Responding to attacks

In a very thoughtful and interesting post L’Hote writes about the Japanese response to their terrorist group/cult Aum Shinrikyo. The calm determination not to close down society and the results it caused to understand terrorism and threat assessment, look to Aum

Just as important was what the Japanese government and people did not do. They didn’t panic. They didn’t make sweeping changes to their way of life. They didn’t implement a vast system of domestic surveillance. They didn’t suspend basic civil rights. They didn’t begin to capture, torture, and kill without due process. They didn’t, in other words, allow themselves to be terrorized. Instead, they addressed the threat. They investigated and arrested the cult’s leadership. They tried them in civilian courts and earned convictions through due process. They buried their dead. They mourned. And they moved on. In every sense, it was a rational, adult, mature response to a terrible terrorist act, one that remained largely in keeping with liberal democratic ideals.

This reminded me very much of the Norwegian response to the Norwegian Breivik killed 76 people and bombed parliament buildings in central Oslo. He was politically motivated and left a, so called, manifesto “arguing” his misguided case.

The Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg reacted immediately by calling for more democracy and more openness. It was a very moving and heartfelt response from a man who knew very many of the victims personally. He would go on to reinforce this position later (Huffington Post):

Five days after an attacker incensed by Norway’s culture of tolerance horrified the world, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday issued a quiet call of defiance to his countrymen: Make Norway even more open and accepting.

“The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation,” Stoltenberg insisted at a news conference.

Of course each situation is different but it is interesting to note that the “Keep Calm and Carry On” approach seems to be the quickest way of returning to a state of normality and healing that ensures that the attackers have failed in impacting the society they attack. L’Hote ends his post, which talks about the American response but applies equally to other countries, with the words

We have examples of adult responses to terrorism. Instead, we betray ourselves, in every sense a terrorized, terrified people.

Don’t see this as a spoiler – go read the text.

Comedy and copyright violation

Copyright violation has been linked to terrorism before and it was a stupid then as it is now. Can you imagine terrorists sitting in caves in Afghanistan downloading stuff from the Pirate Bay to destroy western civilization? This is such far fetched propaganda that it should just be seen as excellent comedy – if it wasn’t being proposed by “serious” people and will eventually believed by people in power. Scary.

From Infocult:

Linking copyright violation and terrorism is back.   “Film Piracy, Organized Crime, and Terrorism” (pdf) starts by linking pirates and gangsters, claiming to have found:

compelling evidence of a broad, geographically dispersed, and continuing connection between film piracy and organized crime.

The Rand study goes on to leap onto terrorism:

Moreover, three of the documented cases provide clear evidence that terrorist groups have used the proceeds of film piracy to finance their activities.

Torrentfreak does a good job of taking this apart.  One key piece: the study explicitly conflates counterfeiting and copyright infringement.  Also important is the loose linkage between different people, functions, and crimes.

Pointing a camera at the police

The United Kingdom is going totally bananas in it’s misguided battle against terror. For a long time they have been hounding photographers with very bad results for the countries image but hardly preventing any crime or terror. But this next step is absolutely misguided.

Basically it’s an amendment to the the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 that will have the result of criminalizing, amongst other things, the photographing of a police officer. Here is a quote from the British Journal of Photography:

Set to become law on 16 February, the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 amends the Terrorism Act 2000 regarding offences relating to information about members of armed forces, a member of the intelligence services, or a police officer.

The new set of rules, under section 76 of the 2008 Act and section 58A of the 2000 Act, will target anyone who ‘elicits or attempts to elicit information about (members of armed forces) … which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’.

A person found guilty of this offence could be liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years, and to a fine.

Now we have all seen silly laws before but can you even begin to imagine who could sit down and think this is a good idea? I think almost any tourist to London could look through their snaps and find a picture of a bobby with the distinctive helmet. Also this law will be used to prevent civilians taking photographs of police abuse. Imagine the effect if the reporters who took the Rodney King video faced ten years in jail?

This is a serious blow against civil rights and individual freedom – not a step towards ending terrorism.

Another photographer arrested in London

The UK has adopted and intepreted the silliest anti-terrorist laws – they have created a state of paranoia which is hard for any sensible person to explain or understand.

The Independent reports that artist and photographer Ruben Powell was arrested last week his photographing of the old HMSO print works close to the local police station posed an unacceptable security risk.

For Powell, this brush with the law resulted in five hours in a cell after police seized the lock-blade knife he uses to sharpen his pencils. His release only came after the intervention of the local MP, Simon Hughes, but not before he was handcuffed and his genetic material stored permanently on the DNA database.

The Independent gives even more examples of people who have run afoul of the strangest intepretation of misguided security. Not only are phographers being seen as suspicious in one way or another. Another sad thing is that the data is stored permanently in the DNA database even when no crime has been committed.

