Operations Security

Section 4

Terrorist Intelligence Operations

This section assesses the threat posed by terrorism to the United States and examines the role that OPSEC plays in protecting U.S. interests against terrorist attack. In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in April 1995, Admiral William 0. Studeman, the Acting Director of Central Intelligence, summarized the terrorist threat to the United States in the following manner:

International terrorism remains one of the deadliest and most persistent threats to U.S. security. The motives, perpetrators, and methods of the terrorist groups are evolving in ways that complicate analysis, collection, and counteraction and require the ability to ship resources flexibly and quickly. The rise of the new breed of terrorist who is interested in inflicting mass death and destruction does not bode well for the future security of U.S. interests. These groups can strike at any time, anywhere, spurred by seemingly unrelated events for which they judge the United States to be blameworthy. They have a widening global reach and a high degree of proficiency with more sophisticated weapons and tactics. [Note 1]

Terrorism is defined as the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property for the purposes of intimidating or coercing a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political and social objectives. There are two categories of terrorism: domestic and international. Domestic terrorism involves groups or individuals whose activities, conducted in the United States without foreign influence, are directed at elements of the United States Government or population. International terrorism involves activity committed by foreign-based groups or individuals who are either directed by countries or groups outside the United States or whose activities transcend national boundaries. [Note 2]

Terrorist group categories

Terrorist groups generally are either non-state-supported (either indigenous or transnational), state-supported, or state-directed. Non-state supported terrorist groups are autonomous and receive no significant support from a government. State-supported groups generally operate independently but receive support from one or more governments. Such support may include weapons, training, money, intelligence, or safe havens. State- directed terrorist organizations act as agents of a government. Such groups receive intelligence, logistics, and operational support from the sponsoring government, frequently through diplomatic missions. State-directed terrorism is potentially a deniable and/or relatively inexpensive method of carrying out attacks against an enemy state or its interests. [Note 3]

The greatest terrorist threat to the United States today comes from fundamentalist Islamic extremist groups. Some of these groups, such as the Party of God (Hizballah), the Palestinian group Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS), and the Algerian Armed Islamic Group fit the traditional terrorist mold. These groups have hierarchical structures and receive support from state sponsors. A new Islamic threat is on the rise as a result of the activities of ad hoc terrorist groups. These groups are even more dangerous in many ways than the traditional groups because they lack a well-established organizational identity, and they tend to decentralize and compartment their activities. They are capable of producing sophisticated conventional weapons, as well as chemical and biological agents. They are also less constrained by state sponsors or other benefactors than more traditional terrorist organizations. These new groups seek to punish the United States and other Western nations by inflicting heavy civilian casualties. The World Trade Center bombers are prime examples of this new breed of radical, transnational Islamic terrorists. [Note 4]

Both the traditional groups and the newer, ad hoc groups have increased their capability to attack U.S. interests. The groups are well funded, and some have developed sophisticated international support networks that provide them great freedom of movement and increase their opportunities to attack the interests of the United States on a global basis. These groups are also attracting more qualified cadres with greater technical skills. Several groups have established supporting infrastructures within the United States that provide financial, logistics, operational, and intelligence support. [Note 5] Although, there is no evidence that these groups are centrally coordinated, it does appear that they collaborate in terrorist actions. Evidence gathered by Federal investigators in the World Trade Center bombing case, for example, shows that leaders or representatives of five different groups - the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, HAMAS, the Sudanese National Islamic Front, the Pakistan-based al-Fuqrah, and groups funded by Persian Gulf donors - were involved in the plot. The conspirators were aided by Sudanese diplomats affiliated with the National Islamic Front, which provided them with information and credentials. Evidence seized later from the apartment of one of the conspirators revealed detailed intelligence on potential targets and plans for other attacks in the New York area. [Note 6]

