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Tilting at Windmills

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December 1, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

YOU ARE BEING WATCHED....You swat down one data mining project and it turns out there's another one waiting right behind it. Say hello to ATS:

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Americans and foreigners crossing U.S. borders since 2002 have been assessed by the Homeland Security Department's computerized Automated Targeting System, or ATS.

The travelers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments, which the government intends to keep on file for 40 years. Some or all data in the system can be shared with state, local and foreign governments for use in hiring, contracting and licensing decisions. Courts and even some private contractors can obtain some of the data under certain circumstances.

....Almost every person entering and leaving the United States by air, sea or land is assessed based on ATS' analysis of their travel records and other data, including items such as where they are from, how they paid for tickets, their motor vehicle records, past one-way travel, seating preference and what kind of meal they ordered.

What kind of meal they ordered? Note to Muslims: don't order special meals anymore. Or, if you do, order the kosher meal. That'll mess with their heads.

Patrick Leahy claims to be outraged by the whole thing, and I confess I'm curious about whether this is really the first that Congress has heard of it. Probably not. On the other hand, what Leahy is mostly outraged about is the fact that (a) the feds seem to be sharing this information pretty promiscuously and (b) nobody is allowed to know their own terror score. If yours is high, you'll never learn about it and you can never appeal it. You'll just get hassled a lot every time you travel.

Did Congress know about that? Probably not. So bring on the hearings.

Kevin Drum 9:34 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (92)

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Comments

I don't mind them doing a terror analysis. In fact, I think they should. They need to figure out which travelers are greater risks.

However, I wonder just how effective their algorithm is. Do airlines offer Halal meals? If so, maybe that's one of their criteria.

Posted by: ex-liberal on December 1, 2006 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

Darnit, Kevin!

Do you want the terrorists to win?!?

Posted by: Pale Rider on December 1, 2006 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

However, I wonder just how effective their algorithm is. Do airlines offer Halal meals? If so, maybe that's one of their criteria.

OK, that's gotta be a parody. No one is that insane. Their "algorithm?"

I'm not a scientist, but I play one on TV, and I can assure you, there is no "algorithm" that can adequately comb through this much information and tell you anything other than, wow, lots of people don't care for the peanuts when they fly into Atlanta-Hartsfield.

What happened is, the TSA has been caught doing something insanely foolish and of no use whatsoever in trying to screen for terrorists and protect travellers--as the man once sang,

same as it ever was...

Posted by: Pale Rider on December 1, 2006 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

Actually a religious Muslim would be likely to order the kosher meal. In the US, Muslim children are sometimes taught to look for the circle "U" or other symbols indicating rabbinic approval. This insures that nothing derived from pork is included.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on December 1, 2006 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly, the terrorists have already won. They've got us so confused, we're sabotaging all our own systems. George Bush: The Manchurian Candidate.

Posted by: Kenji on December 1, 2006 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

Is The Washington Monthly "datamining" IP addresses?

Posted by: Spock on December 1, 2006 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

More post September 11 torching of the folicles.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 1, 2006 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

it's a great program. they won't allow you access to your information, but they will sell it to private contractors for a fee of course.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on December 1, 2006 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

Leahy outraged?

ROFLMAO.

Just go tell him to go and fuck himself...

Say that,
and he'll go cower in the little boy's room like a good corporate dimocrat.

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on December 1, 2006 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, when thry set their hair on fire, they torched the bill of rights and three articles of the constitution, the Magna Carta and Habeas Corpus. Oh, and the Insurrection Acts of 1807 and the Posse Comitatus Act. But nothings changed. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 1, 2006 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

Guess what..
this type of database is strictly forbidden in France, unless citizen have the right to check the information gathered on them.
Wake up America, you are too complacent with Big brother.

Posted by: remi on December 1, 2006 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

Can I be honest? This doesn't bother me in the least. I mean, every other scary data mining, tracking, etc. that has come to light recently really got my Civil Liberties conscience broiling, but this one... well, it almost makes sense. It's limited in scope (Only for national border crossings, not for interstate travel, etc.), and has the potential to provide genuinely useful information. As long as they don't use it for other purposes ("Joe Schmoe is running for the Senate. Why did he take four trips to Brazil last year? Was it for Brazilian Shemales? Say no to the Joe Schmoe, the Brazilian Shemale-loving freak"), which of course I don't trust greatly. But at some point, we do have to have some sort of increased monitoring, and this seems like a helpful one.

I think what everyone may be worried about is the "danger score" thing, however that will probably prove to be the least useful (though probably most used because its easy) part of this.

Posted by: Mark Kawakami on December 1, 2006 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

Do airlines offer Halal meals?

Good evening, sir.

Would you like to try the jasmine rice?

It's tasty and nutricious AND you'll be automatically entered in our ATS points program.

Posted by: skip intro on December 1, 2006 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

Those...French...they can have their enlightenment and their existentialism and their menage a toise...

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 1, 2006 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Having spent a good amount of time actually looking at "datamining," I can assure you--

This is the stupidest goddamn thing I've ever seen in my life.

