Counterterrorism Bookshelf:

16 Books on Terrorism & Counter-Terrorism-Related Subjects

Reviewed by Joshua Sinai

This column consists of capsule reviews of recent books from various publishers.

Aon and Risk Advisory, 2015 Terrorism & Political Violence Risk Map – A Guide (London, UK: The Risk Advisory Group, 2015), 38 pp. + map, no price [Paperback], http://www.aon.com/terrorismmap/.

This is an annually published map on the risk of terrorism and political violence around the world, which is further analyzed in the accompanying booklet. The guide’s findings and assessments are based on what it terms empirical ‘Terrorism Tracker’ data assembled by The Risk Advisory Group and Aon. The Risk Advisory Group is a global risk consultancy, based in London, and Aon is a global risk management, insurance brokerage and reinsurance brokerage firm. In the map, what are termed ‘peril’ icons are assigned to the world’s countries, covering a spectrum of political violence risks from low to high that are aggregated on a cumulative basis in the form of terrorism, sabotage, strikes and/or riots, malicious damage, insurrection, revolution and rebellion, mutiny and/or coup d’etat, and war and/or civil war. The booklet presents an introductory commentary, macro analysis and findings, regional overviews, and the methodology underpinning the overall analysis.

Edward J. Appel, Cybervetting: Internet Searches for Vetting, Investigations, and Open-Source Intelligence [Second edition] (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2015), 322 pp., US $ 67.96 [Hardcover], ISBN: 9781482238853.

This book presents practical and useful guidelines and practices for investigators and intelligence analysts to search the Internet as part of their investigations of individuals under suspicion but also for general or specific searches from open sources. The book’s first section, “Behavior and Technology,” discusses the Internet’s usefulness for investigations and how the Internet is used and ‘abused’ by criminals and other destructive actors; the second section, “Legal and Policy Context,” discusses laws and professional standards governing cyber investigations, including litigation cases; the third section, “Framework for Internet Searching,” discusses legal procedures and training tools; and the fourth section, “Internet Search Methodology,” discusses manual and automated search techniques, Internet intelligence reporting, types of illicit websites (ranging from child pornography to contraband digital assets), and Internet intelligence issues such as privacy and the adjudication of investigatory cases.

Lee Jarvis, Stuart Macdonald, and Thomas M. Chen (Eds.), Terrorism Online: Politics, Law and Technology (New York, NY: Routledge, 2015), 210 pp., US $ 155.00 [Hardcover], ISNB: 9780415732888.

This edited volume is the product of a conference on multidisciplinary approaches to analyzing terrorism online and the measures to counter it, which was held in Birmingham, UK, in April 2013. Following an introductory overview, the chapters discuss issues such as how terrorism online has become a new strategic environment; the activities of lone actor terrorists on the Internet; the prevalence of hacktivism, with the extremist Turkish hacktivist group, RedHack, examined as a case study; an application of a malware cost model (MCM) to assess the cost-benefit utility of cyberterrorism; applying criminal law and “punishment-based” deterrence to counter cyberterrorism; an examination of the effectiveness of government intelligence and security services in monitoring the activities of cyberterrorists; the effectiveness of transatlantic collaboration by European and American governments in countering cyberterrorism; and an examination of international laws and regulations that govern the use of force by states in retaliating against cyberterrorist attacks.

Jamie Bartlett, The Dark Net (London, UK: Windmill Books, 2015), 320 pp., US $ 27.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-0434023172.

This volume provides an extensively researched examination of the encrypted world of the ‘deep web’, which the author describes as “a catch-all term for the myriad shocking, disturbing and controversial corners of the net – the realm of imagined criminals and predators of all shapes and sizes.” (p. 3) A shortfall in this well written and informative book is the absence of an index to aid in identifying the cyber hacktivist individuals and groups discussed in the account. The author is a journalist and tech blogger for The Telegraph and Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, Demos, UK.

Parmy Olson, We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulSec, Anonymous and the Global Cyber Insurgency (London, England: William Heinemann, 2013), 528 pp., US $ 16.00 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-0316213523.

