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Terrorist Recognition Handbook 344

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-em-up-against-the-wall dept.
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
Terrorist Recognition Handbook: A Practitioner's Manual for Predicting and Identifying Terrorist Activities, Second Edition
author Malcolm Nance
pages 480
publisher CRC
rating 10
reviewer Ben Rothke
ISBN 978-1420071832
summary Perhaps the definitive text on terrorist recognition.

The main theme of the book, as detailed in chapter 1 is critical awareness. The book notes that criminal investigators spend years studying criminal behavior to better understand and counter crime. Nance writes that the field of terrorism is no different as it is a specialized subject that requires serious study and requires that those in the front line of defense be as knowledge as possible.

In a later chapter, Nance gives the Iraq war as an example of a group of leaders that were not as knowledge as possible and ignored the advice of those that were as knowledge as possible. Had the Bush administration consulted Nance, a trillion dollars and thousands of lives could have been saved in the Iraq debacle.

The book is divided into 5 sections comprising 21 heavily-detailed chapters. Each chapter is a progression in detailing, understanding and identifying terrorists. In chapter after chapter, the book details every aspect of terrorism and indentifies all of the various elements. The various aspects of different guns, explosives, and other elements are described and categorized in detail.

In the section on suicide bombers, an important point the book makes is that 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. Nance does not for a second rationalize the actions of such groups and individuals. But notes that it is critical to understand why they do it in order to prevent future attacks.

Chapter 8 is quite valuable in that it provides a comprehensive overview of how terrorist cells operate and are organized. While the cell is the fundamental unit of a terrorist group; cell operations and their members are the least understood part of terrorism. Their operations are always secret and never seen, until they attack. The chapter details the many types of terrorist cells, operative membership pools, and how cells and leadership communicate.

Chapter 19 is a fascinating primer on al-Qaeda and the global extremist insurgency. The chapter details how al-Qaeda divides its enemies into two categories: Far Enemies and Near Enemies. The terms are taken from the Islamic concept of the community and those who oppose it. While the far enemies of al-Qaeda are the USA, Australia, UK, Europe and Israel, the near enemies are those Moslem's or nations that al-Qaeda sees as corrupted governments or apostate rules. These include the governments of over 20 countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bangladesh, India and many more comprising billions of people.

While the post-9/11 attacks from coalition forces have indeed hurt al-Qaeda and killed many of its top leaders, Nance notes that al-Qaeda now acts a terror strategy consultancy. This transformation of al-Qaeda is in response to the loss of its base of operations in Afghanistan and the displacement of its leadership to the Pakistani border. The most significant changes were a shift of operational responsibility from the regional terror commanders, who executed a long awaited plan for jihad operations, to a more radical and difficult to detect posture: jihadist who were self-starting and worked independently from al-Qaeda.

The most significant changes al-Qaeda's structure occurred when it was able to co-opt the Jordanian Salafist group Tawhed Wal Jihad and organize the foreign fighters into Iraq into al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). AQI changed the structure of the military committee's roles dramatically and Iraq would become the cornerstone of al-Qaeda's global operations. Much of the invasion of Iraq was premised on a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. There was never such a link, but the war turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as al-Qaeda is now a mainstay in Iraq.

The book writes that it is important to note that contrary to popular belief, al-Qaeda is not a single terrorist group, rather a collection of like-minded organizations that cooperate and receive funds, advice and orders from Osama bin Laden and his supporters. al-Qaeda has transformed itself from a physical chain of terrorist training camps to a virtual network that uses the Internet to create a network centric information and advisory body. Nance therefore notes that al-Qaeda has transformed itself from a global terrorism operation into a terrorism management consultancy. The 6 main aspects of this consultancy are that al-Qaeda: provides inspiration, contributes finances, shares collective knowledge, provides weapons resource and contacts, accepts responsibility and releases video propaganda.

Besides a few minor historical errors, some grammatical and punctuation mistakes, and not a lot of details about cyber-based terrorism, Terrorist Recognition Handbook: A Practitioner's Manual for Predicting and Identifying Terrorist Activities is a most important book in that it avoids all of the hype, politics and bias that come along with such titles, and simply focuses on its task at hand, to be a field guide for anti-terrorist and counter-terrorist professionals to use to prevent attacks.

