Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A Few More Straws in the Wind

So, the Obama Administration has decided that if it isn't going to torture anybody or indefinitely detain Abdulmutallab without trial, it might as well at least expand the no-fly list, create a bigger hassle at airports, and subject passengers from whole countries, including Nigeria, to greater scrutiny. I suppose given heights of Republican hysteria, a Democratic administration has to mistreat somebody to show that it cares.

In a possible piece of good news, right-wing correspondent Michael Yon was senselessly hassled and subject to mindless scrutiny by TSA screeners. Good! The only way it will ever be politically safe to advance civil liberties is if a right-winger is hassled by a liberal administration. Maybe Yon can inspire the right wing to get some sanity back into airport procedures.

Of course, sanity in airports will only increase the pressure to torture people. . .

In other news, Glenn Greenwald has some excellent links, one explaining all the random noise distracting intelligence from real leads. (Alas, he does not give any figures on what percentage of tips are things like reports from the suspect's own father and how many are anonymous tips from paid informants, fourth-hand rumors and the like. Recognizing that some things have to be classified, that sort of general information can still be useful in figuring out what is going on and how the system went wrong).

The other explained the amount of distraction that accompanies even well-targeted intelligence gathering. Radical Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is an obvious and very legitimate intelligence target. And, in fact, his e-mails are being monitored. He corresponded by e-mail with both Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hassan and underpants bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. So did tens of thousands of others. How do you know which two correspondents out of tens of thousands will turn out to be the terrorists?

Update:

Apparently the Secret Service is regularly interviewing birthers. Good! For the same reason as screening Yon.

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