. "3 Discussion of Terrorist Threats in the United States and India and Relevant Science and Technology." Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2007.
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Science and Technology to Counter Terrorism: Proceedings of an Indo-U.S. Workshop
The latter point was also emphasized by B. Raman, who stated that terrorists were becoming increasingly adept in the use of science and technology for their own purposes. They attract a large number of educated people from universities and other educational institutions. In the past there were ideologically oriented organizations such as the Bader-Meinhoff, the Action Directe of France, the Red Army faction, the Red Brigade, and so forth. The people attracted to those terrorist organizations were largely humanities students, rarely were there any science students. We now find that many members of terrorist organizations are science or engineering students and technical professionals, notably Osama bin Laden (himself an engineer) and other members of al Qaeda. One suspect in the Bali bombing held a doctorate in chemistry from a very prestigious British university, and Abu Zubaida, who was supposed to be the third-ranking person in the al Qaeda hierarchy, was an expert in computer technology, and according to some reports, studied computer technology in Pune, India, and then crossed over into Pakistan where he joined al Qaeda.
Raman noted that in Pakistan two scientists went to Kandahar and met Osama bin Laden and the leaders of al Qaeda—it is just as important to study the impact of religious fundamentalism on the scientists who deal with missiles and nuclear explosives as it is to study the impact of fundamentalism on political leaders or the armed forces.
Raman emphasized the ability of terrorists to improvise: they discovered 20 years ago that the Czechoslovakian explosive Semtex was difficult to detect, they used airplanes to deliver deadly attacks, and they used shoes to conceal explosives. The lesson is that we must constantly monitor their thinking; for example, in 1998, after the United States launched cruise missile attacks on the training camps in Afghanistan, groups close to al Qaeda said, “You came and attacked us with your cruise missiles on our territory. We will one day come and attack you on your territory with our cruise missiles.” A statement that at the time was not taken seriously, but in retrospect it seems to be significant. Terrorist statements have to be monitored seriously, not dismissed as bombastic. On the other hand, Raman noted the problem of dealing with terrorists who claim to possess a bomb or a grenade on an airplane, but have only dummy weapons. He asked whether the issue of sorting out credible and noncredible threats had been adequately examined, as had the prior problem of preventing scientists in such states as Pakistan from sharing their expertise with terrorists.
Continuing on the theme of the role of the scientifically trained terrorist, S. Gopal noted the difficulty in detecting such people. Hypothetically, this would mean that each state had to develop a database of people working on high-end technology and perhaps exchange this information with others. One possible way to track this threat would be to have proper intelligence on people in every country working on high-end technology. He agreed that this would, of course, impinge upon individual rights and freedoms, particularly if intelligence gathering included asking if such people had problems, if they had been affected by state activities, or if their family was affected in some way. But being forewarned is forearmed. So a good network of intelligence, both human and technology intelligence, is a must to minimize terrorism.
Another Indian participant, Raja Menon, was impressed by the diverse range and objectives of terrorists in the world today; from the eastern branch of the terror network, the Jamma Islamiya, with clearly proclaimed political objectives, to terrorist organizations that may be open to negotiation. On the other hand, Menon noted,