November 22, 2002


It's been a while since this site highlighted terrorist activity on the web, so John Berger has sent me a site at I'm not providing a direct link because I don't want to be held liable for the virus that the site tries to put on your system when you enter. I'm not kidding--don't go there unless your anti-virus software is up to date and activated. You've been warned.

If you do venture over there, though, you'll see that it quickly autosends you to a geocities address--these twits are using the dorkiest free hosting service in the world to run their terror site! And let me tell you, it's an awful site, both in terms of content and aesthetics.

John suggests we start a pool to see how long it takes geocities to figure out that terrorists are sqatting in their free domain. Knowing geocities, I'd say it takes them a while. But in the mean time, it's probably worth sending a little note to the FBI...
Posted by B. Preston at 05:20 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack


My lovely wife, who hails from Japan, is currently reading a book about a German doctor's travels in North Korea. Dr. Norbert Vollertsen travelled extensively throughout North Korea in 1999, earning the trust of the government there through his medical skills. As he travelled, he saw the North Korea that Kim Jong Il hopes no outsider sees--the poverty, the starvation, the brutatlity that the Stalinist regime uses to stay in power. Dr. Vollertsen eventually got himself expelled from North Korea for speaking out against its abuses, but thankfully he compiled an extensive diary of his travels. He has published it, titled Diary of a Mad Place. My wife is engrossed by it, to the point where she's becoming angry at her own government for not doing more to help the US deal with Kim. I thought I would pass the title along to you. If you happen across it, read it. Here's a Time Magazine story about it from early last year.

One day, probably after we've had to save the world from a madman yet again, the full truth about North Korea's truly brutal nature will come out. I know, it's common knowledge that Kim is a sadistic tyrant, but there's even more to the story. For instance, scores of Japanese have been kidnapped, just plucked out of school yards and off of beaches and even from their own homes, by North Korean agents. The purpose seems to have been to use these purloined humans to "educate" North Korean spies and special operators in all things Japanese--the language, the culture, everything--so that these agents could infiltrate Japan and blend in to await some future mission. It's very chilling stuff when you consider the implications, and the fact that some Americans are also among the captives. What did Kim have in mind for them? Sadly, the Japanese government seems to have known about the kidnappings all along but did nothing about any of them. The tragic saga of one mother's discovery of her daughter's disappearance at North Korean hands 20 years ago is now forcing Tokyo to face up to its responsibility to its citizens. Japan and North Korea have some tough talking to do before relations between the two should ever even approach normalization. And Japan should cut off its aid to Pyongyang immediately, in the face of North Korea's recent disclosures about its nuclear program. But Tokyo deserves some blame here too--it knew, and did nothing to stop the kidnappings, and never even broached the subject in its talks with North Korea until forced to do so. War guilt surely explains some of Tokyo's hesitance, but not all of it. A nation must act to protect its citizens from outside hostile powers--it's a government's most basic responsibility. In this, Japan has failed its citizens.

One day we may have to take on Kim Jong Il the way we're currently taking on Saddam Hussein. Both are dangerous psychopaths, and Kim is likely a psycho with a nuke. Japan will play a critical, maybe even decisive, role in the coming Korean conflict whether it takes the form of negotiations or war. Like Germany, France and the rest of the Europeans who have been living on America's dime for half a century, it's time for Japan to grow up. We'll need a mature partner in Asia in the coming years, and Japan should be that partner. Millions of North Koreans who starve every day under the thumb of an insane tyrant will one day depend on a mature and healthy Japan to help save them.

UPDATE: The omnipresent Chris Regan sends in this link to a story indicating that Japan's Self Defense Forces are already quietly shifting their focus. Recent JSDF exercices with local police indicate that Japan is planning to deal with potential incursions from North Korean spooks.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:39 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Lately I've been defending my faith against attacks from Andrew Sullivan and Senator Tom Daschle. While I've been right (at least in my own mind) to mount such a defense, I have to say I've come to some understanding of why some people do hate Christians. Now, don't misunderstand me here--both Sullivan and Daschle have been dead wrong in calling us dangerous and so forth. We're not terrorists, as even a cursory understanding of us and our faith demonstrates clearly, and we're not out to set up an Old Testament-style theocracy in the wake of this month's election results. We're just not, and all the condemnation from Sullivan and all the poisonous rhetoric from Daschle won't make it so.