Terrorist tactics

There are six basic types of tactics that terrorist groups have used: hijackings, kidnappings, bombings, assassinations, armed assaults, and barricade-hostage incidents. A group's objectives and organizational capabilities dictate which tactics it uses. Terrorist organizations typically use hijackings, kidnapping, and barricade-hostage incidents when the group wishes to force the targeted company or government into negotiations. The terrorist group frequently is able to obtain the release of prisoners or extort money. Such incidents increase the level of risk to the terrorist organization and require a mature planning, operations, logistics, and intelligence capability to successfully conduct the operation. Bombings, assassinations, and armed assaults are less risky and generally require less organizational capabilities. These tactics tend to be used to accomplish the following goals:

Attaining the terrorist organization's goals depends on receiving adequate information for planning and executing an operation. OPSEC denies terrorist organizations the information they require for planning. The following portions of this section discuss the terrorist threat to the United States and the role of sponsoring nations and terrorist organizations in executing attacks.

Terrorist objectives

Organizations intend their terrorist activities to have an emotional impact on the target audience, causing it to act in a manner that furthers the group's objectives. Terrorist operations generally are categorized in terms of their associated goals. These goals traditionally are divided into five categories: recognition, coercion, intimidation, provocation, and insurgency support. Early in their life span, terrorist groups often carry out attacks designed to gain recognition. The objective of these attacks is national and/or international attention for the group and its stated objectives. Groups often mount such attacks, which may involve protracted hostage seizures, against highly-visible symbols of state control (e.g., national airlines). Groups intend coercion attacks to force individuals, organizations, or governments to act in a desired manner. Using this strategy, terrorists selectively target facilities with the intent of bringing increasing pressure to bear on the targeted activity. Terrorist attacks designed primarily to intimidate are a means of preventing organizations or governments from acting in a defined manner. Provocation attacks aim to force government security forces to take repressive action against the general populace. These attacks generally are against critical infrastructures, popular or high-profile individuals, or important facilities. The goal of these attacks is to demonstrate the weakness of the legitimate government, thus causing an uncoordinated backlash. [Note 8]

Terrorist threats to the United States

Until recently, many people believed that the United States was largely immune to terrorist attack. This belief was based on the low number of terrorist attacks that took place in the United States during the 1980s and early 1990s. The bombing of the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993, demonstrated the nation's vulnerability to terrorist attack. In retrospect, however, there was no reason to discount U.S. vulnerability to terrorist attacks. Historically, the United States has been the target of over 32 percent of all terrorist attacks worldwide, second only to Israel. Domestically, the United States averaged 100 terrorist attacks per year in the 1970s, with 112 occurring in 1977 alone. Between 1980 and 1982, 122 terrorist attacks occurred in the United States with 51 of these attacks occurring in 1982. Between 1982 and 1993, a total of 177 confirmed terrorist incidents and 46 suspected terrorist incidents took place. Additionally, law enforcement intervention prevented 81 terrorist incidents, many of which could have resulted in extensive damage to property or significant loss of life. Superior intelligence collection and the infiltration of terrorist groups with informers enabled the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in concert with the Intelligence Community, to prevent these attacks. However, if terrorist groups continue to evolve into more informal, ad hoc structures, gathering information necessary to prevent terrorist incidents may become far more difficult. [Note 9]

It is likely that the number of terrorist attacks taking place inside the United States will increase within the next several years. According to current projections, worldwide terrorism will increase at a rate of roughly 15 percent per year - a figure in line with historical patterns. Most terrorist attacks against American interests will still occur overseas, but more violent attacks aimed at symbolic targets and vital infrastructure are likely to occur inside the United States. Both domestic and international terrorism are likely to increase. Moreover, as terrorists gain technical skills and attempt to stay one move ahead of counterterrorist and antiterrorist forces, the weapons and operational techniques used by terrorists are likely to grow more complex and more sophisticated. [Note 10]

Terrorist sponsors

The Department of State currently considers seven countries to be terrorist sponsors: Libya, Syria, Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Iraq, and North Korea. [Note 11]


