Technology And Terrorism Essay Conclusion



1.             International terrorism is changing in ways that may make it more dangerous and difficult to combat.Despite the fall of the communist bloc, which once provided support to left-wing terrorists, and the resulting reduction in the number of states supporting terrorism, incidents reported around the world have not decreased.Moreover, terrorist attacks are becoming more lethal: according to a recent report to the US Congress, in the 1990s a terrorist incident was almost 20% more likely to result in death than an incident two decades ago.Although significant, this is not the only change occurring in international terrorism.Terrorist groups have different motivations, organisation, structures and tools.


2.             Times and political environment have always shaped the definition of terrorism.It is significant to note that, so far, most definitions adopted by governments and international bodies include three basic characteristics: terrorism (1) is aimed at non-combatants; (2) uses violence to exact revenge, influence or intimidate an audience; and (3) is premeditated and politically motivated.The most recent definitions do not limit motives only to the political sphere but include “religious, or other ideological objectives”.


3.             Most terrorist groups in the 1970s and 1980s had concrete political agendas, such as social‑revolutionary or nationalist-separatist programmes.Although these groups have not completely disappeared, “new” terrorists have emerged having different motives unrelated to clear political goals, including religious and ethnic fanaticism, millenarian and apocalyptic cults, white supremacism, and environmental ultra-radicalism.The trend toward higher lethality in part reflects the changing motives of today’s terrorists.Traditional political terrorists generally calibrated their attacks to produce just enough violence to get attention for their cause, but not so much as to alienate public support.Religiously motivated terrorists, such as Osama bin Laden’s al‑Qaida, representing a growing trend toward hatred of the West - and the United States in particular - have few goals other than to “punish” their enemies and kill as many of them as possible.


4.             Changes in motives have produced changes in the organisation and structure of terrorist groups.While state-sponsored political terrorists usually have rigid hierarchical structures, new political or religious groups rely on looser affiliations and organisations among like-minded people, often from different countries.An organisational figure that appears to apply to many terrorist organisations is the Segmentary, Polycentric, Ideologically Integrated Network (SPIN), a definition originally coined for 1960s' social movements.Of course, leaders still exist, but rather than “military” commanders they are more likely to be charismatic figures offering political and ideological guidance.


5.             These more loosely affiliated, transnational terrorist groups usually rely on various means for funding and logistical support, as well as on self-financing criminal activities.Their networks of support include legitimate businesses, associations and non-governmental organisations.Computers, satellite phones and other modern technologies offer these terrorists very effective organisational and communication tools.They use them to co-ordinate and support their activities, collect money spread information and propaganda.


6.             Statistically, most terrorists still prefer guns and conventional weapons.However, evidence suggests that some of the “new” terrorist groups may be willing to inflict mass casualties for a variety of motives other than political goals.The famed Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, already analysed by your Rapporteur in 1999 [Biological Weapons: the Threat of the New Century,AS 287 STC/MT (99) 8], has attracted general attention the possible terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).The emergence of a new breed of terrorists less constrained by traditional ethics or political pressures, coupled with the diffusion of know-how about nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, may increase the probability of a major WMD terrorist incident.In the next section we will try to give a brief assessment of this threat.


7.             Terrorists’ familiarity with IT (and the examples offered by hackers and criminals) make it increasingly possible that they resort to cyberattacks or other forms of attacks information systems, thus exploiting our societies’ reliance on computers and networked information systems.Some terrorist (or cyberterrorist) groups are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the use of these technologies and there is evidence that they could inflict serious damage to our information systems.Another section will be devoted to terrorists using highly sophisticated technology, and to the specific area of so-called cyberterrorism.


8.             Many analysts have defined the emergence in the 1990s of these new non‑traditional threats with the term: “asymmetric threats”.These are threats that do not present the menace of a major conventional war but do present equal dangers to Western populations and governments. Bill Clintondefined these threats in a 1998 address to the US Naval Academy: “our security”, he stated, “ischallenged increasingly by non-traditional threats from adversaries, both old and new, not only hostile regimes, but also international criminals and terrorists who cannot defeat us in traditional theatres of battle, but search instead for new ways to attack by exploiting new technologies and the world’s increasing openness”.This report will try to outline precisely how technologies may enable new and extremely dangerous forms of terrorism.Current strategies to counter these threats will then be briefly assessed.Finally, your Rapporteur will offer a few suggestions to improve our public safety through a better use of new technologies and legal and political remedies.





