Strategies of Counterterrorism Research Paper

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In the last decade terrorism has become a prominent topic in many areas, including criminology. Since terrorism affects almost every aspect of life, it has become a central priority for the police in Western democracies. American police and even countries that had been prepared to fight terrorism prior to 9/11, such as Great Britain and Germany, began after that date to review their readiness and rethink the role of police in counterterrorism (Weisburd et al. 2009a; Bayley and Weisburd 2009; International Association of Chiefs of Police 2005; Bamford 2004). Howard (2004) argues that police departments should start thinking of themselves as proactive valuable assets in deterring, defeating, and recovering from terrorist attacks. Law enforcement, intelligence, and security agencies are expected to team up, join forces, and work together with other organizations to uncover terrorist networks, foil terrorist attacks, respond to suspicious situations, and serve as first responders (Weisburd et al. 2009a). Yet there is a lack of evidence-based models for this new role of policing terrorism. A Campbell Collaboration (Lum et al. 2006) systematic review of strategies to combat terrorism could only identify seven studies that met minimal methodological requirements. None of these seven studies examined a police intervention. In fact, to date there are only a few descriptions of possible models for strategic and tactical activities of policing terror. Therefore, little is known about what the best antiterrorism strategies and tactics are. Furthermore little is known about how models can be systematically measured and assessed for their effectiveness (Weisburd et al. 2009a).

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This research paper will attempt to summarize recent developments in the field of counterterrorism. It will introduce and portray principal strategies, tactics, and practices that are presented in the literature and/or that have been widely adopted by practitioners in policing terrorism.

Why Police Bear Primary Responsibility For The Terrorism Threat In Democratic Countries?

Before discussing what these counterterrorism strategies, tactics, and practices are, four principal themes that naturally surface will be discussed: (a) the characteristics of the terrorism threat phenomenon, (b) the complexity of developing and evaluating a counterterrorism model, (c) the tension between preserving democratic principles and counterterrorism, and (d) why the police (according to Bayley and Weisburd 2009) bear primary responsibility for preserving public security in most countries.

The Terrorism Threat

In order to address the threat and develop an effective response to terrorism, one should first define this criminological phenomenon and its goals (Weisburd et al. 2009b). According to Ganor (2009), even after the world recognized the scale of the terrorist threat after 9/11, there is still no agreement on a definition of terrorism. After studying various definitions of terrorism (Hoffman 2006; Ganor 2009; Martin 2009; Hasisi et al. 2009) in the context of seeking to develop an effective response to terrorism, one can conclude that the phenomenon of terrorism includes the following basic elements: (a) the creation of fear and anxiety; (b) doing so through the use, or threat of use, of violence; (c) non-state actors; (d) the goal of weakening the fabric and the resilience of society; (e) inflicting random casualties among the general population; (f) increasing the frequency of attacks; (g) targeting the weakest and most vulnerable members of society; (h) taking advantage of the media; and (i) all in order to pressure decision makers to accept terrorist demands.

The Complexity Of Developing Strategic Policing-Terrorism Models

The lack of evidence-based models in the policing-terrorism field, as well as a lack of systematically evaluated strategic and tactical activities, is a result of two main reasons. First and foremost, law enforcement intelligence and security agencies are very reluctant to cooperate with such research, as they fear the possible ramifications including the exposure and compromise of counterterrorism methods, tools, sources, and tactics. Secondly, this type of research encounters difficulty in the measurement of success and the determination of cause and effect. These difficulties stem from the presence of other variables in the tested model, the effect of which is to make creating a control situation extremely difficult.

Preserving Democratic Principles And Human Rights In Counterterrorism

In counterterrorism the democratic liberal values of the society limit the capability of the state to make use of the full potential means and technological advantages that the state has. In its struggle against terrorism, the democratic state is obliged to select measures and utilize capabilities that will cause minimum damage to human rights. Innes (2006) argues that collecting and using intelligence is part of the “dirty work” of a democracy. Usage of superior capabilities harming those who have no connection to terrorism, as well as harming fundamental moral principles that are essential for the democratic state, would constitute a victory for the terrorist organization. And such misuse could alienate parts of society, playing into the terrorists’ hands (Ganor 2009).

Bayley and Weisburd (2009) argue that legitimacy is the foundation of successful policing, whether related to terrorism or to crime in general. Even though protection from terrorism is a moral cause, it can lead to the violation of human rights, causing officers to approach individuals as suspects rather than as individuals who deserve service. Losing police legitimacy endangers the advantages of public cooperation that are greatly needed in the war on terror.

