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Hi-tech or lo-tech?

By mithrandir in MLP
Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 12:43:38 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

Polticians and scientists continue to argue about the level of sophistication of the technology used to plan the events of September 11th. While the former say that "that the media and civil liberties campaigners had paved the way for the terror attacks on America" little evidence has been found so far. An article on telepolis.


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Hi-tech or lo-tech? | 17 comments (16 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
To be honest... (4.00 / 15) (#1)
by RareHeintz on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 02:32:06 PM EST

I'd much rather live in a world crafted by civil libertarians that is vulnerable to terrorists than in a police state crafted by politicians and ideologues where my freedoms of movement, speech, and assembly are restricted.

Just my US$2e-02. Others may feel differently.

- B
http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily

It's all relative (4.00 / 9) (#3)
by jabber on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 03:16:49 PM EST

I'm sure there are plenty of Palestinians, Israelis and Irish who would disagree with your opinion. This is not to say that I disagree with it. It's just that, without bombs going off in the local vicinity on an almost daily basis, it is easy for us to say that we would prefer libertarian freedom at the cost of vulnerability. I'm sure there are people out there, in the terrorized areas of the world, who would preffer to walk safely down their own street, even if it were under the watchful eye of a machinegunned platoon.

I'm also sure that there are many malnurished Africans who couldn't care less about the label on their government - Libertarian, Fascist, Communist, Whateverist - as long as they didn't have to watch their children starve.

From our narrow and highly privileged American perspective, I completely agree with you. I'm simply saying that we should not lose track of our good fortune in that this issue is even something of concern to us. We're well enough off to be bothered by ideologies, and this is a luxury much of the world doesn't have.

Does that mean we should count our blessings and shut up? Hell no! But we can't lose sight of our good predicament. Else future generations will quote us the way we quote Marrie Antoinette: "Let them eat cake!".. It's sad, but I've actually overheard conversations by some less than educated individuals, decrying the situation in the Middle East. They were wondering why the people of Afghanistan don't just "Elect someone other than the Taliban"... Ignorance on parade...

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

They could, though (4.16 / 6) (#6)
by davidduncanscott on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 05:12:55 PM EST

I know it sounds goofy to say that, "they should just elect somebody else", but in practice that's exactly what the Afghans can (and arguably must) do, "elect" as in "choose" (not necessarily "vote for", although that's my favourite approach) a new government.

The Taliban operate under one constraint that most established governments don't feel: the people of Afghanistan know very well that governments can be overthrown -- they've done it before, and recently.

[ Parent ]

They need organising (4.00 / 1) (#16)
by squigly on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 05:24:18 PM EST

If everyone except the Taliban could decide on who they wanted to run the country, and they could all communicate, and a large majority accepted the same leaders, they could. At the moment, there is no consensus of opinion. Its no god getting rid of one set of tyrants unless you know they're not going to be replaced by another set of tyrants.

Even if they did all agree, there is a logistical problem with telling the people when most of them can't read or write.

[ Parent ]

Concensus (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by davidduncanscott on Wed Oct 10, 2001 at 05:51:14 PM EST

Its no good getting rid of one set of tyrants unless you know they're not going to be replaced by another set of tyrants.
Well, some would say that we do just that every few years, but yes, I see your point. I never claimed it wsa an easy process. I dearly hope that my children need never live through a revolution, much less a civil war, and the Afghani have had to live through both in recent years.

Still, there might be something to be said for tyrants who don't lead you into wars as against those who do. As bad as the Shah was, there must have been days during the Iran-Iraq war when people said to themselve, "You know, that Pahlevi guy had some points..."

[ Parent ]

Re: It's all relative (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by jethro on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 05:41:04 PM EST

I'm sure there are plenty of Palestinians, Israelis and Irish who would disagree with your opinion
I'm Israeli, though living in the US right now. I have had friends who were killed by terrorist attacks. I was (somewhat less directly, obviously) affected by terrorist attacks. I have lived with the knowledge that the bus I'm on may very well be blown up at any minute. I would rather live in a world where I'm allowed to encrypt my Email, speak my mind, listen to my music, watch my TV, read my books, publish my newsletters, and have the danger of being killed by terrorists than in a police state where I am really a prisoner. In other words and corny as it sounds, I'd rather die free than live imprisoned.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is kinky.
[ Parent ]
Given that... (3.69 / 13) (#4)
by jd on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 05:01:41 PM EST

...the US manages to piss off virtually every other nation on the planet, on a regular basis, it is hardly surprising that one of them bit back. Sad, sickening even, but not surprising.

Would this added intelligence really help, though? I doubt it. The complete failure of the "toughened" airport security to stop passangers and employees wandering through with everything from boxcutters to automatic firearms demonstrates that this kind of fight can't be won by filtering techniques.

But wouldn't it have given the authroities a chance to intercept these people, before they ever got near the plane? Unlikely. The interviews on various news stations, once the names of the suspects started being published, all showed that the locals thought these people "distant" but average, everyday folk.

