Refuse to be Terrorized

I know nothing about the politics of this organization, but their "I am not afraid" campaign is something I can certainly get behind. I think we should all send a letter like this to our elected officials, whatever country we're in:

I am not afraid of terrorism, and I want you to stop being afraid on my behalf. Please start scaling back the official government war on terror. Please replace it with a smaller, more focused anti-terrorist police effort in keeping with the rule of law. Please stop overreacting. I understand that it will not be possible to stop all terrorist acts. I accept that. I am not afraid.

Refuse to be terrorized, and you deny the terrorists their most potent weapon -- your fear.

EDITED TO ADD (12/21): There's also this video.

And Chicago opens a new front on the war on the unexpected, trying to scare everybody:

Each year, the Winter Holiday Season tends to spur larger crowds and increased traffic throughout the City. As it pertains to shopping districts, public transportation routes, and all other places of public assembly, the increased crowds become a matter of Homeland Security concern. During this holiday period, as a matter of public safety, we ask that all members of the general public heighten their awareness regarding any and all suspicious activity that may be an indicator of a threat to public safety. It is important to immediately report any or all of the below suspect activities.

  • Physical Surveillance (note taking, binocular use, cameras, video, maps)
  • Attempts to gain sensitive information regarding key facilities
  • Attempts to penetrate or test physical security / response procedures
  • Attempts to improperly acquire explosives, weapons, ammunition, dangerous chemicals, etc.
  • Suspicious or improper attempts to acquire official vehicles, uniforms, badges or access devices
  • Presence of individuals who do not appear to belong in workplaces, business establishments, or near key facilities
  • Mapping out routes, playing out scenarios, monitoring key facilities, timing traffic lights
  • Stockpiling suspicious materials or abandoning potential containers for explosives (e.g., vehicles, suitcases, etc)
  • Suspicious reporting of lost or stolen identification

This may be real or it may be a hoax; I don't know.

And this is probably my last post on the war on the unexpected. There are simply too many examples.

Posted on December 21, 2007 at 7:26 AM • 62 Comments

Comments

HugoDecember 21, 2007 7:59 AM

While it's more likely you get killed in a car accident then because of a terrorist attack, we can all relax (assuming you get into your car every day without any fear).

Peter GalbavyDecember 21, 2007 8:02 AM

Politicians are not afraid of terrorism either, in general. They simply know that it keeps them in the power and luxury they have become accustomed to, and keeps the graft rolling into their rather deep pockets.

The old maxim "Follow the money!" is truer now than ever.

Lou the trollDecember 21, 2007 9:10 AM

Good thing I know Chicago like the back of my hand and don't need a map... NOT. Besides, wouldn't any self respecting terrorist use a GPS enabled device anyway?

Neil in ChicagoDecember 21, 2007 9:12 AM

Clue #1:  When the Executive branch is going apeshit, they're sniping at Congress.
Clue #2a:  They're pushing Ron Paul.
Clue #2b:  (depending the order you scan the page) "Downsize DC's beloved co-founder, Harry Browne, has died at the age of 72. We have erected this page in his memory."

So they're almost certainly extreme cases of Libertarian disorder.

ArnoldDecember 21, 2007 9:27 AM

Please DO keep posting on the War on the Unexpected. Even if it's just a weekly link dump or something, it's great to keep in touch with these stories.

There's a very real danger of our forgetting the extent of the stupidity -- I remember a recent article pointing out a correlation between positive opinions of the Iraq war and the decline in its mainstream reportage.

Please don't let bad security slip from the front of our minds.

DanDecember 21, 2007 9:43 AM

I've been sending the war on the unexpected links to my mom, a foreign language teacher who travels regularly, but has had little problem with police powers and surveillance. Until now. I think they are helping her understand how an insidious culture of fear is being used to manipulate us.

I understand that they are swamping the blog a little, so like Arnold said, a weekly roundup might be an appropriate way to contain the flood.

