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Open Source Law and National Security

By Baldrson in Op-Ed
Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 04:54:27 AM EST
Tags: Security (all tags)

How many paragraphs of rules and regulations can a society have before no one can predict how it will respond to critical situations? The answer, as demonstrated on 9/11/2001 is: "Not very many." Lawyers need to go open source and let the public bang on their code.

Among the horrors that lurked in the public mind as the events of September 11, 2001 unfolded was the realization that "the system" didn't work.

This seems obvious, but what isn't so obvious is what "the system" is:

"The system" is a fiction of lawfulness maintained by lawyers.

Imagine the outrage that would follow if programmers were to take over the government, automating every aspect of "the system". It would be obvious to everyone that something was wrong when only a select few could understand the "the code".

But let's look at the paragraphs of code underlying the lack of response by the military to the hijacking of commercial jet-liners on the morning of September 11, 2001.

  1. From directive CJCSI 3610.01A dated June 1, 2001:
    In the event of a hijacking, the NMCC will be notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA. The NMCC will, with the exception of immediate responses as authorized by reference d, forward requests for DOD assistance to the Secretary of Defense for approval. DOD assistance to the FAA will be provided in accordance with reference d. Additional guidance is provided in Enclosure A.
    Looking up "reference d" we have
    d. DOD Directive 3025.15, 18 February 1997, "Military Assistance to Civil Authorities"
  2. From directive 3025.15:
    4.7.1. Immediate Response. Requests for an immediate response (i.e., any form of immediate action taken by a DoD Component or military commander to save lives, prevent human suffering, or mitigate great property damage under imminently serious conditions) may be made to any Component or Command. The DoD Components that receive verbal requests from civil authorities for support in an exigent emergency may initiate informal planning and, if required, immediately respond as authorized in DoD Directive 3025.1 (reference (g)). Civil authorities shall be informed that verbal requests for support in an emergency must be followed by a written request. As soon as practical, the DoD Component or Command rendering assistance shall report the fact of the request, the nature of the response, and any other pertinent information through the chain of command to the DoD Executive Secretary, who shall notify the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and any other appropriate officials. If the report does not include a copy of the civil authorities' written request, that request shall be forwarded to the DoD Executive Secretary as soon as it is available.
    And reference g:
    (g) DoD Directive 3025.1, "Military Support to Civil Authorities (MSCA)," January 15, 1993
  3. From directive 3025.1:
    4.9. Emergency Priorities. When guidance cannot be obtained from higher headquarters on a timely basis, due to attack on the United States or other emergency circumstances, the DoD Components should apply DoD resources to MSCA in the following order of priority:
    4.9.1. To save human life and mitigate human suffering, and to protect essential U.S. Government capabilities, including: Continuity of the U.S. Government. Protection of U.S. Government officials. Prevention of loss or destruction to Federal property. Restoration of essential Federal functions. preserve or restore services of State and local government.
Did you follow all that? People differ on the interpretation of this chain of directives - some even believing the June 2001 directive to have been a deliberate "stand-down" by S.A. Fry (Vice Admiral, US Navy and Director, Joint Staff) to give Donald Rumsfeld the option of allowing a hijacking to succeed in drawing United States forces into a war in the middle east. Others insist the earlier directives created the bottleneck at the Secretary of Defense which led to a failure to respond to the hijackings of September 11, 2001.

But the most common "interpretation" of the above is something more along the lines of "Ah, who cares? Who can afford the time it takes to run down all the references and figure out to which section they apply? Even Google can't really solve the problem. Gotta go... The boss is on my ass to get a PowerPoint presentation together for the next funding cycle."

Some people are of the mind that this is OK since there are "top men" who are looking after our interests and are going to make sure everything is "logical" at the top levels. On the other hand, remember what the response would have been to "top programmers" taking over government and automating everything.

In one of the most militarily prepared societies in history, the Spartans outlawed written laws. One reason was that if the laws were so complex that the people could not comprehend them through acculturation -- which in Sparta was very intensive -- then such laws were merely impediments to an effective society. Writing could record precedents and myths -- all part of acculturation -- but not laws.

While it is generally accepted that a return to a Spartan system of law-through-acculturation is impossible, the comprehension problem hasn't gone away. It has gotten worse. It isn't so obvious that governance by lawyer (or their counterparts in military bureaucracy), which antiquated Spartan law, is going to survive technological civilization. As more people become familiar with the concepts of open source software engineering, they will increasingly wonder why, after nearly half a century of Moore's Law, do we have to put up with Byzantine systems of law so riddled with holes (sometimes called "loopholes"), many of which were intentionally engineered, the body of law resembles a maggot-riddled corpse more than a corporeal entity?

The hole in the New York City skyline is a ghastly reminder of the practical effect such "engineering" can have in a technological civilization.

If more people could have participated in the "testing and debugging" of "the system" it may have been possible to clear up the weak points in advance of events. If "the code" were in a form that personal computers could interpret, then Moore's Law could be applied to The Law, and the open source culture might have been able to participate in finding the potential holes in the national security.

