Terror & Technology
“Terrorism is always one bad day away from being issue No. 1.” John Avlon
THIS ARTICLE IS A 10 MINUTE READ.
Today I will be begin a two part series: “Technology & Terror” and “Technology and Counter-Terror.” Our daily news is filled with reports of acts of violence and destruction. However, what we perhaps do not see is the vast arena of activity that goes on behind the scenes. What is unseen is often far more pervasive and destructive than what is commonly known. Violent extremists exploit technologies on a regular basis, using them to perpetrate terrorism which impacts our lives. Governments and private businesses are using technology to counter terrorist activities. We can use the technologies we currently have to minimize the intrusion of terrorists into our lives. We can become global players, using the same technological platforms to sow seeds of light and salt into the dark and tasteless world of terrorism.
Technological weaponry falls into one of two categories, kinetic or non-kinetic. Kinetic weapons are the weapons that will kill you. Non-kinetic weapons are those which do not kill you, but make it really difficult to live, and which eventually leads to death. Terrorists use both kinds of weapons with great skill.
One of the greatest obstacles to overcome in dealing with terrorism is understanding the reality that the world is at war. “We are at war. In fact, the global war on terrorism will be like most wars. It will have casualties and sacrifices, victories, defeats, advances, and setbacks. Progress will not be determined by the outcome of individual battles or campaigns. It will, to a remarkable degree, look much like the Cold War. Like the Cold War, it will be a long, protracted conflict because, despite the preponderance of power held by the nations united in their commitment to combat terrorism, we will not be able to come directly to grips with the enemy-then because it risked nuclear war and annihilation, now because the enemy is too disparate and diffuse to be defeated in climactic battle. We are in another long war.”
This war against terrorism is being fought on numerous battlefields. It is being fought in far away places as well as in your living room. I fear that many refuse to recognize this fact. I know that I say this at the risk of being labeled a “conspiracy theorist” or that I am “making a mountain out of a mole hill.” I make this statement with all the integrity within me. We are at war. If we refuse to believe this we will continue to walk into the enemy’s traps day after day, wondering what hit us, but never having the answer.
What are the kinetic technologies which are being used by terrorists? There is a myriad of them. Until 9/11 it was pretty inconceivable to most that someone would fly an airplane into a building just to create an environment of fear or terror, but that is what happened. These twisted uses of technology have just begun to unfold. Our enemies, the terrorists are undaunted and unrestrained. They do not care about you or me. They do not care about our children or our elderly, our handicapped or about our opinions. They will go to extremes to make a point.
Technologies that we cherish as a means to enhance our lives will be used as weapons against us. For instance, drone technologies are being developed by terrorist organizations as an effective means to deliver death without actually having to be close to victims. We will see in the near future the use of drone technology in terrorist attacks. Already we are seeing the proliferation of what is known in Iraq and Afghanistan as “Improvised Explosive Devices, also known as IED’s. They are hand-made explosive devices meant to be detonated from a distance to kill and to maim. Their use is prolific in many parts of the world. One can easily go to extremist websites and find simple instructions on how to build them, deploy them and even how to maximize the amount of destruction they can bring. When I lived in Baghdad, every coke can, dead animal or box of crackers was a suspected IED. As unimaginable as this may seem, this could be, in the near future a part of our lives in the West as well. Do not be dismayed, because we can live confidently even in a world where IEDs exist. We will get to that later.
The most difficult threats in my opinion are the home-made chemical and biological weapons. They are meant to be delivered through water-born organisms or in the air as a mist. They can have an effect on many people and are considered weapons of mass destruction. The Tokyo subway sarin attack was an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated on March 20, 1995, in Tokyo, Japan, by members of the cult movement Aum Shinrikyo. In five coordinated attacks, the perpetrators released sarin on three lines of the present-day Tokyo Metro (then part of the Tokyo subway) during rush hour, killing 12 people, severely injuring 50 and causing temporary vision problems for nearly 5,000 others. The gas was made at home with a homegrown recipe. I only mention this to demonstrate that it is not only possible, but has actually happened. Technologies such as booby-traps which can damage structures at public venues such as stadiums or arenas will be used more frequently in the future. Self-driving automobile technology has a host of potential problems. Many hackers have already indicated that they could use a self-driven automobile in a vehicular attack.
