Counterterrorism Bookshelf: 20 Books on Terrorism & Counter-Terrorism-Related Subjects

reviewed by Joshua Sinai

This column consists of 20 capsule reviews of books from various publishers. It is arranged into (i) general accounts (including works on specific topics),(ii)books on counterterrorism (general and legal issues),(iii)anarchism, and(iv) Boko Haram.

Terrorism – General Accounts

Banu Baybars-Hawks and Lemi Baruh (Eds.), If it was not for Terrorism: Crisis, Compromise, and Elite Discourse in the Age of “War on Terror” (Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011), 230 pp., US $ 67.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-4438-3162-8.

This volume is based on selected papers presented at a conference titled “Societies Under Siege: Media, Government, Politics, and Citizen’s Freedom in an Age of Terrorism,” held at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, in April 2009, as well as additional papers solicited following the conference. The editors’ introductory overview describes the volume’s objective as aiming to examine “the hegemonic power that is exercised by elites (and mass media) through the discourse of ‘War on Terror.’ The chapters in the volume provide case studies from a wide variety of geographies to debate questions regarding the construction of the meaning of ‘terrorism’, communication of collective identities and otherness, and media frames regarding the ‘War on Terror, civil liberties, and government restrictions” (p. 4). To examine these issues, the volume is divided into two parts. The first part, “’War on Terror’, Elite Rhetoric, and Collective Identity,” features articles that examine how the New York Times had covered the United Nations 1972 General Assembly debates on defining terrorism, how British newspaper covered the July 7, 2005, bombings, how the Northern Ireland media covered the PIRA and UDA – Ulster Defence Association, how three Turkish newspapers cover terrorism, and a German perspective on covering the war in Afghanistan. The second part, “Media Frames, Compromises, and Resistance,” includes articles that examine how the news media in Japan cover civil liberties and restrictions on press freedom, how terrorism and anti-globalization movements are covered, how government counterterrorism and surveillance measures are covered, and how cyberspace has become an attractive medium for Turkish hacker and terrorist groups. Banu Baybars-Hawks is Professor and Chair, Department of PR and Communications, Kadir Has University, Istanbul, Turkey. Lemi Baruh is Associate Professor, Department of Media and Visual Arts, at Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey.

David Carlton and Carlo Schaerf (Eds.), International Terrorism and World Security [Routledge Library Editions: Terrorism and Insurgency, Volume 3] (London, UK: Croom Helm, 1975/New York, NY: Routledge, 2015), 338 pp., US $ 155.00 [Hardcover], US $ 45.00 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-1388-9977-3.

This edited volume was originally published in 1975 and reissued by the publisher as part of a series of significant books on terrorism and counterterrorism subjects. The book’s chapters were presented at the Fifth Course of the International School on Disarmament and Research on Conflicts, held in Urbino, Italy, between August 12 to 24, 1974. Following a summary of the conference’s proceedings by J. Henk Leurdijk, the book is divided into four parts: part I: “International Terrorism”; part II: “The Arms Race”; part III: “European and Middle East Security”; and part IV: “Peace Teaching and the Study of Conflict.” Although the subject matter of the book’s six chapters on international terrorism are dated, the authors’ analyses of terrorism are still relevant and worth noting. This begins with Brian Jenkins’ excellent chapter on “International Terrorism: A New Mode of Conflict” – which was one of the first attempts to define terrorism – in which he explains that the objective of terrorism’s violence is “designed primarily to instill fear,” that it is “violence for effect,” to which he adds that “the victim may be totally unrelated to the terrorist’s cause. Terrorism is violence aimed at the people watching. Fear is the intended effect, not the by-product of terrorism” (p. 14). In a further elaboration, he explains that the objectives of terrorists are to “inspire and manipulate fear to achieve a variety of purposes” to gain publicity; cause widespread disorder, including demoralize society and break down the social order; deliberately provoke government repression and reprisals that “may ultimately lead to the collapse of an unpopular government”; used by governments “to enforce obedience and cooperation”; and “is frequently meant to punish” (pp. 16-18). He also makes the important point that, as an Israeli military officer had explained to him, terrorism can be “debilitating” to the targeted enemy, estimating at the time, although it is still current today, that “the total cost in men and money to Israel for all defensive and offensive measures against at most a few thousand Arab terrorists was forty times that of the Six Day War in 1967” (p. 31). The chapter by Gaston Bouthoul, on “Definitions of Terrorism,” also presents a still relevant analysis of the seven characteristics of terrorism, which he explains as being clandestine in nature; as not being restricted to attacking an “overt enemy, but also strik[ing] at the innocent in order to create fear and insecurity”; by acting in secrecy, such an “anonymous, unidentified threat creates huge anxiety”; two traits of terrorism are psychological and “an Adlerian compensation complex, created by deeply resented frustrations and humiliation”; terrorism is “influenced by intellectual and doctrinal fashions”; there is an element in terrorism of “imitation in the techniques employed” by others; and, in an insight that applies to current-day lone wolves, “Among terrorists there is the power of suggestion: there are, for example, solitary men who are controlled by an idee fixe” (pp. 50-53). J. Bowyer Bell’s chapter on “Revolutionary Organizations: Special Cases and Imperfect Models” includes the insight that terrorist leaders “share a commitment to the efficacy of force, tend to have tunnel vision in excluding compromising options, and are convinced of ultimate and complete victory of their just case…” (p. 92). The discipline of terrorism and counterterrorism studies greatly benefits from the insights presented by the re-issuance of such books from the 1970s.

