Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

The Role of Intelligence in Countering Terrorism and Insurgency

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

The Role of Intelligence in Countering Terrorism and Insurgency

Article excerpt


Operations to counter terrorism and insurgency depend largely on timely accurate intelligence. In order to gain such intelligence it is essential that the various intelligence agencies co-operate effectively irrespective of which objectives of government they serve. This is true of international intelligence co-operation between democratic states as well. Institutions and media aiming to maintain democratic freedoms tend to be critical over intelligence collection methods, but it is of prime importance that it does not lead to the handicapping of intelligence agencies in such a way that it makes them ineffective.


Terrorism has been a major component of insurgency campaigns for centuries. Since the end of the Cold War in 1989 it has become so prominent that the two terms, terrorism and insurgency, are often used as if they meant the same thing. Insurgency covers a much wider field of subversive activities than terrorism does. The nature of the post-September 11, 2001 international terrorist campaign, led by al-Qaeda and based on fundamentalist Islamic thinking, has naturally led to the synonymous usage of the terms.

In order to defeat any political terrorist campaign, described as terrorism or insurgency, it is imperative that high quality intelligence be developed. (1) Analysts and practitioners of counter-insurgency have concluded that good intelligence is critical. The United States of America (US) National Commission on Terrorism stated that "no other single policy effort is more important for preventing, pre-empting, and responding to attacks than intelligence. (2)

It is clear that the problem of defeating an enemy consists of firstly finding it. In consequence it is easy to recognise that reliable information is of paramount importance. (3) Having confirmed its importance, it is necessary to consider how the intelligence communities of democratic states should perform their functions at strategic and tactical levels to defeat terrorism internally and/or externally.


There are many definitions of terrorism and there are reasons why 'anti-colonial', 'anti-imperialist' and some communist-inspired 'freedom struggles' had a historical problem in seeing terrorism as a crime during the Cold War. However, it seems to be clearly classified as a crime now.

The Republic of South Africa promulgated the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act, 2004 (Act No 33 of 2004). It was enacted "to provide for measures to prevent and combat terrorist and related activities; to provide for an offence of terrorism and other offences associated or connected with terrorist activities ...; to provide for investigative measures in respect of terrorist and related activities; and to provide for matters connected therewith." (4)

To remove any doubt that terrorist activity is a crime in South Africa, the Act states that "terrorist and related activities means any act or activity related to or associated with the commission of the offence of terrorism, or an offence associated with a terrorist activity". (5)

In the Preamble to the Act it is made clear that South Africa regards international terrorism as a crime as well. The South African government is committed to co-operate with the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to prevent and combat terrorist and related activities. It has thus become party to a number of instruments of the UN which include The International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and The International Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. It is also bound by the Convention for the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism adopted by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). (6)

In order to allay any doubt as to the meaning of terrorism in this article, it is defined as "a method to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.