Identifying Terrorist Group Organization Cultural Studies Essay

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Objective: By the end of this module, you will be able to identify the common categories, structural analysis, and organizational traits of terrorist organizations.

Terrorist Organization Categories

According to Joint Publication 30-07.2, "Antiterrorism," April 14, 2006, a terrorist organization's selection of targets reveals its varying level of training, sophistication, and operational goals. It also assists with exposing the group's affiliation(s). Joint terrorism analysts agree that there are three categories of terrorist organization operational boundaries:

National: Operations within the boundaries of a single nation. A good example is the Tokyo Subway Station Attack, March 20, 1995 by Aum Shinrikyo. It took place in Japan and involved an indigenous organization against an indigenous target. Another example is the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City. This incident was carried out by a U.S. citizen (Timothy James McVeigh) against a domestic target.

International: Operations in two or more nations that usually receive direction and support from a foreign government. [1] A good example is when MRTA took over the Japanese ambassador's residence on December 1996. It was an international incident since it involved sovereign Japanese territory and many non-Peruvians were held hostage.

Another example is the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City. Although it took place in the U.S., Ramzi Yousef and other perpetrators were foreign nationals. The same is true of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Transnational: Operations across international borders. Transnational terrorism trends are increasing, as is most evident by the attacks of September 11, 2001. As they increase, the DoD is taking note of up and coming groups. A good example is the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network that has direct connections to groups not only in Southeast Asia, but also the Middle East. The organization's reach is extensive, stretching out across nations. The JI continues to be linked to plans to bomb U.S., British, and Australian embassies all over the world. The JI organization is one of increasing interest to the U.S.

While these categories broadly indicate the operational boundaries, it is important to examine each terrorist organization on its own terms. When we attempt this classification, we delve deeper into the categories of terrorist groups:

Non-State Supported: A terrorist organization that operates autonomously, receiving no significant support from any government. A good example is Japan's Aum Shinriyko organization.

State-Supported: A terrorist organization that generally operates independently but receives support from one or more governments. A good example is Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

State-Directed: A terrorist organization that operates as an agent of a government, receiving substantial intelligence, logistic, and operational support from the sponsoring government. A good example is the Hezbollah. [2] 

Terrorism is essentially a network of networks comprised of extremist organizations, ideological-motivated state and non-state actors, and other opportunists (discussed in the previous module) who cooperate because of self interest.

Terrorist Organization Structural Analysis

Terrorist organizations are not corporate nor are they confined to borders. Organizations may share resources or ideological goals, but they diversify when it comes to motive, sophistication, and strength. Even though there are aspects about terrorist organizations that differ, it has been deduced by the Joint Agencies that they share a common conceptual structure called the Structure Pyramid. [3] 

Source: JP 30-07.2

Passive Support: At the base, underlying conditions such as poverty, corruption, religious conflict, and ethnic strife create opportunities for terrorists to exploit passive supporters. Some of these conditions are real and some are manufactured. Terrorists use these conditions to justify their actions and expand their base of support. The belief that terror is a legitimate means to address such conditions and effect political change is a fundamental problem enabling terrorism to develop and grow.

Active Support: Active support is critical to terrorist campaigns. Any organization can carry out a bombing or kidnapping, but in order to sustain a campaign of bombings or kidnappings, the organization must maintain active support. Active support enables terrorist organizations to maintain communication channels, provide safe houses, gather intelligence, and ensure all other logistical needs are met. Active supporters are the largest internal group within the organization.

Active Cadre: The active cadre is responsible for carrying out the mission of the terrorist organization. Depending on the organization's size, each terrorist in the cadre may have one or more specialties. The active cadre is considered the "striking arm" of the terrorist organization.

Hardcore Leadership: At the top of the structure, the terrorist organization's leadership provides the overall direction and strategy that link all of the factors above and thereby breathe life into the terrorist organization. Hardcore terrorist leaders manipulate ideologies and philosophies for their own benefit. They selectively report information and disseminate 'news' in order to instill a sense of unity within the organization, embrace disenfranchised individuals throughout a community, and ultimately consolidate and advance the organization's power.

It is important to recognize that the loss of leadership can cause many organizations to collapse. Some organizations, however, are more resilient and can provide new leadership quickly and effectively. Still others have adopted a more decentralized organization with largely autonomous cells, making the challenge even greater.

While retaining this basic structure, the terrorist challenge has changed considerably over the past decade. This is true from the groups and subgroups within the organization to the core leadership and execution structure.

Traditional and Contemporary Organizational Traits

How effective terrorist organizations are at executing their directives strongly depends upon the fundamental managerial dynamics of the organization. If the organization possesses a well-defined, functional leadership structure, the successful implementation of the organization's methodology will be probable. This is essential for most terrorist organizations whose primary goal is attempting to establish themselves as legitimate professionals.

