CounterTerror Officials: Tracking "Lone Wolves" Would Mean Fewer Civil Liberties

Adm. Dennis Blair, the former director of National Intelligence, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum this weekend, told the audience that it is virtually impossible for the feds to identify and prevent a lone wolf attack like James Holmes, Jared Laughner or the Fort Hood shooter, without severely curtailing civil liberties:

[T]here would need to be a higher level of surveillance and government agencies would have to share more information, which could contradict an individual’s right to privacy, Blair said. “The cost in civil liberties and privacy that we would have to pay to get our intelligence to that level would [be high],” Blair said.

Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said there's a better way:

While there are 12,000 FBI agents, there are 2 million first responders, Olsen said. The government can help prevent the lone wolf attack by training those first responders on how to identify the potential threat, Olsen said. [More...]

Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, agreed with the others that the threat of an organized attack on U.S. soil by al Qaeda is all but gone. What's left is the "trickle down" of their ideology to smaller groups and disaffected individuals disaffected here.

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    Admiral Blair, in my view, (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by KeysDan on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 05:19:49 PM EST
    has it right when he states that it is virtually impossible for the feds to identify and prevent a lone wolf attack such as occurred at Aurora, Ft. Hood or Tucson without severely curtailing civil liberties.  However, the "better way" of Matthew Olsen in which the federal government can help prevent such lone wolf attacks by training the 2 million first responders on how to identify the potential threat is not without similar risks to civil liberties.  The para-militarization of the police, for example, has been seen to be misused to oppress lawful dissent and protest (cf. OWS).

    In cases such as James Holmes, the identification and prevention lies less in bolstering law enforcement, federal or local,  and more in funding mental health, federal and local.  

    Unfortunately (none / 0) (#7)
    by bmaz on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 09:56:25 PM EST
    What both modalities will boil down to further building out of the surveillance state and gross mining of data and algorithmic analysis thereof.  That is exactly what Room 641(A) in the AT&T was the primordial sign of, and the giant NSA facility being built out in the canyonlands of Utah are all about.

    The Fort Hood shooter (2.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 08:48:36 PM EST

    The Fort Hood shooter, unlike Holmes and Laughner we can't even manage to say his name.  Perhaps we don't need severe curtailment of civil liberties, but rather the FBI and the military being a bit less PC.  

    Remember that Nidal Hassan was classed as a "work place incident."

    Well (none / 0) (#1)
    by Lora on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 02:15:00 PM EST
    The feds tracking and identifying potential lone wolf killers is only one way to try and prevent such crimes.  There are other ways.

    And those are??? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Chuck0 on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 02:23:28 PM EST
    Please elaborate. I tend to agree with the statement. You can't stop and/or predict the actions of individual crazies. No everyone leaves clues or evidence.

    A healthy society (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Dadler on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 02:53:10 PM EST
    One in which there are an abundance of paid mental health workers qualified to aid those in need of it. This would, of course, require money. But money, as we know, is nothing but a trinket we can create at will. And if we have the will to create it and spread it for that particular reason, and employ the qualified numbers necessary, I have little doubt this problem would be greatly mitigated.

    In simpler terms, more humanity, less austerity.

    We are not going to stop every awful act, but we can always strive to do better than our current pitiful efforts.  Hell, we live in a country that thinks, literally in practice, that money matters more than people.  Hardly a surprise we lead the world in these kinds of massacres.  Can you imagine if we treated our fellow human beings with the respect and fear we treat money, an inanimate object of no intrinsic value?

    We're diseased as a species right now, infected by our own creations.


    Including Access (none / 0) (#9)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 03:56:45 PM EST
    Even with more professionals we need to ensure people have access to them.  

    I also believe Jeralyn mentioned monitoring who is buying body armor, which seemed like a good idea.  Combined with all his other purchases, seems like this should have had a red flag.  But then you are are back to square one, what do you do with a red flag that doesn't violate ones rights ?

    I don't believe anything unless they specifically mention a threat, it's one of those byproducts of a free society.  I would love to know the psychiatric reason for killing a lot of strangers or family, usually before killing ones self.  Straight up crazy doesn't seem to cut it.


    Not stop, but perhaps discourage (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Lora on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 10:17:57 PM EST
    The ready and nearly unlimited availability of deadly weapons of mass killing should be considered a contributing factor, IMO.

    what is the denominator? (none / 0) (#5)
    by diogenes on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 08:29:47 PM EST
    What is the ratio of lone wolves who might be investigated to actual incidents?  It is known in forensic psychiatry circles that except for current paranoid psychosis or substance dependence that the only useful predictors of future violence are demographic ones (such as history of past violence).
    Maybe instead of giving two million responders half-baked training we should:
    1.  Allow for diagnosis and long-term, mandated treatment of people who do have paranoid psychoses.
    2.  Increase funds for drug treatment.
    3.  Figure out whether legalizing drugs will in fact cause an increase in drug use and dependence. (as happened with alcohol after prohibition ended) and consider this if people are demanding drug legalization.  After all, you can google "bath salts" to see an example of legal, cheap stimulants which are available without cartels involved.