03 May 2010

Terrorism is apparently really, really hard

Or else its just really, really hard to find competent people willing to blow something up with the only apparent reasoning being that they will try to kill lots of innocent people. I assume this is because 1) there are places with more motivated people around the world where people strike (Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, India all within the last two months have had multiple significant attacks of some sort. Some may not be best qualified as "terrorism", but as "organised/disorganised resistance to hostile occupying forces with superior firepower and logistics".) and 2) we're getting "lucky" somewhat. I suppose there's a third option: Americans are getting dumber about explosives. But that's not one we want to hear. We love blowing things up. There's even a national holiday centered around the premise.

The main takeaway again I have from all this is that the apparent random act of violence is not stopped by vast state security. But by an ordinary citizen and an ordinary cop being alert, and the attempted bomber being something of an idiot. I submit that there are probably important plots which are thwarted at some level by high levels of intelligence gathering or security protocols from things like a professional intelligence service. "Terrorism" is a lot broader a subject than Osama bin Laden, or more mainstreamed political-social movements like Hizbollah, Hamas, or previously the PLO, the IRA, and the ANC. It also includes things like this this, this, and this. This last grouping can be mollified by having some sensible security safeguards and precautions just as the former is perhaps prepared against as well, but the reality is that there is no real security against someone willing to throw their own life away or willing to kill and threaten hundreds of people by setting off explosives or shooting off random automatic weapons fire. Your best security ends up being something like alert people in the proximity combined with swift, but calm and certain, reaction. Having some trained vigilance is almost certainly superior as a result to having citizens rushing to judgments and actions without restraint, but restraining such effective citizen reaction is hardly going to help either (as we did in the wake of the Christmas day attempted bombing). Truthfully your best method of deterrence is to first attack the underlying reasons people (if these reasons can be rationally addressed...) are angry enough to blow things up rather than to attack the people doing so (though such actions should be held responsible in civil societies).

This brings itself further to bare with the methods of detecting the criminal actors after the fact. In a suicide bombing, such methods are practically useless (cameras do not deter suicide bombings). But enraged and misguided Americans are not suicide bombers, generally speaking. So NYC apparently thought it prudent to throw money into cameras for criminal prosecution use in such cases as these. And yet, despite millions of dollars of investment, the most likely best use are still eyewitnesses or their home tourist footage of Times Square. Neither of which are likely to pose any civil liberties challenges for the use and introduction of effectively publicly owned and operated surveillance cameras on privately owned buildings.

One should note that all those cameras across the pond aren't terribly popular anymore with the Britons.
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