Sky Marshals Name Innocents to Meet Quota

One news source is reporting that sky marshals are reporting on innocent people in order to meet a quota:

The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they're required to submit at least one report a month. If they don't, there's no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments.

"Innocent passengers are being entered into an international intelligence database as suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft ... and they did nothing wrong," said one federal air marshal.

[...]

These unknowing passengers who are doing nothing wrong are landing in a secret government document called a Surveillance Detection Report, or SDR. Air marshals told 7NEWS that managers in Las Vegas created and continue to maintain this potentially dangerous quota system.

"Do these reports have real life impacts on the people who are identified as potential terrorists?" 7NEWS Investigator Tony Kovaleski asked.

"Absolutely," a federal air marshal replied.

[...]

What kind of impact would it have for a flying individual to be named in an SDR?

"That could have serious impact ... They could be placed on a watch list. They could wind up on databases that identify them as potential terrorists or a threat to an aircraft. It could be very serious," said Don Strange, a former agent in charge of air marshals in Atlanta. He lost his job attempting to change policies inside the agency.

This is so insane, it can't possibly be true. But I have been stunned before by the stupidity of the Department of Homeland Security.

EDITED TO ADD (7/27): This is what Brock Meeks said on David Farber's IP mailing list:

Well, it so happens that I was the one that BROKE this story... way back in 2004. There were at least two offices, Miami and Las Vegas that had this quota system for writing up and filing "SDRs."

The requirement was totally renegade and NOT endorsed by Air Marshal officials in Washington. The Las Vegas Air Marshal field office was (I think he's retired now) by a real cowboy at the time, someone that caused a lot of problems for the Washington HQ staff. (That official once grilled an Air Marshal for three hours in an interrogation room because he thought the air marshal was source of mine on another story. The air marshal was then taken off flight status and made to wash the office cars for two weeks... I broke that story, too. And no, the punished air marshal was never a source of mine.)

Air marshals told they were filing false reports, as they did below, just to hit the quota.

When my story hit, those in the offices of Las Vegas and Miami were reprimanded and the practice was ordered stopped by Washington HQ.

I suppose the biggest question I have for this story is the HYPE of what happens to these reports. They do NOT place the person mention on a "watch list." These reports, filed on Palm Pilot PDAs, go into an internal Air Marshal database that is rarely seen and pretty much ignored by other intelligence agencies, from all sources I talked to.

Why? Because the air marshals are seen as little more than "sky cops" and these SDRs considered little more than "field interviews" that cops sometimes file when they question someone loitering at a 7-11 too late at night.

The quota system, if it is still going on, is heinous, but it hardly results in the big spooky data collection scare that this cheapjack Denver "investigative" TV reporter makes it out to be.

The quoted former field official from Atlanta, Don Strange, did, in fact, lose his job over trying to chance internal policies. He was the most well-liked official among the rank and file and the Atlanta office, under his command, had the highest morale in the nation.


Posted on July 25, 2006 at 9:55 AM • 73 Comments

Comments

lava ladyJuly 25, 2006 10:25 AM

I believe it. So often people in a bureaucracy will do whatever it takes to maintain the status quo, even when it's dangerous/stupid/counter-intuitive. And when 'everybody does it', it's very difficult to be the one who calls foul. Perhaps I ought not believe the worst of people.

gr3gJuly 25, 2006 10:35 AM

Wow, this has tremendous shades of fahrenheit 451. I can't wait for the future.

Kevin McGrathJuly 25, 2006 10:41 AM

I'm guessing if this is true that their rationale for making these false reports is a fear that if they keep having no threats to report then at some point in the future they will be asked to reduce staffing levels.

I'm not trying to support this in any way but just making an observation from past experience on how some management people may think.

Check the latest Dilbert comic strip for further examples of this type of behavior.

Matti KinnunenJuly 25, 2006 10:42 AM

Why don't they adopt the method from Gogol's "Dead souls"

(http://www.bibliomania.com/0/0/140/2404/frameset.html )

Add dead people to the list. Easy way to get a raise, bonus and a bigger car while hurting nobody.

JohnB.July 25, 2006 10:56 AM

If true the seriousness is beyond the cost of people wasting their time and money going through extra checks, missing flights, etc. It could also be life-and-death serious. Imagine someone acting a bit twitchy to start with and now that they are on the list they may be shot by a over-zealous marshall.

royJuly 25, 2006 11:12 AM

I fear this represents government programs in general: no matter what the professed aims of any program are, the actual program is essentially counterfeit from top to bottom, an entirely different operation from what it is supposed to be, not poles apart from, but in a different dimension from, the cover story.

Nick LancasterJuly 25, 2006 11:19 AM

Make rewards contingent upon reports, and you'll get reports. It's that simple.

And with an administration that keeps suggesting mass surveillance is some kind of magical panacea against terrorism, imagine how bloated and useless the database would be when *everyone* gets to report people.

bobJuly 25, 2006 11:26 AM

@Nick: Just like welfare: pay people more for having additional kids; and they will have additional kids.

No, it will be a linear regression - once you are on the list, you can not add people to the list because you arent trustable. That way you are rewarded for submitting all the people you know as quickly as possible - to be first. Like a Blog.

quincunxJuly 25, 2006 11:28 AM

"This is so insane, it can't possibly be true. But again and again, I have been stunned before by the stupidity of the Department of Homeland Security."

There is nothing stupid about DHS. It is all purposeful rational behavior and a justification for its own existence.

This is what happens when people delegate a role to a compulsory monopoly organization: the price goes up, and the quality of service goes down.

The problem lies in the childish belief of not seeing the government for what it really is: an organization of violence and systematic theft operating under a pretense of maximizing social welfare.

"Perhaps I ought not believe the worst of people."

You should correctly think worst of people when they are parasitic in nature.

Delegating power to a central authority and expecting it to magically limit its predation is truly a utopian concept, that unfortunately still persists to this day.

Lou the trollJuly 25, 2006 11:46 AM

@quincunx

"...the government for what it really is: an organization of violence and systematic theft operating under a pretense of maximizing social welfare."

Wow. Is that your own quote? Can I quote you on that? It's a brilliant conceit, seriously.

PS: I'm putting you on the list ;-)

Neil in ChicagoJuly 25, 2006 11:47 AM

This is so insane, it can't possibly be true.
Gut reaction: You wish!
Head reaction: Are you being ironic? You don't usually . . .

derfJuly 25, 2006 11:52 AM

Just in case the government happens to read this - I am doubleplus bellyfeel goodthinkful about the idea.

RoyJuly 25, 2006 11:56 AM

This has a serious publicity aspect: If the program is ever put into question, someone can point to a statistic: "Hey, look at this, we have at least one incident per air marshal per month, so there are many suspects flying around, so we're absolutely needed".
What politician would dare to request the termination of such an expedient department?

Roy

Davi OttenheimerJuly 25, 2006 11:57 AM

Reminds me of Kafka's concern as expressed in his book _The Trial_:

"Someone must have traduced Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning."

We often trust that a system is fair, predictable and rational but this just goes to show that there is a very real risk of arbitrary and incomprehensible results when shared values go awry.

