Responding to Terrorism Across the Technological Spectrum: Strategic Studies Institute

 
9781482091304: Responding to Terrorism Across the Technological Spectrum: Strategic Studies Institute

What do these trends suggest for the future? First, terrorists will continue to rely on the same two basic weapons that they have used successfully for more than a century: the gun and the bomb. What changes we will see will be more in the realm of clever adaptations or modifications to existing "off the shelf" technology (such as the PIRA is so accomplished at) or the continued utilization of readily-available, commercially- purchased materials that can be fabricated into crude--but lethally effective and damaging--weapons (such as the explosive device used by the World Trade Center bombers). Their preference for this traditional arsenal is areflection ofan operational conservatism imposed by the terrorist organizational imperative to succeed. For this reason, terrorists must always keep ahead of the technologycurve. Thus, when confronted by new security measures, terrorists will seek to find and exploit new vulnerabilities or else simply change their tactics accordingly. Second, the sophistication of these devices will be in their simplicity. Unlike military ordnance, such as plastic explosive, for example, the materials used in "home-made" bombs are both readily- and commercially-available, thus they are perfectly legal to possess until actually concocted or assembled into a bomb. These materials are also far more difficult to trace or for experts to obtain a "signature." For example, the type of explosive used in the 1988 in-flight bombing of Pan Am 103 was Semtex H, a plastic explosive manufactured in Czechoslavakia and sold primarily to other former-Warsaw Pact countries during the cold war as well as to such well-known state sponsors of terrorism as Libya, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and North Korea. Thus, for foreign governments seeking to commission terrorist attacks or use terrorists as surrogate warriors, the terrorists' use of such "home-made" materials carries with it both advantage and appeal in possibly enabling the state sponsor to avoid military retaliation or international sanction.

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