Smart Essay on the Limitations of Anti-Terrorism Security

This is good:

Threats constantly change, yet our political discourse suggests that our vulnerabilities are simply for lack of resources, commitment or competence. Sometimes, that is true. But mostly we are vulnerable because we choose to be; because we've accepted, at least implicitly, that some risk is tolerable. A state that could stop every suicide bomber wouldn't be a free or, let's face it, fun one.

We will simply never get to maximum defensive posture. Regardless of political affiliation, Americans wouldn't tolerate the delay or intrusion of an urban mass-transit system that required bag checks and pat-downs. After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, many wondered how to make the race safe the next year. A heavier police presence helps, but the only truly safe way to host a marathon is to not have one at all. The risks we tolerate, then, are not necessarily bad bargains simply because an enemy can exploit them.

No matter what promises are made on the campaign trail, terrorism will never be vanquished. There is no ideology, no surveillance, no wall that will definitely stop some 24-year-old from becoming radicalized on the Web, gaining access to guns and shooting a soft target. When we don't admit this to ourselves, we often swing between the extremes of putting our heads in the sand or losing them entirely.

I am reminded of my own 2006 "Refuse to be Terrorized" essay.

Posted on April 3, 2016 at 7:42 PM • 101 Comments

Comments

JacobApril 3, 2016 9:19 PM

We should look at this from an offensive POV, not defensive.

I posit that if the US will declare war on ISIL - and I mean a full-fledged war, with tank divisions and 50,000 infantry, and bombing runs a la Putin - for a limited time frame e.g. 3 months, wherby any ISIL guy caught will be executed on the spot, this will reduce the terror menace quite a bit.

No need to change regime, or to bring some "political change" in the land, or to bring about "change of mind" - just annihilate ISIL people on their land as quickly as possible and get out. Such quick excursion will certainly cost less than what DHS multi-year cost is, and much less than the F-35 program...

This may give as some quiet period for some years to come. And if ISIL or the terrorist organization du jour raise their head again - repeat the process. I think that regimen will solve the "can't win the fight against terrorism" mantra.

EvilKiruApril 3, 2016 10:28 PM

@Jacob: Yeah, 'cause that worked so well in 'nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan...

JacobApril 3, 2016 11:43 PM

@ EvilKiru

In the places you indiacted the US also wanted to set up a "democracy".. doesn't work.

That's why I indicated "No need to change regime, or to bring some "political change" in the land, or to bring about "change of mind""

DoubtingTomApril 4, 2016 12:41 AM

@Jacob

Care to elaborate why you think the strategy you posit would work? Any historical precedent?

DavidApril 4, 2016 12:54 AM

It is funny how you all try to be politically correct. This totally clouds your judgment and logic.

1. It is not "some" 24 years old" that gets radicalized, it is a MUSLIM 24 years old getting radicalized. Ever heard of a Buddhist 24 years old getting radicalized on the Web and go blowing people up in the street?

2. Unlike Europe that borders with the Muslim world, the biggest issue with terrorism in America is letting Muslim terrorists in in the first place. This was true both in Boston and SB, this was true in 9/11, this will be true in all the future terrorist acts. Now don't tell me that not letting terrorists fly in by a commercial flight and a visa in their pocket is as difficult as preventing some feeble-minded 24 year old in Nigeria radicalized over the Web. Absolutely no danger to America from that one.

Nick PApril 4, 2016 1:18 AM

@ David

I agree that dropping PC is a decent idea. So, let's have at it.

1. Most people in prison for rape and murder in U.S. are Christians.

2. The largest terrorist attacks in history (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) was from an allegedly Christian nation operating on what was allegedly greater good.

3. Post-9/11, a Christian President and Christian constituency pushed for Iraq war that killed twice as many Americans as radical Muslims did on 9/11 while damaging tens of thousands more for life.

4. Those and many other Christians also killed between 200,000 and a million innocent people in same country depending on which estimates you go with.

5. They did this despite New Testament teachings and examples in Acts of non-violence, love, avoiding imperialism, and praying for enemies.

So, if we're doing it your way, Christian beliefs are attached to more mass murder in this country than any other thing. We should extrapolate that behavior to all Christians. We should then start restricting Christians of all types because a select few show capacity of mass murder. It should be easy since they congregate in churches, sometimes wear crosses, and funnel money into pro-Christian lobby groups. Also, it's worth noting that their own Bible commands a steeper price for apostate in their midst in Deuteronomy 13:13-19 than what we're discussing. And cities they lived in.

Or we can do it our way by focusing police and intelligence efforts on those demonstrating commitment to radical, violence-centered Islam while leaving rest of the Muslims alone. Like we do when dealing with Christian murderers and radicals. That seems more just, too. So, we go with that. Even worked in practice pre-9/11 except when incompetent employees in government ignored leads for various claimed reasons.

ZischApril 4, 2016 1:31 AM

@Jacob: "... any ISIL guy caught will be executed on the spot ..."

Perfect! Let's give up the exact values which we try to defend, such as the right to a fair trial for everyone accused of a crime or the protection of POWs through the Geneva convention. The USA already started that with Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo etc.

Let's go to invade Muslim countries and randomly kill their inhabitants just based on the suspicion that they might be terrorists or simply because they happen to be nearby one of our targets at the moment the missile hits, as the USA already do with their drones. (And as EvilKiru wrote, that worked so very well in other countries before.)

Let's prove to all Muslims that the IS is right, that the western civilization actually is their enemy. Let's do everything to produce a steady flow of new followers for the terrorists from the friends and families of the killed.

Sorry, your intentions might be the opposite, but reading your comment I actually wonder why you are supporting these terrorists in their quest to invoke hate and war and to destroy the achievements of our modern constitutional democracies.

SproggitApril 4, 2016 2:46 AM

This is an oversimplification, for which I apologize in advance....

One of the things that surprises me about terrorist activities stems from the source of materials that are used. So although we certainly see examples of improvized devices, many of the acts of terror that make the news around the world stem from the use of purpose-built weapons and explosives.

This rather hints at the fact that a failure to control the proliferation of weapons and explosives may be a major contributing factor to the spread of acts of terror throughout the world. Unfortunately, you only need to look at major western powers to realise that governments are perfectly happy to sell munitions to "friendly" foreign governments, even in very unstable regions of the globe. No wonder, then, that a coup or regime change could result in some of those weapons falling in to the hands of those less friendly to the west.

So is one part of the complex socio-political-economic challenge of defeating terrorism the requirement that we forego the "profits" of selling weapons and munitions and generally do all we can to ensure that such artefacts never reach the hands of those who would use them for the purpose of terror?

ianfApril 4, 2016 3:25 AM


From the quoted Washington Post article by Juliette Kayyem [whose authorship, btw., ought to have been stated up front… otherwise how is she ever to find out the text being praised here rhetorical question]:

[…] In the immediate years after 9/11, the security establishment sold a vision of an America that never existed, a vision based on some notion that the country had been invulnerable and risk-free before the terrorists struck. […]

What the author doesn't say is that that vision of (pre-2001/09/11 allegedly invulnerable) America sold by the security establishment (of which she herself for a time was a part) was primarily a smoke screen erected to hide the systemic failures, e.g. of lack of foresight and thus inability to prevent anything, by that very same security establishment. Viewed in this light, her present, latter day admission of, essentially, MISSION BEYOND ACCOMPLISHMENT (even if formally and realistically true) looks like another smoke screen erected to hide monumental "American-do" hubris and incompetence of that v. establishment.


@ David “Ever heard of a 24yo Buddhist getting radicalized… and go blowing people up in the street?

You need to expand your cognitive horizons beyond the narrow confines of Yankee-centered martyrology. Starting with this:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_and_violence#Regional_examples

anon.April 4, 2016 3:28 AM

Nice Essay


For the others, some actions from past :

Oklahoma City bombing (Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols)
2011 Norway attacks (Breivik)

and countless others, lot's off them where some people would consider them freedom fighters (IRA,RAF,...) not terrorists.

DavidApril 4, 2016 3:56 AM

@ Nick P

Why the heck should I care what is written in Old Testament (or in Quran for this matter)? I am talking about practical security measures. An to discuss efficient, practical security measures one needs to state the operational problem correctly, and not dig into Old Testament or irrelevant history or cloud the problem by PC language.

Now the operational problem I am stating is crystal clear: Islamist terrorists getting into US by commercial flights with a visa in their pocket. Screw political correctness, this is THE security problem America needs to solve, not radicalization over the Web or Old Testament. Witness the circumstances and the perpetrators of 9/11, SB and Boston. ALL of them admitted to US with a valid visa on a commercial flight. That's why your post is irrelevant, and so is Mr. Schneier's.

Green SquirrelApril 4, 2016 4:05 AM

I posit that if the US will declare war on ISIL - and I mean a full-fledged war, with tank divisions and 50,000 infantry, and bombing runs a la Putin - for a limited time frame e.g. 3 months, wherby any ISIL guy caught will be executed on the spot, this will reduce the terror menace quite a bit.

I posit that this will be an expensive way of being ineffective. The terrorist threat in the US from ISIS/ISIL/Daesh[whatever] is almost non-existent. Spending millions to reduce that by a tiny amount seems a large waste of money.

This is the flaw with the mindset that terrorist groups are organised nation-state type entities who can be engaged. They arent.

Green SquirrelApril 4, 2016 4:07 AM

@ David

Nice trolling.

Ever heard of a Buddhist 24 years old getting radicalized on the Web and go blowing people up in the street?

Yes.

Unlike Europe that borders with the Muslim world, the biggest issue with terrorism in America is letting Muslim terrorists in in the first place.

Incorrect. The biggest issue with terrorism in the USA is from home-grown individuals.

10/10 for effort though.

Green SquirrelApril 4, 2016 4:10 AM

If we are going down the rabbit hole of slightly insane extreme measures to minimise the low risk of a terrorist attack then the main one I'd suggest is criminalising those who promote the fear aspects of terrorism.

So, people who constantly scream about how dangerous terrorists are (be it media pundits, politicians or trolls on the internet) can be prosecuted and imprisoned for their efforts to undermine society in a war against the faceless bogeyman under the bed.

Terrorists can mount an attack which, in some instances can kill thousands of people. However the real impact is the idiots who spread the message of fear and scare millions.

