Saturday, November 15, 2008

Financial crisis increases security concerns; alarming media reports mount quickly


So, as G20 meets in the National Building Museum this weekend, the media is finally getting open about the multi-faceted danger that the financial crisis will make a future terror attacks on the west more likely.

There are several reasons for this. Some of this has to do with less money to upgrade homeland defense systems. But more of it would have to do with more social unrest in the developing world, particularly Muslim countries like Yemen and Pakistan. The front page story on Nov. 15, 2008 in The Washington Post is by Joby Warrick, “Experts see security risk in downturn: global financial crisis may fuel instability and weaken U.S. defense,” here.

It’s important to notice that in the US the ability of defense and intelligence agencies to “connect the dots” has been boosted by establishing the National Counterterrorism Center, the NCTC, link here. There is an interesting video available there. This mission is supposed to increase the odds that the significance of intelligence data “out of context” is not overlooked, but it obviously needs big time funding.

On the left side of the political spectrum, Alternet has an article, by Joshua Holland, about the dire economic risks, “Our economy is in a death spiral – will Washington stop the bleeding?,” here. Rapid deflation is hurting debtors even more, and probably contributing to extreme social unrest. It seems that the economic downturn started with Wall Street’s behavior but was exported overseas and is hitting even harder overseas now than at home. With deflationary depression, people simply do not buy the goods and services that are produced and hoard cash. Even so, there may be some encouraging signs that the US stock market is finding a "reliable" bottom of support levels from people who don't have to sell quickly.

The news reports that trickle in recently sound alarming, even in a world that seems elated by the political change signaled by the results of the US election. The major media outlets suddenly have run many somewhat sensationalistic stories about increased concerns about security for the new president. And in at least one frightening recent police case in suburban Maryland, a moderate level employee in intelligence might have been targeted in open auto traffic just because of where he worked.

People who grew up in my generation, the Cold War, feel we have seen some of this before. Two Alfred Hitchcock films that I rented from Netflix and watched this week ("Topaz" and particularly "Saboteur" (back to WWII)) show that these asymmetric concerns are not as new as they seem.

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