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Terrorism and Counterintelligence: How Terrorist Groups Elude Detection (Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare) Hardcover – August 21, 2012
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Blake W. Mobley has written a groundbreaking study on how terrorist groups collect intelligence. He vividly portrays terrorist group dilemmas and weaknesses, as well as their ability to foil the security services of their adversaries. (Daniel Byman, Georgetown University, and research director of the Saban Center at The Brookings Institution)
With the strategic defeat of al Qaeda in sight, Terrorism and Counterintelligence offers a timely analysis of the vulnerabilities of terrorist organizations, which will speed their demise. (Graham T. Allison, director of Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs)
Counterintelligence remains a stepchild in the study of intelligence, despite the fact that every organization, including NGOs, does it in some form whether or not they use the language. Blake W. Mobley's book is a welcome addition to the literature on this subject, all the more so because it looks at the counterintelligence of terrorist groups. He combines solid scholarship with an insider's sense for how the world actually works. His framework―organizational structure, popular support, and controlled territory―applies well to terrorist groups. Slightly adjusted, it could also apply to other groups as well, including NGOs. (Gregory F. Treverton, director, RAND Corporation's Center for Global Risk and Security and vice chair of the National Intelligence Council)
A well-researched and compellingly argued book that sheds original light on a perplexing and heretofore often misunderstood subject.... Highly recommended. (Choice)
Terrorism and Counterintelligence is an intellectual rollercoaster that shows the ups and downs of the biggest and most prominent terrorist groups the world has dissected so far and leaves the reader with a renewed sense of the power and control these groups have on traditional society. (Ross W. Clark, Penn State University Parameters)
About the Author
Blake W. Mobley is an associate political scientist with the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California. Before joining RAND, he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency as a counterintelligence analyst in the Middle East and Washington, D.C and specialized in non-state actor counterintelligence issues. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Georgetown University, his M.P.P. from Harvard University, and his B.A. from Stanford University.
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This is an absolute MUST-READ for students or anyone interested in understanding the components that contribute to the formation of terrorist organizations. Mobley examines this using this framework:
1. Organizational Structure
2. Resources (Local and International)
3. Popular Support (Local and International)
4. Adversary Counterterrorism Capability
5. Intelligence (Local and International)
6. Counterintelligence (Local and International)
As a bonus, the final chapter offers a series of study questions to help guide investigation into terrorist groups. Lastly, you can read Blake Mobley's thesis online for free which he turned into this book.
The strong points fort this book are:
1/ Outline TTP's of various groups that have influenced terrorism operations and policy for decades. These same TTP's can be used to understand large adversarial groups that are not terrorist in nature (id est transnational gangs).
2/ The organization of the chapters and case studies is easy to digest and the author skillfully brings back many of the import points for the reader to understand at the end of the chapters.
3/ This book is not a history book (but it easily could be). I found it as a valued desk reference on organizational behavior of some very effective and secretive groups that have influenced so much of our history.
If anyone ever wonders why terrorism is so hard to counter, read this book! I have a hard time thinking of any other book on the topic that can present a complicated set of issues in such a clear way.
The first thing I do after getting a book is to check the bibliography to see which sources have been used. Several important sources for the Provisional IRA have been omitted, namely Gaetano Ilardi's articles 'IRA operational intelligence: the heartbeat of the war' (Small Wars and Insurgencies 21:2 (2010)) and 'Irish Republican Army counterintelligence' (International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 23:1 (2010)), and Jeffrey Sluka's 'Hearts and Minds, Water and Fish: Support for the IRA and INLA in a Northern Ireland Ghetto' (1990). The journal sources were available to Mobley as in the bibliography he refers to accessing one source in 2011, well after their publication, and a simple Google search would have revealed their existence; one would hope Mobley tried to keep up with publications useful for the subject of the book he was then writing. Incidentally, Ilardi also published a couple of articles about Al-Qaeda which Mobley appears ignorant of. These are 'Al-Qaeda's counterintelligence doctrine: the pursuit of operational certainty and control' (International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 22:2 (2009)) and 'The 9/11 attacks - a study of Al Qaeda's use of intelligence and counterintelligence' (Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 32:3 (2009)).
This would be a minor gripe if it wasn't for serious and unforgivable errors in the text, of which examples are given below.
I would have thought that Columbia University Press would employ proofreaders and fact checkers. They clearly didn't in this case or mistakes with names, with places, with dates, wouldn't have made it into the released book. For example, Brendan Hughes is Brenden Hughes throughout. The Grand Hotel, famously bombed by the IRA in 1984 nearly killing Margaret Thatcher, is equally famously in Brighton and not in London (p. 50). There are internal contradictions, such as Sean MacStiofain being PIRA Chief of Staff on page 24 but only a volunteer on page 31, and there is confusion as when Mobley mentions the arrest of 'the entire staff of the Third Brigade' (pp. 36-7) when what he in fact is referring to is the arrest of staff of the Third Battalion of the Belfast Brigade: it is plain that he understands nothing of the brigade/battalion structure the IRA then used where brigades were geographically named and battalions named numerically (Mobley's citation leads to p. 133 of Ed Moloney's 'Secret History of the IRA' where all this is made plain). But perhaps most seriously of all, Mobley confuses and conflates Operation Motorman (31 July 1972 as per the respected CAIN chronology at [...]) and the entirely separate arrest of Gerry Adams and 15 other IRA volunteers a year later, saying 'In July 1973, the British conducted an urban counterterrorism campaign called "Operation Motorman," which rounded up sixteen of the IRA's senior leaders and dramatically reduced the group's urban strongholds' (p. 23). Throughout the chapter on the IRA Mobley states that Motorman, which cleared the no-go areas controlled by the Provisional IRA, took place in July 1973 (see e.g. p. 23 (twice), p. 36). On page 36 Mobley notes Motorman 'followed a particularly violent PIRA attack known as "Bloody Friday"', which it did: but by Mobley's chronology the lag was not days but a year. Each of these errors - and there are more - undermines the credibility of Mobley's work, which is a great disappointment as there is very little on the subject. But once you can no longer trust the work on the things you can easily check, it's hard to trust the work on things you can't so easily confirm. You could check his sources, but that would take a lot of time and effort. I read books to be told things I don't know, not to spend weeks or possibly months doing work which should have been done by the author and publisher in the first place.
There is a book to be written on this subject, and one which I hope also includes chapters on the Italian Red Brigades, the German Red Army Faction and the Greek N17: this book though should be avoided. Perhaps if or when Gaetano Ilardi publishes his PhD then there will be a serious alternative to this flawed book.
that is interesting, applicable, and very accessible to a reader like
me who is not well-versed in the terrorism or intelligence