Thesis: Terrorism Technological Innovation as a Weapon

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Terrorism Tech

Technological Innovation as a Weapon Against Terrorism

The United States is regarded as among the world's most vaunted leaders in technology development. Simultaneously, its military denotes one of the most formidable fighting forces in the world, both with respect to its capability to wage war and its capacity to provide defense to the homeland. These claims are inextricably linked, with the United States channeling its technological prowess into the development of greater weaponry, greater defense resources, more effective protective gear for military and defense personnel and a host of computer, communication and media devices that can have a significant impact on preserving the lives of Americans both at home and abroad. And yet, in the face of the threat of terror, many of the technological resolutions applied to military stratagem in the recent past, and indeed many of those which have been regarded as passages to future combat tactics, are now being reexamined in the face of a different type of treat. The guerilla nature of terrorism, the unpredictable mode of this type of warfare, the frequently loosely coordinated networks and the non-incremental approach of random, small-scale attacks intermingled with an occasionally large and catastrophic terrorist event has made the application previously used military strategies either vulnerable or impotent. The diversion from traditional warfare in the face of the terrorism has therefore forced a reevaluation and reapplication of military and defense technologies as a means to strengthening defenses, eliminating threats and staving off potential future attacks.

While this has not necessarily invoked a change in the overall thrust of technology, which has focused on the refinement of such now prominent instruments as unmanned aerial drone devices for surveillance and offensive striking; communication and surveillance technologies for the gathering of crucial preventative intelligence; and computer technologies both for protection against hacking networks and for the analysis of data or the gathering of information. The result has been the initiation of a specific avenue of innovation through which is developed a set of priorities relating technological development to the prevention of terrorism. This is informed by a history which has demonstrated both the failures and successes of prevention in this precarious area of defense and also by an industry of creativity, innovation and the imagination to apply technological ingenuity to the real and pressing dangers of the global terrorism crisis. The discussion hereafter will address both the defense culture surrounding the application of technology to terrorism defense and the practical realities of this field with respect to past incidences, present conditions and future expectations.

As the current scenario denotes, the establishment of specific groups and agencies dedicated to the application of technology to terrorism defense would emerge with the rising awareness of the danger's presented to the western world by terrorism. Accordingly, such symposiums as the Force Protection Demonstrations would come into play in the 1990s, inclined by the domestic (World Trade Center Bombing-1993) and global events (Facility housing U.S. soldiers attacked in Saudi Arabia-1996) to create a context for the meeting of "military and civilian personnel from the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as federal, state and local homeland security, law enforcement and other first-responder personnel from throughout the United States, and defense media."

The purpose of the annual event is to provide demonstration, information and access to the technologies now being refined for the purposes of combating terrorism. Such symposiums are an official and government sanctioned means to proliferating this technology so as to allow decision-makers in agencies and localities throughout the United States to contribute to and participate in the defense of the nation. Accordingly, "the Force Protection Demonstrations were initiated by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1997 as a result of the terrorist bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia the previous year. They have become a means of assuring that leaders responsible for physical security and force protection can stay abreast of evolving and advancing technology to counter increasing terrorist activity against personnel, equipment, and infrastructure -- in military settings as well as other government activities at home and in foreign locations."

This is the underlying mission for the military as it grapples with a threat that is quite often unseen and most characteristically unpredictable. This would, of course, only be the initiation in America's awareness of the threat truly represented by terrorism. Within a year of the inception of the FPED, terrorist efforts directed against the United States and its friends and allies would reach new heights of visibility, sophistication and coordination. Accordingly, "on Aug. 7, 1998, the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, were bombed by terrorists, leaving 258 people dead and more than 5,000 injured."

This would be closely followed by the 1999 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, which was docked in a Yemen port. The collective of these events would demonstrate America's relative lack of readiness for and its relative military disconnect from the danger reflected in the threat of terrorism. With the events of September 11th, 2001, which felled the World Trade Center in New York, knocked a hole into the side of the Pentagon and sent a fourth commercial airliner aground in a Pennsylvania field.

One of the deadliest days in America history also left no doubt that considerable changes are needed in America's defense policy to contend with the nature of such warfare. The research encountered here demonstrates that quite in fact, it was a failure to avail itself the various technologies potentially at its disposal that prevented the government in its various agencies to tie together the various clues pointing to the approach of 9/11. Indeed, "one of the most painful things about examining the events leading up to the September 11 hijackings is realizing just how close the terrorists were to having their plot disrupted. Fifteen years ago, stopping terrorism relied on old-fashioned tools: strict physical security at vulnerable facilities, intelligence gathering by government agents, vigilance on the part of all citizens, and a sense of community in which we all do what we can to protect each other."

This denotation of 'old-fashioned tools' is especially useful to the discussion here. As the text by Ham & Atkinson (2002) goes on to argue, there have been significant developments especially in America's capabilities with respect to information technology. Its role as the leading force in the infrastructural proliferation of high speed fiber-optics networks allowing for advanced surveillance techniques and its primacy in enhancing web and computer technologies to meet highly sophisticated demands have made the United States a nation distinctly capable of finding innovative and intelligent ways to provide itself with defense against terrorist threats. As the 2002 text would contend, "the IT revolution has given us many tools -- wireless data networks, encryption, powerful miniature computer chips, the global Internet, data mining software, and many more -- that weren't available for domestic security just a few years ago.

To this way of thinking, the argument frequently posited by public officials and by the 9/11 Commission Report released thereafter would be reinforced, that the defense failures of 9/11 were intelligence failings relating to a misuse or neglect of available technologies. It is thus that the focus of such symposiums as the FPED becomes important for helping always to train a focus on the advancements which have been made in the areas of defense, intelligence and military technology. During this year's conference, the degree of innovation in place is demonstrated by the sheer variety and creativity exhibited by that which is on display. Boasting over 3,300 'commercially available' resources for the improvement of counterterrorism, "This year, FPED VII will cover 20 equipment categories, including: automated entry control systems and equipment; armored and utility vehicles; biometrics; blast protection/mitigation systems; cargo inspection devices; chemical and biological detection, mitigation and protection equipment; communications equipment; delay and denial technology; explosives detection systems; explosive ordnance disposal equipment; fence sensor systems; individual protective equipment; night vision and optics devices; non-lethal weapons and technology; physical security equipment sensor and surveillance systems; robotic vehicles and systems; unattended ground sensors; unmanned aerial vehicles; vulnerability assessment/analysis software tools; and waterside security equipment."

This emphasis is supported by recent past instances in which a degree of success has been demonstrated in foiling terrorist plots through the proper and sensible use of available technologies. To this point, past instances reveal that the application of technology is quite frequently less an issue of capability or feasibility but instead implicates more directly issues of budgeting and political priority. Evidence suggests that with the intensifying evidence of the threats represented by terrorism in the late 1990s, the tandem of President Bill Clinton and Director of the CIA George Tenet would work toward an increase in the budgeting which allowed for technological enhancement of intelligence and surveillance efforts. Though Tenet would still be the CIA head for the period of the Bush Administration which occupied 9/11, this would be a marked transition in priorities, with the new regime significantly scaling back advancements made in the funding… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Terrorism Technological Innovation as a Weapon.  (2009, May 25).  Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/terrorism-tech-technological-innovation/460682

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"Terrorism Technological Innovation as a Weapon."  Essaytown.com.  May 25, 2009.  Accessed July 23, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/terrorism-tech-technological-innovation/460682.