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Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop 1 Science, Technology, and Countering Terrorism: The Search for a Sustainable Strategy Lewis M. Branscomb The scientific and research policies of the U.S. government were profoundly transformed by the cold war in response to a military strategy of technological superiority.1 Only the shock of the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and one other unknown target forced a restructuring to meet the threat of catastrophic terrorism.2 This paper addresses the nature of that threat and the role that science and technology can play in mitigating the risk and the consequences of such attacks. The conclusion summarizes the impact on science and technology policy that may result. A serious constraint on that policy is the need for a sustainable and affordable strategy, which the private sector as well as government will adopt and which the public will support for many years into the future. This presentation addresses four questions: How different is the current threat from that for which the institutions of government are primarily structured? 1 This paper is drawn heavily from National Research Council. 2002. Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism, National Academies Press, Washington, D.C. The report is available in PDF format at http://books.nap.edu/hml/stct/index.html. This paper offers the author’s own views, for which the National Research Council is not responsible. 2 “Catastrophic terrorism” is distinguished from destructive acts of lesser consequence by the nature of the societal response appropriate to the threat. It is assumed that the criminal justice system is adequate to deal with most lesser threats, even those that cause a great deal of public concern, such as the sniper attacks in suburban Maryland and Virginia in October 2002. The September 11, 2001, attack sets a new standard for severity of consequence, in both human life and economic damage. We can also imagine terror attacks such as the detonation of a radiological contamination weapon causing levels of panic and loss of confidence in the government’s protection of its citizens thereby constituting a catastrophe. Also repetition of smaller but deadly attacks, such as suicide bombings in Israel, can accumulate to create a sense of extreme anxiety in the population.
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Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop How can science and engineering contribute to making the nation safer against the threat of catastrophic terrorism? Where will the responsibility lie for defining those responses, investing the needed resources, and implementing the strategies? How can a strategy for mitigating the threat of catastrophic terrorism be sustainable in a democratic society whose political system is known for its short attention span? Given the reality that most of the targets of terrorism are privately owned, and many of the vulnerabilities are the result of firms maximizing efficiency at the expense of security externalities, how can a public-private balance between private efficiency and public vulnerability be found? THE TERRORIST THREAT TODAY To understand how science and technology might contribute to countering terrorism, we must evaluate the nature of the threat, the vulnerabilities of targets in civil society, and the availability of technical solutions to address the vulnerabilities that are most likely to be exploited by terrorists. India and the United States, the world’s two largest democracies, are both vulnerable to terrorist attacks. As an Indian participant in the workshop said, “The most vulnerable states are those with open societies that tolerate dissent.” So far, India and the United States have faced rather different forms of terror attacks. Let me distinguish two forms of terrorism, which I shall categorize as tactical and strategic. Tactical terrorism is characterized by the use of conventional small arms weapons plus explosives (often in the form of car or truck bombs) against individuals in an attempt to put political pressure on a government that has proved intransigent regarding the political objectives of the terrorists. India has experienced a great deal of this kind of terrorism, as has Israel, and the United Kingdom (from the military wing of the Irish Republican Army). Strategic or catastrophic terrorism, on the other hand, seeks to inflict maximum damage against targets that are ideologically despised by the terrorists. In this case the terrorists wish to draw attention to their cause, to inflict maximum damage on the legitimacy of a government, and to inflict major economic penalties on the nation or nations in question. The attack on the World Trade Center by al Qaeda fit this pattern, as did the attack in the Tokyo subway by the Aum Shinrikyo. Such terrorists do not seek to shock a government into making concessions through negotiation.3 Thus the U.S. concern for catastrophic or strategic terrorism is different—and presents a broader spectrum of opportunities for science and technology to reduce the nation’s vulnerability—than is the case today in India. However, given the demonstration of catastrophic destruction in the September 11, 2001, attack in New York City, India, like the United States, a nation that plays an important role in the world, must assume that the day will come when such attacks might be inflicted upon her. The 3 There is, of course, no clear line between these two types. Guy Fawkes’s attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London in 1605, the destruction of the Reichstag, attributed to Hitler’s brown shirts, and the Chechen attack on the “Palace of Culture” in Moscow in October 2002, lie somewhere in between these two types.
