By Halima Khan
The tools of the information age which were once welcomed as a great step forward for mankind are now progressively more so being turned into weapons in the “war on terror.” For instance, the G8 countries in recent times approved to integrate biometric passports based on microchips or databases that predetermine physical characteristics such as facial dimensions, fingerprints, iris patterns and voice patterns. More than a few governments are operational in attaining, developing, and linking databases of personal information. Subsequently they will build up on data mining software to verify “signatures” of terrorist movement. It is argued that these intricate information systems engage artificial constructions of the “terrorist” which are too complex for any single human being to comprehend, yet too reducing to serve as a dependable basis for suspicion. Additionally, sanctioning high technology to categorize suspects complicates the matter of liability and responsibility for what is already being practiced in a relatively low-tech approach: the detention, deportation, and even torture of suspects presumed guilty of terrorist association.
The role of information technology in countering terrorism in an era of globalization can itself come under question. Modern terrorism has been typified as a negative comeback to globalization, but at the same time, terrorism has become so effectual by exploiting the very engines of globalization itself. The role of information technology in fighting terrorism, especially intelligence analysis comes fully loaded with the legal challenges that lie as consequence. It takes a network to fight a network, an analyst puts very rightly. But then it takes a network to create a counterfeit network as well.
Information technology is at the heart of both modern terrorism and globalization. Globalization has distorted the distinction between international and domestic terrorism. Terrorism became strictly global in the late 1960s, with the arrival of cheap commercial intercontinental airline travel and international communications. Not accidentally, cheap intercontinental travel and international communications are two of the engines driving globalization and aiding terrorism. Terrorists veil their planning and preparation in a sea of global noise, but a well-resourced terrorist faction has a global scope, span, and presence, withholding no borders and jurisdictions. Terrorists have revealed an ability to exploit information technology. Many have hypothesized that terrorists may soon begin targeting information technology itself, as well as using it as a weapon, for instance with attacks against decisive infrastructures and cyber terrorism. To tackle these issues sufficiently, technology and law must be urbanized in parallel, with mutual respect for each other. This is unprecedented, but indispensable, if a balance is to be maintained in civil security, civil and economic liberty, and technological progress.