TimDecember 21, 2007 9:48 AM

So if I see someone engaging in Physical Surveillance by note taking, I need to take notes of who they are and what they're doing... and I hope that no one notices that I'm taking notes, or they might start taking notes of what I'm doing.

According to this advisory, we're supposed to be watching people that seem to be watching people. How can it possibly be useful to tell everyone to partake in the activity that you deem suspicious?


Rich WilsonDecember 21, 2007 9:48 AM

"as a matter of public safety, we ask that all members of the general public heighten their awareness"

According to the DHS (http://www.dhs.gov/xinfoshare/programs/Copy_of_press_release_0046.shtm) site, our current threat level is <b>Elevated</b> or <b>Yellow</b>. So, like, in Chicago it's <b>High </b> or <b>Orange</b>?

AnonymousDecember 21, 2007 10:16 AM

It's just a matter of making their citizens feel like they are doing something. They're keeping people safe from terrorists. Of course the reason there will be no terrorist attacks in Chicago this Christmas season is because the Government is protecting them. How could you expect the Govt to pass on such an easy way to get re-elected?

AnonymousDecember 21, 2007 10:36 AM

Comrade, let me see your papers. Now! Tell me, comrade, what are you doing here in the middle of this public open space watching people stroll by? Are you some kind of subversive agent who takes pleasure in exercising your civil rights?

Petréa MitchellDecember 21, 2007 10:43 AM

I'd like to keep seeing the "War on the Unexpected" reports too. It may be depressing, but it's important to keep paying attention. I think a regularly scheduled weekly roundup is a terrific idea-- it might get the message out to more people.

mightymouseDecember 21, 2007 10:44 AM

I completely agree with your sentiment on this stuff Bruce and the same goes for the sentiment expressed on the video you linked to. Just thought I should point out a small problem with the video -- in case any of you are promoting it to others. Some of the stats used are, unfortunately, meaningless.

Example:"The 25% of China's population with the highest IQs ..."

What does that mean? Nothing. Some statistics just cannot be expressed properly in terse sound bites.

Again, I only mention this to prepare you for arguments if any of you promote this video. The statistics may be soft.

Brian CarnellDecember 21, 2007 10:44 AM

"Suspicious reporting of lost or stolen identification"

WTF is *suspicious* reporting of lost/stolen identification?

Is that like reporting lost ID if you're of Middle Eastern descent?

lorenzoDecember 21, 2007 11:07 AM

"Presence of individuals who do not appear to belong in workplaces, business establishments, or near key facilities"

hey, there's a fat guy dressed in a red costume with an obvious fake beard at the corner

CatDecember 21, 2007 11:13 AM

I was thinking an "I am not afraid" clothing line could be an idea, but many have beaten me to it!

FPDecember 21, 2007 11:19 AM

What self-respecting city can afford to be less alert of potential threats than others?

"Mr. Major of Chicago, why are your citizens less safe from terrorism than in New York City?"

Expect other cities to play catch-up very soon.

anonymousDecember 21, 2007 11:45 AM

Let's see:

- maps
- timing routes
- official looking checkpoints

God help anyone planning a (car) rally anywhere near Chicago.

Martin BuddenDecember 21, 2007 11:58 AM

I'd also like you to keep makiing posts about the war on the unexpected. The fact that there are so many examples is precisely why you should keep posting.

AlanDecember 21, 2007 12:02 PM

I have increased my awareness.

I am aware our leaders are totally batguano insane.

I am aware that given the chance, minimum wage employees will screw with you just because they can, especially if you give them a position of authority.

I am aware that anything you say, do or think or don't think can and will be used against you "just because".

I am aware that Al Qaeda is Arabic for "boogeyman".

I am aware that no law exists if you have a big enough excuse.

I am aware that I am a suspect just for writing this.

DavidDecember 21, 2007 12:21 PM

Adding a vote. PLEASE do not stop posting about the WotU. Once or twice a week, if you must aggregate....

