More Than 10 Ways to Avoid the Next 9/11

From yesterday's New York Times, "Ten Ways to Avoid the Next 9/11":

If we are fortunate, we will open our newspapers this morning knowing that there have been no major terrorist attacks on American soil in nearly five years. Did we just get lucky?

The Op-Ed page asked 10 people with experience in security and counterterrorism to answer the following question: What is one major reason the United States has not suffered a major attack since 2001, and what is the one thing you would recommend the nation do in order to avoid attacks in the future?

Actually, they asked more than 10, myself included. But some of us were cut because they didn't have enough space. This was my essay:

Despite what you see in the movies and on television, it’s actually very difficult to execute a major terrorist act. It’s hard to organize, plan, and execute an attack, and it’s all too easy to slip up and get caught. Combine that with our intelligence work tracking terrorist cells and interdicting terrorist funding, and you have a climate where major attacks are rare. In many ways, the success of 9/11 was an anomaly; there were many points where it could have failed. The main reason we haven’t seen another 9/11 is that it isn’t as easy as it looks. Much of our counterterrorist efforts are nothing more than security theater: ineffectual measures that look good. Forget the "war on terror"; the difficulty isn’t killing or arresting the terrorists, it’s finding them. Terrorism is a law enforcement problem, and needs to be treated as such. For example, none of our post-9/11 airline security measures would have stopped the London shampoo bombers. The lesson of London is that our best defense is intelligence and investigation. Rather than spending money on airline security, or sports stadium security -- measures that require us to guess the plot correctly in order to be effective -- we’re better off spending money on measures that are effective regardless of the plot.

Intelligence and investigation have kept us safe from terrorism in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. If the CIA and FBI had done a better job of coordinating and sharing data in 2001, 9/11 would have been another failed attempt. Coordination has gotten better, and those agencies are better funded -- but it’s still not enough. Whenever you read about the billions being spent on national ID cards or massive data mining programs or new airport security measures, think about the number of intelligence agents that the same money could buy. That’s where we’re going to see the greatest return on our security investment.

Posted on September 11, 2006 at 6:36 AM • 59 Comments

Comments

bobSeptember 11, 2006 7:39 AM

You were cut because they didnt have enough space? Or because your vector didnt reinforce the spin they had in mind?

JaySeptember 11, 2006 7:43 AM

The article was titled "Avoiding", not cleaning up after, so it stands to reason there is no mention of response services.

AngusSeptember 11, 2006 7:47 AM

@Keiran: No, the article is about *avoiding* the next 9/11, not about responding to it afterwards. Better emergency services don't help you prevent it happening in the first place.

John MooreSeptember 11, 2006 7:47 AM

Sigh, your points are excellent and logical and sensible. So, why hasn't our government implemented them? El Al has proven airline security. Why didn't we take a page from their experience instead of the theater we have now?

Goral MelkoffSeptember 11, 2006 7:52 AM

How about improving US foreign policy so half the Arab world isn't pissed at us all the time?

gluonSeptember 11, 2006 8:07 AM

Good suggestion and surely better than the quick and less-thought-for airport security solutions.

But I believe there is a risk in this. How can we be sure that suggesting the U.S. government to move on to intelligence investments is not going to end up to compromization of our liberties? (This concern is discussed quite a lot of times in this blog and I don't think it's necessary to elaborate on it, but I would if I should...)

So, instead of promoting Big-Brother-ism, wouldn't it be better giving fewer reasons for terrorist attacks? Wouldn't it be better to be able to achieve a minimization of the Homeland Security Threat Level to Blue and Green levels?

How? With my limited knowledge and risking a you-are-a-daydreamer type of critisism, I guess the answer could be: "Less aggressive foreign politics". I think the whole U.S. population has many bright minds available to offer alternative economic models and political solutions for preserving the financial domination of the U.S. of A.; if that is what the foreign politics are trying to protect...

Edit: Goral Melkoff puts it better. :)

SaxonSeptember 11, 2006 8:11 AM

I gotta go with bob on this one. Massive funding for more intelligence would produce no visible results as far as John Q. Public is concerned, so he would have a harder time voting for Senator Blowhard the next time around. As horribly innefficient as Security Theater is, it still has some measurable effect on actual security, to say nothing of the effect on the public psyche, so Senator Blowhard can claim without lying too much that the money is well-spent, especially in the Senator's home state. Cynical as it is, the press no doubt prefers Security Theater as well, since it gives them much better visuals plus the (unfortunate) opportunity to bash the Government for any failures. A bunch of agents no one sees makes for lousy news and difficult politics.

