Andrew Eagle

How to make a terrorist: The do-it-yourself guide

October 31, 2012

0The first thing you’ll need in making your terrorist is a human being, and in choosing one there are a number of factors to consider.  Firstly, youth can be a valuable asset. It comes with the benefit of youth’s folly and young candidates are more malleable and easier to process. They are less likely to be financially secure and more uncertain of their futures, or indeed, of their self-identity; and most importantly, they are unlikely to have any connections of influence. This last factor is critical to success. Before beginning, check there will be no connections that can lead to unhelpful contributions later and remember, the child of a politician or a person of influence is not a suitable candidate.

Secondly, being removed from family and friends may be advantageous in overcoming the bothersome obstacle of familial and social support networks. Choosing a foreigner is a safe bet, and better yet a recently arrived one, since in addition to being far from support, that person is likely to be distracted by homesickness, culture shock and adjustment, and may be experiencing the additional insecurity associated with visa processes and finances while abroad. A recently arrived foreigner may not even be able to communicate to the standard where they can properly appreciate the subtle implications in what they say, what is said to them and the processes going on around them.  This is true even when they speak the national language as a second language and it will make the task at hand run more smoothly.

Moreover, the newly arrived foreigner is easier to isolate. It need not be stated that the person would ideally be Muslim, since on the one hand there is precedent, and on the other, the process, once completed, will be watertight. The Muslim is unlikely to find strong assistance from any do-gooder nationals and can more easily be portrayed later as simply ‘evil’ rather than as a ‘bad egg’ so to speak, as an exception to the good citizen, which is a perception that would need to be put in place for a national. Another option might be the white extremist model but this is more difficult in general to achieve and sustain.

Once a candidate has been chosen, the first task will be to ensure isolation. Remember that a wolf hunting a sheep will always choose one that is removed from the flock. It’s only the foolish shepherd that will try to bring them back.

Isolation can be achieved in any number of ways. Unwelcome relationships with respectable nationals can be broken through a simple verbal warning from an authority figure, or more subtly through the initiation of rumours that drive suspicion against the candidate. Passing acquaintances can be managed, such as by asking local shopkeepers and neighbours to ‘keep an eye’ on the candidate. If done well this strategy can mean the candidate feels additionally isolated in daily life since they will notice, either consciously or even subconsciously, being treated differently, with fear, suspicion or even overcompensated goodwill, when buying groceries or meeting neighbours in the hallway. If they then seek to avoid such interactions, that behaviour can be viewed with suspicion: candidate was quiet and withdrawn. This strategy also means the said locals will not ask too many questions later since the outcome is already anticipated, and it is only locals not included in such strategy that are likely to speak to the media with the predictable, ‘we had no idea’ line. Further, it puts the candidate in a position where they are assumed guilty and they would then have to prove their innocence, without any means to do so, in order to develop any relationship of trust that could potentially offer support later. Note however that only trustworthy nationals are properly included in this strategy: it is not for other foreigners as the risk of them questioning the bona fide intentions of the terrorist-maker is too high. Foreigners are best kept solely as ‘the other’ in such matters.

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Another factor worth considering in achieving isolation is the minimisation of contact with home and the broader community.  There is value in blocking or delaying selected e-mails, for example, in terms of employment or educational opportunity.  Ideally the family members at home will be in the dark as to the candidate’s state of mind; this will most often be a task performed by the candidate themselves, with thoughts of not wishing to worry or alarm their family. Don’t forget, ideas of that nature, concern for not causing worry, can be fed to the candidate to ensure self-compliance.

In addition, there are other options such as increasing personal instability in terms of study or employment, or even creating difficulties with bank accounts and necessary bureaucratic processes. Remember, keeping stress levels high may be imperative in order to induce the radicalisation of the candidate in a timely manner, and to provide further evidence by way of radical statements or minor actions that can be used to obtain approval for prolonging or intensifying the terrorist manufacturing process: because let’s face it, these things need funding. One key to success will be to identify the candidate’s personal weaknesses early on. Do they take drugs? Do they sleep around? Are they naturally introverted or do they talk too much? All minor personality factors can be used to determine effective radicalisation strategy in an individual circumstance.

Once isolation is underway and stress provokers in place, the introduction of ‘friendlies’ in the candidate’s life is the next step.  It is the task of the friendlies to offer radicalised thoughts and ideas, record responses, to encourage the candidate’s closer association with radical mosques and perceived conservative Islamic mores and dress, which can both facilitate further radicalisation and cement perceptions of radicalisation. Ideas of violence are then gradually introduced, first in a theoretical sense and later as a solidified plan. If isolation has been successfully achieved, all meaningful resistance to ideas of violence have been neutralised. We could call this range of activities ‘create and capture.’

Friendlies can also work to confuse and undermine the candidate in terms of self-esteem and confidence, for example by offering veiled criticisms in the form of helpful advice.  If the candidate wakes up late one weekend, the friendly will ask, ‘are you okay? You sleep too much!’ while when they get up early the friendly will say, ‘You look so tired!  Did you sleep enough?  Is something bothering you?’

