I’m worried


I usually don’t post on stories that are related to politics, but I’m going to make an exception for this.


Comments (24)

  1. William Lefkovics says:

    Land of the free…

  2. The obvious bias of Intervention coupled with the fact that the original article came from Salon should give you pause.

    I dont have a problem with such a list, I just wish it were public; I understand the national security arguments very well, I just think that if you are on this list then you are effectively considered dangerous; and as a concerned citizen I want to know who is considered as such. Making it public would also let the media pour over the list for the obvious grudges and biases, putting our govt under the microscope as they should be.

    I think the mistake you make is in considering this to be somehow political in the sense that this is Bush’s fault. I dont think we should look closely at this so we can blame him, I think we look closely at this because any time the government has more control over our lives, it cant be all good.

  3. Dave K. Smith says:

    Okay, 1000 people on this list. Approximately 300 million US citizens. For arguments sake, all 1000 of those people are actually perfect citizens unfairly stripped of every right and privilege. That system works 99.99967% of the time, and fails miserably all the rest of the time.

    Since the Greens have less than 1000 total members, clearly this represents an Ashcroft-sponsored suppression of their views? Apologies for the sarcasm, but one Green speaking to one misguided airport official is not a compelling argument to implicate Ashcroft.

    We’re AT WAR, Sweet. What’s your 100.00000% solution to the problem of keeping our airlines safe?

  4. Kevin Daly says:

    Actually, I thought Ronald Reagan was about the worst threat to aviation back when he sacked the air traffic controllers.

    Ah well.

  5. Kevin Daly says:

    Dave:

    No, other than the self-inflected war in Iraq you are *not* at war.

    It is not possible to have a "War on Terrorism" in the real sense that you were at war with Japan, Nazi Germany, or North Vietnam (or Britain…those were the days eh?).

    You cannot have a war against an abstract concept, in any more real sense than you can have a war against halitosis.

    There are a group of criminals who are fixated on killing Americans, but you have *lots* of criminals in the US doing that every day anyway. Will you suspend civil rights while you have a War On Crime? It is one thing to use the so-called war as a rhetorical device (a way of saying "this is something we are serious about getting rid of"), but as soon as you start saying "we’re justified in doing this or that because we’re at war" then you have the abuse of a trick of language to justify repression in the interests of the rulers and their backers.

    And *then* you might want to call it by its name: fascism.

    PS. Sorry everybody for such a lengthy non-technical digression, but that "Don’t You Know We’re At War?!!" line of argument is really, really dangerous and has to be addressed.

  6. Fabrice says:

    M. Keith Warren: "I just think that if you are on this list then you are effectively considered dangerous"

    Wow, pretty frightening!

    M. Keith Warren: "Making it public would also let the media pour over the list for the obvious grudges and biases, putting our govt under the microscope as they should be."

    Making it public would let the black-listed people bashed by the media. Oh well, that’s ok because you are 100% sure they all are serial-killers, right?

  7. "We’re AT WAR, Sweet. What’s your 100.00000% solution to the problem of keeping our airlines safe?"

    It’s this kind of backwards thinking that allows the TSA to get away with stuff like this. Since *most* people wouldn’t know what security was if it painted itself yellow and danced on top of of the whitehouse yelling "this is security" then proceeded to build a miniature replica of the eiffel tower in their living rooms, they really do think that these so-called security measures actually improve security.

    This "war on whatever" is total BS. "War on crime!" "War on drugs!" "War on terrorism!" All these are just ways to let the government screw up, do whatever they want, and then say "Hey, there’s a WAR going on! This is necesary! Be glad there’s no curfew yet." If the FBI messes up and hits the wrong person, or the DEA accidentally kills a grandmother in a raid on the wrong house, no problem, "it’s to stop the terrorists".

    Got a problem with security measures? Well, shutup because otherwise "the terrorists win."

  8. Eric TF Bat says:

    Geez, a quick read of those stories and I realise the truth: there are people in power in your country who should not be there, and we’re all in trouble if they stay there. I saw an interviewer ask an American commentator "Do you believe America is becoming a pre-fascist state?" He answered: "I hope so. Because the only other explanation is that it’s ALREADY a fascist state." He was being sensationalist, but he had a point.