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Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop United States may also find itself the victim of suicide bombers and truck bombs (as indeed it was in the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City in April 1995). Terrorists possess some advantages, despite their small numbers. First, their actions are largely unpredictable, since their objectives, at least those of ideological terrorists such as al Qaeda and Aum Shinrikyo, are largely idiosyncratic and obscure.4 Second, the terrorists must be assumed to have some part of their number in covert residence within the societies they plan to attack. Third, terrorists appear to be very patient. They decide when they will strike. As a result, those defending against terrorism must be alert at all times, despite the apparent absence of visible terrorist activity. Finally, terrorists may have international bases of operations, and quite possibly enjoy the sponsorship and assistance of a rogue state. This combination of stateless terrorists who infiltrate target societies, supported by the resources of an irresponsible but technically competent foreign government, is a particularly dangerous combination. The U.S. government identified the Taliban government of Afghanistan as such a state. The U.S. administration was obviously concerned that the Baathist government of Iraq might also represent such a state, although there is no credible evidence that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the September 11, 2001 attack.5 Notwithstanding the terrorist threat, modern industrial societies have some offsetting advantages. Their global intelligence services and military presence, especially when they cooperate with one another, may keep the terror networks off balance, and may be able to damage some of them and interfere with their communications and money flows. Military action, or the threat of it, may discourage rogue states from supporting the terrorists. Nevertheless, highly efficient economies also acquire vulnerabilities and reduced resilience from the private sector’s reluctance to sacrifice efficiency to reduce catastrophic risks whose likelihood is difficult to estimate.6 One area in which both India and the United States enjoy impressive capability is research and innovation. Through the application of available or new technologies, states can make targets less vulnerable, thus less attractive. They can limit the damage that may result from an attack, increase the speed of recovery, and provide forensic tools to identify the perpetrators. However, terrorist networks such as al Qaeda are led by well-educated and well-financed people who may also enjoy advanced technical skills. If supported by a government whose military establishment has developed weapons of mass destruction, these skills may be greatly amplified. Any technical strategy for responding to the threat of catastrophic terrorism must address this fact. 4 Politically motivated terrorists, such as the Irish Republican Army, may have a specific goal, which, if achieved, might bring an end to their attacks. We can imagine an attempt to negotiate an end to their terrorism. This is not the case for the al Qaeda terrorists who carried out the September 11, 2001 attack on New York City and Washington, D.C. 5 Gerald Holton anticipates just such a combination of individual terrorists supported by a rogue government in a paper presented at a terrorism conference at the Hoover Institution in 1976 and published at that time in Terrorism, an international journal. He called this threat Type III Terrorism. See, Holton, Gerald. 2002. “Reflections on Modern Terrorism,” Edge. Available online at http://www.edge.org/3rs_culture/holton/holton_print.html. 6 Auerswald, Philip, Lewis M. Branscomb, Todd LaPorte and Erwann Michel-Kerjan. 2006. Seeds of Disaster, Roots of Response: How Private Actions can Reduce Public Vulnerability, Cambridge University Press, New York.
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Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop THE THREAT OF CATASTROPHIC TERRORISM Any strategy for employing technical knowledge and systems to reduce the likelihood or consequence of catastrophic terrorism must be able to estimate the terrorists’ goals and priorities the most vulnerable targets among those priorities the weapons most desired by and available to the terrorists and the consequences of their use the effectiveness of available means to either deter an attack or reduce its consequences Terrorists’ Goals and Priorities The targets selected by terrorists will depend on their goals and opportunities. Terrorists may be expected to choose among six objectives: inflict extensive loss of human life destroy important, difficult-to-replace physical facilities exact severe economic damage for a persistent time disrupt the institutions of government attack the symbols of civil culture most detested by the terrorists boost the morale and enhance recruiting of terrorist groups The September 11, 2001 attack by al Qaeda was designed to create significant damage in all six areas and succeeded in doing so. However, their primary goal seemed to be a combination of the first and fifth objectives. Their success in wreaking economic havoc in the U.S. airline industry and in the economy as a whole appears to have been an unanticipated bonus. The Targets The physical facilities in which large numbers of people are concentrated are primarily in big cities. So too are many of the industrial facilities whose destruction might inflict both economic damage and human injury if toxic substances are released. These buildings and factories are largely owned by private businesses, especially in the United States. Transportation facilities—airports, bridges, dams, tunnels, and so forth— —are typically owned by municipal, state, or national authorities. Thus, the responsibility for protecting the primary targets is shared among private and government owners, and on the government side, among national, state, county, and municipal authorities. The targets of catastrophic terrorist attacks may be organized into these seven categories:
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Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop people who are vulnerable to infectious disease, toxic chemicals, or radiation delivered either directly or through contamination through food, currency, postage stamps, or other means of distribution to individuals communications and information services, especially those services essential to command and control centers, and to protection and recovery of complex industrial systems energy systems (power plants, refineries, and both fuel and energy distribution systems) transportation systems (air, sea, and land, both mobile and fixed infrastructure for transportation—tunnels, bridges, harbors) cities and fixed infrastructure and the people who inhabit them (office buildings, water supplies, dikes) facilities where many people may be congregated at high density (as in athletic venues and theaters) indirect impact on economies through disruption of critical infrastructure services In a modern industrial society, how vulnerable are these targets?7 Both “critical infrastructure” service industries and structures housing large numbers of people are vulnerable. These are not created by the terrorists, but may be exploited by them. They are, instead, created by the quest for increased efficiency in a competitive, market economy. The competitive drive for commercial efficiency not only creates vulnerabilities in each critical service industry but also creates linkages among these critical infrastructure industries—energy, transportation, communications, food production and distribution, public health, and financial transactions are all interdependent. The mechanisms through which the quest for industrial efficiency may threaten industry’s resilience to catastrophic terrorism include single-point failures, where costs of adding redundant elements are high and risks from small perturbations are low, such as ultra-high-voltage transformers in electric power distribution excessive concentration in the quest for scale economies (concentration of chicken meat processing and distribution in a handful of large firms; aggregation of fuel and passengers in ever larger commercial air transports such as the Airbus 380 with up to 850 passengers, and ever larger ocean liners such as the new cruise ship under construction for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, designed for 6,400 passengers) coupling of critical infrastructure systems to leverage their scale economies (dependence of transportation safety on availability of electric power and secure computer networks; the dependence of the electric power system on the integrity and security of computer networks) The single-point failures of some critical industrial infrastructures are vulnerable 7 The issue of reducing the vulnerability of critical infrastructure has been extensively studied in a new book, Seeds of Disaster, Roots of Response, cited above.
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Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop to widely available, conventional weapons, such as explosives, assault rifles, and rocket-propelled grenades. Others may be attacked with more potent weapons made from the very products, materials, and systems of a modern industrial economy. Terrorists’ Weapons The weapons terrorists might use are divided into two classes: weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and weapons derived from the very economy under attack. WMD can, in principle, be fabricated by technically skilled terrorists, but more probably will originate in rogue states covertly supporting the terrorists or perhaps are stolen from military supplies of more advanced nations.8 These WMD are nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons9 designed initially for military use, and restricted (but not eliminated) by a series of treaties among many but not all nations. There are no more urgent issues for the future of civilization than the effective means for reducing the number and proliferation of WMD, the sequestering of those that remain, and the control of the materials from which they can be easily fabricated. However, we must bear in mind that while weapons of mass destruction are generally the most lethal, they also tend to be the most inaccessible to terror organizations that are not assisted by a technically competent but irresponsible government. The terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center in September 2001 certainly created mass destruction, but the weapons used (fully fuelled airliners used as cruise missiles) were technically, at least under U.S. law, not WMDs. The other class of weapons, those derived from the civil economy of the nation under attack, are more diverse, more numerous, and more accessible to terrorists. Examples include the nitrogen fertilizer (ammonium nitrate) and fuel oil such as that used in the April 1995 attack on the Alfred J. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, tank cars of chlorine being shipped to water supply utilities and other chemical plants, crop dusters that might be used to disperse chemical agents, and fully fuelled aircraft such as used in the September 11, 2001 attack. A more complete list of terrorists’ weapons includes fissile nuclear materials, tactical nuclear weapons, and radiological materials pathological organisms (human, plant, and animal) military-type toxic chemical weapons inflammable, toxic, and explosive chemicals and materials in industrial use cyberattacks and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks on electronic targets (telecoms, data, or command and control centers) transportation systems used as delivery systems for weapons explosives, either conventional or derived from fuel oil and nitrogen fertilizer (ammonium nitrate), for example 8 “Rogue” is used loosely here to refer to states that make WMD available to terrorists, either through deliberate policy or through failure to protect their stocks of weapons (and the talent for making them) from losses through theft and corruption. 9 In the United States the legal definition of weapons of mass destruction includes not only fissile materials and nuclear explosives but also radiological weapons. However, radiological weapons (so-called dirty bombs) are weapons of mass terror, as the destruction caused by a detonation would be largely confined to the explosives used to disperse the radioactive material.
