SOME THOUGHTS ON THE DEMISE OF BIN LADEN.
THE END OF AL QAEDA?
Montreal, July 6, 2011
Recent events in Pakistan have raised questions on the future of terrorism, what the death of Bin Laden means and where this all may take us in the near and mid-range future.
We asked Mr. Ronald Myles, former RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) investigator with a profound knowledge of terrorists and terrorism from around the world to give us a few comments on the latest developments.
Mr. Myles is retired from active duty but has agreed to assist and is presently on the Board of Advisors of the Canadian Tactical Training Academy (CTTA). He works closely with the CTTA in following world events and providing his unique insight and comments on events related to security matters. CTTA specializes in teaching anti- terrorist training and methods of protection and self-protection for people traveling in dangerous regions.
Mr. Myles commented on the major security event of the year. The following are his comments.
Bin Laden is dead. Shot by American Navy SEALS and subsequently buried at sea. Does this mean that Al Qaeda is dead and that there will be no more terrorism?
Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. Al Qaeda is a successful terrorist organization and they will continue their ‘work’. Part of the reason that it is successful is also one of the aspects that make it difficult to stop. That is compartmentalization. In intelligence agencies this is called “The need to know principle” As head of Al Qaeda, Bin Laden was the apparent leader of a massive organization stretching all through the third world. Indeed, intelligence reports state that there are “Al Qaeda” cells in Great Britain and North America. But the idea that he was an actual ‘leader’ is more wishful thinking on his part than reality. Bin Laden could release his video-taped declarations to the world but his influence was limited by a number of facts.
Directives are given by the leadership. There is a certain amount of communication between the parties and it would be easy to think that with the passing of Bin Laden, the terrorism and terrorist acts would die with him. After all, he’s not there anymore to organize and order terrorist acts. Unfortunately, and despite the above, an organization like this is not really centrally administered or controlled. Communication is short and brief, sometimes using the public air waves to pass coded messages.
Directives given by the leaders are more suggestions, an attempt to co-ordinate efforts and create the perception of unification, but the receiving body is not obliged to follow these orders and indeed oftentimes doesn’t. As well there are often philosophical differences between the leaders.
One of the aspects of successful terrorist organizations throughout the world is the ‘cell’. According to the theory, a cell is made up of anywhere between 3 and 6 people who are willing to work for a common goal, usually political in nature and who are willing to use violence or deadly force to achieve their objectives. More than 6 people in any one cell is considered a security risk. Only one person in any particular cell knows any one person in another cell. This type of structure is in place for security reasons. If one person is caught by the authorities, he can only give up the people in his own cell. In a worst case scenario, if the leader of the cell was caught, he could only give up one other cell. The other cells would be safe. Whereas this does have certain security advantages, it makes the organization difficult if not impossible to control.
Al Qaeda is made up this way. There are ‘branches’ of Al Qaeda throughout the middle east. They will continue bombing, sending young people on suicide missions and generally trying to take control of their particular piece of real estate. So in that sense, terrorism in general is not dead, it is not going away and we can look forward to many more years of this kind of conflict. So the death of the leader is not going to stop Al Qaeda. There are others in place to carry on his work.
If there is a light on the horizon, it comes from short off-handed statements made by US Government officials when they were making their press releases, describing the raid on the Bin Laden compound and what the SEALS took away with them besides the terrorist’s body. Computers, documents and video tapes that were seized after the shootout with Bin Laden all may contain information on Bin Laden’s associates, plans etc. What it boils down to is how much data did Bin Laden kept in any form other than his personal memory. If it is on a computer, we can be sure that the Americans will break any code or password or whatever and extract the info. If it is written down and coded, someone in the US intelligence system will break that code and if it is on video tape, then the US now has photos of the enemy.
So in a sense, Al Qaeda may be brought to its knees by the actions of the same man who built it up. If there is a lot of good intelligence on these media, then we’ll see the result in the next few weeks and months as the US closes in on more and more Al Qaeda operatives. If Bin Laden didn’t keep notes like we hope he did, then its business as usual. Only time will tell.
The Canadian Tactical Training Academy (CTTA) (Ticker Symbol: CTTG) is an organization devoted to worldwide training of peace and law enforcement officers, as well as all other professionals involved in the fields of security, investigation, protection and the maintenance of order.