Monday, March 9, 2015

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance

Cincinnati for those who aren't from the region is in southwest corner of Ohio which shares borders with Kentucky and Indiana forming the Tri-State area.  The Tri-State area made headlines recently for wannabe terrorist Chris Cornell.  The FBI and feds are patting themselves on the back for catching this knucklehead before he was able to launch any attacks.  But Cornell's case has raised local awareness of the ability for a terrorist group six time zones away to recruit without ever meeting face-to-face.

Daesh has been recruiting non-Muslims from around the world for the last 6 months or more.  Recently, several young women from the London have made headlines for trying to join Daesh.  But again that's over there, it's different when it happens in your own back yard.  The Tri-State has a large Muslim community which has now had to go on the defense.

"Chris Cornell was not a part of our community, he does not know our community, our community does not know him," said Karen Dabdoub with the Cincinnati Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Cornell's case illustrates a problem that looks like something right our of a TV show.  Now that we have a group that has established a way to virtually recruit converts, how do we detect these people?

It is tempting to think these are loners, disenfranchised with society.  Cornell seems to fit that description, however that isn't the case in the other Daesh recruits.  Most seem to be young people looking for a cause or are ones who are sympathetic to anti-Western views.  They aren't loners and often come from good families.  Family and friends are perplexed by the news that one of their loved ones has joined Daesh.

The technology of today gives us unprecedented access to one another.  It is easier now than ever before to find like-minded individuals even if they are thousands of miles away.  Today's younger people are quite accustomed to not only text and emails but also video-chat (Skype) and multiplayer role games.  Multiplayer role games provide a means for divergent groups of people to meet-up virtually and engage in shared experiences.  It would not be hard for those skilled in psychological-operations to mine the rolls of these games to find willing recruits.

But even that is perhaps too complicated.  I saw a post today about how Rolls Royce and Bentley don't need to adversities because their reputation attracts their customers to them.  Daesh doesn't need really complicated ways to recruit, those who believe in their philosophies (and other groups) can find them with just a few keystrokes.

FBI, CIA, NSA, DHS and their foreign counterparts have developed so pretty sophisticated algorithms to try to identify potential recruits, however therein lies a major shortfall.  The algorithms can only work from what is known.  New groups or recruits that don't show-up in the algorithms are virtually invisible.

Terrorists rely on fear and media coverage.  More people die yearly from drunk drivers than terrorists yet because of the coverage, we perceive a terrorist attack to be more imminent.  If we overreact, we could actually create a richer environment for recruits.  But that being said, we do need to remain ever vigilant.  As Thomas Jefferson said, "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance"

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