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Using Terror Against Terrorists

June 15, 2002

"Iyad Ab Ishab and Walid Radwan did not stand a chance. When their guards - fellow Palestinians - at the main jail in Qalqilya heard that Israeli forces were about to enter the city ..Ishab, 20, and Radwan, 22, alleged collaborators, were bound, stood up against a wall and shot. Their bodies were dumped in a side street as a gruesome warning to anyone else contemplating spying for Israel against their own people" --Guardian Unlimited, April 22, 2002

Fear is the intended result of terrorism. But fear is also the intended result of America's new massive counter-terrorism program -- to seed paranoia, distrust, and hyper-caution among worldwide and domestic terrorist cells. As a result to disrupt their lines of communications and planning.

When left to carryout the messy business of infiltration, the F.B.I and the C.I.A. have been successful in the past. They will be this time. Terrorists fear and despise collaborators and informants more than their dreaded enemies. Experience shows, as terrorist take countermeasures against collaborators and informants, they severely destroy their effectiveness and stealthness.

From its first introduction in the French Revolution, terror as fear has been a tool to manipulate and control. In early September 1793, the revolutionary French authorities created 12-member Committee of Public Safety to use terror to ensure compliance with the demands of the government. Those who did not comply faced a revolutionary tribunal, which tried "suspects" for treason and sentenced those it convicted to the guillotine.

In 1992, on behalf of then United Nations Crime Branch, terrorism expert A. Schmid attempted to establish a clear definition of contemporary terror. He offered this in part: "terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action..where the human victims of violence are not the main targets..(but) are used to manipulate the main target…depending on whether intimidation, coercion, or propaganda is primarily sought".

The key here is "anxiety-inspiring"; anxiety and the ever present expectation of gruesome violence.

Take for example the recent arrest of a former Chicago gang member, Jose Padilla, who is accused of plotting the detonation of a radioactive "dirty bomb". Following his arrest, the national media ran extensive stories on the lethal effects of dirty bombs. Most Americans now have a genuine and appropriate fear of such devices.

However, with each arrest and revelation, terrorists both gain and lose. The attack in September 2001 required complacency and secrecy. Complacency by the intelligence agencies, and secrecy in not alerting airline and pilot training companies as to the potential danger of commercial airlines used as missiles.

The very arrest of Padilla indicates that in just a few short months, the counter-terrorist program is producing results. But the full impact of the new massive counter-terrorist program is just beginning. If the past is any indication, the primary weapon of counter- terrorism -- infiltration -- will not only hamper successful attacks, but also begin to corrupt the integrity of terrorist networks.

The use of informants was critical in the F.B.I.'s infiltration of black nationalist groups in the sixties. From the final report of the 1976 "Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities", we know that the F.B.I. spent over $7 million to fund a infiltrator network of 1,500 informants. Advance warning of violent acts was only one role of informants. They were also used to disrupt, confuse, discredit and instill paranoia. Within the black nationalist movement, efforts were made to cause inter-gang warfare. So, on May 26,1970, a rival black nationalist group, U.S., killed four Black Panther Party members, after which members of each organization were shot and beaten by members of the other.

The Left has soundly condemned such tactics. But in light of the severity of the current threat, most Americans have accepted a renewed program of infiltration and disruption. The self-admitted hatred of America by radical Islamics and their deadly weapons -- biological, radioactive, and presumably nuclear -- has quieted any references to the past and any alleged excesses. Second, the target of sixties radicals were for the most part government and research facilities, and for black nationalists, the police. Now, we are all targets of Al Qaida.

Prior to September 2001, fundamental Islamic terrorists enjoyed three advantages. A protected haven for training and planning, complacency, and unhindered lines of communications, organization and funding. Their bases have been destroyed, in Afghanistan at least, through an effective anti-terrorist operation. The American people and government are hardly complacent now, and we have launched the most extensive counter-terrorist effort in history.

Over time, the kind of dissension and paranoia that has led to the execution of 800 Palestinians by the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Palestinian terrorist groups will be prevalent throughout the radical Islamic movement. Though we may not know about it.

It is a certainty that terrorists will strike again in America, as Vice President Cheney has warned. But the overall effectiveness of domestic and international terrorists will be substantially reduced by America's new counter-terrorist resolve.


Award-winning TV producer, talk show host, and Republican leader Arthur Bruzzone has written over 150 political articles for national and regional media, and has commented on political issues for American and European television and radio networks.  His articles and columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Campaign & Elections Magazine, among other publications.

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