SaxonSeptember 11, 2006 8:24 AM

@gluon: The flaw in your theory is your assumption that U.S. Foreign policy is to blame for terrorist acts. Various terrorist mouthpieces have all said that the various terrorist groups aren't out for some kind of concession, but rather are committed to imposing their ideology on the world. Unless you plan to force the conversion of the entire West to Islam, you won't find a compromise they will accept.

Bruce SchneierSeptember 11, 2006 8:39 AM

"How about improving US foreign policy so half the Arab world isn't pissed at us all the time?"

I had to pick just one.

Foreign policy isn't my area of expertise.

KashmarekSeptember 11, 2006 8:44 AM

Typical NYTimes. Publish something "important" but limit readership unless we sacrifice trackable information to their business model.

However, from the tone of the two I was able to read, it would appear that none of the responses fit the administration model for globalization of "democracy" (the government version, not mine). Go back and check out PNAC, the Project for a New American Century. You might change your mind about why this happened.

Bruce SchneierSeptember 11, 2006 8:53 AM

"You were cut because they didnt have enough space? Or because your vector didnt reinforce the spin they had in mind?"

Maybe I'm being overly trusting, but I believe that it was a space issue. When the op ed page asked me in mid-August, they thought they would have more space to devote to the feature.

Wombat94September 11, 2006 9:00 AM

Bruce,

I've been reading your blog for several months now and this is the first response post I've made.

Thank you for articulating the point of view better than I have been able to that fighting terrorism IS a law enforcement problem and not a military/warfare problem.

Too many people have bought the idea that our military might should be able to handle this and it is a "war" because there are people who want to hurt us and our country.

No one seems to recognize that in an asymmetric "war" like this, that massive military might may not be the best solution.

Bravo... I only wish your piece had made it into the Times.

derfSeptember 11, 2006 9:24 AM

I think I see both sides. On the one hand, we're spending a lot of money on some questionable tactics. On the other hand, imagine how much more money we'd be wasting if there was another successful attack in the USA. Unfortunately, federal government's only solution to a problem is to throw money at it, as opposed to actually solving it.

Mark JSeptember 11, 2006 9:27 AM

How about "Ten Easy Ways to Create Terror?" Here's a simple one. From today's Boston Globe:

BREAKING NEWS: An Atlanta-to-San Francisco flight has landed safely in Dallas after being diverted as a security precaution this morning. A flight attendant reportedly found an unclaimed Blackberry device onboard United Flight 351 and prior to take-off a bag was removed from the cargo hold for the same reason. --Developing

I'm not criticizing the actions of the crew, especially today. But what have we lost when a misplaced electrical device can cause such a disruption?

AnonymousSeptember 11, 2006 9:42 AM

>Without a national security policy that concentrates on the vigorous and politically agnostic maximization of intelligence rather than, in the phrase of the security expert Bruce Schneier, “security theater,��? that may well prove impossible.

— WILLIAM GIBSON, novelist.

Well At least Bruce got mentioned by Gibson.

OwenSeptember 11, 2006 9:52 AM

Saxon said: "Various terrorist mouthpieces have all said that the various terrorist groups aren't out for some kind of concession, but rather are committed to imposing their ideology on the world. Unless you plan to force the conversion of the entire West to Islam, you won't find a compromise they will accept."

The American Government has said it will not rest until freedom and democracy have been spread throughout the world, but they'll settle for the Patriot Act and Guantanamo until that comes around.

Most terrorist groups have quite specific territorial aims, often stoked up by religious/cultural conflicts. The religious/cultural froth is what we hear, but the demands are quite mundane, and generally boil down to 'Get off my land'.

Just as an experiment, I wonder what would have happened if after 9/11 we had enforced a just settlement for the Israelis and Palestinians, and pulled American troops out of Saudi Arabia, while calling for an end to the dictatorships of Pakistan, Iraq, and supporting the fledgling secular democracy of Iran. And in the meantime listening to people like Bruce, reforming the CIA and FBI communications, and participating in the wider world by, for example, signing up to the ICC.

It'd be a nice thought experiment to count the number of dead in both scenarios and work out whether we might perhaps be safer, or as safe as now...

Mark J.September 11, 2006 9:54 AM

@Owen

Ending the "dictatorship" in Pakistan would almost certainly mean the rise of yet another Islamic fundamentalist state. Pakistan is a nuclear power. Do the math.

