[SIMSOFT] Leaderless Resistance: The new form of terrorism

R. A. Hettinga rah@shipwright.com
Mon, 27 Jan 2003 18:46:52 -0500

Wherein Simson, returning to school, expounds on geodesic warfare... :-).


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Status: RO
To: rahettinga@earthlink.net
From: "Simson L. Garfinkel" <simsong@lcs.mit.edu>
Date: Mon, 27 Jan 2003 15:24:43 -0500
Sender: simsoft-admin@nitroba.com
Subject: [SIMSOFT] Leaderless Resistance: The new form of terrorism

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If you are interested in the Earth Liberation Front, Leaderless Resistance,
or new trends in terrorism, you may be interested in the final paper that I
wrote for my course in Terrorism at the Harvard Law School.

Download the paper from:

Here are the first three paragraphs:

An Introduction to Leaderless Resistance

Most terrorist groups have a pyramid structure similar to a modern
corporation: a leader (president), an inner circle of senior members (vice
presidents), individuals who oversee tasks such as fundraising or bombing
(product managers), and operatives (workers). Consider the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam:1 LTTE is headed by Supreme Leader Velupillai
Prebhakaran, has six formal divisions, and has an estimated annual budget
of more than US$100 million.2 Some terror groups (e.g. IRA and Hezbollah)
have worked so hard on strengthening their organization that they have
largely evolved beyond terrorism-after all, violence is destabilizing, both
to targets and to perpetrators. Even the relatively small Al Qaeda
organization still has the trappings of a corporate structure, with a
military, political, legal and finance committees working to further Al
Qaeda's goals.3

This paper explores a different kind of organizational structure,
Leaderless Resistance, which has been used with success by white
supremacists, anti-abortion and environmental activists, and animal rights
groups. I will argue that Leaderless Resistance is ideally suited to many
ideologies and that the problems inherent in classic Leaderless Resistance
can be overcome through modern communications technology. Furthermore,
movements that employ Leaderless Resistance are unlikely to have their
violent tendencies moderated by the tendencies of organizations to
self-perpetuate4, as has been the case with many traditional terrorist

"Leaderless Resistance" was popularized by the white supremacist Louis
Beam5 to describe a technique for fighting an incumbent government using
self-organizing clandestine cells. Beam attributed the term to Col. Ulius
Loius Amoss,6, 7, 8 allegedly a US intelligence officer who was fearful
that Communists were about to seize control of the US in the early 1960s.
Beam argued that traditional liberation armies that employ pyramid-style
organization are "extremely dangerous for the participants when it is
utilized in a resistance movement against state tyranny:"9

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R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah@ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'