[WEN: Rick's nice commentary about the current hype of
issuing public terror warnings which most of us get
on a daily basis. I guess the US is in the same state
as me about six years ago when I moved to London. One
day there was a 'security alert' in the underground station,
so I kind of felt weird. Nowadays, I am used to it and
consider it just part of every day life. The US will have
to get used to what we Europeans have been experiencing
over many years. To finish off I want to quote Randall Larsen
from Anser ( a great Homeland Defense think tank
http://www.anser.org) which should make everyone think twice
before spending astronomic amounts of money to prevent terrorism
on every street corner in America:

The number one threat to American national security during this long war is
neither anthrax nor truck bombs … it is uncontrolled spending. We cannot
afford to put guards on every bridge and at every critical node of our
infrastructure. We cannot afford a sophisticated chemical and biodetector in
every government building. America cannot afford a risk-free society in a
world of global terrorism. The enemy’s strategy is to destroy our economy.
We must not facilitate their efforts. America will need to spend
considerable sums of money to ensure our security … but we must do it
wisely … there will be no money to waste on irrational fear and
unconscionable pork. We must develop a strategic plan to guide our efforts.
This must include federal, state and local governments, plus the private
sector. Since 9-11, more than 130 bills regarding homeland security have
been introduced in the House of Representatives. This is not the example of
spending based on a strategic plan.

“The outcome of this war will determine the type of nation our grandchild
will know. I do not want that to be a nation that is bankrupt.”

Randall Larsen, Director, ANSER Institute for Homeland Security, at the
National Defense University Symposium on Quadrennial Defense Review 2001


The Terror Alert They Won't Issue
Richard Forno


Article #2002-07

(c) 2002 Richard Forno. Permission to reproduce in entirety granted with
author credit.

Reader Feedback

Let's face it - America is a confused nation. Granted, we've always been
confused about some things - the metric system, for instance - but in recent
days, nearly everyone is befuddled with how to continue living their daily
lives in the Age of Terror in America. Since September 11, 2001, the
repeated message of the federal government to the American citizens is to
'continue living your lives normally' while continuing to 'be on alert' for
anything 'out of the ordinary' that might indicate a potential terrorist act
in the making.

While this sounds meaningful and a necessary part of the post-0911 America,
let's be totally honest with ourselves: it's rather hard to live a normal
life when we're constantly-inundated with vaguely-worded predictions of doom
and gloom. We know we've been attacked, and we know that there's a chance of
future successful attacks in our country, despite the best efforts of the
government to protect us. It's a fact of life that we have been forced to
accept, whether we like it or not. Americans are a hardy bunch - maybe we're
a bit confused at times, but we're not dummies, either. Our government is
good, but it's not omnipotent. Talk about a mixed message that creates a
national psychosis! From shopping malls to the Statue of Liberty, anything -
and anyone - is now a potential target.

It's about time we admitted it to ourselves.

That being said, let's reflect on what America was warned about 'might
happen soon' over this past week:

May 20: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld tells Senators that terrorists will
eventually obtain weapons of mass destruction.
May 20: FBI Director Mueller says that Palestinian-style suicide bombings on
US soil is "inevitable."
May 21: NIPC reports 'possible terrorist threat' to US Oil Facilities.
May 21: President Bush echoes Rumsfeld's warning about terrorists obtaining
weapons of mass destruction.
May 21: The FBI warns of potential attacks against major landmarks in the
US, particularly in New York City.
May 21: The FBI circulates warning to apartment and condominium owners of
possible terrorist activity in their buildings.
May 22: US Government warns its citizens in the Arab world against possible
terror attacks.
May 24: US Transportation Department issues warning over possible terror
attacks on transit, rail, and subway systems.
May 24: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission warns 103 US nuclear plants of
'possible terrorist attacks' (by small planes) and to 'be alert'.
May 24: The FBI warns that terrorists may develop an "offensive scuba diver
capability" to conduct attacks.

