Quotulatiousness

April 23, 2013

What we know (so far) about the would-be Via bombers

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Railways — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:18

Maclean’s has a summary pulling together files from Nicholas Köhler, Charlie Gillis, Michael Friscolanti and Martin Patriquin on what is known about the two men arrested yesterday in a plot to commit an act of terror on a Canadian passenger train:

One of the men, Raed Jaser, is believed to have grown up in a Palestinian family with Jordanian roots. Court records seem to indicate he went on to a troubled history in Toronto, where authorities arrested him after a months’-long investigation they say ultimately leads back to al-Qaeda elements in Iran.

Although he is not a Canadian citizen, Jaser, 35, appears to have been in Ontario for at least two decades.

In October 1995, a man with the same name and year of birth was criminally charged in Newmarket, Ont., with fraud under $5,000 (the charge was withdrawn a year later). In December 2000, a week after his 24th birthday, Jaser was arrested and charged again, this time with uttering threats. Although court records show he was convicted of that charge, it’s not clear what sentence he received.

[. . .]

Details about the other man police say was involved in the plot, [Chiheb] Esseghaier, a resident of Montreal, are also coming into focus. A highly trained engineer, he had the resumé of an academic poised to go places.

As recently as last month he was publishing research papers.

The March 2013 edition of journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics published a paper on advanced HIV detection by Esseghaier, Mohammed Zourob and a fellow PhD student named Andy Ng.

According to his CV, Esseghaier was born in Tunisia. He received an engineering degree from Institut Tunisia’s National des Sciences Appliquées et de Technologie in 2007, with his masters degree following in 2008. He then moved to Université de Sherbrooke to research “SPR biosensor and gallium arsenide semi-conductor biofunctionnalization.” In November 2010, he joined Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS), a graduate institution associated with the Université du Québec.

April 22, 2013

The “public safety exception” to Miranda is a really bad idea

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:33

In Techdirt, Mike Masnick explains why this Obama administration innovation should not be perpetuated:

  1. Suspending basic rights and due process out of fear is exactly the kind of thing that people attacking the US want to see. Showing that we can’t live up to our most basic rights and principles in the face of a terrorist attack gives those who hate us that much more incentive to keep going. It’s not just a sign of weakness, but an encouragement for those who seek to undermine our society. In fact, it takes a step in that very direction by showing that the government is willing to throw out the rules and principles when it gets a little scared by a teenager.
  2. The slippery slope here is steep and extremely slick. There are no rules on when the DOJ can suddenly ignore Miranda. It gets to decide by itself. This is an organization with a long history of abusing its power, now allowed to wipe out one of the key protections for those they’re arresting, whenever it sees fit. The whole point of the ruling in Miranda is that it should not be up to law enforcement. A person’s rights are their rights.
  3. The part that really gets me: if anything, this opens up a really, really stupid line of defense for Dzokhar Tsarnaev if he ever faces a criminal trial. His lawyers will undoubtedly claim that the arrest and interrogation was unconstitutional due to the lack of (or delay in) Miranda rights. Why even open up that possibility of a defense for him?
  4. The guy has lived in the US for many years — chances are he actually knows the fact that he has the right to refuse to speak. So, we’re violating our principles, basic Constitutional due process, and opening up a massive opening for a defense, to avoid telling him something he likely already knows.

It’s been said before and it’ll be said again, but turning ourselves into a paranoid police state without basic rights means that those who attack us are winning. We should be better than that, and it’s a shame that our leaders have no problem confirming for the rest of the world that we’re not. What a shame.

April 20, 2013

Boston’s security theatre performance

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:20

At Popehat, Clark explains why the security theatre response to the Marathon bombers was a lot of show, but not proportional to the actual threat posed by the two fugitives:

First, just in case it’s not utterly obvious, I’m glad that the two murderous cowards who attacked civilians in Boston recently are off the streets. One dead and one in custody is a great outcome.

That said, a large percent of the reaction in Boston has been security theater. “Four victims brutally killed” goes by other names in other cities.

In Detroit, for example, they call it “Tuesday”.

…and Detroit does not shut down every time there are a few murders.

“But Clark,” I hear you say, “this is different. This was a terrorist attack.”

Washington DC, during ongoing sniper terrorist attacks in 2002 that killed twice as many people, was not shut down.

Kileen Texas, after the Fort Hood terrorist attack in 2009 that killed three times as many people, was not shut down.

London, after the bombing terrorist attack in 2005 that killed more than ten times as many people, was not shut down.

Counting the cost of the city-wide lockdown:

First, the unprecedented shutdown of a major American city may have increased safety some small bit, but it was not without a cost: keeping somewhere between 2 and 5 million people from work, shopping, and school destroyed a nearly unimaginable amount of value. If we call it just three million people, and we peg the cost at a mere $15 per person per hour, the destroyed value runs to a significant fraction of a billion dollars.

[. . .]

Third, keeping citizens off the street meant that 99% of the eyes and brains that might solve a crime were being wasted. Eric S Raymond famously said that “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow“. It was thousands of citizen photographs that helped break this case, and it was a citizen who found the second bomber. Yes, that’s right — it wasn’t until the stupid lock-down was ended that a citizen found the second murderer:

    boston.com

    The boat’s owners, a couple, spent Friday hunkered down under the stay-at-home order. When it was lifted early in the evening, they ventured outside for some fresh air and the man noticed the tarp on his boat blowing in the wind, according to their his son, Robert Duffy.

    The cords securing it had been cut and there was blood near the straps.

We had thousands of police going door-to-door, searching houses…and yet not one of them saw the evidence that a citizen did just minutes after the lock-down ended.

Come for the takedown of security theatre on a city-wide level, stay for the ultimate cops-and-donuts story.

April 19, 2013

Tracking the Boston Marathon bombers

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:07

As a one-man blogging operation, I won’t even pretend to stay on top of the story from Boston. Colby Cosh, on the other hand, has a useful post at Maclean’s to bring you up to date on the news so far:

It has been a night of extraordinary scenes from Boston as the late shift gawps at an unfolding true-crime story as extraordinary as any since the O.J. Simpson saga. Earlier in the day the FBI published photos of two suspects in Tuesday’s bombing attack on the Boston Marathon. Men closely matching the description of those individuals knocked over a 7-Eleven in the city Thursday night, then are alleged to have slain a transit cop on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and briefly taken a hostage. They were tracked to the suburb of Watertown, where they engaged in a spectacular firefight with at least a dozen different police forces. One man, the suspected marathon bomber depicted wearing a black cap in the FBI photos, seems to have rushed the police with an explosive attached to his chest; he was dead on arrival at hospital and doctors said he presented with “blast injuries to the trunk” along with an uncountable number of bullet holes. The other man, the one supposedly spotted at the marathon wearing a white cap, clambered into a vehicle, drove through the police cordon, and remains at large.

The entire city of Boston has been locked down while they search for the surviving bomber, identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. The dead suspect was his older brother.

April 16, 2013

QotD: Media “experts” immediately after a tragedy

Filed under: Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:52

Right now, I could write segments on the idiot comments made by the usual suspects … but do you really need another piece of evidence to support the argument that, say, Cynthia McKinney is a lunatic? [...] I can’t get all that revved up about it. She is what she is. If you really put much stock in her judgment of what’s “the real story” behind a horrific news event, theories that hear this awful news and immediately jump to elaborate theories of “false flag” operations and the notion that our local and federal law-enforcement ranks are full of men and women willing to set bombs and blow up children in order to score some sort of propaganda victory … well, then I doubt there’s anything anyone can say to dissuade you of that vast worldview you’ve constructed within your mind.

The conspiracy theorist is only a couple of steps away from the person who — often on Twitter — begins discussing who was behind it with way too much certainty. As I said on Twitter yesterday, I suspect that speculation, unhelpful as it is, is a coping mechanism: People attempt to make a sudden unexpected horror fit into pattern of known facts. If we can figure out who did it, we can find someone to feel anger and rage towards and, for some people, that’s a much easier emotion to deal with than shock, horror, fear, and sorrow.

The all-too-confident speculator is only a few steps away from the ordinarily knowledgeable terrorism expert or pundit yanked into a television studio at a moment’s notice and asked to speak, extemporaneously, about what could be behind these awful events based on nothing more than initial reports and the most horrific of images playing on a monitor just beyond the camera.

Jim Geraghty, “The Morning Jolt”, 2013-04-16

March 21, 2013

The technological imbalance between security and threats

Filed under: Government, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:17

Bruce Schneier on the power of technology in a security context:

A core, not side, effect of technology is its ability to magnify power and multiply force — for both attackers and defenders. One side creates ceramic handguns, laser-guided missiles, and new-identity theft techniques, while the other side creates anti-missile defense systems, fingerprint databases, and automatic facial recognition systems.

The problem is that it’s not balanced: Attackers generally benefit from new security technologies before defenders do. They have a first-mover advantage. They’re more nimble and adaptable than defensive institutions like police forces. They’re not limited by bureaucracy, laws, or ethics. They can evolve faster. And entropy is on their side — it’s easier to destroy something than it is to prevent, defend against, or recover from that destruction.

For the most part, though, society still wins. The bad guys simply can’t do enough damage to destroy the underlying social system. The question for us is: can society still maintain security as technology becomes more advanced?

I don’t think it can.

March 20, 2013

Barack’s secret spying club

Filed under: Government, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:23

In Reason, Jacob Sullum explains why the ruling against the promiscuous use of National Security Letters was needed:

After 9/11, Congress loosened restrictions on national security letters (NSLs), a kind of administrative subpoena, first authorized in 1986, that the FBI uses to demand information from phone companies, Internet service providers, and financial institutions. According to the Justice Department’s inspector general, NSL “requests” skyrocketed from a total of 8,500 between 1986 and 2000 to more than 56,000 in 2004 alone.

The Obama administration has made liberal use of NSLs, which in 2010 allowed the FBI to peruse information about 14,212 American citizens and permanent residents — a new record — without bothering to get clearance from a judge. If you were one of those people, the odds are that you will never know, because NSLs are almost always accompanied by instructions that prohibit recipients from discussing them.

[. . .]

Secrecy frustrates challenges to counterterrorism tactics even in the case of Obama’s most startling claim to executive power: the authority to kill people he identifies as members or allies of Al Qaeda. In January a federal judge ruled that the Freedom of Information Act does not require Obama to disclose the Justice Department memos that explain the legal rationale for this license to kill.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon expressed frustration with this result, saying, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our Government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.” In his State of the Union address the following month, Obama promised to make his “targeting” of suspected terrorists “even more transparent.” I’ll disbelieve it when I don’t see it.

March 7, 2013

Rand Paul’s filibuster and the Obama administration’s drone strike policies

Filed under: Government, Law, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:08

Nick Gillespie has three important points to take away from Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster yesterday:

For all of the late-night punch-drunkiness that eventually ensued on Twitter (well, at least on my feed), yesterday’s 12-hours-plus filibuster led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is among the most electrifying and insipiring events in recent political memory. The point of the filibuster — which derailed a confirmation vote on John Brennan as Barack Obama’s CIA head — was to call attention to the president’s insufficient answers to questions about his policy of targeted killings via drones and, one assumes, other methods.

Here are three takeaways from yesterday’s epic event:

1. It shows what one man can do to call attention to a hugely important issue that nonetheless is largley ignored by the mainstream media and the political establishment.

Elected in 2010, Rand Paul has rarely been the Republican — or the Democrat’s — media favorite. He’s been heckled big time from his own side (which initially worked against his election) and across the aisle as an irresponsible ideologue (he’s a dirty tea-bagger don’t you know!). Among a good chunk of his father’s most devoted followers, he’s been assailed as a neo-con war hawk who was willing to trim his libertarian bona fides to win favor with the D.C. party crowd. His sad-sack opponent in the general election the GOP primary, Jack Conway, set new lows with the infamous “Aqua Buddha” ad that accused Paul of everything short of devil worship; his general election opponent in the GOP primary, Trey Grayson, had already trotted out many of the same pathetic lines.

[. . .]

2. It shows the power of transpartisan thought and action. Make no mistake: Despite the presence of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), yesterday’s filibuster was a GOP-conducted orchestra. But what was most bracing and ultimately powerful thing about the filibuster was that none of the speakers exempted the Republican Party or former President George W. Bush, whose aggrandized view of executive power still roils the sleep of the Founding Fathers, from withering criticism and scrutiny. How else to explain that hard-left groups such as Code Pink were proud to #standwithrand yesterday on Twitter? The same with reliable Rand and GOP critic Eugene Robinson and many others who up until yesterday thought little of Rand Paul.

[. . .]

3. It ties a direct line between the abuses of power and the growth of the state.

Despite using various self-identifiers over the years (he’s called himself a libertarian, a conservative, a constitutional conservative, etc.) Rand Paul has always been rightly understood as an advocate of sharply limited and small government. During his Senate race, for instance, he said questions about drug legalization should be pushed back towards the states, where different models could be tried in accordance with the wishes of the people most directly affected. He presented a budget that was heavy on spending cuts that would have balanced the budget in five years. He has called for either actually declaring war on countries such as Iraq and Libya or getting the hell out. What unites his positions is a default setting against giving the federal government a free hand to do whatever it wants irrespective of constitutional limits.

January 20, 2013

Pennsylvania quashes latest terror threat

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:59

This story is not taken from the pages of The Onion:

The incident occurred Jan. 10 while the girl was waiting in line for a school bus, said Robin Ficker, the Maryland lawyer retained by the girl’s family. He would not identify the girl or her parents, but gave this version of events:

Talking with a friend, the girl said something to the effect “I’m going to shoot you and I will shoot myself” in reference to the device that shoots out bubbles. The girl did not have the bubble gun with her and has never shot a real gun in her life, Ficker said.

Elementary school officials learned of the conversation and questioned the girls the next day, Fickler said. He said the girl did not have a parent present during the 30 minutes of questioning.

The result, he said, was that the student was labeled a “terrorist threat” and suspended for 10 days, Ficker said. The school also required her to be evaluated by a psychologist, Ficker said.

This designated terrorist is five.

H/T to Dan Mitchell for the link.

We also need to protect our kids from being exposed to bureaucrats who are jaw-droppingly stupid.

Actually, WordPress is telling me that “droppingly” isn’t a word. So maybe instead we should take Instapundit’s advice and reward these idiot officials with some tar and feathers.

And I hope the tattle-tale punk from the bus stop who ratted out the little girls is condemned to some sort of grade-school purgatory featuring never-ending wedgies.

On a more serious note, I hope the parents sue the you-know-what out of the school.

December 27, 2012

Remember this next time you hear about a drone strike on “suspected militants”

Filed under: Media, Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:39

Matt Welch rounds up the actual events which were originally euphemistically described as a successful strike against “suspected” al Qaeda militants:

What enables such state-sanctioned murder? One crucial ingredient is highlighted in the next paragraph:

    Quoting unnamed Yemeni officials, local and international media initially described the victims of the Sept. 2 airstrike in al-Bayda governorate as al Qaeda militants.

Follow that link to the Sept. 2 Reuters article, and you’ll see this loaded lead paragraph:

    Five suspected militants linked to al Qaeda were killed by a U.S. drone attack on Sunday in central Yemen, in what appears to be stepped up strikes by unmanned aircraft on Islamists.

Note that “suspected” only modifies “militants”; Reuters treated as fact that the charred bodies were “linked to al Qaeda,” and part of a broader campaign against “Islamists” who don’t qualify as being “suspected.”

This isn’t just linguistic nitpicking of journalismese; this is how you midwife propaganda — straight from anonymous government sources who have a huge incentive to legitimize targeted death-dealing against undesirables, and unadorned with the kind of protective skepticism that such ultimate power (let alone fog of war) so richly deserves.

November 23, 2012

Brendan O’Neill: Israel as a “rogue state”

Filed under: Media, Middle East, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:23

In the Telegraph, Brendan O’Neill on the branding of Israel as a rogue state by the usual suspects:

Events of the past week have illuminated what Israel has become in Western political circles: a rogue state for the right-on. Where George W Bush had Iraq, and Barack Obama has Iran, Western Leftists have Israel: an allegedly rogue entity, a deviant state, whose lawlessness they can rail against in precisely the same way that American leaders slam states that they judge to be roguish. Today’s fashionable bashing of Israel is not a genuinely anti-imperialist or even particularly anti-war stance — rather, it is motored by the same thirst to discover a faraway embodiment of evil we can all get righteously angry about that has fuelled American foreign policy in recent years.

The most striking thing about the Israel-bashing lobby is how similar its language is to that used by Washington, which is hardly known for its peacenik virtues. Most strikingly, the anti-Israel set promiscuously bandies about the phrase “rogue state”, which was first invented by the Clinton administration in the 1990s in its desperate search for post-Soviet Union foreign wickedness that it might define itself against. As one author has said, the term “rogue state” is used by Western officials as a “certificate of dangerous insanity in the diplomatic world” — that is, it is used to brand certain states as mad, bad and beyond the Pale, as offensive to all right-minded people. A very similar streak of Western chauvinism runs through the Israel-loathing lobby.

So this week, Labour MP Gerald Kaufman said Israel is a “rogue state” and an “aggressor state”. Leaving aside that it is hilariously hypocritical for a man who voted for both the Labour government’s bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 (600 dead) and its bombing of Iraq in 2003 (many thousands dead) to snootily refer to another state as an “aggressor” — what is more striking is Kaufman’s insistence that Israel is “criminal” and that its people are “complicit in [their] government’s war crimes”. This depiction of Israel as deviant, as rogue, as a breaker of international laws, and the burdening of its people with collective guilt for all this criminality, precisely echoes the arguments used by the most war-hungry of today’s Western politicians as they seek to assert their authority over some “bad state” or “bad people” overseas.

November 19, 2012

Victims of state-sponsored violence in Pakistan and Gaza

Filed under: Media, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:52

Brendan O’Neill wonders why fans of Obama’s re-election (and therefore also of his bloody record of drone strikes in Pakistan) are almost uniformly against Israel’s counter-attacks in Gaza:

All the people who two weeks ago were ecstatically cheering the re-election of Barack Obama are now having paroxysms of fury over Israel. Where the blogs, Twitterfeeds and daily conversations of these caring, Left-leaning folk were packed to bursting point with glowing praise for Obama on 7 November, now they are full of scorn for Israel and its inhuman, bloodthirsty bombing of Gaza. The intensity of these individuals’ delirium over Obama’s second term now finds its match in the intensity of their disgust with Israel’s military antics.

Which is weird, when you consider that Obama, their hero, has already done to the tribal regions of Pakistan what Israel, their nemesis, is now doing to Gaza.

Obama, like Israel, launches bombing raids on foreign militants, and Obama, like Israel, ends up killing innocent people in the process. Indeed, of the 283 drone strikes launched by Obama in rural regions of Pakistan over the past four years, which have killed an estimated 2,600 people, only 13 per cent have successfully killed an al-Qaeda or Taliban militant. Shockingly, this means that around 2,200 non-militant Pakistanis — or what we might call innocents — have been killed by Obama: bombed in their beds, or while herding sheep, or while driving their cars. This death toll dwarfs what has been unleashed by Israel over the past week or during the first Gaza war in 2008, when around 1,400 Palestinians died.

[. . .]

What is behind these mammoth double standards? Is it that Pakistanis are considered less important than Palestinians, and therefore there’s no need to protest when they get killed? Is it that Obama is viewed as so supercool and liberal that he can bomb whom he likes and still his cheerleaders won’t kick up a fuss? Is it because Israel is a Jewish State, and we are more offended by the sight of Jews bombing brown people than we are by the sight of America’s Democratic Party bombing brown people? What is it? There must be some explanation. Perhaps if you are one of those people who cheered Obama’s re-election and is now jeering at Israel’s militarism you might take a few minutes to tell us why some forms of militarism make you see red, and others do not.

November 5, 2012

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

Filed under: Britain, History, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:20

Today is the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot:

Everyone knows what the Gunpowder Plotters looked like. Thanks to one of the best-known etchings of the seventeenth century we see them ‘plotting’, broad brims of their hats over their noses, cloaks on their shoulders, mustachios and beards bristling — the archetypical band of desperados. Almost as well known are the broad outlines of the discovery of the ‘plot’: the mysterious warning sent to Lord Monteagle on October 26th, 1605, the investigation of the cellars under the Palace of Westminster on November 4th, the discovery of the gunpowder and Guy Fawkes, the flight of the other conspirators, the shoot-out at Holbeach in Staffordshire on November 8th in which four (Robert Catesby, Thomas Percy and the brothers Christopher and John Wright) were killed, and then the trial and execution of Fawkes and seven others in January 1606.

However, there was a more obscure sequel. Also implicated were the 9th Earl of Northumberland, three other peers (Viscount Montague and Lords Stourton and Mordaunt) and three members of the Society of Jesus. Two of the Jesuits, Fr Oswald Tesimond and Fr John Gerard, were able to escape abroad, but the third, the superior of the order in England, Fr Henry Garnet, was arrested just before the main trial. Garnet was tried separately on March 28th, 1606 and executed in May. The peers were tried in the court of Star Chamber: three were merely fined, but Northumberland was imprisoned in the Tower at pleasure and not released until 1621.

[. . .]

