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Security Science

Engineers Make Good Terrorists? 467

Posted by Zonk
from the what's-wrong-with-an-engineering-degree dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Engineers' focus and attention to details, along with their perceived lack of social skills, make them ideal targets to be recruited as terrorists, according to EETimes. Planning skills make engineers good 'field operatives' was written up by Raphael Perl, who heads the Action against Terrorism Unit of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He offers that 'Engineers ideally make excellent strategic planners, and they make excellent field operatives. They think differently from how other people think.' That may sound like a stereotype, but Perl claims that 'because of those traits, terrorist groups actively recruit engineers.' He says that Al-Qaeda has widely acknowledged that a significant number of the group's top leadership had engineering backgrounds." This is the second time in just a few months that engineers have been likened to terrorists.
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Engineers Make Good Terrorists?

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  • Old news (Score:5, Funny)

    by spazdor (902907) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:13PM (#22955722)
    We've been tapping engineers for our cause ever since Counterstrike came out.
    • You mean Command & Conquer: Red Alert Counterstrike, right? Since C&C had terrorist engineers long before that FPS came out...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:40PM (#22956176)
      what does it pay? Health care? Time off? Options? Company Car?
    • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @04:06PM (#22956570)
      I'm an Electrical Engineer.

      THIS MAKES ME SO ANGRY I WANT TO BLOW SOMETHING UP!

      And yeah, C&C had Engineers. You could take over buildings with them, as long as the building health was below 50%. Otherwise, they would damage the building.
      • by liquidpele (663430) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @04:13PM (#22956678) Journal
        This story's logic also says Chefs make good cannibals...
      • by MrNaz (730548) * on Thursday April 03, 2008 @04:38PM (#22956998) Homepage
        Hey, if you as an engineer think you get the short end of the accusatory stick, you don't. I'm a Muslim, and I have to qualify sentences with "IANAT" every time I say something that involves technical gear, government issues or gardening. I was once questioned because a wiretap caught me saying "that damn bush has got to go".
        • by Nazlfrag (1035012) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @07:41PM (#22958746) Journal
          4-4-08-0709 CARNIVORE DHSpider-1512

          SUBJECT: MrNaz

          SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITY CLASS 2: Positively matched to keyphrase 'That damn Bush has got to go.'

          ADDITIONAL DATA: ANGRY, Muslim, engineer.

          PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS: Technical gear 27% Gardening 44% Government operation 89% Wiretapping 56% Censorship 38%

          RECOMMENDATION: Threat level aqua. Dispatch surveillance team and interrogate subject.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Dr. Cody (554864)
          Well, I don't know if you're a terrorist or not, but you could definitely warrant some questions...

          Profile pic [mrnaz.com]
      • by utopianfiat (774016) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @05:26PM (#22957514) Journal
        Serious business, dude. I doubt you sincerely see this as anything more than FUD to silence smart people with prudent objections to the actions of the people in power.

        I could stand in front of you and say that the charitable nature of Jesus's teachings make Christians good communists. It may even be true that Christianity is compatible with socialism, but that doesn't even imply that the vast majority of Christians are socialists. However, because of the stigma associated with terrorists and communists, I can start to shake your faith in Christians because of their socialist ideas.

        Yeah, Engineers make good terrorists. You know who else makes good terrorists? Marines.
        See Charles Whitman, Lee Harvey Oswald.
        You know who else makes good terrorists? Mathematicians. Ted Kaczynski.

        You know what else makes people terrorists?
        MURDERING LOTS OF PEOPLE.
        People act as if they can build a formula for finding at risk people, as if prevention is the number-one priority.
        No, we should be mitigating risk and increasing SECURITY. If we can figure out a way to do this without OPPRESSING A FUCKING SOCIAL GROUP, I would call it the biggest advance of the millenium.
    • by pvera (250260) <pedro.vera@gmail.com> on Thursday April 03, 2008 @05:24PM (#22957490) Homepage Journal
      A real engineer would not be an asset to a terror-seeking team. If it is terror driven by religion, I can guarantee you that the engineer will always be the odd man out that won't want to stick to the rules, be it scheduling of prayers or that pork rinds are not acceptable, etc.

