Increasingly we live in a world in which there are no secrets, but that does not mean we do not try to keep secrets. The facts of our existence, plans or would be plans, are available to all. On that matter, the genie is out of the bottle. Some will still try to hide their facts and plans, but in these times that is nearly impossible, because secrecy can’t be maintained.
Any serious plan requires communication between those involved. If you are acting alone and your intent is to do something that may be among a list of behaviours countless others would like to stop before you can act, then your chances of success are limited. Your actions will leave a trail and if others in authority know what to look for (and they increasingly do), you will more than likely be discovered along the way.
Knowing this, those who plot events others in authority would like to stop, will often work alone, or with the aid of a small number of collaborators. Further, if those who assist do not even know they are providing assistance, so much the better. In recent times, those acting alone have occasionally been successful in carrying out serious crimes or acts of terror. They have created their plans alone, received limited if any assistance from others and created the necessary armaments for action with as much secrecy as possible. Plans and rationale for action often become interpretable only after the fact.
It would seem that we should be able to find and stop lone individuals or others acting in small but coherent groups. The major effort to do so is now coming from our developing ability to analyze “big data.” This enables those skill in the art to find the proverbial “needle in the haystack.” We have to be able to see,for example, an unusual pattern of communication in the midst of a sea of data. We when do, we then hone in on those few bits of data and analyze more throroughly. We will technically violate rights of privacy now and then, but we live in an era in which we have already given up some of those rights voluntarily. For many these are subtle distinctions, but being stripped of one’s rights by others seems to me to be fundamentally different than giving them up voluntarily.