Common Sense II (part 1 of 2)

How to Prevent the Three Types of Terrorism



This is a strategy for citizens and free nations to prevent terrorism. It is simple yet rigorous. I don’t think Americans or Westerners in general are ready for it yet. It’s tough medicine. The basic argument is that terrorism is not merely a government problem, but a citizens’ problem. It is argued that terrorism should be considered as an expanded phenomenon best described as “violence against individual rights” with three parts — crime (terrorism by a neighbor), tyranny (terrorism by our own government) and foreign terrorism (terrorism by powerful foreign individuals or heads of State.) This essay argues that it is necessary to prevent all three types of terrorism and demands a rethinking of how public life is structured; specifically, all movement by persons and things in public should be tracked, but that strong privacy fences surround this information. The common theme for preventing all types is exposure, identification, and awareness which is termed “light”. Substantive reform of government is required. If interested, it is recommended that people read this section (part 1) first since the argument builds logically. This essay is free for everybody to read electronically; the printed version is copyrighted.

Note: this pamphlet is divided into two sections. This is the first section. To go to the second section, click here Common Sense II (part 2 of 2)

Author’s Introduction

Twenty three decades ago Thomas Paine’s Common Sense sold several hundred thousand copies in America

Front and back cover of the printed version.

and Europe. A blockbuster with proportional success today might sell six million copies. While American

colonists didn’t grasp their predicament, Mr. Paine did, and his 48-page wonder proposed a bold yet simple solution: independence, and offered simple arguments, clear and logical thinking, common sense.

Today America faces new dangers which seem to defy solution, such as smuggled nuclear bombs. And government may overreact to such threats by imposing new tyrannies on citizens. Common Sense II offers an understanding of our predicament as well as a bold solution. It breaks down a complex problem to simplest parts, and shines a path to greater human liberty. If it remains true that “the cause of America is in great measure the cause of all mankind”, as Paine wrote, this book should have worldwide appeal, not only to authorities, students, and followers of current events, but free citizens everywhere, because like its predecessor, it offers common sense.

This strategy prevents terrorism. No other strategy makes this claim. By comparison, the efforts of politicians and pundits and presidential candidates and academics to address the problem are shallow exercises in

Paine’s Common Sense, 1776.

confused thinking, and bookstores bulge with their books which dance with the problem but fail to solve it. I challenge them to debate my strategy.

Peek in my pockets and you’ll find no stashed cash from lurking lobbyists. Peer in my mind and you’ll find no partisan agenda of any kind. I am my own man. My guide is reason and principle. — thomas wright sulcer

July 4, 2009

Understanding Terrorism

Our Predicament

In coffee houses across America, customers sip lattes, sift through newspapers, sit alone, meet friends. Sometimes moms with kids chat quietly or an occasional job interview happens. But I never hear politics discussed. I find it difficult to imagine any public place where political communication between citizens happens regularly. Why? In a republic where citizens are supposed to exert control over government, it seems reasonable to expect that citizens would talk about politics from time to time, and so this silence is troubling, particularly when dangers loom. Later, I’ll try to explain the silence.

I begin with a few observations:

  • We are not full citizens. Many think we still influence government, individually or collectively, but in reality our influence has slipped past our grasp. We’re marginal citizens, spectators who find politics boring, a taboo subject, avoided at parties, unspoken even among close friends. We keep our political views hidden, generally, occasionally talking back to a blaring television or pressing levers in the secrecy of a voting booth, that is, if we bother to vote. Our political muscle has atrophied. We’ve abandoned our rightful role in government to those who don’t care about us. Wasn’t there was a time in American history when neighbors had political discussions regularly, respectfully, with open minds, such as in New England towns?
  • We are consumers. There’s much to buy if we have money. We excel at this art. Much time is spent watching screens, playing video games, entertaining ourselves with mindless celebrity antics and sensational screen garbage. And much of the news we consume isn’t what citizens need to stay informed, but rather entertainment and gossip and junk. While we don’t have much sense about what happens in Washington, we know about O.J. Simpson, Paris Hilton, Princess Diana. But consumer power is unsteady, easily lost; we can not count on it to protect us because it’s trumped by political power. For example, airline passengers were stuck in planes for hours awaiting takeoff, with no freedom to exit, because airlines have political clout, while passengers don’t.
  • Government is corrupt. It’s run by a self-chosen political class of both parties who serve primarily for their own benefit, not ours. That over 90% of elected Congressional representatives win re-election is a sign that rules have been rigged. We don’t choose representatives; rather, they choose themselves, and we get to pick from them on the ballot, but in almost all elections, the incumbent wins. Voting gives us the illusion of political control, but it is an empty act which essentially gives permission to a political elite to keep running the country. Behind the politicians, money runs Washington. Since it requires big bucks to buy television time to smear opponents, politicians have become puppets of special interests. Squabbling by interest groups dominates Washington to the point where it is unable to confront real issues. If government is like our computer, then a virus written by lobbyists has downloaded itself deeply within our hard drive where it’s impossible for us to see what it’s doing or fix it.
  • People are afraid. I saw fear in the eyes of passengers when I protested at a train station and fear in the eyes of police when I protested at Newark Airport. We think of ourselves as free people, but freedom and fear don’t mix. It is beneath our dignity to live like dogs scared by thunderstorms. We can’t enjoy life when worrying whether terrorists will attack subways or hijack airliners or poison reservoirs or detonate cities. We can’t enjoy life when worrying whether government officials are eavesdropping on our phone calls or perusing our Internet searches or reading our e-mails. Perpetual fear is unacceptable.
  • Everything appears normal. Malls are open. People shop. Life ambles on. No crisis forces us to think, no enemy threatens at the border. There’s a deadly appearance of normality. And years have passed without a major attack so it seems government is doing a good job of protecting us.

If my observations are right, then when a serious danger such as massive smuggled nuclear weapons threatens, government is unable to cope, and citizens are unable to hold them accountable. Even if such a disaster never happens, the fear that it may happen can have a tyrannical effect. Citizens expect government and police and the military to protect them, but this is unrealistic because terrorism is too difficult for them to handle without participation from citizens. But citizens lack political clout and skill, fail to understand the problem, and wallow in clueless apathy with little agreement and much inertia.

This portends disaster.

It is a real possibility that terrorists can win, and America can lose, even if no smuggled bombs are ever detonated, because we could lose our freedom to our own government in its overzealous desire to protect us. While I remain optimistic, a realist would think the odds are against us, and the hour is late.

But we must never give up.

Resolve, then, not to be afraid.

Resolve, as well, that if we have become marginal citizens of America, that a first step to regain citizenship is to own the problem of terrorism. Think it through. Solve it. Read this brief pamphlet. Form your opinions. When you understand terrorism, you will have a power and authority that government, itself, lacks, and you’ll begin seeing yourself as a real citizen and have a solid footing with which to recover your citizenship.

Examine the Danger

A trebuchet could knock down castle walls.
Photo CCsa3.0.

What’s scarier than real danger is refusing to think about it. But this seems to happen. Most American minds freeze like crashed computers, unresponsive to keystrokes. Some hope that not thinking about nuclear terrorism will cause terrorists to similarly not think about it, but this is foolish logic. Fight fear by facing it.

Technological advances mean greater potential destructiveness. In Roman times a fire might destroy a public building, and in medieval times a trebuchet might blast castle walls, but the steady progression of technology from dynamite to nitroglycerin to nuclear weaponry increases destructiveness exponentially. Perhaps today’s hydrogen bomb may be replaced someday by a bomb capable of blowing up the entire planet.

A nuclear bomb can destroy a large
swath of a city. (photo CCsa3.0)

Nuclear weapons continue to proliferate. In 1945, one nation had the bomb, but now there are eight: United States, Britain, France, Israel, Russia, Pakistan, India, and China. Iran and North Korea are trying to build them. Since having nuclear weapons brings bargaining power and lets nations scale back conventional forces, we should expect the list of nuclear nations to grow. And the worldwide stockpile has grown to twenty thousand, according to one estimate, and keeps increasing. So preventing terrorists from getting nuclear weapons becomes more difficult because each new bomb presents more opportunities for theft or bribery. Most governments have no reason to give or sell them to terrorists, and most keep them well guarded, but as the list of nuclear armed nations grows, it is conceivable that a nuclear nation could give them to terrorists, secretly or openly, for purposes unknown to us, perhaps to instigate a war, perhaps for blackmail. Can we trust Pakistan, for example, an Islamic nation with millions of terrorist sympathizers, to keep a clenched grip on their arsenal? Further, terrorists could come to power legitimately through an election or illegitimately through a military coup and get nuclear weapons that way. It is unlikely that terrorists could build a nuclear weapon from raw materials without assistance. Nevertheless, tools for building weapons become more available and cheaper each day, and instructions about how to build weapons may be on the Internet.

Car crashes can disrupt highways for
 hours. (photo U.S. Geological Survey)

People are increasingly interdependent. In an agrarian world, self-sufficient farmers didn’t need neighbors much except perhaps for tool-making. Today, we depend on countless others for our needs and wants. For example, we count on a vast network of reservoirs and pipes for drinking water and high speed highways to get to work. A single burst pipe can disrupt water for thousands of homes in the same way a single traffic collision can disrupt a highway for hours. A single explosion in an electric transformer can blackout a region. Cities are larger, taller, more densely packed, better targets.

Both technology and interdependence mean a terrorist has much more power to destroy and disrupt than ever before.

A simpler way to think about it is:

Nuclear bombs exist.

Before: model of Hiroshima before
the atom bomb in 1945. CCsa2.0

Cities exist.