Sorry, I've already spent the afternoon looking at this. They actually thought they could assign a score to people, store it in a database, and keep the American people from finding that out? Just as soon as you:

1. Start collecting information on Americans
2. Store it electronically
3. Begin to analyze it

--all bets are off. And that's what they did and that's why people should be pissed as hell right now. I am now going to type in all caps, so cover your ears:

YOU DO NOT TURN THE INTELLIGENCE GATHERING APPARATUS OF THIS COUNTRY AGAINST US CITIZENS. PERIOD. END OF FUCKING STORY.

It'll take one good lawsuit to open the files, most likely. Then, they'll have to open it up and by the time its all over, you'll have snarky TV pundits comparing their terror score, based on whether they got on a plane and had water instead of alcohol, whether they sat next to a goddamned window and what they ordered out of the SkyMall catalog.

This is what it looks like when an informed citizenry stops paying attention. This is what it looks like when a half-assed attempt at keeping the American people safe turns into a bureaucratic circle-jerk.

Somewhere, there's a guy making $79,000 a year, working for someone like Booz Allen or CACI, and he and a hundred or so just like him have been pruning, organizing, archiving and fucking up this database to the point where it won't even respond to a basic search.

But that's another story...

Posted by: Pale Rider on December 1, 2006 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

Is this the same Kevin Drum that thinks we aren't doing enough to secure our ports, that we should be requiring inspection of all ocean containers overseas? But we shouldn't be trying to determine whether terrorists are trying to fly into the US? As it turns out, legally, people don't have the same rights at the border that they have once they enter the US. For example, you don't need probable cause to search someone. Screening incoming cargo and people is just what most people want DHS to do. You can laugh at the ridiculousness of any particular rule, and any particular rule, by itself may in fact be ridiculous. But it's what we've got. And, the downside for the vast majority of the extreme minority of people affected is that every once in a while, someone is escorted into a room and asked some additional questions. As a result, and even smaller number of people are not allowed into the country. Doubtless mistakes have been made, but I never liked Cat Stevens's music much anyway.

Posted by: rocked on December 1, 2006 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

Coincidence?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Stephen A. Cambone, the Pentagon's top intelligence official and a close ally of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, will step down at the end of the year, becoming the first key department member to leave in the wake of Rumsfeld's resignation.

It had been widely speculated that Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, would resign as the Pentagon prepares for the expected Senate confirmation of a new defense chief -- former CIA Director Robert Gates.

The Pentagon's intelligence-gathering has come under fire during Cambone's tenure, with critics accusing the Defense Department of trying to take expanded control over the nation's intelligence activities.

Cambone was in charge of intelligence when it was disclosed a year ago that a Pentagon database of suspicious activities contained the names of anti-war groups that had been found not be security risks. Cambone ordered a review of the program.

I would be willing to bet you that the Pentagon has had complete access to the TSA's little data mining folly.

Good riddance, I say. Another neocon bites the dust.

Posted by: Pale Rider on December 1, 2006 at 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

rocked, so you won't mind when they come and take your family away because of something you bought at Borders? Just so we're clear about the implications.

Posted by: Kenji on December 1, 2006 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

You can laugh at the ridiculousness of any particular rule

Nah, there's nothing funny about a bunch of incompetent assholes taking away every last shred of privacy that the American people have, but thanks for your concern.

Too bad it doesn't mean jack/shit as applied to the subject at hand.

This isn't about screening cargo or actually doing the things that protect America--no, sorry, the track record of this administration has been that they cut those programs and do whatever they can to avoid actually 'protecting' this country.

What this is about is pretty simple and basic--they are a bunch of nosy little Mrs. Kravitz wannabes who want to stick their nose in everyone's bedroom, business, private life and into every facet of their lives so they can build vast databases about the habits of certain people for their own purposes--and the truly reprehensible thing about it is, they're not even competent about doing that.

I mean, they can't even do 'evil' the right way.

How sad is that?

Posted by: Pale Rider on December 1, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

Cambrone was this Friday's news dump, eh? Or did I miss it some time earlier?

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 1, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

Cambone was the friday dump. That's exactly right.

How much do you wanna bet there's a half dozen three-stars having a celebratory meal somewhere downtown tonight?

Posted by: Pale Rider on December 1, 2006 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

Hold the Polonium.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 1, 2006 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

We are at war, Kevin. WE ARE AT WAR!!!

But you want America's walls smashed and levelled. You want America's defenses lain prostate. Sort of like surrenduring just because the Germans marched into Paris.

Has Bush hatred blinded you to this degree?

Posted by: egbert on December 1, 2006 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

So bring on the hearings.

Yes. Go Patrick Leahy. Go Carl Levin. Cut the Bush Administration NO slack. They have tried to ruin you.

And I would bet that three-stars and their wives/husbands are celebrating.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on December 1, 2006 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

Oh god. I normally don't correct typos, I'm the typo queen, preview is not my Fred...

But it is prostrate. Prostate is the gland that got cancer and killed Frank Zappa.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 1, 2006 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

Frank Zappa's dead. I gotta get off this blog.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on December 1, 2006 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

Please violate my Constitutional rights, Mr. Cheney! I just love you so much, please violate me! Here, take my asshole. No, I insist, take it! I want you to have it. You can put it to far better use than me.

Send me off to war, play hot potato with my vegetable sister, tap my phones and send me off to Guantanamo. Have your way with me!