But, last week began a sort of relevation for me on the subject of Christian intolerance. It does exist--that much I know now for certain. Last week, Relevant Magazine published a little political piece I'd written about the election. Since I'm a social conservative Christian, I naturally wrote the article from that point of view. I didn't pretend to speak for all the 1.2 billion Christians in the world, just for myself and like-minded folk. Relevant, which is a great site by the way and shares no blame here at all, allows readers to comment on articles, much like this very blog. Allowing comment is a healthy thing overall, and for me the instant feedback of audience comment is one of the best parts of having a blog. Well, suffice it to say that most of the readers who posted comments at Relevant didn't like what I had to say. But rather than try and refute me on the merits, most of them attacked me personally. Keep in mind this is a Christian mag, and judging from most of its articles it skews young (college age and a bit older) and socially conservative. I've been surprised to see this kind of reaction, and the kind of hate directed at me from these so-called Christians. So tonight I responded thus:

I think some of you folks who are engaging in personal attacks should step back a second and think about what you're doing. You may not agree with the article's perspective, or its strategic ideas or its philosophical underpinning, that is your choice. But disagreeing does not give you the right to personally attack me. I wrote an article based on a request from Relevant--they wanted a piece about the recent elections, and I volunteered. I write for Relevant as a hobby, and figured that since I've spent more than half my life interested in politics (and I'm 32, former military, former journalist, currently a science writer, multimedia producer, and occassional political commentator, for the person who hopes Relevant will get writers with "more experience") writing this article would be something I could tackle for the magazine.

I've written and had published a number of articles in other journals, and write on my own site daily. My audience in other magazines and on my own site is made up of Christians, Jews, athiests, agnostics, and even a few Muslims, and though I'm just as opinionated elsewhere as I am here, none of the other audiences have ever directed such a stream of vitriol at me as most of the commentors here have. It's disappointing to see such hostility coming from an audience that one assumes is mostly Christian, but it has also been illuminating. I'll no longer wonder why so many who seek God come to church for a while, get to know a few Christians, and then get turned off to our faith forever. The commenters on this site have helped me to understand how that happens. It happens when people who call themselves Christians act no better, and sometimes worse, than non-Christians, and when so-called Christians reward someone who takes a stand by forcing them to take a beating. So I thank you for attacking me as you have. It may help me understand and relate to the next person I come across who has been given similar treatment by similar "Christians."

Bryan Preston

So to those of you who hate Christians, I haven't joined you by any means but I do think I probably have a better understanding of why you hate Christians. You've seen anything but Christ-like behavior from people calling themselves followers of Christ, and you may have even been abused to some extent by people claiming to act in Christ's name. I can't say I blame you for your disgust at the sight of a church or a preacher. If I had gone into the incident at Relevant a non-Christian, I would probably have turned away from faith too.

Oh, and by the way if you happen to look over on those comments at Relevant, try and figure out which side of the political aisle all of the critics are coming from. I'll give you a hint--they're not Christian righties. Ok, I'll just come out and say it--they're all, every one of them, leftists. Christians, possibly though it's hard to tell, but definitely hard left. Personal attacks and a refusal to actually debate issues seems to be the left's--in both its Christian and secular forms--standard operating procedure these days.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:08 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

November 21, 2002


Woo-hoo! We've nabbed al Qaeda's top guy in the Persian Gulf region. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, suspected mastermind of the bombing of the USS Cole and the East Africa embassies, is now in our hands. He's a Saudi native, which makes we wonder if he wasn't nabbed there and handed over. All the stories I've seen indicate that the country that got him doesn't want public acknowledgement, which would fit Saudi Arabia, a kingdom that's nervous about the whole Iraq thing and probably eyeing the Nigerian Miss World riots, which have claimed 50 lives thus far.