      What you want is a sleeper. You find the right kind of young recruit that will make a good engineering student. Indoctrinate first, engineering education later. If you try to indoctrinate an engineer you will probably end up losing your own religion over the ordeal.
      --
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ScrewMaster (602015)
        If you try to indoctrinate an engineer you will probably end up losing your own religion over the ordeal.

        Even if you do manage to indoctrinate an engineer with some particular set of terrorist ideals, he may later decide that you're full of shit. Then he'll be the guy that figures out how to fix ALL your clocks. So yeah ... better start out with somebody who's so thoroughly programmed that he has no chance of ever thinking for himself, and then see if he has any aptitude for technology.
  • by RobinH (124750) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:13PM (#22955738) Homepage
    ...but alas I'm an engineer, not a lawyer. :(
  • by laxiepoo (783224) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:15PM (#22955754)
    But terrorists? Only if the engineers are lonely, disgruntled people in-general. I think most engineers would be more Constructive than Destructive by nature. Though if this holds true, then any group looking to forcibly recruit should start with engineers first. Movementarians included.
    • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:26PM (#22955954) Homepage Journal
      But terrorists? Only if the engineers are lonely, disgruntled people in-general. I think most engineers would be more Constructive than Destructive by nature

      You see... that is the problem. The term "Terrorist" has been so deluded that most people will fall into that category anymore. Smoke pot? Terrorist. Downloaded a song? Terrorist. Using SSH? Terrorist.

      And it is thrown around even more, if you show an average intelligence larger than those who would label you a terrorist... and how many people do you think fall into that category?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by shentino (1139071)
        It's not that we're smart, but that they're dumb.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by pipingguy (566974) *
        You see... that is the problem. The term "Engineer" has been so deluded that most people will fall into that category anymore. Write software? Engineer. Use a cheap CAD program to draw your house addition? Engineer. Drive a train? Engineer.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:35PM (#22956100)
      I disagree. Simply put, engineers would be excellent terrorists. Engineers look to solve problems. The problem is just determined from a frame of reference. As terrorists, the problem is bringing down some infrastructure by determining its weaknesses and exploiting them. As engineers, the problem is developing the infrastructure and designing them to be robust.

      An anecdote: I recall eating lunch one day a couple summers back with some coworkers (all aerospace engineering senior undergrad or grad students). We spent 45 minutes discussing how one could take down a plane while in flight using simple things - nothing fancy such as explosives. Whether any or all of them would be remotely successful is one matter. Nonetheless, in 45 minutes of eating and discussion we had a list of 10 of so items that could be plausible to taking down an aircraft.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Monchanger (637670)
        Sure, engineers have skills useful to terrorists. But on the other hand, those skills are useful at fighting the same engineers that terrorists employ. For example, many US engineers are trying to protect our troops against IEDs, the most well known being the good folks at iRobot. As for planes, you forget that the same kind of brainstorming session is required by those in the FAA, to prevent planes going down. Who's going to do that- bureaucrats?

        I'd argue that Engineers make less effective terrorists t
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:36PM (#22956116)
      A good engineer will always think of the possibilities of destruction, even if they're in the business of construction. An engineer has to critically think about their designs to determine where the weak points are. Whether designing skyscrapers or secure software, determining weaknesses is a part of the job.

      I'm sure the thought police would have a field day with me for saying this, but I think about committing crimes now and then. Not that I would do such thing, I enjoy my life outside of prison. But just as a type of mental exercise it's interesting to me while standing in line at a store, noticing where cameras are located, determining blind spots, exit strategies, exposed wiring that could be cut, etc. I then think about how I would improve the system.

