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Turning oil into blood: Western intelligence, Libyan covert actions, and Palestinian terrorism (1973-74) - 3 March 2021

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Speaker: Dr Aviva Guttmann, Research Fellow in War Studies, at King’s College London (KCL)

This talk will discuss how a multilateral liaison can be used as a tool to counter state-sponsored terrorism. It analyses intelligence cooperation among 18 Western European security agencies to counter Libyan-Palestinian terrorist attacks in Europe in the early 1970s.

Two sets of arguments are presented:

  • First, concerning Western perceptions of Palestinian-Libyan operations, Aviva will show that the intelligence reports suffered from a one-sided view of agency. Namely, the intelligence agencies overestimated Libyan influence over Palestinian actions. In contrast, the agencies’ interpretation of Muammar al-Qaddafi's intentions to support Palestinian terrorism was portrayed accurately. The agencies saw Qaddafi as an advocate for a radical position in the Middle East conflict, which is in line with what is known today about Libyan foreign policy.
  • Second, concerning intelligence cooperation, Aviva argues that intelligence was shared with different purposes depending on the circumstances. Cables could either include useful information to help understand the threat posed by Libya, or the cables could contain implicit political messages that were aimed at changing the sender country’s image.

Evidence for the arguments is presented by looking at two terrorist attacks that were, according to intelligence reports, perpetrated by a Libyan-Palestinian commando. Until now little has been known about the course of events of the attacks, the perpetrators’ identities, or Libya’s involvement.

Altogether, this talk analyses how Western intelligence services used this intelligence-sharing system as a counterterrorism tool and how accurate their assessments were.

Aviva’s research is based on unprecedented access to a data from a counterterrorism intelligence-sharing liaison called the Club de Berne.

The talk is based on Aviva’s recently published article: Aviva Guttmann (2021) “Turning oil into blood: Western intelligence, Libyan covert actions, and Palestinian terrorism (1973-74),” Journal of Strategic Studies, DOI: 10.1080/01402390.2020.1868995



Dr Aviva Guttmann is a Research Fellow at King’s College London (KCL) in King’s Intelligence and Security Group and a Marie Curie Senior Research Fellow at the Center for War Studies at Southern Denmark University (SDU). Aviva is the founder and chair of the Women’s Intelligence Network (WIN), which connects and promotes women scholars and practitioners in the field of intelligence studies. Her Marie Curie research project is called “The Logic of Informal Security Cooperation: Counterterrorism Intelligence-sharing in Europe” (LINSEC). Her research focuses on the international relations of intelligence agencies and security cooperation in Europe and the Middle East during and after the Cold War. She has published a monograph on The Origins of International Counterterrorism (2018) and contributed several articles to refereed academic journals of history, intelligence, and security. She comments regularly on current intelligence affairs in major Swiss news media. She was educated and held research positions with universities in Basel, Geneva (IHEID), Paris (Sciences Po), Bern, St Andrews, Bologna (SAIS), and London (LSE and KCL). On top of her academic curriculum, she has three years of professional experience in international security in Nigeria and Geneva.

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Aviva Guttmann

Aviva Guttmann

Visiting Researcher in Intelligence and International Security

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Event details

3 March 2021

Online event