Clandestine Cell System - Non-traditional Models, Exemplified By Al-Qaeda - A Possible Countermeasure

A Possible Countermeasure

In 2002, U.S. News & World Report said that American intelligence is beginning to acquire a sufficiently critical mass of intelligence on al-Qaida indicating "Once thought nearly impossible to penetrate, al Qaeda is proving no tougher a target than the KGB or the Mafia--closed societies that took the U.S. government years to get inside. "We're getting names, the different camps they trained at, the hierarchy, the infighting", says an intelligence official. "It's very promising." The report also said that the collected data has allowed the recruiting of informants.

Writing in the U.S. Army journal Military Review, David W. Pendall suggested that a "catch-and-release program for suspected operatives might create reluctance or distrust in such suspects and prevent them from further acts or, perhaps more important, create distrust in the cell leaders of these individuals in the future." The author noted the press release describing Ramzi Binalshib's cooperation with the United States "are sure to prevent reentry into a terrorist cell as a trusted member and most likely limits the further trust and assignments of close cell associates still at large. The captor would determine when to name names and when to remain silent." Indeed, once intelligence learns the name and characteristics of an at-large adversary, as well as some sensitive information that would plausibly be known to him, a news release could be issued to talk about his cooperation. Such a method could not be used too often, but, used carefully, could disturb the critical trust networks. The greatest uncertainty might be associated with throwing doubt onto a key member of an operational cell that has gone autonomous.

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