Technical Innovations in the War on Terrorism

After the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., many world governments stepped up their antiterror initiatives.


In our article How Terrorism Works, we explain that the goal of terrorists is to create fear in their victims and to use that fear as a weapon. While there are some known terrorist organizations around the world, many terrorists act alone or in small groups. In the U.S. alone, terrorists have ranged from mail bombers to school shooters to people parking trucks full of explosives in front of buildings.

A foreign group that had been operating inside the country for some time orchestrated the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001. That fact, combined with the magnitude of damage and lives lost that day, achieved the goal of creating fear throughout the U.S. Nine days after the attacks, President George W. Bush delivered an address to a joint session of Congress and the American people, declaring a war on terrorism. Most of that ongoing war targets known terrorist organizations in the Middle East.

Unlike an open war, though, a war on terrorism isn't as straightforward as meeting the enemy on a battlefield and fighting it out. For this specialized conflict, military and intelligence organizations are using innovative technologies to identify terrorists and defend against terrorist attacks. This article looks at five such innovations now in use from the home front to the battlefield.

Let's start with a look at a controversial technology that's increased efficiency for security personnel keeping you safe at the airport.