Terrorism means the destructive activities taken recourse to by a group of people to coerce a government to yield to their demands (Roy 2013). The term “terrorism” is associated with violent activities management band mass killings. Even though, there is no fixed definition of the word terrorism, almost every human being is aware of it and some have even experienced its horrific consequences. Terrorism is not an ideology like communism or capitalism. Rather, terrorism is a tactic – a strategy used to achieve a specific end (Lemieux 2016). Terrorism is usually the act of instilling fear in people in order to show power, rage or is backed by the fulfillment of some sort of political, religious or ideological agenda. Terrorism is responsible for the killing of people in large numbers. The violence is aimed at creating fear in the targeted population and often provokes prompt and violent response from the state (Lemieux 2017). Therefore it is necessary to take strong precautionary measures to avoid as well as fight back extremist groups who try to create hue and cry.
This leads to effective planning and making of strategies used to tackle terrorism. This is called counter terrorism. The act of preparation, planning, constructing and implementing strategies to control and combat the gruesome acts of terrorism is what is called as counter terrorism. Counter terrorism holds extreme importance as it not only a precautionary measure but a well thought out strategy that aims to prevent and combat terrorist groups when the situation gets out of hand.
The first ever counter terrorism group was formed by Sir William Harcourt who was Home secretary at the time in British. This was back in 1880s when the Irish militant Fenians was carrying out a terror campaign resulting in extreme violence and deaths of innumerable innocent people. The idea was to infiltrate the Irish group and tackle the violent activities happening from inside.
It was Harcourt who have the idea of undercover infiltration and the name of the unit form by him was later changed to “Special branch” as the group expanded and became more permanent management. The general role of the unit was to tackle terrorist groups by foreign subversion. This helped immensely in the governments knowing about the planning and strategies of the terrorist groups without the latter realizing it. From here on, under cover infiltration of organized crime became the norm and law enforcement agencies and government authoritative forming similar units in order to nip the violent extremism in the bud.
Counter terrorism gained extreme importance in the late 20th century. This happened post the 9/11 attacks on world trade center in America. History tells us that nations fall or rise depending on the efficacy of their intelligence machinery and the quality of their counter-terrorism strategy (Raghavan 2012). The extreme loss of innocent lives and property, the unpreparedness of the government and the army was extremely shocking to one and all. Law enforcement agencies, post this event started investing a lot of their time, export and resources into the formation of such squads and units that could submerge foreign groups causing violence and be a step ahead. Such statistics increase the need for having counter terrorism systems.
Planning Counter Terrorism
Terrorists tend to employ shockingly violent acts, such as beheadings, downing of commercial airlines, bombings in public markets, and armed attacks in public places, to intimidate an audience (Sandler 2015). Effective and in-depth planning involving government authorities, military forces as well as private agencies are required for tackling and combating terrorism. There are a number of measures taken by the above mentioned organizations such as hiring intelligence, mass surveillance and reconnaissance. These activities take a huge amount of time and discretion and important to national security as well as the lives of millions of innocent people. Traditional means of implementing counter terrorism activities include increasing intelligence and domestic surveillance. This requires a large task force and recruiting a larger number of police officials and other standard police personnel than usual. In addition to this surveillance of communication is also done. This includes interception of communication lines such as phone calls, emails, video calls etc. as well as tracing of important extremist head members which run their organizations. Almost every major terrorist attack on Western soil in the past fifteen years was committed by someone already on the government’s radar for one or another reason (Granick 2017). Modern methods are slightly different and a little bit more reliable and efficient. These include expanding military as well as increase law enforcement operations. Counter terrorism is not an easy job. There are a number of challenges faces by law enforcement authorities which can make their job difficult. They may also hamper the operations the need to be carried and result in failed attempts upon discovery by the opposing groups. Counter-terrorism, to be effective, has to have a strong preventive element—the aim being to stop an attack long before it is launched, and thereby to reduce the fear, as well as effects, of terrorism (White 2013). Below mentioned are a few of the major challenges that are faced by counter terrorism groups.
Surveillance- This is the biggest issue faced by governors and law enforcement agencies. It has a number of parameters which determine the success and ability of government authorities on finding information on target groups management. A major concern with the development of mass surveillance tools is that they can be used by authoritarian regimes to suppress freedom of information and expression and track down political opponents(Kersley 2015). Mass surveillance means keeping an eye on a large group of people. This is a difficult job as it surveilling such a large number of people is not only very impractical but also requires an increase in the number of recruits that shall be surveilling these people. In addition to this, surveillance measures of such a scale are very often opposed by the general public as this obliterates their right to privacy. Therefore, surveillance is a major issue and a challenge for the government trying to get gold of individuals and groups who indulge themselves in terrorist activities. The lack of transparency creates a fundamental distrust between the public and the national security as to how the surveillance system actually functions (Chan 2015). A lot of the time members of extremist groups have original identification credentials. Research has long demonstrated that there is no terrorist profile, predictive pathway or discernible process that leads one to commit violent acts (German 2016). This makes it even more difficult for the authorities to identify them.