Which is more than a little odd, when you think about it. Miss World has caused more anger on an "Islamic street" than our driving the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. Message: knock off our governments if you want, threaten to invade us if you must, but for Allah's sake don't send us a plane full of gorgeous women. That's asking for real trouble.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


The Pentagon is looking into the feasibility of tracking consumer purchases, ostensibly to look for tell-tale signs of terrrorist activity:

Edward Aldridge, undersecretary of Acquisitions and Technology, told reporters that the Pentagon is developing a prototype database to seek "patterns indicative of terrorist activity." Aldridge said the database would collect and use software to analyze consumer purchases in hopes of catching terrorists before it's too late.

"The bottom line is this is an important research project to determine the feasibility of using certain transactions and events to discover and respond to terrorists before they act," he said.

Aldridge said the database, which he called another "tool" in the war on terror, would look for telltale signs of suspicious consumer behavior.

Examples he cited were: sudden and large cash withdrawals, one-way air or rail travel, rental car transactions and purchases of firearms, chemicals or agents that could be used to produce biological or chemical weapons.

As a civil libertarian, I don't like this idea much. We've all seen, and many of us even remember, what ill use can come of FBI dossiers in the wrong hands. Imagine the power this kind of information could give a truly sinister government operator.

But, as someone who promotes government efficiency, this system may have its uses. Budget types in the Pentagon may use it to discover lots of useful things, such as Home Depot, where hammers don't cost $10,000 and toilets don't cost $20,000. They may also see that an awful lot of people buy their computers at a place called Dell, where fast machines are routinely very cheap. Who knows what other cost-savings budget hawks may find in your credit card records and mine?

So I'm a bit divided about this whole idea. It's bad for civil liberties, but may be good for government bargain-hunting.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:47 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 20, 2002


Forrest Gore, inventor of the Internet, savior of Love Canal, dreaded enemy of the internal combustion engine, populist fighter who's always fighting somebody about something because, well, that's all he knows how to do, is back and continuing his idiotic one-droid crusade against President Bush and his handling of the war.

Remind us, Mr. Gore, just what did your administration do when it had the chance to take out Osama bin Laden?

Still waiting....

Those crickets are deafening....

Was that a shooting star?

Hmmmm...I could use this quiet time to meditate....

That Vulcan chick on the new Star Trek is pretty hot, but I like the linguist better. The Moe Howard haircut just doesn't do it for me....

What was I waiting on? Oh yeah, Forrest Gore's box of anti-terrorist measures.

Tap, tap,

Man, I need to get some Christmas shopping done, so I'm outta here. If you think of anything, Mr. Gore, just email me.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:36 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


Senate Minority Leader (soon to be...) has finally lost it. Today, he compared Rush Limbaugh and other righties to Islamic terrorists. And he thinks politics is entertainment:

"I think we're in a different place because of the way politics has become such entertainment. We were just talking with some experts a couple of days ago about how if we're going to try to break through as Democrats, we have to have the same edge that Republicans do," said Daschle in a press availability this morning.

Where to start? Well, first, politics in the post 9-11 world is anything but entertainment. Politics is about who is most fit to lead and defend this country. The Dems--your party, which you lead, Tom--offered nothing but obstructionism and opportunism this year. You gave us no reason to think you'd do any better than the GOP, and lots of reasons to think you'd do worse. As for edge, I'd say plenty of Dems have edge, it's just an abrasive, irritating and sometimes nauseating edge, and as such turns thinking people off.

"You know, Rush Limbaugh and all of the Rush Limbaugh wannabes have a very shrill edge, and that's entertainment. We were told that even people who don't agree with them listen because they – because they're entertaining."