DavidApril 4, 2016 4:11 AM

@ ianf

“Ever heard of a 24yo Buddhist getting radicalized… and go blowing people up in the street?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_and_violence#Regional_examples"


Irrelevant. My post deals withoperational counter-terrorist security in America, not an inter-faith strife between some god-forsaken monasteries in Asia. There is NO Buddhist terrorism in America, full stop. So cut the PC.


"You need to expand your cognitive horizons beyond the narrow confines of Yankee-centered martyrology."

I am not a Yankee. Cut the personal attacks and talk about the relevant issues, if your cognitive horizons allow you this luxury.

DavidApril 4, 2016 4:16 AM

@ Green Squirrel

You are throwing empty statements which you leave totally unsubstantiated, plus you are labeling the opponent when you do not have any valid arguments to present. 0/10 for the effort.

AnselmApril 4, 2016 4:50 AM

There may be no Buddhist terrorism in America, but there is also very little Islamic terrorism. Certainly not enough Islamic terrorism to justify a large international-law-defying punitive expedition against “IS” that is practically guaranteed, on top of being very expensive in terms of both money and casualties, to accomplish exactly the opposite of what it is supposed to accomplish.

If you're really interested in making America safe, spend money on anti-slip bath mats. Dollar for dollar that will be way more effective, in terms of casualties, than invading Syria to kill purported IS supporters. The Iraq war was originally supposed to cost $80bn, that would have been a stack of bath mats for everyone and no GIs injured or killed already. Consider the actual 1+ trillion dollars spent and the number of lightning rods, baby anti-SIDS alarms, etc. that that kind of money would have bought to counter some more of the threats more dangerous to the life and limbs of Americans than Islamic terrorism. And that's even before tackling traffic, obesity, or guns, which are the real killers today.

Clive RobinsonApril 4, 2016 5:21 AM

@ David,

Your argument is based on many false assumptions...

To see why let's take your point of,

Now the operational problem I am stating is crystal clear: Islamist terrorists getting into US by commercial flights with a visa in their pocket.

You are focussing on one type of terrorist entering the US by one method with one document.

There are many people that can enter the US without a visa at any time at any point of entry via any means of transportation from footfall upwards (though not yet by rocket from space but that almost certainly will happen at some point). Their religion is not questioned, nor for that matter their life ambitions etc, I'm guessing you have never seen or read the green entry card you used to fill in and it's questions.

Thus what you propose would not work, and in fact would be extremely harmful to the US economy, far more so than I suspect you could imagine.

The root of terrorism is as old as man himself, and it is to do with personal power and the control of resources. It is those weak of mind that get radicalised to become suicide activists, generally they are lifes failures and get recruited by having their ego stroked. When you follow it back you discover money power and psychopathic behavioir. Money is however an abstraction of labour/work/energy into a tokenized form that in turn can be used to buy resources and loyalty.

Religion is about mind control of the masses and was the earliest form of political control and it goes hand in hand with the king game which gives "divine right".

Some of the earliest forms of terrorism can be seen in history as "Water Rights Wars", the current form is "Energy Rights Wars", and if you look carefully you can see the next will be "Resourse Rights Wars" which it appears China is muscling up to start.

You realy need to get it into your head that the current crop of terrorism is realy just a diversionary tactic that the likes of the Western WASP nations keep falling for. In part because it suits the politicians and those involved with building the various weapons of death, destruction and oppression used for the "security" which covers political interest in resources.

At the end of the day terrorism was originaly the state opressing the citizens through fear. Over time this became democratized and anybody could oppress and scare citizens for political gain, all they needed were "force multipliers" and the mentality to use them.

Force multipliers are a fact of life, as are those with psychopathic behaviours, thus terrorism will be a feature of mankind for his entire future. Religion, race, ideology are just the political window dressing to appear to have legitimate authority, to which authoritarian followers gladly kowtow to for their piece of the action.

Not understanding this means that people make the mistake of focusing on the window dressing for solutions. It won't work, but whilst, people try there will be others more worldly wise capitalising on it at the expense of the ordinary citizen who just want's to get on with life in what most would consider a normal way of life, and who's only claim on immortality is through their children.

Matt PalmerApril 4, 2016 5:32 AM

@David

So how do you see your proposal working in practice?

Maybe you could ask everyone if they are a Muslim terrorist before they fly? Terrorists are renowned for their honesty after all. Ban all flights from predominantly Muslim countries? Shame about the non Muslims, but a small price to pay right? And there's no way a terrorist would ever travel to a non Muslim country before flying on to the US. Ban anyone who comes from a predominantly Muslim country? Of course, there are radical Muslims in countries which are not predominantly Muslim. I guess you'll have to ban everyone.

But let's say you succeed. There's absolutely no way that what you suggest would radicalise American Muslims. But I guess you could force them to wear some kind of star or something to mark them out. Maybe round them all up, and put them in special camps, for their own safety of course.

Speaking as someone who has actually been trapped in a building while a terrorist bomb was defused, it saddens me to see how quickly you give up on the values our parents and grandparents fought so hard for.

MarkApril 4, 2016 5:49 AM

"There is no ideology, no surveillance, no wall that will definitely stop some 24-year-old from becoming radicalized on the Web, gaining access to guns and shooting a soft target. When we don't admit this to ourselves, we often swing between the extremes of putting our heads in the sand or losing them entirely".

You won't hear many politicians say this, but there is little we can truly do to stop someone who wants to walk into an airport/station/port/whatever in order to blow up a target. In Brussels, we saw that because of security screening, they didn't even bother trying to get any further.

And to comment on the rest:

America needs to get its own house in order before it starts another unsuccessful war. Mass shootings, torture, 1/100 adults being incarcerated, massive inequality, racism, corruption, lack of healthcare, etc. etc. This is a country with some serious problems.

Where is all of this terrorism in America of which Americans should be scared? You'd be better off worrying about the price of cancer drugs and everything that Anselm wrote above.

Sancho_PApril 4, 2016 6:34 AM

@David

OK, point 1 is somewhat valid, albeit we’d have to discuss what terrorism means, the term may be broader as you’d think, religion, esp. Islam, isn’t part of it:
https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/terrorism/terrorism-definition

Your second point is absurd, as is @Jacob’s ”annihilate ISIL people on their land” idea to take them out because of their ISIS - club - card.
(To finish and get out would utterly destroy America within one year by interrupting the back-flow of petrodollars, but @Jacob might have a better idea what to sell to the ME instead of war?).

Want to ban / take out Muslims in the US? Reminds me to Pearl Harbor.

So no, we need war and terrorism to keep things “growing”.
To stop that circle we’d have to stop the ever-growing-business paradigm.

We don’t need a solution, we had to stop the problem.
Too late now.

GApril 4, 2016 6:45 AM

There IS some surveillance possible that will stop anyone from becoming radicalized on the Web.

Clive RobinsonApril 4, 2016 7:24 AM

@ G,

There IS some surveillance possible that will stop anyone from becoming radicalized on the Web.

Short of "pulling the plug" I don't think there is any way to stop people finding things on the Web if they want to look hard enough. And even if they don't have the skills the chances are they will find somebody sufficiently "radicalized" who does to give them help.

The myth of "Great Firewlls" has shown that there are always ways and means of getting around or through them. Try to stop cipher based encryption and people will move to codes in plaintext.

Whilst the Internet may not be immune to censorship, people are inventive and have the leading edge on surveillance technology currently.

Terrists!April 4, 2016 9:53 AM

Instead of encouraging people to refuse to be terrorized, the US Government is trying its hardest to KEEP EVERYONE TERRORIZED so that it can get more money! Effectively, the government itself is run by terrorists! Ain't life grand!

StatsApril 4, 2016 10:00 AM

@Jacob @David

Lets not statistics get in the way of a good story.......

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/25/us/tally-of-attacks-in-us-challenges-perceptions-of-top-terror-threat.html

WASHINGTON — In the 14 years since Al Qaeda carried out attacks on New York and the Pentagon, extremists have regularly executed smaller lethal assaults in the United States, explaining their motives in online manifestoes or social media rants.

But the breakdown of extremist ideologies behind those attacks may come as a surprise. Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, S.C., compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center.

And let us not forget the standout #1 Terrorist State - the US:

www.globalresearch.ca/us-has-killed-more-than-20-million-people-in-37-victim-nations-since-world-war-ii/5492051

This study reveals that U.S. military forces were directly responsible for about 10 to 15 million deaths during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the two Iraq Wars. The Korean War also includes Chinese deaths while the Vietnam War also includes fatalities in Cambodia and Laos.

The American public probably is not aware of these numbers and knows even less about the proxy wars for which the United States is also responsible. In the latter wars there were between nine and 14 million deaths in Afghanistan, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, East Timor, Guatemala, Indonesia, Pakistan and Sudan.

But the victims are not just from big nations or one part of the world. The remaining deaths were in smaller ones which constitute over half the total number of nations. Virtually all parts of the world have been the target of U.S. intervention.

The overall conclusion reached is that the United States most likely has been responsible since WWII for the deaths of between 20 and 30 million people in wars and conflicts scattered over the world.

...

And the pain and anger is spread even further. Some authorities estimate that there are as many as 10 wounded for each person who dies in wars. Their visible, continued suffering is a continuing reminder to their fellow countrymen.

...

The question posed above was “How many September 11ths has the United States caused in other nations since WWII?” The answer is: possibly 10,000.

Conclusion:

If anything, we shouldn't get too excited about those Moslems and focus on homegrown white trash instead. Also, we should look to a laundry list of war-crimes when analyzing the true root cause of insurgent anger towards this 'exceptional' country.

Read more Chomsky, less MSM, and broaden your horizons.

BooApril 4, 2016 10:46 AM

Close but no cigar. Kayyen is a professional bedwetter from DHS. The government-issue assumption underlying her article is that terrorism happens. Wrong. Shit happens. Terrorism is caused. Instead of yammering about "Should we have a cringing totalitarian state, or only a somewhat cringing, more-or-less totalitarian state?" maybe you should just stop being idiots.

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/35426-treat-isis-like-an-artichoke-a-non-military-way-to-get-to-the-heart-of-the-current-crisis

What's illegal is force in breach of humanitarian law. So punish or incapacitate civilians who blow themselves up in crowds. Punish or incapacitate shooters. Punish or incapacitate grunts who blow up little girls from cubicles at Creech AFB. Punish or incapacitate spooks who run guns to ISIL. Punish or incapacitate cops who kill motorists under color of law. Call it all terrorism. Or not. We're sick of hearing about terrorism, it doesn't scare us. Blow your terrorism out your ass.

