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Former CIA Operative Reveals 3 Roots of Terrorism: Wages, Liberty, Language Amaryllis Fox

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Former CIA Operative Reveals 3 Roots of Terrorism: Wages, Liberty, Language Amaryllis Fox

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How do you spot terrorism before it happens? Look for patterns in what might seem like unlikely places. Like the living wage of a border guard, for instance.

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Amaryllis Fox: I think one of the really scary and overwhelming things about terrorism can be the idea that it’s this giant boogeyman that is really difficult to comprehend, and is terrifying, and comes along in the night out of nowhere and steals your family members or loved ones away.

And for me my life’s work has really been understanding the small logical puzzle pieces that when taken together create that boogeyman so that you can take it apart into manageable pieces and actually begin to understand what drives these inconceivable actions.

So, when you take this overwhelming boogeyman of terrorism and you begin to tease it apart based on the data and look for patterns that turn up again and again each time a terrorist plot is planned in a different territory throughout the historical data, you begin to notice patterns that might not seem obvious to begin with.

So, things like the percentage beneath livable wage that a border guard gets paid which, of course, gives rise to the possibility of accepting a bribe to let somebody just sneak across the border or hand a package to you.

If that bribe is the difference between being able to feed your kids that month or not it’s a pretty understandable small choice for that individual actor and yet has given rise to perhaps a terrorist act being able to take place even though the law of the territory should have prevented it.

So, another example would be the rate of change of things like freedom of the press or freedom of speech—Not the scores themselves, but the rate of change—which goes to the difficulty that societies experience when they suddenly open up and allow liberties that many of the more traditional members of society haven’t been accustomed to in the past.

There are strategies for taking communities through those evolutions, but without those strategies in place it can seem very jarring.

And we experience that even in a mature democracy like ours, where when certain changes take place quickly it can take portions of the community time to be comfortable with them and to catch up in a political environment.

Another example would be the ratio of hookah bars to madrasas, and there you begin to see, you know, tensions between more traditional, religious elements in society and a younger demographic.

In many countries where you have more than 50 percent in that youth demographic, there’s a big cultural rift there that can often give rise to lack of understanding or the feeling that young people are not being incorporated into society and need some other outlet for their feelings of frustration (and eventually rage).

Another really interesting one that we see is: how good machine translation is for a local language.

So often we think that libraries in the olden days and now the provision of hardware and internet access points can be a great tool in the fight against extremism.

All of a sudden young people in a given area have access to the sum total of human knowledge. How great is that? And yet if the language that’s spoken, the dialect in that region is not very well translated by Google Translator or other artificial intelligence programs, then really access to the internet for the majority of young people who don’t necessarily speak another language or dialect is not terribly meaningful, because they’re generally seeing sites that for small dialects are actually created in their vicinity and may not offer perspectives that are particularly different from what they’re hearing around them in a given day.

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