Shimi Friedman, The Hilltop Youth: A Stage of Resistance and Counter Culture Practice (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2017), 112 pp., US $ 80.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-4985-6094-8.

The author employs an ethnographic approach, including extensive field research, to examine the “Hilltop Youth,” the militant religious-nationalist Jewish movement in Israel, who physically push to establish new illegal settlements in the West Bank. They also utilize civil disobedience to oppose the evacuation of settlements that the Israeli government or the Supreme Court consider to be illegal. The first chapter presents an overview of origins of the Jewish settlement in the West Bank in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and how the “Hilltop Youth” emerged in South Mount Hebron as a rebellion against their settler parents’ generation, which they felt was not being aggressively activist in their religious practices and settlement activity. The second chapter discusses the author’s ethnographic field work with the “Hilltop Youth,” including the dilemmas for a researcher-participant in witnessing violent events involving his research subjects. The third chapter assesses the academic research conducted on the Jewish settlers, including theoretical frameworks that examine how an extremist group such as the “Hilltop Youth” emerges within the context of their parents’ generation, and their strong attachment to agricultural settlements. The fourth chapter presents the stories of the youths that the author uncovers in his field research and describes their ideological, social and political outlooks that emerged from his interviews. This includes how they became socially marginalized within the settler movement because of their criticism of what they consider to be the “social failings” of religious Zionism and their tactic of employing extreme actions such as physical confrontation to demonstrate “ownership” of the settlement enterprise. In his conclusion, the author finds that “the Hilltop Youth gangs are a temporary phenomenon that will pass. Their spontaneous gathering together and their aspirations for self-rehabilitation are expressions of their search for meaning, identity and a home” (p. 85). Whether this prognosis will pan out is yet to be determined, but it is an interesting thesis to ponder. For the sake of transparency, this reviewer wrote the book’s Foreword. The author is a lecturer in the Department of Education at Ariel University, in Ariel, West Bank/Israel.

Donald Holbrook (Ed.), Al-Qaeda 2.0: A Critical Reader (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2017), 320 pp., US $ 32.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-0-1908-5644-1.

This is a comprehensive collection of primary source statements and writings by leading al-Qaida leaders and ideologues, focusing on the post-May 2011 period, when Ayman al-Zawahiri assumed leadership of the group following the assassination of Usama bin Laden. The volume is divided into three parts, with the translations arranged chronologically. The first part, “Al-Qaeda After the Arab Spring,” focuses on the May 2011 to February 2014 period. It presents al Qaida’s approach to the Arab Spring, with statements by al-Zawahiri such as “General Guidelines for the Work of Jihad” (September 2013). The second part, “Al-Qaeda and the Syrian Fitna,” focuses the beginning of the rivalry between the Islamist combatants in Syria affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamist State, which had claimed the primary role in the jihadi insurgency in the country. It includes statements such as al-Zawahiri’s May 2014 “Testimony to Preserve the Blood of the Mujahidin in Al Sham.” The third part, “Al-Qaeda and the ‘Islamic State,’” focuses on the rift between al Qaida and the Islamic State, including the mutual public denunciations by al-Zawahiri and the Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It includes al-Zawahiri’s December 2015 statement, “Sham [Syria] Is Entrusted Upon Your Shoulders,” in which he denounces the Islamic State. The volume’s compilation and translation of primary source material, with each statement briefly introduced by the editor, offers researchers an important resource for understanding the evolution of al Qaida in the al-Zawahiri era, including how it approaches its rivalry with the Islamic State. It also includes a useful timeline that plots the evolution of themes presented in the statements. The author is a Lecturer in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at the University of Lancaster, England, UK.

Wesley Kendall, Joseph M. Siracusa, and Kevin Noguchi, Language of Terror: How Neuroscience Influences Political Speech in the United States (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), 168 pp., US $ 85.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-4422-3582-3.