Posted by: desperate Republican on December 1, 2006 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, if that isn't a parody egbert, we want actual security measures, not spying on Americans. It's a fine line, I realize, but one worth defining and staking out and guarding against encroachment.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 1, 2006 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

I guess I'm going to order ham on the airplane from now on?

Pale Rider, great stuff. Note how we can't see it (its about us and we're paying for it, but we can't see it?) but they can sell it to corporations, who can then sell it for profit.? I think one thing you could add is how everything for the public good is made into a for-profit mini-cabal. When I was in Europe, everyone I spoke with couldn't believe that the American people had bought into the idea ...that you can do it cheaper (oh yeah! and better! because government is yucky! no proof but yeah, better!) by making a profit! Then there is the disappearance of "Duty" for the public good. Now, its a place to make money. Anyone who would do the same task out of love of country or its people and do it cheaper, like an Army enlisted man or a civil servant, is just a chump to the Bush Admin. and their profitization (the call it privatize) schemers. Real patriots huh?

Posted by: mark on December 1, 2006 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

Take your family away? Incompetent assholes? Last shred of privacy? Y'all feel better now? I have exactly no fear that as a result of someone being scored in ATS taking a transborder flight into the country that there is any chance of anybody's family being taken away. Nor do I believe that the analysis rules are written by incompetent assholes or that reviewing certain information about cross border passengers takes away one's last shred of privacy. And yes, this is the worst administration ever. But DHS, like most government bureaucracies, is largely composed of career civil servants, not people with political policy agendas. And none of them are a bunch of whining hysterics.

Posted by: rocked on December 1, 2006 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

We voluntarily gave up our civil liberties in effort to protect everyone elses, and they couldn't give 'em away fast enough in an effort to feel some elusive sense of non-existent security. We're feeling kind of like chumps about now, thanks.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 1, 2006 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

mark,

No, the point is--these incompetent schmucks are taking vast amounts of data and they have no idea how to organize it and use it to actually protect this country.

It is, most likely, a boondoggle. Millions spent on IT personnel, analysts and hardware, workspace and logistics, and, because I have seen this time and time again, the thing they've built doesn't work, can't be searched, has been corrupted and won't actually do what they want it to do.

Do you know what General Hayden's legacy is? Besides being the DIRNSA on 9/11 and the head of the agency that translated the intercept of the al Qaeda hijackers days after the actual attack?

Two things: Trailblazer and Eagle Alliance.

I will leave it to you to find out what you can about those two glorious monuments to bureaucratic efficiency and the wise use of the taxpayer's money.

Posted by: Pale Rider on December 1, 2006 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

I just have one thing to say: CACI, or, Colonels and Captains, Inc.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 1, 2006 at 11:18 PM | PERMALINK

rocked, the irs was staffed by career civil servants with no particular political ax to grind. so is the cia, the fbi, et al. doesn't mean the info gathered can't fall into political hands, doesn't mean the agency itself can't be used for political purposes.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on December 1, 2006 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

and i agree gathering huge amounts of data is totally useless and futile endeavor.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on December 1, 2006 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

Trailblazer Eagle Alliance. Read up and get disturbed. On so many levels.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 1, 2006 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: I don't mind them doing a terror analysis. In fact, I think they should. They need to figure out which travelers are greater risks.

Screening terrorists appears to be a post-hoc rationalization of the system. It looks to be little more than a giant vaccum cleaner, based on the presumption that virtually anyone involved in trans-border activity is fair game.That means not only people who actually cross, or attempt to cross, the border, but also:

B. Persons who engage in any form of trade or other commercial transaction related to the importation or exportation of merchandise;

C. Persons who are employed in any capacity related to the transit of merchandise intended to cross the United States border;...

The system is more likely to be used for much more mundane purposes such as civil and criminal cases--as clearly stated--and much less likely to be useful (or used) for screening out or nailing terrorists.

For the details see here (Federal Register, Volume 71, Number 212, pages 64543-64546). Note especially the lame rationale given in CONTESTING RECORD PROCEDURES.

Posted by: has407 on December 2, 2006 at 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

As God is my witness, CBS Radio played a satirical song on this as part of its 5:30 PM PST news broadcast:

"Try looking like a White Christian,
If you are Moslem, Sikh or Jew.
With a little more experience you can act like Presbyterians,
And then they will wave you through.

"Try looking like a White Christian --
It's not so hard to do it right.
There's no trouble catching your flight,
Even if you're Sunni or Shiite."

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on December 2, 2006 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

"what kind of meal they ordered."

Looks like they are coming after us vegans again.

Posted by: KathyF on December 2, 2006 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

BTW, if that isn't a parody egbert, we want actual security measures, not spying on Americans. It's a fine line, I realize, but one worth defining and staking out and guarding against encroachment.

Define one security measure intended to successfully keep terrorists from entering the country that will not, to some extent, at some point in its operation, involve invading the privacy of innocent people.

Posted by: jason on December 2, 2006 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone good with "old saws" ? Closing the barn door after the horses have gone.
Repeat after me : America's first taste of suicide bombers was 9/11. That's as in nothing left to find or convict. Oy !
Those fool trolls are still spamming comments with that garbage about "Fighting terrorism in Iraq".
Dumbasses. Proper terminology is "Spawning Terrorism in Iraq". Just ask the American Intelligence Community.

