Parliament to the internet

Terrorist attacks and the future of space

If perhaps the airplanes converted into bombs ushered in the eventual end of skyscrapers and thus of dense urban centrality, the threats posed by letters converted into death messages could not only make the mail triumph over the traditional postal service, but also further demand the virtualization of society. Just again a letter was sent to the democratic congressman Patrick J. Leahy discovered, which probably contains anthrax. However, this was the only letter among the 268 mailbags examined that were placed under quarantine. At least one group of Democrats has already called for the possibility of holding parliamentary sessions on the Internet in case of emergency.

Of course, the media society has a quick attention for certain topics or images, but also a short memory. Therefore, at the moment of the threat, which anyone can accidentally become a victim of, security measures and fantasies of defense are postponed, which will probably have only a short expiry date, provided that the terror will soon be over.

The destroyed skyscrapers in the middle of Manhattan have led, at least temporarily, to the fact that the companies that had office space in them have had to relocate elsewhere. This may become permanent solutions, especially since in other locations the cost of real estate is not only cheaper and the danger of attacks is lower, but also because it became clear that the presence in dense urban zones is no longer a necessity thanks to information technologies. The attack on the civilized world would thus also have been an attack on the metropolises and thus on spatial centrality. In response to the allegedly globally dispersed terrorist networks, not only the military approach will change through the use of small, secretly operating and flexible commands, but also the way of life in space: The future may well lie in digital de-urbanization, while the large metropolises with their functions will be built in cyberspace.

Congress has already been shut down once because of the anthrax letters. This made the Democratic Leadership Council think that in case of future threats of any kind, there should at least be the possibility to hold the meetings on the Internet as well, so that political life would not be paralyzed. The Council, however, already refers to an earlier incident, when during the American Revolution the members of the House of Representatives had to flee from the attacking British army and then continued to hold their meetings at an arranged place. Such a thing is conceivable again today.

The White House has reportedly already asked Congress to allow it to continue running the government for up to 30 days if lawmakers cannot meet together. In any case, precautions had to be taken. Although there are several other parliamentary buildings near Washington that are suitable for temporary meetings, the state of information technology also makes it difficult for foreign investors to invest in the country’s economy "electronic congress" possible.

The Council imagines that a website could be used for everything that takes place in the House of Representatives or the Senate, from discussions to daily votes. The website, which is located on a well-secured server somewhere in the country, could be accessed by parliamentarians via the Internet from wherever they happen to be. Of course, special precautions had to be taken for authentication. Biometric identification must be considered here, as parliamentarians had to be personally checked beforehand if they were only allowed to log in at certain locations. The American burgers might have been able to follow what was happening on the site in a new transparency, but only on the basis of "read only".

Congress had not yet implemented what was already technically possible. It is admirable that the parliamentarians go about their work as usual despite the threat, but the terrorists can be defeated not only by courage, but also by intelligence and technology. And to it belong that at least the technology must be present to accomplish meetings also in the Internet.

As recently as June, the World Bank also held a meeting on the Internet, originally scheduled to take place in Barcelona, out of concern for possible demonstrations – and expressed satisfaction with the proceedings. Not only could Internet meetings be just as good as real meetings, but more people from all over the world could participate. Anti-globalization activists had announced such actions as virtual sit-ins, but there seem to have been no problems. However, the Council does not mention the fact that activities on the Internet can also be risky. Disrupting or interrupting a parliamentary debate would certainly be a target for crackers, but also for cyberterrorists or intelligence services of another state.

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