1915bondDecember 21, 2007 12:57 PM

VILLAGER #1:
We have found a terrorist. May we burn her?
CROWD:
Burn her! Burn! Burn her! Burn her!
BEDEVERE:
How do you know she is a terrorist?
VILLAGER #2:
She looks like one.
CROWD:
Right! Yeah! Yeah!
BEDEVERE:
Bring her forward.
terrorist:
I'm not a terrorist. I'm not a terrorist.
BEDEVERE:
Uh, but you are dressed as one.
terrorist:
They dressed me up like this.
CROWD:
Augh, we didn't! We didn't...
terrorist:
And this isn't my nose. It's a false one.
BEDEVERE:
Well?
VILLAGER #1:
Well, we did do the nose.
BEDEVERE:
The nose?
VILLAGER #1:
And the hat, but she is a terrorist!
VILLAGER #2:
Yeah!
CROWD:
We burn her! Right! Yeaaah! Yeaah!

anonymousDecember 21, 2007 2:08 PM

@Bkyln This has been going on for a while. In 2002, I got off a flight in Portland ME and wanted to take a photo of a sculpture in the terminal. A uniformed (National Guard?) infomed me that I couldn't. I tried several ways to talk my way around the problem including having him approve the photo. No dice.

John WDecember 21, 2007 2:13 PM

@anonymous 2:08pm: "In 2002, I got off a flight in Portland ME and wanted to take a photo of a sculpture in the terminal. A uniformed (National Guard?) infomed me that I couldn't. I tried several ways to talk my way around the problem including having him approve the photo. No dice."
_________

This still close to 9/11, with overkill and CYA still in high gear (not to mention, such activity, albeit ineffective, by security reassuring people it was safe to fly). Have you tried this since? They probably wouldn't be on guard as much now 6 years removed. I'm not saying there isn't overkill today, i'm just saying it is not hard to understand why such things would have been happening more often in 2002.

SumDumGuyDecember 21, 2007 3:06 PM

"wanted to take a photo of a sculpture in the terminal. A uniformed (National Guard?) infomed me that I couldn't."

That wasn't for security, he was just enforcing the copyright on the sculpture.

CGomezDecember 21, 2007 3:07 PM

It's important to emphasize the difference between "war on the unexpected" and "acting hinky".

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/07/profiling.html

When someone is acting hinky we want to act, right? After all, this can be an excellent security countermeasure.

When they are just doing something unexpected, we don't.

I think more needs to be devoted to explaining the difference, who should be trained to know the difference, and who should act.

I'm not trying to say DHS, the White House, the Congress, the top representatives of either party, nor the general public has any expertise here. They don't. The public who is scared votes for people who just ban everything. The politicians we elect are reflections of ourselves. Most of us aren't very good at maintaining our own privacy (otherwise, social engineering attacks wouldn't be so effective), so we elect people who aren't very good at it, either.

But presumably, the author of this blog does. The best we can do is ask such experts to explain the best way to discern "acting hinky" from looking for the unexpected.

AnonymousDecember 21, 2007 3:42 PM

Original Post: ""I understand that it will not be possible to stop all terrorist acts. I accept that."
_____

Easy to say now. But, frankly, it is often the ones who say things like this who are right there after the fact with 20/20 hindsight saying that it would have saved the day if x, y, and z would have been done. Basically, after an incident they are outraged that no one done the things they opposed before an incident.

AnonymousDecember 21, 2007 3:52 PM

@Hugo: "While it's more likely you get killed in a car accident then because of a terrorist attack, we can all relax (assuming you get into your car every day without any fear)."
_____

Apples and oranges, my friend. While we all risk dying in a car accident when we drive, it would be different if car accidents were arranged by a group of people. Now, I understand that it doesn't affect probability of it happening to me specificially, but if there was a group of people causing auto crashes, it would be reasonable and responsible to stop that at its source where possible.

