Assume the Position
Friday, November 15, 2002
MAD Myopia. I have long believed that most people have such a myopic concentration on MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) that they completely miss what has always been at the core of US nuclear doctrine. MAD is a game for near-equals and has little or nothing to do with vastly unequal opponents such as the US versus Iraq.
The core US nuclear doctrine could best be called "Must Use" — the US will only use nuclear weapons when it must, and the US has maintained large and competent conventional forces to reduce the number of Must Use situations to a minimum.
Nuclear retaliation for a dirty-nuke detonated in the port of Savannah or use of chemical weapons on or off the battlefield is NOT a Must Use situation. We would certainly retaliate and destroy any regime that committed such acts, but it would probably be through conventional means.
If Iraq were to use WMDs, the US is not going to drop a city-buster on Baghdad because we can, or because the traditional international law of right of reprisal would allow it. It would be tempting and a lot of people would call for it; but the standard view is that the Iraqi people are held hostage by a murderous regime and we are not likely to visit nuclear devastation upon them just to destroy the regime. Even the circumspect use of a small tactical nuke against a single, hardened, undoubtedly military target would be politically unacceptable as a reprisal. [It would be politically unpalatable but acceptable if the target were, say, a hardened launch control facility for WMD laden ballistic missiles and it was the only sure way to prevent their imminent launch. But that is a Must Use situation, and doesn't apply to Iraq and its mobile SCUD launchers.]
That Kandahar and Kabul (and even Baghdad) were still standing on the morning of 12 September, 2001 should have shut up all those who expect a "knee-jerk, reactionary, cowboy, overwhelming retaliation" response from the US.
First, the arsenal of US nuclear weapons has shrunk dramatically since September 1992, when Bush 41 denuclearized the US Army, which had a lock on small-yield atomic warheads. Since then, the Army has had none. Even the smallest Air Force warheads are many kilotons in design yield. Neither the Navy nor Marines ever stocked tactical warheads. (All this info is current as of my retirement from the Army in 1995, but you can bet that the Clinton administration didn't buy more nukes.)
In the immediately prior post he explains why "using WMDs against US troops is a no lose move for Saddam."
Both are well worth reading.
Everybody on the bandwagon. There they all go. Andrea Hudson's 'A supersnoop's dream' in the Washington Times is par for the course:
Language tucked inside the Homeland Security bill will allow the federal government to track the e-mail, Internet use, travel, credit-card purchases, phone and bank records of foreigners and U.S. citizens in its hunt for terrorists.That is almost completely wrong and the part that is correct is basically meaningless.
The Total Information Awareness (TIA) program does NOT appear in either the Senate (S. Amend. 4471) or House (HR 5710 - PDF) versions of the bills. [The defeated Senate amendment is a little harder to get because THOMAS builds the files on the fly so links are temporary. Use this link, then click the link at "3 . TEXT OF AMENDMENTS," then click "Printer Friendly Display."]
The "project" did NOT "first appear" in any of those bills. It is an existing DARPA project.
What does appear in those versions of the Homeland Security bills is the creation of a DARPA counterpart. It was called SARPA in the defeated Senate amendment (Section 135), in the House version (Section 307) it is called HSARPA (Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency).
While it is obvious to think that the TIA project would transfer from DARPA to HSARPA, it is equally obvious that killing HSARPA would do nothing to TIA—it would just remain a DARPA project.
More important is the fact that the Homeland Security bill does NOT do what Hudson's first two scary grafs says it would. Hudson herself gives the lie away in the third-to-last graf:
Authorizing the project would require amending the Privacy Act of 1974. The language contained in the homeland security bill does not address the act directly, but authorizes the creation of the agency.And even there she is basically wrong. The TIA project can proceed regardless of which agency it falls under and the Privacy Act need not be amended unless the project actually produces a successful universal-schema-parser and the government wants to then interface it into various private sector datastreams or other uses which would require Privacy Act exemption.
To put this kind of "reporting" into perspective, I'll address another portion of the Homeland Security bill:
Language tucked inside the Homeland Security bill will allow airline employees to indiscriminately kill, cripple and maim foreigners and U.S. citizens in the course of their routine duties.However, this type of misleading scare tactic does get results, which is shown by Section 880 of HR 5710 - Homeland Security Act of 2002:
SEC. 880. PROHIBITION OF THE TERRORISM INFORMATION AND PREVENTION SYSTEM.Thus we can expect some new amendment to become Section XXXX of the Homeland Security Act next week:Any and all activities of the Federal Government to implement the proposed component program of the Citizen Corps known as Operation TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System) are hereby prohibited.
