[IP] more on Who they're spying on

Titus Brown titus at caltech.edu
Sat Jun 10 06:49:29 PDT 2006

-> Some members of this list seem more eager to engage in bitter
-> denunciation
-> of the present administration, than to offer ideas about how best to
-> reconcile the conflicting interests of freedom and security.

Dave -- for IP if you wish...

Mr. Bray and the others are talking past each other in an eerily
familiar way.

There's no doubt in my mind that there are people who would like
nothing more than to kill as many Americans as possible, e.g. by
setting off a nuclear weapon in the middle of New York City.  I'd
really like this not to happen.

There's also little doubt in my mind that the current administration
is using this kind of threat -- which is a real, rational threat -- to
justify the use of a sweeping set of surveillance tactics.  Some (or
even many) of these tactics, as currently employed, are probably
unconstitutional.  They're also prone to abuse, especially without

So there are at least three items for discussion --

 1) what is the real nature of the threat to the US, both here and

 2) what is an effective way to prevent terrorist attacks that involve
    WMDs or large loss of life, both here and abroad?

 3) what is an effective way to safeguard civil liberties in the
    and a good set of tradeoffs?

I bet Mr. Bray is tired of hearing *only* about #3 and not about #1 or
#2; I bet others are equally tired of hearing only about #2.  I don't
think it's possible to have a useful discussion that doesn't include
all three.

My reason for opposing pretty much everything Bush has done in the
"War on Terror" is that I don't think it's *effective*, and there
is clearly no *oversight* -- that is, it provides no solution to either
#2 or #3.

The war in Iraq has done nothing to make us safer; if anything, Iraq
is now an excellent training and recruiting ground for anti-American
terrorists.  I have no doubts that the NSA wiretapping is hideously
ineffective due to too many false positives.  Our DHS has become a
pork subsidy program.  Our interrogation tactics are not only against
the Geneva convention, but are brutal, inhumane, and violate the
"innocent until proven guilty" clause that is at the very heart of our
justice system.

And there's no oversight of any of it, and no evidence that it's
remotely effective or anything other than a colossal waste of money.

Even worse, the single biggest short-term threat (IMO) -- a
nuclear-armed terrorist, with nuclear material swiped from or donated
by Russia, NK, Pakistan, or Iran -- receives essentially no attention
from this administration.  Nuclear proliferation by (currently)
friendly countries is unopposed, and in some cases is even encouraged

Down the line, biological WMDs are going to become easy to manufacture
in the lab.  What should we do about that?

My challenge to Mr. Bray and like-minded Administration supporters is
this: do you have any positive evidence that this Administration has
been effective at preventing terrorism?  If not, why do you support
these efforts, especially if many smart people think that they are
technically flawed and unlikely to work?  And what is the appropriate
oversight structure that should be put in place, regardless?

My challenge to the rest of us (including me ;;): is there an
effective (and maybe even politically viable!) alternative that we
should think about and support?  I'd be very interested in pointers to
information that discusses or suggests answers to questions like:

 * how can we effectively stop nuclear proliferation?

 * how can we help to leave Iraq a stable country?

 * what is a *short-term* solution to the strong desire of many, many
   people in the Middle East and elsewhere to kill as many Americans
   as possible?

 * since most of us believe that technological eavesdropping is
   ineffective, how can we educate our political servants about this?
   Heck, who's telling them that they're *effective*, anyway?  (Heck^2,
   maybe they actually *are* effective!)

I'd also be very interested in hearing a discussion -- here or
elsewhere -- about any of these issues.  The last one might even
be appropriate for this list ;).


p.s. As an aside, I don't think the sort of motive-removal that
Mr. Fairlie supports is effective in the short term.  I agree
education and trade are the only plausible long-term strategies --
we're never going to kill every Islamic fundamentalist on the planet,
and conflict doesn't usually work well as a way to change people's
minds -- but we have to deal with issues here and now, as well.  Eyes
have been poked, and are not going to be "unpoked" anytime soon...

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