Frank Ch. EiglerSeptember 11, 2006 9:57 AM

> [...] Intelligence and investigation have kept
> us safe from terrorism in the past, and will
> continue to do so in the future. [...]

What a totally surreal, reality-detached claim. You even contradict it in the very next sentence.

AnonymousSeptember 11, 2006 10:34 AM

"How can we be sure that suggesting the U.S. government to move on to intelligence investments is not going to end up to compromization of our liberties?"

Spending money on real people is always going to be far more effective than liberty-curtailing mass surveilance. Real people tend to be extremely effective at seperating noise from signal, at least when compared to algorithms. Hopefully increasing intelligence funding would provide more money to buy real people instead of sinking large amounts of money into technically unworkable surveillance programs.

Unfortunately, as has been said before, large programs make better PR than hiring more agents.

Erik NSeptember 11, 2006 10:55 AM

Getting things into proportions, check this wired article:

http://www.wired.com/news/technology/...

I shall not comment on the accuracy of numbers or the methods behind, but certainly:

When I discuss dangers of terrorism with people, I always say: You're not affraid to get into the car and drive to work every day. If you're affraid of terrorism, then you should be panicking in traffic.

I resently checked out the same numbers for Israel: Since 29 sept 2000 1084 israelis have died from terrorist attacks, of these 761 civilians. In 2002 and 2003 485 and 442 respectively died in traffic accidents. Averaging and extrapolating: Traffic is about 4 times more likely to kill than terrorist, even in some high risk areas.

So why this spending money on the war on terrorism? Is the development of safe driving (or the good driver) left up to darwinistic evolution?

Clive RobinsonSeptember 11, 2006 11:24 AM

There is one thing that gets consistently left out of these "Another 9/11" which is why it was possible.

We tend to forget that what the U.S. was attacked with was U.S. technology, that had become so common place it was effectivly taken for granted.

Whilst it is very likley to be true that there will not be another attack like 9/11 in the near future (ie aircraft used as munitions) there are plenty of other technologies out there that could just as easily be turned against a technolgy dependent nation.

For instance SCADA and other industrial control systems are now routienly connected to a control network to facilitate remote control. Unfortunatly where these networks where once issolated, the cost advantages of other technology like the Internet means that they are at most one or two steps away from a publicly accessable communications network, with very indetermanate security to prevent unautherised access.

For instance in the U.K. around London you routienly see VHF and UHF antennas sticking out of switch gear and valve control systems (Electricity, Gas, Water). These systems where never ever designed with security in mind, just functional obscurity.

How difficult would it be for somebody to get hold of the protocols and frequencies in use?

A simple example would be cable television boxes, the cable companies use one (or more) of the channels to send down signalling and control information to a consumers set top box. The protocol information became available on the Internet and it was not long before hundreds and thousands of "Cable Cubes" became available to override the signalling to make premium and other services available for no cost after the initial outlay for the Cube.

Another example was Sky television that for a number of years got locked into a technological war with crackers making available cards that curcumvented the Sky Security systems.

Both of these where exploited for purely profit motives by the crackers involved. However just as we have seen a sea state change with maleware writing from adolescent graffity to criminal money making scams. How long do you expect the "technology for sale crakers" to work their way to industrial systems, especially with large amounts of currency available...

The simple fact is that due to "free market" economics and it's "first to market" stance everybody in the Western World has been left truly vulnerable. As our societies becomes more and more technology dependent the technology becomes increasingly built on foundations of quick sand.

This gives rise to an almost exponential growth of vulnerable targets, admitadly most do not have traditional Terorist Target abilities. But in reality which would be more damaging to a nation, a building being destroyed killing a few hundred people, or the loss and disruption of resources in a major city or industrial are.

In recent times in the UK London has had a number of technological problems. One where incorectly specified backup systems left a quater of London without electricity for many hours, and the Bunsfield Storage Facility Explosion. The latter although officialy the largest fire and explosion in Europe since the Second World War actually had less economic effect than the loss of electricity for a few hours.

It was once said that "the pen is mightier than the sowrd", when terorists genuinly start to think and realy exploit the weaknesses in our technological fairy castles then we will know real pain and missery at a personal level across entire nations. It is realy only a question of "how long", not of "if maybe".

The simple expedient of moving our now very vulnerable systems back towards an older security system that is better understood and controled would be a very very significant invesment in our real safety against terrorisim.

moonbiterSeptember 11, 2006 11:25 AM

"Various terrorist mouthpieces have all said that the various terrorist groups aren't out for some kind of concession, but rather are committed to imposing their ideology on the world."

