Electronic snooping 'small price to pay' against terror: expert

March 23, 2016
Belgian soldiers stand guard near Brussels airport in Zaventem on March 23, 2016 a day after terror attacks hit the city
Belgian soldiers stand guard near Brussels airport in Zaventem on March 23, 2016 a day after terror attacks hit the city

Terrorism will cast a continuing shadow over future generations and government electronic surveillance is a small price to pay to combat it, a leading historian said Wednesday, a day after the carnage in Brussels.

British author and journalist Max Hastings gave a robust defence of electronic intelligence-gathering in what he called a new world that would never know absolute security.

"Our tolerance of electronic surveillance, subject to legal and parliamentary oversight, seems a small price to pay for some measure of security against threats that nobody—today of all days—can doubt are real," Hastings told Hong Kong's Foreign Correspondents' Club.

Twin attacks by Islamic State jihadists killed around 35 people in the Belgian capital Tuesday.

Hastings, a former war correspondent and newspaper editor, is author of 26 books mostly on military history.

His latest, "The Secret War", tells the story of behind-the-scenes intelligence operations in World War II.

Future wars "will almost certainly" be fought on similar turf.

"Whereas a few generations ago our forebears were defended by Spitfires and citizen armies, today intelligence services and eavesdroppers at GCHQ are at the front line against our enemies."

Britain's Government Communications Headquarters monitors vast amounts of email and other electronic traffic in search of suspicious communications.

Hastings said he found it "almost incredible" that civil libertarians objected so strongly.

"Personal liberty never has been and never can be an absolute," he said, adding a balance must be struck between individual rights and the need to protect society.

In Britain's case, electronic interception was the only major way to detect terrorists.

"It is almost impossibly difficult for agents to penetrate Muslim communities in Britain and MI5 (the domestic intelligence service) receives dismayingly little help from them."

The detection of 20-30 major plots in Britain in the past decade came overwhelmingly from electronic interception, Hastings said.

Whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the former US National Security Agency contractor who spilt a huge trove of secrets on global surveillance programmes, had done great harm, he said.

There was clear evidence since the revelations that terrorists were using much more sophisticated encryption systems.

Rather than electronic snooping, Hastings said he was far more worried about the use of drones and targeted killing by the US, Britain and Israel.

"It's a very, very dangerous business to delegate to government (the power) to act unilaterally without any judicial process at all to just kill whoever they feel like."

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5 comments

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Eikka
4.8 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2016
The responses to terrorism we have are like allergic reactions: warranted perhaps, but completely overblown and ultimately more harmful to the society than a few suicide bombers.

Eikka
4.3 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2016
Put simply: The fundamental source of terrorism is rooted in poverty and destitution - not in religion or ideology - happy wealthy people don't start wars and don't give a toss about what some holy book tells them to do, especially if it commands them to give up their wealth and happiness for some abstract cause.

Religious extremism itself comes from the basic attempt to control your own external conditions or avoid misfortune through superstition and faith when all practical means fail, and that's what the religions have evolved to exploit: whenever there is strife, there you'll find religion attempting to spread itself on the point of a gun.

In that sense, all the surveillance and breach of privacy, the police state, is simply treating the symptoms and not the cause, and in doing so creating and maintaining the tools needed for truly tyrannical and despotic regimes to take over. Once the threat is over, it will turn in on itself.

rderkis
1 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2016
I feel a little research goes a long ways instead of just assuming something.
Kuwait has one of the richest economies in the world.
The Kuwaiti currency is the highest-valued currency unit in the world.[9] Kuwait has nearly 10% of the world's oil reserves. Petroleum accounts for nearly half of GDP and 95% of export revenues and government income.
Yet they still produce and have terrorism contrary to the assumption -- Quote"The fundamental source of terrorism is rooted in poverty and destitution "
June 26, 2015 - 2015 Kuwait mosque bombing - A bombing occurred during Friday prayer at masjid Imam al-Sadeq when a man was seen on surveillance cameras rushing into the masjid and then detonating himself. 27 people killed with 227 injured. IS has claimed responsibility for the bombing.[2]
Here is a interesting article explaining what sometimes happens and it has nothing to do with poverty.
http://www.specta...-muslim/
gkam
3 / 5 (6) Mar 23, 2016
The intelligence agencies in the US have been found to be spying on those who are to regulate and police them. They already control us, through whoever has power.

Let the scared person who wrote this article give up his freedom to Big Brother, but not mine.
Eikka
4.5 / 5 (4) Mar 23, 2016
Yet they still produce and have terrorism contrary to the assumption -- Quote"The fundamental source of terrorism is rooted in poverty and destitution "


So you're claiming that rich muslims are strapping themselves with bombs to blow up other rich muslims just because?

Or could it be that their society is highly stratified with all the money going to the top, and rival groups trying to grab a hold of it?

Here is a interesting article explaining what sometimes happens and it has nothing to do with poverty.


Yes. That too happens. That however is missing the forest for the trees - you can always find individuals who turn to violence for whatever reasons - the masses however don't behave like that. Millions of people don't turn into suicide bombers because of teenage angst over breaking up with a girlfriend.

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