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Counter-terrorism policing and the prevention paradox

Reprint from "Radicalisation" - ISBN 978 94 6270 158 8 - © Leuven University Press, 2019
A Marginal Phenomenon or
a Mirror to Society?
Edited by
Noel Clycq, Christiane Timmerman, Dirk Vanheule,
Rut Van Caudenberg and Stiene Ravn
L U P
Reprint from "Radicalisation" - ISBN 978 94 6270 158 8 - © Leuven University Press, 2019
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Layout: Coco Bookmedia
Cover: Johan Van Looveren
Reprint from "Radicalisation" - ISBN 978 94 6270 158 8 - © Leuven University Press, 2019
Rik Coolsaet
Introduction 
Noel Clycq, Christiane Timmerman, Dirk Vanheule,
Rut Van Caudenberg and Stiene Ravn
. Rethinking radicalisation: Addressing the lack of a
contextual perspective in the dominant narratives
on radicalisation 
Stiene Ravn, Rik Coolsaet and Tom Sauer
. Al-walāʾ wa-l-barāʾ: Back to the roots of a contemporary dogma 
Jessika Soors
. “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise” – A philosophical
analysis of the terrorist love of death 
François Levrau
. Modern Jewish politics and radical activism: a case study 
Janiv Stamberger
. e role of religiosity in students’ perceptions of student-teacher
relations, school belonging and valuing of education 
Ward Nouwen, Rut Van Caudenberg and Noel Clycq
Reprint from "Radicalisation" - ISBN 978 94 6270 158 8 - © Leuven University Press, 2019
. e cumulative role of dierent types of media in the
radicalisation puzzle 
omas Frissen, Kevin Smets and Leen d’Haenens
. Counter-terrorism policing and the prevention paradox 
Kristof Verfaillie, Soe De Kimpe and Marc Cools
. Going beyond Eurocentric us-them thinking in history education:
Multiperspectivity as a tool against radicalisation and for a better
intercultural understanding 
Karel Van Nieuwenhuyse
Conclusion 
Noel Clycq, Christiane Timmerman, Dirk Vanheule,
Rut Van Caudenberg and Stiene Ravn
About the authors 
Reprint from "Radicalisation" - ISBN 978 94 6270 158 8 - © Leuven University Press, 2019
. Counterterrorism policing and
the prevention paradox
Kristof Verfaillie, Soe De Kimpe and Marc Cools
Europol’s  annual EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT)
contains a remarkable paradox: on the one hand Belgium seems to have the
highest number of individuals on a per capita basis in the European Union that
are believed to have travelled to conict areas in Syria and Iraq. On the other
hand, courts in Belgium rendered the highest number of verdicts concerning
jihadist terrorism in  (Europol, : , ).
What these numbers suggest is that Belgium seems much better at convicting
people for jihadi terrorism than it is able to prevent individuals from participating
in terrorism abroad. In the report Counterterrorism in Belgium: Key challenges
and policy options (Renard, ), a number of observers present a similar
argument: Belgium relies too much on “reactive” and “repressive” approaches to
terrorism. Too much investments continue to be made in law enforcement and
crime control. Much less attention and resources are spent on actual prevention
and on a more eective use and development of existing preventive formats and
strategies, and this makes the Belgian counterterrorism eort much less eective
than it could be (Devroe & Ponsaers, ).
While a plea for more prevention seems self-evident and unambiguous, the
dierent contributions in the report suggest it is not. In practice, “prevention”
refers to a wide array of practices and philosophies, ranging from community
policing and integrated local security policies to specic deradicalisation and
Reprint from "Radicalisation" - ISBN 978 94 6270 158 8 - © Leuven University Press, 2019
 ,      
disengagement programmes and policies, and it includes focal issues as diverse
as counterterrorism nancing, combatting arms tracking, high-level socio-
economic measures, education, employment and psychological counselling.
Many dierent practices are believed to “prevent” terrorism and precisely because
they are so fundamentally dierent, it is not always clear what a plea for “more
prevention” refers to exactly and under which conditions terrorism can (and
should) actually be prevented.
is issue is particularly relevant to the police. Within the broader
counterterrorism eort they are expected to uncover terrorist activities, investigate
or adequately respond to terrorism, but at the same time they are expected to
anticipate terrorism and prevent terrorist threats from materializing. While it
is more or less clear what the reactive strategies represent, the preventive police
strategies in counterterrorism are a much more debated issue, as the experiences
with the inuential UK Prevent strategy have shown (H.M. Government, ;
; ; see also: Awan, ; Innes & Levi, ; Innes et al., ). ese
experiences, and the issues they raise, can be summarised along the following
e police is expected to prevent terrorism but they have to do so in ways
that have proven to be eective (evidence-based) and without undermining the
public’s trust in the police (or in “society” as a whole). e police is expected to
intervene in (disrupt) processes of radicalisation (“pathways to terrorism”) but
they have to do so without instigating or somehow contributing to those very
processes. e scope of these interventions is oen hard to dene. It is not always
clear when the police should intervene in “pathways to terrorism” as it remains
unclear how such pathways should be understood exactly, notwithstanding the
available research on the matter (e.g., Horgan, ). Many scholars, moreover,
believe that as long as no actual crimes are (being) committed, it is not up to the
police to act in matters of radicalisation; tackling “root causes” of terrorism is
thought to be beyond the scope of the police (Perry et al., ). Consequently,
the prevention of terrorism is felt to require a “multi-agency approach”: the
police should act as a partner within a wider network of actors, each with their
own mode of existence in a wider counterterrorism eort (see Koehler, ,
infra). In such networks tensions can (and do) emerge between a police focus
on the prevention of terrorism on the one hand, and strategies that intend to
promote community cohesion or integration on the other. e police face the
challenging task of mitigating those tensions by establishing trust and trustworthy
Reprint from "Radicalisation" - ISBN 978 94 6270 158 8 - © Leuven University Press, 2019
      
partnerships with actors that are oen very dierent from what they are or what
they (want to) do.