      My point is that engineering is about designing stability. You can't produce stability if you aren't able to see the possibility of destruction, so the same qualities that make one a good engineer are the qualities that make them a potential terrorist in the eyes of a paranoid politician.
    • by phorm (591458) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:43PM (#22956242) Journal
      I'd have to agree that it's a fairly thin correlation to draw. Mind you, if I were going to blow something up, I suppose I'd want somebody with an engineering background in demolitions as opposed to an art major.

      The question is where you'd fine such an engineer. Unless he/she is already a bit of a nutjob, an engineering background should come with decent employment options and intelligence that would somewhat contrast with the somewhat brainwashed or easily overwhelmed variety of terrorist-recruit that tends to be more readily available.

      Recruiting engineers to be terrorists, likely not. Training terrorists to be engineers would be more likely.
      • by inzy (1095415) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @04:08PM (#22956604)
        one man's freedom fighter is another terrorist

        al-quaeda are terrorists to americans, but freedom fighters to palestinians/other oppressed muslim countries. engineers may well decide to fight for what they see as a good cause
        • by dbrutus (71639) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @04:55PM (#22957192) Homepage
          Besides being banal, this isn't actually true. Al Queda, in practice, mostly succeeds in killing muslims that they feel insufficiently devout or of differing political or religious opinions. This is rather unpopular in the muslim world.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mjwx (966435)
            Al-queda are a lot like the KKK in western society, their ideal's only appeal to those who already thought in that frame of mind. The average westerner under ordinary circumstances would never join the KKK, same as the average Arab would not join Al-queda under ordinary circumstances, the problem is that in the middle-east, there is very little of what we would consider "normal circumstances" thus they have a higher recruitment than the KKK (Al-queda recruitment would still be around 1 in tens of millions).
      • by mollymoo (202721) * on Thursday April 03, 2008 @04:26PM (#22956854) Journal
        You have very blinkered view of terrorists. The ones who blow themselves up are the bottom of the food chain. Above them are people planning attacks, recruiting people, training them, making bombs, raising and moving money, implementing secure communications and all the other things you need to make a terrorist organisation function effectively. Many of these are intelligent, pragmatic people who realise that terrorism may well be the only effective tool they have to influence the political process. It's not like terrorism has never worked where political means have failed. If some superpower came and shat all over your country I suspect you'd consider being a freedom fighter (which is what terrorists typically consider themselves) too.
        • Have you ever been in on an interrogation for one of these higher up? Ever met on in person or talked to one? Or are you just pulling that out of your ass? I have personally been there and done all of the above. Iraq 2003-2004 2005-2006 (sneaky bastard). Most of them are pushing a very religous agenda, even the ones high on the food chain aren't doing it because they're opressed, they do it because they want to be the opressor in their region. They want all the mosque's in their area to preach what they want preached and to keep the masses ignorant to garner more power for themselves. Ever seen a body wadi? That's what we called it because that's where we would find all the bodies of a particular tribe that another tribe hated. I was present when we captured a particularly sick imam that made a habit out of raping and beheading people with opposing religous views. Most of the guys planting the bombs don't even necessarily care one way or the other about the position of the person who wants him to do it, usually it's just some poor farmer that had someone offer him money to put a box in a certain place at a certain time. What I think you fail to understand is how the culture in the mid-east works, there is a lot more to it than U.S. vs. Sunni. vs Shiite. There are huge familial bonds, ancient blood feuds, clan feuds, tribal feuds, honor killing, among many other things. All of them want to be the dominant power where they are and after they get it, they want more power and more, it's just the way of things. Not to say that all muslim regions are like this, just the bad ones are like this. I even had a fight with my mother about lumping a whole group of people together, she said some nasty slur about muslims and I lost my cool. Muslims aren't the problem, power hungry religous zealots are the problem. I worked with so many muslims that were great (Gigi, Aziz I'm looking at you) people, fun to be around, and all they wanted is for people to stop fighting and get along. They saw us (U.S. Forces) as the best way of doing that and often they would die for that when another zealot would find out they worked with us. Here's a little story for you, we took a break in the city we were in at a place where the proprietor was friendly towards the U.S. We bought some roasted chicken and were sitting down BSing with him when he received a phone call and immediately ushered us into the back. The reason was that there were some of the above stated assholes coming and he didn't want to have a firefight that could hurt other people, so he hid us in the back. Call it what you will, but the man was just trying to help and get on with his life, the vast majority of muslims want this. The others just want to control these good people.
          • by DrLang21 (900992) on Friday April 04, 2008 @06:52AM (#22961518)
            I am a firm believer that this chaos is a natural and unfortunately neccessary phase of any developing society. It boggles my mind when people insist that ONLY on the basis of how long we have been at this, we can't win. They apparently forgot about the 100 years war. Central Europe experienced this kind of unrest from the 1400s all the way to the mid 1900s before it finally settled down. Unfortunately, we can't stay entirely out of it because terrorist organizations have brought us into it (even though I believe this was our own doing, it's too late to worry about that now). While I am only a hobby historian, I am fairly convinced that we won't see peace in the Middle East until they are allowed to play out this drama. No nation there is large enough to have a strong enough government to maintain control. In addition, forcing our disfunctional style of republicanism immediately onto their culture cannot be ideal. Even the United States didn't start with every citizen voting for the President. The citizens only voted for The House of Representatives (and they often had to be land owners to do so). The State governments were left to that task. They need to slowly evolve into their own fasion of democratic society for it to stick. I think a more careful approach would have been to somehow officially give the tribal elders a greater say in their national government. Admittedly though, I say this without having any deep knowledge of their social culture.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        But then, what if you're not?