In Hewlett-Packard's, now defunct, E-Speak project a lot of similar problems in formal language arose - problems with real-world legal consequences when electronic commerce is scaled up and automated. A system I asked the management to examine as a substrate for E-Speak was Natural-language Legal Expert System Builder which is based on Normalized English input. Normalized English allows automatic interpretation of test cases. An example was codified for a Tennessee law:

Subsection (a). IF AND ONLY IF (1)
(A) A person has threatened or attempted suicide or to inflict serious bodily harm on himself, OR
(B) The person has threatened or attempted homicide or other violent behavior, OR
(C) The person has placed others in reasonable fear of violent behavior and serious physical harm to them, OR
(D) The person is unable to avoid severe impairment or injury from specific risks, AND
(2) There is a substantial likelihood that such harm will occur,
(3) The person poses a "substantial likelihood of serious harm" for purposes of subsection (b).
Subsection (b). IF AND ONLY IF
(1) A person is mentally ill, AND
(2) The person poses a substantial likelihood of serious harm because of the mental illness, AND
(3) The person needs care, training, or treatment because of the mental illness, AND
(4) All available less drastic alternatives to placement in a hospital or treatment resource are unsuitable to meet the needs of the person,
(5) The person may be judicially committed to involuntary care and treatment in a hospital or treatment resource.
The important thing here isn't that this is that much more readable, or less Byzantine, than the directives governing military response to a hijacking crisis -- but rather this is automatically interpretable code that is about as readable.

If there is some need to employ huge numbers of programmers world-wide to codify private business logic then why stop there? How much more important is it to codify the natural language rules that govern our most critical public institutions in a no-less-readable constrained-natural language form that can benefit from Moore's Law on desktop computers now available to the public? If the rigors of open source can produce more secure software, can't similar rigors be applied to the law? What are the other options to regression test to see whether someone has, intentionally or unintentionally, put out a rule that "breaks the system"?

If their workmanship were as shoddy as the laws upon which technological civilization is based, the towering physical structures of technological civilization would be razed to the ground by building inspectors, as too hazardous for human occupancy. Humans deserve better from the legal profession than the body of law they are supposed to follow. The tools are coming available to apply the necessary engineering rigor.


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Related Links
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o directive CJCSI 3610.01A
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o Also by Baldrson

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Open Source Law and National Security | 90 comments (76 topical, 14 editorial, 4 hidden)
+1FP Well researched and written artical (1.33 / 9) (#7)
by RandomLiegh on Sat Sep 11, 2004 at 05:36:42 PM EST

Thnx. :-)

Thought of the week: There is no thought this week.
Hello (2.61 / 13) (#10)
by mcc on Sat Sep 11, 2004 at 06:46:49 PM EST

Programming is a process by which the interactions in a system of declared logic may be discovered and directed toward some functional end.

Law is exactly the same thing.

However attempting to consider these two things interchangeable would be a mistake. While being at some level similar, these two processes were designed to serve quite different goals. The differing manners in which things are declared in programming and law doesn't necessarily mean that law chose a poor way and programming chose a good way. Each of these things developed according to the path that made sense for the purpose they were meant to serve.

There are at least two fundamental differences between the fields of law and progrmaming preventing the concepts or practices of programming from being applied to law in any good way.

The first is determinism. Programming is intended to occur in an environment that we can expect to be entirely free of ambiguity. Hardware goes buggy, yes, but we generally are allowed to expect that for(int *p=0;;*(p++)=0); will do the exact same thing every time it is executed. We cannot assume the same thing about a piece of law. First off, law is not being executed by machines. It is being executed by humans, who are very subjective beings. Second off, one of the main reasons why programming may be considered logically sound to an extent most law is not is that all programming occurs in an environment where the exact meaning of every symbol used is wholly understood in every context with mathematical precision. Law occurs in human languages, such as english. Human languages are very slippery. The definitions of words change over time, and often the definitions of words are vague, or largely a matter of opinion. What is "serious harm", exactly? What about "mental illness"? We could perhaps try to come up with rigorous definitions of these things, but many of the concepts words in human languages are meant to define are things which cannot be objectively defined, such as "love" or "ethics". The easiest solution to the problem described here would be to try to define a workalike to english for the explicit purpose of defining our law, within which-- as in a programming language-- the exact way which each word or construct is meant to be parsed is clearly and unambiguously defined. The problem here is, that is exactly what current law is. Much of the reason why law is so baroque in phrasing and wording is that law documents are working off of a very specific sort of english, one in which every single word ("mitigate great property damage under imminently serious conditions") has some sort of as-unambiguous-as-possible definition outlined somewhere, or implied by the way which those words have been interpreted by the courts in previous cases. The reason why we need lawyers is because in a context where each word has so much hidden, precise meaning, you have to study for years to understand what is being said at all.

The second difference has to do with goals. Because of the determinism of the environments in which programming languages exist, it is possible to do a lot of things by implication. Much may be done in a computer program which was not explicitly written into the program, but happens because of the interactions between the parts of the program which are present. This is not an option in law. We can't just assume the implications we're expecting will happen. It isn't enough in law to describe merely the path for getting to the sorts of rules we want; everything has to be absolutely explicit, everything has to be spelled out in great detail. The reason for this is that in a computer program, there is a general understanding that if we don't understand ahead of time ALL the possible interactions within the program, this is not the end of the world; a "bug" from time to time is something we can live with. We can afford to get sloppy with our specification in CS. "Bugs" in law however have much more serious consequences. This is the remainder of the reasons why law is so unreadable; nothing may be left to the imagination ever, so lots of time in a legal document must be spent plowing through seemingly unnecessary verbiage such as "verbal requests". It isn't enough to create a map in law, you actually have to build a model of the landscape.

Trying to make law more comprehensible is an admirable goal; I agree with the point you make about inscrutable law being an impediment to, rather than an instrument of, the orderly functioning of society. However I think the approach you are suggesting to solve this problem is perhaps somewhat naive, as it ignores the reasons why law got to the messy state it's in in the first place.

Aside from that, the absurd meta-wankery of k5er-quoting sigs probably takes the cake. Especially when the quote itself is about k5. -- tsubame

Reductio ad judicare (2.87 / 8) (#12)
by Baldrson on Sat Sep 11, 2004 at 08:16:45 PM EST

As you point out, natural language has very slippery meanings and humans are very subjective creatures, etc.

