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Negotiating with Terrorists

NCJ Number
Journal of Police Negotiations Volume: 1 Issue: 2 Dated: 2001 Pages: 53-67
H. H. A. Cooper Ph.D.
James L. Greenstone Ed.D.
Date Published
15 pages
This article discusses negotiations with terrorists and political extremists in hijacking or/and hostage taking situtions, but does not claim to have the answers, instead offering case histories as examples of extreme danger.
Beyond committing acts of terrorism, this article discusses just what "terrorism" is, as there is no universally accepted definition of the word. This article differentiates between political extremism and terrorism. Kidnapping and hostage taking are discussed as characteristic of both terrorism and political extremism, with the element of time always playing a critical role. Thus, it is important for the negotiators to determine who the persons are they are dealing with, what they want, what they are prepared to accept, and what the negotiator is prepared to give. The terrorist, as opposed to a non-terrorist hostage taker or kidnapper, who is another type of political extremist, will invariably not only emphasize his or her willingness to die for the cause, but also an irrational desire to do so. They will advance the most outrageous demands at the beginning of the process and the bargaining process is shaped by what one side is prepared to give and the other is prepared to accept. There is no evidence that hard-line policies reduce terrorism or even discourage political extremists. It is a given that negotiation with both types of political extremist should be undertaken, with terrorists requiring very special handling. Examples of two scenarios of airplane hijackings are given with the advice that the terrorist will be a catalyst for tragedy if a misstep is made in negotiations. This article does not present solutions, but raises awareness of the difficulties involved and the need for help, even in the realm of the exotic, along with qualified special consultants being sought to offer advice. 21 Notes


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