excerpt from my book on technology, terrorism, and
DHS, tentatively titled "Skating on Stilts." (If you want to
read the excerpts in a more coherent fashion, try the categories on the
right labeled "Excerpts from the book." I'm afraid I can't fix the bug
in TypePad that prevents me from putting them in the category in
reverse-chronological order, but I have started putting chapters up in
pdf form from time to time.) Comments and factual quibbles
are welcome, either in the comments section or by email:
firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're dying to order the book, send
mail to the same address.
In fact, nothing illustrates the clout of the left-right privacy machine than a second failing demonstrated on Christmas Day 2009. That is TSA’s inability to use screening information that is routinely used by all the other security agencies in government.
The US has pretty good
information on four hundred thousand terrorism suspects, but fewer than twenty
thousand of them are on the lists that TSA uses to screen air travelers. That means that 95% of the identified terrorist
suspects can get on a plane bound for the
CBP knows about these 400 thousand suspects. The FBI and CIA know about them. So does the State Department. But not TSA. For TSA, if you aren’t on the no-fly or selectee lists, you’re just regular folks.
Why? Because that’s the way the privacy campaigners want it. It’s the intended result of their remarkably successful effort first to stall and then to roll back the security reforms undertaken after 9/11.
There’s a well-establish civil libertarian mythology about the nation’s response to 9/11. In the myth, a frightened US government throws civil liberties out the window within weeks of the attacks, launching a seven-year attack on our privacy that a new administration is only now slowly (too slowly, say the advocates) beginning to moderate.
In real life, privacy groups mobilized within weeks of 9/11, and they won victory after victory, right from the start. First, within a month of the attacks, they forced the Justice Department to negotiate the USA PATRIOT Act line by line with Chairman Leahy of the Judiciary committee – a process often ignored when the act is presented as fait accompli imposed on a panicky Congress by the Executive Branch.
Then within eighteen months of the attacks, the privacy campaigners killed the TIPS program, designed to encourage citizens to report suspicious behavior, as well as Adm. Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness program.
After that, they went looking for bigger game. What they found was TSA, a gift that would keep on giving for half a decade.