Academic journal article Military Review

Information-Age "De-Terror-Ence"

Academic journal article Military Review

Information-Age "De-Terror-Ence"

Article excerpt

Concern over easy access to imagery for target planning was demonstrated immediately after 11 September as several websites removed photos and data that suddenly appeared too sensitive. On 18 October, the Pentagon purchased all rights to pictures of Afghanistan taken by Space Imaging Incorporated's IKONOS satellite, which can discern space objects as small as I square meter on the ground.

THE 11 SEPTEMBER 2001 attack on America radically changed the way nations and international organizations think about terrorism. For example, President George W. Bush stated that the United States would begin a long war against terrorism, and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld received extra budget concessions for the counterterrorism fight. For the first time in history NATO implemented Article 5 of the 1949 Washington Treaty, which recognizes that an attack against one NATO member should be considered an attack against all members. This lifted the political constraints normally associated with using the military to fight terrorism. As the investigation unfolded, the power of information-age tools, such as the Internet, as a terrorist planning and execution asset was exposed.

The information revolution's promise of globalization and its implicit lower communication costs and integrated economies has other, more sinister, uses when placed in terrorists' hands. This article defines terrorism in the information age and examines how information enables terrorists to further their goals. Recommendations are also offered as a "de-terror-en ce" policy to fight this new threat.1

Information Terrorism

Traditionally, terrorism focuses on using violence-threats or outright acts-to cause fear or alarm. usually for some political goal. Terrorists exploit the formal structure of the civilized world to accomplish these goals. Among other things this exploitation includes a nation-states' legal and intelligence constraints to act; its objectivity in news telecasts, and its infrastructure and operating principles. Nearly everything in the nation-state is open for its citizens to examine and use, and hence the terrorist as well. The terrorist can live in almost total anonymity until an act of violence or crime is perpetrated. lie usually trains on the very systems he will use in an attack. This enables the weak to confront and combat the strong.

A terrorist lives in the opposite world, one of near total secrecy. Usually only sketchy information is available about a terrorist's operating principles and infrastructure, if they are known at all, and the terrorist has no constraints on collecting intelligence or conducting illegal activities. Terrorists are criminals who can use indiscriminate force against populations. They realize that police or military responses may be limited because of civil liberty and security concerns. Terrorists have access to everything the average citizen does and thus are leeches who live off others to support their anger. Their methods may be deemed asymmetric because their system of operation and that of the civilized world are not comparable. Destroying the World Trade Center with a flying fuel cell, terrorizing America with anthrax-- laced mail, planning to exploit the trucking industry and crop dusters to transport or spread biological or chemical agents, and killing the leader of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan with an explosive device hidden in a camera during an interview are good examples of asymmetric tools available to terrorists.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism as "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segments thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."2 In the information age, terrorism has expanded its scope and has found a ready ally in instruments such as the Internet to facilitate these efforts. Some have even coined the process of exploiting the Internet for terrorist purposes as "information terrorism," defining it as the nexus between criminal information system fraud or abuse and the physical violence of terrorism; and intentionally abusing a digital information system, network, or component toward an end that supports or facilitates a terrorist campaign or action. …

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