        What if you start out as a fresh, recent graduate? You didn't get to the top of the class, since you realized that you could get a B average with just a little work. That left more time for fun and family.

        The other students hated you for it. They picked on you, stole your stuff, and set fire to it. You let it go rather than force expulsion. You graduate.

        Then you get a real job. You do your job well, and then you get told that you can't get a raise because you didn't put in enoug
      • The question is where you'd fine such an engineer. Unless he/she is already a bit of a nutjob, an engineering background should come with decent employment options and intelligence that would somewhat contrast with the somewhat brainwashed or easily overwhelmed variety of terrorist-recruit that tends to be more readily available.

        Middle Eastern universities have historically graduated more engineers than can actually find jobs over there. In addition, many of these engineers joined radical Islamic groups in college, just as lots of American college students used to join radical political movements.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Solder Fumes (797270)
        I think this device [macetech.com] might be evidence to support the article's viewpoint. Engineers sometimes like to see other people suffer untold agonies.
  • by smartaleq (905491) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:16PM (#22955784)
    We should flood these terrorist groups with engineers and let them improve all their weapons. Afterwards, they'll have pieces left over and nothing will work. Isn't there some saying about "give an engineer a broken computer and he'll give you a working radio"?
  • by esocid (946821) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:18PM (#22955810) Journal

    I already told you: I deal with the god damn customers so the engineers don't have to. I have people skills. I am good at dealing with people. Can't you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?
  • Aptly named (Score:5, Funny)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:18PM (#22955812) Homepage
    With a name like Perl, this man is well-suited to discuss the link between coding and terror.

    Also, if you read TFA, he goes on to state that "laziness, impatience, and hubris" are the three virtues of a good terrorist.

    P.S. Christ, what has happened to Slashdot's page layout today?? The goggles do nothing!
  • This the second time in just a few months that engineers have been likened to terrorists....

    This the third time in just a few months that engineers have been likened to terrorists....

    This the fourth time in just a few months that engineers have been likened to terrorists....

    Ok we get it.

  • Blah blah. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@@@gmail...com> on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:18PM (#22955816) Journal
    I hate these articles, but I can't decide if I hate them because they're intellectual snobbery (not only are we better than physicists, mathematicians, chemists, etc, we're also superlative terrorists!) or I hate them because they're anti-intellectual (Engineers are all smart and anti-social, therefore they're basically the unabomber).