Doesn’t common sense suggest that it is a matter of time before a smuggled bomb is detonated inside a city? I think it’s reasonable to expect this in the next few decades. Luckily, obstacles involving maintenance and transportation of nuclear materials make it harder for terrorists to hurt us, and foreign governments have been diligent so far in locking up weapons, but it seems wise that we can’t count on these obstacles to protect us for much longer.


Perhaps the worst possible attack is terrorists getting dozens of nuclear bombs, smuggling them inside cities, and detonating them simultaneously by remote control. Then, in an instant, our world could be blasted to bits. This would be very difficult to execute, but possible, and this danger alone demands an adequate prevention strategy. But other dangers lurk with less damage but higher likelihood, such as dirty bombs posing a costly cleanup risk as well as attacks on chemical or nuclear plants or tankers carrying liquefied natural gas. Even attacks requiring little technology, such as arson and derailments, can cause significant destruction. We have few defenses against surface-to-air rocket attacks against commercial jetliners. And ports are vulnerable. The list of our vulnerabilities is quite extensive.

America’s Clueless Response to Terrorism

Cartoons led to an action to
shut down highways for hours.

In Boston on January 31 of 2007, authorities shut down highways after noticing mysterious objects hanging from street lamps and underpasses. Police worried they were bombs. They weren’t. They were TV cartoon show promotions. So Boston was gridlocked for hours by cartoons. My point: If the cartoons had been dangerous, police found them too late, so terrorism wasn’t prevented. Do not blame police; they’re doing their best. Rather, blame America’s flawed strategy to prevent terrorism.

The essential problem is: we don’t know who the terrorists are, where they’ll strike, or when.

We’re blind.

It’s that simple.

So we try to guard every possible target. But this is absurd and costly and stupid like all our other anti-terror efforts:

  • Frisking people at airports is stupid. At Newark Airport, where I protested, six years of Americans frisking Americans has failed to nab ONE terrorist. Have they caught any terrorist at ANY airport? Millions of dollars were spent paying security people. Trillions of man-hours were wasted. Passengers agree to pat-downs because they fail to see a better way. And terrorists will figure better ways to attack. After flying, passengers return once again to a non-secure area known as the rest of America. If we ride a train or subway or bus or ferryboat, we’re unprotected. What’s the logic?

  • Toppling dictators is stupid. Government leaders failed to determine correctly whether Saddam Hussein was a danger. He wasn’t. War resulted. Many lives were lost, much treasure wasted.

  • Color coded alerts are stupid. They reveal America guesses about possible attacks. Blue means less danger, yellow more, red means an attack is imminent. But we don’t know. Dump the stupid alerts.

  • Posting troops at train stations is stupid. They don’t know who the terrorists are or when they’ll strike. They’re more likely to shoot passengers by accident.

  • Disaster planning is stupid. Generally all disaster preparation efforts are not solutions but stupid attempts to lessen damage. Preventing an attack from happening means we won’t need disaster planning.

I trust the reader is smart enough to see how most terrorism prevention strategies are mindless, ineffective wastes of time and money. It’s been almost six years since 9/11. Osama bin Laden remains uncaught,[1] and dangerous networks of international conspirators continue to threaten us. People continue to be scared. Look around. I doubt any rational person would be happy with America’s anti-terror effort.

This is not a criticism of current law enforcement personnel. Police do their best to protect us. They’ve foiled many attacks. They deserve gratitude. But the framework in which police operate hobbles their efforts.

Witness terrorism’s impressive efficiency. That the murder of 2800 civilians on September 11th was committed by a mere 19 airline hijackers is a stark example of terrorism’s cruel kill ratio: each hijacker, in effect, murdered 147 people. By spending a mere $450,000, hijackers caused billions in damage.

An entire metropolitan region was terrorized in October 2002 by only two men with a high-powered rifle living in a used sedan. They killed ten people and eluded capture for three weeks despite a massive manhunt involving thousands of police.

Further, terrorists have the advantage of surprise. Trying to defend against an anywhere-anytime surprise attack is impossible because we can’t defend every city, landmark, reservoir, airport, building, bridge, power plant, library, school, government building, and so on. Our forces are spread thin, making it easier to overpower any specific site, and it is too expensive to guard everywhere.

How to Understand Terrorism

I was in my early thirties walking along a Manhattan street during my lunch break from a boring desk job when a loud boom happened.

A truck tire burst, perhaps.

It shook me up.
I felt like I had been in a terrorist bombing, but lived. I remembered a president once said that nuclear terrorism was a dangerous unsolved problem. There were bombings and airplane hijackings on TV. And so, off and on, in my spare time, I wondered: what was the solution?

I had common sense. I thought I could figure it out. But I couldn’t. Years passed. I read widely. I sensed nobody else knew how to solve it either because I wasn’t satisfied with their thinking.

And I didn’t begin to get anywhere until I realized I didn’t know what terrorism was.

This was my first breakthrough.

And it was by breaking things down to simplest parts, looking at what I saw, and rebuilding, that I was able to figure it out, and this led me to a definition which was powerful and robust and simple but which had weird implications. Let me explain.

If we wave our hands in the air, it’s a power we have. Notice that nobody stops us from waving them. Hand waving is something others let us do, and it’s understood, beforehand, that we can do this, that is, we have a right to wave our hands.

A right is a power we have to act in the future which others acknowledge beforehand that we have. We can do something tomorrow which others acknowledge today that we can do. It works only when everybody agrees, in advance, about what we are permitted to do. Nobody will stop us. This concept is the backbone of freedom in civilization. Since we live in society with others, it’s important to know, beforehand, what we can and can’t do, and rights clarify these powers.

Rights are based on powers. We have the power to wave our hands but we don’t have the power to hop to the moon, for example, so it doesn’t make sense to speak of a right to hop to the moon.

Rights are like tickets in our pockets which say that others recognize our freedom to do something, such as go to a restaurant, walk down a street, visit a friend, ride on a train, fly to Madrid, phone home, breathe. We can possess a right even though we don’t use it, or delay using it. The process of choosing which tickets to use, and at what time, is freedom.

The boundary between your rights and another’s is a law, of course, like the double yellow line dividing a road. Eastbound drivers keep right, westbound ones keep left. Neither must cross the center line else the law of keeping to your side will have been broken.

The subject of rights can get quite complex, because society is complex, with various technologies and capabilities and relationships. If you wave your hand in an auction, for example, you might buy something accidentally. Some rights depend on specific circumstances or times while others depend on other rights; some rights can be bought and sold, while others can be voluntarily surrendered for specific temporary benefits. And some rights must be balanced against competing rights; for example, our right to see things in public should be balanced against others rights of privacy. But it is not necessary, in my view, to get mired in the complexity to understand terrorism.

Terrorism is violence against individual rights.

It’s that simple. This definition is clean, robust, powerful. It allows a solution. I challenge anybody to write a better one. I think much of the difficulty of understanding terrorism is a failure to see terrorism clearly. Experts bicker about convoluted definitions, work themselves into a confused lather, and still can’t agree.

Terrorism is crossing the boundary between one’s acknowledged zone of possible future activity, and trespassing into another’s acknowledged zone of possible future activity. It’s breaking a law. It includes all examples of boundaries being crossed, such as hitting, hurting, punching, kicking, stabbing, shooting, murdering, maiming, bombing, and poisoning. It includes threatening to cross into another’s legitimate sphere of activity, so threatening to stab as well as stabbing are both examples of terrorism.

Examine another definition which I believe is mistaken: “Terrorism is the deliberate murder, maiming, and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political purposes”, which I read in a book. This describes a certain kind of extreme terrorist, but it doesn’t describe all terrorists, so I don’t like this definition because it introduces needless complexity and clouds our understanding. It emphasizes the terrorist’s intentions and motivations while I think these are irrelevant.

It’s hard to determine:

  • Which acts are deliberate? While juries and judges must guess about possible motives, we needn’t bother when deciding whether something is terrorism. It’s difficult to guess what a terrorist may have been thinking during a crime and know, with certainty, whether a terrorist acted deliberately.

  • Which purposes are political? It is not clear what a politically motivated crime is. Regardless of what a violator thinks, all crimes have a political effect in the sense that government must respond to the crime. For example, most robbers act from an economic rather than a political purpose; but regardless of motive, there is a political effect. Government must catch the robber. So thinking of terrorism as politically-motivated crime seems mistaken.

  • Whether terrorists intended to cause fear? All violence causes fear among survivors anyway, so whether a terrorist tries to cause fear is irrelevant.

  • Which victims are innocent? Innocence versus guilt is a dubious, unnecessary distinction fogging our understanding. If innocence means being unarmed, then this suggests that armed individuals such as soldiers and police are, in some manner, guilty of something, but what? Unarmed civilians pay taxes and, in so doing, pay police salaries; so aren’t taxpayers guilty too? Applying terms like guilt or innocence to terrorism suggests, in a way, that it is acceptable for a terrorist to kill soldiers or police because they’re guilty of something unspecified, while unacceptable to kill unarmed civilians; following this logic, when terrorists kill supposedly innocent civilians, their acts are even more dastardly. This doesn’t make sense. Killing anybody, whether police officer (off-duty or on-duty), soldier, homemaker, child or teen or adult or senior citizen, or government official, is terrorism. Every murder violates individual rights. Every murder is reprehensible and wrong.
Terrorist: BTK killer Dennis Rader,
murdered 10 people.

Terrorists, in my view, include muggers … thieves … rapists … carjackers … schoolyard bullies … Third World warlords … jewel thieves … bombers of buildings … serial killers … stalkers … police officers who plant evidence … jury tamperers … army generals who suspend elections in peacetime … extortionists … public officials who violate laws of procedure … and others who violate individual rights.

Some readers can continue to think of terrorism in its familiar, narrow sense, and still grasp my strategy, but I’ll use my expanded definition as a way of exposing the bigger, more complex problem that I think terrorism is. My list of terrorists is longer than usual. Everybody agrees airline hijackers and suicide bombers are terrorists.

