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Comment Re:You missed one. (Score 1) 321

Oh, is that all you need? Un-jamable near instantaneous communications? Why don't we invent the perpetual motion machine while we're at it? All the fancy new drone toys we have are fine and dandy up to the point someone figures out the man-in-the-middle attack needed to crash them, or worse, take them over. (See: Iran & GPS spoofiing the stealth reconaissance drone.)

You laugh, but it's pretty hard to jam modern military radio. The frequency hopping method used by radios as old as the SINCGARS makes interrupting transmissions very difficult - the jamming signal would need to exceed the transmission's signal strength across the entire possible spectrum simultaneously. BTW, the wiki article is wrong; frequency hopping doesn't prevent eavesdropping, multichannel receivers can be purchased off-the-shelf which will pick up the entire transmission regardless of how many hops per second are made. You need encryption on top of frequency hopping to make the message secure.

The point is that un-jamable high-bandwidh comms already exist, and latency is the only major concern left for remotely piloted fighter planes. Just because the CIA bought drones that trust the GPS more than their own internal maps and terrain recognition doesn't meant the Air Force would do the same, or that a remote pilot would perform a controlled flight into ground because his instruments said he had plenty of altitude.

We're not as far from this as you might think.

Comment Re:What is terrorism? (Score 1) 923

For the sake of discussion only, let's assume that the U.S. does indeed intend to arrest, publicly humiliate, and then execute Assange for his role in Wikileaks; the Ecuadorean embassy believes this enough to grant asylum, after all. Why him, personally? Why not every member of his organization?

Because his role in the organization is easy to prove, and his involvement with publication of inconvenient facts is undeniable. Attacking the leader was always an accepted practice, in peace time and in war time. It is also the most beneficial practice. What is more humane, to slaughter 100,000 soldiers or to kill one dictator who sent them to war?

<godwin>By that logic the Nuremberg trials were unnecessary, and Hitler's generals should have been pardoned.</godwin>
More recently, Slobodan Milosevic was captured and died in prison; despite this, Ratko Mladic is on trial at the Hague for his own crimes.

The work at Wikileaks carries on despite Assange's forced absence. Assange certainly has high-level associates who are carrying on the work and are equally guilty of the espionage charges being levied against him. If the U.S. government were truly interested in pursuing justice then it would also bring similar accusations against the rest of Assange's lieutenants for their involvement.

I'll concede that lack of jurisdiction and the relative anonymity of these lieutenants may make them difficult to reach from the United States. Embarrassing Assange personally may be the only option available to those seeking to punish him for his actions. This does not mean that it should be done. It is hypocritical to engage in a "war on terror" while simultaneously employing terrorists' methods, and engaging in psychological operations against journalists who would receive and publish embarrassing secrets strays too close to that line for my comfort.

Comment What is terrorism? (Score 2) 923

I'm replying here instead of to one of the many other responses to this post, many quibbling over definitions. IMHO the arguments surrounding the definition are all pointless and off-the-mark, and I'll throw my support behind girlintraining's position that the UK is wrong to do this. I also agree that it's not terrorism.

Let's try a different definition of terrorism, one used by an actual counter-terrorism organization (U.S. Army intel):

The threat or use of violence intended to influence parties other than the immediate victim.

It's short, easy to understand, and widely applicable. Threaten to kill hostages unless your friends are released from prison? Terrorism. Waging direct war against another sovereign nation's military? Not terrorism. Applying fines of US$1.5million to a single offender for file sharing, to "set an example for others"? Questionable, depending on your definition of "violence", but I'd count it (especially if the "others" are being allowed to settle for < US$10k). It doesn't matter who does it or why by this definition; if you're doing something to one person in order to make someone else do what you want, it's terrorism.

By that standard, the UK threatening the Ecuadorian government with severance of diplomatic ties is not terrorism, just application of an ungodly amount of political leverage. The Ecuadorian embassy and Assange himself are the immediate victims, and the UK is only attempting to influence their actions, not the actions of others. So, no, I don't think this is terrorism. It's simply unconscionable, disproportionate, and wrong.

