Counter-Terrorism: February 22, 2005


Lawfare is a relatively new tactic whereby lawyers are called in to try and gain some military advantage via court proceedings. This might seem absurd, but in counter-terror operations, it can have an impact. In the United States, lawyers, invoking the need to protect civil rights, are having success in getting terrorism suspects more access to lawyers and courts. This could lead to some suspects being released from confinement. The U.S. government is concerned about this, because about five percent of the terrorism suspects they have released already, because the men were thought to be innocent, or determined to not get involved with terrorism, were later found engaging in terrorist activity. These were mostly men released back to Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Israel has a similar problem when it comes to destroying the homes of known terrorists. Suicide bombers, in particular, have had their family homes destroyed. This policy was just recently stopped, partly because Israel is in the process of working out a ceasefire with Palestinian terrorists, and partly because an Israeli army study concluded that the policy may have increased terrorist attacks. The army study found that terrorist attacks went up after the house destruction policy began three years ago. Its difficult to determine if attacks were going up anyway, unless Israeli investigators get access to terrorist leaders, and determine what else was influencing terrorist plans and operations. In three years, 650 homes were destroyed, and in at least twenty cases, families turned in members who were planning terrorist operations. What is not known is how many potential terrorists were put off by the threat of losing the family home if they carried out an attack. However, NGOs and foreign allies of the Palestinian terrorists have used the home destruction practice, plus the loss of Palestinian homes during other counter-terrorism operations, to get the UN to condemn Israel, and urge countries to prosecute Israeli political and military leaders as war criminals. While this seems a long shot, the increase in anti-Semitism in Europe, and popularity of depicting Israel as evil occupiers, and Palestinian terrorists as righteous defenders of their lands, could eventually influence activist European courts to rule in favor of the terrorists. 

So dont dismiss lawfare as a pipe dream. Its a real military tactic that can win a battlefield advantage, and get people killed.


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