Davi OttenheimerJuly 25, 2006 12:01 PM

"Make rewards contingent upon reports, and you'll get reports."


Exactly right. Perhaps we should be debating the better metric?

It's not an easy solution. On the other extreme if you rate them on absence of incidents you run the risk of false negative instead of false positive. So what's the right measure?

ShuraJuly 25, 2006 12:25 PM

@Davi Ottenheimer: There is no right measure - rather, the whole idea that you can measure the performance of sky marshals and the overall effectiveness of the system this way, without looking at what they're actually doing, is flawed.

Harry TuttleJuly 25, 2006 12:31 PM

According to the link posted above, the SDRs are entered into a Tactical Information Sharing System. This is where it gets interesting:

"Information contained in the Tactical Information Sharing System database is unclassified and defined as tactical information; this enables real-time information sharing. The Federal Air Marshal Service strategy involves openly sharing tactical information among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Currently, 22 law enforcement and intelligence organizations have direct access to the Federal Air Marshal Service Tactical Information Sharing System."

So, a marshal writes you up to fill his quota, and now local cops, feds, and *intelligence agencies* know about you.

Man (Dennis)July 25, 2006 12:34 PM

@quincunx:

Come and see the violence inherent in the system! HELP, HELP, I'M BEING REPRESSED!

@nonymou5July 25, 2006 12:38 PM

@Davi Ottenheimer

>Exactly right. Perhaps we should be debating the better metric?

I agree. Maybe rewards should be tied to two items:
1) Accuracy: Have the FBI and DHS rate the accuracy of reports given by air marshals. Rewards are given in both group accuracy and individual accuracy.

2) When an incident happens, rewards for capturing the suspect alive and preventing impact to bystandards.

I would have to be closer to that field to know what specifics they would use to measure. Are the items I mentioned something they already measure?

DBHJuly 25, 2006 12:56 PM

Again, I think the whole flight security system needs a rethink. On the one hand, flights are visible, memorable targets, so there are folks who will light their shoes on fire. On the other, how many sky marshals are really needed? At what expense to the tax payer (not, by the way, the flying public)? We cannot possible have one or two on every flight, therefore deterance is the goal. And improved screening, locked cokpits, and the general attitude of passengers have made most scenarios too difficult to be worth the investment on the part of terrorists. Unfortunately, we can't measure 'terrorist incidents detered'...

J.D. AbolinsJuly 25, 2006 1:11 PM

The metrics are tough. How to ensure the air marshals are paying attention? In an extreme sense, the incentive to pay attention is the potential for an attack on the flight.

Borrow from the retail industry's recruitment of customers to keep clerks honest by giving a reward if one doesn't get a receipt? Get $25 off the next flight -- if you can board it -- if we didn't flag you as a suspect?

Part of the problem is the definition of "suspicious". Suspicious is not the same as guilty or misbehaving, especially if the "rules of conduct" are not always clear. Taking photos on the flight? Staring at the flight attendant? Talking in a foreign language? Reading "unusual" literature? Etc.

It may be prudent for air travellers to conform with the behaviour of the other passengers but not too obviously, don't look at anything too long but don't avert glances furtively, keep quiet but not too quiet, and RELAX! Maybe falling asleep for the duration of the flight is the safest approach, at least, until one gets flagged for suspicious slumber.

Pat CahalanJuly 25, 2006 1:36 PM

I agree with Shura.

Assuming of course this story is true.... this sounds like a case of creeping process. Somewhere it is dictated that performance of employees of some branch of the government has to be measured using a quantifiable metric, and by God we're going to have a quantifiable metric.

But measuring performance using quantifiable metrics is difficult unless the job entails common activities. Sky marshals are looking for astronomically low event occurances. Since they are anonymous, you can't even measure their efficacy by analyzing surveys of passengers - you can't ask someone to evaluate a marshal's performance if they don't know who they're evaluating.

The only way to really measure this would be to have evaluation teams, who get on the plane and create scenarios or exhibit behavior that ought to attract the sky marshal's attention in some way, and measure the response of the marshal to the event. This is horribly problematic, since a misidentification or blown "test" can lead to disasterous results. You can test nuclear power plant inspectors this way, but not someone whose engagement in the event of a problem is "shoot somebody" instead of "hit a panic button".

Trying to measure job performance of a sky marshal with a checklist is impractical.

Lou the trollJuly 25, 2006 1:41 PM

You know, I've been thinking about this and it's really not a bad system. I mean, there's a real chance that by luck they finger a real threat. Of course there's also a real chance I could win the lottery. A real small one that is...

(just trying to make some of you laugh out there...)

quincunxJuly 25, 2006 1:45 PM

"Wow. Is that your own quote? Can I quote you on that? It's a brilliant conceit, seriously."

I always find it amusing that instead of proving me wrong you simply use a sarcastic ad hominem. Now that's brilliant, proof by ignorance!

"PS: I'm putting you on the list ;-)"

Yes, please put me on the list of people you can't debate with intelligently.

"Come and see the violence inherent in the system! HELP, HELP, I'M BEING REPRESSED!"

So you're money is not being stolen from you and devalued at the same time? Wealth is not appropriated to unfruitful purpose forcing you to pay more for your subsistence.

Einstein, just because you can not comprehend how you're being pilfered does not mean it is not occurring.

So yes you are being repressed whether you wish to acknowledge it or not.

AnonymousJuly 25, 2006 3:28 PM

"On the one hand, flights are visible, memorable targets, so there are folks who will light their shoes on fire."...and on that occasion, the passengers themselves had the guy tied up with belts in about 30 seconds. There have been several other reported incidents of passengers neutralizing an apparent threat, including one just a few weeks ago in which someone charged the cabin door and was tackled.

So why do we need sky marshals again? Strengthen the cabin door to buy some time, and let the passengers take care of the rest. They'll vastly outnumber the terrorists every time. 9/11 changed the game...passengers can't be intimidated anymore, because they figured they've got nothing to lose. I'll be very surprised if any airline is successfully hijacked again.

starcatJuly 25, 2006 3:30 PM

"But if the suspects are truly innocent, they'll have nothing to hide."

Ahh, but that's not the point Mr. Q and others. Those of us who travel, alot, know delays can really mess up the trip and much worse. Detaining innocents can destroy futures. Being falsely accused can destroy lives. All to meet a quota (whether air marshall - or terrorist, for that matter). America, land of the ...

CallMeSuspiciousJuly 25, 2006 3:50 PM

So a role of the Sky Marshal is to determine "suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft" and to create an SDR that goes into a "secret" list, where the "suspicious" person isn't informed they are on this "secret" list?

This is ludicrous!

There should be no such things as SDRs in a free society. Since when has acting "suspicious" gotten one put on a "secret" list, where you can be further scrutinized by other government agents and law enforcement officials.

Hmmm... Let's see, when was the last time in history there was a "secret" police force (i.e. you don't know who they are, like Sky Marshals), that watched your behaviour and put your name on a "secret" list (you don't know your on the list) if you act "suspicious".

As stated earlier, what are the standards from which the Sky Marshal determines what is "suspicious". Taking a photograph is "suspicious"? Whoa!

