Surveillance as crime prevention is like homeopathy when seriously ill

Dear Reader,

Before I return to the good things in life, let me quickly tear apart Glynsky’s comments here. The man wrote:

Lets drop the whole idea of prevention – medical, crime, terrorism etc. Grand. Your favourite (as with Pete) is also, who needs soldiers.
Right, so I don’t try to stop anything. When inevitable shit happens, I have no one to investigate it, chase them or try them. Fine.
Don’t try to prevent crime – OK, will immediately take all the locks off everything and invite anyone passing to help themselves.
The only balls to be taken off are yours – reason has obviously already been lobotomised.
‘Communist states’ – this tripe leaves room for a million more comments/articles/views and this is probably not the place.

Clearly, I have nothing against medical prevention, or any other, if it works. Hear that Glynsky? IF IT WORKS!

So, how well does terrorist prevention work? Not at all. Here is a nice post by Bruce Schneier (quote):

Remember back in 2013 when the then-director of the NSA Keith Alexander claimed that Section 215 bulk telephone metadata surveillance stopped “fifty-four different terrorist-related activities”?

Remember when that number was backtracked several times, until all that was left was a single Somali taxi driver who was convicted of sending some money back home? This is the story of Basaaly Moalin.

And The New Yorker, linked above, starts with (quote, emphasis mine):

Almost every major terrorist attack on Western soil in the past fifteen years has been committed by people who were already known to law enforcement.

One of the gunmen in the attack on Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, had been sent to prison for recruiting jihadist fighters. The other had reportedly studied in Yemen with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber, who was arrested and interrogated by the F.B.I. in 2009.

The leader of the 7/7 London suicide bombings, in 2005, had been observed by British intelligence meeting with a suspected terrorist, though MI5 later said that the bombers were “not on our radar.”

The men who planned the Mumbai attacks, in 2008, were under electronic surveillance by the United States, the United Kingdom, and India, and one had been an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

One of the brothers accused of bombing the Boston Marathon was the subject of an F.B.I. threat assessment and a warning from Russian intelligence.

The so-called terrorists, including the ones from 9/11, had been under surveillance, on no-fly lists and what not. And that did not prevent anything. Zip, nada, nothing. For the simple minded, let me spell it out:

Surveillance does not prevent crime or terrorism!

It is PROVEN to NOT work. Got it, Glynsky?

Surveillance as crime or terrorism prevention is as helpful as homeopathic treatments. They might make you feel better. But they do not have any impact. Except in your wallet, which will be empty.

Stay healthy and sane,

Engine Room

4 Replies to “Surveillance as crime prevention is like homeopathy when seriously ill”

  1. The big problem about knowing who the terrorists are, is that we can do nothing about them until they actually do something.
    Otherwise the governments get sued for contravening their human rights.
    As most of us would agree, they don’t have any rights, but they do in law.

  2. This sets up a whole interesting debate.
    If we are following terrorist links and discovering who may be extreme enough to do something terrible. What are we suppossed to do lock them up, or plutonium them as soon as we think they are going to step out of line?
    Druid is right, there isn’t anything we can do until the deed is done.
    Does fly in the face of prevention some what and I hate to say gives ER some credibility in his rant above!

  3. Mmmm, gives ER credibility! That’s a first,
    A) It would appear that he is never wrong.
    B) I say again, just let them get on with it – really??
    C) You appear to be able to prove when it hasn’t worked – and ignore (to suit yourself) when it has. Eg. Belgium?
    D) Pity the taxi driver. Omelettes and eggs?
    Absolutely nothing is proven. Sometimes it works sometimes it don’t – bit like you and me.

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