High-Strung Hysterics and Flippant Fearmongering

I’ve mentioned before in passing the Proteus Management Group, a fairly shadowy and little-reported “strategic” think-tank “sponsored”, and thus, presumably, funded by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Like most groups who rely on the current American government for their funding and, indeed, continued, existence, they tend to be pretty unapologetically hawkish in their outlook, and rarely hesitate to forecast doom and gloom, while, perhaps not coincidentally, rarely if ever offering, you know, solutions

A recent article by one of their members, Dr. Marv Cetron, provides a pretty good example of the quality of research that dribbles out of Proteus. Published in the oh-so-scholarly conservative rag NewsMax, the Thirty Most Unthinkable Targets is a pretty appalling piece of hysterical, over-hyped fearmongering. Rating thirty perceived terrorist attacks in terms of likelihood and impact, it spreads FUD around with a shovel. Never mind that it’s pretty much all brown people, all the time – the whole thing is just appallingly bad.

I was going to run through the whole list, and explain why each item is monumentally stupid – like Pakistani suicide bombers attacking the U.S. Olympic team in Beijing, thereby, in Cetron’s words, irreparably damaging the U.S.-Pakistani terror alliance, and leading the Democrats to a “clean sweep” in the November elections. After the second or third item, though, I needed to wash out my eyeballs with lye; it was just too painful to consider each one individually.

There appears to be little if any evidence to support any of the items on the list as a credible, imminent threat. “Introduce E. Coli into fast-food restaurants on Wall Street and Capitol Hill”? Riiiiiight. “Detonate EMP Bombs in the Internet-Critical Region of Northern Virginia” would be a great movie plot – engineering students set off nine “$400” electromagnetic pulse devices, thereby disrupting all sorts of important communications equipment and causing forty billion dollars in losses. You’ll forgive me if I don’t lose a lot of sleep worrying about that happening, I trust. Another good movie-plot is the “threat” – medium probability, by the way – of young men dispersing “a small fraction of the weaponized anthrax stolen from Iraq after the fall of Saddam” by driving up and down the east coast in a car. As an actual terror plot, it’s too stupid for words. As a gratuitous opportunity to repeat a tired and oft-disproven lie about Iraq’s WMD, it’s also too stupid for words. Also a “medium probability” threat, and the last I’m going to leave you with here – terrorists “shooting down Air Force One”. Thanks, Marv, for pointing that out, because, you know, nobody ever recognized that threat until you came along.

None of these are at all “unthinkable” targets; indeed, this is all old thinking – mainly critical infrastructure, with a few high-profile soft targets of moderately high economic value scattered in to round out the numbers. Cetron warns that these are “the most diabolical plots for which people are least prepared”, which, like so much else he’s written, simply isn’t true. There’s nothing terribly diabolical about any of these extraordinarily obvious (supposed) threats, and they’re all ones for which the country has been preparing for years – in some cases, for decades.

If this is representative of the sort of crap the members of the Proteus Management Group produce, I think it’s relatively obvious why so little is heard of or from them. With any luck, they’ll get defunded soon, and their members can go on being incompetent fearmongers – just not on the taxpayers’ money.

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General, Security | on December 31st, 2007| Comments Off on High-Strung Hysterics and Flippant Fearmongering

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