Skip to comments.The sociology and psychology of terrorism: Who becomes a terrorist and why? (A must read)
Posted on 01/22/2003 7:36:58 PM PST by chance33_98
(original publish date, September 1999)
In response to a number of inquiries from the media concerning the report "Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism," which was mounted on our website on December 14, 2001, the Federal Research Division (FRD) offers the following background:
< snip > Report Prepared under an Interagency Agreement
by the Federal Research Division,
Library of Congress
New Forms of Terrorist-Threat Scenarios
The number of international terrorist incidents has declined in the 1990s, but the potential threat posed by terrorists has increased. The increased threat level, in the form of terrorist actions aimed at achieving a larger scale of destruction than the conventional attacks of the previous three decades of terrorism, was dramatically demonstrated with the bombing of the WTC. The WTC bombing illustrated how terrorists with technological sophistication are increasingly being recruited to carry out lethal terrorist bombing attacks. The WTC bombing may also have been a harbinger of more destructive attacks of international terrorism in the United States.
Although there are not too many examples, if any, of guerrilla (see Glossary) groups dispatching commandos to carry out a terrorist operation in the United States, the mindsets of four groups discussed herein--two guerrilla/terrorist groups, a terrorist group, and a terrorist cult--are such that these groups pose particularly dangerous actual or potential terrorist threats to U.S. security interests. The two guerrilla/terrorist groups are the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) and Hizballah, the terrorist group is al-Qaida, and the terrorist cult is Aum Shinrikyo.
The LTTE is not known to have engaged in anti-U.S. terrorism to date, but its suicide commandos have already assassinated a prime minister of India, a president of Sri Lanka, and a former prime minister of Sri Lanka. In August 1999, the LTTE reportedly deployed a 10-member suicide squad in Colombo to assassinate Prime Minister Chandrika Kumaratunga and others. It cannot be safely assumed, however, that the LTTE will restrict its terrorism to the South Asian subcontinent. Prabhakaran has repeatedly warned the Western nations providing military support to Sri Lanka that they are exposing their citizens to possible attacks. The LTTE, which has an extensive international network, should not be underestimated in the terrorist threat that it could potentially pose to the United States, should it perceive this country as actively aiding the Sri Lankan government's counterinsurgency campaign. Prabhakaran is a megalomaniac whose record of ordering the assassinations of heads of state or former presidents, his meticulous planning of such actions, his compulsion to have the acts photographed and chronicled by LTTE members, and the limitless supply of female suicide commandos at his disposal add a dangerous new dimension to potential assassination threats. His highly trained and disciplined Black Tiger commandos are far more deadly than Aum Shinrikyo's inept cultists. There is little protection against the LTTE's trademark weapon: a belt-bomb suicide commando.
Hizballah is likewise quite dangerous. Except for its ongoing terrorist war against Israel, however, it appears to be reactive, often carrying out terrorist attacks for what it perceives to be Western military, cultural, or political threats to the establishment of an Iranian-style Islamic republic in Lebanon.
The threat to U.S. interests posed by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in particular was underscored by al-Qaida's bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998. With those two devastating bombings, Osama bin Laden resurfaced as a potent terrorist threat to U.S. interests worldwide. Bin Laden is the prototype of a new breed of terrorist--the private entrepreneur who puts modern enterprise at the service of a global terrorist network.
With its sarin attack against the Tokyo subway system in March 1995, Aum Shinrikyo has already used WMD, and very likely has not abandoned its quest to use such weapons to greater effect. The activities of Aum's large membership in Russia should be of particular concern because Aum Shinrikyo has used its Russian organization to try to obtain WMD, or at least WMD technologies.
The leaders of any of these groups--Prabhakaran, bin Laden, and Asahara--could become paranoid, desperate, or simply vengeful enough to order their suicide devotees to employ the belt-bomb technique against the leader of the Western World. Iranian intelligence leaders could order Hizballah to attack the U.S. leadership in retaliation for some future U.S. or Israeli action, although Iran may now be distancing itself from Hizballah. Whether or not a U.S. president would be a logical target of Asahara, Prabhakaran, or bin Laden is not a particularly useful guideline to assess the probability of such an attack. Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was not a logical target for the LTTE, and his assassination had very negative consequences for the LTTE. In Prabhakaran's "psycho-logic," to use Post's term, he may conclude that his cause needs greater international attention, and targeting a country's top leaders is his way of getting attention. Nor does bin Laden need a logical reason, for he believes that he has a mandate from Allah to punish the "Great Satan." Instead of thinking logically, Asahara thinks in terms of a megalomaniac with an apocalyptic outlook. Aum Shinrikyo is a group whose delusional leader is genuinely paranoid about the United States and is known to have plotted to assassinate Japan's emperor. Shoko Asahara's cult is already on record for having made an assassination threat against President Clinton.
