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America's NERF-Based Security: Reassurance Through Illusion, Rhetoric, and Fear-Mongering

Richard Forno
22 October 2001
(c) 2001 by Author. Permission is granted to quote, reprint or redistribute provided the text is not altered, and appropriate credit is given.

Summary: An easy-to-read look at various current issues and actions resulting from September 11th and asking if they are really effective.

With all the hype surrounding the events and aftermath of September 11th it is difficult to separate the reality and 'signal' from the hype, sensationalism, and 'noise'. We see increased security at buildings and airports, and hear of threats around each corner - but how much of what we're seeing is real, and how much is fear-mongering and/or feel-good security measures designed more to reassure the American public than be truly effective? Is the United States scrambling helter-skelter to investigate, prevent, respond, or censor anything that might be remotely connected to past or potential terrorist actions? How effective are the proposed 'enhancements' to existing security postures, really?

This article is intended to provide reality-based answers to these questions, and are probably not what you'll see on television or the mainstream media. The decision to write this came from the public reaction to Susan Sontag's recent op-ed column in the New Yorker Magazine. Her comments - rooted in reality - generated a significant public uproar that had some branding her as 'unpatriotic' - the logic being that anyone who does not blindly accept and support everything the United States proposes in its response to terrorism must be supportive of terrorism. While I am an American, and patriotic as Yankee Doodle Dandy, I happen to agree with many of her comments, and thus this article was born.

If you're wondering, the title of this article symbolizes the knee-jerk attempts to 'enhance security' in the United States by overt yet ineffective actions in the public eye, some of which are mentioned below. We all played innocently with NERF's various sponge toys (balls, frisbees, guns, spears, darts) as children since it was very difficult to hurt someone with these realistic-looking toys. Realistic But Harmless - particularly on the airlines - we're becoming NERFed against anything that might pose a danger through realistic-looking but totally ineffective security measures. (No offense to the NERF Company, these make some great products, but with respects, the analogy fits well for this article.)

Anthraxophobia Wrongly Rules News and Our Lives

Since the case of anthrax was reported in Florida, the media - particularly the 24-hour cable news channels - focused on the story, calling in pundit after pundit to discuss the bacteria, preventive measures, responses, and the nation's ability to defend against a biological attack. Even now, days later, news 'crawlers' at the bottom of the television screen continue to display statements and sound bites that - while adding nothing substantive to the story - serve to elevate the public's collective blood pressure simply because the word "anthrax" appears on the screen. On October 19th, the Associated Press even reported that Northwest Airlines removed powdered artificial sweetners from its airline food service meals to allay passenger fears! How far will this lunacy go? Will it soon be illegal to walk down the street eating a powdered doughnut?

This media-driven "Anthraxophobia" and contradicting government actions sends mixed messages to the American public, and perpetuating public fear and misperception about the issue. While the White House presents an "all is calm" image, the US House of Representatives adjourned for a long weekend claiming anthrax security concerns, although the Senate - where there were confirmed anthrax attacks - remained open for legislative business. Does this sound like a confused government establishment unsure of how to proceed in today's era of terrorism? A recent New York Times editorial by Tom Friedman notes that "We have U.S. troops in the field all around Afghanistan. It can't be easy duty. But the House is running scared. Just what the terrorists wanted. The House members should be meeting on the Capitol steps, popping Cipro if they have to, telling America's troops and America's enemies that nothing - N-O-T-H-I-N-G - will derail our democracy."

Anthraxophobia has even forced the Pentagon to shutter its Operation DEAR ABBY service that sends holiday morale messages to troops deployed overseas. Traditionally, letters - not addressed to anyone in particular - are sent to the central DEAR ABBY offices and then passed on to troops. As a result of bureaucratic Anthraxophobia, however, the Military Postal Service Agency simply shut the service down. Did it ever occur to them that it might have been a better compromise to perhaps only accept postcards instead of sealed envelopes that could contain anthrax? We are starting to see fear influence and dictate policy and operational decisions - not educated fear, but assumption-based knee-jerking that's rooted in anything but facts.

