How dangerous is a dangerous person? What is the chance of someone committing a major crime? This question regularly arises when law enforcement agencies have to deal with criminals motivated by an extremist ideology like Jihadism.
After the Berlin Christmas market attack by Tunisian Anis Amri in December 2016 German Federal Police (BKA) decided to implement a new risk assessment tool to analyze the danger posed by radical Islamists. The tool is called RADAR-iTE, a short term for „Regelbasierte Analyse potentiell destruktiver Täter zur Einschätzung des akuten Risikos – Islamistischer Terrorismus“. Roughly translated to: „Rule-based analyzes of potentially destructive actors to assess the urgent risk – Islamic Terrorism“.
In the following blog post I would like to get into the details of this system.
Why is RADAR-iTE needed?
In Germany there are various categories of potentially dangerous individuals used by police and intelligence agencies. The police terms used for Jihadists are „Gefährder“ and „relevante Person“ (See: What is a „Gefährder“?). „Gefährder“ meaning a person who is potentially prepared to carry out a terrorist attack. „Relevante Person“ is someone supporting the terror networks or individuals. This could be a radical preacher or someone providing logistical support to Foreign Fighters. Neither of the two terms is a legal term. It is rather a concept used by German police similar to the French national security threat indicator „Fiche S“.
Due to Germany´s federal structure the police agencies of the federal states are responsible for the monitoring of radical Salafists. Meaning: Police in Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hamburg or Berlin are dealing with Jihadists according to the local assessment. If a Islamic extremist is considered to be a „Gefährder“ or „relevante Person“ this information is then reported to the Federal Police Agency (BKA).
The number of Jihadists in Germany has dramatically increased in recent years. Currently there are about 770 „Gefährder“ and 470 „relevante Personen“ listed. As a comparison: Back in January 2015 the number of „Gefährder“ was at 270.
It is important to note: Not all of the „Gefährder“ are present in Germany. Many Jihadists flagged as „Gefährder“ are in fact Foreign Terrorist Fighters believed to be residing in Syria, Iraq, Turkey or other places outside of Germany. Others are currently imprisoned. Also: Not all „Gefährder“ are subject to a law-enforcement investigation. Some have not committed any crimes but they are nevertheless believed to be potential terrorists.
Who created RADAR-iTE?
The risk assessment tool was created by the German Federal Police Agency (BKA) in cooperation with the research group „Forenic Psychology“ at the University of Konstanz. Work on RADAR-iTE began in early 2015 and was finished around September 2016.
How does RADAR-iTE work?
There have been false reports claiming RADAR-iTE was a software tool to analyze dangerous Salafist individuals. The tool is not a computer software but rather based on a list of questions and the evaluation of all the different information available about a radicalized person. Some even call it a „predictive policing system“ for Jihadists.
A police case officer in charge of a radicalized individual is first tasked to write a full case report with all information available about the person. This is done also to illustrate and highlight to the case officer what is known about the Islamist – and what is not.
The main component of RADAR-iTE is a list of 73 questions about the Jihadist. Possible answers being: „Yes“, „No“, „Unknown“.
The questions are about family, friends, education and prison terms served but also about possible access to weapons, military service, suicide attempts and mental health issues. Some of the questions are meant to assess more precisely the potential risk posed by the person. For example: Has the individual taken part in Jihadist activities in a war zone? Has the person joined or tried to join a terrorist group in the past? Is there a record of violent and aggressive behavior?
Other questions are factors of ease when it comes to the risk assessment. For example: Is the individual cooperating with law enforcement? Does the individual have relationships to people outside of the Salafist community? Is there a functional family life?
The answers to these questions are then evaluated providing the case officer with a specific result. There are three categories in RADAR-iTE:
YELLOW: „Moderate Risk“
ORANGE: „Noticeable Risk
RED: „High Risk“
What is the current status of RADAR-iTE?
In February 2017 – only about three months after the Berlin Christmas market attack – the BKA officially announced the implementation of RADAR-iTE. In fact the tool had already been in a test-mode for several months back then. Some police case officers in North Rhine-Westphalia for example had used it to analyze Jihadists.
During spring and summer of 2017 the BKA trained the police agencies across Germany in the use of RADAR-iTE. Since then approximately 400 Jihadists were analyzed using the new tool – around 40 % were rated as posing a „high risk“.
The procedure established by the BKA: RADAR-iTE is used first for those „Gefährder“ already considered to pose a very high-risk, meaning some well-known terrorist subjects. Amongst them are numerous Jihad returnees from Syria and Iraq. Followed by imprisoned Salafists that will soon be released from jail. Those Jihadists still active on the battlefield or currently held captive in Syrian or Iraq are not considered the first priority in the police risk management.
In July 2017 BKA has created a new working group called „AG Risikomanagement“ within its current state security department to work on the risk assessment. This unit is regularly meeting at the „Gemeinsame Terrorismusabwehr-Zentrum (GTAZ)“ in Berlin to talk about individual cases – sometimes these meetings last for several hours. In the coming years a whole new BKA counter-terrorism division („Abteilung Terrorismusbekämpfung“) will be established, specifically dealing with Jihadists terrorist cases.
RADAR-iTE creates a standardized risk assessment of dangerous Islamists used by police agencies in Germany. What was a very inconsistent and mixed approach is now a nation-wide system with the BKA overlooking the process.
The next step now would be to have certain counter-terrorism measures in place when it comes to the monitoring of the Jihadists. But there are obstacles: Due to the federal structure of Germany each federal state has its own police law – meaning there is no unified and common strategy. Some police actions (like wiretapping) can be used in one federal state as a preemptive measure but they are unlawful in another state. This fact has been criticized by the BKA as well as several politicians, often calling it a „Flickenteppich“ (patchwork rug).
Nevertheless there is a system now in the making based on RADAR-iTE called RISKANT. The main aim of this tool will be to present a uniform approach to police investigators and to give an advice regarding the measures that might be used against a certain Jihadist individual.