If, in the process of attempting to better formalize the language of law, people realize that some objects are not formally describable, then they are confronted with the same problem workflow systems confront when attempting to formalize business processes.

The solution is to reduce the code to, at the appropriate times, query the human rather than the code. This is not an easy task, which is what could make lawyers worth their many years of education in the precise meanings of certain legal words.

In this sense it is best to think of humans not as the executors of law, but as judges.

-------- Empty the Cities --------

[ Parent ]

Better idea (2.82 / 17) (#11)
by codejack on Sat Sep 11, 2004 at 07:52:38 PM EST

Let's just make it so congress has to vote to retain a law every ten years, for every law. That would make them much more accessible to change, as well as give congress an incentive to keep the number and complexity of laws down.

Please read before posting.

codejack for president (1.33 / 3) (#24)
by Entendre Entendre on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 05:28:39 AM EST

You've got my vote.

Reduce firearm violence: aim carefully.
[ Parent ]

Ha, ha. (none / 1) (#44)
by gleffler on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 04:18:12 PM EST

That makes far, far too much sense to ever be implemented in the American governmental system ;P

[ Parent ]
No sh!t [n/t] (none / 0) (#54)
by codejack on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 08:54:49 PM EST

Please read before posting.

[ Parent ]
Sunset clauses (none / 1) (#69)
by Trevasel on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 11:26:21 AM EST

Many laws have sunset clauses. I once met a woman on a committee whose sole job was to find laws which were about to sunset, and prepare legislation to prevent it.

-- That which does not kill you only makes you stranger - Trevor Goodchild
[ Parent ]
You are on the right track, Baldrson (1.53 / 15) (#17)
by Jonathan Walther on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 02:08:34 AM EST

Most scientific atheists find religion an "icky" subject, so they don't study it deeply enough to see how supremely important it is to structure and cohesion of a society.

In part, it was your writings that led me down the path to being an out-of-the-closet Christian.

For Western civilization to survive, it needs to adopt the old-time raw, robust, blood-and-guts Christianity; the same stuff the conquered the world.

It is happening right now; it will happen.  Real Christianity is making great progress toward kicking the panty-waist Judeo-Christians into the flush-bin of history.

But what does that have to do with your article?  Simple; you mentioned the Spartan tactic of not letting the laws be written.  Although most people agree this is impossible now, I foretell that it WILL happen.

When Christianity takes over again, the law code WILL be easy to memorize; 613 simple laws from the Torah will once again be the law code of the land.  Everything else will be case law.  Even people with IQ's of 70 (you know who I mean) can memorize the rules.

Thank you for writing a thoughtful, informative article.  May Israel be made powerful once again, and Esau return to his rightful place as the servant of Israel, for the glory of Jesus.

If you want to see what our Israelite brethren are up to in the religious camp, I suggest you web search for Rousas Rushdoony and Gary North.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")

I am intrigued by your ideas (1.14 / 7) (#20)
by Empedocles on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 03:14:38 AM EST

and wish to subscribe to your cuneiform tablets.

Could you also include a hundredweight of stones in my order? I know it will place undue stress on your oxcart, but there are many heathen adulterers and homosexuals in my community. As the Good Book tells me to, I plan on stoning them to death and then engaging in carnal fornication with their recently deceased corpses.

Come to think of it, include some lubricant, too; I suspect that this may prove problematic when engaging in the latter part of my plan. As the Good Book prescribes, it must be none other than the rendered fat of deflowered babies not older than one year.

To find my place of residence, take a left after you cross the bridge, then immediately take another left, and then another left. I'll be the good-looking one with the green hair.

And I think it's gonna be a long long time
'Till touch down brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home

[ Parent ]

Not Manu (1.66 / 6) (#22)
by Jonathan Walther on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 03:21:01 AM EST

I follow the Torah, not the byzantine codes of Manu and Hammurabi, you heathen.  Take your vile Moloch worship elsewhere.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")

[ Parent ]
Sir (1.77 / 18) (#21)
by kitten on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 03:20:40 AM EST

If the Dali Lama was laying on his deathbed, and the famed jazz musician Miles Davis tried to explain to him the importance of tuning one's car timing to the resonant frequency of a bass clarient, that discussion would be mildly more useful and coherent than what you just said.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
613 Laws? (1.50 / 2) (#29)
by Xptic on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 11:13:26 AM EST

You spout about being a christian, but you apparently have no clue about Biblical law.

The 613 laws apply only to Jews.  When the Jews were led out of Egypt, they had no clue as to how to be a nation.  They needed to be told that things like "lying with your father's wife" were bad.  So, God gave them those laws to allow them to prosper vice self-destruct.

Fastforeward to Christ.  Christ fulfiled the Law of Moses.  He also ended it.  It was replaced with two laws:  "Love the Gord thy God" and "Love thy neghbor."  All the other laws were null and void at that point.

So, I doubt anyone could be taken to court for not "loving the Lord thy God".  But not loving thy neghbor could be prosicuted easily.

[ Parent ]

The Jews were never slaves (2.66 / 6) (#36)
by Jonathan Walther on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 01:42:11 PM EST

The Jews were not led out of Egypt; the Israelites were.  The 613 laws were given to Israel, NOT to the sons of Esau.

You are correct that some laws are not enforceable by man.  That makes the scope of civil law enforcement even narrower.  Biblical law leads to a moral libertarianism.

You may also note, many of the laws have no penalties specified, apart from God's own blessing and cursing.

