Thursday, January 7, 2010

How Safe Can We Expect to Be?

The recent attempted suicide bombing has led to an understandable revisiting of our country's safety. September 11 shook the confidence of America's immunity to the types of terrorism that has taken place on foreign shores.

But just how safe can we really expect to be and to what extent are we going to have to accept the fact that, for all of our efforts, we will never be able to totally eliminate threats or attempts by foreign terrorists to harm Americans?

A recent New York Times column by David Brooks, suggests that our expectations of an infallible way of detecting and protecting ourselves from those threats and attempts is unrealistic.

"After Sept. 11, we Americans indulged our faith in the god of technocracy. We expanded the country's information-gathering capacities so that the National Security Agency alone now gathers four times more data each day than is contained in the Library of Congress."

"We set up protocols to convert that information into a form that can be processed by computers and bureaucracies. We linked agencies and created new offices. We set up a centralized focal point, the National Counterterrorism Center."

"All this money and technology seems to have reduced the risk of future attack. But, of course, the system is bound to fail sometimes. Reality is unpredictable, and no amount of computer technology is going to change that. Bureaucracies are always blind because they convert the rich flow of personalities and events into crude notations that can be filed and collated. Human institutions are always going to miss crucial clues because the information in the universe is infinite and events do not conform to algorithmic regularity."

"Resilient societies have a level-headed understanding of the risks inherent in this kind of warfare. But this is not how the country has reacted over the past week or so."

"There have been outraged calls for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to resign, as if changing the leader of the bureaucracy would fix the flaws inherent in the bureaucracy. There have been demands for systemic reform – for more protocols, more layers and more review systems."

"Much of the criticism has been contemptuous and hysterical..."

What do you think? How far should we be willing to go to ensure our safety?


Anonymous said...

Profiling should be extensively utilized, and a complete Israeli type security program instituted asap.

Thanks for asking!

Gerald Britt said...

I've heard that before. The question I have for you is - are you willing to be profiled in such a manner?

Seriously, if America's Israeli like security program includes domestic terrorism suspects, are you willing to risk the mistakes that might be made in order to feel safe?

Anonymous said...