Although it has made some cosmetic changes to its terrorism apparatus, Libya retains the capability to commit terrorist acts. Despite its public renunciation of terrorism, terrorism remains an important instrument of Libyan foreign policy, which is managed at the highest levels of government. The United States has successfully sought sanctions against Libya in the United Nations aimed at forcing the extradition of the two Libyan intelligence officers implicated in the bombing of Pan American flight 103. However, Libya has still failed to comply with the demands of the U.N. Security Council for the extradition of these individuals as well as those suspected to be involved in the bombing of UTA flight 772. In December 1993, the Security Council increased sanctions against Libya to compel compliance. While it has closed some terrorist facilities, Libya still provides safe havens and financial support for the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) and other terrorist groups. In October 1993, Qaddafi vowed to strike the United States and nations supporting U.N. sanctions against Libya. It is believed that Libya possesses chemical weapons and is actively pursuing other weapons of mass destruction. [Note 12]

The primary Libyan intelligence organization, the Jamahariya Security Organization (JSO), has been directly implicated in the bombing of Pan American flight 103 and UTA flight 772. The bomb used to destroy Pan American 103 was traced to a station manager for Libyan Arab Airways in Malta. The station manager, a JSO intelligence officer, checked the bag at Luqa Airport in Malta on to a KLM aircraft flying to London with instructions for transfer to a flight for John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Because of his position, the Libyan station manager was able to bypass airport security and forward the suitcase with the bomb without any examination. Authorities in London placed the bag on the next flight to New York, Pan American 103, assuming that it has been checked and determined to be safe in Malta. A defector from the JSO to the United States provided critical information on the role of Libyan intelligence in the bombing of the aircraft. [Note 13]

The JSO was also responsible for planning and executing the LaBelle Discotheque bombing in Berlin, Germany which killed U.S. Army personnel in 1986. On December 4, 1992, the Federal Republic of Germany indicted two Libyan intelligence officers for their role in the bombing. The Libyan Embassy in East Germany provided the explosives used in the bombing and collected intelligence needed to target the nightclub. The JSO has also been directly implicated in the attacks by the ANO on the Rome and Vienna Airports in 1985. Libya provided forged passports and intelligence support, and used diplomatic pouches to move weapons into the vicinity of the attacks. The JSO was also involved in the attempted assassination of a U.S. ambassador in 1977. Libyan People's Bureaus throughout the world have been used to provide monetary support, weapons, training, and intelligence to disparate terrorist groups sponsored by Libya. The Libyans have also used front companies, the offices of Libyan Arab Airlines, and the Islamic Call Society as covers for intelligence and terrorist operations. The Libyans have also used these activities to obtain embargoed technologies and information for their program to produce weapons of mass destruction. [Note 14]


To advance its interests in the Middle East, Syria has used terrorism as an integral part of its foreign policy. Syrian intelligence officers and diplomats have been associated with attacks on Jordanian officials and Syrian dissidents living abroad. In January 1986, the Syrian intelligence service was behind a plot to smuggle a bomb through the United Kingdom's Heathrow Airport onto an El Al aircraft. Since the end of 1986, Syrian sponsorship of terrorist activities appears to have been restricted to the Middle East. Syrian intelligence is also involved in the diversion of technologies required for the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction, and for advanced conventional munitions. It is believed that Syria possesses chemical weapons and is developing the capability to produce biological weapons. Syria continues to provide safe haven, training, financial support, and perhaps intelligence support for a number of Middle East terrorist organizations. These organizations include the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Hizballah, the Japanese Red Army, and HAMAS. [Note 15]


Iran is the most active sponsor of terrorism in the world. Since the inception of the Islamic state in 1979, the country has used terrorism as an integral part of its foreign and military policies. Iranian leaders view terrorism as a valid tool to accomplish their political objectives. Terrorist operations are reviewed and approved at the highest levels of the Iranian government, and the President of Iran is involved in the approval process of all major terrorist operations. Iranian-sponsored terrorism has had two major goals: Punishing opponents of the Islamic regime and expanding the Islamic movement throughout the Persian Gulf region. Iran sees terrorism as a means of attacking its enemies that is less likely to result in direct retribution against the Islamic Republic. This view has been reinforced by the United States' decisive victory in the Persian Gulf War. [Note 16]

