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A Cultural Icon Tells Her Own Story | The International New York Times

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DOHA -- With the iconic limestone and stucco bust of Nefertiti created by Thutmose in 1345 B.C. as their starting point, Till Fellrath and Sam Bardaouil have put together an exhibition that examines artworks spanning thousands of years and various continents through three lenses: that of the artist, the museum, and the public.

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A Place Where Art Happens: BAM’s New Cultural District | Art F City

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NEW YORK - The neighborhood surrounding the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) buzzed last Tuesday as moderate-sized crowds mingled on Fulton Street in front of three newly unveiled public art installations. It was precisely the intended effect of BAMart:Public, an initiative to enliven underutilized public spaces with visual art (a fourth project is on view inside BAM’s Peter J. Sharp building). David Harper, the program’s curator, walked me through the installations and explained the project’s genesis along the way.

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Should India Join the NPT as a Nuclear Weapon State?

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The Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Based on the three pillars of nonproliferation, disarmament, and the right of peaceful use ofnuclear technology, the Treaty has become the cornerstone of the nonproliferation regime. The NPT entered into force in 1970 and has been ratified by 189 states, five of which it recognizes as nuclear weapon states (NWS): United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, and China. In the interest of international security, it prohibits any state that did not already possess nuclear weapons by 1968 from acquiring them. Yet, India, Israel, and Pakistan—who never signed the NPT—are known to have acquired nuclear weapons since 1968. Meanwhile, North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003 to pursue its weapons program and Iran, while in apparent compliance with NPT regulations, is widely believed to be pursuing a clandestine weapons program.

Of these outlier states, India presents a special case because it has voluntarily adhered to many of the NPT’s rules and has proven itself a responsible nuclear weapon state, though is not an NPT signatory. Driven by apprehension of a rising China and tension with Pakistan, India tested its first “peaceful nuclear explosion” in 1974, prompting the U.S. creation of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which aims to control nuclear technology exports. In 1998, India tested its first nuclear weapon, for which it received punishment from the U.S. in the form of sanctions. India has refused to sign the NPT on the grounds that it is biased in favor of the five recognized NWS, yet has a no-first use policy, follows a doctrine of credible minimal deterrence, and appears to share the NPT’s commitment to nonproliferation. In 2009, India began to hint for the first time that it was open to the possibility of joining the NPT, but under the condition that it do so as a NWS.

India’s change of position follows the 2008 enactment of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation, an agreement granting India the right to buy American dual-use nuclear technology­—a privilege normally reserved for NPT parties. In exchange, India agrees to meet the following conditions: allow International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) inspectors to access its civilian nuclear program and sign an Additional Protocol granting the IAEA the right to conduct more intrusive inspections; continue its moratorium on testing nuclear weapons; enhance the security of its nuclear arsenals; and work toward negotiating a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty with the U.S. The deal, a dramatic departure from existing U.S. policy not to share nuclear technology with India in accordance with NPT provisions, solidified the strategic partnership between the U.S. and India, serving their mutual interest in countering China’s rise. However, it sparked controversy within United States policy circles because of such issues as the deal’s questionable legality.

Besides the U.S. and India, other major stakeholders in the decision over whether to allow India to accede to the NPT as a NWS include the key regional actors China, Pakistan, and Iran, as well as the four other recognized NWS, whose approval would be required to amend the Treaty. Considering India is already a nuclear-armed power, neither China nor Russia face additional strategic risks from allowing India to join the NPT as NWS. On the contrary, it could even improve their bilateral relations as India’s influence grows. France and the United Kingdom, having signed their own technology sharing deals with India following the U.S. example, are likely to support the decision if the U.S. endorses it.  As a state widely suspected of secretly building a nuclear weapons program in defiance of NPT regulations, Iran already presents a conundrum for the U.S., which India’s accession to the NPT risks exacerbating. Such a move potentially plays into Iranian hands, legitimizing their longstanding claims that the international regime is hypocritical and biased against Iran. At the very least, this could further galvanize domestic support for Iran’s nuclear program. Finally, the decision might have adverse consequences with respect to relations with Pakistan, as further described below.

Current U.S. Position

In November 2009 President Obama sponsored United Nations Security Council Resolution 1887 calling for stricter international controls on nuclear weapons proliferation, the universalization of the NPT, and adherence to its norms by non-parties. The resolution targeted Iran and North Korea, yet it also mounts pressure on India to accept placing all of its nuclear facilities under international safeguards (currently India only grants the IAEA access to its civil nuclear facilities).  Thus, the resolution is at odds with the U.S.’ tacit recognition of India as a democratic, responsible, nuclear power as implied by the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. Since reconciling these policies seems unfeasible, the U.S. must choose whether to openly advocate for India’s international recognition as a legitimate NWS or push India to abandon its weapons program in order to join the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state (NNWS). This decision will likely determine the European and Japanese response to the India question as well.

Policy options

The United States has three major options concerning its policy toward India’s stated desire to accede to the NPT as a NWS. These options present the most viable paths for pursuing U.S. strategic goals, yet all three options risk jeopardizing certain U.S. interests.

Option 1: Endorse India’s move to join as NWS

Legal mechanisms exist to integrate non-signatory states into the NPT in a manner that recognizes their nuclear weapons. Under Article VII of the Treaty, an amendment conference can be called with the support of one-third of the NPT signatories. Politically, however, this would be difficult to carry out as amendments require ratification by national governments, which could be a slow and cumbersome process. Nonetheless, the United States could use its diplomatic influence to garner support for India’s accession and eventually propose an amendment conference.