Drawing on the field of neuropsychology and what the authors refer to as the ‘biopolitics of security’, the book examines how political speech is crafted to manipulate a country’s population to support the legitimacy of a government’s counterterrorism campaign. The United States is used as the setting for what the authors term a “multiphase qualitative case study approach” used to examine the case of Luis Posada Carriles, the CIA-funded Cuban exile responsible for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people and how it contrasts with a the case of Mogamed al-Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence officer convicted in 2001 of the Pan Am Flight 103 airliner bombing that killed 270 people over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988. The analysis of political language used to cover these and other cases, as the authors explain, involves “examining the content of the speech, how speech is assimilated by different political groups, and how the speech is ultimately acted upon by the consumers of the information, namely the electorate” (p. 3). The authors find that in America, such political language has been used to tremendous effect. It claims that “…. although the research suggests that some people may be more genetically predisposed to suspending rationality and more receptive to reactionary political pronouncements, the pervasive social pressures of a militarized society (that controls a massive global military-industrial complex that profits hugely from the war on terror and invests heavily in the war’s narrative) make policy decisions in the war difficult for all American citizens” (p. 142). Although this conclusion may be challenged as unfair, since the authors do not critique the terrorists’ operations that might justify governments’ counter-terrorism campaigns against them, which may explain how the language of such campaigns are shaped, the book still presents an important methodological contribution to examining the neuroscience that underlies the use of political language in society. Joseph Siracusa is professor of Human Security and International Diplomacy and Discipline Head of Global Studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, Australia. Wesley Kendall is Assistant Professor of Law and Law Studies Program Director at West Virginia University Parkersburg. Kevin Noguchi is research Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis, Missouri.

Belgin San-Akca, States in Disguise: Causes of State Support for Rebel Groups (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016), 320 pp., US $ 105.00 [Hardcover], US $ 36.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-0-1902-5090-4.

This is a conceptually innovative empirical examination of the interaction of motivations and strategies pursued by states and their rebel organization proxies towards each other. It draws on the author’s data set of 455 groups, their target states and supporters over a period of more than sixty years. In the book’s introduction, the author presents the theoretical framework and the hypotheses to be tested, suggesting that “states might be driven by strategic and/or ideational motives in supporting rebels. Yet their calculus is mostly a function of domestic troubles that leaders face and their expectations about dealing with possible retaliation from a rebel group’s target. When states face internal and external threats simultaneously, they are more likely to resort to rebel groups against their external adversaries. On the other hand, weak states are not necessarily the most preferred sources of support by rebels for two reasons: they do not have the ability to deal with a possible retaliation, and they lack the infrastructure and resources required for maintaining persistent operations against their targets” (p. 20). These issues are examined in four chapters that present the study’s research design, data collection, and coding procedures, as well as the determinants driving state support for armed groups as well as rebels’ own selection drivers. In the concluding chapter, the author discusses the study’s findings on trends in state support to rebel groups. The book’s appendices present the study’s sample data table, codebook, and the entire cases of state intentional support of rebel groups from 1945 to 2010. Such an empirical approach to analyzing the factors driving state support to rebel groups make this book an important contribution to the literature on state support of rebel groups, whether terrorist or guerrilla in their main tactics. The author is Assistant Professor of International Relations at Koç University, in Istanbul, Turkey.

Upinder Singh, Political Violence in Ancient India (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017), 616 pp., US $ 45.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-6749-7527-9.

Political, religious, and communal violence is a pervasive characteristic of Indian society, especially since 1947 when British India was partitioned into a majority Hindu India and the new Muslim state of Pakistan. This book examines how this violent tradition’s origins were represented in historic Indian epics, religious texts, political treaties, plays, poems, inscriptions, and art from 600 BCE to 600 BCE. Although the discussion is brief, the author shows how historic texts have influenced “the Hindutva agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the communal polarization over building a Rama temple at Ayodhya, and the violent destruction of the Babri mosque in 1992” (p. 472). The author also points out that “The idea of a peace-loving, nonviolent India exists, persists, as part of a selectively constructed and assiduously cultivated national self-image in the midst of a society pervaded by social and political violence” (p. 481). Although this book briefly discusses the phenomenon of political violence in contemporary India, the discussion of historical texts provides an important context for understanding the theological and philosophical ideas that shape the approaches to violence and non-violence in contemporary Indian society. The author is Professor in the Department of History at the University of Delhi, New Delhi, India.

Alexandra Stein, Terror, Love & Brainwashing: Attachment in Cults and Totalitarian Systems (New York, NY: Routledge, 2017), 236 pp., US $ 160.00 [Hardcover], US $ 30.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-1386-7797-5.