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Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop Protecting Nongovernmental Infrastructure Who will pay to harden nongovernment-owned critical infrastructure and the critical services it supports? There are a variety of possible policies to motivate private investments in hardening of critical infrastructure. Some of them are compulsion through regulation (which may require congressional legislation) subsidies of the research and development to design the hardening strategies through public-private research and development partnerships (but this still leaves industry with the capital expense for implementing the strategy) voluntary commitments with antitrust exemption (the chemical industry in the United States has an excellent record of voluntary standards for plant safety, which might become a model for protection from terrorism, although the industry has lobbied hard, and effectively, against mandatory regulation for security) inducing the insurance industry to set a sliding scale of rates for terrorism loss insurance, reflecting the extent to which client firms have adopted hardening measures Unfortunately, little progress has been made by the U.S. federal government toward defining the tools to be used in each of the areas of critical industry. The U.S. government is now proceeding on a case-by-case basis, focusing primarily on how to motivate the large pharmaceutical companies to manufacture vaccines for which there is no “peacetime” market. But no general strategy for the permanent hardening of the U.S. economy has been adopted.10 In a limited number of cases, firms may be able to devise hardening strategies that also reduce costs or improve product or service value so that the total costs are minimized or are even negative. The manner by which many firms responded to the Y2K threat offers some encouragement for this notion. Such a dual-use11 strategy is needed to increase the likelihood that industry will invest in hardening critical infrastructure, to create a more sustainable public commitment to the costs and inconveniences of national efforts against terrorist threats, and to integrate homeland security research and development with the rest of the societal research and engineering base to ensure a fully national effort of high-quality results. Because most of the targets and many of the weapons are imbedded in the civilian economy, security issues cannot be neatly separated from the daily life of the civilian population. The strategy for gradually restructuring many of our physical facilities, production processes, means of providing food distribution, and the like, will have to reflect a complex balance of public-good investments (for which government will have to take the initiative), and commercial investments aimed at competitive success. The political economy of the United States is not designed to make this marriage of 10 The National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) has been issued by the Department of Homeland Security and many other government departments, but it does not effectively solve the problem of motivating the private sector to invest in vulnerability reduction. See www.dhs.gov/NIPP. 11 Ruth A. David, CEO of ANSER Corporation, correctly suggests that “dual benefit” would be a more appropriate phrase in this context.
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Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop conflicting interests and responsibilities easy; India, European nations, and some Asian economies are more accustomed to this balance in their economies. However distasteful the phrase ideologically, the U.S. government needs a counterterrorism industrial policy. Examples of civilian benefits that might result from such a strategy are revitalization of the public health service for serving the normal health needs of communities technical capability to respond even faster and more effectively to natural biological threats such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), West Nile virus, and monkey pox virus reduction in the number of illnesses caused by infection or poisoning of the food supply more reliable electric power and other services, especially in the face of hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes further improvements in the safety standards of the chemical industry reduced incidence of cyberattacks by hackers and financial systems made more secure against theft and malicious damage more efficient and timely tracking of goods in transit and billing for their content reduced risk to fire, police, and emergency health professionals MITIGATION: THE ROLE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY The U.S. National Academies report Making the Nation Safer made more than 130 recommendations for ways to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks. Listed here are a few examples of specific threats and the corresponding recommendations for the use of science and technology to address those threats. Nuclear and Radiological Threats If terrorists with a minimal level of scientific knowledge can acquire enough highly enriched uranium (HEU), they may be able to assemble an inefficient but effective nuclear weapon for detonation in a major city. The United States and Russia are now cooperating in safeguarding fissile material and blending down stocks of HEU, but progress is far too slow. Even more dangerous is the possible availability to terrorists of finished nuclear weapons either stolen and sold from nuclear states or provided by rogue states capable of making them.12 The U.S. public must be educated on the nature of radiological threats, both from Radiation Dispersal Devices (dirty bombs) and from damaged nuclear electric power plants and radioactive waste storage. Public ignorance about radiation hazards may 12 Americans are perhaps more nervous than their friends in India about the political instability of the Pakistani government and the possible consequences should Pakistani nuclear weapons or weapons materials find their way into the hands of terrorists hostile to the United States. Today, attention is shifting to North Korea and Iran as potential sources of weapons or materials, both of which apparently obtained technology from Pakistan.