9.             The possibility that terrorists use WMD to conduct mass casualty attacks has become a serious national security concern for the United States.Since the mid-1990s the US government has steadily increased funding to programmes to counter and combat WMD terrorism: according to the Monterey Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Washington spends about $5 billion per year in this area.a debate in the West between those who believe the expenses are justified, because the threat is indeed real, and those convinced that risks are exaggerated by defence officials and think-tanks in order to draw out resources from the political system.The general terms of this debate were already outlined by your Rapporteur in the cited 1999 report on biological weapons.However, the rich recent literature on the subject allows for a deeper analysis that would take into account chemical and radiological agents, and nuclear devices.


10.         The historical record includes very few terrorist incidents in which chemical and biological agents were used and no cases involving radiological agents or nuclear weapons (although there have been episodes of smuggling of fissile material).The main explanation seems to be that this form of terrorism requires not only the motive to employ such weapons but also the technical skills to produce and deliver them effectively.The number of terrorists possessing the right characteristics therefore limited.As Jessica Stern’s study The Ultimate Terrorists indicated, politically motivated, state‑sponsored groups are the most technically proficient but “likely to avoid large-scale use of WMD, for fear of alienating their constituents or evoking harsh reactions from authorities”.On the other hand loners, schizophrenics and sociopaths may well want to inflict mass killings but are less likely to overcome the technical obstacles.


11.         Why would terrorists decide to use WMD?One reason might be to attract attention: apart from the actual casualties, WMD – especially biological and chemical agents – may produce an enormous psychological impact because of the sheer fear they inspire.Terrorists might desire to impress their target audiences demonstrating their technological prowess with the use of “unusual” weapons.More specifically, biological weapons might be appealing to religious fanatics because they want to emulate God and produce devastating outbreaks.Right-wing extremists and neo-nazis might be drawn toward the use of nerve gas or other chemicals out of a highly perverse admiration for the methods employed by the Nazis.Finally, considering the recent level of attention for WMD and the number of countermeasures adopted by some governments, terrorists might just want to prove their superiority by overcoming such measures.


12.         In sum, past experience and analyses of the current situation suggest that probably few terrorists are capable of surmounting the motivational, technical, political, moral and organisational obstacles to the use of WMD.However, many experts agree that the greatest danger of WMD terrorism lies with two specific groups: religious extremists (both religious fundamentalists and millenarian cults) and right-wing extremists organised as ad-hoc groups.


13.         Transnational radical Islamists, whose origins can be traced to the West-sponsored insurgency against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, have consistently justified inflicting mass casualties in their “holy war” against the United States, seen as the main enemy of the Muslim world.Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born terrorist charged with masterminding the bombings of two US embassies in Africa and the deadly attack against US destroyer Cole in Yemen, has declared that his mission (and that of his terrorist group Al Qaeda, the Base) is to drive US forces out of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East by targeting US civilians, possibly with mass casualties weapons.“We don’t consider it a crime if we tried to have nuclear, chemical, biological weapons.” Declared bin Laden to a Western newspaper in 1999, “We have the right to defend ourselves and to liberate our holy land.”Similarly, many millenarian cults or new religion extremists perceive themselves in a struggle for survival against a demonised enemy that must be destroyed by any possible means, including mass-casualty weapons.


14.         Right-wing terrorist groups seek to preserve the status and privileges of a “dominant” ethnicity or race.Generally anti-Semitic and anti-government, these groups are particularly active in the United States and increasingly recognise themselves a pseudo-religion or Christian Identity which combines traditional elements of fundamentalist Protestantism with persecutory ideologies.These groups have developed a political agenda that justifies violent aggression (and even mass casualties) against Jews, non-whites and the US federal government.In the early 1990s, four members of one of these groups, calling themselves the Minnesota Christian Patriots and conspiring to kill local and federal law enforcement officials, were convicted and sentenced to prison for acquiring ricin, a deadly protein toxin derived from castor beans.


