Human Intelligence. Extremism and Terrorism

Academic Paper, 2018

8 Pages

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Human Intelligence: Extremism and Terrorism

Throughout this paper, I will discuss human intelligence and the context of dealing with extremism, and terrorism particularly as it applies to homeland security. Before, I begin on human intelligence and how that applies to homeland security, and this whole business of combatting terrorism, I would like to discuss a context in terms of human intelligence and why do we care, or what is the context – what are the perimeters of what is going on out there. I want to throw out different factors. First, we are involved in a war with the Islamic extremism (Loza, 2007). Every word I have just said, I have chosen very specially, for a very specific reason. This is certainly not a war in the same context of that of World War II, in terms of a conventional conflict, but none the less a conflict on that scale, and I think we have to understand it that way. I also choose Islamic extremism, in my meaning to be very clear that is not my view or my assertion that we are somehow now at war with Islam. McCants and McCants (2015) article recalls a solider having spent a lot of time on the ground, in places where maybe there were two or three Americans and several other guys working with them on the United States side, in most of those cases every one of those guys were Muslim, and the people who were doing the bulk of the dying were Muslim, and people who are still doing the bulk of the dying, in simplistic terms, are Muslim. Now, this may be a civil war within Islam, but the point is we are at war with Islam extremist, but not at war with Islam.

Why do we care? The context of figuring out how we are going to fight this battle, human intelligence, all of this, what is my point? Well, my point is there are implications that have to be concluded, there are conclusions that should be drawn. It is by nature an ideological struggle, and there are implications from that. Over the next section, I am going to throw out a few. First, this is an ideological struggle particularly, in the terms that ISIS talks, as one of the biggest and dangerous factors that we are facing in terms Islamic extremism (Vermeulen & Bovenkerk, 2012). It is a war that is expressly couched in apocalyptic terms. This just not a fight, but this is the fight. This is the last fight, these are the end of days and that is very explicit and very clear and sort of drips off of every video and announcement they make (Habeck, 2008). What that means is they are not stopping this fight, that means they are not quitting and going home. That means they are not suing for peace and walking away because this is literally Argueta (Esposito, 2002). This is the end, and that is what this is all about. So if we are looking for someone to quit and get tired of the conflict, it is not the Islamic extremist you are facing, they are not going home and saying they are tired of this and we change our minds. We may defeat them, crush them, cut off their ability to convert more people; we may do all those things, but the United States will not weigh them out of this conflict. In fact, they might weigh the United States out.

The second implication and relevant to this paper is it is an ideological struggle, while it is wedged sometimes in the open and relativity conventional terms, the real struggle that is going on worldwide is an ideological one and one that is occurring in the shadows, and one that evolves heavily conversion. That means that most of the fighting if you will, is a war, but one that is very different than what we think about in terms of 1944. Most of the fighting to be done in this war is fighting that will be done in the shadows. Forty percent of ISIS members being identified within the United States are in fact converts to Islamic law (Atio, 2015). Often they are not folks who came from Islamic trees and were born into the Islamic faith (Atio, 2015). They are people who were born as Christians, as Jews, as whatever and converted(McBrien, 2006). The United States has something like thirty thousand foreign fighters flooded in different areas (McBrien, 2006). Many of those are coming from Islamic countries, some are coming from Europe and other countries (Von Hippel, 2005). General Hayden has made this observation: this is a war in which killing the enemy when you find him, is relatively easy. This issue is it is really hard to find the enemy, the whole key to this is finding the enemy, which sheds light on the significance of intelligence (Von Hippel, 2005). In fact, I would submit that really what we are involved in is a war ultimately about intelligence and the quality of our intelligence.

The second point, I would like to make as a backdrop is we are at war with radical Islam- we are not winning this war. The narrative, always there is a subtext. Never clear of the announced that “we are just about there,” that we have turned the corner, and the worst is behind (Martinage, 2008). This is not true, we are not winning this conflict. ISIS alone has something like thirty-five affiants around the world at this point (Erelle, 2015).Third, it has the potential to get much worse before it gets better. I do not mean that just in the context of spreading more groups. Once upon a time, we worried about chemical termism. ISIS has a fully developed chemical weapons capability, and routinely use chemical weapons on the battle field, we have crossed the bridge (Pita & Domingo, 2014). That is not science fiction of where we might go, that is where we are. So what that means is the United States is at war with these guys, we are not winning, and the future is not essentially a succession of attacks, the future is potentially biological weapons attacks the force the evacuation of entire cities (Pita & Domingo, 2014). That is the scope of what we are dealing with and we need to get this right. We cannot continue to muddle along, hoping it gets better and hoping it sort of goes away. That is not an answer, nor solution or acceptations. In order to come to terms with this, we have to grab a hold and figure out what we are going to do.

