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PM Carpenter, your host. Email: pmcarp at mchsi dot com.
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June 08, 2013



"Police states are butally [sic] efficient in their mass, indiscriminate application."

All A are B.

X is B.

Therefore X is A.

Back when I was in short pants and exploring the wonders of formal logic, we called that a modus bogus.

Chris Andersen

While it's true that you can't determine if something is a false positive without further intrusion into an innocent person's privacy, the incidence of false positives should actually be reduced by the use of *more* data. This is why it is important, when you collect a particular type of metadata, that you get as much of it as you can. The more data, the more reliable the results from the analysis, and the less intrusive it will be to innocent person.

Now you could argue that the way to truly lessen intrusion is to just not gather the data at all, but do we really want to completely abandon a useful tool just because it might cause harm to an innocent bystander? If so then please tell me of any investigative technique that does not carry the danger of miss-identification? Innocent people have been mistakenly targeted for as long as there have been police.

To me the important question here is not whether this program should exist but how the potential for abuse and/or mistake is minimized. What are the controls on the data? Who gets to decide what to do with it? These are the things I want to know (and so far, what I have read along those lines, makes me feel a lot better about what is being done).

Peter G

The analogy is, to be kind, bogus. Presuming frisking is the point, which it is not, are you inconvenienced when you don't even know you've been frisked? Is it frisking if the NSA doesn't even know who they have frisked? Unless you are your phone number, no. And if they don't know who the person is they aren't frisking you. Every freaking department of the US government does exactly the same thing with data divorced from the person from which it was derived. How on earth does anyone imagine the actuaries at SS predict what the future obligations of SS are?

Robert Lipscomb

I second all the comments.

Lost in most discussions is the fact that terrorist organizations are neither fish nor fowl; maybe fish and fowl; how about duckbill platypus?

They are not quite a nation or army - but they might be harbored by or act as agents of nations and armies.

They are not quite simply criminals or criminal organizations - but they are that.

They might be in the US or outside the US or both.

They might be comprised of US citizens or not or both.

And they are not limited to traditional weaponry or military methods or even social norms (suicide bombers).

Simplistic analogies and legal analyses will always fall short. Jingoism from the left or right only obfuscates. Propaganda will be deadly.

Consider the Civil War. Lincoln oversaw the slaughter of millions of US citizens on US soil - and suspended habeas corpus. Yet, he is revered.

I am not suggesting the constitution be dismantled. We are obliged to synthesize a rule of law for this new reality. To his credit, Obama called for an open and honest debate of this before this latest hype.

Therefore, I find the vilification of him by Ms. Huffington's Post to be especially odious.


Mr. Carpenter, have you read this article by David Simon ?

I think the debate over surveillance is necessary. I just think everybody should be careful to keep it rational. Mr. Simon may use some colorful language, but he has good points.

Another very important question: my problem is that as we're seeing at least a new leak every day now, all of this is seriously beginning to look like an orchestrated campaign to discredit the administration. This is not ordinary whistle blowing, because we're also seeing some leaks on national security, blowing up cover of intelligence assets and intelligence operations.

Question: who benefits ??

Robert Lipscomb

@Ladysuzy: Thanks for the link. Great post.


PM, you have acquired, in no small part thanks to your own incisive and sensible commentary, a coterie of followers whose comments are in general remarkably more considered and astute than the common run of blog posters.

Does it not give you pause, then, that the only commenter so far on the security brouhaha who wholeheartedly embraces your outrage on this issue is your resident kneejerk Obama-hating ranter wtf?

Peter G

I should hope not Janicket. Reasoned debate has never been wtf's forte as I am well aware from engagements with him elsewhere. We have all been in the position of the King in Huckleberry Finn and had all the fools on our side, for all the wrong reasons.



Peter G, I hate to break it to you, but I don't post with the WTF name at other sites and I generally don't engage, so I don't know who you've tangled with, but it ain't me. Little bit of paranoia, maybe?

I used to be disgusted, but now I'm just amused to see these Obots behaving just like the Bush-lovers did when W was in office. The same unquestioning support for their man, placing cult of personality above principle, resorting to witless, sectarian name-calling of loyal critics, rather than addressing their valid positions. I'm sure, PM, you've noticed you no longer attract readers with as diverse a set of opinions as you used to. You have now, essentially, true believers. And now those Obots are turning against their host simply because you dared to question Dear Leader's strategy. I thought Obama said he wanted his followers to question him and hold his feet to the fire.

Oh well, have fun with that.

I can't leave without asking again, when will the Obama administration prosecute one--just one--Wall Street banker?


" . . . I'm just amused to see these Obots . . . resorting to witless, sectarian name-calling . . ."

Thank-you for that, wtf. You made my evening . . .


"We are obliged to synthesize a rule of law for this new reality."

There is no new reality, at least not of the type you are describing, so no we're not.

What there is is a lack of significant threats to speak of after the fall of the Soviet Union, to which people are responding by turning the same old terrorism--that mosquito bite of international security--into something worth making major sacrifices for.

It's not sugar rationing, but I guess we can still feel like we're part of an important fight if we let ourselves get spied on.


Jaylemeux is correct that there is no "new reality" in the US, if he means we don't have constant, Baghdad-level, suicide bombings occurring weekly.

How many more we might have were it not for our recent "adjustments." no one can say.

But, he might consider more closely the effect of a single day's attack--that would be 9/11--on the airline industry, and its ripple effects.

It strikes me that, for the US at least, the possibility of suicide bombers is indeed a "new reality"--it's certainly not anything my parents thought about on the few occasions they prepared to fly.

Perhaps he would concede it's not an altogether welcome one.

Now, perhaps our friend Jaylemeux would, having found himself--or some member of his family calling on their cell--in an airplane hijacked by terrorists and careening towards some building--perhaps he would have a shrug of his own and say, "Hello! We have 'a lack of significant threats,' people! Can't we all just chill?!"

Well then, good on ya, Jaylemeux!

I think I speak for nearly us all when I say, I admire your consistency.

Peter G

Really wtf? Perhaps you have forgotten that you previously identified yourself as the same wtf who posts exactly the same crap at Crooks and Liars. You also turned up at Onegoodmove as I recall. I suppose it could be some miracle that multiple posters using the same handle and say exactly the same the same things in exactly the same way. But I doubt it. Hard to forget a horn that only blows one note.

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