Typically, the organizational traits of a terrorist organization are primarily defined through their leadership models. The two basic models are commonly referred to as the Hierarchical model and the Networked model. [4] 

Traditional Structural Traits

In Hierarchical model organizations, a traditional vertical chain of command exists. This model is typical of groups that are well established with a command and support structure. Radical leftist organizations such as the Japanese Red Army, the Red Army Faction in Germany, and the Red Brigades in Italy are good examples of this model. [5] 

There is typically a council and a leader at the top of the Hierarchal model organization command structure:

The council votes on strategic issues such as target opportunities, propaganda placement, and treaties and alliances. This structure is especially true within organizations whose purpose it is to work with other organizations crossing geographic or ethnic boundaries.

The leader ensures that these directives are enforced on the support structure that resides at the cellular level. The leader ensures that there is total commitment by group members to successfully execute orders. Usually, leaders rise from the ranks of any given organization, or create their own cells from scratch.

Beneath the leader at the cellular level, group members are divided into operational groups and support groups.

The operational group is typically tasked with the following:

Target choice

Weapons choice

Timing choice

The support group is typically tasked with the following:

Travel arrangements

Living expenses

Equipment acquisition

Within the operational and support groups, various subgroups can and often do exist. These subgroups are typically responsible for managing such tasks as finance planning and communication gathering.

Whether functioning at the operational or support level, each member of a terrorist organization considers security to be at the top of the list of priorities. Generally, each operational and support group consists of a small cell of four (4) persons. Each 4-person cell has limited or no knowledge of the missions of the other cells. In fact, typically, the cells working in unison will not communicate until after the mission is complete. This "compartmentalization" protects the operation on all command and control levels.

Contemporary Structural Traits

The Hierarchical model comprises the structural traits found in a more traditional terrorist organization; however, there are other models that have in recent years evolved into the conventional structure. These models, termed Networked model organizations, provide more organizational flexibility than the standard Hierarchical model. As such, the organizational traits vary.

Source: TRADOC

The Networked model depends and even thrives on loose affiliation with like-minded groups or individuals from a variety of locations. General goals and targets are announced, and individuals or cells are expected to use flexibility and initiative to conduct the necessary action(s).

Networked organizations consist of nodes. A node may be an individual, a cell, another networked organization, or a hierarchical organization. They may also consist of parts of other organizations, even governments, which are acting in ways that can be exploited to achieve the network's organizational goals.

There are three types of Networked model organizations: [6] 

Chain: Each node links to the node next in sequence. This trait is most common among networks that smuggle goods and people or launder money.

Source: TRADOC

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is a good example of a Chain type. The LTTE is composed of a wide base of smuggling networks that smuggle arms to various terrorist organizations, including anti-western Islamic groups in Pakistan and their counterparts in the Philippines. [7] 

The LTTE is organized into two main divisions that communicate via a clear chain of command. The two divisions comprise a military wing and political wing. These divisions are controlled by a central governing body headed by the LTTE supreme leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Hub: Nodes communicate with one central node in a wheel or star pattern. A wheel configuration is a common feature of a financial or economic network.

Source: TRADOC

The Afghan Jihad Council is a good example of the Hub type. At the core of the Afghan Jihad Council is the idea that U.S. action was not a war against Taliban but against Islam, and therefore, it was essential for the Muslims to declare Jihad against the U.S. and its allies.

The Afghan Jihad Council is composed of five factions. The Council both funds and provides resources to all of its offshoots. In turn, the nodes communicate with the Council on overall objectives.

All-Channel: All nodes are connected to each other. The network is organizationally "flat," meaning there is no hierarchical command structure above it. The all-channel network is one of the most difficult to maintain because it requires a strong communications capacity to maintain ties between nodes.

Source: TRADOC

Al Qaeda is a good example of an All-Channel type. Within the organizations, each cell is autonomous and thus command and control takes places within each specific cell. Although there is an objective handed down by a council, each cell creates its own organizational structure. With such independence of operation, the All-Channel type organization difficult to track and deter, i.e., there is no distinguishable "head". However, the All-Channel type is communication intensive and thus it can easily inherit a security problem if the linkages can be identified or reconstructed.

Despite their differences, the three basic types will most likely be encountered together in

hybrid organizations. Hybrid organizations utilize all types to accomplish their objectives. Thus, a transnational terrorist organization might use chain networks for its money-laundering activities, tied to a wheel network handling financial matters, tied in turn to an all-channel leadership network to direct the use of the funds into the operational activities of a hub network conducting pre-targeting surveillance and reconnaissance.

From an antiterrorism point of view, a hybrid terrorist organization has certain vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Although some nodes of the network are difficult to see, others may be identified and acted upon. Perturbations of nodes in the network may present intelligence collection and counterintelligence opportunities. Networked enemies have different vulnerabilities than hierarchical enemies. [8] 

Module 3 Summary

There are several operational, structural, and organizational traits that help the CI professional identify and define a terrorist organization. Once revealed and analyzed, these methodologies assist the CI professional with predicting how an organization communicates and functions. Furthermore, it provides a starting point for the CI professional to forecast and assess future threats.

In this module, we identified the common categories, structural analysis, and organizational traits of terrorist organizations.