How many "distant" people are there, in the US? Out of the two hundred million or so people, I'd guess maybe twenty million would fit that description. If you're going to monitor twenty million people, 24/7, for any "potentially subversive" activity (at least, in any way that is likely to catch those who are dangerous), you'd need sixty million people to process the data that was being collected.

Something tells me that, for all that the intelligence community is sizable, it falls a bit short of 60,000,000. (Computers won't help, with this, as computers aren't capable of that level of artificial intelligence. They can number-crunch, but this is about human psychology, not arithmatic.)

Ok, so let's work from the basis that intervention is impossible. What does this mean? Well, first, it means that these "measures" aren't aimed at countering terrorist activities. What they -are- aimed at is not clear. The PR value of them is high, but only until the dust settles. Of course, the increasing hype over the Anthrax cases is bound to help keep the dust stirred a bit longer, but it's going to settle. Sooner or later.

Secondly, it means that any "genuine" countermeasures will be in the form of containment, rather than prevention. The less a given person can do, REGARDLESS of how well-equipt or well-trained they are, the less meaningful any attack becomes. The terrorist might as well stay at home and watch TV.

Containment does not violate civil liberties, as it would make it perfectly acceptable to relax security in many cases. Provided you prevent opportunist attacks, you've all the active security that you will ever need. You don't need a police state, you don't need to control anyone to be safe. There's no real harm anyone can do, in such an environment, so all the impact that people can have is going to be neutral or beneficial.

This is one key thing that the currently proposed measures ignore, totally. Active security blocks ALL changes from the norm. ANY difference will be visible, suspicious and ultimately crushed. Conformity will be the only way. Social evolution will freeze. Society will stagnate and rot. Sure, it won't get blown up, but imagine America being turned into a psychological green ooze, as the minds rot, and worms come out of their brains. (Pink Floyd's "The Wall" is all about this path, and where it leads.)

Passive security, by simply ensuring that harm is contained to as large a degree as possible, does not go in this direction. Want to prevent people hijacking an aircraft? Simply segment the passanger cabins, and ensure that any segment can be isolated. You then ignore the hijackers completely. Sure, that might result in some people being injured or killed, but even a hundred people is less than five thousand, and even that worst-case scenario assumes that the hijackers would automatically "retaliate", once defeated. There is no real reason to assume they would. It seems much more likely they'd try to bargain their way to safety, which rather requires NOT harming those in their "care".

What about the anthrax stuff? Well, if there was a CDC center in each and every State, if the CDC received enough funding to be properly & safely equipt, and if adequate health-care was a reality for all, then germ warfare would be impossible, and natural outbreaks would be contained rapidly.

You cannot stop people from producing deadly diseases. It's too easy. Most diseases that are serious threats are native to America, and exist everywhere in the environment. A bit of filtering, a bit of feeding, and anyone can build a biological weapon of mass destruction in their own back yard. Having spy cameras, sattelite photos, wire-taps, etc, is not going to stop anyone who is serious. All it does is cost a lot of money, and make the Government look like a bunch of power-hungry school-kids.

The only way to protect against biological or chemical weapons is to ensure that people have access to clean water, healthy foods, adequate medical care, and have good, solid information on hygine, recognition of symptoms & how to tell if they're "just common stuff" or not, and how different diseases transmit.

Let's face it. If people ate good, nutritious food, got vaccinations as & when needed, and had access to doctors who cared more about promoting a healthy nation than their own healthy bank balance, the risk of ANY disease, of ANY source, would be substantially reduced.

What we are seeing is the very worst possible reaction. The resources needed to combat the ills of society are being removed, and replaced by a whip. NOBODY has ever recovered from ANY ill by being beaten. Even if they've been told they should.

Last, but not least, nobody but an insane lunatic would commit any of the heinous acts we've seen and speculated about. Given that, if the world had spent the same amount of resources, say, 10 years ago, on world-wide mental health, as it is now, in bombing the living daylights out of a bunch of goat-herders, there would be no Taliban, no bin Laden, no terrorist organizations. Because there would be nobody with any need to wreck revenge on the world for supposed crimes.

What we are seeing is the product of our own indifference to suffering. Whether that suffering is the person next door, or the person 10,000 miles away, it really doesn't matter. By being indifferent, we create the psychotic, implaccable hatred that we're seeing today.

The terror we see today is the result of decades of abuse and neglect. Same as a child, who suffers abuse and neglect by all they encounter is more likely to see that as the norm, and therefore the way to be.

"Peace on Earth, and Goodwill to all Men" sounds "utopian", but all it really takes is placing bounds round our own evil natures, and removing the bounds around our good sides. I dare you to try it.

I agree...and I don't (3.50 / 2) (#7)
by Phage on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 07:07:25 PM EST

I agree that if humanity were closer to the angels then we would not have the problems we do now.
The Bad News is, we would not then be human.

Darwin shows us that all species, including our own, are inherently selfish as we compete for limited resources. I would rather that this was not so. I would hope that we are not hell bent on achieving Harry Harrison's "Make Room, Make Room" future. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests otherwise.

