I must begin this article with the preface that I hate censorship. It serves no purpose really other than to oppress free citizens. I must also state that I absolutely love the freedom and access that the world wide web gives to people whose intent is the pursuit of truth and freedom as well as information.
At this point I must also add that the internet scares me. The amount of information out there is matched by an equal degree of disinformation. Add to that the malevolence of some of its darker corners and its depravity, and you have something that resembles nuclear know-how. It can be used for the greater good or the greater evil. I suppose whether or not the internet is good lies in one’s viewpoint as well as one’s intent and purpose for the knowledge that it dispenses.
After reading about the 17 terrorists that were rounded up at the end of the week in Toronto, I decided to do a little web searching using only information that I had heard from the various newscasts and reports. What I found not only shocked me, but left me feeling very disturbed.
After only an hour online, I found enough to keep me sleeping with one eye open. I went onto a major search engine and looked up the following subjects: homemade detonators, ammonium nitrate, and high explosives. I wasn’t disappointed, or actually, I was. In no time, I found what was required to pretty much come into my own as a terrorist.
While today’s crop of Islamic nutjobs have specialized training in such matters and have no need to search the web for information, I am still taken aback at what I was unable to discover in such a short time. As well, I have managed to order a book that was published by someone familiar with CIA techniques in the arts that should not be well known. You can see a copy of its cover at the top of this column. I am curious as to whether the book will deliver the recipes its reviewers promise and whether it will simply float over our border, through security, and to my doorstep. I do not want to go into any amount of detail. It will suffice to say that I am sure that somebody is now monitoring my internet habits, or at least they should be.
The amount of data which can be gleaned from the web does not end there. I looked over Google Earth, the satellite imagery service that is available free of charge to users of the internet. It lets the user zoom into pretty much any location on earth. Some areas are so low in resolution that you only get a vague outline of some streets. Other more prominent locations, such as Toronto, are imaged in medium to low-high resolution, allowing the user to zoom in for a better look. I traveled to one of the nuclear generating stations in southern Ontario and was able to map out the quickest route from the highway to the base of the reactor.
While the imagery on Google Earth is up to a few years old in most instances, it is nonetheless impressive. Should we allow detailed maps of our nuclear sites to appear to the general public? Is that a sure sign of our freedoms or of our naivety? Personally, I fail to see how knowing the layout of a nuclear generating station on the doorstep of Canada’s most populous city contributes to my liberty.
One thing is perfectly clear to me at this point. The world has changed, and there is absolutely no sure fire way to protect ourselves against the new means of disseminating hazardous information to those who are seeking it. It was once said that the U.S. constitution was meant for only a religious people, mainly Christians. It is true, in fact, that not only the U.S. constitution is applicable, but the very structure of any free society. Its well being depends on its citizenry having the principles that will guide it to do what is right, and the constant decision of the masses to do what is right over what is wrong. We have functioned and prospered for so long because most of us adhere to the same fundamentals and principles. That is no longer the case.
I wonder what will happen with all of this information available to us. For centuries, the secrets of gun powder and high explosives and its catalysts have been kept somewhat restricted. They was used by the military, construction, and exploration. Various other industries used them. For the most part, they were closely guarded. That is no longer the case.
Consider terrorism. Every single terrorist organization on the planet is dependant on the knowledge of how explosives work and how to manufacture them. Could the internet avail that information to more people than ever? Will that in itself lead to an increase in terrorism, domestic and foreign? Only time will tell.