Department of Homeland Security Looks to Sci-Fi Writers for Salvation

May 30, 2007 at 3:54 pm | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, Iraq, Torture, War | 6 Comments

wow, the brightest sci-fi writer couldn’t think of something like this, but apparently the Department of Homeland Security is asking sci-fi writers to come up with the wildest craziest things of the future, in fighting terror.

Looking to prevent the next terrorist attack, the Homeland Security Department is tapping into the wild imaginations of a group of self-described “deviant” thinkers: science-fiction writers.

“We spend our entire careers living in the future,” says author Arlan Andrews, one of a handful of writers the government brought to Washington this month to attend a Homeland Security conference on science and technology.

Those responsible for keeping the nation safe from devastating attacks realize that in addition to border agents, police and airport screeners, they “need people to think of crazy ideas,” Andrews says.

The writers make up a group called Sigma, which Andrews put together 15 years ago to advise government officials. The last time the group gathered was in the late 1990s, when members met with government scientists to discuss what a post-nuclear age might look like, says group member Greg Bear. He has written 30 sci-fi books, including the best seller Darwin’s Radio.

Now, the Homeland Security Department is calling on the group to help with the government’s latest top mission of combating terrorism.

Huh, I thought our “enhanced interrogation techniques” were yielding actionable intelligence. Why do we need fiction writers to think up the next crazy plot? Also, wouldn’t asking Arab Islamic natives about their own kind be more fruitful in figuring out what might happen next? I mean really, that isn’t some grand new idea. It’s been around a while.

And if we’re going to go to extremes, why not ask God? I mean He does kinda know everything about everything, and all. You’d think asking Him might be helpful.


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  1. Actually, I think that’s a very cool idea – to invite science fiction writers to play a role in national security. I think 9/11 showed that al-Qaeda had a very powerful imagination to think of destructive ideas – so it might make sense for the government to use imaginative people to think of ways to defend the country.

    Oh yeah – I forgot to say – George Bush is so cool! (muahahah!)

  2. Oh yeah? well George Bush is the worst president ever, so there! 😉

    Did you ever read Stephen King’s “The Running Man?” Forget the Schwartzenegger dud of a film. The book is far more compelling. At the end of the book, Richard takes an airplane and flies it into the Network building, the tallest building in the city and blows it up with the airplane.

    I know if I were a terrorist who had at his heart the desire to sow terror, I’ve got several ideas of what to do. I won’t share them, of course, but it really isn’t that hard to think up some pretty crazy stuff.

    The thing, however, is that if we Americans attempt to think of crazy stuff terrorists might possibly do, we still won’t understand the reasoning behind what they are doing. We may believe “terrorists” are doing disturbing and evil stuff, but there is a method to their madness. They do things for a reason, and not just to sow terror. Bin Laden has stated that one of the reasons he declared war on America was because we had soldiers in his beloved homeland. He wasn’t too keen on us being there, so he devised a way to get us out of Saudi Arabia. Knowing how we respond to terrorist acts, he devised the 9/11 plot. He didn’t expect it to be as spectacular as it ended up being—he apparently didn’t realize all that burning fuel would actually melt the iron and bring the buildings down. I mean there would have been a far more deadly way for him to attack New York City with those airplanes (but again I’m not going to state it here how).

    The Department of Homeland Security is not looking at the real problem. The real problem is not the attacks themselves, but rather what is behind those attacks. What is the reasoning. There is a reason why we haven’t seen any suicide bombers targeting shopping malls. There is a reason why we haven’t seen any attempts to attack nuclear power plants. Those are targets already spoken about publicly. Yet not even a whisper of such possibilities. Why? If the real desire and motive at the heart of a “terrorist” is to sow terror, soft targets are your prime objective. Their motives and their actions do not add up to wanton and mindless terror.

  3. At the end of the book, Richard takes an airplane and flies it into the Network building, the tallest building in the city and blows it up with the airplane.

    At the end of one of Tom Clancy’s books (can’t remember the title right now, but it was about a mini-war that breaks out between Japan and the United States), a grief-stricken Japanese commercial airline pilot (son died during the “war”) decides to take his grief out on the US by crashing a Boeing 747 into the US Capitol building, with smashing success (Vice President Jack Ryan becomes President when most people in the capitol building, including the President, die as a result).

  4. Yeah, I was going to mention that Tom Clancey book. I forget which one it was too, but TC talked about it shortly after 9-11.

    Heaven help us if this is the only preparedness DHS is doing (somehow I doubt it).

    Dan, I don’t think DHS would disagree with most of your reasoning. Dan, coming up with a crazy plot and understanding the reasoning as to why terrorists do what they do aren’t mutually exclusive. Most people would agree with that. One does not automatically solve the other. I don’t think anyone would argue that.

    However, at the same time there’s been several events happen in recent history that were severe…and it was partly because the officials never thought that the unthinkable would happen, but it did. I’m not blaming anyone, but I think this is what DHS is getting at. Initial Emergency response is different than trying to understand why someone does something.

  5. I think the Clancy book is Debt of Honor. I never read it, but I remember reading the synopsis of the next book (Rainbow Six, I believe) which talked about that incident, where the president was killed and Jack Ryan became the next president.

    It’s not that we can’t think the unthinkable. I mean, we’ve created some very lethal weaponry, some that I’m sure others wouldn’t think about. The point is that we looked at a situation and said, okay, what kind of weapon would work best for this scenario. Both the Germans and the Americans realized that firebombing wasn’t enough, that a newer more destructive weapon needed to be created, so both made a race for the nuclear bomb. Necessity drove it.

    If terrorists would have anywhere close to the same power as nation-states, no doubt they would follow a more conventional method to create power and lethal weaponry. But terrorists don’t have that kind of power. They have to employ other means, based on necessity for what they want. Understanding what they want is the utmost important point in understanding what tool they would employ to achieve their goal.

    In Iraq, at this point, insurgents are employing pretty classic, and knowable tools in their attempts to undermine our occupation. In Iraq, there are also foreign forces attempting to undermine everything, and their employment of suicide bombs and car bombs have that powerful effect. Get Sunnis to kill Shi’ites, and sooner or later Shi’ites would strike back. There is no better way to completely undermine the idea of a national ruling government than to have a civil war.

    The incident with Fort Dix is a strange addition to the mix, because the accused “terrorists” were being led by the FBI informant to far more than they were originally willing to do. And frankly, what a stupid plan, to attack a training base full of well armed soldiers.

    9/11 was a masterful use of the tools available to Al-Qaida. And I’m sure Bin Laden is thinking that he got far more than he was even thinking he would get. Most certainly, he wanted America to strike back at a Muslim state. He got more than that, as we’ve attacked now, two Muslim states and are near to attacking a third, Iran. (Bin Laden, as a Sunni has no love for Iran, and I’m sure he’s thrilled we’re doing this). I’m sure he’s not happy that we’re still so supportive of the corrupt Saud family. He was hoping his actions would undermine them, so he could ride in and lead Saudi Arabia. That’s his ultimate plan. Unfortunately for him, he will never have that much power.

  6. Dan, I’m talking about the guys on the ground. The guys at DHS and the police officers at Virginia Tech, not the scientists at Los Alamos, and not our military in Iraq. I’m sorry my post wasn’t clear.

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