If Iran's mullahs or Iraq's Saddam Hussein decide to use terrorists to attack the continental United States, they would likely turn to bin Laden's al-Qaida. Al-Qaida is among the Islamic groups recruiting increasingly skilled professionals, such as computer and communications technicians, engineers, pharmacists, and physicists, as well as Ukrainian chemists and biologists, Iraqi chemical weapons experts, and others capable of helping to develop WMD. Al-Qaida poses the most serious terrorist threat to U.S. security interests, for al-Qaida's well-trained terrorists are actively engaged in a terrorist jihad against U.S. interests worldwide.
These four groups in particular are each capable of perpetrating a horrific act of terrorism in the United States, particularly on the occasion of the new millennium. Aum Shinrikyo has already threatened to use WMD in downtown Manhattan or in Washington, D.C., where it could attack the Congress, the Pentagon's Concourse, the White House, or President Clinton. The cult has threatened New York City with WMD, threatened to assassinate President Clinton, unsuccessfully attacked a U.S. naval base in Japan with biological weapons, and plotted in 1994 to attack the White House and the Pentagon with sarin and VX. If the LTTE's serial assassin of heads of state were to become angered by President Clinton, Prabhakaran could react by dispatching a Tamil "belt-bomb girl" to detonate a powerful semtex bomb after approaching the President in a crowd with a garland of flowers or after jumping next to his car.
Al-Qaida's expected retaliation for the U.S. cruise missile attack against al-Qaida's training facilities in Afghanistan on August 20, 1998, could take several forms of terrorist attack in the nation's capital. Al-Qaida could detonate a Chechen-type building-buster bomb at a federal building. Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaida's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the White House. Ramzi Yousef had planned to do this against the CIA headquarters. In addition, both al-Qaida and Yousef were linked to a plot to assassinate President Clinton during his visit to the Philippines in early 1995. Following the August 1998 cruise missile attack, at least one Islamic religious leader called for Clinton's assassination, and another stated that "the time is not far off" for when the White House will be destroyed by a nuclear bomb. A horrendous scenario consonant with al-Qaida's mindset would be its use of a nuclear suitcase bomb against any number of targets in the nation's capital. Bin Laden allegedly has already purchased a number of nuclear suitcase bombs from the Chechen Mafia. Al-Qaida's retaliation, however, is more likely to take the lower-risk form of bombing one or more U.S. airliners with time-bombs. Yousef was planning simultaneous bombings of 11 U.S. airliners prior to his capture. Whatever form an attack may take, bin Laden will most likely retaliate in a spectacular way for the cruise missile attack against his Afghan camp in August 1998.
(Excerpt) Read more at loc.gov ...
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: MINDSETS OF MASS DESTRUCTION 1
New Types of Post-Cold War Terrorists 1
New Forms of Terrorist-Threat Scenarios 4
TERMS OF ANALYSIS 10
Defining Terrorism and Terrorists 10
Terrorist Group Typologies 12
APPROACHES TO TERRORISM ANALYSIS 13
The Multicausal Approach 13
The Political Approach 13
The Organizational Approach 14
The Physiological Approach 15
The Psychological Approach 16
GENERAL HYPOTHESES OF TERRORISM 16
Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis 17
Negative Identity Hypothesis 17
Narcissistic Rage Hypothesis 17
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE TERRORIST 19
Terrorist Motivation 19
The Process of Joining a Terrorist Group 20
The Terrorist as Mentally Ill 23
The Terrorist as Suicidal Fanatic 27
Suicide Terrorists 28
Terrorist Group Dynamics 29
Pressures to Conform 31
Pressures to Commit Acts of Violence 32
Terrorist Rationalization of Violence 33
The Terrorist's Ideological or Religious Perception 35
TERRORIST PROFILING 37
Hazards of Terrorist Profiling 37
Sociological Characteristics of Terrorists in the Cold War Period 39
A Basic Profile 39
Educational, Occupational, and Socioeconomic Background 41
General Traits 43
Marital Status 44
Physical Appearance 44
Origin: Rural or Urban 44
Characteristics of Female Terrorists 47
Practicality, Coolness 47
Dedication, Inner Strength, Ruthlessness 48
Female Motivation for Terrorism 50
Terrorist Profiling 51
Terrorist Group Mindset Profiling 54
Promoting Terrorist Group Schisms 56
How Guerrilla and Terrorist Groups End 57
SOCIOPSYCHOLOGICAL PROFILES: CASE STUDIES 61
Environments conducive to the rise of terrorism include international and national environments, as well as subnational ones such as universities, where many terrorists first become familiar with Marxist-Leninist ideology or other revolutionary ideas and get involved with radical groups. Russell and Miller identify universities as the major recruiting ground for terrorists...
The physiological approach to terrorism suggests that the role of the media in promoting the spread of terrorism cannot be ignored in any discussion of the causes of terrorism...
Moreover, in Guttman's analysis, the terrorist requires a liberal rather than a right-wing audience for success. Liberals make the terrorist respectable by accepting the ideology that the terrorist alleges informs his or her acts. The terrorist also requires liberal control of the media for the transmission of his or her ideology...
They did not how right they were when they wrote this report. Damn sad.
The Iraqi intelligence officer convicted of masterminding the 1st WTC bombings. My how many of the congress critters have forgotten this interesting side note. Kinda makes you wonder what they're thinkng.