Democrats & Liberals Archives

Knowledge Protects, Ignorance Betrays

Looked on the CNN site to find this today:
Feds: Science paper a terrorist’s road map

This attempt to pull the publication, I feel, is a mistake. We cannot go on assuming that the terrorists are too stupid to think creatively. We should use the advantages of an open society, and use papers like this to organize our efforts to defend the homeland.

If we have nodes of vulnerability, then we should exploit the knowledge in the paper describing them to protect ourselves, rather than hope and pray that the terrorists have't thought of it yet.

al-Qaeda is a sophisticated enemy, with people who know how to exploit our vulnerabilities already. This notion that if we just don't let any open discussion of the issues here take place, the terrorists will never think of ways to make scenarios like this work is ludicrous. They already figured out how to put explosives inside the hull of a boat, so they could attack the Cole. They already figured out how to make liquid explosives for the Bojinka plot, and a solid truck bomb for the first World Trade Center attack.

They figured out how to defeat our security apparatus on 9/11, and thereby use three of the four planes they hijacked as ad hoc cruise missiles. They planned for the large size of the airplane, it's fuel, the vulnerabilties of the security on the ground and in the air. The truth is, though some of the foot soldiers might not be geniuses, their style of planning is damn sophisticated.

We have no guarantees that knowledge of the weakness in here will remain secret even if they do not publish this paper. We have no guarantee that we can keep the terrorists from getting these ideas, as many of them are well-educated men, often with train in these fields. Osama Bin Laden, if we remember his days in the Sudan, has already tried to attain chemical weapons, and terrorists in Jordan have already tried themselves. They've plotted to use radiological weapons (dirty bombs), and have successfully carried out plots that feature a high degree of sophistication.

We have got to stop thinking of these men as yokels in turbans with AK-47s, as medieval religious rejects. We have got to stop thinking we can fight a war of attrition with these people, because they can kill thousands of us a lot cheaper than we can kill them with our armies. 9/11 cost them a few hundred thousand dollars, for 14.6 billion in damage.

What if somebody in our government, before 9/11, had gamed out how to to use planes as missiles, and had recommended beefing up the cockpit doors at the very least, and improvements in the watchlists. If we had gotten such changes in place, the terrorists would have lost men and opportunities to make their plot work. They would go right back to plotting, but we would have gotten in their way and saved lives.

Now we can suppose that al-Qaeda is so stupid as to put ever soldier it can muster into attacking our soldiers in Iraq and getting themselves killed, or we can suppose that they know what they're doing, and Iraq is only one part of making us bleed. In which case our "good offense" in Iraq is no defense, only the security measures we have on the ground.

We need to use what knowledge and theory we have about how they attack to harden the most vulnerable points and deny the terrorists access to the means by which they can execute their plan. We need coordination, not confusion in our Department of Homeland Security. We need a government that doesn't wait in fear for the terrorists to figure out our weaknesses, but rather does something about it.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at June 7, 2005 9:18 AM