Douwe Osinga's Blog: How to end terrorism. Part I

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I thought of two ways to end terrorism. Neither will be popular I'm afraid. The second one will require heroism. The first one, discussed here, will be more like what we're going to do.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Franklin D. Rooseveld

We'll see. I'm guessing a lot of people are willing to give up some freedoms for temporary safety. I guess it all depends on what you mean with temporary and with essential, but not a lot of people who saw how many cameras the London police could access to track down these terrorist went, hey, we should protect our privacy. That could have been me on the camera.

'Big Brother is watching' you was a great quote to make people scared of the intruding eyes of a central government, but for most people in the West, terrorism seems much more of a problem than the vague thread of a upcoming dictatorship. So we agree that the policy should be able to listen in on phone conversations, go through Internet logs and use cameras in all the good fight against Very Bad People. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

And right we are. The only problem with this approach is of course that it is just bits and pieces. A camera here, a phone tab there, it just doesn't add up to much. What if we would take the fundamental approach and just fase the fact that privacy was a twentieth century pipe dream to begin with.

Let's first get rid of cash. It is outmoded anyway, we have plastic money. The banks impose usually some silly transaction costs on payments with electronic cash, but they only do that because they can (they would do the same on cash if they could). In the fight against terrorism, I'm sure they'll gladly forgo this stream of income. Then make all flow of money registered, whether by electronic cash, credit card or direct debit. Then lets put a GPS tracker on every person. Most people have a trackable cell phone anyway, so not much is changing. Finally build a big datawarehouse to keep track of everything.

We'll want some sort of access system in place of course, preferably in such a way that the police and such can only with a court order get information out, but other than that, with such a system in place, terrorists won't have much of a chance. Neither have any other criminals really. All criminal/terror money streams can be easily tracked down. For any crime happening at a certain time/place we'll always know who was present. For any suspicious person we'll know all the people he talked to more than normal.

I don't think this is the way we should go, but I do think we'll probably end up there. Step by step and all willing of course. If fighting terrorism doesn't do the trick, I'm sure stopping sexual predators will. Next time a better solution that will be less liked.