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Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop induce a level of panic much more destructive than the radiation from which people may be fleeing. The technical task of detecting fissile materials being covertly shipped into a target state is a daunting task, and is receiving a high level of research attention in the United States, but can never be depended upon to stop the import of material for a single weapon. Only control at the source will suffice. Biological Threats to People and Their Food Supply Research on pathogenesis of infectious agents, and particularly on means for early detection of the presence of such pathogens before their symptomatic appearance, is important. Nations will stockpile vaccines against known diseases, but the threat of genetic modification—while perhaps beyond the capability of most terrorists but not of rogue states—requires a vigorous research effort to find solutions for detection, evaluation, and response. In the United States the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a robust capability in epidemiology, but there is no equivalent epidemiological response capability for possible biological attacks on agriculture and farm animals. Thus, measures to protect the food supply, and to provide decontamination after an attack, must have high priority. Toxic Chemicals, Explosives, and Flammable Materials Some highly lethal chemicals, such as those made for military applications, are relatively easily made from widely available materials. There is even greater risk from industrial chemicals, which are widely accessible as they move in commerce. Dangerous chemicals in transit should be tracked and identified electronically. To ensure that only first responders, and not terrorists, know what the tank cars contain, the rail cars should be equipped with encrypted electronic identification. Sensor networks are required to detect and characterize dangerous materials, particularly when they are airborne. Self-analyzing filter systems for modern office buildings whose windows cannot be opened can not only protect the inhabitants but also detect and report the first presence of materials (such as aerosols) that may be trapped in improved filters. An example of long-range, basic research that could be highly beneficial would be the discovery of olfactory biosensors than can reach dog levels of sensitivity, some 10,000 times that of humans. Energy Systems The hazards associated with fossil fuel storage, shipment, and use are well known. Perhaps less apparent are the vulnerabilities of a modern electric power grid. Many of these systems have vulnerable, unique extra-high-voltage transformers for which there are no spares and thus represent a single-point failure. A solution recommended in Making the Nation Safer is the production of more portable and safely stored midsized transformers specifically designed to be reconfigurable in combination to replace a failed high-voltage transformer.
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Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop Another vulnerability results from the replacement of operating engineers in power distribution control rooms with computer systems running Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. These computer-based software systems are generally produced abroad; it is difficult to guarantee their integrity. In addition, while some electric utilities use encrypted traffic on fiber optics to communicate among the SCADA computers, others use clear traffic on the Internet, vulnerable to a cyberattack. An experienced hacker might gain control of the SCADA system and use it to damage the power distribution system. From a longer time frame perspective, adaptive power grids should be developed to make them both harder to attack and make recovery after attack much easier and quicker. Communications and Information Systems In the United States the most urgent issue is to reconfigure first responder communications so that police, fire, and medical personnel can communicate with one another and with the emergency operations centers. Inability to do so greatly aggravated loss of life, especially among firefighters, in the World Trade Center attacks. The main worry about cyberattacks is the possibility of their use, perhaps with electromagnetic pulse devices as well, to amplify the destructive effect of a conventional physical or biological attack.13 Cybersecurity is one of the top priority areas for research investment because private industry was, before September 11, 2001, largely content with the level of computer and network security available to it. A quite inadequate level of sophisticated talent is devoted to the goal of fully secure operating systems and networks. Transportation and Borders Sensor networks for inspection of goods and passengers crossing the nation’s borders will be a research priority. The primary technical challenge will not be the design of sensors themselves, although much progress is needed in this area, but in the systems engineering of the networks of sensors together with data fusion and decision support software. Biometrics for more secure identification of individuals shows promise, and systems superior to the driver’s licenses and passports used by most travelers are promising. The range of threats to the transportation networks of a modern state is very great, and careful systems analysis is essential to identifying the weak points and finding the most effective and economical means of protecting them. Cities and Fixed Infrastructure The Emergency Operations Centers (EOC) in many large U.S. cities are quite vulnerable, not only to a destructive physical attack but to more indirect attacks on their ability to access data and to communicate through a cyberattack or electromagnetic pulse attack. Remedying these vulnerabilities must have high urgency; in many cases the centers will have to be relocated. Tragically, the EOC in New York City was located in a 13 Making the Nation Safer, p. 136-137.