There's that edge crap again. Is he shilling for shaving gel or what? And that "we were told line" shows how out of touch the guy is. Of course people who don't agree with Limbaugh listen to him--they even call him, and he even puts them on the air, and he even gives them a couple of seconds to make a point before he guts their arguments. Anyone who's listened to radio in the last 15 years knows this without having to be told about it. Sheesh.

And, you know, but what happens when Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public life is that people aren't satisfied just to listen, they want to act because they get emotionally invested. And so, you know, the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically and – on our families and on us in a way that's very disconcerting. I don't think it's appropriate for me to dwell on that or to even go beyond that.

Why? If you have something, spill it. Put up or shut up, Tom. Truth is, you're full of it and you know it. Limbaugh listeners aren't content to just sit there, you're quite right about that, but to then make the leap to insinuate violence is obscene. When we get motivated, by Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, whoever, we do act--by voting. Against you. Maybe that's the "danger" you're really scared of--getting bounced next time you're up for a vote.

But I will say that it has created a far different dimension. When I was accused of being an obstructionist, there was a corresponding and very significant increase in the number of issues that my family and I had to deal with.

Issues? What is he talking about, unread--and unreadable, really--back issues of The Nation piling up on his coffee table, what? Put up or shut up, Tom.

And I worry about that. If entertainment becomes so much a part of politics, and if that entertainment drives an emotional movement in this country among some people who don't know the difference between entertainment and politics and who are then so energized to go out and hurt somebody, that troubles me about where politics in America is going."

This man represents the party that thinks Barbra Streisand has something to contribute to the political scene. This man representst the party that takes in truckloads of cash from Hollywood moguls, and which hired TV producers to try and script Bill and Hill's first year in office. And he's decrying the entertainment aspect of politics? That's rich.

Asked if he thought there was a direct link between the talk radio criticism and the threats to his personal security, he answered: "I do. Oh, absolutely."

"You know, we see it in foreign countries, and we think, 'Well, my God, how can this religious fundamentalism become so violent?'" Daschle said. "Well, it's that same shrill rhetoric, it's that same shrill power that motivates. You know, somebody says something, and then it becomes a little more shrill the next time, and then more shrill the next time, and pretty soon it's a foment that becomes physical in addition to just verbal. And that's happening in this country. And I worry about where, over the course of the next decade, this is all going to go."

Tom, if you really want to see a good example of what you're talking about, look no further than your good buddies at They start with a little innuendo, then follow it up with a little half-truth, then just out and out accuse Republicans of mass murder. American Christian fundementalists are again the boogey man here, in the slip he makes between what he sees going on in foreign countries and what he claims (lying) that he sees going on here. Put up or shut up, Tom. Name names or get off the stage. So name a name the senator will:

Is the media causing this problem?

"No, I'm saying that the media plays a role in creating this foment, in creating this – this extraordinary emotional fervor that is sometimes not – not contained and, therefore, then leads to other – other actions that are outside the control of anybody in the media or anybody in politics," explained Daschle.

Who exactly in the media is responsible?

"The talk shows." said Daschle.

Like Rush Limbaugh?

"Right," said Daschle.

Bingo! Rush Limbaugh is the Mullah from Missouri. This all is starting to sound so...familiar. Where have I heard this kind of stuff before? And when?

Oh yeah--1995. After April 19 of that year, to be precise. On that day, some nuts blew up a building in Oklahoma City, killing 168. President Clinton, whose presidency was moribund and who had seen the Congress switch from his party to that other one as a direct result of his incompetence, siezed the day and blamed the mass murder on--who? Rush Limbaugh. That's who.

And what followed was a slow but brutal reversal of fortune. Clinton became, simultaneously, the mourner in chief and the accuser in chief, helping the nation bind its wounds while at the same time accusing half of that nation of complicity in the violence on the Murrah Building. And it worked, boy did it work. Clinton's approval ratings lifted; the Republicans' sank like an intern to her knees in Clinton's Oval Office.

