The gap between science and practice in countering terrorism

The gap between science and practice in countering terrorism

Amsterdam’s approach to combating extremism has been revised as of 2018, in part due to a critical report by scholars. From looking for Argos Explains that there are major caveats to this research.

at Argos Saturday: The Impact of Terror Scholars on Politics and Public Debate. Do they possess the truth or is there a gap between practice and science?

Argos broadcasts on March 20 – “holy” terrorism scholars

One example in the broadcast is an Amsterdam review of extremism policy since 2018. This followed the dismissal of extremism officer Saadia Ait Taleb in 2017 due to suspicions of fraud.

Although Ait Taleb was acquitted of censure, the case of Acting Mayor Josias Van Artsen was a reason to examine the policy. To this end, a “rapid survey” was conducted under the guidance of terrorism expert and scientist Beatrice de Graf.

Checks and balances

She and fellow scientist Dan Wegeman commented on the Amsterdam approach. For example, there will never be enough checks and balances built in when calling in the experts. The so-called main figures: the volunteers who formed the eyes and ears of the municipality in the city. According to the scientists, the main person policy was to start following its “own agenda” and more inclusion was needed in the sciences.

The scientists’ findings had an impact. In a letter to the city council after the quick survey, Van Artsen stated that “ Researchers are not only looking back, but also pointing the way to the future. We believe it is a guideline for the coming period. ‘

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Comments on the conclusions of scholars

But how did other experts view the Quick Survey and the Amsterdam Approach? In an internal memo by the National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism and Security (NCTV) – it came to hand Argos Make firm comments on the scientists ’conclusions.

“It appears as though researchers are taking the position that an expert is only an expert if he is also a scientist,” said the NCTV memo. In doing so, they ignore the great distance often between scientists and scientific insights on the one hand, and counterterrorism practice on the other hand.

According to the NCTV staff, the accusation that background checks were too little when outside experts were involved is incorrect: “The most important advisors were also posted by NCTV. For Amsterdam, this might count as a background check.” On the alleged private agenda of the main characters’ policy: “This section combines a number of assumptions about the main characters in general with a number of suggestive questions about the Amsterdam approach.”


De Graaf and Weggemans don’t want to respond objectively, not even after repeated requests by Argos since January. The Amsterdam municipality announced that Mayor Vimke Halsema, Van Artsen’s successor, was “aware of NCTV’s comments on the Quick Check” and “did not actively use them in the policy review” in 2019.

An NCTV spokesperson says, “The memo is written as an internal interpretation and in response to external reports of interest to NCTV’s work. The reports are not intended for public disclosure and will not be commented by NCTV. NCTV has absolutely no doubt about the scholarly quality of the researchers (De Graaf and Weggemans, ed.)”.

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More journalistic research?

Argos is the investigative journalism program for HUMAN and VPRO. You can hear the voice of Argos on Saturdays from 2 PM to 3 PM on NPO Radio 1. You can listen again via your favorite podcast app or via website From Argos. Also follow Argos via The social networking site FacebookAnd the Twitter at Linkedin.

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