Posted by: opit on December 2, 2006 at 12:50 AM | PERMALINK

But DHS, like most government bureaucracies, is largely composed of career civil servants, not people with political policy agendas. And none of them are a bunch of whining hysterics.
Posted by: rocked

personally, I find those so-called americans who so willingly gave up their freedoms and civil liberties after 9/11 to be the truly hysterical sissies.

sack up, bitches.

Posted by: Nads on December 2, 2006 at 1:39 AM | PERMALINK

Define one security measure intended to successfully keep terrorists from entering the country that will not, to some extent, at some point in its operation, involve invading the privacy of innocent people.

The point is that we're looking at all of the ways that this administration has invaded innocent people's privacy over the last five years, and we're asking for some shred of evidence that any of them have prevented any terrorists from entering the country. And they don't seem to be able to come up with any. They say "Oh, that would compromise our intelligence operations." But they weren't so solicitous about their disclosures when they were waving satellite pix and "secret defector testimony" around while ginning up the bogus case for invading Iraq, so that sounds like a crock of honky. They're doing these things because a. they like power and they like to snoop around in people's personal info, and b. they want to be seen to be doing SOMETHING. But the things they're doing don't actually seem to accomplish anything in the way of making the country safer.

The problem here isn't in analyzing travel data to predict who's a threat. The problem is that you can't challenge your classification. The types of people who decide on the risk factors, in the US - FBI and DHS employees - are usually not very worldly people. They're the kind of people who think the very fact of having been to Iran makes you a threat; they don't know that people go to Iran for tourism, to recruit new films for international film festivals, and so forth. People have to be able to challenge their classifications to compensate for the potential ignorance or simple mistakenness of the officials who design and implement the data mining.

Posted by: brooksfoe on December 2, 2006 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

There's no point arguing with bedwetters. All they've got are variations on "Daddy knows best" and "Terrorists are scary!"

If they are really selling this sort of data to corporations, they've just handed us a big fat cudgel: we've got your corruption right here.

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Posted by: 万维网火车站 on December 2, 2006 at 5:15 AM | PERMALINK

There has been a clear and steady erosion of our freedoms under conservative rule. I am a 50 yr. old grain accountant and when I recently changed jobs, I had to undergo a criminal background check, as well as a "supervised" drug test, meaning I had to pee in a cup while a 20 yr. old pharmacy tech watched. This humiliating intrusion of my privacy has never happened to me in my 30 yr. career. I have a spotless criminal record, perfect credit history and am a model employee, as well as father of three and Boy Scout leader. When I asked why all this was necessary, I was told it was because of the Patriot Act. What do they think, I am going to suddenly become a meth addict and sell the latest soybean inventory numbers to al-Qaeda???

I miss the days when liberals controlled government in the 1960s. Those were the best days of America. We are a country in decline.

Posted by: An Ordinary Guy on December 2, 2006 at 6:22 AM | PERMALINK

what kind of meal they ordered.

What airline lets you order these days? I'm lucky to get a bag of peanuts.

Posted by: tomeck on December 2, 2006 at 7:23 AM | PERMALINK

Just a note in case you read this, Kevin. It's not uncommon for Muslims to get kosher when halal is not available. The food preparation rules are quite similar.

Posted by: pete on December 2, 2006 at 7:55 AM | PERMALINK

By the way, what about that guy who's responsible for 3000 American deaths, met some Iraqis in Jordan and now is going to meet some more at his house here in the US. What's Bush's score? Is there any chance we can keep him out of the country next time?

Posted by: tomeck on December 2, 2006 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: diwo on December 2, 2006 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

When you give a bureaucracy more and more power over your lives, what else can you expect? The more security you want and vote for, the more intrusive the bureaucracy can and will be.

How far do we go to secure our borders?

Posted by: Spock on December 2, 2006 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Most Americans WANT terrorists to be monitored.

Posted by: We got to move these refrigerators on December 2, 2006 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Haven't learned yet ? Border security system posts 1 terror case http://yahoo.com/20061130/ts_nm/security_usafingerprints_dc
And Homeland security wants to expand the system.
New flash. Bureaucracy is a self-perpetuating growth system of unproductive make work by empire builders when allowed to grow wild. That's why it's important to figure out what it can do best and keep it fixed on those jobs.
Damn but I don't understand the "conservatives" these days. They think I'm the "pinko" and don't understand government must be kept lean and focussed !
Of course it confuses the hell out of them when I posit a larger role than allowing corporate greed equal free play.

Posted by: opit on December 2, 2006 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

The nice thing about 1960's liberals is that many of them had the intelligence and the class to be against communism, which is why LBJ and a Democrat congress started the Vietnam War and JFK encouraged the Bay of Pigs and nearly caused a nuclear war over missiles in Cuba.

