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Published on STRATFOR (htip:/www.stratfor.com) Separating Terror from Terrorism Created Dee 30 2010 - 03:55 ” Not Limited Open Access By Scott Stewart (On Dec. 15, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent a joint bulletin to state and local law enforcement agencies expressing their concem that terrorists may attack a large public gathering in a major U.S. metropolitan area during the 2010 holiday season. That concem was echoed bycontacts at the FBland elsewhere who told STRATFOR they were almost certain there was going to be a terrorist attack launched against the United States over Christmas. Certainly, attacks during the December holiday season are not unusual. There is a history of such attacks, from the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on Dec. 21, 1988, and the thwarted millennium attacks in December 1999 and January 2000 to the post-9/11 airliner attacks by shoe bomber Richard Reid on Dec. 22, 2001, and by underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Dec. 25, 2009. Some of ‘these plots have even stemmed from the grassroots. In December 2006, Derrick Shareef was arrested “while planning an attack he hoped to launch against an linois shopping mall on Dec. 22. ‘Mass gatherings in large metropolitan areas have also been repeatedly targeted by jhadist groups and lone wolves. In addition to past attacks and plots directed against the subway systems in major cities such as Madrid, London, New York and Washington, 2010 saw failed attacks against the crowds in New York s Times Square iz on May 1 and in Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portiand i, Ore., on Nov. 26. With this history, itis understandable that the FBI and the DHS would be concemed about such an attack this year and issue a waming to local and state law enforcement agencies in the United States. This American warning also comes on the heels of similar alerts in Europe, wamings punctuated by the Dec. 11 suicide attack in Stockholm i. So far, the 2010 holiday season has been free from terrorist attacks, but as evidenced by all the warnings and concern, this season has not been free from the fear of such attacks, the psychological impact known as error." In light of these recent developments, it seems appropriate discuss the closely related phenomena of terrorism and terror. Propaganda of the Deed tpn scan ha. sesame. svnecsmnssestesy pages Nineteenth-century anarchists promoted what they called the -propaganda of the deed,” thats, the use of violence as a symbolic action to make a larger point, such as inspiring the masses to undertake revolutionary action. inthe late 1960s and early 1970s, modem terrorist organizations began to conduct operations designed to serve as terrorist theater, an undertaking greatly aided by the advent and spread of broadcast media. Examples of attacks designed to grab international media attention are the ‘September 1972 kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics and the December 1975 raid on OPEC headquarters in Vienna, Aircraft hijackings followed suit, changing from relatively brief endeavors to long, drawn-out and dramatic media events often spanning multiple continents. Today, the proliferation of 24-hour television news networks and the internet have allowed the media to broadcast such attacks live and in their entirety. This development allowed vast numbers of people to ‘watch live as the World Trade Center towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, and as teams of gunmen ran ‘amok in Mumbai in November 2008. This exposure not only allows people to be informed about unfolding events, it also permits them to become secondary victims of the violence they have watched unfold before them. As the word indicates, the intent of terrorism is to create terror in a targeted audience, and the media allow that audience to become far larger than just those in the immediate vicinity of a terrorist attack. lam not a psychologist, but even Ican understand that on 9/11, watching the second aircraft stke the South ‘Tower, seeing people leap to their deaths from the windows of the World Trade Center Towers in order to escape the ensuing fire and then watching the towers collapse live on television had a profound impact on many people. A large portion of the United State was, in effect, victimized, as were a large number of people living abroad, judging from the statements of foreign citizens and leaders in the wake of 9/11 that We are all Americans." During that time, people across the globe became fearful, and almost everyone was certain that spectacular attacks beyond those involving the four aircraft hijacked that moming were inevitable clearly, mary people were shaken to their core by the attacks. A similar, though smaller, impact was. seen in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. People across India were fearful of being attacked by teams of Lashkar-e-Taiba gunmen, and concem spread around the world about Mumbai-stye terrorism. Indeed, this concer was so great that we felt compelled to write an analysis emphasizing that the