Counter-Terrorism Resources

Criminal Justice Degree Guide: Counter-Terrorism

The death of Osama bin Laden is considered to be among the most significant achievements of counter-terrorist activity in recent years.  The result of a highly focused and targeted operation resulting from substantial intelligence, this event is just one example of the set of practices at work. Often consisting of just such targeted actions against terrorists and terrorist organizations, counter-terrorism is the means through which highly violent factions are neutralized. Beyond small scale operations, as a whole it is devoted to preventing and minimizing massive acts of terror.

What is Counter-Terrorism?

Most often, a terrorist organization is designated by the direct or indirect involvement in planning, preparing or assisting in a terrorist act. Otherwise, a group which encourages or advocates such action may also be considered to be a terrorist organization. Following most definitions globally, it is irrelevant whether or not such a terrorist act has occurred or will occur.  Counter-Terrorism, then, is defined by the tactics, strategies, and practices that official organizations such as governments and militaries utilize in order to prevent or respond to terrorism. It is equally concerned with detecting potential terrorist acts, as it is with responding to those acts. While it entails a great many components, each aspect of counter-terrorism contributes to security often on a global or national level.

Prominent Terrorist Organizations

Although there are thousands of active groups which could be considered terrorist organizations, a select few remain in the foreground of the international communities’ vision. Many of these groups pose a significant security risk to entities and individuals in many parts of the world.  Despite the extent of variance between nations and global entities, the criteria for terrorist organizations generally include those which carry out violent acts intended to instill fear. These acts of violence are typically undertaken without regard for civilian safety, and executed in order to achieve specific political, religious or ideological goals.

  • Foreign Terrorist Organizations – An official list of designated foreign terrorist organizations which includes common names, aliases and group acronyms. Further information regarding the significance of designation, legal ramifications and processes by which designation is determined are provided.
  • Global Terrorist Organizations – Worldstatesmen.org hosts this website which lists notorious terrorist organizations from around the world. Timelines which include significant activity and leading members are included.
  • Al-Qaeda – Possibly the world’s most infamous active terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda was behind the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. While Osama bin Laden, the group’s creator and leader, has been neutralized, the organization continues to pose a threat to the United States.
  • Al-Shabaab was initially the militant wing of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts that occupied southern Somalia during 2006. Despite its involvement in open-warfare with Ethiopian forces, the group continues to impress itself upon Somalia through the capture of strategic locations.
  • Kurdistan Workers’ Party – The Australian government provides this fact sheet on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (often abbreviated PKK, and currently known as the Kongra Gel) which works to create an independent Kurdish state in Turkey through massacre and large-scale violence. Being responsible for an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 deaths, this group continues to inflict casualties.
  • Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – Highly notorious for possessing exceptional military resources, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was an extremist organization dedicated to creating a Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka. Invoking a violent civil war between 1983 and 2009, the LTTE were eventually defeated by the Sri Lankan Military.
  • Jemaah Islamiya – Linked with Al-Qaeda, the Jemaah Islamiya is an Indonesian terrorist organization devoted to establishing an Islamic caliphate in Southeast Asia. Responsible for a number of high profile bombings in Jakarta and elsewhere in Indonesia, this group focuses on Western targets.
  • Real Irish Republican Army – A splinter-cell of the Irish Republican Army, the Real IRA objected to the agreed upon cease fire of November 1997.  While the group is relatively small in number, it remains active in violent terrorist activity.
  • Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) – A militant Islamic fundamentalist organization, Hamas is a prominent political organization (and deemed by many to be a terrorist organization) as well as a larger social movement. Dedicated to destroying and replacing Israel, Hamas actively engages in violent acts against Israel.
  • Hezbollah (Party of God) – The BBC looks into the history and motivations behind this Lebanese terrorist organization. Highly opposed to Western government and influence, this group is believed to be behind a number of suicide bombings aimed at Western individuals.

The “War on Terror”

Although terrorism has long been an issue internationally, the “War on Terror” marks an increased effort toward its prevention and eradication.  While terrorism has been actively fought against for years, this relatively recent initiative is mostly a response to the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center.  Lead by the United States and the United Kingdom, in conjunction with a number of countries all over the world, this campaign is primarily aimed at militant Islamist organizations. While it does not strictly focus on such groups, an elevated priority seems to be given to them. While this phrase was coined by President George W. Bush, the administration of President Barack Obama does not officially use it. Instead, the phrase “Overseas Contingency Operation” is favored.  While these phrases convey separate messages, both are concerned with large scale cooperative military action against terrorist organizations.

  • The Department of Homeland Security – Created as a response to the tragic events of September 11th the Department of Homeland Security is a collection of federal agencies devoted to preventing terrorist attacks within the United States. While internal counter-terrorism is the primary role of this office, it is also intended to improve recovery from attacks and natural disasters.
  • United States Counterterrorism Advisory Team is a national security initiative comprised of military, counterterrorism and intelligence professionals. Focused on disseminating open source information pertaining to terrorism and its prevention, this organization
  • Office of the Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism is dedicated to improving relations between multilateral organizations, and foreign governments in order to realize counter-terrorism objectives. Working in conjunction with the U.S. Government counter-terrorism team, this office seeks to coordinate strategies on an international level.
  • International Institute for Counter-Terrorism – An academic institute dedicated to issues of counter-terrorism on a global scale. The ICT is interested in facilitating international involvement and cooperation against terrorism, and acting as a forum for the international community to disseminate expertise and knowledge on all related issues.
  • Defense Intelligence Agency – Understanding the significance of information in deterring and preventing terrorism, the Defense Intelligence Agency is the United States department that is dedicated to providing military intelligence relevant to the “Global War on Terrorism.” In order to effectively operate, this organization attempts to strengthen cooperation between members of the intelligence community while advancing related human and technological capabilities.

Miscellaneous Counter-Terror Information

Additional resources of varying pertinent topics are provided in this section in order to provide you with a fuller understanding of counter-terrorism as a whole. Offering some key academic institutions dedicated to studying issues of security and defense, as well as miscellaneous government organizations and initiatives, this section answers questions which the previous sections may have missed.

  • National Response Framework provides guidelines that will enable those involved in national response to follow in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster. The replacement to the National Response Plan, the NRF dictates essential principles, roles and structures.
  • The Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence is an academic department devoted to studying the determinants and consequences of terrorism. Located at the University of St. Andrews, this department engages in evidence-based scientific analysis.
  • University of Manitoba Centre for Defence and Security Studies – The Centre for Defence and Security Studies investigates international security through analyses of defense as well as established and emerging security challenges. In order to effectively utilize this knowledge, the center targets four major audiences: government, military, academia, and the general public.