Despite the overall decline in state-sponsored terrorist attacks, Iranian-sponsored attacks have actually increased. The number of terrorist attacks and the centralization of oversight of terrorist operations has increased since the election of President Rafsanjani, despite the supposed moderation of his regime. Tehran and its surrogates carried out 35 terrorist attacks between 1989, when Rafsanjani was elected, and 1992. Twenty of these attacks were conducted in 1992 alone, and the trend for these attacks has been toward increased levels of lethality. [Note 17]

The Iranian government plays a significant role in international terrorism by providing money, training, weapons, intelligence, documentation, and cover for terrorist activities. Three government agencies play primary roles. The Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) is responsible for intelligence collection to support terrorist operations. The ministry is also responsible for liaison activities with supported terrorist groups and Islamic fundamentalist movements. MOIS has also conducted terrorist operations in support of Iranian objectives. Most of these activities have focused on attacks on Iranian dissidents. The Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is responsible for extraterritorial operations, including terrorist operations. A primary focus for the Qods Force is training Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups. Currently, the Qods Force conducts training activities in Iran and in Sudan. The Qods Force is also responsible for gathering information required for targeting and attack planning. The final operational element of the Iranian government's terrorist support infrastructure is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (WA). The WA provides diplomatic cover for terrorist operations, diplomatic pouch service for importation of weapons and explosives, and a safe haven at Iranian diplomatic facilities for execution of terrorist operations. [Note 18]

Iran maintains active liaison with Hizballah, HAMAS, the PIJ, and other terrorist groups. One of these groups - the Islamic Group, an Egyptian fundamentalist terrorist group - was involved in the bombing of the World Trade Center. Subsequent investigations revealed that members of the group who participated in the bombing received bank transfers in Germany from Iran and from Iranian organizations prior to the bombing. While this does not constitute definitive proof of Iranian involvement in the bombing, these facts suggest that the Iranian government supported the activities of the ad hoc terrorist organization that carried out the bombing. [Note 19] The Iranians have also embarked on a long-term program to develop weapons of mass destruction. [Note 20]

The Intelligence Community believes that Iran is likely to continue its support for terrorist operations for the foreseeable future. Iran has never paid a significant price for any of the terrorist activities it has sponsored and has obtained tangible political benefits in the Persian Gulf region. Iran will continue to focus the majority of its attacks on Israel in hopes of derailing the Middle East peace process. The United States will also continue to be a primary target for Iranian sponsored terrorist attacks. Iran and the terrorist groups it sponsors are continuing to develop operational plans to attack the United States and its allies. Iran has an extensive intelligence collection and terrorist infrastructure throughout the world. This infrastructure is particularly well developed in the United States, Europe, and South America. Iran has also formed alliances with Islamic fundamentalists in the Philippines, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. [Note 21]


In August 1993, the State Department added Sudan to its list of terrorist states. Authorities now consider Sudan to be second to Iran in its support of Muslim terrorist groups. The government of Sudan has links to radical Arab terrorist organizations, including HAMAS, ANO, and the PIJ. Sudan also provides safe haven for PLO operatives and for Egyptian fundamentalists fleeing crack- downs by the Mubarak government. The governments of Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt have asserted that Sudan is providing weapons, funds, training, passports, and safe haven for Islamic terrorist organizations that are attempting to overthrow their governments. To date, no conclusive evidence links Sudan with any terrorist act; however, Sudanese citizens comprised five of the fifteen suspects arrested in June 1993 for plotting to bomb the United Nations Building, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the New York Federal Building, and other facilities in New York City. Senior members of the National Islamic Front (NIF), which dominates the Sudanese government, have also called for attacks against the United States. The United States also suspects that Sudan provided weapons and materiel to Somali groups responsible for attacks on U.S. and U.N. forces deployed in Somalia. Iran has maintained an extremely close relationship with Sudan, and the two nations have entered into agreements for joint military and intelligence activities. [Note 22]


Since the mass expulsion of its intelligence officers and diplomats from numerous countries during the Gulf War, Iraq has not fully recovered its capability to conduct terrorist operations. Nevertheless, Iraq sponsored 39 terrorist operations in 1992 - activity which was in direct violation of its cease-fire agreement with the United Nations. One notable incident was the planned assassination of former President George Bush on his visit to Kuwait in 1993. The Iraqi government was also implicated in several dozen terrorist incidents in Northern Iraq in 1993. These attacks primarily targeted U.N. food distribution activities and humanitarian relief agency operations. Indications are that the Iraqi intelligence service has resumed terrorist targeting operations throughout the world. Iraq has a well-developed chemical weapons program and possesses biological agents. U.N. disarmament operations, however, have significantly damaged Iraq's nuclear weapons program. [Note 23]