This is especially significant in minority communities that are linked ethnically or nationally to terrorist groups. For example, in the Israeli context, this applies to familial and national ties of Israeli Arabs to Palestinians in surrounding countries and in the Palestiniancontrolled territories (Hasisi et al. 2009).

Why Should The Police Lead The Response To Terrorism?

There are five main reasons why the police force has been chosen to lead the response to terrorism in most countries:

  1. Since terrorists are criminals, and terrorism is a type of crime in all essential characteristics (Clarke and Newman 2006), it is appropriate that, in democracies, the police force, which is best qualified to deal with criminals and crime, should lead the response to terrorism. The criminal-justice model for counterterrorism features terrorism as a crime and portrays the terrorist as violent criminal who should be arrested and punished according to the rule of law by the police and the criminal-justice system (Greene and Herzog 2009). According to Perliger, Hasisi, and Pedahzur (2009), most of the literature discussants on democracy and counterterrorism believe that the criminal-justice model permits dealing with terrorism without seriously undermining the legal and moral foundations of the democratic system. Therefore, it is seen to be better for democratic countries to leave counterterrorism in the hands of the police which operate in the civilian arena. By contrast, the war model (Greene and Herzog 2009) features terrorism as an act of war that disputes and threatens the well-being of the state and the political system. Therefore, in this model, it is believed that the terrorist and the terrorist organization should be eliminated by the use of intelligence and military forces. However, employment of the war model paradigm would lead to situations in which military forces conduct combat warfare within their own territory, constituting a severe undermining of human rights and morality of the democratic state and its legal system.
  2. Many of the methods and means necessary to fight terrorism are used routinely by the police in their daily operations. These include investigation and information and evidence collection; forensics (identification of weapons, explosives, victims, etc.); policeoperated call centers which are first responders; and police liaison with the private sector, including the issuance of licensing to businesses. Moreover, many activities associated with the handling of terror attacks, whether before, during, or after such an attack, are an integral part of routine police activity (traffic control, managing crime scenes, and maintaining or restoring public order).
  3. The connections between terrorists and other criminals give the police an advantage. Criminals facilitate terrorism with many necessary means such as weapons and explosives; documentation; vehicles; collecting, transferring, and laundering money; information; communications; technology; and even operational subcontracts for specific missions. Terrorist organizations, in order to finance their activities, have used classic organizedcrime illegal activities such as money counterfeiting and the smuggling of drugs, counterfeit goods, and taxable merchandise like cigarettes. This connection gives the police, who have a familiarity with the criminal world, an edge in counterterrorism.
  4. Police are responsive to irregularities in the environments in which they operate routinely. During their everyday policing of crime and disorder, the police can be on the lookout for suspicious indicators connected to terrorism activities in their communities (Innes 2006). This puts the police in an exceptional position to collect information (that remote intelligence agents generally cannot obtain, since they are not connected to the community) and develop critical counterterrorism intelligence that can be disseminated in real time to other law enforcement agencies (Connors and Pellegrini 2005). Perliger, Hasisi, and Pedahzur (2009) argues that it is better to leave the struggle against terrorism in the hands of the police as part of a more comprehensive model – the criminal-justice model – which treats terrorism as violent criminal action in the civilian arena.
  5. Legal authority to perform policing procedures. In many democracies only the police have legal authority to perform policing procedures that are required in counterterrorism. The military, for example, in the USA, Canada, UK, and Israel, is not legally empowered to engage in ordinary police functions within the borders of the country. This situation is unlike many European countries (e.g., France, Spain, and Italy) where the military play an active policing role (Weisburd et al. 2009a).

Defusing Terrorist Motivations Versus Preventing Terrorist Opportunities

Based on the “rational choice” theory (Clarke and Cornish 2001), crime is mainly a result of a process in which the individual evaluates opportunities weighing the anticipated benefits against the expected costs of the behavior, in the context of a certain time and place. Terrorism, like any other criminal behavior, is an outcome of two necessary conditions: motivation to commit the terrorist behavior and opportunity to carry out a terror attack at a particular occasion (Clarke and Newman 2006). Therefore, any counterterrorism strategy should defuse terrorist motivations or prevent terrorist opportunities or do both.

