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Counter-terrorism refers to the practices, tactics, techniques, and strategies that governments, militaries, and other groups adopt in order to fight terrorism. Counter-terrorism is not specific to any one field or organization; rather, it involves entities from all levels of society. For instance, businesses have security plans and sometimes share commercial data with the government. Local police, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel (often called "first responders") have plans for dealing with terrorist attacks. Armies conduct combat operations against terrorists, often using special forces. Building a counter-terrorism plan involves all segments of a society or many government agencies. Because propaganda and indoctrination lie at the core of terrorism, understanding their profile and functions increases the ability to counter terrorism more effectively.


[edit] Counter-terrorism tactical units

Main article: Special forces

Today, many countries have special units designated to handle terrorist threats. Besides various security agencies, there are elite tactical units whose role is to directly engage terrorists and prevent terrorist attacks. Such units perform both in preventive actions, hostage rescue and responding to on-going attacks.

These units are specially trained and equipped for CQB with emphasis on stealth and performing the mission with minimal casualties. The units include take-over force (assault teams), snipers, EOD experts, dog handlers and intelligence officers.

Examples include United States Marine Corps Force Recon, British, Australian and New Zealand SAS regiments, Israeli YAMAM, American Police SWAT teams, Canadian JTF-2 and the German Police GSG 9. However, it is rare that military units such as the Israeli Sayeret Matkal, German KSK, the U.S. Navy's DEVGRU or the U.S. Army's Delta Force actually engage in counter-terrorism operations, as they are largely prevented by either jurisdiction or laws like the Posse Comitatus Act from operating in their own country.

Thus, the majority of counter-terrorism operations at the tactical level, are conducted by state, federal and national law enforcement agencies or intelligence agencies, such as the FBI, MI5 [1], Scotland Yard SO15[2],the ATF, or the Mossad. Obviously, for countries whose military are legally permitted to conduct police operations, this is a non-issue, and such counter-terrorism operations are conducted by their military.

The majority of counter-terrorism operations actually take place at the intelligence level, through the use of covert surveillance (HUMINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT), satellite intelligence (GEOINT or SATINT), and electronic intelligence (ELINT). According to the U.S. Army's anti-terrorism level 1 training brief, the majority of terrorist cells are exposed during their surveillance attempts as it is the only time they are visible. By the time they carry out the actual operation, it is usually too late.

Some famous counter-terrorism actions of the 20th century include the Entebbe raid by Israel, the response to the Achille Lauro hijacking, the Munich Olympics hostage rescue attempt and subsequent assassinations, the Iranian embassy siege and the Battle of Mogadishu.

[edit] Anti-terrorism

The concept of anti-terrorism emerges from a thorough examining of the concept of terrorism as well as an attempt to understand and articulate what constitutes terrorism in Western terms. Anti-terrorism was bound to emerge as the stakes for a concise definition of terrorism are raised. Unlike counter-terrorism, the prefix "anti-" suggests a diplomatic and less confrontational line than counter-terrorism. Like its mirror terminology, it is a broad term, though it is invoked far less often.

Since September 11th, 2001, leaders in Western nations have emphasized the importance of living a full life with no undue fear, burden, no less valor. This is commonly posited as an average citizen's way to help "defeat terrorism". Prescription of such reactive behavior has faded from the public discourse in more recent years. In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security was created and the War on Terrorism has shifted to diplomatic and other fronts like Iraq. There had been numerous cases made for the abuse of the term Anti-terrorism as a general umbrella under which cause is formulated to stifle civil liberties and dissipate dissent.

[edit] Anti-terrorism legislation

In the wake of the London bombings of 7 July and 21 July 2005, the term has been used to describe legislative measures in both the United Kingdom and Australia which extend unprecedented powers to law enforcement. Such powers facilitate more aggressive methods of detainment and investigation of persons suspected of terrorism.

The legislation in Australia allows police to detain suspects for up to two weeks without charge, and to electronically track suspects for up to a year. In both countries, with entrenched liberal democratic traditions, the measures have been controversial and have been criticised by civil libertarians and Islamic groups.

[edit] Counter-Terrorism in Popular Culture

  • The counter-terrorism espionage operations of Section One (ambiguously set) are the main focus of the plot of La Femme Nikita, created by Joel Surnow.
  • The award-winning TV series 24, also created by Surnow, is about the fictional Counter Terrorism Unit set in Los Angeles.
  • The video game Counter-Strike, developed by Valve Software features a terrorist team against a counter-terrorist team.
  • The mod for Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, True Combat: Elite, is a game where a team of Spec Ops (Counter-Terrorists) versus a team of Terrorists.
  • The television series The Unit deals with the 303rd Logistical Studies Unit, which is specifically tasked with counterterrorism.
  • The video game series Ghost Recon is about a futuristic counter-terrorist team in various fictitious conflicts.
  • The video game series Rainbow Six is about a covert black operations team that deals primarily with counter-terrorism.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Ivan Arreguín-Toft, "Tunnel at the End of the Light: A Critique of U.S. Counter-terrorist Grand Strategy," Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Vol. 15, No. 3 (2002), pp. 549–563.
  • Ivan Arreguín-Toft, "How to Lose a War on Terror: A Comparative Analysis of a Counterinsurgency Success and Failure," in Jan Ångström and Isabelle Duyvesteyn, Eds., Understanding Victory and Defeat in Contemporary War (London: Frank Cass, 2007).
  • Stathis N. Kalyvas,The Paradox of Terrorism in Civil Wars (2004) in Journal of Ethics 8:1, 97-138.
  • Ariel Merari, "Terrorism as a Strategy in Insurgency," Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Winter 1993), pp. 213–251.
  • Marc Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), ISBN 0-812-23808-7.
  • Dan Sommer, "SD Agent - The Counter Terrorism Manual" (Reykjavik, Iceland) "A Surveillance Detection Manual aimed at detecting the terrorist planning process" available at

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

fr:Antiterrorisme he:מלחמה בטרור no:Kontraterrorisme pt:Antiterrorismo sl:Protiteroristično bojevanje


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