Are Sleeper Cells more dangerous than hardened Guerillas?

With the recent terror attacks in Britain I have been thinking about the methodology of Al Qaida type groups. As far as I know there are 4 men who carried out the attacks non over the age of 30, the youngest a teenager…And the possibility that there was a 5th, maybe a ranking Al Qaida member sent in to facilitate the bombing. [This is, of course, conjecture]
After Sept. 11 and this past coordinated attack, I can’t help but wonder - are sleeper cells more dangerous than hardened guerilla operatives?
It has been said that some of these cells, have young adults training for a week or so in Pakistan or Afghanistan - under the assumption they are on vacation - then returning home and simply waiting until an order is given to cary out an attack. This is my somewhat jumbled interpretation of what is happening.
I would think sleeper cells would be the ultimate in covert operations for an organization as ubiquitous as Al Qaida.

Any thoughts?

Depends how you define danger, I guess. Sleepers are far less likely to be detected prior to activation, and will have a more credible cover from all the time they have been “dormant” and just building up cover. They may be less well trained and equipped than experienced and active guerillas, and thus, potentially somewhat less effective. So basically, more likley to get through, but maybe not quite as big a bang, and more likely on softer targets only. Also, sleeper cells tend to have a shorter active life span, because they’re typically less skilled at hiding their tracks. Often, they are single-use, and only called upon for one operation.

Apparently, during the cold war the Soviets had a bunch of sleeper cells in the West whose mission was to carry out sabotage on key infrastructure if the balloon ever went up. In their case, their equipment would have been cached already ready to use, nearby by another, and completely unknown, set of agents. The sleepers would be “awakened” and told where their gear was, and what date on which to strike. Untill then, they just lived a normal life, held jobs, went bowling, got married, etc but ver interacted with, communicated with, or even knew, their handlers.

This makes me wonder – if sleepers and their “handlers” have little to no contact, what’s the sleeper’s motivation for carrying out the deed at the appointed time?

Might not some sleepers just say to themselves “Screw this – I’ve got a good life here. And somehow, the goals of the Revolution seem less pressing than they once did.”?

And what if someone is “sleeping” for 20 years – and they’ve basically forgotten a bunch of fine points on how to carry out their mission?

I guess this is all factored in to whatever level of unreliability is inherent in sleeper cells.

I would think there is something else going on. Possibly some sort of contact where they are directed in some way…by someone higher up than they are. I believe this is something the various intelligence agencies are working to understand.

Huh, I had assumed that sleeper cells were the moral equivalent of McCarthy’s list of card-carrying communists.

I recall reading about that happening to a number of the soviet sleepers, but the recruiters tended to try to find people with an inherent beef, some kind of feeling of having been hard-done-by by the “system” so that their motivation was less about “the glory of the revolution” It was also why most sleepers were recruited natives, not imported Soviet nationals. Many native Soviet agents had a hard time reconciling the prosperity of the West with the supposed superiority of the communist system, but they were kept in line with threats to their families back home, and privilidges for them and their family, as well as with a good dose of indoctrination. Getting all the loved ones out was what often made extractino of defectors tricky.

Regarding lack of refresher training, heck, I took a CPR first-aid course only 12 months ago, and I’d be damned if I can remember the proper way to splint a broken collar-bone with a triangular bandage. I honestly don’t know how they dealth with that. Maybe some form of super-intense training. e.g I can remember exactly what to do in case of a parachute malfunction, eventhough I haven’t jumped in over 10 years, because they really drilled it into our head, and made us go through the gestures several hundreds of times. I’ve certainly lost most of the other freefall skills, though…

Well, the guys who are doing this for the glory of God and not just to mouth some girls have a little more motivation to remember.

Hey, I resemble that remark! :cool:

too bad they used plastic dummies…