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The Long-Term Price of Rushing to Misjudgment

When you don’t take time to think, when you are living in the moment, when everything is considered a crisis, you get nonsense like this:

Despite his Nottingham University supervisors insisting the materials were directly relevant to his research, Rizwaan Sabir, 22, was held for nearly a week under the Terrorism Act, accused of downloading the materials for illegal use. The student had obtained a copy of the al-Qaida training manual from a US government website for his research into terrorist tactics.

This is not a single data point, but one of many failures – some of which end tragically – that illustrate that not only is not everything a crisis, when you think that way, you actually create real crises and negatively impact your effectiveness (whether it be in practice or reputation).

It is not that, with AT/CT/LE/Mil efforts producing positive results, there are no more dangers in the world; its that unless we start to look critically at what the real problems are – and which problems actually merit a real-time response - we run the risk of spinning into a retrograde orbit that detriments our ability to deal with threats over time. To wit:
Fusion centers are collaborative law enforcement and intelligence organizations that were established all over the country after 9/11 to share intelligence and counterterrorism information. But in the absence of a widespread domestic terrorist threat, they have not consistently demonstrated their value, according to a recent study.

In the military and national intelligence spheres the phrase is “intelligence drives operations;” in law enforcement its “intelligence led policing,” but whatever the domain the point is the same: More data collected and analyzed effectively is more effective than tripling the number of trigger-pullers. Terrorism is a waning issue? Perhaps, but while Islamists feel the heat and lay low you have suburbs turning into ghost towns (with all that that implies crime-wise) and narco-gangs defeating state forces at the border (the list goes on). Does anyone think that going back to dozens of discrete entities each operating autonomously to tackle these problems is a smart idea?

Collaboration and networking, in case you’ve been asleep in a cave the last few years, is ascendant if not unstoppable. The investment we’ve made in this arena in the last few years is at risk if we continue to look at the myriad problems we face though the lens of the "ticking time bomb."

1 Comment

Any reorganisation of existing security formats is bound to have its fair share of teething problems. They must be quickly dealt with, as the impression given is of overeaction and lack of direction. Idealy that which the security aparatus is moulding itself into should go hand in hand with a wider public perception of meditated responsibility and a grounded public understanding of the long term realities facing the US with regards to the problems these adjustments are designed to combat. Without such a cohesion, many may be quick to judge as to their reasoning and effectiveness.