Also, how are they identifying the person to go into the database. It doesn't appear that the Sky Marshal is actually confronting this "suspicious" person to get their identity. Since this SDR is a "secret" list, the person getting placed on this list is unaware. So just how does the Sky Marshal identify the "suspicious" person. Do they get the passenger info from the airline, by who is assigned that seat?

On many flights I have offered to switch seats with other passengers (i.e. families wanting to sit together, etc.), at the request of flight attendants. I have also taken "random" seats, in more than one case, when being last on a not completely full plane, the flight attendant said to "take any convenient seat". Also, I have moved seats on several occasions (i.e. from a center seat to an open aisle seat), or from the back of a noisy DC-9 to an empty seat farther forward.

In these various circumstances, if I am determined to be "suspicious", I may not have any identity (if the seat I move to was not sold), I may be taking the identity of someone else (if I switch seats), or someone may be taking my identity (if they move into my seat).

Besides not being "suspicious", whatever that means, I can no longer be courteous (offering to switch seats), or comfortable (by moving to an unused seat).

Just get on the plane, sit quietly, look straight ahead, and above all don't act "suspicious"!

donttreadonmeJuly 25, 2006 3:55 PM

"Yes, please put me on the list of people you can't debate with intelligently."

No need to be so hard on yourself. I'm sure someone out there thinks you can debate intelligently.

"So yes you are being repressed whether you wish to acknowledge it or not."

If everything other than your own acts are considered repressive then you make repression synonymous with help and support. Why bite the hand that feeds? You seem so full of hate that it must be hard for you to see straight or hear what others are really saying.

trine2cJuly 25, 2006 4:39 PM

@quincunx

If you wish to engage in a serious debate, then why are you soliciting this debate by posting what seem to be flame-bait trolls?

And why post here, a security blog, in an effort to debate fundamentals of socio-economic systems?

And why do your posts never vary?

Briefly reviewing some of your past postings, you always seem to be making the same point:
The underlying problem is always and inevitably the inherent violence and theft of the government (or socio-political economic system).

At a basic level, it's impossible to disagree with that, regardless of what the social, political, or economic infrastructure is. There are ALWAYS ways for corrupt people to gather power and resources to inflict harm on others.

On the other hand, if your point is to advocate some other system of social, political, or economics, then perhaps you should check your basic assumptions. The much vaunted free market requires a foundation of lawfullness, which is always a tacit threat of violence or confiscation. Within a purely market-driven system, the enforcement of this is done by market players. But exactly what keeps them from being corrupted? I.e. quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who guards the guards? And how does such a system prevent the rise of robber barons or other rapacious actors?

In any case, what does this have to do with solving security problems, other than by taking the extreme stance of "Toss it all out and start over"? And why would you think that tossing it all out and starting over is a practical approach, or would necessarily result in a system that inherently avoids the problems with the current system?

I'm really just trying to see the relevance of your comments in any way other than broad ideological terms.

DavidJuly 25, 2006 5:42 PM

The advantage of a hierarchy of guards, guarding guards, guarding guards, is that with every tier you have fewer people to trust. If it came to it, I guess I'd have to trust a 'Big Government' over a few thousand capitalists.

The problem with this, as with any hierarchy, is that the people at the top, and the general public require success. However, most of the people in the middle are best off jumping through hoops, and keeping things as they are.

Stefan WagnerJuly 25, 2006 6:32 PM

@J.D.Abolins:
'Don't look suspicious' is a rule a real terrorist would try to follow.

The only way not to look suspicious is to look very suspicious - so suspicious, every marshal sees, that this is too obvious.
A bag of weapons, three or four id-cards, sunglasses, koran, a newspaper of Iran, technical literature of flight equipment ...

Unfortunately, this would be a good excuse to use you for the quota.

If the quota is modified, to report one suspicious person per day (instead of month) - wouldn't that improve the benefits of the system drastically?

C GomezJuly 25, 2006 7:02 PM

Why not find out if it is really true? I agree it is ridiculous and stupid and is cause for outrage.

I think there is a logical fallacy to simply believe "well knowing the Department of Homeland Security, it must be true." Whatever opinion or track record the agency has does not bear on the truth of the report.

I'd encourage the journalist to continue investigating. Get to the bottom of it. If it turns out to be untrue, however, most journalists will just drop the story, allowing the urban legend to propogate unbridled.

C GomezJuly 25, 2006 7:05 PM

I'll be happy to add that I haven't seen one shred of evidence that placing an "air marshal" on a flight solves or addresses any stated security need. It doesn't even seem to provide any layer of defense that has ever been noted anywhere.

MDundasJuly 25, 2006 8:42 PM

"But if the suspects are truly innocent, they'll have nothing to hide.

Posted by: John Q. at July 25, 2006 10:19 AM"

Logic like that is exactly how we will end up in a police state / world.

In a nearby city, the Law Enforcement was all for Cameras in downtown and in all major public areas to fight crime. When people complained LE responded with some version of "Well if you are not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about".
Few months later, city wanted to 'trial' cameras in police cars to record stops etc. LE response was "that's insane ... you don't trust us". My response to one them in a meeting was "Well if you are just doing your job and not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about". The look on his face was priceless ... I think if he actually had his sidearm with him he would have shot me right there in front of everyone.

quincunxJuly 25, 2006 8:45 PM

@donttreadonme

"No need to be so hard on yourself. I'm sure someone out there thinks you can debate intelligently."

That's pretty clever how you turned the emphasis on me. I'll let it stand, since it was funny.

"If everything other than your own acts are considered repressive then you make repression synonymous with help and support. "

I'm consused by this. I'm not talking about some mysterious external force, I'm merely pointing out systematic robbery. What help and support are you talking about?

"You seem so full of hate that it must be hard for you to see straight or hear what others are really saying."

Yes, I dislike criminals, and since the government is a gang of criminals I tend to hate it as well. And thus far no one on this board, or any serious scholar (in history, ever) can give a RATIONAL explanation why it is not a gang of criminals, other than by assuming some sort of INHERENT validity.

@trine2c

"And why post here, a security blog, in an effort to debate fundamentals of socio-economic systems?"

Because security is not mutually exclusive of socio-economic systems. In fact it's part and parcel of the same thing. Only one of these systems actually makes security possible.

"And why do your posts never vary?"

That's is not true, I have some varied posts. But usually it's because some clown points out that WE can get good security by allowing the government to do what it can't: provide security.

I would also like to stop the attempts made to socialize computer security and to establish a licensed profession - which I feel is going to happen, much to the detriment to civil society.

"There are ALWAYS ways for corrupt people to gather power and resources to inflict harm on others."

Yes, especially in an institution geared toward such an end.

"The much vaunted free market requires a foundation of lawfullness, which is always a tacit threat of violence or confiscation."

I'm aware of this popular argument, the fallacy in this is not realizing that laws are not created above or before the market - it is always a simultaneous process.

Even the government at best can only act ex post facto - which goes to show that there is no need to have top-down uniform legislation through a given territorial region.

In fact a government CAN'T exist unless there is wealth that can be parasitically obtained, therefore a market (a regime of private property) ALWAYS comes before government. This fact is thoroughly supported by theory and history.