tactics ‘employed in Mumbai were not new is and that, while such operations could kill people, the approach ‘would be less successful in the United States and Europe than it was in Mumbai. Terror Magnifiers ‘These theatrical attacks have a strange hold over the human imagination and can create a unique sense of terror that dwarfs the normal reaction to natural disasters that are many times greater in magnitude. For example, in the 2004 Asian tsunami, more than 227,000 people died, while fewer than 3,000 people died on 9/11. Yet the 9/11 attacks produced not only a sense of terror but also a ‘geopolitical reaction that has exerted a profound and unparalleled impact upon world events over the ast decade. Terrorism clearly can have a powerful impact on the human psyche so much so that even the threat of a potential attack can cause fear and apprehension, as seen by the reaction to the recent spate of warnings about attacks occurring over the holidays. ‘As noted above, the media serve as a magnifier of this arviety and terror. Television news, whether broadcast on the airwaves or over the Intemet, allows people to remotely and vicariously experience a ‘terrorist event, and ths is reinforced by the print media. While part of this magnification is due merely to the nature of television as a medium and the 24-hour news cycle, bad reporting and misunderstanding can also help build hype and terror. For example, when Mexican drug cartels began placing small explosive devices in vehicles in Ciudad Juarez and Ciudad Victoria this past year, the media hysterically reported that the cartels were using car bombs. Clearly, the journalists failed to appreciate ‘the significant tactical and operational differences between a small bomb placed in a car and the far larger and more deadly vehicle-borne explosive device. ‘The traditional news media are not alone in the role of terror magnifier. The Internet has also become an tpn scan ha. sesame. svnecsmnssestesypage2es increasingly effective conduit for panic and alarm. From breathless (and false) claims in 2005 that al (Qaeda had pre-positioned nuclear weapons in the United States and was preparing to attack nine U.S. Cities and kill 4 million Americans in an operation called -American Hiroshima’ to claims in 2010 that Mexican drug cartels were still smuggling nuclear weapons for Osama bin Laden, a great deal of ‘fearmongering can spread over the Intemet. Website operators who eam advertising revenue based on ‘the number of unique visitors who read the stories featured on their sites have an obvious financial incentive for publishing outlandish and starting terrorism claims. The intemet also has produced a wide array of other starting revelations, including the oft-recycied e-mail chain stating that an isra counterterrorism expert has predicted al Qaeda will attack six, seven or eight U.S. cities simultaneously within the next 90 days.” This e-mail was first circulated in 2005 and has been periodically re-circulated over the past five years. Although itis an old, false prediction, it still creates fear every time it is circulated. ‘Sometimes a government can act as a terror magnifier. Whether it is the American DHS raising the threat level to red or the head of the French internal inteligence service staling that the teat of terrorism in that country has never been higher im, such warnings can produce widespread public Concer. As we ve noted elsewhere, there are a number of reasons for such wamings i, from trying to pre-empt a terrorist attack when there is incomplete intelligence to a genuine concern for the safety of citizens in the face of a known threat to less altruistic motives such as political gain or bureaucratic maneuvering (when an agency wants to protect itself from blame in case there is an attack). As seen by ‘the public reaction to the many wamings in the wake of 9/11, including recommendations that citizens purchase plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect themselves from chemical and biological attack, such wamings can produce immediate panic, although, over ime, as teats and warrings prove to be Unfounded, this panic can tum into threat fatigue is. ‘Those seeking to terrorize can and do use these magnifiers to produce terror without having to go to the ‘rouble of conducting attacks. The empty threats made by bin Laden and his inner circle that they were preparing an attack larger than 9/11 _ threats propagated by the intemet, picked up by the media and then reacted to by governments are prime historical examples of this. In recent weeks, we saw a case where panic was caused bya si al Qaeda in he Arabian Peninsuia (AQAP) issued the second edition of spire, its Engi magazine. As we discussed in our analysis of the magazine, its Open Source Jihad section pointed out a number of ways that attacks could be conducted by grassroots jihadists living in the West. h adcition to the suggestion that an attacker could weld butcher knives onto the bumper of a pickup truck and drive. it through a crowd, or use a gun as attackers did in Lite Rock and at Fort Hood, another method briefly mentioned was that grassroots