    Basically anyone who is methodical and knowledgeable would make a good X, where X is something that needs a methodical knowledgeable person. Engineers are required to be methodical and knowledgeable, so QED.

    I don't know why they're so damn fixated on engineers though. Doesn't take an engineer to slam a plane into a building, and that's about the most successful piece of terrorism to date.
    • by essinger (781940) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:29PM (#22956012)

      (Engineers are all smart and anti-social, therefore they're basically the unabomber).
      I think a common stereotype. A friend of mine (who is an actor) told me he'd heard a great joke about engineers:

      How do you tell if an engineer is an introvert or an extrovert?
      The extrovert looks at your shoes.
      • by MadMidnightBomber (894759) on Friday April 04, 2008 @05:03AM (#22961212)
        An engineering student is walking on campus one day when another engineer rides up on a shiny new motorcycle. "Where did you get such a rockin' bike?" asks the first. The second engineer replies, "Well, I was walking along yesterday minding my own business when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike. She threw the bike to the ground, took off all her clothes and said 'Take what you want.'" The second engineer nods approvingly "Good choice, the clothes probably wouldn't have fit."
    • by CSMatt (1175471)

      Doesn't take an engineer to slam a plane into a building
      No, but you can't just hire any old schmoe to do it either.
    • by Lord Ender (156273) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:39PM (#22956148) Homepage
      It takes methodical planning to coordinate the near-simultaneous slamming of four planes, especially when starting with nothing but some money and a group of suicidal, sex-starved Saudis who have no flight training.

      Engineers will be better than scientists or academics, despite similarly high intelligence levels, because engineers actually have to show results with their projects.

      Instead of profiling and waging wars, though, America's efforts to stop terrorism would best be served by a policy aimed at getting everyone on the planet a good fuck and some cold beer.
      • Re:Blah blah. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Kryptikmo (1256514) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:50PM (#22956338)
        "Engineers will be better than scientists or academics, despite similarly high intelligence levels, because engineers actually have to show results with their projects."

        I think that you will find that even us fizzysists need to show results. No papers, no grant money. No commercial products, no commercial sponsorship money. No money, no job. If you know any people who don't have to show results with what they do, please ask them if they're hiring! Sounds sweet!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Gat0r30y (957941)

        America's efforts to stop terrorism would best be served by a policy aimed at getting everyone on the planet a good fuck and some cold beer.

        Dude, i think we have the beginnings of an awesome new foreign policy. Hookers and Booze for everyone! and Blackjack! Hell, lets just take the world for a weekend in Vegas, that ought to relieve some of these tensions. And as an added bonus, wed totally get some bad ass dirt on em too (did you see what Saudi Arabia was doing in the bathroom with Columbia and that stripper?)!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by wronskyMan (676763)
        You laugh, but an interesting theory came out a while ago that the terrorist situation will improve in the Middle East naturally over the next 30 years or so. Basically, they claimed that 1. Agrarian/developing societies needed more kids/family since more died in childhood and lots of labor was needed for farms, etc (have 8 kids=5 survive to adulthood, etc). 2. Oil money and the natural course of development pushed these societies into cities where the old tradition of large families continued. Since ther
  • EETimes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by netruner (588721) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:18PM (#22955818)
    IIRC, this isn't the first article that the EETimes has put out making this connection recently - maybe the EETimes should be investigated.
  • Wargames... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jemenake (595948) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:19PM (#22955836)
    Reminds me of the quote in Wargames: "He does fit the profile perfectly. He's intelligent, but an under-achiever; alienated from his parents; has few friends. Classic case for recruitment by the Soviets"
  • by MadFarmAnimalz (460972) * on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:20PM (#22955846) Homepage
    I mean, I can't be the only one who thought this would be an article about the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft?
  • by mr_mischief (456295) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:20PM (#22955852) Journal
    That engineers plan things well should be no surprise. Engineers as a group design everything from bridges to sports stadiums to computer chips. They try to find a good balance of expected average need, overbuild and contingency performance, and cost.