Such a title is sorely needed by groups such as the TSA, who still think that anti-terrorism means having people remove their shoes at airports. The book notes that the European approach of guarded vigilance via a sustained level of anti-terrorism readiness and awareness is a much better concept than the US approach of spiking to heightened alert levels.

The Terrorist Recognition Handbook is a must-read for anyone tasked with or interested in anti-terrorism activities. One would hope that every TSA and Homeland Security manager and employee get a copy of this monumental reference. It would change the face of TSA and the Department of Homeland Security, and might perhaps really enable them to identify terrorists, and not simply require the elderly to take off their support shoes at airport checkpoints.

Ben Rothke is the author of Computer Security: 20 Things Every Employee Should Know.

You can purchase Terrorist Recognition Handbook: A Practitioner's Manual for Predicting and Identifying Terrorist Activities, Second Edition from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Terrorist Recognition Handbook

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  • That's easy (Score:4, Funny)

    by peipas (809350) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @02:41PM (#23327738)
    You don't need any book to identify terrorists [wikipedia.org].
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dreamchaser (49529)
      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'.
      • by peipas (809350)
        Joking about it doesn't make its fodder [slashdot.org] any less true. Don't tase me bro.
      • Re:That's easy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bishop Rook (1281208) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:17PM (#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."
        • 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.
          • by bugnuts (94678)
            I'm scared shitless to buy CDs because of them!

            In all seriousness, there has been all sorts of hyperbole which is about as reliable as those urban legend emails you get about the guy that got aids from a doorknob or mouse turds in his coke. Propaganda comes in all forms, whether it's "drugs support terrorism" or "piracy supports terrorism" or whatever. It's all BS.

            Calling an organization "terrorist" is like calling someone a Nazi. In fact, Nazism is more offensive to me, but you see that word so watered
      • 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
      • If this paragraph is accurate then the problem is ideology. And not American Capitalism ...

        "In the section on suicide bombers, an important point the book makes is that 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. Nance does not for a second rationalize the actions of such groups and individuals. But notes that it is critical to understand why they do it in order to prev
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by chthon (580889)

          Although this has been known for some time. It's not poor, defenseless people who become terrorists, no matter how much mr. Obama would like them to be. It's knowledgeable, rational, intelligent and rich people, who have but to choose from the thousands of opportunities the world offers them (like he himself is, or any presidential candidate obviously).

          yes, people have forgotten the lessons of the seventies about the Baader-Meinhof group.

  • The Sad Part (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kellyb9 (954229) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @02:44PM (#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: (Score:3, Funny)

      by eldavojohn (898314) *

      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Talderas (1212466) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @02:50PM (#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.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        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 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by d3ac0n (715594) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @02:52PM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DesScorp (410532)
        While I completely agree that the creation of the TSA bureaucracy was a bad move (and one hell of an inconvenience to us in the Airport sector), I work with some of these people, and saying things like "can they even read?" is kind of trollish. They've got good people working for TSA. They seem to be bright, hard working, and some are very well educated (there are some good federal pay grades at TSA that attract these people, after all). So if you have a problem with TSA, you need to take it up with the Fed
    • by copponex (13876) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:09PM (#23328114) Homepage
      ...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.
      • by blueg3 (192743) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:15PM (#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.
        • In the case of the TSA, I'd call them 110% ineffective - worse than useless. Luckily, they aren't really intended to be effective.
        • by copponex (13876) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @04:24PM (#23329168) Homepage
          The TSA stands around, making sure the people in line aren't terrorists. Now, I'm no criminal mastermind, but given the security around most US airports, all it does it make the regular citizens feel warm and fuzzy about all the gadgets they have to walk through to get on their plane. A terrorist would make a few friends at the airport, lift a few IDs, and before you know it, he can walk around the tarmac for weeks on end without being bothered, and walk right past a security line with the flash of his counterfeit badge and a smile.

          Really effective security would be to bring every last troop home, and place them in every port and border crossing into the US. Even more effective than their inspections would be the fact that they aren't in foreign countries blowing stuff up. It's very difficult to recruit people to kill the infidel when he's across the ocean behind hundreds of thousands of highly trained Marines, minding his own business.

