The Proper Reaction to Terrorism

After 9/11 the United States government reacted by turning this county into more of a police state than it already was. The PATRIOT Act was hurried into law, National Security Letters commanded companies to hand over customer information and threatened prison time for even revealing that the letter was received, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) turned flying into a fiasco, and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan began because those countries had oil and lithium respectively been accused of assisting Al Qaeda. How did Norway react to last year’s terrorist attack on their country? As Bruce Schneier points out, sensibly:

“The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation,” he said.

A year later it seems the prime minister has kept his word.

There have been no changes to the law to increase the powers of the police and security services, terrorism legislation remains the same and there have been no special provisions made for the trial of suspected terrorists.

On the streets of Oslo, CCTV cameras are still a comparatively rare sight and the police can only carry weapons after getting special permission.

Even the gate leading to the parliament building in the heart of Oslo remains open and unguarded.

“It is still easy to get access to parliament and we hope it will stay that way, ” said Lise Christoffersen, a Labour party MP.

She is convinced people do not want laws passed which would curtail their basic rights and impinge on their privacy despite the relative ease with which Breivik was able to plan and carry out his attacks.

If only the United States government had reacted the same way. Instead of sinking trillions of dollars into security theater and war we may have actually been able to redirect those squandered resources into something productive.