Terrorist: Adolf Hitler
murdered millions.

I believe even muggers are terrorists. Suppose you’re being mugged. Your life is in danger. You feel fear. Does your mugger have a political purpose? Probably not, but there are political effects: law is breached, government must use resources to apprehend and prosecute and punish the attacker. Does your mugger seek media attention? Probably not, but it is a media event: neighbors need to know whether there’s a danger, and newspapers report such events in the police blotter section. Begin to see that muggers are terrorists too.

Terrorist: Saddam Hussein

I don’t see how to distinguish terrorists from ordinary murderers. I don’t think we can pick some arbitrary number of murders, and after the murder count reaches that magic number, then the murderer qualifies as a terrorist. And I don’t think some murders are so gruesome that they qualify as terrorism while other murders fail to qualify. All murderers are terrorists. It’s a mistake to think of terrorism as a particularly heinous crime because all crimes are heinous, all murders cross the line, all trespass the victim’s acknowledged zone of future activity.

If you’re a man and question whether rape is terrorism, ask your daughter or mother or sister or wife, and listen.

Terrorism isn’t victim-less crime: there must be someone bleeding or bruised or broken or burned or dead, and acts with no clear victim such as a drug use or prostitution are not terrorism. Terrorism is neither poverty nor economic recessions nor hurricanes nor tornadoes nor earthquakes nor floods; rather, it’s violence between humans.

So, a mistake I think almost everybody makes is:

Terrorism isn’t a type of crime; rather, crime is a type of terrorism.

Now, something weird happens when you draw this thinking out to its logical conclusions. You can expand the definition of terrorism into three parts so the problem is even bigger, but weirdly solvable.

Let me explain. I see three entities which can harm us: a neighbor, our government, and a foreign government. Accordingly, there is terrorism associated with each type.

The Three Types of Terrorists

They are…

  • A criminal is a neighbor who commits terrorism. The first type of terrorism is crime. The locus of defense against crime is, of course, police and the criminal justice system. Crime is determined by examining the law.

  • A tyrant is a ruler of your own nation who commits terrorism. This is the second type. A government which attacks individual rights commits tyranny. The locus of defense against tyranny is fellow citizens. Tyranny is determined by examining the Constitution.

  • A foreign terrorist is a foreigner who commits terrorism. This is the third type. The most dangerous type is the leader of a foreign nation, but powerful foreign individuals can wreak havoc too. The locus of defense against foreign terrorism is our government. Foreign terrorism is determined by examining treaties and international law.

Please begin to see terrorism as an expanded three-part problem: crime, tyranny, and foreign terrorism. It’s a useful way to think about the larger problem.

Suppose a hijacked airliner is surrounded by police:

Lufthansa aircraft diverted by hijackers in 1977.
photo: Gerhard Plomitzer CCsa3.0

  • To police outside, hijackers inside look like criminals, because they’ve broken laws, stolen an airplane, kidnapped passengers.

  • To passengers inside, hijackers look like tyrants. They are a bad government ruling by whim, not by law. The framework of rights and rules is suspended by these non-elected self-chosen leaders who can issue the death penalty to any passenger without due process of law.

  • To the government, hijackers look like foreign terrorist leaders. The space inside is like a foreign nation because government does not control it. Law does not apply within the aircraft. Government officials negotiate with hijackers as if they were foreign terrorist leaders.

It’s how you see it. Airline hijackers are each type of terrorist: criminal, tyrant, and foreign terrorist leader, all at once, depending on your perspective.

All three types of terrorism are present in any act of terrorism.

Even a mugging has each type. Clearly it’s a crime, but you can see elements of tyranny and foreign terrorism by looking at it from different angles. During the attack there is a temporary space created outside the jurisdiction of legitimate government in which law doesn’t apply. From the victim’s perspective, the mugger is a temporary tyrannical government, and the money stolen is a tax to that illegitimate government, and the beating is a form of punishment without due process of law. Every mugging is a challenge to legitimate government because the victim has less money to pay real taxes. From the perspective of legitimate government, the temporary space created by the mugging is like a walled-off compound of a foreign embassy; government doesn’t control what happens inside.

Serial killer Wayne Williams
killed 23 children 1979-1981.

Consider serial killers. Each murder is clearly a crime. But government, by its failure to grab elusive and crafty killers, by its inaction or failure of intelligent action, allows the systematic killing of citizens. A wily murderer roams freely, picking off individuals at random, while government fails to keep people alive and uphold law. So an argument could be made that government is complicit in the killings in the sense that it has the legal responsibility and power to stop them, but fails to do so. Government allows a rival government, in the form of a serial killer, to impose ruthless non-jury verdicts on law-abiding citizens. The murdered are, in a sense, victims of both the serial killer as well as the inept government which lets the serial killer kill. Further, as the population is reduced, fewer people remain to pay taxes or serve as soldiers, so the nation is weaker and more susceptible to foreign terrorism.

Witness similarities:

  • They break rules: criminals break laws, tyrants break Constitutions, and foreign terrorist leaders break treaties.

  • They enslave people: criminals enslave their victims temporarily during a robbery, tyrants jail political opponents without due process of law, and foreign terrorist leaders enslave neighboring nations during war.

  • They lie: criminals lie to police officers, tyrants lie to the press, and foreign terrorist leaders lie to ambassadors.

  • They create fear: criminals frighten victims with injury, tyrants intimidate opposition leaders with possible imprisonment, and foreign terrorist leaders scare neighboring governments with military force.

Terrorists are weak, impatient, spenders not savers, confused persons who use violence because they can not see how to get things peacefully and patiently. They’re cash hungry losers who want more than they need, who speed. They’re time starved with terminal illnesses, borrowers whose loans have come due, adults physically but children mentally. They experience a time deficit egging them to a quick kill, to risk the world in a dicey venture, to strike first out of desperation.

  • Criminals do not earn money the slow and sure and legal way by holding a job but steal to get rich quickly.

  • Tyrants fail to follow the rules of ruling and in their rush for power trample on their own citizens and undermine their own authority.

  • Foreign terrorists are time-starved misfits prone to miscalculation and eager for war to undo their mess, compelled to strike first before their power base crumbles beneath their feet.

Please begin to share my three-part view of terrorism. I know it’s difficult seeing terrorism in a new way, but it’s necessary. Seeing terrorism the old way won’t lead to a solution.

My thinking about the greatest terrorist in history, so far, was Hitler. Before coming to power, Hitler was a criminal, breaking laws; in power, Hitler became a tyrant, murdering millions of Germans systematically and creating terror on a massive scale. From the perspective of neighboring governments, Hitler was a foreign terrorist leader, making secret treaties, violating agreements, trespassing borders with tanks and troops, breaking international law. Hitler was all three types of terrorist from different perspectives.

And this leads to several important points:

A good prevention strategy must tackle all three types.

Kidnap victim turned bank robber Patty Hearst used stolen
 money to further a systematic campaign of terrorist violence.

Fighting only one type leaves us vulnerable to the other two. We can’t focus solely on nuclear terrorism, for example, while ignoring bank robbery, because stopping a nuclear terrorist and stopping a bank robbery are not separate problems but different aspects of the same problem. Terrorists may rob banks for money to buy bomb-making materials, and bank robbers may use the threat of a nuclear blast to divert police during a robbery.

Further, one type can aggravate another. Aggression by a foreign warlord, for example, can weaken government and make it more vulnerable to crime. And a government under foreign attack may become tyrannical to its own citizens. Rampant crime can weaken government and make it vulnerable to foreign predators. And government can use the threat of external terrorism as an excuse to increase its own power.

The three types are related. Any strategy to fight one type of terrorism must be considered by weighing its impact on the other two. For example, we can eliminate crime by becoming a police state, but fighting one type of terrorism (crime) exacerbates a second type (tyranny). This happens at airports today when we prevent airline hijackings (crime) by subjecting passengers to extensive body searches (tyranny). What’s necessary is to find strategies that reduce crime while not increasing tyranny. It’s a tough order. And this is why most current approaches falter because they fail to see the multifaceted nature of the problem.

Basic Principles

We don’t seek bare-knuckled fistfights with terrorists. Most of us are ill equipped for combat, unarmed, unskilled in martial arts. Still, we must be ready to fight, and if necessary, we must fight. This willingness to fight helps deter terrorism. It’s important to grasp the formula for fighting terrorism because it is a building block for a general prevention strategy and a basis for citizenship which I’ll explain later.

The basic formula for fighting terrorism is:

Individuals form a group, fight the terrorist, disband.

An individual, acting alone, is rarely strong enough to defeat a terrorist, but many individuals working together can prevail. This is common sense.

The strategy works for each type. Farmers beset by cattle thieves would form a posse, hunt down the thieves, then return to farming. Citizens beset by a tyrannical government would band together, protest, unseat the government, disband. Individual nations threatened by a rogue state would band together into an alliance, defeat the terrorist nation, disband.

What is difficult to grasp, however, is what happens to individual rights during an attack.
Suppose you’re walking in a train station and somebody brandishes a knife and threatens to kill somebody else.

That very moment: you don’t have rights.

Neither does anybody else.

The knife-wielding terrorist clearly does not acknowledge the power of people to act in the future, that is, does not acknowledge your right to a stab-free stroll to your train.

All it took was one menacing gesture and poof: everybody’s rights disappeared like magic.

So fragile, rights: how quickly they disappear. Acknowledge that terrorists have the power to make our rights vanish instantly, to thrust us instantly into a jungle with no law, no government, no order, no guarantees.

Suppose in the train station, there’s one terrorist, others, and you.