Friendlies can also be placed in the street, or in circumstances of passing, where they may even use racial epithets or otherwise discriminate in order to intensify the candidate’s isolation and encourage resentment towards society’s mainstream.  This is just one example of course, the possibilities are endless, but a few carefully generated bad experiences can work wonders.  Such strategy will be strictly off the record also, as it will never be officially sanctioned, but it is a safe strategy since even a savvier candidate will not easily associate seemingly random events with things going on closer to their lives; although nonetheless such events affect their state of mind.  In the rare case such associations are made, the friendly positioned closer to the candidate will be in a position to sow the seeds of doubt.  ‘Are you sure that really happened?  Maybe you misunderstood? How do you know?’  The nice thing is that absolutely no skill is required in executing any of these strategies.

Constant change can also assist in successful completion of the process. Change of abode, from one city to another, from one university or workplace to another, is another good way to achieve isolation as well as to maintain high levels of tension and instability.  In a new city, the positioning of friendlies is made easier since all acquaintances in the new locality are likely to be new; and past connections can more easily be extinguished.  All it takes is a word or two.

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

At the same time, friendlies will introduce the candidate to radical personalities, and it can be more convincing if the candidate is put in touch with other candidates such that they become co-conspirators.  It is not essential however since one candidate acting alone can fulfil the ‘lone wolf’ cliché while if there is a co-conspirator, the candidate is no longer merely al-Qaeda inspired, but an al-Qaeda subscriber.

With all of these strategies in place, it is only a matter of time before even a hostile candidate can be coerced, cajoled and encouraged towards radicalisation. Remember both the carrot and the stick. If possible, wait until the final moments before pulling the plug, as a conspirator caught in the process of actually carrying out a terrorist attack is in an indefensible position.  All loopholes are covered, as it leaves said candidate with an undeniable case to answer.

Note that the earlier phases of the process do not happen officially.  The record will state that the candidate came to the attention of intelligence at a later stage. And remember, the golden rule of security sector security is: under all circumstances, escalate.

Alternatively however, if insurmountable problems do arise, it might be wise to cut losses and abort, opting instead for recruitment of the candidate as a fall back, since once they are employed by an agency, operational procedures will be secured.  A note on recruitment of friendlies: it is similarly easiest to achieve when dealing with a vulnerable candidate.  Choose one who is a national this time, but also Muslim, since working with nationals will be more straightforward.  They are easier to understand, for a start.  Choose one with legal misdemeanours under their belt, for example a few marijuana convictions, and these are not difficult to organise once the candidate has been first identified.  A string of interactions with law enforcement can work wonders in convincing the potential friendly to cooperate.

While these security strategies undoubtedly undermine national security in a real sense: by inspiring other radicals; by perpetuating negative stereotypes; by alienating communities who might have access to valuable, ‘real’ security information, because the old ‘we understand that most people of that community are good people’ being trotted out by officialdom will only appease sensitivities for so long; and by tying up resources that might be directed to finding more ‘naturally occurring,’ more difficult and essentially ‘real’ threats, little thought need be given to such factors.  This is true too for the loss of support for security within sections of the broader community, when people tire of reading the latest terrorism news and thinking, ‘No, that all seems a bit cooked up to me.’

Remember that keeping terrorism in the media cycle is an important function related to security funding and ultimately career opportunity.  It can be especially useful at election time, because when fear levels are high, voters are more likely to vote conservative, and therein are the best funding options for the security sector.  One word of warning: do not let the candidate have any public voice, as this can backfire if the candidate appears overly naïve for example, or if they raise issues of security strategy utilised in the radicalisation process.  They may not play their role well in the public spotlight.

Remember also that an alternative strategy, of at an early stage encouraging candidates away from radicalisation through inclusion, opportunity and personal empowerment, what some might call successful security operations, do not generate publicity and so, while that strategy may be more humane, for the purposes of lobbying and funding it is largely redundant, although it can be given lip service in order to demonstrate a veneer of balance.  Besides, spying on Muslim communities in general is a darn sight easier than working with them.

As a final note, do not worry about interference from politicians.  Most serious political candidates, at least in an average western democracy and in particular outside Europe, will hold an uncompromised ‘tough on terror’ line, at least in public, and not wish to enter into any debate about the finer points of enforcement strategy, or of course, God forbid, human rights.  Overall they do not wish to know and that’s a significant benefit.  The general public will also not cause any inconvenience, as understandable fear from the threat of violence coupled with the blind faith generated by nationalist sentiment will most often lead them to, at best, turn the other way.  So don’t worry, the power imbalance is totally in your favour.  Enjoy your do-it-yourself terrorist manufacture: hopefully this short guide can be of assistance in facilitating success in your endeavours. Good luck!

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Andrew Eagle has pursued various careers, including in government administration, education and travel. He is at present a Dhaka based writer.

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19 Responses to “ How to make a terrorist: The do-it-yourself guide ”

  1. Aminul Ahad on November 6, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    A very good piece. Excellent.

  2. shadman on November 3, 2012 at 3:48 am

    Thanks for the refreshing piece Andrew Eagle! Finally, someone with some brains! Keep it up. Godspeed.