    Gods, let’s just talk about C# instead. This is wayyy too depressing.

  9. Excellent whitepaper mentioned.

    I’m going to print of few of them up and distribute them next time I fly (assuming that that people flying with me can read, understand English, and aren’t too busy trying to keep the TV, Microwave and other huge packaged they brough on board from falling out). I wonder if airport security would throw a fit if if I handed them out before I got on the plane? (Not much they can do once we’re in the air).

  10. Excellent whitepaper mentioned.

    I’m going to print of few of them up and distribute them next time I fly (assuming that that people flying with me can read, understand English, and aren’t too busy trying to keep the TV, Microwave and other huge packaged they brough on board from falling out). I wonder if airport security would throw a fit if if I handed them out before I got on the plane? (Not much they can do once we’re in the air).

  11. Dave K. Smith says:

    Kevin: I completely agree with you that the war on terrorism is not as "simple" (in the Us vs. Them sense) as WW II. However, I don’t believe this is a compelling reason not to fight the war. In exactly what way is terrorism an "abstract concept"?

    Yes, we have American criminals willing to kill other Americans. However, we (thankfully) have very few American criminals willing to declare jihad against America, and back that up with suicidal lunacy against the masses. When our enemy is eager to kill as many Americans as possible, it occurs to me that our justice system is not the most effective deterrent to throw their way.

    Michael: Got a problem with security measures? I’m NOT asking you to shut up, just to lay out your better plan for combatting terrorism.

    The War on Drugs is a bad analogy for the War on Terrorism. The War on Drugs systematically ignored the demand side of the equation (i.e., *us*). Continuously going after the supply side was the policy equivalent of whack-a-mole. Americans demand illegal drugs. Americans do not demand terrorism.

    Eric: Algorithm to beat the FAA’s security measures? Hmmm… that’s not a proposal for how to make my kids any safer, either. Ticked off at the way you get treated in security lines? I’m not the biggest fan of it myself – but I don’t have a better suggestion. Pre-9/11, it was easy to think of flying on an airplane as a "right". Since 9/11, I’m glad I still have the privilege of quick travel via weapons (er, airplanes).

  12. Eric says:

    Dave,

    I think that terrorism is very difficult to stop. IMO, the way that you reduce the chance of terrorists attacking is by giving people less of a reason to hate you. That is, if you’re willing to have any personal freedom left. If you don’t mind being tracked all the time, you can solve the terrorism issue.

    The current administration is going down that route, rather than trying diplomacy.

    In this case, I object to the security because it doesn’t make people safer. Do I have some ideas on how to make Dave’s kids safer? No, I don’t have great ideas. But the current approach is not making Dave’s kids safer either. It’s just taking away civil liberties for no increase in safety.

    How would you feel if you were one of these people? In the current system, some people are picked at random…

  13. Dave K. Smith says:

    > I think that terrorism is very difficult to stop.

    No doubt about it. That’s why we’re fighting terrorism on many, many different fronts. We love our freedom too much to adopt a "coexistence" policy towards terrorism.

    > IMO, the way that you reduce the chance of terrorists attacking is by giving people less of a reason to hate you.

    It would be really nice if it were that simple ("Can’t we all just get along?"). However, I think it would be very, very risky to rely on this as our national defense strategy. Eric, the key word you use is "reason". Do you really believe you would’ve stood a chance in talking some reason into Mohammed Atta? I like to think of myself as a fairly reasonable person, but I wouldn’t give myself a snowball’s chance in that hypothetical discussion.

    I think spending my energy wondering why they hate me is overly pessimistic and unproductive. I know my country, and I know there’s plenty to love here. In my country, we’ve rejected religious oppression, class warfare, slavery, and child labor. My country beat the Nazis and Communist Russia. My country treats women and people of all races as full citizens. Because of the freedoms afforded my countrymen, I’m confident that our future will be full of many more of these successes. For instance, right now my country is grappling over the issue of sexual preference discrimination. I’m no expert on this issue, but I’m pretty confident we’ll get it right over time.