Liberals then didn't like to talk about it, but they really did understand that the regime that murdered the Tsar's children, that murdered up to a third of the Ukraine's population in the name of inventing socialist agriculture, that murdered most of its own army officer corps, that murdered the Polish officer corps, that periodically murdered millions of its own citizens for bizarrely paranoical reason (my favorite being the purge of Leningrad in 1945 in which tens of thousands of miserable people who barely survived the Nazi invasion and fought loyally for Russia were rounded up and starved to death in Siberia by Stalin. To Uncle Joe, Leningrad was like our San Francisco--entirely too liberal and free-thinking for his taste) well, such communists regimes bear some watching.

Today's liberals, of course, are a different breed of cat. They love soft leftist regimes, even when they aren't so soft. Fidel is a kind of hero, even though by any rational standard Guantanimo Bay is not even the worst and must unjust prison on the island of Cuba.)

They love Hugo, the Sandanistas, and Obrador. Like the latter, they don't really trust free elections or free speech, because if you allow the latter pretty soon you might have to let conservatives speak on campus or something.

Hollywood is still sore because at one time it had a lot of open apologists for Joe Stalin. This made a lot of Americans uneasy, for Stalinism did practice genocide probably to two or three times the death toll of Hitler.

While in Ukraine I visited the countryside. I was told that the way Kulaks were identified is that they were prosperous enough to have tin roofs on their farm buildings. Those who didn't starve to death 1931-32 were dead of starvation within three or four years in Siberia.

Ditto for the Russian officer corps. Russians accepted this terrible purge because some of the corps had been infected with pro-German sympathies (although the Germans cleverly exaggerated this effect to encourage the Reds to murder their own people) because Russians understand that even one traitor in a hundred is way too many and could cause the loss of the nation. Therefore, it is the patriotic duty of the 99 innocent soldiers to accept martyrdom to root out the one traitor. Russia is winning its anti-insurgency war in Chechnya because Putin understands that first you have to kill all journalists who aren't on your side and anybody who tries to do a Joe Wilson.

Today's left is in love with the benevolent dictatorship idea, even of entities like the Ba-ath party which are not that different from Castro's party in Cuba. Peace at any price, etc.

BTW, Michelle Malkin has a big post out on the six Sunnis allegedly burned alive according to major Western news sources a few days ago. Seems like no one knows about this event in Iraq except for one Sunni PIO.

BTW again, thirdPaul, your not-so-veiled threats to me are noted. I expect when Obrador feels strong enough to start an open revolution in Mexico it will seep across the border soon enough.

Actually, the far left in the U.S.A. at present do remind me a lot of the Young Turks who were so radical even while the Ottoman Empire was collapsing. The Ottomans could be equated to the Bush administration, in a way. The Young Turks, of course, were happy enough to make hapless rural Christian Armenians into scapegoats for Young Turk military disasters, and then to ethnically cleanse them in a particularly nasty way.

So, I don't much care for either Young Turks here in America or the older breed of Marxism apologists. And BTW again, thirdPaul, if you think that American fighter planes would shoot down Cessnas that drop anti-Bush leaflets on any American city, you don't understand our rules of engagement. We can't even shoot down suspected drug running airplanes. We might shoot down an airplane that heads for an urban area and ignores orders to turn around, but that is for the suicide pilot reason.

I do hope that now that the Democrat Party owns some of the geo-political responsibility in the world, things go well for them. Otherwise they will start looking for scapegoats and to change the Constitution more to their liking.

Posted by: Mike Cook on December 2, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Cook - you are delusional. You think you know the minds of all liberals, which you clearly don't, and you have a piss poor understanding of American history as well. If I was as ignorant as you are, I would not be posting my ignorance on a public forum like this one. A large number of people from all over the world now know what a dumb fuck Mike Cook is. Thank you.

TCD

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 2, 2006 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

"Uncle Joe" was considered a rough equal to Hitler for good reason. Which just goes to show that extremism in any form or ideology is dangerous.
That's as in unfettered power.
Just get The Constitution back and working. The rest isn't nearly as important. Policy is still on wasting effort on snooping and doing the wrong things because unless you get good results you're on the wrong course. Period.

Posted by: opit on December 2, 2006 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

I'm told Loretta Sanchez will be the chair of the House's Homeland Security committee when the new Congress is sworn in.

Posted by: G. Jones on December 2, 2006 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

It could be considered a good result that no major terrorist attack on the U.S. has succeeded in the past five years. Of course, we didn't have a major airline terrorist disaster this summer because Pakistan tipped off the Brits to it. Could that be because Pakistan is scared to death of the American response while Bush is in office?

The terrorists of the world do not fear the Europeans or the American Democrat Party, period. I expect that the first Islamo-nuke WMD will get a trial run on European soil, but it will partly be because no one fears a lame-duck American over-response.

Maybe I am a Young Turk. I like the idea of over-reaching and over-responses. This also makes for better readiness--you just put the top regime you don't like at the top of the list and then, whatever happens, you go take them out the next day. I would put Damascus, then Teheran on top of the list. Riyadh and Islamabad are down the list, but only a little.

Will there be another 9/11? Of course. The leftists will want some type of police-style investigation this time to determine who the "real perpetrators" are down to personal identities. The terrorist-sympathizing world will lay all types of obfuscation and false leads, so the investigation will take about ten years and produce a final report in binders that will fill a room. No action will be recommended because by that time there will be two or three new serious incidents to study, ad infinitum.