This book offers a comprehensive and gripping account of the appeal, activities and targeting of the global network of cyber hacktivists in the form of LulzSec and Anonymous, a loosely-affiliated network of political extremists who engage in cyber breaching of their perceived government and corporate adversaries. The author is a San Francisco-based writer with Forbes magazine.

Mark Galeotti, Russian Security and Paramilitary Forces Since 1991 (New York, NY: Osprey Publishing, 2013), 58 pp., US $ 18.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1780961057.

Islamist terrorism represents a major domestic threat to the Russian Federation (which is likely to increase in response to Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war against the Islamic State), yet little is generally known about Russia’s domestic security services that are tasked to counter such threats. This slim and authoritative volume provides valuable details about these forces and their operations, ranging from the MVD, the Interior Troops (VV), the Federal Security Service (FSB), and other services, such as Military Police (VP), the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and the Ministry of Emergency Situations (MChS). Also discussed are these security services’ tactics and weaponry. The text is accompanied by numerous illustrations and photos. The author, a professor at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University, is a noted expert on the Russian military and national security.

Mark Galeotti, Russia’s Wars in Chechnya, 1994-2009 (New York, NY: Osprey Publishing, 2014), 96 pp., US $ 20.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1782002772.

This book presents an authoritative account of the origins and history of Russia’s counterinsurgency campaigns in Chechnya against the region’s Islamist militants. Beginning with a chronology of the insurgency in the modern era, the book then discusses the nature of the warring sides, how the earlier ‘edition’ of the war ended in 2009, and likely future trends. One of the author’s conclusions is especially pertinent to understanding the current period, as he writes: “the rest of the North Caucasus is experiencing rising local national and jihadist insurgency, which could yet blow back into Chechnya.” (p. 91) In this light, it will be interesting to see if Russia’s current intervention in Syria against the Islamic State will blow-back into Chechnya and the North Caucasus. The text is accompanied by numerous illustrations and photos.

Mark Galeotti, Spetsnaz: Russia’s Special Forces (New York, NY: 2015), 64 pp., US $ 18.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1472807229.

With Russia’s Spetsnaz Special Forces reportedly deployed in Syria and the Ukraine, this slim yet authoritative volume is of special interest as it discusses these forces’ Bolshevik legacy and their role during the Cold War, including in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. Also discussed is their role in the first and second Chechen Wars (1994–96 and 1999–2002). The examination of their role in the contemporary era is especially pertinent, with accounts of their activities in Georgia (2008) and in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014. The final chapter discusses their weapons, equipment, and tactics. The book is accompanied by numerous illustrations and photos.

Elena Pokalova, Chechnya’s Terrorist Network: The Evolution of Terrorism in Russia’s North Caucasus (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger/ABC-Clio, LLC, 2015), 259 pp., US $ 52.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-4408-3154-6.

This book provides a comprehensive and detailed account of the origins, root causes, religio-nationalist ideology, evolution and current state of Islamist terrorism in Russia’s North Caucasus region and Russia’s counterterrorism response measures. The book’s chapters discuss issues such as the historical relationship between Russia and the North Caucasus; the terrorist outbreak against Russia, which began in November 1991; the religio-ideological underpinnings of Chechen terrorism, such as its incorporation of global jihadism and its use of suicide martyrdom operations, including by female ‘Black Widows’; Russia’s counterterrorism response measures by its military and security services; and the formation of the Caucasus Emirate in 2007 and the nature of its subsequent use of terrorism. The concluding chapter assesses the effectiveness of Russia’s counterterrorism campaign, which the author criticizes for “overreliance on the hard-line approach to terrorism [which] risk further alienating the populations that might subsequently radicalize and join the ranks of terrorists.” (p. 182) The author is an assistant professor of international security studies at the College of International Security Affairs of the National Defense University, in Washington, DC. [This volume is part of Praeger Security International’s guides to terrorists, insurgents, and armed groups, of which James J.F. Forest, PT’s Co-Editor, is the Series Editor]

Boaz Ganor, Global Alert: The Rationality of Modern Islamist Terrorism and the Challenge to the Liberal Democratic World (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2015), 240 pp., US $ 35.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 9780231172127.

