Posts Tagged ‘homeland security’

After a fair delay, a chapter I co-wrote with Bastian has finally been published by the University of Toronto Press in their new book European Security Since the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Our chapter specifically looks at “Understanding the Islamist Terrorist Threat to Europe,” and builds on work the two of us were doing at time looking at European security more broadly. I am going to try to obtain a pdf to place here, but in the meantime, here is where you can find more information on the book, and below is a flavour of the whole book from Amazon:

There have been dramatic changes to the landscape of European security in the twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The essays in European Security Since the Fall of the Berlin Wall collectively take stock of how approaches to security in Europe have changed, both in practice and in theory, since the end of the Cold War. Organized into three sections, this collection begins with an exploration of the broad changes in Europe’s security environment relating to issues such as terrorism and the rising importance of energy security. The second section describes the adaptations of Europe’s institutional framework, including the transformation of NATO and the evolution of European armed forces, while the closing essays examine regional security issues with the Middle East, the Balkans, and Russia. Covering a broad spectrum of theoretical approaches and written in a clear, engaging style, European Security Since the Fall of the Berlin Wall will illuminate European security debates for years to come.


Another post for Free Rad!cals this time looking at the rather depressing case of Farooque Ahmed in Washington, DC. Be interesting to see how this case develops and if he turns out to be serious or not. If anyone comes across anything interesting related to this, please forward it on.

Filed under: Radicalisation, Terrorism

While European security services continue to monitor the networks connected to the recent up-tick in threat warnings from across the spectrum of terrorist groups. Federal agents in the Washington, DC area arrested 34 year-old Pakistani-American Farooque Ahmed on charges of conspiring to carry out multiple terrorist attacks on the Washington Metrorail stations. According to court documents, Ahmed was the target of a six-month sting operation and believed that he was working with individuals connected to al-Qaeda.

According to an affidavit submitted to the courts, Ahmed first came to the FBI’s attention in January 2010 when he was “inquiring about making contact with a terrorist organization in order to participate in jihad by travelling overseas with an unnamed associate” It then took agents until April 2010 to establish some sort of cover story by which to lure Ahmed into meeting someone whom he believed was “a representative of a terrorist organization.” This was the first of a number of meetings in which Ahmed met with individuals whom he believed were members of Al Qaeda and with whom he apparently believed he was conspiring to conduct a multiple bombing on the Washington, DC subway system.

In the process of the investigation, Ahmed is reported to have declared a desire to strike a subway station frequented by U.S. military personnel, to have suggested that they use trolley bags as more effective purveyors of explosive than rucksacks, and to have expressed a desire to go and fight in Afghanistan in January 2011 after going on Hajj to Saudi Arabia. When he was finally arrested on October 25, Ahmed was accused of “attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization; collecting information to assist in planning a terrorist attack on a transit facility; and attempting to provide material support to terrorists.”

While the court documents make for pretty damning reading, it is worth remembering that they remain unproven in a court of law. It also seems as though Ahmed was the only actual plotter in a network of up to four or so people – the others were either not as involved as him or were undercover agents. Which does raise some questions about how much Ahmed was seeking to be a terrorist or how much he was spurred on and entrapped by the team of undercover agents who had deployed against him.

On the one hand, it is hard to know whether this is relevant or not – Ahmed seems to have been caught bang to rights and was apparently seeking to go and fight abroad even before the FBI became involved. But at the same time, would he necessarily have attempted to carry out a terrorist attack if he had not encountered the undercover agents masquerading as Al Qaeda operatives?

This is not the first time that the FBI has seemingly caught such hapless plotters. In other instances, the plotters proceeded much further than Ahmed apparently did – but the fact they are caught in these ways diminishes the sense of threat from them. From an observer’s perspective it seems hard to understand how individuals would be so gullible as to believe that some random person they have encountered is genuinely a terrorist plotter and that they are willing to trust them so completely. One can only assume that the federal agents are very good at their jobs.

It remains to be seen whether Ahmed is guilty or not. In court, he was reported as sporting “a full beard” and “shook his head and let out a deep sigh in apparent disbelief as the charges against him were read. ‘Yes, yes,’ Ahmed said, as the judge told him the charges were serious.” For British observers there is a connection in press reports that indicate that his wife was from Birmingham and a neighbour who recalled that Ahmed might have been brought up in London before he moved to the US at 17 years old.

It has been a while since i last posted and apologies for regular visitors. I have moved to a new part of the globe and am taking on something which is occupying rather a lot of my time and where posting is actually proving quite hard, so apologies for the long post all in one gulp. Additionally, I have been writing longer pieces for various journals which are still in the academic pipeline. No matter, here is my latest for Jamestown, which explores the debate in the UK about whether to engage or not with extremists and goes into a little bit of detail about the newly “refreshed” counterterrorism strategy. I had some shorter things written on this which I never managed to find a home for. No matter, any thoughts or comments would be most welcome.

British Government Debates Engagement with Radical Islam in New Counterterrorism Strategy
Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 10
April 24, 2009 11:10 AM Age: 13 hrs
Category: Terrorism Monitor, Global Terrorism Analysis, Home Page, Military/Security, Europe
By: Raffaello Pantucci

Britain’s much vaunted “Contest” counterterrorism strategy underwent what has been described as a “refresh” in March 2009. Building on the British government’s experiences on the front-line of terrorism both at home and abroad, the re-vamped strategy was referred to as a “reworking rather than a fundamental overhaul” (BBC, March 24). Elsewhere in the British media, the Guardian declared the new strategy was “in disarray” even before it had been launched, while the Times focused on the elevated emphasis put upon the threat from “dirty bombs” (Guardian, March 26; Times, March 25). A core ideological debate that has occupied the airwaves and that was deftly avoided in the final text, however, was the question of whether the British government should engage or confront non-violent Islamists in order to effectively prevent terrorism.


This is a slightly old article in the sense it came out last month, but i have been hawking a similar idea around more serious journals – this is instead for a trade magazine. Describes in relative detail what the UK is doing in counter-terrorism terms and how it all works. Turn to page 35 for my piece:

Click to access ssi_208_kpl_gesperrt.pdf