Yogyakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - This month, the world once again commemorates the 9/11 attacks which claimed thousands of innocent lives and changed the course of the so-called "global war on terror".
The attacks were believed to be orchestrated by al-Qaeda, which has since become the United States' primary target in combating terrorism. Over a decade has passed and yet the problem of terrorism does not seem like it is anywhere near its end.
In Indonesia, for example, there were three alleged terrorist attacks last month in Surakarta, Central Java, alone. Following these attacks, two terrorist suspects were arrested in Karanganyar, also in Central Java, and Depok, West Java. Additionally, two other suspects were shot to death by the National Police's Densus 88 counterterrorism squad on Aug. 31 in Surakarta. The shoot-out also claimed the life of one Densus 88 member. These events suggest that terrorism is still a major problem in Indonesia just as it is in many other countries.
According to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, terrorism aims primarily at intimidating a population or compelling a government of an international organisation to do or to abstain from doing a particular act. Therefore, spreading fear has always been at the heart of every terrorist attack, which is evidenced by, among other things, the targets selected for such purposes.
Most, if not all, targets of terrorist attacks are located in visible places (hotels, tourism sites, airports, train stations, etc.), which easily attract media attention. Recent attacks in Surakarta targeted several police posts in the city and have surely caught the entire nation's attention for the past few weeks.
In order to orchestrate their attacks, terrorists need financial support for weapons, supplies and training, among other things. Large terrorist organisations, for example, have been known to utilise payment systems to channel financial support to their members. Other violent crimes can also become the predicate offenses for terrorism. For example, the Indonesian authorities suspected that a number of robberies in the last few months may also be related to terrorism financing.
According to a report by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), many terrorist attacks, even major ones (e.g. Bali bombings, London bombings and Madrid train bombings), do not need much funding to be carried out (compared to the devastating effects they cause). For this reason, preventing terrorist financing is one important aspect of so-called "multifaceted strategies" in combating terrorism.
As suggested by a number of studies, in addition to charities and fundraising activities, fraud has been a major tool for financing terrorism and thus its prevention should be an important counterterrorism priority. Additionally, the underground economy also provides the means for terrorists to finance their attacks. Evidence from all around the world suggests that criminals of many kinds can obtain, for example, confidential banking information (e.g. credit card information and financial account information) to steal funds to support their illicit activities.
Nevertheless, for many businesses, there is not a sufficient business case for investing in fraud prevention measures because the costs thereof exceed the benefits. For example, it took longer for Australia and the US to migrate to the chip and PIN technology (EMV standard) than the UK, Malaysia and Indonesia simply because the card industry in the former countries were waiting for the benefits to outweigh the costs, which usually occurs when fraud losses rise to an unsustainable level.
Increasing fraud losses are mainly caused by the displacement of fraud from the EMV compliant countries to the non-compliant ones. However, the fact that fraud can be a predicate offense to other more life-threatening crimes such as terrorism should be considered when deciding whether or not fraud prevention measures are to be implemented.
Regarding the fear aroused by terrorist attacks, crime prevention experts believe that it should be managed for the sake of the society. Currently, the media is full of news of the apparent revival of terrorist groups in Indonesia. Just with other violent crimes, the availability of information regarding current crime trends instils fear in people's hearts, which makes them more prepared in defending themselves against existing threats.
However, studies in crime prevention also reveal that too much information of this type may end up causing unnecessarily high levels of fear, which may cause undesirable effects such as lower willingness to provide self-protection and high levels of prejudice toward outsiders. This is, of course, not to say that society should not be given complete information on current issues of crime. It is rather to say that the dissemination of such information should be wisely managed. For example, in some countries, "crime maps" are considered to be less scary than "crime statistics" and thus considered more suitable to be provided to the society although both are representations of the same problem.
Finally, as stated by the National Police, terrorist suspects often use different identities and in some cases, the police have a hard time determining whether a suspect's true identity. For example, a suspected terrorist, who was thought to be badly injured during the explosion at a house in Depok and was being treated at the hospital, suddenly appeared (alive and well) and surrendered himself to the police the next day, which obviously raised questions of whether he was who he said he was. This underlines the importance of the country's identity management system as part of its defence against crime. It is essentially the system that defines the ownership, utilisation and security of personal identity information with the main function of assigning attributes to an identity as well as connecting that identity to an individual.
The current "e-ID" or "Electronic ID" programme was initially designed for, among other things, preventing identity-related crimes such as corruption, money laundering and terrorism. Despite some criticism of the design and execution of this nationwide programme, the e-ID system is a cornerstone of a better identity management system in Indonesia. Nevertheless, learning from the failure of the UK's National Identity Card programme, such a system needs to be continuously monitored to ensure that it will not be unnecessarily complex, technically unsafe, overly prescriptive or lacking a foundation of public trust and confidence.
The writer is the director of the center for forensic accounting studies at the accounting programme of the Islamic University of Indonesia, Yogyakarta. He obtained a master's degree and a doctorate in forensic accounting from the University of Wollongong, Australia.