The strategy that tries to prevent the terrorist from attacking by defusing the terrorist motivation is known as the conciliatory model. According to this model, terrorism is a political problem, and it should be given a political solution that will address the root cause of terrorism by the action of policymakers, brokers, and diplomats (Greene and Herzog 2009). However, Clarke and Newman (2006) argue that counterterrorism “must not rely on changing the heart and minds of terrorists. The motivation for terrorism results from long-term social, cultural and psychological pressures, which are difficult to alter” (Clarke and Newman 2006:11).

According to Weisburd and Waring (2001), the efficient approach for prevention of crime involves decreasing the opportunities (the core of the situational prevention approach presented by Felson and Clarke 1998) present in certain situations which encourage commission of a crime. Clarke and Newman (2006) argue also that in counterterrorism it is easier to reduce opportunity than to reduce terrorist motivation. This is especially true in the case of suicide bombers that are very hard to deter. Therefore, the efficient approach to prevent terrorism is to adopt strategies that attempt to reduce the opportunities to commit terror attacks. In any case, they claim, easy opportunities encourage terrorists to attack.

In short, defusing terrorist motivations is mainly not a law enforcement intelligence operational task and seems to be less efficient in preventing terrorism than the approach of reducing opportunities. Therefore, most counterterrorism strategies concentrate on attempting to reduce the opportunities rather than reducing motivation.

Reducing opportunities could be achieved by the defensive model that aims to protect potential targets and victims from attacks, through “target hardening” (Clarke and Newman 2006), or by proactively preventing operational capabilities of terrorist organizations and individuals that pose the physical and psychological threat. According to Clarke and Newman (2006 p. 9), there are four “pillars of terrorism opportunity”: targets, weapons, tools, and facilitating conditions.

The Responsive Approach And The Proactive Approach

Law enforcement practices have two main models of operation: the responsive approach and the proactive approach. In the responsive approach, after a crime or specifically a terrorist act has occurred, law enforcement responds by gathering intelligence, identifying perpetrators, collecting evidence, and arresting suspects. This responsive approach calls for defensive methods that could perhaps foil an attack that has been launched, or at least minimize the damage. Therefore, in counterterrorism we also refer to it as a responsive defensive approach. This approach better protects vulnerable places and effectively restores order in the event of a terrorist attack (Weisburd et al. 2009b).

The proactive model attempts to foil the crime before it is launched. This approach has been used for decades by law enforcement against organized and other forms of crime, especially drug trafficking. In this approach law enforcement intelligence identifies potential criminals/ terrorists, gathers intelligence and evidence, makes the arrest, and foils the crimes/attacks before they can occur. The main goal of this approach, which can be classified as “high policing,” utilizes covert intelligence gathering, surveillance, and foiling operational tools (Bayley and Weisburd 2009; Brodeur and Dupeyron 1993).

Terrorism seeks to create fear and anxiety, weaken the fabric and the resilience of society, and destabilize a social order, all by increasing the frequency of attacks and inflicting mass casualties. The objective of law enforcement is therefore to reduce the operational capabilities of terrorist organizations through counterterrorism measures which can be characterized as proactive, preventive, and offensive in nature. This goal is a crucial part of every democratic country’s duty to protect its citizens (Ganor 2009).

The proactive method is intended to deter, disrupt, and prevent terrorist activities (Weisburd et al. 2009b; Hasisi et al. 2009). This counterterrorism strategy damages terrorist organizations physically, psychologically, and economically and hurts their operational infrastructures. It pushes them into a defensive mode, where they spend a great deal of time and resources concealing their activity, which thus limits their effectiveness and reduces their ability to carry out attacks. According to Hasisi et al. (2009), this proactive strategy is becoming more complex as a result of the ever-changing nature of terrorism. In the contemporary age of globalization, terrorist groups tend to be stateless, making them a more elusive target that readily exploits open societies and advanced communication technologies, while evading surveillance by traditional security agencies.

The responsive approach, which is defensive in nature, and the proactive approach, which is preventive and offensive in nature, complement rather than contradict one other.

Since, unfortunately, it is unrealistic to expect to entirely prevent all terrorist attacks, a good responsive approach is important to have in place alongside an efficient proactive approach. This combined approach both apprehends terrorists and damages terrorist organizations. By combining both approaches, counterterrorism forces can prevent or at least significantly minimize terrorist opportunities to attack before the attacks have been launched, responsively foil the attacks once they have been launched, and effectively minimize the extent of the casualties and damage, as well as restore order and evacuate the scene during and after the attack. Such a comprehensive method of counterterrorism makes it possible for the general public to maintain their everyday routines and preserves their morale and sense of personal security.