This is a highly interesting and innovative conceptual approach to explain the phenomenon of how cults (including cult-like terrorist groups) succeed in indoctrinating susceptible individuals into joining them and the methods that can be used to disengage members from such groups. As the author explains, “the central aim of this book is to show the common social psychological and structural elements that link these varied situations and that result in charismatic, authoritarian leaders shaping the minds of followers so that they are not able to act in their own survival interests. This mind-shaping activity can be usefully termed brainwashing or coercive persuasion. The structures in which this takes place I refer to as totalist systems” (p. 7). To examine these processes, the book’s chapters cover topics such as recruitment, indoctrination into a cults ideology and practices, isolation from family and friends, and the role of “totalist” leaders in controlling the group’s members to such an extent that “they will obey his or her orders even to the point of killing themselves, and sometimes even sacrificing their own children.…” (p. 3). In terms of organization, the author provides a valuable diagram that visualizes the structure of a totalist system as a network that is led by a charismatic authoritarian leader, followed by secondary leadership/lieutenants, front groups (fellow travelers/periphery), and an inner core of group members (p. 117). This conceptual framework is applied to explaining the experiences of individuals studied by the author who were members of cults such as Aum Shinrikyo, the Church of Scientology, Heaven’s Gate, the MEK (Mujahedin e-Khalq), and others. To prevent the recruitment of susceptible individuals into cults, the author presents a public health approach that is based, at the individual level, “on a general improvement in securely attached relationships both in early childhood and in communities,” while at the societal level, the “social, economic and community supports available to families” need to be improved, including “improving education on the importance of security attachment” (p. 205). The appendices include a useful “Group Attachment Interview” template and a table that distinguishes between the characteristics of relationships in “eye-level egalitarian” groups and those in “abusive, authoritarian” groups. The author, a social psychologist who had been a member of a political cult in her youth, is an Associate Lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London, England, UK.

Counterterrorism – General

Fiona de Londras and Josephine Doody (Eds.), The Impact, Legitimacy and Effectiveness of EU Counter-Terrorism (New York, NY: Routledge, 2015), 232 pp., US $ 148.00 [Hardcover], US $ 49.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-1388-5413-0.

As explained by the volume’s editors, “Taking into account legal, societal, operational and democratic perspectives, this collection connects theoretical and practical approaches to produce an interdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder understanding of how we might understand and measure and impact, legitimacy and effectiveness of EU counter-terrorism” (p. 2). To examine these issues, following the editors’ introductory overview, the book is divided into three parts. The chapters in the first part, “EU Counter-Terrorism: Its Scope and Institutions,” catalog the European Union’s (EU) counter-terrorism measures and the institutional framework that implements them throughout Europe. The chapters in the second part, “Disciplinary Perspectives on EU Counter-Terrorism,” draw on legal, societal and democratic approaches to examine key concepts, such as the effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights, and the impacts of European counter-terrorism on human rights and democratic legitimacy. The chapters in the third part, “Practical Perspectives on EU Counter-Terrorism,” complement the theoretical discussions with the perspectives of end-users in society who are affected by such policies, including policy-makers.

What is especially noteworthy about this volume is that counterterrorism is usually viewed as government centric, so it is valuable to focus on the effectiveness of a regional organization, such as the EU, in implementing a counterterrorism campaign, although, in the case of the EU, this campaign consists primarily of legal and diplomatic efforts (including intelligence sharing). The volume’s chapters also provide insight into the components of counterterrorism. Chapter 9, “Civil Society and Policy-Maker Perspectives on EU Counter-Terrorism,” by Josephine Doody and Rosemarijn van der Hilst, highlights the difficulty in measuring effectiveness, because, as one of the participants in their study observed, “obviously when you prevent attacks then you might not know that there would otherwise have been an attack,” and, as another participant observed, “No result is a good result” (p. 198). In the concluding chapter, “Governance Gaps in EU Counter-Terrorism: Implications for Democracy and Constitutionalism,” co-editor Fiona de Londras observes that in assessing the effectiveness and legitimacy of the EU’s measures, these should be reviewed on a “regular, participatory, public” basis and “capable of bringing about policy, legal, practical and political reorientation by providing a rigorous evidence base for policy (re)evaluation” (p. 228). Both editors are associated with the Durham Law School, Durham University, England, UK.

Lee Jarvis and Michael Lister, Anti-Terrorism, Citizenship and Security (Manchester, England, UK: Manchester University Press/New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015), 208 pp., US $ 110.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-7190-9159-9.

This book examines the development and impact of anti-terrorism powers in the United Kingdom since 9/11 in enhancing the security of British citizens. Specifically, it examines its impact on maintaining the balance between “the rights and freedoms citizens enjoy (and thus the formal content of citizenship) and the quality or level of security experienced” (p. 2). To examine these issues, the book’s chapters seek to answer four related questions: how are anti-terrorism powers “understood, assessed and discussed by different publics across the UK”; how do they impact on the “experience of citizenship”; how do they impact on the state of security; and how these different questions about citizenship and security “connect to evaluations of anti-terrorism powers” (pp. 3-4). The authors conclude that it is crucial for policy makers to engage “with citizens’ views on security and citizenship” and that understanding the impact of anti-terrorism measures “needs to shift from a straightforward consideration of ‘how to respond’, to include analysis of what anti-terrorism does, in as wide and as detailed a framework as possible” (p. 161). One of the book’s weaknesses is the lack of an examination of the magnitude of the terrorist threats facing Britain, which would have provided a wider context for discussing the impact of anti-terrorism measures on the country’s citizenry. Nevertheless, this book still serves as an important reminder that a government’s anti-terrorism measures need to consider their impact on preserving a democratic society’s balance between the need to ensure security while maintaining an appropriate level of civil liberties. Lee Jarvis is Senior Lecturer in International Security at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, and Michael Lister is Reader in Politics at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, England.

