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A pause in terror.

A Pause in Terror

TERRORISM is at its lowest ebb since 1984. If a good year is one in which the number of terror events decreases, the last two decades have contained only a few good years. During that period, the harshest statistics were generated in 1972, 1978, 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1988. The spiral of terror between 1985 and 1988 was indicative of the intensity of this malady. The spiral is now declining, at least for a season.

Nineteen eighty-nine was the safest year since 1984. As of October 1990, the downward spiral was continuing. Without hundreds of terror events or a single catastrophic event in the last quarter of 1990, terror statistics will slide to their lowest point in years.

Most crime or terror patterns run in cycles - that is, a pattern appears, develops, and matures. The problem subsides only when security agencies successfully make in-roads into the criminal or terrorist community. The problem abates because the victimization pattern is avoided or prevented, because the practitioners of terror are in jail, because the terror group leadership has been killed, or because the police and security pressure is so intense that the leaders are in hiding. Sometimes those leaders even exile themselves and their families to other countries or continents.

European, Latin American, and Filipino rebels are being arrested by the truckload. Many are dying in firefights or are fleeing into involuntary exile. The combined efforts of the police, the military, the intelligence community, and the security profession finally seem to be working.

The terrorism data in this article comes from the US Department of State, which is the best source of data on crimes or acts of terror directed against Americans and American companies. Numeric weaknesses exist only when countries are involved in state terror within their own borders. When those countries misrepresent, mislead, or lie, the statistics are misleading.

The State Department's statistics are reported in Patterns of Global Terrorism. Records from the reports of 1984 through 1989 were used. Another publication, Significant Incidents of Political Violence Against Americans, was used for its 1987, 1988, and 1989 reports. The last publication used was Lethal Terrorist Actions Against Americans: 1973-1986. All the raw data in this article and its chart come from these sources.

Terror has been a trend for several years, as statistics indicate with certainty. However, statistics must always be analyzed carefully. When the numeric base is low, an increase of just a few incidents shows a disproportionate trend.

For example, several years ago reporters wrote about a 400 percent increase in the number of women murderers in England. That figure seemed significant. On close analysis, however, criminologists discovered that during the first year studied only one woman was convicted of murder in all England. The next year, five women were convicted for murder. The 400 percent increase was misleading if not understood in perspective.

However, as the incidence of terror increase, the trends are proportionately more accurate. In 1984, for example, the base figure of terror events against Americans showed a 20 percent increase over figures for 1980 through 1983. Since the base consisted of 597 cases in 1984, the figure reflects the trend rather accurately.

When terrorism against Americans rose by 185 incidents in 1985, that 31 percent increase clearly demonstrated a major trend toward terror. The number of terrorist incidents, decreased slightly from 1985 to 1986, but it increased 7 percent in 1987. In 1988, the number of incidents rose 3 percent, but in 1989 the figure dropped 38 percent. (See the accompanying chart.)

Counterterrorist cooperation among nations is slowing terrorism's spiral. Fewer safe havens are available today, and the infrastructure of many terrorist organizations has been crushed during the last three years. The impact is just now being felt.

Politically, many nations are taking legislative actions to address grievances among their populations. Governments are also increasing diplomatic measures with other nations and are improving their intelligence and security agencies. Western nations retaliate economically against state exporters of terror. Iraq, Libya, and Syria are being penalized in terms of Western trade, and their diplomats are being expelled from countries all over the world. In addition, military action has taken place against Libya and against Iranian oil interests.

Probably the jailing of terrorist leaders has been the most important of all reactive government efforts. When the leaders are incarcerated, it takes years to rejuvenate a small terrorist unit.

The world contains only a few terrorists today. The number of incidents and casualties is disproportionate to the number of groups who perform all this mayhem. Dr. Richard Clutterbuck, a retired British Army general, has established a terrorist "percentage of population" theory. He says that "probably a fair average is that only 1 percent of all people feel strongly enough to risk their own lives in support of either the guerrillas or the government."(1)

That means 1 percent of the population is the maximum size of the pool from which the police, military, security, and intelligence services can be drawn, as well as the terror organizations. Most participants hold logistical rather than fighting or warrior positions, leaving even fewer to choose from.

Many other intelligence authorities agree with Clutterbuck's concept. Terrorism authors Patrick Montana and George Roukis write that terrorist groups are normally small enclaves.(2) In War of the Flea: A Study of Guerrilla Warfare, UK scholar Robert Taber states, "Terrorism is used because there are so few terrorists around."(3)

Clutterbuck has this to reveal: "Even in the midst of major European terrorist events, West German intelligence services said that there were only 60 to 80 people in the whole country who would kill another human being with their own hands for political ends."(4)

Montana and Roukis continued that line of thought when they studied several other groups. They write, "The Tupamaros of Ecuador had a core of only five members after five years of operation; the Italian Red Brigade was believed to have fewer than 160; the Weather Underground in the US was never more than 50 strong; and the Puerto Rican Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN) is estimated to have fewer than 100 members."(5)

Terror groups are fragile and vulnerable. In fact, they use terror as a tactic because they are so weak and their numbers so limited. Their ability to delegate authority is constrained.