In the United States the view of local law enforcement officers as primarily “first responders” is slowly changing, and they are becoming viewed also as “first preventers” of terrorism. In New York City, the NYPD adopted this concept of “prevention” that has been used so successfully against crime, and adapted it for the war on terror (Bratton and Kelling 2006). Connors and Pellegrini (2005) claim that local officials and police in the United States must be prepared to take the lead in the war on terror and not to wait for direction from federal agencies hundreds of miles away, if they want to prevent or recover from any future terrorist attacks.

According to Innes (2006), in the United Kingdom as early as the 1990s, a new intelligence-led policing improved police agencies’ effectiveness by proactively identifying problems and then targeting individuals who were most likely to cause harm to the general public. This change was aimed at pursuing a more proactive mode of working based on the principles of risk management. Given that the police have limited resources and developing effective live informants (“HUMINT”) is difficult, a network of community intelligence contacts was established to provide fairly effective surveillance over potentially dangerous groups and individuals. Expert community engagement units were set up to develop and maintain this “community intelligence feed” that would serve both anti-criminal and antiterrorist purposes.

The Israel National Police (INP) has a long history of experience struggling with terrorism and is considered highly efficient and professional in its approach to counterterrorism (Weisburd et al. 2009b). The Israeli model for policing terrorism applies this principal strategy of combining the proactive offensive and responsive defensive approaches. It is implemented in three circles of activity: (a) sources of terrorism circle – proactive early prevention, interdiction, and treatment of the sources of terrorism in order to foil terrorist attacks before they are launched; (b) the attack route – response activities once the attack has been launched, to foil terrorist attacks before they reach the target; and (c) the terrorist targets – defending and “hardening” potential targets before any attack and response activities at the scene during and after an attack.

In the Israeli antiterrorism model, there is a great deal of emphasis on the proactive model approach, since it enables capturing terrorists, decreases the frequency and severity of attacks, and results in fewer casualties. A proactive model is preferable since it has a greater counterterrorism effect, preventing terrorists from achieving their goals and making it possible for the general public to maintain their everyday routines.

Proactive Offensive Early Interception Counterterrorism

As discussed above, the offensive-proactive approach is the most effective counterterrorism strategy and is the key for preventing attacks before they are launched. This strategy identifies and responds to terrorist threats before they actualize, by developing intelligence, establishing operational capabilities, and uprooting terrorists and their infrastructure (Weisburd et al. 2009b). The proactive approach is based on three crucial competencies: producing quality intelligence, building operational capability, and creating a hostile environment for terrorists’ operations.

Effective counterterror thwarting operations rely on the ability to gather reliable information about the terrorists’ capabilities, intentions, and specific plans. Quality intelligence takes away from the terrorist the element of surprise, which is a critical advantage for a terrorist attack. Intelligence allows security forces to efficiently protect in advance targets that may be selected by terrorists. Furthermore, intelligence puts the element of surprise in the hands of law enforcement.

Once a terrorist attack has already been set in motion, security forces utilize intelligence both for proactive offensive thwarting operations and for responsive defense measures (Perliger et al. 2009).

The Intelligence Process

Producing intelligence is a circular flow process which constantly aims to portray an accurate picture about the threats. The intelligence analyst defines (based on the initial information) the information gaps, which is the information he needs but does not have in order to portray a reliable intelligence picture. The intelligence picture is composed of all the information about subjects that are connected significantly to the different threats, which are called topics of interest, and all the information about individuals who are connected significantly and compose the threat; they are called targets.

In order to fill in the intelligence gaps, an intelligence collection and coverage plan is prepared. The plan includes three levels of coverage: the abovementioned topic of interest and targets, as well as the territorial coverage, which is the entire information about a specific area (neighborhood or town) including who is doing what, when, and where, and who knows about it. At the first stage, potential sources of information are identified in order to cover all three levels. The next stage is the preparation of the recruitment plan, which is the methods of recruiting and running live and technical sources. The various sources utilized for coverage are as follows: live informants (“HUMINT”) and echnical sources (called “SIGINT”) such as wiretaps, surveillance activities, investigations and debriefings, archives, and databases; public open information such as the news media and the Internet; and fellow agencies from the same country or international. The role of the analysts is to prepare and present an integrative intelligence picture. Their job is an unending process, since they are the “nerve center” of information: they direct the collection and thwarting of intelligence according to the requirements of the command guidelines, they assist in the preparation of an operational perception, they support the development of “HUMINT” sources, they acquire and deploy intelligence capabilities and tools, and they administer the Intelligence Database.

