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Terrorist Recognition Handbook

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the get-em-up-against-the-wall dept.

Security 344

Ben Rothke writes "There are two types of writers about terrorism, experts such as Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson who write from a distance and others that write graphic tales of first-hand from the trenches war stories. Terrorist Recognition Handbook: A Practitioner's Manual for Predicting and Identifying Terrorist Activities, is unique in that author Malcolm Nance is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. intelligence community and writes from a first hand-perspective, but with the organization and methodology of writers such as Pipes and Emerson. Those combined traits make the book extraordinarily valuable and perhaps the definitive text on terrorist recognition." Read below for the rest of Ben's review

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344 comments

eat my shorts slashdot !! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23327704)

Eat my shorts slashdot !!

Re:eat my shorts slashdot !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23327744)

Only after you have weared them 5 days in a row.

That's easy (4, Funny)

peipas (809350) | more than 5 years ago | (#23327738)

You don't need any book to identify terrorists [wikipedia.org].

Re:That's easy (2, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328102)

I know you were joking, but comparing the likes of the RIAA to those who blow themselves up to kill innocent people in order to make a political statement is just as bad or worse than the RIAA saying that downloading is stealing. Both are unnecessary hyperbole that cheapens the real meanings of 'terrorism' and 'theft'.

Re:That's easy (5, Insightful)

Bishop Rook (1281208) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328212)

I don't think grandparent was calling the RIAA terrorists, but rather was mocking a recent claim from the content-mongers that "piracy helps the terrorists."

Re:That's easy (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328288)

In that light I stand corrected, if that was the OP's intent then I withdraw my criticism. I've just seen too many people calling the RIAA and it's ilk terrorists because of their heavy handed tactics. They are reprehensible and IMO an illegal cabal/trust, but they don't sink to the level of true terrorists.

Re:That's easy (1)

Bishop Rook (1281208) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328762)

I'd agree with you there. It's become way too fashionable for us all to throw the TERRIST tag at groups that we don't like. Terrorism, abstracted: the use of violence or threat of violence against individuals within a larger group, with the purpose of intimidating the larger group to alter their behavior in a way that achieves the ideological goals of the terrorist. The RIAA's done some of that (they target individuals intending to intimidate the group into buying into the status-quo business model), but they don't do it violently or in any way designed to cause actual physical harm.

Re:just as bad or worse than the RIAA (2, Funny)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328658)

If you want to spot a terrorist, Look for someone that has a hat like this [biolawcom.de] or this [geekculture.com]. If he has a shirt like this [notawear.com] he's not a terrorist, but if the shirt looks like this [flashback.de] he is.

If he's drinking this [photobucket.com] look out for car bombs!

this guy [wordpress.com] would have ME calling the Department of Homeland Cowardice in a New York minute! And how about this guy? [theodoresworld.net]

Look at da bomb in that terrorist's [johnseiler.com] hand!

this asshat [punchstock.com] is not a terrorist.

SCARY TERRORIST! [vox.com] ANOTHER SCARY TERRORIST! [collegecandy.com] EVEN SCARIER TERRORIST! [wordpress.com] And OMFG the scariest one of al!!!! [thebestpag...iverse.net]

RUN! RUN! RAISE THE THREAT LEVEL FROM YELLOW TO "SCARED SHITLESS!"

The fact that 40,000 people that die on the American highways every year tells me some of that damned Homeland Security money should go to highway safety improvements. You want to spot a terrorist? Look in a tobacco company boardroom; half a million Americans die every year from cancer.

Terrorism is a tool of the US government to take away Americans' liberties. You, sir, are part of the problem.

Re:That's easy (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328976)

I know you were joking, but comparing the likes of the RIAA to those who blow themselves up to kill innocent people
ANd just what are they innocent of? You seem oblivious to the fact that the targets of terrorist attacks are not just chosen at random, usually they are part of the same group that the terrorist feels is against them. Please pull your head out of your arse before you suffocate...

Re:That's easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328656)

You never need a book. The only place you ever need to check is in your gut!

Easiest Book Ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23327748)

1. Describe middle eastern people
2. Find Publisher
3. ????
4. Profit!

Frist! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23327754)

Oh yeah! 4317

The Sad Part (5, Interesting)

kellyb9 (954229) | more than 5 years ago | (#23327774)

This appears to be a rather intelligent look at the issue, but the sad part is I have to wonder how many TSA employees are actually going to read it, especially at airports.

Re:The Sad Part (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23327850)

An even sadder part is that I doubt the average TSA employee can actually read.

Re:The Sad Part (2, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#23327886)

This appears to be a rather intelligent look at the issue, but the sad part is I have to wonder how many TSA employees are actually going to read it, especially at airports.
Second guessing the United States Government?! I see you are a perfect match of the subject of Chapter 25: The Elusive Tinfoil Hat Thought Crime Terrorist of Mother's Basement.

Re:The Sad Part (5, Insightful)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 5 years ago | (#23327908)

I don't think this book is designed to say "Look for these physical features to identify potential terrorists." That's basically the book for dummies that you need for TSA.

