31 October 2006

Intelligence most powerful weapon in war on terror, survey finds

INTELLIGENCE is the most powerful defence against both international and home-grown terrorism, according to a new survey of some of the world's leading experts on terrorism.

The 90 experts who participated in the survey were asked what they considered the most effective counter-measures against both international and home-grown terrorism and what lessons they have learned from their own country's experience of terrorism.

Global inter-agency information sharing and cutting off terrorist funding sources were considered the second and third most effective counter-measures against international terrorism after intelligence, while visible counter-terrorism police work and preventative detention were considered the second and third most effective measures against domestic terrorism.

The importance of building international cooperation was the most important 'positive lesson' learned, according to the experts, while the conclusion from US experience in Iraq that military interventions are not necessarily effective was the most important 'negative lesson' learned.

A number of experts also recommended deterring terrorists by toughening physical security measures and increasing technological surveillance.

The survey was carried out by Professor Alex P. Schmid, Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews and former Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Terrorism Prevention Branch.

He surveyed responses from 90 terrorism experts from the fields of politics, law, psychology, law enforcement, sociology, the military, history, economy, philosophy, journalism, biology, criminology, mathematics and medicine. The experts represented 20 countries.

He is presenting his findings for the first time at the Smiths Detection Security and Resilience Forum today at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in central London.

Professor Schmid said: "These findings are important because they represent the opinions of many leading experts. However, they should not be accepted uncritically. Preventive detention internment had, for instance, the opposite effect than the one intended in the early 1970s in Northern Ireland.

"What we need is more evidence-based research, which is harder to come by than results from opinion polls. The importance given by the experts to 'good intelligence' is correct but good intelligence is, in most cases, 'human intelligence' rather than technical 'signal intelligence' and it takes many years to build up a good enough human intelligence network. There are no quick fixes in this area2.

These and other findings will be published next year in Professor Schmids book, the Handbook of Terrorism Research.

ENDS