Balancing idealism with pragmatism is the best way to further nonproliferation and disarmament. Indisputably, India possesses nuclear weapons. Despite having acquired these weapons illegally, India is widely accepted as a responsible member of the International Community and is currently seeking a greater role in global affairs (as evidenced by its desire to gain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council). Given the threats it perceives from China and Pakistan, it is inconceivable for India to follow South Africa, Brazil, Egypt, and Japan in abandoning its nuclear weapons program. Therefore, convincing India to join the NPT as a NNWS is an unrealistic goal. That leaves the United States with a choice between accepting the facts and letting India join under less-than-ideal conditions or leaving this strategically important partner out of the NPT framework all together. In negotiating the civil nuclear cooperation agreement, the U.S. already assessed that India’s nuclear capabilities do not pose a threat. Furthermore, the agreement already signals tacit support for India to be recognized as a nuclear weapon state. Given this situation, endorsing India as the sixth recognized NWS is the only choice that reinforces the United States’ commitment to the NPT while simultaneously acknowledging that realizing the lofty goals of nonproliferation and disarmament will take patience and compromises. In adopting this approach, the U.S. can make clear that it is ready to work with nuclear states to find pragmatic solutions to proliferation risks and issues of international nuclear oversight. Ultimately this option demonstrates the continued relevance of the NPT and creates a new, more realistic starting point for a moving toward a nuclear weapons-free world, albeit via a tortuous path.

India’s nuclear weapons pose no threat to U.S. interests or to international peace and security. Having proven itself a responsible member of the international community, there is no inherent reason why India should not be recognized as a nuclear weapon state. In accordance with international norms, India has a doctrine of no first-use. In contrast to some recognized NWS that have large nuclear weapon stockpiles, India’s limited arsenal is proportional to its goal of deterrence. Unlike China and Pakistan,India has never attempted to proliferate nuclear weapons. Arguably, the post-1968 date of its nuclear testing, a mere technicality, is the only reason why India is not already the sixth recognized nuclear weapon state.

Adapt the NPT to accommodate responsible nuclear powers, or risk it loosing relevance.  As long as India remains outside the NPT framework, there is no guarantee that they will not reverse their present acceptable policies. Only binding NPT regulations ensures that they will continue to respect international norms. Considering U.S. heightened awareness of proliferation risks, regulating nuclear weapon states is more important than ever. Therefore, universalizing the NPT, even if it entails compromising the international prohibition on recognizing additional nuclear weapons states, is the best way to strengthen the nonproliferation and disarmament regime. The NPT is the only existing truly international mechanism for regulating nuclear activity, so it is better to adapt the system to accommodate responsible emerging powers rather than driving such states to operate outside the system. Importantly, opposing India’s desire to join the NPT as a NWS on the basis of Resolution 1887 or narrow national interests will do nothing to strengthen the NPT.[1]

Prevent nuclear commerce between India and a rogue state or non-state actor. The U.S. should ensure that India is bound by the same obligations as other states in the nonproliferation regime in order facilitate its national security priority of keeping nuclear power and knowhow out of the wrong hands.


Setting a dangerous precedent: what about Israel and Pakistan? If we amend the NPT to accommodate India, surely Israel, who is openly suspicious of its neighbors, and Pakistan, whose intentions are unclear, will demand similar treatment. Given the undergoing regime changes in the Middle East, official recognition of Israel as a nuclear weapon state could derail the burgeoning democratic movements and spark a regional arms race. Similarly, refusing Pakistani demands for recognition as a NWS risks dis-incentivizing the government to cooperate with the U.S. on rooting out the Taliban, stabilizing Afghanistan, and counterterrorism. Likewise, opening the Pakistani market for nuclear technology could further undermine the nonproliferation norm. Additionally, either situation could also drive Iran to withdraw from the NPT in the hopes of rejoining in the future as a NWS. Even among states who have proven themselves responsible on nuclear matters, special treatment for India might give rise to the perception that states outside the framework are treated better than those who purport to follow its rules. As a consequence, Argentina, South Korea, Japan, Brazil and other NNWS capable of producing weapons, might rethink their nuclear policies if they no longer fear negative consequences.

Disturbing delicate power balances. To the discontent of the U.S., China is preparing to build Pakistan two nuclear reactors on the grounds that such a deal differs little from the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement[2]. U.S. advocacy of India becoming a legitimate nuclear weapon state could prompt China to extend its nuclear support to Pakistan as a counter-measure. Therefore, this option risks raising tensions between the U.S. and China at a critical moment in the transition from a unipolar world order dominated by the U.S. to a multipolar international society over which China has increasing influence. In the worst-case scenario it may cause the long-feared arms race between India and Pakistan to materialize, jeopardizing regional stability in South Asia.

Risks eroding NPT norms. The nonproliferation regime was designed to convince states that there is no great value in possessing nuclear weapons. Bending and /or amending the NPT rules to accommodate India undermines the whole treaty, and consequently the whole nonproliferation regime. While the NPT has not completely prevented nuclear weapons proliferation, it has been rather successful in persuading states to respect international norms. It works because it lays out clear rules whose adherence is internationally monitored. While letting India join the club of nuclear states might not pose any intrinsic security threats, accepting its refusal to abandon its nuclear weapons shows weakness. India’s demand to be recognized as a nuclear weapon state proves the regime is failing to dissuade states that it is in their interest to obtain nuclear weapons. In light of the lack of strong enforcement and accountability mechanisms, letting India join the NPT as a NWS could discourage other states from working to reach agreements for the next nuclear review conference in 2015.