While the casual observer - perhaps those whose only source of 'news' is from shows like 'Hard Copy' or who receive their news from a single source - may be concerned at the potential of an anthrax attack, realists may have a far more sinister assessment: given that confirmed anthrax incidents and anthrax-related scares occurred in isolated areas - Reno, Manhattan, Madison, and Palm Beach - could it be that an adversary, be it al Qaeda, Iraq, or a domestic nut case, is simply mailing anthrax and anthrax-like letters to either cause public paranoia, or (more likely) is sitting back observing how the government, media, and public react and respond to this perceived threat, in advance of a future, more widespread attack?

Nobody seems to be interested that anthrax is a very treatable bug - even after an infection is diagnosed - or that Cipro is not the exclusive remedy. Folks don't realize that it takes more than a few spores to cause problems in people. Worse yet, the average person - including television's talking heads - does not understand or discuss the concept of drug-resistant infections. If everyone starts taking antibiotics for any symptom of illness, over time such practices will not only weaken the protective effect of such medicines on the human body, but also reduce the impact of such drugs on various infectors like anthrax, smallpox, and plague

The panic and paranoia we're currently seeing about anthrax is insignificant compared to what we'd see if smallpox, plague, or any other significantly more deadly substance was reported. Several specialists I've spoken with agree that on the ' bioweapons food chain' anthrax is nowhere near the top of deadly weapons. Yet by watching the news, you'd think it was worse than anything else. One confirmed death from anthrax is certainly newsworthy, but does not imply terrorism or justify a round-the-clock news cycle on thestory. However, one person being diagnosed with smallpox would be both newsworthy and almost certainly terrorism, and nobody's wondering about that on the airwaves.

Osama Most Likely Isn't Sending Encoded Messages to the Networks
Last week, National Security Advisor Condeleeza Rice contacted the major media outlets and strongly suggested they not broadcast unedited videos from those involved with Osama or Al Qaeda, fearing that such videos might contain hidden messages to sleeper cells instructing them to execute additional pre-planned attacks. Historically, this is not a new concept, as it was quite effective during World War II with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner to today's CIA) using civilian radio broadcasts to pass coded messages to the maquis (the French underground resistance fighters) instructing them to carry out pre-planned strikes in advance of the Normandy invasion in June 1944.

Casual observers may think this is a wise precaution, even if they don't know the success of this technique during World War II, and agree with the White House's statement that such messages are also propaganda to incite the rank-and-file Muslim population in the United States in support of al Qaeda. To a certain extent, that's probably true.

Realists, however, seem to agree that such 'encoded messages' are probably not a very viable method of communication for our adversaries. It's already known that al Qaeda knows how to communicate securely - without encryption, by the way - to coordinate its cells and plan attacks around the world. Besides, even if the United States media censors such videos, what prevents people from seeing the video from satellite television, over the Internet, from international news sources, via telephone, obtaining a transcript, or placing calls to non-Internet (and old fashioned) computer bulletin board systems to access the video or text of the statement?

Crazier still, news executives are most likely not intelligence professionals trained to look for hidden messages or nuances in such statements, nor do they have the background information on the situation - much of it from classified sources in the intelligence community -- to provide specific guidance on what to look for. So, how effective is this, really? That being said, if the real reason behind the White House request to censor unedited terrorist videos is a method of quieting propaganda directed at the United States, why not simply say so? Are they that concerned that the American people would start believing Osama's babbling that they must NERF our perceptions of the adversary?

Terrorists are asymmetric and unconventional in their actions, choosing unorthodox methods of attack. On September 11th, four aircraft were hijacked with the intention of destroying buildings and killing thousands. In early October, there were statements by Osama stating that "storms of airplanes" would never defeat his cause. Soon after, an al Qaeda spokesperson warned American Muslims "not to board airplanes" or be in skyscrapers "anytime soon." The news channel 'experts' and government spokesmen were quick to state these were serious hints that future airline hijackings were possible. While that's certainly a possibility, given the unconventional nature of terrorism, perhaps we could interpret these messages as items intended to draw our attention toward airports and airplanes while ships, trains, and busses (for example) are the real targets in a follow-on attack. Nobody wanting to be successful in battle outlines their exact battle plan or weapons capabilities for their adversaries. Ask any military historian, this is one of the oldest tactics in the book, not to mention a common one in boxing - draw your opponent's attention to the left while aiming for the right. In this case, a terrorist's 'Rope-A-Dope.'