GweihirApril 4, 2016 11:01 AM

Well, people are thoroughly terrorized without good reason. The amount of concentrated stupid that some people are puring all over the place even here is staggering. Unless and until we get that under control, nothing good can come of it and the police-state will be extended further.

AnselmApril 4, 2016 11:27 AM

The overall conclusion reached is that the United States most likely has been responsible since WWII for the deaths of between 20 and 30 million people in wars and conflicts scattered over the world.

If you're interested in why the USA does not subscribe to the International Criminal Court, whose job it is (among other things) to go after and punish people who start illegal wars and commit atrocities, look no further. In fact the President of the USA, by way of the “American Service-Members Protection Act” passed in 2002, is summarily pre-authorised to use military force to invade The Hague in the Netherlands (where the ICC is headquartered) in order to free any US citizens who might have been brought there to stand trial.

DavidApril 4, 2016 11:38 AM

@ Clive Robinson

Your long post says absolutely nothing relevant to the subject. "You are focussing on one type of terrorist entering the US". Grow up and wake up. Muslim terrorists are the ONLY kind terrorists entering US and committing acts of terror in it. The ONLY kind. So this is currently the ONLY plausible target of anti-terrorist. I never heard about Hispanic terrorists entering US with the intent of committing acts of terror on its soil. So why the heck should non-Muslims entering US be of any concern WRT this discussion which is, in case you forgot, is about terrorism and counter-terrorism and not about any kind of PC crap?


@Matt Palmer

"So how do you see your proposal working in practice?"

My proposal is drop the PC and do RIGOROUS PROFILING of people who enter US. People who statistically have a bigger chance of being terrorists, should be investigated much, much more rigorously than others and, IF IN DOUBT, DENIED ENTRY. FYI the SB murderer Pakistani female asshole posted Jihadist content on Facebook BEFORE she entered US.The idiotic PC-driven policy of US border control handling everybody the same way cost lives of 14 victims of this murderous Jihadist retard and her husband. Profiling her and (such as just having a look at her Facebook posts because of her background before giving her US visa) would have saved these 14 American lives. THIS is my proposal of working in practice.

@Sancho_P

see my answer to @Matt Palmer just above

@ Stats

Hackneyed, irrelevant, twisted logic of yours:

1. "There are other terrorists, like white supremacists, in US" - how TF is this relevant? They are home-grown, you cannot deny them visa and prevent their entry to US by profiling them at the border, as I suggest to do with prospective Muslim terrorists. Hence totally irrelevant to this discussion.

2. "US is a terrorist state" How TF is this relevant to this discussion even if this were true? What's you logic: "US is a terrorist state so let's open our borders and let the murderous Islamist retards flow in freely, just like we would do with the Tibetan Buddhists, because we need to have some Americans murdered by the Jihadist assholes to balance the US terrorism"?

SleevewatchApril 4, 2016 11:43 AM

David, stop being a pussy and sack up. Nobody here is scared of terror but you.

hermanApril 4, 2016 11:43 AM

Terrs like to attack mass gatherings. No amount of annoying police presence will guarantee to stop them.

Public spaces are presently designed to be wide open, which provides unlimited travel for bullets and shrapnel.

Look at the pictures of the Brussels airport: Acres of glass and wooden furniture - an absolutely useless design from a security point of view. There is no shelter at all for anybody.

If they made the counters from concrete or even just put sandbags behind the wooden counters and added some nice looking super sized pot plants in the open spaces, then the carnage would have been much less.

albertApril 4, 2016 11:49 AM

When it comes to military operations, the US is in a class by itself. Immune from international law, moral codes, and any semblance of logic, 'we' endeavor to change the world into league of vassal states. The same is true for covert operations (e.g the CIA setup of 'revolution' in Ukraine and elsewhere, along with hand-picked puppets).

Notwithstanding bombing the hell out of Middle Eastern countries, absolute and unconditional support for Israel ensures continuous conflict in the ME. As long as the US (backed by its EU lapdogs) continues its foreign policy, 'Islamic' terrorism is going to be around for a very long time. When irrational political/social/religious conditions prevail across generations, prejudice and hatred become cultural inheritances. Logic and reason disappear. That leaves a dangerous vacuum, to be filled by the next despot.

The EU cries crocodile tears when a few dozen people get killed by terrorists, and reacts predictably with their LE/MIL. Imagine their reaction if 3,000 folks died. The rightward swing by the masses (represented by some commenters here) will become faster and more extreme. Violence and anarchy (anonymous and state-sponsored) are sure to follow. Can genocide be far behind?

Bombs and bullets can't stop terrorism; indeed they make it worse. Violent reaction to terrorist acts is -exactly- the goal of organized terrorism.

Anger and retribution aren't rational reactions to any stimulus. Fighting fire with fire isn't working, now we need to find water.

What we need is a rational analysis of the situation.

And we're not getting it.
. .. . .. --- ....

Nick PApril 4, 2016 12:08 PM

@ David

" I never heard about Hispanic terrorists entering US with the intent of committing acts of terror on its soil. "

See, here's the problem and why I brought up the Christianity reference. People like you ignore every form of murder and harm in the U.S. except the kind that Muslims do. Even a special name, terrorism, for it despite that many others are similarly meant to terrorize people. You say anyone from a group or country that does this type of harm should just be (insert special, negative treatment). You don't say the same thing for white CEO's despite their damage, blacks, hispanics, Christians, etc. Your side still believes in the use of police, courts, and the Constitution if members of such groups commit crimes, even mass murder, for any reason. So, apply it to everyone or drop it.

"My proposal is drop the PC and do RIGOROUS PROFILING of people who enter US. People who statistically have a bigger chance of being terrorists, should be investigated much, much more rigorously than others and, IF IN DOUBT, DENIED ENTRY. "

Now THAT is reasonable. It's a totally different thing from treating all Muslims like crap or denying them rights because some are evil. This statement is pragmatic: we need to be careful about who we let in as some are on a mission. Doing some intelligence work with background checks and such would filter out the bad ones. Problem is there will still be terrorists. This just reduces the number that does damage or makes them start acting sneakier.

A reasonable idea, though.

Deny Catholics Entry to USAApril 4, 2016 12:57 PM

Has everyone forgotten that just a few hundred years ago, the Catholic Church murdered somewhere between 50 to 150 million people, because they believed differently about God? This is a slight bit more than the measly 5 million that Hitler did...

So if we're going to deny Muslims entry to the USA, shouldn't we be denying Catholics too? And don't forget Germans too... Oh, and Japanese. In fact, throw them in concentration camps. (wait, didn't we already do that once?) And if there's not enough space, break out the GAS CHAMBERS!!! This is the future for you idiots who want to treat everyone of one religion or race the same. The Holocaust is coming, and you're directly promoting it! Long Live King Trump! Kneel before your God!

Matt PalmerApril 4, 2016 1:06 PM

@Nick P

Rigorously profiling everyone who enters the U.S. is not reasonable, or practical. There are over 60,000,000 visitors every year.

Let's say you create an automated system to get that number down to 10,000,000 before a human has to be involved, and it takes an hour each to *rigorously* profile those. So, 10 million man hours. This is doable with a full time staff of about 5000 people, plus management and support staff - call it 6000.

Assume that there are 1000 Muslim terrorists in the world who actively visit the US each year, which seems on the high side, but let's go with it. The percentage of visitors who are terrorists is 0.000016%. The staff block 1 in ten visitors that they profile, sending 1,000,000 people back home. We send back 0.016% of all visitors.

We have a high false positive rate, which will lead to massively increased travel delays, loss of tourism, business and damaged international relations. We'll also need a small fleet of aircraft to send them all back home.

We will also have have a high false negative rate as well. All the terrorists have to do is to keep sending people over until they find a few people who aren't picked up by the profiling, for whatever reason.

Random profiling isn't done because it's politically correct, but because it is the only method which prevents the system being gamed in this way. It also happens to be a lot cheaper.

You can argue with the numbers - they were picked out of thin air. But I can't see how profiling on a mass scale could ever work.


SasparillaApril 4, 2016 1:16 PM

A good article and points Bruce. Nothing is totally safe and life is 100% fatal. The fact that the likelihood of being harmed by a ISIL / Al Queda wacko here in the U.S. is on the order of being hit by lightning, yet is able to swirled into a tool of fear in the general public is definitely a question that needs to be explored.

But there is another way to reduce this as well - an effective way. That is to take a step back and ask ourselves why is / are the U.S. (or Western European nations etc.) being targeted in the 1st place. There are plenty of other mostly christian (and general non muslim) nations that are not touched or even mentioned in all of this.

It comes down to this, we need to change our foreign policies (dictators we support, military invasions, exploitation of resources, support for Isreal etc.) in the middle east - as it is that public perception there (much of which is valid) which brings the consequences we are seeing. Fortunately Donald Rumsfeld commissioned a report on this (i.e. why wasn't the Bush admins policies working) which reached this type of conclusion as well:

http://www.salon.com/2009/10/20/terrorism_6/

As Noam Chomsky notes in this recent fantastic discussion with Edward Snowden on privacy, the Eisenhower administration commissioned a similar report in the 1950's that reached similar conclusions. We need to change our policy and actions in this area of the world...and that Administration (and it seems all others since) promptly ignored it because it was not politically expedient to do that.

https://theintercept.com/2016/03/30/edward-snowden-noam-chomsky-glenn-greenwald-a-conversation-on-privacy/

When you peel back the onion, the real cause of the "terrorist danger" is what our government chooses to do as a country in that area of the world - and one that could be easily changed.

Gerard van VoorenApril 4, 2016 1:33 PM

@ Deny Catholics Entry to USA,

"So if we're going to deny Muslims entry to the USA, shouldn't we be denying Catholics too? And don't forget Germans too... Oh, and Japanese."

The other way around is more recent and violent. Deny Americans in other countries.

AnuraApril 4, 2016 1:48 PM

Let's say someone was coming to your country, bombing your people, propping up the dictators that oppress your people for their own economic gain. If those same people who did all of that to you started framing their actions as a war against your religion/ideology, do you think you would be less likely to become a terrorist, or more likely?