It is a non-sequitor to conclude that laws most be created by a monopolist and judged by the same. Laws do not arise out of the minds of philosophical judges, but civil society interacting in voluntary ways. The government should not create laws any more than it creates dictionaries.

I may even note that most judging and security services are provided by the private sector anyway - and hence it would logically make sense to have it be the only method of adjudicating disputes.

" Within a purely market-driven system, the enforcement of this is done by market players. But exactly what keeps them from being corrupted?"

There is never a guarantee that corruption can not occur, that is obvious, but the question should be under which system is it reduced?

Does a system of three branches of government each funded by the same means an effective method of reducing corruption? Clearly one can easily observe the fact that the constitution is a dead latter - and therefore that is not the case.

Or is a competitive market with profit/loss more effective?

Should you not like the actions of a given business, you are free to patronize a different one, start your own, or wage a boycott.

A successful business must please both its customers, its investors and even do so better than their competition.

The customer can always refuse to buy, or stage a boycott. A customer can also appeal to special agencies that specialize in such market protests.

Investors are always free to sell their stock, merge, or stage a proxy fight to wrestle controls from poor mangers.

Where is this multi-layer check in government? Voting for a personality every few years? Try switching this personally mid-season when they become tyrants.

Decentralized control and human freedom create the incentive that you will patronize the services of the least corrupt. You just don't get that choice with a compulsory monopoly.

If people are not clever (as you may suggest) at patronizing less corrupt services, surely they are even worse at voting for a position in a monopoly institution.

"Who guards the guards?"

This is an interesting question, maybe you can tell me where this feature exists in modern governments.

The other guardians will watch the guardians, since neither of them have a monopoly privilege.

"And how does such a system prevent the rise of robber barons or other rapacious actors?"

That depends on what you mean by robber barons. The term robber baron is a pejorative lumping of two very different types of industrialists: those who made a fortune at expanding production through voluntary means (James J. Hill is a good example) and those who lobbied the government to confer a special monopoly or cartel arrangement . In the latter case it is easy to see how the removal of government will remove the incentive to lobby it for special privileges.

There has never been a monopoly that arose from the free market. Monopolies are always and everywhere created directly or indirectly by governments.

"In any case, what does this have to do with solving security problems, other than by taking the extreme stance of "Toss it all out and start over"?"

Security is an aspect of private property rights, and therefore it is preserved when these rights are respected.

There is no starting over - it is a simple removal of the biggest threat to security.

"And why would you think that tossing it all out and starting over is a practical approach, or would necessarily result in a system that inherently avoids the problems with the current system?"

Tis a little long to explain. Read my comments in the 'Economics of Information Security" thread in late June.

"I'm really just trying to see the relevance of your comments in any way other than broad ideological terms."

I understand your concern.

My only gripe is that too often people on the board spring in to the ol' "there ought to be a law" mode for solving security issues. My problem is that the agency they wish to employ in such a task CAN'T DO IT, WON'T DO IT, and will make it worse, as it always does anywhere and everywhere it is tried.

In fact everything in the news/government is pretty much playing out the way I first predicted on 9/11.

quincunxJuly 25, 2006 8:56 PM

"The advantage of a hierarchy of guards, guarding guards, guarding guards, is that with every tier you have fewer people to trust. If it came to it, I guess I'd have to trust a 'Big Government' over a few thousand capitalists."

Your conclusion doesn't make any sense. Unless you think being destructive and being cloaked from scrutiny is an amiable goal.

Exactly who does this type of structure protect the most?

The citizens, or the leaders?

I'd rather trust the competing companies.

trine2cJuly 25, 2006 9:18 PM

@quincunx Re: robber barons

No, I was thinking of the medieval or far earlier robber barons, who wielded power due to their ruthless wealth, and accumulated more wealth with their ruthless power. Yes, they were frequently granted monopoly by kings, but some were just ipso facto let alone because the king's treasury was complicit in the payoff.

Re the rest of your reply, you are still taking for granted the existence of a civil society in which one is free to change supplier, create boycotts, etc. Imagine instead a highly uncivil society, death squads, violence, corruption, etc. If one's day-to-day existence is in question, then what chance do rational social economic political decisions have? You can talk all the theoreticals you want, but if you can't exercise your choice, it doesn't really exist. In short, sufficient violence can lay waste to any claims of rights worth respecting. See any number of African nations with their series of kleptocracies, exploitation of social differences, etc. You may win a moral victory but lose your property and your life. Dead people can't exercise their rights.

And I think some of your specific criticisms are off-base, too. I haven't seen much "there oughta be a law" response to the Sky Marshals Quota. Probably because there already IS a law, but also a lack of accountability.

But this is really getting far too Big Picture to be practical. If the only way to ensure that Sky Marshals aren't acting in a corrupted fashion is to remove the entire US government, then that seems a little impractical. Creating a means of auditing their actions is more apropos.

And this does seem to be a systematic theme of yours, which I roughly paraphrase: the only effective solution is to completely eliminate the current government (or whatever "parasitic" organization is in question). It would be an understatement to call this impractical.

So do you have anything practical to add, or is this doomed to remain so Big Picture that no effective action can be taken?

John QJuly 25, 2006 9:30 PM

quincunx: "I'd rather trust the competing companies."

I'd trust real competing companies over corrupt governments.

But I'd trust accountable local governments over colluding capitalists (Enron).

It's not the organization, it's the oversight.

Andrew van der StockJuly 25, 2006 9:55 PM

I was placed on the watchlist last Saturday. I think for failing to fill in the correct customs entry form. I have an E3 visa. I felt that I should enter on that as it had been granted to me. If I asked for a visa waiver, and yet had another visa...

Well, anyway, it was the wrong choice. After I'd filled out the form, I came back to find that I'd been placed on the watchlist and asked to attend the secondary screening area.

After attending the screening room, they immediately let me go after looking at my passport. No bag inspection. No "secondary" screening behind closed doors. No interviews. No nothing. The guy behind the counter said some people are on it because their fingerprints didn't scan. That had better not be my situation.

In any case, I walked out in to the USA without even my bags being opened - they didn't even escort me to the customs area (not that I bring anything undeclared in).

What purpose does this watchlist serve? I bet I helped make the dude's quota. I will be SOOOOOOOOOOOOO angry if that is the case.

As I work in the security industry and the USA already knows a lot about me (the e3 visa is not easy to get without supplying a lot of information), I'm guessing I'm going to be delayed quite often now. If this extends to Australia (where I live) it will be really really offensive.

This thing had better have an off switch. If I have to do this for the next 50-60 years, that's got to be wrong. Unfortunately, as a non-citizen, I can't vote out the morons who introduced this police state.

Welcome your version of the Stasi, folks.

Andrew

AnonymousJuly 25, 2006 9:56 PM

>But I'd trust accountable local governments over colluding capitalists (Enron).

Enron is not a good example. How about Exxon/Mobile/Shell/Chevron/BP etc.
How about DeBeers.

I think these guys are a better example to your point.

quincunxJuly 25, 2006 10:14 PM

@trine2c

You have given me examples of socialist & feudal societies.