Nah, the Bush way is still better. Pick a bad guy, shoot from the hip. Re-load and keep firing until the street is clear. Does this breed more bad guys? I think that is the leading New York Times distortion of events, which also overlooks the fact that the U.S.A. has many quiet allies who will only stay the course as long as we stand tall in Dodge City.

You claim there are no such quiet allies? Well, NATO is making a kind of appearance in Afghanistan. A new appeasement policy out of the U.S. Congress in a way pressures those faint-hearted allies to draw their own lines in the sand. Say, weren't the French bombing some village in Central Africa last week? Next thing you know, German soldiers will be shooting the Taliban.

Posted by: Mike Cook on December 2, 2006 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

I like the idea of over-reaching and over-responses.

So long as someone else does the fighting, of course.

Go read a fucking book that wasn't printed by Regency you nimrod.

Posted by: ihateemo on December 2, 2006 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

This info will be available throughout the government to anyone in a position to hire anyone else?

How long before your insurance company demands it as public information they have a right to know?

Posted by: cld on December 2, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Nah, the Bush way is still better. Pick a bad guy, shoot from the hip. Re-load and keep firing until the street is clear.
Posted by: Mike Cook

the wingnuts sound more like bin laden every day ... speaking of which, I hear he's hiring, which will be good news for rumsfeld, et al.

Posted by: Nads on December 2, 2006 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Most Americans WANT terrorists to be monitored.

Most Americans also DON'T WANT to themselves to be monitored.

Posted by: tomeck on December 2, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

So long as they include the political party association as one of the features in the computation of the score, we, the patriotic Republican Americans, have nothing to worry about, and we must support this as enthusiastically as we can.

Posted by: Jay on December 2, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Not quite OT - check out Time Magazine's article "Why we worry about the wrong things". I think a lot of the WATBs and "Master Knows Best" sycophants are perfect examples of the inability to correctly assess risk.

Or stupid. Whichever.

Anyway, we have a system designed to assign a "Terrorist Score"?

A system designed by the same geniuses who lost New Orleans and are losing Afghanistan and Iraq? Who never met a real expert they couldn't replace with an insane ideologue? By the successors of the folks who designed those TSA guides to determining who was "acting suspicious" that were a mass of contradictions?

I've also worked on data mining programs before - I won't say they are always boondoggles - but unless designed VERY carefully and with a lot of skeptical oversight and cross checks they can actually violate the conservation of garbage principle - you can get more and worse garbage out of a data mining system than you put in in the first place.

Posted by: Butch on December 2, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

I am upset that I wasn't paid for my new Phrenology matrix and virtual calipers they use to ensure the safety of trains . . .

Posted by: Sparko on December 2, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Lets see some of you seem to think that a gigantic data base of travelers is going to protect you from the big bad terrorists.Have you you ever heard of credit scores[fico,etc.].It could be one of the most screwed up data base profiling systems ever created ,yet we place faith in it to make most of the credit decisions in this country.It's probably right 85% of the time and well the other 15%,too bad for those poor assholes they just have to deal with it.But the important thing to remember is that there is aa lot of people who have the ability to job the system.Not to make a apples to oranges comparison but do you trust the incompetant self centered people who run the country now to do this right?

Posted by: gandalf on December 2, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

I am so relieved that Mike Cook is back from licking his electoral wounds to set us right on our thought processes. I was so very lost without his stunning insights into how I think.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 2, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Butch: I've also worked on data mining programs before - I won't say they are always boondoggles - but unless designed VERY carefully and with a lot of skeptical oversight and cross checks they can actually violate the conservation of garbage principle - you can get more and worse garbage out of a data mining system than you put in in the first place.

My suspicion is the same as Butch's. It's likely that the algorithm doesn't work very well, or possibly not at all.

I'd like to make a different point, however. Making the details of this program public will weaken its effectiveness (if it had any to begin with.) If terrorists know about the program, they will avoid whatever behavior the algorithm looks for.

I am concerned that irresponsible Dems may do enough damage to our various spy programs so that another terrorist attack succeeds. We have prevented terrorist attacks here for five years, but that doesn't mean we're safe.

Also, our spy programs can prevent terrorist attacks abroad, since these terrorist groups operate internationally. Weakening the spy programs could also allow terrorist attacks abroad.

Posted by: ex-liberal on December 2, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to make a different point, however. Making the details of this program public will weaken its effectiveness (if it had any to begin with.) If terrorists know about the program, they will avoid whatever behavior the algorithm looks for.

Actually, ex-liberal, without some level of oversight - which DOESN'T have to mean full public disclosure - just some solid Congressional and professional review (with appropriate security clearances, etc.) I will say that it's certain that the program will be ineffective and sweep up huge numbers of innocents, completely swamping any follow-up efforts and distracting from potentially more effective and carefully targetted programs.

Posted by: Butch on December 2, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Butch: without some level of oversight - which DOESN'T have to mean full public disclosure - just some solid Congressional and professional review (with appropriate security clearances, etc.) I will say that it's certain that the program will be ineffective and sweep up huge numbers of innocents, completely swamping any follow-up efforts and distracting from potentially more effective and carefully targetted programs.

Yes, professional review is essential. But, doesn't the department that runs this program already include professionals who review the details? Why do you think that professionals brought in for a Congressional review will be more expert than the professionals who operate and monitor the program?