In other words, it is not that easy to dene what preventive police practices
refer to exactly, what their scope is (or should be), nor is it clear what their actual
impact on terrorism might be. e (initial) UK Prevent strategy illustrates those
diculties and ambiguities, and it shows that even when specic plans and
(police) strategies for the prevention of terrorism are put forward, these tools
still have to materialise into concrete practices. “Prevention” has to be performed
by someone, somewhere and with respect to particular groups or populations.
is performance occurs throughout a myriad of interactions, not simply within
or by the police but in schools, in prisons, in communities and deradicalisation
initiatives, through counselling and social work and in many other sites and
places, and the police participates in some of these interactions as part of its
own eorts to prevent terrorism. e notion “prevention” is shaped throughout
these many interactions and as there is no clear-cut script that can be followed
to produce desired outcomes in counterterrorism (Crenshaw & Lafree, ),
the consequences of prevention are never clear from the onset of a particular
prevention strategy, initiative or practice (cf. Rose & Miller, ; Tate, ). It
is therefore important to assess what prevention does in practice, what eects it
has, not only on terrorism but on those subjected to prevention strategies, on the
wider social environments in which these strategies are deployed and on those,
like the police, who are expected to perform or participate in these practices.
We cannot address all these issues in the context of this chapter, and so we
will focus specically on how the prevention of terrorism is predominantly
performed by the police in Belgium and what strategic assumptions and choices
this performance reects in practice. We will argue that throughout the gradual
development of the Belgian counterterrorism policy since the September 
attacks specic notions of police prevention have emerged. ese notions are
very much connected to, and shaped by, Belgiums reliance on the criminal law
enforcement approach to terrorism and they contain an important paradox:
although they are perceived as successful in preventing acts of terrorist violence
in the short run, in the long run they risk facilitating some of the very processes
that are believed to be conducive to terrorism.
Reprint from "Radicalisation" - ISBN 978 94 6270 158 8 - © Leuven University Press, 2019
 ,      
e importance of criminal law enforcement in countering
Although the importance of prevention as part of a holistic approach to
terrorism was acknowledged early on in the post-/ policy discourse, in practice
Belgium’s main counterterrorism focus remains rmly centered around criminal
law enforcement (Renard, : ). In its third intermediate report, the Belgian
parliamentary committee of inquiry into the terrorist attacks of the nd of
March  (: ), nds that
today, solutions are usually sought in the sphere of criminal law
enforcement. Of course, it was necessary to take a number of suitable
punitive measures, but prevention and proactive action must be further
explored. ese aspects remain essential for a full-edged approach to
Islamist extremism, violent radicalisation and terrorism”.
In other words, although the importance of prevention in counterterrorism is
formally acknowledged, in practice the Belgian approach is highly focused on
criminal law enforcement and this focus is not without consequences. It entails
a number of important assumptions about what to do about terrorism, what the
objectives of counterterrorism should be and what it means to be successful in
A criminal law enforcement approach to terrorism is essentially reactive:
it frames terrorism in terms of a criminal act that must be processed by the
criminal justice system whenever a terrorist act has occurred or is in the process
of occurring. To think of terrorism as a criminal act, and much less in terms
of an act of war for instance, implies a focus on a strategy of criminalisation,
investigation, prosecution, sentencing, incapacitation and reintegration (cf.
Welsh & Farrington, ).
e centrality of the criminal law enforcement approach to terrorism in
Belgium is obvious in terms of the investments that were made the past  years
in the development of a counterterrorism architecture with a strong focus on a
criminal law approach: a range of specic terrorist oences were draed and
an assemblage of specialised judicial and non-judicial actors was put in place
to monitor, investigate and prosecute these terrorist oences or reasonable
indications of terrorism. e criminal justice system was thus enabled to act on
the basis of information (coming from a wide variety of sources) that points to
the existence of a terrorist oence (cf. Book II of the Criminal Code, Title Iter)
Reprint from "Radicalisation" - ISBN 978 94 6270 158 8 - © Leuven University Press, 2019
      
or that contains reasonable indications of a terrorist oence, in which cases the
Federal Prosecutor will act, investigate and prosecute.
Because of this strong focus on criminal law enforcement, the police are
predominantly preoccupied with uncovering ongoing terrorist activities or
investigating or responding to terrorism once it has occurred (cf. Weisburd and
Majmundar, ; see also: Devroe & Ponsaers, ). eir main strategies
to ght terrorism therefore resemble those of the standard model of policing
(Weisburd & Eck, ), which means that eorts are mainly focused on
increasing the systems capacity to make arrests and on improving its ability to
respond to terrorism. e importance of these more traditional kinds of policing
is reected in the priorities of the government investments that were made in the
counterterrorism architecture, the increase of (specialised) police capacity, the
use of foot patrols, the coordination and better management of reactive responses
and of information ows. It is against this background, the predominance of the
criminal law enforcement approach, that the role of the police in the prevention
of terrorism should be understood.
Prevention through deterrence
Although the criminal law enforcement approach is thought of as a repressive or
reactive approach, it does intend to prevent terrorism, and it does so in three ways:
) through general and individual deterrence; ) through a strategy of cumulative
or adaptive criminalisation; ) and through strategies of focused deterrence.
