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June 01, 2015

Comments

"'terrorist elements' are watching Congress's actions 'very carefully' and are 'looking for the seams to operate within.'"

Terrorists are, after all, known for their extreme subtly.

My understanding is that the NSA's efforts have seen extensive use in circumventing the 4th amendment, for conventional law enforcement, though the mechanism of "parallel construction". That's where the NSA takes information they've collected by means that are not admissible in court, and provides it to law enforcement, who then, knowing exactly what they're looking for, arrange to "stumble across" the evidence they use in prosecuting you.

And then don't mention in court that the only reason they knew where to find it was that the NSA had tipped them off, because if they did mention it, all that evidence would get thrown out as illegally obtained.

That "parallel construction" is also practiced in the news media is a reasonable extrapolation; All the NSA has to do is tip off a reporter on where to find the dirt, and the reporter doesn't have to reveal where they got the tip from, if they even know.

These uses, circumventing the 4th amendment, and providing dirt for going after political foes, probably represent the chief utility of the Patriot act, not fighting terrorism. Essentially, we've got our secret police now, Bush arranged that over the objections of Democrats, who now want to keep them around because they find them useful.

I used to say that we were building a police state, and had better do something about it while there was still time to stop. I now think the window for doing something about it passed several years back. We're living in a police state, the state just doesn't find it expedient to admit to being one.

Yet.

Not to go off on too much of a tangent (meaning that I'm going to do exactly that), but my job involves infrastructure, which could possibly, maybe, but I kind of doubt it, become targets for terrorists.

We have reason to provide documents detailing various elements of this infrastructure to outside parties from time to time. Some of this information could, hypothetically, be used to plan an attack. We're talking engineering stuff here.

We have a department that worries about such things and has developed administrative procedures to keep these documents out of the wrong hands. It's all very silly AFAIAC, and not just because information is simply too easy to copy and distribute without anyone knowing.

What's really silly to me is that terrorists aren't trying to build copies of the structures in question. They're trying to destroy them, which isn't quite as complicated.

If someone had the expertise to analyze a set of plans (to blow something up just right?), they wouldn't need the plans. It would be obvious to them what to do, not to mention that the things I'm talking about follow fairly consistent designs that could be studied in countless text books, anyway.

But, you see, it's always some super-technical mastermind kind of thing - like in the movies! (cool...) - rather than someone filling a box truck with stuff that goes "BOOM!" and setting it off where it will fnck sh1t up.

are they worried that someone will find the vulnerability that allows a small one-man fighter to take it out with a single lucky shot?

I think most of those vulnerabilities are kind of obvious. Like the expensive transformers in substations, that you can take out with one shot with a rifle.

A lot of this is security theater: Efforts to make it look like something is being done have displaced actually doing something.

"have displaced actually doing something."

What?

And by whom?

are they worried that someone will find the vulnerability that allows a small one-man fighter to take it out with a single lucky shot?

I guess it's possible that they're worried about that, but that would be a ridiculous thing to be worried about.

An ironic thing about one of our security efforts, known as "hardening," is that it was done to prevent a particular sort of attack, but the way it was done, to an astute observer, reveals exactly what we were trying to prevent.

I'm actually more supportive of physical security in general, because it's real. Gates, fences, big steel doors, humans with eyes and guns (cameras are okay, but usually only matter after the fact) and such are more worthwhile than making people promise not to show other people pieces of paper or whatever.

But, even then, we're talking about places that are generally open to the public, anyway, so it's like putting a bank-vault door on the side of a barn, while the barn doors at either end are wide open all the time.

I can even understand keeping the details of response plans under wraps. I can reasonably see where someone might use that kind of information to do something to the greatest possible effect. But that's not the kind of stuff I'm talking about.

Has someone hijacked Brett Bellmore's ID? He's actually making sense for the first time in living memory.

The highly visible terror attacks of recent years - 9/11, Murrah building, the '93 WTC bombing - were done fairly cheaply, by people who were well known to each other, and who had a variety of ways available to them to communicate, transfer money, etc.

In the case of 9/11, at least, at least some of the folks were known to the intelligence community. Sufficient information was in hand to interrupt the attack. Information was not the problem, organizational and bureaucratic bung-ups were.

It's not clear to me how capturing every freaking communication mediated by any form of technology that occurs anywhere anytime will improve our chances of identifying and preventing planned attacks.

If anything, IMO it may well make it harder, because there's that much more noise to filter out.

Our technology is really really good, and so I think we look for technological solutions by default. But the tool that happens to be the best and most powerful tool in our toolbox may not be the best tool for the job.

And, as Brett notes, and as has been the case for over a decade, shiny powerful tools end up being used for lots of purposes. They're often fun and exciting or at least interesting to use, and they're usually so efficient and effective at doing whatever it is they do that they can convince you that whatever it is that they do is what you really wanted to do in the first place.

As far as rights go, in general, I don't think most folks really care all that much about the 4th A, or even most of the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. They aren't of much practical import for most people. Most people aren't engaging in political speech, or assembling, or petitioning their reps. Most people don't think all that much about whether their private communications or their personal information is free from search or interference.

So, the freedom from search aspect of the whole surveillance thing doesn't get that much traction.

Last but not least, there are staggeringly large piles of beautiful green money on the table, and there are just a hell of a lot of people who are incapable of saying no to that. And many of those people find their way to government and to corporations who feed off of government, like zombies drawn to a giant tasty brain.

