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Technology and Counter-Terror

By November 8, 2017June 30th, 2020Enemy, ISIS, Islamic Extremism, Media, terrorism, The Weekly

Technology & Counter-Terror

When we uphold the rule of law, our counterterrorism tools are more likely to withstand the scrutiny of our courts, our allies, and the American people. John O. Brennan

I knew from the beginning that privacy was going to be a huge issue, especially with regard to applying Total Information Awareness in counterterrorism. Because if the technology development was successful, a logical place to apply it was inside the United States.
John Poindexter

This issue is part 2 of a two part series on Technology and Terrorism. Last week I dealt with the emerging terrorist technological threats. This week I will address the emerging counter-terrorist threats and how they will affect the war on Terror and how they will impact our lives as a civil society. Since I am attempting to keep these digests short I would suggest that you look closely at this week’s resources and my clickable note links. As a suggestion, you might want to read “the why.” section first this week to help you put it in context. There is a lot information available to help you understand this threat better. Remember: to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Understanding these threats is important.

The review.

Let me begin by reminding us: We are at war. As I said last week, if we do not get this reality straight, our resolve to live responsibly in an increasingly dangerous world will be little more than putting our heads in the sand, hoping that the threats does not attack us and ignoring all the opportunities that exist for us to demonstrate the mind and compassion of Christ in this chaotic world. “While every country may not agree on a definition of terrorism, that does not mean that it does not exist and does not represent a terrible threat to world peace. Nor do terrorists seem concerned about defini­tional nuances. They have decided they are most cer­tainly at war with us, and they think they are in a war they can win.”

In researching for this article one thing has become clear. The threat of terrorism will challenge and even strain the relationship that exists between governments and the people they are intending to govern. The threat of loss of many of our civil liberties is greatly present. In an attempt to apply consistent technologies which will protect us, the danger is very real that many privacies we have enjoyed in our Western cultures are at stake. As I describe the technologies below it will become apparent what I am talking about. America must adhere to fundamental and firm principles of limited government, and it can do so while also answering the terrorist threat. The challenge is not an easy one, but few worthwhile things are.

In an article written by James Jay Carafano,Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation, he outlines a series of priorities for technological development of counter-terrorism research and procurement. I will outline briefly some of those technological developments. The key to his argument is that counter-terrorism and law enforcement agencies must get out ahead of the terrorists in their technological thinking. “More often than not, law enforcement’s approach has been to take years to develop the procedures that govern the imple­mentation of new technologies, largely waiting for commercial technologies to mature, threats to evolve, and legal precedents to be established. This process will not serve for the challenges of the 21st century, where policy innovation must match, or indeed exceed, the speed of technolog­ical progress.” I will comment on his suggested technologies as to how they concern us.

Dr. Carafano suggests six technologies that are being developed to counter terrorist initiatives in the near future. They are (1) system integration technol­ogies; (2) biometrics; (3) non-lethal weapons; (4) data mining and link analysis technologies; (5)nano-technology; and (6) directed-energy weapons.

The first, and what he considers to be among the most important is: System Integration Technologies. He suggests that this ought to be our nations highest priority and one of key foci for combatting terrorism at home and around the world. This approach is often called “network-centric” operations. “Network-centric operations generate increased operational effectiveness by networking sensors, decision makers, law enforcement officials, and emergency responders to achieve shared awareness, increased speed of command, higher tempo of oper­ations, greater efficiency, increased security and safe­ty, reduced vulnerability to potential hostile action, and a degree of self-synchronization. In essence, this means linking knowledgeable entities from the local to the national levels in an integrated network that addresses counterterrorism missions ranging from intelligence and early warning to response and post-strike investigations and forensic analysis.” From my perspective this makes sense as an Intelligence analyst, but it brings with it a host of potential civil liberty limitations. I am not saying it should not be done, but I am implying that with it comes great responsibility that can be easily abused if proper measures are not emplaced along side it to act as safeguards against abuse.

Biometrics. “Identity is the linch pin of virtually all security and investigatory systems. Since Sep­tember 11, 2001, there has been increased interest in using biometrics for identity verification, espe­cially in the areas of visa and immigration docu­mentation and government-issued identification card programs. Biometrics brings with it a plethora confusing variables.” How far do we go in cataloging our human existence? How much do we want our society to know about us? With biometrics our every step can be traced. But as a counter-terrorism tool it is among the most important. Terrorists like to operate in a vacuum of identity. Advanced Biometrics will take that anonymity away from them. “There are five major types of mature biometric technologies. They include iris recognition, hand geometry, fingerprint recognition, face recognition, and voice recognition.”

