Feeds

The terror dam of doom that looms over Boise, Idaho

America's terror vulnerability capital - no, really

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

And this is where the scientists jump the tracks. They have no way of knowing a dam in Idaho is in the dreams of terrorists, but there's quite a bit of evidence, if they have taken the time to read materials from various terror trials, that it probably is not. On the contrary, the evidence suggests that many jihadi terrorists, even if told about Lucky Peak Dam and the pitiful local emergency response, wouldn't know how to destroy such a considerable public work without extensive planning and access to demolition expertise and materials. They've shown no sign of such a capability since 9/11. Perhaps one could employ acetone peroxide bombs or drive one's jeep into the entrance of the dam powerhouse, then set oneself afire?

No such story on terror research is complete without someone asking if publicizing such a research paper as Piegorsch's is a good idea. "Some critics have questioned whether statistical research about America's more vulnerable places should be so easily accessible..." reported the Times.

"The bad guys have figured this out already," claimed the head boffin, again showing that while he may know a lot about statistics, one could make the counter argument that the man greatly overestimates what "the bad guys" have figured out or can figure out. Since 9/11, this has been a common trope peddled by a broad variety of anti-terror experts. The terrorists always have stuff figured out and when coupled with another canard, the one that states that it's easy to carry out any kind of mayhem, one can begin to go about the job of assigning global fragilities and vulnerabilities without interference.

Terrorists? We got 'em

The Risk Analysis vulnerability study comes up with its selection of cities by relying on a terrorism database of incidents from 1970-2004, created by the scientists from information on US terror compiled at two sources: the Terrorism Knowledge Base and the US Department of Justice. A quick gander at the Terrorism Knowledge Base shows the US awash in terror incidents, almost all of them carried out by American crazies. The great majority of these events are less terrifying than local gang crime in inner city USA. In fact, in the last two years, arsonists motivated by the fire season in southern California have probably caused more property damage and suburban displacement than all of the terrorists in the US section of the TKB combined.

But disasters like wildfires and terror incidents are apples and oranges, eh? Indeed they are and a risk analysis can also evaluate which of the two a nation or society is more vulnerable to by employing common sense or the studious lack of it. The latter has been shown to be something of the preferred analytical tool in the US during the last five years.

"To put this [report] into practical perspective, suppose city officials in... Charleston, SC, or Norfolk, VA, were considering new forms of coastal antiterrorist protection," the authors write. (One of their conclusions is that coastal cities in the eastern USA and on the Great Lakes trend higher in terror vulnerability.) "This could motivate increased funding allocation(s)..." So an alternative interpretation is that it's good business to have a bad score.

The paper also includes a map of US vulnerability to terror nicely color-coded in red (bad), yellow (caution) and green (OK). Of course, since this is all now available on-line the terrorists have already downloaded it and someone in Karachi or Lahore must be making plans for where we least expect it, not Boise, but the previously thought to be terror-safe border between eastern California and western Nevada. ®

George Smith is a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological, and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighbourhood hardware stores.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.