Counterterrorism in the United Kingdom

Counterterrorism in the United Kingdom

This course was last updated April 2017

This self study course is comprised of three lecture modules that address counterterrorism in the United Kingdom.

Tracing the UK response to violent subnational terrorism back to its efforts against the PIRA in the 1970s through the 1990s, these modules demonstrate how the UK counterterrorism community recognized long ago the serious threat to national security that subnational violence poses, and how its response to the recent violent terrorist activities of al-Qaeda is situated within an environment informed by the earlier “Irish Troubles.” Additionally, the modules provide an overview of the contemporary counterterrorism organizational structure within the UK, and the challenges it faces in a world of increasing vulnerability and uncertainty.

After completing this series of modules, the student should be able to:

  • Trace the UK counterterrorism response from the PIRA to al-Qaeda.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the importance of winning the “hearts and minds” of the public, from a counterterrorism standpoint.
  • Discuss the significance of the UK’s multilateral approach to security and counterterrorism.
  • Identify and differentiate between the roles and responsibilities of various UK counterterrorism agencies/entities.
  • Describe how the security environment has changed, post-9/11 and 7/7, and determine how UK counterterrorism efforts reflect that changing environment.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of UK counterterrorism policy: who determines it, who enforces it, and how it progresses through the UK Government.

Suggested readings


Paul Jonathan Smith

Course Developer: Paul Smith served as a commissioned British Army infantry officer for20 years in both front line units and in senior policy positions within the UK Ministry of Defense. Since 2009,he has provided counter terrorist intelligence and operational training to US Federal, State and Local law enforcement agencies (LEA), first with a commercial company and since 2007, as president of Lawrenson Smith LLC. He is an instructor in the Master's program at the NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security.