Counterterrorism: Recovery, Justice, Prevention

Posted by Salmah Y. Rizvi
July 31, 2008
Freed Hostages in Colombia

About the Author: Salmah Y. Rizvi serves as the Truman Fellow in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism (S/CT).

During a typical work day, the Operations Directorate (Ops) of the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism is involved in the interagency coordination of international counterterrorism crises, including terrorist hostage crises. During his stint as former Director of the Hostage Working Group in Baghdad, S/CT Ops employee Erik Rye found himself in some unlikely situations. After having been rescued by U.S. forces, one hostage returned to his home, not to be welcomed with hugs, kisses, and relief, but skepticism and doubt about his story. Having not seen their husband and father for seven months, the hostage's wife and family didn't believe his sensational story of being an al-Qaida captive. The family soon took a trip to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to visit Rye. During the conversation with the Iraqi family, Rye reassured them that the hostage had indeed been rescued by the U.S. government. Rye knew his job would present challenges, but he never would have imagined himself assuming the role of marriage counselor!

Rye spent over 13 months in Baghdad managing hostage situations, and several other members of S/CT Ops staff have also done rotations there -- and elsewhere in the world. Over 450 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq since 2004, with over 60 nationalities represented. "We had a new case everyday in Iraq and at any given time I was working on at least a dozen cases. To resolve cases, we would do everything from coordinating with military and intelligence entities to just taking a report from an Iraqi civilian," Rye explained.

Because the United States does not make concessions to terrorist demands, these and other techniques are used to alleviate hostage situations. The most daunting cases are those in which there are not adequate leads. We do what we can to provide the families with information without compromising sensitive information that could allow us to solve the case. Nevertheless, we understand that it is difficult for family members, because they have limited visibility of the case (since most of the information we collect is classified).

The overall approach to hostage crisis management involves recovering the victims, bringing the criminals to justice, and using lessons learned to prevent future hostage situations: Recovery, Justice, Prevention. This method, coupled with the policy of no concessions to terrorist demands, has ultimately increased the security of American civilians overseas, making them less vulnerable to hostage crises. International cooperation with governments and local law enforcement has also proven beneficial. The recent Colombian hostage release is an example. There were hundreds around the world who touched this case. As explained by Rye, "It was a five-year-old case, and that is huge."Plan Colombia is a wonderful success story as it highlights the return of hostages, the justice brought to insurgents and numerous lessons learned to help U.S. government officials in future occurrences.

Comments

Comments

Joe
|
Tennessee, USA
August 1, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

QUOTE: The recent Colombian hostage release is an example. END QUOTE

If you believe we should accommodate that as an actual non-provisional and pre arranged situation, we would all be sheep. I am afraid that was simply good acting, no more, no less. I only wonder what the FARC got in return; this was purely too eliminate Chavez from getting any credit. All politics? Someone had to get something in return. They aren't that stupid. They weren't that that ignorant back in the 70s, why would they be now after 30+ years of formalizing? Not buying that one, sorry. It would be a fluke at best, not a formal operation....

There have been many hostile EVACS of American and others worldwide by Private firms. It is sad money is an issue and not politics sometimes...

USED to be, mess with any US citizen and it was Old Testament time -- and what is wrong with that concept in reality. Why complicate it? No one outside the circle was harmed, there were limitations and we forcefully followed that up, until Kennedy then Carter. Not politics, just keeping it level -- and why not? The United States has every right to protect its citizens ANYWHERE in this world by any means...and use of all means.

Ronald
|
New York, USA
August 1, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

Avoid Counter-terrorism by preventing Terrorism:

Establish JUSTICE first...then you will be able to PREVENT the need for RECOVERY.

Irfan
|
Maryland, USA
August 1, 2008

Irfan in Maryland writes:

Agree with US approach -- recovery, justice & prevention. Maybe in future blogs we can be educated more about the prevention techniques, Sec Gates mentioned yesterday that terrorism cannot be contained by winning wars or force.

Joe
|
Tennessee, USA
August 1, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

LOL...until we establish Judge Dredds to wander the world that is blissful ignorance....

Jurisprudence is established by relevance of those in power. Those fighting against those in power would have no obligation to their jurisprudence as they do not recognize their power right?

Ron
|
New York, USA
August 4, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

Stop inducing crises and you don't need to do counter-terrorism.

Ron
|
New York, USA
August 5, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

Plan Colombia was a multi-billion failure to eradicate coca....how does it become a last-minute success with a hostage release?

Answer: When a failed president demands a list of successes for his legacy.

Mission Devastated

joe
|
Tennessee, USA
August 6, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Everything is politics presently there...the FARC is being squeezed and the internal organization is re aligning:

What we got other than the personal: The Justice Department said Monday that Mr. Sombra is the highest-ranking FARC member ever captured. He remained jailed in Colombia, though U.S. authorities are expected to seek extradition.

He would be the second high-ranking FARC member to face trial in the U.S. on charges stemming from the kidnappings of Mr. Gonsalves, Mr. Stansell and Mr. Howes.

Either he will stay in Columbia as part of the deal, or he will be extradited, which would mean there is a new leadership within the FARC who is making deals with external Political Leaders...to keep the drugs flowing...

Whats new right?