Instead it appears that his book is more oriented towards explaining the workings of a terrorist organization. How they think, how they act, how they recruit, and what factors increase the chances of a terrorist act.

Re:The Sad Part (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328562)

I don't think this book is designed to say "Look for these physical features to identify potential terrorists." That's basically the book for dummies that you need for TSA.
If the book is any good, it'll become required reading at West Point, the Army War College, etc.

We need more fact-based books focused at the people leading the military and advising the President on how to do so.

Re:The Sad Part (1)

pcfixup4ua (1263816) | more than 5 years ago | (#23327930)

It would be good if some in our congress or even presidential advisers would read it (oops that would conflict with their world view)

Re:The Sad Part (3, Interesting)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 5 years ago | (#23327944)

Or how many TSA Employees can READ at all.

It never fails to amaze me that, when faced with the monumental failure of our bureaucracies to prevent 9/11, we respond by creating yet another bureaucracy. And, to top it off, we allow the dang thing to be unionized, thus ensuring it's utter failure and moribundity for all time.

Sometimes I wonder if we deserve what our forefathers left to us.

Re:The Sad Part (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23327958)

or how many TSA employees can read, for that matter.

Few until (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328086)

it is put in comic format. I have found a few that are intelligent, but most are just connie cheerleader. Most of the ones that I have met are idiots.

The truth about prevention... (4, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328114)

...is that the TSA is 100% ineffective, because no government, regardless of how brutal they are to suspected terrorists, or how many secret police they employ, or how many phones they tap, can prevent one person from committing a terrorist act.

The only thing the TSA does is reduce the likelihood such an attack will occur on a plane. It's a huge waste of money that's simply a security blanket for the uninformed.

Re:The truth about prevention... (4, Insightful)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328184)

Arguments about the efficacy of the TSA aside, you seem to be confusing the inability to be 100% effective with being 100% ineffective. Reducing the likelihood of X happening is a nonzero effectiveness.

People in security know full well that no method will guarantee 100% attack prevention. Reducing the likelihood and frequency of attacks is the goal.

Re:The truth about prevention... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328292)

Reducing the likelihood of X happening is a nonzero effectiveness.

His argument seems to be that reducing the likelihood of X happening on a plane simply means that the terrorist will pick some other target, not throw up their hands and say "oh gee this terrorism shit is too hard! I guess I'll take up needlework!"

In other words, it does nothing to reduce frequency or likelihood of attacks, only the likelihood that they involve hijacking a plane.

Re:The truth about prevention... (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328740)

In the case of the TSA, I'd call them 110% ineffective - worse than useless. Luckily, they aren't really intended to be effective.

Re:The truth about prevention... (3, Interesting)

kellyb9 (954229) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328214)

I don't really understand your logic. You freely admit that they can reduce the likelihood of a terrorist attack, yet you call them 100% ineffective and refer to their funding as a waste. Thats like saying, "Well, we can't stop people from murdering other people, so why not just do away with the police departments." I, for one, actually believe a government can significantly reduce the likelihood of terrorist attacks. Outside the usual suggestions of restricting our personal freedoms and liberities, there are ways of detecting strange behaviour, nevervousness, etc. That includes educating those who are responsible for monitoring.

Re:The truth about prevention... (2, Insightful)

Znork (31774) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328894)

You freely admit that they can reduce the likelihood of a terrorist attack

The likelyhood of an attack on a plane. The TSA does, on the other hand, provide tempting targets in the form of people waiting in line for security checks.

I, for one, actually believe a government can significantly reduce the likelihood of terrorist attacks.

Yeah, well, the chance of getting killed in a terrorist attack in the US is actually lower than the chance of accidentally drowning in a bathtub, so one can question the merits of wasting any money on it at all.

In fact, had islamic fundamentalists really wanted to efficiently kill or maim hundreds of thousands of Americans every year they'd be selling something that could power those mobile deathmachines called 'cars'. Oh, wait...

Re:The truth about prevention... (1)

Jansingal (1098809) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328350)

>>>>is that the TSA is 100% ineffective

such hyperbole!!!! Everyone knows that the TSA is 94% ineffective

Re:The Sad Part (2, Funny)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328386)

TSA published a similar guide, but it was much shorted:
"the subject is white" = allow
"the subject is not white" = deny

No book necessary (5, Insightful)

dave562 (969951) | more than 5 years ago | (#23327800)

I always thought that terrorists were anyone designated by the United States State Department, or Department of Fatherland Security as being opposed to US foreign policy.

Terrorists, noun (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328208)

Terrorists are labeled by the party in power. Each country has its own 'terrorists'.

Terrorist: An agent of a sub-national group who uses premeditated, politically motivated violence against non-combatant targets

I would add "violence" or "physical harm" to that defition.

I am strongly opposed to many laws and the politics of many countries including the US. I have YET to use violence against any target, including civilians.

In my opinion war should be fought against the military and exclude civilians, if at all possible. I understand collateral damage, but I don't approve of it as just an excuse.

