Chapter 1: Definitions & Conceptual Relationships

The meaning of security and technology varies from author to author. These differences often surface with the varied focus of discussions. The term security derives its etymological roots from “Latin secures safe, secure, se without + cura care – the quality or state of being secure or as a freedom from danger (freedom or fear or anxiety).” (Liotta, 2003; Mesjasz, 2009) ‘Security’ refers to protection against threats. These threats include a variety of forms of danger, damage, loss, and criminal activity. These threats could affect individual persons, properties, communities, nation-states and even the entire world. Securities as a form of protection are structures and processes that provide or improve stability as a condition.

Some writers, for example, focus on the technical aspects of security while others prefer more linguistic-based discussions of security and technology. A third category of such writers prefers to categorise the approaches to the topic. Regardless of their approaches and the meanings that they attach to security and technology, two things remain clear. Firstly, they have to include discussions of both concepts, which are broad-based, and secondly, these writers have to straddle both concepts since they impact one another. These challenges highlight this very notion of interdependence as mentioned earlier whilst at the same time, it highlights the importance through which all three approaches bear resonance to the appreciation of this holistic strategy through which a better appreciation can be gleaned.

1.1 Definition of Security

Security is amongst the foremost tasks of governments. It is vital that states remain robust in their effort to isolate, contain and mitigate security threats. Security is the degree of protection against danger, damage, loss, and criminal activity. Securities as a form of protection refer to structures and processes that provide or improve security as a condition. This includes anticipation of dangers arising out of criminal and terrorist activities. This also includes anticipation of criminal activities that emerge indirectly out of natural disasters such as the 11 March 2011 Tsunami in Japan. The extent of the damage that criminals and terrorists will inflict indirectly by taking advantage of the hubris in the wake of the tsunami is inestimable.

Source: Wikipedia, 2019

In most security systems, the "weakest link in the chain" is the most important one to be considered by experts. Clausewitz (Von Clausewitz, Howard and Paret, 2008) referred to the position of the government and security forces as ‘the position of the interior.’ It was in reference to the challenging situation in which law enforcement and the security services were placed. The situation is asymmetric since the defender must cover all points of attack while the attacker need only identify a single weak point upon which to concentrate. Bruce Schneier, “Defectors are more agile and adaptable, making them much better at being early adopters of new technology.”

Perception of security may be poorly mapped to measureable objective security. For example, the fear of earthquakes has been reported to be more common than the fear of slipping on the bathroom floor although the latter kills many more people than the former. Similarly, the perceived effectiveness of security measures is sometimes different from the actual security provided by those measures. The presence of security protections may even be taken for security itself. For example, two computer security programs could be interfering with each other and even cancelling each other's effect, while the owner believes he is getting twice the protection. The perception of security considerably impacts and dominates assessments of risk and vulnerability. This in turn impacts the manner through which operational decisions are made. The cascading impact of the perception of security can be felt in the most devastating manner when criminals and terrorists exploit it.

Security theatre is a critical term for deployment of measures primarily aimed at raising subjective security in a population without a genuine or commensurate concern for the effects of that measure on—and possibly decreasing—objective security. In essence, “Security theatre refers to security measures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security.” For example, some consider the screening of airline passengers based on static databases to have been Security Theatre and Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-screening System to create a decrease in objective security.

Huawei and China Unicom to deploy 5G smart travel system at Beijing’s new airport for China Eastern passengers

Source: South China Morning Post, 2019

Perception of security can also increase objective security when it affects or deters malicious behaviour, as with visual signs of security protections, such as video surveillance, alarm systems in a home, or an anti-theft system in a car such as a “LoJack”.

Since some intruders will decide not to attempt to break into such areas or vehicles, there can actually be less damage to windows in addition to protection of valuable objects inside. Without such advertisement, a car-thief might, for example, approach a car, break the window, and then flee in response to an alarm being triggered. With perceived security, even the windows of the car have a lower chance of being damaged, increasing the financial security of its owner.

Source: Dr Jerard (2015)

It is important, however, for signs advertising security not to give clues as to how to subvert that security, for example, in the case where a home burglar might be more likely to break into a certain home if he or she is able to learn beforehand which company makes its security system.

1.2 Definitions of Technology

Technology is the usage and knowledge of tools, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organisation in order to solve a problem or serve some purpose. The word technology comes from the Greek technología (τεχνολογία) — téchnē (τέχνη), an "art", "skill" or "craft" and -logía (-λογία), the study of something, or the branch of knowledge of a discipline. The term can either be applied generally or to specific areas, for example, construction technology, medical technology, and information technology.

Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species' ability to control and adapt to their natural environments. The human species' use of technology began with the conversion of natural resources into simple tools. The prehistorical discovery of the ability to control fire increased the available sources of food and the invention of the wheel helped humans in travelling in and controlling their environment. Recent technological developments, including the printing press, the telephone, and the Internet, have lessened physical barriers to communication and allowed humans to interact freely on a global scale. However, not all technology has been used for peaceful purposes; the development of weapons of ever-increasing destructive power has progressed throughout history, from clubs to nuclear weapons.

Technology has affected society and its surroundings in a number of ways. In many societies, technology has helped develop more advanced economies (including today's global economy) and has allowed the rise of a leisure class. Many technological processes produce unwanted by-products, known as pollution, and deplete natural resources, to the detriment of the Earth and its environment. Various implementations of technology influence the values of a society and new technology often raises new ethical questions. Examples include the rise of the notion of efficiency in terms of human productivity, a term originally applied only to machines, and the challenge of traditional norms.

Philosophical debates have arisen over the present and future use of technology in society, with disagreements over whether technology improves the human condition or worsens it. Neo-Luddism, anarcho-primitivism, and similar movements criticize the pervasiveness of technology in the modern world, opining that it harms the environment and alienates people; proponents of ideologies such as trans-humanism and techno-progressivism view continued technological progress as beneficial to society and the human condition. Indeed, until recently, it was believed that the development of technology was restricted only to human beings, but recent scientific studies indicate that other primates and certain dolphin communities have developed simple tools and learned to pass their knowledge to other generations.

The use of the term technology has changed significantly over the last 200 years. Before the 20th century, the term was uncommon in English, and usually referred to the description or study of the useful arts. The term was often connected to technical education, as in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (chartered in 1861). "Technology" rose to prominence in the 20th century in connection with the second industrial revolution. The meanings of technology changed in the early 20th century when American social scientists, beginning with Thorstein Veblen, translated ideas from the German concept of Technik into "technology." In German and other European languages, a distinction exists between Technik and Technologie that is absent in English, as both terms are usually translated as "technology." By the 1930s, "technology" referred not to the study of the industrial arts, but to the industrial arts themselves. In 1937, the American sociologist Read Bain wrote that "technology includes all tools, machines, utensils, weapons, instruments, housing, clothing, communicating and transporting devices and the skills by which we produce and use them." Bain's definition remains common among scholars today, especially social scientists. But equally prominent is the definition of technology as applied science, especially among scientists and engineers, although most social scientists that study technology reject this definition. More recently, scholars have borrowed from European philosophers of "technique" to extend the meaning of technology to various forms of instrumental reason, as in Foucault's work on technologies of the self ("techniques de soi").

Technology can be most broadly defined as the entities, viz. material and immaterial, created by the application of mental and physical effort in order to achieve some value. In this usage, technology refers to tools and machines that may be used to solve real-world problems. It is a far-reaching term that may include simple tools, such as a crowbar or wooden spoon, or more complex machines, such as a space station or particle accelerator. Tools and machines need not be material; virtual technology, such as computer software and business methods, falls under this definition of technology.

The word "technology" can also be used to refer to a collection of techniques. In this context, it is the current state of humanity's knowledge of how to combine resources to produce desired products, to solve problems, fulfil needs, or satisfy wants; it includes technical methods, skills, processes, techniques, tools and raw materials. When combined with another term, such as "medical technology" or "space technology", it refers to the state of the respective field's knowledge and tools. "State-of-the-art technology" refers to the high technology available to humanity in any field.

Technology can be viewed as an activity that forms or changes culture. Additionally, technology is the application of maths, science, and the arts for the benefit of life, as it is known. A modern example is the rise of communication technology, which has lessened barriers to human interaction and, as a result, has helped spawn new subcultures; the rise of cyber culture has, at its basis, the development of the Internet and the computer. Not all technology enhances culture in a creative way; technology can also help facilitate political oppression and war via tools such as guns. As a cultural activity, technology predates both science and engineering, each of which formalises some aspects of technological endeavour.

1.3 Definitions of Crime

Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority (via mechanisms such as legal systems) can ultimately prescribe a conviction. Individual human societies may each define crime differently, in different localities (state, local, international), at different time stages of the so-called "crime" (planning, disclosure, supposedly intended, supposedly prepared, incomplete, completed or futuristically proclaimed after the "crime".

While every crime violates the law, not every violation of the law counts as a crime; for example, breaches of contract and of other civil law may rank as "offences" or as "infractions". Modern societies generally regard crimes as offences against the public or the state, as distinguished from torts (offences against private parties that can give rise to a civil cause of action).

