Tech UPTechnologyBrian Jenkins:

Brian Jenkins:

The Kroll detective agency is back in the limelight. His agents were the ones who prepared the so-called Crillon report on the activities of Mario Conde, whose commission has been attributed to the Vice President of the Government, Narcís Serra, and the Minister of Defense, Julián García Vargas. When we set out to interview Brian Jenkins, Kroll’s second CEO, we knew it would not be an easy task. Former US Army Green Beret, Vietnam veteran and historian, Jenkins is, in addition to being vice president of the world’s largest private detective firm, an expert on international terrorism and the fight against corruption.

As we feared, Jenkins was unable to attend us the first time we wanted to speak to him. But not because he was memorizing the confidential data obtained by his men in Brazil on the financial excesses of some famous banker or trying to find an explanation for the latest massacre of the fundamentalists in Algeria. Simply, Mr. Jenkins had to take his children to school.
Once his obligations as a fifty-year-old father had been fulfilled, Jenkins agreed to speak exclusively for VERY about terrorism and corruption, the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, the survival of ETA, the shadow of the GAL … All this in a long conversation which began, of course, with the question we were all asking ourselves:

What does one of the most informed men in the world think when he takes his children to school?
-I am currently concerned about the consequences of the famous poison gas attack in the Tokyo subway that happened recently, and the possibilities of its recurrence, although it is not clear to me that it is an example that can be classified exactly in the known catalog of terrorist groups .

But is there a catalog of terrorists, an international classification?
-Of course. Terrorism experts have created a full spectrum of people who can perpetrate a terrorist act. On one side are urban guerrilla groups and conventional organizations with political, nationalist or linguistic pretensions, such as ETA and the IRA. At the other extreme are visionary madmen and religious fanatics. Between one side of the spectrum and the other there are hundreds of groups.

And which ones are more dangerous?
-If I had to give a quick answer, I would say that, logically, those who are sustained by fanatical religious cults. But you have to make certain qualifications. We know that terrorists have an almost unlimited killing capacity and that they can also access almost any type of weapon. In fact, terrorism is becoming increasingly indiscriminate in its tactical objectives. However, it is important to say that most armed groups generally have no interest in causing many deaths in a single action. In reality, terrorist groups could do more terrible things than they do.

And what prevents them from doing so?
-They themselves impose moral self-limitations. They want to be seen as liberation armies saviors of a people and not as gangs of unscrupulous murderers. They do not commit savage acts because they are afraid of causing desertions and divisions within the group or of losing their ability to proselytize among like-minded youth.

Do these limits work for all terrorists?
-Unfortunately, no. In cases of religious terrorism, for example, self-control disappears. When a terrorist thinks he is following God’s instructions, he does not have to make other moral considerations. He must only render an account to his divinity. That is why it is easier for these groups to cross the border and dedicate themselves to causing massacres.

And in this group, unfortunately, the Islamic fundamentalists take the cake …
-Yes, it is the clearest example of what we were talking about. Moral considerations are diluted by the force of religious fanaticism. In any case, we must not forget that the tendency to provoke large massacres is not exclusive to religious groups, be they Islamic, Christian, Jewish or Hindu. There are other types of conflicts where all the boundaries of measure are usually overflowed. They are ethnic conflicts, of which we are having unfortunate examples in Rwanda, Burundi or Bosnia. In these cases, one tends to think that the enemy is an inferior, subhuman being. This is how genocides or ethnic cleansings are legitimized.

It seems that terrorism behaves in fashions, in differentiated waves. In some times political groups prevail, in others ethnic conflicts, in others fundamentalist attacks …
-That’s how it is. Terrorism experts know that the probability of a second terrorist act is greater than that of the first. When a group decides to use a novel weapon or a more daring tactic, it gets a lot of publicity in the media. And there is always more likely to be a repeat. Now, for example, after the rise of high-level political terrorism in the 1980s, when the kidnappings of civil servants and planes and the attacks on high-ranking officials proliferated, we are living in a new fashion: we are in the era of the car bomb.

And do you think the poison gas attack in Tokyo could also become a fad?
-Well, it’s too early to say. But it is true that its authors have had great success in their first objective: to make themselves known around the world. You may have created a precedent and therefore there is a danger that it will be imitated in the future.