Montgomery McFate and Janice H. Laurence (Eds.), Social Science Goes to War: The Human Terrain System in Iraq and Afghanistan (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015), 320 pp., US $ 39.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-0-1902-1672-6.

The Human Terrain System (HTS) was a program established in early February 2007 by the United States Army, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) to employ personnel with expertise in social science disciplines, such as anthropology, sociology, political science, regional studies, and linguistics, to embed with deployed military commanders and staff in their theaters of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The “human terrain” refers to the crucial role of understanding by the military of the local population they interact with in the regions in which they are deployed. The program officially ended its operations in September 2014.

The contributors to this edited volume, including co-editor Montgomery McFate, who was one of the program’s creators, discuss their experiences with the program and its contributions to the American military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The introductory chapter by McFate and Janice Laurence discusses the HTS’s origins, mission statement (e.g. to help “the military execute their operations more successfully, with less expenditure of effort” by reducing “its need for the use of lethal force” (p. 10); as well as to “preserve and share socio-cultural institutional knowledge” (p. 11); how the HTS was structured (with five to nine members, including a research manager); and controversies over the HTS program. The remaining chapters are divided into three sections: first, the research process involved in conducting social science in a war zone, including the adaptation of research methods from “pure” to “applied”; second, the issues involved in integrating social science teams with military units; and, third, ethical issues involved in embedding social scientists with a military campaign. Several chapters are especially noteworthy for their discussion of methodologies used in the HTS program that are also useful in academic research. These include Kathleen Reedy’s chapter on “The Four Pillars of Integration: How to Make Social Science Work in a War Zone,” which makes the distinction between measures of performance (e.g., numbers of insurgents captured), as compared to “measures of effect” (e.g., the extent of reduced insurgent influence) (p. 173). James Dorough-Lewis Jr.’s chapter on “Investing in Uncertainty: Applying Social Science to Military Operations,” discusses two valuable methodologies: one, how the effectiveness of the military’s allocation of resources can be assessed through an “effects-based approach to operations (EBAO),” which provides “a framework for holistically assessing the influences that converge toward an environment’s behaviors and capabilities and then modifying those influences to adjust behaviors and capabilities to correlate with desired outcomes” (p. 199). A second valuable methodology is the use of spreadsheet-based “maturity matrices’ to track the progress of a unit’s efforts over multiple lines of effort and interim and long-term milestones toward a larger end-point objective. (p. 201). The concluding chapter, “The Human Terrain System: Some Lessons-Learned and the Way Forward, by Janice Laurence, discusses the role of HTS as an experiment vis-a-vis the U.S. military’s existing civil affairs programs, such as in the fields of intelligence, foreign area officers (FAOs), and military information support operations (MISO). She concludes that some of HTS’s contributions included their understanding of the local “social structure, allegiances, and physical, economic, and security needs. They mapped the political power grid. They did damage-control following cultural incidents, such as a soldier’s shooting a Quran or after a patrol inappropriately flex-cuffed and detained a local sheik’s elderly uncle.” (pp. 305-306). Regarding the future of HTS-type programs, Laurence insightfully observes that “Social science has operational relevance for military missions involving not only sustained combat (so-called phases 1 to 4), but especially for the purposes of conflict deterrence and stability operations (phase 0), or as the pre-conflict period has ethnocentrically been called, ‘left of boom’” (p. 313).

Richard A. Posner, Countering Terrorism: Blurred Focus, Halting Steps (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), 264 pp., US $ 24.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-7425-5883-0.

This book was published more than 10 years ago, but one of its premises is still relevant to the current era. In the book’s Chapter 8, “Counterterrorism: Strategy and Structure: An Ounce of Prevention?”, the author presents a valuable methodology to conduct a risk-based cost-benefit analysis to structure decisions about prioritizing counterterrorism response measures. While it is generally understood that determining overall risk is measured by the presence of threat, the vulnerability of a target, and the consequences of attacking the target, the author presents a methodology to better operationalize this formula. This begins with the author’s discussion threat as “influenced by the intentions and resources of potential attackers,” (p. 214) “attaching geographic and time coordinates to potential attacks,” (p. 215) and estimating the size of the pools of potential attackers. A target’s potential vulnerability, the author points out, is influenced by the expected cost to protect it against a possible attack. The consequences of an attack are determined by the expected cost of a target’s expected loss to attack. The author then distinguishes between primary and secondary losses. He explains primary losses as “deaths, injuries, property damage, short-term economic disruption (such as the grounding of civil aviation for several days after the 9/11 attacks) and psychological harm.” (p. 211). Secondary losses, the author explains, “are much more difficult to quantify. They include political, social, economic, and legal costs incurred in the course, or as a consequence of responding to the primary losses.” (p. 212). This methodology is then applied to assessing the risk of two attack scenarios: an attack by a small homegrown terrorist cell and an attack by a rogue scientist involving a genetically modified bioweapon. Although the rest of the book’s account (which focuses on the need a decade ago for more effective U.S. domestic counterterrorism organizational structures) has been resolved since then, the author’s presentation of a risk management methodology in counterterrorism is worth noting. The author was a Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago from 1981 until 2017, and is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, Chicago, Illinois.

