How Effective Are Modern Deterrents to Terrorism?

In today’s world, the threat of a terrorist attack is always lurking. Political instability, demographic changes, and geopolitical conflict have made terrorism more common in the 21st century than ever before. Technological advances in communication, such as new media like the internet, have opened the world’s eyes to terrorism as videos and images from attacks are uploaded quickly and shared across the whole world. Fortunately, attacks globally have decreased in 2019 after an all-time high in 2014.

Modern Security

Governments and corporate interests continually develop new ways to fight terror. As tactics and materials used by terrorists evolve, so must the agencies tasked with stopping them. Surveillance systems are now widespread for counterterrorism purposes across the Western world. Recently, China surpassed the US for total number of CCTV systems as the Communist Party seeks to hold its grip on power and combat terrorism from ethnic minorities and state dissidents. According to Comparitech, London and Atlanta were the only cities outside of China to make the top ten list of most-surveilled cities in the world.

AI, artificial intelligence, shows promise for monitoring terrorists’ communications at extremely high levels and filtering out the “noise” to uncover plots before they happen. At international borders, customs officials of a growing number of nations utilize facial recognition software, biometric scanning of eyes and fingers, and other ways to record identity.

The Ideological Struggle

Of course, the ultimate answer to terrorism depends on confronting the issue at the source – the indoctrination of people to believe their religious or spiritual cause is worth killing and dying for. While the internet has certainly aided law enforcement in detection and prevention, terrorist groups have also taken advantage of internet technology to communicate, plan, and recruit new members. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the internet can assist terrorist groups in recruiting beyond their borders, even into the U.S. and Europe. ISIS, during its ascendance to power, relied heavily on social media to recruit fighters from around the world. Without the internet to reach them, many may not have had the opportunity to link up with ISIS. Preventing radicalization is a serious task ahead.

An Evolving Threat

Atlas Barriers says that since 2014 vehicles as a method of terrorism has been on a steady rise throughout the world, with the most famous example being the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France. Terrorists are using vehicles as a powerful way to kill a large amount of people at once.  Vehicles are often easy for terrorists to get their hands on. A van or SUV may also be a way for the terrorist to get past a secure gate. Other times, further damage is inflicted when the driver gets out of the vehicle and using other methods of violence. Terrorists rely on exploiting weaknesses and taking advantage of whatever materials are at their disposal to pull off a successful attack, making their actions sometimes difficult to predict.

While the traditional box-cutter method to hijack a plane may no longer be an option for terrorists, new opportunities to wreak havoc on the public will lead to new methods of attack. Law enforcement must be adaptable to new terrorist tactics.

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