So, there's that to deal with, also.

Well done, Rand Paul, a johnny come lately is better than no johnny at all. I'm not that concerned about the purity of his motives if it gets the job done.

But this beast ain't dead yet.

Essentially, we've got our secret police now, Bush arranged that over the objections of Democrats, who now want to keep them around because they find them useful.

Well, we're not quite there yet. If only because the Congress had the rare foresight to write sunset provisions into the Patriot Act.

But I would say that the reason that they did so was because they were quite clear, even at the time and under all the hysteria about 9/11, that they were going way overboard. Voting for everything that was asked for was pretty much a CYA move on their part. But it could have been worse -- i.e. permanent.

Terrorists don't bother with attacking infrastructure for one simple reason. They aren't interested in actually hurting us. They just want to scare us.

Something that kills (or injures) lots of people immediately will do that. Whereas damaging infrastructure can have long-term effects which are as bad or worse, but won't be as spectacular.

"Well, we're not quite there yet. If only because the Congress had the rare foresight to write sunset provisions into the Patriot Act."

Assuming that the night following that sunset lasts more than a day or so, and assuming that the NSA actually cares if what it's doing is legal. Thing is, you might need laws to create a police state, but once you've created one, it doesn't need laws to continue.

Theo, I've been complaining about security theater since 9/11, and government survailance of the civilian population since the 90's, at least.

IMO, pols are simply too afraid to be seen in hindsight as having not done everything possible to prevent an attack. it's safe for their careers to err on the side of voting for anything that anyone says could possibly stop an attack.

Paul apparently thinks he'll be able to "Freedom! Liberty!" his way out of being called "soft on terror", if something should happen. it's a bet i think he'll lose. but, it would be better for everyone if he wins.

and maybe if he does win, others will join him.

longshots, IMO.

Something that kills (or injures) lots of people immediately will do that.

Depending on the infrastructure in question, killing lots of people might well be the intended result of attacking the infrastructure. The longer-term economic damage would be a beneficial (to the terrorists) side effect.

and maybe if he does win, others will join him.

14 years ago, it was the kiss of death.

we'll see how much times have changed.

what I think most of the time is that 9/11 showed us how important basic civil liberties were to us when the rubber meets the road.

how much have we changed in 14 years?

i'm somewhat surprised, and pleased, that nobody has tried on the "threat level orange!!" thing in the context of this vote. i mean, it would have been a pretty blatant play, but that hasn't stopped folks before.

so, maybe things are different now, somewhat.

I wonder if terrorists aren't refraining from infrastructure attacks because they've come to think they can capture the nation, and don't want to capture a ruined nation.

Considering how much trouble they are having capturing their own nations, it seems wildly improbable that they are leaving infrastructure alone here on the theory that they will capture us. I mean, they have partially captured some places which were already in government meltdown. But places which didn't have the government already experiencing civil war or otherwise in serious military trouble? Nada.

Terrorism isn't exactly the tactic of rational, objective people, though. And I can see why they'd think they were making progress; They're doing pretty good on the intimidating our media into self-censorship front.

Yeah, the idea that "teh terrorists" aren't attacking infrastructure in foreign developed nations because they're banking on capturing it intact in the short term goes so far past misguided that I'd feel entirely comfortable labeling it delusional.

Actually, Brett, I think it's very dangerous to assume that terrorism is predicated on wildly irrational thought. It's really very much a tactic of rational, objective people; the most typical assumptions involving irrationality would be terrorist calculations that their victims will behave in an irrational or disproportionate manner in comparison to the actual threat posed. Irrational? No. It's just not the tactic generally chosen by people who perceive themselves to have other viable choices... and even then, it still gets chosen sometimes. Shock and Awe, amirite?

Don't know about the short term, but, yes, they actually do think they're going to take us over. As goofy as that is.

"I wonder if terrorists aren't refraining from infrastructure attacks because they've come to think they can capture the nation, and don't want to capture a ruined nation."

Ah, the answers to the questions "What?" and "By Whom?" above, regarding "actually doing something", start to come into focus.

Keep going. I can't wait for the cessation of civil liberties to kick in under your scheme to actually do something.

Maybe the terrorists will await the final crumbling of our defunded infrastructure and other depredations visited upon the American people under a Walker/Paul Administration and the rest of us might ask the terrorists in to take care of business?

See, you managed to get several folks to dive off the low board into the pool of agreement with Rand Paul regarding NSA data collection, and you immediately climb to the highest diving board and do a double twist kip cannonball into a shot glass and expect folks to follow.

I have a feeling you are not to concerned with al Qaeda's Navy and Air Force.

Please expand, until you pop.

"They're doing pretty good on the intimidating our media into self-censorship front."

Ah, I see, a little reasonable, responsible self-restraint on the cartoon front and the next thing we know, the terrorists will be arriving at the White House via our pristine highway, railroad and airport infrastructure.

No, wait. They are ALREADY in the White House, beavering away at mandating school kids eat their carrots at lunch time?

Am I getting warm?


Has someone hijacked Brett Bellmore's ID? He's actually making sense for the first time in living memory.

Ummm, I'd say no: "I wonder if terrorists aren't refraining from infrastructure attacks because they've come to think they can capture the nation, and don't want to capture a ruined nation."

Actually, the entire media, bar none, has worked feverishly the past 15 years to scare the living crap out of everyone.