What we need is not a war on terrorism, but we need to stop bombing people and supporting oppressors. If the US converted half its military budget to humanitarian aid spent in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, etc. and didn't try to control the political environment, we would be a lot safer. Nothing you can do will prevent terrorist 100%, but you can at least make it so that you aren't an obvious target.

WaelApril 4, 2016 1:49 PM

Don't expect to have an objective, rational discussion with anyone who has an ax to grind or PR campaign to drive.

@David,

Didn't we cover this topic here?. And did you not say:

I do not agree with most of your recent comments and and I accept some, but this discussion is taking to much of my time and, having made quite a few points, I am unsubscribing from it. See you in the next discussion.

Why are you continuing the same discussion and still using the "PC" argument? You got some more free time on your hands, so you are subscribing again?

By the way, you owe some people here an apology. And if you want to continue the discussion, then you'll need to answer the questions I listed -- you never even tried, do I need to repeat them for you?

ClaudeApril 4, 2016 2:02 PM

@ Nick P @ Matt Palmenr

You are obviously clueless. Israelis are doing profiling for decades now, and both their flights and certainly their airports are safe.

Relying on the example of Belgium, a notoriously mismanaged country that has grown an Muslim terror garden in its quarter of Molenbeek (where almost all the perpetrators of Paris and Brussels attacks came from), can only be done by people who are totally naive and clueless about Islamic terrorism.

In Brussels you can walk into the terminal with a bomb and walk straight to the checkin counter. That's because Belgians are STUPID. And politically correct to a fault. Do you want Americans to act STUPID, too?

In Tel Aviv you cannot even drive near the airport without being checked. The first layer of security is at the gate where the cars enter the driveway to the airport. Trained security people are PROFILING everybody in every car. They look you in the eye. They talk to you briefly and listen to your accent. And usually they just let you pass, but if anything is suspicious they stop the car and do FURTHER profiling.

Then when you get off the car and walk into the terminal there is a profiler at the terminal entrance. They eye you intensely. The usually do not even talk to you and let you pass. The when you enter the terminal you CAN'T walk straight to the checkin counters. You queue in line - a separate line to each group of checking counters. Security people walk through the line. The look at your passport, they LOOK YOU IN THE EYE and they TALK to you. If you are nervous, if you act suspiciously, if your story is incoherent, they catch you right there. If they deem you OK they wave you through to the checking counter. Needless to say, Israelis move much faster than tourists though this line. That's PROFILING. And the people are TRAINED to do it quickly and efficiently. And they are VERY polite, not like the jerks they employ at the border control in JFK. And this is just the profiling that is done OPENLY. There are undercover profilers and security guards in the crowd, trained to shoot precisely in the crowd while hurting only the target. And there are undercover air marshals on every flight that goes through Tel Aviv airport. Terrorists have no chance.

In 2013, the tiny (by American standards) Tel Aviv airport handled 14 million passengers. That's about 25% of the 60,000,000 US visitors that scare the pants off @Matt Palmer. There was not a terror act in an Israeli airport and and there was no Israeli plane hijacked since the '70s. America should learn from Israel instead of engaging in PC hysteria.

Matt PalmerApril 4, 2016 2:17 PM

@Claude

David mentioned checking Facebook profiles - and I assume many other sources of information - for each visitor. I can't see how that kind of profiling scales, or that it helps security at all.

Having border control personnel who look at your passport and look you in the eye sternly isn't the issue. Pretty much everyone does that, although I won't dispute that the Israelis are known for being pretty good at at it.


Clive RobinsonApril 4, 2016 2:29 PM

@ David,

Grow up and wake up.

I would suggest that you take your own advice,

Your argument such as it is, here and in the past, is at best childish. You are throwing your toys out of the pram because people are calling out your empty reasoning.

The last time you were called out and started looking rather worse than silly you gave the old "it's my bat and my ball and I'm going home" response and went of in a huff. What on earth makes you think that your same empty argument is going to be better received this time?

Could it be that you think Donald Trump and his clique are actually saying anything other than pathetic rabble rousing sound bytes for the uninformed authoritarian followers?

If so you realy need to get yourself an education especially in history. As has once been noted "Those who do not learn from history are condemned to relive it"...

ClaudeApril 4, 2016 2:41 PM

@ Matt Palmer

I think you are wrong on both counts.

Firstly, @ David was correct in pointing out that the murder wife in San Bernardino was openly radicalized and her Jihadist posts could be read right off her Facebook account, in her own name. Do you think US would grant her entry visa if its security services bothered to do a little profiling like look up the facebook account of each visa applicant and run an automatic word recognition through it, detecting radical Jihadist content? Now we are being told that NSA have a underground city full of supercomputers collecting every bit that traverses the Internet. Would it be such a big problem for them to run a facebook check on every US visa applicant? You know the answer. But US acts STUPID. US acts PC. And people die. And I never heard that anybody got fired for letting the Islamist murder wife through the US border, after all her Facebook posts; not to mention HUMINT they should have performed on Muslims entering from Pakistan of all places!

Secondly, you are totally wrong about security people looking you in the eye in US airports. There is ZERO profiling int he US airports. I wonder if you use this more of travel at all in the US if you say so. In the US, just like in Brussels, you enter the terminals and walk right to the checkin counters. Like in Brussels. EXACTLY like in Brussels.

Nick PApril 4, 2016 2:51 PM

@ Matt Palmer

You're forgetting that the murderers David and I are talking about are a tiny subset of the people and countries involved in immigration. Also, many that are actually willing to kill us are either stupid or have bad OPSEC. So, the most basic checks, even automated ones, might catch some of them. You won't see me opposing them trying something like that instead of fondling kids at airports. It would be an improvement.

I'm not saying I think it's practical. Just that it's a better idea than "treat all Muslims like terrorists because a few were" while simultaneously "continue to give all non-Muslim groups rights and default decency despite a few being killers."

"Random profiling isn't done because it's politically correct, but because it is the only method which prevents the system being gamed in this way. It also happens to be a lot cheaper."

That assumes a random distribution in the data. There's isn't: it's mostly specific types of people with similar religious views, gripes about U.S., statements online, and so on. Stuff that doesn't happen outside of those groups in that way. Random profiling is weaker than focusing where the signal is the strongest. I say we can do both given resources being put into it.

@ Claude

"You are obviously clueless. Israelis are doing profiling for decades now, and both their flights and certainly their airports are safe."

Terrorists target more than our flights and airports. The subject is how to spot likely terrorists on entry or as they develop to prevent a hit on anything. I'm not convinced that's achievable but focusing on recurring patterns at least makes sense.

Far as Israel, people get killed by terrorists there more often in Israel than the U.S. on most years. Saying it's safer is pretty clueless. Given foreign interference causes terrorism, I'd say U.S. and Israel are in same boat in terms of unusually, high risk given they're the countries terrorists hate the most.

Nick PApril 4, 2016 2:54 PM

@ Claude

"Secondly, you are totally wrong about security people looking you in the eye in US airports. There is ZERO profiling int he US airports."

There's zero profiling unless you're Arab-looking or Muslim. From there, it's untrained or barely-trained profiling based on what's in front of them in a single moment of time. Retarded profiling that doesn't even work unless the goal is pissing off Muslims for personal ego or to encourage them to do something for real. Certainly profiling, though.

Deny Catholics Entry to USAApril 4, 2016 2:55 PM

@Gerard van Vooren

"Deny Americans in other countries."

That is certainly another way to do it... it might keep those other countries "safe" from all the white supremacists America keeps generating! Either way it illustrates my point of how ridiculous people are for promoting blanket denials based solely on nationality, religion, or race ;)

Dirk PraetApril 4, 2016 3:04 PM

@ David, @ Jacob

Ever heard of a Buddhist 24 years old getting radicalized on the Web and go blowing people up in the street?

Every once and a while, we have people positing that radicalised muslims are the prime source of terrorism and violent deaths in the West. It's simply not true, and you've got all statistics against you. Please consider this here Huffington Post article. There's plenty more if you Google "muslim terrorism statistics".

This was true both in Boston and SB, this was true in 9/11, this will be true in all the future terrorist acts.

With the exception of 9/11, most acts of terrorism in the US are committed by white folk. It's just not called terrorism for reasons of political correctness. Neither are gang related killings or cop shootings, which would tilt the balance even further.

I posit that if the US will declare war on ISIL - and I mean a full-fledged war, with tank divisions and 50,000 infantry, and bombing runs a la Putin - for a limited time frame e.g. 3 months, wherby any ISIL guy caught will be executed on the spot, this will reduce the terror menace quite a bit.

This approach has been tried over and over again, and every time - countless billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of casualties later - has only made the situation worse, in fact leading up to the current state of affairs. I refer to Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

While I agree that strategic special forces operations on the ground are necessary too to defeat a group like Da'esh on its home turf, executing enemy combatants is not something we do. Under the rules of war, anyone accused of war crimes gets a fair trial and is punished accordingly if found guilty. There is no reason to resort to the same Neanderthal philosophies and practices we despise them for in the first place.

@ Nick P

Most people in prison for rape and murder in U.S. are Christians.

It's a bit of a different picture in several Western European countries. In Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden, between 50 and 75% of rapes are actually perpetrated by Muslim immigrants. In the UK, there was the infamous Rotherham sexual exploitation scandal in 2012 and that was covered up by police and local authorities for reasons of political correctness. In many other Western European countries, young Muslim men, especially from North African descent, are vastly over-represented in petty crime statistics like drug related offenses, theft, robbery, battery, burglary etc. In my home town, more than 50% of all inmates are illegal aliens, many of whom Muslims.

Although none of those figures are directly related to their religion but rather to cultural and economic backgrounds, I understand why many people, and especially fear-mongering politicians on a mission, incorrectly associate them with Islam.

Nick PApril 4, 2016 3:13 PM

@ Dirk Praet

"With the exception of 9/11, most acts of terrorism in the US are committed by white folk. It's just not called terrorism for reasons of political correctness. Neither are gang related killings or cop shootings, which would tilt the balance even further."

That's exactly the kind of thing I was getting at with my comments on groups like Christians. There's all kinds of white and black murder for reasons of religion, terror, politics, group domination... you name it. If it's brown and Islam, it gets a special label that justifies special, terrible treatment others don't get. Hypocrisy.