Counterterrorism – Legal Issues

Lucas Bergkamp, Michael Faure, Monika Hinteregger, and Niels Philipsen, Civil Liability in Europe for Terrorism-Related Risk [Cambridge Studies in International and Comparative Law] (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 402 pp., US $ 125.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-1071-0044-2.

This book examines European laws as they apply to terrorism-related damages. An important issue in civil liability coverage, the authors explain, is the extent to which “facility operators and security firms, both manufacturers of security goods and providers of security services, are exposed to liability for terrorism-related damage in Europe. The focus is on both potential liability exposure and actual cases. Key questions are: What standards of liability apply? What types of damages are recoverable? Are any defences available? How are cross-border cases handled?” (pp. 4-5). To examine these issues, following the author’s introductory overview, the book is divided into three parts. In the first part, “International and EU Law,” the chapters cover topics such as liability for terrorism-related risks under international law and European Union (EU) law. In the second part, “Liability for Terrorism-Related Risk Under Member State Law,” the chapters examine issues such as the civil liability systems of seven EU member states (England and Wales, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and Sweden), including attribution of liability. In the third part, “Assessment of Liability for Terrorism-Related Risk,” the chapters discuss issues such as insurance of terrorism-related risks, contracting for liability limitation, alternative systems for redressing terrorism-related risks, and explore whether there is a role for the European Union in initiatives aimed at the insurance market. In the concluding chapter, the authors observe that “although the case for a liability limitation is weak, civil liability for terrorism-related risk is an issue that requires the attention of policymakers, including the EU” (p. 336). In terms of countering terrorism, the authors conclude that “In developing policies on this issue, the government should keep in mind that its primary responsibility is to prevent terrorist attacks from occurring, and liability for damage caused by such attacks can contribute to accomplishing this objective” (p. 337). This book is an important resource for government (especially their judicial, treasury and commerce departments) as well as business communities that manage the setting of risk premiums on terrorism-related civil liability issues for a country’s business sector. Three of the authors are professors of civil law and economics at European universities. Lucas Bergkamp is a partner at Hunton & Williams LLP’s Brussels, Belgium office.

Kent Roach (Ed.), Comparative Counter-Terrorism Law (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 838 pp., US $ 180.00 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-1-1070-5707-4.

As explained by the volume’s editor, counter-terrorism law is a broad field that “spans criminal, administrative, immigration, constitutional, military and foreign affairs law. It involves the interaction of domestic and supra-national law.” (p. 3). With comparative counter-terrorism law an established discipline, the contributors to this volume examine the practice and implementation of counter-terrorism law in 22 countries. A questionnaire was used as a template to guide each country study on a range of its counter-terrorism instruments, such as criminal law, immigration law, administrative measures, military and extra-territorial measures. Also discussed are the influences on a country’s counter-terrorism laws of supra-national institutions, such as the United Nations Security Council and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), as well as regional bodies, such as the Council of Europe. The book begins with the editor’s introductory overview, in which he discusses issues such as the centrality of the definition of terrorism in counter-terrorism law. The country studies are divided into five parts: North America (the United States and Canada); South America (Colombia and Brazil); Europe (the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania); the Middle East and Africa (Israel and South Africa); and Asia and Australia (Japan, China, Singapore, and Australia). In the concluding chapter, “Thematic Conclusions and Future Challenges,” Kent Roach, the volume’s editor, identifies common themes in counter-terrorism law that emerged from the previous chapters, including areas of convergence and divergence in both laws and practices. In a concluding section, he observes that one area of divergence is “the difficulty of defining terrorism in a satisfactory manner that accommodates domestic dissent and freedom fighting against repressive regimes.” (p. 773). Another area of divergence is the issue of targeted killing and its relation to other measures such as arrest and trial. The author’s concluding note is worth noting: “An important constant is that counter-terrorism law will continue to be a subject worthy of sustained comparative study because of its profound effects on security, human rights, democracy and the rule of law” (p. 777). This volume is an important contribution to the discipline of the legal component in counter-terrorism. The editor is professor of law at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.

