Combating Terrorism Both Externally and Internally
His Excellency Jörg Schönbohm
Minister of the Interior of the State of Brandenburg, Germany
We have forgotten that we have won some fights against terrorism. Terrorism was used to further revolutionary ends by such groups as the Red Brigades in Italy and the Red Army Faction in Germany. These battles are now over, and these threats are no longer imminent. However, some of these fights are still occurring in Peru, for example, but they have been reduced to small areas.
We have also faced terrorism from minorities who want more autonomy or the establishment of their own state. These include ethnic minorities or suppressed peoples such as the Basques in Spain, the IRA in Northern Ireland, and, to a certain extent, the people of Palestine. However, these situations are also limited to certain areas and are problems for the relevant governments.
There are also terrorists who are motivated by religion. The first two kinds of terrorism I mentioned do not pose worldwide threats to free societies, but this third category of religion-motivated terrorism does pose such a threat. The problem is that this kind of terrorism is related to the ethnic situation, especially in the Palestine-Israel situation.
IDEOLOGY-BASED AND RELIGION-BASED TERRORISM
The difference in the social backgrounds between ideology-based terrorism and religion-based terrorism is that ideology-driven terrorism usually is fomented by just a few people who target the elite of a state. We have overcome this kind of terrorism. The other form of terrorism, be it based on religion, ethnicity, or nationalism, is founded on broader ground. People are recruited from the low and middle classes and religious leaders try to influence them. The problems we are facing since September 11 are a result of a religion-motivated terrorism linked with the situation in Israel-Palestine.
If you talk about Islamic terrorism, you will see that it is terrorism against the values of our modern times and societies. Since the United States is the leading power, the World Trade Center was the target of two attacks, the first in the early 1990s and the second on September 11, 2001. The strange thing is that the terrorists who carried out these attacks are against modern times but use modern technology against their enemies. The attacks on September 11 were cheap regarding the time invested and the money spent, given the results.
There are many Islamic terrorist groups, including HAMAS, GIA (Armed Islamic Group), and Al-Qaeda, and they are all competing against each other to a certain extent. This competition is tough to influence or to analyze from the outside. The theological and spiritual leaders of these groups play a leading role, though their influence is being reduced the more the terrorists achieve success. The terrorism these groups carry out is characterized by extreme brutality. They try to hit as many people as possible, not just the elite, but common people as well. They attract members who have an Islamic background and, because suicide is not permitted under Islam, portray suicide missions as acts of war by soldiers who must give their life in the fight. They believe not in the present but in a future world of paradise.
MAKING CHANGES TO MEET THE CHALLENGES
What does this mean for internal security? Normally, internal security is driven by controlling borders and fighting criminality. But since September 11, the police have a completely new challenge. To meet this challenge we need better interaction between the federal police, the secret service, and the military. In our day-to-day work, we now need to protect Jewish, Israeli, and U.S. objectives in all parts of Germany. We also need to develop a new system to find sleepers such as Mohammed Atta, who had been living in Germany and who was thought of as a nice student, since we now know that the terrorists who attacked the U.S. came from Germany. So we have set up a special roster search. In Brandenburg, we put 484,000 people through this roster in order to see if they match some of the criteria. Ninety-four percent of those people were deleted from the roster, and we are now checking 27,000 people to see if they might have a link to terrorism. One year ago this was nearly unimaginable.
In Germany we have had problems with data security, but we have changed the legal framework. We also need to change our personnel. We need people who speak Arabic and people who understand Islam in order to distinguish extremists from other Islamic people. In Brandenburg, we do not have many Islamic people, but we know some who are fundamentalists who gather in mosques. Before, we did not pay attention to them because there were only 15 or 20 of them, but now we need to talk about it. We need to put more civil servants in this field, but there is a big problem in recruiting, because each agency wants to have its own experts and there is a limited pool. However, hiring experts has led to a better understanding of the situation, a higher quality of work, and a better exchange of ideas. I think in the long run we can rise to the new challenges if we increase cooperation and data exchange and if some nations, such as Germany, change their laws.
Another area that needs change is budget allocation. Our allocations need to be totally reconfigured and extended beyond traditional defense and security needs in order to meet the new security challenges.
The fight against terrorism is both an external and an internal problem. For example, we know that some of the refugees coming from Afghanistan into Germany and other areas of Europe are terrorists. But if we do not know the terrorist network abroad, then we cannot do our job at home. For this reason policing and internal security are being brought to a new level.
Though the United States may remain the main target for terrorist attacks, and though it may be difficult to hit additional targets on the North American continent, there are other targets outside the United States, such as U.S. embassies and other important installations, on the soil of its allies. This makes all member-states of NATO as threatened as the United States, and we all must be prepared. Therefore, in the long run, we all must come to the same conclusions about security.