Terrorist stereotypes demolished – by MI5

From an official report leaked to the Guardian, it’s good to see that MI5 have caught up with established thinking that knocks the stereotypes of terrorism.


“…in the past radical clerics featured …but their influence has moved into the background.”

“Suicide bombing is not just a religious phenomenon. It is employed by many secular organisations, including the Kurdish PKK and the Marxist Tamil Tigers..”

“Ariel Merari, a Tel Aviv University psychologist, has profiled 50 suicide bombers and found that there were hardly any common factors. None were deranged or schizophrenic. Few had problems like depression. Merari concluded that the only factor linking all forms of suicide terrorism was the way bombers were recruited and trained. It is the psychology of the group, not the individual, that is key.”

Without being complacent, many people could have told them that long ago, as this testimony about 7/7 Beeston bomber vividly tells us. The MI5 briefing has much to say about them, but little about us, the “good citizens” and the State.

Doesn’t that need to change?quote from Guardian story

Promoting disengagement from terrorism
MI5 admits there is no substantial research on disengagement from Islamist terrorism because it is a relatively new phenomenon but the historic record of terrorist groups illustrates that individuals do leave such networks. Individuals may develop negative feelings through personality clashes or may become disillusioned with the aims and tactics of the group. The 1987 Enniskillen bombing led to disillusion among some IRA sympathisers. Despite the “rewards” of martyrdom, individuals may still fear death or be apprehensive about “failing” in an attack and spending many years in prison. A change in priorities such as the birth of a child, or a new relationship or job may take priority over terrorism”.

“MI5 says its research has implications for the government’s £45m “Prevent” strategy to curb violent extremism, which was initiated after the July 2005 bombings and “refreshed” in June”.

What implications are these?

After long delay, the much vaunted National Security Strategy launched by Gordon Brown is March was an anti-climax and little more than a ” to do” action plan, viz:

National ‘register of risks’
Increase security services personnel to 4,000
Civilian task force to be sent to trouble spots
Efforts to reduce numbers of nuclear weapons around the world
£15,000 bonus to long-serving armed forces staff
Regional counter-terrorism centres to help police
Moves to protect UK from cyber-attacks
Review of role of reserve forces

This critique from Chatham House, by no means a lefty outfit, exposed its weakness – basically it wasn’t a strategy and was based on the fallacy of defending “British values” by suspending them.
“…there are serious flaws in the NSS and the approach it embodies….-But it is a document which offers all things to all readers, while being strangely unable to provide much in the way of vision, leadership and motivation – or strategy, in other words…the NSS refers to the UK’s ‘core values’; human rights, the rule of law, legitimate and accountable government, justice, freedom, tolerance and opportunity for all. But these values are mentioned in a strangely passive and defensive way, almost as if the most that should be done with these immense ideas is to protect them from marauding terrorists and criminals (and, of course, to stop them being ruined by flood water). Saddest of all, these values appear to constitute little more than the ‘normality’ to which, we are told, the government’s security strategy will enable us to return ‘as soon as possible’ after some harm occurs.”

The scale of the post 7/7 effort is becoming clearer all the time. According to the Guardian backgrounder:
“So far 200 projects in 70 towns and cities have been funded by Whitehall in the attempt to develop the capacity of communities, particularly involving Muslim women, to challenge and resist violent extremists.”

“But it is still very early days for the police-led “Channel Project”, which is designed to divert people from violent extremism but has already led to concerns that some young people will be wrongly identified as extremists.”

And the “terrorist threat” appears to be no mirage, although the details emerge only in fits and starts, usually in court cases which are not always successful.

“Counter terrorism: Police disrupt 13 terror networks last year. From April 2007 until March 2008, over 40 people were convicted of terrorist-related offences as a result of Metropolitan Police investigations and sentences amounting to more than 600 years were imposed. The police arrested 46 people in relation to terrorist investigations between the start of this year and May 31, and charged 10, although the report points out that some of the remainder have been cautioned, detained pending an immigration investigation or dealt with under the Mental Health Act.”

The MI5 reviews argues for greater subtlety and implies less headline grabbing legislative action of dubious value. Depressingly, though I doubt if we’ll see much difference on the surface – which appears to count for more than long term results with the politicians.

  • Harry Flashman

    I read this article today and I couldn’t help being reminded of a police report in Canada when they busted a terrorist network, the police said that the suspects came from many strata of society and it was hard to see how they could be connected.

    The same thing seems to on display here, so “radicals” have nothing in common eh? They could be young or old, British born or foreign, well educated or frankly a bit thick, middle class or working class, from a variety of races and nationalities, married with kids or single, even male or female.

    Nothing to connect them, no sirree, no connection whatsoever, you really don’t know who’s gonna turn out to be a terrorist, no single identifying feature, nothing they have in common, not a darn thing that might link them, no idea what values these terrorists might share.

    Just pot luck really trying to figure out what the common denominator.

    Nothing at all in common, nothing.

  • Occassional Commentor

    Perhaps if the UK converted en masse to Islam, the terrorism would stop. Except of course if you choose the wrong Islam.

    PS – HAHAHA the code word to post is “church”!

  • runciter

    Just pot luck really trying to figure out what the common denominator.

    They all oppose the established power?

  • fionn

    this thread i haven’t read … haven’t even read the links. and normally i love to. but as soon as i read ‘MI5’ and ‘Leaked’ …. i mean, c’mon. are you all seriously, still that easily played?