    > That is, if you’re willing to have any personal freedom left. If you don’t mind being tracked all the time, you can solve the terrorism issue.

    I’m *NOT* willing to be tracked all the time. In this case, I *AM* willing, b/c I now know that I’m asking for permission to ride a weapon. I need to be tracked at the airport in the same way that I need to be tracked if my job requires that I work on a military base.

    > The current administration is going down that route, rather than trying diplomacy.

    This is simply not true. If you’re referring to the Iraq war, Saddam demonstrated over many, many years that he was willing to thumb his nose at the rest of the world when it came to diplomacy. His word meant absolutely nothing, time and time again. This administration worked diplomatic angles for an agonizingly long time before the Iraq war begging the UN to enforce its own policies on Iraq, instead of making a global joke out of itself.

    The status quo path that the UN was content to follow was a very, very dangerous one. Iraqi people would’ve continued to be helpless and hopeless (not to mention ethnically and ideologically "cleansed") for a very, very long time. My country doesn’t take too kindly to "cleansing". France effectively told us that no matter WHAT arguments we presented, they were going to veto any UN sponsored action to bring down Saddam. Their motivations for this stance were EASILY as questionable (and indefensible) as any other motivations related to the Iraq war.

    > In this case, I object to the security because it doesn’t make people safer. Do I have some ideas on how to make Dave’s kids safer? No, I don’t have great ideas. But the current approach is not making Dave’s kids safer either. It’s just taking away civil liberties for no increase in safety.

    Just remember it’s much harder to propose a good idea than to criticize a bad one. You believe that the current idea is not making my kids any safer, and I respect that opinion. I prefer to look at the inconveniences at the airport as one layer in the onion that’s helping to make my kids safer. Is it the silver bullet against terrorism? Of course not, and that’s why we’re following an layered, aggressive defense strategy.

    > How would you feel if you were one of these people? In the current system, some people are picked at random…

    Hey, I’ve been picked at random by the TSA to dump out the contents of my toiletries sack. I dislike public display of my Preparation H as much as the next guy, I suppose. But this humiliation pales in comparison to my desire to keep my kids safe.

    The great thing about this country is that if you’re passionate about the current airport security system being unfair, you’re completely free to propose a better mousetrap to your government, and MAKE MONEY DOING IT!!! Somehow, I think we’re all going to be okay.

  14. Louis Parks says:

    I just don’t buy the ends justifies the means concept. If we’re all about freedom and liberty and the other great ideals laid out in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, then we should practice them. Laying them aside to protect them is, um, very contradictory.

    The bill of rights says you need a warrant to search. The Patriot Act says you don’t. So, to protect my rights as laid out in the Bill of Rights, the Patriot Act violates my rights as laid out in the Bill of Rights. Does anyone else see a problem here?

  15. Dave K. Smith says:

    > Does anyone else see a problem here?

    No, I don’t see a problem. The Bill of Rights is permanent. The Patriot Act is a temporary wartime measure. Historical precedent?

    Alien and Sedition Acts

    1798 – passed (just 7 years after the Bill of Rights became law)

    1800 – repealed (or allowed to expire)

    Writ of Habeas Corpus

    1862 – suspended by Abraham Lincoln

    1866 – restored

    Espionage Act

    1917 – passed

    1918 – amended

    1921 – repealed

    Executive Order 9066

    1942 – signed by President Roosevelt

    1976 – rescinded by President Ford

    And since we’re on the topic of human rights, let’s be sure to maintain a bit of perspective:

    http://www.9neesan.com/massgraves/

    http://www.freenorthkorea.net/

    (subscribed)

  16. Eric says:

    I think this is going to be my last post, because I’m really not intending to debate security in my blog.

    Dave,

    Note that I did *not* say that the only thing I thought that we should do is try to "just get along" (your words, not mine). I don’t think that you can reason with everybody, and I think that violence is sometimes the only answer.

    However…

    Having said that, I like to take a pragmatic view of the whole situation. Well-organized terrorists can overcome virtual all security procedures that you might come up with, so I think it’s merely a matter of them being sufficiently determined, patient, and well-financed.

