Wednesday, August 08, 2007

An American Terrorist Handbook

The New York Times is asking people to submit their best and brightest ideas for killing Americans. "Think like a terrorist for a day!" Wow, what fun! And hey, we can help Uncle Sam prepare at the same time - goes the logic.

For a plausible terrorist scenario, read Orson Scott Card's recent book, Empire. Beyond that, I'm not quite sure what I think about this "public service" of Mr. Levitt's.

For starters, these types of black exercises, while interesting and thought provoking, have the potential to cause great harm in a public forum. I understand the altruistic logic of playing these games, believing that the government should be aware of every type of scenario possible. However, the feds cannot possibly prepare for every single incident imaginable. By giving rise to a forum where people are free to let their imaginations run wild about ways to kill our fellow citizens, the NYT is essentially setting up a "cookbook" of sorts for those who would do us harm. Tell me, does the NYT think students should be able to list ways in which they can kill their classmates online in an open forum like this one? I doubt it.

I'm all for tabletop exercises, but there are sanctioned forums and think-tanks for this particular task. And while some readers may stumble upon an attack scenario that hasn't been conceived of yet - one that actually has the potential to be carried out - the potential recipes that are listed here already far outweigh the government's ability to effectively prepare. So, what's the point? I mean, besides tabloid tactics to draw readers, what is the point?

It's a tough call to make, because I love creative thinking and writing. But when it comes to authoring what will amount to another Anarchist's Cookbook or Columbine Journal, I have to draw the line at common sense. This is a bad idea.

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