Terrorism, Security and the Power of Informal Networks

Terrorism, Security and the Power of Informal Networks

Edited by David Martin Jones, Ann Lane and Paul Schulte

This innovative work examines the concept of the informal network and its practical utility within the context of counterterrorism. Drawing together a range of practitioner and academic expertise it explores the character and evolution of informal networks, addressing the complex relationship between kinship groups, transnational linkages and the role that globalization and new technologies play in their formation and sustainability.

Chapter 2: Terrorist Networks: Strengths and Weaknesses

Peter Wilson

Subjects: politics and public policy, international politics, terrorism and security


Peter Wilson The best thing ever written on terrorism wasn’t by Conrad or Bobbitt but popped up on Not the Nine O’Clock News. The team played earnest young radicals poring over a copy of Das Kapital. One of them looked up and began reading out a particularly tedious passage. He paused, turned to his comrades and uttered words to the effect of: ‘Sod this, let’s just go and bomb something . . .’ (Michael Gove, The Times, 9 June 2008) In many ways we had more problems with the INLA [Irish National Liberation Army] than PIRA [Provisional Irish Republican Army]. PIRA had plans, strategies, logistic networks and structures to clear operations. We could infiltrate all that. INLA had a few blokes who’d just go to the pub, get drunk and say let’s go and kill a copper’. It was difficult to do much about that.1 This quote from a former Northern Irish police officer illustrates many of the strengths and weaknesses of using an informal network to commit terrorism. The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA)’s loose structure and lack of top-down direction or discipline made it hard for the security forces to counter. An attack could be conceived and implemented in the space of a few hours, by a small cell with no need to entrust their plans to insecure communications methods or unreliable colleagues.2 But of course in the end it was the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and its political wing Sinn Fein that achieved some of its aims...

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