    Their ability to be those three things depends a lot on the pool of population from which they can recruit, both for people and for money. That’s where I think the opinion of people is so important. It’s not only what the terrorists think, it’s what the people who might support them and harbor them think.

    If you look at how the US behaved in Iran, and to a lesser degree in Afghanastan, it’s not surprising that the people there do not view the US in a positive light. We’re making that situation worse, which only makes it easier for the terrorists.

    I submit that to not think about why people in other countries hate America is to be very narrow minded. It sounds to me like you’re getting close to "my country right or wrong", which I think has led to some very immoral choices throughout history.

    The subject of dictators and oppression is a hard one. I’m obviously not in favor of dictators, but I am in favor of the sovereignty of countries. You can say what you want about the UN – and I may agree with you on many things – but the fact is that the UN and NATO are pretty much the only games in town.

    The contrast between the two gulf wars is pretty stark. The first one had wide backing – even in arab states – and though it did not lead to the downfall of Saddam, it did disarm him.

    In the recent war, we went it alone. We did get rid of Saddam, though we found that, despicable as he was, he did not pose a direct threat. In fact, we could attack *because* he did not pose a direct threat. Now we have a country under martial law, 500 soldiers killed, and we’ve spent $250 Billion (or so) so far that I can think of a lot of better things to do with. And it’s by no means certain that we’ll leave Iraq a better place than when we came.

    Finally, as far as being picked at random, there’s a big difference between these three:

    1) Having your bag searched randomly

    2) Having your bags searched every single time you fly

    3) Not being allowed to fly because your views are considered dangerous.

    Eric

  17. > The bill of rights says you need a warrant to search. The Patriot Act says you don’t.

    Hey, I am not exactly a fan of the Patriot Act but I heard so much crap about it I decided to do what 1 in 100,000 people who complain about it do…I read it!!!

    Truth Detector: You need a warrant approved by a federal judge.

  18. Louis Parks says:

    Mr. Smith,

    What’s funny about what you’ve said is this – the "War on Terrorism" isn’t a real war. The president has power to conduct war for what, 90 days, without the consent of Congress. Has there been a Congressional declaration of war from Oct ’01 (the passing of the Patriot Act) on the world at large? Who are we fighting? What’s our game plan? Is it close to likely that the war will ever end? Realistically, the US will always have enemies, so using your logic, we could be in this police stated forever. I don’t think that’s what our founding fathers intended.

    Mr. Warren,

    I think you should spend a bit more time on section 213.

    Truth Detector: the warrant can be delayed. IOW, you don’t need a warrant in several new circumstances allowed for via the Patriot Act.

  19. Dave K. Smith says:

    Eric,

    I apologize for quoting the "just get along" sentence. Those were my words, not yours, and I should not have quoted them.

    > Their ability to be those three things ["determined, patient, and well-financed"] depends a lot on the pool of population from which they can recruit, both for people and for money. That’s where I think the opinion of people is so important. It’s not only what the terrorists think, it’s what the people who might support them and harbor them think.

    I completely agree with your observations here. However, you seem to conclude that we can solve this problem by turning our gaze inward. Or perhaps you’re suggesting that we can’t solve the problem at all, and so we shouldn’t even try.

    I argue that we *can* beat terrorism. We’re not a nation with much patience for naval gazing. Have we made mistakes in the past? Yes we have, but apologizing for past failures would be a shallow foreign policy. I believe our current comprehensive strategy for beating terrorism is very well conceived:

    1) We have served notice to the whole world that terrorism is a completely unacceptable form of diplomacy. If you choose to worship purple dryer lint, our country will give you more respect than any other in the world. But don’t follow the call to the barbaric, primitive, and unenlightened lunacy of holy war in the name of your beliefs. You will meet the full force of the most powerful nation in the world, and you will lose. You’re determined? We’re *more* determined. That path is hopeless for you.

