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Feb 03, 2010


As both a civil libertarian and someone who does network security for a living, I've been of two minds while reading these chapters from your forthcoming book. On one hand, I'm generally against all the things you castigate the privacy advocates for railing against. On the other hand I've seen the difference between what users think is safe and what is actually safe.

After pondering this for a while, I've got a few thoughts:

From my prospective the privacy folks were getting their tails handed to them all through the Bush administration. I don't really see that having changed much when the administration changed. I wonder if difficulties you ran into are because the privacy lobby is strong, or just that our system is so dysfunctional that it's hard to get anything done.

I also wonder if the privacy groups would be so up in arms about every additional security proposal if they felt they could trust the Government to stay within the bounds they set (or at least seem to set). The patriot act contained lots of provisions for general criminal investigations, not just those related to terrorism. The backscatter machines were spec'ed to be able to store and transmit images, despite the TSA saying they were not capable of doing so. The government did not ask FISA to be revisted until after the NSA was caught tapping into AT&T's backbone.

Finally, I do have to say that the Christmas bombing and reading your blog has influenced how I look at the TSA looking for dangerous people instead of dangerous things. Until recently I was firmly of the opinion that the TSA has no business trying to identify people (and that doing so may violate our right to travel freely). However, if there are weapons that can't be reasonably detected short of caviety searches that changes things. I still look at the TSA as largely security theater. TSA personal that appear competent are pretty hard to find, but the ones that are just making time till the end of the day are all over the place.

Thanks to Nick for a thoughtful comment.

"The government did not ask FISA to be revisted until after the NSA was caught tapping into AT&T's backbone. "

Ho, ho, ho. I love how you say "caught", as though A) it hadn't been happening since the telephone existed and B) nobody knew about it. The purpose of the domestic-wiretap reveal was to combat pro-terrorist lawfare; courts generally take a dim view of "we can't reveal the evidence against this man because it's all classified".

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