In the past, Cuba was a strong supporter of terrorist activities providing training, funds, weapons, and intelligence support. The Castro regime, which has become preoccupied with its own existence, is no longer able to support armed struggle actively in Latin America or other parts of the world. Currently, the regime's focus is on economic survival, and the government is attempting to upgrade diplomatic and trade relations in Latin America. However, Cuba still provides safe haven for a number of Latin American and European terrorist organizations. It still remains likely that the Castro regime would use terrorist attacks as a means to adversely affect U.S. interests and prevent the collapse of the Cuban regime; or if U.S. military action was anticipated. Cuba has a sophisticated intelligence collection capability that could be used for targeting U.S. facilities by terrorist groups. The Cuban intelligence service, the DGI, has the ability to unilaterally carry out such attacks against the United States. [Note 24]

North Korea

North Korea has a worldwide capability to conduct terrorist activities against the United States or its allies. If North Korea wishes, it can mount attacks on U.S. facilities at any time. North Korea has not sponsored any terrorist activity since 1987, when it conducted a mid-flight bombing of a Korean Air Lines aircraft. The North Korean Research Department for External Intelligence (RDEI) was responsible for this attack, and an earlier attack in Rangoon, Burma that targeted an official South Korean delegation headed by South Korea's president. North Korea still provides sanctuary for terrorist groups, and military instructors at terrorist training camps in Lebanon and Sudan. The North Koreans appear to be backing away from terrorism as a means to gain economic aid and advanced technology from the United States and Japan. North Korea is believed to have chemical and biological weapons and is currently believed to be engaged in developing nuclear weapons. A significant concern has been that North Korea may be willing to sell these technologies to state supporters of terrorism or terrorist groups. [Note 25]

Islamic fundamentalist groups

A variety of Islamic fundamentalist and/or radical Arab groups have the ability to conduct attacks inside the United States. Such groups - HAMAS, Hizballah, PIJ, ANO, and the Islamic Group - are characterized by their increasingly strident assertions of religious justification for terrorist activities against the oppressive regimes of the developed world. In particular, groups have identified the United States as anti-Islamic. For this reason, Iran and its followers characterize the United States as the Great Satan. It is notable that from 1975 to 1987, the number of religious terrorist groups, many of which were Islamic fundamentalist, increased six-fold. In contrast, the number of Marxist-Leninist groups has remained fairly steady, while the number of ethnic terrorist groups has declined. Not only have religious terrorist groups increased in number, but they have also become increasingly more violent as a way of fulfilling their mandate from God. [Note 26]

Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS)

Formed in 1987 as an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood, HAMAS is a loosely structured organization. It is the principal political rival of Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization in the occupied territories. HAMAS has engaged in terrorist operations in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and has stridently opposed any settlement with the Israeli government. During 1994, HAMAS worked to undermine the legitimacy of the Provisional Palestinian government in the Gaza Strip and conducted several major acts of terrorism against Israel. The most prominent of these incidents was a suicide attack on an Israeli bus on the main street in Tel Aviv. This incident killed 23 people. HAMAS has links to Iran and has consistently opposed U.S. policy in the Middle East. The organization has been openly involved in propaganda and fund raising operations in the United States. [Note 27]

Of all of the Islamic militant groups, HAMAS has developed the most sophisticated U.S. infrastructure, including charitable, political, social, and military activities. HAMAS has conducted training in the United States on military tactics and the building of explosive devices. Musa Abu Marzuk, the international political director of HAMAS, was recently arrested by immigration authorities in the United States, and his extradition to Israel for terrorist activities is currently pending. Marzuk was a resident alien in the United States until 1993 and is credited with creating much of the HAMAS infrastructure in the United States. HAMAS has threatened to conduct terrorist attacks in the United States if Marzuk is extradited to Israel. [Note 28]

