Charles S. Faddis, expert on international terrorism: “Terrorist organizations are adaptable and flexible”
Interview conducted by Ioannis Micheletos, WSN Editor South East Europe, Coordinator of Southeastern European Office
The continuous assymetrical warfare against international terrorism seems to be far from over, and it spans through the entire globe with terror incidents happening almost on a daily basis and throughout the entire world system of transportation, travel, communication, public infastructure and civilian space.
The following interview by Charles S. Faddis, points out some basic outlines of the terrorist threat as it is being adapted presently.
Ioannis Michaletos: Over the past decade Europe faces the threat of militant and terrorist Islam, that was responsible for the attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005. Despite the fact that the European security authorities have disbanded quite a few terrorist networks, do you assess that potential attacks may occur in the short-term?
Charles S. Faddis: Yes, absolutely. This conflict is a long way from over.
No one engaged in counterterrorism should allow themselves to think that we have won or that the danger is past.
Al Qaeda remains strong and there are new terrorist cells appearing all the time, which are not directly under the control of Al Qaeda but are ideologically aligned with that organization.
Ioannis Michaletos: How can the cooperation between European security systems could be enchased in relation to the terrorist threat and could the private sector assist in a broader cooperation and effectiveness in that field?
Charles S. Faddis: There is still a tendency in some European countries to discount the extent of the danger posed by terrorism.
Until a particular country is hit, it continues to believe it can somehow escape the threat.
Everyone, everywhere in Europe, in government and in the private sector, needs to understand that there are no sidelines.
Ioannis Michaletos: Since the era of the civil wars in former Yugoslavia in the ’90’s and up to date, the Balkans are characterized by the prevalence of organized crime groups and the existence of extremist groups. According to your assessment is there a real threat of the Balkan region as a stage point for terrorist attacks against European states?
Charles S. Faddis: Terrorist organizations are adaptable and flexible.
They will change their tactics and methods as they need to in order to accomplish their aims. If a criminal organization has the capacity to smuggle weapons and people or to procure explosives and other material, terrorist organization will not hesitate to deal with them.
You cannot tolerate the existence of large criminal enterprises and then fool yourself into thinking that they will not ever cooperate with terrorists.
Ioannis Michaletos: The globalization process, according to many has created the necessary framework upon which issues such organized crime, terrorism and illegal immigration have been interconnected. Do you agree with the above?
Charles S. Faddis:I think that criminal enterprises follow the money.
As the economy globalizes so will criminal organizations. This will provide additional opportunities for terrorist groups.
If I am an Al Qaeda leader and I want a nuclear device moved into the United States, why would I try to build my own smuggling network for this purpose? Why would I not use one of the many existing drug or human smuggling networks?
Ioannis Michaletos: In the case of the “War against terror”, has it be successful in addressing the issue of terrorism under a holistic approach, meaning the nexus between crime and terror?
Charles S. Faddis: In the case of the United States, certainly not. There has been too much emphasis on conventional military efforts. There needs to be a much more comprehensive and cohesive approach attacking the problem on social, political and economic levels as well.
Ioannis Michaletos: What is your opinion regarding the establishment of private security & intelligence firms in smaller countries for instance Greece? Is this a sector that can only be developed in larger countries that have a significant tradition on security-intelligence issues, or is it a model of operation that can be applied on a global scale?
Charles S. Faddis: I think that there is definitely room for the development of such firms in smaller countries. Each nation has its own unique concerns and interests.
Ioannis Michaletos: Judging by your knowledge about Greece, do you believe that the country can play a greater role in issues concerning Balkan organized crime, terrorism in the Middle East and the global fight against transnational crime?
Charles S. Faddis: Yes, but I think there is a necessary political decision that needs to be made. There are many brave and professional individuals in the Greek police and intelligence services, but often the political will is lacking to allow them to aggressively pursue the fight against organized crime and terrorism.
If we look at the case of “17 November”, we see a classic example. This group did not operate for so long, because it was composed of supermen.
It operated for so long, because Greek efforts to destroy it were often weak and disjointed.
Ioannis Michaletos: Lastly, I would like to ask you, around the issue of evolving terrorist threat. The hybrid forms of terror and the evolution of terrorist groups certainly poses new challenges to the international authorities. Is there a manner to predict future terrorist behavior-planning? Are there any analytical tools that can be applied by state mechanisms and corporations alike, towards that aim?
Charles S. Faddis: I am an operator. My specialty is not analysis. I would say this. Terrorists are, of necessity, clever, resourceful and innovative.
Once you have put in place defenses to stop them from using a particular methodology, they will think of something new. We need to stop spending all our time thinking about how to prevent attacks that have already happened.
We need to get one step ahead.