Then the best way to fight the knife-wielder is to use my formula: form a group, fight, disband. If everybody bands together instantly, encircles the terrorist and attacks together, the terrorist would be immobilized quickly by many grasping hands until police arrive. Nobody gets hurt.

Passengers tackled shoe
bomber Richard Reid and
foiled his attack.

That’s the best way to fight terrorism in theory, but in reality, of course, things are difficult. People vary; some are strong, others fledgling. It’s difficult for many people to learn of the danger simultaneously. It is never clear who will lead the group or whether it needs leading. We don’t want aged grandmothers closing in on an attacker. It depends on how strong the terrorist is, and whether there are any group members trained in wrestling or karate. Many variables influence a battle. Some may run, others remain oblivious, nothing is certain.

Suppose there’s no group effort and everybody acts independently. Some scatter, others don’t. Survival depends on qualities such as fleetness of foot or physical prowess or wits. Without organized opposition, the terrorist, like a wolf among sheep, could kill one or two or three, maybe more, before police arrive.

While things vary, overall, generally, it should be plainly evident that in such a situation you’re safer with an organized group effort. In my example the group magically coalesced, united instantly, cooperated, and subdued the attacker. In reality, it rarely happens that easily, but we can help it happen. Suppose everybody agreed, in advance, that if terrorism strikes, we’ll unite and fight and protect each other as best we can given our abilities. Suppose people take an oath promising to act in some way to help thwart the attack such as phone police as well as physically fight the attacker. Suppose people who scatter may be punished. Steps like these could help people form a group more quickly and fight better.

Perhaps the hardest idea to grasp, however, is how rights change during an attack: rights shift from individuals to the group. Only the group has rights: it unites, fights, defeats the terrorist, disbands, and rights revert to individuals, and this controversial idea is at the heart of fighting terrorism.

A group properly entrusted with rights has great power and force and freedom to impose its will. The group’s rights are more than a summed total of individual rights because it has a broader range of powers than any individual because of its greater size and wider range of talents. It exists in a dangerous world where only natural law, not human law, applies, and it acts properly when it tries to restore human law. Whether the group triumphs depends on factors such as the quality of leadership, size, extent of participation, resources, training, and such. There is no guarantee of victory, of course, but the chance of victory is greatly improved with a group effort.

When under attack, individual rights are secured by group rights. Your freedom as an individual, when threatened by terrorism, can be preserved by temporary and voluntary bonding to a group. This notion seems contrary to our understanding of freedom, but it isn’t, and I think that the more you think about it, you’ll agree this is right.

Note that group action is:

  • temporary, meaning its duration is limited to when terrorism threatens.

  • voluntary, meaning individuals agree, beforehand, to unite if terrorism strikes.

  • limited, meaning an attack in one space doesn’t apply to other spaces. So a battle with a terrorist in a train station doesn’t curtail rights in a bus station.

Restoring individual rights is the group’s only legitimate purpose. The group’s creation is caused by a terrorist attack, and its legitimate existence is based on subduing that terrorist. A group which pursues goals other than restoring individual rights or fails to disband after terrorism is defeated or acts outside its proper zone of activity may be illegal, bad, and dangerous. Remember that a group can never have total power over individuals since members can withhold support or disobey or abandon the group.

Airline food cart similar
to the one on United #93.

Property rights, as well, vanish during an attack. For example, suppose when a knife wielder threatens that somebody else has an umbrella. You can grab this umbrella to whack the knife-wielder. Normally grabbing somebody else’s umbrella might be considered stealing, but in this situation, it isn’t. The umbrella owner doesn’t have a right to that umbrella at that moment. You won’t be punished later for grabbing it. When hijacked passengers on United Flight 93 rammed a food cart against the locked cockpit door, they weren’t stealing airline property or committing vandalism, but trying to stay alive.

You can see the idea of individuals morphing into groups and back again in different forms. When two people join to start a family, it is a marriage. When a buyer and seller join for an exchange, it is a contract. When neighbors join a group for defense, it is citizenship. When nations join a group for defense, it is an alliance. In each case we sacrifice something today to get something better tomorrow. The bond allows people to do things they can’t do by themselves. This is why a person alone on an island won’t have as much freedom as a person with neighbors in a free society, because a person in society can bind themselves to others, temporarily and voluntarily, to secure greater freedom later. Hermits, lacking neighbors, can’t, so they’ll usually have less freedom.

An idea which may be difficult for many to accept is that a group formed to fight terrorism must have power to punish members for disobedience. Lacking such authority, it can’t enforce difficult commands. It’s not fair for most members if a few disobey. The group’s leaders have a right to know who’s in and who’s out.

Soldiers in battle have no individual rights but survival depends on every
soldier following orders without question. The group’s will is paramount.
A disobedient soldier jeopardizes everybody’s lives, so discipline can be

An example may illustrate this point. In a war movie, soldiers storming a beachhead were pinned by enemy fire, and a sergeant ordered a soldier to push forward a pole of dynamite to explode a path through barbed wire, a maneuver exposing him to withering fire but necessary for destroying the enemy machine gun.

The soldier hesitated halfway up the beach.

The sergeant began shooting near the soldier, missing by inches, as a warning not to hesitate.

The soldier then pushed the pole forward and exploded a path to the enemy.

Andrew Jackson, before
becoming U.S. president,
is thought to have executed
militia men during the Creek War.

My point is that a group must have total power, even the power of life and death, over individual members when fighting terrorism. Shooting a disobedient soldier isn’t murder but an act of extreme discipline, justifiable because the group’s survival trumps the individual’s. A disobedient soldier jeopardizes everyone’s lives. An American general executed a disobedient soldier during wartime and later became president; another hung deserters. Extreme discipline may happen, but rarely, because killing a fellow soldier lessens the potential fighting ability of the group, may undermine morale, and may subject the punisher to review by superiors and possible punishment later.

I realize this is a difficult idea but please understand that if everybody is prepared to fight for freedom, and will fight if necessary, then it is much less likely that we will ever have to, in fact, fight. We’ll be safer. Potential criminals will be scared into behaving. Conversely, if none of our neighbors have this attitude, then we’re more likely to encounter such situations.

When terrorism is defeated, the group must disband and transfer rights back to individuals. Groups failing to disband may bring tyranny.

Some groups remain organized even without terrorism, that is, they don’t disband after terrorism. Police remain organized as a group even when society is orderly. Some military units remain mobilized in peacetime. The legitimacy of such groups is based on their purpose of preventing future terrorism. One benefit of remaining organized is to lessen the awkward time between the initial terrorist attack and the response to that attack. Since mobilization without immediate terrorism invites abuse, police and military are subject to special rules and their behavior is highly regulated. If they break the rules, then they must be held accountable by the same legal system they try to uphold. For example, if an officer speeds recklessly through town, siren blaring, on a personal errand, then punishment can result.

While this simple model of individuals morphing into groups to fight terrorism and then disbanding is useful for thinking about terrorism, modern society, of course, is too complex for such a simple model to apply directly to real world situations. It’s rarely a straightforward matter to determine which persons belong in a group to fight terrorism. For example, if a mugging happens downtown, then residents uptown should not be obligated to organize to help defeat the mugger: only people nearby should be responsible for acting, and the extent of their response should reflect the seriousness of the crime and their individual power to thwart the attacker.

A more vexing problem which confounds the simple model is that some types of terrorism end when they begin, such as suicide bombings. In such instances, the attack is effectively over when it began. It’s nonsensical to punish a dead person. Clearly the model of group action to fight terrorism does not apply in this situation.

Car bombing.
Photo: Jim Gordon CC2.0.

Terrorists seek to blur the line between peacetime and wartime, to make it difficult to guess when an attack is happening and whether it is over. After a sudden blast on a crowded street, with body parts hurtling through smoke, it may not be clear whether danger has passed or whether there is a second bomb waiting to blast the rescuers. Terrorists seek to paralyze us with uncertainty.

While terrorism can become quite complex, the model of individual rights reverting to group rights, and back again, is a simple model from which to think about many issues including citizenship and war and how they relate to terrorism, and it will be important later for understanding strategies I have yet to propose. For now, please accept the model as a general method for fighting terrorism.

Generally, this is how we fight terrorism.

But it’s much more important to prevent terrorism.

How is this done?

How to prevent terrorism

Back in Manhattan in the early nineteen eighties, I grasped the nature of terrorism, but the magic of preventing terrorism eluded me. I kept reading books in bookshops and from sidewalk vendors on history, philosophy, economics, military strategy, politics, religion, science, anything I could read, talking to people, asking questions, watching television, searching for any ideas or approaches which made sense. I wondered what John Jay might have thought about nuclear terrorism, or Spinoza, or Machiavelli or Rousseau or Plato or Locke or Madison or Tzu or Tocqueville or Caesar or Aristotle, and how they might have approached the problem of car-sized bombs capable of destroying a city.

But they were never confronted with such a problem, of course, so I had to guess what they might have thought, and for years I muddled around aimlessly.

Then in the middle of the decade I saw a movie called “Witness” and an amazing thing happened.

At the end there’s a shootout on a farm.

The last bad guy confronted a dozen farmers and an unarmed detective and a little boy and his mother.

Only the bad guy had a gun.

The others didn’t.

Nevertheless, the bad guy surrendered.


Because the number of bullets in the gun was less than the pairs of eyes.

The bad guy couldn’t possibly kill all the farmers without some surviving to witness the murders, and when the bad guy realized this, he surrendered. Terrorism was prevented.

After all my reading and thinking and question asking and wondering and frittering about, my puzzle was answered in a movie, of all places.

I was stunned by the revelation.

And as I sat through the credits while moviegoers ambled out, I realized this idea was central to the problem of preventing terrorism, and of course there were many dots left to link and thoughts left to think, but by raw luck I had bumped into a big, big idea, and I knew it, and things clicked together. And, looking back, everything seems obvious, but it didn’t seem obvious to me back then.