Christ COMPLETED the law (which some Bibles translate as "fulfill").  In Hebrews, Paul said exactly what that meant; it meant Christ's perfect blood sacrifice replaced all the other blood sacrifices in the law code, because they were insufficient.

Christ himself said, "By no means will one jot or tittle of the law pass away until the heaven and earth also pass away".  That doesn't leave much room for doubt; Jesus stood FOR the law; he did not abolish it.

That is why the Judeo pastors are going to roast in hell forever, for leading their flocks into Satan-worshipping rebellion against Jehovah.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")

[ Parent ]
This makes half-sense (1.66 / 3) (#19)
by ultimai on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 02:48:50 AM EST

I don't really get this. What are you trying prepose? How would an 'open source' legal system work? Or are you just complaining about a crufty legal system? I thought of the problems of law being fourfold: corruption/politics, the conflict between exactness and a system that isn't too narrow / rigid, and holding on to old conventions, and the lack of abillity to overthrow and reform everything.

Topical Ointment Needed (2.71 / 7) (#31)
by Peahippo on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 12:06:53 PM EST

Among the horrors that lurked in the public mind as the events of September 11, 2001 unfolded was the realization that "the system" didn't work.

No, the system provably failed at its weakest link: the Commander-in-Chief. As another example of how GWB is a man who was constantly promoted over his ability, there was nothing about the 911 attacks that produced confusion about what to do.

When GWB raised his hand to take the oath of office on Jan 20 2001, he had been fully briefed -- as are all other President-Elects -- on the role of Commander-in-Chief. This is not a role with any confusion or without precedent. When GWB raised his hand on that cold day in January, the "football" was nearby, and has never left his side since. Other apparatus of military command and control are also with the President, always. GWB like other Presidents was fully authorized and empowered to respond instantly in case of an attack on the USA.

If we assume that GWB can read, he well knew about the 1993 WTC attacks and much of the philosophy behind them. He also knew about Bin Laden. And in fact he would've been fully briefed on such threats, beyond public knowledge in the details. And finally, in Aug 2001, he been fully briefed on the possible use of aircraft as suicide bombs. If anyone knew about terrorist threats, it was him.

So by the time his aide whispered in GWB's ear, the President had several critical minutes to react, based on his proven knowledge of terrorism (see above) and his proven requirement of duty (see above).

So what did Bush do? He sat on his hands for up to 7 minutes. A minute is a long time in military command and control, yet Georgie Boy threw entire minutes away. He could have scrambled interceptors, which are always kept ready on bases across America (especially on the coasts).

Did the Congress impeach him for this? No. Do the American people even seem to care (*) about those Nixon-esque "missing minutes"? No. Conclusion: GWB is getting away with his crime scott-free, and the Empire will continue to sink into its own mediocrity. Any attempt to place blame upon "the system" and not "the Commander-in-Chief" are just more of the same mediocre forces at work.

(*) I've heard all the excuses when Americans attempt to dismiss those minutes -- everything from "GWB didn't have enough time" (false!) to "you can't impeach a President in a time of war" (false!). Save your excuses if you want to reply and give me one of the standard dozen. Americans have become so stupid and complacent that it just makes my head hurt.

That's even worse... (2.60 / 5) (#35)
by Baldrson on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 01:38:16 PM EST

It's bad enough to have an emergency defense key infrastructure in a major metropolitan center have to go through the Secretary of Defense, but the Commander in Chief? Look, that just isn't the way a rational system works. Any one of the jurisdictions surrounding the World Trade Center, from Federal to NYC Chief of Police, should have had the authority, information and means to shoot down both of the incoming aircraft. Did anyone really think about this before the first aircraft smashed through the WTC tower?

-------- Empty the Cities --------

[ Parent ]

Worse? No. (none / 1) (#51)
by Peahippo on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 07:11:34 PM EST

It's either a low-level response (regional commander is notified by radar and emergency techs, who then moves to scramble incerceptors) or a high-level one (must involve a non-military official, like Sec'y of Defense). At any rate, if the low-level response was crafted to avoid a direct response of self defense, then the high-level policy makers are at fault (like Rumsfeld is personally responsible for the abuses in Abu Ghraib -- yes, he is, but we still don't want to charge him for it, and that's another failing of the American people). It all comes back to the Joint Chiefs and above, doesn't it? Again, America doesn't want to hear that. Americans still want to figuratively trudge past the crematories, pretending the stench in the air smells like fuckin' roses.

[ Parent ]
Low level response? (!!!) (none / 0) (#83)
by cdguru on Thu Sep 16, 2004 at 02:26:32 PM EST

Are you kidding? Low-level response is what caused flight KAL007 to be shot down. The local commander decided the plane was in Russian airspace and it might be a spy plane. The fact that it didn't act like a spy plane or even look that much like a spy plane to the pilot, didn't matter - he had his orders.

You do not want that kind of "low-level" authorization in the US.

That kind of authorization can only come from the top. And it should take a while. The Mayor of NYC should not be deciding to kill 250 people because of a "strong possibility".

[ Parent ]

I think you're wrong again ... (none / 0) (#85)
by Peahippo on Thu Sep 16, 2004 at 08:48:22 PM EST

... but it's just as well; I was wrong myself. One other poster pointed out from the 911 Report that the timeline showed planes WERE scrambled, seemingly long before GWB was told. This strongly suggests a regional commander had at least the authority to intercept. The next question we'd naturally ask is: could said regional commander issue a shoot-down order on his own? Well, I just don't know. I have the 911 Report on my "to read" list.