Non-lethal Weapons. “One of the most signifi­cant challenges in the war on terrorism is that its battlefields are often the everyday world, where civilians and terrorists often stand side-by-side, where as much attention must be given to safe­guarding lives and property as to disrupting, appre­hending, or incapacitating terrorists. Non-lethal weapons may offer the military and law enforce­ment a new range of options for taking the battle to the terrorist without endangering others. Non-lethal weapons are discriminate, explicitly designed and employed to incapacitate personnel or materiel while minimizing fatalities and undes­ired damage to property and environment. These weapons are actually a set of capabilities which have approximately three functions: Counter personnel, which involves controlling crowds, incapacitating people, preventing access to specific areas, and removing people from facilities, buildings, or areas of operation.”

“Today, non-lethal weapons technologies cover a broad spectrum, including areas related to the development of acoustics systems; chemicals (e.g.,anti-traction materials, dyes, markers, and malodor­ants);communications systems; electromagnetic and electrical systems; entanglement and other mechanical systems; information technologies; optical devices; non-penetrating projectiles and munitions; and many others. Click on the links for better understanding of these non-lethal weapons systems.”

Data Mining and LinkAnalysis Technologies. “We live in a world that is becoming increasingly awash in commercial and government informa­tion. The trail of the terrorist, however, is often indistinguishable from a mass of bills, license applications, visa forms, census records, and tele­phone lists. Traditional law enforcement investiga­tion techniques often begin with the identification of a suspected individual, followed by the labori­ous process of seeking out information related to that individual. As more and more information becomes available, this task becomes more and more problematic. I suppose this has the potential to be the most problematic of all the technologies as it pre-supposes the possibility of being to link every activity that we do, with every person we know, with every purchase we make, with every trip we take, with every website we ever visit. With the emergence particularly of faster processing power with Artificial Intelligence, the possibilities seem almost limitless. This spells bad news for Terrorists, of that, there is no doubt. But it also spells difficulties for those who do not adhere to societal norms, such as perhaps difficulties with abortion, same-sex marriage, gun ownership, just to name a few.”

Nanotechnology. “As a counterterrorism toolnanotechnologies are in their infancies. Nanotech­nology involves developing or working with mate­rials and complete systems at the atomic, molecular, or macromolecular levels where at least one dimension falls with the range of 1-100 nanometers. Working at such a small scale offers unique capabilities, such as being able to control how nano-devices interact with other systems at the atomic or molecular level. You can click on the link here to discover more about nano-technologies. They are even too far advanced for me to talk intelligently about.”

These are just a few of the emerging technologies that are being developed to combat terrorism and increase the governments ability to not only investigate terrorist acts, but to put pieces in place to prevent them. As you can see, they all come with a cost, and not just a financial one.

The why.

Every counter-terrorist technology opens a pandoras box of possibilities. Possibilities which will defeat terrorists. That is good. But they also open up many possibilities for limiting social civil liberties. Many will say, that if you comply with the laws you have nothing to worry about. That argument has serious holes in it. As we have already seen, when people of differing persuasions come into power, there is the potential to oppress the ones who disagree with you. I am personally concerned about what appears to be a trend in both Europe and the United States. There is a polarization of liberal verses conservative positions concerning a host of positions. What is disconcerting is the violent opposition that we are seeing. There was a day when you could sit and discuss opposite political and religious positions with a certain amount of civility. You just agreed to disagree. Today, if you don’t agree with someone the temptation is to label them a fanatic, you marginalize them, you deny them the platform to speak their position, you label them a “hater.” This kind of behavior has no place in a truly civil democratic society. Before long, there is the potential that we will not be able to speak the truth, even in love.

Many of these technologies being used to counter terrorism in the future could be used to counter you! That is why we as christians need to be involved in the development and implementation at a policy level of these technologies so that the right frameworks can be emplaced along side them, ensuring that they be used for what they were designed for and not to be misused to silence our critics. They could be used to silence us!

The action.

There are at least five good reasons why Christians should seek to be be involved on the civil society during our stay here on earth:

1. God has granted us authority.

All authority belongs to God, but He has put human beings on the earth as caretakers. What is our task? According to Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20, we are to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey God in every area of life.

It is hard to imagine that Jesus would have wanted the political realm to be excluded. We must disciple people to make godly decisions about government.

