The Multinational Monitor


G L O B A L   N E W S W A T C H

Terrorism Figures Will Remain a CIA Secret

One of the expenses for multinational corporations of doing business abroad is the risk of losses incurred as a result of "international terrorism" - which has been defined by U.S. Central Intelligence Agency expert Edward F. Mickolus as "the use, or threat of use, of extranormal violence for political purposes by any individual or group ... when ... its ramifications transcend national boundaries."

Statistics on the aggregate cost to international business of "terrorist" incidents - whether in the form of damage to property, theft, or ransoms to be paid for kidnapped corporate executives -have always been difficult to obtain, since many corporations maintain secrecy about the bargains struck with terrorist groups as a means of discouraging further kidnapping and threats.

The CIA, however, keeps detailed records on what it considers international terrorist incidents, and in the past it has supplied unclassified summaries and analyses of this classified information to the public. No more. The CIA last month announced that it can no longer justify the expense and bother of preparing these reports.

In a book released last year, called Transnational Terrorism: A Chronology of Events, 19681979, intelligence analyst Mickolus used these government statistics and other publicly-available data sources to conclude, among other things, that:

  • Over the ten years from 1968 to 1977, the number of "international terrorist" incidents fluctuated around 350-440 per year.
  • In only 12% of these cases was anyone killed.
  • Damage was reported in 1,566 cases, or 53.4% of the incidents, and totaled $332.6 million in value, or an average of $212,390 per incident, with the record loss being about $100 million in certain oil installation fires.

Mikolus includes no totals for amounts of ransom paid. But a U.S. State Department paper released last summer, entitled "chronology of significant terrorist incidents involving non-official American citizens and installations, June 20, 1969-May 1, 1981," includes dollar figures or estimates for about half of the incidents in which ransom was paid for corporate executives. The sum of these amounts, over the 12-year period discussed, is more than $38.5 million, or nearly $2 million per incident. The corporations which paid to ransom their executives include Coca-Cola, Citibank, Firestone, Amoco, Exxon, National Cash Register, Kodak, Pepsico, Ford, Bank of Boston, American Express, and Beatrice Foods.

According to Rand Corporation analyst Brian Michael Jenkins, who has studied the issue, U.S. citizens or facilities are involved in about one-third of all "international terrorist" incidents in the world. "Terrorists perceive American corporations as symbols of a despised economic system and as enormously wealthy, making them lucrative targets," Jenkins says.

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