The problem with ungoverned spaces | Pakistan Today

The problem with ungoverned spaces

Is governing them really possible beyond the realm Sci-Fi?

Three spaces have been offering challenges to the intelligence community for years. These include the human mind, cyber space and outer territory beyond the geo-sphere. These spaces, if governed properly, will bring down the level of uncertainty and unpredictability in different incidents of terror and violence. The intelligence operators have been trying to find out ways and means to subject these areas to constant monitoring, surveillance and supervision. In order to police these areas we require innovation, technical sophistication and round the clock superintendence.

The human mind is an interesting space which has a constant dynamic set up. Its variation and flexibility make it uncertain, unreliable, chancy and erratic. Though it is difficult to say with certainty which logical explanation may or may not appeal to an individual’s mind however its influence on one’s thinking mechanism cannot be denied. This leads us to the effectiveness of tools of radicalisation. Radicalisation is in fact a process of controlling the human brain with a constant imprint of factual or actual or imaginary details or a discourse through direct contact or indirect means of communication. A radicalised individual is difficult to predict – even by his or her handlers and facilitators. On December 30, 2009, seven CIA employees were killed in a suicide attack at Chapman base in Khost province of Afghanistan. The bomber, Humam Khalil al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor, was a triple agent who tricked the CIA and Jordanian Intelligence Agency and managed to enter into a highly fortified and secured CIA base with a 30 pound bomb strapped across his body. The CIA and Jordanian Intelligence Agency believed him to be a trusted informant and a reliable source. Al Balawi was in contact with Taliban and remained loyal to them. He made a video recording with TTP leaders before embarking on the journey to Khost for conducting a fidayee attack on the US intelligence agency officials. It was one of the most lethal attacks on the CIA in last 32 years. Similarly on January 6, 2017, a US veteran who had served in Iraq started shooting at the passengers in baggage claim area at Fort Lauderdale, Florida airport. As a result of it, five persons died on spot and eight sustained serious injuries. These incidents highlight how human mind challenges the security systems due to lack of proper mind monitoring calculus.

Cyber space has also posed serious questions to the existing security mechanisms and provided possibilities and propositions for the cyber interventions. It is an electronic medium where hardly any rule applies and a person, based on his or her expertise, can venture into it, explore and exploit it for achieving his or her objectives. It has a tremendous outreach and anyone employing it can address hundreds and thousands of known and unknown people living in different areas simultaneously. The sophistication of the medium has been exploited by different terror groups to goad, radicalise and recruit persons living in developed countries. Islamic State (IS) or Daesh has been effectively using social media for recruiting European and American citizens for waging jehad in different conflict zones. In fact, when human mind merges with cyber space, an enhanced ungoverned space is created which has unique dimensions and coordinates containing the originator’s digital signatures. According to one estimate nearly 27,000 foreign fighters have travelled to Syria to support IS since 2011. These include people from Tunisia (6500), Russia (2400), Saudi Arabia (2500), France (1700), Turkey (2100), Morocco (1200), Germany (760), Poland (550) and USA (150) respectively.  The terror groups have also been issuing e-magazines to inform the people about their ideology, tactics and nature of struggle against forces of evil. They utilise cyber space to upload the confessional videos of suicide attackers to multiply their successes for an enhanced recruitment and radicalization processes.

Some experts have predicted that cyber tools or arsenals shall be used more frequently to inflict infrastructural, financial and economic punishments to other countries in future warfare. The possible cyber terror activities may include simple unstructured, advance-structured and complex-coordinated attacks involving simple or complex hacking tools. As the human life is becoming more digitised greater are the chances to conduct cyber attacks. In 2012 a number of cyber attacks were conducted against Saudi Armco Company. The details of credit cards have been frequently copied from the official channels and money is withdrawn from the banks. Even in UK, the cyber attackers have stolen bank details of one fifth of their customers. The criminal activities will rise in cyber environment with passage of time unless proper supervision and surveillance is ensured. The emergence of social media and the way it impacts the public opinion also poses multi faceted challenges for the intelligence agencies. Many of them have been exploiting it for their benefit. They have even banned or limited operations of these software applications in their countries to control the multiplier effects. A large number of security analysts have maintained that the Arab Spring was the direct consequence of social media action.

The outer space is silently being occupied by developed countries through sending satellites to get the live images of any part of the world. It is one of the most important areas for enhancing signal intelligence gathering mechanism across the globe. No proper laws and ethics, whatsoever, exist to guide the countries for a peaceful utilisation of outer space. We have no idea how the outer space is being polluted through undisclosed and clandestine operations without calculating its impact on the earth’s stratosphere. The drone attacks in the AfPak region is a classical example of outer space manipulation where people sitting in USA controls the attack with the help of ground crew in Afghanistan. The precision of drone shall increase in future and using an advanced technology, the target shall be singled out with relative ease and without any collateral damage. Imagine a scenario where a military technical operator in one of the states of American can target a single person on basis of geo mobile coordinate calculation and then using the satellite technology in real time hit and destroy the target at a remote location.

Regulation of these ungoverned spaces will require a futuristic thought process in order to gain a decisive edge over our enemies.