by Mike Masnick
Thu, Sep 8th 2011 10:30am
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Jul 27th 2011 6:07am
from the another-attempt-to-prevent-the-unpreventable dept
...random violence (terrorist or otherwise) is not predictable and not "findable" in advance -- not if a free society is to remain free, anyway.
The problem with attacks like the shooting/bombing in Norway is that they are isolated instances. The shock and horror of the event tends to overwhelm the common sense of politicians, law enforcement and the press itself, leading to unfortunate efforts like these, often combined with commentary from ad hoc armchair quarterbacks whose hindsight is endless but whose foresight is severely restricted.
The civil rights of citizens are trampled underfoot by politicians and law enforcement officials wishing to appear to be doing "something" to make their homelands safer. These "somethings" usually combine rush-job legislation with political theatrics, resulting in a hastily applied veneer of safety that extends the government's reach into the personal lives of its citizens.
We've seen it here in the US via the PATRIOT Act and the corresponding growth of the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA. Once a law gets on the books, it rarely gets removed. There may be discussions about oversight issues or possible detrimental effects, but bad legislation tends to be permanent.
The problem with an effort like Finland's is that there is only one guaranteed outcome to this effort: more internet surveillance. In light of Breivik's known interests, this heightened attention means anyone whose gaming choices include Call of Duty or World of Warcraft could possibly find themselves under surveillance. People with strong opinions on major world religions or political organizations could very well be flagged as possible suspects.
No one truly knows what they're looking for when they implement programs like these, and because of that, nearly anything can be considered "suspect." Even worse, this attack was characterized as pro-Islamic by the media before the information surfaced that Breivik was anti-Islamic. Knowing who's actually the "risky" party isn't always so clear, meaning that anyone can be the risky party. When you combine large amounts of speculation with the tendency of politicians to twist laws into vehicles of self-service, the originally well-meaning legislation soon becomes a weapon against any display of political or religious dissent:
As former FBI agent (and current ACLU policy counsel) Mike German advises, any ideology can become a target of the government if the national security bureaucracy comes to use political opinion or activism as a proxy or precursor for crime and terrorism.
It's very hard for anyone in power to respond to a horrific tragedy by doing nothing, but if the track record of post-terrorist-attack legislation is anything to go by, "nothing" would be a refreshing change.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 21st 2011 1:07am
from the shameful dept
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 22nd 2011 9:15am
from the questions-to-ask dept
Arguing that piracy is integral to such networks means ignoring the dramatic changes in the technology and organizational structure of the pirate market over the past decade. By necessity, evidentiary standards become very loose. Decades-old stories are recycled as proof of contemporary terrorist connections, anecdotes stand in as evidence of wider systemic linkages, and the threshold for what counts as organized crime is set very low. The RAND study, which reprises and builds on earlier IFPI and Interpol reporting, is constructed almost entirely around such practices. Prominent stories about IRA involvement in movie piracy and Hezbollah involvement in DVD and software piracy date, respectively, to the 1980s and 1990s. Street vendor networks in Mexico City--a subject we treat at length in the Mexico chapter--are mischaracterized as criminal gangs connected with the drug trade. Piracy in Russia is attributed to criminal mafias rather than to the chronically porous boundary between licit and illicit enterprise. The Pakistani criminal gang D-Company, far from "forging a clear pirate monopoly" in Bollywood, in RAND's words, plays a small and diminishing part in Indian DVD piracy--its smuggling networks dwarfed by local production.And yet... despite all of this, Business Week recently published an MPAA propaganda piece, once again asserting the link. What was even more troubling is that they did this after talking to Karaganis, who explained to them why the MPAA's claims were pure bunk. The reporter ran the story anyway. It's almost as if Business Week and/or the reporter, Mike White, had the story they wanted and it was going to get published no matter what the evidence actually says. Whereas White's report claims:
The US record isn't more convincing in this regard. Jeffrey McIllwain examined the Department of Justice’s IP-related prosecutions between 2000 and 2004 and found that only 49 out of the 105 cases alleged that the defendant operated within larger, organized networks. Nearly all of these were "warez" distribution groups for pirated software--hacker communities that are explicitly and often fiercely non-commercial in orientation. McIllwain found "no overt references to professional organized crime groups" in any of the DOJ's criminal charges (McIllwain 2005:27). If organized crime is a serious problem in these contexts, it should not be difficult to produce a stronger evidentiary record.
Lax enforcement and high profit margins have made trafficking in counterfeit DVDs a flourishing side business for drug smugglers and crime rings worldwide. Russian gangsters and Mexican drug cartels such as Los Zetas and La Familia Michoacana, Chinese gangs, and even former members of Northern Ireland’s Irish Republican Army have all piled in to the lucrative business in the past decade, according to Robinson. “The scope of organized crime in home-video piracy is enormous,” he says.Karaganis retorts with what the evidence actually shows, that the "high profit margins" in that business have been eroded by the internet and the criminals are leaving this business in droves:
Much closer to the truth would be that they piled out of the business in the past decade as profit margins on pirated CDs and DVDs collapsed. We see no evidence that DVD piracy is still a high margin business, nor does the story provide any. Rather, our work documents that pirate prices have fallen dramatically as burners became cheap in the early 2000s and, more recently, as non-commercial internet-based file sharing began to displace DVD piracy. In this context, Mexico has one of the most competitive pirate DVD markets documented in our study, with widespread, small-scale cottage industry production and retail DVD prices routinely under a dollar. Criminals, as we’ve noted more than once, now have to compete with free.Then we have the second Karaganis blog post, in which he notes that the Gadhafi family (mainly via Muamar's son Saadi) has invested about $100 million in big Hollywood movies, including the Adrian Brody/Forrest Whittaker film, The Experiment. This would be the same Saadi Gadhafi accused of ordering Libyan soldiers to shoot protesting civilians. Not surprisingly, this whole "shooting civilians" thing is causing some problems for the Hollywood folks relying on his money.
