Spy Conference: INTERPOL Agent Defines Modern Terrorism, Says It Is Changing

By The Raleigh Telegram

RALEIGH – At the Raleigh Spy Conference, director for INTERPOL’s Puerto Rico operations Rico Albert Grajales talked about the modern terrorist, including Carlos the Jackal and how terrorism has changed over the years to become a global phenomenon.

Since the unique event was launched in 2003 by Bernie Reeves of Raleigh, the Raleigh Spy Conference has assembled current and past members of the intelligence community including speakers from the CIA, KGB, FBI, NSA, Naval Intelligence, INTERPOL, and other agencies from around the world.

Speaking to members of the audience at the conference at the North Carolina Museum of History, Grajales first introduced INTERPOL and its role in modern day law enforcement. He said that the group is now operating in 190 different countries around the world, with a command and coordination center that operates 24 hours a day.

“Today, we are an intelligence network for all of the law enforcement communities,” he said. The group not only responds to crime and terrorist activities, but can also coordinate efforts and provide information among law enforcement groups during times of natural disasters and large international events like the 2012 London Olympic games.

There is a special unit for terrorism called the Terrorism Task Force, he said.

“Our role is to make everybody responsible…in the work against terrorism,” said Grajales.


What is terrorism? That seemingly simple question has lots of answers, said Grajales. He says there are some 110 definitions of terrorism around the world and everyone from the United Nations to the Federal Bureau of Investigation has their own definition.

“Terrorism has been around since the beginning of mankind,” he said. “Even animals use it.”

Quoting Sun Tzu, who wrote the famous book on how to vanquish your enemies, Grajales said that the goal of terrorism is to “kill one, terrify a thousand.”


Grajales said that for him, “classic terrorism” is “perpetrating torture, intimidation, humiliation, abduction, or assassination” to reach a certain political goal.

“The classical terrorist is a strong believer in his creed,” he said. “They will die for it because they believe in it.”

However, Grajales says there is a big difference between the classical terrorist and the new breed of terrorist around the world.

“The modern terrorist is something else,” he said.

In terms of modern terrorism, Grajales says that the goal is to make a worldwide impact.

“It’s based on classical terrorism but more ambitious,” said Grajales. “It creates a reaction around the world that is unforgettable,”

As an example, he related the beheading of Nick Byrd by terrorists in a video that was put out on the Internet.

“That created an impact,” he said. “Their mission was accomplished…did it create fear for a moment in each of you? Yes.”

In addition, modern terrorists are often after goals that are not in line with a creed – it can be ego, power, profit, anarchy, or other motives that have nothing to do with a political ideal.

“They [can] break their traditions to reach their goal,” he said. “They put their creed behind in second or third place.”

Often in modern day terrorism investigations, Grajales said that they find international terrorism mixing with international criminal organizations.

“Their goals are overlapping,” he said, with criminal operations funding the terrorism efforts.

As an example, he talked about FARC which is a group operating in Columbia in South America. The group originally started out with political goals, but they are now in the drug business, said Grajales.

“Where’s the creed?” he asked.


Grajales said in his mind, the first terrorist that fit the modern mold was Carlos the Jackal, a noted bomber, hijacker, and all around terrorist, who has killed innocent people and worked around the world.

Grajales said that he believed that Carlos was the target of other children growing up because his father was involved in the communist party growing up in Venezuela.

“Being bullied sometimes creates a monster,” he said.

Carlos himself joined the communist party and moved to London where he went to college. There he became a Muslim and was active identifying supporters of Israel.

He didn’t eschew the finer things in life due to his religion, said Grajales.

“He loved wine, he loved women, he loved music,” he said. “He was charming.”

From 1971-1975, he led several bombings and attacks in Great Britain and in France against several targets that killed at least 11 people.

“He basically attacked anything and everything that was pro-US or pro-Israel,” said Grajales.

He didn’t exactly follow the plans that were in place either, said Grajales.

Instead of killing one hostage like he was supposed to, he asked for and received $20 million in ransom instead, said Grajales.

“He didn’t follow the rules because he had no creed,” he said.

After bouncing around to several different countries around the world, Carlos was eventually brought back to France where he is currently serving a life sentence for his crimes, said Grajales.


One of the most deadly terrorists in the world is sometimes considered a crime boss more than a terrorist, but his actions defined him as such says Grajales. He was speaking about drug lord Pablo Escobar, who Grajales described as a “narcoterrorist” and who people called “El Patron,” or the boss.

Escobar was behind political assassinations, bombings, shootings, the downing of an airliner, and more during his reign of terror until his death at the hands of police in 1993, said Grajales.

In Columbia, he was behind the killing of over 1000 police officers, over 200 judges, journalists, the attorney general, Presidential candidates, the minister of justice, and 110 people on an airplane, not including other civilians, said Grajales.

“He did everything,” he said. “Everyone was intimidated by Pablo Escobar.”

Escobar ran his own intelligence operations to try and keep his operations profitable and one step ahead of the law.

“He had former intelligence officers working for him,” said Grajales.

Escobar operated out in the open – he gave to charities and he was even elected to the Columbian congress in 1982.

Those he could not bribe or corrupt, he simply had killed which meant that his reputation was enhanced, making others more pliable.

“He discovered fear was good for business,” said Grajales.

In the end, Escobar turned himself in, fearing extradition to the United States and convinced officials to let him live in a luxurious “jail” that he actually built himself.

Not surprisingly, he escaped and was gunned down in a shootout with police in 1993.

Grajales says that Escobar is a modern terrorist in the fact that he was not motivated by political considerations but by power, money, and most of all, ego.


Osama Bin Laden is probably one of the most well known terrorists as he was the mastermind behind the 9-11 attacks.

The United States initially supported Bin Laden, as he was in Afghanistan with Al-Quaida fighting the Soviet Union in the 1970′s.

“We created that monster, too,” said Grajales about Bin Laden.

Before 9-11 took place, Grajales said after the lesser known bombing inside of a van underneath the World Trade Center, he was watching a TV show on the Discovery Channel about how the Twin Towers could be brought down.

“When I was watching that documentary, I was hoping nobody was watching and was going to do some3thing stupid,” he said. “We have to be careful what we say and what we do.”

Al Quaida was very good at “blending in” with their surroundings and the terrorists undergoing flight training in the United States did a good job of not attracting a lot of attention.

The Al-Quaida effort and Bin Laden were modern terrorists in that their goal was to create a world-wide impact that was not limited to just a geographic area.

“When 9-11 came…he not only attacked the United States, he attacked the world completely,” said Grajales. “They attacked the [world-wide] economy and the trust between states.”


Whatever the reasons behind a terrorist’s actions, with the stakes ever higher, it is more important now than ever to stop terrorism, says Grajales. The main line of defense is our own intelligence community.

“It’s fun to criticize, but it’s more important to support the intelligence community,” said Grajales. “Surrender is not an option.”

“Terrorism is the worst kind of virus,” said Grajales, adding that intelligence agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency are out there on the front lines battling it without a lot of publicity.

“They are good shadow warriors, good human beings out there protecting you and me,” he said. “When they sacrifice themselves, the only thing they get is a star on a wall.” ::

Article Posted: Wednesday, September 12th, 2012.