The Perplexing Profile of the Contemporary Terror Cell

2007 Jul 4 Posted by Joseph Pascarella

As the investigation into the series of attacks in the United Kingdom last week unfolds, it is becoming apparent that seven of the eight terrorists involved in last weeks attacks were physicians. This is in stark contrast to the terrorists depicted as extremists and firebrands on the margins of the globalized world. The July, 2005 attacks in London were also conducted by seemingly functional and contributing members of society from solid, hardworking backgrounds.

What does this mean for Public Safety? On the enforcement issue, this actually makes the job of detecting terror cells and apprehending terrorists that much more difficult when terror cells are interwoven into the functioning core of society, sometimes referred to as “homegrown” terrorists. On the macro level, it is somewhat alarming that these productive members would harbor this much hatred for a society that they have contributed so much to. Have we underestimated the threat? Unfortunately, this is impossible to gauge given the expansive and contracting nature of contemporary terror cells.

As the investigation continues, perhaps we can learn the reasoning of these seven individuals to better understand the threat at hand.

Have a safe Fourth of July and take care.

Joseph Pascarella

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3 Responses to “The Perplexing Profile of the Contemporary Terror Cell”

John Means Says:

I believe that we as a society have grossly underestimated our enemy and the depth of their hatered for us. We, supported by the news media have put in place the myth of the terror cell manned by the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. This allows us to feel safe in our arrogant belief that 9/11 was a fluke.

The net must be widened in our intellegance activities, we can no longer assume that terror plots will be carried out by uneducated dupes doing the bidding of others.

Finally, I don’t find the use of doctors to be shocking. al Queda operates in the long view. The placement of cells manned by trusted professionals would be in line with their long range view of this conflict.

Joseph Pascarella Says:


Thanks for the post. The hatred is a key statement.

Joseph Nye discusses “soft power” and the use of American culture on the enemey.

Will this work with this threat?

Joe Pascarella

Michael Brown Says:

Vaisman-Tzachor’s (2006) article is quite insightful as is the 9/11 Commission Report in referencing terrorists, but both are somewhat flawed in that they underestimate the educational level and potential sophistication of a very dangerous adversary. In my present position 60% of my dealings in this country are with doctors from outside the CONUS (Continental United States), but they are older and settled. I do believe the younger physicians are a potential threat because they are impressionable, but my older comrades would give them up.

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