Party of God (Hizballah)

Hizballah, a radical Shia group, was formed in Lebanon in 1982-1983 as a result of the merger of Hussein Musawi's Islamic Amal and the Lebanese branch of the Da'wa Party. Hizballah, which is closely allied with Iran, wishes to create an Islamic republic in Lebanon. It is believed that Hizballah was responsible for the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Lebanon and the Marine barracks in Beirut, and the kidnapping and murder of Western hostages in Lebanon. Hizballah has demonstrated the ability to conduct terrorist operations outside the Middle East and has claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in March 1992. Hizballah receives substantial amounts of financial, training, weapons, explosives, political, diplomatic, and organizational aid from Iran. It is believed that Hizballah has a significant support infrastructure in the United States capable of carrying out terrorist operations. However, at this time, there is no evidence that Hizballah is contemplating any type of attack against the United States. Hizballah likely would coordinate any operation with elements of the Iranian Revolu- tionary Guard Corps who are believed to have entered the United States in the late 1980s on student visas. [Note 29]

Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ)

The PIJ originated in the Gaza Strip during the 1970s. Rather than a cohesive entity, the group appears to be a loose coalition of factions. The PIJ is dedicated to creating an Islamic state in Palestine and destroying Israel. In 1994, the PIJ carried out a number of attacks against Israel with the aim of destroying the peace accord with the Palestinians. In January 1995, the PIJ claimed responsibility for the bombing of an Israeli bus stop at which Israeli soldiers were awaiting transportation to their base. The attack killed 21 soldiers. The PIJ publicly has threatened to attack U.S. interests as well as Arab governments that the group believes have been tainted by Western secularism. Iran, Sudan, and Syria provide aid to some PIJ factions. [Note 30] The PIJ also has a sizable presence in the United States with support activities in Tampa, FL; Chicago, IL; and Brooklyn, NY. [Note 31]

Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)

Since 1974, the ANO has carried out over 90 terrorist attacks in 20 countries, killing or injuring more than 900 people. The ANO has an overseas support structure which includes an intelligence collection activity that is active in the United States. ANO has targeted the United States, United Kingdom, France, Israel, moderate Palestinians, the PLO, and various Arab countries. The ANO has demonstrated the capability to conduct operations worldwide. [Note 32]

Islamic Group (Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya)

The Islamic Group is an Egyptian Islamic extremist group whose spiritual leader is Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. The group's goal is to overthrow the government of Hosni Mubarak and replace it with an Islamic state. Members of this group's predecessor were involved in the assassination of Anwar Sadat and have conducted terrorist attacks inside Egypt. Having strongly condemned the United States for its participation in Middle East politics and its support of the Mubarak government, leaders of the Islamic Group have urged their followers to punish the United States. The group's financial, logistics, and training support seems to come mainly from Iran and Sudan. Sheik Rahman and a number of his followers were tried in Federal district court in New York for conspiring to conduct a series of terrorist attacks in New York City during 1993. [Note 33]

Terrorism Trends

As they are becoming more violent, terrorist groups also have expanded the range of targets that they consider legitimate. Brian Jenkins, formerly the director of the Rand Corporation's Program on Subnational Conflict, has postulated three reasons for this trend. First, as generational replacement has occurred in terrorist organizations, new leaders have become less concerned with ideological constraints and adverse public opinion. As a result, they are more willing to use excessively violent or shocking tactics. Second, leaders desire to maintain media attention. Limited acts of terrorism repeated over time have failed to gain desired media attention. To receive attention, terrorists have escalated the level of violence and have used bolder, more shocking tactics designed to force the media and the public to pay attention to the terrorist group and its demands. Finally, the internal dynamics of terrorist groups require that the organization move inexorably toward its goals. Increasingly violent tactics allow group members to perceive that they are increasingly powerful and are likely to achieve their objectives. [Note 34]