Preparation- Another challenge is intelligence. One never knows what information is true and what is false. It is extremely difficult to obtain reliable information one that can be acted upon immediately. Preparation is of utmost importance. There have been a number of terrorist activities in almost every country on the planet till date and the law enforcement authorities are more alert and prepared than ever. Even so, terrorists and extremist groups are able to have their way, take the lives of innocent people in huge numbers. It is extremely important to be alert and aware at all times. However, already present challenges due to surveillance issues make it even more difficult than it already is.
Infiltration- Many times, the extremist groups who cause violence are often small close knit groups. Also, a lot of the times these group members are blood related and know everyone in the group personally. Therefore infiltration of these groups is extremely difficult. These groups do not tend to involve outsiders into their clan and are aware of the infiltration tactics that the government agencies now use.
The United States continues to rely heavily on airstrikes and targeted killings, while terrorist groups continue to cause mayhem and gain adherents (Brooks 2015). In times like these, when the counter terrorism groups are faced with extreme challenges as the ones mentioned above, the only options left are communications interception and financial tracking of individuals and even these options remain limited and need to be handled with extreme discretion.
Frustrated Foreign Fighters
It has been seen in the past decades that there is an increase in the number of foreign fighters who return to their country countries causing threats. Foreign fighters have years of experience and hard core training in creating and tackling violence. Therefore, they have a very different mindset from the average human being. This poses a great threat to the national security. Many foreign fighters who go to war initially have very different intentions. However, therr have been innumerable cases where some of these have been captured and indoctrinated. These war heroes upon returning to their home countries can pose a great threat to the security of their own country. The governments are well aware of this and the foreign fighters become more and more frustrated dur to this. There are a number of things that can be done by the state in order to ensure peace upon return of foreign fighters to the home country. This can begin by keeping an eye on the foreign fighters, especially on social media. Such individuals have a tendency of expressing their sympathies towards foreign countrie. How such surveillance needs to be done at a large scale. This requires a lot of resources on the part of the state and the nation. Additionally, such measures should be taken by ensuring proper discretion first.
Although counter terrorism groups were built keeping in mind the need to control, tackle, combat and suppress any potential violent activities that may be impending, there have been a number of cases where the abuse of power evident. Certain politicians and government officials waste no time exploiting the tragedy for their own ends (Anonymous 2015). A number of cases where individuals have been confined to imprisonment, captured and beaten and accused of being involved in terrorist activities have also emerged. A lot if the times such imprisonment was conducted on the basis of the individual's race or religion with no other effective information about his or her factual involvement with the terrorism. A number of cases have emerged and been recorded as abuse of power while they were meant for the sole purpose of effective surveillance and collection of good intelligence. Capturing, imprisoning, beating and holding a person in solitary confinement for long hours without genuine information of the involvement of the individual in any sort of crime is illegal. The ideal response is one that balances greater security on the one hand, while preserving civil liberties on the other (Wilkinson 2004).
In 2003, in Malaysia counter terrorism laws were passed. These faced extreme opposition and protest by the human rights activists in the country. The laws were said to be very vague and breaching an individual's privacy rights. These laws allowed the government to hold alleged militants or accountable without fair trails.
In the same year, in Syria Meher Agar who happened to be a Canadian-Syrian national reported publicly that he was captured and tortured illegally by the Syrian authorities.
Another incident that happened in Columbia towards the end of the same year, allowed the military on Columbia to arrest civilians, tap cell phone communications and carry out house searches without any warrants.
A large number of people who are allegedly having relations to or are involved in criminal activities of Taliban, Al Qaeda and many other such extremist groups , are captured and detained indefinitely without any warrants or official proceedings.
Many such incidents have taken place in a number of different countries. While you getting terrorism is essential, and must be done, abusing ones power and taking away an individual's basic human rights is not only discouraged but also illegal. Human rights activist all over the world come together and put in a lot of effort to ensure such abuse of power is not done. They work to rescue individuals falsely acquitted of being involved in crimes they did not commit and people related to terrorists they are not related to. Europe’s human rights watchdog has issued a strong warning on the dangers of new mass surveillance counter-terrorism measures being adopted by governments in the aftermath of the Paris and Copenhagen terror attacks (Travis 2015). While counter terrorism is precautionary at best in its efforts to tackle terrorism, it does have a few cons that prove to be extremely wrong and intolerable in nature.
Being prepared for an attack is the most important thing in planting a terrorist attack. Governments carry out regular drills to ensure military forces, civilians, police forces are all prepared to handle situations of extreme violence and distress. In addition to this, there are a number of other precautionary measures that can ensure the least possible damage to life and property. Below are discussed such measures in detail.