Politically improbable. There are various ways to amend the NPT to accommodate India, but each of them presents complexities. One proposal calls for revising the 1968 cut-off date for nuclear weapon state status, yet no consensus has been reached in selecting the new cut-off date. Since India considers its 1974 test a “peaceful nuclear explosion,” the incident does not technically count as a nuclear weapon test. Accordingly, the NPT would have to accept 1998 as the new cut-off date, which would also make Pakistan eligible for accession as a NWS. Even if this were acceptable to the U.S., a majority of all NPT states, including all five nuclear-weapon states and all other parties which are then-members of the IAEA Board of Governors, must approve any amendment to the NPT. It is highly unlikely that the U.S. can persuade the requisite 82 countries (out of 163 parties to the Treaty) to ratify an amendment on India’s behalf. Furthermore, the extension amendment would only apply to the states which actually ratified it, leaving the question of India’s status as a legal NWS less than fully resolved.

Option 2: Pressure India to join as a NNWS

For better or for worse, the NPT is the cornerstone of our current nonproliferation regime and the U.S. should uphold its rules (and therefore only let India join as a NNWS) in the interest of preventing proliferation to new states and non-state actors, which pose grave security risks.


Security Council Resolution 1887 calls on all parties not signatories of the NPT to accede as non-nuclear weapons states. Universal ratification of the NPT under its current provisions would greatly strengthen its ability to regulate nuclear-related issues. Not only would universalization bring all states within the binding legal framework, it would also symbolize unanimous commitment to nonproliferation and disarmament. Such symbolism would carry a significant moral weight, reinforcing the nonproliferation regime’s legitimacy. As the only state to have ever employed a nuclear weapon, the U.S. should assume leadership on strengthening the NPT. This entails enforcing the existent rules, which currently deny India (and Pakistan and Israel) the possibility to accede to the NPT as anything other than a non-nuclear state. U.S. pressure on Egypt, Brazil, and Argentina convinced them to give up their nuclear weapons so there is reason to believe it could also be effective on India, especially given the leverage over India afforded to the U.S. by their nuclear agreement.

Help India set a positive example. If India abandons its nuclear weapons program,Pakistan might be persuaded to follow suit, since their own program was conceived as a reaction to perceived Indian aggression. This would directly benefit U.S. interests by freeing up more Pakistani attention and resources for use in counterterrorism and management of the Taliban, which would benefit U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.


Calling on India again and again to join as a NNWS is not only futile, but counter-productive. Repeated calls for India, Israel, and Pakistan to accede to the NPT as NNWS have proven ineffective. The hollow tradition of simply exhorting these countries to reconsider their position should be replaced with concrete actions to engage these states in nonproliferation and disarmament measures through any means possible. This includes letting them join the NPT under less-than-ideal conditions.

Do not distract attention away from states that pose nuclear threats. Pressuring India to abandon its nuclear weapons program should not be a U.S. priority while it faces far greater risks of nuclear proliferation and insecurity from countries that are defying NPT obligations or operating outside the framework of the treaty in a manner less responsible than India. In other words, it should concentrate on trying to bring the nuclear activity of Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea under international regulation instead of India, whose activity is much less threatening.

Do not be hypocritical. The recognized NWS are sending mixed messages while exhorting India, Israel, and Pakistan to abort their programs even while justifying their own possession of nuclear weapons in terms of security. This hypocrisy undermines the goals of disarmament and nonproliferation and delegitimizes the U.S. as leader of the nonproliferation regime.

Option 3: Maintain status quo

It is naive to expect the desired outcome from either pressuring India to join the NPT as a NNWS or amending the Treaty to allow them to join as a NWS. At the same time, India’s nuclear weapons — whether or not they are officially recognized — do not pose any major threat to U.S. security or regional interests. Therefore, the United States has the option to forego options 1 and 2, effectively maintaining the status quo.


Focus on the existing strategic partnership. Through initiating a strategic partnership and enacting the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation bill, the U.S. is already managing India’s nuclear capabilities. It should use this bilateral framework to ensure that India continues not to pose a threat to U.S. Interests. As victims of major terrorist attacks, India and the United States have a shared interest in succeeding in the fight against al-Qaeda and its operational and ideological affiliates. Neither pressuring India to join the NPT as a NNWS nor expending the diplomatic capital necessary to lobby for India’s right to enjoy the status of a recognized NWS has much effect on these shared interests. In contrast, continued focus on bilateral cooperation does serve these interests while simultaneously strengthening the nonproliferation regime, albeit outside an international framework.

Find alternative ways to bring India into the international nonproliferation regime. There are ways to bring India closer to the NPT by re-conceiving certain aspects of it, short of formally amending it. For example, NPT members could create a special protocol allowing India, Pakistan, and Israel to function as if they were NWS without technically allowing them to join. In this case, they would retain their existing safeguard arrangements. Another option would be to create a new category within the NPT such as “states with nuclear weapons” or states with “advanced nuclear technological capabilities.”[3] Following the precedents set by the IAEA Board of Governors, this category would comprise states who meet certain benchmarks with regards to nonproliferation.[4]

The lesser of all evils. Both of the other two options are outlined above are too risky: Amending the treaty to accommodate India might give rise to pressure from Pakistan and Israel to join. Meanwhile it would appear unfair to NNWS who have obeyed the rules. On the other hand, trying to force India to join as a NNWS might make them less cooperative and induce them to try and push their weapons program underground, which would undermine the NPT in a manner worse than amending it. This would undo decades of U.S. efforts to increase transparency and promote trust on nuclear issues.