The only folks regretting that we don't have an "Orange Alert" right now are the producers of every news and political talk show in existence. Not to mention, the folks who do the surround sound music of doom and graphics clogging our screens.

Also, the terrorist "experts" and "consultants" hired by the media who have been twiddling their thumbs of late, well, until the Republican primary race started to heat up and so we have the usual suspects all over the media going "Boo!" into the camera all over again.

"I wonder if terrorists aren't refraining from infrastructure attacks because they've come to think they can capture the nation, and don't want to capture a ruined nation."

And, eight minutes later it's:

"Don't know about the short term, but, yes, they actually do think they're going to take us over. As goofy as that is."

Pick one and stick with it. Or someone's going to accuse you of trolling.

Not me. But someone will.

"I wonder if terrorists aren't refraining from infrastructure attacks because they've come to think they can capture the nation, and don't want to capture a ruined nation."

And, eight minutes later it's:

"Don't know about the short term, but, yes, they actually do think they're going to take us over. As goofy as that is."

Pick one and stick with it. Or someone's going to accuse you of trolling.

Not me. But someone will.

Yes, it is just terrible how AQ brought down the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi, and killed those innocent people.

And what did Obama do to stop the attack? NOTHING!

It's not too late for Pres. Paul to bring the perpetrators to justice, I hope.

I wonder if terrorists aren't refraining from infrastructure attacks because they've come to think they can capture the nation, and don't want to capture a ruined nation.

dude, that's nutty.

"Pick one and stick with it"

This kind of implies those two statements contradict each other, when they represent different ways of stating the same thing.

Islamic extremists think they're the wave of the future, that they're eventually going to take over the world. Why should they break what they plan to take over?

I'm always amazed at how following a logical train of thought can lead to such a crazy place.

Actually, Obama blew up that bridge, and ISIS was miffed because they were just about to cross it to join up with Tea Party troops marching on Washington to defund Obamacare to save them the trouble of beheading yet another 12 million Americans who will expire uninsured anyhoo.

NOBODY likes the guy.

My fear is that those Jade Helm troops down there in Texas are false flags, and will soon strip off their uniforms, revealing their inner mujahideen, and that State will be lost to ISIS/al Qaeda, thwarting my plan to cede the entire joint back to Mexico.

ISIS doesn't want to capture the US. they want to establish their caliphate in Iraq/Syria and have their own little theocracy. to the extent they want to hurt the US or the west it's to try to convince us to leave them alone.

neither does Al-Q want to capture the US. they want the US to stay away from the ME. they attack the US to try to convince us that mucking around in the ME isn't worth the pain.

the claim that Muslims want to take over the US is propaganda.

No, they're quite explicit that they expect to eventually conquer the entire world. Having priorities doesn't change that.

My demand that Brett switch to LED lightbulbs is based on my nefarious plan to take over the world, and I'd like a bit less atmospheric CO2 and a bit more remaining energy resources for my planned 1000ys glorious reign.

(ys = "yottosecond")

There is never a scarcity of people that firmly believe that they will take over the world one day. Religion is often involved, not necessarily though. Some have been trying to do so for a few thousand years by now.

No, they're quite explicit that they expect to eventually conquer the entire world. Having priorities doesn't change that.

I'm sure they wouldn't mind taking over the entire world, but to the extent that they do say they want to, it could simply be because that sort of big talk appeals to potential recruits.

But, even if they were seriously aiming at taking over the world, if destroying the infrastructure got them closer to being able to do that, I doubt they would worry about taking over a country with wrecked infrastructure. That's pretty much all they do, as it is.

"I'm always amazed at how following a logical train of thought can lead to such a crazy place."

Exactly.

It's the crazy train.

Self-driving.

The head whackaloon conductor will be along shortly to punch our tickets, and buss our cheeks, muss our hair, and cut our ties off at the knot, before being dragged by the hair by Moe Howard, Moe Lane, Moe Wittgenstein, and Five Guys Named Moe into the caboose for their daily 2+2=5 tutoring.

In the meantime, in the dining car today, we are serving the mid-morning snack of nutcakes with paranoia-infused camel butter, and a stewpot of loon hoot broth, heirloom smoked WTF paprika, and the preserved frontal lobes of Peter Lorre.

Bon appetite!


Oh, I've no doubt that, if they decided crashing the US electric grid was necessary to make the US an Islamic nation, they'd do it in a heartbeat. I think they believe that it isn't necessary, that they're winning.

Given the luck they're having with censoring images of Muhammad in the US media, that belief isn't entirely unfounded. Imposing dhimitude on us is underway, at the very least.

Regardless of the world-historical ambitions of ISIS, the general pattern of terrorist actions, going back basically forever, is that they are directed toward persons.

Not Citizens United persons, natural human persons.

Terrorism, as a tactic, is oriented toward causing fear, rather than toward achieving some pragmatic tactical or strategic goal.

The goal is political or social coercion, rather than conquest.

See, for instance, the definition of terrorism in the US code.

Killing and maiming people is scary. Blowing up a bridge, per se, is extremely inconvenient, but not really scary.

Of course, you could redefine "terrorism" to include acts of war between states, where the goal is actually conquest. No doubt many of them are terrifying.

You might even redefine "terrorism" to mean anything scary at all, in which case we are going to have to send the entire extended Kardashian family to Guantanamo.