"It's a bit of a different picture in several Western European countries. "

Wow. I didn't expect all that. Interesting stuff.

"lthough none of those figures are directly related to their religion but rather to cultural and economic backgrounds, I understand why many people, and especially fear-mongering politicians on a mission, incorrectly associate them with Islam. "

That makes sense.

Nick PApril 4, 2016 3:14 PM

@ Dirk

Btw, you need to repost the link as you accidentally put this page in it instead of the Huffington Post article.

Marcos El MaloApril 4, 2016 3:15 PM

@Nick P @Anura @Clive

This trolling by David and Jacob reminds me of some particularly deranged proposals I've recently seen to solve with America's drug problem, namely to annex Mexico. As Clive is saying or suggesting: there seems to be this mentality to EXTERNALIZE problems. Ironically, such a solution would internalize that part of the problem that is external.

Meanwhile, the policy of the U.S. (judging by what is actually occurring) is to fund and arm the Mexican narcotrafficantes. The reasons for this policy follow the same ones Clive outlines for the War on Terror, namely that such policies support business interests.

(And Clive, I do think we are starting to see a return (or reboot, as they currently say) of the Water Wars.)

--------------
One thing not often mentioned when we discuss the race to a "secure" totalitarian state is that it may well bankrupt us before we get there. The sort of security advocated by David (which overlaps with that which is advocated by the anti-immigrationists) would cost us dearly, both in terms of pure $/£/€, but also in efficiencies and innovation. The Soviets weren't only bankrupted by the arms race. Their internal security organs also played their larcenous and stifling part.

Which might actually solve our terrorist problems long term. If the U.S. and its allies become economically stagnant or worse, we won't have the means to interfere/intervene, and will no longer be a retaliatory target. Let China or some other nation take on the role of superpower hegemonist.

Adam ShannonApril 4, 2016 3:18 PM

re: profiling

Why, there is that fancy data centre in Utah. Surely it could be utilised for profiling everybody going into the States. As well as everyone who's already in the States. And those who aren't, but not now.

ClaudeApril 4, 2016 3:22 PM

@ Nick P

"Far as Israel, people get killed by terrorists there more often in Israel than the U.S. on most years. Saying it's safer is pretty clueless"

You are twisting my words. I never said Israel is safer than US (yet). I said Israeli flights and airports are safe, while the US ones are not. This is indisputably true.

As to Israel being less safe than US, consider that (a) Israel has 20% Arab Muslim population (b) Israel is surrounded by 150 million Muslims, many of whom are Jihadists trying to push through Israel's borders. If the US would have 20% (proportionally) of this kind of terrorist potential at its borders and inside the country, you would not only be unsafe, most of you would be dead by now (if US would carry on like it currently does on security and PC).

And so you are wrong again: US and Israel are NOT (yet) in the same boat concerning terrorism and, considering all this, Israel is doing an absolutely brilliant counter-terrorism job while US is inanely rolling down a steep bank.

Why just last week Obama censored President Hollande's speech in the White House, wiping out the word "Islamic" before the word 'terror". In all matters terrorist, not calling a spade a spade can only mean one thing: people will die. Pray to the almighty Sun that Americans will drop the stupid PC and get their act together.

DoieeApril 4, 2016 3:57 PM

@claude, "absolutely brilliant counter-terrorism job"! Hey, maybe you wouldn't have to think so hard about so-called terrorism if you didn't run whacking every hornet's nest with a stick.

http://ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/boyle.html
http://ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/daily_life.html

The Zionazis' most hilarious counter-terror brainstorm was pounding your macro-scale concentration camp with DU that immediately blew back home on the prevailing winds. You morons sterilized yourselves. Can a whole Apartheid regime win the Darwin Awards?

Matt PalmerApril 4, 2016 5:06 PM

@Nick P

"You're forgetting that the murderers David and I are talking about are a tiny subset of the people and countries involved in immigration. Also, many that are actually willing to kill us are either stupid or have bad OPSEC."

No - that's the whole point. They are a tiny, tiny subset. Why spend so much resource and goodwill to try to block a tiny number of stupid criminals? If you can even identify that subset in the first place.

This would only divert resource from serious threats, and open the door for clever terrorists to game your system.

Anon10April 4, 2016 5:25 PM

@dirk, stats

You have at least four errors in your comments.

1. Excluding 9/11 is cherry picking the data in the extreme. It's like saying Europe was a peaceful place in the 20th century, if you exclude WWI and WWII.
2. The number of deaths is a much more useful metric than the number of attacks.
3. This, "Every once and a while, we have people positing that radicalised muslims are the prime source of terrorism and violent deaths in the West." is a straw man. No one, not even Fox News, claims that most violent deaths in the US are the result of terrorism, Islamic or otherwise.
4. I'm not sure why you're bringing up gang violence, but you're wrong on the racial stats there too. Gangs in the US are overwhelmingly African American or Hispanic. It's been at least 30 years since the Italian and Irish mobs were the dominant players in US organized crime.

Slime Mold with MustardApril 4, 2016 5:35 PM

@Nick P

I am startled and disappointed that you wrote
4. Those and many other Christians also killed between 200,000 and a million innocent people in same country depending on which estimates you go with. This is the impression the propagandists intended, and since you have always left such thoughtful comments, I thought you immune to such crap. The Americans, Brits, Danes and Poles committed no such slaughter. That was Sunni slaying Shia and vice versa. The people putting forth those numbers always make it context free, leaving the impression that the US dropped a few five megaton weapons on helpless humans. Most infamous - Oxfam - they need you to forget about their oil vouchers.

GGApril 4, 2016 6:52 PM

If we go to war, we better have a damn good reason.

If we go to war, we better go in to win. Not go in to win friends.

A couple of terrorists is not grounds to go in. A military attack is grounds to go in. 9/11 was essentially a military attack by barbarians (debatably a barbarian nation) and is a tough call.

If they use barbarian tactics, quit honoring them with the term terrorist and therefore recognizing they have a cause. They are barbarians.

Anon10April 4, 2016 6:53 PM

The root cause of Sunni terrorism against the West is not the actions of Western countries and certainly not their recent actions, but Salafism. Most Salafists are not likely to commit personally acts of terrorism any more than most racists are likely to go on a shooting spree in a black church. However, most Salafists, like racists, have a radical set of beliefs that condone, excuse, and rationalize acts of terrorism.

Neanderthal PhilosophiesApril 4, 2016 8:26 PM

@Dirk Praet

"...not something we do. Under the rules of war, anyone accused of war crimes gets a fair trial and is punished accordingly if found guilty. There is no reason to resort to the same Neanderthal philosophies and practices we despise them for in the first place."

Anyone heard of Guantanamo Bay? Who are the ones that resort to Neanderthal Philosophies when push comes to shove? Fair trial indeed, only if you use NSA wordsmithing on those words.

Dirk PraetApril 4, 2016 8:35 PM

@ Claude

I said Israeli flights and airports are safe, while the US ones are not. This is indisputably true.

That's basically because the Israelis are doing security right, whereas most of what the TSA is doing in the US is security theater at best. Nobody needs to take his shoes off at Ben Gurion. No expensive body scanners either. What passes for security at US airports is made up by business men and lobbyists only in it for the money. And which has been discussed about a gazillion times on this blog. PC is not the problem here. Lack of common sense and the almighty dollar are.

Would it be such a big problem for them to run a facebook check on every US visa applicant? You know the answer. But US acts STUPID. US acts PC.

Everybody can predict yesterday's attacks. Then again, I don't think such failures have a lot to do with PC, but everything with people not doing their jobs or lacking the proper algorithms, tools or access required to do so. As someone else already said too: why the hell does the NSA have their Bluffdale facilities for?

Relying on the example of Belgium, a notoriously mismanaged country that has grown an Muslim terror garden in its quarter of Molenbeek, can only be done by people who are totally naive and clueless about Islamic terrorism.

The situation in Molenbeek and several other Brussels suburbs can indeed at least partially be attributed to the ostrich politics of estranged socialist mayors and town councils that for decades cried "racism" if anyone even dared to point out the very real problems in their communities. Last week, the fully retarded mayor of Brussels, also of socialist signature, saw fit to start a new riot along the national linguistic divide over the airport and subway bombings. Even his own colleagues and police force called him insane.

That's because Belgians are STUPID

I resent that. No idea where you are from, but I can probably find at least ten reasons off the top of my head to make a similar and equally unjust remark about your fellow countrymen.

@ Nick P

Btw, you need to repost the link

Aaaargh. Not again. Here goes.

Far as Israel, people get killed by terrorists there more often in Israel than the U.S. on most years.

According to Robert Johnston's archive, there have been a grand total of 2,558 terrorist fatalities in Israel since 1948. (last updated January 2016). With the exception of 2001, figures on an average year in Israel are indeed higher than in the US.

@ Anon10

Excluding 9/11 is cherry picking the data in the extreme.

No it isn't. 9/11 statistically was a complete outlier.

No one, not even Fox News, claims that most violent deaths in the US are the result of terrorism, Islamic or otherwise.

Unless I misinterpreted the comments of the people I was replying to, it would seem that this was exactly what they claimed, either directly or indirectly. Hence also my inclusion of gang related killings that terrorize entire neighbourhoods and which indeed have nothing to do with Muslims.

The number of deaths is a much more useful metric than the number of attacks.

Fair enough. You'll find that since 9/11 in the US terrorist attacks by anti-government, racist and other non-jihadi extremists have killed nearly twice as many people as those by Islamists.

The root cause of Sunni terrorism against the West is not the actions of Western countries and certainly not their recent actions, but Salafism.

The root cause of jihadi terrorism is both the Western invasion of Iraq and the continued global propagation of wahabism and salafism by Saudi Arabia, our faithful Western ally in the Middle East.

@ David

Muslim terrorists are the ONLY kind terrorists entering US and committing acts of terror in it.

Sigh. The Westboro Baptist Church are lunatics. They are also Christians. Therefor all Christians are lunatics.

@ Neanderthal Philosophies

Anyone heard of Guantanamo Bay?

Yes, I have. Did I somehow imply either myself or the international community at large condone what's been going on there?