India’s outsider status is one of the main issues that puts the NPT in crisis, so resolving it would go along way in strengthening the Treaty. Attempts to sidestep the issue of whether India should join the NPT as a NWS or a NNWS ignore the elephant in room.India’s nuclear weapons will not vanish on their own nor will the rest of the world easily accept them, so ignoring the situation only risks the problem resurfacing at a later time. Currently, by proposing resolution 1887 openly calling for NPT universalization while selling dual-use technology to India, the U.S. is sending mixed messages about its commitment to the NPT. Leaving these contradictory positions un-reconciled is dangerous. Clearly, nonproliferation is a vital interest for the U.S. so it should do everything possible to strengthen the international norms regulating nuclear activity. In the absence of any viable alternative to the NPT, this requires acting in accordance with NPT obligations as an example for other states to emulate. Maintaining the status quo provides no solution to the problem of needing India to adhere to binding international nuclear regulations. Rather, it simply defers making the necessary decision to a later time. The earlier the U.S. seeks a solution, the sooner it can make progress toward reaching its nonproliferation goals. Decisive action on this matter enhances the perception that the U.S. is capable of working with outlier countries to find mutually agreeable solutions.


The possession of nuclear weapons by non-parties, the inability to profoundly regulate Iran’s nuclear activities, and the fact that North Korea has withdrawn, signal that the NPT is in crisis. In the absence of a viable multilateral alternative to the NPT framework, the United States should strive to make the existing system more effective. Welcoming India into the NPT as a NWS would increase transparency regarding India’s nuclear activities, an important step in assuaging the fears of neighboring Pakistan. Although the counter-argument outlining the risks that India’s accession entails is compelling, it is outweighed by several factors. Firstly, India’s circumstances are truly unique. With its limited nuclear arsenal for deterrence, and exemplary track record of responsible behavior, India is the only non-party who merits NPT admission as a nuclear weapons state. Secondly, if the U.S. were to propose an amendment conference and take pains to explain to the world why this exception makes strategic sense, it would revitalize a stagnant NTP and restore faith in our collective commitment to nonproliferation. “Indian participation in the NPT will not, by itself, eliminate the problems the NPT now confronts, especially those caused by North Korea, Iran, and the potential of nuclear terrorism. But, with India supporting the regime, the world would finally have all nuclear-armed great powers committed to the same rules – an unprecedented convergence that could reinvigorate non-proliferation politics in a manner more meaningful than the distant vision of a world without nuclear weapons.”[5] In the end, India joining the NPT would mark an important step in bringing the world closer to a universal system pragmatic enough to handle the complicated realities while furthering the long-term goals of nonproliferation and disarmament. Accordingly, the United States should openly support India’s efforts to become the sixth officially recognized NWS and facilitate the NPT accession process.

[1] Fidler, David P. And Sumit Ganguly. “India Wants to Join the Non-Proliferation Treaty as Weapon State”. YaleGlobal Online Magazine. January 2010.
[2] Hibbs, Mark. “What the China-Pakistan Nuclear Agreement Means” Foreign Policy. June 4, 2010.
[3] Kumar, A. Vinod. “Reforming the NPT to include India”. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. May 2010.[4] Ibid.
[5] Fidler and Sumit. “India Wants to Join the Non-Proliferation Treaty as Weapon State”. YaleGlobal Online Magazine. January 2010.Published by Security Studies Online on November 13, 2011.

Cairo's Two Nights on the Town | The International New York Times

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CAIRO — While thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square last month to demand that the government release the blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah from prison, Cairo’s fashion-forward crowd ventured onto the streets for a different reason: to shop.

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Counterterrorism Technology: Broadening the Scope of Security Technology

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Ubiquitous and unpredictable, the threat of a terrorist attack hovers over society like an ominous rain cloud. In the post 9/11 context, a perceived need to actively confront this threat dominates the security discourse in the United States and around the world. Yet, the vastness and amorphous nature of the threat poses great challenges to governments, who bear the primary responsibility for keeping their citizens safe. The problem lies in the potential for virtually anything to become a target. The impossibility of protecting every airport, bridge, water supply center, and other piece of critical infrastructure has given rise to a system of risk management whereby authorities attribute a level of dangerousness to a wide spectrum of potential risks and treat each one accordingly. The idea is to mitigate risk by employing security technologies within new frameworks that seek to manage the underlying uncertainty.

While no universal definition of security technologies exists, the term was introduced in 1978 by the French philosopher Foucault and may be understood as an assemblage[1] of commercially available technologies that seek to predict and preempt possible future risks.[2] Such technologies generally share certain characteristics. For example, they are open, interactive structures, often hybrid, that have multiple uses and integrate easily with technologies from other sectors. The development of security technologies facilitated the shift in focus from locating bombs and other potentially dangerous objects to trying to read peoples’ intentions in order to determine whether or not they pose a risk. In the process, issues of identity, travel documents, the Internet, and other aspects of daily life which previously had nothing to do with the security field have become instrumental to counterterrorism as part of the expanded notion of security. Created in the aftermath of 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) embodies this trend. With its mission to “prevent and deter terrorist attacks and protect against…threats…” DHS explicitly draws terrorism into the realm of security where as it had previously fallen under the category of international crime. This gave rise to new global security norms that dramatically altered many aspects of daily life for most people around the world.

Technological advancements opened new possibilities in the realms of surveillance, identity management and border control, which emerged as the key areas of counterterrorism after 9/11. This paper therefore seeks to explore the impact of security technologies on counterterrorism and on society as a whole as the struggle to deal with uncertainty expands the scope of security. Part I describes security technologies as they are employed in counterterrorism, including the role of the Internet in tracing terrorist activity. Part II looks more broadly at new approaches of managing populations and their transnational movements through identity and border management spawned by the trend toward risk management. Finally, Part III assesses the effectiveness of counterterrorism technologies and considers their ethical implications.

