"The risk of terrorism increased
There's no evidence to suggest the risk of terrorism increased
after 9/11. In fact, US State Department figures published
in 2004 show terrorism at its lowest level in 35 years.
(See graph below, and http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/pgtrpt/2003/31751.htm)
Some media coverage gives the impression that 9/11, as an
event, somehow led to or caused an increased
threat of terrorism. This is an example of a logical fallacy
known as Misleading Vividness, in which the occurrence
of a dramatic event is taken to mean that such events are
more likely to occur (despite statistical evidence
to the contrary).
The "increased terror threat" fallacy is used by
government to justify new freedom-eroding legislation
and also to justify the spending of billions of pounds of
public money on an ID card scheme of questionable benefit
in combatting terrorism (a former head of MI5 cast doubt on
the usefulness of ID cards in this respect).
According to the MIPT terrorism knowledge base, the
total number of US and UK (including Northern Ireland) fatalities
caused by terrorism in the five years after 9/11 was 74, compared
to 68 in the five years before. The corresponding totals for
Iraq are 15,763 and 12, respectively. That should put fear
of terrorism into perspective for UK and US citizens.
Unfortunately, as Michael Bond reports in New Scientist
(19/8/06), people base their fears more on the vividness of
events than on the probability of them reoccurring. And since
television presents very vivid coverage of any attack (or
foiled attack, rumoured attack, etc) on UK or US soil, it
is "destroying our probabilistic mapping of the world",
according to Nicholas Taleb, professor in the sciences of
uncertainty at the University of Massachusetts (quoted in
New Scientist, 19/8/06).
The "increased terror threat" fallacy was also
used in government PR in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of
Iraq (eg Saddam's WMD + increased terrorism risk = urgent
need to invade Iraq). Ironically, the invasion of Iraq has
led to a huge increase of terrorist attacks within