    2) An unstable Middle East is an unacceptable threat to the U.S. Instability breeds hotbeds of discontent, which work in the extremists’ favor. What’s the real reason we went into Iraq? It had nothing to do with oil, Halliburton, WMDs, or ties to Al Quaeda. We went into Iraq because it was the easiest Middle East battle to win. There was always overwhelming agreement in the world that Saddam was a very evil leader. There’s little gray area on that point. Convenient for us, he was also an unsophisticated brute with no gift for fooling anyone (hence, my claim of the "easiest battle"). In Iraq, we are well along the road to giving a lot of people hope and faith in the U.S., where there was none before. Our plan in Iraq is to prove that Arabs can live happily in freedom and democracy. I am very confident we will succeed.

    3) The Saudi extremist clerics are a tough long-term problem, because they’ve made a living poisoning young, impressionable minds. Because of the clerics’ overwhelming power, the Saudi royal family has allowed themselves to fall into the position of public pretense of friendliness towards the West, while inwardly turning a blind eye to those clerics who call for jihad against the infidels. Are the Saudi leaders our friends? No they’re not, but they play a much more sophisticated PR game than Saddam ever did.

    We’re fighting this problem with heavyhanded behind-the-scenes diplomacy. Our leaders will shake Crown Prince Abdullah’s hand in public, but we’re tightening the screws at the negotiating tables. #2 above alludes to another *very* important battle we’re fighting against Saudi Arabia. It also explains why the Saudis didn’t support us in the second War in Iraq. We were very public about our intentions to inflict hope, freedom, and democracy on an Arab state. You can be very sure that the Saudi leadership was not too keen on this idea, because it undermines their power. This is the desired effect.

    Look no further than the plane that flew from Libya to Oak Ridge, TN, in the last couple of weeks for evidence of the effectiveness of this heavyhanded diplomacy. France, we’re so very sorry about leaving you off the invite list, but we preferred to solve the problem in 9 months instead of 12 years (oops, I mean never). UN the only game in town? No, not really.

    4) We woke up and realized on 9/11 that our love affair with technology-driven intelligence (to the detriment of all other kinds) was misguided. This is not a knock on any one U.S. administration. Our move away from human intelligence (HUMINT) has occurred over decades. HUMINT had gained the reputation of being "messy", so we lulled ourselves into thinking we could get all the intelligence we needed with ever-improving technology. It was reasonable policy at the time, but not-so-reasonable given the luxury of post 9/11 hindsight. HUMINT is now back for good, but be patient… we can’t grow an effective HUMINT program overnight.

    5) We are actively freezing the accounts of terror sponsors (to combat the "well-financed" angle).

    6) We are guiding the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan in the direction of hope for succeeding in the modern world. Specifically, we’re insisting on the education and participation of women in both of these countries. When you force half of your population to stay inside and wear burkas (as the Taliban did), it’s no surprise that your country won’t be competitive in the global economy. The Taliban used poverty as a weapon, and we plan to render that tactic ineffective.

    7) We are temporarily sacrificing our own freedoms (via the Patriot Act) while we get a handle on the terrorists that already exist. Over time, we’ll build hotbeds of hope and freedom, marginalizing the terrorists more and more. When freedom is spread far and wide, people of all races, religions, and creeds will watch the terrorists in curious amazement in much the same way we watch the very few KKK hangers-on in our country. I’m very confident we’ll get our freedoms back. It would be very un-American of us to permanently give up even a single freedom because of the terrorists.

    > you’re getting close to "my country right or wrong"

    Guilty as charged. Name one country more right than mine.

    > I’m obviously not in favor of dictators, but I am in favor of the sovereignty of countries.

    I’m not sure how this is relevant to the discussion. We *do* respect the sovereignty of countries (e.g., Germany, Japan, Afghanastan, and Iraq). We’ve been out of the nation building business for quite some time now. Just be careful not to confuse sovereignty with legitimacy when it comes to maggots like Hitler, the Taliban, bin Laden, Saddam, or Kim Jong-il.

    > In the recent war, we went it alone.

    False. Not even remotely true. Listen to the State of the Union Address again. This is such a tired line. It translates loosely to "we went it without France and Russia" (I’ve already covered why the Saudis weren’t with us this time).