Part I: Security technologies employed in the fight against terrorism

Security technologies’ main tasks are to predict and control probable future risks, to manage uncertainty, and to facilitate predictive intelligence. Developed by the United States in the early 1980s, security technologies were initially relics of the Vietnam War redeployed to intercept drug smugglers along the U.S.-Mexican border.[3] Since 9/11 three areas of security have emerged as key aspects of the fight against terrorism: identity management, border management, and predictive intelligence. Each of these comprises assemblages of security technologies, some of which were developed by other sectors. For example, biometrics, DNA, and cameras all “spun in” to the security sector from civilian R&D, while others such as GPS “spun-off” the defense industry to security.[4] In light of security technologies’ multiple uses, rather than focusing on individual technologies, it is helpful to consider them as parts of a multi-layered system.[5]

Surveillance technologies

Historically, only select groups of people, such as prisoners for example, were routinely surveilled. Yet, ever since closed circuit television (CCTV) emerged as a tool for crime prevention in the 1970s, progressively advanced surveillant technologies have become omnipresent. Surveillance technologies include cameras, satellite, facial recognition systems, motion sensors, and border surveillance robots. Today, third generation CCTVs capture the image of an average urban dweller approximately every five minutes.[6] Kevin Haggerty and Richard Ericson explain that increased societal monitoring stems from the convergence of “what were once discrete surveillance systems.”[7]  The result is surveillance technologies assemblages. The “assemblage operates by abstracting human bodies from their territorial settings and separating them into a series of flows. These flows are then reassembled into distinct ‘data-doubles,’ which can be scrutinized and targeted for intervention.”[8] For example, facial recognition uses algorithms (automatic step-by-step instructions) to transform an image captured by a surveillance camera (or any other tool) into data that can be matched against digitized facial images stored in a database.[9]Such tools enable security authorities to identify individuals in a crowd as known terrorists and to observe suspicious behavior. Haggerty and Ericson go on to explain that surveillance is expanding rhizomatically (as opposed to hierarchically). In other words, modern societies are constantly surveilled not by an Orwellian “big brother’ figure, but rather by myriad “small brothers”[10] such as the government, private corporations, organizations, and, thanks to social networking, even our Facebook friends.

Drones equipped with surveillance cameras and weapons to carry out reconnaissance and/or targeted killings of suspected terrorists exemplify how surveillance technology can be used in counterterrorism intelligence. For example, in September 2011 a drone targeted and killed Anwar al Awlaki (who inspired the Fort Hood shooter and the Detroit “underwear bomber”) in Yemen. Though highly controversial, this method is increasingly commonplace in the context of the “War on Terror,” blurring the line between surveillance and acts of war. Drones are also used in law enforcement and border management.

Dataveillance and the role of the internet

Dataveillance, as defined by Webster’s New Millenium Dictionary, is “the surveillance of a person’s activities by studying the data trail created by actions such as credit card purchases, mobile phone calls, and internet use.” Tracing internet activity plays an especially important role in counterterrorism. Web harvesting, the process of gathering and organizing unstructured information on the web, allows authorities to rank websites according to their relevance to terrorism and then to use Google’s back-link search tool to discover new terrorist websites. Then, by pairing terrorist websites and analyzing the links between them, authorities can learn about the relations between different known terrorist groups as well as uncover hidden Web communities.[11] Known as link analysis, this process reveals clusters highlighting communication patterns between various actors connected to these terrorist sites.

Data mining

Data mining uses statistical models, algorithms, and cluster analysis to transform information such as credit card purchases, travel history, and internet activity into electronically processed data with the aim of targeting suspects and profiling risks more precisely. Increasingly relied upon by both the public and private sectors, it has also become a tool of counterterrorism, and more specifically of predictive intelligence. In this regard, data mining enables Homeland Security officials to identify factors that are likely to indicate great risk, such as whether the person belongs to an extremist group or has ever bought explosives. By assigning these factors a higher weight than slightly less relevant factors such as the individual-in-question’s travel patterns, or internet activity, a formula can be calculated to predict whether the person is likely to be a terrorist. Data mining, in essence, is a predictive analysis technique that helps authorities deal with uncertainty.

Identification technologies

Given that non-state actors, such as terrorists, have eclipsed state aggressors as the greatest threat to global security, identifying and authenticating individuals as they move across borders has become incredibly important. Consequently, identification technologies such as biometrics, DNA, and semantic behaviorism (so-called ‘soft biometrics‘) have proliferated. Identification technologies are devices or interrelated systems that collect, process, store, compare/match, and disseminate information to identify individuals and authenticate their identity. They rely on computerized databases, contact-less smart cards, and radio-frequency identification (RFID) waves to process the information.[12]

Biometric identifiers are optimal because, “The biometrical representation of the body de-links it from consciousness and subjectivity making it a readable text composed of signs and codes. At the same time it operates like an anatomist or physiologist revealing the possible pathologies that it contains.”[13] As such biometrics have become standard in travel document and other uses such as in gaining access to highly restricted areas or information, replacing traditional passwords and badges. The face has emerged as the preferred biometric identifier for several reasons. Firstly, the face has long been used to identify people unofficially. Moreover, since individuals are required to submit photographs of their face to obtain driver’s licenses, employment and school ID cards, and a myriad of others, it is relatively easy to build a comprehensive database of citizens’ portraits. It has been reported that facial recognition was used to authenticate bin Laden prior to killing him.[14]

Based on the assumption that “the body doesn’t lie,” the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) introduced biometric passports and visas as the second generation interoperable travel documents. They feature a chip storing all relevant passenger information and use facial recognition (fingerprints and/or iris patterns are optional additional biometric identifiers) to authenticate travelers’ citizenship. Biometric passports are believed to be the most secure type of identity documents because they are protected by three layers of security: a digital signature proves the encoded data is genuine and shows which country has issued the passport; Basic Access Control protects against unauthorized readings (“skimming”); and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is a digital encryption technology, which shows any change, addition or deletion on the passport chip.[15] Accordingly, biometric passports not only make it more difficult for terrorists to forge their identities, but also facilitate the sharing of real-time information about passengers as they attempt to cross international borders. As such, they enhance international cooperation bestowing confidence in the integrity of travel documents issued by other states.