Anon10April 4, 2016 8:57 PM

@dirk

You're right that 9/11 was a statistical outlier, at least in the sense that it should never have happened if terrorism deaths followed a normal distribution. The error a lot of people make with just enough statistics to be dangerous is to assume everything follows a Gaussian distribution, and that the data is wrong if any data point is too extreme. The correct approach is to accept that a Gaussian distribution might be the wrong model.

Anon10April 4, 2016 9:14 PM

@dirk

Saudi Wahhabism is a problem, but it doesn't follow that the US has any great policy options or that the Middle East will heal itself if the West just leaves it alone. If the Saudi government collapsed you might get a more moderate government, but it seems just as likely you would get a more extreme form of Wahhabism or a civil war(Yemen, Iraq, Syria) or anarchy(Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan).

Neanderthal PhilosophiesApril 4, 2016 9:26 PM

@Dirk Praet

"Did I somehow imply either myself or the international community at large condone what's been going on there? "

You implied "we're the good guys, we only follow the law and give everyone a fair trial" (to be clear: you didn't say that specifically, you strongly implied it) I therefore sought to set the record straight, that we don't do that either, whenever we simply don't feel like doing it. We pious westerners are no better. Worse maybe, because we're completely hypocritical.

Nick PApril 4, 2016 11:28 PM

@ Claude

No, what you're saying is terrorism rarely happens in Israel despite all kinds of people that hate it being present there. In the U.S., terrorism also rarely happened. Like in U.S., with TSA and such, you're attributing that to Israel's security measures. Some evidence backs that up at places like airports but harder to say in other aspects.

Far as U.S., they fail to act on leads that would prevent major attacks (including 9/11) so often that a portion of Americans believe they're encouraging terrorism on purpose. Even with such incompetence or malice, we still barely get hit. That's because the amount of people that will actually try to kill us is *way* overstated. The amount that will succeed even more so. Probably the same with Israel until I see evidence otherwise.

@ Matt Palmer

"No - that's the whole point. They are a tiny, tiny subset. Why spend so much resource and goodwill to try to block a tiny number of stupid criminals? If you can even identify that subset in the first place."

The point is that my country, the U.S., is mainly divided between two parties that are full of shit with some moderates who carefully consider issues like myself. The two parties have most of the power. Plenty of rational stuff has been written for moderates whose opinions are likely to change with evidence. The others are rooted deep into whatever they believe. They both seem to believe action needs to be taken on the terrorism threat and reward that with their votes.

So, what to do? I think compromises sending them in directions that are wasteful, but harmless, is a decent idea. That this direction might actually catch a terrorist or two will make them feel better. I also encourage good record-keeping of amount spent, stuff investigated, false alarms, number of terrorists caught, and number missed. This provides data for use to swing moderates in rational directions.

The political extremists here are going to do *something*. Best to have them do mostly harmless things that are occasionally helpful. Better than wasting money and harming people.

@ Slime Mold with Mustard

Both Bush/Cheney Administration and their opponents agreed on hundreds of thousands of deaths being collateral damage in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They disagreed on the number with Bush/Cheney fans saying barely above 100,000 with those on other extreme talking a million or more. Had they not done what they did, those people would mostly still be alive. This isn't propaganda. The propaganda occurred when their think tanks did things like cut and pasting shit from old reports on Iraq grabbing WMD's into presentations with a later date. And quite a bit of Photoshop we caught them doing.

Or are you saying several hundred thousand to a million people would've died during those years without an invasion?

@ Dirk Praet

Yes, 9/11 is a statistical outlier. It's why I leave it off of averages. I'd do the same in a high-terrorism area that just had almost nothing happen one year for unknown reasons. Additionally, if we look at it from number of attacks, it follows the usual pattern of basically nothing happening with one event that year. It just did more damage than usual thanks to the simultaneous failure of all sorts of U.S. government protections and agencies. That people are using that to push for more U.S. government protections and agencies is another problem entirely. ;)

Anon10April 5, 2016 12:09 AM

@Nick P

There's a difference between collateral damage and civilian deaths. The number of civilian deaths is widely agreed to be 100k+. Collateral damage, usually implies they were killed by coalition forces. Coalition forces didn't kill anywhere near 100k civilians. Dictatorships tend to be unstable, as the Arab Spring demonstrated. Those people probably wouldn't have died when they did, but it's entirely believable that Iraq would have had a civil war eventually even without US intervention. Maybe, the US just accelerated the time table by a decade or so.

Green SquirrelApril 5, 2016 3:06 AM

@Dirk Praet

In the UK, there was the infamous Rotherham sexual exploitation scandal in 2012 and that was covered up by police and local authorities for reasons of political correctness.

I am not convinced that the cover up was down to political correctness and while some of the media reporting suggests this, it isnt consistent. I suspect there is an element of the Home Secretary using "PC" as an excuse to avoid claims of incompetence, apathy and criminality.

However, while this is a horrific event and the five people at the centre of it caused unimaginable harm to around 1500 victims over 16 years, in the broader context of sexual crimes it is not a high percentage. In fact, crimes by muslim "sex gangs" are still rare enough to be headline news for several months.

I really dont want to turn horrific sex crimes into a simple set of statistics but the reality is that organised sex gangs (be them Eastern European or Muslim) arent a significant source of sexual assaults.

As an example, in 2013-14, there were several "Islamic Sex Gangs" identified in the UK which accounted for around 500 offences in that year. Against that, the police recorded 64,200 sexual offences over the same period. Sexual offences are sadly prevalent across every demographic and, in the UK at least, are reasonably consistent across each region - including ones with larger or smaller presences of minority groups.

One other thing to bear in mind is that the over-representation of a specific group in prisons does not directly correlate with the criminality prevalent in that group.

Slime Mold with MustardApril 5, 2016 9:51 AM

@Anon10
@Nick P

I have been reading Stanley McChrystal's memoir, he asserts that the Iraqi "civil war" was not inevitable. It was engineered exclusively by Zarqawi (AQI), who quite cleverly exploited the regional history to bring sectarian divisions from merely warm to boiling over. He repeatedly bombed Shia sacred festivals and shrines. The Shia would, at first, not rise to the bait. But by mid 2005 they had had enough of that and the impotent Americans. There were nationalist types attacking Coalition troops, but Zarqawi hardly ever did. Bin Laden was never comfortable with his strategy, but could not completely disown the guy with all the headlines.

I cannot understand the second huge mistake the US made in Iraq. When Patton landed in French Morocco in September of 1943, he accepted the surrender of the Vichy French troops, took only their artillery, and sent the soldiers right back out on patrol to keep order. He knew that tribal warfare was a thrown rock or stolen goat away. When he captured Mainz, he had the police rip the swastikas off their uniforms and go right back to work. When Mao Tse Tung seized power, every nationalist soldier was welcomed into People's Liberation Army. Mao thought it poor practice to have a few million people with military training wandering around unemployed. By contrast, upon entering Baghdad, the Coalition immediately dissolved both the Iraqi army and the police. As the first justification of government is protection of the populace, I consider this decision a crime against humanity. You may recall the spasm of violence that presaged the sectarian bloodshed.

So, to address Nick P's point of responsibility: Ultimately, I will say the US is responsible. Please just stop talking about it like we dropped a couple of nukes on Karbala and Samarra.

Dirk PraetApril 5, 2016 11:27 AM

@ Anon10

The correct approach is to accept that a Gaussian distribution might be the wrong model.

I know of no non-normal distributions either in which one (1) extreme outlier in all available data of the same family and since the beginning of recording is statistically relevant.

Saudi Wahhabism is a problem, but it doesn't follow that the US has any great policy options or that the Middle East will heal itself if the West just leaves it alone

Isn't it about time that you come to terms with the fact that a completely misguided foreign policy of regime change and an even poorer execution thereof in Iraq has hugely contributed to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East? It's not like the US and its coalition of the willing just happened to be there as observers when everything all of a sudden started turning to sh*t by itself, later on further spreading to Syria. Same for Libya.

Those people probably wouldn't have died when they did, but it's entirely believable that Iraq would have had a civil war eventually even without US intervention.

It is also entirely believable that dinosaurs wouldn't have gone extinct without that meteor, or that Hitler would have won WWII had he first had the A-bomb. But that's not what happened and thus is nothing but speculation.

When taking a closer look, it would seem that most authoritarian regimes in North Africa and the Middle East are quite stable. The Arab Spring only drove the rulers of Tunesia and Egypt out of power. Libya and Yemen collapsed because of foreign intervention, which all things considered generally still seems to be the decisive factor whether or not regimes in these regions survive.

@ Neanderthal Philosophies

We pious westerners are no better. Worse maybe, because we're completely hypocritical.

At least some of us actually do believe in human rights and international law. While many of our governments may only do so when it suits them, it still is no justification for the medieval barbarism of Daesh or the opinion of others that Daesh militants should all be executed on the spot.

@ Green Squirrel

Sexual offences are sadly prevalent across every demographic and, in the UK at least, are reasonably consistent across each region - including ones with larger or smaller presences of minority groups.

Glad to here it. Rotherham was probably not the best example I could give. This here 2014 document obtained from the MoJ onder FOIA seems to confirm your claim: "As at 31 March 2014, the latest point in time for which data is available for public use, the male prison population in England and Wales for all offenders serving immediate custodial sentence for rape was 5,682. Of this, there were 676 offenders who self-declared their religion as Muslim (12% of the total out of 4.8% of the population)." The situation in Scandinavia however is different.

Nick PApril 5, 2016 11:45 AM

@ Slime Mold

Very interesting about how the prior commanders handled the situation with police and military. Very wise of them. The U.S. approach in Iraq was like burning it down more by handing it a bunch of gasoline and matches rather than doing it ourselves. So, your comment is more evidence of my claim that the U.S. is responsible for most of those deaths. They also undoubtedly knew it was coming but didn't give a shit.

Far as how we phrase it, my point is that the U.S. war is why they died. What's a simple way to phrase that which doesn't have the problem that bothers you?

albertApril 5, 2016 12:35 PM

Looks like the floodgates are open, and we're seeing a black rainbow of responses, from outright murder to total obliviousness.

Obviously, we need an objective and dispassionate review of terrorism* and anti-terrorism policies.

At this point in time, we live in an increasingly dangerous and violent world, a world where the poor and indigent suffer the brunt of it. It's only when the privileged are affected do the ruling classes appear to be motivated to 'do something', and call upon the playwrights of Political Theatre to take pens in hand.

