The Terrorist Recognition Handbook.

By Derek Knights, CPP, CISSP

The Terrorist Recognition Handbook. By Malcolm W. Nance; published by Lyons Press; available from (Web); 336 pages; check for price.

  As the author of this book notes in his preface, intelligence, military, law enforcement, and security professionals are seeking answers about what exactly they need to look for to prevent further terrorist attacks. Few consistent, compelling answers have been forthcoming. This book might change that situation.

The book contains 18 chapters sectioned into four parts: Know the Terrorist, Identifying Cells, Detection of Activities, and Predicting Attacks. When the author discusses the detection of terrorist cells and activities, he is at his best. He explores surveillance, supply chains, cell integration and dis-integration, and various other pertinent topics, both from a high-level intel perspective and a street-level cop-on-the-beat viewpoint.

Case studies, an interesting combination of the obscure and well known, illustrate many points. Helpful pictures, charts, and statistics pop up at effective intervals--there is no indication that they represent an attempt to pad the text.

Although the book is about terrorism, it has wider application to security in general. For example, surveillance techniques are the same for a terrorist strike at a bank as they are for a robbery at a bank; only the use of data differs. After all, countersurveillance activity detects the behavior, not the intent.

Various examples used for terrorism apply equally to garden-variety crime. The author mentions an alert U.S. Customs officer who nabbed terrorist Ahmed Ressam as he was entering the United States. But it was the indication that the person was a smuggler, not a terrorist, that made the officer suspicious. The upshot is that good day-to-day police and security procedures can be as effective as antiterror operations.

While solid overall, the book does have a bit of room for improvement. For example, in discussing past terror acts, the author makes a few statements that are not correct. In one case, he states that Tupac Amaru and Shining Path are the same group. They are not. Also, the book is hard to read as a narrative. But perhaps that is unavoidable and not so important. After all, it's not a novel but a handbook. And a valuable one at that.


Reviewer: Derek Knights, CPP, CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), is an internal consultant on security, risk assessment, and investigations with Ontario Power Generation, Inc., in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a member of ASIS International.



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