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Praise for Avoiding the Terrorist Trap

"Avoiding the Terrorist Trap is an unexpected gem. It is a highly accessible and readable account of the failings of coercive and militaristic responses to the complex phenomena of terrorism. By marshalling a wealth of data and historical insight Tom Parker painstakingly shows us that overreach and a failure to observe the rule of law in responding to terrorism has long-term negative consequences for security, governance, and legality.  This book makes a deeply convincing argument that promoting and respecting human rights while countering terrorism is the most effective means to advance counter-terrorism responses that prevent terrorism in the long-run.  Full of nuggets of information and imbued by knowledge garnered on the frontlines of the fight, this book will be a tremendous resource to scholars, practitioners, and policy makers.  It is extraordinarily persuasive and an excellent read."

-- Prof. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism

“The most comprehensive book on how human rights and counterterrorism policy are compatible and necessary. A labor of love and a remarkable addition to the topic.”

-- Prof. Juliette Kayyem, Kennedy School of Government, and author of Protecting Liberty in an Age of Terror and First to Arrive

“Tom Parker has used his experience in conflicts around the globe as both a counterterrorist and a scholar to unlock the terrorist trap, and in his new book he provides an invaluable service to victim governments by warning them against overreactions that violate human rights, undermine the rule of law, and thereby, do the terrorists' work for them.” 

-- Mike German, author of Thinking Like a Terrorist: Insights of a Former FBI Undercover Agent

“Avoiding the Terrorist Trap explains why upholding human rights is such an important part of counter terrorism. It is all too easy to forget what we are fighting for when we are so focused on what we are fighting against.”

-- Richard Barrett CMG OBE, former Coordinator of the United Nations Al-Qaida and Taliban Monitoring Team

“Avoiding the Terrorist Trap offers an eye-opening reformulation of counterterrorism strategy and policy. Parker wisely guides us away from the polarization of the rights versus security paradigm and towards the inclusion of human rights principles as essential for successfully countering the asymmetry of terrorist tactics and the narratives of terrorist groups.”


-- Prof. Karen Greenberg, Director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University School of Law, and author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 days and Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State 

“Coming from a CT practitioner who is also a scholar, Tom Parker’s volume carries an authority that few other works in the field of counter-terrorism studies possess.”

-- Dr. Alex P. Schmid, author of The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research

"Counter-terrorism and human rights are often perceived to be in conflict. Tom Parker, a scholar-practitioner with experience in both, tackles the issue head on. Drawing on academic literature as well as his own practical experience, he shows that many of these tensions can be resolved. His argument is uniquely powerful and convincing: human rights are not an obstacle to fighting terrorism, but can make counter-terrorism more sustainable and effective. A must read for students, academics and counter-terrorism practitioners alike!"  

-- Prof. Peter Neumann, Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King's College London, and author of Britain's Long WarRadicalized, and Old and New Terrorism

“This important work provides a comprehensive overview of the phenomenon of terrorism, including its history, scientific understanding of its workings, and its relation to the human rights perspective.  A must read from one of the most experienced and insightful observers of violent extremism and the complexities of addressing it legally and ethically.”

-- Prof. Arie Kruglanski, University of Maryland, and author of The Three Pillars of Radicalization and The Radical's Journey

"Former British MI5 officer Tom Parker knows what it's like to be targeted by terrorists, to interview victims’ relatives, and to find yourself thirsting for revenge. Yet violent rejoinders trap governments and help terrorist groups, he writes. In a deeply researched analysis of 150 years of terrorism and counterterrorism, Parker finds that sticking to our values, especially respect for human rights and the rule of law, is the best way to win." 


-- Prof. Audrey Kurth Cronin, American University, and author of How Terrorism Ends and Power to the People: How Open Technological Innovation is Arming Tomorrow's Terrorists

"[This] work valuably identifies areas of scholarly consensus where they do exist. It attends well to the heterogeneity and the complexity of multiple terrorisms. It recognizes the paradoxically intimate and mutually shaping relationship between states and their terrorist adversaries, and it powerfully advocates restraint in counter-terrorism."

-- Prof. Richard English, Queen's University Belfast, and author of Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA and Terrorism: How to Respond

“An essential text on the topic of human rights and counterterrorism.”


-- Colin P. Clarke, author of After the Caliphate: The Islamic State & the Future Terrorist Diaspora

"Avoiding the Terrorist Trap represents a magisterial survey of how terrorists have deliberately tried to provoke repression; and why governments have so often and so generously obliged them. Both its field of vision and its mastery of detail are instantly arresting. Less immediately obvious – but ultimately insistent – is the distinct sense that this unflinching analysis is backlit by hard-won experience."

-- Prof. Tim Wilson, Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews, and author of Killing Strangers: How Political Violence Became Modern

“This is an important book.  It is exhaustively researched, wide-reaching and provocative, and it stands as a testimony to – and artfully articulates a raison d’etre for - the role of the international community (and more specifically, an international legal framework) in addressing terrorism and violent extremism.” 


-- Georgia Holmer, Head of the Action Against Terrorism Unit at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

“Avoiding the Terrorist Trap offers a comprehensive account of the history of terrorism, an evaluation of what we know about why terrorism occurs, and an assessment of counter-terrorism policy.  Each of the three topics is dealt with expertly, based on a combination of academic research and professional experience that is rare in the terrorism literature.” 

-- Prof. Nick Sitter, Central European University, and author of Terrorismens Historie: Attentat og Terrorbekjempelse fra Bakunin til IS

“One of the most important and revelatory books on global security I have read in a very long time, brimming with the kind of hard-won insights that can only come from someone who has fought the battle from the trenches and from every other level as well. Masterful. This should be required reading for anyone even remotely involved in the existential fight against terrorism, radicalization and extremism, especially the multitudes in government around the world who keep getting it wrong even after so many decades.” 