This book seeks to bridge the gap between what the author terms the sophistication of the ‘plague’ of Islamist-jihadist terrorism in exploiting the Western world’s liberal democratic values and the West’s difficulty in “attaining effective and balanced counter-terrorism policies” in response. (pp. ix-x) To accomplish this objective, the author begins with an overview of terrorism in general as multidimensional warfare, and then proceeds to discuss the challenges and dilemmas faced by liberal democracies in coping with Islamist terrorism, including whether liberal democracy is the “solution to terrorism – or part of the problem” (e.g., by overly appeasing such extremists in their midst); a cost-benefit-based conceptual model developed by the author on formulating proportionality in countering terrorism; the involvement by states, such as Iran, in sponsoring or engaging in terrorism; the nature of Islamist terrorist groups, such as the Palestinian Hamas (which is also discussed in a separate chapter) and the Lebanese Hizballah, as hybrid terrorist organizations that also engage in social welfare and political activities (including contesting elections). Boaz Ganor also analyses the rationales underlying these groups’ strategies, tactics, targeting choices, and overall warfare (e.g., conventional to WMD warfare).

There is much to commend in this book, especially the discussion in Chapter 8, “The Practical Aspects of an Islamist Terrorist Organization’s Rationale,” of the decision by such groups to engage in terrorism or guerrilla warfare, how they shape their warfare to appeal to internal, targeted, and international audiences, and the top-down and bottom-up triggers that are factored in their attack decisions. Also highly useful is the examination in Chapter 9, “Understanding the Rationale Behind Different Types of Terrorist Attacks,” of the distinction between personal initiative and organized terrorist attacks; the various steps involved in planning, training for, and conducting an attack; the distinction between ‘conventional’ and suicide attacks; and the rationale behind potential weapons of mass destruction attacks.

Some parts of the book, however, are problematic. The chapter on “The Proportionality Dilemma in Countering Terrorism” doesn’t really fit as a chapter 3, since it seems separate and out of place from the previous two chapters (as well as from the subsequent chapters) and could better have been placed in an appendix. It is written in a different style than the other chapters as it is a highly theoretical, is intended as a decision support tool, and the model it presents as a mathematical formula of proportionality = military necessity (advantage) over expected collateral damage would be too difficult for most readers to comprehend and, in any case, serves to distract the reader from the author’s primary thesis.

In Chapter 6, “Is Liberal Democracy the Solution to Terrorism – Or Is It Part of the Problem?,” Dr. Ganor’s discussion of recent American counter-terrorism policy is overly general as it relies on certain public doctrinal statements, but does not discuss the tremendous upgrades in American counterterrorism by the Bush and Obama administrations in transforming the FBI into an effective and proactive domestic counterterrorism agency, as well as its proactive use of the intelligence and military services overseas to target Islamist terrorists.

Finally, with Israel included by Dr. Ganor as an example of liberal democracy, his analysis would have benefited from a discussion of how the Israeli government has attempted to counter Jewish far-right religio-nationalist terrorism and whether such Jewish extremists and terrorists are also taking advantage of the state’s ‘liberal’ character – just like their Islamist counterparts in the West.

Dr. Ganor concludes, rightfully, that effective counterterrorism campaigns by liberal democracies must be comprehensive and integrated in their political, legal, military, and law enforcement measures, while adhering to the “legal legitimacy of liberal democracy.” (pp. 176-177)

Prof. Ganor is the Executive Director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) and a Dean at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel.

Rohan Gunaratna and Aviv Oreg, The Global Jihad Movement (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), 460 pp., US $ 75.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1442245419.