Belonging to my particular faith is seen by treason and/or terrorism by some governments.

Re:No book necessary (1)

k1e0x (1040314) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328274)

Ahh true! You should write a book.. it would be dammed better than this one for sure. Are we talking law here? Legally a terrorist is anyone DHS "says" is a terrorist.

I think this book is mis-information put out by al-CIAda.

Re:No book necessary (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328680)

I think this book is mis-information put out by al-CIAda.

I had similar thoughts. I wonder if the author bothers to dive into the collaboration between the CIA and Pakistani ISI during the creation of al-Qaeda back in the 1970s and 1980s.

great (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23327808)

im sure this will come in handy if any terrorists ever invade my mom's basement.

Learn English!!! (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23327820)

"of leaders that were not as knowledge as possible"

Mr. Rothke needs to learn the English language. I won't bother to point out all the similar gaffes.

Re:Learn English!!! (2, Insightful)

Jansingal (1098809) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328514)

I love gaffes! please point out all of them.

in the spirit of the book review...

4000+ dead
over a trillion $ spent,
all u got to say is about gaffes?

Identifying a terrorist is easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23327822)

All you have to do is convince someone very high up in government that the person is a terrorist, and *poof* he's suddenly a terrorist.

It's just as easy to get someone declared a non-terrorist.

If you want to know who the terrorists are, just ask the government. Just don't ask about yourself: If you aren't a terrorist, asking about yourself makes you one.

Very funny, publishers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23327838)

Amazon.com promo image [images-amazon.com]

I'm an established hand model. My agent never told me that my famous "cash from wallet" 8x10 would be cropped and used to represent terrorists! MY CAREER IS RUINED!

Daniel Pipes? An expert? Feh. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23327854)

The only thing that guy's an expert on is hating Arabs and Muslims. He's a radical, bigoted putz. Fuck him.

Posting anonymously to avoid having to deal with all the Slashcons who will pile on to tell me that all the Mooslimes are TEH TERRORIZTS!

Re:Daniel Pipes? An expert? Feh. (3, Insightful)

alexgieg (948359) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328064)

The only thing that guy's an expert on is hating Arabs and Muslims. He's a radical, bigoted putz. Fuck him.
No, he isn't. In all his articles he makes the distinction between Muslims proper and what he calls "Islamofascism", i.e., people who are de facto fascists (in the technical meaning of the word, not the liberal "swear word" version) and who use Islam as nothing more than an ideological wrapping for their (nonreligious) political goals.

There are nuts out there that pretend both things to be the same, but Pipes surely isn't among them.

Re:Daniel Pipes? An expert? Feh. (4, Insightful)

alexgieg (948359) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328524)

It's been some time since I read Pipes and I didn't remember some details, so I must make some corrections to my above post.

Actually, although Pipes recognizes pretty clearly the distinction between, on one side, the moderate religious Muslims, and on the other the radical authoritarian pseudo-religious political nuts we all despise, he doesn't like the term "Islamofascism", as what they pursue isn't a fascist regime proper.

Basically, fascism was/is always nationalistic, and bound to the concept of a totalitarian central government ruling society. What these guys pursue, on the contrary, is a kind of stateless internationalistic decentralized totalitarianism. Thus, not quite the same thing. Both authoritarian, both totalitarian, but in very different ways.

He has some suggestions for naming this thing, basically variations around the word "Islamist", "Militant Islam", "Militant Islamism" etc., but I don't think any of those sound right. "Islamofascism" might not be accurate, but I guess we'll have to stick to it for se simple lack of a better alternative.

Re:Daniel Pipes? An expert? Feh. (5, Interesting)

Tr0tskysGh0st (1003681) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328546)

I saw Daniel Pipes speak once at my university and he spent a lot of his speech going on and on about how we need to reach out to moderate Muslims, yet when it was opened up for questions after his speech, he was incredibly verbally hostile to every Muslim who asked him a question. I know many of the Muslims who asked him questions and they were largely all very moderate, apolitical and with a very modern interpretation of Islam. At the end he was just downright hostile towards the entire audience, even turning off many of the conservatives in the room.

What Daniel Pipes really is a hack writer and pundit for the establishment. His role is to lay an ideological foundation for US foreign policy that is already being carried out. His father was one of the main hawks against Stalinist Eastern Block style Communism during the 60's. He makes a living creating "boogeyman" stereotypes of the people who resist the imposition of neo-liberal economic policies and foreign meddling.

The fact that he runs a group that systematically harasses left leaning university professors in the United States only adds to the fact that he is a rightwing political opportunist who profits off of demonizing cultures and creating racist stereotypes. His group Campus Watch specializes in taking anonymous unsubstantiated claims of conservative students who are upset over their grade. He's not a legitimate academic and has no place in the culture of discussion that academia should be. If all he did was just advance a position, no matter how much I disagreed with it, that would be fine; but intimidating and harassing one's political opponents is not free speech.

