“This combination—a broad definition of what constitutes terrorism and a low threshold for designating someone a terrorist—opens the way to ensnaring innocent people in secret government dragnets. It can also be counterproductive. When resources are devoted to tracking people who are not genuine risks to national security, the actual threats get fewer resources—and might go unnoticed.” Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux report on the Obama administration’s expansion of the terrorist watchlist system.
“Our choice isn’t between a digital world where the agency can eavesdrop and one where it cannot; our choice is between a digital world that is vulnerable to any attacker and one that is secure for all users.” Bruce Schneier regards ubiquitous surveillance as a quixotic undertaking that does nothing to keep us safe and does everything to undermine the very societies we seek to protect.
“Paradoxically, it was God who created Hell as a place to store evil. He didn’t do a good job of keeping it there, though.”
“We now face the greatest threat to our liberties since the second world war. We are sleepwalking into despotism. Because of the amount of material that is being collected, because these databases, which are not about tiny items of information, will be used and not just by governments. Snowden was working for a corporation. They will be accessed by others in government and because, that’s most important of all, people will start to self-censor. We will find that the very fact of the total surveillance of our activities means that we are going to sort of … it’s not a question, as the foreign minister said, of ‘if you haven’t done anything wrong you have nothing to fear’. [sic] This structure of surveillance will stop us doing things which are right, that we know we should be doing.” Anthony Barnett appearing on yesterday’s Newsnight programme.
“Contrary to some hyperbolic depictions of Muslim minorities as a nefarious fifth column within society, the average Muslim has about as much control of, or connection to, the vile actions of terrorists as the average white American does to school shootings or movie theater massacres”, contends Murtaza Hussain.
“So the suggestion is that we don’t need hope at all. All we need is a purpose for our action, a purpose that need not be conceived of as a hope.” Julian Baggini only sees limited scope for rational hope. But that should not make you despair.
“So the austerity drive in Britain isn’t really about debt and deficits at all; it’s about using deficit panic as an excuse to dismantle social programs.” Paul Krugman is convinced that ulterior motives determine current policies in the UK and elsewhere.
“Ever since the tightening of security after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, scientists have worried that a scientific development would pit the need for safety against the need to share information. Now, it seems, that day has come.” Denise Grady and William Broad report on moves by the US government to effectively censor influenza research.
“Spending billions to force the terrorists to alter their plans in one particular way does not make us safer. It is far more cost-effective to concentrate our defences in ways that work regardless of tactic and target: intelligence, investigation and emergency response.” Bruce Schneier debates the former head of the Transportation Security Administration, Kip Hawley, on airport security. This is from the first of Schneier’s three statements on the topic.
www.economist.com 20 March, 23 March, 28 March
“Doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little.” Meanwhile, Ken Murray is determined to go gently into that good night.
“Natürlich müssen wir uns darum bemühen, die Kontrollen an den Flughäfen effektiver zu machen. Profiling nach Herkunft und Religionszugehörigkeit aber ist eine schlechte Idee, die das Fliegen weder bequemer noch sicherer macht.” Peter Neumann believes that the use of passenger profiling would actually have detrimental effects on aviation security.
“Despite fearful rhetoric to the contrary, terrorism is not a transcendent threat. A terrorist attack cannot possibly destroy a country’s way of life; it’s only our reaction to that attack that can do that kind of damage.” In the wake of last week’s failed bombing of an airplane over Detroit, Bruce Schneier asks us to leverage the inherent strengths of our democracies.
“Only Peter Tatchell could be so enraged by something that is meant to calm him down. But as he grapples with the complicated security locks on his front door to let me out, it strikes me that perhaps the rest of us are lucky that he cares enough to carry on fighting, whatever the cause.” Elizabeth Day talks to Peter Tatchell, a man deserving of some respect.
“Like it or not, I fear it will not only be the cartoonists and impressionists who will miss the easy target in the White House when he has gone”, writes Mick Hume on the day George W Bush leaves office.
“The Atheist Bus Campaign began when Ariane Sherine wrote an article in June 2008 about Christian adverts running on London buses. These ads featured the URL of a website which said non–Christians would burn in hell for all eternity. Ariane suggested that atheists reading her article could each donate £5 to fund a reassuring counter–advert.”
Update: Christian religious groups are about to respond with ads stating that “there definitely is a god”.
“Sir Ian Blair captured the febrile nature of this climate, giddy on nightmares, when he said that de Menezes was killed in the ‘fog of war’. Given that this fog engulfed those giving the orders, little wonder officers stopped behaving rationally.” Tim Black reflects on what the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes tells us about the institutions of the British state.
“Der politische Stand ist eine Symbiose mit der Medienindustrie eingegangen, die aus finanziellen Gründen den Terrorismus in einem Maße ausschlachtet, das objektiv nicht zu rechtfertigen ist.” Privacy is like oxygen, argues Pär Ström. You’ll miss it when it’s gone…
“Defense against terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to recognize that terrorism is just one of the risks we face. And our job is to fight politicians who use fear as an excuse to take away our liberties and promote security theater that wastes money and doesn’t make us any safer.” Bruce Schneier is not about to give in. Are you?
Robin Cook, one of few political figures to command my lasting respect, has suddenly died on August 6, 2005. If you are only ever going to read one political statement made to the House of Commons, read Robin Cooks’s resignation speech from 18 March, 2003.
Last week I got caught up in the traffic jam that followed the killing of an innocent man at Stockwell tube station. Today, I passed the same spot again. This time I stopped.
Remembering Jean Charles de Menezes one week after he was shot and killed by police at Stockwell tube station in London. What did the ubiquitous CCTV cameras record that morning?
Update: Reports are now emerging that Jean Charles de Menezes had already been restrained by an officer when he was shot in the head seven times.