Part II: Moving toward risk management 

The tragic events of 9/11 made clear that risk is inherent in today’s globalized world. A risk-based approach to security recognizes the impossibility of addressing all risks equally. Rather, it understands risk as a function of likelihood (threat or vulnerability) multiplied by consequences, such as the destruction of people, facilities, and financial loss. Accordingly, this approach assess the extent of the risk posed by a possible scenario by using mathematical logic and scientific method to calculate the probability of that scenario becoming real[16] Managing risk involves reallocating security resources more efficiently by focusing more on the risks with the greatest chance of being actualized. Doing so involves assigning a weight to as many potential risks as possible. Thus, not only is the domain of security expanding to include more issues, the way these issues are approached are also undergoing transformation.

Identity management

Until recently, an individual’s identity was considered a personal matter, but in light of the fight against terrorism, it has morphed into a security issue relying on a broad range of technologies. Defined as, “the use of personal information in order to adequately identify an individual who is trying to access your products or services,”[17] identity management is a tool to help individuals protect their personal information from being shared across databases. Yet, while it was initially conceived by Microsoft, the concept of identity management has taken off in the security field and is also used in counterterrorism. This transition began with governments seeking to develop interrelated systems to collect, process, store, match, and disseminate information about individuals. The next phase involved a shift in focus from authentication to identification. In other words, instead of merely verifying the individual is in fact who he or she claims to be, authorities  search for individuals in security databases to cross check them against no-fly or no-access lists. Businesses also capitalize on the user-centric nature of identity management, using it to streamline their customers’ online purchasing experience. Thus, for the first time, individuals voluntarily entered into the identity-management system, by, for example, creating password protected profiles at their favorite online stores to store their address and credit card information for more convenient shopping. As a by-product of the gradual shift to identity management, the notion of separating people into a categories of “riskiness” (with respect to security, finances, and other aspects of life) has become a social norm as well as a security one.

With respect to counterterrorism, preventing identity fraud is paramount because a terrorist who successfully poses as someone else may gain access to potentially dangerous information or material with little chance of detection. According to the 2004 9/11 Commission report, at least two of the terrorists entered the U.S. with fraudulent passports. In an effort to prevent something like this from recurring, DHS relies on the identification technologies described in Part I to manage identities. Additionally, DHS collects Passenger Name Record (PNR) data from airlines and runs it through the Automated Target System, which generates a risk assessment score for all passengers.

Border management

Border management is closely linked to identity management. Prompted by 9/11, today’s “smart borders” are understood as zones of activity that facilitate flow of goods and people while filtering out objects or individuals that pose a threat. Borders are no longer tied to a specific geographic area, since U.S. border control authorities “deputized airline agents to inspect documents of U.S. – bound passengers”[18] before they have left their country of origin. The screening process employs technologies ranging from surveillance cameras at airports and along a country’s physical border to biometric passports. In the United States, this task falls to the DHS, who is responsible for increasing transportation and border security, minimizing the risk of future terrorist attacks, and emergency preparedness. The enormity of the task of intercepting terrorists at over 300 ports of entry and along the Canadian and Mexican borders coupled with budget constraints necessitates efficiency. Thus, they rely on border management to balance the competing, but not conflicting, aims of facilitating economic activity with expedited clearance of low-risk people and goods and enhancing security by intercepting risky people or goods before they enter the territory of their destination.[19]

In airport security, the focus on locating “bad” objects by screening baggage is gradually being replaced by a focus on identifying people who warrant additional scrutiny. In January 2005 the DHS launched the U.S.-Visit program, designed as “end-to-end management of processes and data on foreign nationals [coming] to the United States covering their interactions with U.S. officials before they enter, when they enter, while they are in the U.S. and when they exit.”[20] Mandating biometric visas, DHS checks the biometric information of all non-immigrant visitors to the U.S. against watch lists before entry.[21] Many countries have implemented systems that assign their own citizens to a category of risk and treats them and their belongings accordingly. Travelers about whom all relevant information is known are deemed more trustworthy and therefore benefit from an expedited screening process. Not only does this permit authorities to spend less than the $10/person average, it also reduces the “hassle factor” for frequent travelers.[22] At the other end of the spectrum, travelers who are suspected to pose a risk (as determined by a lack of information about them and/or certain questionable behaviors such as buying airline tickets in cash and frequent travel to the Middle East) face additional screenings and their baggage is subjected to the slower, more expensive, yet more accurate machines. Passengers falling somewhere in between these two extreme categories face an average level of scrutiny, costing the average $10 / person, resulting in an experience largely the same as that faced by all international travelers departing from American airports today. Thus, border-management generates new security language and produces typologies of objects according to the calculus of risk.

Predictive intelligence

Historically, intelligence entailed collecting information in secret and analyzing and disseminating that information to decision-makers in order to counter potential threats. Today, sensors, cameras, and communication technologies facilitate information gathering and processing in real-time, which has the concept of intelligence to include business and strategic intelligence, information and data processing. It is a form of knowledge building. This expansion results in a shift toward predictive intelligence, which includes everything mentioned above plus data management and behavioral analysis to anticipate possible terrorist attacks. Since terrorist threats can come from anywhere, rather than focusing on well-defined targets, predictive intelligence relies on data mining to gather information about nearly everyone’s private lives. Ideally, trends and patterns, frequency, and probability provide information to make an intelligent prediction, but when key details are missing, intelligence focuses on risk assessment.[23] Predictive intelligence is essential to counterterrorism because it reduces the chances of being caught by surprise. Its task is not only to collect information, but also to interpret that information correctly in order to warn policymakers in time to react before the attack occurs. This task is extremely difficult and the intelligence community is not always successful, yet predictive intelligence played an integral part in locating and capturing 9/ll mastermind Osama Bin Laden, previously the United States’ most wanted terrorist.

