicide attacks are no longer a common occurrence. The second example relates to suicide attacks involving commercial airplanes. Changes in airport and airplane security after 9/11 have made it harder for terrorists to target or utilize airplanes in attacks. Counterterrorism efforts have not stopped terrorists from attempting further attacks on airports and airplanes, yet these attempts have been met with further hardening of these targets. While counterterrorism efforts in Israel which involve air travel have been largely successful, these successes have not included remedies for the sources of the violence that inspire groups to use suicide attacks or individuals to participate in them. The groups responsible for the suicide attacks in Israel and on 9/11 continue to operate and continue to support violence.

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by Brian Michael Jenkins

Abstract
Attacks on airliners and airports constituted a large percentage of terrorist operations in the late 1960s and early 1970s, requiring extraordinary security measures. Despite progress in reducing the number of hijackings and sabotage of airliners, terrorists continued to attack commercial aviation. The 9/11 attacks in which nearly 3,000 people died, and subsequent suicide bombing attempts aboard airliners prompted even more stringent measures to keep weapons and explosives off airplanes. By 2020, terrorist hijackings have been almost entirely eliminated although sabotage remains a concern. Meanwhile, terrorist attacks on public surface transportation steadily increased into the 2010s. The attacks in the early 1970s were aimed at causing alarm and disruption. To later generations of terrorists, trains and buses offered easily accessible crowds of people in confined environments—the goal changed to slaughter as witnessed in the bombings of commuter trains in Madrid in 20004, London in 2005, and Mumbai in 2006. The aviation security model could not be applied to surface transportation. The volume of passengers was too great—passenger screening would require an army of screeners. The delays and costs would destroy public transportation. Instead of establishing security checkpoints, transportation operators had to look at ways to mitigate casualties through station and coach design and rapid intervention, and enlist passengers themselves in detecting suspicious behavior and objects.

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by Alex P. Schmid

Abstract
The chapter opens by listing the most frequently hit soft and hard targets, with a focus on those attacked by jihadi terrorists. This is followed by a conceptual discussion about various types of terrorist targets, both physical and psychological (targets of violence, targets of terror, target of demands and targets of attention) and identifies ten audiences/conflict parties, terrorists aim to influence in one way or another. A survey of a number of empirical studies on terrorist targeting follows, and ten criteria underlying terrorists’ physical target selection are identified. A trend towards increased attacks on soft targets, especially by single actors, is noticed. As a consequence, the number of attacks that could not be prevented has increased in recent years. This diagnostic part of the chapter is followed by one that focuses on improving the prevention of attacks against soft targets. A typology of preventive measures is presented, distinguishing between up-, mid- and downstream prevention. Subsequently, the main focus is on mid- and downstream prevention. A layered approach of combining 13 preventive measures (LPM) is suggested and the author’s proposals are juxtaposed with the 13 Good Practices (GP) proposed by the Global Forum on Counter-Terrorism (GFCT)’s Soft Target Protection Initiative in 2017. There is also an Appendix with “Twelve Rules for Preventing and Countering Terrorism” developed by the author when he was Officer-in-Charge of the Terrorism Prevention Branch of UNODC. A bibliography of new literature on terrorist targeting concludes the chapter.

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by Anneli Botha

Abstract
Targeting critical infrastructure is an attempt to destabilize the social and economic functioning of the state and, therefore, will remain an extremely important concern for those tasked with prevention of terrorist attacks. The number of incidents grew substantially as a comparison of attacks between the periods 2000-2009 and 2010-2017 shows. While the threat of cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure is gaining momentum, the use of firearms and explosives still remains the preferred modus operandi. As a result, the protection of critical infrastructure had been an important component of governments’ counterterrorism strategies in focusing on both traditional tactics and, more critically, on new technological advances such as the growing threat presented by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Developing successful counter- and preventative measures starts with understanding the “enemy,” specifically the objectives, the political message, and capabilities of terrorist organizations. It also requires continuous risk, threat, and vulnerability assessments to plan and implement steps for anticipating and preventing infrastructure attacks.

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by Shashi Jayakumar

Abstract
The field of cyberterrorism has existed for as a long as it has been possible to interdict or compromise computer systems. While contributions of scholars, researchers, and practitioners have enriched discussions, there are longstanding and unresolved issues of definition which can give rise to confusion. Does cyberterrorism mean attacks only by individuals groups that fall within widely accepted definitions of “terrorist” or “terrorist organizations?” To what degree does the aim or intention of the malicious actor matter? For the purposes of the present volume, this study (without sidestepping these questions) examines attacks against computer infrastructure and Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) by all actors with capability, and not just groups such as Al-Qaeda or ISIS. As the author notes and establishes early in his discussion, this is necessary given that while conventional terrorist groups might have intent, they have not to date acquired the capability to carry out a genuinely destructive cyber-attack of the type that might lead to major loss of life or infrastructural damage. It is (for the most part) states which have this capability. Cyber prevention and preparedness covers a wide range. This three-part chapter includes technical aspects of cyber protection, systems (and people) resilience, risk mitigation, as well as nurturing talent within a viable cyber ecosystem. Three case studies (Estonia, Singapore, and the US) are given where these and other relevant issues are examined.

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