Before, I mentioned we are not winning, but why are we not winning? Certainly one of the reasons we are not winning is because of the quality of our intelligence, or the lack thereof. I mentioned before, we are involved in a war in which finding the enemy is hard. Killing him once found is relatively easy. The quality of our intelligence is a huge issue. We are admired in what amount to a cycle, whereby we sit, we wait, we are hit, we investigate afterward, perhaps we arrest a couple of key personnel who did not blow themselves up in the attack, and then we go back to sitting and waiting to be hit again. So why, and here I am going to focus on the lack of human intelligence. First, despite all of the discussion and rhetoric, it can be concluded that we drew the wrong summary of September 11th – that may be strange to conclude given that it has been fifteen years(Newman, 2004).

In terms of the lessons we drew from it, it was boiled out to effetely one assertion which is the problem of us failed to connect the dots. That we failed to take the information we had, connect it all and make the correct conclusions based on their bits of information. I am not disputing that part of the community, not talking to other parts of the community are valid, and I think many of the conclusions are correct. I also think none of them actually represent the central important truth that we should have taken away which is not that we did not connect the dots, but that we did not collect enough dots in the first place. That we should not have been reduced given the size of our intelligence apparatus, our focus, our budget, the amount of time it has been crystal clear that Al-Qaeda had been developing, etc. – we should have not been reduced to trying to glean inferences from handfuls of bits and pieces of intelligence(Wooldridge & Jennings, 1995).

My point in saying that I think we have drawn the wrong conclusion is that we sort of completely skipped over this, because the first question is how is that possible, why is that true. How is it possible that you have an organization that was created in 1947, expressly ever prevent a surprised attack on us in 2001 allow nineteen guys with box cutters, kill almost three thousand Americans, not have a single source who has a clue the operation was never planned. Because we do not focus on that, we do not fix the reasons why that is true. Why is that true, because we have an organization that was built to chase cold war targets; because we have an organization that almost puts all its officers abroad; because we have an organization in every way, is designed to go penetrate, but does not really have inventory that equips it to crawl into the belly of the beast. Since September 11th we have thrown a lot of money into the CIA agency, we have also taken a lot of lethal action, by putting people into places that we did not send agents before. Since 9/11 we have fundamentally changed nothing about this structure. We still have people aboard, very poorly positioned to penetrate this organizations, and we are overly reliant on assets are going to hand us – if they know and if they choose to tell us. How are we going to fix this?

First, let’s talk about what we should not do. What we cannot do. That is attempting to fix this issue the same way we have attempted to fix this problem over and over, since 9/11, which is by building a new agency, hiring thousands of more people, creating more lines on a diagram nobody in Washington understands, and spending yet more money – that is not the answer. We do not need more money, and we do not need more people. What we do need is leadership, management, some decisions, some follow through, and some political will. We need to take control, we need to impose standards, we need to focus on results, and grab control of this thing. Not focus on process, but focus on actually making concrete things happen. What is going to take is the President of the United States taking a grab and hold of and standing a firm ground. If there is no political house power, it is doomed from the beginning. In conclusion, I have painted a picture of a reformed intelligence agency, the domestic part of this collection is hugely important.


Atio, S. (2015). CONVERTING TO ISLAM. Al-Albab, 1 (1).

Erelle, A. (2015). In the skin of a jihadist: A young journalist enters the ISIS recruitment network. HarperCollins.

Esposito, J. L. (2002). Unholy war: Terror in the name of Islam. Oxford University Press.

Habeck, M. R. (2008). Knowing the enemy: Jihadist ideology and the war on terror. In The Theory and Practice of Islamic Terrorism (pp. 65-68). Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Loza, W. (2007). The psychology of extremism and terrorism: A Middle-Eastern perspective. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 12 (2), 141-155.

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McBrien, J. (2006). Extreme conversations: secularism, religious pluralism, and the rhetoric of Islamic extremism in Southern Kyrgyzstan. The Postsocialist religious question: Faith and power in Central Asia and east-Central Europe, 47-73.

McCants, W., & McCants, W. F. (2015). The ISIS apocalypse: The history, strategy, and doomsday vision of the Islamic State. Macmillan.

Newman, A. (2004). Arms Control, Proliferation and Terrorism: The Bush Administration's Post-September 11 Security Strategy. Journal of Strategic Studies, 27 (1), 59-88.

Pita, R., & Domingo, J. (2014). The use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict. Toxics, 2 (3), 391-402.

Vermeulen, F., & Bovenkerk, F. (2012). Engaging with violent Islamic extremism: Local policies in Western European cities. The HagueEleven International Publishers9789490947576.

Von Hippel, K. (Ed.). (2005). Europe confronts terrorism. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wooldridge, M., & Jennings, N. R. (1995). Intelligent agents: Theory and practice. The knowledge engineering review, 10 (2), 115-152.

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Sarah White (Author), 2018, Human Intelligence. Extremism and Terrorism, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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