A much more effective method of communicating is through sequential events. Perhaps establishing a one-time-use system along the lines of "if you hear that a car bomb exploded in Mexico City near Building Y, begin your particular phase of our operation in 48 hours.." How will the White House prevent this (and other such) forms of communication from signaling further attacks? Again, censoring terrorism messages in the mainstream media may have some impact, but it's not as foolproof as they, or the public, are led to believe. NERFY Security. Sounds important, but totally ineffective.

Threat Inflation by The Regal Court of W.
After September 11th, anything that could become a terrorist tool was deemed a possible threat and became the object of close scrutiny by the federal government. Some of the more memorable items that came under investigation and analysis as possible terrorist tools included crop-dusters, hazardous material tanker trucks, airplanes, semi-trailers, box cutters, nose-hair clippers, the Internet, encryption, and barbecue grills. (Well, maybe not barbecue grills, but you get the idea.) A few of these deserve special mention:

The crop-duster 'threat' might give the uninformed observer pause, but the realist would look at Justice claims and shake their heads in disbelief. Granted, crop-dusters spray chemicals from the air, but what kind of chemicals do they spray? Insecticides and Pesticides - fancy terms for substances that kill bugs, infections and germs in plants. Assuming that the adversary doesn't switch tanks or completely clean them out, it's a good bet that the residual pesticides would negate part if not all of the biologic agents intended to attack people via crop-dusters. In addition, the spray orifices (the 'nozzles') used on crop-dusting aircraft are the wrong size for creating the droplet size necessary for distributing biologic warfare agents. Further, several of the common biologic agents require specific environmental conditions to live in - changes in light or temperature can render such attacks ineffective. Given the highly-fickle nature of biological weapons, many educated security experts believe that chemical weapons, not biological ones, are the preferred weapon in an aerial attack.

Given the attention drawn to crop-dusters by the government and media, an adversary wanting to distribute biowar agents could be free to wait for the right weather conditions and simply blow them across an interstate highway or river. Wait for a temperate, windy day -- it doesn't even need to be in a city or during rush hour. Drivers would likely think it's dust from a construction project and drive through the dust as they often to, and not give the matter a second thought. Meanwhile, the particles get caught in the vehicle air system and move with the vehicle (and its occupants) to their destination, thus spreading the given bioweapon across a wide area. Short of closing all major highways, roadways, and waterways, how would this be prevented?

Recently, the White House created the Office of Homeland Security that includes a mission to guard against the so-called, highly-sensational concept of "cyber-terrorism" against computer networks. While discussing this issue is an article in itself, suffice it to say that terrorists are by definition low-tech brutes looking to cause the maximum amount of public fear. Images of smoking craters and high casualties are much more effective in generating fear than a darkened computer screen. Being an effective "information warrior" takes significant technical and analytical experience and training, something that the impoverished, uneducated, run-of-the-mill twenty-something member of Club Osama or the al Qaeda club does not possess. While there always ongoing threats to critical networks, and a possibility of a 'cyber war' many security professionals - at least, the few realists in our line of work - deem this as a potential terrorist target very low. Besides, there are enough inherent problems in many of today's computer networks and systems that cause them to fail without any outside assistance!

Creating another bureaucracy charged with accomplishing what four previous government offices tried to do since 1995 doesn't sound promising, and continuing to draw on the advice and counsel of CEOs (the last people competent enough to understand the reality and dynamics of the infrastructure security environment) through yet another Presidential Advisory Board further demonstrates the government is once again thinking very conventionally with its response to a very unconventional problem. We know what the problems are - we don't need continued studies, research, and bureaucracy to generate jobs and more paperwork. We need action and authority to implement effective countermeasures. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that nobody in charge wants the responsibility to rock the boat and really fix things - thus we continue creating Boards, Councils, and generating reports. To use a historical analogy, our President Nero is fiddling while his cyber-infrastructures burn!

