I have been wanting to write a story for a while which would feature a newly-created terrorist group in a society similar to today's society in the US or the EU.

While I have already outlined the main characters, their motivations, and the structure of the organization (sort of uncentralised, with different cells operating with a common goal but not really requiring approval for making certain decisions) I have no clue how actual terrorist organizations function: how they manage to get guns, how they get ahold of "safe houses", how they communicate, how they share information, how they recruit people or how they move around (stolen cars seem like something easily trackable with all the cameras around city centers, and trains and planes require ID).

I could of course omit all that information and not explain how the hard bits happen, but I feel like the story would be missing too much.

I am afraid trying to investigate this stuff online will land me in an FBI blacklist ("Hmmm, what is this guy doing researching terrorist-organization-creation 101 for weeks and weeks?"), so I have refrained from investigating much. I'm not interested in extremely low-level details, no way I'm writing "They used PGP with 4096-bit long keys to encrypt their e-mails, and only used Signal when live messaging was necessary", but I would still like some information about the bits I mentioned before.

Can anyone provide this information or point to resources that I can take a look at (books, websites, documentaries...)?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome Anon Guy, this question has been reported to the Thought Police, you will recieve a knock on the door shortly. Please cooperate and don't be alllarmed, your reprogramming will be (relativley) painless. In the meantime, please take the tour and read up in our help centre about how we work: How to Ask $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2019 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ John Updike, Terrorist, 2007. Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, 2007. Jeffrey Anderson, Sleeper Cell, 2005. Ausma Zehanat Khan, the Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak series. The terrorism in fiction category on Wikipedia. BTW, what country is that where boarding a train requires proof of identity? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Mar 5, 2019 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP They've talked about requiring ID for trains in the US but I'm not sure if that has started yet (or ever). It would only apply to long distance trains, like Amtrak (our nationally funded train) and not to commuter trains, subways, trolleys, etc. $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Mar 5, 2019 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ This definitely isn't one of those questions for which an insightful, detailed answer will get you put on a watchlist. Nope. No way $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2019 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ I suppose it depends on the aims of the organisation. An islamic fundamentalist organisation would recruit on different grounds than an anarchist net. But what all would do is to be as low profile as possible, when they are not in direct action. If I may suggest a few books, O Que é Isso, Companheiro, by Fernando Gabeira, Náufrago da Utopia, by Celso Lungaretti, Os Carbonários, by Alfredo Sirkis, Combate nas Trevas, by Jacob Gorender, are all books that recount the Brazilian urban guerrilla of the 70's from insider points of view. Gabeira's book has been filmed by Bruno Barreto. $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2019 at 23:14

1 Answer 1


Something you could dig around in that would give you some information about this without attracting unnecessary FBI attention is the Far cry video game series. There is a little terrorism and stuff there. Mostly pirates and stuff but that is an idea. Within national boundaries theft is tracked down and punished greatly but internationally is a different deal, there is not yet a substantial antipiracy force in our world today. Hijacking cargo ships is a great side-job to get money and influence. Another great way to get money is to have ties to the government of the country you live in. For example many terrorist organizations in the middle east have governmental control and control over military forces, this approach is sort of a "nobody can best me in my own home" kind of thing. But a more subtle method is to have inside guys, guys that "work" for the government or the FBI or the CIA but they really work for you. This is the best way honestly. you can have an artificial source of funding and always have an eye on the people watching you. Hope this is helpful :)


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