  3. enamul haque on November 2, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Thank you very much for a wonderful write-up! Keep up the good work and entertain readers like me!

  4. Rana on November 1, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    Andrew, please try to reply comments that logically criticize your writeup.It is silly to see, in such an important topic, you are thanking people saying whose comments always encourage you and whose English is good, etc. Really silly and unprofessional. Hope you understand the difference between a professional online news site and a personal facebook account/blog.

    • Andrew Eagle on November 4, 2012 at 10:00 pm

      Thanks Rana but thoughts on philosophies of internet etiquette are off topic. Nonetheless thanks a lot for your contribution.

  5. Zubair H on November 1, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Thank you Andrew Eagle for your excellent piece. It is indeed great to see a foreigner coming to the rescue of our image and looking straight into the conspiracy and pointing it out for the readers to see through such an excellent piece of satire.

    Keep it up Andrew. Looking forward to more and more articles by you.

  6. Sabbir on November 1, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    But what would have had happened had they actually made a terrorist out of Nafis? How would we, the Bangladeshis face the rest of the world if Nafis had actually carried out the terrorist act? We always think about and argue about the image of the country being ruined to the rest of the world by our political leaders through their constant bickering and political mudslinging. Just think about what image we have had if Nafis had killed hundreds of people and destroyed the Federal State Building.

  7. Koli on November 1, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    An excellent write-up. A very good satire that has been written with utmost clarity. Excellent piece.

  8. Chowdhury Osman on November 1, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    I think Andrew Eagle has simplified the issue too much. This is a very serious topic for us. I shudder to think what would have had happened if Nafis had actually blown up that building. People need to realise the seriousness of the issue. It’s not the time to make the situation light with a satire.

    • Andrew Eagle on November 4, 2012 at 10:12 pm

      Hi Chowdhury Osman, I wanted to wait a while and see if others responded to you since I feel that the author kind of has their say in the article and the beauty of online news sites is that it allows a space for everyone to participate. I feel that in some ways the author should step back and give the floor to others.

      However, what I would say is that it is indeed a serious issue, but that actually makes it even more vital to think about how those employed to keep society safe perform that task. In the security sector there is usually less scrutiny than in other sectors of governance, particularly public scrutiny. I think it is a very valid exercise to consider what might be okay for an undercover cop to do and what might not be okay or counterproductive. This is a public discussion that is I think overdue.

      Because, if standards of good governance are not applied or properly applied to the security sector, we cannot but expect sloppier operations and more terrorist incidents in addition to the potential injustice to “innocent” targets of their operations. Anyway, this piece I hoped might contribute to thinking about these kinds of issues.

  9. Bashir Ul Alam on November 1, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    This is a great article. Finally someone has been able to pinpoint the conspiracy. We seem to have become hell bent on making a criminal out of Nafis. Thank you Andrew.

  10. Aman on November 1, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Even if Nafis is a product of the FBI, which i have my doubts about, Nafis did commit a crime — he drove that van full of explosives (thank god those were fake) to blow up the Federal State Building. If Nafis had actually blown up that building which would have most certainly killed scores, would Andrew still be writing this piece?

    • Andrew Eagle on November 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm

      Hi Aman,

      Not sure if your comment is really to me or general but please see my response above about the importance of good governance practices in the security sector.

      It’s true that in the event of an actual attack it may be disrespectful to those injured, killed and their families to publish a piece such as mine say, on the next day. Normally there is a period of grieving in the media after such incidents and the analyses come at a later time. I think this is appropriate, but of course not the situation thankfully this time.

      Again, the seriousness of terrorist acts and consequences to my mind actually heightens the value of discussing these kinds of issues.

  11. Kakon on November 1, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    This is a very good piece. But a bit shorter would have been better. Looking forward to more articles from Andrew Eagle.

  12. Kalam Ahmed on November 1, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    How about make some drones, put missiles on them and blow up women and children in remote areas for a video war? That usually is helpful in making a few terrorists.

  13. Wasi Ahmed on November 1, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Yes, the rules or the manual to follow the rules are the same in all cases. It might have begun long back, but became common knowledge since the cold war, and now it is the monopoly of the US to write and rewrite, with very little changes, the manual. Andrew Eagle has touched upon the basics with great clarity and eloquence. A commendable piece of writing, not for the hilarity but the depiction of an entire scenario of the endless journey of today’s youth beset with vulnerabilities.

    • Andrew Eagle on November 1, 2012 at 10:05 pm

      Thanks Wasi Ahmed. Your words are insightful and encouraging as always.

  14. Nur on November 1, 2012 at 1:22 am

    Congratulations on the piece, I think It’s perfect on it’s description of one type of terrorists. There’s another type (ETA or Anders Breivik for instance,) who are a creation of their group, their families and their neighbourhood. Isolated, without the pressure of a fanatic environment maybe they would have think for themselves.
    Sorry if there is any mistake, I’m still learning english.
    And congratulations for your piece, I loved it.

    • Andrew Eagle on November 1, 2012 at 10:04 pm

      Thanks Nur! Your English is fine, you’re doing well!

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