As Robert Pape has pointed out (interview here: http://www.amconmag.com/2005_07_18/article.html), the opinions of various terrorist mouthpieces don't count for much if they can't recruit young men to carry out the missions. And according to his research, the young men who carry out the missions are apparently driven not by dreams of a World Caliphate, but by anger about foreign forces occupying their homelands.

DavidSeptember 11, 2006 11:41 AM

@moonbiter

Well said. This idea that they are trying to dominate the rest of the world is laughably silly because they cannot even dominate their own countries. Clearly, their intent is for Islamic nations in their own territories, not in the West as such a goal is as silly as believing you can win against poverty, drugs, crime or terrorism.

SaxonSeptember 11, 2006 12:25 PM

@moonbiter, David:

Sure, and the US Army is all about training for jobs in the civilian world. Organizations recruit with the hooks they think will be the most appealing to potential recruits. Just because the bombers themselves think they are striking a blow for getting the infidel occupiers out of their country of choice doesn't mean their masters have the same picayune goal. As to dominating their own countries, Iran, Syria, Indonesia, Pakistan, and others all seem to refute your thesis. As to not wanting Islamic nations in the West, Let me remind you of the Chairman of CAIR's quote (among many others):

Omar Ahmad, CAIR’s chairman, announced in July 1998 that “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran . . . should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.��?

Matthew SkalaSeptember 11, 2006 1:06 PM

Better response would have a preventative effect too. The 9/11 terrorists got exactly what they wanted from their efforts. Someone with similar goals will look at that and say, okay, that approach obviously works really well; we should do it, too! If the response to 9/11 hadn't included the terrorists getting what they wanted, then someone with similar goals would be less likely to think that causing a similar incident would be a good idea. Remove the rewards for terrorism and you can't help but reduce its incidence.

RealistSeptember 11, 2006 1:50 PM

@saxon --
Omar Ahmad, CAIR’s chairman, announced in July 1998 that “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran . . . should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.��?

And this is different from the American evangilistic and fundamentalist movement how?

MiguelSeptember 11, 2006 2:00 PM

Am I the only one who is not yet convinced 9/11 was a terrorist attack?

It seems lots of people are not sure the official version has anything to do with the truth.

These guys are giving you 40 reasons to question the official version (and their server seems a bit overloaded, so it is not only me reading that).

http://www.911truth.org/article.php?...

What if ...

...9/11 had nothing to do with terrorism (or not with the type of terror we were told)?

Davi OttenheimerSeptember 11, 2006 3:03 PM

Nicely written. I would have been tempted to start by saying something like "Ban fruit on airplanes. No, just kidding."

I thought the headline on a local paper was apt:
"Five years after 9/11: from box cutters to bottles of shampoo"

Your point about the difficultly of an attack is a good one to remember these days. I all too often hear the phrase "defenders must win all the time, attackers only once". This scenario is far from accurate if there are even only two layers of defense and/or there is any complexity at all to a plan. A better litmus is whether we are making an attack more difficult, or leaving workarounds and shortcuts through haste and fear-based reactions.

Also, someone just pointed out to me that many who suffer a catastrophic disaster feel less anxiety if they feel that there was little or nothing they could have done to prevent it. In fact some people use this method to absolve themselves of negative feelings (e.g. "Those hurricanes are a natural phenom. There is no proof that warming water is our fault and so we can only just do what we can here to survive.")

As more and more individual responsibility is taken/assigned, no matter how realistic (e.g. "if only you had not brought shampoo with you on that flight, the twin towers might still be standing") people feel increasing amounts of anxiety and seem easily persuaded to take some kind of action, almost any action, in response.

Don't know if I totally agree, but this certainly puts the "10 things you can do" or "10 ways to avoid" style of article in a different light...

SaxonSeptember 11, 2006 3:08 PM

@Realist: First, point me to one place where Christians call for the beheading of those who mock Christianity, tax anyone who isn't Christian, and/or blow themselves and others up because those others aren't Christian. Second, show me one quote from the leader of a major Christian organization that calls for the Bible to replace secular law in the US or other western nation plus the criminalizing of any religion other than Christianity. Third, find that quote coming not from a religious organization, but from a quasi-governmental organization equivalent to CAIR.

GremorySeptember 11, 2006 3:10 PM

How many people die every year as a result of automobile accidents?