But the generally accepted definition of terrorism doesn't really encompass actions intended to take and hold territory.

It's a tactic, with particular aims. Other tactics, with other goals, have their own names.

Brett, you are loving this, aren't ya?

You turned this thread directly into the superhighway to your element.

Here's how nuts I am.

There is no Brett Bellmore.

You are a shadowy committee of NSA operatives communicating via some embedded code in your comments, and unwittingly ours that you have elicited, with a ventriloquist microprocessor inside the wooden body of Charlie McCarthy, which resides at the Smithsonian, and which at the appointed time, will pop his monocle, drop his wooden lower jaw, turn to Mortimer Snerd, and say "Who's the dummy now, Dummy?" and then explode, ruining our infrastructure.

Brett, you are loving this, aren't ya?

You turned this thread directly into the superhighway to your element.

Here's how nuts I am.

There is no Brett Bellmore.

You are a shadowy committee of NSA operatives communicating via some embedded code in your comments, and unwittingly ours that you have elicited, with a ventriloquist microprocessor inside the wooden body of Charlie McCarthy, which resides at the Smithsonian, and which at the appointed time, will pop his monocle, drop his wooden lower jaw, turn to Mortimer Snerd, and say "Who's the dummy now, Dummy?" and then explode, ruining our infrastructure.

Well, we agree at least, that they're not attacking infrastructure because they don't see it as in their interest, not because they couldn't.

We'd better hope they don't change their minds about that, because a lot of our infrastructure is sadly vulnerable. Though I'd be more worried about a Carrington Event taking down the grid.

are they worried that someone will find the vulnerability that allows a small one-man fighter to take it out with a single lucky shot?

Nah, no one around here has the necessary womp-rat bulls-eye expertise and all the T-16s were mothballed a long long time ago.

I will say that ISIS and company have shown a Chico and Harpo ability to hornswaggle the United States into turning over its military infrastructure fully loaded and intact.

Imposing dhimitude on us is underway, at the very least.

tell that to the capicola sandwich i just ate.

You turned this thread directly into the superhighway to your element.

Yeah, Brett's back.

Let's all play.

I would like the entire set of resources available to the US intelligence services, in all of the formidable power and efficiency, trained like a laser on the right wing insurrectionist sovereign citizen nutjobs who plague us like locusts.

If anybody is plotting an overthrow of the US government, it's them.

They're infesting the military and the police forces, they're poisoning the mind of the nation with their hateful and bizarre rhetoric and violent paranoid fantasies, and they regularly threaten kill their fellow citizens in the name of imposing their warped vision on us all.

I'd like those guys under a microscope. If they so much as take a crap, I want to know how many turds and how much each one weighed.

If we're going to play blog comment Calvinball, I want to play, too.

Well, we can't send the in-laws.

Blowing up a bridge, per se, is extremely inconvenient, but not really scary.

That strikes me as fairly ridiculous. If the Brooklyn bridge, or the golden gate was destroyed by terrorists, that would be 'really scary' to a large number of people.

Or any other major bridge.

ISIS and AQ utterly lack the ability to do so, of course, so the whole thing is an academic argument, I suppose.

yeah. what russell said.

You'd be more worried about a Carrington Event?

What happened to the meteors heading straight for my head that you WEREN'T worried about yesterday?

I'd say that it's more likely that one of us will be shot in the testicles by a guy juggling his cellphone, a grocery bag, and his gun that he forget to put the safety on.

I will say that a Carrington Event would have the upside of giving blogging a rest.

I think it's very dangerous to assume that terrorism is predicated on wildly irrational thought. It's really very much a tactic of rational, objective people

I think the way to put this is that the decisions about what to do are generally rational. It's the motivations that seem so wildly irrational.

They must have imposed dhimitude at the Founding, because I don't believe the media ever published images of Muhammed, during peacetime at least, until recently.

Of course, they felt free to publish and film caricatures of slit-eyed Japs, Negroes pop-eyed and saying "Yowza" to their tap-dancing Mammies, and that other old bestselling chestnut, the crook-backed, hook-nosed Jew making change by grasping with one hand while pickpocketing with the other.

Before, of course, they were FORCED" to curtail their unlimited First Amendment rights.

But maybe we should get back to that ethos. It will go great with open and concealed carry.

You and your black neighbors could have a good belly-laugh together.

Just wait until ISIS takes over Iran and uses all the nukes the mullahs got from Saddam on Colorado Springs, the Kristian(TM) heart of the US. Except the one used to EMP the US grid out of existence of course (but only after the news of the first strike had a chance to spread).

I don't know about capicola, but I communicate through private channels and frequencies, pastrami on rye, with Brett on a regular basis.

He comes through loud and clear.

I kid.

If the Brooklyn bridge, or the golden gate was destroyed by terrorists, that would be 'really scary' to a large number of people.

Major bridges in the US have actually collapsed or otherwise failed. Not through terrorist action, but due to other reasons.

People were upset, but they did not really freak out.

When I say damage to infrastructure is "not scary", I mean it is not likely to create the kind of fearful reaction that was created by, for example, 9/11.

Long story short, I disagree.

ISIS and AQ utterly lack the ability to do so, of course, so the whole thing is an academic argument, I suppose.

AQ knocked down the WTC. Second try, of course, but they got it done.

I suspect that they could figure out how to knock down a big bridge. They have, actually, planned to attack the Brooklyn, but the plot was foiled. Apparently, the intended approach was plausible.