Methinks that Tom Terrific is trying to work a little of the ol' Man from Hope mojo. Get the Republicans and our radio gadflies on the defensive, get the public talking about something other than the issues that have hurt Tom's political standing, such as, you know, minor stuff like THE WAR, and try to hold back the wind long enough to change its direction.

Ain’t gonna work though, no matter how hard you lie. To paraphrase an old Dem hand, Tom, I’ve seen Bill Clinton, and you’re no Bill Clinton.

But keep trying, Tom. Keep accusing Rush Limbaugh, and by implication the 20 million who listen to him every day, and all of us Christians out here who've never done a thing to harm you in any way. Most of those people, and millions more, actually do agree with his politics and therefore disagree with yours. And with each fumblefingered accusation, you create a few more people who are thoroughly disgusted by your craven lies.

Keep partying like it's 1995, Tom. Because it's 2002, there's a war on, and we don't need you to win it.

UPDATE: Welcome to all you folks coming in via the Sarge, the Professor, the Godly Blog, the Gun-Toting Scholar Chick, and other points. Don't forget to vote for the JYB over at Blog Basher if you want to see this site torn apart graded by the hack gentleman who runs that worthless time-wasting troll fine and important site.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:48 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack


Slate's Will Saletan has come up with a list of ways we, the US, can keep Saddam from weaseling out of the latest UN disarmament effort. It's a good list, and gives credit where it's due:

6. Don't hold out for cooperation. Blix said he was going to Baghdad this week to seek "cooperation with the Iraqis." That's asking for trouble. If everyone agrees to do the right thing, great. But if not, and if you can do it by yourself, go ahead. If you insist on Iraqi cooperation, you give Saddam the power to set terms by withholding cooperation. Ditto for France, Russia, China, and the rest of the Security Council. If Bush had insisted on getting the council's cooperation in demanding new inspections, he would never have gotten it. He got it by making clear that if he didn't get it, he'd go to war.

That's point I think most Bush critics miss--the goal of inspecting and ultimately disarming Iraq was only attainable by a huge and determined campaign of sabre-rattling. The sabre-rattling had to be credible, or no one would have followed. The sabre-rattling must remain credible, else Saddam will just play the clock like he always does and sneak out once again. Bush critics rightly worry that war will have unintended consequences--it undeniably will. But so will the status quo. Leave things as they are, and Saddam gets to continue flouting the Gulf War cease-fire agreement which left him in power in exchange for divesting himself of all WMDs. This is bad for international law, as other rogue states can use Saddam as a model for their own behavior--think North Korea--and bad for the peace of the world, as Saddam will be unmolested in his pursuit of WMDs. Bush critics ultimately fail the test of thinking through their criticism to its likely result--if Bush doesn't act to rein in Saddam, the world becomes a far more dangerous place than it already is. By rattling America's gigantic sabre and pushing the world to act, the Bush team is on the right track to making the world a safer place.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 19, 2002


I've just gotten home (okay, an hour or so ago) from a screening of the new Kevin Kline film The Emperors Club. If you've seen the TV ads or the trailer, it probably looks familiar to you--it walks like Dead Poets Society, it looks like Dead Poets Soceity, etc. I'm currently writing a review which will eventually show up at Relevant, but here's the nugget--this ain't Dead Poets Society. It's better. It's a decent, humane and somewhat surprising morality tale, and Kevin Kline is terrific in it. It opens on the 22nd.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Count me in, Vincent. How about you readers out there?
Posted by B. Preston at 04:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


I wasn't going to go online and write anything tonight. I'm tired--no, drained. My energy level is hovering somewhere just above absolute zero, I don't know why and am in no mood to get into some navel-gazing clinch to find out. A thousand things--a thousand anythings--are irritating me right now. So I felt like if I came online to blog, I'd just be phoning it in. Yet here I am, watching the Rams and the Bears with one eye, while the other proofs what my fingers are tossing up on the screen.

Speaking of phoning it in, it seems that Osama bin Laden, our Bond movie-esque arch enemy, is still alive. The feds tested that audio tape, concluded that it's him, couldn't detect any signs of editing (though editing is increasingly easy to mask, as I explained a few posts back), and since he seemed to be referring to recent attacks, decided that the old mousefart must be alive. Well. And he wants us all to convert to Islam OR ELSE. It seems that Osama phoned his latest missive in and had it recorded, poorly, and therefore without any picture. It makes me think either he looks really bad, as in wounded or ill, or he's had his appearance altered in some way and didn't want to show off the new 'do just yet. Maybe it'll turn out that he's the real killer O.J. has been looking for all these years. Whatever. While he yet breathes, he is still very much a dead man. He won't survive this war. Part of me is glad that he's still alive--since 9-11 I've imagined a scene where some nameless American CIA or Special Ops type fights his way into to Osama's final lair, wiping out all of weirdbeard's guards in the process, and confronts the madman face to smelly face. Instead of dying in defiance, Osama cries like a six-year-old girl who's lost her lolly, begs for his life, offers the American millions of dollars to forget he ever found him. Calmly, resolutely, and with extreme moralilty, the American just picks Osama up by the scruff of the neck and drags him, kicking and screaming and with tears carving out little canyons on his dirty cheeks, out so some dusty paddy wagon. Osama spends the rest of his days locked in a little cage on Gitmo, never standing trial so long as we continue to hunt down his minions, and ratting on all his former troops until every last one is either in our custody or dead. Eventually he dies, a wretched, broken figure, knowing that he single-handedly brought about the end of radical rule in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and several other jewels in his imagined crown. Oh, and he goes straight to hell on an express ticket.

So I don't mind that Osama may indeed still be alive. It just means we can still catch him and humiliate him. Then bury him in a three-foot-thick bag made of pig skin.

Whether OBL is still alive or not, though, is no measure of how well the war is going. I remember saying to a friend, in my pre-blog days, that this war will be the weirdest war the world has ever seen. Wars are usually staccato affairs--long periods of chess moves and preparation, then flurries of brutal combat, then more planning, then another flurry, and so forth until someone wins. This war will be fought off the headlines, for the most part off-camera and likely away from anywhere future historians will be able to pry. I'm not saying that's a good thing, just that it's the nature of fighting a stateless enemy. We'll pick off a terrorist here, dam up a money artery over here, arrest a couple of guys on visa violations over there that turn out to be terrorists, and so forth. Occassasionally we'll get a headline--like the Predator strike in Yemen (which the Bush administration actually wanted to keep from getting to the press)--and sometimes an actual battlefield victory, such as a year ago in Kabul. But to say that because the head honcho of al Qaeda is still alive and at large means we're losing is strategically unsound, tactically dumb and politically cynical. I'm talking about the former vice president's remarks, of course, in which he said that pretty much everything the Bush team has done since taking office will bring about the end of the world as we know it. Hearing Mr. Gore say such things makes me more glad than ever that he lost Florida, and thereby the White House. I shudder to think of how he might have handled the war. I suspect it wouldn't have been pretty, and I think his administration's track record for failing to ever seriously deal with al Qaeda bears me out.

Imagine if, in the middle of 1942, some Republican presidential hopeful had stood up and said that because Admiral Yamamoto was still alive, we were obviously losing the war against Japan. That man would have been laughed right out of public life, and rightly so. I think we're too tolerant of the stupidity and amorality of our public figures nowadays. The fact is that Mr. Gore and his former boss did precious little to counter the growing threat from bin Laden, when they knew where he was and were even once offered him by the Sudanese government. He therefore has no--zero--credibility when he critiques the war effort currently underway. We're now fighting the war he and his boss had not the courage to fight, both against al Qaeda and Baghdad. On that subject, Mr. Gore now says that he favored regime change in 1991, and though Congress passed a resolution giving him and his boss the green light to enact regime change in 1998 and he decided against, he also says he's against regime change in Iraq now. Why? Is Saddam Hussein any less hostile, or any less likely to create mischief, now than he was four years ago, or eleven years ago? No. So what's with the change of heart over the past decade? Politics, pure and simple. In 1991, he could horse trade his stand and position himself as a hawkish Dem, which benefitted him a year later by getting him on the national ticket. As vice president in 1998 and therefore to some extent accountable for the progress of any war undertaken during his tenure, he deferred. Too risky. Now, he's positioning himself as the standard bearer of the hard left thinking that that's the road back to power, and since that faction won't see the danger of an unmolested Saddam until a mushroom cloud sprouts over Manhattan (and maybe not even then), he's against action again. You could say that he's being consistent--he really didn't support the Gulf War all that strongly, didn't support anything more than a pinprick in 1998, and is yet dovish now. That's the kind view. My own is that Al Gore is the most cynical American politician alive today. He spins war and peace without any sign of a conscience.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:08 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 18, 2002


