Intelligence: July 29, 2004

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Britain is forming a new intelligence unit; The Reconnaissance and Surveillance Regiment. The 600 men and women in the unit will operate around the world and their main objective initially will be to gather information on Islamic terrorist operations like al Qaeda. Normally, you would try to keep the formation of a unit like this quiet. But because the regiment is taking people from all branches of the armed forces, word got out. Making the most of the situation, more information has been provided. This is apparently in order to make the terrorist groups a little more fearful and paranoid. One can see this in the fact that it was revealed that many members of the regiment had served with counter-intelligence operations in Northern Ireland over the last two decades. There, a top secret counter-terrorist intelligence unit had great success in developing undercover surveillance techniques. Hidden cameras, microphones and tracing devices were used to great effect. Several ambitious IRA terrorist attacks were prevented because the British surveillance operations detected preparations. IRA terrorist operations in general were eventually all but shut down. In addition to surveillance, the intelligence operation in Northern Ireland also had a great deal of success in infiltrating terrorist cells, and in turning some IRA members into double agents. 

Doing the same thing against al Qaeda will be more difficult. In Northern Ireland, you had people of the same language and culture. While the Irish pronunciation of English was different, as were some customs, it was relatively easy for British intelligence personnel to operate. Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorists speak Arabic, and many other languages. Its a very different culture. The Regiment is recruiting people from those cultures, which is not that difficult, as Britain has millions of citizens who came from Moslem countries, or had ancestors who did. Still, it will be much more of a challenge. However, it is expected that the Regiment will make greater use of high tech surveillance gear to support those agents they do recruit. A few good people can make an enormous difference, as Lawrence of Arabia demonstrated during World War I. Lawrence was originally just supposed to collect intelligence, but he kept going. The Reconnaissance and Surveillance Regiment is expected to continue in that tradition.

 


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