          Unfortunately this would require leaders in government (Republicans and Democrats) to do an about-face on how they deal with terrorism, and as anyone knows, getting a politician to admit a mistake is harder than getting one to tell the truth in the first place. But we're the ones to blame - when the greatest threat to our way of life, according to Sean Hannity, is that "we may be driving around in Yugos," you wonder if the society is worth saving in the first place.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by gobbo (567674)

            Really effective security would be to bring every last troop home, and place them in every port and border crossing into the US.

            You do realize that the American taxpayer funds over 700 (seven-frakking-hundred, yes) military bases on foreign soil? And that Al Qaeda was initially pissed about the bases in Saudi territory, so it could be said that the global occupation under way is the catalyst for said terrorism? You want the USA to shut all those down?

            Call me when this revolution of yours starts, I want to post it on youtube.

            But seriously, I wonder at the loud scoffing denials heard from most people at the mention of an "american em

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by d3ac0n (715594)

              But seriously, I wonder at the loud scoffing denials heard from most people at the mention of an "american empire"--and then I remember that very few know that the USA occupies portions (large and small) of over 100 different nations. By invitation, of course!

              Umm.. Yes. By invitation. With the possible exception of the two bases in Okinawa, Japan and Ramstein, Germany. These two bases were granted to us as part of the surrender treaties from both countries at the end of WW2. However, I can assure you th

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by g8oz (144003)
                Wrong. The U.S extracts wealth from its victims through forcing regulatory regimes that favor American interests. They've done it for decades behind the facade of the international institutions like the IMF and the World Bank.

                More currently, the proposed "Iraqi" oil law is a 100% American creation that tilts the playing field in the favor of Exxon et al.

                Oh and the so called "aid" money is usually nothing more than subsidies for well-connected American businesses. They'll announce a few billion in aid to cou
              • No clothes. (Score:4, Interesting)

                by gobbo (567674) <wrewrite@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:26PM (#23340016) Journal

                Indeed, the whole Imperialism argument is nothing more than intellectual dishonesty and mental masturbation by those that have their hate on for America. Get the facts straight bub. No Imperialism here.
                I was about to respond to this with point by point citations and examples, not for your benefit (because I suspect your viewpoint is fixed) but for general edification. e.g. investing a few billions to extract trillions is a stunning profit in both wealth and power; see: economic-hit-man whistleblowers, IMF whistleblowers, brazen admissions by Brzezinski and neo-cons, the history of Latin America, the Fellowship Foundation, the CFR, Chalmers Johnson, etc. Closing a few bases out of a thousand (if you include the estimates of covert ones) is merely a tiny percentage, offset by other "repositioning of the footprint."

                But I think that you've just proven my essential point: the american 'hegemony' is founded on some astoundingly well-crafted pervasive propaganda at home, with the theme of being a global benefactor.

                Ask around: "why do we perpetually have half a million troops overseas in over 100 countries?" The reasoning of the american public in justifying such a massive permanent deployment in so many bases is very thin, if not jingoistic and naive, or outright frightening to citizens of other countries. Americans just don't believe in the scale of clandestine maneuvering through their history, and they have an essential sense of manifest destiny.

                21C hegemony (shorthand for empire) does not resemble victorian Brittania, in the way that late post-industrial capitalism doesn't resemble feudalism.

      • by kellyb9 (954229) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:17PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Znork (31774)
          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
        • Security is only achieved when you have a multi-faceted, reactive and proactive system designed to detect anomalies and investigate them, EVEN IF THEY DON'T HAPPEN IN AN AIRPORT.

          We have hundreds of millions of tons of cargo coming in and out of the country with zero inspection.

          We have hundreds of miles of unprotected borders.

          Where is our military force, sworn to protect us against all enemies, foreign and domestic? Across the ocean bombing infrastructure that we have to rebuild, because Americans don't want
        • I think what the GP was saying was that the TSA is for all intents and purposes 100% ineffective under its current state in preventing terrorism without boning someone's rights in some fashion.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      TSA published a similar guide, but it was much shorted:
      "the subject is white" = allow
      "the subject is not white" = deny
  • No book necessary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dave562 (969951) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @02:45PM (#23327800) Journal
    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.
    • by k1e0x (1040314)
      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.
      • by dave562 (969951)
        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.

