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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.