Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Deprogramming and turning terrorists, is it really possible?

An interesting brief review of various case histories of true believers that have been turned.

Lessons from Israel's Unlikely Spy


The most high profile case is that of Son of Hamas author, Mosab Hassan Yousef. Despite his family, he grew disgusted at Hamas' treatment of its own in the Israeli prison within which he was held. Suspected collaborators were tortured. This led him to eventually cooperate with the Israelis, offering intelligence. He now lives in California, and no-doubt, is full of useful information.

The article leads one to consider possible ways to deal with any Hamas, AQ or Taliban prisoners with the primary aim in mind of turning them. The article suggests one way, utilized by the Saudis:

In fact, al-Qaida recognizes that its members who maintain contact with friends and family outside the organization are more likely to withdraw than those with a more limited social network. The 9/11 plot offers a number of vivid examples of this phenomenon. Two of the potential 9/11 plotters, Saud al-Rashid and Mushabib al-Hamlan, bailed on the plot after returning to their home country of Saudi Arabia following training in Afghanistan. Both had contacted their families, despite clear instructions not to do so, and quickly returned to their previous lives.

The Saudis -- who have established the best-known rehabilitation program for former terrorists -- also understand the role that families can play in ensuring that their wayward relatives stay on the right course. The Saudis use both threats and incentives to persuade the families and tribes to pay close attention to the activities of their supposedly reformed member.


This suggests that we should be recruiting family members to take part in intensive deprogramming regimens, isolating individuals, and making them face up to the barbaric nature of the organizations and leaders that they have aligned themselves with. This should take place over weeks, and during extended and intense sessions. Family members should be involved as much as possible. The sessions should make use of the most graphic video, pictures, and eyewitness accounts if not indeed the very eyewitnesses and victims themselves, all of this with the end in mind of simply overwhelming the individuals with the horrendous moral enormity of the barbarity of the organizations they have freely chosen to join.

Some subjects will of course not flinch, but those that are not completely hardened may very well truly repent and turn. They can then be used as agents, or at the very least, effective counters to the propaganda used to control operatives and populations in places like the Palestinian territories. The stories in this Washington Institute piece give credence to this suggestion. Such practices should become standard with detainees taken in the GWOT.

A goal should be formed to eventually apply this procedure to all detainees. This would not be enhanced interrogation, but perhaps enhanced moral condemnation, an effort to get the detainees to see the moral depravity of not only the organizations, but themselves for having joined and participated. Particular emphasis must be placed upon how the organizations treat not only their own, but innocents, civilians, particularly children. The most graphic source material must be used in order for this to be effective.

This sort of moral disgust has happened spontaneously. In the article, there is a story of a veteran of the fight in Afghanistan during the 80s, a man who had returned to his native land from London, who became disgusted with AQ. The tube way bombing of 2005 turned him. In another case, civil treatment during incarceration was enough to do the trick. Even AQ higher ups have turned:

In fact, a few of the key defectors from al-Qaida's early years in Sudan ended up cooperating with the US government, and testifying against their former comrades in the 2001 "embassy bombing" trial in New York. Al-Qaida's affiliates in Southeast Asia, North Africa and the Persian Gulf have suffered similar blows.

In each case, moral disgust, and no doubt considerable personal guilt caused the turn. A major organized and systematic effort must be made with as many detainees as possible to cause such epiphanies.

New Taliban Underboss names Capo

Wherein I get my La Cosa Nostra crime family analogy straight.

Yesterday Long War Journal posted about one Mullah Abdul Qayum Zakir, returning to the Taliban crime family. In writing about this, I carelessly referred to him as a Capo.

Well, the facts suggest he is more of an underboss. Today, keeping things in the Gitmo family, he's hiring Capos also freshly home from extended stays in sunny Cuba.

Former Gitmo detainee targeting Afghan charities


“As one of their first orders of business only three days ago,” Newsweek reported, “Zakir and Mansoor reshuffled several [Taliban] shadow provincial governors in an effort to improve the insurgency's effectiveness.”

Newsweek added: “They also appointed another former Gitmo detainee to head a committee in charge of handling the insurgents' hefty ransom demands for their kidnap victims and for dealing with nongovernment-aid organizations who are considering—or may already be running—projects in areas under Taliban influence.”

Although Newsweek did not name this other “former Gitmo detainee” appointed by Zakir and Mansoor, senior intelligence officials tell the Long War Journal that the description matches what is known about Abdul Hafiz.

This is not the first time that Abdul Hafiz has been tasked with targeting charity workers operating in Afghanistan.

On March 27, 2003, Taliban forces kidnapped and murdered Ricardo Munguía, an employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). A few weeks later, in April 2003, US Special Forces raided a Taliban stronghold where perpetrators of the attack were hiding.



Most definitely a Capo. He runs a protection racket, shakes down the NGOs, and kills NGO hostages when deemed necessary by the underbosses.

Seems serious lessons can be learned by exploring this analogy with Mafia a bit more. How did law enforcement break the Family? How did they destroy the air of legitimacy that surrounded them? Can lessons learned from the fight against organized crime be applied in the world of counterinsurgency operations? How can a law enforcement rubric be applied within and by Afghans, and what can they learn from the U.S. Treasury Department and FBI history during the heyday of Al Capone? More importantly, how can we make use of this history lesson to effectively dry up the Taliban's several sources of income?