I understand the statistical argument, but it really isn't the same. It is sort of like the DC sniper--on any given day, more people died in crashes than at the snipers hands, so based on probability I didn't stay home scared. But on the other hand, it had to be handled much differently than someone running a red light. The fact that probability was less didn't mean it didn't require much different and more energetic response.

I agree we should keep things in perspective of probability, but the response to accidents should and must be different than response to murder, even when the probability is less.

Merry Christmas.

AnonymousDecember 21, 2007 4:53 PM

"I am not afraid of terrorism"

The soul only hears "TERRORISM", the sould does not understand "NOT"

A positive affirmation would be "I live in a peaceful world where love, trust, respect and generosity reign supreme".

jmrDecember 21, 2007 6:07 PM

Bruce,

I agree with Arnold. Your site acts as something of a clearinghouse for these stories, so that security-conscious people in areas remote to the actual occurrence can hear about them and protest them. I can understand not wanting to post every day about it, but we do need to keep the flow of anti-nut-case ammunition moving.

Please consider a once-weekly wrap-up, maybe next to the Friday squid post? You can depress us with the state of our society in one post, then tell everyone about the latest greatest squid invention to distract us from some semi-reality for the weekend.

Thanks.

Kadin2048December 21, 2007 7:03 PM

I'd just like to chime in to ask Bruce to keep going with the "War on the Unexpected" posts. I'm just as tired of it as everyone else, but I think part of the tactic of the people pushing it is to depend on citizens' fatigue. When people become tired of fighting stupidity and control and simply *accept*, they've basically won the round.

Every single idiotic (in)"security" measure that arises from arationality and kneejerk, feel-goodery needs to be dragged out in public and lambasted for what it is.

jtDecember 21, 2007 8:26 PM

@3:52 -- it may be apples and oranges, but we can spend the same money to reduce the number of either type of death. So why get worked up and waste money on one thing, that kills far fewer people, when we could spend time and resources on another that is far more dangerous?

Peter AmeyDecember 22, 2007 5:03 AM

The Chicago list seems strangely incomplete. What about:
standing outside buildings in a RCMP uniform, or
running about in the company of a deaf wolf.
:-)

DavidDecember 22, 2007 9:15 AM

I've started making comments like "Terrorists aren't dangerous", and getting into some interesting conversation. I've been getting some wrong answers to "How many people in the US have been killed by terrorism in the past five years?", which has been considerably less than three thousand for well over a year now.

For various reasons, the 1991 attacks have stayed fresh in people's memories.

JoshuaDecember 22, 2007 10:56 AM

On page 99 of Applied Cryptography, 2nd Edition, 3rd paragraph:
"Imagine a major terrorist attack in New York; what sorts of limits on the police would be thrown aside in the aftermath?"

RalphDecember 22, 2007 11:32 AM

I geddit! We've been mishearing the phrase. It's not a "war on terrorists", it's a "war on tourists".

Seriously, every one of those items sounds like a bumbling tourist to me.

* Physical Surveillance (note taking, binocular use, cameras, video, maps)

(every tourist)

* Attempts to gain sensitive information regarding key facilities

(excuse me sir, do you do public tours of this power plant).

* Attempts to penetrate or test physical security / response procedures

(is this room 324? Oh this is 224, my apologies).

* Attempts to improperly acquire explosives, weapons, ammunition, dangerous chemicals, etc.

(do you have any bleach, I spilt some of your fine california red wine on my blouse last night)

* Suspicious or improper attempts to acquire official vehicles, uniforms, badges or access devices

(verry sorry sir, in my country a ford explorer is a taxi, the president has a rolls-royce. A solid gold rolls-royce.)

* Presence of individuals who do not appear to belong in workplaces, business establishments, or near key facilities

(excuse me, is this the art gallery? we already took the area 51 subway. 15? i'm sure the man at the hotel said number 51).

* Mapping out routes, playing out scenarios, monitoring key facilities, timing traffic lights

(excuse me, can you give me directions to the museum).