Security is a bad joke creating a social paranoia beyond belief. Common sense has been suspended and seems to be nowhere in sight.

Blaming the wrong technology

When Google Earth launched there were security concerns. Could this kind of technology be used for the wrong reasons? Well this may or may not be a problem but what is really silly are the attempts to use the events in Bombay as an illustration of the dangers of technology. Computerworld:

The terrorists who attacked various locations in southern Mumbai last week used digital maps from Google Earth to learn their way around, according to officials investigating the attacks…Google Earth has previously come in for criticism in India, including from the country’s former president, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Kalam warned in a 2005 lecture that the easy availability online of detailed maps of countries from services such as Google Earth could be misused by terrorists.

So what if the terrorists used Google Earth? According to Wikipedia they attacked

…the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Oberoi Trident, the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Leopold Cafe, Cama Hospital, the Orthodox Jewish-owned Nariman House, the Metro Cinema, and a lane behind the Times of India building behind St. Xavier’s College.

Most if not all of these locations would be listed in any guidebook, many of them are century old landmarks and yet some people are attempting to blame Google Earth as if the attacks could not have been carried out without technology.

It is very popular and easy to blame IT for attacks, take for example the shootings in Finland were all but blamed on YouTube since the gunman left films there. It’s a pity that these types of arguments are not used against the acual weapons used. Instead of blaming a software company maybe the blame should be placed at the small arms industry.

Information control in a connected world

In 1973 in Stockholm a bank robbery went wrong and resulted in a six day hostage situation when the police showed up and the would be robbers withdrew into the vault with four hostages. The police managed to enter the bank and close the vault door. The police then opened a hole in the vault roof in order to communicate with those inside (short piece on Wikipedia). While in the vault the hostages began to fear the police and sympathize with their captors in a psychological process which has come to be known as the Stockholm Syndrome. But I digress.

An interesting factor was the way in which communications took place. The authorities (including the Prime Minister) and criminals communicated via telephone. The robbers inside the vault had no way of monitoring the outside world or communicating with it freely.

Now fast forward to Mumbai last week. According to Gizmondo the terrorists inside the hotel did not rely on traditional communications methods

Commandos were not only surprised to find the devices [BlackBerrys] in the terrorists’ rucksacks, but that they used the internet to look beyond local Indian media for information, watching the global reaction in real-time as well.

There is something shocking, and at the same time predictable, about the authorities naivete about the terrorists use of technology. Why wouldn’t a terrorist be monitoring the outside world for reactions?

In addition to this the way in which the outside world understood what was happening inside the hotel was not a traditional news source controlled and transferred by authorities. In a hallway conversation Martin Börjesson (a colleague) and I exchanged notes about our news uptake from the Mumbai attacks. Naturally we used traditional media – but neither of us believed that they really knew anything. More interestingly we followed news feeds such as twitter and a flock of blogs (or what is the right word?)

Following blogs is something both Martin and I do everyday so we were not surprised by this. What was interesting however was the experience that some online sources were clearly political disinformation attempting to place the blame for what was happening at the door of different states. (Bruce Schneier has some interesting takes on the outside conversations and analysis). Clearly following live feeds is also demands a questioning of sources.

Mumbai has shown that web technology is used: (1) by the terrorists (2) by the world (3) by the media. The result is an amazing mix of rehashing of information, the transmitting of live experiences (from within and from those witnessing) and formal channels. The question is can, and should, the authorities be able to control this information? The first answer is that controlling this information is only possible at a great cost and at a great loss in the ability of others to transmit innocent information. It is doubtful whether a media blackout is at all possible. Should it be possible – not sure. As the BlackBerry’s show the terrorists monitored the outside world and possibly profited from the information, but would the outcome have been much different if they did, or could, not?

Information control is not dead but it is being taken to a new level… to be continued…

Dibley, terrorism, dvds & other annoyances

Recently I bought the a box collection of BBC comedy The Vicar of Dibley after enjoying the content I did not turn off the DVD in time and I caught the advert against piracy which included the amazing news that “piracy supports organized crime” and “piracy supports terrorism”

This type of false propaganda annoys me on several levels. So ok I can accept that there may be a link between organized crime and piracy but terrorism???

So what between planning to fly an airplane into a building and bombing innocent civilians, terrorists sitting in caves mass pirate dvds and upload films on the Internet? What a load of bull!

Actually another thing that annoys me about dvd’s is the compulsory and very annoying copyright and piracy infomercials in the begining. It almost makes you want to be a pirate – at least they cut away that crap. If I buy a dvd I actually think it should be my right to be able to jump past the annoying useless stuff in the begining.