Securing Against Future Events (SaFE): Pre-emption, Protocols and Publics

In the decade following the events of September 11 2001, security against potential terrorist attack has significantly changed in its form and emphasis.

Put simply, in many of the post-event analyses following the US attacks, as well as those in Bali, Madrid, London and Mumbai, the security problem is understood to be how to take action on the basis of uncertain, unforeseen and unanticipated events.

For example, the 9/11 hijackers did not fit the known and established risk profiles for airport security screening – and so, in effect, the absence of a match to profile resulted in a failure to intervene or act. Today, the known and established characteristics of who or what may pose a terrorism risk is considered something of a risk in itself. That is to say, what is sought is an adaptive and responsive means of securing against future threat events, whatever their characteristics may prove to be.

In short, the conventional security practice of preventing future attacks through verification against profiles, names and watchlists is beginning to be superceded by the pre-emption of future events through horizon-scanning, data gathering and projection, mobile profiles, and threat imagination. Uncertainty about the future is no longer posed as an impediment to action, but precisely as a spur to new forms of security calculation and decision that make uncertainty the very basis of action.


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