Police forces and emergency response organizations including medical service providing organizations, hospitals and fire-fighters have extremely important roles in times of a violent terrorist attack. Civilians must be trained to not panic and call for immediate help. Regular drills and practice sessions can prove to be of great importance. These can help immensely at times of need. Every individual should be taught about the benefits of having a prepared emergency first aid kit. In addition to this, one must always remember contact numbers of police, hospitals and fire fighting agencies. Being prepared is the first step in fighting any sort of violent activity.
Target hardening is another effective strategy use by the counter terrorism groups to ensure safety of targets. Target hardening essentially means taking steps to ensure safety of important buildings, people of whatever is it is that the opposing group aims to target. This can be done by a number of ways. One method is to limit the access of vehicles to close to a building. This removes the possibility of damage to an important building as well as the people inside by an intended truck or car explosion.
Another method involves planning of building layouts in such a manner that they have easily accessible fire exits, and can be evacuate by a large number of people easily in a short period of time
In airplanes nowadays, especially after the 911 attack, the cockpits have reinforced doors that can only be unlocked by the pilots. Railways stations in the United Kingdom and Scotland got rid of their dustbins as they proved to be convenient locations for hiding bombs. In Massachusetts, the Bay Transportation authority installed barriers that were bomb resistant as a precautionary measure.
Authorities must also keep in mind that large factories and industries dealing with chemicals can be easy targets. Also chemicals can be stolen are used to make bombs very easily. Chemicals used in industries require greater amount of protection than they currently do.
Command and control centers are required handling such incidents that may involve violence at a large scale. National response teams and local response teams must be formed and prepared at all times to ensure safety and protection of life and property.
Mitigating damage is also of great importance. Fire fighters, hospitals, police forces and local response teams must be trained and regular drills should be conducted to keep all trams ready in situation of an attack. Such bodies are also best suited for handling the impact if a violent incident. In the event of an attack, it is the responsibility of the local police to handle large crowds. They must isolate and evacuate the affected area immediately reducing the damage. Hospitals have emergency rooms which must be equipped with handling effected people and treating them accordingly. Fire fighters have a very important role in controlling explosions and fires in an affect3d building. Helping in evacuating the effected buildings is one of their major roles.
Many countries have invested a large amount of their money and resources into building tactical forces and units which are specially trained in handling violent attacks by terrorists. These task forces have intense trainings which involve preparation and mitigation practices in times of attacks. These special task forces are highlight trained in direct engagement with terrorists. They specialize in rescue operations and combating further terrorist attacks. The majority acts of terrorism are handles by a Country's national and state level forces. However, Special Forces are also required when the attack is lethal and a great amount of risk is involved.
Designing counter terrorism systems
As technology has evolved manifolds over the years, terrorist attacks have become more and more advanced and difficult to recognize. Therefore, building anti terrorism attacks is not only essential but shall help in prevention of large scale violent crimes effectively. Developing such systems needs a vast amount of knowledge, resources and time. It has been implemented despite ongoing confusions about costs, what metadata actually is, and whether the telecommunications sector is ready to retain and encrypt this data (Baldino 2015). Anti terrorism systems need to take into account a number of very complicated factors such as controlling large crowds, managing vast borders of a country, technological advances that can be used by terrorists, managing high traffic and high population areas. Such systems need highly advance technological innovation capable of storing analyzing and interpreting large amounts of data.
The biggest challenge for building of such a system is the level of uncertainty. Terrorists usually target areas that have a large population so the impact can be maximized. However, building such a system that can recognize imminent threats all over r the world can be an extremely daunting task. Moreover shall also not be very cost effective. Meaning not every city may be able to afford such a system. Also, a system can be hacked, and manipulated by anyone. Therefore there are always such limitations when it comes to the use of technology.
Terrorism is a grave issue in today's world. It leads to the loss of lives of millions. It creates havoc and instills a sense of fear amongst the general population. Numerous acts of terrorism over the ages have forced governments and law enforcement systems to come up measures to control and combat terrorism. This has led to the invention of counter terrorism. Counter terrorism involves activities relating to combating, suppressing, tackling and handling any violent activities that may harm innocent people and be a threat to national security or the pop7of a country in general.
A number of steps have been taken by governments to keep the public and task forces such as police, army etc prepared for times of attacks. These include mass surveillance of public places especially those that have a high population. These also include forming Special Forces that are trained to combat violent criminal attacks by terrorists. Counter attacking terrorists and suppressing all such activities that prove to be harmful to the public are laid emphasis on.
Even so, there are a number of challenges that are faced by counter terrorism systems. Mass surveillance is not only extremely expensive but also violates privacy rights of individuals. Thus, protests against surveillance systems are ongoing and are a major limitation for such systems that need to collect information that may prove to be essential in terrorist attacks. Apart from that, there are a number of other challenges faces by counter terrorism systems.
Every country in today's world is investing a huge amount of resources and money in forming Special Forces that are trained to deal with terrorism, its impacts and repercussions. With advancements in technologies, terrorist are also becoming more and more aware and using advanced methods of technology to create more havoc. Therefore, in today's world it is imperative to have counter terrorism systems to prevent and mitigate the effects of terrorism.
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