operatives could use ricin 11) or cyanide j12\ in attacks. In response, the DHS decided to investigate further and even went to the trouble of briefing corporate security officers from the hotel and restaurant industries on the potential threat. CBS news picked up the story and ran anexclusive report compete with a scary poison logo superimposed over photos of a hotel, a diner buffet and an American flag. The report made no mention ofthe fact thatthe AQAP article paid far ess attention to the ric and cyanide suggestion thant di to what it called the imate mowing machine,” ‘the pickup with butcher knives, or even the more practical and far more likely armed assault j-), This was a prime example of terror magnifiers working with AQAP to produce fear. Separation Groups such as al Qaeda clearly recognize the difference between terrorist attacks and terror. This is seen not only in the use of emply threats to sow terror but also in the way terrorist groups claim success {or failed attacks. For example, AQAP declared the failed Christmas Day 2009 -underwear’ bombing to be a success due to the effect it had on the air-transportation system. Ina special edition of Inspire ‘magazine j+4 published in November following the failed attack against cargo aircraft, AQAP trumpeted the operation as a success, citing the fear, disruption and expense that resulted. AQAP claimed the cargo bomb plot and the Christmas Day plot were part of what it called -Operation Hemorrhage,” an effort to cause economic damage and fear and not necessarily kill large numbers of people. tpn scan ha. sesame. svnecsmnssestesy paged ‘As we ve noted before, practitioners of terrorism lose a great deal of their ability to create terror ifthe people they are trying to terrorize adopt the proper mindset i. A critical part ofthis mindset is placing ‘terrorism in perspective. Terrorist attacks are going to continue to happen because there are a wide variety of militant groups and individuals who seek to use violence as a means of influencing @ government either their own or someone else s. ‘There have been several waves of terrorism over the past century, butt has been a fairly constant phenomenon, especially over the past few decades. While the flavors of terror may vary from Marxist and nationalist strains to Shiite Islamist to jihadist itis certain that even if al Qaeda and its jihadist ‘spawn were somehow magically eradicated tomorrow, the problem of terrorism would persist. Terrorist attacks are also relatively easy to conduct, especially ifthe assailants not concemed about escaping after the attack. As AQAP has noted inits Inspire magazine, a determined person can Conduct attacks using a variety of simple weapons, from a pickup to a knife, axe or gun. And wile the authorities in the United States and elsewhere have been quite successful in filing attacks over the past couple of years, there are a large number of vunerable targets in the open societies ofthe West, land Westem govemments simply do not have the resources to protect everything noteven authoritarian police states can protect everything. Ths all means that some terrorist attacks will invariably succeed. How the media, governments and populations respond to those successful strikes will shape the way that the attackers gauge their success. Obviously, the 9/11 attacks, which caused the United States to invade Afghanistan (and arguably iraq) were far more successful than bin Laden and company could ‘ever have hoped. The London bombings on July 7, 2005, where the British went back to work as usual the next day, were seen as less successful In the final analysis, the world is a dangerous place. Everyone is going to die, and some people are certain to die ina manner that is brutal or painful. In 2001, more than 42,000 people died from car crashes in the United States and hundreds of thousands of Americans died from heart disease and cancer. The 9/11 attacks were the bloodiest terrorist attacks in world history, and yet even those historic attacks resulted in the deaths of fewer than 3,000 people, a number that pales in comparison to deaths, byother causes. This is in no way meant to trivialize those who died on 9/11, or the loss their families suffered, but merely o point out that lots of people die every day and that heir families are affected, 100. {f the public will take a cue from groups like AQAP, it too can separate terrorism from terror. Recognizing that terrorist attacks, like car crashes and cancer and natural disasters, are a part of the human condition permits individuals and families to practice situational awareness |: and take prudent ‘measures to prepare for such contingencies in without becoming vicarious victims. This separation will help deny the practitioners of terrorism and terror the ability to magnify their reach and power. Terorism/Securty Scott Stewart United States Security Portal: Featured Analysis and Inteligence USMC -Featured Analysis Security Weekly ‘Tems of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us ‘Sponsorship | Affliate Program © Copyright 2011 STRATFOR. 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