This same point would apply to the other secret (or formerly secret) programs, like SWIFT, NSA, etc. The programs need professional monitoring, but Congressional hearings are hardly dispassionate professional scientific colloquia.

Posted by: ex-liberal on December 2, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Please drop the "we have prevented terrorist attacks for five years" lie. Since 9/11, we've had successful anthrax attacks, the DC Muhammed/Malvo sniper attacks, and I understand simulated anthrax attacks on abortion clinics, news organizations and other perceived adversaries of the wingnut right are pretty much routine now. Terror is terror.

We haven't had a mass casualty attack in almost 63 months (not yet), but lower intensity terrorism hasn't missed a beat.

Posted by: just sayin on December 2, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

gandalf - I'd be surprised if the false positive rate wasn't even worse than 15% - if the same TSA types who did the guides on how to detect suspicious behavior get their hands on the criteria for this system I'd expect some amazing false positive rates and a collapse of the systems credibility in short order - but only after a lot of people get serious hassles and maybe renditioned or killed if some TSA person gets trigger happy based on "the score".

In any case, we don't have the intelligence or law enforcement people to follow up on the current flood of data - all those untranslated docs sitting in FBI and CPA files that I keep reading about. So we add another system to flood an underfunded group of investigators with data.

Smart. Not.

Posted by: Butch on December 2, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, professional review is essential. But, doesn't the department that runs this program already include professionals who review the details? Why do you think that professionals brought in for a Congressional review will be more expert than the professionals who operate and monitor the program?

Umm, ex-liberal, bureacracies are infamous for "yes think" even under normal conditions. As are a lot of companies, I might add. I find it rather strange to hear you taking a "trust the government, they know what they're doing and don't need independent oversight" attitude here.

In any case, the current administration has served up enough examples of incompetence, ideological blindness, and suppression of even legitimate internal criticism that it no longer can claim any credible ability to carry out honest oversight of its own programs.

Posted by: Butch on December 2, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Hostile - I was exiled to Davis-Monthan for a while too - would I have been exposed to this hilarious mother fucker?

Wonderful Russ was at the Phoenix radio station KDKB in the early and middle Seventies.

Posted by: Hostile on December 2, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Meals? Who gets meals?

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on December 2, 2006 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Mike Cook

The nice thing about 1960's conservatives is that they had enough good sense not to call themselves Nazis. Most of them, anyway.

Conservatives then didn't like to talk about it, but they really understood that the regime that murdered 6,000,000 Jews, that looked for more and more efficient ways of killing prisoners, that used slave labor, that even in 1945 when the war was lost still allocated dwindling resources to move more people into the death camps, that regime that did all that was really only trying to advance the cause of the white race. So at least they had good motives.

Today's conservatives, of course, are a different breed of fat cat. All their heros are gone, Franco, Allende, the Argintine generals. And all those lovely Southern Sheriffs who'd look the other way when the negroes were being lynched.

Today's right has learned that you don't have to be a flagrant racist to enjoy the advantages of being white. Didn't get accepted by Princeton, only Harvard and Yale? Well hire a lawyer or two and cry on television about how Princeton accepted a black kid with lower test scores than you and now you're feeling unloved. Still can't use slave labor, well hire illegal aliens and use the money you save to lobby your congressman to build a wall on the Mexican border. Feeling threatened by Arab terrorists, encourage poor and middle class kids to go in the Army. After all, to paraphrase tax dodger Leona Hemlsley, "Dying in battle is for little people."

So today's right wing can sleep comfortably at night, with visions of Uncle Adolph dancing in their dreams.

Posted by: tomeck on December 2, 2006 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Betsy

Through most of the 20th century the FBI did a fine job of discovering who the German, Chinese and Russian spies were. They did it without putting every American citizen under surveillance.

Maybe Bush would be better able to track down Osama bin Laden if he wasn't so busy reading our e-mail and all these blogs.

Posted by: tomeck on December 2, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Bruce Schneier on why data-mining for terrorists is a bad idea,


http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/03/data_mining_for.html

Posted by: cld on December 2, 2006 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Wonderful Russ was at the Phoenix radio station KDKB in the early and middle Seventies.

We were in Tucson the first time in the early 80's. I remember that 96 Rock every Friday had a Don Pardoe knock-off saying "Desert Dwellers, Rejoice! It's the weekend on 96 Rock!" And the U of A NPR affiliate, of course. I'm a died-in-the-wool liberal, after all, USAF ID card or not.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 2, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Discriminate against my grandkid on getting into Harvard or Yale, dear cld, and I will take out all my bitterness at how much it truly did hurt being kicked around by affirmative action. You see, the thing is you liberals did your typical thing--do a big feel-good deed and ruin someone's else's life and career in the process, then call them names because you got yours. What a cheap good deed, stealing from someone else to give to favorites.

Despite affirmative action setting me back 25 years, everything still has come out OK. I'll just have to live to 100 to enjoy everything that came so late in life.

Maybe you punks got yours easy and maybe you'll get to keep it. Crap like affirmative discrimination makes lifelong, bitter enemies, so good luck.

