Chapter 24. Terror, Justice and Freedom

Al-Qaida spent $500,000 on the event, while America, in the incident and its aftermath, lost — according to the lowest estimate — more than $500 billion.

— Osama bin Laden

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficient ... The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.

— Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

— Benjamin Franklin


The attacks of September 11, 2001, on New York and Washington have had a huge impact on the world of security engineering, and this impact has been deepened by the later attacks on Madrid, London and elsewhere. As everyone has surely realised by now — and as the quote from Osama bin Laden bluntly spells out — modern terrorism works largely by provoking overreaction.

There are many thorny issues. First, there's the political question: are Western societies uniquely vulnerable — because we're open societies with democracy and a free press, whose interaction facilitates fearmongering — and if so what (if anything) should we do about it? The attacks challenged our core values — expressed in the USA as the Constitution, and in Europe as the Convention on Human Rights. Our common heritage of democracy and the rule of law, built slowly and painfully since the eighteenth ...

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