Unlike military intelligence, which tends to rely on advanced technological monitoring and surveillance capabilities, HUMINT sources are considered more effective for penetrating terrorist groups. Police intelligence generally deals with criminal organizations which are small active groups from within the civilian setting and whose structure and character resemble terrorist groups (Perliger et al. 2009).

Intelligence Sharing And International Cooperation

In many cases the terrorism threat is both national and international. Therefore, cooperation and quality intelligence sharing are essential for law enforcement and intelligence organizations to prevent attacks. Kelling and Bratton (2006) emphasize the importance of collecting and sharing intelligence in the fight against terrorism.

The mutual interrelation between terrorist organizations and the classic hardcore criminal organizations enables the police to extend the well-established national and international cooperation on fighting organized crime to the foiling of terrorism.

Special Operations Capabilities

The mere collection of counterterrorism intelligence is not sufficient, since intelligence without the ability to reach a target or prevent an attack is of little value. These tasks are performed by special operations units which are trained to enter locations where terrorist actions are being planned and prepared. The goal is to foil the attacks before they are launched and to threaten the terrorists’ own sense of security, keeping them busy and on the run. Such units should be able to conduct undercover operations in which they reach their target and arrange an arrest without being detected. The police should have specialized elite counterterrorism units, trained to handle very specific terrorist situations, such as releasing hostages and carrying out special operations using small disciplined teams highly trained in commando style military operations.

Bratton and Kelling (2006) argue that the police need special training and a new mindset so they can proactively assault terrorism. Police departments from all over the world are already exchanging information with other countries as the war against terror is gradually becoming a global threat. The government of Israel, for example, has welcomed police forces from all over the United States for training and exchange visits.

Proactively Changing Terrorists’ Operating Environment

Bratton and Kelling (2006) explain that the theory of “broken windows” is used to constantly create a hostile environment to potential criminals, building up the uncomfortable sentiment that they are the ones who are in danger. In the same way police officers should create a hostile environment, mainly through the potential terrorist support structures, in which terrorists will feel uncomfortable. Constantly changing the terrorists’ operating environment by establishing “bottleneck passage” creates a hostile environment while taking away the element of surprise from the terrorist. Bottleneck passage, such as obstacles and barriers, compels the terrorist to take counteractions, involving other coconspirators by using communication channels. These communication channels leave “intelligence footprints,” increasing the opportunities for intelligence collection, by both human and signal technical means.

Defensive Response

The defensive response to attacks (that were not foiled by the offensive-proactive activity) should be dealt with in two circles of activities: (a) response activities once the attack has been launched and it is on its way to the target and (b) response activities before, during, and after an attack has occurred on a terrorist targeted site.

Response Activities Foiling The Attack On Its Way To The Target

Once an attack is ongoing and the terrorist is on the route to the target, there are a series of possible tactics to delay the terrorist’s movement, including setting up road blocks, creating traffic jams, and closing specific public facilities or streets. There are two main goals for creating such obstacles. The first objective is to slow down the terrorist as much as possible, thus delaying the attack. This gives the police more time to bring special operations units to engage with the terrorist on route and at the same time to organize a better defense at potential terrorist targets. The second objective of the obstacles is (as mentioned above) to compel the terrorist to establish communication channels that increase the opportunities for “HUMINT” and “SIGINT” intelligence collection. The enhanced intelligence and better police deployment increases the possibility for interdiction before the attack takes place.

Once there is a specific threat that terrorists have got through the security and are out of control, the police should consider making an announcement though the media, informing the public to stay away from crowded places.

