20 July 2005

Identifying terrorists


On Salon, there's an interesting interview with Bruce Hoffman, of the RAND Corporation, on counterterrorism. In it, he says:
European and U.S. intelligence officials have been facing one particularly troubling question since the London attacks: How do you stop an enemy that you can no longer effectively categorize? The inability to profile the enemy — a pursuit deemed essentially impossible by Israeli security experts after extensive experience with suicide attacks there — makes it more critical than ever to take away terrorists' ability to recruit and regenerate, according to Hoffman. "Win, lose or draw in Iraq," he says, "in some respects the damage has been done." Hoffman spoke to Salon by phone from his office in Washington.
Ann Coulter et al would have you believe that profiling makes sense, but the Israelis, with their extensive experience, seem more trustworthy.
...the Dutch intelligence and security service report for 2002 had stated this was an emergent trend and a profound threat. They had noticed that terrorist recruiters and talent-spotters were no longer only hanging around radicalized mosques, but were deliberately seeking out youths, in this case Dutch, who were for all intents and purposes as Dutch and as adolescent as any other teenager — but who also had about them some sense of alienation or cultural dislocation. And they would move in, almost like sharks smelling blood, to exploit and radicalize people who were assimilated, many of whom had been born in the Netherlands rather than North Africa or Southeast Asia or the Middle East, and who hadn't been practicing Muslims.
This made me think of recruiters for religious cults, who target the same demographic. They are able to recruit people who feel they have no place in their own culture, or any purpose to their lives. Religion gives these people both of these things, and can inspire them to write the B-Minor Mass, or to detonate a bomb in a crowded market. It is our job, as a society, to give our members a place to belong and to give them a stake in our society. With that, they will choose beliefs and groups that build and strengthen, rather than those that destroy.