Part III: Assessing the broader impact of counterterrorism technologies

The move toward identity and border management, ICAO norms regulating travel documents, the widespread adoption of biometric identifiers, advances in surveillance technology, and means of tracing online activity were all driven by a belief that these measures enhance society’s security. Arguably, we are more secure today than we were on September 10, 2001, in part because these measures have raised our collective awareness of the threat.  Yet, technology offers no panacea for security risks. Problems exist at nearly every level of security technologies from technical errors to philosophical concerns over privacy issues. In the post-9/11 era, all individuals are subject to technological identification and surveillance.

Technological weaknesses and ways to fool the system

Security technologies do not always work as designed. In some cases, technical errors produce mistaken results. For example, machines, occasionally “read” the travel document of someone standing near the person whose identity is supposed to be authenticated. In other cases, the technology works as intended, yet terrorists find ways to fool the system at either the authentication or verification step. Patrick O’Neil, a computer scientist and expert on databases, cites the example of Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian political asylum detained in 1999 at the U.S.-Canadian border with bomb materials and plans to attack the Los Angeles airport. Ressam had obtained a legitimate Canadian passport by providing a false name on a stolen blank birth certificate. (He was only caught because he was acting suspiciously at the border). Even if the passport had included biometric identifiers, the data would have matched perfectly. In other words, Ressam successfully circumvented authentication. Likewise, the effectiveness of the verification step depends on the completeness of reference database. In other words, if the watch list did not include Ressam’s name (and false name) the system could not have caught him. Finally, as any James Bond fan knows, fingerprint replicas (and nowadays also high-quality iris and retinal scans) can fool the biometric system.[24]

Universal access

The main distinction between security and defense technologies is that the former are commercially available, while the later are not. Accordingly, many of the security technologies described above are also available to terrorists, who have become quite adept at using them to their own advantage. Open and universally accessible, the Internet is an incredibly useful tool for “good” and “bad” people alike. The Internet also offers a wealth of information of interest to terrorists from bomb-making to ideological postings inciting violence. Moreover, terrorists use the same tools as DHS (link analysis, encryption techniques etc) to track who is tracking them. Additionally, like many successful businesses and savvy political campaigns, terrorist networks rely on the Internet to gather followers and communicate with adherents. For example, al-Qaeda has grown quite adept at creating a strong online presence through their own websites as well through mainstream social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Contrary to an instinctive impulse that warns us to deny terrorists the use of such an important tool, security authorities welcome the online presence of terrorists because they can learn a great deal about them through keeping track of their postings.[25]

Strategic weaknesses

The technolgoization of security has transformed formally disparate security structures into a highly interconnected system. Today, many aspects of security depend on computerized databases that allow information to be shared in real-time. The advantages of this system have been outlined above. Yet, it is equally important to be aware of the risks posed by the centralization of security. First of all, the setup risks a complete system shutdown if any part of it becomes subject to an attack or technical error. O’Neil uses the example of biometrics to highlight the vulnerability of centralized systems, stating “Rather than making the system more secure, this new layer of complexity will in fact construct new possibilities to weaponize the complex system of modern societies.”[26] O’Neil basis his argument on Chalres Perrow’s complex organization theory, which defines organizations comprised of independent parts as linear and those comprised of highly interdependent parts, as complex. Perrow further distinguishes loosely coupled organizations from tightly coupled ones, which are more interconnected. In sum, a tightly coupled complex organization is the most likely target of a terrorist attack, because its high degree of interconnectedness increases its vulnerability to complete system-wide disruption. For terrorists seeking to wreak maximum havoc and instill fear into society, tightly coupled complex organizations such as critical infrastructure, biometric databases, and airport control systems are natural targets. “Even if increased security could prevent attacks on high-value like targets like the Twin Towers, it would run the risk of simply pushing terrorists to softer targets.[27]


The Department of Homeland Security has spent over $1 trillion dollars since 9/11 to prevent terrorist attacks.[28] According to a new academic paper by John Mueller and Mark Stuart, “to be deemed cost-effective, [the increased expenditures] would have to deter, prevent, foil, or protect against 1,667 otherwise successful Times Square type attacks per year, or more than four per day.”[29] In the wake of the global financial crisis and the United States debt crisis, it is questionable whether such counterterrorism spending can be maintained.

Ethical issues

Concerns over the right to privacy abound because biometric identity documents enable the system to stealthily distinguish between “risky” and “non-risky” people, which goes beyond their explicit purpose of authentication.[30] Likewise, algorithms used by the U.S.-Visit program are likely to invisibly flag a traveler with family in Pakistan and a history of traveling there as risky, which gives rise to concerns over racial, religious, and ethnic profiling.[31] Pervasive surveillance of ordinary citizens also sparks societal malaise. The controversy that recently erupted over news that Apple iPhones have been storing personal information signals the publics’ discomfort with constant surveillance and monitoring, even by private companies. This is also exemplified by U.S. reluctance to adopt the risk-based approach at domestic airports, which stems from the inherent American notion that all citizens are equal and are protected by the constitution from discrimination based on personal history (which is necessary to create a registered traveler program, for example).[32] While all security technologies go through a period of debate during which society gets accustomed to the idea, it remains to be seen just how far the public will accept being surveilled and having their data stored by the government in the name of security and fighting terrorism.

