Daily Archives: December 8, 2010

Imagine

Probably sacrilege but here’s a cover of Imagine…

Bone-headed security decsions (homeland security edition)

Ah, you’ve got to love our anti-terrorism strategy.

  • Find an Arab speaker who’s got some criminal charges to work off.
  • Send him to a mosque or place where Muslims congregate.
  • Look for terrorists
  • If you can’t find any, look for people who need money or are mentally handicapped.
  • Bribe, beg, threaten, persuade, or cajole them to adopt Jihad (or at least say the right things into a microphone)
  • Get them to do something (no matter how incompetently) that might, be construed as furtherance of a terrorist action
  • Send in the SWAT team
  • Strut at the press release.

Case in point.

…the FBI has used informants…as one of many tactics to prevent another strike in the United States.

Monteilh’s mission as an informant backfired. Muslims were so alarmed by his talk of violent jihad that they obtained a restraining order against him.He had helped build a terrorism-related case against a mosque member, but that also collapsed. The Justice Department recently took the extraordinary step of dropping charges against the worshiper, who Monteilh had caught on tape agreeing to blow up buildings, law enforcement officials said. Prosecutors had portrayed the man as a dire threat.

And this is neither a recent or California only problem.  Chris Christie who was a U.S. Attorney before becoming New Jersey’s governor engaged in the same shady behavior in his prosecution of Hemant Lakhani.

Part of this is due to our screwed up judicial system that encourages prosecutors to dig in their heels and fight for convictions even when the evidence is shaky or, even when it proves the suspect’s innocence.

Some of it is laziness.

Some of it is incompetence.

Ayloush reported the FBI’s own informant to the FBI.

Members of the mosque told its leaders that they were afraid of Monteilh and that he was “trying to entrap them into a mission,”…The mosque went to Orange County Superior Court in June 2007 and obtained a restraining order against Monteilh, court records show.

After he vowed to go public…an FBI supervisor threatened him with arrest. “She said, ‘If you reveal your informant status to the media, it will destroy the Muslim community’s relationship with the FBI forever.”

Ah yes.  threaten your source and then appeal to him to keep quite because it’ll make your job easier.  Sounds like a plan.  Better prep Plan B.

At a subsequent meeting, Monteilh said, he signed a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for $25,000 in cash.

Let’s review.  Take a convicted felon.  Make him do all sorts of dodgy stuff.  Cut him loose and threaten him with arrest and then try to buy him off.  I’m sure we’ll be able to trust him now, right?  There’s nothing that’d get him to talk.

Whoops.

But Monteilh was arrested in December 2007 on a grand-theft charge and ended up back in jail for 16 months.

Just a guess.  He tried to get the FBI to get him off this in exchange for keeping him mouth shut (again) and went public when they wouldn’t (couldn’t?) play ball.

Very little of this makes us any safer.  But it generates cash (for participating agencies, security companies and assorted hangers on), the appearance that we’re making progress against terrorists and makes careers.

And, after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Bone-headed security decsions (wikileak edition)

Hey…Wikileaks is in the process of releasing 250,000 diplomatic cables written over the past four decades.  They’ve had the information for months now and have given at least some of it to the press.  What’s the U.S. government do?

Attempt to keep the information from U.S. government employees.  Never mind everyone else and their brother has access to it.  The U.S. government position is:

Classified information, whether or not already posted on public Web sites or disclosed to the media, remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. government authority.

Now, I can certainly understand the forbidding of the downloading and viewing of these documents on work computers.  After all, it there are pretty clear rules about the storing of classified information of work computers and having these on unclassified machines would make accountability difficult.  Besides, what the hell are you doing screwing around with Wikileaks at work anyway?  The fact that they’re extending the edict to include the personal computers of employees and contractors is what I don’t understand.

The information is out there.  Government policy does NOT prohibit people from viewing media accounts of classified information.

This requirement does not restrict employee or contractor access to non-classified, publicly available news reports (and other non-classified material) that may in turn discuss classified material, as distinguished from access to underlying documents that themselves are marked classified (including if the underlying classified documents are available on public websites or otherwise in the public domain).

So, if a media report quotes one of these documents at length do you have to report yourself or is that OK?  How much of the underlying document can you see without violating this rule?  How would you know?

A completely unenforceable rule which does nothing except further the exact opposite of what they intend.  Rules like this erode the idea of classified information rather than strengthen it.  After all, are we really to believe that the government will compare a list of everyone who has viewed or downloaded these documents (assuming you could do such a thing) against the list of every government employee or person who has a security clearance?  There are so many ways to see this information in unedited form that making rules like this only encourage dishonesty.  They’re going to encourage people to make up their own rules on the fly which will set the precedent to do the same in the future when thinking about secure information that isn’t out in the public domain.

The Social Security Administration has raised the possibility of criminally prosecuting government employees who access the data.

Individuals may be subject to applicable federal criminal statutes for unlawful access to or transmission of classified information.”

And what about foreign nationals that we give security clearances to?  Should we expel British diplomats if we find out they’ve downloaded the documents from embassy or their personal computers (after all, that’s espionage!)?

Guys, the information has been released.  No amount of sticking your fingers in your ears and screaming “La La La” is going to change that.  Thousands (millions?) of people are going to have access to and read some of these documents.  Deal with it.

Oh…but that’s not all.  Now, we’re trying to frighten college students.

Columbia University confirmed…that the Office of Career Services had emailed students at the university’s school of international and public affairs, a recruiting ground for the state department.

The office said it had received advice from an alumnus who “recommends that you do not post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter. Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.”

Ah…what a great plan.  I can almost imagine hearing it at some brain-dead meeting.

Flunky 1:  What are we going to do about Wikileaks?  We don’t want people to read our classified material.

Flunky 2:  I know!  Let’s encourage people to ignore the leaks.  We’ll do this by drawing an incredible amount of attention to them and make all sorts of unenforceable threats if they look at them.  Because, you know, people are never tempted by forbidden things.

Flunky 3:  And better still!  I’m sure this won’t encourage tech-savvy, information freedom activists  to spread the information further.

All together now:  Brilliant!

Perhaps the government could better spend it’s time by reviewing these documents and seeing if they could declassify at least some of them.  Keeping them classified at this point is really just silly.  They were classified when leaked so criminal charges against anyone responsible should still stand but c’mon.