The introduction of the computer has created a new type of terrorism known as informational terrorism, which presents a threat, equal to or greater than physical terrorism. E-mail bombs and attacks on internet servers are the lowest forms of informational terrorism in terms of destruction. Higher forms of informational warfare include using the internet as a catalyst to produce physical terrorism on a higher scale. “The national security establishment is concerned with a new form of conflict; informational warfare.”(Devost, 1) The Department of Defense definition of terrorism is “the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” (Research, 1) While in physical terrorism, the perpetrator must come in contact with the target, in informational terrorism the perpetrator only needs a computer connection. Not only are the tools of information terrorism more accessible but the implications can be more devastating. In conjunction with the Internet and the infancy of its laws, the criminal justice system has fallen behind with its vague set of incoherent laws. Terroristic violence, as portrayed in Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger, presents a serious threat to the U.S. which should be dealt not only with caution and security, but also in conjunction with response.
“Identifying international terrorists and their networks providing warning so that protective or deterrent measures can be taken, and gathering information on terrorist acts require a major U.S. intelligent effort.” (Wilcox, 1) In Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger, information is not correctly distributed to U.S. agents causing underestimation of enemies. To rectify the drug problem initiated by Columbia, both the United States and Columbia use physical terrorism to contend one another. After Colombian drug lords murder a United States ambassador, the United States retaliates by mounting a series of covert operations including assassinations and interdiction of drug production and smuggling. Does the Colombian drug lords murder of one man justify the reactions of over exertion of force from the U.S.? Tom Clancy used small teams of covert operatives to launch a counter attack on the Colombians. The U.S. currently employs a strategy similar to this. “To respond promptly to terrorist incidents abroad which require varied U.S. resources, we have developed a unique fast reaction team. This team, led by an officer from S/CT, consists of experts from DOD, CIA, FBI and other agencies, as needed. At the request of a foreign government or an U.S. Ambassador abroad, this team can be dispatched within a few hours on a specially dedicated aircraft provided by DOD to any place in the world. The team’s job is to provide support to the Ambassador and the host government in resolving a terrorist crisis, and to advise on additional U.S. assets that might be needed.”(Combating, 2) This response does not only embody Clancy’s counteraction but surpasses it with the annexation of whatever force is necessary. “Small, tailored teams can be launched, depending on the crisis, and specialists from individual urgencies can be sent alone, as the situation arises”(Wilcox, 2)
If the product of physical terrorism is fear and death, how can information terrorism render a greater threat? “Considering the presence of computers in modern society, it is not surprising that terrorists have occasionally targeted computers systems in the past.”(Devost, 2) “Information terrorism is the nexus between criminal information system fraud abuse, and the physical violence of terrorism”(Devost, 2) “Information technology offers new opportunities to terrorists”(Devost, 1) “Information warfare, loosely defined, is targeting the information and information systems that comprise and support civilian and military infrastructures of an adversary. Information warfare runs deeper than attacks on tanks and troops: an information warfare campaign can target and disrupt the information and networks that support crucial day-to-day workings of civilian, commercial, and military systems, e.g., air traffic control, power grids, stock markets, international financial transactions, logistics controls, etc. ”(Informational, 1) “Information technology offers new opportunities to terrorists. “A terrorist organization can reap low-risk, highly visible payoffs by attacking information systems. In an effort to attract the attention of the public, political terrorists perpetrate their acts with the media at the forefront of their strategy: this strategy calculus is based on the assumption that access to the communication structure is directly related to power.” (Informational, 1) In short, informational terrorism can affect millions of people, thousands of miles away, without leaving a trail for restitution.
“Terrorism is a rapidly evolving and responsive phenomenon.” (Devost, 1) “It is war in which there are no front lines and in which terrorism practitioners have intentionally blurred the distinction between combatants and noncombatants.”(Responding, 5) Any type of terrorism is too destructive, whether it’s as small as a kidnapping or as complex as state-sponsored terrorism between two conflicting governments. “Terrorist violence represents a serious threat to U.S. personnel, facilities, and interests around the world”(Responding, 4) “As technology becomes more cost effective to terrorists – that is, its availability and potential for disruptive effects rise wile its financial and other costs go down.”(Devost, 2) “To combat this growing threat, many members of Congress have recently proposed anti-terrorist legislation.”(Terrorism, 1) In my opinion the response to terrorism is too late. When presented with an act of violence the counter-action will involve violence. After the operation has transpired the anti-terrorism is only vengeance. The only true way to combat terrorism and terrorist activities is prevention. “The war against terrorism will be a protracted conflict.” (Responding, 5) “Terrorism for the foreseeable future will remain a weapon of choice for government groups, and other parties to conflict.” (Responding, 4)
Devost, Matthew G. Information Terrorism: Can You Trust Your Toaster?
Responding to Terrorism. (1997). Chapter 9 of the U.S. Department of Defense’s 1997
Annual Defense Report. http://www.terrorism.com/terrorism/Responding.html
Wilcox, Philip C. (1996). Combating International Terrorism.
Terrorism in America. http://www.house.gov/alceehastings/terror.html
Commentary No.53. (1995). Terrorism: Motivations and Causes.
Clancy, Tom. (1989). Clear and Present Danger. New York: The Putnam Publishing Group.