Terrorists have evolved in their warfare and now they exploit modern technologies to facilitate every stage of their operation such as recruitment, training, planning and attack. Counter terrorism efforts therefore require more effort, continued research and high tech solutions to prevent, protect and to safeguard innocent citizens. The key to victory is not just the volume of information at our disposal but more importantly how effectively the information is analyzed and disseminated among anti-terror vigilance networks in different nations. Only a coordinated approach to counter terrorism would yield fruit, and for this, standardization of security measures across the international checkpoints is indispensible. There is no one solution to solve the problem of terrorism but with the development of newer technological solutions such as Biometric identification, Biosensors and terahertz imaging systems and other software solutions we can look forward to achieving the objective of a safer America and a safer world.,
The twenty first century began amidst the explosive growth of the internet, the telecommunication technologies and the biotech revolution, creating a huge promise of the benefits that society could derive from these advancements in every walk of life. Sadly though Sep / 2001 also marked a new era in the history of the world, one in which terrorists could easily use a high tech plan of converting a fuel filled passenger flight into a guided ballistic missile that could destroy vital civilian targets at the heart of one of the highly secure and technologically powerful nations in the world. The impact of the attacks was an immediate revamp of security policies and the shift in focus towards the development and use of advanced technology in identifying and preventing such atrocious schemes by the terror outfits that spare no stone unturned to carry out their nefarious plans. However, terrorists also employ the latest in technologies for anything from logistics to planning and training to actual execution of attacks, creating a terror network that is a formidable enemy to engage with. Particularly, when the proliferation of latest weapon systems help them posses new modern military weapons with GPS locators and guided munitions, it becomes even more dangerous and deadly. Let us briefly discuss the use of technology by terrorists and how governments across the world are using advanced technological solutions in their efforts to prevent the terror plots and protect innocent people.
Technology and Terrorists
Technology has impacted terrorism in very significant ways. Terrorists make use of modern communication gadgets and their network capabilities to recruit, plan, train, organize and execute their mission.
Recruiting new candidates is a continuous process for terror networks as new members are needed to fill in the places of those who are arrested or killed during their mission. The internet and other mobile communication devices make the recruitment drive a lot easier. For instance, several terror outfits related to the Al Qaeda routinely recruit candidates from the databases of the Madrasas (religious institutions) in Pakistan. Similarly the Hezbollah outfit is well-known to use violent video games to spread their hatred messages against Israel and to recruit members. By making use of emails, conferences and other networking features terror outfits have made targeted recruiting an easy process than before. [Bruce Et.al, (2007) pg 13]
Technology also aids terrorists in speeding up their training requirements. The internet and the information that is available has made it is easy for terrorists to learn everything about the different type of explosive devices. The internet speeds up technological training and is particularly helpful for members to obtain vital training from field experts elsewhere in the globe who may also be supportive of their cause on the sly. As the 2009 counter terrorism strategy (CONTEST) of the UK government states, "Terrorist organisations will have access to more lethal technology. Scientific training and expertise will have even greater significance for terrorist organisations because technology will be able to compensate for the vulnerabilities they will have. Terrorists will continue to aspire to develop or steal and then use [CBRN] weapons. [Paul Cornish, (2010)]
Technology in Conducting Attacks
Modern day consumer technology helps terrorists in conducting their violent acts. The use of cell phones, GPS and satellite phones enable them to better coordinate their attacks and to have more precision helping them achieve their goal of mass destruction and increased impact. Terrorists are now routinely using the simple communication device like the cell phone as a remote to trigger explosive devices. The 2005 serial blasts in Delhi supermarkets and the Madrid blasts are examples of cases where mobile phones were used as detonators for triggering explosives. It is very simple to convert a mobile phone into a trigger for a bomb. "Cell phones have been connected to terrorist bombings in Madrid, Bali and Israel. Many roadside bombs in Iraq are believed to be triggered by cell phones." [Emily Turrettini, (2005)] More recently, the planning and the operations of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, where terrorists entered and held under siege a five star hotel for more than 3 days, was effected using high tech gadgets. As G. Parthasarathy, one of the national security experts said, "Both sides used technology. The terrorists would not have been able to carry out these attacks had it not been for technology. They were not sailors, but they were able to use sophisticated GPS navigation tools and detailed maps to sail from Karachi [in Pakistan] to Mumbai," The terrorists used high resolution satellite images of Mumbai city and the target hotel. They also used satellite phones and VOIP internet services to call phone numbers of their command in Pakistan who provided them with instructions on how to conduct the attack. [Emily Wax]
Technological Terrorism (Cyber warfare)
Cyber warfare is a reality now and the connectivity of the internet provides terrorist with the possibility to hack and intrude important computer installations and wreck devastation. For instance, a recent study by the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) has reported that the possibility of terrorists attacking a nuclear power plant for destructive purposes is very real as they could actually accomplish this by breaking and entering into computer systems that control these plants. As John Fritz the author of the study report states, "Despite claims that nuclear launch orders can only come from the highest authorities, numerous examples point towards an ability to sidestep the chain of command and insert orders at lower levels. Cyber-terrorists could also provoke a nuclear launch by spoofing early warning and identification systems or by degrading communications networks." [Bobbie Johnson] Cyberterrorism is therefore a permanent threat that cannot be lightly ignored. Instead of creating a weapon of mass destruction which would be a very difficult thing for a terrorist outfit to accomplish they can easily pursue the alternative of cyber warfare against target nuclear plants.
Technology against Terrorism
While there is no fool proof solution against terrorism there is no doubt that modern technology has greatly improved the security situation and more and more research is devoted to finding new technological solutions that help us prevent, protect and safeguard people from the terrorists.
Improved Baggage Screening
Post 9/11, there has been some drastic changes in border security. Particularly, airport security has been beefed up considerably over the last several years. Baggage checking and passenger screening have vastly improved in airports across the world. In the U.S., the dept of Homeland security spends a whooping $500 million every year for research and improvisation of baggage screening process. [Eleni Linos] There are more than 7200 Explosion Trace Detection systems (ETD) and 1100 Explosion Detection Systems (EDS) in the airports across U.S.. [Garrick et.al] Any baggage that gives an alarm is immediately manually checked up for any explosive material. Though there have been instances of a very high rate of false alarms reported by these scanning machines, they are helpful in conducting a thorough check of all baggage.
Technology also helps to improve passenger screening process. Airport security is now making use of passenger profiling, 'Group Listing' and software such as CAPPS (computer assisted passenger pre-screening systems) that help them to easily identify passengers. [EFF] Also, U.S. airports now use 'Screening passengers by observation techniques' (SPOT), a behavioral technique to identify suspicious people just based on observation. This system uses 'micro expressions' to detect criminal intent. As TSA spokesman Chris White said, "We have caught a number of individuals, from drug dealers to money launderers, and a double murderer in one case," [Paul Marks]
Recent and future developments
Biometrics, a field which has developed significantly over the last several years promises to be the future of personal identification. Biometrics is nothing but the use of physical characteristics of a person such as a fingerprint, face, signature, iris, voice, etc. that can be cross checked with a digitized biometric database. This offers an almost foolproof system of personal identification. Biometrics technology would enable security officers to control access to 'sensitive facilities' at the airport and other high security…