On Suspicious Activity Reporting
Several of the men who would become the 9/11 hijackers were stopped for minor traffic violations. In government inquiries and in the press, these brushes with the law were missed opportunities. But for many police officers in the United States, they were moments of professional revelation, and also personally fraught. Officers replayed the incidents of contact, which lay bare the uncertainty of every encounter. In the Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative subsequently launched, routine reporting of suspicious activity was developed into steps for discerning, identifying and sharing terrorism-related information with a larger law enforcement and intelligence network. Through empirical analysis of counterterrorism efforts and related scholarship, this chapter discusses three technologies of security, focusing on how each deals with uncertainty. “Prevention” arises from the roots of risk, where uncertainty is a function of lack of knowledge, while “preemption” deals with potential uncertainty by creating possibilities. In “anticipation,” suspicious behaviors are taken as the precursors of a threat that is still in virtual form; officers and intelligence analysts cultivate the capacity of discernment in order to detect suspicion, and capture these forerunners as they actualize. In so doing, they are constituted as subjects who work in a mode of uncertainty.
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