How many people get cancer or other health problems as a result of pollution from automobiles?

Laws are passed against second hand tobacco smoke yet where are the laws against automobile exhaust? I resent being forced to breathe nasty automobile exhaust.

No one cares enough to solve the most preventable cause of death on this planet: the current design of the automobile

You seemthem everyday, stepping out of their automobiles and giggling or babbling about something stupid while the automobile exhaust swirls around you.

They don't mind that the Earth is being sealed up with concrete, these are the same people who love nice green lawns which have little to no source of food for insects and animals. Weeds are frowned upon because they're ugly, nevermind these plants provide food to living creatures. But wait, even if those green lawns would set seed, they're usually kept trimmed, sorry animals and insects, the pretty look of the lawn is more important than your survival for these petty human lawn lovers! Wait, do I see a neglected lawn about to set seed? Where is the lawn mower? Oh, it doesn't matter, the owner probably sprayed the lawn with pesticide anyway.

What isn't sealed up by man is ruined by other means anyway.

Oh, have I disturbed you from watching the same news clip over and over again? You may return now while more of the Earth is covered and polluted. But whatever momentary escape of entertainment affords you a few more bits of ignorant bliss is worth it in the end, I guess.

Be sure to reply with a few witty bits to make yourself feel better and more important, the Earth appreciates your wit and charm vs. actual efforts to protect it.

GremorySeptember 11, 2006 3:10 PM

How many people die every year as a result of automobile accidents?

How many people get cancer or other health problems as a result of pollution from automobiles?

Laws are passed against second hand tobacco smoke yet where are the laws against automobile exhaust? I resent being forced to breathe nasty automobile exhaust.

No one cares enough to solve the most preventable cause of death on this planet: the current design of the automobile

You seemthem everyday, stepping out of their automobiles and giggling or babbling about something stupid while the automobile exhaust swirls around you.

They don't mind that the Earth is being sealed up with concrete, these are the same people who love nice green lawns which have little to no source of food for insects and animals. Weeds are frowned upon because they're ugly, nevermind these plants provide food to living creatures. But wait, even if those green lawns would set seed, they're usually kept trimmed, sorry animals and insects, the pretty look of the lawn is more important than your survival for these petty human lawn lovers! Wait, do I see a neglected lawn about to set seed? Where is the lawn mower? Oh, it doesn't matter, the owner probably sprayed the lawn with pesticide anyway.

What isn't sealed up by man is ruined by other means anyway.

Oh, have I disturbed you from watching the same news clip over and over again? You may return now while more of the Earth is covered and polluted. But whatever momentary escape of entertainment affords you a few more bits of ignorant bliss is worth it in the end, I guess.

Be sure to reply with a few witty bits to make yourself feel better and more important, the Earth appreciates your wit and charm vs. actual efforts to protect it.

El TeeSeptember 11, 2006 4:36 PM

@Realist:
When members of the Central Avenue Baptist Church hijack camels, stuff their humps with explosives, ride into Mecca and send everyone straight to paradise to meet Slim Pickens, I'll be the first to stand up and scream "Realist was right!"

PseudonymousSeptember 11, 2006 5:28 PM

@Saxon, El Tee:

You aren't disagreeing with Realist's conclusion, you're arguing about tactics. There is a strong movement in the US to make a certain variety of fundamentalist protestantism into a de facto state religion. I haven't seen terrorism out of the movement, except for the anti-abortion part, and I haven't seen the same explicit declarations, but the goals look awfully similar.

C GomezSeptember 11, 2006 5:43 PM

"Terrorism is a law enforcement problem, and needs to be treated as such."

Partly. It is also a national security issue. There are governments actively supporting continued terrorism against the United States and Western Europe. Those issues cannot be addressed by law enforcement.

The other problem is that while terrorism can be detected by law enforcement like means, but bringing such terrorists to justice need not involve the traditional courts. Terrorism is a war crime, outlawed by the Geneva Convention. You may not attack civilians directly. Those who act as terrorists commit the worst kind of war crime: genocide. They kill someone just for being who they are... American, Western European. It is the very defintion of genocide.

Five years and whatever terrorists are left aren't able to get anything done. They aren't able to inflict day-to-day terror, and Americans largely go about their lives without fear. The terrorists are either really stupid or largely non-existent, cropping up only when a government or very rich angel provides them with funding to do something.

While the battle will never end, because there will always be people jealous of Western success and determination, for now we are clearly victorious.