If they did go after a bridge, they would more likely go after something iconic, like the Golden Gate, or the Brooklyn, for the symbolic value more than as a way of tangling up infrastructure.

There are a number of items of infrastructure that, if damaged or destroyed, would actually be tremendously disruptive. Many of them are no doubt fairly vulnerable.

I'm frankly surprised, also grateful, that terrorists tend not to be interested in less dramatic, but potentially far more damaging, targets like that.

"a lot of our infrastructure is sadly vulnerable"

Describe the vast, expensive security surveillance state, run by government and its massive battalion of private security contractors, and believe me one size WILL fit all, because Vermont ain't opting out, that will be required to correct this vulnerability.

Also, it's attendant inconveniences and constitutional improprieties.

I already get my car searched on a random basis when I enter a federal facility to play softball as a holdover from your friend and not mine, Timothy McVeigh, the well-known terrorist murderer.

Weren't you arguing two hours ago against NSA data collection?

Be explicit and tell us about your alternative security state and who it will target.

Be bold.

clearly we need to arm the bridges and electric substations. auto-turrets everywhere. it'll be just like HalfLife.

Transportation infrastructure is inherently vulnerable, be it briges, tunnels, or rail systems. If you don't let people, en masse, in or on them, they serve no purpose. You can't search every truck that goes over the Golden Gate bridge or every backpack anyone brings onto a NYC subway train.

Destroying that sort of infrastructure, in and of itself, would be not so terror-inspiring. Purposely causing a traffic jam at rush hour on the Golden Gate and detonating a McVeigh-style truck bomb at mid-span might be a different story, for reasons not limited to the damage to the bridge.

I don't know how likely that sort of thing is, and I don't think it's very likely at all at the places my work concerns, but I don't see that it couldn't be sufficiently terroristic if done "right."

"You'd be more worried about a Carrington Event?

What happened to the meteors heading straight for my head that you WEREN'T worried about yesterday?"

Well, a Carrington even would effect everybody, world-wide. You may take it as a given that I'd be worried about a meteor shower that would hit everybody, world-wide, in the head, too.

"Describe the vast, expensive security surveillance state, run by government and its massive battalion of private security contractors, and believe me one size WILL fit all, because Vermont ain't opting out, that will be required to correct this vulnerability."

Circuit breakers on critical grid components would require a survailance state???

I mean, you do understand that Solar flare induced EMP isn't the same as nuclear bomb EMP, right? It's very low frequency, the plasma hits the magnetosphere, pushing it towards the ground, and the field lines crossing wires induce voltage.

Induce quite high voltage if the wires in question are hundreds of miles long. If the wires are hundreds of feet long? Trivial voltages.

A Carrington event is something you deal with at the level of utility interconnects and substations, not homes and businesses.

Your "sadly vulnerable" reference was to the infrastructure being subject to terrorism, not to the Carrington Event, which you threw in at the end, presumably to take my mind off the meteors, as I read it.

Just so you know, my mother in her day was able to worry about meteor threats, terrorist threats, Carrington Events and the danger of me facing a lefthanded pitcher who was wild, all happening simultaneously in one big lollapalooza of universal anxiety.

"I mean, you do understand .."

Yes, I do, Mr. Peepers.

But I haven't heard the phrase "the plasma hits the magnetosphere" before, but since such a thing happening anywhere near me is against my religious convictions and my business model, I'll be demanding an exception.

clearly we need to arm the bridges and electric substations

The plot against the Brooklyn was to cut suspension cables.

The cops keep patrol cars on the bridge entrances, and a police boat under the bridge. They locked the compartment where the cables are vulnerable, and put up some security cameras.

That was apparently sufficient for AQ to call off the plot as not doable.

You'd be more worried about a Carrington Event?

What if we had a reprise of the New Madrid earthquake?

What if the Tunguska event is repeated, only in downtown Chicago?

What if the something like the Chicxulub asteroid landed in Times Square?

At a certain point, there just ain't a lot you can do.

Yellowstone exploding.

Suppose we see Yellowstone exploding, or a Carrington Event, or any one-time other natural disaster (i.e. not a hurricane or tornado or such like).

Anyone want to be that we won't be subjected to pronouncements that it must have been due to some kind of terrorist action? And demanding further actions to reduce freedom in order to improve security against another such terrorist action.

Because, after all, there are no votes in saying "natural disaster, beyond human power to prevent" and moving on.

When I say damage to infrastructure is "not scary", I mean it is not likely to create the kind of fearful reaction that was created by, for example, 9/11.

I think if a major bridge was destroyed with a fair number of people on it, it would be remarkably fear inspiring. If multiple bridges were targeted, similar to 9/11's multiple targets, I imagine the response would be similar. While I'm surprised by your description of not scary, I suppose its a fairly irrelevant point.

I suspect that they could figure out how to knock down a big bridge. They have, actually, planned to attack the Brooklyn, but the plot was foiled. Apparently, the intended approach was plausible.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/alleged-al-qaeda-plot-in-us/

The statement said that Faris researched the bridge on the Internet and traveled to New York in late 2002 to examine it, concluding that "the plot to destroy the bridge by severing the cables was very unlikely to succeed" because of its security and structure.

Terrorism is both difficult and easy. In theory, there are a lot of soft targets, and there are some targets that simply can't be hardened.