Expanded Electronic Surveillance Doesn't Work Against Low-Tech Brutes
In the month after the events of September 11, the Justice Department and FBI received nearly everything it sought to (but could not) get under the Clinton Administration regarding wiretapping, electronic monitoring, and definitions of terrorism. As a security professional that's worked with law enforcement investigations in the past, while I question some of the new powers granted federal law enforcement and the rush to get them past Congress, I'm happy that the FBI finally received its 'roving wiretap' authority, something they've needed for a long while, something that was a major obstacle to the timely investigation of interstate criminal matters. (One has to wonder if they scheduled an after-hours champagne party in the FBI's sixth-floor SIOC to quietly mark this historic event.)

Aside from rushing a flawed anti-terrorism bill through Congress (the discussion of which is a separate article in itself) there were indications that those responsible for September 11 used e-mail and instant messages to communicate. Immediately after the attack, there were claims the attackers hid messages in photos on internet auction site Ebay and used strong encryption to protect their messages, but these have been unsubstantiated by hard, tangible evidence. If so, there is a slim chance that expanding wiretaps and electronic sniffing of data (e.g., Carnivore) would have been helpful in monitoring such communications. Yet there were renewed calls to restrict strong encryption, a technology policy horse that's not only left the barn, but is already across the meadow....attempting to enact encryption restrictions under the guise of 'anti-terrorism' is another effort in futility given how technology works, as evidenced in the mid-1990s. As I've said for years, there are any number of ways to communicate - electronic and otherwise -- that totally confounds law enforcement interception and renders any 'expanded authority' obsolete. Expanding electronic surveillance won't work against such tactics, but presents the appearance of being 'good for anti-terrorism." An example of E-NERFy restrictions and legislation.

The experienced co-authors of an as-yet-unpublished article "Terrorism Today and Tomorrow" correctly note that "our new adversaries are diverse and linked in unfamiliar ways....Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and a loose coalition of criminal actors, guerillas and insurgents now challenge national security capabilities that were designed to operate within a nation-state framework. As we're now seeing, outside that framework, our traditional structures have great difficulties.

America's current adversaries present a significant challenge to our government and law enforcement organizations so enamored with high-technology devices and tradecraft that we are grossly unprepared to handle operations and adversaries in a low-tech environment. As previously mentioned, terrorists are low-tech brutes. It's common knowledge (to both VIP visitors at NSA and the public) that Osama stopped using satellite phones once it was learned that NSA was intercepting his calls. This also begs the question regarding the responsibility of the media and NSA tour guides in reporting these types of facts in the first place, and how these entities balance national security, public knowledge, and the needs of their organization's ego about its capabilities.

Information Resiliency and Futility of the Government's Self-Imposed Web Clampdown
Late last week, word got out that the federal government started to remove items from their web sites that 'could help' terrorists. William Beecher, spokesperson for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said in an AP story last week that NRC pulled the coordinates of all 103 US nuclear power plants from the agency's web site. "In most cases it is common information...nothing top secret was on the Web site to begin with," he said. "We just don't want to provide anything that a terrorist might find helpful." The Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety also pulled maps of various domestic pipelines from their web site as well, and the Environmental Protection Agency conducted similar actions on its own site with regard to chemical plant security.

The casual observer may find this a prudent measure to prevent terrorists from gaining any information that could be used to conduct additional acts against the United States, and thus wrongfully assume that once this information out-of-sight, it is therefore out-of-mind. Unfortunately, I also see this mindset in action in the IT security industry all too frequently, and it does not work. They are attempting to 'nuke' information out of the public eye, but they're only succeeding in NERFing it to another public venue.