Data gathered from 1968 to 1990 substantiates the trend that the number of terrorist groups is increasing and that groups are also more violent. In 1990, there were 70 active terrorist groups throughout the world, compared to 11 identifiable groups in 1968. Although the number of terrorist incidents identified in the 1980s increased by only one-third over those identified in the 1970s, the level of violence increased dramatically. In the 1980s, the number of deaths worldwide attributed to terrorism doubled. There was a 75 percent increase in the number of terrorist incidents resulting in fatalities, a 115 percent increase in incidents resulting in 5 or more deaths, and a 135 percent increase in incidents resulting in 10 or more deaths. Pinkerton Risk Assessment Services, an organization that tracks terrorist incidents, recorded an unprecedented 5,404 terrorist incidents in 1992, resulting in over 10,000 deaths. These incidents represent an 11 percent increase over 1991 figures. Part of this pattern is attributable to the growth of religious terrorism. Religious terrorists differ from traditional ideological terrorists in that the former are willing to sacrifice to obtain their objective. Consequently, religious terrorists are more likely to use indiscriminate violence. They see themselves as involved in a total war in which there are no innocent parties. In determining operational matters, religious terrorists also are largely unconcerned with public opinion. [Note 35]

As discussed earlier, some terrorist groups are evolving into new organizational structures that are harder to detect and infiltrate. These terrorist groups are often a collection of factions with common interests. Accordingly, the groups form, change, and regroup in response to specific agendas or planned actions. The groups tend to be religious or ethnic organizations that often have major grievances with the United States. The extremist factions of Islamic fundamentalist groups that are currently emerging fit this pattern. While many are funded by Iran or supported by Sudan, the emerging groups are not controlled or directed by either state. Instead, they tend to be autonomous in their planning and decision-making functions. According to William Webster, former Director of Central Intelligence, there may be dozens of such groups in the United States waiting for the opportunity to strike. The large number of these groups as well as their lack of central direction and changing organizational structures, make them very difficult to crack.

Finally, a trend may be developing regarding a sponsoring state's use of terrorists to conduct a proxy war against the United States. Terrorist groups offer the sponsoring state a deniable method to attack primary U.S. interests. In turn, sponsoring states would provide terrorist groups with funding, access to weapons and advanced technologies, intelligence, target planning support, logistics support, and secure communications. In times of crisis or conflict, the use of terrorists as proxies is the aspect of terrorism that appears to be the most dangerous to U.S. interests because attacks could be directed at facilities critical to force mobilization or crisis management.


To succeed, terrorist operations require detailed information for planning and executing an attack. Many of these organizations have access to intelligence produced by sponsor states or have the ability to produce intelligence required for an attack. OPSEC can be used to deny adversaries information on the movements of key personnel, or the identity and vulnerabilities of critical facilities. The OPSEC process can assist program managers in determining the best security program to protect against terrorist attack based upon assessed risk levels and the cost of implementing security countermeasures. OPSEC procedures can be used to deny terrorists the critical information that they require to plan an attack, and security countermeasures can be implemented that are commensurate with the assessed level of risk.


1. U.S. House of Representatives, Testimony of the Acting Director of Central Intelligence on the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995, Hearings before the Committee on the Judiciary, April 6, 1995, 10.

2. Terrorist Research and Analysis Center, Terrorism in the United States 1982-1992, Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation, July 1993; and Terrorist Research and Analysis Center, Terrorism in the United States 1993, Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation, July 1994.

3. Stephen T. Hosmer and George K. Tanharn, Countering Covert Aggression, Rand Note 2412-USDP, Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, January 1986, pp. 3-4.

4. U.S. House of Representatives, Testimony of the Acting Director of Central Intelligence on the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995, Hearings before the Committee on the Judiciary, April 6, 1995, pp. 6-7.

5. Ibid., p. 6.

6. Steven Emerson, "The Other Fundamentalists: A Report on the Islamic Extremist Network in the United States," The New Republic, June 12, 1995, pp. 21-30.

7. Jeffrey D. Simon, The Terrorist Trap: America's Experience with Terrorism, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1994.

8. Military Operations in Low Intensity Conflict, Headquarters, Departments of the Army and the Air Force, December 1990.