So I began thinking seriously about a weapon I shall call light.

I think the key to preventing terrorism is light.

Light in that movie was the idea in the bad guy’s mind that there were more witnesses than bullets, but there are lots of examples of how it can prevent terrorism.

Light is a picture of a license plate.

Light is a mental image of the face of a rapist.

Light is an expense report of a public official.

The Magna Carta (1215) is an example of light.

Light is a written treaty.

Light is a contract.

Light is eyewitness testimony.

Light is rules of courtroom procedure.

Light is a Constitution.

Light is a citizenship document.

Light can shine within the mind of a potential terrorist to persuade him or her not to be violent, like the bad guy in the movie.

Light can shine within the mind of a tyrant, and lead to resignation.

Light is ideas in your mind about what citizenship means.

Light can shine on different aspects of the transformation from individuals to a group and back again.

These are only a few senses of light but what is common to each is the benefit of exposing terrorism.

Light bothers terrorists. They hate daylight, exposure, information, and they love darkness, confusion, murkiness.

  • Criminals smother light by lying, using false identities, wearing masks when robbing grocery stores, switching license plates, wearing hoods when lynching minorities.
Tyrants have held pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi
prisoner in an extended period of “house arrest” in Myanmar.

  • Tyrants smother light by closing printing presses, blocking phone calls, banning open meetings, lying to the public, lying to journalists, genocide, imprisoning opposition leaders, canceling elections.

  • Foreign terrorist leaders smother light by lying to other governments, making secret treaties, using embassies for espionage, spreading false stories to the worldwide media, restricting foreign journalists from entering, war.

This brings us to preventing the first type of terrorism, or crime.

How to Prevent Crime

Crime, the first type of terrorism, is prevented using light.

Light to prevent crime is recorded information about movement of people and things in public places. Examples of light are a record of a license plate, a phone call, a purchase, a delivery, an airline flight, a meeting of two people, an event, a transfer of money, and so on.

Recorded information must itself be capable of movement from person to person and be re-transmittable, because if it gets stuck in a drawer somewhere, it’s useless, that is, light must have legs. Light can travel from person to person by phone lines and radio waves, by speech and fiber optic cables, and it can move when people talk or tell a police officer what was seen.

Let’s call a device which records light an information camera. Information cameras are tape recorders, photoelectric sensors, credit card readers, grocery scanners, scales, pencil and paper, computer scanners, and regular photographic cameras too. Just as a camera takes a picture, an information camera takes an information picture.


An information picture should link: a subject, time, and place. A subject could be a person, a thing, an item, an amount of money, a transaction, a relationship of two or more people, an event. An information picture is the building block of a system of information that helps police see terrorism.

When an information camera shutter opens and light passes through and snaps an information picture, three information bits are linked to form a fact that may be useful. An example of an information picture is that Mr. Doe (subject) was, at 6:01 pm (time), on 5th street (place).

Single information pictures can be combined into information movies. Film editors put images together to make a movie. Similarly, investigators can link information pictures together to make an information movie which may reveal something important.

For example, suppose there are two information pictures: the first is Mr. Doe at 6:01 pm on 5th street, and the second is Mr. Doe at 6:03 pm on 6th street. The information movie is both pictures together. A possible inference is that Mr. Doe moved from 5th to 6th streets during those two minutes probably by walking.

Unique information is preferred. A picture of a face is good but a number is better because it describes only one possible subject such as Mr. Doe #123456789 from Boston.

Different information should be recorded. Money can move. Things can move. Ideas can move. A crime can occur even if a criminal remains in a fixed place, such as a person reporting a false fire alarm from a telephone.

Movement should trigger cameras. When something moves, click, an information picture is taken. Cameras should remain off when there is no movement to reduce expense. Folks who do not move, who stay home, make no phone calls, write no letters, get no packages, and have no visitors, are not dangerous because they can not murder or make bombs or phone in false fire alarms, so there’s really no need to watch them. Travelers, however, have more chances to cause mischief and therefore require greater monitoring.

Three main ideas are: identification, movement, uniqueness. When something moves in public, it should be identified, and identified uniquely.

The first reaction people have when I suggest recording the highlights of our activity in public is fear of losing freedom and privacy. However, I think both freedom and privacy will be strengthened with my arrangement. This is one of those areas where citizens need to think deeply and carefully. Please remember I am a citizen too, and I value my freedom and privacy highly like everybody does. But before I can show why I think my proposal is superior, let me try to clear up some of the confusion.

In public, we have a right to see what’s going on. We can see trees and streets and passersby. We are not required to shut our eyes when others pass; rather, we can examine their faces and clothes and appearance and what they do. We can take pictures of people and things in public or write things seen in a notebook. Merchants watch shoppers, sometimes using video cameras.

People are required to identify
their cars with license plates
like this one.

Police have a right to watch what happens in public. They look for speeders. They can follow a car to study what it’s doing. They can monitor activity using video cameras perched around town. All this is perfectly legal and acceptable. I’m making this point because I believe there is significant confusion about privacy, the general mistake being:

Some think they have a right of privacy in public. This, of course, is nonsense, because it’s impossible to prevent others from seeing us in public, and privacy-in-public is obviously a contradiction in terms.

In public, we’re in public, of course, and what we do is seen by others, and what others do is seen by us.

In private, we can have privacy, like being home with window shades drawn. There are semi-private places, such as public bathrooms, where we can have a measure of privacy. But walking down a street or driving in a car, we’re in public, and what we do and where we go can be watched and recorded by others.

What’s happened perhaps is that people have gotten used to the fact that while others, including police, can see what we do in public, what we do is rarely recorded, and we have a measure of anonymity because people forget what we do. And over time we’ve gotten used to having such privacy in public because of this anonymity, which we’ve persuaded ourselves we have a right to, but we really don’t have such a right at all.

Can you find a terrorist inside this crowd of people in Osaka, Japan
in 2006? If there is one in the picture, police can’t find him or her either.

Anonymous movement in public — when people and things move about unidentified, unlabeled, unrecorded — is bad and stupid and dangerous. Today people travel anonymously, from city to city and within cities, walking, driving, flying on planes, making phone calls, buying things, meeting others, and doing other things without anybody really ever knowing what they’re doing because it’s anonymous, unrecorded, forgotten, a blur.

Anonymity is multiplied by the swelling size of cities. In a small town where people know people, a criminal is caught more easily because folks have an inkling of what their neighbors do. In a large metropolis, however, few can remember the thousands of faces seen each day. We may have seen criminals free in society but didn’t realize it, possibly sitting next to a criminal on a train or a plane and in our brain for a moment there was a mental picture of a criminal but it faded. If that picture didn’t fade but was turned into a physical picture and given to investigators, then a future crime might be prevented.

Pictures fading: this happens often, and criminals count on it. Killers kill pictures as well as victims. During a murder the mind of the victim has a picture of the face of the murderer, but when the victim dies the pictures in the mind of the victim die too.

I love privacy like everybody does. The challenge, then, as I see it, is to combine identification and privacy so police have vital information to prevent terrorism while people have as much privacy as possible, that is, publicly trackable information surrounded by strong privacy fences. Let me show first how police can use light to prevent terrorism, and then I’ll show how to strengthen privacy.

The task of identifying movement should belong to police. That’s their job. How police do this should be monitored and regulated by law. If done badly, police should be held accountable by police supervisors, local political authority, journalists and citizens. An internal police department can watch where police go and what police do and what police buy and what police know to help ensure police obey the rules.

Police should be divided into two branches:

  • An observation branch would monitor public movement. In a giant building, centrally located, police would use computers to sift through massive amounts of data about movement of people and things in public, looking for dangers. Our numbers, not our names, would be tracked in their computers as we move about in public. Investigators would search for patterns, for conspiracies, for crimes in the making. By law, all data should stay inside this building unless there was a threat to the public. Police couldn’t remove any information or reveal it to anybody for a spurious reason, and if they did, there would be a record of such a leak, and leakers would be subject to punishment. Officials employed in this branch would be banned from working in other areas of government for the rest of their lives.

  • An enforcement branch would be all other police. They would do what they do today: issue traffic tickets, keep order at public events, settle domestic disputes, and so forth. But they wouldn’t know much about us other than what they see in public. They could not access information from the other branch. They wouldn’t know where we went, what we bought, who are friends are, what videos we rented, where we go to church, whether we voted. For example, to catch speeders, they couldn’t query a computer, but continue to use hand-held radar detectors as they do today.

The idea is to keep the two branches separate. Any communication between the two branches should be highly regulated and monitored. For example, a court order may be required for regular police to get information from the observation branch needed to solve a murder, and procedures followed to make sure that private information stays private. Or, if the observation branch identified a possible conspiracy, then a court order would be required before alerting the enforcement branch.

Let me show how information can prevent crime.

It is almost impossible to prevent a criminal’s very first crime. Anybody could grab a kitchen knife and run into a street and stab somebody. This is almost impossible to foresee and prevent. Before becoming criminals, people are presumed innocent and it is consequently hard for police to stop a possible first crime without interfering with the freedom of a presumably innocent citizen.

Woo Bum-kon killed 56
people in a drunken crime
spree lasting 8 hours in 1982.
Since he was a police
officer in South Korea,
his terrorism is properly
identified as tyranny.

Still, if every first crime is exposed, then every first-time criminal would be caught. This prevents any subsequent crime. The only way a convicted criminal could commit a second crime was after serving time in jail or after being acquitted by a jury. There would be no more crime sprees. If police had records of the public movement of every person, they could trace where anybody went, what they did, what they bought, who they met, and so forth. If a crime happened, police could access computer records and learn what happened. Knowing this, potential criminals wouldn’t commit a crime in the first place because they’d know they’d get caught. This kind of light enters the minds of would-be criminals and keeps them honest.

