Terrorist attacks which have been conducted by lone actors in several countries (Norway, Israel, US, GB etc.) challenge concepts of national security and counter-terrorism approaches. A lone actor in this context is generally seen as someone who individually prepares or commits violent acts in support of ideology, some groups or movements. He acts alone, outside of any command structure and without assistance from any group (Bjelopera, 2013).
The definition of lone actor terrorism could be extended to include individuals that are inspired by a certain group but who are not under command of other person and who are not members of a group or organisation. They might be members of a network, but this network is not a hierarchical organization in the classical sense of the word (Bakker and de Graaf, 2011).
So far Lone Actor terrorism could have been considered “wild cards” – occurrences that are almost impossible to forecast but might result with high impact. Past events of this category came all by surprise some of them with dramatic and serious results. They are under research and investigation in order to get relevant insights to improve the needed counter actions in order to prevent these all together. The profiles of a potential actor as well as the modus operandi might offer clues for a better response to this particular threat. Furthermore, many of the lone actors or so called “lone wolves” display a degree of commitment and high motivation and empathy to extremist movements – providing leads for prevention of new rounds of radicalization.
The threat of “lone wolves” is an emerging threat impacting the security of NATO countries and many other countries worldwide. A responsible security policy should thus take this threat into account and plan for counteraction which on the one hand will prevent this kind of threat to be realized and on the other hand be able to respond once such an event happens. The experience and knowledge gained from past events can teach us a lot if the right lessons are shared and understood. Studying the profiles of persons who developed to be “lone wolves”, understanding their social background and the reasons which brought them to act might help in preventing and retarding others to follow their steps. Evaluating the modus operandi as well as the technology and measures available for response and counter action can better the preparedness to such events. Furthermore the availability of nonconventional means as well as new technologies which might result in weapons of mass casualties, add a new dimension to this threat in the future.
This emerging threat was the key subject of a NATO workshop convened in Jerusalem on 4–7 November 2014. The goal of the workshop was to discuss and challenge the phenomenon of “lone wolves” and its impact on national security. Papers and discussions during the workshop examined its roots, evaluated its impacts and mainly discussed technological, economical, ethical and legal aspects of counter-terrorism approaches.
The workshop, as well as the papers included in the current book, covers many issues related to the threat of lone actor terrorism. These include:
1. Exploration of the relations between “lone wolves” and security issues as well as policies and governance needed to address security risks posed by a rapidly changing environment.
2. Review of case studies and lessons learned as well as after actions applied associated with terror response.
3. Social background of “lone wolves”
4. Special considerations when taking into account CBRN incidents
5. Interdisciplinary approaches and improved social and technological strategies to cope with the threat.
6. The impact of “lone wolves” terrorism on national and international security.
7. The Technology aspect of counter-action-Early warning, identification, detection
8. Ethical and legal aspects of the fight against lone actors
9. Proposed policies and counter measures.
The present book thus covers the whole spectrum of issues related to the phenomenon through papers written by leading experts in the field. The chapters in this book were written by subject matter experts and mainly reflect the subjects presented during the workshop.
The extensive discussions conducted during the workshop yielded important and operational insights and recommendations for future policies. Following are some key results:
1. Lone/solo actor terrorists are an emerging threat. We have only touched the tip of the iceberg and much research is need on all fronts to make national and international communities better prepared and more resilient to this rising threat.
2. NATO and other relevant international organizations are called to give priority to assess this kind of threat in order to coordinate and develop preparatory means in the national and international levels. As part of this process NATO is called to evaluate its present charter in this field and adapt it, if needed, to the actual circumstances realized.
3. Centres for threat assessments are recommended to be established at the National level.
4. It is recommended to evaluate red flags/weak signals of possible relevant threats and build relevant scenarios. It is also proposed to develop a catalogue of wild cards covering low probability high impact scenario in order to reduce surprise attacks as much as possible.
5. One of the needed counter actions is an effective cooperation between the operational levels and the population. Much Intelligence is in the hands of policemen in the streets and the citizens. Proactive cooperation between law enforcement forces and the citizens would help to reduce the threat. It is not good enough to keep the research and information in the hands of the upper echelons. We need to stream the information downwards to the people who are handling the threat in the streets and provide them with better tools and knowledge gathered to better analyse future risks and cope with actual attacks.
6. International cooperation (e.g., European programs, NATO) – The outcome of the workshop shows us that the Lone-Actor scenario is a multinational threat and should concern the international community.
In conclusion, the threat of Lone Actor Terrorism is difficult to anticipate and needs special preparedness activities. NATO and its allies can benefit from recommendations for an advanced response policy to this kind of threat. In that context the insights, information and recommendations shared in this book will help develop a more efficient response policy to the emerging threat.