A Question of Triumph: Effectively Measuring the Success of Intelligence against Terrorism.

Author:Gibbs, Whitney W.
 
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On July 7, 2005, British intelligence failed to anticipate a series of terror attacks upon London's transportation services, resulting in more than 700 injured and the deaths of fifty-two British citizens in what would become known as the "worst single terrorist atrocity on British soil." (1) Starting towards the end of the twenty-first century, governments were forced to address the rise of terrorism and terrorist-inspired acts that struck every corner of the globe.

As governments' time, funds, and resources are bolstered in order to combat these threats and the deadly risks, attacks continue to happen as almost a daily occurrence. For this reason, civilians frequently question if intelligence gathering vis-a-vis terrorism is successful and, if it does yield success, how can that success be effectively measured? This article discusses possible successes of intelligence against terrorism such as prevention, minimization of impact, and prior forecast of future attacks in order to demonstrate how success can, in fact, be measured in regard to specific objectives of intelligence against terrorism, rather than simply the intelligence process against terrorism as a whole.

The Code of Federal Regulations defines terrorism as "the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives." (2) Though terrorism affects every corner of the globe, this article will focus of terror attacks within the United States, Great Britain, and France. The article will use both examples of significant terror incidents and publicly available statistics from intelligence organizations in order to prove explore this topic.

Counterterrorism Intelligence

Intelligence in counterterrorism efforts has been the center of much debate and criticism. Daniel Byman, a professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University, contends that the lack of understanding of the capabilities of intelligence in counterterrorism and the emphasis placed on intelligence to prevent all cases of terror against a nation have led to the neglect of intelligence use within the counterterrorism system. (3) Byman further suggests that intelligence is, in fact, crucial to counterterrorism. It is simply not recognized because the understanding of intelligence success and failure is greatly reliant on intelligence organizations' ability to prevent all future terror acts, while paying little attention to the utility of intelligence to the day-to-day efforts of counterterrorism agencies--which in itself may help to prevent attacks that are never carried out. (4) Michael German, Rosa Brooks, and the Editorial Board of the New York Times disagree with Byman's view. They suggest that intelligence is only significant in quelling offensive attacks against a nation, or in cases of national security issues when they arise, rather than as a way to address ongoing prevention of terrorism growth; therefore, it is unable to prevent the growth of terrorism. (5) It does not yield success because terrorism will continue to threaten a nation or nations. Byman, German, Brooks, and the New York Times Editorial Board all present relevant points. If intelligence is helping prevent daily threats of terrorism, it is then proving its utility within the counterterrorism community. However, if the goal of counterterrorism is to definitively prevent the growth and promote the dismantling of terrorist groups, does intelligence fail, as it has not proven to do so?

To answer this, one must look to the definition of counterterrorism. The United States Joint Chiefs of Staff define counterterrorism as "activities and operations that are taken to neutralize terrorists, their organizations, and networks in order to render them incapable of using violence to instill fear and coerce governments or societies to achieve their goals." (6) Although terrorism has a long history dating back to the French Revolution, counterterrorism as a designated practice was not adopted extensively by intelligence communities around the world until after World War II. The first use of counterterrorism intelligence against a terror group was in 1883, when British Home Secretary Sir William Harcourt established the Special Irish Branch as part of the Criminal Investigation Department of London's Metropolitan Police force with the goal of combatting Irish republican terrorism by means of infiltration and disruption. (7) It is activities or operations that help to stop terror groups from committing acts against society; this then would prevent the group from instilling fear in order to achieve their specific goal. Without the achievement of these goals, there is little prospect for growth of the group. This does not by any means suggest that counterterrorism's goal is not to dismantle a group completely; but, rather, that this is the end goal and by succeeding in thwarting terror acts, this goal has the potential to be achieved. In working to render a terror group incapable of using violence against a population, there must be an explicit understand of the group's structure, capabilities, and future plans. Intelligence provides this means of understanding through the use of the intelligence cycle.

The Intelligence Cycle

The intelligence cycle, a five-stage process consisting of planning and direction, collection, processing, analysis, and dissemination through which raw data is analyzed and developed into completed intelligence, has played an integral role within the intelligence community since its formation during the First World War. Most of the same components of the intelligence cycle are utilized, while adaption and addition of other components are necessary in order to combat the inherent challenges, such as pinpointing terror targets and collecting intelligence, which surround intelligence within counterterrorism. The most evident difference is in the means of collection, specifically the origins of the intelligence. When using a standard intelligence cycle model, intelligence is collected on known targets by means of informants, electronic communications, written communications, or surveillance. As terror groups are not linked to a specific government and, very commonly have been known to work as 'lone wolf' participants inspired by, but not necessarily in contact with, a central group, it is often difficult to collect information from an informant who has access to the group's plans and work. Furthermore, if an individual is working alone, plans for an attack are generally not shared with anyone else or written down. Without this, there is little chance of collection. This makes any available human intelligence (HUMINT), the process in which intelligence is collected from human sources, and signals intelligence (SIGINT), in which intelligence is derived from communications, electronics, and foreign instrumentation signals, much more vital to the success of counterterrorism intelligence collection than it would be in standard intelligence collection, where sources tend to be vast and often contribute to too much unwanted information. (8) The intelligence cycle must also add steps in order to identify the specific intended target. This is much more difficult as targets are not always known players, but anyone that may have an intention of committing an act of terror in the future. This, then, fundamentally affects public policy as intelligence organizations must forge and utilize connections between themselves and known criminals in order to gain information vital to counterterrorism experts; often turning a blind eye to criminal activity in the hopes of stopping a much more potentially dangerous individual or group of individuals. (9) This is also risky for the informants passing information to intelligence agencies. As known criminals, their criminal records are not automatically erased by cooperation with intelligence agencies. In the United States, there are guidelines to protect FBI informants, which were set forth in 2006, requiring intelligence agents to consider the criminal history and motivation of the informant before registering them through the agency field manager. (10) The agents cannot promise the informants that they will not face charges for their past crimes, as this would put the intelligence community would be at odds with law enforcements; rather, they can only promise to testify to the assistance the informant gave to their operation. (11) However, if this can be achieved the use of informants is fruitful, and the information gathered could be the difference between success and failure of counterterrorism efforts.

Allocation of Resources

If the intelligence cycle and the use of its findings are as crucial to counterterrorism as they appear, the allocation of resources to counterterrorism intelligence must be of significant importance to the intelligence agencies. It is estimated that in the United Kingdom, 57 percent of MI5's intelligence resources in 2004 were specifically allocated to be utilized for counterterrorism programs. (12) In comparison, the second largest amount of allocated resources within MI5's intelligence programs in 2001 and 2002 was for counterespionage at--a much less significant--14.4 percent. (13) These funds come from what is known as the Single Intelligence Account, which provides funding to MI5 as well as the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ from a predetermined amount of funds allocated by Ministers, based on the Spending Review. (14) Currently, MI5 reports on their public website that it has allocated 81 percent of its resources to counterterrorism, both international counterterrorism and that relating to Northern Ireland-related terrorism, and 19 percent to counterespionage; increasing and decreasing resources when necessary. (15) Since 2001, the allocation of resources to counterterrorism intelligence agencies...

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