The reality is that any information published on the Internet becomes able to be instantly copied and archived by any number of sources aroundthe world. Further, while the government may restrict pipeline information and coordinates of nuclear plants, it does not take a terrorist mastermind or uber-spy to find the same information via any other traditional reasearch methods, including visiting local libraries, industry associations, reading the local phone book, or (dare I say it?) using common sense. A fact of physics is that while you may be able to remove information about a nuclear plant or pipeline from one site in cyberspace, you can't easily remove its physical presence in real life or everywhere on the Internet - you have to look at the entertainment industry's cartel and its failed attempts to quash music file-sharing services to see this exercise in futility. Think about it -if someone drives by Turkey Point Nuclear Plant in Florida, they know where it is without having to visit a website, right? Again, only blind arrogance assumes that removing information from a few websites will impact a terrorist's plans. As mentioned earlier, it's an ineffective and high-tech approach to an effective and low-tech adversary.

I've said repeatedly that terrorists are by definition low-tech brutes. They don't use Joint Directed Air Munitions (JDAM), Joint Stand Off Weapons (JSOW), or Tomahawk cruise missiles reliant on Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates to locate their targets. Being low-tech means that such adversaries have much simpler methods of determining the locations of their targets, and an easier time conducting such attacks. It's a good bet that the hijackers didn't need the GPS coordinates of the World Trade Center towers in New York on September 11th, and didn't step all over themselves coordinating radio frequencies, codewords, go/abort signals, and network adapters. They Keep It Simple.

Despite the government's clampdown on pipeline and power plant information on its federally-owned websites, a few minutes at my local library and online resulted in information that can be found here. You'll see several examples of information that could be considered 'helpful' to a terrorist in planning attacks. Yet this information is also quite useful for the law-abiding citizens, visitors, and businesses of the United States. Some of this information was removed from government websites recently, but most of it is freely available in a variety of formats to the public.

Thus, the realist knows that the government's much-publicized restriction of its various web sites does little to impact or prevent an adversary from obtaining useful targeting information from a variety of sources - both electronic and traditional - and is the government's inside-the-box response to a non-issue. As we see in the IT security community, information is a dual-use item, and the mere fact that a given set of facts (or knowledge) can be used for evil does notnecessarily follow that it will be used for evil. The point-and-click convienience may be gone, but the information exists in a multitude of other formats.

Airport Security as The Screen Door on The Submarine (NERF Security @ Its Finest)
Since September 11th, we've seen airport and airline security measures reviewed and increased...at least as far as the public is concerned. Seeing camouflaged and armed National Guardsmen patrolling our airports presents the appearance of increased airport security. Prohibiting everything from nail clippers to tweezers, Swiss Army Knives, box cutters, and sewing needles results in increased pre-board search times at airports, and the public's perception that security is being strengthened on our airplanes. For a firsthand account of the current airport security fallacies - including bags not being matched to passengers and arriving at a destination before their owners - I encourage you to read this missive from a respected intelligence professional who's also a close friend. While some security procedures, such as reinforcing cockpit doors and developing 'auto-land' capabilities for aircraft will truly increase aircraft safety, some of the other measures - particularly at the airports - are just downright goofy.

Recently, an officer friend in the National Guard called and asked if I noticed anything odd about his fellow Guardsmen posted at the airports I frequent. I said that nothing looked strange, but that I'd look again when on travel later in the week. Sure enough, a closer, casual observation revealed that many of the Guardsmen at airports are either unarmed or apparently instructed to hold their hands strategically over their holsters (perhaps containing an unloaded or non-existent weapon) to give the public impression they are indeed armed. To the average person, this presents the warm-and-fuzzy illusion of security, but that's just about what it is - only an illusion.

Let's not forget that a pen, house key, a piece of plastic, string, shoelace, belt, credit cards, and any number of other innocuous everyday items or trinkets can be made into a weapon, yet can be carried onboard aircraft, even after the latest security changes. More fundamentally, anyone with two fists, feet, and teeth - regardless of any martial arts training - can endanger passengers or flight crews. Even something as innocuous as an airplane fire extinguisher - a handheld device readily available to all passengers in an emergency -could be misused as a blunt trauma weapon onboard an aircraft. Are we going to prevent anyone from using such items under anything but 'approved' circumstances? Who determines what those circumstances are?

