Archive | War on Terror

“Fear is a by-product of luxury”

The recently approved dragnet surveillance powers will only increase the number of false accusations. “Data mining is probably an ineffective method for preventing terror attacks”, wrote the Dutch Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) in their 2016 report “Big data in a free and safe society” (“Big data in een vrije en veilige samenleving”). “Because each terror attack is unique, it is nearly impossible to create an accurate profile. Combined with the small number of attacks, this results in an unusably high error rate.”. If you don’t look Middle-Eastern, you might be able to convince yourself that it is better to be safe than sorry. However, a Norwegian philosopher Lars Svendsen demonstrated the short-sightedness of this argument already ten years ago in his book “A Philosophy of Fear”. According to Svendsen, Europe lives in a culture of fear: we believe that we are more and more often exposed to increasing danger, from epidemics to terrorism. In reality we are safer than ever, but precisely for this reason we can afford to be worried about dangers that will probably never materialise. Fear is a by-product of luxury.

EDRi ENDitorial: Draconian anti-terrorism measures instil terror »


Why more mass surveillance will not protect us

Although the immediate political fallout of the London attack focused on Theresa May’s cuts to policing, reductions in the number of staff who analyse intelligence is perhaps the area most deserving of scrutiny. Professor Philip Davies, director of the Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, believes the UK’s security apparatus is suffering from what those in signals intelligence call information overload.

The Guardian: How a crippling shortage of analysts let the London Bridge attackers through »


Theresa May should blame herself, not the Internet

To nobody’s surprise also the London Bridge assassins were known to the authorities. One of them has been in a tv-documentary about jihadism. And he was reported trying to convert children he met in a park to Islam. According to himself, he would be prepared to kill his own mother in the name of Allah.

Responsible for the authorities that are supposed to handle things like this was – between 2010 and 2016 – now Prime Minister Theresa May.

Today her only comment is that she would like to censor the Internet.

Censoring information and maximizing surveillance of the people is not the way to defend democracy. That would rather be to support the terrorists strive to destroy our open and free society. And it would do very little to stop religious radicalization.

To Theresa Mays defense, it should be said that it is not all that easy to know what to do. You can hardly lock people up who have not (yet) committed any crime. You cannot jail people because of their skin color, their cultural background, their faith or their political beliefs. And you should not punish entire ethnic groups because of the deeds of a few.

There must be better ways to defeat terrorism.


A few links:

London Bridge terrorist ‘was in Channel 4 documentary about British jihadis’ »

Theresa May Blames The Internet For London Bridge Attack; Repeats Demands To Censor It »

‘Blame the internet’ is just not a good enough response, Theresa May »

Tim Farron warns of win for terrorists if web is made surveillance tool »


War on terror: We are doing it wrong

Time and time again it turns out that terrorists have been known to authorities before their attacks.

In the tragic Manchester case, there had been numerous reports on the perpetrator. But these warnings were ignored. (This also happened under PM Theresa Mays watch as UK Secretary of State for the Home Department.)

• Manchester attack: UK authorities missed several opportunities to stop suicide bomber Salman Abedi »
• Manchester Bomber Was Repeatedly Reported to Authorities Over Five Years »
• Manchester attacks: MI5 probes bomber ‘warnings’ »

Despite of this – governments insist that the way to fight terrorism is more mass surveillance, infringing on ordinary, decent peoples right to privacy.

This approach is counterproductive – and will make us all less safe.

Clearly, surveillance should be focused on people we have reason to believe are dangerous to others.

And most of these people can be identified, e.g. by their association with others or after having traveled to places of certain types of war and conflict.

Authorities refusal to take a reasonable approach to this issue raises questions about the real purpose of government surveillance schemes.



US to demand social media handles (for some) when applying for visa

US demands to get access to some travelers social media handles has been in force at border controls for some time now. The latest is that this also will apply at visa applications, but still not for all.

Affected applicants would have to provide their social media handles and platforms used during the previous five years, and divulge all phone numbers and email addresses used during that period. U.S. consular officials would not seek social media passwords, and would not try to breach any privacy controls on applicants’ accounts, according to the department’s notice. US to seek social media details from certain visa applicants »


A free and open society?

Once again, a senseless terror attack.

Once again, politicians are telling us that we must stand up for a free and open society.

Of course we must. But do they?

Western democracy is slowly being hollowed out. It’s getting ever more secretive and less transparent. Power is being centralized and is moving further away from the people. It is getting ever more difficult to participate in and to scrutinize the decision-making process. Free citizens are being reduced to subordinates.

Civil and human rights are being eroded – e.g. when it comes to the rule of law and the right to privacy.

Free speech is being curbed, the Internet is being censored and people are being told what to think. The so-called fake news is being fought by trying to limit free information instead of giving people more, different sources.

Of course, terrorists and religious fanatics are very real threats to a free and open society. But so are our politicians.