Such is not an outcome when people actually (claim to) believe in property rights - like western societies.

In fact you may want to investigate early colonial america, the 'not-so-wild' west, midevil iceland, midevil ireland, Helseannic League, Law of Merchant, and generally any area that had the flimsiest of governments.

If I understand you correctly what you telling me that systematic theft & predation is what produces happy & civilized people?

If people were really as destructive as you say by nature, then surely the last thing we want to do is to concentrate such people in high office, right?

Or is there some magical oversight inherent in a monopoly institution that you have yet to explain to me?

"So do you have anything practical to add, or is this doomed to remain so Big Picture that no effective action can be taken?"

Is there some effective action you can take now? Do you have you the proper authorities on speed-dial, patiently awaiting your demands? Are you sure your effective action will work much differently failed majority?

VanceJuly 26, 2006 1:59 AM

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the parallel with the Suspicious Activity Reports (URL linked from my name) collected by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

DavidJuly 26, 2006 4:18 AM

I agree "I'd trust real competing companies over corrupt governments", but real competing companies don't exist. The media, the only real alternative to the Government in this case, has a vested interest in controlling everything. You only have to look to people like Rupert Murdoch.

Geoff LaneJuly 26, 2006 6:36 AM

If the black hats are on the plane, you've already lost. It just takes one suicide terrorist to identify the sky marshal and the others can kill/disarm him/her. Now you have a bunch of terrorists plus a gun.

Janet EdensJuly 26, 2006 9:21 AM

@Andrew.

The Stasi. It's kinda scary the similarities, isn't it?

Secret lists are a very poweful means of controlling people, even if the data collectors are purely noble of purpose.

Misuse doesn't even have to be intentional. Remember the movie "Brazil?" A case of mistaken identity because of a typo. We're talking about the same government that runs the IRS. Mistakes have been made.

When we know about government data and we make laws about its collection and use, we have some measure of control. With secret ones, we are without defense.

davidbJuly 26, 2006 9:55 AM

@quincunx

"the government is a gang of criminals I tend to hate it as well. And thus far no one on this board, or any serious scholar (in history, ever) can give a RATIONAL explanation why it is not a gang of criminals"

I don't think that word means what you think that word means. (It really applies better to RATIONAL than to INCONCEIVABLE, don't you think Princess?)

Angel oneJuly 26, 2006 9:55 AM

Here's an idea for a metric that might work:

Periodically place two (or more) air marshalls on the same flight and don't tell them there are other marshalls on the flight. Rate them based on how consistent their reports are. Assuming the majority of air marshalls are competent, you'll begin to see better ones having higher rates of consistency over time, while air marshalls randomly reporting people ot fill quotas will never be corroborated by their colleagues.

DavidJuly 26, 2006 10:43 AM

Like a game of wink murder...

But, even if the marshalls don't find one another (as they probably would), if two 'incompetent' marshalls happened to denounce the same person, as would happen every so often, this person would not only be unfairly deemed 'suspicious', but would have been deemed so by two marshalls.

Glenn WillenJuly 26, 2006 11:16 AM

I would personally be worried that the air marshalls would shoot each other... I don't know if I'd find it a good idea, putting an air marshall on a plane with another guy with a gun, and not warning him about it in advance.

quincunxJuly 26, 2006 11:48 AM

"The media, the only real alternative to the Government in this case, has a vested interest in controlling everything. You only have to look to people like Rupert Murdoch."

That's because media relies on a quid quo pro from the government, a whole legal framework designed to limit the number of media outlets and create a cartel. In return the gov reserves the right to pounce on any network when it strays too far from the nationalist propaganda.

Removing the legal barriers induces greater competition and less state worshiping. Unfortunately it is not likely to happen anytime soon, the media enjoys being regulated. The fourth estate has been compromised by corporate welfare.

"Periodically place two (or more) air marshalls on the same flight and don't tell them there are other marshalls on the flight. Rate them based on how consistent their reports are. "

This somehow assumes that federal agents like to be judged according to their skills, rather the more realistic situation that is typically created: power & authority without much responsibility & accountability.

This explains why the teachers' union reject the idea of teacher testing, and MDundas' observation that cops don't like to be monitored themselves.

The irony is the the independent airlines were prevented from having private security guards and non-ballistic weapons. The typical excuse for not allowing private solutions usually boils down the the ridiculous argument that 'private companies have no incentive to protect their multi-million dollar investments'.

This parallels with the late 19th century gov debate that all oil producers should be nationalized because private owners could destroy their reserves by blowing it up - leading to all sorts of 'negative externalities'. Yeah, I'm sure the typical business MO is to blow up their assets. In any case, this is the type of wisdom one would expect from a group of pedagogic thugs.

"I don't think that word means what you think that word means. (It really applies better to RATIONAL than to INCONCEIVABLE, don't you think Princess?)"

I don't understand what you're saying.here.

"When we know about government data and we make laws about its collection and use, we have some measure of control. With secret ones, we are without defense."

We already have laws in place - they are simply not followed, because laws don't enforce themselves, they need to be backed by actual humans, which in the case of empire building is not going to happen. The interests of those who can enforce the laws are aligned with those that disrespect it.

ProbitasJuly 26, 2006 12:23 PM

"Why not find out if it is really true?...
I'd encourage the journalist to continue investigating. Get to the bottom of it. If it turns out to be untrue, however, most journalists will just drop the story, allowing the urban legend to propogate unbridled."

Yes, absolutely. Somebody get Chertoff on the phone to confirm or deny this, and put it to rest for once and for all. //end sarcastic rant//.

The standard proposed for permitting continued reporting of this story is unachievably high, considering the current administration's penchant for secrecy. Had Woodward and Bernstien been held to the same standard, the entire Watergate story would still be viewed as a third rate burglary.

XellosJuly 26, 2006 2:44 PM

--"Why not find out if it is really true?"

Sure, why not. It's not like they couldn't file suit against the governemnt about it and get it tossed out on "national security" grounds. Oh, wait, that won't work. Hmm.

In any case, this kind of behavior is typical. My father was a state trooper for a while, and ended up having to fight (and win) a wrongful termination suit against the state after being fired for not meeting his unofficial ticket quota. I have no problems believing this same thing could happen with the air marshals.

Remember, it is in the nature of government agencies to sustain themselves and grow at every opportunity. Regardless of their stated goals, viewing their actions through this filter tends to make most thiings make a lot more sense.

John QJuly 26, 2006 3:28 PM

Xellos: Remember, it is in the nature of government agencies to sustain themselves and grow at every opportunity.

It's also the goal of businesses, of divisions within large businesses, and any other institutions where bureaucracy is valued more than effectiveness.

quincunxJuly 26, 2006 3:35 PM

"It's also the goal of businesses, of divisions within large businesses, and any other institutions where bureaucracy is valued more than effectiveness."

And why do you think large businesses have such bureaucracies?

Surely must have something to do all the taxes, regulation, and other moral hazards brought about by gov decree.

Businesses can not both be allegedly greedy and bureaucratic at the same time. Non-gov hampered businesses tend to create the correct level of bureaucratic/profit tradeoff.