Larissa Van Den Herik and Nico Schriver (Eds.), Counter-Terrorism Strategies in a Fragmented International Legal Order: Meeting the Challenges (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 798 pp., US $ 160.00 [Hardcover], US $ 51.00 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-1074-8010-0.

The contributors to this edited volume address a significant challenge that combating international terrorism presents to international law in ensuring, which is, as the editors explain, “the coherence and unity of the applicability of the principles and rules originating in multiple branches of international law” (p. 1). To examine these issues, the book is divided into three parts. The chapters in the first part, “Improving International Cooperation in the Investigation and Prosecution of Terrorist Acts,” cover issues such as international justice cooperation against terrorism since 9/11; the role of regional organizations in Europe and Africa in promoting cooperation in counter-terrorism; the effectiveness of legal instruments such as the European arrest warrant; the distinction between cooperation among intelligence agencies as opposed to cooperation in intelligence collection; and international cooperation in countering terrorism financing. The chapters in the second part, “The Use of Force Against Terrorists,” discuss issues such as the international regulation of the use of force; the role of the U.N. Security Council in authorizing the use of force; the right of states to self-defense against terrorists, including anticipatory self-defense; and the necessity and proportionality when exercising self-defense. The chapters in the second part, “Intersection Between International Human Rights Law and International Law in the Fight Against Terrorism,” cover topics such as the applicability of the laws of armed conflict, including the use of lethal force and targeted killings, in countering terrorist organizations; the interplay between human rights and humanitarian law in countering terrorism; the legal regime covering the treatment of terrorist detainees, including issues of extraterritoriality and habeas corpus, in arresting potential suspects and transferring detainees from one country to another; and defining terrorism as a crime in international and domestic law. This volume is an important contribution to the legal literature on the role of international law in providing guidelines to government counterterrorism practitioners, as well as academic researchers on these topics. Both editors are professors of public international law at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands.


Gordon Carr, The Angry Brigade: A History of Britain’s First Urban Guerilla Group (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2010), 288 pp., US $ 24.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-6048-6049-8.

This is a highly informed and well-written account of the roots of the Angry Brigade, England’s militant left-wing group that originated in the mid-1960s and carried out a series of bombing attacks from 1970 to 1972. These bombings were directed against iconic targets such as banks, embassies, and the homes of Conservative Members of Parliament, including the home of Robert Carr, the Secretary of State for Employment at the time. The author, a veteran BBC documentary producer, had produced a documentary about the Angry Brigade for the BBC in 1973, with this book being a journalistic expansion and update of the documentary.

Richard Bach Jensen, The Battle Against Anarchist Terrorism: An International History, 1878-1934 (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 430 pp., US $ 99.00 [Hardcover], US $ 39.99 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-1075-9553-8.

This is an authoritative and detailed account, based on extensive historical documents, of the history of the campaigns waged by American and European police services against anarchist terrorists from 1878 to the mid-1930s. The author explains that at the time anarchist terrorism was the dominant type of terrorism facing these countries, so in response their governments cooperated in the diplomatic arena to counter anarchists, as many of them also operated cross-nationally. The book’s coverage is divided into two periods: 1878-1914, with an epilogue covering the period 1914-1934. To examine these issues, the book’s chapters cover topics such as the origins and activities of anarchist terrorism, including some of their significant attacks, such as their numerous assassination attempts in Germany and Russia, and their assassination of President William McKinley in early September 1901. These terrorist activities led to cooperation by the targeted countries’ police services against terrorism. This was accompanied by the development and implementation of various international legal conventions, such as an 1892 law that “defined anarchist acts of violence as ‘social crimes’ outside the protection provided political crimes in extradition treaties.…” (p. 1). Other international conventions included the St. Petersburg Protocol of 1904, in which the signatories agreed to oppose the anarchist movement through international cooperation, although, as the author points out, “The 1904 protocol made no attempt to define an anarchist act or to suggest possible improvements in legislation and extradition procedures affecting anarchists” (p. 290). In the conclusion, the author observes that the period of 1878-1934 in the international campaign against anarchism “deserves a much larger place in the history books” because “It exercised an important impact on a largely secret diplomacy, influencing the actions and attitudes of the European (and to a lesser extent, the American and Asian) states in ways that have seldom been assessed. Efforts to fight the perceived threat of anarchist terrorism influenced extradition law and practice, stimulated the spread of new methods of criminal identification, promoted police expansion, modernization, and centralization, and led to the development of more professional forms of guardianship for both democratically elected and dynastic rulers.” (p. 365). The author is Professor of History at the Louisiana Scholars’ College at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2010), 840 pp., US $ 28.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-6048-6064-1.