15.         As this last case showed, certain biological or chemical agents are relatively easy to acquire or produce: a single person with the right expertise could do it.However, the studies of all the known incidents involving these weapons collected in the book Toxic Terror indicate that terrorists have seldom used chemical agents, and biological agents more rarely still.Technical constraints are considerable and involve not so much acquiring and producing the agent as disseminating it.Using radiological agents or detonating a nuclear device present even more binding technical constraints.According to Stern, “the US military found that disseminating gamma-emitting radiological agents in air involved enormous difficulties because of the heat generated by the material and the problem of dissipation.”Finally, as the same expert points out, “detonation of a nuclear device is the least likely form of terrorism involving WMD”, and only the most sophisticated groups would be likely to consider it because of the enormous technical obstacles.


16.         In conclusion, we cannot say that WMD terrorism is on the rise.In fact, many of the most important terrorist groups are unlikely to consider mass casualties useful or desirable.However, something new is happening.According to Brad Roberts, one of the leading experts on WMD terrorism, “even the strongest critics of the hype in current policy acknowledge that there is a problem there, and one that deserves serious attention and some remedies”.Terrorism, as we have indicated in the opening section, is changing its tactics, structures, capabilities and intentions.Moreover, some of the most serious moral constraints to terrorist use of WMD are easing, with the increasing prominence of religious fundamentalists, millenarian cults, and right-wing extremists.Technology, as we will see in the next section, could play a role in making this kind of terrorism even more dangerous.




17.         Imagining how the world might change in the years ahead could help us understand the possible future developments of the terrorist threat.One area on which experts have focused their attention is that of biotechnology and genetic engineering.Scientific advances in these fields will enhance our capabilities to make specific calculated changes to the operation of living systems.This will give mankind enormous new potential for beneficial medicine, but also for abuse in weapon systems.In the very long term, the unregulated growth and diffusion of the new biotechnologies could open up a wide array of new potential threats.Malcolm R. Dando of the University of Bradford (United Kingdom) has singled out three examples of potential misuse of modern biotechnology and genetic engineering:the enhancement of bacterial and viral virulence, heterologous gene expression and protein engineering of toxins, and genetic weapons.The third area raises particular concern since the completion in 2000 of the human genome sequence.Information from genetic research could be considered for the design of weapons targeted against specific ethnic or racial groups.


18.         At the moment, the production of such weapons ‑ and their use by terrorists ‑ is only a theoretical possibility.Several developments, however, indicate that in a not-too-distant future the gap between possibility and reality may close.While our societies are strengthening their protective measures against standard biological agents, as Dando indicates, “terrorists might consider using known biological weapons in unexpected ways, or move to the use of new types of biological weapons”.During the next few decades, the biotechnology revolution is likely to have an enormous impact on our way of life.Given the amount of government support and massive corporate investment that genomics enjoy, scientific and technological developments will spread rapidly around the world.Thereforethe context in which terrorists operate will be completely different, making common what now seems startlingly new.


19.         Another area of concern in the near future is that of agroterrorism.In 2001, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has allocated almost $40 million to prepare against chemical or biological terrorist attacks.This has been generated by realisation that this kind of attack against livestock and the food chain much easier and less risky to carry out than those aimed at humans.Terrorists could create biological pathogens to destroy agricultural livestock with less difficulty than assembling weapons directed against humans.Moreover, as the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease demonstrated, livestock has become more diseaseprone in recent years as a result of intensive antibiotic and steroid programmes and husbandry changes designed to elevate the volume, quality and quantity of meat production.Terrorists could also use a great number of agents and vectors to carry out extremely rudimentary food-borne attacks, disseminating contaminants into plant, vegetable, dairy and fruit-based products.


20.         Some experts contend that this cannot be properly defined as terrorism because of the absence of direct physical violence against humans.It should be noted, however, that agricultural chemical and biological terrorism could have a devastating impact on our societies, in terms of psychological violence, social instability, and economic consequences.Agroterrorism can also have a high payoff as a mean of influencing government policies through basic extortion or blackmail.


21.         An additional area of concern might come to the fore in the next decade.The event of a regional war between Western allies and a WMD-armed state of concern can lead to the possible use of chemical or biological weapons in terrorist-type attacks.According to Brad Roberts, such asymmetric conflicts “may see a blurring of the distinction between war and terrorism”, and regional aggressors may utilise covert attacks against Western civilians to weaken public support for the war or influence the body politic.