Gomez AddamsSeptember 11, 2006 6:21 PM

Maybe the invisible god will come down and tell us to stop fighting, nah he was a war monger too, just read the old testament.

Freedom cannot exist in countries ruled by religion, thank god for separation of church + state!

George BaileySeptember 11, 2006 7:11 PM

"Very dangerous to ask this before 2006-9-11 24H00."

Why would it be dangerous? Do you think some terrorist will slap his forehead and say "oh yeah! 9-11! What was I thinking? Now where'd I put that bomb?"

TimSeptember 11, 2006 9:15 PM

Gomez Addams - You missed the new covenant. After you are done with the Old Testament, read the New Testament. You know, the part of the Bible that says such things as "love your neighbor as yourself," "you can't do anything to get to Heaven but believe God's Son, Jesus," and "spread the Good News. If you find a group who refuses to accept the Good News, leave them." Note that the last one does not say anything about killing them--like what Saxon and El Tee stated. Not much war mongering there.

gnomeSeptember 11, 2006 10:02 PM

I don't think you can send Officer Bob to arrest Ahmedinijinijini, despite the fact he and his government have publicly stated that the aim of his Iran is to destroy the USA, then Israel.

Ian CognitoSeptember 12, 2006 12:16 AM

In Afghanistan, we used special operations forces, and left the tribal power structure in place, more or less. We also left many of them much richer, because we are not as vigorous as the Taliban in enforcing our desire for them to not grow opium. In Iraq, we used conventional forces to decapitate the power structure, and things are a mess. It's almost like the Eastern Front in WWII, where Stalin had purged all the military leaders, and the Red Army performed about like the new government in Iraq is performing.

Our strategy in Afghanistan was like judo, using an opponent's moves against him, or a coup-de-e'tat. Our strategy in Iraq is like a very linear heavyweight boxing match, or a conventional head-to-head military confrontation. One of them is making news all the time, and one isn't. I wonder why.

One thing to remember about the Arab countries is that they seem to be in a similar place in their civilization as the West was in the Middle Ages, or that Japan was just before we introduced them to cannons. All used religion (well, bushido and Zen buddhism in Japan) as a way to channel (some might say control) the forces of chaos, who were variously called knights, martyrs, or samurai. The rulers were often at war with each other, and religion was a thin veneer over lust of power and money.

I used to work at a place that had Fox News on all the time, and I was very disappointed that whenever a purported Al Qaeda statement came out, they failed to play it for us, and as a consequence the public doesn't really seem to know much about our opponent's goals and beliefs. Anyone who expresses an interest in it is suspicious. How can we hope to defeat an enemy who we don't want to understand, due to jingoism? We won't win by repeating slogans such as "they hate freedom". You can't stop a virtually leaderless movement that glorifies martyrdom with bombs and guns, except perhaps through total genocide. It didn't help the Romans to kill the leader of Christianity, did it?

From what I can tell, the colonial powers of the Middle East made sure to gerrymander the national boundaries enough that they are in constant conflict, and on top of that they supported whatever regimes offered stability and favorable oil production figures, no matter what their domestic policies were. Furthermore, the various parties involved have much to gain, mostly personally, by starting trouble. Israel insists on fomenting trouble in neighboring states, as a means of keeping their enemies (i.e. everyone but the US) fighting internal struggles. And the rapaciously greedy dictatorships around them are definitely no better, funding "martyr missions" covertly. Every enemy of the US is probably trying to figure out a way to give the US a black eye in Iraq, and we created the opportunity for them to do so. George senior had a prescient quote about why he didn't invade Iraq, and it is worth reading. The real reasons behind invading Afghanistan and Iraq are locked away in the minutes of the Energy Task Force. The leaders of nations and religions may cast their actions in moral terms, and occasionally they are morally justified, but for the most part it's political theater. No, it's a charade, and you'd have to be very naive to believe the simple-minded explanations (slogans) they say publicly. Idealism is an evolutionary disadvantage compared to realism.

moonbiterSeptember 12, 2006 12:53 AM

"Just because the bombers themselves think they are striking a blow for getting the infidel occupiers out of their country of choice doesn't mean their masters have the same picayune goal."

That is precisely the point.

You take away their ability to recruit, and they are left with nothing but uninspiring rhetoric about how great it would be to have a worldwide Islamic Caliphate. Which, while maybe appealing enough to the fundamentalist sort, is apparently not appealing enough to risk dying for. Only foreign invasion and occupation seems to be enough for that. Pape certainly could be wrong about his theory, but the evidence is strongly in his favor on this.

averrosSeptember 12, 2006 6:38 AM

How about simply stopping being a target?

