Indonesia’s new anti-terror chief seeks tougher laws

The new chief of Indonesia’s anti-terror agency complained Tuesday that courts were being too easy on terrorists and called for tougher laws to fight jihadist extremists. National Anti-Terror Agency (BNPT) Ansyaad Mbai said there was an “urgent need” to amend the anti-terror laws in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, following a series of attacks since 2000. He said sentences should be lengthened, preparatory activities such as militant training and incitement should be criminalised, and police should be able to hold suspects for longer before they must be charged or released.

“I think there’s an urgent need to amend the anti-terror laws, especially on the length of sentences,” he told reporters after being appointed to his new role.

“There were many who were released (from jail) and then got involved again. There were those who were sentenced to seven years but after three years they were given remissions. This is strange, isn’t it?”

He said some terrorists had been arrested but had to be released because police did not have enough time to gather evidence.

“Later it’s clear they were involved again and then they had to be shot, like Air Setiawan,” he said, referring to an alleged terrorist who was killed by police last year after twin suicide attacks on Jakarta hotels in July.

The discovery of a militant training camp in Aceh province in February — which gathered Islamist extremists from around the region — also highlighted the need for laws against preparatory acts, Mbai said.

“Militant training hasn’t been included as a crime… In other countries it’s considered a serious crime,” he said.

“Then there are those activities which provoke or incite people to carry out acts of terror… The focus is prevention. We have to prevent them before they take part in militant training which means they must be arrested.”

He said incitement to burn Christian churches or expel “infidels” should be criminalised to prevent Indonesia being “showered in bombs”.

“If there’s no conviction we’ll always be reactive. Wait for the bomb to go off and only then become nervous. That’s too late,” he said.

Indonesia was also studying the experience of Saudi Arabia to improve its deradicalisation programme, which has been dismissed as a myth by top anti-terror police officers.

Senior police have recently issued stark warnings that the Southeast Asian country’s prisons are at risk of becoming schools of violent jihad rather than institutions of reform.

British Man Accused of Conspiring to Sell Missile Parts to Iran Fights US Extradition

VOA reports that Christopher Tappin has appeared in court in London Thursday, accused of conspiring to sell batteries for surface-to-air missiles to Iran in breach of international sanctions. But he denies the charge, and is fighting an extradition request from the
United States, where he could face a 35-year prison sentence if found
guilty. Outside the courthouse in London, the human rights group “Liberty” organized a protest in support of Tappin. The group’s director of policy, Isabella Sankey, says the extradition agreements between the U.S. and the United Kingdom are being misused.

“Cases like this definitely highlight how blanket rules that were brought in post-9/11, supposedly to deal with terror suspects and allow them to be transferred easily between the U.S. and the U.K., are actually so broad and lack so many fundamental safeguards that many of these smaller allegations and cases are being swept up along with what this law was originally intended to deal with,” said Sankey.

Social mapping of terrorist networks

The Economist has an interesting piece on mining social networks. Part of the article deals with how network analysis has a “useful role to play” in counterterrorism.

Terror groups are often decentralised, so mapping their social networks is akin to deciphering “a big spaghetti picture”, says Roy Lindelauf of the Royal Dutch Defence Academy, who develops software for intelligence agencies in the Netherlands. It turns out that the key terrorists in a group are often not the leaders, but rather seemingly low-level people, such as drivers and guides, who keep addresses and phone numbers memorised. Such people tend to stand out in network models because of their high level of connectedness. To find them, analysts map “structural signatures” such as short phone calls placed to the same number just before and after an attack, which may indicate that the beginning and end of an operation has been reported.

The capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003 was due in large part to the mapping of the social networks of his former chauffeurs, according to Bob Griffin, the chief executive of i2, a British firm which developed the software used in the manhunt. Senior members of the Iraqi regime were mostly clueless about the whereabouts of the former president, says Mr Griffin, but modelling the social networks of his chauffeurs who had links to rural property eventually led to the discovery of his hideout, on a farm near his hometown of Tikrit.

Where is network analysis headed? The next step beyond mapping
influence between individuals is to map the influences between larger
segments of society. A forecasting model developed by Venkatramana
Subrahmanian of the University of Maryland does just that. Called SOMA
Terror Organization Portal, it analyses a wide range of information
about politics, business and society in Lebanon to predict, with
surprising accuracy, rocket attacks by the country’s Hizbullah militia
on Israel.

Attacks tend to increase, for example, as more money from Islamic
charities flows into Lebanon. Attacks decrease during election years,
particularly as more Hizbullah members run for office and campaign
energetically. By the middle of 2010 SOMA was sucking up data from more
than 200 sources, many of them newspaper websites. The number of sources
will have more than doubled by the end of the year.

Once these societal networks of influence can be accurately mapped,
they can be used to promote the spread of particular ideas—those that
support stability and democracy, for example. Last year America’s army,
which jointly funds SOMA with the air force, began disbursing about $80m
in five-year research grants for network analysis to promote democracy
and national security.