Essays Tagged "San Francisco Chronicle"
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Fixing Intelligence Failures
President Obama in his speech last week rightly focused on fixing the intelligence failures that resulted in Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab being ignored, rather than on technologies targeted at the details of his underwear-bomb plot. But while Obama’s instincts are right, reforming intelligence for this new century and its new threats is a more difficult task than he might like.
We don’t need new technologies, new laws, new bureaucratic overlords, or – for heaven’s sake – new agencies. What prevents information sharing among intelligence organizations is the culture of the generation that built those organizations…
On Police Security Cameras
San Francisco police have a new law enforcement tool: a car-mounted license-plate scanner. Similar to a radar gun, it reads the license plates of moving or parked cars—250 or more per hour—and links with remote police databases, immediately providing information about the car and its owner. Right now, the police check for unpaid parking tickets. A car that comes up positive on the database is booted.
On the face of it, this is nothing new. The police have always been able to run a license plate check. The difference is they would do it manually, and that limited its use. It simply wasn’t feasible for the police to run the plates of every car in a parking garage, or every car that passed through an intersection. What is different isn’t the police tactic, but the efficiency of the process…
Getting Out the Vote
Why is it so hard to run an honest election?
Four years after the Florida debacle of 2000 and two years after Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, voting problems are again in the news: confusing ballots, malfunctioning voting machines, problems over who’s registered and who isn’t. All this brings up a basic question: Why is it so hard to run an election?
A fundamental requirement for a democratic election is a secret ballot, and that’s the first reason. Computers regularly handle multimillion-dollar financial transactions, but much of their security comes from the ability to audit the transactions after the fact and correct problems that arise. Much of what they do can be done the next day if the system is down. Neither of these solutions works for elections…
IDs and the Illusion of Security
In recent years there has been an increased use of identification checks as a security measure. Airlines always demand photo IDs, and hotels increasingly do so. They’re often required for admittance into government buildings, and sometimes even hospitals. Everywhere, it seems, someone is checking IDs. The ostensible reason is that ID checks make us all safer, but that’s just not so. In most cases, identification has very little to do with security.
Let’s debunk the myths:
First, verifying that someone has a photo ID is a completely useless security measure. All the Sept. 11 terrorists had photo IDs. Some of the IDs were real. Some were fake. Some were real IDs in fake names, bought from a crooked DMV employee in Virginia for $1,000 each. Fake driver’s licenses for all 50 states, good enough to fool anyone who isn’t paying close attention, are available on the Internet. Or if you don’t want to buy IDs online, just ask any teenager where to get a fake ID…
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.