It is important to realize that the items used as weapons to commandeer four aircraft on September 11 were not prohibited by existing federal airport security guidelines. Anything that can be controlled by a person - tools, pens, trinkets, guns, knives, and information - can be turned into a weapon with the proper modification and intent. Incidentially, a six hundred page Danielle Steele hardback novel could be used as a weapon. And what about blunt force trauma caused by impact from a metallic laptop or strangulation from a power cord or a Walkman's headphones? As if airline food wasn't bad enough of a concern for us.

Are we destined to live in a hardened world of safety scissors and plastic sporks, boarding airplanes in hospital scrubs after being strip-searched and separated from our carry-on bags? Will our flights become extended periods of people sitting at a cramped 'attention' in their airborne sardine cans, staring at the seatbacks in front of them, prohibited from standing, eating, reading, listening to music, or using anything sharper than a witty remark to their seatmates? If this becomes reality - and were' on that course already - you can bet I'll start driving home for the holidays.

The reality is that these are feel-good, scrunchy, NERFy steps to encourage the public to fly again by presenting the appearance of increased security. Yet, there have been numerous cases of pilots, flight attendants, and passengers 'testing' these new security requirements and successfully moving newly-prohibited objects past security checkpoints since September 11. That fact alone should indicate the nature and state of these vaunted 'increased' security measures, and question its true effectiveness.

Terrorists Don't Keep Bankers' Hours (But Those Guarding Our Buildings Do)
There are currently new provisions prohibiting semi-trailers from driving on the two major DC roads that flank the Capitol grounds. The casual observer will interpret this as increased security to prevent against future terrorist attacks.

Realists, however, will note that the events of September 11th demonstrate one of any number of ways to attack a facility that bypasses street closings, and something that's been quietly discussed in security circles for years. While street closings may reduce the size of vehicles that can pass through it, nothing precludes an explosives-laden SUV or Volkswagen Bug from wreaking havoc in the area at an opportune moment.

More strikingly, working close to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, the week after the attacks saw increased police vehicles and military policeman checking credentials of those driving into garages of military buildings here. Three weeks after the attacks, there was no sign of military police checking vehicles as they entered garages...it was as if the threat to those buildings had magically disappeared. However, after the October 11th FBI advisory warning that additional attacks were possible, military police were back checking vehicles and patrolling the sidewalks in front of their buildings during the business day. However, driving by at 7:45 one evening, I did not see any police or guards checking vehicles, and was able to drive into the same garage that was protected by military policeman three hours earlier! I've also been in DoD facilities that prohibit entry from any door but the front door during work hours, where staff identification is checked - but after 5:00pm, since there are fewer security guards to check badges, monitor cameras, and make rounds, authorized staff are free to use their access cards and enter the building from any external door. This is Feel-Good, Look-Good security in action, plain and simple.

Based on these observations, one assumes that those in charge of homeland security believe that we're facing an adversary working on a 9-5 40-hour workweek schedule. Something tells me that an unconventional adversary doesn't keep bankers hours or regular schedules.

Contrary to Patriotic Rhetoric, America Is Reaping What It Sowed (We just don't want to know or admit it)
Any discussion of Islam would take several pages alone, but suffice it to say that those that understand Islam know it is a religion rooted in charity and peace.  Those Americans that equate Islam to terrorism, Hezzbola, bin-Laden, and al Qaeda are ignorant of the reality of Islam, and wrongfully interpret these extremists as representatives of the Islamic and Arab communities, as evidenced in the increased anti-Arab, anti-Islamic criminal incidents in recent weeks. Nothing could be further from the truth -- Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance; the nut-cases in al Qaeda do not speak for the world Islamic community, just as a Christian blowing up an abortion clinic does not speak for all Christians around the world. In the same vein, American evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson used religious overtones to explain and justify the September 11 attacks, but these two men don't represent mainstream Christianity as a whole. As Americans, we have always prided ourselves as a tolerant mixing pot of world cultures and ideologies, and we should continue being tolerant of our fellow Islamic and Arab citizens and neighbors. Being Islamic or Arab does not indicate a proclivity for terrorism. Thus endeth my soapbox sermon.