Crime, then, would be prevented.

I believe the certainty of punishment will deter almost all people from committing crime, so almost all first crimes would be prevented.

Notice I said almost all crimes. There are several exceptions:

  • It deters rational criminals. Mentally ill people who don’t understand the consequences of their actions might not be deterred. Jilted lovers overpowered by emotions can be dangerous too.

  • A second exception in which certainty of punishment might not deter crime is when the expected punishment is mild, so a criminal may commit a crime knowing they can endure a mild punishment. But lawmakers can stiffen punishments.

  • Another exception in when an opportunity to murder many people may tempt rational but suicidal people. Normally a balance between crime and punishment restrains rational criminals who fear the retaliation of a death penalty, but the most a criminal can lose is one life. However, if there’s a chance to murder dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions, then the balance of crime and punishment is disturbed. I don’t see how we can punish one who has murdered a multitude since we can’t impose the death penalty a dozen times on one body. In a weird calculus a criminal might think losing one’s life is an acceptable sacrifice for murdering many, particularly if criminals don’t value their own life much. I realize this isn’t rational. If soldiers who sacrifice their own life to kill many of the enemy are heroes, then people who sympathize with terrorists may see them as heroes as well. An increasing size of cities tempts mass murderers in the same way that a widening disparity of wealth tempts robbers.

How Light Prevents Big Crimes

While we can’t rely on fear of punishment alone to prevent all crimes, a strategy of identifying movement in public makes it very difficult to commit a horrendous crime such as nuclear terrorism, so let me explain why.

Before doing a big crime, criminals must almost always do little crimes to get stuff necessary for a big crime. For example, they might have to steal a gun before hijacking an airplane. However, since stealing the gun would result in capture, the airline hijacking would be prevented.

The benefit of capturing all first-time criminals is blocking subsequent crimes such as bank heists and airplane hijackings and nuclear terrorism as well as preventing them from getting the experience necessary to commit a major crime. Authorities can take additional steps to prevent specific crimes, such as monitoring more closely people with the technical expertise to make bombs as well as tracking the movement of tools and parts for making explosives.

Light can squash serial killers. In the past, crafty and careful killers have murdered dozens before being caught, some eluding capture for years. A prevention strategy using light will make it very difficult for them to operate. Suppose a killer kills in city X on Monday, in city Y on Tuesday, and in city Z on Wednesday. Without light, the police in city X may still be looking for the murderer in their city on Tuesday and Wednesday long after the killer skipped town. With light, it’s easy for police to compare lists: who was in X on Monday, Y on Tuesday, and Z on Wednesday? The name will pop right out of the computer. This is an efficient and intelligent way to catch a dangerous killer.

Contrast this with the inefficient method used to catch the Washington area snipers in 2002. Over three weeks, two snipers living in a used sedan killed ten people, terrorized an entire region, and eluded police despite dragnets, aerial surveillance, psychological profiling, random searches. The attack was clever: one sniper hiding in the car’s trunk fired an accurate high-powered rifle through a small hole, and then the other drove their car away, making it hard to locate the gunshot sound. People were afraid to leave their houses. Police sorted through thousands of incorrect tips. Detectives trying to identify the sniper’s car had to pinpoint one vehicle out of millions, like finding one grain of rice in a truckload. This was a daunting task requiring oceans of patience. That police did catch the sniper is a testament to their hard work and dedication, but luck was involved since one sniper phoned in a clue that led to their arrest.

While most big crimes depend on a previous succession of smaller crimes, there may be exceptions. A passenger might say to a stewardess there is a bomb on the plane, and the plane might be diverted from its course, so this might be a case where a first-time crime is a big one.

Still, in a world where movement in public is identified, it would be much less likely that there was a bomb on the plane. How would a passenger have gotten the bomb in the first place? Probably not by stealing since there is a record of purchases, so police would know if anybody had bought or stolen supplies necessary for bomb assembly. Authorities may see through the ruse and keep the plane flying on its proper course and arrest the fake bomber upon landing.

The preparation necessary for a big crime is mostly invisible, like the submerged part of an iceberg. Police need to see the whole iceberg, not just the tip.

To prevent a big crime, law enforcement must:

  • Gather useful clues.

  • Link clues together to identify a danger.

  • Capture conspirators or thwart their attack.

The problem is police lack clues. There are intelligent investigators who can link clues together but they often lack clues so they can’t do their job properly. Officers know how to catch suspects and make arrests and interrupt attacks, but they can not always see who to pursue.

Law enforcement today is like a blind person. There is a brain to analyze clues and arms to capture criminals but there are no eyes to see clues.


A criminal could be anybody: man or woman, old or young, black or brown or red or white or yellow, poor or rich, short or tall, atheist or Buddhist or Christian or Hindu or Jewish or Muslim, army officer or citizen or government official or judge or police officer or president or religious authority or visiting foreigner or anybody else.

It follows, then, that everybody must be identified, that nobody remain nameless, faceless, anonymous, dangerous.

Further, as citizens, we must agree to identify ourselves in public. We must identify who we are, what we buy, what we carry, who we meet, where we go, and so forth. Self identification should be a duty of citizenship; people will come to see why it’s sensible and necessary.

Traffic camera in Hillsboro, Oregon.
Photo: M.O. Stevens CCsa3.0.

It is much better if citizens initiate the transition to an identified world than if government forces this transition on us, perhaps as a response to terrorism. If a city is destroyed by a nuclear bomb, then I believe government will be forced to take extreme and hurried measures to protect us, such as placing cameras everywhere regardless of any respect for privacy considerations. But if citizens take the lead in building identification systems which preserve privacy, we can avoid a headlong rush towards a police state, and the end result will be more to our liking. I believe the approaching reality is that identification is coming whether we like it or not. While I write this, police in New York City are installing cameras throughout the city with few safeguards for privacy.

Another mistake is seeing the issue as an unfortunate but necessary trade-off between having an authoritarian police state, safe but not private, and an open society, private but dangerous. Some think we have to live in the middle between these extremes and that the only way to get greater safety is to sacrifice privacy, so they wonder how much privacy should be given up for that safety.

I think seeing the choice as a trade-off is a mistake. Rather, we need both better safety and better privacy. I think everybody realizes our vulnerability, but what many fail to see is that privacy today, as well, is flimsy, based mainly on anonymity, not law.

How to Enhance Privacy

A general principle to protect privacy is to encourage two-way seeing in which someone sees you and you see back, and each is aware of being seen by the other. One-way seeing, of course, is when only one sees the other. Examples include being spied on by a neighbor with a telescope or being followed by a stranger through public streets. One-way seeing is bad because rights are not balanced: the spy has a lopsided advantage over the viewed and power isn’t equal; spies and snoopers have too much. Obviously, an identified world should be based on two-way seeing.

Suppose police know everything about us: who we are, where we go, what we buy, what we own, who we know, and so forth. Then I agree we would be vulnerable to abuse and this would be dangerous. But suppose police themselves are identified, their behavior recorded, so there’s a record of which police officers have what information. This information protects us.

The system which records public movement must record police movement as well. If police abuse their power and misuse information, then there would be concrete data to expose such abuses. Police misbehavior could be punished. The public could see back. A system which monitors police as well as civilian behavior is capable, in my view, of meeting everybody’s needs.

Consider when other people hold our personal medical data. At present, it is hard to know if these records are safely locked in a filing cabinet or loosely guarded on a computer network, or whether they were sold to a medical insurer for some dubious purpose. None of this movement of information is tracked. It should be tracked, in my view, so if information is improperly leaked or otherwise abused, we can expose such abuse and punish the abusers.

Paparazzi stalk in-demand
celebrities to photograph
them at odd moments;
some celebrities have
nonexistent privacy.
CCa3.0 Ing. Mgr. Jozef

Most people probably don’t realize how little privacy we have because most of us are uninteresting to others. There’s no financial incentive for prying eyes to peep inside our personal lives. In contrast, rich and famous people have precious little privacy. Privacy falls apart when we become interesting to others, when we have something others want, such as money or fame. Celebrities know better than the rest of us that privacy is practically nonexistent because they live like poodles in a pet shop window. A few celebrities have been murdered by weird freaky types who stalked them secretly. Others have had their privacy violated when former nannies or bodyguards sold personal information to tabloids. Some have been bothered for years by obsessive fans. Many build high-walled compounds to keep photographers with telephoto lenses at bay.

And even for particularly uninteresting folks such as myself, there will always be some person or corporation or entity interested in learning more about my private self. I buy things. I travel. I read. I have health insurance. To a small extent, then, I’m interesting to marketers, travel agencies, publishers, health insurers.

Suppose, for example, I get a terminal illness. Then a potential health insurer can save money by declining coverage. There are financial incentives for insurers to snoop into private medical data, and little to deter health insurers from paying doctors to reveal sensitive personal data. If this information was sold, it would be difficult to learn who leaked what when. There are a few legal safeguards but not enough, in my opinion, because generally the movement of information is not recorded.

Some ex-wives have been murdered by estranged husbands who took advantage of shaky privacy to discover their location. Swindlers take advantage of thin privacy to secretly profile assets of potential victims. Identity thieves take out loans based on information fished out of garbage cans. There are countless examples of privacy breaking down.

Privacy protects against current and future public scrutiny. It’s a window shade helping people act without worry about what others might think. If we worry others may learn about our taste for unpopular music, for example, then we might refrain from buying music we like.

That’s why privacy is great: we can let our hair down, buy music we like, be free from scrutiny by a majority which can have a narrow sense of proper behavior. Privacy is a vital part of freedom.