Re:Daniel Pipes? An expert? Feh. (4, Interesting)

grimJester (890090) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328800)

I would agree with parent. I read his blog [danielpipes.org] now and then a few years back. Overwhelmingly negative stories on muslims mixed with the occasional writing on what he means by "moderate islam". He's also the founder of an organization called Campus Watch [wikipedia.org] that seems more than a little sinister.

Re:Daniel Pipes? An expert? Feh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328644)

Pipes has been a scared little bedwetter for the entirety of his foreign policy career, a career that has been distinguished only by the number and magnitude of inept judgments. Examine his role in inflating the Soviet threat, reinvigorating the thermonuclear arms race, and derailing arms control talks during the 1980's if you'd like some perspective. Or keep sleeping in your own dried-up pee if being scared all the time makes you feel better.

Re:Daniel Pipes? An expert? Feh. (3, Insightful)

DrZogg (579212) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328840)

He absolutely is a hack, and his primary agenda is disenfranchisement and marginalization of American Muslims. He thinks every mosque in the US is infiltrated with radicals and "Islamists" who want to overthrow our government. Doubtful Pipes has ever set foot in a mosque, though he's been invited.

His idea of a moderate Muslim is someone who calls himself Muslim but doesn't practice Islam, e.g., people like Irshad Manji -- the heroine of the anti-Muslim bigots in our country. (sorry if you like her -- she has nothing to do with mainstream Islam in the US or anywhere else).

Pipes is fine as long as the conversation is one-way with him spewing propaganda and fear-mongering -- challenge anything he says and he resorts to hostility (see other posts in this thread).

Re:Daniel Pipes? An expert? Feh. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328956)

You don't know Daniel Pipes.

http://www.mpac.org/article.php?id=72

Re:Daniel Pipes? An expert? Feh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328106)

The only thing that guy's an expert on is hating Arabs and Muslims. He's a radical, bigoted putz.
Proof or you're lying.

Re:Daniel Pipes? An expert? Feh. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328646)

Posting anonymously to avoid having to deal with all the Slashcons who will pile on to tell me that all the Mooslimes are TEH TERRORIZTS!
Not all Muslims are terrorists. I'd say 90%, tops.

Speaking of terroists... (5, Interesting)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 5 years ago | (#23327898)

I'd like to take the opportunity to plug Cory Doctorow's latest novel, Little Brother [craphound.com].

A must-read for anyone concerned about the direction our nation is heading.

Here's an excerpt that's very relevant to the topic in question:

If you ever decide to do something as stupid as build an automatic terrorism detector, here's a math lesson you need to learn first. It's called "the paradox of the false positive," and it's a doozy.

Say you have a new disease, called Super-AIDS. Only one in a million people gets Super-AIDS. You develop a test for Super-AIDS that's 99 percent accurate. I mean, 99 percent of the time, it gives the correct result -- true if the subject is infected, and false if the subject is healthy. You give the test to a million people.

One in a million people have Super-AIDS. One in a hundred people that you test will generate a "false positive" -- the test will say he has Super-AIDS even though he doesn't. That's what "99 percent accurate" means: one percent wrong.

What's one percent of one million?

1,000,000/100 = 10,000

One in a million people has Super-AIDS. If you test a million random people, you'll probably only find one case of real Super-AIDS. But your test won't identify one person as having Super-AIDS. It will identify 10,000 people as having it.

Your 99 percent accurate test will perform with 99.99 percent inaccuracy.

That's the paradox of the false positive. When you try to find something really rare, your test's accuracy has to match the rarity of the thing you're looking for. If you're trying to point at a single pixel on your screen, a sharp pencil is a good pointer: the pencil-tip is a lot smaller (more accurate) than the pixels. But a pencil-tip is no good at pointing at a single atom in your screen. For that, you need a pointer -- a test -- that's one atom wide or less at the tip.

This is the paradox of the false positive, and here's how it applies to terrorism:

Terrorists are really rare. In a city of twenty million like New York, there might be one or two terrorists. Maybe ten of them at the outside. 10/20,000,000 = 0.00005 percent. One twenty-thousandth of a percent.

That's pretty rare all right. Now, say you've got some software that can sift through all the bank-records, or toll-pass records, or public transit records, or phone-call records in the city and catch terrorists 99 percent of the time.

In a pool of twenty million people, a 99 percent accurate test will identify two hundred thousand people as being terrorists. But only ten of them are terrorists. To catch ten bad guys, you have to haul in and investigate two hundred thousand innocent people.

Guess what? Terrorism tests aren't anywhere close to 99 percent accurate. More like 60 percent accurate. Even 40 percent accurate, sometimes.

What this all meant was that the Department of Homeland Security had set itself up to fail badly. They were trying to spot incredibly rare events -- a person is a terrorist -- with inaccurate systems.

Is it any wonder we were able to make such a mess?

Re:Speaking of terroists... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328172)

I suspect the above poster, and the person he's quoting are not doctors.

Neither am I, for that matter, but my wife went through several classes on statistics during her time in medical school, and their approach to statistics is not so simple as "accuracy" only. They have several different terms, all more or less seeming similar to the layman. I don't recall the words, but they more or less correlated to concepts such as:

False positive rate.
False negative rate.
Overall rate of accurate test.