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Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop known target, the World Trade Center. Much research is already under way to analyze the structural characteristics of high-rise buildings that may make them much more vulnerable than necessary. Without waiting for this research to result in revised building codes, the expert panel recommended immediate adoption and extension, where appropriate, of European standards for fire and blast, which were much improved following World War II.14 As already noted, air intakes for large buildings need to be less accessible and equipped with better air filters, perhaps with chemical analysis sufficient to determine if a toxic material is present. Instrumentation to allow first responders to detect toxic and hazardous materials; special provisions for protecting harbors, bridges, dams, tunnels, and dikes; and protection against attacks on urban water supplies downstream from the treatment plant are all discussed in Making the Nation Safer. How much of the long term, imaginative research and development envisioned in Making the Nation Safer has been undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)? Not enough. The Science and Technology Directorate of DHS does not have the scope of authority, nor the length of vision that the Academies’ study urged on Congress. Critics say that it has been difficult for DHS to sustain an expert staff with low enough turn over to build and execute the needed technical strategies. Nor has the Homeland Security Institute been given the necessary scope of independent system-level review of the DHS technical priorities. SOCIETAL RESPONSES TO TERRORIST THREATS Making the Nation Safer concludes that public fear and confusion are more likely responses to most terrorist attacks than is terror, that is, a level of fear so intense that individuals are rendered incapable of acting rationally. The main dangers are panic and destructive behavior as a result of the lack of credible and timely public information. Thus, a loss of public confidence in those responsible for protecting the public can also be an attack amplifier. The government faces a number of dilemmas, such as using a color-coded warning system to alert the public to the perceived likelihood of additional terrorist attacks. Some citizens feel that this system itself may needlessly amplify the threat, thus doing terrorists’ psychological job for them. An urgent issue to be addressed is for government to train and introduce to the public, well in advance of any attack, a number of trusted and knowledgeable people who are prepared to provide accurate and trustworthy information quickly and authoritatively. TECHNICAL STRATEGIES From the great variety of threats studied by the National Academies’ experts, several commonsense conclusions about technical strategy can be extracted: 14 Ibid, p. 256.
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Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop repair the weakest links (single-point failures) in vulnerable systems and infrastructures use defenses-in-depth (do not rely only on perimeter defenses or firewalls) use “circuit breakers” to isolate and stabilize failing system elements build security and flexibility into basic system designs where possible design systems for use by typical first responders focus priority attention on the “system of systems” technical challenge to understand and remedy the inherent weaknesses in critical infrastructure that are inherent in their architecture15 ensure that first responders, including technical teams from critical infrastructure service industries, are properly trained and equipped, and the targets themselves are designed to be more resilient in the face of disaster emphasize the importance of flexibility and agility in responding to disasters that were not anticipated in the system design and personnel training The last point is particularly important. Future attacks are likely to involve multiple complex systems. There are a number of dimensions to the systems engineering challenge of homeland security. The multiple critical industrial infrastructures are closely coupled. Almost all of the responses to terrorist threats require the concerned action of national agencies, state and local authorities, private companies, and in many cases, friendly nations. The technologies used in counterterrorism will themselves be coupled, complex systems. An evident example is the notion of complex networks of sensors that are coupled to databases, within which the network output is fused with other information, and from which sensible and useable information for local officials in Emergency Operations Centers must be provided. Thus, setting priorities requires modeling and simulating attack and response, and “red teaming” to test the effectiveness of proposed solutions. Finally, there is a need to build up investments in the social sciences, which will be especially important in devising strategies for countering terrorism. Both the roots of terrorism and its consequences need to be better understood. Social science can also contribute to a sustainable effort, involving multiple levels of government, with minimal economic cost, and where the perceived conflict between security activities and protection of individual freedom can best be informed and adjudicated. A SUSTAINABLE STRATEGY FOR HOMELAND SECURITY Because major terrorist attacks against civil populations may be separated by considerable intervals of time, there is reason to be concerned that the public will lose interest in the threat, and that none of the organizational or investment needs will be satisfactorily met. For these reasons, the strategy for maximizing civil benefits deserves high-priority attention. There are many obvious examples of how counter terror research 15 Note that the United States will find restructuring complex infrastructures to be very difficult and expensive, since these systems are not designed to permit easy restructuring. India has a window of opportunity in that much of its infrastructure is still relatively simple, but it is growing in size and complexity very quickly.