9. Terrorist Research and Analysis Center, Terrorism in the United States 1993, Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation, July 1994; and United States Senate, High Tech Terrorism, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Technology and Law, Committee on the Judiciary, Senate Hearing 100-1078, Washington, DC: USGPO, 1989.

10. Interview, Combating Terrorism Directorate, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, September 26, 1994.

11. The intelligence activities of North Korea and Cuba were discussed in the previous section of this handbook. This section only discusses the participation of these nations in terrorist activities.

12. Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division, Terrorism: U.S. Policy Options, Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, July 22, 1993.

13. Diarmuid Jeffreys, The Bureau: Inside the Modern FBI, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995, pp. 282-283.

14. Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, "Appendix C: Libya's Continuing Responsibility for Terrorism," in Patterns of Global Terrorism - 1991, Washington, DC: Department of State, April 1992, pp. 69-74.

15. Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Patterns of Global Terrorism - 1994, Washington, DC: Department of State, April 1995, pp. 23-24.

16. Sean K. Anderson, "Iranian State-Sponsored Terrorism," Conflict Quarterly, Fall 1991 (11:4), pp. 19-31.

17. United States Senate, Statement of R. James Woolsey, Director of Central Intelligence, in Terrorism and America: A Comprehensive Review of the Threat, Policy, and Law, Hearings before the Committee on the Judiciary, April 21 and 22, 1993, Washington, DC: USGPO, 1994, pp. 11-12.

18. Worldwide Terrorist Threat Briefing by Gregg F. Prewitt, Chief, Terrorism Threat Warning Branch, Defense Intelligence Agency, at the DoD Worldwide Antiterrorism Conference, Newport, RI, August 29, 1995; and John Hughes, "Behind Concerns of Iran-Sudan Ties," The Christian Science Monitor, September 2, 1993, p. 19.

19. Bruce Hoffman, Responding to Terrorism Across the Technological Spectrum, Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, July 15, 1994.

20. Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Patterns of Global Terrorism 1993, Washington, DC: Department of State, April 1994.

21. Worldwide Terrorist Threat Briefing by Gregg F. Prewitt, Chief, Terrorism Threat Warning Branch, Defense Intelligence Agency, at the DoD Worldwide Antiterrorism Conference, Newport, RI, August 29, 1995.

22. Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Patterns of Global Terrorism 1993, Washington, DC: Department of State, April 1995, p. 23.

23. Ibid., p. 21.

24. Ibid., p. 20.

25. PACOM Terrorist Threat Briefing, COL C. K. Akana, Director of Security Police, Fifth Air Force, at the DoD Worldwide Antiterrorism Conference, Newport, RI, August 29, 1995.

26. Bruce Hoffman, Terrorist Targeting: Tactics, Trends, and Potentialities, Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1992.

27. Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division, HAMAS. The Organization, Goals, and Tactics of a Militant Islamic Organization, Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, August 19, 1993.

28. Steven Emerson, "The Other Fundamentalists: A Report on the Islamic Extremist Network in the United States," The New Republic, June 12, 1995, pp. 21-30; and James Brooke and Elaine Sciolino, "U.S. Muslims Say Their Aid Pays for Charity, Not Terror: Bread or Bullets, Money for HAMAS," The New York Times, August 16, 1995, p. A1.

29. Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Patterns Global Terrorism 1993, Washington, DC: Department of State, April 1995, pp. 18 and 43; and Robert Kupperman and Jeff Kamen, Final Warning: Averting Disaster in the New Age of Terrorism, New York: Doubleday, 1989.

30. Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Patterns of Global Terrorism 1993, Washington, DC: Department of State, April 1995, pp. 17 and 53.

31. Steven Emerson, "The Other Fundamentalists: A Report on the Islamic Extremist Network in the United States," The New Republic, June 12, 1995, pp. 21-30.

32. Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Patterns of Global Terrorism 1993, Washington, DC: Department of State, April 1995, p. 33.

33. Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Patterns of Global Terrorism 1993, Washington, DC: Department of State, April 1994.

34. Brian M. Jenkins, ed., Terrorism and Beyond: Conference on Terrorism and Low-Level Conflict, Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1982.

35. George J. Church, "The Terror Within," Time, July 5, 1993, pp. 32-37.