22.         In recent years NATO countries have dedicated their efforts to improving protection against WMD terrorist attacks.At the military level, a set of defence measures and response capabilities to maintain the operational level of an armed force after a nuclear, biological or chemical attack has been developed by most NATO members.Active and passive measures are the two main components of these defences.An active defence consists, for instance, using missiles to prevent aircraft or missiles carrying WMD weapons from reaching their targethereas a passive defence consists in being able to assess the threat, detect, warn, protect, decontaminate and carry out medical countermeasures.


23.         At the 1999 Washington Summit, NATO launched a WMD Initiative to improve political and military efforts in this area.This resulted, among other initiatives, in the creation of a specific WMD Centre at NATO Headquarters in Brussels to improve co-ordination of all WMD-related activities. The WMD Centre should improve the quality and quantity of intelligence and information-sharing; support the development of a public information strategy; enhance existing Allied military readiness to operate in a WMD environment and to counter WMD threats; and enhance the possibilities for Allies to assist one another in the protection of their civil populations


24.         National strategies against WMD terrorism are generally putting the emphasis on prevention.For instance, the US Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 39, issued in 1995, addressed in particular nuclear, chemical, and biological (NBC) terrorism and provided guidelines for US counterterrorism policy.“There is no higher priority,” stressed the document, “than preventing the acquisition of this capability [i.e. WMD use] or removing this capability from terrorist groups potentially opposed to the US”.


25.         International efforts to reduce and safeguard WMD arsenalsand the related military and scientific complex are extremely important in the global strategy to combat WMD terrorism.In particular, the US programmes to improve security at weapons sites in Russia and other Newly Independent States (NIS) and increase export and border controls have significantly reduced the risk of illegal trafficking nuclear material, chemical and biological agents.


26.         Despite prevention strategies, vulnerability is still acute in the case of a low‑technology chemical or biological attack targeting the civilian population.As we have seen, terrorists are more likely to use industrial chemical poisons or biological agents than nuclear devices.Some of these weapons are so easy to make that prevention is unlikely to be successful.Appropriate defences against these kinds of attack have to be based on improved civil emergency planning and public health surveillance and response.





27.         Our societies have become totally dependent on information technology.As a consequence, attacks upon computer systems, both public and private, have become the norm: cyber criminals conduct fraudulent transactions steal personal data and trade secrets; crackers (criminal hackers) break into computer systems, disrupt service, sabotage data, launch viruses and worms, and harass individuals and companies.Many of these attacks are serious and produce severe economic loss and damage.They are facilitated by increasingly powerful and user-friendly software tools, mostly available for free from thousands of websites on the Internet.


28.         This Committee’s General Rapporteur, Vernon J. Ehlers, has already analysed attacks upon information systems in his 1999 report “Information Warfare and International Security” [AS 285 STC (99) 8].In this section we will therefore concentrate on the relationship between information technology and terrorism, or cyberterrorism.We shall define cyberterrorism as any act of terrorism (already defined in par. 2) that uses information systems or computer technology either as a weapon or a target.It is important to stress the distinction between cyberterrorism and cybercrime, which are similar in their use of information technology but different in their motives and goals.This confusion is particularly evident in the media, where the catch-all definition “cyberterrorism” is often used to describe any kind of cyberattack.Cyberterrorism is politically, socially, or religiously motivated, aimed at generating fear panic among civilians, or at disrupting military and civilian assets.Further, two different components of cyberterrorism can be singled out: (1) terrorist use of computers as a facilitator of their activities; and (2) terrorism involving computer technology as a weapon or target.




29.         Terrorist groups currently use computer technology to facilitate traditional forms of subversive activity.Quite simply, they are exploiting modern tools to perform common terrorist actions such as internal communication and co-ordination, propaganda and misinformation, recruitment and financing, information and intelligence gathering.The use of the Internet for propaganda purposes is particularly popular.Radical opposition groups such as Hezbollah and Zapatistas use it regularly to communicate their revolutionary programmes.Various neo-nazi and white supremacist groups in the United States also use the World Wide Web to recruit supporters and collect finance.


30.         The activities of transnational terrorist groups are greatly enhanced by the use of the Internet, which eliminates physical distance and national borders.Bin Laden’s Islamist terrorist group rel heavily on computers and other modern communication tools.At the beginning of February 2001, Islamist terrorists were claimed to use sport chat rooms, pornographic sites and other Web venues to disguise map and photographs of their targets, together with instructions for their activities.According to the US officials that have discovered them, the messages were scrambled using free encryption programmes set up by Internet privacy groups.Images were created through a series of dots, inside which were strings of letters and numbers that computers could read to recreate the images.