General and individual deterrence
First, criminal law enforcement believes it prevents terrorism through the process
of general and individual deterrence (Hart, ; Von Hirsch, ; Tonry and
Farrington, ). By focusing on arrests, investigations and sentencing it intends
to incapacitate and deter oenders. In doing so it attempts to dismantle or
disrupt terrorist groups and networks and prevent individual perpetrators from
committing new oences by simply removing them from society. e experience
of punishment is believed to deter the convicted terrorist oender to the extent
that s/he will no longer participate in terrorist activities upon his or her release
from prison. is, in turn, is believed to result in general deterrence, or the belief
that other potential oenders in society may be discouraged to participate in
terrorism because of the sentencing and incapacitation of others like them.
Reprint from "Radicalisation" - ISBN 978 94 6270 158 8 - © Leuven University Press, 2019
 ,      
Second, the eects of general and individual deterrence have been signicantly
extended through consecutive processes of criminalisation. In addition to
criminalizing the actual violent act of terrorism and by expanding the notion of
what constitutes a terrorist oence, a range of other practices are criminalised,
practices that are somehow connected to terrorism or seem to facilitate it.
Preaching hate, travelling to conict areas to participate in terrorism, nancing
terrorism, recruitment of jihadi ghters and so forth, they have all become part of
a web of criminalisations so that in addition to simply responding to the violent
terrorist act itself, the criminal law enforcement approach can be applied to a
much wider range of (facilitating) practices that are now dened in terms of a
terrorist oence (or existing criminal oences, like arms tracking, cybercrime,
drug trade and other organised crime activities become more explicitly connected
to terrorism for law enforcement purposes). In doing so the preventive logic of
general and individual deterrence is signicantly expanded.
One of the consequences of this expansion is that it shis criminal law
enforcement much more toward uncovering processes that are much less visible
than the highly visible terrorist act itself (see also infra). e police therefore
needs to rely much more on a range of special investigative methods, (covert)
surveillance and information-sharing with other agencies (e.g., intelligence
services) to make arrests and incapacitate oenders. e Belgian police is
therefore said to become increasingly more proactive in that it mobilises resources
on its own initiative and acts much less based on the demands of those external
to its organisation in matters of terrorism and organised crime (cf. Bruggeman
& Van Daele, : ). While this is most certainly the case, the fundamental
mechanism that underpins the prevention of terrorism, however, remains the
same. Whether the police takes the initiative to mobilise resources to uncover
terrorism or simply responds to terrorism when it occurs (or is made aware of
its occurrence by third parties), the idea of general and individual deterrence is
what is believed to prevent terrorism from occurring. In other words, taking the
initiative, being proactive, is simply meant to make processes of deterrence more
eective. ere is no focus on broader underlying driving forces of crime and
Focused deterrence
e Belgian counterterrorism policy revolves around criminal law enforcement.
is means much time and eort is spent on uncovering ongoing acts of terrorism,
Reprint from "Radicalisation" - ISBN 978 94 6270 158 8 - © Leuven University Press, 2019
      
investigating or responding to terrorism once it has occurred or on crimes that
can be connected to terrorism. A criminal law enforcement focus is a strategic
choice which is felt and reected in the Belgian counterterrorism architecture.
Precisely because this architecture is grounded in the rationality of criminal law
enforcement, it is shaped and transforms in response to new or changing realities
in the eld. For instance, whereas the counterterrorism architecture was initially
heavily focused on foreign terrorist ghters it has more recently shied towards
the problem of homegrown terrorism or the more explicit general monitoring of
potentially dangerous forms of radicalisation (infra).
In such an architecture specic proles are draed (e.g., “foreign terrorist
ghter”) and the system acts on these proles (and thus acts on what is already
known). Depending on the available intelligence it can decide to prosecute
(supra) but if concrete indications of terrorism or terrorism related oences are
lacking it can opt for discrete forms of surveillance to monitor, gather intelligence
and assess if a particular individual is somehow about to participate in terrorist
activities or on a “pathway” to terrorism (see also infra). In specic cases, however,
the discrete forms of surveillance can be abandoned or a choice can be made to
opt for more focused deterrence like strategies (Kennedy, ; ; Braga and
Weisburd, ). Such strategies usually refer to formats in which known high
rate oenders responsible for a large proportion of crime in a particular area are
targeted by law enforcement and presented with clear incentives to comply or
with clear consequences when they engage in criminal activity (Weisburd and
Majimundar, ). In the Belgian counterterrorism approach it refers to the
targeting of specic risk proles and confronting these proles or making them
aware of the fact that they are under surveillance (“aanklampende aanpak”). It
is believed that when individuals at risk of participating in terrorist activities are
made aware that they are under surveillance, they may be deterred from doing so
e limits of a criminal law enforcement approach
ere are a number of reasons why the criminal law enforcement approach is
oen perceived as ineective or insucient to ght terrorism:
No structural solutions to terrorism
Because of its focus on oenders and on the acts committed, the criminal law
enforcement approach does not provide structural solutions to terrorism, it does
Reprint from "Radicalisation" - ISBN 978 94 6270 158 8 - © Leuven University Press, 2019
 ,      
not mitigate underlying issues conducive to terrorism (the “root causes”) nor
does it think itself t to provide such solutions. As a policing strategy it is highly
similar to what police scholars have described as “the standard model of policing”
(cf. supra, Weisburd and Eck, ; Weisburd and Majmundar, ): a one-
size-ts-all application of highly reactive strategies that in themselves seem to
have little impact on the actual reduction of crime. ere is an important trend
toward more proactive policing, and in that sense the Belgian police approach to
counterterrorism is not simply reactive. is trend, however, essentially reects
more police initiated action to deter oenders and disrupt criminal/terrorist
networks. It does not focus on prevention through structural problem-solving
(“tackling the root causes”).
