Homeland Security To Discuss Terrorist Scenarios With Sci-Fi Writers

from the sound-familiar? dept

Last year, security researcher Bruce Schneier held a movie plot threat contest, where he asked people to come up with unlikely, but plausible, security threats. The reason was to point out the ridiculousness of Homeland Security efforts (taking off your shoes at the airport, no liquids allowed on planes) that are designed not to deal with the bigger problem, but to thwart a single case scenario. If you have thousands of scenarios, as the contest created, you begin to realize how silly it is to focus on any individual threat, rather than create a more comprehensive plan. Of course, there may be a flip side to this as well… as it turns out that the Department of Homeland Security is gathering with a bunch of science fiction writers to talk through various scenarios concerning terrorist threats and how to defeat them. Of course, the likely result is more pointless methods to try to combat specific scenarios brought up by the writers, rather than anything more comprehensive or useful. While it’s at least nice to hear that Homeland Security is willing to listen to those with “outside the box” ideas, it’s tough to have much confidence in the idea that they’ll do anything useful with the information.


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Comments on “Homeland Security To Discuss Terrorist Scenarios With Sci-Fi Writers”

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16 Comments
dorpus says:

How creative are terrorists?

While there are any number of theoretical threats, most terrorists have not been very creative either. 9/11’s suicide planes were described in Tom Clancy novels long before the act. The novels are, if anything, a good way to limit their imagination; most other ideas talked about in novels won’t work in real life anyway, causing terrorists to waste resources on blind alleys.

Enrico Suarve says:

I thought this was how they decided policy already

How else could you explain the fact that the administration and the press seeming take seriously the plans to

Create Ricin from Apple Seeds
Create a dirty bomb from smoke alarms
Bomb the US mainland with Chlorine bombs

All scary sounding things which have been taken very seriously recently but about which the science just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny

They are already taking the science fiction writers too seriously in my opinion since (presumably from ready the afore-mentioned Tom Clancy Novel)
1) On 9/11 they were running for the first time in history a mock crisis of airliners hitting buildings in New York and Washington, which slowed responses to the real crisis as key people thought it was part of the exercise.
2) Whilst simultaneously on that day reducing Norad locally to its lowest combat readniness in at least 20 years by staging multiple exercises spread out around the country

Seems to me they should be consulting homeland security experts a bit more, who would presumably state that all developments in any such live exercise should be run past a team to verify they are part of the exercise (a normal situation I would have thought), and that having a substantial percentage of your forces needlessly engaged on seperate exercises on the same day is a bad plan

I’d love to see how Clancy would write that one, cos I still have problems trying to figure out the logic

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I thought this was how they decided policy alr

“Create Ricin from Apple Seeds
Create a dirty bomb from smoke alarms
Bomb the US mainland with Chlorine bombs”

Boring!!!

How about infecting mosquitoes with a deadly virus and letting them propagate throughout the US. Jihad!!

Or what about using a chemical we don’t check for to poison the water supply in several major US cities at once, that’ll teach those dang Americans! Jihad!

Or the best idea yet, they can just leave us alone and watch our growing debt and increasing poverty until we finally realize that we are actually slaves to our own financial institutions. At this point they can tell us that we “hate their freedom”. JIHAD!!

Bo Bo the Monkey says:

Terrorism by Attrition

Here’s a plot.

The terrorists make vague repeated threats, and claims they’re behind every little bad thing that happens:

‘You know that curdled milk you bought in Walmart? We curdles the infidel milk!’.

‘Your tyre didn’t burst on the freeway, we declared a Jihad on it!’.

Then watch as they spend themselves silly to defend against threats that don’t exist, eventually going bankrupt like Russian did over Star wars weapons.

OK, maybe that’s not plausible, it would require either:

a) an idiot in leadership
or
b) a leader with a guilty conscience from missing a previous terrorist attack
or
c) a leader whose a family friend of the terrorist
or
d) a leader with a hidden invasion agenda, and where the terrorists magically popup in whatever country he wants to invade
or
e) all of the above.

Petréa Mitchell says:

Mundane objections

The thing that bugged me most when I first read that article was that it states this group requires a “technical doctorate degree”, and then goes on to introduce members Jerry Pournelle (doctorates in psychology and political science), Larry Niven (one year of grad school), and Greg Bear (who stopped at a bachelor’s degree)…

Wolf0579 says:

I’m very happy to see that DHS has the likes of Niven, Pournelle, and Bear. These guys may not have had “stellar” (npi) educations, but they’ve done more serious out of the box thinking than you can shake six sticks at. I’d tell ’em, “come up with as many plans of major attacks as you can, given our current security situation”… then pay attention to what they come up with. If you’ve read any of these guys, you know how devious their minds can be. Why not use them? Can’t hurt. Besides, off thread, just about every thing you take for granted in this world, was dreamt up by what was, essentially, a sci-fi writer/dreamer.

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