Fighting terrorism using mass surveillance alone won’t work

An unsourced AP article says Islamic State is sending hundreds of well-trained fighters to Europe. This could be intelligence agency propaganda, however there’s probably truth in it too, unfortunately.
The Islamic State group has trained at least 400 fighters to target Europe in deadly waves of attacks, deploying interlocking terror cells like the ones that struck Brussels and Paris with orders to choose the time, place and method for maximum carnage, The Associated Press has learned.
We cannot stop IS with big data and omnipresent surveillance alone. It is delusional to think we can, but too often that is the primary approach. There is just too much data. Instead, radical groups need to be infiltrated. Yes, this takes much longer, is dangerous, messy, and sometimes morally questionable. It can also be effective.

Here’s the problem with using mass surveillance only. Let’s say law enforcement targets one person and somehow get his cell address book. Well, mine has hundreds of contacts. So, they’re going to track all of those, plus probably the contacts contacts too? That’s probably tens of thousands of people, all using multiple email addresses, cell phone, social sites, etc.

It’s just not possible to monitor that many sources and get anything coherent back in real time. Even NSA says while they might be able to store that much data they can’t track or evaluate it in any useful way, certainly not in real-time. This doesn’t even include those who assume they are being watched and who do things like use Tor, vpns, burner email accounts to create other email and website accounts, and switch rapidly between multiple phones and social media sites to get and receive messages.

Europe is being targeted way more than here, quite possibly because Muslims too often are severely ghettoized there, which, I think, inexorably leads a few to radical politics, crime, etc. People who are treated decently and can pay their bills generally don’t go around blowing shit up or falling prey to extremists.

IS is a non-state actor. Few of the usual rules or strategies of war apply. We can’t fight it by bombing it back to the Stone Age because we generally don’t even know where it is. And when we kill innocents this just gives them more potential recruits. We need to get smart about how we defuse IS. I hope we do. And yes, we probably in our usually blundering way, did help create IS, however that’s mostly irrelevant now, except to learn from our mistakes and not do it again.

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