When informal relationships and sanctions prove insufficient to establish and maintain a desired social order, a government or a state may impose more formalized or stricter systems of social control. With institutional and legal machinery at their disposal, agents of the State can compel populations to conform to codes, and can opt to punish or attempt to reform those who do not conform.

The word crime, from the root of Latin cerno = "I decide, I give judgment". Originally the Latin word crimen meant "charge" or "cry of distress."

A normative definition views crime as deviant behaviour that violates prevailing norms – cultural standards prescribing how humans ought to behave normally. This approach considers the complex realities surrounding the concept of crime and seeks to understand how changing social, political, psychological, and economic conditions may affect changing definitions of crime and the form of the legal, law-enforcement, and penal responses made by society.

Governments create legislatures, whose main job is to create and pass laws (called mala prohibita) that define crimes, which violate social norms. In general, they divide crimes up into crimes against the state (for example, treason), crimes against another person (for example, murder), crimes against property (for example, vandalism) and crimes against the public order (for example, prostitution).

English criminal law and the related criminal law of Commonwealth countries can define offences which the courts alone have developed over the years, without any actual legislation: common law offences. The courts used the concept of malum in se to develop various common law offences. This refers to “an act that is "wrong in itself," in its very nature being illegal because it violates the natural, moral or public principles of a civilized society”. (Sudhanshu, 2011)

1.4 Definitions of Terrorism

Terrorism is the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion. No universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition of terrorism currently exists. Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for a religious, political or ideological goal, deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians), and are committed by non-government agencies.

Some definitions also include acts of unlawful violence and war. The use of similar tactics by criminal organisations for protection rackets or to enforce a code of silence is usually not labelled terrorism though these same actions may be labelled terrorism when done by a politically motivated group.

The word "terrorism" is politically and emotionally charged, and this greatly compounds the difficulty of providing a precise definition.

Source: European Council on Foreign Relations, 2019

According to the revised consensus on the definition of terrorism amongst academics, Prof Schmid listed the following 12 factors in The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research. The seminal work of Prof Schmid revised the initial number for definitions of terrorism from 109 in 1988 to over 260 in his 2011 edition. The list of factors as shown below highlights the various factors that are seen to be key when discussions surface on elements of terrorism (Schmid, 2011):

  1. Terrorism refers, on the one hand, to a doctrine about the presumed effectiveness of a special form or tactic of fear-generating, coercive political violence and, on the other hand, to a conspiratorial practice of calculated, demonstrative, direct violent action without legal or moral restraints, targeting mainly civilians and non-combatants, performed for its propagandistic and psychological effects on various audiences and conflict parties;
  2. Terrorism as a tactic is employed in three main contexts: (i) illegal state repression, (ii) propagandistic agitation by non-state actors in times of peace or outside zones of conflict and (iii) as an illicit tactic of irregular warfare employed by state- and non-state actors;
  3. The physical violence or threat thereof employed by terrorist actors involves single-phase acts of lethal violence (such as bombings and armed assaults), dual- phased life-threatening incidents (like kidnapping, hijacking and other forms of hostage-taking for coercive bargaining) as well as multi-phased sequences of actions (such as in ‘disappearances’ involving kidnapping, secret detention, torture and murder);
  4. The public (-ised) terrorist victimization initiates threat-based communication processes whereby, on the one hand, conditional demands are made to individuals, groups, governments, societies or sections thereof, and, on the other hand, the support of specific constituencies (based on ties of ethnicity, religion, political affiliation and the like) is sought by the terrorist perpetrators;
  5. At the origin of terrorism stands terror – instilled fear, dread, panic or mere anxiety – spread among those identifying, or sharing similarities, with the direct victims, generated by some of the modalities of the terrorist act – it’s shocking brutality, lack of discrimination, dramatic or symbolic quality and disregard of the rules of warfare and the rules of punishment;
  6. The main direct victims of terrorist attacks are in general not any armed forces but are usually civilians, non-combatants or other innocent and defenceless persons who bear no direct responsibility for the conflict that gave rise to acts of terrorism;
  7. The direct victims are not the ultimate target (as in a classical assassination where victim and target coincide) but serve as message generators, more or less unwittingly helped by the news values of the mass media, to reach various audiences and conflict parties that identify either with the victims’ plight or the terrorists’ professed cause;
  8. Sources of terrorist violence can be individual perpetrators, small groups, diffuse transnational networks as well as state actors or state-sponsored clandestine agents (such as death squads and hit teams);
  9. While showing similarities with methods employed by organised crimeas as well as those found in war crimes, terrorist violence is predominantly political – usually in its motivation but nearly always in its societal repercussions;
  10. The immediate intent of acts of terrorism is to terrorise, intimidate, antagonize, disorientate, destabilise, coerce, compel, demoralize or provoke a target population or conflict party in the hope of achieving from the resulting insecurity a favorable power outcome, e.g. obtaining publicity, extorting ransom money, submission to terrorist demands and/or mobilizing or immobilizing sectors of noted the public;
  11. The motivations to engage in terrorism cover a broad range, including redress for alleged grievances, personal or vicarious revenge, collective punishment, revolution, national liberation and the promotion of diverse ideological, political, social, national or religious causes and objectives;
  12. Acts of terrorism rarely standalone but form part of a campaign of violence which alone can, due to the serial character of acts of violence and threats of more to come, create a pervasive climate of fear that enables the terrorists to manipulate the political process.