SEC. XXXX. PROHIBITION OF THE TOTAL INFORMATION AWARENESS PROGRAM.And everybody will be happy, until the next major incident when they will all scream "Why didn't you connect the dots! Why don't your databases interface with each other!" And no one will dare point a finger at Mr. Safire, or Phil Kent, president of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, or Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or Barbara Simon, a computer scientist who is past president of the Association of Computing Machinery, or Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office and Katie Corrigan, an ACLU Legislative Counsel.Any and all activities of the Federal Government to implement the proposed Total Information Awareness program are hereby prohibited.
Thursday, November 14, 2002
Oh, give me a home
Where the tinfoil hats roam,
Quake in their boots;
Information on the research program that William Safire wants stopped from the BAA 02-08 (Broad Agency Announcement) Proposer Information Pamphlet (PDF) for proposals for Information Awareness projects.
Elements of an effective counter-terrorism solution include gathering a much broader array of data than we are currently capable of doing, discovering information from elements of the data, creating models of hypotheses, and analyzing these models in a collaborative environment to determine the most probable current or future scenario. DARPA has sponsored research in some of these technology areas. The Information Awareness Office intends to conduct additional research and development to accelerate, integrate, broaden, and automate current approaches to be able to predict and hence preempt future terrorist actions against us.PROGRAM IMPLEMENTATION:
The Government anticipates multiple awards in each of three technical areas. A multi-phase approach will be needed to achieve program goals. Proposers should note that approaches with eclectic ideas from multiple technical specialties or communities are actively sought. The degree of advances will vary among the three technical areas of interest, but the goal is to create a series of prototype systems that add value quickly and improves rapidly over the program schedule -- the primary goal is a series of leave-behind prototypes with limited set of proof-of-concept demonstrations in very high risk areas.DURATION:
Research under this BAA is expected to last for five years. During the first 36 months a range of ideas will be developed via limited demonstrations and preliminary prototypes. During the final 24 months the most promising research avenues will be extended to support production of a scalable leave-behind system prototype.Of course, the government must be lying about the schedule to all the potential proposers because Safire says that all the evils of this system will happen "in the next few weeks" unless your "public outrage" gets it shot down.
And this requirement
To protect the privacy of individuals not affiliated with terrorism, DARPA seeks technologies for controlling automated search and exploitation algorithms and for purging data structures appropriately. Business rules are required to enforce security policy and views appropriate for the viewer's role.is obviously a sham, because Safire says the goal is "to create computer dossiers on 300 million Americans."
Now, you can start screeching about the evils of Total Information Awareness projects along with Safire, or read the IAO BAA and other IAO project info to try to get a clue. Certainly there are dangers of abuse in any large system.
The National Security Community has a need for very large scale databases covering comprehensive information about all potential terrorist threats; those who are planning, supporting or preparing to carry out such events; potential plans; and potential targets. In the context of this BAA, the term "database" is intended to convey a new kind of extremely large, omni-media, virtually-centralized, and semantically-rich information repository that is not constrained by today’s limited commercial database products -- we use "database" for lack of a more descriptive term. DARPA seeks innovative technologies needed to architect, populate, and exploit such a database for combating terrorism. Key metrics include the amount of total information that is potentially covered, the utility of its data structures for data entry and use by humans and machines in searching and browsing, data integration, and capability to automatically populate, and the completeness, correctness, and timeliness of the information when used for predictive analysis and modeling in exploiting the information in these repositories. It is anticipated this will require revolutionary new technology.However, one key thing to remember is found in Robert O'Harrow Jr.'s Washington Post article:
But he [Poindexter] added that his mission [at DARPA] is to develop the technology, not the policy. It would be up to Congress and policymakers to debate the issue and establish the limits that would make the system politically acceptable.Of course, Safire and you know the TRUTH—why bother having discussions about appropriate data access when it's easier to whip up enough "public outrage" to prevent the technological developments that would make such discussions necessary in the first place.
And so it begins again. Having discredited and derailed Operation TIPS without knowing much of anything about it, the North East Media has now decided to go after the Total Information Awareness (TIA) System research project. William Safire explains (link via Glenn Reynolds):
Political awareness can overcome "Total Information Awareness," the combined force of commercial and government snooping. In a similar overreach, Attorney General Ashcroft tried his Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS), but public outrage at the use of gossips and postal workers as snoops caused the House to shoot it down. The Senate should now do the same to this other exploitation of fear.You can expect to see Ritt "The Git" Goldstein have a hysterical editorial passed off as news in the Sydney Morning Herald any day now.
Why don't these folks just come right out and say what they want?
Over on the Volokh Conspiracy, however, Orin Kerr, who pointed to the Markoff and TIA links, actually asks reasonable questions such as, "is it actually what many civil libertarians have been saying the government needs to do to fight terrorism?" and makes the following point:
It's hard to evaluate these arguments, I think. The article spends a lot more time discussing reactions to TIA than explaining what TIA actually is or does. But it seems worth noting that, at least based on the available descriptions of what TIA does, it's unclear why the opposite view (TIA as something civil libertarians have been calling for) isn't correct. As best I can tell, TIA is notable in one very important respect: it is essentially a database, rather than a means of collecting information. In other words, TIA doesn't actually gather information, "peek" anywhere, or "spy" on anything. Instead, it is a program that takes information collected elsewhere and looks for trends in the data that might point out something suspicious. It's a database of databases, not a tool for collecting evidence.Unfortunately, I don't expect to see many other reasonable questions, or many people accept reasonable answers once the storm of editorials and ACLU press releases hits.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002
The worm has turned and European officialdom hasn't caught on, yet.
Europeans do not yet get this, the great sea change that has taken place in the American foreign policy establishment. It would be easy to date this from the terrorist attack on 9/11, but it goes back further. I can recall hearing the first faint notes of this leitmotif of American contempt, like the distant hunting call in some Wagnerian opera that foreshadows the musical thunder to come, during the Bosnian crisis in 1993-95.When "a professional and highly experienced Foreign Service officer with a wide range of friends and contacts across Europe" says, "You want to know what I really think of the Europeans? I think they have been wrong on just about every major international issue for the past 20 years," and then reels off a list of half-a-dozen examples, you can guess that Washington is really growing tired of nagging and whining from the impotent and irrelevant councils of the Continent.
Tuesday, November 12, 2002
Dead man talking. Al-Jazeera has broadcast a new audiotape purported to be from Osama bin Laden.
People who have listened to hours of bin Laden tapes said the voice sounds like that of the al Qaeda leader. It is not known when the tape was recorded, but it refers to events as recent as October.
The BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner said the audio tape carried a message true to al-Qaeda's style.The BBC also provides the full text of the statement.
Sunday, November 10, 2002
Where does much of the aid money go? To the "real cultural imperialists." There is an Associated Press "exclusive interview" with Afghan president Hamid Karzai. At the end of the article is the following (emphasis added):
Karzai complained that promised aide and development money was not reaching his poor country's 21 million people, struggling to emerge from 23 years of war.The initial funds get sucked dry setting up those John Kelly, recently returned from Afghanistan, calls the "Toyota Taliban©" in an email to The Angry Cyclist where he further debunks Marc Herold's dubious and duplicitous calculations of American caused civilian deaths (emphasis added).
For many Afghans, anyone wearing an ISAAF green uniform (ranging from troops from Ireland and Great Britain to Australia, New Zealand and Turkey) is de-facto 'American' and eye-witness reports of casualties are always attributed to these generic Americans. There is a substantial case to be made that the great majority of total casualties in Afghanistan in the past year are not American at all. I know: I spent the summer in Afghanistan working (interviewing and filming) hundreds, maybe thousands, of people from every province and every walk of life and party affiliation, from peasants and Koochies to members of the government and top UN staffers Quite surprisingly, I rarely heard a single complaint from any Afghan, including those in the Islamic Council of Nationalities and Tribes, about American bombing accuracy or any subsequent skirmishes directed against Al Q'aeda/Taliban resulting in civilian deaths. I would, however, occasionally hear a discouraging word from the odd Swede or Swiss NGO careerist grumbling about imperialism, which is a joke since the indigenous population see the western European grief-relief workers as the new "Toyota Taliban©". The real cultural imperialists are the NGOs.