Sometimes we won’t care if others have our private information. For example, I don’t care if food makers know my preferences for breakfast cereal. Manufacturers with such knowledge can target advertisements more effectively to me. And I may get fewer messages from manufacturers who know I’m not interested in their stuff.

Suppose a police officer knew your every public move, and knew you drove to a coffee shop for breakfast before going to work, and later stopped by a store on the way home. You bought toothpaste. So what. The officer won’t care. You won’t either. It’s not a big deal. If we think through various situations in which our privacy could be violated, there would be many instances when we don’t care.

Most likely, police wouldn’t see us as people but rather as numbers in computers. Police in the observation branch wouldn’t be able to connect our number to our name without official permission, perhaps from a judge, an act which would itself be recorded. Our numbers, moving on a screen with millions of other numbers, need to be in that computer, however, so police can decide not to focus on us when hunting for possible terrorists, so police know we’re good, so they know we’re not a threat, so government knows not to frisk us at airports or inspect our shoes countless times or put us through unnecessary fuss again and again and knows not to waste money and time worrying whether we’re terrorists. Police can focus on finding real terrorists.

Suppose you were at the coffee shop when a murder happened nearby. Your number in their computer eliminates you as a suspect.

Coffee shop in Amsterdam in 2007.

You were at the coffee shop.

You weren’t at the crime scene.

So you didn’t do it.

Police wouldn’t bother you but focus on the culprit.

A number possibly interesting to detectives is one which drives to different gas stations repeatedly, buys gas, but drives only a few miles. The discrepancy between the volume of gasoline bought and the few miles driven could suggest, perhaps, a leaky gas tank or possibly a bomb under construction. Detectives having this information might foil a bombing.
We need identified privacy. If all movement is identified, then the movement of even private information should be identified. Every chunk of information should be tagged with a privacy label which determines who can and can’t see that information and which determines where it can and can’t go. For example, a privacy tag may allow a computer to release medical information within a hospital but not to medical insurers, or it may say information isn’t private, or it may grant access to employees but not competitors.

There are many ways to protect private information. During every investigation, a record should be made of the investigation itself, noting the police’s request, the judge’s response, which officers accessed which private information, what police did, and so forth. The investigation itself should be exposed to light. Law may require police to notify people under scrutiny that they are, in fact, under scrutiny. During a trial, irrelevant private information should be kept secret.

Suppose a rogue police officer learned from a previous investigation that a particular citizen did something legal but embarrassing, and threatens to reveal this information unless paid. This act of blackmail would be very difficult to accomplish. The extortion request would itself be recorded, which is evidence of blackmail. It would be difficult for a blackmailer to be paid since all money transactions would be recorded. Prosecutors would have plenty of evidence to build a case against an officer who tried such a stunt. Perhaps in some cases individuals could sue police officers if it was proved that an officer released legal yet embarrassing information or violated a citizen’s privacy.

A police camera in the U.K. overlooking a highway.
 Police need data about public movement but the public
needs to know that private data will stay private.
Currently there are few rules regulating such information.
 Photo: David Hawgood 2006 ccsa2.0.

This is one of many ways in which the public can see back, to complete the loop so that citizens are not victims of snooping and blackmail, and privacy is protected.

Generally I don’t think police would abuse information, because they wouldn’t want to lose the trust of the public, be sued by citizens whose privacy was violated. be fired or demoted or suspended by superiors, or be chided by the media.

Remember the public holds the ultimate trump card since we could, as a group, refuse to cooperate with voluntary self-identification. It’s a drastic yet powerful weapon which the public has. If elected officials failed to fire top police officials, or if police tried to cover-up privacy violations, then the public could stage an information boycott.

Abuse of information will happen, but rarely, and the abuse, itself, will be exposed, and this will be a good thing because it will spur continued improvements to privacy legislation. I don’t think there is much to fret about, provided safeguards are used.

Everybody in this nation loves privacy so much, and there is a habitual respect for law and due process, so while we may worry about a 1984-style totalitarian oligarchy spying on us, I think there is little chance that such a horror would ever happen. We wouldn’t put up with it.

Currently, privacy laws are weak and inconsistent and fail to recognize the need of police to have information necessary for preventing terrorism as well as individuals to maintain a level of privacy. Lawmakers and courts must create good privacy legislation which should:

  • govern what happens to private information publicly held such as medical records

punish privacy violators

  • specify what’s private and what isn’t

  • establish procedures for exposing privacy violations

  • presume information is private unless specified otherwise

What is needed are simple rules governing privacy so people can plan accordingly. Before we did something which might be recorded in some way, we would know which privacy rules applied to that upcoming situation or should be able to learn if interested. As time passes, privacy rules will become understood and accepted, and there will be fewer times when privacy is violated, and people will become familiar with the new arrangements.

Some particular cases may demand extreme measures to preserve privacy. One creative way to safeguard privacy is through phantom identities. A celebrity could have an additional and legal second identity, complete with name and number, allowing him or her to transact business and move through society without shopkeepers or hotel managers knowing their true identity. Only the police, with permission obtained by judicial due process, could link both identities.

A general test, before releasing private information, should be: is there a good need to know? An individual has a good reason to examine information if it pertains to himself or herself. A police officer has a good reason if it helps solve a crime. A lawyer has good reason if needed to clear a client of blame.

Nobody should have access without a good reason. No neighbor needs to know what others bought yesterday. No employer needs details about the social lives of employees.

It should be illegal to broadcast private information. For example, a lawyer with knowledge of private information could not reveal it, sell it, or broadcast it to the public without permission, but if he or she did, then there should be penalties.

Why Victim-less Vices Can Cause Problems

It is easier for privacy to mesh with identified movement if there is tolerance of individual customs, harmless religious behaviors, victim-less vices, quirky behavior, unusual yet nonviolent activities. A majority with voting power can use the machinery of government to enforce its narrow ideas of proper behavior and punish people who do otherwise. A majority can outlaw chewing gum in public if it desired.

Consider prostitution. It doesn’t really hurt anybody in the same way murder does but perhaps it isn’t good for society as a whole, arguably, according to majority opinion. Some people will engage in the world’s oldest profession regardless of its legality and may undermine, convolute, and finagle any system of identified movement so they can keep doing it.

Suppose a married man is caught paying a woman prostitute. Since prostitution is illegal, government faces a tough choice. If it prosecutes, it must expose the prostitution and, in so doing, it violates the right of both people to privacy. Any legal penalty may be insignificant compared to the severe penalty of public embarrassment. If government doesn’t prosecute, it fails to uphold the law.

Consider not only prostitution, but smoking, homosexuality, gambling, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, pornography, obscene speech, marital infidelity, video game addiction, food addiction, sex between minors and other such behaviors which meet with majority disapproval to varying extents. Such behavior doesn’t hurt anybody, arguably, and are not acts of terrorism. But punishing such behavior by making it illegal and treating people who do such things as criminals can aggravate any attempt to build a system of identified movement.

The basic problem is:

  • If victim-less vices are outlawed, then non-majority groups will be angry and frustrate attempts to record movement.

  • If victim-less vices are legalized, then the majority will be angry whenever it bumps into this behavior. The majority will worry that this behavior will corrupt society because it’s legal and seems like it’s running rampant. And it may appear that government approves of these behaviors because they’re legal.

A compromise is to legalize victim-less vices but limit their activity to specific places and times, and protect the privacy of people who do such things.

The battle between majorities and non-majorities should not be whether victim-less vices are legal or illegal but about the degree of their exposure. For example, prostitution may be legal but limited to specific parts of town during specific hours, and people who do this activity should have their privacy respected. Instead of outlawing the oldest profession outright, a more intelligent and tolerant solution is to restrict more tightly those zones and times where such activity can happen, and punish violations with fines. People can battle in legislatures about where to draw these boundary lines, which will change as customs change.

Look what happened when alcohol was banned early in the twentieth century. Banning liquor made it scarce, driving up the price, causing a huge upsurge in crime to supply this need which, in turn, fueled other types of crime, including murder. Further, enormous profits were an ongoing temptation to police to accept bribes for assisting in protecting the liquor supply business, and this was a form of tyranny. Banning alcohol gave organized crime a lucrative business. Later, wisely, the ban was overturned. But this whole sordid lesson seems to have been lost on people. I see it as one more example of how the types of terrorism are related: in this case, a stupid law to ban alcohol (tyranny) encouraged another type of terrorism (crime). Today, the same mistake is made with narcotics. Government is not our parent. It can’t prevent us from vices. It can’t enforce morality. It should restrict itself to punishing violence, not vice.
While no perfect solution exists, a compromise is a way to keep most people happy while allowing both privacy and safety.

Here are principles to organize information into a working system. It’s necessary the system be sufficiently rigorous to prevent nuclear terrorism while being fuss-free and simple and quick so we can adjust easily to the new arrangements.

How To Identify People

Identification cards — A single identification card may act as a driver’s license and bank card and credit card and identification card, all at once, replacing a wallet crammed with cards. Visiting foreigners should also be issued cards which have a person’s picture, unique number or numbers, fingerprints, address, phone number, height, weight, eye-color, skin-color, citizenship status, nationality, and perhaps genetic information.

Tiny radios — Citizens might wear a tiny radio on a belt which when paged would send an identification code silently, like tollbooth transponders currently in use, so all we’d have to do is remember to wear it.

Personal data recorders — Airplanes have rugged recorders which survive crashes and provide clues about

Flight data recorders survive plane
crashes and help investigators learn
what happened. They can be used
in other situations too.
Photo courtesy U.S. NTSB p.d.

what went awry. Perhaps people could wear a personal data recorder, activated by loud noises or screams so a person in distress could leave an audio record of what happened. Once activated, the device should secure itself to the wearer and become difficult to dislodge or disable. If police recover this device, it may help their investigation. Such devices could be worn by police as well as citizens engaged in isolated or dangerous activities, such as tow truck operators or forest rangers.

