Thursday, August 16, 2007

Finally Found What I'm Looking For

Via Schneier, this article on FBI informants infiltrating Muslim communities is worth a read. The railroad of causal inanity goes something like this: Feds wants to net more terrorists, so hire Informants. Informants are often ex-crims now getting paid good by FBI. Informants want to prove their worth (and not get slammed away), so Informants want muslims to have terrorist tendencies. Informants pressure muslims. Muslims persuaded into terrorism when otherwise not. More "terrorists" caught. More distrust between and within communities. More potential terrorists produced. Less potential terrorists reported.

Hussam Ayloush highlights the confusion that infests society as a whole:
"On one hand, they are asked to report suspicious activity, but on the other hand, they are left without any protection once the suspected terrorist or informant gets angry and chooses to retaliate against those who reported him"
This is similar to the problems the Police face following gang-related activity. Arresting a sole figure ignores network effects and the possibility of retribution, and in itself is a decent reason to re-think the "suspect it, report it" tactic.

But alongside this, we continue to get a very confused message. Should trouble be dealt with at a Police level, or at a Community level? If I report my friend to the Police, how does that harm a community? But if I choose to deal with it myself, am I liable to get arrested for not telling the Police? It's a lose-lose situation.

Finally, Ayloush puts his finger on a question we should all be asking:
"Are we genuinely monitoring would-be terrorists to protect the public, or are we in the business of creating terrorists so we can justify use of the funds appropriated to fight domestic terrorism?"
Too right. Nobody likes to spend money on a solution, only to find the problem has gone away, and politicians even less so. But this just leads to that vicious circle - we create terrorists because we're looking for them, we find them, so we look more. (Also ignoring the economic benefits of creating a war, of course.) Every time we see a house get raided and a couple of Arab guys carted away, every time we think "Tut. But he was such a nice boy." That's when we're vindicating our own sense of fear.

See also: Channel 4 distorts mosque.

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