Thursday, 24 March 2016

Brussels - something to think about

The Independent is running a story today:

Brussels attacks: Security officials accused of missing a string of opportunities to stop suicide bombers
Accomplices still on the run after day of conflicting reports and confusion

The following paragraphs are deeply troubling given the emphasis on "banning" encryption and the need for total surveillance:
The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, who laid a wreath at the underground station close to the European Commission headquarters where more than 20 people died, said that EU nations had to invest “massively” in their security systems. 
The most direct criticism came from Turkey, which has previously criticised France for what it said was a failure to heed a prior warning about one of the suicide attackers involved in last year’s attack in Paris in which 130 people were killed. 
Turkish officials have previously said that French authorities were warned twice by Turkey about one of the assailants in the attacks on Paris in November. A senior government source told The Independent: “We had warned France before the Paris attacks, now this. It’s ridiculous.” 
The two brothers had been known to police in Belgium for years, and operated in some of the marginalised communities in the capital that had avoided close attention from the intelligence agencies despite problems of jihadist recruitment and terrorist links. 
The Belgian federal prosecutor, Frederic van Leeuw, told reporters that the two brothers, Brussels-born Belgian citizens, had “extensive” criminal records but they were not related to terrorism.
So, ultimately the failure was both of communication between intelligence and police agencies *and* a failure to listen. Worse is that the terrorists involved were already known (last paragraph above). If the signals of possible trouble were not seen in the above then the problem certainly does not lie with extensive data collection. In fact the perpetrators actually gained privacy by effectively hiding in plain sight.

The trouble is that now politicians are in the "do something" mode of operation, where doing anything, regardless of effectiveness, is far better than actually thinking and doing the right thing.

I had the pleasure of speaking with some security experts in counter-terrorism a while back. They effectively said that politicians want more security just to be seen to be doing something - this is why we've ended up with airport security that concentrates on bottles of water but not on mitigating the real risks - queues, delays, bottlenecks. The question of profiling, as seen in Israeli aviation security is too much for the politicians to risk their careers on so everyone will suffer under increasingly intrusive and increasingly ineffective security.

Finally this quote by Simon Jenkins of The Guardian:

Those who live under freedom know it demands a price, which is a degree of risk. We pay the state to protect us – but calmly, without constant boasting or fearmongering. We know that, in reality, life in Britain has never been safer. That it suits some people to pretend otherwise does not alter the fact. 
In his admiral manual, Terrorism: How to Respond, the Belfast academic Richard English defines the threat to democracy as not the “limited danger” of death and destruction. It is the danger “of provoking ill-judged, extravagant and counterproductive state responses”.

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