If we're going to worry about movie money going to fund questionable activities, wouldn't it make sense to focus on the actual connections, rather than the mythical ones the industry has dreamed up?
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 10th 2010 9:29am
from the winning-the-hearts-and-minds dept
Of course, the same politicians blasting Wikileaks as a "terrorist" organization can't admit that some of the leaks are actually showing that some of what the US is doing is working quite well. As Prasanth notes in his own blog post, if US politicians were smart, they'd use cables like this to play up evidence that they're doing some things well:
I feel like this is along the lines of winning the people's "hearts and minds". The reason why this works is because as opposed to state-sponsored propaganda (which is pretty obvious when shown), this more subtly shows what's so great about the US.
Finally, I think this report is a great send-up of all the politicians who are equating Wikileaks with terrorism. Quite the contrary: while a lot of what it shows is what we've done wrong (and of course these politicians will hypocritically call for press freedom in other countries yet repress it here), it also shows a lot of what we've done right. Why not publicize that more?
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 9th 2010 8:12am
from the that-sounds-like-fun dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Dec 7th 2010 7:02am
from the it's-funny-because... dept
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 3rd 2010 5:28pm
from the they're-not-all-crazy! dept
First up, we have Aaron Farnham pointing us to Defense Secretary Robert Gates' response to the Wikileaks disclosure of diplomatic cables, that seems to take a much more rational view:
But let me -- let me just offer some perspective as somebody who's been at this a long time. Every other government in the world knows the United States government leaks like a sieve, and it has for a long time. And I dragged this up the other day when I was looking at some of these prospective releases. And this is a quote from John Adams: "How can a government go on, publishing all of their negotiations with foreign nations, I know not. To me, it appears as dangerous and pernicious as it is novel." . . .The full statement has even more details, where he talks about better information sharing. Given some of the responses from others inside and outside the government, it's nice to see someone like Secretary Gates (who has been quite critical of Wikileaks in the past), come out with a more reasoned response (though it has received almost no press coverage).
Now, I've heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think -- I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it's in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets.
Many governments -- some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation. So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another. Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.
Similarly, Wired has an article highlighting how Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, is speaking more reasonably about anti-terrorism efforts and security as well, noting (as we have in the past) that "perfect security" is an impossible goal that is, itself, damaging to security.
He points out that the US appears to be playing right into Al Qaeda's hands by playing up each failed terrorist attempt and then overreacting to it, noting that (like internet trolls), a better response might be to just ignore them publicly, while continuing to do things quietly on the back end to protect the country.
I don't agree with everything he had to say, but given how many frustrating responses we've seen from government officials on both of these issues over the last few weeks, it's worth pointing out that not everyone is responding that way.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 2nd 2010 6:24am
from the playing-the-game-they-want dept
Along those lines, Bruce Schneier highlights how the US response fits right into Al Qaeda's plans, since our response is quite costly, while the attacks are really, really cheap. He points to an article in Foreign Policy that explains how the TSA's security policies are exactly what Al Qaeda wants. It's not about killing Americans or even "terrorizing" them. It's about trying to get the country spending more and more to try to stop the impossible -- leading to a bankrupting of the overall economy. Now, I will say that this goal is probably a lot more difficult to reach than Al Qaeda probably thinks, but it's no excuse for the US government following through and helping Al Qaeda.
But the really striking thing about all of this is that you realize how the US has turned each failed attack into a success for Al Qaeda. A clueless guy can't light his underwear on fire to take down an airplane? We spend billions in totally ineffective and intrusive TSA security procedures and machines that wouldn't have even caught that guy.
What we're doing is creating a circular situation where all we're doing is encouraging more ridiculous attacks by Al Qaeda. Even when they don't succeed, the fact that we're costing the country so much in silly security theater encourages Al Qaeda to do more -- and (perhaps) to get more ridiculous each time, knowing that we'll continue to overreact and spend ourselves silly to try to prevent another guy from trying to light his underwear on fire on a plane. Outspending (massively) an enemy worked when that enemy was the Soviet Union -- a centralized bureaucracy that simply couldn't keep up. But this is a very different beast, and responding using the same basic thought process isn't helping. It's making matters worse. As Wright notes in that first article: "We’re creating them faster than we’re killing them." And spending orders of magnitude to do so. Forget the fact that this isn't sustainable. It's just downright stupid from a strategic standpoint.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 30th 2010 11:38am
from the feeling-safer? dept
Of course, this is hardly new. There appears to have been a very similar story just a month ago, involving a guy in DC who wanted to bomb Metro stations, but the only actual plotting he was able to do was after federal authorities stepped in and helped him plan everything.
Even that is hardly new. I remember a fascinating episode of This American Life back from the summer of 2009 describing (in great detail) a very similar story of a supposed "arms dealer" that the Justice Department championed as a success story when it arrested and prosecuted him for selling missiles to terrorists. The only problem is that the deeper you dig, the more you realize that the whole plot was also set up by the feds. The guy had no way to get a missile. It was actually provided by the feds themselves.
As that report notes, this is how the government has acted since 9/11. It basically creates its own terrorist plots, and then searches for willing participants... and then arrests them, and hypes how it prevented a terrorist attack, even if there's absolutely no indication that anyone involved would have actually been able to carry out any sort of attack (or arms deal) without the aid of the US government.
We've talked about "security theater," but this appears to be law enforcement theater, complete with actors and props. Feel safer yet?