31.         Intelligence and informationgathering can also be effectively conducted through computer networks.Irish terrorists, for instance, had hired contract hackers to penetrate computers in order to acquire home addresses of law enforcement and intelligence officers.In March 2000, Japanese police forces discovered that a software system they had procured to monitor 150 police vehicles had been developed by firms subcontracted by members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, the same that gassed the Tokyo subway in 1995.When this was discovered, the cult had collected classified tracking information on 115 police cars.Moreover, the cult had sold other software to no less than 80 Japanese companies and 10 government agencies, making it potentially easy for them to conduct cyberattacks at a later stage.


32.         Some experts are reluctant to label as cyberterrorism the simple use of computer networks and the Internet by terrorist groups.According to Dorothy E. Denning, a Computer Science professor at Georgetown University (United States), the fact that terrorists use computers is not in itself a proof “that they are pursuing cyberterrorism, either alone or in conjunction with acts of physical violence”.other analysts argue that computer technology has not only enhanced terrorist activities but created new and more dangerous form of terrorism.In fact, according to a study Michael Stohl and Peter Flemming of Purdue University, Indiana (USA), terrorists utilise computers “are now able to operate beyond the purview of traditional counterterrorist approaches”, because their ability “to develop undetected may become stronger”.




33.         Terrorist groups have used computer technology to threaten or attack national infrastructures, including national security , and commercial firms.These attacks have reportedly generated actual damage only in the form of temporary disruption of services, public inconveniences, or financial loss.So far, no attack has led to violence, either physical or psychological, against civilians, or to major disruption.Probably the first politically motivated cyberattack was conducted by ethnic Tamil guerrillas, who in 1998 swamped Sri Lankan embassies with hundreds of e-mails over a two-week time.The attacks upon NATO computer systems during the Kosovo campaign in 1999 (see Ehlers’ report) could also be defined as cyberterrorism, although they were presumably conducted by terrorists but by individual hackers protesting against the Alliance’s bombings.


34.         In 1999, a report by the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Irregular Warfare (CSTIW) at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, tried to assess the prospects of terrorist organisations pursuing cyberterrorism.The study defined three levels of cyber terror capability:

·                Simple or unstructured: basic attacks against individual systems using tools created by someone else and conducted by an organisation that possesses little target analysis, command and control, or learning capabilities;

·                Advanced or structured:more sophisticated attacks against multiple systems or networks using modified or created basic hacking tools, conducted by an organisation that possesses elementary target analysis, command and control, and learning capabilities;


est, (b) an assessment of the potential privacy impacts resulting from the use of the program, (c) the procedures and processes of the organization that will use the program, and (d) countermeasures that terrorists might use to foil the program.

The committee developed the framework presented in Chapter 2 to help decision makers determine the extent to which a program is effective in achieving its intended goals, compliant with the laws of the nation, and reflective of the values of society, especially with regard to the protection of data subjects’ privacy. This framework is intended to be applied by taking into account the organizational and human contexts into which any given program will be embedded as well as the countermeasures that terrorists might take to foil the program.

The framework is discussed in greater detail in Chapter 2.


Policy and Law Regarding Data Mining

Conclusion 5.The current policy regime does not adequately address violationsof privacy that arise from information-based programs using advanced analyticaltechniques, such as state-of-the-art data mining and record linkage.

The current privacy policy regime was established prior to today’s world of broadband communications, networked computers, and enormous databases. In particular, it relies largely on limitations imposed on the collection and use of certain kinds of information, and it is essentially silent on the use of techniques that could be used to process and analyze already-collected information in ways that might compromise privacy.

For example, an activity for counterterrorist purposes, possibly a data mining activity, is likely to require the linking of data found in multiple databases. The literature on record linkage suggests that, even assuming the data found in any given database to be of high quality, the data derived from linkages (the “mosaic” consisting of the collection of linked data) are likely to be error-prone. Certainly, the better the quality of the individual lists, the fewer the errors that will be made in record linkage, but even with high-quality lists, the percentage of false matches and false nonmatches may still be uncomfortably high. In addition, it is also the case that certain data mining algorithms are less sensitive to record linkage errors as inputs, since they use redundant information in a way that can, at times, identify such errors and downweight or delete them. Again, even in the best circumstances, such problems are currently extremely


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