Using the correct, field-specific term may eliminate some of your objection. Testing is fine, if you know what it does, and how to use it.

Re:Speaking of terrorists... (5, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328460)

I suspect the above poster, and the person he's quoting are not doctors.

Um...I have never claimed to be...and to the best of my knowledge, neither has Cory Doctorow.

Neither am I, for that matter...

So...what was your point, then?

but my wife went through several classes on statistics...

You're kidding, right?

their approach to statistics is not so simple as "accuracy" only. They have several different terms, all more or less seeming similar to the layman. I don't recall the words, but they more or less correlated to concepts such as:

False positive rate.
False negative rate.
Overall rate of accurate test.


Your objection does not invalidate the argument in my OP, it only strengthens it. The other concepts you listed do not mitigate the problem of false positives - on the contrary, they only exacerbate it.

The argument in the OP assumed (for argument's sake) that while the false positive rate was 1%, the false negative rate was 0%. If you want to make the false negative rate a non-zero number, go ahead, but you'll quickly find that it makes the overall results even worse, not better.

Using the correct, field-specific term may eliminate some of your objection.

Actually, the terms are quite correct, and your argument only succeeds in raising additional objections.

Re:Speaking of terrorists... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328582)

See spotter's post.

What you (and Doctorow) don't understand is how to use your test.

If such a test existed, and were used, it would simply set flags on those 10,000 people to collect additional data, which would feed into some other, more specific, and higher cost, test to reduce it further.

If you want to reduce everything to a single scalar, you're always going to fail.

Good paragraph (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328404)

The interesting thing is there is no such thing as absolute security. Never has been and never will be. Hitler and Stalin tried it. Got them nowhere. Even now W. and his ppl are pushing the universal ID card for everyone, but will it stop Spies, Illegal aliens, or Terrorists? Nope. Interestingly, nearly all of the terrorists and spies are here legally, and the illegal aliens will buy docs that prove that they belong here (saw a few recently; they appear to be real docs; I am guessing that some federal employees are getting extra money).

Even with that said, it is important that some profiling take place. We have limited resources and must try to make the most of them.

Re:Good paragraph (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328630)

The interesting thing is there is no such thing as absolute security.


And to think this similar sentiment was stated over forty years ago. See my sig.

Re:Speaking of terroists... (1)

gatzke (2977) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328412)

So it does not work perfectly, I believe your math. What should we do? Stick our heads in the sand and ignore the threat? Rationalize that you are more likely to die in a car accident, so take no action?

I think people that pay cash for a one-way airline ticket need extra scrutiny.

I think people that move money around internationally through sketchy banks need some examination.

I think people with terrorist ties need some looking at.

If the DHS is set up to fail, they appear to have not had any failures in the last few years. May not be perfect, but maybe it is working?

Re:Speaking of terroists... (1)

Stanza (35421) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328764)

I think people that pay cash for a one-way airline ticket need extra scrutiny.
Huh, why?

The other two I can see and understand. But one-way tickets? More common (and commonly needed) than you might imagine. Cash? You're well-identified on an airplane ticket. Perhaps you don't have to show identity before you buy one, but you pretty much have to at the gate. And it has to match the name on the ticket, or all sorts of kerfluffle appears (and I've witnessed people missing flights for a simple misspelling of a name).

And I think that was part of the point--if you're going to look at something that has a huge false rate (one-way tickets), you're wasting a lot of time.

OTOH, I agree with you, some security checking should be done, it'll never be perfect, but we do need to minimize chasing red herrings.

Re:Speaking of terroists... (4, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328790)

So it does not work perfectly, I believe your math.

Actually, it's Cory's math, not mine.

What should we do? Stick our heads in the sand and ignore the threat? Rationalize that you are more likely to die in a car accident, so take no action?

I'm not advocating a course of action here...I'm merely pointing out that a "terrorist test" is doomed to failure.

If the DHS is set up to fail, they appear to have not had any failures in the last few years. May not be perfect, but maybe it is working?

Excellent point. On a related noted, I have a rock that repels tigers...perhaps you would be interested in purchasing it.

Seriously, can you point out any successes? After all, if I put on a bulletproof vest, and spend the next few hours without someone shooting at me, that cannot be taken as proof that the vest can successfully stop bullets.

Re:Speaking of terroists... (2, Interesting)

spotter (5662) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328446)

except, what cory doesn't get is that you've now limited your set from 1 mil to 10,000. What may not be efficient to test on 1mil, may be efficient to test on 10,000.

Its like NP complete problem. You have an algorithm that works, but it doesn't scale. If you can make an approximation solution that trims the set to a reasonable size where the scaling problems of algorithm don't hurt you as much, you have a win.

So, it doesn't matter that it identifies 10,000 wrong people. What matters is how do you deal with those 10,000 wrong people. Do you automatically assume they are bad, or do you say we put them through a tougher form of screening.

Re:Speaking of terroists... (2, Interesting)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328694)

except, what cory doesn't get is that you've now limited your set from 1 mil to 10,000. What may not be efficient to test on 1mil, may be efficient to test on 10,000.

