To see a sampling of the awful mass surveillance practices which will feed this phenomena in America and many third world nations, refer to They own you -- and all your property too How Americans meekly surrendered to fear and intimidation to give up their freedom and property rights at the dawn of the 21st century.
The new threat offers few of the weaknesses law enforcement and intelligence agencies could exploit in the crime and terrorist organizations of the past. Indeed, government and corporate efforts to thwart this new threat prove stunningly ineffective over decades. Eventually, the new threat begins to have some of the effects of changes in government and business policies desired by the perpetrators.
In short, the new terrorist/vigilante techniques actually succeed at many of their aims, unlike the majority of past such actions.
One of the greatest strengths of the new threat is its central concept. A particular idea which helps the threat to bypass obstacles and defenses like no other methods could before. An idea which prevents authorities from being able to substantially identify, destroy, or even significantly damage threat forces or their finances, or predict what such forces will do next, or where they will strike.
As this central concept is so potent, and even of a 'self-assembling' nature once released into the wild, I am not outlining here what that concept is, for that might give the new threat a jumpstart on the future. While some observers may ultimately judge the concept as beneficial in certain ways to the totality and general direction of human history, it will most certainly terrify many and cause much violent change and uncertainty as it takes hold of world events in the 21st century. With the huge and growing risk of nuclear and biological weapons proliferation, among other dangers, I'd personally prefer not to inject yet more stress and uncertainty into world affairs during these decades.
Unfortunately, the idea is so simple it will surely emerge on its own very soon [the first draft of this page was created 3-18-02]. One of the problems with the idea is that it will easily support all manner of agendas, and each individual act will serve to reinforce and multiply in perceptual impact all others of the genre, no matter the difference in underlying motivations. Another of the problems with the new threat is that many of government and businesses' natural responses to it, such as heavier surveillance, greater reductions in civil liberties, more police powers, etc., will only strengthen the threat, rather than effectively combat it.
I'm not sure such an idea should even be given to the authorities as a pre-emptive measure-- for simply trying to prepare for it or discuss it would give away the concept to the public, and in any case a single leak of the idea into the wild might be all that's required for it to begin wreaking havoc upon the status quo.
Suffice it to say that this new concern, like many others which have dogged mankind since the dawn of civilization and before, may only truly be successfully addressed via a spectacular and historic change in how humanity runs its affairs.
Please don't write me asking to know the idea. I will not give it to you. Nor will I provide further hints or clues to its nature. It'll emerge on its own soon enough. Enjoy a world without it while you can.
For less catastrophic but still potent changes in the strategies terrorists and others might use to successfully force their will upon others-- even major powers and superpowers unable or unwilling to intelligently handle their relationships with other states or groups of international influence-- please refer to the excellent Global Guerrillas blog by John Robb. Hopefully the powers that be won't take him off-line any time soon.