[ Parent ]
How about this (none / 0) (#42)
by minerboy on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 03:36:35 PM EST

Fighter Jets did Scramble, they were too late for the WTC. Jets scrambled near DC were confused, and flew in the wrong direction, so they missed the pentagon, and others were moving to intercept flight 93, when the passengers apparently took it down - I remember numerous conspiracy theories saying that they actually did shoot flight 93 down. The "missing minutes" idea is a michael moore straw man.

[ Parent ]
Smokescreen (none / 1) (#50)
by Peahippo on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 07:03:29 PM EST

Links, please. Put up or shut up. What we've had for 3 years is rumors. Rumors of military action in the skies of America == no actual action. To wit: Bush failed to scramble jets in time ... and he had plenty of time.


[ Parent ]
read the 911 report (3.00 / 4) (#56)
by minerboy on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 09:49:11 PM EST

Available here From the first section, page 36 :8:19 Flight attendant notifies AA of hijacking 8:21 Transponder is turned off 8:23 AA attempts to contact the cockpit 8:25 Boston Center aware of hijacking 8:38 Boston Center notifies NEADS of hijacking 8:46 NEADS scrambles Otis fighter jets in search of AA 11 8:46:40 AA 11 crashes into 1 WTC (North Tower) 8:53 Otis fighter jets airborne 9:15 - president leaves elementary school 9:16 AA headquarters aware that Flight 11 has crashed into WTC 9:21 Boston Center advises NEADS that AA 11 is airborne heading fighter jets airborne 9:24 NEADS scrambles Langley fighter jets in search of AA11 -

"their testimony and in other public accounts, NORAD officials also stated that the Langley fighters were scrambled to respond to the notifications about American 77,178 United 93, or both.These statements were incorrect as well.The fighters were scrambled because of the report that American 11 was heading south, as is clear not just from taped conversations at NEADS but also from taped conversations at FAA centers; contemporaneous logs compiled at NEADS, Continental Region headquarters, and NORAD; and other records. Yet this response to a phantom aircraft was not recounted in a single public timeline or statement issued by the FAA or Department of Defense.The inaccurate accounts created the impression that the Langley scramble was a logical response to an actual hijacked aircraft.- so clearly the 7 minutes the president spent in the school had no effect.

[ Parent ]
Please archive parent post (1.50 / 4) (#46)
by NaCh0 on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 04:35:23 PM EST

Your severe misunderstanding of the issues underscores why the democrats will lose in November.

K5: Your daily dose of socialism.
[ Parent ]
Too Succint (2.50 / 2) (#49)
by Peahippo on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 07:00:10 PM EST

One sentence? Surely you can spare a couple more sentences to outline the issues that allegedly I missed. Or is your aim contentless response?

[ Parent ]
You are missing the forest (none / 0) (#90)
by NaCh0 on Mon Sep 27, 2004 at 06:11:30 PM EST

Step back for a second. The problem is putting 110% of the blame on the President for what a handfull of Arab douchebags did on 9/11. Fact is, we had systemic failure. It likely would have happened to whoever had the office. This is a situation where the authorities have to be correct every time and the bad guys have to break through just once.

Stupid comments like "If we assume that GWB can read" reflect poorly back on yourself.

K5: Your daily dose of socialism.
[ Parent ]

Why would any fighter matter? (none / 0) (#82)
by cdguru on Thu Sep 16, 2004 at 02:21:52 PM EST

I ask you, after recent events in the US and elsewhere in the world where we have hung fighter pilots out to dry for various reasons, why would any USAF pilot respond in a timly and effective manner to shoot down a passenger airliner that had been hijacked before Sept. 11th?

Let's see here, the pilot may have been ordered to check out the airliner, but there is no way a shoot down order would have been given until everyone confirmed nineteen ways that it was indeed the right plane and that it was indeed not what we considered before Sept. 11th as a "normal hijacking". You can forget about 7 minutes - this would have taken much longer than that.

Failure to follow such a protocol would have left the fighter pilot open to all sorts of repercussions. What if it was the wrong plane? Without a transponder, they would have to verify the tail number. What if it was an "ordinary hijacking" where the plane was going to land with everyone on board being safe? Do you really think that before Sept. 11th anyone would really take the chance on being wrong with that kind of a decision? No way.

I absolutely agree that today any hijacker runs the risk of being shot down and all passengers being written off. The situation became very, very different after around 12:00 EDT September 11th 2001.

[ Parent ]

This would be cool. (3.00 / 3) (#39)
by Entendre Entendre on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 02:40:58 PM EST

We'd need an open-source implementation of Prolog, though. If you think the electronic voting stuff is disturbing, just you wait 'til companies that donate heavily to the other political party start writing the decision-making softwar for the executive branch.

Reduce firearm violence: aim carefully.

Yes but XSB is a better foundation (3.00 / 3) (#43)
by Baldrson on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 03:36:55 PM EST

We'd need an open-source implementation of Prolog, though.

Well NELSB is based on prolog already but a lot of problems with the foundation of prolog are resolved if you use something more like XSB (and XSB is open source).

There are already executive decision support systems out there being used by government. The point of this system is not to replace them but to codify things that can be codified logically.

-------- Empty the Cities --------

[ Parent ]

bookmark -nt (none / 0) (#89)
by Highlander on Thu Sep 23, 2004 at 05:22:11 AM EST

So you don't vote down my bookmark, a little info:

Don't bother googling for NELSB. There is a conspiracy to get it removed from the web and you'd get probably be sued by the guy named nels b. ;-)

XSB is a Logic Programming and Deductive Database system, has some java interfaces and is hosted on sourceforge.

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
[ Parent ]

gprolog (none / 1) (#47)
by gpig on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 04:44:06 PM EST


[ Parent ]
Good luck. (2.33 / 6) (#48)
by pb on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 05:53:01 PM EST

I'd also mention Cyc, and the definition of terrorism put forth by Bush.

