The launch of Australia’s new national terrorism alert system last week got me thinking about how and why the intelligence community communicates threats to the public
De-classifying sensitive intelligence to generate a specific warning about a specific threat is vital. Who wouldn’t want to know that their office building, transport route or holiday destination was a terrorist target? This is particularly important for threats against overseas locations, where the issuing Government has (at best) limited control over the identification and disruption of specific threats, or lacks confidence in the ability of domestic law enforcement and intelligence agencies to do so.
Unfortunately however, specific warnings that protect tourists in the short-term can still generate fear, disruption and publicity for the terrorist’s cause. In the worst-case scenario, they may even help achieve the desired outcomes of the attack planners. For example, if the perpetrators of the Tunisian attack aimed to
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