The concept of terrorism may itself be controversial as it is often used by state authorities to delegitimise political or other opponents, and potentially legitimise the state's own use of armed force against opponents (such use of force may itself be described as "terror" by opponents of the state).

Terrorism has been practised by a broad array of political organisations for furthering their objectives. It has been practised by both right-wing and left-wing political parties, nationalistic groups, religious groups, revolutionaries, and ruling governments. An abiding characteristic is the indiscriminate use of violence against non-combatants for the purpose of gaining publicity for a group, cause, or individual.

"Terror" comes from the Latin verb “terrere” meaning "to frighten". The terror “cimbricus” was a panic state of emergency in Rome in response to the approach of warriors of the Cimbri tribe in 105 BC.

The definition of terrorism has proved controversial. Various legal systems and government agencies use different definitions of terrorism in their national legislation. Moreover, the International community has been slow to formulate a universally agreed, legally binding definition of this crime. These difficulties arise from the fact that the term "terrorism" is politically and emotionally charged. In this regard, Angus Martyn, briefing the Australian Parliament, stated that "The international community has never succeeded in developing an accepted comprehensive definition of terrorism. During the 1970s and 1980s, the United Nations attempts to define the term floundered mainly due to differences of opinion between various members about the use of violence in the context of conflicts over national liberation and self-determination."

These divergences have made it impossible for the United Nations to conclude a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that incorporates a single, all-encompassing, legally binding, criminal law definition of terrorism. Nonetheless, the international community has adopted a series of sectorial conventions that define and criminalise various types of terrorist activities. Moreover, since 1994, the United Nations General Assembly has repeatedly condemned terrorist acts using the following political description of terrorism: "Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them."

Terrorist attacks are usually carried out in such a way as to maximise the severity and length of the psychological impact. Each act of terrorism is a “performance” devised to have an impact on many large audiences. Terrorists also attack national symbols, to show power and to attempt to shake the foundation of the country or society they are opposed to. This may negatively affect a government, while increasing the prestige of the given terrorist organisation and/or ideology behind a terrorist act.

Terrorist acts frequently have a political purpose. Terrorism is a political tactic, like letter- writing or protesting, which is used by activists when they believe that no other means will affect the kind of change they desire. The change is desired so badly that failure to achieve change is seen as a worse outcome than the deaths of civilians. This is often where the inter- relationship between terrorism and religion occurs. When a political struggle is integrated into the framework of a religious or "cosmic" struggle, such as over the control of an ancestral homeland or holy site such as Israel and Jerusalem, failing in the political goal (nationalism) becomes equated with spiritual failure, which, for the highly committed, is worse than their own death or the deaths of innocent civilians.

Very often, the victims of terrorism are targeted not because they are threats, but because their suffering accomplishes the terrorists' goals of instilling fear, getting their message out to an audience or otherwise satisfying the demands of their often radical religious and political agendas.

The terms "terrorism" and "terrorist" (someone who engages in terrorism) carry strong negative connotations. These terms are often used as political labels, to condemn violence or the threat of violence by certain actors as immoral, indiscriminate, unjustified or to condemn an entire segment of a population. Those labelled "terrorists" by their opponents rarely identify themselves as such, and typically use other terms or terms specific to their situation, such as separatist, freedom fighter, liberator, revolutionary, vigilante, militant, paramilitary, guerrilla, rebel, patriot, or any similar-meaning word in other languages and cultures. It is common for both parties in a conflict to describe each other as terrorists.

The pejorative connotations of the word can be summed up in the often repeated aphorism, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". This is exemplified when a group using irregular military methods is an ally of a state against a mutual enemy, but later falls out with the state and starts to use those methods against its former ally. During World War II, the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army was allied with the British, but during the Malayan Emergency, members of its successor (the Malayan Races Liberation Army), were branded "terrorists" by the British.

Activity 1.1

Explore this often-heard statement: “One Man’s Terrorist Is Another Man’s Freedom Fighter”.

In your opinion, how true is this statement? Consider 3 key differences between a criminal and a terrorist.