Progress

A whole article about a bomb in Times Square without ever mentioning the "t" word.

Along with this, maybe we're turning a corner. Probably not....

Posted on March 7, 2008 at 6:37 AM • 36 Comments

Comments

jdegeMarch 7, 2008 7:01 AM

It's only because the NYT knows that this was carried out by an American leftist - and we all know that there's no enemy on the left.

blahMarch 7, 2008 7:38 AM

Well, perhaps. The media does love to "hype" this stuff up. This article (and the many forms it took throughout the day yesterday) keep saying that guests at the Marriott 4 blocks away felt the building shake. The pictures of the front of the recruiting station show that only a part of the glass window is blown out. I'm as eager to be afraid as the next person, but I'm having a hard time believing a bomb that could only blow out PART of a glass window could shake a building 4 blocks away in NYC...

I find it almost impossible to believe our media outlets anymore to do any type of reporting that I can rely on.

DaveMarch 7, 2008 9:21 AM

@ blah

Although the media do love to hype things up, in this case the journalist is simply quoting a guy who was staying in the hotel. The guy could be mistaken but he doesn't have to conform to any sense of "journalistic integrity".

Trichinosis USAMarch 7, 2008 9:39 AM

People in NYC are really getting tired of the BushCo protection racket and the associated false flag operations. You can only cry wolf in this town so many times. 400 cameras and directly across from a police station and they can't catch one dork on a bicycle? Oh please.

Hey, I think I saw that American leftist down on the ocean floor a few weeks back too, he was cutting undersea Internet cables. The enemy is EVERYWHERE! Be afraid! Be very afraid! *eyeroll*

chris rMarch 7, 2008 9:47 AM

I'm curious how a small explosive device being set of isn't terrorism. And I'm being serious here. Is it because no one was hurt? The definition I'm familiar with is "the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims." How is setting of an explosive device not fitting that description?

Or are you referring to the terrorism more in the sense of our response to it: the hysterical overreaction and assumption of foreign agents, etc.?

I work in NYC, and I can assure you that security theater is alive and well. Gun, soldiers, dogs, and random searches are all part of the daily commute.

NealMarch 7, 2008 10:00 AM

I first heard about the bomb on Fox News and I was laughing my behind off. It was obvious with moments of hearing what happened that this was not a terrorist incident, and I have to admit I was surprised at Fox News' restraint from outright calling it that, but boy were they doing their best to suggest or allude to the idea that terrorists might be beind it. Fear mongers for the party and so obviously so...

What's really funny is that ALL the discussion I heard through the day on the subject went one way - "I wonder if the Bush administration or the Republican party leaders had arranged this?" The public is finally wising up to the tactics of fear used to control them and now they're starting to question everything. Maybe there is hope for us yet.

ShaneMarch 7, 2008 10:21 AM

It sort of illustrates just how useless the surveillance cameras were in preventing the bombing.

Carlo GrazianiMarch 7, 2008 10:48 AM

Hmm, this suggests another event for the Idiot Terrorist Olympics: The Bicycle Bomb Race, to be held on the same course as the Car Bomb Race. In deference to Bruce's optimistic take on today's news, the event will be open to contestants who qualify on grounds of mere idiocy, even if their terrorist intent is weak or lacking.

3 PreventedMarch 7, 2008 10:49 AM

@Shane

"It sort of illustrates just how useless the surveillance cameras were in preventing the bombing."

Obviously, not all 400 cameras are in that area. Is there even a single camera in that area?

If so, what about the other explosive devices that weren't planted because the bombers were deterred by the presence of the camera(s)?

That cameras reduce crime in the area covered by the cameras is common sense. It's difficult to point to crimes that didn't happen; it's silly to pretend that they weren't deterred.

Additionally, surveillance cameras can help with prosecution of crimes that weren't deterred.

AnonymousMarch 7, 2008 11:02 AM

@3 Prevented

"That cameras reduce crime in the area covered by the cameras is common sense. It's difficult to point to crimes that didn't happen; it's silly to pretend that they weren't deterred."

There is no evidence that supports any of these assertions. A random hit on the net:

http://www.abcnews.go.com/US/Story?id=3360287&page=2

"According to a British Home Office review of dozens of studies analyzing the cameras' value at reducing crime, half showed a negative or negligible effect and the other half showed a negligible decrease of 4 percent at most. Researchers found that crime in Glasgow, Scotland, actually increased by 9 percent after cameras were installed there."

