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TERROISM: The structure of Bin Laden's network

Tim Brown suggests that bin Laden's network may be similar to that of guerrilla groups:

"In conflicts involving organized armed sub-national groups there is a third category of directly involved persons without whose participation the armed group cannot function, a popular support base. It is the body of unarmed civilian non-combatants who are organized heirarchically, under discipline, and often function as cells, its popular support base of activists, not mere sympathizers. Usually organized into committees, or cells, these non-combatants engage directly in a conflict by providing the combatants with food, clothing, shelter, intelligence information, guide services, medical attention, often arms and ammunition, and so forth. They are not innocent civilians but rather culpable participants. In the three guerrilla forces I have studied, the ratio has been roughly 20 actively involved members of support cells or committees for every combatant. They did not carry arms, wear uniforms, or have ID cards, nor did their names appear on personnel rosters, but were vital to the prosecution of the group's agenda. When a group's actions involved particularly labor intensive operations such as kidnappings, setting bombs, collecting "taxes" through extortion, armed robberies, and so forth, the ratio was even greater, in several instances reaching an estimated 40 to 50 members of its popular support base for each "combatant" involved. They were the ones who "cased the joint", provided operational security in depth, served as cover during escapes, etc. In the case of the recent attacks in NYC and DC, it may be too early to say with much degree of confidence, but it appears for news reports that for every hijacker there were probably several dozen who gave them active support. This raises a question. Is anyone not wearing a uniform a non-combatants by definition, even if they are directly engaged in support of organized armed violence? Or is there such a thing as a culpable non-combatant? In my view, any non-combatant who is actively engaged in providing direct support to combatants, is not innocent, even if they claim to be, and once identified are legitimate targets, irregardless of whether or not they personally pulled a trigger or set off a bomb".

Ronald Hilton - 10/15/01