The Use of Undercover Military Units in Counter-terrorism Operations: A historical analysis with reference to contemporary anti-terrorism

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Abstract

This article examines the use of specialised plain-clothes military units in counter-terrorism, concentrating on examples involving liberal-democratic states. It analyses the benefits and problems arising from clandestine military activity, focusing in particular on British army units (notably 14 Intelligence Company and the Force Research Unit in Northern Ireland). The article concludes by arguing that such formations have a clear utility – notably in gathering intelligence on terrorist groups – but other aspects of their role are inherently controversial (notably in cases where undercover soldiers use deadly force against suspected terrorists). It also states that plain-clothes military operations need to be conducted on the basis of accountability, both for strategic reasons, and also in accordance with the norms of liberal democracy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561 - 590
Number of pages30
JournalSmall Wars and Insurgencies
Volume21
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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