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Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop and development can create values appreciated by the public and of economic value to firms, such as creation of a more agile vaccine development and production capability, information and communications networks that are more resistant to cyber attack, energy systems more robust in the face of natural disasters and human error, security technologies that are more effective yet more unobtrusive and convenient for the public. Sustainability will be a challenge for those in political power in the United States, for they find themselves compelled to emphasize the public’s vulnerability (for example, with the color-coded alert system, which is largely successful in making the public nervous) and at the same time to emphasize that the government’s efforts “have the terrorists on the run.” Indeed, we can easily imagine that terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda may deliberately wait long intervals between attacks to decrease the alertness of the target’s defenses. Sustainability requires one additional strategic element that is of the highest importance. The compromises to civil liberties that the public will readily accept during a traditional war, which is expected to be of short duration, will not be acceptable in the context of a terrorism threat that knows no end, that offers no victory. Thus, the public must be very alert to the kinds of emergency legislation and exercises of executive authority that may be helpful in the short term, but carry the danger of concentrating too much political power in the incumbent government over an indefinite length of time. There are two kinds of expressions of government authority that must be carefully constrained. One is specific legislation that may deprive individuals of constitutional rights, including rights that are found in the Supreme Court interpretation of the founders’ intent. Others are the aggregation of administrative authority in government that permits officials to behave arbitrarily, without proper definitions, process, and remedy. An example is the management of information security. The temptation to create a category of information called “sensitive but unclassified” has already created a great deal of confusion and nervousness in the technical community, since the criteria for defining a security breach seem to be created after the fact in each case. One solution is to recognize the principle that governmental responsibilities should be assigned to the level of government where the information about a threat is located, where the damage will be inflicted, and where the human resources to deal with it must be mobilized. Under the U.S. Constitution, states have quite adequate police powers to address many terrorist threats, if assisted by federal financial, technical, and intelligence resources. If constraints on civil liberties (still consistent with constitutional protections) are adopted more locally, the trade-off of value and cost is more likely to be politically acceptable and less likely to lead to a loss of power in the central government. The national government’s role should be to ensure that the states do not go too far in constraining personal freedoms; it should not be the instrument of abuse of those freedoms. Indeed, the observation cited above, that the open societies that tolerate dissent are most vulnerable, clearly implies that any strategy for protection from terror attack must be designed to protect the right of political dissent, not to suppress it in the search for those who might be sympathetic to terrorist objectives. Technology can play a role here too. By reducing the number of attractive targets, decreasing the likelihood of a successful attack, and increasing the resilience of those targets that are attacked, the need for more extreme abuses of civil liberties can also be reduced.
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Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS There are seven major points that I would conclude from this discussion. First, only a far-sighted foreign policy, addressing the roots of terrorism and denying terrorist ideologies a foothold in other societies, can make the United States and its allies safer in the long run. Second, weapons of mass destruction are potentially devastating, but the most probable threats will be fashioned from the economy itself, as was the case on September 11, 2001. Private property and commercial industry are most often the target of terrorist attacks, and may be providing the weapons for their own destruction. Thus, the federal government must devise both positive and negative incentives for private investments in hardening critical infrastructure and urban targets. Third, the protection of critical infrastructure must, to the extent possible, be accomplished through a civilian benefits maximization strategy. Fourth, reducing vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure is a highly complex systems problem; it requires a strategy tested by the most modern systems analytic approaches. Fifth, since most of the science and technology capability of market economy governments lies outside the security agencies, governments must be able to coordinate and fund a national science and technology strategy. Sixth, a degree of cooperation between industry, cities, and government unknown in prior experience is required. In particular, local authorities must have an effective voice in setting the technical agenda for equipment for which they are the customer. Finally, for the protection against terrorism to be sustainable, more than a civilian benefits maximization strategy is required. The negative effects on civil freedoms from increased authority in the central government must be resisted, since the threat of terrorist attack is indefinite and emergency measures may never be relaxed.
Representative terms from entire chapter: