Archive for Security


So last December the Danish had something on the order of 150 heads of state in Copenhagen for the failed climate talks. I wonder how much the security bill for that was.

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Court Says Bush Illegally Wiretapped Two Americans | Threat Level | – Mozilla Firefox

A federal judge on Wednesday said the George W. Bush administration illegally eavesdropped on the telephone conversations of two American lawyers who represented a now-defunct Saudi charity.

via Court Says Bush Illegally Wiretapped Two Americans | Threat Level | – Mozilla Firefox.

Boo. Also, Yah.

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McCullagh’s Law: When politicians invoke the do-this-or-Americans-will-die argument | The Iconoclast – politics, law, and technology – CNET

McCullagh’s Law: When politicians invoke the do-this-or-Americans-will-die argument | The Iconoclast – politics, law, and technology – CNET

This leads me to propose McCullagh’s Law of Politics:
As the certainty that legislation violates the U.S. Constitution increases, so does the probability of predictions that severe harm or death will come to Americans if the proposal is not swiftly enacted.

Ah, Declan. From time to time your cold libertarian heart produces gems.

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A tale of two decisions or, how the FBI gets you to confess PsychSound by Steve Bergstein

A tale of two decisions or, how the FBI gets you to confess PsychSound by Steve Bergstein
So the opinion, while interesting, is much less interesting because now we dont know how the FBI extracts false confessions from people. Looking at things from another angle, we dont know how the FBI gets suspected terrorists to tell the truth. Except that we do know this, because the opinion is still available from the How Appealing website. The horse is out of the barn, and the classified portion of the opinion is embedded in the Internet for all eternity. Not only is this decision not to remove the premature opinion now a subject of debate (people tend to think that How Appealing did the right thing in keeping the opinion available), but now we can see the part of the ruling that the Court redacted

Go, go gadget Intertubes!

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Shameful and ignorant

Google says that gbombing has been fixed, but any attempt to link shameful and ignorant to the ongoing vitriol that spews from the mouths of the US Republican presidential candidates is fine by me.

Torture doesn’t work. Torture is wrong. Even if it is Jack Bauer doing the deed.

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Oh nothing, certainly not state secrets!

So in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, a US federal judge in Michigan has ruled that the NSA program of warrantless wiretapping of US citizens is unconstitutional and must be halted. Reading the actual ruling, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor reviews a large number of cases where the government has asserted what is known as the “State Secrets Privilege.” This is a common law legal doctrine that allows a government to ask for evidence to be ruled inadmissible in court if the revelation of the evidence would be harmful to the state. There is a wikipedia article on state secrets. Judge Taylor’s ruling cites cases going back as far as 1875: “The seminal decision in this line of cases is Totten v. United States 92 U.S. 105 (1875)” – a US civil war spying case. Judge Taylor quotes the imporant 1953 US Supreme Court ruling in United States vs Reynolds, 345 U.S. 1 (1953)

The privilege belongs to the Government and must be asserted by it; it can neither be claimed nor waived by a private party. It is not to be lightly invoked. There must be formal claim of privilege, lodged by the head of the department which has control over the matter, after actual personal consideration by that officer. The court itself must determine whether the circumstances are appropriate for the claim of privilege, and yet do so without forcing a disclosure of the very thing the privilege is designed to protect. Reynolds, 345 U.S. at 8.

The Chief Justice further wrote:

In each case, the showing of necessity which is made will determine how far the court should probe in satisfying itself that the occasion for invoking the privilege is appropriate. Where there is a strong showing of necessity, the claim of privilege should not be lightly accepted, but even the most compelling necessity cannot overcome the claim of privilege if the court is ultimately satisfied that military secrets are at stake. Reynolds, 345 U.S. at 11.

A quick glance through the Canadian and U.S. constitutions shows a distinct lack of any mention of the phrases “National Security” and “State Secrets” but there appear to be a large number of people who don’t think the ideas are abhorrent and reprehensible so I guess they are unlikely to go away any time soon. Right. Given that they are going to be around, I think their use needs to be made more difficult and high profile. I personally think that any attempt to use them in a legal sense should require a document approving the use, signed by the elected head of government, the leader of the opposition, and at least one member of a group of judges who are cleared to see anything relating to the use of such a tool.

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Against Civilised Warfare – The Early Days of a Better Nation

Sure, he is mostly a socialist, but he has interesting things to say about war.

Just War Theory is an utter perversion of the moral sense, a doctrine of literally mediaeval barbarism, invented by clerics to regulate wars between Christian kings. Its finest moral discrimination to date is that it’s legitimate to kill a munitions worker on his way to work, but a crime to kill him on his way home. It tells us that to aim a bomb at an enemy soldier and kill a hundred civilians is – if the necessity is there – legitimate collateral damage, but to deliberately aim one bullet at one enemy civilian is murder.

and Israel

The argument that Israel has a right to self-defence but that its present actions are disproportionate leads nowhere. Sometimes disproportionate response is exactly right, and for the state of Israel disproportionate response will always seem right. What is wrong is the existence of a state that can exist in no other way. Its only hope of survival, spelled out clearly enough by Jabotinsky, is to reduce the millions of people it has wronged to utter despair:

Every indigenous people will resist alien settlers as long as they see any hope of ridding themselves of the danger of foreign settlement. That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that they will be able to prevent the transformation of ‘Palestine’ into the ‘Land of Israel’. […] As long as there is a spark of hope that they can get rid of us, they will not sell these hopes, not for any kind of sweet words or tasty morsels, because they are not a rabble but a nation, perhaps somewhat tattered, but still living. A living people makes such enormous concessions on such fateful questions only when there is no hope left.

Question for the reader – how has the existence of the Red Cross / Crescent / Crystal / Non-denominationalIconOfChoice and the Geneva Convention do anything to affect the frequency or ferocity of war? Do the men and women who send armies off to war really care or are they as desensitized by techno-fetishisms as their video-game playing children? Did they ever care even when they fought?

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Movie-Plot Threat Contest

Bruce Schneier has announced a contest for his readers to come up with extravagant, terrible, terrifying, possible, but bloody unlikely terrorist attack scenarios – what he calls "movie-plot" scenarios. It won't make any difference because he is mostly preaching to the choir but there always a chance that someone in a position of influence will the entries and decide to spend DHS money on preventing real threats rather than wasting money on high-profile programs that are designed merely to make the public at large feel more secure. Of course what is most likely to happen is that a cool entry will be passed around, end up on some desk and then millions of dollars later somebody will get a pat on the back and be told that they are doing a "heck of a job".

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