There are many, many, more examples of this kind of thing. Google it up yourself.

Not only is there no evidence, but there is an excellent reason why why evidence either will likely never exist: criminals are, by and large, stupid and simply don't care if they are caught on tape.

SteveJMarch 7, 2008 11:05 AM

@chris r: "How is setting of an explosive device not fitting that description?"

I think the degree of violence and/or intimidation is relevant.

Smashing windows might be regarded as violence against property, but it simply would not be helpful to use a definition of terrorism which includes all cases of smashing windows for political purposes.

Likewise, not all political intimidation is terrorism, even where it is particularly insalubrious (for example, there were reports alleging that Russian state employers ordered their employees to vote in the Presidential election last week. Intimidation, sure. Political purpose, sure. Terrorism, I don't think so).

Special responses to terrorism (such as specific powers) simply are not appropriate or necessary where there is no threat to life. And not necessarily even then.

Now, I suppose some would argue that using explosives is inherently a threat to life. As someone who lives in a country where handguns aren't allowed, I might say the same about them. Certainly they "could cause injury and even death", to quote the article Bruce linked.

But I wouldn't want someone who shot up an empty building with a handgun prosecuted as a terrorist either. On the other hand, if they sent letters to the occupants of the building threatening to shoot them, I might think that "terrorism" was an appropriate description without so much as a shot fired, depending on the details.

So, if the message from this small bomb is, "do as we say or we'll set off a bigger one in the day time", then I might think it could be called terrorism. If, as seems likely, the message is, "hah hah, we've trashed your stuff", I'd say not.

SteveJMarch 7, 2008 11:08 AM

@Anonymous: "criminals are, by and large, stupid and simply don't care if they are caught on tape."

Well, they fall into two categories: stupid ones, who don't care if they're on tape, and smarter ones, who'll commit their crimes in such a way that the cameras won't catch them (for example, mug someone on a different street, or just wear a freaking hat).

AnonymousMarch 7, 2008 11:12 AM

@Dave

"The guy could be mistaken but he doesn't have to conform to any sense of "journalistic integrity"."

Journalism is not simply the parroting of whatever a random idiot says: there is a process of verification, obtaining corroborating statements/evidence. The investigation doesn't have to be overwhelmingly thorough -- but the limits need to be described.

AnonymousMarch 7, 2008 11:34 AM

@chris r

"I'm curious how a small explosive device being set of isn't terrorism. And I'm being serious here. Is it because no one was hurt? The definition I'm familiar with is "the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims." How is setting of an explosive device not fitting that description?"

Setting off a micro-bomb at 03:40am against an ostensibly military target doesn't strike me as particularly "terroristic".

It isn't even rising to the typical retail-terror levels like blowing up an airplane, or some guy walking into a school in Jerusalem and killing a bunch of rabbinical students.

But maybe that's just me.

I will note that if you ultimately choose to prosecute this nitwit as a terrorist, regardless of the facts (known and to be discovered) it will likely send a message to the next dingbat to (1) make the bomb a hell of a lot bigger and (2) set it off a la Afghanistan, at mid-morning when the recruiting center is in active use. He'll be thinking "Heck, if they are going to treat me like one anyways, I might as well act like a real one!"

Mind you, this requires an intellectual capacity one doesn't normally find in this very tiny crowd, so there likely isn't much to worry about. But you never know, do you?

3 PreventedMarch 7, 2008 11:55 AM

@anonymous

"There is no evidence that supports any of these assertions."

You've got to be kidding. Try Googling. The evidence is everywhere. To wit:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/03/06/times.square/index.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SruXwbkWFkQ&e

http://www.kptv.com/news/15042419/detail.html

http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/iteam&id=5928260

This from Whittier Daily News:

"Late last year, a comprehensive, 120-camera video surveillance system was installed to serve as a deterrent to criminal activity throughout the city of Montebello, Calif. One of the keys to system was putting the clamp down on what was becoming a very serious graffiti problem. Surveillance cameras from Axium Technologies, which employ innovative "Tagger Trap" technology, were installed to detect acts of graffiti. The system is already showing its worth, as six tagging incidents have been captured by the cameras so far."

There are many, many, more examples of this kind of thing. Google it up yourself.

"criminals are, by and large, stupid and simply don't care if they are caught on tape."