I'm a 'root causes' kinda guy, so that's where I tend to focus. Systemic changes are difficult to effect, yet are necessary to create and sustain civil societies. These can be done incrementally. You'd think that, given the number of intelligent people in positions of power, there would be more progress in this area. That's what's so interesting, there isn't. If anything, regression is occurring.

Isn't it ironic,
ISIS wants to start a worldwide Caliphate,
Locking all the people,
Straight into a world that all of us will hate..
**

Indeed, Islamic terrorists would have us return to the Middle Ages, but we're already heading that way.

I guess they're impatient. Guys, read about neo-totalitarianism. It has everything you want, but it's easier to implement, socially acceptable, and 'less killing, more fun!'.

-----------
* Definitions are a good place to start (!wiki terrorism).
** Apologies to Rogers & Hart
. .. . .. --- ....

albertApril 5, 2016 12:40 PM

Drat!
That lastline should be :"Straight into a world that we'll all hate." Larry would never make that mistake:)
Preview is my friend
Preview is my friend
Preview is my friend
....

Anon10April 5, 2016 6:34 PM

@ dirk

I know of no non-normal distributions either in which one (1) extreme outlier in all available data of the same family and since the beginning of recording is statistically relevant.

If 1 data point completely changes the average, your sample size is too small to be statistically significant. If your sample size is too small, the solution is definitely not to make your sample size even smaller by throwing out data.

It is also entirely believable that dinosaurs wouldn't have gone extinct without that meteor, or that Hitler would have won WWII had he first had the A-bomb. But that's not what happened and thus is nothing but speculation.

All counterfactual history is speculative. The scenario where the US didn't invade Iraq is a hypothetical scenario and any assumption that the status quo would have continued indefinitely in it is obviously speculative.

Dirk PraetApril 5, 2016 7:14 PM

@ Anon10

If 1 data point completely changes the average, your sample size is too small to be statistically significant.

By which you are actually saying that no meaningful statistical analysis whatsoever can be made of terror attacks on US soil until one or more new 9/11's or similar events happen. I'm afraid very few experts on statistics are going to agree with you.

Anon10April 5, 2016 8:05 PM

@dirk

I didn't quite say you needed more 9/11s. If enough small scale terrorist events happen before another 9/11 scale attack, then eventually the averages calculated, including and excluding 9/11, will both converge. I'm certain that zero statistics experts believe the solution to an insufficient sample size is to reduce your sample size even further.

anon12April 5, 2016 8:32 PM

Disclaimer: I do not actually advocate the ideas I am presenting in this comment. Although some of these ideas might actually be good(not likely), this is mainly a joke and is not to be taken seriously.

There are many methods to prevent terrorist attacks on airports:

•Ground all planes. Bruce Schneier mentioned this in some of his essays. Planes cannot be bombed if there are no planes.

•Forbid all Luggage. If there are no bags, there cannot be a bomb in them.

•Carry bags and people in separate planes. Bombs would only hurt the crew on the baggage plane.

•Sedate all passengers and inspect all bags before takeoff. There would be no timed bombs, and the passengers would be unconscious until landing.

•Allow safe liquids, but use a chemical tester to verify that the liquid is what the passenger claims it is. (This might actually be a reasonable idea, but it might be totally impractical

•Design aircraft to be less damageable by bombs.(shock-absorbent material?)

Ich liebe doch alle, alle, MenschenApril 5, 2016 8:35 PM

What a heartwarming thread. The statist apparatchiks failed to keep the blinkers on their audience. The propaganda did not take. People refused to settle for a forced choice of pre-chewed policies. When the state loses its научно-техническая интеллигенция, it's in trouble. It wasn't mass revolt that killed the Soviet Union, it was elite derision. Refuseniks to come are going to make Snowden and Manning look like Boy Scouts.

Clive RobinsonApril 5, 2016 8:48 PM

@ Anon10, Dirk,

I'm certain that zero statistics experts believe the solution to an insufficient sample size is to reduce your sample size even further.

The thing is statistics is a tool, it will tell you pretty much what you want it to do depending on how you use it.

Take something as mundane as lifting a signal out of noise, it's been done automaticaly in various ways for nearly one hundred ways.

One way is to generate a known or synthetic signal and use a distance vector to either remove or reduce noise.

If you use that technique then 9/11 was just a noise spike on an underlying signal that can be removed.

Importantly you can also do the opposite which is remove the expected signal and then analyse the result to look for new trends that might be other signals. However untill the spike repeates in some way it's a marker or potential epoch not a signal or trend.

Thus it is actually quite reasonable to remove it from the other events that form part of a signal or trend, as long as it fits in with what you are trying to use the analysis tools for.

Clive RobinsonApril 5, 2016 8:58 PM

@ anon12,

Carry bags and people in separate planes. Bombs would only hurt the crew on the baggage plane.

You forgot to add after crew "and anybody the wreckage lands on or near at the time or in the future".

The number of people killed, injured or hurt by 9/11 is growing and is clearly a lot larger than the number of passengers on the planes.

WaelApril 5, 2016 9:17 PM

@Anon12,

Although some of these ideas might actually be good(not likely), this is mainly a joke and is not to be taken seriously.

Au contraire, mon fraire! They should be taken seriously!

Ground all planes. Bruce Schneier mentioned this in some of his essays. Planes cannot be bombed if there are no planes.

In this case, you should recommend to dismantle planes rather than "ground" them!

Forbid all Luggage. If there are no bags, there cannot be a bomb in them

That will reduce the surface of attack, but not eliminate it. You'd be amazed what kinds of things people can swallow or implant within their body cavities.

Carry bags and people in separate planes. Bombs would only hurt the crew on the baggage plane

Great idea! An application of the separation of duties, segregation of roles, and compartmentalization. I'll add that bags should be transported by drones. Pilots are humans too, see!

Sedate all passengers and inspect all bags before takeoff. There would be no timed bombs, and the passengers would be unconscious until landing

Nice! Instead of stewardesses giving out peanuts and pretzels, they'll handout LSD, Morphine and Valium.

Allow safe liquids, but use a chemical tester to verify that the liquid is what the passenger claims it is. (This might actually be a reasonable idea, but it might be totally impractical

Fascinating concept! Liquid federated authentication! Has some problems, though:
- What's in this thermos?
- Green tea
- Hmm! My tester says it's Orange Pekoe tea. You're dead meat, pal! You're looking at 10 - 15 in prison.

Design aircraft to be less damageable by bombs.(shock-absorbent material?)

Research in the Hardened containers cargo has been ongoing for a "short term" solution, as hardening the airplane structure is technically possible, but economically prohibitive.

Anon10April 5, 2016 9:18 PM

@clive

I think you got it close with this sentence, at least as applied to the social sciences,: The thing is statistics is a tool, it will tell you pretty much what you want it to do depending on how you use it.

The problem with lifting a known signal out of the noise it that assumes there is some known signal. That's often true in physics and engineering, but in the "social sciences", it usually turns out to be an example of assuming what you're trying to prove. To find an unknown signal in the noise, usually involves some variant on averaging away the noise over a large enough data set, which brings us back to the sample size problem.

Dirk PraetApril 6, 2016 5:31 AM

@ Wael

Nice! Instead of stewardesses giving out peanuts and pretzels, they'll handout LSD, Morphine and Valium.

Sedation Airways! Sounds like an interesting business model to me. I used to pillage my mom's medication before going on long distance flights. Benzodiazepines like Lorazepam and a glass of wine would pretty much knock me out for about 8 hours straight, with a friendly stewardess waking me on arrival.

Forbid all Luggage. If there are no bags, there cannot be a bomb in them

I think at Ben Gurion all luggage goes through some kind of pressure chamber which would detonate certain types of bombs. @Clive can probably shed some light on how this would work in practice.

@ Anon10, @ Clive

To find an unknown signal in the noise, usually involves some variant on averaging away the noise over a large enough data set, which brings us back to the sample size problem.

I get what you're saying about the sample size problem, but how does this apply to a situation in which the data is not just a sample, but a collection of all available data on record with only one major outlier?

Anon10April 6, 2016 9:02 PM

@dirk

If you want a mathematical treatment of fat tails, read Mandelbrot. If you want a non-technical book, read the Black Swan, if you can make it past Taleb's writing style. Here's a simplified example. Pan-Am 103 killed 270 people. Let's call that a 2-sigma event. If you assume a Gaussian distribution, then either 9/11 was a 22-sigma event and we lived through an event that should happen once in the lifetime of the universe or our mathematical model is wrong. Assume, a log-normal distribution and 9/11 was only 1.42x as extreme as Pan-Am 103 or roughly 2.9 sigma. The one major outlier doesn't appear nearly as extreme once you stop assuming everything has to fit a bell curve.

Anon12April 6, 2016 9:56 PM

@Wael,
I think the best suggestion I made was to carry baggage and passengers in separate vehicles(probably airplanes, but not necessarily). In addition to making bombs in luggage pointless, it would vastly reduce the lines in security checkpoints(which would be another potential target in airports). It is one of the more effective methods of reducing the security threats in airports (aside from reducing the number of people who hate the US, or having a government like "1984").

ianfApril 6, 2016 10:49 PM


@ Anon12 “thinks his best suggestion was to carry baggage and passengers in separate vehicles(probably airplanes, but not necessarily)

Given that you don't know what you're talking about, (Royal) we thank you for your thinking and invite you to do some^H^H^H^H lots of research prior to veering off towards the brain junction. Starting with

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2015/10/information_in_.html#c6710353

… and ending up by obeying the concluding instruction therein.

WaelApril 7, 2016 12:07 AM

@ianf,

Given that you don't know what you're talking about...

That's an assumption you made. An incorrect one, too!

Bob RanieriApril 7, 2016 8:04 AM

As a case in point, the most dangerous thing most of us do, is to get in our car and drive. As a political system we have accepted a large number of deaths and injuries due to drunk, impaired, and distracted drivers.

Dirk PraetApril 7, 2016 1:55 PM

@ Anon10

Pan-Am 103 killed 270 people.

I believe the data family under scrutiny was terrorist attacks on US soil. Pan Am Flight 103 went down over Scotland. And I have heard about fat-tailed and heavy-tailed distributions, but at this point in time 9/11 still remains a statistical outlier just as much as your oven is when observing the temperatures in different parts of your house.