No qualitative understanding of terrorism
From the perspective of the criminal law enforcement approach, more prevention
essentially means improving general and individual deterrence by increasing the
criminal justice system’s capacity to act. As such, it does not focus on a qualitative
understanding of terrorism but on how individuals make choices: oenders
are expected to be deterred by the experience or the threat of punishment or
they are made to experience more constraints in the process of participating in
terrorism. One of the consequences of this focus is that there is little anticipation
or prevention of terrorism beyond what is already known. e criminal justice
system responds to developing threats so that it systematically needs to adapt to
terrorist practices that are genuinely new (see also: Van Calster, ). Because it
is responsive it can only do so when these practices actually manifest themselves,
which oen results in the perceived need for new and additional criminalisations
or in a reinforcement of, or variation on, established policing strategies (e.g.,
increase foot patrols or stop-and-search practices).
Because a clear-cut predictable pathway to terrorism does not exist, because
terrorist proles are diverse, the modus operandi seem to change quickly and the
terrorist threat grows ever more diuse (“lone actor terrorism”) this signicantly
constrains the ability of the criminal justice system to act and respond eectively
(it needs to readjust every time an unknown emerges or a novelty occurs). Having
to respond to more diuse threats moreover results in an ever growing need for
resources, surveillance and police capacity, information, coordinative eorts and
partnerships with agencies beyond the criminal justice system. It is this trend
that gives substance to the growing feeling among crime control professionals
that information management lacks any coherent vision or strategy (it is simply
Reprint from "Radicalisation" - ISBN 978 94 6270 158 8 - © Leuven University Press, 2019
      
responsive) and that they face an unmanageable overload of information
(“infobesitas”) which results in too much noise and a lack of analytical capacity
to nd any signicant signals in the noise (see Bruggeman & Van Daele, :
). As such, much is expected of the implementation of the Joint Intelligence
Centres and Joint Decision Centres in Belgium. ese centres, however, are
essentially focused on coordinating and prioritizing action (“is a criminal law
approach desirable at this point or not”). While this most certainly makes
both the intelligence approach and the criminal law enforcement approach to
terrorism more eective, it does not necessarily result in a better understanding
of terrorism.
e risk of selective policing
Finally, while a criminal law approach undoubtedly entails and safeguards
particular formal rights and due process mechanisms, in a context of counter-
terrorism it is susceptible to important and informal processes of selectivity.
Maguire () suggests that criminal investigations are always prone to (subtle)
forms of bias. Contrary to the popular belief, criminal investigations are not
about following clues and discovering truth. In practice they seem to revolve
around constructing cases and translating a social reality into a legal one. is
process is suspect centred and oen focused on building successful cases against
likely oenders (“the usual suspects”).
One of the main concerns raised about the implementation of counterterrorism
policies is the risk they entail of creating suspect communities (Hillyard, ; see
also: Mythen et al., ) and of fueling a culture of suspicion (Chan, ).
Such climates potentially reinforce the biases present in criminal investigations,
even more so when the criminal law enforcement approach itself shis towards
uncoering terrorist activities through surveillance and intelligence gathering
(which implies a focus on suspects). e focus on specic suspect populations
becomes even more pronounced when the terrorist threat itself (what needs to
be uncovered) becomes less clear and more diuse, as the more recent trends
suggest (Europol, ; ). In such circumstances, stereotype categorisations
of suspects inadvertently become more important heuristic tools in criminal law
enforcement. In other words, while formally focused on truth nding and due
process, a counterterrorism climate potentially fosters the suspect-oriented biases
in criminal investigations, thus facilitating structural processes of selectivity in
the policing of terrorism (infra).
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 ,      
Prevention through the assessment of risk
e evaluations of counterterrorism policies, both in Belgium and abroad,
suggest that many of the limits of the criminal law approach are recognised
or even accepted among crime control professionals. While they may not
always (fully) recognise the limits of deterrence, they oen know and accept
that they cannot provide structural solutions to terrorism, they recognise that
counterterrorism policing might benet from more intelligence-led approaches,
partnership approaches and administrative approaches, and they are aware that
antagonizing the population may aect the information that can be obtained
from the population, which ultimately aects their ability to control terrorism.
From a criminal law perspective these limits are not necessarily felt to be a
problem: what the police does, or is expected to do, is assessed in terms of what
other actors do and are expected to do. In other words, the police focus on
criminal law enforcement and this is perceived as a distinct part of a much larger
counterterrorism puzzle. As such, criminal law enforcement does not need to
provide structural solutions to terrorism nor does it need a better understanding
of the fundamental processes at work in terrorism and of pathways to terrorism;
this is what other actors are expected to do:
e inestigative committee subscribes to the (…) integrated approach, in which
the local police is included as a full partner in the administrative and judicial
approach of radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorism. e committee
does emphasize that tackling these phenomena is not an exclusive assignment
for the police and justice. e security approach should therefore coincide with
a prevention policy, which is not only focused on avoiding radicalisation but
should also focus on its potential socio-economic breeding ground (Bruggeman
& Van Daele, ).
