3. Will Longer Imprisonment Work ?
In the current system, terrorism convicts are held in 6 maximum security dispersal prisons and are transferred across these prisons on a regular basis lest they get into close contact with other prisoners and brainwash them. (9) The current system is criticized for paving the way for the radicalisation of young and gullible inmates because they contact with unruly charismatic terrorists in the prison environment. By the same token, the system is also seen unsuccessful in the rehabilitation of radical terrorists. (10) In a report issued in 2015 by the ICSR examining radicalisation across the prisons of 15 countries including the UK, it is stated that there is overcrowd and personnel shortage as well as lack of social facilities in the UK prisons, which are the catalyst for radicalisation.(11) UK government’s policy response against the new generation terrorist attacks in London apparently assumes that holding prisoners in the prison system longer will prevent them from perpetrating attacks until they are released. Seeing that the prison system is currently incapable of deradicalising terrorism convicts, making them stay longer in prison will not in itself yield any worthwhile benefits for the solution of the problem. Moreover, without any additional steps regarding the rehabilitation of the terrorism convicts, such an approach is problematic for it assumes that terrorism convicts will commit attacks when they are released. From such a perspective, the policy seems far from introducing a decisive resolution even to the most apparent aspect of the problem, which has other important dimensions to be explained below.
4. The resilience of Jihadist Terrorist Organisations
Seeing that the prison system is currently incapable of deradicalising terrorism convicts, making them stay longer in prison will not in itself yield any worthwhile benefits for the solution of the problem
In recent years, low scale Salafi-jihadist organisations are increasingly trying to affiliate themselves with large terrorist organisations as a survival strategy when they lose power due to military campaigns of governments. In this framework, they pledge allegiance to and/or affiliated with large terrorist organisations to put themselves under the aegis of large organisations, benefit from their brand names and eliminate intra-organisational problems. Two Salafi-jihadist terrorist organisations, namely ISIS and Al Qaeda, which have proven their resilience in the face of the destructive blows they took over the course of decades, continue to attract such small terrorist organisations that face serious survival problems as well as ‘freelance’ jihadists. In 2018, for example, ISIS received pledges of allegiance from terrorist organisations located in 26 different countries. (12) Establishing such affiliation relations have certain advantages for both the smaller and the larger organisation. Since large terrorist organisations are more resilient to counterterrorism campaigns, smaller groups who pledge allegiance to larger groups gain a significant amount of legitimacy, constancy, and higher prestige. (13) On the other hand, such affiliations between large and small terrorist organisations allow the larger organisation to reach a broader audience by adding new organisations that use its name and promote its reputation in different parts of the world. Such alliances also allow smaller organisations to gain a solid reputation in the eyes of their own audience. (14)
Modern terrorist organisations are agile enough to adapt to the new conditions and find other platforms on the limitless space of the internet
Thus, although having been considerably enervated by leader decapitations and loss of territory, both ISIS and Al Qaeda has proven themselves as highly resilient organisations that provide shelter and brand name to a myriad of smaller jihadist groups facing significant survival problems as well as freelance terrorists who want to make a name or break through their local groups. (15) This gives ISIS and Al Qaeda a great advantage to plot attacks in different parts of the world no matter how far the target is from their headquarters. Still worse is the fact that this capacity is far from declining given the above-cited figures showing the increasing amount of pledges of allegiance to these organisations.
5. The utilisation of the Internet by Jihadist Groups in Terrorist Activities
When the administration of the pledge of allegiance mechanism explained above as a mutual organisational resilience and promotion instrument for both small and large terrorist organisations couple with the obvious advantages the internet has to offer, the problem gains a much complex structure. The foremost advantage provided by the internet to large terrorist organisations such as ISIS is removing the geographical restrictions. Both Al Qaeda and ISIS use the Internet, especially social media, very effectively in line with their objectives. There are scores of websites, social media accounts and videos in circulation on the internet through which these organisations make propaganda and directly give orders to an anonymous mass of audience. (16) Especially the social media platforms set the ground for a global network of terrorism as those who stand at any point on the radicalisation spectrum from sympathiser to active jihadist can access the same digital environment and contact with one another. Obviously, this process ends up with the radicalisation of simple sympathisers, rather than the other way around.
Terrorist organisations are adaptive to both the deteriorating and the improving conditions in their environment
Moreover, as the state response to terrorist propaganda activities on the social media platforms start to increase, ISIS has shifted to advanced encrypted chat applications such as Telegram to conduct recruitment and propaganda activities and build up group identity among scores of its affiliates around the world. (17) Although counterterrorism measures are also extensively applied on the virtual space and give positive outcomes, modern terrorist organisations are agile enough to adapt to the new conditions and find other platforms on the limitless space of the internet.(18)