While that may be true enough for the hypothetical case you referenced, real life gets a bit more difficult.

Instead of a hypothetical population of one million, try the population of NYC (20 million).

Instead of a hypothetical "nearly perfect" terrorist test with 100% sensitivity and 99% specificity (1% false positives, 0% false negatives), try a more realistic estimate of 40-60% specificity, with an indeterminate level of sensitivity (40-60% false positives, indeterminate number of false negatives).

In short, this more realistic assessment will trim your initial set of 20 million to 8-12 million, with who knows how many real terrorists slipping through the cracks. Not terribly helpful, is it?

So... test them again! (2, Interesting)

Slur (61510) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328844)

The author seems to be implying that you just ought to give up on developing standard testing procedures altogether. That seems like it would be a useful meme for the people who brought you Guantanamo Bay, Inc.

The glaring problem with his logic is that if you repeat the test your accuracy will tend to go up, and if you apply complimentary tests, you get even better accuracy. The original writer assumes that you test, then you execute, then you forget... Well that happens, to be sure, but it's a problem of rigor.

I mentioned Guantanamo Bay because it's a fine example of a willful failure to be rigorous. Shrub, Inc.'s only concern was to generate perceived results and delay further testing as long as possible. To fill up space and create the appearance that (a) there are lots of terrorists and (b) we caught lots of them. And they got a bunch of useful political prisoners - not really imprisoned for their beliefs or affiliations - but as pure fodder for use by the political class.

Had we applied more rigorous testing there never would have been a Guantanamo Bay prison. And if we ever begin to do so, the place will evaporate in a black cloud of oil smoke.

Re:Speaking of terroists... (1)

Stanislav_J (947290) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328888)

Wow, thanks for mentioning that book -- I am downloading it as I type this.

The problem is that, as with most things of this sort, the people who most need to understand it -- those who blindly support our guvmint's invasive, Constitution-busting, rights-trampling data mining in the name of the "War on Terrorism" (less known under its true internal working title as "The War to Gain More Complete Control Over ALL Citizens' Lives") -- fall into one of two categories. They are either (1)too math-illiterate to understand it, or (2)have the potential ability to understand it, but will not accept the argument because of their own personal emotional prejudices. Just like the "War on Drugs" -- any thinking, rational person looking at the numbers and the logic has to conclude that it is a vast waste of time and money and harms far more lives than it protects, but too many people have that emotional investment in the "Just Say No" mentality and cling to simple mantras instead of reality. Many of the same folks who think "Drugs are bad, therefore anything the government does to fight against drugs is good" will think the same on the current subject -- just insert "terrorists" wherever it reads "drugs."

And... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23327906)

Now that it's published, it is no longer valid.

if you buy that book ... (4, Funny)

Lazy Jones (8403) | more than 5 years ago | (#23327942)

... it's very likely that you are a terrorist who wants to know how not to be recognized. ;-)

Re:if you buy that book ... (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328754)

Why do I have the sinking feeling that it will describe ME! (false positive)

Be happy (1)

Sideonecincy (1285586) | more than 5 years ago | (#23327948)

We should be happy that a high percentage of Americans do not read books. There would be people who read this book, think they are an expert in terrorists and carry out the law in their own hands. People would shoot "suspected terrorists" because they showed characteristics that were defined in this book.

Identifying terrorist doesn't solve the problem (5, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#23327966)

I'm sure if the TSA reads this it will be better for most people in general but it does not solve the core problem of terrorist. You catch or kill one and there is ten more to replace him.

Its like the problem with Vietnam for the US and Afghanistan for the Soviet. Sometimes you cannot win by force. Either it has to come to understand, negotiation, or at least putting them at arms length such as building a massive security wall like Israel.

Having military bases in these people's lands, other throwing legitimate governments for over 50 years, and backing unpopular dictators is what causes them to attack us. Not because we believe in freedom or a different religion. We stop messing with things over there and when we do that the common man who currently supports the terrorists and their Jihad will be more apathetic and the popular support base the terrorists enjoy now will go away.

Re:Identifying terrorist doesn't solve the problem (4, Insightful)

forgotten_my_nick (802929) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328388)

> core problem of terrorist. You catch or kill one and
> there is ten more to replace him.

While you are correct somewhat here your premise as how to combat it is flawed.

When dealing with terrorism you need to determine why those ten would want to replace him. For example if you were fire a missile into a market during its busy hours to kill one terrorist and maim/kill many bystanders. Actions like that is what grows more terrorists.

Even if you don't do this then the actions tend to be related to civil rights abuses. Terrorism is normally the weapon of the desperate against an opposing force. If they are on our side then we call them "freedom fighters".

Ignoring the middle east the best example of this is Northern Ireland. Prior to the civil rights abuses in Northern Ireland the IRA didn't really have any real following. Sure you still get the gangsters and loons joining, but those who would normally define as rational/sane would of been in the minority if at all. It took actions from the British like Internment and Bloody Sunday to really get the ranks of the IRA up. That lead to 30 years of violence.

Once civil rights abuses were addressed in Northern Ireland the violence and support went away. It is not gone. You will always have some level of people who will disagree with actions. But the point is to stop the recruits. That you can't fight with weapons.

thousands of lives could have been saved (3, Insightful)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 5 years ago | (#23327974)

Had the Bush administration consulted Nance, a trillion dollars and thousands of lives could have been saved in the Iraq debacle.
That's a nice thought, but at the time Bush invaded Iraq, there was no evidence of any suicide-bomber/radical muslim sort of terrorist threat from Iraq. Everybody knew that.

But now that Iraq is a terrorist training ground, it sounds like it'd be a good book for the Bush Administration to read. If only this were the kind of Administration that reads.

Re:thousands of lives could have been saved (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328234)

You mean those families of suicide bombers that Saddam was paying weren't the families of suicide bombers? Or do you mean that everyone knew that Saddam hadn't actually used chemical weapons on his own people?

terrorism... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328004)

Wanna talk about terrorism? Watch it fully: http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/ [zeitgeistmovie.com] The most amazing it's really academically correct. >> Now, if you wanna hear about a good terrorist story: holy terrorists! They are closer than you think ;;;;;))))))))))

zeitgeist? (1)

Mental Maelstrom (1268890) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328058)

Academically correct? Yeah right... I wonder whether there's a single major proven argument in that film.

Re:zeitgeist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328612)

if I say "the sky is yellow" and everybody accepts it, it's basically a religion: one person says and everybody else agrees.

This is not good at all, specially in the academic environment.

Do you have the opportunity to disagree?? ABSOLUTELY: prove it is wrong.

So, by searching the truth and trying to prove it's wrong, you MIGHT end up proving it is *really* wrong OOOOOOOORRRRRRR you might end up proving to yourself it's right.

Prove it's wrong. But don't come with "bullshit, big time bullshit!"

Perhaps it's hard to accept north-americans as the real terrorists. In that case, you might be the One who will take ALL the geopolitical academics IN THE WORLD from the path of being historically incorrect and mentally dammed. I'm not say in this or that country, I'm saying in the WORLD.

Perhaps you also don't want to recognize that the USA controls the United Nations and that there's some bacteria in south pole underground and some people thought about searching for it. They are really from the dinosaurs' epoch. Freeing those bacteria COULD be the end of the world, since they might do no harm, or might be like air-transmitted Ebola (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola). Those are possibilities. I don't have such knowledge to say what those bacteria really are. SOOO.... in face of that little problem, the scientists said "that's ok, folks, let's those things stay down there". But not the USA government.

Since the USA holds one of the chairs in the Security Council, which give USA, as the other chairs, power to block a project, blocked the non-exploitation of the Pole's underground. Any time we can die. Thanks to USA government. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

What do you want, huh?? You want a great power, but not the responsability that cames along with the power??? Who do you think you are, a rich? Have a huge quantity of money, but is not responsible for those who die of hunger...

I bet you don't read a lot of geopolitical books.
Here's something for you to begin with: http://thepiratebay.org/tor/3818139/Chomsky_Books

Uncle SAM is goingo to save you (http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-05/19/xin_27050119142492840419.jpg [chinadaily.com.cn]) from the devil nails (http://www.cbc.ca/gfx/pix/iraq_demnstrtn_cp_7433689.jpg [www.cbc.ca]) of the terrorists (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f2/Abu-ghraib-leash.jpg [wikimedia.org]) because terrorists (http://www.vermelho.org.br/admin/img_upload/crimedeguerra.jpg [vermelho.org.br] http://www.vermelho.org.br/admin/img_upload/terpalesti.jpg [vermelho.org.br]) are really bad. You, north-americans are good.(http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/2004/Abu-Ghraib-Prison-Photos11jun04p12.jpg [mindfully.org]).

Terrorist/Hacker (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328014)

Catching a terrorist is like catching a hacker.

You never catch the good ones without an insane manhunt. Sometimes not even after that. [wikipedia.org] All you are able to catch are the idiotic average high school level dorks who bloast their achievements in the Interwebz.

It's a poor 'guide' (4, Interesting)

MrMacman2u (831102) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328136)

Attempting to judge someone by physical appearance or a quick observation of behavior is completely ineffective.

This book is the biggest load of cruft I've had the displeasure of pursuing in a long, long time.

Nearly a complete, waste of time and money and is more than likely bound to spark more than a few more uber-paranoid people locking themselves up in their trailer with a shotgun pointing out the window.

The only perks about this farce was the netural informational aspects such as how individual terrorists as well as terrorist groups and cells form, operate and work as well as the mind-set, cultural and historical information presented.

As a "guide" it's practically useless, as a source of information about the how and why terrorists operate and think, it IS fairly interesting.

Too bad that information is often available (in bits and pieces) via other sources on the net.

Re:It's a poor 'guide' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328506)

Doesn't releasing it to the general public make its usefulness questionable? "They" can just as easily buy a copy as a guide on how NOT to look like a terrorist...