This handbook presents a comprehensive, detailed, and authoritative overview of the global Jihadi movement and its disparate affiliates, with a focus on their infrastructure, operational capabilities, and terrorist activities. The book is divided into six chapters, beginning with a short introduction that discusses the general structure and characteristics of Jihadi terrorist organizations, the nature of their leadership, command cadre and network structures, how their largely hierarchical organizational structures have been affected by the killings of many of their commanders, and, as part of the discussion of al Qaida’s history and evolution, its trajectory into external Jihad prior to 9/11. Following the introductory outline, the other chapters discuss the evolution of al Qaida’s Salafi Jihadi ideology since 9/11 (including the earlier ideological debate over the future of Jihadism between the late Abdullah Azzam and Ayman al-Zawahiri (al Qaida’s current leader), its organizational structure, its affiliated groups around the world (such as Jemmah Islamiyah and al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula) and their geographical areas of operation (in conflict zones such as Chechnya, Egypt, Iraq, Libya and Syria), and new trends such as the emergence of lone wolves and homegrown violent extremists in Western countries and how they operate, especially via the Internet’s extremist sites’ radicalization, command and control, funding and logistical mechanisms. The book concludes with a discussion of the effectiveness of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) against the global Jihad with the authors finding that “jihadi terror is changing, yet never diminishing or even reducing,” and that “we now face new characteristics of a multi-organizational style as many elements – affiliated organizations and inspired individuals – are currently carrying the torch of jihad by conducting terrorist activities with international characteristics.” (p. 417) The authors also conclude that on the home front, “the campaign against Islamic radicalization and extremism seems to be a great failure.…as it seems to have only limited impact as the numbers of Western jihadi volunteers that have been traveling to Syria illustrates.” (p. 417) Rohan Gunaratna is professor of security studies and head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Aviv Oreg, an Israeli researcher, is the former head of the al Qaida and Global Jihad desk in the Analysis and Research Division of the IDF Intelligence Branch.

Bruce Hoffman, Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917 – 1947 (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), 640 pp., US $ 35.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0307594716.

This book centers around the author’s thesis of whether the resort to terrorism works in achieving a group’s political objectives (such as in overthrowing a colonial ruler) through a detailed examination of the use of terrorism by the right-wing Jewish underground against the British Mandatory authorities (although Palestinian Arabs were also attacked) during the formative period of Israeli pre-statehood in Palestine from 1917 to 1947. The Irgun (“Ha-Irgun Ha-Tzvai Ha-Leumi b-Eretz Yisrael,” also known by its acronym Etzel) and Lehi (the acronym of Lohamei Herut Israel, “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel,” also known as the Stern Gang) are the primary right-wing Jewish terrorist groups whose leaders, ideologies, and armed operations are examined to test the author’s thesis. Here, a criticism of the author’s overall approach is warranted since it was—in the view of this reviewer—actually the left-of-center Jewish paramilitary underground, led by the Haganah (“The Defense”) and the Palmach (acronym for “Plugot Mahatz”, “Strike Forces”), its elite special forces, under the political leadership of David Ben Gurion and the Mapai party, in collaboration with Chaim Weizmann (in his role as the top diplomat and statesman), that ultimately succeeded in bringing about Israeli statehood in May 1948, and not the Irgun or its leader Menachem Begin, as argued by the author. This is not intended to diminish the roles played by the Irgun and Lehi in militarily opposing British mandatory rule, but to point out that it was the more responsible and pragmatic left-of-center Zionist mainstream (including its role in the pre-state nation-building program – which was of little interest to the right-wing underground) that led the Yishuv (Palestine’s Jewish Community) to proclaim Israeli statehood in May 1948. Thus, it was the pragmatism of the mainstream Zionist governing parties and not the Irgun or Lehi’s primary focus on terrorism that ultimately brought about Israeli independence and statehood. In fact, the Irgun continued to act so irresponsibly in the aftermath of statehood that the newly established Mapai-led government was forced to sink the Altalena, the Irgun’s ship that had attempted to illicitly smuggle arms into Israel in June 1948. Despite these criticisms, Dr. Hoffman’s book is tremendously well researched, using declassified primary sources from British archives, and is well written.

Leigh Neville, Special Forces in the War on Terror (New York, NY: Osprey Publishing, 2015), 352 pp., US $ 32.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-4728-0790-8.