No serious businessmen wants to spend time shuffling paper around as opposed to making money, and the shareholders feel the same way.

It is a mistake to think that bureaucracy versus effectiveness (profit motive) is the engine of business.

BugJuly 26, 2006 3:39 PM

@quincunx: I don't understand what you're saying.here.

I think he meant that you used the word "rational" when you meant "convincing". I dunno about "inconceivable", since you wrote "inherent".

An argument can be rational yet unconvincing. However, since you've already precluded being convinced by rejecting a priori every argument ever made in all of history, I'm not sure that either "rational" or "convincing" is possible.

Perhaps this is why no one is willing to engage in what you would consider a "rational" debate. Your terms, and your ideology, utterly preclude it.

BugJuly 26, 2006 3:41 PM

@quincunx: I don't understand what you're saying.here.

I think he meant that you used the word "rational" when you meant "convincing". I dunno about "inconceivable", since you wrote "inherent".

An argument can be rational yet unconvincing. However, since you've already precluded being convinced by rejecting a priori every argument ever made in all of history, I'm not sure that either "rational" or "convincing" is possible on your terms. Lucky you: you always win.

Perhaps this is why no one is willing to engage in what you would consider a "rational" debate. Your terms, and your ideology, utterly preclude it.

quincunxJuly 26, 2006 4:14 PM

Well I'm familiar with all the arguments made in history (thefore not a priori, but a postereori), and yet non are convincing once some critical thought is applied and all the superstitions removed.

"Perhaps this is why no one is willing to engage in what you would consider a "rational" debate. Your terms, and your ideology, utterly preclude it."

If we adopted such an attitude towards specific computer security issues this blog would be practically pointless. The only purpose then would be to sound convincing rather than be reasonable. It would amount to pedagogy and sophistry vs. objective reality and the scientific method.

My contention is that people tend to cling to the former rather than the latter (there are many socially scientific theories as to why that is the case) whenever the issue of government comes up.

winsnomoreJuly 26, 2006 11:00 PM

Police in (almost) everytown and every state troppers has had a quota to fullfill, this is never admitted, but exists non the less.

As long as there are dumb bureaucrats who can't figure out how to manage, there will be quotas, in policing, in reporting, in admissions and promotions and where ever else you can think of.

trine2cJuly 27, 2006 12:56 AM

@quincunx

>If I understand you correctly what you telling me that systematic theft & predation is what produces happy & civilized people?

Not even close to my point. Systematic theft and predation is what makes people look for a solution to their problem, but only when the problem is big enough. If the people can balance the predatory actions against other options, they typically accept it. They don't like it, but they accept it, because the perception, right or wrong, is that the alternatives are worse. With your apparent background in economics, this should be obvious.

My point was mainly that in the absence of any restraint, by the people themselves or by the governments ostensibly acting on their behalf, the unscrupulous use or threat of violence can accumulate wealth and power and then use them to further accumulate wealth and power. I know you agree: The rule is identical for either governments or private-property players. So if the unscrupulous are in government, you have a repressive government. If they aren't, you have self-appointed rulers, robber barons, war-lords, crime syndicates, or whatever you want to call them.

And if the oppression becomes unbearable, what do the people have? Again, the rule is the same for governments or non-governments: they leave, they revolt, they remove the oppression; or they are crushed in the attempt.

On the other hand, if the oppression is bearable, they assess the tradeoffs, consider the alternativtes, and act accordingly. The definition of "bearable" can vary from person to person, or across time and circumstance.

What you seem to be saying, though, is that ANY amount of systematic theft & predation is sufficient reason for the people to revolt. But that doesn't make sense: not from an economic viewpoint, nor from a social one, nor from a political one. The only way I can see it making any kind of sense is from an absolute moralist viewpoint, in which any transgression, no matter how small, is just as damning as any other. If the punishment for adultery is death, you may or may not get less adultery overall, but you certainly get very careful adulterers.


>If people were really as destructive as you say by nature, then surely the last thing we want to do is to concentrate such people in high office, right?

Unobserved, unaudited, and unchecked: duh. With sufficient oversight, including but not limited to vetting candidates before they take such office, I don't see the problem. We may argue what comprises "sufficient" oversight till the cows come home, although you've made your view sufficiently clear: when it comes to government, no oversight is sufficient, because all government is inherently criminal and parasitic.

And I'm not saying people in general are that destructive by nature. Some people are, and some systems tend to reward those people for their destructive actions. But some systems just accomodate a certain level of destructiveness without floundering.

Shareholders don't select their management team for pure ruthlessness any more than citizens elect officials sight unsee. Straw man in either case. Again, I don't see any fundamental difference here between what informed citizens do and what informed shareholders do. They are all stakeholders choosing proxies, and assuming that one group are all idiots while the other group are all fully informed rational agents is belied by history and current affairs. You can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all the time, ...


>Is there some effective action you can take now?

You're missing my point. I asked if there was any practical action you could offer that didn't involve completely eliminating government as currently constituted. The reason I asked goes back to my earlier post, in which I asked about the costs of tossing everything out and starting over, but which would have been better asked "How do you propose to make an orderly transition?"

To simplify for this point, I'll grant that your proposed system is desirable, optimal, and beneficial in any way. I'm not questioning that right now. What I'm questioning is how you propose to make the transition between Is (current reality) and Ought (your proposal). I went and read your entire corpus of posts in the 'Economics of Information Security" thread in late June. and it still doesn't answer the question.

Presupposing that a certain amount of stability is an important factor for effective markets, how do you get the necessary stability during the transition? The current government, criminals or not, isn't going to idly stand by. I don't think you can just hand out red pills like The Matrix, either.

If you don't have a plan, or even a proposal, for crossing the chasm to this paragon of properity and peace, then it's more than impractical: it's impossible.

It may well be wonderful, but it's all talk and no action. Or worse, it's all talk and no action possible: the costs are too high for a real-world rational economic agent.

Ed T.July 27, 2006 6:50 AM

So, I wonder if any Sky Marshalls have gotten the bright idea to put their least-favorite politician (or other public person) on an SDR? Maybe that's how Ted Kennedy got on the No-Fly list.

~EdT.

quincunxJuly 27, 2006 11:15 AM

"My point was mainly that in the absence of any restraint, by the people themselves or by the governments ostensibly acting on their behalf, the unscrupulous use or threat of violence can accumulate wealth and power and then use them to further accumulate wealth and power."

There two only viable methods for obtaining wealth: production & theft.

The rich and the 'powerful' in a productive capacity are so because they have obviously served mankind well enough to warrant consumer purchases of their items.

When it comes to theft - it may be true that the rich may wield more power, but the wealth of the rich, is never a match for the wealth of the masses. A bandit court that always decided in favor of the rich will never be patronized at all. The rich are as varied as the poor. A multi-millionaire will not sanction the authority of a bandit court that always ruled in favor of the multi-billionaire.

"What you seem to be saying, though, is that ANY amount of systematic theft & predation is sufficient reason for the people to revolt. "

Not at all. There is no necessary reason to revolt - but just to see the government for what it really is. There will always be a stage when the last straw breaks the camel's back and a revolt ensues. Governments everywhere and at all times grows until civil society starts to retrogress - there has never been an exception. At this point alternative solutions are likely to be given thought.

