Intelligence cooperation in counterterrorism
Terrorism was not born in the 20th century; it has existed for thousands of years in every place where people live.
BRITISH MUSLIM suicide bombers Ashif Muhammad Hanid, Omar Khan Sharif bombed Mike’s Place in TA Photo: REUTERS
On April 30, 2003, a suicide attack occurred at Mike’s Place, a bar in Tel Aviv.
Three people were killed and more than 50 wounded.
On that day, at 12:45
p.m., a British citizen entered the club and blew himself up at the entrance.
Another British citizen was also carrying an explosive belt, but it did not
explode. This terrorist dropped the belt and ran away. Later his body was
discovered on the beach. The cause of his death remains unknown.
forces failed to prevent the terrorists’ entry into Israel from the Gaza Strip,
and their arrival to Tel Aviv. The two British terrorists came to Israel from
Jordan via the Allenby Bridge. They were in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jerusalem
and Tel Aviv.
Investigation of the incident revealed that the two
attended a memorial ceremony for Rachel Corrie, an ISM activist, and that they
met with members of the International Solidarity Movement, Palestinian Authority
officials and foreign journalists, and received assistance from them. Yet there
was no prior intelligence about their arrival.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades
and Hamas, both religiously motivated organizations, claimed joint
responsibility for the attack.
TERRORISM WAS not born in the 20th
century; it has existed for thousands of years in every place where people
Its characteristics haven’t changed over the years; it has always
been the domain of individuals or groups outside military or civil society,
disconnected from any legitimate organization.
Although it originally
referred to the activities of states, for example the French Revolution’s “Reign
of Terror,” “terrorism” today is usually understood to mean acts of violence
perpetrated by individuals or non-governmental groups to get media
Historically, terrorism has also mainly been a domestic
phenomenon; usually directed against democratic regimes, although there have
been exceptions, such as the ETA in Franco’s Spain or the Shining Path in
Alberto Fujimori’s Peru.
Religiously motivated terrorism constituted a
significant change from the historical pattern. Religious terrorism is terrorism
performed by groups or individuals, typically motivated by faith-based tenets,
which have been performed on religious grounds with the hope to either spread or
enforce a system of beliefs or opinions.
Thus, terrorism was no longer
based just on struggles of organizations against states; terrorist operations
were being carried out against a background of religious fanaticism and ethnic
As a direct result, terrorist organizations began to operate
in many countries and have expanded their activities, in an attempt to spread
their influence all over the globe.
THE LOGICAL response of those
countries that have suffered terrorist attacks at the hands of extremist
religious organizations would have been to unite in the face of a common enemy,
whether by building cooperation mechanisms, mutual information transfer, joint
operations, etc. But this did not happen.
At first, and especially before
the events of September 11, cooperation between affected countries was mainly
influenced by their respective political strategies; their need to develop
natural alliances among themselves while at the same time maintaining normal
diplomatic relations with the countries where terrorism was born and
However, the events of 9/11 led to a fundamental change in how
intelligence organizations perceived their role in the common war against
terrorism. This was especially true of the intelligence organizations in the
United States and Europe.
Traditionally, for the Americans, the focus of
counter- terrorism efforts was external, and designed to keep the threat away
from its borders. Even the Department of Homeland Security is focused on
America’s borders and boundaries. This is logical, as the US faces fewer
internal threats. However in Europe, counterterrorism is more a domestic issue,
But slowly and gradually, Europe and America began to realize
that even if there is no political consensus, intelligence cooperation in the
war on terror is still possible and desirable. The Israel Security Agency, on
the other hand, understood the essential need for intelligence cooperation right
from the start, and established a mechanism for external relations with the
agencies in Europe and the United States.
Intelligence ties among the
various organizations have gradually improved, as has the transfer of
information among them. The direct result of this has been felt at several
TERRORIST SUSPECTS have been located and identified in their home
countries, and terrorist organizations in the early stages of formation exposed
and thwarted. Rapid and complete transfer of suspected terrorists’ details made
possible their detention and interrogation in the early stages of organization,
and terrorist attacks which had already been planned out avoided and thwarted,
saving thousands of lives in Israel and other countries.
cooperation between countries is the future. The success of the war against
fundamentalist terror organizations hinges on the extent of cooperation and
openness among the world’s intelligence organizations.
The writer is a
security expert and a former brigadier-general in the Israel Security Agency
(Shin Bet) who served as a bureau head.