Caveat lector! I’m out of my depth when it comes to matters of internal security, counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence: each is a deep and often murky pool into which I have never stepped.
I saw this very interesting article in The Economist and it seems to conform what a number of smart people have been saying: more and more attacks are being carried out by “lone wolf” assailants who are guided by social media but neither directed by nor, often, even affiliated with any known terrorist group.
The article says that “very few of the attackers had any previous involvement in violent activities, are acting as individuals or at the most in groups of two or three friends, and in some cases are as young as thirteen,” and “the intelligence community sees the social media networks as its main opportunity to spot attackers in advance.” Thus far social media empires like Facebook appear, publicly at least, to have been unwilling to cooperate with the Israeli Security Services but, in my opinion, that may be a good thing: the Israelis are able to monitor and “mine” social media for clues which may, explain, in some part, why this third intifada has been less successful than the others. The article concludes by saying that “Using specially developed algorithms to monitor the social media accounts of young Palestinians has yielded a list of potential suspects, and in some cases has allowed the IDF in recent weeks to stop attackers before they could act. Dozens of young men and women have received “warning visits” by the Shin Bet security service, in which they and their parents are told they’re under surveillance. The names are also passed on to the Palestinian Authority’s security apparatus so they can keep tabs on them … [and] … These methods could be of use in other societies where disaffected young people are being radicalised on the web. The same tools through which they are pushed to join jihad could help to stop them before it is too late.“
I sincerely hope that the Government of Canada is in close contact with the Israelis and that we are learning from them. We have a “home grown” and “lone wolf” terrorist threat, here, too, and we need to prevent attacks before they happen, not arrest the perpetrators after they have done their bloody and cowardly deeds.