From an ideological point of view, what trend will terrorism follow in the future?
-After the fall of the Soviet bloc, we are witnessing a serious crisis in politically motivated groups. The ideological groups that still survive have been adrift, without a model to follow. The conflicts of the future will be mostly ethnic or religious. But we must not lose sight of two phenomena that, in my opinion, could become a threat in the coming years. In the first place, the proliferation of small cults led by a charismatic individual, with the ability to organize a group of followers and control their minds. And secondly, the possibility that these sects end in an act of self-immolation, as in the cases of the Davidians of Waco (Texas) and the sect of the Temple of the Sun in Switzerland, where they died or committed suicide – dozens of followers radicals.

Allow me to descend to the nearest terrain. In Spain we also suffer, unfortunately, the scourge of terrorism. And you are well aware of the ETA problem …
-Yes. And it is a very interesting case for an expert on terrorism, because it illustrates the persistence capacity of separatist groups. In recent decades, we have seen the rise and fall of many ideological organizations, but it seems clear that separatists, who may enjoy a larger pool of supporters and supporters, have the capacity to continue their struggle for much longer. This is the case of ETA, the IRA and the Corsican independentists. Among young people, for example, supporting ETA is an opportunity to exercise protest and even to render their “services to the homeland” as if it were a regular army. As long as there are young people willing, the fight can continue indefinitely. In addition, something is happening in ETA that affects all long-lived groups: over the years, the economic apparatus that supports them, and that feeds on kidnappings, extortion, robberies, etc., has acquired more and more importance and Eventually the group becomes a “commercial company” with a very small source of political objectives.

And what can a government like the Spanish do when a terrorist group has become so deeply rooted?
-On the one hand, it has to treat ETA as if it were a simple criminal gang; on the other, it must open the doors to the possibility of a political solution. It is possible that the negotiation had very good results, as we have seen in the case of the IRA. The government has to be creative and not give up looking for a negotiated solution. But you must be aware that there will always be a small economic infrastructure willing to continue killing. What is interesting to note is that perhaps within ETA and its allies there are many people who see the cases of the PLO in Palestine or the IRA in Ireland as successes of -terrorism. They have forced governments to sit down and negotiate.

_Does that mean that there is no choice but to reach a political agreement?
-It is difficult to answer this question. The fight against ETA has lasted 30 years. And not because Spain lacks prepared, intelligent and determined agents to end a terrorist group … I cannot say that I am more intelligent than three generations of Spaniards. So I am not the one to advise on what direction should be followed in the fight against ETA.

But you think that the political route should not be ruled out …
-All the possibilities to end a terrorist group always have to be kept open. I know that it is very difficult to accept a political negotiation with people who have kidnapped, who have killed, who have attacked the population …, but the Government of Spain should not close the door to a negotiation with ETA. If only for psychological reasons, to provoke divisions among the ETA members. The fight against these groups must always be a combination of police harassment, pressure on imprisoned terrorists, offers of amnesty for those who are on the street or of reintegration and reduction of sentences if they collaborate with the Government.

And among these forms of fight against terrorist groups, what legitimacy does State terrorism have, such as the one supposedly carried out by the GAL?
-For me it is important to win the battle, but more important is to win it fairly. The great danger of terrorism at this time is that it makes the governments that suffer from it lose their sense of proportion. Even in the cases of extremist acts such as the Tokyo subway, terrorist violence is very small compared to that of an open armed conflict. That is why I think that the GAL is a victory for ETA. Terrorism is fertile ground for unacceptable solutions to grow under the rule of law. But, ironically, a society must know how to suffer a certain level of violence to maintain democracy.

It means that Spain has fallen into a trap with the creation of the LAGs …
-Yes. I often read Spanish magazines about the revelations or, at least, accusations of support by the government for anti-terrorist groups that use tactics that cannot be distinguished from those of ETA. If that is so, the State has morally equated itself with the ETA terrorists. Or, even worse, it’s gotten to a dirtier level. I understand all the pressure that can be experienced in a government plagued by terrorism. As a Vietnam War veteran, I am aware of the psychological reactions to seeing colleagues or employees die every day. I can understand, but that does not mean accepting.