Defensive Activities At A Terrorist’s Potential Targeted Site Before An Attack

The number of potential target is endless, and police resources are limited. Therefore, the police need to conduct an efficient defensive effort, using risk assessment in order to build an effective protection plan. Vulnerability and risk analysis must then drive operational responses in order to create a truly effective policing apparatus against terrorism (Connors and Pellegrini 2005). The plan needs to prioritize the allocation of defensive tools in order to harden vulnerable potential targets. According to Davis et al. (2004) after 9/11 three-fourths of the police departments in the United States conducted risk assessment compared to only one-fourth that performed such analysis before 9/11. Private security firms are the police’s main partner in “target hardening”. In this partnership the police should train, provide necessary information, and supervise so that the private security firms can better protect their clients’ facilities. In Israel, all malls, shopping areas, restaurants, hospitals, office buildings, or any other public facilities have private security guards who check customers entering the facility and conduct other security-related activities. The police, prior to approving the business licenses for a facility’s operation, review the business facilities and their security procedures. Additionally the police perform periodic security checks, in which facilities that do not hold to the security standards set by the police may be forced to shut down through issuance of a court order (Weisburd et al. 2009a).

Realistically, not all targets can be rendered attack proof; thus, the protection plan should aim to minimize the damage in case terrorists are able to attack. To reduce the number of victims and amount of damage in terrorist attacks that were not foiled, the police work with the private security agencies to prevent terrorists from accessing public facilities. The underlying principle here is that an explosion that occurs within a closed environment (especially if crowded) will result in a much more destructive outcome than if the same explosion took place outdoors, hopefully away from the large crowd.

An important element of target hardening is educating the public and improving routine security preparedness. The police should play a central role in educating the public from an early age to be aware of indications of possible terrorism events and to provide information by reporting their suspicions to the police. In Israel, for example, police visit elementary schools, teaching the children to be attentive towards suspicious people and objects and to report to grown-ups or, if possible, to a policeman. Despite the fact that most security calls to the police are false alarms, the police treat each and every call as if it were an actual explosive device or other security threat. It is important to do so because of the potential damage from every terrorist attack and to demonstrate that the police are responsive, so that the public will continue calling (Weisburd et al. 2009b). Such responsiveness increases public confidence in the police, when in the field of counterterrorism, they are viewed by the public as responding efficiently.

These approaches are also deployed in the United Kingdom, where the police invest a great deal of attention in developing public awareness of suspicious behavior (suspicious short-term tenants, suspicious people who have bought or rented a car, etc.). The police in the United Kingdom develop suitable reporting mechanisms, alongside creating working relationships with the business community to protect businesses from potential threats and to provide guidance on appropriate security measures (Howard 2004).

Defensive Activities On A Terrorist Targeted Site During And After An Attack

The police, being the first responders, are naturally expected to act in response to a terrorist attack in such a way as to effectively manage the crisis. The Israel National Police (INP), which has tremendous experience managing many scenes of terror attacks over the years in Israel, has developed effective practices and protocols. Through the whole process, the highest territorial police commander who is on the scene is responsible for all activities that take place throughout the procedure, until he has been released by his commander or when the scene is cleared. The overall responsibility is never divided and it is always clear. During the entire process, all organizations that are involved are subordinated to the police commander, including the medics, the firefighters, and even the employees of the local city council who later clean up the area. The first mission is to secure the scene from secondary explosive devices or additional terrorists, to prevent a tactic that has been used by terrorists to hit the first responders – the policemen and the medics. Therefore, the first on the scene are the bomb-squad technicians, who close down and search the inner scene. At this stage, along with the bomb-squad technicians, only the medics who treat and evacuate the most critically injured are allowed on the scene. Only after the inner scene has been secured are the rest of injured treated and evacuated. Forensic units follow to identify the dead and – with a special unit – evacuate the bodies; collect intelligence and try to identify the type of explosive device or weapons used, for the purpose of linking it to a specific terrorist organization or laboratory; and collect evidence with the criminal investigators. At the same time traffic and patrol officers set up road blocks, closing down the outer ring and directing traffic, clearing the way for the ambulances, searching for accomplices who might have assisted the attacker and are trying to get away, and controlling crowds. Intelligence units collect information that may assist in identifying the source of the explosives and the people responsible

As mentioned, in order to defeat the goals of terrorism, the main object of the police in counterterrorism is to preserve and strengthen the resilience of the population, enabling the public to continue with their daily life routine. It is expected that a rapid clean-up of the terrorist scene will minimize the psychological effect of the attack. Therefore, timing is critical, both for psychological reasons and also for forensic reasons – to assure the collection of evidence before the scene is contaminated. In the Israeli model, all of these activities of clearing terrorist scenes are expected to be accomplished in no more than 4 h. Another important element in preserving public resilience and reducing distress and fear is keeping the important communication channels open to the public thru the media, in which the territorial commander (or deputy or spokesperson) reports calmly and informatively during and after the attack event to news agencies. The ongoing briefing prevents damaging rumors, giving the public the safe feeling that things are under control by providing such information as the description of the event, the areas or roads that have been shut down, and alternative routes (Weisburd et al. 2009a).