    > Now we have a country under martial law

    Now? C’mon, Eric, you can’t be serious about this, can you? Uday killed Olympic atheletes execution style when they didn’t win. I hate to be repetitive, but go check out that mass graves link I included earlier. Visit all 52 pages of that site, and then repeat your above sentence with a straight face. Right now, we are as "martial" as we need to be. What’s your historical precedent for a country that went from ethnically and ideologically cleansed to world leading democracy overnight? We’re on an aggressive schedule (I’d argue TOO aggressive) to hand power back over to the Iraqis.

    > no means certain that we’ll leave Iraq a better place than when we came

    Yeah, I see your point. Those Iraqis are just tripping all over themselves waiting for us to leave, so they can re-live their glory days.

    > Finally, as far as being picked at random, there’s a big difference between these three:

    Yes, but you forgot #4: Having to tolerate those pesky angry guys slitting stewardesses’ throats and ramming your plane into a building.

    Dave

  20. Kevin Daly says:

    Should’ve been keeping track, so now I’m replying late when nobody will read it…

    Eric: Imprecise choice of words on my part. By "abstract concept" I meant that terrorism is not a nation, alliance, or entity of the kind that you can go to war against. It is a tactic and manner of behaving. And whether something is or is not terrorism often depends on your perspective: I personally believe that the use of bombs against a civilian population is always terrorism, whereas some people think it magically becomes OK if the bombs are delivered by someone in a nice flash plane who has been told by his government that he’s *supposed* to kill people. The point I was trying to make was that while it is acceptable and commendable to have a policy of opposing and attempting to stamp out the use of terrorist tactics, this is a diplomatic and law enforcement issue, it cannot be a war in the conventional sense. Therefore arguments for abrogating civil rights based on being "at war" are false and inherently dangerous.

    As for whether the war was justified, well, no it wasn’t. To decide that you get to go to war whenever you feel like it reduces international relations to the level of mutual banditry.

    Here’s one: Evidence increasingly points to the likelihood that global warming will lead to a failure of the Gulf Stream, which in turn will lead to catastrophic temperature *drops* in Europe and the Eastern United States. The evidence for this is *much* better than the evidence for psycho Saddam’s non-existent WMD. So would you think it was just peachy if Canada,China, Russia and the nations of Europe formed a military alliance to invade the United States because its refusal to behave responsibly over global warming (which it contributes to disproportionately) will almost certainly lead directly to the deaths of millions and quite possibly the collapse of human civilisation? Enquiring minds want to know.

  21. Tim says:

    I find this quite worrying (along with all the rest I have been picking up in the news), especially when one considers the fact that the war on terrorism is essentially the same kind of war as the war on drugs — it is a war against no one in particular, almost by definition, a chronic state of war. By calling it a war, you can justify almost any infringement upon civil liberty, individual rights, or even property rights.

    I am a moderate conservative at heart, but it is my hope that others who share my fundamental beliefs will begin to realize that it is time to take back the Republican party from the far right — and a first step in this direction is to vote democrat this coming year.

  22. Dave, yes in fact, I do have a better suggestion.

    It’s a given that we cannot prevent weapons coming on board. A big deal was made about metal weapons. Did it occur that people trained in martial arts could start killing others on board as well? Or that it’d be trivial for me to bring some nunchaku onboard? Or smuggle a pistol inside a laptop?

    So, it’s inevitable. Relying on screening to protect a plane in flight is like relying on an obfuscator to protect your private keys. To a large amount of people, it looks secure. Hurrah! Of course, when attacked, it makes no difference.

    Airplanes need to be able to handle any type of passenger with various weapons. The hijackings happened not because some people got some box cutters on board. It happened because they could access the cockpit. That alone was the security vulnerability that was exploited on 9/11. As long as that hole still exists, it can be exploited. For my better suggestion for airplane security is to protect them at least as well a taxicab (even with a wakizashi I can’t get to the controls of a cab). All this fuss made over everything, such as Flight Simulators and flight training is nuts. I still need to take some tests to get my pilots license, but it can’t be exceedingly hard to crash a plane into a building. Maybe if you had to aim for a specific office window it’d get harder. But, just like a security flaw in an OS’s network stack, you don’t need a large complex organization to exploit it.