    That both the terrorists and those fighting the terrorists would want chemical, electrical, structural, and electronics engineers for their specific areas of expertise alone should come as no surprise. That they're also found to be good planners in general is only slightly less obvious.

    The assumption that all engineers are similar to terrorists I think is a stretch.
  • by gmuslera (3436)
    With that surname he should have a hint about who are the real terrorists in the the computer world, and who is their leader,Larry bin Wall.
  • Since Command & Conquer had terrorist engineers years ago. Really, taking over several blocks worth of power stations - to sell them for profit (and to screw up your opponents' grid) - is a pretty high feat of terrorism.
  • Think of the children and outlaw engineers.

    And scientists too, cause they say stuff I don't agree with.
  • by JSBiff (87824) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:23PM (#22955906) Journal
    Uhh, hello, isn't that a bit of a leap, going from the statement "Engineers make good terrorists" to the statement "They are being likened to terrorists".

    It doesn't appear anyone is *likening* engineers, in general, to terrorists. What they are saying is if you can recruit engineerss to your terrorist cause, that can benefit your cause, because they are good at solving problems and planning. Well, is that not true of engineers? I don't think you can *be* an engineer if that isn't true.

    I don't have any problem with the statement, "[Engineers] think differently than other people." I don't think that sounds like a stereotype. If other people thought like engineers, they'd likely *be* engineers. It takes a certain mindset, and a certain capacity to think logically and analytically to be an engineer. Unfortunately, this mindset doesn't necessarily inherently exclude any thought patterns which lead someone to become a terrorist in the first place. (After all, one man's terrorist is often another man's freedom fighter or courageous defender of the faith).

    Are all engineers the *same*? No. Is there a certain commonality they share in how they think / solve problems which is not shared with the general public? I think the answer is likely yes.
  • Um... they forgot one other thing that happens to work for Hamas: A complete lack of any hope for the future.
  • by ehiris (214677)
    Makes sense, Tuttle is an HVAC engineer.

    However, I don't see how smart engineers could be susceptible to extremist Muslim brainwashing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)
      Don't make that mistake.

      Don't think 'smart' people can't be brainwashed, misled, or wrong in a belief. In many cases smart people are EASIER to brainwash.
  • More appropriate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spleen_blender (949762) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:25PM (#22955946)
    Engineers make good EVERYTHING.
  • Engineers have been an integral part of war campaigns for thousands of years, why wouldn't they be of value to any war effort? It wasn't really until after WW2 that Civil engineering really came into its own (before that they were generally employed by the Govt. when they made the transition to independent companies they got the term Civil). I'd even hold the British/American Engineers won WW2 (certainly the hard work at Los Alamos wasn't just engineers, but they certainly solved some difficult engineerin
    • Re:Well, um, duh (Score:4, Informative)

      by secPM_MS (1081961) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:45PM (#22956258)
      It was obvious more than 20 years ago that terrorist organizations were notable for their lack of strategic as well as technical competence. Mind you, this is rather common among the various groups that consider themselves to be social, religious, and political leaders. Legitimate organizations can hire the technical expertise that they need, and find scientists and engineers to be invaluable in accomplishing various objectives - the scientists are needed if you need to develop new technologies to accomplish your objectives.

      As an undergraduate physics student in the late 60's I made a number of comments about the total incompetence of the various radical groups. When one radical tried to get me to provide guidance for one of the groups (I still don't know if he actually had the contact) I replied that if I wanted to get into that business, I would go to work for the feds and that the group in question would either get arrested or blow themselves up, both logical and deserved consequences of their stupidity. They did. And they didn't even take out any innocent bystanders.

      If you are scared of change, you are not going to like dealing with engineers and scientists. They enable it. Build it up, tear it down, secure it, penetrate it. Engineering can do both good and bad. So can science. Different organizations may have different definitions of good and bad.