Put the two together, and who knows what conclusions it could infer? I'd be interested to find out...
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall

Cyc would be excellent for this. (3.00 / 3) (#58)
by Baldrson on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 11:18:15 PM EST

You're right about Cyc. Although the purpose for which it was designed, common sense AI, is beyond its capability for precisely the reasons others have pointed out such systems as NLESB are incapable of replacing human judgement, it is an excellent deductive database with a lot of good features.

-------- Empty the Cities --------

[ Parent ]

Yeah, good luck with that. (2.57 / 7) (#52)
by Kasreyn on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 08:02:30 PM EST

The complexity of the law is the only reason lawyers have a job, and you're proposing that Congress - nearly every member of which is or was a lawyer - to change the "system" in such a way as to destroy the legal profession.

On anther topic, how goes your effort on convincing tobacco farmers to go door-to-door with nicotine patches as a public service? :P


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Right... and Wrong (3.00 / 3) (#59)
by Baldrson on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 11:24:27 PM EST

The problem with your argument is that people are convinced the system can be changed within the system. If they would start looking at technology as a means of changing the system they would be a lot further along. The point here is not to get people to legislate the use of such tools but to just start using such tools for analysis of rules and regulations. The military, as screwed up as it is, still has enough of a mission that there is a pretty good chance it would do something like this if geeks with connections started seeding the idea. When the military gets to the point they have a good system in place, with human judgement factored out into human inputs and the rest of the rules logically consistent and testable -- the benefits will be obvious to the rest of the executive branch. There will start to be pressure from the executive branch, therefore, to get somethng like this done.

Ultimately the lawyers have to choose: Do they want their weasel words or do they want to be safe in their Nth story corner offices?

-------- Empty the Cities --------

[ Parent ]

The difference between lawyers and the military (1.75 / 4) (#62)
by Kasreyn on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 01:02:04 AM EST

is that the military have to perform to at least a certain standard; ie., there are real enemies in the real world, so there is a limit to the perversions of reality that those higher up in the military hierarchy can indulge in. They have to maintain at least enough contact with reality to be able to be effective in battle. If they're not, things could be even worse than failing the people who put them in power and possibly being removed from power: they could get killed, or captured and executed for war crimes. So they have a strong incentive to keep their illusions under some sort of mild control.

Lawyers have no such handicap. Even though they too engage in something competetive, it's in an arena designed for them. Since the other side in a case is represented by another lawyer, and the judge hearing the case is almost always a former lawyer, there is no one who is actually against them. It's simply a large game they get to play with other people's money, and so there is simply no requirement that they modify the rules they play by to take into account anything having to do with reality. They can make up whatever rules they want for the game, since no one else is allowed to play, whereas the military can't exclude others from their game (at least, until the gun control nuts finally get their way ;-).

I imagine lawyers would really enjoy playing Calvinball even more, but they wouldn't get paid as much.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Evidence of the problem... (none / 0) (#64)
by Gooba42 on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 04:04:36 AM EST

No one who has ever gone in with the expectation of changing the system to any significant degree has succeeded.

How many good causes are having effort brought to bear and are getting nowhere fast?

The business of the system is to ensure continuation of the system. This isn't inherently a bad thing but it is something to keep in mind.

[ Parent ]

Bah. You forget the power the lawyers have. (none / 1) (#78)
by Kasreyn on Tue Sep 14, 2004 at 12:41:21 AM EST

If something threatens their profession, they don't just sigh and twitter and wonder what to do.

They make it illegal.

It's the best con game the world has ever seen. If any technology threatens the complexity of law that keeps lawyers in paychecks, that technology will be outlawed so fast it'll make your head spin.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Outdated (2.42 / 7) (#53)
by SanSeveroPrince on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 08:24:47 PM EST

Lawyers ARE open source, and you DO get to bang on their code. It's called the political process, and if you pay attention, you CAN make a difference.

Fortunately for the powers that be, most people are happy in their niches, and don't really care about what goes on in the gilded halls of power.


Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think

Seen any abandoned Ryder trucks lately? (2.60 / 5) (#57)
by Baldrson on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 11:05:51 PM EST

The political process is a dead end. The positive feedback system of buying votes has so many loops its impossible to kill within the system.

Come back when you've gotten a piece of reform legislation credited to you by the primary sponsor. I have.

-------- Empty the Cities --------

[ Parent ]

Brilliant (none / 1) (#63)
by SanSeveroPrince on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 03:55:43 AM EST

Never have I seen so many words with so little content.

If you really do have a piece of legislation to your name, then you know that what I'm saying is true. Stop all the mental masturbation, then.


Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think

[ Parent ]
Laws are just laws. (2.60 / 5) (#67)
by Baldrson on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 10:38:54 AM EST

Laws become meaningful to the precise extent that they are meaningful to people who can influence the courts. At present that influence is far more concentrated in the lawyer class than it should be. If interpretation of the logical implications of the law is more widely available due to Moore's Law then we'll be getting somewhere. At present, laywers can simply give their interpretations and the rest of us have to either take it or pay them enough money to change their minds.

-------- Empty the Cities --------

[ Parent ]

It's not like (2.33 / 3) (#71)
by SanSeveroPrince on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 12:47:47 PM EST

You were in a court settlement recently, were you? The law is needfully complex. It's because of all the crying hippies and liberals, of which I am one.

Lawyers are not a secret caste. They do not have access to forbidden knowledge. If you wish to become intimate with the intricacies and details of applying a constitution to everyday life, its exceptions and its inconsistencies, then no one's to stop you: law is one of the few fields where intelligence is not a requirement. Go ahead and learn to your heart's content.

