the attacks of September 11, America's political leaders have been taking
a close look at how science and technology can help in the fight against
terrorism. Many government officials are concluding that the creativity
of our scientific community could be an invaluable weapon in this ongoing
war against terrorism is dominating everything, says John Marburger
III, the new director of the White House Office of Science and Technology
Policy. And that is interesting because there are many technology
issues associated with fighting the war. Information technology is a
very strong component to thatfrom intelligence to detection to
monitoring immigration to data-mining to connectivity. Almost every
aspect of life has some technical dimension.
told the National Journal: Terrorism is about disrupting normal
life, and we rely on technical systems to transport people, to deliver
information, electricity, foodand all of those systems are vulnerable
to disruption. Efforts to reduce that vulnerability will also make those
systems better, and we should be looking for terrorism solutions that
have that dual aspect.
have turned to technology at other times of crisis, such as in the aftermath
of the Soviet Union's detonation of an atomic bomb in September 1949.
In January 1950, President Truman appointed the State Department's Paul
Nitze to preside over a commission on national security policy in an
effort to counter the threat. A key recommendation of Nitze's report,
known as NSC-68, was to spend more money on technology to maintain the
U.S. lead in the arms race. It worked. When the U.S.S.R. launched Sputnik,
the first orbiting satellite, a half-century ago, President Eisenhower
turned to technology again to help the United States win the space race.
Over time, America came out on top.
nuclear science and space science were once emphasized, now, increasingly,
it's science to combat bioterrror and chemical weapons. And Marburger
says the National Academies of the United States, home of some of the
world's most brilliant minds, will help assess the myriad ideas being
generated on all fronts.
are many ramifications. Some in Congress want to prohibit certain categories
of foreigners from working in laboratories that handle dangerous microbes.
President Bush wants to formulate an international code of ethical conduct
for biological scientists. Another debate is whether the results of
some research should remain secret, or at least unpublished, lest the
information help terrorists design more weapons. Many scientists are
concerned that such restrictions would impede the very research that
might help combat biological agents and treat infectious diseaseswithout
deterring terrorists at all. Before we enact legislation requiring
people to padlock their strain collections and classify their DNA sequences,
we should ask the question about whom we are trying to keep the information
from, Stanford biology professor Steven M. Block told The New
York Times recently. What we'll probably wind up restricting is
legitimate science without in any serious way restricting the ability
to use this as a bioweapon.''
scientists prefer a voluntary approachfinding ways on their own
to insure the ethical use of biotechnology rather than turning the task
over to politicians. We have to get scientific communities involved
who have never been directly involved in arms control, says Raymond
A. Zilinskas, a biological weapons expert at the Monterey Institute
of Internatonal Studies. He called for a meeting like one held in 1975
in California, where leading scientists voluntarily adopted guidelines
aimed at controlling genetic engineering, which was a new technology
at the time.
Bush recognizes that America is facing a new kind of arms race, one
in which innovative ways need to be found to track terrorists around
the world and stop them from committing their heinous crimes. Technology,
he says, will be an important asset.
as important, Bush argues that technology will be vital to America's
success on the actual battlefield. To win this war, we have to
think differently, Bush told students and faculty at The Citadel
in Charleston, S.C., last December 11, which was the three-month anniversary
of the terrorist attacks. The enemy who appeared on September
11 seeks to evade our strength and constantly searches for our weaknesses.
. .These past. . .months have shown that an innovative doctrine and
high-tech weaponry can shape and then dominate an unconventional conflict.
The brave men and women of our military are rewriting the rules of war
with new technologies and old values like courage and honor. . .Our
commanders are gaining a real-time picture of the entire battlefield,
and are able to get targeting information from sensor to shooter almost
instantly. . . And our special forces have the technology to call in
precision air strikes.
tech can't solve all of our problems, of course. Intelligence specialists,
for example have complained for years that the United States made a
huge error in de-emphasizing human spies and relying too much on electronic
surveillance. But technology will remain vital. Among the most promising
developments: software that can quickly process a vast amount of information
to monitor the movements of possible terrorists and their activities.
The goal is to find patterns of behavior that will enable the good guys
to break codes and find vital links within terrorist networks.
revolution in our military is only beginning, Bush says, and
it promises to change the face of battle.
T. Walsh is chief White House correspondent
for U.S. News & World Report.
He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.