In other words, what the police (and justice) do is felt to be distinct from what
a prevention policy does. ese latter policies are simply not seen as part of the
criminal law enforcement approach; they refer to practices distinct from the
criminal justice system aimed at preventing the occurrence of future criminal
acts (Welsh and Farrington, : ). Prevention, in this sense, has nothing to do
with deterrence, disruption or law enforcement. It refers to “social policy, “root
causes” and “structural measures” to deal with terrorism, and such prevention
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      
policies should somehow be integrated with the “security approach” (with what
the police and justice do).
e idea that distinctly dierent approaches need to be integrated for crime
control to be eective is a well-established idea in the Belgian eld of crime
control. Specically in matters of counterterrorism the integrated security idea
was formally embedded in the Belgian counterterrorism architecture with the
creation of specic formats in which such integration could take place (e.g., the
local integrated security cells). Conceptually, the rationality of such an integrated
counterterrorism approach can perhaps best be understood in terms of Daniel
Koehler’s “network of counter-terrorism” ().
e counterterrorism network: an integrated counterterrorism approach
Koehler (: -) suggests that any country’s counterterrorism architecture
should essentially consists of three impact levels (macro, meso, micro). On each
of these levels preventive, repressive and intervention measures can be taken. As
such, a holistic counter-terrorism approach comes into focus in which each of the
dierent initiatives are expected to complement each other and contribute to the
overall objective of “counter-terrorism”.
e repressive measures in this network refer to reactive forms of crime control:
investigating, prosecuting, sentencing and incapacitating individual oenders
and groups as well as the broader reactive strategies such as border protection
and disrupting nancial ows. Community policing and probation are seen as
more benign or “positive” aspects of repression, but they are situated within the
repressive eld nonetheless.
Prevention in this network refers to measures ranging from education, research,
civil society, youth and social work, community cohesion programmes to
workshops with former extremists in schools. ese measures intend to
reduce the attraction of terrorist ideologies, focus on support for specic risk
populations oen based on the idea that specic socio-biographical factors
(e.g., unemployment, level of education, mental health problems) facilitate
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 ,      
Closely connected to prevention are the measures of intervention. ey essentially
refer to the specic programmes and policies to deradicalise and disengage, such
as the development of counter-narratives, family counselling programmes or tools
that target the social environment of radicalizing or radicalised individuals, the
interventions to deradicalise terrorist groups or the more targeted programmes
that support individuals in the process of distancing themselves from radical
ideologies or radicalised environments.
Precisely because “prevention” and “repression” (and in the case of this
network: “intervention”) are oen perceived as distinct practices that are
nevertheless part of a comprehensive eort to counter terrorism, policymakers
need to focus on developing “integrated security” approaches in which they face
the challenge of “striking the right balance” between prevention and repression
and connecting prevention and repression in meaningful ways. Koehler (:
) suggests that in counterterrorism such meaningful connections can be made
in terms of treating the dierent measures in the network as resources: actors in
the eld of prevention might benet from intelligence gathering or from (de)
radicalisation or disengagement knowledges, just as law enforcement might
benet from specic training to recognise ongoing processes of radicalisation
(CoPPRa) or the criminal justice system (e.g., prisons) might organise itself to
facilitate deradicalisation programmes.
When observers suggest that the Belgian counterterrorism eort is too
reactive and repressive and that a more explicit focus on “prevention” is
required (supra), they essentially suggest that this balance is somehow lost, that
not enough meaningful connections are made within the broader network of
counterterrorism and that the role of the police is reduced to traditional law
A focus on radicalisation to prevent terrorism
What allows connections to be made between the dierent actors in the
counterterrorism network is not the notion of terrorism, which is essentially
dealt with by highly specialised actors at the core of the criminal law enforcement
approach (supra). What allows for integrated approaches, especially with actors
external to the criminal justice system (“prevention”) is the idea of a pathway
to terrorism, or what scholars and policymakers in the wake of the terrorist
attacks in Madrid began to refer to as “radicalisation” (Coolsaet, ; ).
Radicalisation referred to the idea that a process exists, a pathway to terrorism, and
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      
that this process was something that could be acted upon to prevent terrorism.
As this process was by no means to be reduced to individual pathologies or moral
qualications, but thought of in terms of socio-psychological root causes, this
opened up a way of thinking that required the mobilisation of a wide range of
actors in education, social work, employment, immigration and other elds who
would have to become involved in the prevention of terrorism.
In other words, the notion radicalisation allowed for a counterterrorism
approach in which prevention could be connected with a criminal law enforcement
approach in meaningful ways and could be tted within the framework of the
Belgian Federal state (see also Dewaele et al., ). Yet in practice the integration
of dierent approaches seems to bring about the potential risk of blurring and
conict among the dierent constituent elds of the counterterrorism network,
and this is particularly so at the local level where such integrated approaches have
to materialise.
At the local level, counterterrorism is a matter of a patchwork of networks of
expertise in which dierent actors make judgments about who is in the counter-
terrorism network and who is out. ese networks are formed both within the
eld of prevention (e.g., education) as within the eld of security (e.g., local task
forces) or they can be assemblages in which both of these worlds meet (e.g., local
integrated security cells). e judgements that are made within these networks
oen take the form of formal and informal risk assessments to assess and qualify
the particular risk individuals pose and how this risk should be managed. As
such, the Belgian counterterrorism network is a patchwork of sites and nodes
(e.g., youth centres, schools, social services, prevention services, local taskforces,
local integrated security cells, etc.) in which “identity” is assessed, negotiated and
For instance, schools do not simply have to educate youth about human rights
or embed civic standards in society (cf. Koehler, ), they also have formal and
informal procedures in place to assess whether their students are caught up in a
process of radicalisation. Schools need to reect about their curriculum, how it
can contribute to the prevention of terrorism or to a process of de-radicalisation.
ey need to assess what radicalisation means exactly within their context and at
which point they need to connect the case of a particular student to other actors
in the counterterrorism network.
e police are not simply uncovering ongoing terrorist activities or responding
to terrorism, they also monitor the process of radicalisation to assess the risk
of actual terrorism. ey participate in local taskforces to assess processes of
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 ,      
radicalisation, they monitor specic individuals (e.g., foreign terrorist ghters)
and negotiate security risks with dierent security actors. e local police,
however, also participates in the local integrated security cells where social-
preventive partners and local authorities participate, and “social-preventive”
solutions are negotiated, and they broker information between these cells and
the local task forces.