"The only way I can see it making any kind of sense is from an absolute moralist viewpoint, in which any transgression, no matter how small, is just as damning as any other."

I am not a socialist anarchist, therefore it does not apply.

" With sufficient oversight, including but not limited to vetting candidates before they take such office, I don't see the problem. "

It does not change the fact that it is a monopoly organization with the legitmate power to steal.

Secondly, if you apply the general charges leveled against supposed monopolies: price will go up, quality of service will go down, you will see why this can never be the case.

The state always has the option to BUY allies. In fact what the state does is essentially create division in society and focuses our attention on conveniently created vilified groups, be they race, income, business practices, religion, etc...

The power to spend other people's money with no accountability is definitely out of the reach of the even the rich.

"Shareholders don't select their management team for pure ruthlessness any more than citizens elect officials sight unsee. Straw man in either case. Again, I don't see any fundamental difference here between what informed citizens do and what informed shareholders do."

The fundemental difference is that businesses have a direct test to see if they transformed material or service into something more useful: profit/loss. There is no such market test for government at all.

This lack of a test means that even if gov officials were princes among men, they still would have absolutely no way of figuring out if their actions were beneficial to society or to what extent they destroyed society's wealth.

If you'd like to learn more I suggest a reading of 'Economic Calculation in a Socialist Commonwealth' by Ludwig von Mises. It is available online.

It precisely this reason that it is difficult for the layman to observe all the wealth destroyed in society, as well as the potential for wealth.

"What I'm questioning is how you propose to make the transition between Is (current reality) and Ought (your proposal)."

I'm already engaged in action. The first action is to educate people on reality. What would be the point of transitioning if people did not understand why they were doing it?

"If you don't have a plan, or even a proposal
, for crossing the chasm to this paragon of properity and peace, then it's more than impractical: it's impossible."

The state exists because it's intellectual bodyguards rationalize their existence. If the legitimacy is removed by educating people, there is no way a central authority can ever attain people's respect.

There are several strategies. I believe that knocking out the two main pillars: control of money and public education, will go a long way in breaking up the state.

In fact the homeschooling movement, and capital flight as well as e-gold will go a long way in delegitimizing the state.

If a significant amount of people in an area become of aware of their predator, they will secede.

Attempts made to stop the secession, a la Lincold style, will only expose the violent nature of the state even more - and may gain more internal support from the repressed citizens to sympathize with the secessionists.

OK, fine, let us assume that it's impossible. That is not the point. The point is: is it right? If it is right, then any movement toward it would also be right, and therefore anyone who makes suggestions that will (by economic reasoning) lead in the wrong direction should be hooted down immediately and exposed as either: ignorant, willfully evil, special-interest seeker, or just a state-worshiping fool.

Anyone who suggests on this forum that the government should do this and that, instead of eliminating that particular function and putting into private hands is therefore a supporter of the very thing they bitterly complain about, when all previous such efforts of their kind have created their present conditions.

"It may well be wonderful, but it's all talk and no action. Or worse, it's all talk and no action possible: the costs are too high for a real-world rational economic agent."

The American Revolution was not a unanimous decision of the citizens, rather only 30% supported independence. There is no reason that everyone needs to become rational economic agents - even though such a thing never existed.

The most important action is education.

John QJuly 27, 2006 11:41 AM

quincunx: The most important action is education.

Then by creating such alienation on this blog to the ideas you advocate, you seem to be doing a remarkably poor job of it.

trine2cJuly 27, 2006 5:23 PM

>OK, fine, let us assume that it's impossible. That is not the point.

No, that is PRECISELY the point. I'm not simply ASSUMING it's impossible. Without an orderly transition, it *IS* impossible, at any scale larger than a small hamlet or commune. Small-scale social abberations are often tolerated, even in post-9/11 USA. Large-scale upheavals are not, and the government will NOT remain idle.

To make a transition we would first have to endure a protracted period of disorder, bloodshed, civil strife, violent government repression, etc. (I mean "violent" as in "death", not merely objectionable taxation.) But under your own subsequent reasoning, that scale of societal disorder is quite definitely moving AWAY from your stated goal of prosperity and peace. You are either contradicting yourself and undermining your credibility, or are so naive you can't see repurcussions, or are so ideological that any means justifies the end.


>The point is: is it right? If it is right, then any movement toward it would
>also be right, ...

How naive. How simplistically moralist.

Only the simplest game spaces show that kind of linear predictability. Even moderately complex game spaces have local minima and maxima that will be sub-optimal dead-ends if your search algorithm has too narrow a view.

I suggest broadening your views.

For example, you don't seem to have ever worked in a large business or corporation, or you'd know that government regulation is only a tiny part of how a business can grow bureaucracies or "fiefdoms", and why. You also don't seem to have ever run a small business, or you'd know a lot more about how to make your points without pissing people off, how to really negotiate (not just the theory of negotiation), and the costs of changing suppliers, changing infrastructure, renegotiating contracts, etc. I think "friction" is the economics term, but I could be wrong, since I'm not an economist, only a profitable small business owner for over 20 years (appeal to authority, appeal to practical experience).


> ... and therefore anyone who makes suggestions that will (by
>economic reasoning) lead in the wrong direction should be hooted down
>immediately and exposed as either: ignorant, willfully evil,
>special-interest seeker, or just a state-worshiping fool.

Even more naive. Now you're the Right-Think Police.

If I were a venture capitalist listening to your pitch, you'd flunk.

At best, you have an idea for a service business (free-market trade). Unfortunately, you have no business plan, no customer acquisition plan (browbeating isn't a plan), no customer transition plan (converting customers from current to new system), and your service apparently refuses to interoperate with other systems (i.e. ones with governments).

If I were a rational free-market agent who had contracted you to educate people about my service plan and gain customers for it, here's my current evaluation.

You've done more to alienate my potential customers than to convince them that my service plan is a benefit to them. It's not because you don't understand the plan, you clearly have a strong technical comprehension. It's that every interaction you undertake, every conversation you enter, every point you make is done so disrespectfully and with such rancor or zealotry that ordinary people can't believe the plan could possibly benefit them. In their perception, the attributes of the messenger have irreparably tainted the message.
Contract terminated.

"Unskilled and Unaware Of It"
http://www.apa.org/journals/features/psp7761121.pdf

ModeratorJuly 28, 2006 8:02 AM

Quincunx, even though some of the discussions you've started here have been interesting, this isn't a political philosophy and social science blog, and it's become disproportionate. If you want to keep giving Libertarian analyses of Bruce's posts, I suggest you start your own blog and send us trackbacks, so that discussion happens there instead of here.