But recruiting someone who has the mental and emotional ability to carry out an attack, who has access to the US, and who is motivated to kill a lot of people, is hard.

Even executing an attack, without mistakes, is hard. For example:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Times_Square_car_bombing_attempt
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Airlines_Flight_253#Bombing_attempt
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_shoe_bomb_plot#Incident

I'm frankly surprised, also grateful, that terrorists tend not to be interested in less dramatic, but potentially far more damaging, targets like that.

While I am likewise grateful terrorists aren't more prevalent and successful, I'm not very surprised. The threat of terrorism in the US is ludicrously overblown: http://reason.com/archives/2011/09/06/how-scared-of-terrorism-should

But recruiting someone who has the mental and emotional ability to carry out an attack, who has access to the US, and who is motivated to kill a lot of people, is hard.

There is a lot to that middle part. The oceans really do protect us in large measure. Plus there are plenty of targets right in the non-U.S. neighborhood.

While I am likewise grateful terrorists aren't more prevalent and successful, I'm not very surprised. The threat of terrorism in the US is ludicrously overblown:

But that's just evidence that the powers granted to the national security state worked! And now you want to take away the only thing that keeps us safe™! For shame.

Ugh: exactly.

Once they're in the US, they don't really have to fool around with bombs and stuff.

Just go to a gun show with a stack of cash and arm up. Then head to a movie theater, a school, a sporting event, and they're good to go.

Interesting that the Aurora shooter's diary, showing his attack planning, showed up on the internet today.

The TSA - works every time.

But never fear, "Today, all air travelers are subject to a robust security system that employs multiple layers of protection, both seen and unseen..." Ah, the ever present yet fully effective "unseen" security measures.

They're the dark matter of airport security, apparently.

"The threat of terrorism in the US is ludicrously overblown:"

True, but it's such a dandy excuse to attack civil liberties. Kind of like the campus rape crisis, in that regard, or school yard shootings, or whatever crisis of the moment is being plastered across the headlines, with destroying some civil liberty as the purported solution.

I'm hoping, with little basis, that enough members of Congress will regain their senses in the next few days to defeat renewal of the Patriot act. And I'm thanking Paul for giving them the chance to do that, as unlikely as they are to take it.

And I'm hoping that if, (Probably when.) in the next few months, various nasty revelations come out about the few members who voted against renewal, people realize that just as nasty of revelations about those who voted to renew are being withheld, BECAUSE they voted to renew. And realize they're looking at proof the survailance really IS being used for political purposes, not that opponents of it are rotten scum.

Not that they aren't, but this doesn't distinguish them from those who vote for the survailance state. Having some remaining concern for our liberty does.

Just go to a gun show with a stack of cash and arm up. Then head to a movie theater, a school, a sporting event, and they're good to go.

I've probably mentioned this half a dozen times just on this blog, but the best place to kill a bunch of people at a sporting event is while they're standing in line waiting to get through security (oh, the irony!). It's like a really wide cattle-chute packed with people when the entry rate is peaking.

HSH - same with airports.

I think if a major bridge was destroyed with a fair number of people on it, it would be remarkably fear inspiring.

Yes, I agree, because the people on it would probably be killed.

The point I was trying to make, probably poorly, was that terrorism as a tactic generally targets people, rather than infrastructure. Because targeting people - killing and maiming people - is more disturbing than damaging infrastructure.

Bridges are probably a poor example, because if you destroy a bridge, you are probably also going to kill people.

To pick a different example, had Al Qaeda, instead of flying airplanes into the WTC, found a way to (for instance) cause a power outage in a major city, my sense is that the public reaction would have been quite different.

Other examples might be blowing up the entrances to the Hudson River rail tunnels, without causing loss of life. Or blowing up all of the rail crossings of the Mississippi river in one go, again without causing loss of life.

I doubt that any of those would have, for example, inspired two military campaigns. Or, even one. Or provided the political juice to pass something like USA Patriot.

All IMO, there's no way to know how folks would respond to things that didn't actually happen. But, IMO, things that damage property but don't cause massive loss of life are less effective as acts of terror.

My intent in all of the above was to counter Brett's somewhat zany (IMO) contention that terrorists don't target infrastructure because their goal is actually to take over the country, and they want it in physically good order when they do so.

To the point of the Brooklyn bridge case, the reason the attempt was abandoned was not that it was physically impractical to damage the bridge, but because the security measures put in place after 9/11, modest as they were, made it unlikely that Faris would be able to carry out the attack without being detected. A security review after Faris' arrest found that it would not have been all that hard to cut suspension cables, which was the plan.

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2015/06/fun_nsa_surveil.html

I found quiz one to be darkly humorous.

Because targeting people - killing and maiming people - is more disturbing than damaging infrastructure.

Sorry, I get your point now. Yes, I agree.

But, IMO, things that damage property but don't cause massive loss of life are less effective as acts of terror.

And agree, as well as with all of those examples.

but because the security measures put in place after 9/11, modest as they were, made it unlikely that Faris would be able to carry out the attack

I don't disagree, but I wanted to underline this concept 'modest as they were' security measures are what stopped him. A police cruiser parked near the bridge entrance (iirc...it was something like that) that would have been able to see the guy taking a gas cutter to the main support cables.

Another example, locking cockpit doors (although there are downsides to that). Metal detectors. Etc.