Unfortunately, the point is moot because the real terrorist in this scenario would be the United States. For the sake of discussion only, let's assume that the U.S. does indeed intend to arrest, publicly humiliate, and then execute Assange for his role in Wikileaks; the Ecuadorean embassy believes this enough to grant asylum, after all. Why him, personally? Why not every member of his organization? Why single Assange out for selective and disproportionate punishment and largely ignore the rest of his staff? If the answer is "to serve as a warning to those who would expose secrets", then the United States is engaging in terrorism, and Ecuador is right to refuse to cooperate with the UK in enabling it.

Bravo Ecuador, indeed.

Comment Autoinjectors, missing accessories (Score 1) 277

I'll back up couchslug on the idea that the capes were probably part of an early form of MOPP gear. There are cape-style soviet designs, maybe some of these were captured?

Speaking of missing equipment, there should have been 2PAM-Chloride autoinjectors as well, they ought to have been packaged together (at least, they are today when distributed to soldiers). I hear that that the 2PAM vials get abused by snipers as muscle relaxants, though, so they may have walked away some time before your inspection...

Comment Re:FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (Score 1) 211

Wow, I didn't intend to make this personal for anybody. Dave, I'll back you up by agreeing that we're both trying our best to tell it like it is. We may have philosophical differences on how it should be, but that's what discussion is for; I'll try to keep name calling out of it.

Just so we're clear, I'm actually OK with how things were pre-USA PATRIOT act. The tools necessary for our intel services to do their jobs were in place, and balanced with judicial oversight. U.S. citizens were protected from prosecution based on illegally obtained information and (in my agency, at least) we understood that if we - by mistake or deliberately - violated the constitution in our investigation that our options became limited (no prosecution), but we still had some tools at our disposal for keeping our nation and its secrets safe.

I'm not OK with the warrantless wiretapping, national security letters issued under gag order with no judicial review, etc. I can just hear Darth Sidious' voice saying "I'll make it legal". There needs to be accountability for the actions of these agencies, and judicial oversight/review gives that. Thanks, too, Dave, for mentioning the Oversight office; most federal intel agencies do have a strong culture of respect for citizens' rights, and where I was a lot of work went into making sure we were doing the right thing.

For what it's worth, I'd like to think that I'd still have made these comments while I was active. I don't think I've disclosed any classified methods or sources here, just philosophy. Talking bad about the sitting president could have gotten me in trouble, though =P Hatta, my philosophy may move me into the "no good spook" category with you; I'm sorry if that's the case. My reading of this thread, though, sounds like three people who all largely agree and are, unfortunately, talking past one another. We all three agree that accountability is needed, Dave and I generally agree on consequences/lack thereof for illegal searches, and Hatta and I seem to agree that the current process isn't transparent enough. let's try to keep it civil.

Comment Re:FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (Score 1) 211

I'm a few years out of the game myself, and from a different intel branch, but I'll take a stab at answering your questions:

So what you're saying is that an NSA agent must prove that someone is a foreigner before collecting data on them? To whom do they have to prove it? What are the consequences if they fail to do so?

To my understanding the check for whether a subject is a U.S. Person should happen before any intrusions on their privacy occur. In practice, though, the investigating team can do pretty much whatever they want provided that they don't care to press criminal charges. If a court case ever were to occur, the investigators would be asked by the judge to show evidence of their due diligence. There are many other avenues for neutralizing intelligence threats that don't rely on judicial action; neither stripping government employees of security clearance nor deportation of non-citizens requires a judge or compliance with constitutional protections. The main consequence of violating a subject's constitutional rights is that any court case to prosecute will have illegally obtained evidence thrown out and will likely fail.

What actual consequences would an NSA agent face if they did ignore that fact? How would it be discovered? How often has this happened?

So far the only actual safeguard you've offered is "trust us". Can you at least try to understand that that's not good enough?