If you're unhappy with the current system, then you vote differently. Unless you live in the US, in which case you're fucked anyway.


Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think

[ Parent ]
well (none / 1) (#73)
by speek on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 01:41:33 PM EST

There is this thing called the Bar Exam, and if you haven't passed it, you will not be permitted to try to convince a jury of your interpretation of the law. Go ahead and learn to your heart's content, but it won't do you any good. And law school and that bar exam are generally very expensive.

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Understand (1.00 / 2) (#80)
by SanSeveroPrince on Tue Sep 14, 2004 at 07:15:03 PM EST




I believe you have failed points 1 and 2. No one ever mentioned BECOMING a lawyer. The talk stopped at understanding what one says.


Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think

[ Parent ]
following your advice (2.00 / 2) (#81)
by speek on Tue Sep 14, 2004 at 09:22:05 PM EST

From Baldrson's post that you responded to.

Laws become meaningful to the precise extent that they are meaningful to people who can influence the courts

From your post:

If you wish to become intimate with the intricacies and details of applying a constitution to everyday life, its exceptions and its inconsistencies, then no one's to stop you

Then, my post:

There is this thing called the Bar Exam, and if you haven't passed it, you will not be permitted to try to convince a jury of your interpretation of the law. Go ahead and learn to your heart's content, but it won't do you any good.

I think you are the only one thinking that learning the law and not becoming a lawyer is "where the talk stopped".

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

No Paid Lawyers (2.80 / 5) (#55)
by kenmce on Sun Sep 12, 2004 at 09:18:15 PM EST

You might want to mention that Savannah Georgia tried to outlaw paid lawyers.  If there were no money to be made complicating them, the laws might be simple enough for ordinary people to understand.  


Now that sounds like a damn good idea (none / 1) (#68)
by Nursie on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 11:25:11 AM EST

These days you would probably one you need to implement everywhere at once, after a big effort to simplify the coding of existing laws. I applaud the effort though.

And what a visionary way of starting a new society, with the goal of making the laws accessible and understandable to all. I almost wish I could have been a pioneer back then....

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
i think you're one step away (1.50 / 8) (#61)
by fleece on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 12:54:42 AM EST

from having to throw a sink through the window to escape, I always have.

Once again you have overanalysed something to the point that you have totally missed the ovbvious reason for this happening. As a tribute to your ramblings that are the antithesis of Occam's razor, I'd like to propose a new term - methodological expansionism, or a catchier title: Baldrson's Razor

Baldrson's Razor - When two explanations are offered for a phenomenon, the most complicated, unlikely explanation is preferable, particularly if Jews are implicated. PS, you forgot to blame the Jews.

I feel like some drunken crazed lunatic trying to outguess a cat ~ Louis Winthorpe III
You don't seem to know what you talk about (2.66 / 6) (#65)
by boxed on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 05:08:40 AM EST

Law cannot be implemented in programming languages because they are even harder to understand to normal people than the horribly complex lawspeak the US uses. What is needed is, like common in Europe, an independant government entity that proposes changed laws, where the change is ONLY in readability. Replacing words that haven't been used in 50 years with modern language for example.

Another thing would be to stop with the horrible feature bloat of US law. If you want to change something you add to the law, you don't change the law. The constitution for example should be updated to incorporate the amendments and simplified.

Predication vs Programming (3.00 / 2) (#66)
by Baldrson on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 10:32:54 AM EST

Under the proposed reformalization of law, the public will be interested in querying the body of law for its logical implications -- not in reading and comprehending the law itself. Processing those queries is the problem.

The big difference between predication and programming is determinism. Predication is relational (non-deterministic) while programming must be functional (deterministic). This doesn't mean, of course, that we can't simulate predication with programming -- indeed we do it all the time with relational databases, multi-threaded systems, etc. -- but its just not a natural fit. Perhaps quantum computing will be a natural fit but for the time being we're stuck with predication systems that exponentiate into intractability.

The important thing to keep in mind here is that even if we limit ourselves to predicate systems that can be practically simulated, Moore's law is an exponential and has given us a lot of simulation room.

This doesn't mean we can solve the "common sense" problem of AI without some major advances (such as quantum computers or some similarly radical breakthroughs in software simulation of cognition) but what it does mean is that we can take Byzantine systems of logic and have automated systems crank out logical implications to a much greater degree than most people can afford to achieve.

-------- Empty the Cities --------

[ Parent ]

Sanity (none / 0) (#70)
by Zaak on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 12:43:17 PM EST

Processing those queries is the problem.

...for the time being we're stuck with predication systems that exponentiate into intractability.

The only sane solution in such a case is to cut out any portion of the law which requires exponential evaluation time. Just think, if a computer requires weeks, months, or years to answer a question of the law, how can ordinary people be expected to know the answer?

The purpose of the law is to communicate to each resident of the community what behaviors are required of them. If residents are unable to understand the requirements of the law they are supposed to live by, the law has become a joke.


[ Parent ]

You don't seem to know what you talk about either (none / 0) (#75)
by http on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 06:12:35 PM EST

There's more to programming than imperative languages. Look up Haskell, ML or Prolog. Such logic languages shine when dealing with declarative data, which describes laws to a T.
-- I was once accused of pedanticism, but I responded with "Ahem, pedantry."
[ Parent ]
unfortunately they are just as hard to read (none / 0) (#79)
by boxed on Tue Sep 14, 2004 at 11:31:02 AM EST

and if laws can't be read there can be no freedom

[ Parent ]
I'm confused, Baldrson. (1.40 / 5) (#72)
by awgsilyari on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 12:50:21 PM EST

I can't seem to find the anti-Jewish sentiment. Can somebody please help?

Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
Lawyers -----> Jews Get it? (3.00 / 2) (#76)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 07:42:57 PM EST

But seriously, racists aren't cartoon villians.  And it does little good to mistake them for that.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
[ Parent ]
You seem a bit fixated on Jews, awgsilyari. (none / 0) (#87)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Tue Sep 21, 2004 at 09:20:48 AM EST

Why is this?

AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
[ Parent ]
The purpose of law (2.60 / 5) (#74)
by mikepence on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 01:59:43 PM EST

The purpose of law is to maintain power and control in the hands of whichever Yale Skull'n'bones blue-blooded bureaucrat happens to be our dubiously elected "choice" for "change."

Somebody tried to open source religion once and make it make sense, and look what they did to him.

As Ambrose Bierce said (none / 1) (#77)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 07:47:05 PM EST

    One skilled in circumvention of the law.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
Programmers != Geniuses (none / 0) (#84)
by cdguru on Thu Sep 16, 2004 at 02:47:28 PM EST

Sorry, but you seem to have the mistaken idea that a subject that has a great deal of deterministic behavior and requires clear, logical thinking carries over to an extremely subjective, non-deterministic environment. One deals with stuff displayed on a screen, the other with people's lives. I'm not buying into any sort of association between programming and law.

Where we are today is that most of the world has gotten behind the idea that the application of law is something that should not be left to a single person's judgement and that even when multiple people have jointly decided something that there should be reviews of it. This is not universal throughout the world, but it is how things work in most of what we call the civilized world. The problem that some people haven't figured out is while there is an absolute truth, it is in very short supply and there is never enough of it when you need some. In programming, there is often quite a bit of absolute truth - if you do something wrong, it doesn't work in extremely predictable ways. Even with something as simple as murder, it is rarely so clear cut and finding just a truth that people can agree on as being the truth is difficult.

Then you would like to tackle something on a whole different level - government regulations. These aren't exactly laws that affect everyday people but are instead the rules by which the government functions. They are sometimes (incorrectly, I believe) called "laws" but there effect is different. We do not elect people to create such government regulations and rules - you are unlikley to find any trace of such things in the Senate or House. However, the people that do create such things are appointed and approved by elected officials.

The process by which the regulations and rules that you point out is not a nice, clean, logical one. It involves a great deal of compromise, deal-making and overcoming of inertia. One of the biggest problems that I have seen is dealing with various petty empire-builders at lower levels. This is how bureaucracies operate, and this pretty much describes the functioning, rule-making machinery of all Western governments. Is it the most effective way to do things? Not really. Does it get the job done better than any other way that has been tried? Absolutely. Bureaucracies weed out both the terminally ineffective (eventually) and the zealots (you need this rule because I want you to have it) much, much better than any other system.

So please, let's not combine the legal system (laws) with the government bureaucracy (rules and regulations). And let's remember that both sets are enforcable only because we let them be enforced. A government agency that decides it is going its own way is pretty much about the same as if a town decides lynching people is OK. If we collectively decide that murder of White people is OK, no law enforcement in the world is going to change that. China has decided copyright is meaningless (for the most part) and no outside enforcement is going to change that.

Where the open-source analogy fails: forks. (none / 0) (#86)
by glor on Sat Sep 18, 2004 at 04:26:49 AM EST

You suggest that law be written using an open-source model, where the general public has the ability to change laws to make them more "readable."  However, most open-source software projects have some review mechanism through which changes are approved by some central authority before being released to the public.  This is necessary to prevent the introduction of security holes and whatnot.  Of course, under most free software licenses that "authority" doesn't actually wield much power:  if suggested changes are not included in the project, other people are generally welcome to distribute alternate versions with those changes included.  This is commonly called a "fork," since the two projects typically diverge after such a split occurs.  

With law, however, this option of amicable disagreement doesn't exist.  Many legal issues are founded in ideological differences, with advocates of various sides unwilling to compromise on life-and-death matters.  Clearly, even if it is possible for ordinary people to change the law, it must not be allowed for me to write silly things like, "Section G:  Reading section G is a felony punishable by execution, to be administered by glor on alternate Tuesdays."  It's easy to imagine cases where proponents of different ideologies might take turns rewriting the law in their favor.  What's the status of these laws?  Are they valid when written?  When approved?  After some waiting period?  Locally?  The last is the closest equivalent to a fork; while local government has its place, defense regulations and such make sense only on a national scale.  Your article discusses laws with national scope.

The question, then, is what approval process is used to codify these "clarified laws."  As other posters have pointed out, this is basically the system already in place in the US.  You are perfectly free to identify awkward or inconsistent sections in the law, rewrite them, and ask your various legislators to codify your changes.  For that matter, anyone (almost) may serve in the legislature themselves, simply by winning an election.  The only obstacle is the size and opacity of the law, which is just what you're railing against.

Disclaimer: I am not the most intelligent kuron.

Interesting, prolog, MULTIAC (none / 0) (#88)
by Highlander on Thu Sep 23, 2004 at 05:11:37 AM EST

Writing laws similar to prolog code would make them easier to verify, but not easier to read and memorize.

Especially if you consider the human tendancy to bloat everything till it gets "sophisticated", so I think even if it would be easy, people will then just add more rules to it. Considering that programs are hard to debug, you might get funny results, like a mild sentence for the guy who killed his parents because he is a lonely waif.

And who will shutdown MULTIAC once the interpretation and execution of law has been fully automated?

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.

Open Source Law and National Security | 90 comments (76 topical, 14 editorial, 4 hidden)
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