    • Depending upon where in the world you are, this person [wikipedia.org] is considered one. And yet the State Department doesn't haul him in...
    • by DrVomact (726065)
      Don't forget "people found dead after we drop bombs on them".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @02:48PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by alexgieg (948359)

      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.

      • by alexgieg (948359) <alexgieg@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:37PM (#23328524) Homepage
        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.
      • by Tr0tskysGh0st (1003681) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:39PM (#23328546) Homepage
        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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DrZogg (579212)

        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 --

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You don't know Daniel Pipes.

        http://www.mpac.org/article.php?id=72
  • by smaerd (954708)
    If they weigh the same as a duck....
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @02:49PM (#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?
    • 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 empl
      • 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.

    • by gatzke (2977)
      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
      • by Stanza (35421)

        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

        • by gatzke (2977)

          I thought I heard cash for flights and one-way are possible indicators of potential issues. I did not dream that one up, you get harassed if you do that these days. just like if you change airlines last minute you get the special search.

          I would assume they have some sort of formula to figure this stuff out. Meet n criteria to set off flags or alarms. Of course, correlation does not imply causation, but it can be a starting point or filter.

          In fault diagnosis, you have type 1 and type 2 failure. False al
      • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:57PM (#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.
        • by gatzke (2977)

          http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/gc_1188408340457.shtm [dhs.gov]

          There are some plots that have been foiled, but I am not sure checking my shoes at the airport helped.

          If you live in a war zone, I would keep my bulletproof vest on. Just because you did not get shot at today does not mean you are safe for tomorrow.

          It is about balancing risk and cost. If we wanted no terrorists to take over planes, we could all strip nekkid and handcuff us while on board. Someone has to make a call about how far to go to get some sort of eff
          • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @04:42PM (#23329426)
            [dhs.gov]

            You're joking, right? The only references on that page I saw pertaining to foiled terrorist attacks were the case of the "binary explosives" plot and the case of the Fort Dix Six. Regarding the former, it has already been debunked so many times that I'm surprised the DHS hasn't removed the reference from sheer shame. In the case of the latter, six guys who plotted to take on a military base with a couple of firearms, and were caught because they took their jihad training video to Circuit City to burn to DVD? Seriously? We're supposed to buy this?

            Every single "terrorist threat" since 9/11 (which is itself suspect) has been either a ridiculous exaggeration, an entrapment scheme, or an outright hoax.

            If you live in a war zone, I would keep my bulletproof vest on. Just because you did not get shot at today does not mean you are safe for tomorrow.

            1) I don't live in a war zone. Neither do you.
            2) You missed my point most spectacularly. Until a real bullet hits that vest, there is no proof that it can deflect bullets.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by 2short (466733)
        "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?"

        There are more options for what to do than "anything" and "nothing". We should do things that make sense, and that work. If someone points out that one thing we could do doesn't work, it does not make sense to say "Oh well, we gotta do something". We shouldn't do things that don't work, not even if we c
        • You forgot to mention that suicidal terrorists don't care if they buy a one-way ticket or a round-trip ticket. They're not going to be worried about wasting the return trip ticket if they're planning to be dead by then.
        • by gatzke (2977)

          It is a balancing act, you balance security with cost (time, money, privacy, convenience).

          Someone makes that call at DHS. So now I have to take my shoes off for inspection after the crazy shoe bomber.

          Is it unreasonable to have some sort of secondary screening if you set off some set of flags? So you are detained a few minutes. That makes sense.

          If the screening does not work, point to a story where a real terrorist made it on the plane with weapons or contraband. Not a test case, a real missed diagnosis
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TrekkieGod (627867)

        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?

        That's not 'rationalizing.' That's proper allocation of resources. I could spend a really long time optimizing code that access data in memory and get it to be a few milliseconds faster, but if most of the time spent in the code is writing to disk, then I would be an idiot to not work on optimizing that aspect of the program instead.