Truth be told, the Taliban have a reason to hate America - as is often the case when America gets involved in foreign nations' conflicts, we tend to pull out once our goals are reached, leaving those we supported to fend for themselves. When the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in February 1989, the Untied States also withdrew its support of the anti-Soviet mujhadeen, since American interests in the country were reached once the Soviet war machine and communism departed. Post-Soviet Afghanistan became one of deep poverty, civil war, estranged elections, and famine....yet because the Soviets were gone, the United States had little interest in helping rebuild the battered nation. It is this type of foreign policy that generates anti-American sentiment and support for al Qaeda. It may also be justifying our current humanitarian relief mission in Afghanistan as a way for the United States to relieve its guilt at 'abandoning' the Afghans in 1989. If we do not learn from our history, we're potentially doomed to not only repeat it, but become endangered by it, as we are today.

Club Osama, on the other hand, is filled with individuals possessing limited education and exposure to (and perhaps are jealous of) the international standards of conduct and society. Nearly all of what they know comes from cave-borne propaganda and religious brainwashing. Simply put, their goal is to return the Arab world to the strict medieval Islamic culture of the 15th Century, using the world's oil interests in Saudi Arabia and the presence of Israel as a cassus belli for an Islamic holy war with the intentions of freeing Saudi Arabia's religious lands from so-called "Western invaders" and restoring the Palestinean State where Israel currently sits. Club Osama's radical, tyrannical view uses a very warped interpretation of the Koran to strive toward an isolationist Islamic world where religion is the absolute law, women serve as disposable walking wombs (incidentally, female US soldiers in Saudi Arabia really angers Osama) and anything non-Islamic is inherently evil and must be destroyed.

The concept of a holy war (a jihad) in the Club Osama Brochure does not refer to the quest by Muslim individuals to lead a wholesome life according to their religion, but to use any means necessary to defend the Islamic culture against the declared Evil De Jour. Unfortunately, the word 'jihad' has been in frequent use in the Western press over the past decade or two, explained directly or subtlety, to mean an Islamic 'holy war.' (As a matter of fact, the term 'holy war' was coined in Europe during the Crusades, referring to the many wars waged against Muslims by European invaders in the Middle Ages.) Jihad is not a declaration of war against other religions and certainly not against Christians and Jews as some media and political circles want it to be perceived. Islam does not fight other religions. Christians and Jews are considered as fellow inheritors of The Abrahamic traditions by Muslims (historically called "People of The Book") that worship the same God.

The Koran makes reference to war as a last resort, very much like the Just War Ethic of the Catholic Church or international laws. Reading similar to the United Nations Charter, the Koran states that adveraries should "..make peace between them (the two fighting groups), but if one of the two persists in aggression against the other, fight the aggressors until they revert to God's commandment." (49:9) Military action is therefore a subgroup of the Jihad and not its totality, and represents the ultimate scenario when diplomacy and communications break down between international parties.

We have to acknowledge that nearly all major religions - Islam, Christianity, and Judiasim, among others - had their lapses in honestly following the valued ideals of their religions or philosophies. Over the course of human history, religion has been responsible for more man-made deaths than any man-made device. This is no reflection on religion, but it shows how desperately humanity is in need of better education, more enduring concern for human dignity, rights and freedom, tolerance, and vigilant pursuit of justice, even at the price of curbing political, economic, ideological, and individual greed.

