Counter-Terrorism: Terrorizing the Terrorists With American TV

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February 9, 2007: Iraqis are in awe of American technology. So much so that they think we have stuff that we don't. Iraqis get a lot of this from watching American TV. American crime shows, like the CSI series, circulate on CDs and DVDs, and are avidly watched. So when terror suspects find they are photographed, finger printed and have DNA taken, they know what they are in for. But late last year, American soldiers and marines working in Anbar province got the idea of having a portable kit, with the database built in, to do this. In a month, they got an American firm, CDI, to build and ship "The Snake Eater", to the troops. The device is a hardened laptop (like the kind the army, and construction companies buy a lot of), with a digital camera and electronic fingerprinting device. Most importantly, the laptop also has database (also off the shelf, police departments use this stuff) software for storing the prints, pictures and other information. The other data includes what is known about the suspects family, and connections to other people.

Actually, this sort of thing was being done three years ago, often at the instigation of reservists who were police detectives, or just beat cops who were familiar with the existing technology. However, every brigade and division had their own database, and despite several attempts, there is not yet an Iraq-wide system.

No matter, what made "The Snake Eater" an immediate hit was the fact that everything was in one place, and suspects quickly caught on that once they were inside that laptop, they were more vulnerable. That connected with the Iraqi awe of U.S. tech. Yeah, some Iraqis knew that they could get nailed because some brigade had them on file as likely bad guys. But the "The Snake Eater" was an instant reminder, and put fear into the hearts of actual and potential terrorists. Word soon got around, and things quieted down in areas where "The Snake Eater" showed up. Part of the Iraqi panic came from the rumor that "The Snake Eater" was slipping GPS chips into the bodies of suspects. No word if the "The Snake Eater" has a bounty on it yet.

 

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