It is at this point that the concept of radicalisation has proven to be dicult
(Coolsaet, ). As there are no clear and unambiguous terrorist proles or root
causes, and as there is no clear pathway to terrorism (Crenshaw & Lafree, ), a
range of informal criteria become part of how identity (“radicalised”) is brokered
throughout the counterterrorism network. Dierent nodes or actors within the
network can make assessments of radicalisation based on dierent criteria and
it is not always clear what these criteria are, when individuals or groups pose
a security risk and why particular “solutions” to mitigate those risks would be
eective or even required. As was the case with the criminal law enforcement
approach to terrorism, with its focus on obtaining criminal convictions (supra),
the introduction of radicalisation as an autonomous policy concept resulted in
an informalisation of the counterterrorism approach. e criteria for assessing
pathways to and out of terrorism are informal and unclear and because they
are performed throughout the counterterrorism network they are performed
throughout society. It is this pervasive and structural construction of suspect
identities throughout society that has potentially counterproductive and self-
undermining eects (e.g., De Bie, ; Miller & Chauhan, ).
In this chapter we have examined the critical observation that the Belgian
counterterrorism approach is too reactive and that more prevention is needed
if counterterrorism policies are to be eective. We rst wondered what “being
too reactive” means exactly and found that it refers to the predominance of the
criminal law enforcement approach to terrorism in Belgium. Although the police
deploy a variety of practices to counter terrorism, in practice much of its time and
resources are spent on highly traditional forms of policing. Such police practices
are mainly focused on uncovering ongoing terrorist activities or investigating and
responding to terrorism once it has occurred. Prevention is implied; it is believed
to be an eect of the criminal law enforcement approach. Oenders are expected
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      
to be deterred by the experience or the threat of punishment or they are made to
experience more constraints in the process of participating in terrorism. “More
prevention” in this perspective essentially means expanding the criminal justice
system’s capacity to act (e.g., through criminalisation) so that its potential to
deter future acts of terrorism is signicantly increased.
However, the systems capacity to act was extended even further with the
introduction of the more informal concept of radicalisation, which added another
notion of prevention to the criminal law enforcement approach. In addition
to aecting the choice process of potential oenders through deterrence, the
concept of radicalisation sensitises the police to look out for potential indications
of terrorist oences. In this process the prevention mechanism is no longer
simply deterrence but forms of risk-assessment, focused on making decisions
about who requires further surveillance and who doesn’t. Police act as identity
brokers, which refers to processes of monitoring and evaluating behaviour oen
as part of regular police work on the one hand, but it also refers to processes of
negotiating and assembling identities within networks of dierent and varying
actors. Counterterrorism oen entails the assemblage of proles that can only
come into being in networks of expertise; it is only when networks are formed
that proles can come into being. Prevention, then, means bringing into being
proles that are unknown prior to the act of assembling expertise and it is the
police’s ability to act as a gatekeeper in this process and within a broader counter-
terrorism network which is crucial to prevent terrorism from materializing. As
such, more prevention in this perspective means enhancing the police’s capacity
to broker identities.
e predominance of the criminal law enforcement approach favors two faces
of prevention, deterrence and risk-assessment (identity brokerage), and we have
seen that it facilitates particular forms of bias in the counterterrorism eort. On
the one hand, the criminal law enforcement approach shis towards uncovering
terrorist activities, gathering intelligence and monitoring “radicalisation” so that
suspect oriented criteria enter the police practice which may aect due process
mechanisms in crime control. On the other hand, police act as identity brokers,
they assemble and negotiate identities on the basis of formal but informal criteria
as well. is too facilitates selective approaches and a focus on the usual suspects:
counterterrorism is “contextual” and “tailor-made” and so it is never entirely
certain who poses a problem and why.
Although this informalisation of counterterrorism policing is oen felt to be
benecial to prevent terrorist violence in the short run, it does raise a deeper
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 ,      
issue, one that cannot be settled in terms of striking the right balance between
prevention or repression and which is intrinsically connected to the nature of
police work. We have seen that in counterterrorism policymaking, prevention
and repression are felt to complement one another, they are elds that need to
be balanced or connected in meaningful ways. e immediate consequence of
this is that the role of the police can be reduced to the reduction of terrorist
violence as long as its eorts become part of “integrated approaches” in which
the right balance is struck between structural forms of prevention and law
enforcement, between the long-term preventive view and the short-term
prevention of violence.
However, if police strategies, through processes of informalisation, facilitate
forms of selectivity, a prevention paradox emerges: the police prevention
strategies that may be thought of as useful in preventing acts of terrorist violence
in the short run, risk in the long-run facilitating some of the very processes that
are believed to be conducive to terrorism. Selective police performance results in
feelings of injustice, it facilitates processes of radicalisation and polarisation and
it reduces police legitimacy and compliance with the law (Tyler, ; Tyler et al.,
). roughout their performance the police adopt informal criteria to assess
security issues and these criteria help establish and perpetuate particular identities
and popular assumptions about connections between radicalisation, terrorism
and migration in ways that in the long run may prove to be counterproductive.
