“No just cause can be advanced by terrorism.” – Koffi Anan

Terrorism is the organized use of violence for political ends and is directed primarily at non-combatants. The Department of State (U.S.) defined terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non- combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.” The terrorist is an individual, who is better organized and more motivated than all those who speak the language of peace. There is uncertainty as to where and when he will strike. Generally, democratic countries have proven to be grounds for terrorism, because of the open nature of their societies. Terrorist organizations, usually take responsibility for the violence caused by them, which indirectly ensures their popularity.

Traditional terrorism targeted kings, military leaders, ministers, and other leading public figures. It was permissible when a cruel oppressor, being an enemy of all mankind, in violation of the law of God and human justice, compelled his victims to resort to a terrorist act, which was ultima ratio, the last refuge of the oppressed, all other means having been exhausted.

Modern terrorism is high tech involving steganography and cryptography. Hidden messages are written in such a way that no one apart from the intended recipient knows of the existence of the message. ‘Stego’ is the digital equivalent of a “dead drop.” Members of a given terrorist organization need not interact with one another directly to communicate. The biggest obstacle in battling Stego is determining if a given file has been altered. Cryptography is used to code and de-code the online exchange of information. Tech-savvy terrorists have gained expertise in improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These IEDs can come in any shape, colour and size varying from bikes to cars. This shows that doctors, engineers, researchers and graduates of different disciplines help various terror outfits to carry operations in a scientific way.

The use of certain tools is a factor in profiling any activity of a terrorist group. The trick to defeating encryption lies in knowing which communications to monitor in the first place, getting a court order to trap these communications, and then attacking the encryption by exploiting a weakness in the algorithm, or providing the proper key. The scientists of the University of Buffalo have reinvented phrenology in the form of a set of biometrics that produce a numerical score, indicating the probability that you are about to commit a terrorist act. Weimann in his book “Terror on the Internet: The New Arena, the New Challenges” recounts how terrorists use the Internet to carry out their deadly plans on a daily basis. In fact, terrorists can draw 80 percent of the information they need for an attack from the Internet by using sources legally available to the public. The Internet lets diverse terrorist groups communicate and coordinate their activities effectively. Recruiters use interactive Internet technology to roam chat rooms and cyber cafes, looking for sympathizers and potential recruits. It is invaluable to terrorists in planning and coordinating specific attacks. Al Qaeda operatives relied heavily on the Internet for the 9/11 attacks. Terrorists from all organizations routinely send messages through public e-mail and use chat rooms to devise attacks and coordinate their actions. Using demographics culled from personal information entered in online questionnaires and order forms, terrorists use the Internet to identify likely sympathizers. These people are then, solicited for donations through e-mails sent by groups fronting for the terrorists. Debates between such groups as Hamas and Al Qaeda, as well as conflicts within the groups themselves, are played out over their websites. Now, terrorism functions by delivering threats intended to create fear and helplessness among its target audiences.

The Government of India has enacted two legislations to deal with terrorism. The Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1985 addresses two offences, namely, terrorist acts and disruptive activities. It established a system of special courts – Designated Courts. The Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA) was enacted to make provisions “for the prevention of” and “for dealing with” terrorist activities, in the face of multifarious challenges in the management of internal security of the country and an upsurge or intensification of “cross-border terrorist activities and insurgent groups”.

B .Raman, a distinguished fellow and convenor has given these suggestions to combat terrorism: Strengthening the country’s intelligence collection and utilization and post-attack investigative capabilities is necessary. Demilitarization of counter-terrorism methods must be sought. This should involve the use of the police as the weapon of first resort against terrorism, better counter-terrorism training for the police, better police- community relations, better incentives for the police to perform counter-terrorism duties and better observance of human rights, etc. A national consensus on the formulation of a new counter-terrorism policy must be reached.

Thus, the face of modern terrorism is decidedly different from the face of terror in the past, not least because of the increasing use of the Internet as a means for facilitating terrorist activities. As nations and societies, we need to brace ourselves for the modern day challenges of terrorism more effectively and ingeniously.

Bhumika Sharma

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