History of Terrorism, part 1

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question … 1
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

There are so many interesting things about terrorism, and I am going to write about the least atavistically engrossing aspects. Terrorism has that gripping life-and-death quality that brings in the ratings. There is something to report about it every day, everyone’s life is touched by it, and really who doesn’t like 24? Now I am going to get into all that stuff that isn’t talked about in this blockbuster subject.

The Problem: Our perception of terrorism
Terrorism kills and injures and even inconveniences relatively few people. The specific terrorist group doesn’t particularly matter as a threat, and neither does the specific target(unless of course that is you, which is unlikely). These things are unimportant – the statistical rise and fall in the rates terrorism barely begins to matter to an extent where you should pay attention. The causes of terrorism perhaps should be a concern, but the cause of terrorism is not the terrorists’ cause.

The Causes of Terrorism
Political Economics
Some of the big causes of terrorism lie in political economy (really what doesn’t?). Maybe it is just a good way of counting ambition, greed, and power. Terrorists tend to be from middle class backgrounds in countries that don’t really have a middle class. Raised with ambition, well-educated, and intelligent, in societies that do not have room for growth. My favorite description of this group is ‘wall-leaner’, they aren’t going hungry, or needing a job, just bored. Without opportunities to influence the government and power structure of their countries they can look to other methods. No matter how hard Osama bin Laden worked in Saudi Arabia – even inheriting his fathers wealth and becoming the richest man – he would still only have the influence of his voice in his home country.

History of Terror
Terrorism began with the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution of 1793-1794. It was the government sponsored killing of the aristocracy and wealthy as enemies of the people. It has obviously mutated a bit, but a good current definition is: political violence, usually against civilians, meant to inspire fear & further specific political goals. The most experienced victims of terrorism are the UK(Northern Ireland), France(Northern Africa) and Israel. The most effective terrorist group is probably the IRA, but they had to give up their quite a bit of their violent side to move into their current political standing. It is effective as long as the populace can be swayed by the fear of the terrorist.


Britain, the Airline Bomb Plot, Accusations and Evidence

As you might have heard or read, if you have gone anywhere near any sort of news vendor, 11 people have been charged in the ‘airline bomb plot’. The charges are varieties of conspiracy to commit terrorism, or knowing about it and not reporting it. So I decided to go through the various articles and coverage I could find with a google news search and create a quick overview of what I think should be important in the media coverage.

Some quick numbers:

  • 25 people arrested since August 10 in Britain for the airline bomb plot
  • 11 people of the above 25 were charged today
  • 3 people have been released with no charges
  • 11 others remain in custody without being charged with a crime
  • British police can detain someone for 28 days without pressing charges under recent terrorism legislation
  • “Scotland Yard has until Wednesday evening to question 10 of the other 11 suspects and was tonight applying for a custody extension in the case of the 11th.”
  • Up to 17 people are also being held in Pakistan for the plot.
  • 69 locations have been searched
  • 400 computers, 200 cellphones and 8,000 data storage devices have been confistcated(6000 gb worth of data)

Evidence so far:

  • hydrogen peroxide
  • electrical components
  • suicide notes & wills
  • ‘martyrdom’ video recordings
  • surveillance data

I am also giving the Irish Examiner extra points in the media fairness game for including this quote:
“Ms Hemming reminded the media to report today’s developments in a responsible manner which would not prejudice forthcoming legal proceedings. She said: ‘These individuals are only accused of these offences and they have a right to a fair trial.'”

I would say I read about 15 articles which were written with the data from the same press conference, this article was the only one to mention that! It’s also important to understand that giving the government greater powers to prevent terrorist attacks and supporting preemptive actions, such as detaining people without pressing charges, and looser rules of search and seizure, also means that we need to give people a better trial.

Some sources:
The Chron
The Star
The Irish Examiner
I read quite a few other articles, including ones from more respected sources such as the Financial Times, CNN and more, but they didn’t have any more information to report and didn’t have the detail and different perspectives that these did. Also they blended together and were boring.