In other words, when the police participates in counterterrorism yet reduces
its strategies to questions of eectiveness and short-term considerations (“what
works in terrorism prevention”), it paradoxically ignores the crucial preventive
role it has to play in the wider counterterrorism objective, which goes beyond
the reduction of violence or the deradicalisation of groups and individuals. It
ignores the fact that crime control strategies, whether they be preventive or
reactive, are never just technical responses to an occurrence “out there”. ey are
profoundly political; they are practices that shape and organise society. In that
regard, developing counterterrorism policies can never be conned to nding
the most eective ways to combat terrorism or striking the right balance between
security and civil liberties or between prevention and repression. Paraphrasing
Garland (: ), in designing counterterrorism policies “we are not simply
deciding how to deal with a group of people at the margins of society – whether
to deter, reform, or incapacitate them and if so how. (…) We are also and at the
same time dening ourselves and our society in ways which may be quite central
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      
to our cultural and political identity”. Because counterterrorism policies have a
cultural impact, because they aect who we are, we need to understand what it
is these policies do (or claim to do) so that they may prompt an informed debate
about who we intend to become.
is contribution was supported by the Belgian Federal Science Policy (BELSPO) within
the research framework BRAIN-be (Belgian Action through Interdisciplinary Network)
under the Grant No BR//A/AFFECT.
ere were  concluded court proceedings for jihadi terrorism in Belgium, including
 convictions and  acquittals. is is the highest number compared to  other EU
Member States, conrming the  trend (Europol, ).
 As such we do not provide an overview of the legal and policy framework of the
counterterrorism architecture that was built over the past years in Belgium nor do we
simply cite or point to police philosophies or strategic visions about counterterrorism
policing (“what counterterrorism policing should be like”). Such overviews are important
and can be found elsewhere (see e.g., Bruggeman & Hardyns, ). Based on assessments
of the Belgian counterterrorism architecture, and in particular the ndings of the Belgian
parliamentary committee of inquiry into the terrorist attacks of the nd of March 
(e.g., Bruggeman & Van Daele, ), we attempt to grasp which strategies or rationalities
seem to prevail in practice and what this means for the notion “prevention” from a police
perspective. Obviously such work needs to be further explored empirically.
See e.g., Book II of the Criminal Code, Title I ter “Terrorist Oences”, articles -ter.
In practice, the criminal law enforcement approach essentially revolves around the Federal
prosecutor, the  specialised investigative judges and specialised federal police units, and
cooperation schemes with intelligence services (VSSE and ADIV), the Coordination
Unit for reat Analysis (CUTA) and the Belgian Financial Intelligence Processing Unit.
is, however, does not exclude local prosecutors from participating in counterterrorism
e importance of such strategies is not only apparent from the measures taken in the
aermath of the attacks in Belgium on the nd of March , they were also dominant
in the counterterrorism policy developed prior to these events, as documented in the third
intermediate report of the Belgian parliamentary committee of inquiry into the terrorist
attacks of the nd of March  (Bruggeman & Van Daele, : -).
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 ,      
As such, a distinction can be maintained in policy texts (e.g., Bruggeman & Van Daele,
) between “proactive action” and “prevention. Both notions refer to a dierent range
of practices that intend to ensure that terrorism does not materialise or occur.
Precisely because the “aanklampende aanpak” is so ill-dened, as an oender or person-
focused approach it can refer to a wide variety of practices and it can entail much more in
practice than a focused deterrence strategy (infra). Notice, however, that when it is used as
a focused deterrence approach this too constitutes a form of proactive policing that has
nothing to do with prevention through structural problem-solving.
Because in practice the police is mainly focused on criminal law enforcement and because
they subscribe to the idea that structural problem-solving is beyond their capabilities,
prevention om a police perspective will always and inevitably revolve around strategies
focused at inuencing decision-making by (potential) oenders. In addition to a
prevention-through-deterrence rationality of criminal law enforcement such strategies
are reected in the use of administrative law (“gewapend bestuursrecht”) or situational
crime prevention formats with a focus on identifying and protecting attractive targets and
vulnerabilities to reduce the opportunities for terrorism (e.g., Clarke & Newman, ;
 Again, being reactive here refers to more than simply responding to a crime once it is
committed. It refers to acting on the basis of known threats or on the basis of what is
assumed to be true about terrorism. While some of these actions are indeed reactive,
others can be initiated by the police (and are thus technically proactive). is distinction
is important: proactive action can indeed disrupt or prevent the reoccurrence of a known
terrorist threat. e point here, however, is that the proactive response is a response, an
initiative based on what is experienced or known to be true about terrorism. In that
sense, the distinction becomes much less relevant. If both forms of action are grounded
in the same assumptions about what terrorism is, who the perpetrators are and how they
operate, actions of the police are in that sense always reactive. Being reactive, then, refers to
acting on the basis of what is known about decision-making by terrorist oenders (“what
terrorists are expected to do”).
 It is at this point that a normalisation occurs of selective forms of policing in the public
debate (“we are obviously not focusing on ‘grandmothers’ or the Chinese”).
 Although here too researchers have found that in practice the integrated approach has
materialised into a wide variety of practices and may not be as self-evident as the ocial
policy discourse suggests (Bauwens et al., ).
 We will not deal with the history and evolution of the concept of radicalisation here. For
an excellent overview see Coolsaet (; ).