2. Christians are needed to stand against evil.

If the Christian worldview is true, then Christians should be able to contribute more positively than any one else to the political process. St. Augustine said that those who are citizens of God’s kingdom are best equipped to be citizens of the kingdom of man. I think he was right.

The alternative to Christian involvement is unthinkable. In the 20th Century, atheistic and secular humanistic leaders gained control of nations all across Europe, Asia and Africa. What was the result?

According to historian R. J. Rummel, “Almost 170 million men, women and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed or worked to death; buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed, or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens and foreigners.”

3. Christian values contribute positively to society.

The Bible‘s solutions make sense. It is Christian involvement in government through the ages that gave us hospitals, civil liberties, abolition of slavery, modern science, the elevation of women, regard for human life, great works of art and literature, a workable system of justice, education for common people, the free-enterprise system, and much, much more.

4. Obedience to authority demands good citizenship.

The Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 13 clearly states that we must obey governmental leaders because all authority comes from God. Here’s the catch: in America, the people are the leaders! Here, at least, we express our obedience to God by exercising our rights and privileges as citizens.

5. Good citizenship sets an example for generations to come.

Those who apply God’s principles to government pave the way for generations of blessing. In 1768 a Christian minister named John Witherspoon became president of the College of New Jersey, now Princeton. While there he taught biblical principles of government to his students.

Of the 478 young men who were graduated during his tenure, writes author John Eidsmoe, “114 became ministers; 13 were state governors; 3 were U. S. Supreme Court judges; 20 were U.S. Senators; 33 were U.S. Congressmen; Aaron Burr, Jr., became Vice-President; and James Madison became President.”

As a Christian, Witherspoon exerted an enormous influence on the direction of American government. You and I may not have the gifts of John Witherspoon, but we can still make a big difference if we put our minds to it.

[This article is a draft from a chapter written for an upcoming book for teens on Christian citizenship] I couldn’t figure out how to say it better than Dr. Myers. So I let him say it.


1. Army Science and Technology for Homeland Security, Vol. II (Washington,D.C.: National Research Council, 2004), Chapter 4.

2. Paul Rosenzweig, Alane Kochems, and Ari Schwartz, “Biometric Technologies: Security,Legal, and Policy Implications,” Heritage Foundation Legal Memorandum No. 12, June 21, 2004, at (November16, 2004).

3. Naval Studies Board,An Assessment of Non-Lethal Weapons Science and Technology (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2003), executive summary, at (November16, 2004).

4. Committee on the Role of Information Technology in Responding to Terrorism, Computer Science and Telecommunication Board, Information Technology forCounterterrorism: Immediate Actions and Future Possibilities, eds. John L. Hennessy, David A. Patterson, and Herbert S. Lin(Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2003), p.68.

5. Usama Fayyad, Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro, and Padhraic Smyth, “From Data Mining to Knowledge Discovery in Data­bases,” Artificial Intelligence, Fall 1996, p. 44, at… 16, 2004).

6. Daniel Ratner and MarkA. Ratner, Nanotechnology and Homeland Security (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall Profes­sional and Technical Reference, 2004), p. 13.

7. Philip S. Anton, Richard Silberglitt, and James Schneider, The Global Technology Revolution: Bio/Nano/Materials Trends and Their Synergies with Information Technology by 2015, Prepared for the National Intelligence Council (Santa Monica, Cal.: RAND, 2001), pp.25-28.

8. Jack Spencer and JamesJay Carafano, “The Use of Directed-Energy Weapons to Protect Critical Infrastructure,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1783, August 2, 2004, at

9. Loren B. Thompson, Ph.D., “The Emerging Promise (and Danger) of Directed-EnergyWeapons,” Lexington Institute Capitol Hill Forum on DirectedEnergy, July 11, 2002, at… 23, 2004).

10. Josef Schwartz et al., “Tactical High Energy Laser,” presented at the SPIEProceedings on Laser and Beam Control Technol­ogies, January21, 2002, pp. 1-6.

11. G. Pascal Zachary,”Technology Is Destiny,” The Milkin Institute Review, Vol.6, No. 3 (Third Quarter 2004), p. 6.

12. William Schwabe, Lois M. Davis, and Brian A. Jackson, Challenges and Choices for Crime-Fighting Technology: Federal Support of State and Local Law Enforcement (Santa Monica, Cal.: RAND, 2001), p.xxi.

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