To the NSA? I don't know. Maybe nothing. I don't know how it would be discovered, especially if the actions taken in response don't involve courts. And there's no way to know (from the outside) how often it happens. For what it's worth, I agree that "trust us" is not good enough, and that it would be better to have a judge sign off on anything questionable as a matter of policy and standard procedure, even if it were after the fact. At least there would be someone capable of reminding them when what they're doing is unconstitutional.

So the president is complicit in the unconstitutional wiretapping of US citizens and that's supposed to make us feel better?

Nope, I don't feel any better about that at all.

Also, as a technical matter, how does one capture the packets of foreigners without also capturing the packets of citizens? At the very least, doesn't the NSA have to store and analyze the packet to determine whether it belongs to a US citizen or not? At that point, hasn't the law prohibiting collecting, storing, and analyzing the communications of US citizens already been broken?

I don't know the answer to that, either. "Advanced filtering" sounds a lot like "trust us". Analysis in RAM without storage to disk I think would be OK, but it doesn't sound like they're doing it like that. I think they're on the wrong side of the line there, but it's the side of the line that lets less data slip away so I can understand how they got there (even if I don't agree with it).

The Director of National Intelligence just recently admitted that some NSA activities had violated the Constitution at least once.

By whom, and what consequences can we expect this criminal to suffer?

See above; probably nothing. Just like cops running a bad investigation don't get fired when they botch it on constitutional grounds, intel agents don't go to jail for violating U.S. citizens' rights.

Comment Re:Effect on Carbon dating? (Score 4, Interesting) 344

Is it only demeaning if the beliefs are held by a major segment? There are still people who believe in or honor the Norse gods too, but I have yet to hear anyone get upset about the phrase "North Mythology".

I'll give you your report about Norse mythology getting people upset, then. During my time in the Army I got to spend some time doing joint ops with the Norwegian military. I was given stern warnings by my buddies that the guys wearing hammer tattoos in the bar on base were not safe to taunt regarding their religion. Reason given: it's likely to get a violent response. I'm sure that when they're sober they would take some friendly ribbing just fine, but I felt no desire to see how a drunk Thor worshiper would react to being ridiculed at their base's bar for believing in a myth.

Comment Re:Is there anything wrong with that? (Score 2) 473

"20 years"?

Try "from time eternal." Inflation is a consequence of a perpetually growing economy.

True. I only used 20 years because that's the last time I remember being able to buy something for a penny. I used to be able to buy penny candies at the convenience store; about 20 years ago the price went up to a nickel. Over my lifetime I've watched gumball machines gradually abandon pennies, then nickels, now dimes. Most coin-op vending machines charge at least $0.25 for a gumball, many require $0.50 (two quarters). That's been my metric for the utility of a coin - if I can't buy a gumball with it, it's worthless.

In of itself it's not a good thing or a bad thing. As long as other factors keep up, it just is. The US ditched the useless half-cent 150 years ago and we didn't devolve into an anarchistic Thunderdome... We'd survive losing the penny.

I agree completely. I think you perfectly restated exactly what I wanted to say.

I love this thread; my favorite way to finish an argument is to tell the other person we've got no point of disagreement =)

Comment Is there anything wrong with that? (Score 2) 473

I think it's time our governments admitted that inflation over the past 20 years has made the penny worthless. We've long since abandoned the half penny, and good riddance. In 100 years it may be time to have $5 be the smallest unit. 3rd world countries deal with this on a regular basis, I think its just 1st world pride that's keeping us from following their example when it's obviously far past time.

Comment Good idea, take it further (Score 4, Insightful) 473

When I was deployed to Iraq in '05 the smallest unit of change the PX would give was $0.25, and we all got by with that just fine. When the smallest coin a bubble gum machine will accept is a quarter there's no need for even my children to want any denomination smaller than that. The cost of manufacturing pennies, nickels, and dimes isn't worth the benefit. Add the cost banks and vendors incur in transporting these too-heavy-for-their-worth slabs of metal to the cost of their original manufacture and it's clearly a drain on the economy.

