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Wednesday, Apr 10, 2002

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Opinion - Terrorism
Columns - Offhand

Ten steps

B. S. Raghavan

ADMIRAL Stanfield Turner is a respected name in the international intelligence community. As a former Director of Central Intelligence (1977-81), and as the chief of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), he oversaw the working of all the foreign civil and military intelligence operations of the US. He is currently a senior research scholar at the US Centre for International and Security Studies.

Unusually for someone with his background, he has been concerned about the undermining of democracy by authoritarian executive and legislative remedies against terrorism. In a recent paper that has evoked wide interest, he has discussed in detail the pros and cons of ten possible lines of action open to a government. They are given below in an encapsulated form. (For the full paper, visit the Web site, Terrorism.htm)

Assassination: The US, in particular, is prone to press the CIA's dirty tricks department into service to eliminate the troublemakers. "The US is not God", says Turner, "We must not take it upon ourselves to determine, without due process of the law, who is and who is not going to live." Resort to assassination is, at present, forbidden by executive order of the President. It has to be made into a law.

Punitive military attacks: Recourse to this method results in loss of innocent lives and causes enormous human suffering. As Ronald Reagan said, "If you just aim in the general direction and kill some people, well, then, you are a terrorist too!" Turner is in favour of using retaliatory attacks guardedly and sparingly.

Covert actions: These come under even less scrutiny than other secret government operations and the probability of success is low. While they cannot be entirely ruled out, their goal and course should be monitored closely to avoid their running out of control.

Rescue of hostages: For this purpose, at some stage, a frontal collision with terrorist groups/regimes becomes a matter of national honour and cannot be shirked.

Human intelligence: This scores more bull's eyes in combating terrorism than glitzy hi-tech gizmos.

Media coverage: Terrorists thrive on publicity to their cause achieved by media coverage of their acts. Thus, often media play into their hands. At the same time, agencies and personnel fighting terrorists can be crippled by the media giving unnecessary build-ups to terrorists and undue prominence to excesses by security personnel. Persuading the media to exercise self-restraint is the best way of avoiding charges of manipulation and control.

Economic sanctions: This is the course favoured by Turner to teach a lesson to states sponsoring terrorism.

Measures to ensure security of personnel and property in establishments round the world, striking deals with terrorists where they have gained the upper hand and legal action under national and international laws are the other options discussed in the paper. Oddly, it omits to mention hot pursuit and Israeli-type instant retribution; their language may be better understood by terrorists than other less direct use of force.

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