Good. Let the incontrovertible video evidence speed their prosecution (saving tax dollars) and prevent their exculpation.

""They are good forensic tools — after something happens, they'll tell you what happened," (from the ABC News article you site.)

Also from your article:

"Another problem with the technology is that it sometimes shifts crime from one place to another. "If you're the owner of a 7-11 with a surveillance camera and someone robs the store next door to you, then that's a win for you but not for the police," said Bruce Schneier..."

Classic! As if moving crime away from the surveilled area is a "problem", and not a success. That's precisely what the cameras are intended to do!

For whom are you more interested in preventing victimization: yourself, or the police? Crime gets pushed out of your neighborhood because of video surveillance, and you want to call that a failure because the police have to go chase crime elsewhere! Ooh, that's rich!

Mister PaulMarch 7, 2008 12:36 PM

How is capturing tagging incidents on camera catching the perps and/or preventing it from happening? I fail to see how your quote in any way supports your assertion.

LeoMarch 7, 2008 1:10 PM

@chris r
"I'm curious how a small explosive device being set of isn't terrorism. And I'm being serious here. Is it because no one was hurt? The definition I'm familiar with is "the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims." How is setting of an explosive device not fitting that description?"

By your simplistic definition U.S. soldiers operating in Afghanistan, Iraq or most anywhere else would be terrorists. Most soldiers of any country operating anywhere would fit your vague and inaccurate definition of terrorism. Almost any war would fit your definition of terrorism. War may be a bad thing, it may even terrorize people, but it's not terrorism.

Start with this - terrorists target civilians, not military installations. It's perfectly legitimate to view this bombing as a crime, even a violent crime. I'm confident most people would. It's not a terrorist act. Then consider things like intent and objective.

Only those who seek to see freedom taken away from Americans through the use of fear and intimidation would call this a terrorist act.

Anon TechieMarch 7, 2008 1:36 PM

The world is slowly but surely going stark raving mad. Abandon all hope ... we are all headed on a one way ride to total lunacy ... One day we shall look back and wonder how the world was prior to 11/Sept/2001 and discuss in hushed voices about freedom, privacy and civil liberty.

The world of Douglas Adams (The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy) makes so much sense these days ...

3 PreventedMarch 7, 2008 1:37 PM

@ Mister Paul

"How is capturing tagging incidents on camera catching the perps and/or preventing it from happening?"

Arrests were made.

"Tagger Trap is a unique camera feature that can actually sense the digital signature of the ultrasonic frequencies emitted by spray-paint cans. This enables the cameras to quickly lock in on potential acts of graffiti the moment they begin. In each of the six Montebello cases, the cameras captured detailed images of the taggers. An investigation is now underway to identify the suspects. The surveillance system was also able to alert police to two incidents of illegal dumping, both of which lead to arrests.

The city of Montebello spends about $600,000 each year removing graffiti, so it's easy to understand why such an expansive surveillance effort was deemed necessary. Since the camera installation, the number of graffiti incidents has already gone down, as has the amount of illegal dumping. Along with helping in these areas, the system gives police the ability to watch for criminal activity in locations that can't continuously be patrolled by a physical police presence."

Mister PaulMarch 7, 2008 3:16 PM

@ 3 Prevented

Now arrests are more relevant. Still, I always find these reports suspiciously light on firm useful data. Clearly cities are not he best at studying their problems thoroughly, but they also often report misleading data (like capturing 6 incidents, a largely useless factoid) and give vague platitudes like "the number of graffiti incidents has already gone down". How much? How much money was saved? What is the cost-benefit analysis? Did the scale of incidents change? Is the "already gone down" seasonally adjusted?

Without this kind of thing, it is largely anecdotal evidence. I think it is reasonable to assume that surveillance alters crime rates, but without firm and clear studies, I can't possibly agree that the cost and intrusion are good trade-offs, and the reluctance of almost all users of the technology to look at it under a bright light makes me think they question the real value themselves.

slartyMarch 7, 2008 3:22 PM

@chris r
"I'm curious how a small explosive device being set of isn't terrorism."

It's because the primary purpose of the act isn't to instil fear, but to actually blow something up.

So if you set a bomb to kill, say, a military target then the primary purpose is to kill. It's not terrorism.

When the US military attack, they use phrases like "shock & awe". A significant part of their method is to instil fear in the enemy. So, yes, technically they are terrorists.