        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'm not willing to jeopardize the freedoms and the privacy of thousands of innocent people to catch one or two criminals. The cure you're proposing is worse than the dis

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by spotter (5662)
      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 w
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        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
      • by Slur (61510)
        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 r
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Lurker2288 (995635)
          Of course, the difference between a 'terrorist test' (presumably some sort of deep data mining across a variety of databases) and the kind of disease test Doctorow uses for an example is that repeating the terrorist test is unlikely to produce greater accuracy. Let's say you have some combination of factors that, according to the algorithm, makes you a suspect. Running the same search again will uncover the same factors and produce no improvement in your estimation, hence the need for the complementary insp
    • 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

  • by Lazy Jones (8403) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @02:52PM (#23327942) Homepage Journal
    ... it's very likely that you are a terrorist who wants to know how not to be recognized. ;-)

  • by vertinox (846076) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @02:54PM (#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.
    • by forgotten_my_nick (802929) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:27PM (#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.
  • by flaming error (1041742) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @02:54PM (#23327974) Journal

    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.
  • It's a poor 'guide' (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrMacman2u (831102) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:11PM (#23328136) Journal
    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.
  • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:19PM (#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.
  • by RoTNCoRE (744518) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:32PM (#23328450) Homepage
    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.
    • "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."

      He probably had to be "hustled out" because some of the little brownshirts-in-training wouldn't let him speak, which seems to be a favorite tactic of leftist protesters at schools. Why argue when you can simply overwhelm a speaker and his audience with your friends... often physically taking over a speaking hall... and gamble that the university administration will be too
  • Daniel Pipes? (Score:5, Informative)

    by tfoss (203340) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @03:40PM (#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
    • Yeah. Any interest I might have had in reading the review ended when I saw that.
    • by XchristX (839963)

      Just so we're clear, this is the daniel pipes who started the Middle East Forum ("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 (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."

      This is complete nonsense. Pipes' statement was taken out of context (mostly by radical far-left/Islamist propagandists). Pipes wasn't expressing any prejudices himself. His goal in it was to characterize the thinking of Western Europeans, not give his own views. Here is Pipes:

      http://www.danielpipes.org/article/198 [danielpipes.org]

      In retrospect, I should either have put the words "brown-skinned peoples" and "strange foods" in quotation marks or made it clearer that I was explaining European attitudes rather than my own."

      And he's basically right! I don't like it. I think it's ignorant. but he's right when you think about it. A majority of westerners ARE orientalists in that way. What can we do?
      Thanks for that

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

    short summary: hooknoses
  • "...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.

  • We don't a book to identify terrorists, we just need Clutch:

    You can always tell a terrorist
    By his cologne and the watch on his wrist
    It says, "I'm the kind of man
    Who can take off anywhere, take off anywhere."

    Clutch - Power Players
  • by jandersen (462034) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @02:07AM (#23334302)
    By the look of it this book doesn't really address the fundamental issues underlying terrorism. I realise that this is outside the scope of the book and that it would be controversial, to put it mildly, in the US; but sooner or later we are going to have to tackle the issue of 'why'. We have at least since 9/11 had our heads stuck firmly in the sand, with fantasies about how terrorists are completely different from us, how they are 'evil', 'envious of our freedom' or at least 'insane' - this book goes some way to puncture that myth, at least.

    The truth is, we are not going to win any war against terrorism - it's like the 'Gumby Brain Surgery'(ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gumbys [wikipedia.org]). We have to understand why something so utterly irrational as terrorism can not only exist, but spread rapidly; really, I would have thought that much was obvious. The good news is that it isn't impossible; as the book suggests, these people are rational, often intelligent, and if they can arrive at the conclusion that they have to go and blow themselves and other people up, then we can follow their logic. I should think that there is a good chance that we will discover one or two points that we can address intelligently, thus breaking the rationale of their reasoning. This is all about popular support - the terrorists have popular support because they can argue strongly for their goals; we can make their arguments weak if we know what we are doing, and once they lose popular support, they will soon cease to be a threat.

"Don't discount flying pigs before you have good air defense." -- jvh@clinet.FI

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