  • Factors ignored. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:26PM (#22955958) Homepage
    Here are some factors they ignored:

    1. A true engineer would is proud of the work that they do, therefore not hiding it. Hard to hide a bomb that you are proud of.

    2. Engineers can't lie (see Dilbert). Therefore, when asked, "Are you a spy?" they answer yes.

    3. That when they see a problem, they bring it to the attention of others. So, when they see a security hole, they will point it out instead of abusing it.

    4. When they do something, they will tell everyone about it.

  • by pembo13 (770295) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:28PM (#22955992) Homepage

    I frankly find the analysis to be flattering. I don't have to agree with who I am being compared with to appreciate the comparison.. only the qualities being compared are important.

    So, thanks for the complement

  • The article a few months ago I could take issue with, it basically said that engineers were more suseptible to the kind of propaganda that terrorist orginizations use to increase their number. I find that unlikely and, frankly, insulting.

    This article is saying something different however. From the summary, they are saying that a good terrorist is smart, independent, with good planning and problem solving skills; a discription that your stereotypical engineer matches pretty well.

    However, that isn't a bad t
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PitaBred (632671)
      Because people who can think rationally scare everyone else. We always have "good luck" (planning ahead), or can solve problems in seconds that they've been fighting with for hours. Not to mention a lot of us aren't religious, which makes us different, and therefore evil. Just like those "terrists" who believe in that other god and just want to kill all those red-blooded Americans.
  • The fact is, engineers are good at many jobs that require attention to detail.
  • So what they're saying is that people who pay attention to details will be likely to sympathize with 'terrorist causes.' I'm guessing they'd mean details like the US and the UK's foreign policy in the middle east and around the world towards companies that nationalize their oil supplies. Or maybe details like the US claiming that in the war on terrorism Americans have the 4th amendment suspended.

    Maybe by lack of social skills they mean "willing to actually read text books and learn about the world instead

  • by ericferris (1087061) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @03:33PM (#22956066) Homepage

    Overall, it's hard to disagree with the article. Heck, a guy who has the persistence and brains to go through the gruesome class schedules of an Engineering school will not be easily deterred by obstacles. And he is inventive by training if not nature.

    An engineer could easily turn bad... And he'd be very good at being bad, if he has the motivation. So the conclusion should be obvious: don't alienate engineers.

    That said, I recently met a very nice and competent guy from Pakistan who is in the USA on an H1B visa. He is a PHP developer, and he is quite good. We discussed finances, and to my horror, I found out that he is making $1100/month. His employer houses him in an appartment along with six other H1Bs, so he prolly saves $1000/month in rent, but still, this is an insultingly low pay rate for such a qualified guy, but a factor 4 at least.

    Now, this guy is very nice, and way too busy to even think about trouble. But I can't help thinking my reaction if I was dropped into a country where I would make less than your average waiter, after years of hard schooling. I'd harbor a grudge, that's for sure.

    So a piece of advice for Execs and VPs: don't be too stingy with your folks. Them techie weirdos can turn into rampaging monster at the drop of a hat. Heck, I'll give them free espressos and decent raisses if I were you. :-)

  • Smart people, who understand how things work, would be potentially good at causing lots of damage? More so than people who aren't smart and/or don't understand how things work? Who'd have thought!? (And we know which category the author of TFA falls into...)
  • Arrrrr, Pass Me The Soldering Iron and The C++ Compiler, and that Slide Rule, too, Matey!
  • Let's start with the basic fallacy:
    Engineers' focus and attention to details, Yes, some engineers have these traits - along with book-keepers, microbiologists and archeologists just to name a few. Some people in any trade or profession can be described like this - there's nothing special about engineering.

    Here's a good one: along with their perceived lack of social skills,
    Perceived, surely it's only actual traits that count, not one's that other people might think you have.

    Most engineers I know, or ha

  • Politicians make better terrorists, and they've been doing it for far longer.....

