December 12, 2003

Citizen Defense Probing

There is a trend emerging in this global war on terror for private citizens to attempt to point out weaknesses in our defenses and offenses in various ways. Some do it by letter to their legislator or executive. Others circulate public and semi-public screeds pointing out avenues of attack, enemy strategies and our own strategies that should be deployed. But also there are others who do 'white hat' tests of defense systems. In the US the Transportation Safety Administration was horribly embarrassed that not only were weapons passed through their security systems but they were secreted on planes themselves and flew, undetected, for weeks until they caught up with their back mail and read the citizen report of the perpetrator of this white hat attack.

Even more ambitious is this effort to build a cruise missile out of parts that are commonly available for >$5000 US. This has led to some unfortunate consequences that are probably going to end up being litigated. But someone who was better at filing their taxes could have continued with the project in public without government interference and no doubt with the publicity this has already received, a $5k cruise missile will be built and defense planners will no longer be able to ignore this threat when the missile takes a nationwide publicity tour on a flat bed truck and the general public understands the stakes.

Clearly, threats of 10 year prison terms or bankruptcy (respectively) give a pretty clear message that some forms of citizen involvement in defense give governments a bad case of the hives but having to resort to selective enforcement of the tax code in the latter case makes it clear that from anyone's perspective it's quite important that there be some sort of regular channel where people can do these things in a controlled manner that doesn't do more harm than good but cannot be stifled by bureaucrats more interested in their careers than in national security.

A lot of the problem has to do with the fact that we've been very good at killing each other off for a very long time. Some items like a WW II V-1 are 60+ year old technology but would make adequate delivery systems for radiological dispersion systems, biological agent dispersion, or even good old fashioned chemicals that date back even further. Sure, our opponents aren't exactly cutting edge but if you can use a little imagination you can be pretty far behind technologically and still pose a threat to civilian targets.

Posted by TMLutas at December 12, 2003 03:31 PM