Security doesn't have to be advanced and expensive to significantly ablate the threat of terrorism.

"Today, all air travelers are subject to a robust security system that employs multiple layers of protection, both seen and unseen..."

The real problem with that statement is with one word" robust. There is lots of "seen" security (aka "security theater"). But for real security?

Lets ignore the fact that, as with the sporting events mentioned above, there is a great opportunity to attack the densely-packed crowd waiting to go thru security.

Then there is the fact that it just isn't that hard to get out onto the field. There was a case near here last year (at San Jose International) where a guy was out running around on the ramp. In fact, they have had five (5!) occurrances of such a breach in just the past year. (Including one guy who snuck into the wheel well and was only discovered when he was wandering around the ramp in Hawaii after the plane landed.)

Somehow I doubt that this lack of security is just an anomaly at this one airport. It's just that they have gotten hit more -- or, at least, have noticed more that they have gotten hit.

Sorry, I get your point now

No worries, I think my initial example was poorly chosen for the point I was trying to make.

Security doesn't have to be advanced and expensive to significantly ablate the threat of terrorism.

Completely agree.

The problem is that the less expensive but more effective solution of putting a cop or cops in the right place(s) is that it requires hiring someone and increasing the operating budget, which we can't afford. Buying barriers and gizmos is capital, in which case you can never be too safe, and nothing is more important than security.

Only the unceasing vigilance of the open carry movement is keeping the American Way of Life from becoming the laughingstock it has now become.

And I'm hoping that if, (Probably when.) in the next few months, various nasty revelations come out about the few members who voted against renewal, people realize that just as nasty of revelations about those who voted to renew are being withheld, BECAUSE they voted to renew. And realize they're looking at proof the survailance really IS being used for political purposes, not that opponents of it are rotten scum.

The absence of evidence is proof beyond all reasonable doubt, but keep in mind that opponents, by definition, are rotten scum.

(ys = "yottosecond")

I think you meant "yoctosecond".

Seriously, Bobby: Assume, for the sake of argument, that the NSA, in the course of it's massive and illegal surveillance of Americans, collects blackmail data on members of Congress. Assume that they leak such information about members that cross them, to the press, as anonymous tips.

How do you expect to learn of it? By the head of the NSA making a tearful confession? Or by the NSA's foes, and ONLY the NSA foes, suddenly having dirt going public when it hurts the most?

Or maybe you figure that there's just something about members of Congress who'd oppose the NSA going through your email, that they're uniquely dirty, and prone to it coming out right before elections?

Just wondering how the government finds (has found) leads on terrorists prior to or without electronic surveillance. For example, six Somali-Americans were arrested last month in Minneapolis and San Diego.

How did the government establish probable cause? Was it anonymous tips? Racial profiling? Saw "something suspicious" that wasn't illegal, and mixed that up with the ethnicity of the suspects? Not sure that's a whole lot more "constitutional" than collecting neutral data, and obtaining a warrant to search it for certain things. (Well, clearly what they do is "constitutional," being tried and true and all, but is it more just?)

nobody tell Brett that his credit card company, bank, cell phone carrier and grocery store already know enough about him to send him away forever, if he gets too close to The Truth.

Seriously, Brett: The argument would be essentially non-serious, so there is not reasonable reason to make such an assumption.

Hoover had more class. He didn't resort to anonymous tips in the press. He blackmailed the old fashioned way.

As I recall, right wingers and conservatives just loved the guy. Makes you wonder, does it not?

Like yeast, the scum also rises.

Maybe the NSA would leak the names and addresses of the secret donors to Congresscritters' campaigns, thus doing the country a service.

Maybe the NSA would run across communications of one kind or another by members of Congress, particularly to and from conservative and libertarian ones who are desperate to cause harm to the White House leading up to the 2016 election, which speak of undoing NSA data collection activities to raise the chances of a catastrophic terrorist attack (also giving a tacit nod to conservative terrorists like al Qaeda and ISIS that they a have window of opportunity for such a move) more probable, thus ensuring a massive reaction of fear in the country, which would certainly redound to the conservative movement's purposes for security and future excuses to invade endlessly in the Mideast and ensure their ascendancy in all three branches of government in order to achieve their core domestic malign goals for the country, beginning with the murder of 12 million Americans now ensured through Obamacare and Medicaid.

Just for the sake of argument.

I have nothing to go on here, except that conservatives rise every morning and hold press conferences and put forth legislation on nearly a weekly basis attempting just such murder and announcing their war plans and their gutless desire to cause, by whatever ruthless methods, whatever harm they can to moderate Barack Obama and liberalism.

They've called it Civil War in their manifestos.

At least they got the name right.

How did the government establish probable cause? Was it anonymous tips?

Most likely that and a bit of "watch the Somalis" profiling. Correct me if I am wrong, but it is my understanding the data collected only has a record calls made, but not the actual conversation?

Perhaps you can point out court documents where the government specifically testifies that this particular aspect of the NSA data mining operation provided the initial evidence leading to more investigation and eventual arrest?

That would help.

Hoover had more class.

He did.

He wore a designer dress, high heels, and carried a handbag as he went undercover as Vivian Vance, not that there is anything wrong with that, while he murdered Martin Luther King, and at least one Kennedy, or at least kept the intelligence to himself about what was going down.

caught me, slarti. I should have looked it up, but I was feeling a bit rushed.

Perhaps you can point out court documents where the government specifically testifies that this particular aspect of the NSA data mining operation provided the initial evidence leading to more investigation and eventual arrest?

No, actually. I can't provide anything. My impression is that looking for "terrorist plots" (which I think is a legitimate national security concern) has involved ugly methods, including racial profiling. The white people get upset when their metadata is subject to search, but nobody even bothers to inquire how the Somali-Americans come under the scrutiny of the feds.

By the way, I'm in favor of foiling terrorist plots. But racial or ethnic profiling makes me every bit as uncomfortable as NSA collection of metadata. I guess the question is "How then?"

Has someone hijacked Brett Bellmore's ID? He's actually making sense for the first time in living memory.

Well, that didn't last long.

How did the government establish probable cause?

According to your linked article, it was a CI. Given the FBI's track record with CIs, I'm not too trusting, but I have no specific information about this case.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/08/fbi-terrorist-informants

Nearly half the prosecutions involved the use of informants, many of them incentivized by money (operatives can be paid as much as $100,000 per assignment) or the need to work off criminal or immigration violations.

Correct me if I am wrong, but it is my understanding the data collected only has a record calls made, but not the actual conversation?

NSFW, but entertaining and informative:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEVlyP4_11M

Just imagine, for a minute, how incredibly unjust the use of confidential informants can be.

As I mentioned, confidential informants and racial profiling are the two traditional ways that terrorist plots are investigated. Consider the justice of this versus race-neutral (and grudge-neutral) algorithms to search metadata.

I guess the question is "How then?"

As per russell's 3:17 PM (which I missed in our back and forth...that would have clarified things, my bad):

The cops keep patrol cars on the bridge entrances, and a police boat under the bridge. They locked the compartment where the cables are vulnerable, and put up some security cameras.

That was apparently sufficient for AQ to call off the plot as not doable.

We can stop most (but not all) terrorism by taking basic, non-invasive security measures. No measures will ever prevent all attacks. People are too fragile and unpredictable for even the most draconian measures to be 100% preventative.

We can stop most (but not all) terrorism by taking basic, non-invasive security measures.

We can station police around bridges, tall buildings, etc.?

Sorry, but that's not practical. If there's a known organization that is likely to plot terrorist attacks, we should try to figure out whether they're doing so, and thwart them (perhaps by stationing cops at the presumed point of attack).

Oh, and this doesn't just apply to terrorism. This applies to all kinds of organized crime. Rumor, confidential informants (usually coconspirators who are made to turn), anonymous tips, etc. - a lot of police work is done that way. But tell me that's not just as (or more) subject to abuse as targeted, judicially approved queries of metadata. I mean, ask the Innocence Project. What could possibly go wrong with traditional police methods?

Just imagine, for a minute, how incredibly unjust the use of confidential informants can be.

No need to imagine. The entire CI system is fraught with injustice.

Consider the justice of this versus race-neutral (and grudge-neutral) algorithms to search metadata.

Propose an algorithm, and I will consider its justice. Indeed, knowing what algorithms are deployed would be a welcome level of transparency.

In return, consider the injustice of dragnet surveillance of billions of innocents.

Propose an algorithm, and I will consider its justice. Indeed, knowing what algorithms are deployed would be a welcome level of transparency.

I'm happy for investigators to propose an algorithm to a court, and I would be happy for it to be a more transparent process. I'm not at all opposed to creating a better, more transparent framework for data to be searched and analyzed. And I'm not lobbying for a Stasi-like approach. Due process can be built into the system.

The word "dragnet" tells us nothing except for the fact that an abuse is happening. I'm against "dragnets" because I'm against abuse, just as you are.

Consider the justice of this versus race-neutral (and grudge-neutral) algorithms to search metadata.

Good morning, mr. phelps. The ongoing War on Terror has gone from noun to adverb. This tape provides a link (that you should transcribe very carefully) to an internet site containing information on gazillions of phone calls. You task is to figure out which of those calls are being made by bad people intent on destroying our Way of Life and may or may not be, but most likely are young muslim hotheads of Middle East and/or Arab ancestry. We leave it to you to figure out effective algorithms for this task as it is beyond the capabilities of our huge, and infinitely funded bureaucracy. We will give you a hint, but it did not come from us: Try screening for names such as Sufia, Ubah, or Awa. Your're a smart guy. You know the score.

If you chose to accept this mission, we will deny all connection to you. This tape will self-destruct in 10 seconds. The MSDS on the resulting fumes is provided for your use in Appendix A (after the first beep).

Okay, bobbyp, substitute "an internet site containing information on gazillions of phone calls" to "an internet site containing a list of Somali-Americans living in Minnesota".

I'm pretty sure the my substituted scenario happens as we speak, and "those people", not us, are being targeted with "normal police tactics" pretty much every day of the week. Wouldn't it be better, if they're looking for something, that they look at all of us, instead of a racially or ethnically profiled subset?


Oops, getting close to bedtime. Just wanted to throw some ideas out there, that the reason "we're" concerned is that, for the first time, the targeted community is us.

Night all.

Consider the justice of this versus race-neutral (and grudge-neutral) algorithms to search metadata.

Briefly, algorithms are as prone to abuse as any other technique or means for searching for information.

It's as easy, and as hard, to make an algorithm "neutral", in terms of any factor you like, as it is to do so for any other form of intelligence gathering.

Maybe you should just state your point in a straightforward way.

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