Magazine article Newsweek

Terrorism: A Battle on High - and Low

Magazine article Newsweek

Terrorism: A Battle on High - and Low

Article excerpt

The Alleged mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing had a hightech bag of tricks. Investigators say Ramzi Yousef used a commercially available encryption program to safeguard the hard drive of his laptop, his main tool for laying out a bombing campaign against U.S. jetliners. He had a suitcase containing explosive gel, a powerful substance invisible to most airport X-ray machines. In searching for targets, he could easily have downloaded airline schedules from the Internet. Yousef may be cyberterrorism's first star.

In the worldwide battle between terrorists and cops, both sides are scrambling for a technological edge. Counterterrorists now use laser microphones that can pick up conversations hundreds of yards away, even inside buildings. New tapping device s are - so far - completely undetectable, and electromagnetic transmitters can bombard an area with waves that prematurely detonate remote-controlled bombs. The information from listening devices, fed through a specialized computer analysis, can pinpoint terrorists' locations - a tool that allowed French commandos to successfully storm a hijacked plane in Marseilles last December.

Terrorists have increased their technological sophistication, too, moving quickly to close the gap. In south Lebanon, guerrillas use timing devices to switch on remote-controlled detonators after airborne electromagnetic transmitters have passed. Militants have focused much of their attention on developing bombs. "The small, concealable device that still gives you a powerful explosive force - that's where there's the most innovation," says terrorism expert Brian Jenkins. …

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