Terror detectors to the rescue

The twin suicide bombings in the Moscow metro on March 29killed 40 commuters and injured 121

The twin suicide bombings in the Moscow metro on March 29killed 40 commuters and injured 121

What can science do to tackle terror problems?

I must say, first of all, that technical methods alone will not guarantee safety against terror attacks. A broader approach is needed, with a focus on detecting and eliminating the underlying causes of the terror threat. Our counter-terror efforts will be in vain as long as the breeding grounds remain for the “reproduction of the dissatisfied” who support national and religious extremism.

Another important aspect is to run ahead of time. Our goal was to ensure that under no circumstances should nuclear and radioactive materials fall into the hands of terrorists, as well as poisonous substances, chemical and biological weapons.

So far, we have been spared in this respect.

We can’t do without international cooperation today as terrorists from different countries are sharing methods with each other. We have agreements with the US National Academy of Sciences and the NATO Scientific Committee. We hold joint seminars and conferences with US special services, publishing joint reports. The level of confidence in such issues is quite high. I cannot say that everything is disclosed; this will never be. Personally, I was persuaded by American colleagues that identification is one of the most effective means of protecting society against terror. I cannot see anything else close in scale and efficiency. For example, personal cards with chips are very convenient, allowing their holders to board a plane, take a metro, pay in shops. And everything gets registered.

Nikolai Laverov, VP of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
It becomes easier to watch suspicious people…

Exactly. The American authorities are prepared to produce 300 mn such cards for their citizens. In this respect, the US is doing a huge job, and we are far behind. It is not about international passports with biometric data, though these are important, too. What really matters is that each person must have a personal card with an individual chip.

Do you support proposals for total fingerprinting of Russians?

I support it. It does not breach any personal liberties. This is an artificial problem, because at stake is the protection of other people, not you yourself, but your neighbours, countrymen, and those who work beside you.

What about CCTV cameras?

I think they are not very helpful. They are needed to capture events and people, but are not instrumental in preventing terror attacks. Much more effective will be a full identification of all movements and actions of people, including ticket purchases.

Is it true that new “undressing” scanners appear in our airports, and some new detectors that we don’t even know about?

You made the correct remark: it is not just unreasonable but simply dangerous to disclose such information. But I will mention one thing. We addressed the problem of control over the movement of nuclear and radioactive materials and proceeded to see our technical solutions implemented in practice. You can be absolutely certain, for instance, that no radioactive materials will be smuggled through the Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow.

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