  • make good terrorists.

    Smart, in a narrow sort of way.

    Look at Ted Kazynski, who had an IQ of 170 and had PhD in mathematics. The planning to avoid detection probably didn't occupy much of his intellect. They'd never have caught them if his own brother hadn't recognized the writing in his manifesto. On the other hand, the manifesto reveals a person who is deeply unhappy and can't figure out what to do about it other than to blow people up, and construct elaborate psychohistorical theories to explain why h
  • by xs650 (741277) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @04:11PM (#22956644)
    If very many competent engineers were terrorists, terrorism would be far more devastating than it is today.
  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @04:51PM (#22957154)
    Some one better keep a eye on the mythbusters as they have easy access to bomb makeing parts and are good at bypass Security and safety devices.
  • by IHC Navistar (967161) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @05:05PM (#22957290)
    The Department Of Homeland Security lists Underwriters' Laboratories as a "Terrorist Organization", and tech schools as "Terrorist Training Camps".

    That degree in Engineering now seems less like a Badge Of Honor and more like the Mark Of The Devil.
  • by GnarlyDoug (1109205) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @06:23PM (#22958094)
    The Myers-Briggs personality theories predicted this congruence. Engineers tend to be NTs, or iNtuitive Thinkers. So do CEOs, generals, scientists, programmers, mathmeticians, and revolutionary leaders. Might as well say that CEOs, scientists, and generals share a lot in common with terrorists. Fact is that they do, and it's because intuitive thinkers (NTs) parse the world in terms of principles, axioms, models, and abstractions based on logic and reason as the NT understands them. They can be willing to fight, kill, and die for a principle or belief. Most people will fight to protect themselves, to protect family, or by extension their own country, but most will not fight for an abstraction. However to an NT an abstraction can be real and worthy of being defended. That is why IMO the NT mindset can be persuaded to join a revolutionary group and be effective at it and at the same time morally at peace with himself over his actions, even if those actions are seen to be high treason by the majority.
  • Gee (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Thursday April 03, 2008 @06:58PM (#22958394) Homepage
    'Engineers ideally make excellent strategic planners, and they make excellent field operatives. They think differently from how other people think.' ... 'because of those traits, terrorist groups actively recruit engineers.'

    Well, gosh. I'd've never thunk it.

    The part that surprises me is not that terrorist groups recognize that good strategic thinkers should be actively recruited, but that US corporations typically pay more to socially proficient people even if they lack good strategic thinking skills. That is not to say that there are no business people who are exceedingly adept strategic thinkers (they may even be more rare and perhaps more valuable than good engineers), just that there are so many nimrod schmoozers getting wheelbarrows full of cash for short-term-oriented stupidity (see Bear Stearns; how could I see the real estate crash coming in 2002 and they missed it?!? With all those MBAs! And they get bailed out?!?!?! FEH!).

    OK, maybe I'm just venting.
  • Give it a rest (Score:5, Insightful)

    by samantha (68231) * on Friday April 04, 2008 @12:53AM (#22960412) Homepage
    Al Qaeda has been hopelessly and purposefully over-hyped. We in the US and to some extent other Western powers went looking for a vast international octopus to put the old Cold War spy and intelligence networks to shame. We were told there were sleepers everywhere and huge underground control compounds somewhere in the mountains of Afghanistan. Years later almost every so-called terrorist cell case has fallen apart as utterly empty and not one bit of major organizational infrastructure or evidence has come to light. The truth is that Al Qaeda is tiny and not very well funded. There is no serious wide-spread and powerful terrorist movement afoot. All that energy pretending there was was merely an excuse for greatly curtailing freedom, massively increasing government power and control and creating military power bases in certain highly strategic spots. It is high time we put paid to this vicious nonsense and utterly rejected any arguments or suggestions made on such a basis.

    Engineers, especially of the hackerish variety, scare control freaks of every stripe. I think that is a very good thing.

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