Everyone else, please let this die. Thank you.

solionJuly 28, 2006 8:18 PM

Not to pick on any specific agencies here, but there have been intelligence agencies run by certain types that made irrational quotas for informers or sources, and created workplaces full of paranoia and other undesirable elements. The employees involved were young and not terribly well paid, and to meet the unreasonable quotas (on everything from overtime hours to number of informers in a certain political group, nationality, or ethnic group perceived to be a threat), the employees oft succumbed to human nature, lied about timecards, and made the proverbial paper informants, probably pocketing any funds that were paid out to them, and put anyone they didn't like on certain watch lists. Put simply, intelligence gathering doesn't lend itself to tidy flows of information and rates of informer recruitment. The problem is that once the employees start making things up, that raises the standard/average and pretty soon the honest people are passed over for promotions, or more likely leave for a more sane work environment. This is a positive feedback loop, and quickly gets out of control. Deep penetration of, say, terrorist cells, will not be something that bean counters will feel comfortable with because it has a long incubation period, a lot of uncertainty, and doesn't necessarily pay off at the end of every quarter. I'd rather have one completely credible piece of intelligence than ten second-hand rumors, and I hope everyone here realizes that the leaders of these organizations should too. The drive to quantify everything shouldn't eclipse the fact that in intelligence more than other endeavors, quality matters, because mistakes have consequences, sometimes drastic ones. Like killing the wrong person. Like invading the wrong country. Like declaring war on an ally.

Oh, and enough with the Ayn Rand and free market ueber alles -- or else next time you need the police (or private security agency) you might find out that fighting crime in your neighborhood is simply not profitable enough.

quincunxJuly 28, 2006 8:20 PM

"You are either contradicting yourself and undermining your credibility, or are so naive you can't see repurcussions, or are so ideological that any means justifies the end."

The repurcussions will occur regardless of me - there has never been an exception in history. The question is what ideas will people have when the time comes?

"How naive. How simplistically moralist.
Only the simplest game spaces show that kind of linear predictability. Even moderately complex game spaces have local minima and maxima that will be sub-optimal dead-ends if your search algorithm has too narrow a view."

How simplistically relativist!

Tyranny and liberty has been universally recognized as two opposites. You may think that my suggestions are too extreme, but I contend that if _more_ liberty (better personal security) is desired such an outcome can occur only if laws are repealed, not added despite all the good intentions behind them. I don't see this happening because of the leviathan that was created precisely by ignoring it as the biggest threat to humanity. I suppose you can condemn me for thinking that more liberty is right. It may be that more tyranny is right. Maybe right and wrong aren't important, we should just listen to the zeitgeist and accept everything that comes along.

"you'd know that government regulation is only a tiny part of how a business can grow bureaucracies or "fiefdoms", and why."

I think you are vastly underestimating government regulation.

http://mwhodges.home.att.net/regulation.htm

"Complying with government regulations consumes $1.4 Trillion
($1,028 billion federal mandates, $343 billion state & local government mandates) - 14.9% of the economy - $4,680 per man, woman and child -"

I think there is a misunderstanding between us. Bureaucracy in a free market setting exists as the OPTIMAL amount. The minmum bureaucracy that is necessary to fulfill customer demands and earn a profit is the OPTIMAL amount of bureaucracy. Such a case is optimal because it is brought about by voluntary mutually beneficial trade.

In the case of government, it is a both a binary and triangular intervention. The company has an obligation directly to the state, and it is also told how it is to conduct (or not to conduct) business with a third party (customers). None of these are voluntary, and therefore this bureaucracy is a waste of human resources and capital, because most of it would not be chosen voluntarily.

"Everyone else, please let this die. Thank you."

Fair enough. I'm done.

rajeevAugust 13, 2006 12:37 PM

Hello,

I have a suggestion for improving monitoring people in airports. TSA can install lot of cameras in airport and then should make that video feed available to general public to watch using their computers, thru their website. TSA should invite US residents to became member on their website, and should take down important verifiable information for granting membership and should ask people to volunteer for this ongoing activity. I am sure numerous school going kids, office-workers and house-wives and old folks, especially folks retired from/working in police etc. (who are good at vigilance) will be interested and will be very helpful. This will help keep the cost down and would be very effective at the same time.

One more tip is: while doing this TSA should monitor the phone of ‘vigil-helper’ (lets call them so, as they would be helping TSA in keeping vigilance 24x7 in airport). It is possible that a terrorist may register itself as a member and then use the vigilance facility to guide operations remotely. So if the phone of the ‘vigil-helper’ is also monitored in real-time it might also help as honey-trap for such individuals. Also, it should be recorded that which member is monitoring feed of which camera and for how long (i.e. all the stats should be recorded). For the purpose of cross-checking and easy analysis (after an event if it happens - God forbid) a ‘vigil-helper’ should have maximum limit of monitoring 3 cameras, and only two ‘vigil-helper’ should be able to see a feed from one camera. This may help as following: suppose A is monitoring feed from cam1 and cam2. B is monitoring Cam2 Cam7 and Cam9 and M is monitoring Cam9 and Cam3. Now if A and M reports suspicious behavior on Cam2 and Cam9 but B does not then TSA should get alert about ‘vigil-helper’ B people in Cam2, Cam7 and Cam9 and should direct security personals to all these people.

I will continue to send tips and suggestion as and when any idea comes to my mind.

Thank you and God bless.

Rajeev
********************************

**since this is undetectable substance***

It is possible that two terrorists may carry liquid portion and the white chemical separately inside that plane hidden inside their body parts. Like swallow (and later vomit, once inside plane), or hidden inside their anus (and pull- out inside air-plane) and mix it in bathroom/toilets.

I would strongly suggest to search every single human being going onboard for such possibilities and put cameras all inside the air-plane especially toilets and continue to monitor the activities of the passenger, throughout the flight.

Suspect every traveler, I pray security enforcer to be a paranoid and do whatever they can to foil any evil attempt.

May God help us all.

Thank you

Rajeev
*************************************


Hello,

My wife is traveling to India on 14th and I am very worried about the hardcore militants; they might go to any extent to kill innocent people. I saw that AirPort authority is allowing the following:

Baby formula or breast milk if a baby or small child is traveling

Prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger's ticket

Insulin and essential other non-prescription medicines

The weak point in this is: suppose if any woman/lady terrorist traveler board the plane with her baby and carry some dangerous formula in the milk bottle (under point 1), it would be disastrous. There can be many such situations. Therefore I would suggest:

1. Passengers should not be allowed to carry anything liquid, powder or edibles with them on board.

2. All the above items and such should be provided by the air-crew. That way it will be assured that the substance is safe (since it would be coming from safe people – the air-crew). Passengers who have such special need should be required to contact the airport prior to their travel.

3. People should be made to walk thru a rain of radioactive rays or something (God knows what - but just ask those scientists out there – there got to be something!!!!!) which would neutralize any such substance or change its properties – or make it shine or something (God!!!!).

I pray to God that everybody travel safe and reach their loved ones in safety. I pray to God to help all those security personals in their work so that they are always – each and every time – able to avert the danger before it shows up.

Amen

Rajeev

(Whoever is reading this email; I hope you will not ignore this as several other emails from concerned people whose loved ones are traveling, and take some quick action)

Thomas B.March 6, 2007 12:21 PM

"But if the suspects are truly innocent, they'll have nothing to hide."

Posted by: John Q. at July 25, 2006 10:19 AM
-----------------

Ahhhh, guilty until proven innocent.
I find this reply even more disturbing than the article itself.

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