Terrorists have a beef with US of A, not with any John Q. Random. For them killing Mr. JQR has negative value, as it tends to make them lots of enemies. They do that only as long as they think that by killing JQR they hurt USA. They're not mad, and they didn't even invent killing civilians en mass in order to wage a war between politicans. In fact, they lag in collateral damage headcount by four to five orders of magnitude, compared with their 20th century Western predeccessors.

JQRs of this wolrd keep thelling them that they are fair game by insisting on calling USA "their" country, when in fact they have about as much say in what US govt does as the fleas have a say on dog's loyalties.

Lawrence of AmazementSeptember 12, 2006 7:53 AM

- Arabs want Israel and US out.
- Israel want Palestinians out.
- Iran wants an end to Israel.
- US wants democracy and freedom in the Middle East !!!

Who is being honest here ??

Q. How do we prevent another 9/11 ?

A. Tell the truth.

PajamadiegnSeptember 12, 2006 8:17 AM

"Terrorism is a law enforcement problem, and needs to be treated as such."

When terrorists start fully living under our jurisdiction I'll accept this. Perhaps terrorism isn't a classic war, but it most certainly not "law enforcement." The UN doesn't even have a definition of terrorism to work from much less any commitment to enforcing your notion of legal conduct.

FormerLeftySeptember 12, 2006 8:43 AM

To return to Bruce's original essay, I think the notion of treating terrorism as a policing function lost its credibility through the feckless manner this was conducted. If the FBI will only act when the level of evidence reaches that required for a criminal prosecution, you are going to have rather ineffectual policing by them. When this changes, then policing can become more effective. Fighting terrorism, in this view, is more like mowing your lawn, not winning a war.

As far as the motives of the Islamic terrorists is concerned, a reaction to US policy is insufficient to explain it. What did the US or Israel have to do with Kashmir? What does the US have to do with Chechnya or the Uighurs in China? What about the muslims in Thailand? This is not a rhetorical point of disagreement. Please provide an explanation that takes these facts into account, if you want your arguments to be taken seriously.

Clive RobinsonSeptember 12, 2006 9:25 AM

@Ian Cognito

"the colonial powers of the Middle East made sure to gerrymander the national boundaries enough that they are in constant conflict,"

The policy was thought up by an English Businessman Cecil Rhodes who was head of the British South Africa Company.

He formulated the policy of deliberatly dividing up Africa across tribal boundries. On the simple but practical theory that if you had 2/3 of a tribal nation in one country and you made them the under dogs, the minority you made the rulling (native) government would be allways fighting the other 2/3rds and therefore dependent on you as the "over lord" to protect them and supply them with arms and amunition etc...

Remember whilst they where at it in Africa they also invented the Concentration Camp to keep the "pesky Boars" (Dutch settlers) under control...

HandSeptember 12, 2006 1:32 PM

"Gomez Addams - You missed the new covenant. After you are done with the Old Testament, read the New Testament."

No, he didn't. The NT is just an attempt to cover the nasties of the OT with the death (suicide?) of a man or "the so-called son of god or god himself as Jesus, one part of the 3-in-one trinity".

The god of the OT wanted the blood of animals for atonement, and when one brother offered his best vegetables, he was cursed by god. So giving god plants instead of animals made him mad. I wouldn't give any god an animal either, today we see that animal sacrifice is evil and it was evil back then in the OT days as well, so it stands to reason that the god of the OT was evil as well, and filled with madness that could only be satisfied by the death of a human being (Jesus) later on. Deaths of animals then a death of a person? Songs taught to children about the blood of Jesus? Such madness should be condemned as voodoo but it's not, and it ruins many a person's life as they discover when they shake loose of the madness and grasp logic, reason, reality to discover it's nothing more than jingle bells nonsense anyway.

"You know, the part of the Bible that says such things as "love your neighbor as yourself,"

All the goody-goody parts of the NT, even parts of the mysteries of Jesus were taken from religions that predate Christianity, it's a copy and paste religion. Those who spin their wheels in the mud of Christianity and its so called originality have failed to study religions prior to it, even the bread-to-flesh, wine-to-blood so-called mystery was used in religions prior to Christianity, it's nothing new, just a clean soapy wash of the OT but those who know better see it for what it is, a pile of steaming B.S.