  • Greenflag

    HF ,
    ‘you really don’t know who’s gonna turn out to be a terrorist, no single identifying feature, nothing they have in common, not a darn thing that might link them, no idea what values these terrorists might share. ‘

    Well then it follows that everybody and anybody must be suspect . What a perfect excuse for video cameras on every street corner , a single national identication number and with modern computer technology we can have Big Brother watching your every move -listening in on every internet comment – monitoring your financial extractions and likely voting patterns etc ?

    George Orwell may have been a little premature with 1984 – 2012 anybody ?

  • Harry Flashman

    Irony isn’t your speciality is it Greenflag?

  • Just pot luck really trying to figure out what the common denominator.

    I presume you’re trying to say “they’re all muslim”. Except they aren’t. Very few Tamils are for a start. There are plenty of white, male, heterosexual, right-leaning terrorists about the world too.

    More boring hatemongering from you, Harry.

  • Harry Flashman

    Yes Sammy those Tamil terrorists are a big problem for the UK security services aren’t they?

    Be a good chap and retract your utterly unfounded allegation that I’m a “hatemonger”, I’m no such thing, I speak my mind about my political opinions on a political website, you are free to disagree with me if you like but kindly do not make personally insulting and completely inaccurate charges about my personal character. I have never done so about you and I would be grateful if you could reciprocate in the interest of free and open debate.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    To be fair Harry, the Tigers are banned here yet have been fundraising in various illegal ways in the UK for the guts of a decade (at least).

  • Former Political Prisoner and infrequent poster

    I’ve read this posting and the various links and I would like to add my own tuppence worth, for whatever little its worth.
    Its interesting, but probably not widely admitted, known or publicised, that from 1985/86 onwards until the first one or two years of the early ’90’s, a number of various “university-based intellectuals” sought interviews with many recently released (at that time) Republican prisoners.
    The introductions were done at that time via SF’s POW Dept and it was up to each ex-prisoner to decide whether they participated or not. I was asked to meet with two such “university-based intellectuals” at different times – one from the US and the other from England.
    At my first and only meetings with each of those two individuals, I asked them about the type of questions they would be asking, the info they would be seeking (what attracted you into the Rep Movt; your thoughts about different actions; would you have been willing to die; if you had feelings of guilt; how your family and friends felt) etc.
    I declined to undertake full interviews with either individual as I thought the line of questioning was such that it was designed to ‘suss out’ what exactly was the political beliefs, mentality, bottom-line (call it what you will) which drove those who had been actively involved in the struggle. It was also surprising that even though there was a year between my meeting both of those ‘university-based intellectuals’, they seemed to be driving at the same questions. They also came from the key proposition of “Its been recommended by the POW dept that you’re one of the key persons that I need to speak to in this area” and trying to play on people’s ego’s – not that hard to achieve for men and women just out of gaol after X years and trying to re-adjust to ‘outside’ life.
    Other comrades from my local area felt the same, but when we queried the wisdom of any former prisoner participating in those interviews (up to 3-4 hours at a time and over 2-3 and more occasions) we were told by the POW Dept that we were being ‘too paranoid’ and ‘too security conscious’.
    In recent years, by trawling the internet, I’ve never came across any published works by those two sociologists/criminologists that wished to interview me and whose names I always kept note of.
    It certainly makes one wonder who was trying to understand, in order to undermine, the Republican mindset during that time. Particularly when one looks at the period I refer to. I know that many elsewhere fully opened their minds to these “friendly” ‘intellectuals’. I suppose they felt it inflated their own sense of self-importance at that time. And after the hunger-strike and shoot-to-kill of the 80’s, they may even have believed they were doing the right thing. I’m not suggesting that anyone gave away military secrets – but they let outsiders know and get into the mind-set, the psychology and ideology (if people adhered to one)which drove us.
    But those in-depth studies/interviews would have proved extremely useful to the British, particularly as the “peace process” gathered momentum.
    In hindsight now, even the item in the main piece above about the funding of Muslim community organisations in Britain is striking– thankfully I belong to one of the few community groups in North which still has to fight for every penny to employ a few part-time workers but which has been able to retain a very strong volunteering ethos and which has also been able to retain a truly non politically aligned spirit – we have always been able to depend on around 30-35 volunteers, and as years progress, we have a changing volunteer base as younger people come forward to fill the “burn-out gap”.
    Unfortunately, too many community groups have become dependent on state funding for their workers and activities. Indeed, I could name groups which have been able to continuously employ the same people for up to 15 years – I don’t know how they can do so, unless their recruitment and employment policies records are suspect. After all, most funding only has a 3-year timescale. Such long-term dependency (like any addiction) creates a feeling of compliance and not a willingness to advocate change.
    From the above article and links, as well as other analyses published elsewhere should make many other Republican ex-prisoners think back about whose gut-feelings and judgment calls about those supposed ‘intellectuals’ were proved right and whose were proved wrong.
    Some of your more professionally qualified posters will say that this is a classic, modern method employed on how to go about understanding one’s enemy.
    I’m just glad I opted out and that some others agreed with me.
    I know my politics and my bottom-line but I keep it to myself now, others might think they know it, but they never will understand or appreciate it.

  • DK

    Former prisoner – they were probably only trying to save lives – if they could get an insight into what kinds of targets you were starting to favour (e.g. protestant town centres or english sopping malls) they could then adjust the resources to try and stop you.