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
August 10, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

I encourage everyone to read "The Fourth World War: Diplomacy and Espionage In the Age of Terrorism"

By Count de Marenches and David Andelman

The Count was the head of the French external intelligence agency and a veteran of WWII. Even though the book was published in 92 and Marenches died in the next 3 years, you would be shocked at the accuracy of his predictions, now 15 years later. He foretold 9/11 as well as a number of other world events. (He also knew before most that the Soviets would invade Afghanistan).

More importantly, he discusses the changing world alliances with the rise of Islamic extremism, the nature of terrorists and drug cartels. He also outlines some of the weaknesses in the CIA and some national character faults that our rivals use against us.

The Count himself was of those rare characters that combined cunning & ruthlessness with honesty & integrity.

Fascinating!

Kenneth
|
Canada
August 12, 2008

Kenneth in Canada writes:

Forget history and you live to regret it. But here I must quote George Santayana. Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on reflectiveness ... Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfil it.

Today as we, not in America mind you but the world outside of its sphere realize that we have been used as puppets and that a lot of us were entrance by the celluloid rolls of Hollywood that made Americans heroes. It might have for years made us look at the U.S. in awe, but when the reality set in we knew that we had been conned.

Look at what the FARC freedom fighters were really struggling for and it becomes all too clear that it was for freedom. Everytime a group fights America's Cooperations they are accused of being Leftists or Communists. That by the way also fits your own Patriots like George Washington et al.

Just this week America's past came to haunt it. The U.S. involvement in Serbia's internal affairs, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, are all illegal actions carried out by a pseudo democracy called the USA. Note, the Russian response to the Georgian invasion of the Republic of South Ossetia was also justifiable, if we consider the U.S. actions in Afghanistan, the false claim being that Afghanistan had given refuge to Osama bin Laden and the U.S. response was invasion. Iraq was something totally different. The U.S. and its Oil Companies wanted to get its hands on Iraqi OIL and any excuse was good enough to invade that country.

The Government of the U.S. must now realize that the past is long gone, that Latin America cannot be invaded and occupied by the U.S. Countries around the world are just about fed up with U.S. interference into their internal affairs and want an end to it.

My advice to incoming administration next year, is hands off the internal problems of sovereign nations, let them make their own decisions, that's their rights. Take care of the problems of your own country, and let other take care of their own.

As a Super Power the U.S. is now on its way out, and nothing can change that. Learn to be as any other nation in our universe and there will be peace and harmony in the world.

Kirk
|
Kentucky, USA
August 12, 2008

Kirk in Kentucky writes:

@ Kenneth in Canada

That is a well written post with some great points, though I might add that the tone had a touch of the indignant idealist, but certainly worth responding to. I will reply to your points in the order they were posted.

Americans are the Heroes. That's what being at the top does, it makes you the favorite son of the globe. People look to the strongest with stars in their eyes and admire the power, honor, and courage -- and swallow all the shiny veneer in one gulp. Nobody was conned, they fooled themselves. When a new super-power takes the stage, the love affair with the world is intense, but once that super-power has to engage in the sort of actions required to secure it's position, the honey-moon is over. With the rising eminence of other nations, the US may have to share the stage once again, but as long as we keep a long term strategy in mind and stick by our principals, we will remain the preferred alternative.

The FARC may have once had a grand ideal in mind with freedom for the people, but the actions they took to reach that goal quickly negated their legitimacy. How can some one claim the noble desire to bring freedom to the people while simultaneously inhibiting other's freedom by kidnapping them and terrorizing innocent civilians? When they used others as pawns for extortion, they showed their true colors as nothing more than another group of political militants vying for power. Most rebel groups like the FARC are just tools themselves, pawns, for other nations. If they truly have good intentions for the people in their hearts, they would lay down their violent methods and turn their efforts to humanitarian work. Gandhi brought the entire British Empire to its knees with that method.

The U.S. involvement in other nations is the natural result of the dynamics of power. Having an abundance of power requires an nation to discharge that power in an effort to expand it's influence. As sure as the dog barks and the bird sings, it can do no other. That characteristic is the same no matter what country is examined. If it were not U.S. involvement, it would be another, probably a rival, and the country at the top has to maintain the initiative. Furthermore, while, in my opinion, the U.S. lacks the nuance, grace, and style, of more mature states in their diplomatic efforts, it always uses the two prong approach of coercion and reward on it's prospective partners. But at least there is always something to be gained by partnership, rather than something to be lost by threat. Those nations have a choice in accepting or denying those proposals. If a nation truly detests U.S. involvement, they can organize the people and reject those offers. If the whole majority of the population rejects U.S. involvement but the leaders accept, then the fault lies with the people for not overthrowing a government that doesn't represent their will.

Your advice is well noted, and is harmonious with many voices in the U.S. But, if by not participating in other nations, whether by covert manipulation or honest dealings, results in losing a major advantage, you can bet that advice will go unheeded. Unfortunately, it is the nature of the beast- my only hope is that those future actions are honorable rather than nefarious.

On your last point, I must respectfully disagree. Nations don't just blink out of existence. North America, and by that I mean Mexico and Canada, (because we're all in the same boat, like it or not), will remain a powerful influence on the world stage. Not only is our military hardened by conflict, but it retains a technological advantage. Though our dollar is weak, our economy is sound. Most importantly, we share a strong alliance with a very powerful Western Europe who shares our values. Power waxes and wanes, and sometimes you have to accept, preferably with grace, inevitable set backs (like Russia having to release it's grip on the outer countries, causing the collapse of the U.S.S.R. still they remain) but likelihood of our level of concentrated power evaporating overnight -- is nil.

.

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