Systematic Observation is a meta-cognitive tool to establish an inventory of all signs of evidence from documents, photographs and other case material. The procedure was first developed for criminal investigations (Haas 2003) and consists in the application of five easily memorised formulas which help professionals, analysts and investigators to be more proficient observers. The rules are:
I. Compare the object of observation to models, standards, theories or similar cases
II. Separate formal aspects from the contents and analyse them both separately
III. Structure the object into functional elements and explore each of them
IV. Explore anomalies, inconsistencies, contradictions, mistakes or coincidences
V. Discover the absence of signs (with models and after structuring the object).
After going through the process of systematically registering every important detail, we are able to draw first hypotheses. Every hypothesis should then be checked for its plausibility by listing systematically every sign speaking for it in one column, every indeterminate sign in a middle column and every sign against it in a third column. This procedure creates more transparency for the situation and prevents us from paying selective attention to some isolated parts of the evidence. This, in turn, provides good grounds for constructive discussions about the decisions to be taken. The present chapter has shown how this method can be applied in the area of counter-terrorism. First, we have seen that Systematic Observation can be used to analyse threats (written or electronically recorded)and to distinguish ‘terrorist’ from other general criminal activity. Second, we have considered how Systematic Observation can serve as a preventative tool to help private sector institutions to identify suspicious transactions and improve the effectiveness of their compliance systems.