Using Google to Plan Your Next Terrorist Attack
When I was on Drudge earlier today I saw this story about how Google’s Street View had gotten really up close and personal with a family’s house. According to The Smoking Gun one family has already sued Google because the Street View thing offered too much detail of their house and Google took down the offending images.
But what about up close views of the Sears Tower? How about the Empire State Building? Or the Capital building in DC? Is it OK to have images of every detail of every building in America? To tell you the truth, I really don’t know if it is a good thing but I think it is worse to prevent companies from taking pictures of public buildings than it is to stop them.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Internet allows for a much freer flow of information and this information has been used for evil. Pedophiles have become more effective due to the Internet, hackers have stolen billions of dollars, and terrorists have a de facto spy agency thanks to the Internet. If al Qaeda or some other organization (and there are hundreds if not thousands of these groups) wants to pull of a huge attack on an American landmark the first place they should go is the same place every college student goes when they start a report - the Internet.
Do you think I’m being ridiculous? It took me about five minutes to find a 3D rendering of the Empire State Building along with satellite and Street View shots of the building. Of course I’m not a guerrilla warrior so I don’t know how to fully exploit this information but it wouldn’t be hard to figure out.
Just consider the fact that America’s Special Ops warriors have gone into missions with less intel than terrorists can get with Google. In just a couple of clicks our enemies have more intel at their disposal than we have about them.
Even though it is manifestly true that our open society makes us an easier target for our enemies I don’t think, as it stands right now, we should do anything to change that. Please don’t misunderstand this to mean I’m against spying on our enemies or taking the fight to our enemies. In fact I think we should be leveraging our open society and our vast resources to be attacking them more, uh, forcefully. But that’s for another time.
America should not, under most circumstances, limit services like Google Earth. Doing so would not solve any problems and would only serve as a distraction to fighting the War on Terror. If some terrorist cell wants to attack the Empire State Building or some other landmark they have a number of different methods for gathering information. Are we to prevent all information about public places? It’s just not possible.
So what the heck should we do? We know that fascism doesn’t work all that well and it destroys a nation’s economy. So that’s out the window. We could become a communist nation but there really isn’t a difference between communism and fascism (sorry, there isn’t).
The best course of action would be to press our advantage. Get Google’s Street View team in Baghdad. Well, OK, I doubt you’ll get Google’s people to pass up that 4 star dinning they get at Google’s campus but you can get that same equipment into Iraq and Afghanistan. Have predator drones patrolling Iraq and Afghanistan all the time. Set up CCTV cameras on every corner. If it’s OK for Americans to be monitored at such a high rate why not monitor the people in the countries we’re in?
The only thing I know for sure is that once a nation starts playing defense they lose. The only way to deal with our enemies is to defeat them. This means a lot of things but it should never mean preventing a private company from publishing public information. Even if that public information does make it easier for a terrorist attack to be successful. BigT