The cellular structure of a terror group is unusual. It protects the members and provides anonymity, but it is weak when the leadership nucleus is arrested, exiled, or killed.

A terrorist organization normally has a circular structure. The primary leader is a commander, who speaks to the lieutenant of each cell. Each lieutenant may not know the identity of any other lieutenant. If a lieutenant or any member of the cell is apprehended or interrogated, he or she can only turn in the other members of the cell. The captured person cannot destroy the whole unit because of its double-blind organization.

If the commander is killed or apprehended, the cells may not even be able to communicate with each other. Most terror squads are so small that the loss of the bomber, the arsonist, or the sniper has devastating or even fatal consequences for the organization.

In a terrorist organization, members spend years working together. They establish close relationships appropriate to the stress of such an organization. If their leader dies or retires, they are not going to get an outside leader, nor will they trust one. And no one can simply come in and usurp the leadership role - after all, these are violent people.

Whether it's a Ku Klux Klan klavern in the United States or a secret university communist cell in Colombia, a terrorist organization is structured for nearly absolute security. Business organizations could limit their loss of proprietary data if they adopted the cellular model for their research operations. The cellular or circular organization is oriented - by design - toward espionage avoidance.

Has terrorism diminished? You can bet on it! Terrorism has declined for a time, but later, perhaps without warning, the violence will escalate again.

Several variables clearly indicate that the threat of terrorism is waning. As the chart shows, the number of terror incidents against Americans is down, as is the number of Americans killed. The 38 percent drop in incidents from 1988 to 1989 is significant. This percentage reflects an actual incident reduction of 328 cases in one year.

The bad news is that catastrophic events were up in 1989. The attacks on UTA flight 722 over Agadez, Niger, (171 deaths) and the attack on an Avianca flight from Bogota, Colombia, (101 deaths) significantly skewed the statistics.

For 1989, the number of lethal attacks (deaths, assassinations, and attempted assassinations) against Americans is only about a tenth of the 1988 figure. However, the 1989 figure is still higher than the average annual number of attacks from 1984 to 1987.

Politicians would like to take credit for lowering terror rates in the late 1980s. The author gives the credit to the security, intelligence, and police professions. Although multifaceted responses to terrorism are working in many nations, social and economic improvements do not tend to curb terror immediately.

The counterterror approaches of Western nations and the cooperation of intelligence services are helpful. But the most significant reason terror levels are decreasing is more and better security. Even catastrophic security failures make people examine their philosophies and their approaches to security.

Such examination shows what must be done to limit terrorist attacks against US targets. Security audits show that governments and businesses must have an effective intelligence network. The creation of the Overseas Security Advisory Council by the US State Department has had a tremendous impact on the accessibility of terror-related information all over the world. Any American business can gain access to it after being approved by the State Department.

Many businesses now realize the value of risk assessment divisions and corporate intelligence operations. These intelligence groups often cooperate with the security and intelligence divisions of other multinational corporations.

Security audits have pointed out weaknesses in physical security, so millions of dollars have been spent on barricades, walls, fences, alarms, and access control systems. The audits also showed weaknesses in security officer selection, training, supervision, and management. Security weaknesses were found in organizations ranging from contract guard services to the US Marine Corps.

Even in the world's most dangerous countries, security awareness seemed almost nonexistent. Many leaders still think bad things happen to others - not them, their company, or their division.

Although awareness programs and security efficiency may ebb between major catastrophes, the overall impact of attacks in the 1980s has been to improve security. Even the most stubborn of CEOs are becoming sincerely interested in security - not just because of insurance purposes, government contract requirements, or corporate liability, but because they now want protection.

Targets are being hardened more each year, lowering terrorists' probability of success. Egotistical and oriented to total success, terrorists will therefore begin to attack softer targets. They may now challenge businesses or governments that were never threatened before.

Efficient and economical, terrorism has been the standard operating procedure for revolutionaries for decades. Terror tactics are simply too successful for terrorists to renounce. (1) Richard Clutterbuck, Guerrillas and Terrorists (Chicago: Ohio University Press, 1977), p. 25. (2) Patrick J. Montana and George G. Roukis, Managing Terrorism: Strategies for the Corporate Executive (Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 1983), p. 25. (3) Robert Taber, War of the Flea: A Study of Guerilla Warfare (New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1970). (4) Clutterbuck, p. 89. (5) Montana and Roukis.

Chester L. Quarles, CPP, PhD, is director of criminal justice programs at the University of Mississippi. He is a member of ASIS.

PHOTO : Terror Against Americans
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:includes brief bibliography
Author:Quarles, Chester L.
Publication:Security Management
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Previous Article:Security: a woman's world?
Next Article:Terror marches on.

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