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Terrorist sleeper cells: How to detect and evade

terrorism, sleeper cells, bombing

If the objectives are clear, then even a lieutenant can draw strategies for action- Donald .S. Rumsfeld

World nowadays is a pretty scary place. Daily there are reports of attempted bombings, suicide attacks, kidnappings for ransom etc. Most of them tagetted at civilians who are caught unawares.

The victims of terrorist attacks can be any body, not necessarily the ones who form parts of organizations that are fighting terrorism or the ones that hold strong views on religious fundamentalism or the ones who form part of organizations playing active roles in international politics. The basic aim of terrorists is to cause as much destruction as possible economically, psychologically and physically inorder to achieve objectives like control of certain regions , businesses, institutions and gain a say in major issues. Most terrorists aim to shape societies in particular fashions, so that they can control populations together. The attacks are carried out in stealthy and unexpected manner in order to propogate fear and hence command obedience. Terrorism is a habit, a habit that is cultivated by individuals and groups who are selfish and those who possess views that are very impractical. They also put up demands and propose rules that are unreasonable and show signs of innate wickedness of the proposer.

Common Misconceptions

Most people tend to regard terrorists as common thugs hailing from poor backgrounds and who lack education and proper employment oppurtunities and a terrorist attack as an activity carried out, out of frustration. This is an unacceptable proposition. Terrorism is an attack on a way of life.

There are no specific thumb rules with regards to social background, gender, intellectual level, education, skill or economic background to suggest the making of a terrorist. Infact most terrorists happen to be people from affluent backgrounds, highly skilled and educated, possessing good academic grades, showing exceptional capabilities at work, possessing great ability to plan and co-ordinate with precision, and sometimes also exhibit deep piety and faith in the almighty. They usually come across as very normal, social and even extroverted people. To be brief there is no activity good or bad that one can say a terrorist will not indulge in. Also, in stark contrast to the most widely propogated view that terrorists are mostly extremist loners who show no attachment to family and relations, it is noted that many terrorists have strong family bonds and value very much the relationship with their kith and kin and friends. What keeps them apart is the capacity to hate that they display on occasions and the innate selfishness and cunning. Terrorism flourishes in an atmosphere of political intrigue. Most terrorist attacks succeed because of the work done by terrorist sleeper cells. There fore a study on these cells can equip one to deal more effectively with terrorism. In this article I like to throw some light on how to detect, evade and destroy such cells.

What is a terrorist sleeper cell

A terrorist sleeper cell is a network of individuals that covertly collects data, collates the same and then systematically exchanges and transmits information. It need not necessarily be authorized by a particular terrorist organization or belonging to a particular community strictly. The fundamental strategy here is to poke out and transmit as much information as possible. The skills sought here are simply the abilities to consistently dig out information and co-ordinate effectively.

How Does a terrorist sleeper cell operate?

Terrorists set up organizations like consultancies etc. under false identity to provide employment, education and financial assistance. The receivers of benefits tend to show gratitude. This is how they buy influence. For example Hamas DUA charity programme has won it a lot of clandestine support .

How does a terrorist sleeper cell gather and transmit information?

Some times the terrorists simply set up mock organizations of individuals and name sake events (like friendly cricket matches, exhibitions, entertainment shows etc) around the targets. These individuals knowingly collect information by using their social networking skills. Some times they even observe the targets closely. Stalking intentionally and covertly is another technique employed to gather information. Stalking can also go to the level of periodically watching and reporting the target’s activities on electronic media like phones and internet.

Collection of data is done in an extremely surreptitious and meticulous manner. The organization of individuals who collect the data thus exchange them through discussions by which the information reaches the terrorists. Sometimes the passing of information could be through a series of signals by eyes and small vocal signals. Only some individuals in the information gathering organization thus set up know about the actual plans but most of them have the necessary skills and willingness to gather information. Sometimes a terrorist organization covertly buys information about targets from sources who willingly sell the same. They make use of opinion differences, prevalent confusion and politics of the place to do this.

How to detect and evade

Now we come to the most difficult part. Detection and evasion of a terrorist sleeper cell. Old adage of trusting good instincts of one’s self can help. An eye for detail is required. One also has to maintain a child like but not childish aptitude in spotting changes. That kind of meticulousness can help one in finding that information which could be at last a clinching explanation to the jigsaw of otherwise unexplainable. It is worthwhile to note that as a law of nature, no criminal activity can be completely hidden. Thus if there is a sleeper cell around the place, then an alert person will be able to detect it by observing suspicious behaviour (like for ex- use of cell phone cameras indiscriminately, trying to manipulate information and judgement, slyness and stealth, exhibition of unnatural interest in things and being overtly inquisitive and impulsive), but it takes a good deal of smartness and a definite no nonsense attitude and approach with consistency to detect these activities. When it comes to evading the trap set by sleeper cells, use of one’s sense of judgement and discrimination can help, as without slight co-operation from the target’s (If their target is a public place like a railway station or busstand or a super market, they tend to use menial labourers like watch men and peons as primary data sources, though they may not entirely depend on their information) side it will be very difficult (though not impossible) for the operatives to gather information and set traps. If by being assertive and straight one is able to deny them co-operation and overcome their sly (cell operative’s) diplomacy, then they begin to get manipulative at which instance the concerned person or body has to respond strongly.

Destroying the same

Assertive and fearless action is definitely required. Any sloppiness exhibited will definitely add to the confusion which can only help the terrorists either to escape or tighten their grip. So does a casual and negligent attitude. Alerting law and order authorities on observations may be a good action. One has to keep in mind that fighting terrorism is not like participating in a game where anybody can win. Here it is of utmost importance to see to it that the preset objectives of the struggle are being achieved systematically.
Published: 2007-10-10
Author: K.Sethumadhavan

About the author or the publisher
A management professional with eight years experience in telecommunications industry, I have written a lot of articles in subjects related to management and strategic information analysis.

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