TCS Daily


Tech vs. Terror

By Nick Schulz - January 11, 2002 12:00 AM

Technological Heritage -- The role technology can and will play in protecting Americans from future terrorist attacks is often misunderstood and mischaracterized.

Technology will offer no magic bullet solutions to the threats posed by terrorists. But technology provides promising tools that a free and open society can employ to remain both free and open. That makes the posture adopted by federal and state authorities toward technology as it combats terrorism vitally important.

The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., has released a critical new study called "Defending the American Homeland. It should be required reading for every administration official, member of Congress and government bureaucrat.

Of particular interest to readers of Tech Central Station are the sections on the role technology can and should play in homeland defense. It is enormous. The report calls for the following initiatives directly or indirectly related to technology:

  • Reorganize by presidential directive all Federal agencies involved in protecting critical infrastructure [including technology and communications networks].

  • Designate the Global Positioning System (GPS) frequencies and network as critical national infrastructure.

  • Institute new rules to monitor more closely who or what is entering America's airports and seaports.

  • Secure all federal networks and information systems.

  • Build a nationwide surveillance network for early detection of chemical, biological or other attacks.

  • Accelerate the development of pharmaceuticals that prevent or limit the spread of toxic agents by terrorists.

  • Rapidly improve information-gathering capabilities at all levels of government.

  • Protect U.S. borders, coasts and critical national infrastructure with air defense and missile defense.

These are just a few of the many prudent aims and goals called for in the study, crafted under the oversight of Kim Holmes, who has been directing first-rate research and analysis on defense issues at Heritage for years.

The report wisely cautions against unnecessary heavy-handed federal intrusion. This is crucial. Why? Because harnessing the power of the free marketplace to provide solutions to problems and potential problems is one of the key weapons at our disposal. The free market - made up of tens of millions of decision makers - draws upon vastly larger wells of experience and knowledge to find efficient solutions than the government can muster when it attempts to control too many of them. This is one of the things implied by professor Arthur Kantrowitz in what he calls the "weapon of openness" and it provides one of the keys to rooting out terrorists and catching them before they strike.

Of course, technology is no substitute for good shoe-leather detective work, nor can it substitute for the political will to track and hunt down terrorists on our shores and abroad. But technology can and will play a critical role, and this report helps show how and why.

Announcements - This was the first week of the new site design. The consensus of those of you who wrote in is that it's a substantial improvement. We're glad you like it, and we have more in store for the future. And for you Netscape users, we fixed a glitch that was formatting stories improperly.

We at Tech Central Station are also proud of a breaking the story this week about the Department of Energy green-lighting Yucca Mountain for storage of nuclear energy waste. The story you are seeing on Page A1 of a lot of newspapers this Friday was first reported by Duane Freese on Wednesday.

Of course, the Associated Press and other news outlets, although they know we broke it, aren't giving us credit for it. Go figure. As Glenn Reynolds pointed out earlier this week, big media is going through a reformation of sorts, and it doesn't quite know how to handle aggressive websites like ours or weblogs such as InstaPundit and many others. But they'll learn in time. In the meanwhile, we'll keep having fun and hope you'll join us for the ride!
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