Hyperthreading seems to be the PC's latest big weapon against the Mac. It basically turns one processor into two, greatly enhancing speed in recent tests. Check out this benchmark test pitting a single hyperthreaded Dell with a 3+ gHz chip against Mac's fastest dual processor machine. The hyperthread wins by a mile.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 17, 2002


The program, which the Pentagon calls "Total Information Awareness", has only recently begun to attract the attention of critics who see it as an Orwellian assault on privacy with vast potential for abuse.

It is the brainchild of retired rear admiral John Poindexter, the former national security adviser who was at the centre of the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s.

Poindexter, who later worked for high tech companies, was named head of the Office of Information Awareness at the Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) earlier this year.

He has sketched out a vision of revolutionary new information systems that could suck in billions of transactions from government and commercial data bases and mine them for telltale traces of terrorist activities.

"If terrorist organisations are going to plan and execute attacks against the United States, their people must engage in transactions and they will leave signatures in this information space," he said in a speech last March.

He likened it to "finding submarines in a world of noise".

No one of sound mind can deny that we need to get a handle on how many trained terrorists are already here, and how many more potential terrorists there may be among us. But, like a few other proposals that have been floated in the past year, this one stinks. It amounts to a nationwide strip-search, and besides it's unnecessary.

If the feds really want to get the non-citizen terrorists who are already here, and according to tonight's 60 Minutes report there may be 331 trained non-citizen al Qaeda operatives still at large in the US, the place to start is visas. The 9-11 19 were all here on visas, and most of them had violated those visas in some way and should have been tossed out before 9-11. As we've seen in the sniper case as well, simply enforcing existing immigration statutes would keep most terrorists out. Further, the INS still needs to be scrapped and rebuilt, with an eye to its new role as defending our borders and keeping bad people out (its pre-9-11 role seems to have consisted mostly of harassing innocent people trying to enter very legally). Once the feds have done this, then these other database ideas will become less necessary. And it is possible that some of the 331 suspected terrorists are already gone. Shortly after 9-11, many non-citizens who had overstayed their visas and seemed suspect were quietly deported.

Of course, reining in the visa program does nothing about the potential citizen terrorists out there, who may number in the hundreds or even thousands. Virtually none of these people will have actual al Qaeda training, and most probably will never have even travelled outside the US. But they'll show up in other ways. While the majority of Muslims probably have nothing to do with terrorism, it's clear that domestic terrorist wannabees get their indocrination and motivation from radical clerics just like terrorists hailing from Arabia. The FBI needs to figure out who the radical clerics are in the US and where they teach, and just keep tabs on their congregations. No need to be loud about it or trumpet this monitoring, but it's a necessary evil that doesn't invade the privacy of the vast majority of Americans the way the Pentagon database tracker would.

This monitoring probably wouldn't even be needed if we could trust groups like CAIR and the Nation of Islam to police themselves and their own members and denounce terrorism at every turn. But we can't; CAIR denounces everything the government does to win the war while softpedalling terrorist activity, and the NOI has repeatedly dubbed the war a "war on Islam." So they have no credibility when it comes to taking a responsible part in the war on our side.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack