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27 February 2009

Are Acts of Staged Controversy an Islamist Strategic Tactic?

from Counterterrorism Blog by Madeleine Gruen

Through careful study of terrorist incidents and investigations and study of the histories of the terrorist groups, U.S. law enforcement officers, security officials, and intelligence analysts have developed an understanding of the tactics, techniques and procedures used by terrorists preparing for and conducting attacks. Professionals can usually distinguish between a truly suspicious incident and benign behavior. However, there is a third category of non-violent activities that is more difficult to identify, which we will refer to as "acts of staged controversy."

There are some cases where witnesses describe actors' behavior as "odd" yet very overt—behavior apparently designed to attract attention. Viewed under differing prisms, the behavior could be classified as either benign or as some type of terrorist activity. Decision makers and practitioners should consider the possibility that certain incidents are staged or that they are escalated by manipulation of the media and the legal system to create controversy and to provoke a response to serve strategic purposes.

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