Thursday, July 14, 2005

Terrorism and engineering education

A peculiar wrinkle from investigations on the London bombings is speculation that terrorists have been recruiting young technical professionals in the UK. If nothing else, this reinforces the need to teach engineers and IT students skills of open-minded, critical thinking along with the powerful technical disciplines they learn. If, in fact, members of al-Quaeda has spotted this Achilles heel within modern higher education, they are even more clever than we’d suspected.

From “Leaked No 10 dossier reveals Al-Qaeda’s British recruits,” by Robert Winnett and David Leppard in the Times OnLine:

AL-QAEDA is secretly recruiting affluent, middle-class Muslims in British universities and colleges to carry out terrorist attacks in this country, leaked Whitehall documents reveal.

A network of “extremist recruiters” is circulating on campuses targeting people with “technical and professional qualifications”, particularly engineering and IT degrees.

Yesterday it emerged that last week’s London bombings were a sophisticated attack with all the devices detonating on the Underground within 50 seconds of each other. The police believe those behind the outrage may be home-grown British terrorists with no criminal backgrounds and possessing technical expertise.

A joint Home Office and Foreign Office dossier — Young Muslims and Extremism — prepared for the prime minister last year, said Britain might now be harbouring thousands of Al-Qaeda sympathisers. . . . .

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[While we're at it, why not throw in a class or two on basic ethics, perhaps discussing upon the moral depravity of killing innocent civilians. Of course, this question would be equally relevant for those now in charge at the Pentagon and White House. - LW]

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