-- Josh Meyer, author of The Hunt for KSM: Inside the Pursuit and Takedown of the Real 9/11 Mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

“Tom Parker’s Avoiding the Terrorist Trap should make any democratic policymaker pause before adopting security policies that run afoul of core liberal principles as not only problematic in their own right but counterproductive to sound counterterrorism efforts. Like the warning to watch both ways before crossing a busy street, Avoiding the Terrorist Trap can’t help but make one think more deeply about the first and second order consequences of counterterrorism policies.”

-- Dr. Gary Schmitt, resident scholar in strategic studies at the American Enterprise Institute

“This is the first time all this comes together in one place… this is about as all-encompassing as it gets… I am not sure there is a single book that is out there that does everything this one does… Not only is it impossible to skim because you miss stuff that you really need to know, but you don’t want to because it is really the one place that you can get all this information… If you are going to buy one book [about terrorism] that is going to do everything, I think this is it.”

-- Dr. Vince Houghton, resident historian International Spy Museum and Host of SpyCast

"It is impossible in a short review to do justice to the depth of research and scholarship… This book makes uncomfortable reading both in its detailed analysis of terrorism and its causes, and in the critique of state responses, particularly in modern times.  It is unusual to have such a defence of a 'human rights framework' from a counter-terrorism practitioner rather than from within the legal fraternity.  It is this that makes the case even more persuasive. All who are involved in counter-terrorism strategy should consider carefully the arguments put forward.”

-- Prof. Charles Garraway, University of Essex, and co-author of the Practitioners’ Guide to Human Rights Law in Armed Conflict

“An excellent book. Avoiding the Terrorist Trap’s comprehensive and nuanced synthesis of the social sciences of radicalization to violent extremism is extremely helpful.”


-- Prof. Ramon Spaaij, Victoria University, and author of The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism

"Tom Parker's excellent book reminds so many of us that the international frameworks for the promotion and protection of human rights already have in place a wide range of measures available to states for their attempts to combat terrorism. More importantly, he shows us how retreating from rights and engaging in the 'war on terror' created the very conditions terrorists have sought to achieve: over reaction from target states and the further mobilization and radicalisation of individuals and groups. His subject matter expertise from a career in intelligence shines through as he provides countless examples on how human rights have and can continue to give us the best tools and the best hope for fighting terrorism."


-- Prof. Todd Landman, Executive Director of the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham, and author of Human Rights and Democracy

“It is difficult to read Avoiding the Terrorist Trap without reflecting on its applicability to 9/11 and the US war on terror… The euphemisms of this conflict—enhanced interrogation techniques, black sites, ghost detainees, and even the war on terror—as well as its methods—torture, extraordinary rendition, drone strikes, targeted killings, and military commissions—reflect the steep fall into the abyss.”


-- Prof. William J. Aceves, California Western School of Law, and co-author of Lessons and Legacies of the War On Terror

“This is an essential reference point for all those engaged in the field of counter-terrorism. The book draws on both the author’s extensive practical experience, and in-depth academic research, to convincingly make the case that directly incorporating human rights standards will result in a more effective approach to counter-terrorism.”

-- Prof. Daragh Murray, University of Essex, and author of Human Rights Obligations of Non-State Armed Groups

“Tom Parker draws on powerful social science methodologies to establish the absolute futility of unrestrained force on the dreams of the disaffected. While seductive to the vengeful, the propagation of policies of unrestricted and unrestrained force, employed under the misguided notion that human degradation could be cloaked in secrecy, inevitably fail to suppress the most powerful weapon of violent extremists – thoughts, hope and ideals.” 


-- Mark Fallon, former Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), and author of Unjustifiable Means

"Tom Parker's book is authoritative, comprehensive and extremely well researched. Tom brings all his experience as a practitioner, strategist and educator to great effect and addresses tough issues and challenges in the real world avoiding purely academic or theoretical solutions. As someone who shares his views about the critical importance of human rights at the core of CT strategies, I wholeheartedly recommend this work."


-- Stephen White, former UK Chief Police Officer, EU Rule of Law Head of Mission in Iraq and now Human Rights Commissioner, Northern Ireland


“Among the many policy follies, there have been slivers of success and it is here that Parker’s work is particularly instructive to those future policymakers, intelligence, and law enforcement professionals who may be imaginative and brave enough to advocate for a paradigm shift—one that centers future new counter terrorism policy approaches around humanitarian norms.”


-- Prof. Jason M. Blazakis, Director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies 

"There are a lot of books on terrorism but too few by actual (former) practitioners.  Avoiding the Terrorist Trap is a stellar reminder why we need to 'do' counter terrorism right - by keeping human rights continually at the forefront.  In an era where drone and airstrikes do kill innocent civilians we must remember that we cannot use the blunt instrument of warfare indiscriminately.  Parker's book outlines how to do this better."

-- Phil Gurski, author of The Peaceable Kingdom: A history of terrorism in Canada from Confederation to the present

"One of the best books on counterterrorism ever published. It is a must for experts, policy advocates, and anyone involved in the various facets of counterterrorism. What Tom has accomplished in this extraordinary book is an incredibly holistic approach to countering terrorism via the human rights model, including the much ignored core issue that rarely receives the attention or context it deserves: terrorist recruitment and motivations."

-- Matthew Alexander, author of How to Break a Terrorist: The US Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq

“The dexterity with which this book is crafted is undeniable: it is as persuasive as it is meticulous...  the author’s vast experience as a practitioner in the field offers the ideal platform to bridge experiential knowledge and academic insight. It should therefore be taken seriously by a wide audience including practitioners, policymakers and academics alike.” -- Dr Paul Dresser, University of Northumbria

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