This book offers a detailed account of the history and evolution of U.S.-led Special Forces in counter-terrorism campaigns against Islamist terrorism since 9/11. Beginning with an introductory overview of the world of terrorism prior to 9/11, the book’s chapters cover topics such as the role of Special Forces in Afghanistan in overthrowing the Taliban regime in the aftermath of 9/11 (as well as their counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan through 2014 – including their mission to capture or kill Usama bin Laden in late May 2010), their operations in Iraq from 2003 to 2012, as well as their activities in new theaters of operations in Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Mali, and Syria. The author concludes that “Special Operations Forces will continue to be the tip of the spear in this global war against terrorism,” but that it is ultimately up to local government forces to lead such military campaigns with their own united governments supported by their own people. (p. 317) The book is illustrated with numerous photographs and maps that visualize the text. The author is an Australian military journalist and writer.

Alexander Stilwell, Special Forces in Action: Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Africa, Balkans [Updated edition] (London, UK: Amber Books, 2015), 224 pp., US $ 34.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-78274-254-8.

This volume provides an account of some of the major operations by Special Forces since 1990 in conflict zones in Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans, South America, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan. The introductory chapter presents a valuable overview of the history of Special Forces, beginning with a discussion of T.E. Lawrence’s role in bringing irregular operations into the sphere of military strategy and operations against the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, as well as the use of Special Forces in the Second World War, in Vietnam, and against terrorists and drug lords in cases such as Entebbe (July 1976), Mogadishu (October 1977), and Panama (1989). The use of Special Forces in counter-terrorism is also covered, with an interesting discussion of their desired operational capabilities described by the author as personnel survivability, counter WMD, mobility in denied areas and remote reconnaissance, sensory enhancements, and use of versatile weapons with “broader range of effects.” (p. 196) The text is illustrated by numerous photographs and also features sidebars that contain additional information and explanation. The author is a veteran British author on military subjects.

Elzbieta Posluszna, Environmental and Animal Rights Extremism, Terrorism and National Security (Boston, MA: Elsevier/Butterworth-Heinemann, 2015), 278 pp., US $ 50.96 [Paperback], ISBN: 9780128014783.

In this book the author provides an interesting theoretical and detailed examination of the nature and activities of environmental and animal rights extremist and terrorist groups in Europe and the United States. The book is divided into five parts. The first part presents a theoretical perspective on extremism, its origins and characteristics, and the conditions under which it turns to terrorism. The second part is an overview of animal rights extremism, with an analysis of its ideological foundations in justifying the use of violence, its history, and the movement’s leading groups, such as the Animal Liberation Front and Band of Mercy. The third part focuses on environmental extremism, its origins, root causes, and what the author terms “anarchist social ecology.” The groups discussed range from Greenpeace’s non-violent extremists to the violent Earth Liberation Front. Part four discusses these extremist groups’ strategy and organization which are primarily leaderless resistance in nature and extensively active on the Internet, where they wage a “netwar” type of warfare. Also discussed are prominent lone wolves, such as the Dutchman Volkert van der Graaf (an animal rights extremist) and the American Theodore Kacyznski (known as the “Unabomber”). The final part discusses new trends in these types of violent extremists, such as the impacts of globalization, the Internet, cyberterrorism, and hacktivist-type swarming attacks in cyberspace against their adversary targets. The author concludes that “So far, only in the case of animal rights extremism can one talk about multiple, and hence, as it seems, not accidental, violation of the declared ‘no hurting humans’ principle.” (p. 224) The author is a professor on the Faculty of National Security and Logistics of the Polish Air Force Academy.

Benjamin E. Schwartz, Right of Boom: The Aftermath of Nuclear Terrorism (New York, NY: The Overlook Press, 2015), 224 pp., US $ 27.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1468309942.

This volume provides a discussion of the likelihood of a terrorist group such as al Qaida to launch a nuclear weapon attack, the measures required to counter problematic nuclear states (such as North Korea or Iran) or fragile nuclear states (such as Pakistan) that might make it feasible for terrorist groups to acquire such weapons, and the unprecedented measures that the United States would need to implement in the aftermath of a potential nuclear attack. The author is a career U.S. government official in the Department of State and Department of Defense.

About the Reviewer: Dr. Joshua Sinai is the Book Reviews Editor of ‘Perspectives on Terrorism’. He can be reached at: [email protected].

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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