Unfortunately, as we saw during the 1930s in the Great Depression and post World War I Germany, people that are impoverished, with little direction in life, and not much to live for tend to elect and follow leaders promising radical change for their society. This, coupled with religious laws, customs, and occasional brainwashing, presents a significant adversary with no reservations about dying (and ascending to heaven) for conducting actions that their religious beliefs or national loyalties - however warped - deem a just cause (Incidentally, Adolph Hitler's campaign slogan in the 1930s was 'give me four years and you won't recognize Germany.' A historical demonstration of the Law of Unintended Consequences.)

What Osama's Real Problem Is (Rick's Patriotic Comedy)
Has anyone else noticed the Freudian picture presented whenever America's adversaries (Osama, Omar, and al Qaeda representatives) appear in the media? Has anyone seen these individuals without a Kalishnikov rifle slung over their shoulder, hanging on the wall behind them, next to them on a cushion, or being casually stroked in their lap while they deliver their messages to the world? While the casual outsider would probably interpret this as an attempt to convey fear in the image on television - I suggest this demonstrates a high degree of personal insecurity, possibly hinting at deeper personal issues, perhaps physical limitations or the absence of a significant, meaningful adolescent experience. Maybe that's what this is really about, these warped men trying to enhance their manhood in a part of the world that doesn't carry Viagra. After all, everyone has personal problems.

The co-authors of "Terrorism Today and Tomorrow" noted that "the world of today and tomorrow is one dominated by a conflict between those who have and those who have not.  Those with a conflicting cultural or religious ideology are likely to challenge our superiority according to their rules, not our rules.  Their modus operandi blurs and will continue to blur the distinctions between crime and war, criminal and civil, combatant and non-combatant.  Their actions will seek to exploit the seams of the modern states internal and external security structures.  These emerging challengers will embrace unconventional means not amenable to conventional responses.

If we begin to live in constant fear, we allow the adversary to win. The United States is not the first industrial nation to experience terrorism at home - Israel has lived with assorted Arab-sponsored terrorism since it became a state in 1948, and the United Kingdom has been victimized by Irish terrorism for longer than that. We, too, will survive this.and we will, provided we keep things in perspective, do our own research, and draw our own conclusions on what the real threats and security measures are, instead of taking what is presented by the government and media as undeniable gospel.

The wisdom I hope you've gleaned from this article is that contrary to what is presented on the media and enacted as law or new procedures, little is really effective at preventing or adversely impacting future terrorist activities. This is a different kind of war - not only is it a military one, but a psychological one for us at home. We're not as secure or as prepared as the government would lead us to believe, and there is no clear defense against the impact of terrorism except to keep an open mind and continue our normal lives the best we can.

The President is waging a self-declared "war on terrorism" against a "new enemy" that modern America is not prepared to face. This article has shown, however, that much of the defensive posturing in this new war -- especially at home --  is conventional, traditional, and predictable - and thus rather ineffective against an unconventional adversary and philosophy. We would be wise to recall the warning of Edward Luttwak in his 1997 text Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace: "War, in common with sport, has the characteristic that what worked well yesterday may not work well tomorrow, precisely because it worked yesterday."

Welcome to tomorrow.


A military intelligence professional's firsthand report on the state of airport security

A demonstration of what can be gleaned online despite the government's removal of information from its websites. Anyone with the right resources, time, and effort could use libraries, phone books, and traditional research methods to obtain this type of targeting information.

"Terrorism Today and Tomorrow" - Currently unpublished article (draft copy) co-authored by Col. G.I. Wilson, USMCR, Sgt. John P. Sullivan, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and Lt.Col. Hal Kempfer, USMCR.

Thomas Friedman's Op-Ed: "A Tweezer Defense Shield?" appearing in the 19 October 2001 New York Times Foreign Affairs Section.
(We've all had a Eureka moment in recent days when we realized the new world we're living in post-Sept. 11. For me it came at National Airport the other day when, while checking in for the Delta Shuttle to New York, my small overnight bag was searched and the security agent found my tweezers. "I'm sorry," she said. "You have to check this...")

(c) 2001 by Author. Permission is granted to quote, reprint or redistribute provided the text is not altered, and appropriate credit is given.  No, the author has no grudge with the NERF Company and thinks they make wonderful toys!

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