TAKEDOWN Project aims to improve the European response to both forms of criminality in terms of designing effective preventative and responsive strategies and public policies, identifying best practices and most efficient tools for preventing and countering them, disseminating this knowledge among the different stakeholders involved and enhancing their cooperation and mutual cross-fertilization, ultimately offering the victims and the European general public means to get aware of these threats and risks as well as the tools and instruments at their disposal to defend themselves therefrom.
OC/TN have become two matters of great concern for European governments and societies affecting social cohesion at both European Union (EU) and member state (MS) levels and calling for a response as effective as well grounded in European social and political values. This is a key notion because the profound impact of OC and TN needs to be measured not only by the economic and social harm they inflict upon European societies and economies but also by the costs that countering OC/TN has on those very same societies and economies in terms of political legitimacy, social cohesion and public expenditure. The review of strategies, policies, practices and measures put in place for countering OC/TN has shown that full compliance with fundamental rights is critical to assure this legitimacy and consequently guaranteeing ongoing public support.
The landscape of OC and TN within the EU presents a complicated situation that demands decisive public action but also discerning circumspection. Despite the undeniable social unrest that terrorism causes in every society beaten by an attack or the critical challenge that terrorism implies to a democratic political order, European societies are, compared to other parts of the world, relatively safe, as quantitative studies prove beyond doubt. Terrorism within the EU is largely domestic and/or locally based and shows a strong preference for soft targets in line with its unsophisticated modi operandi. This is not to deny its dangerousness, particularly because of its organisation in networked cells loosely connected but to emphasize instead the need to focus on better understanding radicalisation as one of the process that may lead an ordinary citizen to join a terrorist group in Europe or abroad (so called foreign fighters) or turn into a potential lone terrorist actor. On its part, OC is growing increasingly diverse in its methods, structures and impact on society. Criminal markets and services where OC thrives show no downward trend but contrarily a high dynamism in traditional and new ones – drugs, immigrant smuggling, traffic in human beings, financial fraud, counterfeit, environmental crime and others. Internet and new information and communications technologies (ICT) has facilitated the expansion of traditional OC horizon and opened a new highly flexible flat-structured global cybercriminal market.
It is understandable thus that OC/TN have reached an outstanding position in EU and MS political agendas through the consideration that both represent serious threats to European security demanding a common action. Hence, the Renewed EU Internal Security Strategy and the new Global Strategy for the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy consider both as major European threats and design the guidelines for a comprehensive countering response. Those are to be implemented according to the EU legal framework – particularly the Area of freedom, security and justice (AFSJ) – that possesses a high degree of intricacy because of the flexibility and differentiated legal regimes applying to certain MS and the double regulation that still governs EU external action. The institutional security architecture that the EU has progressively established to face these threats shows, on its part, an undesirable complexity liable to hamper the efficacy of the intended response.
ACADEMICS AND RESEARCHERS FROM MANY DIFFERENT SCIENTIFIC FIELDS HAVE DEVOTED AN ENORMOUS ATTENTION TO OC AND TN AND THEREFORE NUMEROUS THEORETICAL MODELS HAVE BEEN SUGGESTED. REVIEWING SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE AND SCREENING THOSE MODELS FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF TAKEDOWN PROJECT HAVE LED TO SOME RELEVANT CONCLUSIONS THAT IS SUMMARISED AS FOLLOWS.
The analysis of the root causes of both phenomena reflects a multi-dimensional factorial portrait that discloses the interaction of those causes along the macro, meso and micro levels enlightening the social construction of both OC/TN with significant consequences as to the pertinence of a systemic approach, the enlargement of preventing measures with an unavoidable multi-agency and multi-stakeholder approach or, epistemologically, the drift from causal to analytical models whose explanatory value lies in a collectively better understanding of these processes even though some models only focus on certain dimensions or interfaces or are built on specific scientific disciplines.
Accordingly, a multi-dimensional understanding of OC/TN is submitted here as the virtuous result of those varied scientific contributions that have revealed key aspects of OC/TN such as the functioning of concrete criminal markets at the international, national or local levels, the existence of a legal-illegal continuum with which OC assures endurance by means of corruption and penetration into the legal economy or the relevance of variables such as trust, violence or gender. Scientific literature has also provided with a variety of theoretical perspectives and models that can explain the extremely diverse structures that OC and TN currently present ranging from highly hierarchical groups to loosely networked cells to even lone actors. Valuable models explaining their functioning and offering useful investigative tools and techniques for law enforcement agencies and authorities accompany those theoretical insights. This is also the case of the intricate process radicalisation that academic literature has dissected so as to understand the different factors and dynamics it involves.
Additional traits of the complexity of current OC/TN is due to the emergence of clear nexus between them that have passed the traditional cross-instrumental rationale – ‘methods not motives’ – to reach a degree of hybridization in some cases that blurs their once clear-cut difference. Internet and new ICT have profoundly transformed OC/TN supplying new tools and techniques for offline activities, allowing new distributed criminal structures or providing extremely powerful platforms for terror propaganda, training and fundraising.
THE CYBERSPACE IS A NEW TERRITORY WHERE OC/TN DEVELOP AND THRIVE, WHICH DEMANDS COMPREHENSIVELY RETHINKING CYBERSECURITY IN TERMS OF MULTI-AGENCY AND PUBLIC-PRIVATE COOPERATION, DUE TO ITS GLOBAL SCALE, THE EMERGENCE OF NEW MOTIVATIONS OF ATYPICAL CRIMINAL OFFENDERS OR THE TRANSFORMATION OF CRIMINAL AND TERROR STRUCTURES AND METHODS AS WELL AS LAW ENFORCEMENT TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES.
All these considerations are pertinent to the main purpose of TAKEDOWN Task Force 2, which is identifying the methodological framework for modelling OC/TN. This framework must meet five different features or methodological modelling directions – namely (a) operational under uncertainty; (b) dynamic-process reflecting; (c) holistic and target-oriented – universally adaptational; (d) open and self-learning; (e) self-reflective – structurally sensitive; and (f) fundamental rights abiding. The first three are structural requirements of the model, the following two relate to the functioning of the model, while the last one is normative in character. The effects will be a model that expands the stakeholders’ horizon to unconventional scenarios in a target-oriented way, avoiding the risks of reification while internalising the different scientific methodological approaches – than are proper to those diverse stakeholders-, allowing for cross-fertilization, ex ante and ex post facto assessment in detecting best practices without endangering social legitimacy.