Emerging microterrorism

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers. A little time off at the holidays means we have time to sit back, stuff ourselves with food, promise we'll work those pounds off in January and maybe grab a cozy chair for some reading. On my reading list, I'm enjoying the literary classic that is Catch 22, but for non-diversionary reading, I'm enjoying Silent Safety by Douglas Kane and Paul Viollis, Ph.D. The authors are from Risk Control Strategies, a security consulting and service firm, and the book, which was published this year, is about protecting the affluent but also a good read for anyone wanting to protect themselves.

For shorter reading, I enjoyed a column by Time Magazine's editor-at-large Fareed Zakaria, who put pen to paper for a well-written essay on microterrorism. Microterrorism is simply terrorism through small attacks, and it's sometimes called small-scale terrorism. It's the other end of the spectrum from trying to fly planes into buildings; microterrorism shows its face with an ink cartridge bomb mailed as cargo, a bomb in an SUV parked at Times Square. It's not as nationally disruptive as a 9/11 attack, but it's disruptive nonetheless. Zakaria's thesis in the column is that microterrorism doesn't come from the leaders of Al Qaeda; it comes from dispersed zealots often operating independently. The perpetrators, suggests Zakaria, isn't necessarily the foreigner with a lifelong hatred of America; rather, it's just as likely to be the homegrown terrorist functioning in a vacuum.

What Zakaria has done, by elevating this term to the national level, is help establish the sub-lexicon of terrorism. There's a basic tenet in scientific communities that to analyze and study something, you have to decide upon a common lexicon and language. It's why we have the scientific taxonomy; it's why the armadillo is properly known as the Dasypus novemcinctus. Microterrorism, as a part of security lexicon, is an emerging term, and it's important that we continue to define this form of terrorism. We have to define it before we can fully analyze it and find ways to fight it.


P.S. On a side note, especially for those of you traveling for the holidays, don't forget to remove your wallet from your hip pocket before going through a TSA body scanner. If you forget, you WILL get a full pat-down.