I had to endure that jingoistic bull listening to the commentary during a demonstration of an F-14 last year. I stood amongst a crowd of several thousand. The aircraft was amazing, but the comments from around me realised we were all cringing with embarrassment at the childish language being used.

But Bruce is right - I think people are starting to realise what "older" nations who have been doing this much longer found out many years ago. Acknowledging these nutters gives them power over you.

Far more sensible to treat them as they are: murderers and traitors. Don't invent a new language for them - you are giving them what they want.

Every time some halfwit uses the T word or adopts an ineffective "security" measure he is admitting defeat.

I believe this nation has a proud history of standing up to that which is wrong. But real courage is understanding a risk and standing up to it in the right way, not running round like a bunch kids after a scary story.

mooMarch 7, 2008 3:41 PM

The only sensible response to international terrorism is to (a) send our soldiers and spies to find them and wipe them out, and (b) refuse to be terrorized.

The United States of America used to be a great country, and a great example to the rest of the world. But over the past couple decades, and especially the last 10 years, your country has really been going to hell. As I watched live footage on September 11th I knew that terrorism would become a new hot-button issue for politicians and talking heads everywhere, but even as cynical as I am, I underestimated just how much this rhetoric of fear and the War on Terror could be used to manipulate a populace of indifferent Americans.

Bin Laden lived in the U.S. and saw its complacency, but even though he managed to kill a few thousand people and destroy a lot of property, he did not have the power to corrupt and destroy a great nation. YOU AMERICANS ARE DOING THAT TO YOURSELVES. STOP BEING AFRAID OF TERRORISM, and stop letting your politicians fuck you over and get away with it just by mentioning the 't'-word!

blahMarch 7, 2008 3:57 PM

@ dave
The journalist who wrote the article has a responsibility to only quote people that could even remotely be providing an accurate account. If I said I could feel the blast in Boston, we would both agree that it was a total fabrication. If I said I observed alien spaceships firing a laser beam, I wouldn't make it as one of the only quotes in an AP story. But...if I can give you a quote that on first blush doesn't seem insane, and helps people be afraid, well...that's journalism gold?

The quote implies a "blast" that was larger, therefore scarier, than in fact it had any way of being. A standard city block in Manhattan is 264' x 900' (as reported by wikipedia, so it must be true). The Marriot is on the short side of the blocks, so that's 1056 feet away. 2/10s of a mile. To "shake" a building, 2/10s of a mile away, so that someone on the 21st floor could feel it...apparently that strikes the AP as "credible". They are reporting it even today. The might as well have been in Boston.

3 PreventedMarch 7, 2008 4:08 PM

@ Mister Paul

"I can't possibly agree that the cost and intrusion are good trade-offs"

Well, you don't have to. The fact that it's reasonable to assume that surveillance lowers crime rates in the surveilled area, is low-level common sense. Nearly anyone can comprehend it. The persons whose homes and businesses endure less crime as a result, don't need studies showing that the reduction rate was 11.6% for the summer months, instead of an assumed 12%; they just see that there's less crime in the surveilled area, and take satisfaction in the better chance of prosecution that video-taping criminal behavior provides.

http://infowars.net/articles/july2007/300707Cameras.htm

Mister PaulMarch 7, 2008 4:37 PM

What if crime is only reduced 2%? What if it is only 0.1% What if spending that same money on police officers would have reduced it 5%? I already agree that surveillance will reduce crime; that along does not mean it is "worth it". The "anything is worth it if it makes us safer" shtick doesn't hold up to even the most cursory of examinations.

I think you missed the point on the seasonal aspect; I am sure here, in our very snowy area, graffiti writing goes down very significantly in the winter. Do *any* measure in July and by February you can claim that tagging is down significantly. Since they don't specify their parameters, we have no idea if it would normally be down anyway.

3 PreventedMarch 7, 2008 4:55 PM

@Mister Paul

"I am sure here, in our very snowy area, graffiti writing goes down very significantly in the winter. Do *any* measure in July and by February you can claim that tagging is down significantly. Since they don't specify their parameters, we have no idea if it would normally be down anyway."

That makes sense. What I alluded to was that when you put up a surveillance camera in front of your home, since you are in your home daily, season over season, you are the best judge of whether the camera is having an effect, and you can discount seasonal weather differences affecting your own home, for instance, better than anyone else.