I must also take issue with this,

The terror we see today is the result of decades of abuse and neglect

Wasn't OBL the son of an sheikh ? I understand that whilst his religion is extreme, his childhood was not. Further, most of the identified terrorists were not poor Afghani kids but the sons of middle class and wealthy Saudi/Eygptian families.

Where religion is involved, logic goes out the window. The US is simply the most visible of the fat cats, therefore the biggest target. Admittedly the foreign policy has not helped, but in the end it comes down to the fact that the US is rich and meddlesome and the poor can always be recruited by the middle class to fight the wealthy. (refer Orwell)

I totally agree that the West hogs resources and spends them on appalling programmes, but I am also honest to admit that I am not going to surrender my western lifestyle if I can help it. (Refer Dubya's speech at Kyoto....I can't find a link).

I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.
[ Parent ]

I can't hear you, la la la la (none / 0) (#8)
by marx on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 05:04:09 AM EST

Wasn't OBL the son of an sheikh? I understand that whilst his religion is extreme, his childhood was not. Further, most of the identified terrorists were not poor Afghani kids but the sons of middle class and wealthy Saudi/Eygptian families.

Why is this relevant? My estimate is 100000 people in the US were directly affected by the September 11 attacks. Yet, essentially everyone in the US is pissed off at the terrorists, and want a counter-attack. How do you reconcile this with your statement?

I have never been directly affected by any US policy, yet I'm pissed off at a lot of US policies and actions. What is so hard to understand about this?

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

You're missing the point. (none / 0) (#15)
by Phage on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 11:52:03 PM EST

The article states that the attack was the direct result of years of abuse and neglect. I am making the point that this is not the case for most of OBL's group that have been identified so far, and is far from the truth in OBL case.

You might be pissed off, but have you taken any actions that would lead to the death of thousands ?

I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.
[ Parent ]

Encryption is beside the point (3.75 / 4) (#5)
by tudlio on Mon Oct 08, 2001 at 05:02:06 PM EST

It really doesn't matter whether the terrorists did or did not use encryption to protect their messages: if by encrypting their messages they could pull off another September 11, civil libertarians will have a hard time justifying the continued widespread availability of encryption.

What I find really interesting about this article is that it broke that link between encryption and terrorist success. According to the article, encryption is incidental to success, because the sheer volume of communication in the world makes it impossible to monitor it all successfully.

Therefore, if your goal is to prevent terrorism, you're smarter to allocate your resources on something other than intercepting communications, whether those communications are encrypted or not.

insert self-deprecatory humor here
Yes, better we watch encryption. (5.00 / 1) (#9)
by Tezcatlipoca on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 10:24:34 AM EST

Those messages when thrown at buildings by themselves in suicide attacks (coward encrypted messages) are pretty dangerous.

Those bits and bytes have such a destructive power that nukes look like thoes in comparision....
"They only think of me as a Mexican,
an Indian or a Mafia don"
Mexican born actor Anthony Quinn on
[ Parent ]
Encryption availability (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by sigwinch on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 08:40:01 PM EST

It really doesn't matter whether the terrorists did or did not use encryption to protect their messages: if by encrypting their messages they could pull off another September 11, civil libertarians will have a hard time justifying the continued widespread availability of encryption.
And what if the next attack involves the use of steel triangles with one vertex being a right angle? Will civil libertarians also have a hard time justifying the continued widespread availability of the Pythagorean theorem?

Because that's all encryption is: mathematics. The books have been published, the mathematicians have been educated, the sources posted to Usenet, the cat let out of the bag. The only meaningful question is whether the government will make the business communications and transactions of its economy vulnerable to the attackers by restricting encryption.

I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Encryption may raise suspision of wrongdoing (4.00 / 3) (#10)
by hillct on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 11:59:47 AM EST

Consider that only perhaps 2% of all email is ecrypted. Even if all email could be collected for observation, only the encrypted mail would hold interest for those wishing to intercept covert communications. Use of encryption itself would have drawn attention that would not have otherwise been paid to communications that might have been passed over as inocuous if unencrypted, even if it cntained flagged words.


--Got Lists? | Top 31 Signs Your Spouse Is A Spy
Finding the Encyrpted Mail Could Be Difficult (4.33 / 3) (#12)
by AArthur on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 02:17:57 PM EST

Assumingly if the terrorist where smart, and suspect the goverment might be looking at his mail, he would use some kind of code that looks perfectly innocent, but means something different.

For example, "don't forget to milk the cows at 5 PM" could be a code message for "fly a plane into the Corning Tower in Albany".

Or something like that. It's not difficult to make a crypto that is totally un-understandable to other parties, and difficult to crack.

Andrew B. Arthur | aarthur@imaclinux.net | http://hvcc.edu/~aa310264
[ Parent ]

The best thing about the linked article... (3.66 / 3) (#11)
by the trinidad kid on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 12:58:03 PM EST

...is that it gives you Osama Bin Laden's phone number.

(Unfortunately he stopped switching the satellite phone on after Bill Clinton tried to send a Cruise missile down the signal, but hey! globalism.)

Hi-tech or lo-tech? | 17 comments (16 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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