Lives saved in Iraq war (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328150)

One sobering correction. It was noted above that had we not gone to war in Iraq, we would have saved "thousands" of lives.

The Iraqi death toll due to US invasion stands well over one million [antiwar.com].

I'm guessing you meant "thousands of US lives", but please don't forget about those who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Another view (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328216)

Daniel Pipes is a racist moron and an Israeli apologist. His politics are atrocious and he is not viewed as a serious scholar by serious scholars.

How to spot a terrorist (1)

tristian_was_here (865394) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328240)

This is how to spot a terrorist:
1) Look for clothing masking the face
2) Carries AK-47
3) Burns American flag


Now not every body described like this is a terrorist but be careful and vigilant.

State Terrorism is a far greater threat (4, Informative)

MrSteveSD (801820) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328246)

Although 911 had a high death toll, groups like Al Qaeda couldn't possibly hope to match states when it comes to killing civilians. The Indonesian government used widespread terrorism against it's own people and those of East Timor with a death toll of several hundred thousand. Of course, today we are interested in not only the perpetrators of the terror, but those that support them. In the case of Indonesia under Suharto, the supporters were countries like the US and UK who supplied arms knowing full well what they were being used for.

Then of course there is the famous case of US support for terrorism in Nicaragua, for which the country was condemned by the World Court. The death toll was around 50,000. One of the things the US was condemned for in that case was the mining of Nicaraguan harbours, putting civilian shipping in danger. If Al Qaeda did the same thing, it would be immediately recognised as a terrorist act.

Sorry, you lost me when you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328300)

called Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson experts.

I question Daniel Pipes being credited as expert.. (3, Insightful)

RoTNCoRE (744518) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328450)

This is the same Pipes who advocated oversight of left leaning academics in case they poison their fragile students after 9/11? People to advocate such things are the truest enemies of the state. I saw him speak at my school, and he had to be hustled out of the room by his hosts after failing to respond to valid criticism of his borderline racist/fascist agenda.

Daniel Pipes? (5, Informative)

tfoss (203340) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328568)

experts such as Daniel Pipes
Just so we're clear, this is the daniel pipes who started the Middle East Forum [irc-online.org] ("one of a number of hardline neoconservative think tanks devoted to promoting a broad war on terror focused on the Middle East.") and its offspring, Campus Watch [sourcewatch.org] (a group intended to monitor middle east studies on college campuses, in a rather mccarthy-like manner). The one who has been a consistent warmonger (from vietnam onward). The one who wrote in The National Review:

"Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene...All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most."
Who the New York Times referred [nytimes.com] to as the leader of an "organized movement to stop Muslim citizens who are seeking an expanded role in American public life"

Just so we know who we are labeling with the sterile description of "expert."

-Ted

Wow... is there NO editing of book reviews? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23328588)

Does the word knowledgeable not exist for either the writer OR the editor of this article?

AK47 (0)

saigon_from_europe (741782) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328718)

For some odd reason, even they are in USA, they always carry AK47, and I always wondered if it would be much easier to find some US made weapons instead of imported ones.

Anti- vs Counter-terrorism (2, Informative)

spook brat (300775) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328772)

Counter-terrorism == work to stop terrorist operations

Anti-terrorism == work to kill the terrorists themselves

Perhaps the usage has changed since I went to my CT training courses in the U.S. Army, but I really, REALLY hope that the TSA isn't conducting anti-terrorism operations! "Sorry, you're on the no-fly list, please step into the euthanasia chamber to your right..."

There are no terrorists (1)

BlueStraggler (765543) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328870)

However, there are plenty of:
  • violent political agitators
  • soldiers fighting asymmetrical wars
  • organized criminals who dislike competition
  • militias and warlords seeking local dominance
  • mentally ill persons acting out violent fantasies
  • government agents intentionally creating instability to justify crackdowns or other policies
  • rogue agents acting in extra-legal or "black" ops outside normal chains of command
  • civil servants enacting standard government policies designed to quell dissent
  • bandits, pirates, and other heavily-armed thieves
  • angry people who have lost everything, desperately seeking to restore their honour
  • revolutionaries fighting oppressive regimes
  • oppressive regimes fighting revolutionaries
  • journalists and citizens who happen to sympathize with any of the above

Once you stop calling them "terrorists" and call them what they really are, it usually helps to suggest a more rational and workable approach to dealing with them. Bundling all of the above into a single category of "people who may endanger innocent bystanders" in the hopes that this will make the problem more manageable, will in fact do the opposite.

really, Really, REALLY old news! (1)

AlgorithMan (937244) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328952)

there already is a well known, very accurate terrorist recognition handbook! look here [wikipedia.org]

short summary: hooknoses

Review nitpick (1)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 5 years ago | (#23328962)

"...contrary to popular belief, suicide bombers are rarely insane. They are most often intelligent, rational individuals with beliefs that those in the West finds difficult to comprehend."

Um, no, that's something we all knew about before. I've never heard anyone classify homicide bombers as "insane," or unintelligent, or irrational in the classic sense of the word.

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