Organizational Elements In Policing Terrorism

A Clear Division Of Authority And Responsibility Alongside Vital Cooperation And Partnership

Some countries have a highly centralized police organization at the national level, with a clearly distinguished purpose and responsibility related to crime, terrorism, and public order. However, even in such a setting, the police force has partners in the counterterrorism effort. Furthermore, any police force is composed of different units, so that harmonized cooperation doesn’t always come naturally. In the chaotic reality of a terrorist attack, it is fundamental to have an unambiguous division of authority and responsibility that clearly directs who is the one person in charge at a certain time and place and who bears responsibility and accountability. Vagueness about who is running the show leads to confusion, lack of necessary decision making, and failure that will end with unnecessary victims and destruction.

For example, Israel has only one national police force (Israel National Police, INP), and it is highly hierarchical and centralized, with unique centralized operational combat special units. Since intelligence gathering is also centralized, it makes the processes of detecting, identifying, deterring, and thwarting potential terrorist attacks more efficient (Greene and Herzog 2009). There are close and ongoing formal and informal contacts between the police and the Internal Security Agency (ISA) (Weisburd et al. 2009a). This intimate cooperation between the INP, which has overall responsibility for internal security, and the ISA, which is the main source of counterterrorism intelligence, was not a trivial matter to achieve. It required tremendous effort to build trusting relationships at all operational and command levels. Such a relationship makes it possible in a matter of minutes to turn critical ISA information into an INP foiling operation. More broadly, the close connection between the INP and the ISA facilitates the exchange of intelligence while enabling consistency in both offensive and defensive counterterrorist operations (Hasisi et al. 2009).

Countries that do not have a centralized police system have to synchronize their counterterrorism activity on the national level as well as the local level. For example, in the United States before 9/11, there was a lack of intelligence coordination that has been strongly criticized (Weisburd et al. 2009b). Currently local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies exchange information on initiatives, as well as creating centralized special officers and units, including special response teams.

According to Bratton and Kelling (2006), intelligence-led policing is making its mark in the USA, and major efforts are being made to restructure police capabilities for an increasingly proactive intelligence gathering and analysis apparatus. Instead of relying on the federal government for intelligence, many state and local departments are now creating their own systems. Among other actions, they are assembling databases and sharing information. This very important development requires highly sophisticated coordination, especially in such a large country as the USA that has around 17,000 police organizations on the federal, state, and local levels. These organizations are adopting a set of national strategic guidelines that clearly define the division of authority and responsibility, setting vital cooperation and partnership procedures.

Recruitment, Training, Weapons, Equipment, And Relevant Exercises

Since counterterrorism is a major responsibility of the police, police officers need to be trained and equipped to confront the terrorism threat. Kelling and Bratton (2006) argue that counterterrorism has to be woven into the working protocols of every police department, so that it becomes part of the everyday thinking of the officers who are on the street.

All officers, including those whose main role within the police is not counterterrorism, should undergo basic counterterrorism training. The training should prepare officers for an unexpected encounter with a terrorist incident. It should focus on acquiring first response skills such as isolating the site of a terrorist attack and effectively handling the personal weapon. Fast response teams that would defuse terrorist situations and bring them to an end as soon as possible should be put together and trained. The goal of such teams is to be prepared for fast intervention to minimize the damage, and to control and contain the scene until the attack is defused or the special counterterrorism unit takes over. Response time is crucial in containing a terrorist attack; therefore, the fast response teams should have sufficient training (such as urban warfare), relevant exercises, equipment, and suitable transportation, such as motorcycles (Weisburd et al. 2009a).

Shortcomings Of Policing Terrorism

The leading role of police in counterterrorism elevates new problems and dilemmas for the police in democratic countries. On the one hand, counterterrorism is a natural extension of the classic police duties, as previously mentioned. On the other hand, it is clear that terrorism may call for new responsibilities that emphasize “high policing,” which is characterized by its focus on strategic issues at a macro level, rather than local crime and disorder problems (Bayley and Weisburd 2009; Weisburd et al. 2009b). High policing emphasizes controlling rather than servicing the public, a standpoint very different from the community policing ideas that have reinforced community-police relationships. Counterterrorism functions of the police are likely to clash with the goals of creating closer police-community relations, especially with minorities, since it is difficult to be “officer friendly” and at the same time collect intelligence on suspects that are part of the community or related to it (Weisburd et al. 2009b).