That last alert was a great way to head into happy hour before a long
holiday weekend, especially in Washington, DC. Several people I spoke with
shook their heads in disbelief over the actual possibility of 'terrorist
scuba divers' -- and wondered why the public needed to know about this
potential threat since the NIPC alert stated that "while there is no
evidence of operational planning to utilize scuba divers to carry out
attacks within the United States, there is a body of information showing the
desire to obtain such capability [to attack the United States.]"  Sure,
terrorists may employ scuba divers, but they could also employ parachutists,
school teachers, bus drivers, or hunting-school owners. Should these also
generate potential terror alerts?
If anything, the events of September 11 should be interpreted as a
significant and already-demonstrated desire and capability by certain
fundamentalist entities to attack the United States using whatever means
available to them to attack large numbers of people and prominent landmarks.
That means just what it says - and could include crop dusters, kamikaze
pilots, hot air balloons, trains, trucks, and the oft-mentioned capabilities
of weapons of mass destruction, among an endless number of other ways to
inflict death and destruction on their target.

It probably includes offensive scuba divers, too.

I'm curious - what exactly is an 'offensive scuba diver'? A diver that
refuses to bathe regularly? Perhaps one who swims underwater in a soiled

In the eyes of a terrorist or unconventional fighter, anything is a
potential avenue or method of attack. In military circles, that's known as
asymmetric warfare. But given the established reality that America's
terrorist adversaries will use whatever means necessary to achieve their
goals, is it really necessary to warn us about each and every one of them?
The very nature of terrorism means the target (in this case, the United
States) can't defend against all potential avenues of attack; so why must we
be inundated with nebulous, vaguely-worded alerts based on slim evidence?

Doing so - however well-intentioned - only serves to frighten the average
American citizen and make them perpetually uneasy - not a very helpful
situation when they're trying to recover and move on with their personal and
family lives in the aftermath of September 11 as previously-instructed by
the government. Further, such releases should not be used to increase
Presidential opinion poll figures or divert attention from (or
over-compensate for) decades-old problems with our intelligence and federal
law enforcement agencies and processes.

Therefore, as a public service to the American people, I offer this Standard
Terror Warning (TM) -- a simple thing intended to clarify the reality of
America's Homeland Security alert status and make it easier for us to move
ahead with our lives in the post-0911 reality:

***  Standard Terror Warning ***
Based on past actions, it is quite likely that terrorists again will attack
the United States in the future. However, we are unsure when, where, or how
this may occur, given the unconventional nature of terrorism and the
nearly-countless ways in which such entities may conduct their attacks.

It should be noted that America is not alone in this unfortunate situation -
nations such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and others - continue to
maintain productive and relatively-peaceful societies over several decades
despite similar conditions.

Given this new reality - that America is no longer immune from terror acts
waged against it from within its borders - citizens and authorized foreign
visitors to the United States are advised that they can either spend their
lives cowering in fear and hiding in their basements, or continue to move
about America and live their lives as best as they can, understanding that
America - despite all it offers - has changed slightly for the worse,
whether they like it or not.

***  Standard Terror Warning ***

The public is better-served by a simple official acknowledgement of this New
American Reality - despite all the Homeland Security laws, federalized jobs,
runaway funding, and media spin, the United States will continue to be an
enticing target for its enemies, and there is an unfortunate and tragic
likelihood of future attacks on our soil by a variety of means and methods.
The hard reality is that America has been forever changed; but nobody in
charge wants to come out and admit it publicly.

Tiptoeing around the reality of our situation and bombarding the public with
vague warnings of little real value doesn't help the American war effort,
raise morale, or reassure our citizens. Rather, such alerts perpetuate the
lasting negative effects the terrorists have on our people, forcing us to
look over our shoulders and shiver in fear every time a new alert is issued,
thus creating a culture of national paranoia and confusion, which is what
the terrorists wanted anyway -- assuming we can keep up with the barrage of
issued alerts, that is. After all, isn't that why it's called 'terrorism' in
the first place?

It's time to come clean and accept our current reality. Americans, for all
our quirks, can understand the truth. We may not like it, but we can accept


Suggested Reading
May 20, 2002 - Associated Press article "Public Can Expect More Terror
May 22, 2002 - New York Times foreign affairs columnist Tom Friedman's
article "Cool It!"
May 25, 2002 - CNN.COM article "Terror Alerts on Small Planes, Scuba Divers"

(c) 2002 Richard Forno. Permission to reproduce in entirety granted with
author credit.

IWS INFOCON Mailing List
@ IWS - The Information Warfare Site

Reply via email to