Thursday, November 27, 2008

When terror strikes...what not to do!

there are lessons to be learnt...

  • Agencies involved in investigations should never be seen/ heard (in contrast everyone in this country was exposed to ATS team- thanks to the "intrusive media")
  • Identity of team of investigators/forensic experts should never be revealed- as they can be harmed/ pressurized by terro groups...
  • These teams not to lose primary focus-mitigation of threats...

In July 2008, this blog had this post...

Terrorists/ anti social elements don't require sophisticated weapons or even successful execution of their plots to cause panic, fuel media frenzy, and effect massive deployment of law enforcement - well beyond the location of their attack. This has been the case in many terrorist events over the past years, especially in those places where terrorism is not a daily occurrence.
When we react broadly to a narrow event, we are reacting just as the terrorists would hope...

Let's stop a moment to rethink our response, because that's where the terrorists thrive:
Five different communities respond and are influenced, each in its own way, by a terrorist attack:·

  • The Terrorists - whose agenda is to create maximum physical damage, financial disruption and overall panic.·

  • The Public - genuinely terrorized by the event, wants the government to do everything possible to stop the terrorist, no holds barred.·

  • Politicians and Public Officials - are pressured to make a response that usually involves a lot of spending, and putting in place hasty strategies.·

  • Law enforcement and security professionals - attentive to the will of the public they protect, spare no resources or effort to catch the terrorists.·

  • The Media – who let's face it, sometimes benefit from and even effect news coverage that is dramatic- thus providing publicity for an event...precisely what the terrorists want!
    A few things are important to bear in mind as we try to define a logical and effective reaction.
Each of the five communities has a role to play here.
The Media have the responsibility for accurately and objectively reporting a terrorist event, as exaggeration would only serve to increase the terrorist effect.
Law enforcement must remain both sensitive and sensible, in other words, not letting their emotions cloud their judgment when investigating terrorism or protecting the public from it.
Politicians are responsible for not leveraging terrorist attacks as a platform for pushing other agendas or justifying irrational expenditures.

  • They should also refrain from making hasty comments/ statements which might hamper investigations.

  • They should also avoid useless exercises like visiting the victims of terror attacks in the hospital/ visiting the dead, which will not only hamper the medical management but also burdens the local administration and the police – who otherwise should be involved in relief measures/ investigations. (It is a well known fact that, the terrorists target hospitals for secondary attack, as they know that victims of primary attack would be rushed to hospitals along with curious onlookers/ security agencies/ politicians and media!)· It is sad to note that three senior police officers died near a hospital today.

  • The Public has the responsibility to look at terrorist events in perspective, and has an important role in balancing the response of the media, law enforcement and politicians, by trying to learn as much as they can about terrorist methods of operation, to understand what the real threat is to them, and identify the appropriate measures to stop them. Ignorance of these methods reduces the public's ability to act as a check and balance to the policies and activities of the other sectors who represent and serve them. Public should also minimize use of cellular network at the time of such terror attacks to prevent network jam (remember that by doing so, you may save lot of lives!)·

If all of us (media, public, law enforcement) were to temper our reaction and response to terrorist events, we would lessen our attractiveness as a terrorist target and reduce the overall impact of the attack.



News channels have an objective—to fetch the latest news and share them with viewers, much before a competitor channel does that. But I feel this habit of indiscriminate live reporting, while a combat operation is in progress, can be catastrophic for the success of the military operations against terror.
Let us just think for a while. Do we really need to know everything on a ‘as soon as it happens’ basis? I feel not. Whether NSG commandos have just arrived at airport, or have entered the hotel or are on the first floor or second at this moment, is not necessary to be revealed to the general public on a realtime basis.
Showing such news live, will be immensely useful only to terrorists and their supporters outside.
Consider this. The commandos only know that the militants are somewhere inside the hotel, but the militants know everything about the movements and positions of their pursuers through TV.
# Who is on their trail (Army/ NSG/ local police, etc)
# What is their ETA (estimated time of arrival), which tells them, how much time they have before a gun battle would begin)
# Where they are right now, at the main entrance/ just entered their floor
# How is the world responding? Is there pressure mounting on the government to succumb to the demands of terrorists to get the hostages freed (so that they can act tough during negotiation)?
# How many of their friends are alive or dead (so that they can assess their strength)?
# What has been the impact of their strike-how many police and civilian dead, the current morale of police, who all as been detained/suspected?
# Live visuals of the street-to assess a possible escape strategy
# What information about them the outside world has (which floor they are in, their head count etc. And much more…
In my view, all this information, while useful to viewers and relatives of victims, also helps the terrorists/ militants to consolidate their position and pose a greater challenge to commandos trying to hunt them down and/ or rescue the hostages.
Why is our media helping them by airing live all the sensitive information about the anti terror operations?
The common man does not need to know them on a live basis.
Can’t the information & broadcasting ministry think of banning live reporting during a hostage crisis? Let the channels air the news with a delay of few hours, so that the police and security agencies will have a lead time of few hours, wherein terrorists would be as equally uninformed as they are.
Please note that I am not advocating censorship. I am all for free speech and expression. What I am proposing, is that security agencies should have the power to impose a delay of say three to six hours w.r.t live reporting of anti terror operations.
Let the TV channels record whatever they want, but they should be aired only after a gap of few hours. I do not think anyone loses anything with this.
The movie A Wednesday also shares same opinion. I feel the good old days of oncein a day news bulletin was far better.
What do you think?

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