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The attacks in Paris (2015) and Brussels (2016) led to the development of an Action Plan against radicalisation wherein Islamic religious teachers are expected to contribute actively to de-radicalisation processes and counter-discourse. To this end, Flemish teacher training university colleges have rapidly established new ‘Islamic religious education’ (IRE) teacher training programs. Additionally, the Minister of Education made interconvictional dialogue lessons mandatory in compulsory education. These lessons aim to stimulate, strengthen and reinforce the dialogue between pupils of different belief system backgrounds. Thus, the interconvictional competences are seen as a means to prevent radicalisation and polarisation. This article draws an overview of IRE development since 2015 until now regarding the policy incentives concerning the Flemish IRE, taking into account the concept of separation of Church and State. Furthermore, we scrutinise the existing IRE teacher training curricula with regard to the formulated interconvictional competence elements, as these are seen as one of the remedies for radicalisation and polarisation. We observe a clear relationship between the dramatic events and the implementation of new Islamic religious education programs and partnerships. An increasing number of ‘interconvictional’ references are observed in the Islam-related courses that are included in IRE teacher training programs. Further in-depth field research is needed to map the IRE teaching practices and experiences regarding the expectations formulated by policy makers.
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Despite the extraordinary social and political consequences often associated with terrorist violence, as well as our responses to it, psychological research on terrorist behavior is conspicuously underdeveloped. This special issue of American Psychologist presents a series of articles that showcase new conceptual, theoretical, and empirical advances in our understanding of terrorism. In doing so, it seeks to not merely summarize recent accomplishments, but to highlight the immense value of explicitly psychological research on these issues, far more of which is called for to realize the potential for informing solutions.
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The implication of Belgium-linked terrorists in the shootings and bombings on November 13, 2015 in Paris became more and more obvious during the police investigation that followed these events. Today we know that the bombings at Brussels Airport and the Maalbeek subway station on March 22, 2016 were committed by the same French-Belgian jihadi network. The consequence has been that many international observers focused on the Belgian police system, wondering why the Belgian police forces had not been able to prevent the radicalisation of these persons. In this paper we examine this question, explaining what happened during the period that preceded these assaults and decoding what the events mean for the Belgian police system today. In other words, this paper doesn’t go into the reaction to radicalisation and the subsequent violence itself, but into the preventive and pro-active actions that had been undertaken earlier to avoid the radicalisation of certain “at-risk” individuals and groups. The main argument we want to develop here is that a targeted prevention agenda was largely present in discourse, but to a great extent absent in practice. Further, we advocate that, if implemented, this kind of preventive approach would have been much more effective than the repressive criminal justice agenda now applied with respect to jihadi terrorism.
Proactive policing, as a strategic approach used by police agencies to prevent crime, is a relatively new phenomenon in the United States. It developed from a crisis in confidence in policing that began to emerge in the 1960s because of social unrest, rising crime rates, and growing skepticism regarding the effectiveness of standard approaches to policing. In response, beginning in the 1980s and 1990s, innovative police practices and policies that took a more proactive approach began to develop. This report uses the term "proactive policing" to refer to all policing strategies that have as one of their goals the prevention or reduction of crime and disorder and that are not reactive in terms of focusing primarily on uncovering ongoing crime or on investigating or responding to crimes once they have occurred.
Can We Construct a Grand Strategy to Counter Terrorism? Fifteen years after September 11, the United States still faces terror threats-both domestic and foreign. After years of wars, ever more intensive and pervasive surveillance, enhanced security measures at major transportation centers and many attempts to explain who we are fighting and why and how to fight them, the threats continue to multiply. So, too, do our attempts to understand just what terrorism is and how to counter it. Two leaders in the field of terrorism studies, Martha Crenshaw and Gary LaFree, provide a critical look at how we have dealt with the terror threat over the years. They make clear why it is so difficult to create policy to counter terrorism. The foes are multiple and often amorphous, the study of the field dogged by disagreement on basic definitional and methodological issues, and the creation of policy hobbled by an exacting standard: the counterterrorist must succeed all the time, the terrorist only once. As Countering Terrorism shows, there are no simple solutions to this threat.
This chapter introduces and reviews the ten most effective and proven counterterrorism strategies, tactics, and practices. These strategies and practices which are mostly situational crime prevention techniques, are not much different from those that law enforcement deploys against "ordinary" criminals. Through offensive and defensive measures, proactively and responsively reducing the opportunities for terrorist attacks, these techniques create a hostile operational environment for terrorists and combine protective measures (such as "target hardening" and bottle neck passages). These practices emphasize cooperation, partnerships, communication with the public and quickly restoring the attack scenes.
This book provides a comprehensive guide to the different aspects of deradicalization theories, programs and methods. It analyzes the practical and theoretical aspects of deradicalization programs and the methods being employed to bring extremists and terrorist back to a non-violent life. The book includes in-depth case studies on programs and former extremists, including interviews with former German neo-Nazis and families of Jihadists who have received deradicalization counselling. Using a coherent theory of radicalization and deradicalization, it integrates existing programs into a typology and methodology regarding the effects and concepts behind deradicalization. In addition, a current state of the art assessment of deradicalization programs around the world provides a collection of programs and landscapes worldwide. It thereby functions as a unique guide for practitioners and policymakers in need of evaluation or construction of such programs, as well as a resource pool for academics interested in research about deradicalization programs and processes. The major aim of this book is to consolidate the existing scholarship on deradicalization and to move the field forward by proposing a coherent theory of deradicalization, including ways to measure effectiveness, standard methods and procedures, different actors of such programs and cooperation on national and international level. In essence, this work enables the reader to identify how, when and why deradicalization programs work, how they can be built and structured, and to identify their limitations. This book will be of interest to students of radicalisation, counter-terrorism, radical Islam, criminology, security studies and IR.