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Puget Sound Transportation Projects

Infrastructure, Terrorism and the Web

With the events of 9/11 in the United States and subsequent terrorism events around the world, the question has arisen about providing information about transportation systems on the Web. Some people feel that this provides too much information to the terrorists. For a very technical site I agree in principle. As an example, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission used to provide detailed information on the country’s nuclear plants. While there is value to this information, especially for disaster planning, there is also a great risk to providing this level of information, which is why it has been removed.

There is a risk to providing information about transportation projects on the Web. Terrorism is unfortunately a valid concern in our country, and probably will be for some time. A terrorist attack on any of these projects would breed fear, cause massive issues with regards to traffic and could potentially injure or kill large amounts of people.

As to a more general site, such as mine, I take exception to this concern for several reasons. Firstly, these are publicly accessible projects. No photos or writings that I have on my site were obtained through any kind of special access, and if that ever changes, I would clear any information with the authorities before posting it. As publicly accessible projects, the general public has a right to know about them, as they usually paid for them and have the right to use them. And again, any potential terrorist could take the same kinds of photos and perform the same kinds of research as I have done.

So how do I feel about those systems that have shut down access to projects? That have harassed photographers and videographers? This is wrong. If the area is accessible to the public then there should be no issue. If there is such concern over photos and video being taken then there should be a process where users can get permission or certification.

Yes, there is a need to protect our sensitive, critical infrastructure from terrorists, but there is also a need to let people know about this infrastructure. And if we lock this information away from everyone then the terrorists have won.

Ben Brooks
April 2010