This is a comprehensive and massive collection of primary documents from leading anarchist theoreticians since the movement’s origins in the 1890s, although some historical predecessors are also included. In the introduction, the volume’s editor defines an anarchist “as one who rejects all forms of external government and the State and believes that society and individuals would function well without them” (p. xiii). Regarding the involvement of anarchists in terrorism, the editor points out that “only a tiny minority of anarchists have practiced terror as a revolutionary strategy, and then chiefly in the 1890s when there was a spate of spectacular bombings and political assassinations during a period of complete despair” (p. ix). Following the editor’s introductory overview, the volume is divided into seven parts. Part O, “Anarchism in Theory”; Part II, “Forerunners of Anarchism”; Part III, “Great Libertarians”; Part IV, “Classic Anarchist Thinkers” (such as William Godwin, Max Stirner, Joseph Proudhon, Michael Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, Leo Tolstoy, Emma Goldman); Part V, “Anarchism in Action” (in countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Russia, Europe, the United States and Latin America); Part VI, “Modern Anarchism” (including the New Left, the New Right, and modern anarchists); and Part VII, “The Legacy of Anarchism.” The Epilogue takes the form of a literature review that assesses new developments in anarchist thought and activities. The author concludes that one of anarchism’s main contributions is its utopianism “in that it imagines the world as it could be. But it is also realistic in that it conserves and develops ancient traditions of self-help and mutual aid and profound libertarian tendencies within society” (p. 705).

Boko Haram

Virginia Comolli, Boko Haram: Nigeria’s Islamist Insurgency [Revised Edition] (London, England, UK: Hurst & Company, 2017), 256 pp., US $ 17.95 [Paperback], ISBN: 978-1-8490-4661-9.

This is a revised edition of the book’s initial 2015 publication. It is based on the author’s extensive field research and interviews in Nigeria from 2012 to part of 2014. The book’s chapters are arranged thematically. Following the introductory chapter which discusses some of the research challenges in studying Boko Haram, the chapters provide an historical background to Islam in Nigeria, the emergence of extremist groups which shaped Boko Haram, particularly in 2009, when Muhammad Yusuf was assassinated while in captivity by Nigerian police, and the beginning of the group’s full scale insurgency in 2010 when Abubakar Shekau became the group’s new leader. The volume covers the resort to suicide attacks against Nigerian targets, and the internationalization of Boko Haram in neighboring countries and its reported alliance with al-Qaida, as well, later on, with ISIS. This is followed by an analysis of the government’s response, which was primarily militarily in nature, and also involved military assistance from the United States and the United Kingdom. In the concluding chapter, the author characterizes Boko Haram’s insurgency as a “hybrid security challenge” that requires “effective countermeasures tackling both violence and the underlying narrative” (p. 154). Moreover, other challenges also need to be addressed because while Nigeria is “an African super-power economically, militarily and diplomatically [it] is also a country facing a range of challenges, from corruption to the effects of climate change, which require political attention, effort and resources” (p. 155). The book’s Appendix includes a valuable selected chronology of key events. The book is well written and reflects the author’s deep familiarity with Nigeria, making it a valuable contribution to the literature on Boko Haram. The author is a research fellow for Security and Development at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), in London, England, UK.

Alexander Thurston, Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018), 352 pp., US $ 29.95 [Hardcover], ISBN: 978-0-6911-7224-8.

This comprehensive account of Boko Haram is arranged chronologically. It divides Boko Haram’s history into five phases: (1) the decades from the 1970s to the 1990s, which laid the basis for the group’s emergence; (2) the period from 2001 to 2009, when the group began its insurgency and its leader, Mohammad Yusuf was killed by Nigerian police; (3) the period of 2010 to 2013, when the group intensified its terrorist campaign; (4) the period from 2013 to 2015, when the group controlled territory in northeastern Nigeria, including the notorious kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in April 2014; and (5) the period since 2015 when, as the author explains, the group’s ‘state’ largely fell to the militaries of Nigeria and its neighbors” (p. 2). It was also during this latter period that Boko Haram declared its affiliation to the Islamic State. In one of the book’s numerous insights, the author explains that “For understanding Boko Haram, four aspects of Nigerian politics are relevant: cutthroat elections; pervasive corruption; severe inequality; and the violence and impunity that surround approaches to conflict management” (p. 27). In the concluding chapter, the author points out that “No durable solution can be found to Boko Haram… until politics is brought back into view and confronted. What political complaints does the sect have, and in what ways are these complaints irreducible to economic deprivation? What political decisions are necessary for ending the conflict – who will be the winners and losers? Will arrested Boko Haram members face trials, or be enrolled into deradicalization programs? Will there be reconciliation between perpetrators of violence and their victims?” (p. 302). The author concludes that “….history suggests that the Boko Haram crisis may end with a draw-out, agonizing process of sporadic violence and entrenched impunity, rather than a crescendo of accountability and reconciliation” (p. 302). The book includes a valuable selected bibliography, including a listing of jihadi videos and audio recordings. The author is visiting Assistant Professor of African Studies at Georgetown University, Washington, DC.

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

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