Faces — A three-dimensional color image of a human face can be described by a number and processed by a computer. It could help investigators pose difficult questions such as whether one face could be a disguised or altered or older version of a second face or whether two faces could be related genetically.

Legal portals — Doorways to public buildings such as theaters and libraries and stadiums and hospitals should have entrances equipped with scanners to record the identities of people entering and exiting. It should be illegal to deliberately bypass a legal portal, with exceptions being emergencies such as evacuating a fire.

How To Identify Things

Unique numbers — Each item of value should have a unique identifying number to help police track things stolen or lost or used in a crime.

Barcodes on vehicle roofs — A black and white UPC-like barcode can be read by overhead scanners.

Weapons — All weapons should have a unique identification number. An internal black box could record every time a gun was fired. Technology permitting only owners to fire it is recommended. Rules for identifying weapons should apply not only to citizens but to police as well. Perhaps bullet manufacturers might be required to place inside each bullet a chemical tag to help police identify the owner. Guns should have tiny radio transmitters which emit an identifying signal every time they’re moved or fired. Explosives should have chemical signatures.

No hidden weapons — It is especially important to record movement of destructive things such as guns, explosives, poisons, and their components. There should be no confusion about who is armed. Armed persons must signal they’re carrying a weapon in public in some manner chosen by law, perhaps by wearing special clothing or displaying a badge, and failure to abide by such rules should carry severe penalties. Since handguns can be concealed beneath clothing and carried secretly in public, they are more dangerous than larger weapons such as rifles or shotguns; it makes sense to regulate their sale and use, or ban their sale to the public entirely.

Tag manufactured things — Manufacturers can label products with a sturdy metal tag. Shippers should keep records of things they move. The exact path of every manufactured thing should be traceable to foil bombers and poisoners and thieves. Tag nuclear bombs with tiny indestructible labels or traceable chemicals, and place internal radios inside them which silently send a warning signal on a frequency monitored by police.

Label packages — Senders must identify themselves and the contents of their packages. In addition, package delivery personnel can label packages with an indestructible tag shaped to maximize chances for recovery while not becoming a harmful projectile itself.

How To Identify Money

Eliminate cash — Criminals, of course, prefer cash since it’s harder to trace. Cash, then, should be eliminated

Coin and paper currency is
unidentified money and is hard
to trace. Electronic transactions
with a third party (such as a bank)
are better. Photo: R. Huber ccsa3.0

over time except for small transactions, and replaced with identified money such as checks and credit cards and debit cards and electronic transfers in which a third party, usually a bank, witnesses and records each transaction.

How To Identify Communication

Record communication — Each record should identify the sender and receiver, time, location, and medium. Machines used should be recorded too. If it becomes practical to record the actual conversation or message, in terms of technology and expense, then this should be considered. A common format should be used.

Ban attempts to obscure communication — Encryption must be illegal unless police have matching encryption technology, and the type of encryption must be identified before messages are sent. It should be illegal to use intermediaries to disguise the true parties of a communication. Destruction of communication trails for the purpose of deception should be prohibited.

How To Build A Database System

Information can be woven into a system of connected databases, which might include:

  • A database of people would link names, faces, numbers, addresses, faces, fingerprints, genetic information.

  • A database of assets would record who owns what.

  • A database of associations would record meetings of people.

  • A database of financial transactions would record transfers of money.

  • A database of weapons would link weapons to owners.

Databases should be linked so the purchase of a gun might be first recorded in a database of financial transactions and later in databases of assets and weapons.

Each record should have a unique identifying number. Since the number of database records will be staggering, it may be necessary to use ASCII codes instead of numbers because they allow 256 possibilities for each digit instead of ten.

Records should be able to point to other records. For example, the inference Tom went to a concert might be described with two records: the first record would be that Tom went somewhere, the second record would be the concert, and the first record could point to the second. If two people met in public, then records could point to each other and allow investigators to study associations such as meetings of law abiding citizens or terrorists planning an attack.

Identify geographic space so the precise location of a house or boundary or sports arena or seventh floor of a skyscraper or a subway tunnel could be described.

Government should establish standards for identifying subjects and times and places, perhaps using a fixed number of digits or common format so different computers can work together.

Cameras should check each other. A camera recording a license plate, for example, might check another which weighs a vehicle, and overlapping systems make it difficult for a terrorist to outwit police by evading a single camera.

Place cameras to maximize information and minimize cost.

Vulnerable targets such as nuclear power plants should get more coverage, and capital cities should get more coverage than provincial towns.

Keep summary information at a central site, such as a hardened underground bunker, for example, and information should be backed up periodically to a separate site.

Discard unimportant information. Record what was discarded, when, by whom.

After any crime investigators could generate a list of suspects by posing questions to a computer. They could expand their list by searching backward in time or widening the geographic radius around a crime site. If a murder happens, then investigators could build a list of all persons who had contact with the victim. If a hotel fire happens, then the computer could generate a list of every hotel guest and staff member and visitor.

Lists provide an intelligent start for an investigation. If done properly, it would contain the culprit as well as potential witnesses lost in the mayhem. Then, police work would be a matter of carefully pursuing each lead.

Suppose a terrorist places a bomb inside a television and smuggles it on a commercial airliner which explodes later in mid-flight. Detectives could build many lists: passengers and items on the plane, maintenance crew who serviced the plane, people on the ground below the plane immediately before the explosion, and so forth. These lists would be an intelligent starting point for further investigation and would help police rule out persons who could not have been involved. If cockpit data was recovered then it may be possible to pinpoint the exact location on the plane where the explosion occurred, perhaps pointing to the television, and a new list could be made of everybody associated with handling or manufacturing or transporting that television.

In the case of poisoning, police could trace a consumer product back to the warehouse where it was stored, back to persons associated with handling and preparation and manufacture. Police have work ahead but their chances of catching the culprits are good. Today, chances are negligible.

Costs and Benefits

This information will be expensive.

But it will be highly valuable.

I think the value outweighs the cost. It is beyond my ability to even guess what it might cost and I doubt anybody could perform such an addition. I think rebuilding an exploded city is more expensive than protecting it from exploding.

It’s that simple.

Millions may die in a single blast. If one life is priceless, then the price of millions is beyond comprehension. Tally the funeral and medical expense, bulldozing, rebuilding countless buildings, and you’ll agree that the cost would be astronomical.

Today we waste billions trying to guard every possible target. This is stupid and impractical. Airport security guards currently frisk every passenger. This is ineffective and wasteful. Terrorists will either outsmart or overpower protected sites, or attack unprotected sites. If we guard airports, terrorists will attack trains or ships. The expense of guarding big public events such as political conventions is astronomical; there are huge bills for police overtime, extra police, traffic delays, a huge drag on the economy. Money earmarked for disaster relief is much better spent preventing the disaster in the first place. Metal foil caps on medicines are an unnecessary and wasteful deterrent to poisoners.

Spend security dollars wisely. Channel funds for maximum impact. Build a security network. It will give the nation’s best investigators the valuable information needed to nab terrorists. It will scare terrorists into becoming non-terrorists.

I see seven benefits:

  • Survival. We get to live. We avoid unpleasant encounters with serial killers, rapists, muggers, stabbers, robbers, nuclear terrorists, thugs.
  • Freedom from fear. We need not fear being stabbed, raped, mugged, clubbed, mutilated. We need not fear that lovers and children and parents and friends may be stabbed, raped, mugged, clubbed, mutilated.
  • More accurate court decisions. Courts will find the guilty guilty, and the innocent innocent, more often than today. Plea bargains will be few.
  • Economic growth. Preventing crime encourages investment, savings, productivity, growth.
  • More honesty in business. It will be harder to cheat people, run, and set up shop in the next town.
  • Lower tax rates. Less tax evasion will increase tax revenue, allowing government to lower the overall tax rate.
  • Fewer security gadgets. There will be less need for keys, locks, strong doors, security guards, high fences, barbed wire, cans of mace in pockets, chains on bicycles, bars to disable car steering wheels, removable radios, and other security gadgets which cause fuss.

I believe the issue of cost is irrelevant, in a sense, because the danger of nuclear terrorism leaves no choice. Building a security network should be our highest priority. Since nuclear technology becomes more available each day, it is only a matter of time until desperate people get them. When a city is destroyed by a nuclear blast and terrorists threaten to destroy another, the framework necessary for a republic will crumble.

Here’s why I think a security system is affordable:

  • First, there is no need to invest billions to invent some new gadget but merely to assemble existing inventions, such as cameras, clocks, computers, radios, and scales.

  • Second, parts become cheaper and better daily by mass production.

  • Third, individuals could pay selected minor costs directly to help reduce overall cost, such as buying a small belt transponder or sewing name tags on clothing or painting a black and white bar label on a car rooftop.

  • Fourth, computers can perform routine checking, searching for discrepancies, hunting for anomalies. If something looks suspicious, human investigators could examine it more closely. This is cost effective. It frees human detectives to work more effectively. For example, a single line of computer code could compare gasoline purchases to miles driven.

It’s an expensive yet worthwhile investment.

The vast information can have good purposes. Researchers could study traffic flow, marketing habits, consumer choice, investment patterns, disease patterns and many other things without accessing names, and their findings might benefit specific groups or firms or industries or humanity in general.

That’s how to prevent crime.

Good, but it’s only the first type of terrorism.

One down, two to go.

We have given government much needed eyesight, but we must keep its guns from pointing at us. This brings us to the second type of terrorism, tyranny, or terrorism by our own government, which can be more dangerous than crime.

(end of first part) To continue reading with the second part, click here:
Common Sense II (part 2 of 2)

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