Terrorism truly poses a grave threat, but statistically it kills fewer people annually than car accidents. So how does one justify the dedication of so much of attention and resources, not to mention compromises on civil liberties, to this issue? In reality, only a tiny percentage of those implicated by the security technologies used in counterterrorism pose a risk to society. The vast majority of those surveilled, biometrically identified, and subjected to scrutiny at border crossings are law-abiding citizens who seek to cause no harm. Meanwhile, as security technologies advance, they become progressively silent.[33] As a result, individuals are increasingly oblivious to the fact that they are being tracked. Accordingly, one may wonder whether it is appropriate to gather and store so much information about ordinary people.


Born out of a teleological society whose faith in progress is unshakable, the technologization of security is largely perceived as a positive development. Technology is an incredible tool that changes society profoundly. When applied to security, technology empowers law enforcement and government authorities to assess situations, identify potential risks, and counter threats in ways that were unimaginable only a decade ago. Biometric travel documents and the new concepts of identity and border managements have revolutionized international travel with the goals of preventing identity fraud, enhancing airport security, and filtering out dangerous people and objects, all while facilitating trans-border commerce   and travel by low-risk passengers. As we have seen, today surveillance and dataviellance constitute the primary layers of global intelligence systems. However, they are not fool-proof. To deal with the uncertainty that characterizes today’s globalized world, security authorities should accept it, rather than try to reduce it as prescribed by traditional scientific methods. They should focus on building knowledge networks that expand and interconnect rhizomatically. By replacing the traditional concepts of identity and border control with more integrated approaches, we are moving toward a system of risk management. As we learn from past short-sightedness which led to the failure to prevent 9/11, we are struggling to cope with the complexity and ambiguity of contemporary threats.  Moving forward, technology will play an increasingly vital part in helping us see through the complexity and ambiguity of these threats and in some cases prevent terrorist attacks from occurring.

[1] Assemblages consist of heterogeneous objects that work together as a functional entity.
[2] Nicolas Devaux in Ayse Ceyhan and Pierre Piazza. “Les normes biométriques : réflexions sur le processus d’élaboration d’un corpus technique de portée internationale.Identification biométrique, Editions Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (2011): Printemps: 1-17.
[3] Ayse Ceyhan. “Technologization of Security: Management of Uncertainty and Risk in the Age of Biometrics.” In Marmura Amoore and Mark Salter (Eds.). Smart Borders and Nobilities. Surveillance & Society (2008), 102
[4] Devaux.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Duffy, 1999, cited by Kevin D. Haggerty and Richard V. Ericson “The surveillant assemblage,” British Journal of Sociology: Vol. No. 51 Issue No. 4 (2000), 614.
[7] Haggerty and Ericson, 606.
[8] Haggerty and Ericson, 606.
[9] Carlos Buskey. “How Face Recognition will be Used to Counter Terrorism” Doctoral paper, Pace University School of Computer Science and Information System, December 2001.  <>, 5.
[10] Haggerty and Ericson, 606.
[11] E. Reid, J. Qin, J. Y. Zhou,, “Collecting and Analyzing the Presence of Terrorists on the Web: a Case Study of Jihad Websites,” In P. Kantor, G. Muresan, F. Roberts, et. al (Eds) IEEE International Conference on Intelligence and Security Informatics, Atlanta (2005), 5.
[12] Ceyhan and Piazza.
[13] Ceyhan, 2008.
[14] “U.S. tests bin Laden’s DNA, used facial ID: official.” Reuters. 2 May 2011.  <>
[15] ”Document 9303, Machine Readable Travel Document, Part 1: Machine Readable Passports. Vol. 1: Passport with Machine Readable data Stored in Optical Character Recognition Format,” Sixth Edition – 2006.
[16] Ceyhan and Piazza.
[17] John Harrison and Pete Bramhall “New approaches to identity management and privacy” A guide prepared for the Information Commissioner. December 2007 <>, 3.
[18] Rey Koslowski. “International Cooperation to Create Smart Borders,” presented at North American Integration: Migration Trade, and Security, Institute for Research on Public Policy, Ottawa, April 1-2, 2004, 2.
[19] Ceyhan and Piazza
[20] In Koslowski, 8.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Robert W. Poole and George Passantino. “A risk-based airport security policy.”Reason. Policy Study n°308, May (2003), 2.
[23] Ceyhan, 2008.
[24] See Antti Sten, Antti Kaseva, and Teemupekka Virtanen.  “Fooling Fingerprint Scanners – Biometric Vulnerabilities of the Precise Biometrics 100 SC Scanner.” 4thAustralian Information Warfare and IT Security Conference, 2003.  <>. See also, “’Fake fingerprint’ Chinese woman fools Japan controls.” BBC News. 7 December 2009.  <>
[25] Ceyhan and Piazza.
[26] Patrick H. O’Neil. “Complexity and Counterterrorism: Thinking about Biometrics.”Studies in Conflict & Terrorism (2005), 547.
[27] “Deterring Terrorism: Is America Spending too much on homeland security?” The Economist. 30 April 2011  <>
[28] Ibid.
[29] John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart “Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security.” Prepared for presentation at the panel Terror and the Economy: Which Institutions Help Mitigate Damage? Chicago, April 1, 2011.
[30] Ceyhan, 2008, 113.
[31] Louise Amoore, Stephan Marmura, and Mark B. Salter “Editorial: Smart Borders and Mobilities: Spaces, Zones, Enclosures” in “Smart Borders and Mobilities.” Surveillance & Society. 5(2) <>, 96-101.
[32]Poole and Passantino, 19.
[33] Security technologies exist along a continuum between salient and silent. Salient technologies, such as hardware, are highly visible, involve the user directly, and have a fixed applicability. Silent technologies (such as software) are hidden and obscure, and have flexible applicability so they can be deployed passively, without the knowledge of the target.