Anon10April 7, 2016 10:56 PM

@dirk

I'll let this be my last post in this thread, but in many instances, it's the outliers that are of the most interest. Stock market(US) recoveries have always been relatively quick if you exclude 1 data point The Great Depression since the start of reliable record keeping. In my opinion, any investment advisor who throws out that 1 outlier is at best a fool, but more likely a mendacious salesman. Europe was relatively peaceful in the 20th century if you exclude two outliers(WWI and WWII). Any historian who excluded those outliers in his analysis would exceed Big Brother in historical revisionism. The obvious purpose of the Pan-Am Flight bombing was to retaliate against the USG, and the flight was in route to Detroit, so it easily falls into the category of anti-US terrorism against mostly US civilians that involves Muslims hijacking a plane and killing all the passengers. However, I'm sure that doesn't bear any resemblance to 9/11.

Dirk PraetApril 8, 2016 4:59 AM

@ Anon10

Europe was relatively peaceful in the 20th century if you exclude two outliers(WWI and WWII).

Neither were outliers. Europe had known long and bloody wars for centuries, eventually culminating in the industrialised warfare of WWI/WWII, and which accounts for the number of victims. Pan-Am 103, even if argued to be en route to Detroit, was set up by Libya and had nothing to do with Islamist terrorism. The bomber just happened to be a Muslim.

Since 1623, there have been about 50 stock market crashes on record, nearly half of which in the US, the Great Crash of 1929 arguably being one of the worst and which kinda fits in a statistical fat-tailed distribution. But 9/11, no.

ianfApril 8, 2016 3:16 PM

Wael slavers over “stewardesses handing out LSD, Morphine and Valium instead of peanuts and pretzels.

    Dirk Praet: Sedation Airways!… interesting business model.
(Sedation as a metaphor for human transport in lying-down position). It may come sooner that we expect (I've seen one feasibility study and been told that it's a staple idea in air transport think-tanks). Reason why: carriers need to find new avenues for diversification and competition, and airframes with stacked prone-upright bunks show promise where body comfort, profitable passenger density AND [theoretical] disaster evacuation speeds are concerned. The study claimed (found?) that, in a airframe-parallel 2-abreast/ 3-stacked bunk configuration, the most desirable for ingress and egress was the middle one (hence, and presumably, for potential abrupt evacuation reasons, bunks would be allocated by how little nimble and "unbendy" one happens to be ;-))

    Main obstacle to civilian implementation seems to be iconoclasm of the very idea, and so far extreme profitability of First Class bunk beds in transoceanic flights, which such carriers are unwilling to universalize.
But it's bound to happen, if first inside dedicated Hercules transport planes fitted out for evacuation of "First Worlders" from sudden faraway disaster regions (highest passenger count in a seatless Boeing 747 to date: 1086 on 24 May 1991, but it was a short hop over the Red Sea.).


Further, Dirk thinks that “at Ben Gurion all luggage goes through some kind of pressure chamber which would detonate certain types of bombs.

Haven't been there for ages, but strongly doubt any setup that involves vacuum (rather than raised pressure) chamber or tunnel… No one I know who's traveled there in recent times mentioned anything like that either. And how would that work, anyway… vacuum-testing each piece of luggage in turn?
          If the Israelis have implemented something out of the ordinary that they're not telling about, it's probably some non-invasive magnetic, laser tomographic or aural spectrum imagining. But even that would only be deployed on suspicion basis, and hardly could scale up to other airports with far higher traffic loads than their own.

WaelApril 8, 2016 8:26 PM

@ianf,

It may come sooner that we expect...

I'm surprised it hasn't come already. Every time I fly think this space isn't optimized. Why can't they poke a couple of holes in the floor so I can stretch my feet? How can we arrange passengers so we give them the most comfort? Then you start thinking about safety, evacuation, regulations, ...

Main obstacle to civilian implementation seems to be iconoclasm of the very idea...

There must be an element of truth to this statement. It's not likely to be "the whole truth", though.

Feature from the 1995 edition (p. 126): An astounding record was set on 24 May 1991 when 1086 Ethiopian Jews were evacuated to Israel in one plane. This was more than double the normal capacity of a passenger jumbo jet, and not surprisingly, never before had so many people flown in a commercial airliner. Two babies were born en route bringing the total who landed in Israel to 1088. The flight was just one of 40 which were put on to evacuate a total of 14,200 Jews to their promised land from Addis Ababa, the besieged capital of Ethiopia, all in the space of 24 hours. The exercise, codenamed ‘Operation Solomon’, had been planned over several weeks...

Quite an impressive feat. Like everything else, it has problems: Operation Solomon? I would have called it 'Operation Pregnant Sardine'. (Solomon->Salmon-Sardine word morphology)

Anon10April 8, 2016 9:10 PM

@dirk

Estimates, vary, but 50-60 million people died in WWII, excluding China and Japan. The Napoleonic wars, the largest European war in the 18th and 19th centuries, has widely varying estimates in the range 2-6 million deaths, or probably less than 10% of WWII. In terms of the number of deaths, WWII absolutely was an outlier.

SkepticalApril 9, 2016 7:31 AM

@Dirk:

With respect, you're missing Anon10's point.

You may wish to read: arXiv:1209.0089v3 at https://arxiv.org/abs/1209.0089

With respect to outliers, one is on the firmest ground in ignoring them when one suspects they are caused by a faulty measurement.

But if the data point is good, then you need justification to simply discard it. You can't simply say, "this is far from what we would expect, and so this is irrelevant." Needless to say, you'd miss quite a few cheaters at a casino operating by those rules. You'd also miss the risk posed by possible events like severe earthquakes, influenza epidemics, etc.

You may need to adjust your scale (perhaps log would result in a better fit), in which you're dealing with yet another power law distribution. Or circumstances may have changed that render historical data points less accurate as predictors of future events.

Now, it may be that the effect of the outlier prevents the the particular parameter you'd like to use from communicating what you want. For instance, if I ask you how heated a facility in Antarctica is, and you send me a list of five temperature readings taken from various points around the facility, one of which happens to be a furnace, then it would be a mistake for me to use the average temperature - the outlier prevents the average from indicating what I want to know. In that case, if we're going to use the arithmetic mean, then there's a case for discarding the furnace reading.

But there's no good case for dismissing 9/11 because it produced fatalities 6 times greater than the next most deadly terrorist attack. World War 1, after all, produced battle deaths a full order of magnitude greater than the next deadliest European war up to that time. Should we ignore it? The 2011 earthquake off Japan was an order of magnitude greater than what had ever been observed there and indeed what was thought possible - should we ignore it?

Of course not. Now, in giving your reasoning for consider World War 1 NOT to be an outlier, you gave an explanation for its high fatality count. One can find similar explanations for why terrorist caused mass casualty events also might have fat tails - democratization of weapons technology and tactics, ease of movement, safe-havens for radical networks, increased population density and interconnections among vital systems, etc.

Part of what clues us in to possible changes in underlying factors is the distance of an event from prior events - outliers in this respect are actually a vital part of adjusting our forecasts for the future.

Despite the horrific nature of recent terrorist attacks in Belgium and France, I think both countries were actually quite lucky in certain respects. The attacks could easily have been much worse. One of the factors reducing the likelihood of that worse outcome is likely the pressure applied to these groups. OPSEC for these people comes at the price of ease of coordination and extent of preparation.

Dirk PraetApril 10, 2016 11:26 AM

@ Skeptical

One can find similar explanations for why terrorist caused mass casualty events also might have fat tails - democratization of weapons technology and tactics, ease of movement, safe-havens for radical networks, increased population density and interconnections among vital systems, etc.

I am not denying any of that. In fact, there is probably a reasonable chance that events like 9/11 will occur again. What I am saying is that so far it hasn't, at least not in the US, thus - and a this time - making it a statistical outlier.

@ Anon10

In terms of the number of deaths, WWII absolutely was an outlier.

And for which the reasons were pretty obvious. WWII was even predictable, if not inevitable, given the outcome of WWI and the ill-conceived treaty of Versailles. The only reason it remained an outlier in numbers of casualties was that a global thermonuclear war was only narrowly avoided on several occasions during the second half of the 20th century.

SkepticalApril 13, 2016 1:22 PM


@Dirk: Your claim was that 9/11 is "statistically irrelevant" - that because of the distance between the number of casualties caused by the 9/11 attack and those of other terrorist attacks, we ought not consider 9/11 as part of a data set from which to derive a probability distribution.

Now, if you're working with a prior probability distribution that renders 9/11 to be a nearly impossible event, then that distribution needs to be revised in light of the new data provided by 9/11.

We can argue about how it should be revised, what role US and international reaction to 9/11 should play in new calculations, etc. But it's clear that we can't simply dismiss the data point, which is what you seemed to be claiming in the above thread.

As to Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East, the US isn't the prime cause of its existence. The lessons of the Arab Spring are not nearly as easy to derive as some believe (or pretend to believe). Are authoritarian governments a source of long-term stability in the region, or are they a short-term and unstable political structure that contributes to the radicalization of segments of populations? I think the unit of analysis being considered is too broad, frankly. The answer depends on the particularities of the government and the society in question.

The US certainly made major errors during the occupation of Iraq, though it also devoted enormous resources to stabilizing the country under a democratic government. However one must remember that the sectarian violence was inflamed by other actors - al Qaeda on the one hand, and Iran on the other. Saddam Hussein was not exactly a contributor to stability in the region either, nor would his successor likely have been.

In large part the problems of the Middle East today are the derivation of European colonialism, and the blind ideology and sheer greed of many key actors in that region over the years. Those governments with an eye towards long-term survivability, which are not shackled by a rigid ideological view, will take steps to ameliorate the divisions, inequality, and ignorance that allow violent radicalism to continue to fester among their populations. And those governments that do not will reap the whirlwind - as, unfortunately, will nearby regions.

We should keep in mind, of course, that we're dealing with much smaller problems in the Middle East than we might otherwise be, due largely to US presence in the region.

James BergmanOctober 20, 2016 4:20 PM

I agree that it is impossible to stop all terrorist activity. However, we can do all we can to prevent it. This means tighter security, and I think that it is a good thing as long as we also realize that we will never have a perfect system and keep improving it without limiting the rights of citizens.

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