Thanks to the fact that nothing actually happened, it is not surprising that the plot has been the subject of running dispute since November 5th, 1605. James I’s privy council appears to have been genuinely unable to make any sense of it. The Attorney-General, Sir Edward Coke, observed at the trial that succeeding generations would wonder whether it was fact or fiction. There were claims from the start that the plot was a put-up job — if not a complete fabrication, then at least exaggerated for his own devious ends by Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, James’s secretary of state. The government’s presentation of the case against the plotters had its awkward aspects, caused in part by the desire to shield Monteagle, now a national hero, from the exposure of his earlier association with them. The two official accounts published in 1606 were patently spins. One, The Discourse of the Manner, was intended to give James a more commanding role in the uncovering of the plot than he deserved. The other, A True and Perfect Relation, was intended to lay the blame on Garnet.

But Catesby had form. He and several of the plotters as well as Lord Monteagle had been implicated in the Earl of Essex’s rebellion in 1601. Subsequently he and the others (including Monteagle) had approached Philip III of Spain to support a rebellion to prevent James I’s accession. This raises the central question of what the plot was about. Was it the product of Catholic discontent with James I or was it the last episode in what the late Hugh Trevor-Roper and Professor John Bossy have termed ‘Elizabethan extremism’?

October 24, 2012

UN report says the internet is too vulnerable to terrorist use

Filed under: Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 14:21

Mike Masnick views with alarm a new UN report that deserves to be viewed with alarm:

Ah, the UN. As highlighted by Declan McCullagh, a new report from the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, clocking in at an unwieldy 158 pages (pdf) warns that this old internet of ours is just too damn open, and that means terrorists can use it. Thus, it has to stop the openness. The report really is just about that bad: if terrorists might misuse it, it’s bad and must be stopped. The costs of locking up all this openness are brushed aside, if they’re even considered at all. Among the problems? How about open WiFi?

    ISPs may require users to provide identifying information prior to accessing Internet content and services. The collection and preservation of identifying information associated with Internet data, and the disclosure of such information, subject to the appropriate safeguards, could significantly assist investigative and prosecutorial proceedings. In particular, requiring registration for the use of Wi-Fi networks or cybercafes could provide an important data source for criminal investigations. While some countries, such as Egypt, have implemented legislation requiring ISPs to identify users before allowing them Internet access, similar measures may be undertaken by ISPs on a voluntary basis.

It seems like it should be a general rule that, if you’re supporting something that includes better surveillance tools by saying, “Hey, Egypt — the same country that recently had the people rise up to force out a dictator, who tried to shut down the internet — does it!” perhaps you don’t have a very good argument.

The report is basically one big “OMG! But… but… terrorists! Kill it!”

October 18, 2012

Domestic terrorism less common in the US now than in the past

Filed under: History, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:42

At the Cato@Liberty blog, Benjamin Friedman looks at the history and compares it with today’s constant worry about US domestic terror operations:

Homegrown terrorism is not becoming more common and dangerous in the United States, contrary to warnings issued regularly from Washington. American jihadists attempting local attacks are predictably incompetent, making them even less dangerous than their rarity suggests.

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Robert Mueller, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are among legions of experts and officials who have recently warned of a rise in homegrown terrorism, meaning terrorist acts or plots carried out by American citizens or long-term residents, often without guidance from foreign organisations.

But homegrown American terrorism is not new.

Leon Czolgosz, the anarchist who assassinated President McKinley in 1901, was a native-born American who got no foreign help. The same goes for John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray. The deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, was largely the work of New York-born Gulf War vet, Timothy McVeigh.

As Brian Michael Jenkins of RAND notes, there is far less homegrown terrorism today than in the 1970s, when the Weather Underground, the Jewish Defense League, anti-Castro Cuban exile groups, and the Puerto Rican Nationalists of the FALN were setting off bombs on U.S. soil.

[. . .]

After the September 11, the FBI received a massive boost in counterterrorism funding and shifted a small army of agents from crime-fighting to counterterrorism. Many joined new Joint Terrorism Task Forces. Ambitious prosecutors increasingly looked for terrorists to indict. Most states stood up intelligence fusion centers, which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) soon fed with threat intelligence.

The intensification of the search was bound to produce more arrests, even without more terrorism, just as the Inquisition was sure to find more witches. Of course, unlike the witches, only a minority of those found by this search are innocent. But many seem like suggestible idiots unlikely to have produced workable plots without the help of FBI informants or undercover agents taught to induce criminal conduct without engaging in entrapment.

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