* Stockpiling suspicious materials or abandoning potential containers for explosives (e.g., vehicles, suitcases, etc)

(In my country that is a delicacy; yes i will eat it all tonight... My suitcase is broken, unfortunately i can no longer carry it; could you hold this for a moment?)

* Suspicious reporting of lost or stolen identification

(yes i really did drop my passport after mistaking a public toilet for a fountain while a clown tried to teach me to ride his unicycle).

nature is illegal? me lose brain? uh oh!December 22, 2007 12:25 PM

missing from above list:

- people wanting to live in a free country

marijuana is only illegal in communist nations!

AntimediaDecember 22, 2007 1:53 PM

I know how we can end the war on terror in a few weeks. Simply deputize all the idiots who think it's a legal matter best handled by the police. Then send them to where the terrorists are and have them arrest the terrorists.

Voila! The war is over.

Michael HamptonDecember 22, 2007 5:56 PM

Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

Though some of you really should get your facts straight.

Downsize DC is certainly a libertarian leaning organization, but has no association with the Libertarian Party, or any political party.

RonKDecember 23, 2007 2:39 AM

@ Joshua

I'm at work so I can't really check the context of your quote from "Applied Cryptography", but aftermath can have a wide range of meaning starting from "immediate aftermath" to "very-long range aftermath", and it seems to me that the connotation of the word emphasizes immediate more than long-range.

We're no longer in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Unless maybe you're a historian.

CJDecember 23, 2007 3:32 PM

@Anonymous: "Easy to say now. But, frankly, it is often the ones who say things like this who are right there after the fact with 20/20 hindsight saying that it would have saved the day if x, y, and z would have been done. Basically, after an incident they are outraged that no one done the things they opposed before an incident."

I have no doubt that *some* people will be saying that after an incident. But I very much doubt that it would be the *same* people who are now saying "refuse to be terrorised".

pennoDecember 23, 2007 8:08 PM

This must be a hoax. From TFA:

"It is important to immediately report any or all of the below suspect activities.
*Physical Surveillance (note taking, binocular use, cameras, video, maps)"

They don't say report *suspicious* surveillance (which would be a stupid enough request anyway) but expect it all to be reported. this must be nonsense.

HugoDecember 24, 2007 6:20 PM

@Anonymous 3:52

It's just about the simple chance of being killed. We fear terrorists which we will very likely never meet, but without any fear we get in cars which have a chance of getting us killed.

It's as Bruce as said many times: people are bad in estimating risks.

And it's as the Wizard's First Rule: people are stupid. People will believe a lie either because they want to believe it's true or because they are afraid it might be true.

Sven SvenssonDecember 25, 2007 10:23 AM

Agreeing with previous comments, please dont stop posting about the war of the unexpected. Sure its frightening and depressing, but it is also very important to be reminded.

Anonymous 3:52December 26, 2007 8:58 AM

@Hugo

I agree with the probability and estimating risks. But I do stand by the belief that it does require a much different approach. Those who advocate (and I'm not saying you advocate) simply taking money away from fighting terrorism to fight car accidents just due to probability and dollars isn't a logical leap to make. The two are very different.

I'm certainly not saying to that it is better to die one way or another, I'm just illustrating that risks with similar results may gave very different cost. I pay more in health insurance than car insurance, even though statistically I'm more likely to be in a car accident than get cancer. Between my wife and I, we've been in 3 car accidents and she had ovarian cancer last year. The car accidents were the most likley, but the cancer cost more to prepare for. It would have been a disaster had we stopped health insurance and bought more car insurance based on statistics. The least likely one costed more, but was still necessary.

Sorry, got long. I'll end it.

I enjoy the dialogue. Happy New Year.

MagnusDecember 28, 2007 6:27 AM

I live in Spain, a country where the terrorist organization ETA has killed 821 persons since 1968. Compared to Spain's population that is a lot more that the 3000 killed in the US.

