Could airplane surveillance thwart Baghdad terrorists?

Seeing this article about drones today reminded me of a conversation I recently had with a man I met at a conference. I would identify him by name, but I left his business card in my jacket pocket which is at home, so I won’t be able to give him direct credit until I get back home later.

This gentleman was thinking about how to fight terror in Baghdad. Here was his idea: why not have constant surveillance (from airplanes or pilotless drones) in the skies over Baghdad that had enough detail to track the movement of every person and vehicle in the city. Then, after an attack, the U.S. military could “rewind” the tape and track a vehicle involved in a suicide bombing back through the streets of Baghdad to its point of origin. Knowing where an attack emanated from would be a great start to fighting the terrorists.

Are there reasons this cannot be done? Perhaps the answer is that it simply isn’t technologically feasible. (My father once suggested putting bar codes on the top of every vehicle in Iraq in the same spirit…maybe that would ease the task.) I guess the other problem I can see with this idea is that if we started doing it, the logical terrorist response would be to originate attacks from further away, outside the range of this system. That wouldn’t be all bad. It would both raise the costs of carrying out the attacks and give additional opportunities to catch terrorists at checkpoints before they reach their targets.

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  1. hombrelobo says:

    And what about the cost ?

    Not only the drones, but the software and hardware to process all the data in less than a month.

    And even then, if a car originates in one area of the city, what then ? Sending troops to that building to raid it and kill everybody inside ?

    Would be easier to put ground cameras in every road intersection, and keep them recording all day long. But same problems again.

    Or even easier: getting out of Iraq.

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  2. hombrelobo says:

    And what about the cost ?

    Not only the drones, but the software and hardware to process all the data in less than a month.

    And even then, if a car originates in one area of the city, what then ? Sending troops to that building to raid it and kill everybody inside ?

    Would be easier to put ground cameras in every road intersection, and keep them recording all day long. But same problems again.

    Or even easier: getting out of Iraq.

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  3. RobertSeattle says:

    This is a great idea. Kind a mega-Tivo.

    On a similar note, I’d wouldn’t mind have a little recording device around my neck that would record the last 30 minuutes of my life – so I could rewind it and figure out where I just left my keys… (Or replay back to my wife what she just said to me(!))

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  4. RobertSeattle says:

    This is a great idea. Kind a mega-Tivo.

    On a similar note, I’d wouldn’t mind have a little recording device around my neck that would record the last 30 minuutes of my life – so I could rewind it and figure out where I just left my keys… (Or replay back to my wife what she just said to me(!))

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  5. Ken D. says:

    Give the terrorist master some lessons for smarts — OK, diabolical cunning. They will quickly learn to put suicide bombers in non-descript vehicles and route them through low-visibility areas (wooded, parking garages, etc.) Not to mention the huge size of the network that would be needed. They may already be trying some of this, but it won’t be simple, or anywhere close to foolproof.

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  6. Ken D. says:

    Give the terrorist master some lessons for smarts — OK, diabolical cunning. They will quickly learn to put suicide bombers in non-descript vehicles and route them through low-visibility areas (wooded, parking garages, etc.) Not to mention the huge size of the network that would be needed. They may already be trying some of this, but it won’t be simple, or anywhere close to foolproof.

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  7. jovial_cynic says:

    Having this kind of surveillance isn’t comfortable when you think about privacy. The idea of tracking the moment of every individual has a 1984 feel to it, doesn’t it?

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  8. jovial_cynic says:

    Having this kind of surveillance isn’t comfortable when you think about privacy. The idea of tracking the moment of every individual has a 1984 feel to it, doesn’t it?

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