So what are the non-kinetic threats to us? To be sure, our primary non-kinetic threat is the internet. It is pervasive in our lives. It is that very pervasiveness that makes it so frightening. It permeates every aspect of our lives on a daily basis. The violent extremist community has gone to great lengths to master the use of the internet. The internet is growing at such a rapid pace that it is almost impossible for government agencies to control it or to even intervene. Did you know that when I started writing this edition of The Weekly, there were 1,277,474,260 websites? Over the past 24 hours since I began writing, that number has grown to 1,277,994,750. In the past 24 hours 520,490 websites have been uploaded. The task of governments to keep up with this is a formidable one.
“For all the fear that cyber terrorists will turn the internet into a weapon of mass destruction, many intelligence experts contend that the web is most effective (or detrimental) as it was designed to be— as a way to communicate and create community.” Here is an excerpt from a violent extremist website analyzing how to maximize the killing of people with explosives on a bus. “We notice that the following 2 seats were not directly hit. This is due to the fact that, when the person who will be wearing this explosive vest goes on the bus, and wants to blow himself up, he must be facing the front with his back towards the back. There is a possibility that the 2 seats on his right and his left might not be hit with the shrapnel, however, the explosion will surely kill the passengers in those seats.” Such websites and training videos, which are often posted, then quickly removed to avoid detection, have multiplied after Sept. 11th. In doing so, they opened perhaps the widest front in the war on terror: cyberspace.
Why is the understanding of the use of technology in terrorism important to us? We tend to fear what we do not understand. Instilling fear is the last thing I want to do. This subject could be scary if we didn’t have a certainty of who is in control of our lives; ultimately this is the only hope we have. Jesus instructs us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) When we stand on that solid rock, the world will be changed. When we hide in fear, the world devolves into greater chaos. These days of uncertainty and violence are an opportunity for the body of Christ to demonstrate the power and love of God. When we cower and live in fear, we rob the world of the opportunity to know God. When we fear, we tell the world that our God is not big enough, not strong enough and not loving enough to walk on the turbulent waters of our lives. We rob him of His glory.
We are not to live in fear. We are over-comers in this world, not merely victims. After determining once and for all that you recognize that God is our fortress and our rock, there are several practical things that you can do to be ready for any attempts to wreak havoc in your city or community. Let me list a few here.
1. Admit that we are at war. Recognize that this world is not the same as it was when our parents and grandparents were growing up. This war is not a war that will be fought thousands of miles away. It will be fought in our own cities, communities and homes. Our enemies remain the same; the environment for this war has changed. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:1)
2. Decide to live situationally aware. I proactively practice what I call a 1- 10 – 100 rule. I have the habit of looking around my immediate area noticing first what is 1 meter (1 yard) away from me; then looking 10 feet around me and then taking a quick glance out to 100 feet. This can be an active exercise when in large crowds. I ask myself one question. “Is there anything out of the ordinary within these spaces?” If not, a few minutes later I will take another quick scan. It is not hard; it just requires practice. I believe that being situationally aware will help us to escape 90% of the potential dangers we might otherwise face.
3. Learn to live your life with purpose. Always seek opportunities to be an impactor, not simply the impacted in your environment. One of the ways I do that is to remain in perpetual prayer wherever I am. I pray against harm and against potential threats in the places that I visit. It is a constant practice for me. In scriptures we are encouraged to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) If we really believe in prayer, we will know that wherever we are and whenever we pray, that it changes things. Prayer allows us to participate in the safety and peace of our world.
1.HOW TERRORISTS USE THE INTERNET…. https://www.operation250.org/how-terrorists-use-the-internet/
2.Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes…https://www.unodc.org/documents/frontpageUse_of_Internet_for_Terrorist_Purposes.pdf
3. 10 Tips for keeping your children safe from Terrorists… http://www.savethechildren.org/atf/cf/%7B9def2ebe-10ae-432c-9bd0-df91d2eba74a%7D/10TIPS_TERRORISM.PDF
4. Protect Yourself from Cyber-Terrorism/Homeland Security… https://www.dhs.gov/how-do-i/protect-myself-cyber-attacks
5. Watch how Fast the Internet is growing live…http://www.internetlivestats.com
6. How to Develop the Situational Awareness of Jason Bourne… http://www.artofmanliness.com/2015/02/05/how-to-develop-the-situational-awareness-of-jason-bourne/