Generally people are not afraid of ETA, and ETA is not achieving much. The anti terrorist police is doing a very good job on detaining members of ETA and bringing them to court. Most people don't feel that anti-terrorism measures have invaded their privacy.

Spain met the Madrid bombings by Islamic fundamentalists with the same measures. That event is now clearly a thing of the past, i.e. Islamic terrorism is not a big worry to most Spaniards, just as Basque nationalistic terrorism isn't.

Experience has made Spain strong in the fight against terrorism. The US is acting like a scared child.

PS. It's sad to see that the UK is mostly following the US's fair-race, keeping in mind their successful history on disarming the IRA.

John WDecember 28, 2007 9:22 AM

@Magnus: "Experience has made Spain strong in the fight against terrorism. The US is acting like a scared child."
_____

I hate to be drawn into this, but what in the world are you talking about? You say Spain is strong and US is acting like a scared child, but wasn't Spain the one who after an attack 3 days before an election caved, elected a pro-withdraw government and caved to the terrorists demands?

Note to all others: this isn't an attack on Spain, it is a rebuttal of this individuals cheap shot at the US. Spain can elect whoever they want for whatever reason, he just should boast of bravery versus US fear, because recent history doesn't back his claim. I happen to like Spain.

I dont' want to be drawn into an argument, put please discuss an issue rather than take a cheap shot at an entire nation.

MagnusJanuary 3, 2008 2:57 AM

@John W

Spain elected a socialist government (pro-withdrawal) because of the hideous lies made by the government in the days after the Madrid bombings. The government tried to divert the attention from Islam radicals to ETA, due to the following two facts: (1) Spain was in on the Iraq invasion. (2) The government had made excellent progress against ETA.

People did not change their vote because they wanted to avoid future attacks. They did it because they were provoked by their government lying to them.

However, I think it is puny that most people before this attack intended to vote for a government that had brought them into a war they disagreed with. Just shows the short attention span of the voters.

I reclaim my state: Most Spaniards are not overly afraid of terrorism and Spanish legal action against terrorism has been far less invasive and far more effective than US measures.

This is only an attack on official US policy, not on any individual nor group of individuals since I don't know them nor know how most US citizens feel. Note that I am saying "acting like", not "is". I only see your actions.

ChewieJanuary 15, 2008 7:36 AM

I think we need to update Seneca: "Terrorism is regarded by the common people as threatening, by the wise as inconsequential, and by the rulers as useful."

NathanJanuary 15, 2008 9:19 AM

Please stop posting to sites that are obviously political hackery. It would have taken less than a minute to figure exactly what the politics of the DownsizeDC site are by looking at its homepage (libertarian) and it's not exactly subtle from its name alone.

While I certainly agree with any message that advocates not being paralyzed by this irrational fear of terrorists, using terrorism as an excuse for libertarianism is just as bad or worse.

They actually are promoting a bill called the "Read The Bills Act" which would require every bill that Congress passes to be read verbatim on each floor of Congress. This would impose a reversal of 220 years of congressional history and procedure that every high school kid learns in basic civics classes (that bills are primarily authored in committees and go to the floor for an up or down vote, based on committee reports and other legislative history). It is simply intended to put sand in Congress's gears, a monkey-wrench of libertarian fantasy. Of course it will never pass, but ironically enough, DownsizeDC doesn't even want you to bother to read the Read The Bills Act. They provide a convenient bullet-point summary.

mmJanuary 18, 2008 6:00 AM

All these extrodinarily silly ideas involving reporting suspicious activity boil down to some variation on "I don't like the look of him" or "he's not one of the cool kids." Sadly, we have fostered the idea, mostly through trial law, that eye witness testimony is somehow really cogent, when nothing could be further from the truth. The silliest part about all of this is all it does is at best make people nervous, because anyone who really has to deal with threats on a daily basis, like, say, a cop, knows that most of people report is at best deeply believed and well intended, but nevertheless totally uninformed and probably nonsense.

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