Schneier on Security: Harms of Post-9/11 Airline Security

Schneier on Security: Harms of Post-9/11 Airline Security.

This loss of trust—in both airport security and counterterrorism policies in general—is the first harm. Trust is fundamental to society. There is an enormous amount written about this; high-trust societies are simply happier and more prosperous than low-trust societies. Trust is essential for both free markets and democracy. This is why open-government laws are so important; trust requires government transparency. The secret policies implemented by airport security harm society because of their very secrecy.[via Rafe]


I really don’t know what to say here. My Representative (Shelly Berkley, D-NV) voted for it, while and both one of my Senators Harry Reid (D), voted against it and the other, John “Haircut McWedgeshot” Ensign (R), all voted for it. I personally sent over a dozen emails, six letters (typed and everything) and made over two dozen telephone calls to their offices.


Senate passes telecom immunity, eavesdropping regs [AP]

The Senate approved and sent to the White House a bill overhauling controversial rules on secret government eavesdropping Wednesday, bowing to President Bush’s demand to protect telecommunications companies from lawsuits complaining they helped the U.S. spy on Americans.

The relatively one-sided vote, 69-28, came only after a lengthy and bitter debate that pitted privacy and civil liberties concerns against the desire to prevent terrorist attacks. It ended almost a year of wrangling over surveillance rules and the president’s warrantless wiretapping program that was initiated after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The House passed the same bill last month, and President Bush is expected to sign it soon. He scheduled a 4 p.m. EDT White House statement to praise the passage.

The long fight on Capitol Hill centered on one main question: whether to shield from civil lawsuits any telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on American phone and computer lines without the permission or knowledge of a secret court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The White House had threatened to veto the bill unless it immunized companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. from wiretapping lawsuits. About 40 such lawsuits have been filed, and all are pending before a single U.S. District court.

Numerous lawmakers had spoken out strongly against the no-warrants eavesdropping on Americans, but the Senate voted its approval after rejecting amendments that would have watered down, delayed or stripped away the immunity provision.

The lawsuits center on allegations that the White House circumvented U.S. law by going around the FISA court, which was created 30 years ago to prevent the government from abusing its surveillance powers for political purposes, as was done in the Vietnam War and Watergate eras. The court is meant to approve all wiretaps placed inside the U.S. for intelligence-gathering purposes. The law has been interpreted to include international e-mail records stored on servers inside the U.S.

“This president broke the law,” declared Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis.

The Bush administration brought the wiretapping back under the FISA court’s authority only after The New York Times revealed the existence of the secret program. A handful of members of Congress knew about the program from top secret briefings. Most members are still forbidden to know the details of the classified effort, and some objected that they were being asked to grant immunity to the telecoms without first knowing what they did.

Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter compared the Senate vote to buying a “pig in a poke.” <…>

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is party to some of the lawsuits that will now be dismissed, said the bill was “a blatant assault upon civil liberties and the right to privacy.” [more]

[this post has been edited]

links for 2008-06-11

  • “Memo to Scott McClellan: Here’s what happened” McClatchy reporter’s blog post wherein they take McClellan to task for writing a book that is non-news. McClatchy can hold their heads high, they were some of the few that did not drink the Bush War Kool-Aid.

[manually posted]

links for 2008-04-25

Admiral Fallon, “The Man Between War and Peace,” Retires Early

A recent Esquire piece on Admiral William J. Fallon, entitled “The Man Between War and Peace,” laid out differences in views on Iran and other issues between Fallon and the Bush administration and suggested that if Fallon is fired, it could indicate a push for war with Iran.

Yesterday Admiral Fallon, who is the top American commander in the middle east, announced he will be retiring early.

Coincidence? I don’t think so either…

links for 2008-03-11

Hillary Clinton vs Barack Obama on civil liberties

Rafé linked this and it’s most worthwhile. IMO.

If you’ve been looking for an area of policy where there Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama differ substantially, you should read today’s op-ed by Jeffrey Rosen on civil liberties [].

The bottom line is essentially nearly anyone would be better than Bush43. Still, having said that, there are some differences between Clinton and Obama. Rosen concludes his op–ed with:

She [Hillary Clinton –ed.] made an eloquent speech in the Senate opposing the suspension of habeas corpus. And she has emphasized the importance of Congressional oversight of executive power, promising as president that she would consider surrendering some of the authority that President Bush unilaterally seized. Clearly, she would be immeasurably better on civil liberties than George W. Bush.

But Mrs. Clinton’s approach to the subject is that of a top-down progressive. Her speeches about privacy suggest that she has boundless faith in the power of experts, judges and ultimately herself to strike the correct balance between privacy and security.

Moreover, the core constituency that cares intensely about civil liberties is a distinct minority — some polls estimate it as around 20 percent of the electorate. A polarizing president, who played primarily to the Democratic base and refused to reach out to conservative libertarians, would have no hope of striking a sensible balance between privacy and security.

Mr. Obama, by contrast, is not a knee-jerk believer in the old-fashioned liberal view that courts should unilaterally impose civil liberties protections on unwilling majorities. His formative experiences have involved arguing for civil liberties in the legislatures rather than courts, and winning over skeptics on both sides of the political spectrum, as he won over the police and prosecutors in Chicago.

As a former grass-roots activist, Mr. Obama understands the need to make the case for civil liberties in the political arena. At a time when America’s civil-libertarian tradition has been embattled at home and abroad, his candidacy offers a unique opportunity.

WaPo Joins NYT, Calls Telecom Amnesty “Victory” for WH; Nightly Newscasts Ignore Vote Altogether

That headline is from Media Bloodhound. I especially liked Glenn Greenwald’s comment on Salon about the status of the Senate’s support for civil liberties:

To conserve resources, newspapers should just create a macro of that phrase — “the Senate handed the White House a major victory today” — and then just program it to be automatically inserted into every article reporting on anything done by the Senate. That system would be foolproof. [Salon via Media Bloodhound]

My Senator, Harry Reid, did not help things a bit. [update:] To be fair to Mr. Reid, did help a bit with his vote, but as Majority Leader he could have done more (IMO). The final vote was 69-29-3 in the Senate.