Now, the Franco thing. I feel about Franco about like you lefties feel about Castro. Maybe even a little better. Franco overthrew a democratically elected government that appeared to have a strong Marxist final destination in mind. To conduct his civil war Franco called in Nazi aircraft, Italian troops, and killed about 50.000 total.

On the good side, Franco then wisely began to distance himself and Spain from the madness that the hard-right fascists were pursuing. Spain not only stayed magnificently neutral, Franco helped the Jews as best he could. You don't have to pick on me as a Franco apologist, however, for JFK's father was the most prominent pro-Franco American around. Try to find a JFK or RFK quote that is really nasty about Franco.

Posted by: Mike Cook on December 2, 2006 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

This also makes for better readiness--you just put the top regime you don't like at the top of the list and then, whatever happens, you go take them out the next day.

I'll direct you to GoArmy.com, then. Or you can fly out and start the noble fight on your ownsome.

Oh, and the Young Turks? Responsible for the Armenian genocide. If the fez fits...

Posted by: ahem on December 2, 2006 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

Mike
Discriminate against my grandkid on getting into Harvard or Yale, dear cld, and I will take out all my bitterness at how much it truly did hurt being kicked around by affirmative action.

Funny, but it doesn't seem to occur to you to understand how it feels to be kicked around by 200 years of slavery and another 100 years of Jim Crow. Your kid did not have to deal with his grandfather being lynched because he wanted a good job.

You claim you don't want your grandkid discriminated against based on his SAT score, but you don't give a shit about a kid whose family is trying to recover from 300 years of slavery and discrimination.

Maybe you can get a slot on Oprah and have the whole country feel sorry for you.

Posted by: tomeck on December 2, 2006 at 11:48 PM | PERMALINK

tomeck obviously knows nothing of the history of Ireland or the fine time my people had of it when we came to America. None of my family has ever been given any advantage W H A T S O E V E R

We have always been crapped on by the elites and now they just find a different way to do it, then pat themselves on the back for being on the "moral high ground." Ha!

tomeck, we don't need to get on Oprah and we don't need you or anyone to feel sorry. I'm just advising you, stop this discrimination crap or get ready to eat it.

Posted by: mike cook on December 3, 2006 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

Tomeck is married to an Irish wife. None of her family in America was ever held in slavery, lynched, forced to live in ghetto housing, forced to attend substandard schools, prevented from voting.

No, you had no A D V A N T A G E whatsoever when you took over the political machines in New York and Chicago. No, you had no A D V A N T A G E whatsoever when your machines got you jobs while forcing black families to stay unemployed. No you had no A D V A N T A G E whatsoever when your Irish cops beat the crap out of Blacks who wanted a chance to vote.

I saw Irish men wearing nazi swastikas throwing rocks at Blacks who just wanted a chance to live in the neighborhood of their choice in Chicago

Mike, you couldn't recognize discrimination if it slapped you in the face. Go find a trial lawyer and sue somebody because your po' widdle feelings got hurt.

Posted by: tomeck on December 3, 2006 at 1:39 AM | PERMALINK

We have always been crapped on by the elites and now they just find a different way to do it, then pat themselves on the back for being on the "moral high ground." Ha!

By the elites?

Oh, so you admit that the Republican Party has been shitting on you. Thanks for being honest.

Posted by: Pale Rider on December 3, 2006 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, Irish wives do get a leg up in the affirmative action thing because most employers the last 30 years feel the need to promote more females or face lawsuit. My state just made it a law that there had better be enough lesbians promoted, so if she is a little bi and puts both legs up, up the ladder she goes.

But, basically, what you are asserting is that you can cancel out the level playing field ideal according to your emotional appreciation of whatever view of history you have come to have. I was raised in a shack with no running water until I was in first grade. We shared the outhouse with a Hispanic family of eight who lived in the cabin nearby and I worked my way through college on railroad track crews on which I was the only Anglo and got the worst jobs because of it, which is why I still have creosote behind the ears.

Most lefties like to preach class hatred and such, but you seem to have poor instincts about recognizing where the cruel gating points really are and who really sits on the piles of privilege. And you keep talking about lawyers and lawsuits as if that is the way to seek real justice. Ha again.

Posted by: mike cook on December 3, 2006 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

we have a terror problem caused by moslims.deport mohamadans back to jehad land,end of problem.you commies should try cuba where you can be free of american oppression.

Posted by: bruce on December 3, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Give it up, folks. The nation faces a situation it has never faced before and we need to cut the government some slack in dealing with it for the time being. So far, the track record is pretty good, all things considered. The situation bears watching but not carping.

Posted by: Robert Dare on December 3, 2006 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Try looking like a White Christian --
It's not so hard to do it right.
There's no trouble catching your flight,
Even if you're Sunni or Shiite."
_______________

Someone forgot to tell TSA. DOD has hundreds of people flying every day. Because many of the tickets are one way, our people are pulled out for special scrutiny all the time. It's happened dozens of times to uniformed senior officers, including my own director, a two star admiral.

Posted by: Trashhauler on December 3, 2006 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

I was raised in a shack with no running water until I was in first grade. We shared the outhouse with a Hispanic family of eight...

A legned in his own mind.

Posted by: tomeck on December 3, 2006 at 10:22 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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