""you can't do anything to get to Heaven but believe God's Son, Jesus," and "spread the Good News."

The good news of the god who loves the smell of animals burning (OT) for him and now a human being dying for him? Sorry, I don't believe in animal cruelty nor cruelty to human beings. That the suffering of Christ was so terrible (suffering is not good that's why we as humans seek to remove it as much as possible, we don't revel in it like the invisible god) is B.S., many cancer and aids patients, as a small example, live much longer and painful lives than Jesus could've ever imagined.

"Not much war mongering there."

As I said, much of it was a copy and paste of older religions, and something had to be done to make the vicious god of the OT look a little better. Sadly, though, you'll find even some of the so-called apostles were killers of Christians before they became apostles, the Jesus guy sure knew how to pick them. I guess their previous jobs were convincing enough so they were useful to the sick tale of suffering for the invisible god, part 2.

The invisible god hides as his followers continue to war against each other, each side praising his respective name.

Sick religions, sick sick sick.

I'll pick caring for animals and humans and tales about consideration for each creature vs. mad stories and songs about the merits of the demise of both creatures for some invisible god.

The NT can never erase the crimes of the god of the OT, Jesus or no Jesus.

Bruce SchneierSeptember 12, 2006 11:30 PM

"Does the NYT pay you when you write something that they don't publish?"

Well, they didn't pay me.

My guess is that if you're hired as a freelance reporter and your piece doesn't get published, you get paid a "kill fee." But that doesn't seem to extend to the op ed page.

Not that I wanted money, mind you. I wanted them to publish the thing.

Roger HOctober 13, 2006 7:48 AM

Terrorism within the borders of the United States, is indeed a law enforcement problem, and effective, competent investigations, exactly as you've described are certainly the right way to handle the situation. However, while there are domestic terror organizations, much of the infrastructure of the more prominent ones are outside our borders. Law enforcement needs to work effectively to investigate these potential terrorists, but as you accurately state, the way we're doing it isn't the right way to do it.

Outside our borders I am inclined to say that this merits some clarification.

In 1994 the Aldrich Ames debacle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldrich_Ames) hamstrung the CIA. Bureaucracy and "CYA" are the watchwords of the day, and from the upper management down, we have treated intelligence gathering as a cold war relic. As early as the first Gulf War, CNN seemed to be the primary source of intelligence that people making decisions relied on. Intelligence leaks (my favorite is still the leak of the "secret plan to assasinate Saddam Hussein") further help make sure that Intelligence operations cannot succeed.

A work of fiction by John Weisman called Direct Action is a scathing remark on the state of the CIA today.
http://www.amazon.com/...
The level of detail is Clancy-esque, although I cannot verify its' credibility, much of it rings true.

Part of the points Weisman makes are that terrorism is an act of war, not law enforcement, and in this respect I must agree with him wholeheartedly. Law enforcement suggests actions that result in tribunals, incarceration, appeals, etc... I feel that our response to terrorists must follow the examples set by Mossad, and KGB/GRU of old. Our response to terrorism should be first to try to penetrate, and act before the events happen, and second, when they do happen, our response should be swift, decisive, and merciless. Further intelligence should be gathered where possible, and the bodies left on the battleground.

The CIA needs a competent, effective Operations division. This operations division needs to run black. Occasionally these black operations will need to get dirty. Congressional oversight needs to happen, certainly, but just like the law requires, Congress needs to be told after the fact, not looped in on the planning stage.

The difficulty comes in that it takes time to build an effective intelligence network, and if even half of Weisman's claims are true, we stand deaf and blind in the areas that threaten our security. We should have people penetrating terror networks, we should have people on the ground in Iran, in North Korea, Bolivia, and Venezuela, and unfortunately this isn't something that happens overnight, and we've crippled our field agents' abilities to make it happen at all.

"Dismantle your nuclear program, or we'll sanction you" is all well and good for the diplomatic side of the fence in North Korea and Iran... but we should have had spies in place that could tell us where their facilities were, and if they were this close, we should have sabotaged it by now, destroying their facilities, depriving them of key personnel, and cheerfully released the Congressional Oversight Committee meeting notes that we did it. Instead we rely on satellite imaging, and technological intelligence, turning the CIA over to analysts, instead of remembering how to work with people.

As you point out, far more eloquently than I, spending money on the right things is how we secure ourselves. Right now we are paying through the nose for the illusion of security, and that illusion gets fairly bent when we see even that handled incompetently.

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