Counterterrorism is geared to making it possible for the general public to maintain their everyday routines, thus preserving their morale, feelings of personal security, and resilience. This research paper has introduced, described, and explained the following principal strategies, tactics, and practices that are presented in the literature and that are adopted by practitioners in policing terrorism:

  1. Most of the counterterrorism strategies concentrate on attempting to reduce the opportunities for terrorist attack, since it is easier than to reduce terrorist motivation.
  2. Efficient counterterrorism combines proactive offensive and responsive defensive approaches in order to reduce terrorist opportunities.
  3. Proactive offensive counterterrorism identifies and responds to terrorist threats before the terrorists have an opportunity to attack.
  4. The first crucial component of the proactive offensive approach is quality intelligence that is an outcome of a circular flow process. This process aims to constantly portray an accurate picture about the threats, turning information into timely action-operational intelligence.
  5. The second crucial component of the proactive offense is establishing operational capabilities that have accessibility to uproot terrorists and their infrastructure, pushing them into a defensive and ineffective mode by keeping them busy and on the run, thus foiling attacks before they are launched.
  6. The third crucial component of the proactive offense is constantly changing terrorists’ operating environment by establishing bottleneck passage such as obstacles and barriers, causing an intelligence footprint. Bottleneck passage compels the terrorist to take counteractions, involving other coconspirators and using communication channels. These communication channels boost the opportunities for intelligence collection, both human and signal technical.
  7. Since in many cases the terrorism threat is both national and international, cooperation and quality intelligence sharing are essential for law enforcement and intelligence organizations to prevent attacks.
  8. The responsive defensive model enables the general public to maintain their everyday routines, strengthening their resilience and preserving their morale and feelings of personal security. The model includes “target hardening,” foiling launched attacks, and effectively restoring order during, and efficiently evacuating the scene rapidly after, the attack.
  9. In order to foil launched attacks, there are a series of possible tactics to delay the terrorist’s movement, compelling the terrorist to establish communication channels. This allows enhanced intelligence gathering, potentially allowing special operations units to engage with the terrorist on route, as well as better police defensive deployment at potential targets, increasing the possibility for interdiction before the attack takes place.
  10. In order to build an effective protection and “target hardening” plan, a vulnerability and risk analysis must be part of the police apparatus. Private security firms are the police force’s main partner, to whom the police should provide necessary information and supervision so that the private security firms can better protect their clients’ facilities and minimize the damage in case a terrorist was able to attack.
  11. The police should educate the public from an early age to be aware and to report any possible threat, which should always be treated by the police as if it was a genuine attack.
  12. It is fundamental to have clear division of authority and responsibility that clearly directs who is the one person in charge at a certain time and place in the event of an attack and who bears responsibility and accountability. Vagueness leads to confusion, lack of necessary decision making, and failure that will end with unnecessary victims and destruction.
  13. At an attack scene the first mission is to secure the scene from secondary explosive devices and to treat and evacuate only the critically injured. After the scene has been secured, the rest of the injured are treated and evacuated. To minimize the psychological effect of the attack, the forensic units follow, to effectively and rapidly identify and evacuate the dead, and collect evidence and intelligence, allowing a quick clean-up of the scene.
  14. The police commander needs to keep the important communication channels open to the public thru the media, reporting calmly and informatively during and after the attack in order to reduce distress and fear.
  15. Countries that do not have a centralized police system need to synchronize their counterterrorism activity on the national and local levels, by adopting a set of national strategic guidelines that clearly defines the division of authority and responsibility, setting vital cooperation and partnership procedures.
  16. All police officers should undergo basic counterterrorism training that should prepare officers for an unexpected encounter with a terrorist incident. Response time is crucial in containing a terrorist attack; therefore, the fast response teams should have sufficient training, relevant exercises, equipment, and suitable transportation.

Now that the policing-terrorism models have been described, the key question that remains is “How effective are these principal strategies, tactics, and best practices of ‘policing terror’?” As Weisburd, Jonathan, and Perry (2009a) argue, it is clearly time for scholars to begin to evaluate the effectiveness of police responses to terrorism.


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