Now This Log

Wednesday, 3 October 2001 : "linkstorm"

Linkstorm. Clearing out some of the backlog:

Worth reading all of: Bruce Schneier's Cryptogram: Special issue devoted to the September 11 attacks and their aftermath
...why isn't anyone asking the real questions: what is the threat, and how does turning an airplane into a kindergarten classroom reduce the threat? If the threat is hijacking, then the [no sharp objects] countermeasure doesn't protect against all the myriad of ways people can subdue the pilot and crew.

Airline security measures are primarily designed to give the appearance of good security rather than the actuality. This makes sense, once you realize that the airlines' goal isn't so much to make the planes hard to hijack, as to make the passengers willing to fly.

The closest the airlines have to experienced and expert analysis is El Al. Since 1948 they have been operating in and out of the most heavily terroristic areas of the planet, with phenomenal success. They implement some pretty heavy security measures. One thing they do is have reinforced, locked doors between their airplanes' cockpit and the passenger section. (Notice that this security measure is 1) expensive, and 2) not immediately perceptible to the passenger.) Another thing they do is place all cargo in decompression chambers before takeoff, to trigger bombs set to sense altitude. (Again, this is 1) expensive, and 2) imperceptible, so unattractive to American airlines.)

It's easy to refute the notion that all security comes at the expense of liberty. Arming pilots, reinforcing cockpit doors, and teaching flight attendants karate are all examples of security measures that have no effect on individual privacy or liberties. So are better authentication of airport maintenance workers, or dead-man switches that force planes to automatically land at the closest airport, or armed air marshals traveling on flights.

Liberty-depriving security measures are most often found when system designers failed to take security into account from the beginning. They're Band-aids, and evidence of bad security planning. When security is designed into a system, it can work without forcing people to give up their freedoms.
MSNBC: What to Read Now: Newsweek's recommended reading list

MSNBC: Four Things Citizens Can Do by Richard C. Harwood
1. Learn more about the world...
2. Move from comfort talk to public talk. ... Americans must engage with the public questions before them.
3. Search out differing opinions...
4. Expand our ideas of patriotism.
This Modern World: "I just don't understand how spending billions of dollars on a missile defense system is useful when the enemy is armed with box-cutters--" "Zip it, you unamerican freak!"

Carol Lay's Story Minute: Returning to Normal

A new batch of links from Phil Agre

Spinsanity: Criticizing American Policy: Picking and Choosing What Is Legitimate
One of the most troubling strands of this rhetorical offensive is the assertion that criticism of American foreign policy -- specifically America's economic and political policies abroad -- is beyond the pale and that making such arguments amounts to blaming America for the terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, some of these same pundits are quite comfortable criticizing aspects of our military policies. They attack dissent as "blaming America first" from one side of their mouth while denouncing past military policy from the other. This blatant hypocrisy, exemplified by Andrew Sullivan and Charles Krauthammer, is nothing less than an attempt to define the terms under which US policy may be criticized.
Slate: What's the Rush? by Robert Wright
We and other nations seem to be apprehending more and more people who could be part of a second-wave assault. So long as we're making progress, why provoke the ones we haven't yet caught?

...the time to extract concessions from the rest of the world is before an assault -- while nations both sympathize with us and want to calm us down. If we want, say, stronger international rules governing the flow of dubious funds, we should get commitments before the fighting starts.

Links, exploration and
synthesis from
Steve Bogart

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