What role does the press play in this framework?
-You see, my political ideas are delimited by Thomas Jefferson on the one hand and the anarchists on the other. I mean that for me freedom is the most important thing of all and I always suspect all governments. I say this because in all anti-terrorist struggles there is a temptation to control the press. In many cases it has been tried to prohibit the newspapers from talking about terrorist issues so as not to publicize the violent ones, but this has not been shown to be effective and, in addition, it is much more dangerous to control journalists than to let them publicize the attacks .

You are also an expert in the fight against corruption, another topic that is fashionable in Europe …
– I do not believe that today we have more corruption than before; we simply tolerate it less. Surely there are no more corrupt in France or Spain today than there were a century ago. What we can say is that today the citizens do not want them in positions of responsibility. The reasons for this change are multiple and I can summarize some of them that are perfectly suited to the Spanish case. Contemporary political campaigns are increasingly expensive and incite illegal fundraising; the judiciary is more independent now than ever and this has led to the emergence of super judges who fight against political excesses as social heroes; the media have grown in independence, freedom and aggressiveness; citizens demand more and more participation in the control of institutions, etc. All this has meant that in countries like Spain, for the first time, there is the possibility of seeing politicians in prison for taking advantage of their position. And this new situation has created a slight confusion, but, really, I think that corruption has not increased as much as is believed.

That message is very optimistic, but doesn’t it mean that, deep down, we have no reason to complain?
-Not. Unfortunately, I think we will have to keep complaining for a long time. Corruption is a deeply rooted evil in the political community. And I’m afraid it won’t be easy to remove. In fact, in the European case, and of course Spanish, we are seeing phenomena of corruption in very high spheres of the State since the creation of the positions of maximum responsibility and, what is worse, as the ultimate reason for the creation of some of these positions .

So no one can handle it …
-We have to be realists. The important thing is that the attitude of citizens and politicians towards corruption has changed. We are at a tipping point and we will have to keep making progress.

The information that citizens have will have a lot to do with this progress and, therefore, agencies such as Kroll will play an important role …
-We have worked to eliminate internal corruption in dozens of companies. And we have also worked for some governments. Kroll, for example, was commissioned by the Collor de Melo government in Brazil to prosecute the activities of certain corrupt people. We have also done similar work in Peru, in Haiti, in the Philippines … Personally, I am part of a commission created by the World Economic Forum to offer a catalog of norms, rules, ethical codes and laws that definitely reduce the level of corruption in business activities.

And in the fight against corruption, has your job ever clashed with that of the police?
-No, almost never. We have to be very pragmatic. A private company like us cannot compete against the authorities. In most cases we work alongside the police or judges. We have no political or commercial interest in confronting them. In corruption cases, such as Collor de Melo, we had the Brazilian Parliament as a client. The domestic investigation within the country was carried out by the authorities in Brazil. When international ramifications had to be investigated, they came to us.

Did the Spanish Government also come to you?
-About the current cases, honestly, I can not comment. It is one of our rules. I can talk about terrorism or corruption in general terms. But, with the exception of the cases in which our clients have published our activity, we cannot deny or confirm any aspect of any work.

But you know the Crillon report …
-Yes, of course. But I beg you to let me avoid that topic. I have nothing to say about it.

You risk being attributed nonexistent connections and jobs …
– Many times I have read cases in which the press says that the Kroll has done an investigation. And even some members of governments have cited the agency on issues that we do not even know about. Well, it’s a sign that people see the Kroll agency in more places than we are. We don’t have enough people to do all the work that we are thought to do.

You have an agency in Paris, precisely …
-Yes, and another in London, and another in Moscow, and a wide network of people all over the world. It can be said that we have worked in all European countries.

Would you like to receive an order from Spain?
-Haha. I am always interested in interesting cases. And Spanish is. We will see what happens in the future with Spain.

Do you think that there is a border for information, that anyone can request a report on any matter without limiting it?
-No, it depends on the situation. I do not believe that anyone has the right to have information about any other person. I am a private character and I want to maintain my privacy. I don’t think there is a right to invade anyone’s privacy. The situation, however, is a little different when you are a civil servant. In that case, it is more lawful to inquire about their personal activities that may affect the task they perform. Even so, there are still certain limits, but I don’t know where to place them.
Jorge Mayor

This interview was published in May 1995, in number 168 of VERY Interesting


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