The World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) conducted an international workshop on Countering Violent Extremism and the Insider Threat in the Nuclear Sector in London from 03 to 05 December 2019.
This event provided participants with the opportunity to better understand the threat of violent extremism and to review the processes leading to radicalisation. It also reviewed the key elements of a comprehensive insider threat mitigation programme and will explore the role of different stakeholders in ensuring its effective implementation.
Expert speakers from the nuclear industry and other critical infrastructures were invited to share their experiences and lessons learned from implementing security arrangements against violent extremists. Finally, participants were encouraged to identify immediate steps that can be taken to strengthen nuclear security programmes and mitigate insider threats in their organisations and countries.
In the last few years, States around the world have faced an increasing frequency of terrorist attacks perpetrated by individuals claiming to having been inspired by, amongst others, religiously oriented groups like the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda, and by right- wing anti-government militias and white supremacist groups. These attacks have led to the death of innocent civilians and shocked society by their indiscriminate violence.
Often referred to as violent extremists (VEs), such individuals pose threats that are generally not constrained by international borders or necessarily limited to any single ideology. The term homegrown violent extremist (HVE) is also used frequently to indicate people who perpetrate a violent act in the country where they were born and/or raised. Such individuals are often lone actors who might have been radicalised by passively consuming violent extremist material online. They tend to have few, or no, connections to radical groups or individuals in other countries before they engage in solo acts of violence. There is evidence that some extremists have targeted nuclear facilities when considering which malicious acts to conduct. Because the threat to the nuclear sector is credible, security arrangements need to be reviewed and enhanced, if needed, in light of the ever evolving nature of the VE threat as it effects different parts of the world.
It is clearly the responsibility of the State to protect society from the actions of violent extremists and to understand their causes, methodologies and potential targets. Doing so requires contributions from many different stakeholders at the national as well as international level, including international organisations (e.g. the UN), government officials, intelligence, law enforcement organisations, civil society and individual citizens. Highly sensitive information may need to be shared among different organisations, and processes need to be in place to support such exchanges.
From the perspective of the nuclear sector, one of the most serious security concerns is that employees could become radicalised—or that already radicalised individuals are hired—and subsequently use their positions of trust and authority to carry out a malicious act.
Nuclear operators, with the support of other stakeholders such as specialised law enforcement agencies, can take concrete actions to protect their materials and facilities from insiders who are—or who could become—violent extremists. For example, they can develop a comprehensive insider threat mitigation strategy that provides the foundation for effective implementation of plans and procedures. This includes implementing specific measures for pre-employment vetting, as well as during- employment behaviour observation and aftercare. Effective insider threat mitigation programmes should also include measures to reduce the risk of an unwitting insider who unknowingly assists an adversary in performing a malicious act.
Countering VE requires that all individuals within the nuclear organisation play their part, not simply the Security Department. This begins with the commitment of leadership. Both executive and line management must demonstrate their belief that a credible threat exists and that nuclear security is important. They must lead by example. The Human Resources Department also plays a crucial role by creating employment policies, procedures and programmes that support a security-aware culture amongst staff.
WINS has held several workshops and has written extensively on the various external and internal threats to nuclear facilities, including the threat of terrorism. Due to the continuously evolving nature of the VE threat, WINS continued its series of events on the topic by conducting an international best practice workshop to review the latest information on radicalisation matters and to listen to the experience gained by those who are implementing security arrangements against VEs. Building on the discussions and key findings of the previous WINS events, this workshop:
- Provided participants with a better understanding of the processes leading to radicalisation and violent extremism; identify and discuss the motivation, intention and capabilities of HVEs; and review real-life examples and applicable case studies.
- Identified and explore the role of different stakeholders involved in the identification and mitigation of such threats with specific reference to the nuclear sector.
- Reviewed the current measures to help ensure the reliability of personnel accessing critical areas and information in the nuclear sector.
- Discussed whether the nuclear sector and its employment arrangements have any features that make it more or less vulnerable to becoming a VE target.
- Discussed how to test the resilience of the security systems, including information sharing among different stakeholders.
- Reviewed best practices in countering VE threats from other sectors, including sensitive industries and critical infrastructures.
This workshop targeted security managers and other security professionals from nuclear operators and regulatory bodies. It also targeted senior officers from law enforcement agencies and representatives of international organisations. Academic experts and representatives from other industries were invited to present their experience and lessons learned.
WINS is promoting gender diversity in its events and female delegates were highly encouraged to apply this workshop.
Participation was be limited to 50 individuals. Deadline for application was 15 September 2019. Applicants were notified on the status of their application by 31 October 2019.
In line with WINS’ innovative approach to best practice workshops, this event was interactive and professionally facilitated. The workshop was built around a number of presentations from invited expert speakers, as well as breakout sessions that enable participants to further explore the topic and share their experience and lessons learned. An instant electronic voting system allowed participants to provide their views on questions put to the workshop by anonymously registering their opinions using a keypad. The workshop was held in English. As with all WINS events, the discussions were unclassified but subject to Chatham House rules (what was said can be reported, but not attributed).
CRDF Global supported WINS with the application and logistical processes. Attendees were expected to meet their own costs for travel and accommodation. CRDF Global was in a position to cover travel and accommodation cost for some selected individuals. Participants were responsible for obtaining a visa for traveling to the United Kingdom.