The Business Habits of Highly Effective Terrorists

#1
In Foreign Affairs The Business Habits of Highly Effective Terrorists
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Given that terrorists are, by definition, engaged in criminal activity, you would think that they would place a premium on secrecy. But historically, many terrorist groups have been meticulous record keepers. Members of the Red Brigades, an Italian terrorist group active in the 1970s and early 1980s, report having spent more time accounting for their activities than actually training or preparing attacks. From 2005 through at least 2010, senior leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq kept spreadsheets detailing salary payments to hundreds of fighters, among many other forms of written records. And when the former military al Qaeda military commander Mohammed Atef had a dispute with Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar, an explosives expert for the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, in the 1990s, one of his complaints was that Umar failed to turn in his receipts for a trip he took with his family.
Such bureaucracy makes terrorists vulnerable to their enemies. But terrorists do it anyway. In part, that is because large-scale terror plots and extended terror campaigns require so much coordination that they cannot be carried out without detailed communication among the relevant actors and written records to help leaders track what is going on. Gerry Bradley, a former terrorist with the Provisional Irish Republican Army, for example, describes in his memoir how he required his subordinates in Belfast in 1973 to provide daily reports on their proposed operations so that he could ensure that the activities of subunits did not conflict. Several leaders of the Kenyan Mau Mau insurgency report that, as their movement grew in the early 1950s, they needed to start maintaining written accounting records and fighter registries to monitor their finances and personnel.
But the deeper part of the answer is that the managers of terrorist organizations face the same basic challenges as the managers of any large organization. What is true for Walmart is true for al Qaeda: Managers need to keep tabs on what their people are doing and devote resources to motivate their underlings to pursue the organization’s aims. In fact, terrorist managers face a much tougher challenge. Whereas most businesses have the blunt goal of maximizing profits, terrorists’ aims are more precisely calibrated: An attack that is too violent can be just as damaging to the cause as an attack that is not violent enough. Al Qaeda in Iraq learned this lesson in Anbar Province in 2006, when the local population turned against them, partly in response to the group’s violence against civilians who disagreed with it.
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There's a direct relation between the level of bureaucracy and things like cell size and security. Terrorist will often trade down on security for greater operational efficiency. Spectacular ops usually aren't very secure. I read 9-11 involved over 70 guys operating on foreign turf, leaving lots of trail behind them, really rather impracticable but it took the towers down.

Similarly intell agencies can be crippled by over compartmentalization and extreme secrecy but if they err to far in the other direction in order to do the job they can be exposed as in the Snowdon affair.

The article gets rather critical of Dr al-Zawahiri of AQ for his leaky communications that seems to have led to the recent mass closure of US diplomatics posts. He might think that a bit of loose talk was rather more parsimonious way of nipping at the Far Enemy than actually bothering with blowing anything up.
 
#3
In Foreign Affairs The Business Habits of Highly Effective Terrorists
There's a direct relation between the level of bureaucracy and things like cell size and security. Terrorist will often trade down on security for greater operational efficiency. Spectacular ops usually aren't very secure. I read 9-11 involved over 70 guys operating on foreign turf, leaving lots of trail behind them, really rather impracticable but it took the towers down.

Similarly intell agencies can be crippled by over compartmentalization and extreme secrecy but if they err to far in the other direction in order to do the job they can be exposed as in the Snowdon affair.

The article gets rather critical of Dr al-Zawahiri of AQ for his leaky communications that seems to have led to the recent mass closure of US diplomatics posts. He might think that a bit of loose talk was rather more parsimonious way of nipping at the Far Enemy than actually bothering with blowing anything up.
Talk is cheap?
 
#4
They should just watch Four Lions, that'll learn em.
 
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