That's part of what makes it common sense, and why anecdotal evidence can count for everything, for you individually, for this purpose.

(An entirely different purpose would be if you were advocating the position that ALL people EVERYWHERE should install surveillance cameras.)

Whether it may be more cost effective to hire more police, would be a good question for a study. Even if it is, that doesn't change the fact that it's common sense (and, in fact, accurate, if that needed to be said) that surveillance lowers crime rates in the surveilled area.

AnonymousMarch 7, 2008 6:06 PM

>That's part of what makes it common sense,
> and why anecdotal evidence can count for everything,
> for you individually, for this purpose.


That's a stretch.
If the anecdotal evidence is that "crimes" in front of my house have
decreased from 20% from 5 per year to 4 per year after installation of a
camera, it would foolhardy to assert the camera was responsible for a
20% drop in crime.

That's the problem with anecdotes - the sample size is too small to draw meaningful conclusions.

Porlock Hussein JuniorMarch 8, 2008 12:12 AM

Surveillance cameras are useful. If the British hadn't had the Tube stations all wired up at the time in 2005 when the cops executed a guy for the crime of looking like -- well -- the crime of not really at all looking like a guy they were supposed to be following, we'd never have found out that everything that was reported that day was a complete lie. A fantastic lie, in the proper sense of the word.

MarkMarch 8, 2008 3:01 AM

@chris r
I'm curious how a small explosive device being set of isn't terrorism. And I'm being serious here. Is it because no one was hurt? The definition I'm familiar with is "the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims." How is setting of an explosive device not fitting that description?

Probably because there was no possible way to link it to either Arabs or Islam. The definition of "terrorism" often has far more to do with politics than anything else.

RogerMarch 8, 2008 5:46 AM

@Anonymous of March 7, 2008 11:02 AM:
That study was discussed on Bruce's blog on March 31, 2005.

At the time I pointed out that the widespread characterisations of this report were misleading or even outright false.

In reality, what they found was that in the great majority of these projects, no thought had been given to scientific experimental design, so it was not possible to definitely say if any observed reductions were due to cameras. (For example, most of these were part of crime reduction projects which implemented several different measures at once.) The 14 projects were subdivided into 75 studies; of those 75 only 16 returned definite results.

Of the studies that returned usable data, they found that:
* the largest statistically significant reductions were on the order of 80%, a formidable result that makes CCTV, at least in those circumstances, pretty well the most effective crime fighting tool ever;
* most of the cases with increased crime rates can be definitely attributed to improved reporting of existing crime;
* CCTV was more likely to reduce crime in high crime areas than in low crime ones;
* there was a great deal of variation between carefully planned vs. poorly planned system.

chris rMarch 8, 2008 10:29 AM

Thanks for the responses to my comment. Just to be clear, I'm not calling for it to be labelled or not labelled. I was just curious to see where people draw their lines, given the dictionary definition. So much of this nebulous war relies on definitions (insurgent, unalwful combatant, terrorism, torture, etc.) so these vocabularistic concepts become more and more important for those in the public eye to shape and control.

A rose by any other name...

AnonymousMarch 8, 2008 10:55 PM

@roger

"* the largest statistically significant reductions were on the order of 80%, a formidable result that makes CCTV, at least in those circumstances, pretty well the most effective crime fighting tool ever;"

Well, roger, this is the thing: if CCTV deployments were the "most effective crime fighting tool ever", then one would expect that virtually _ANY_ installation would note record reductions in criminal activity. That is, all of those other confounding variables would be totally swamped by this "most effective" factor, especially if the 80% figure you quote is anywhere close to the right number.

So when you claim that only 16 of 75 return "definitive results", this actually sounds more like evidence for the null hypothesis...

3 PreventedMarch 10, 2008 1:16 PM

@anonymous

"That's the problem with anecdotes - the sample size is too small to draw meaningful conclusions."

Not if the anecdotal evidence is that "crimes" in front of my house have
decreased from 80% from 5 per year to 1 per year after installation of a
camera, while the crimes in front of my non-surveilled neighbors' homes have not decreased at all.

Then it would be foolhardy NOT to credit the camera. That's the benefit of a small environment with few changes: you don't have to control for dozens (hundreds?) of influential factors that big studies have to account for (in order to be useful), to be able to draw a meaningful conclusion.


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