Comment Re:Intelligence pays for itself (Score 2) 279

and this is pretty unlikely given that the U.S. doesn't have the sort of cozy, formal overlap of public and private sectors that France, China, or even Great Britain have

That would be why there's never been any suggestion at all of US commercial interests influencing foreign policy, then.

There's a difference between those two cases, which may seem small to you on a practical basis, but is significant from a policy standpoint.

You correctly point out that companies like Halliburton actively lobby the legislature and executive branch to do things like lower taxes on the oil & gas industry or re-authorize the U.S. Export-Import bank. The company's political contributions can be interpreted as bribes, with consequent improper influence over U.S. policy. I agree that's at best questionable, and at worst just plain corrupt. You're probably also aware of problems like regulatory capture, or you wouldn't have made the comment you did.

The French take this to a whole different level, though. Corporate security groups recognize the French National Intelligence services as active threats. In other words, Schlumberger (French competitor to Halliburton for global oilfield services) doesn't need to ask the French equivalent of the CIA to spy on Halliburton, the French spies do it proactively. The French government thinks it's their patriotic duty to help French companies get ahead on the global stage by committing national intelligence resources to corporate espionage. In the U.S.A. that sort of action by agents of the U.S. government on behalf of U.S. industry is illegal (even if the action took place off of U.S. soil).

I don't know where you're from. You may feel that there's nothing wrong with French spies working to help their National industries. You may feel that corporate political contributions are a greater evil than corporate espionage on a national level. As an American, though, I feel that the possibility that individual politicians can be corrupted by corporate bribes is much easier to accept than a national policy of working directly for corporate interests. YMMV.

Comment Re:Police Ssurveillance (Score 1) 761

Recording my movements to use against me in court is very much a search.

Uhhh, no it isn't. You wouldn't consider it a search if they followed you around, would you? That's recording your movements, and they can certainly use that record in court. The courts have spent a great deal of time discussing what is and isn't a search under the fourth, and "recording someone's movements" isn't.

[citation needed]

At the risk of turning this into a "nuh-uh"/"yuh-huh" level argument, my experience as a law enforcement officer is at odds with your statement. I served as a federal agent (U.S. Army jurisdiction) for 8 years, and our policy was that surveillance activities did constitute an intrusive search and required judicial oversight. The barrier for probable cause was lower for overt surveillance, as it is less intrusive of the subject's privacy if he's aware; however both overt and covert surveillance required a judge to sign off on it.

Comment Re:Police Ssurveillance (Score 1) 761

In theory, there's a "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine that makes the second set of evidence you mentioned prohibited as well; if the only reason they know about it is because they violated your rights in collecting the first set then it's all thrown out together. The tricky part for the defense is proving that the doctrine applies; that's what the discovery phase of the trial is supposed to be for, all investigation notes should be shared with the defense.

In practice, though, such notes probably "get lost" the same way that dashcam recordings go missing whenever they would incriminate an officer. In a just world that sort of shenanigan would get the case thrown out. In this one, pray that you got a really good lawyer.

Comment Re:That seems like a poor choice... (Score 1) 151

Some of us soldiers refuse to use the coffee or tea for religious reasons, so I'd welcome an alternative wakefulness aid in the MRE.

As far as caffeine goes, though, it's probably being used because it's trusted. I remember reading a while back that any new wakefulness drug needs to be comparable to a 600mg dose of caffeine in order to be acceptable. I couldn't find the reference on that, but I did find a military-published study on effectiveness of caffeine, which seemed to endorse its continued use.

And while I agree with you that the acceptance process for new drugs should be sped up, I'm glad they're not using servicemen as guinea pigs in the process - it's bad enough that amphetamines are still used as "Go pills" routinely. On the other hand, Viagra went unusually quickly from off-schedule to prescription for ED, perhaps we just need to find the right leverage on the FDA admins =)

Comment Re:Web Crawlers now Unconstitutional? (Score 1) 240

Actually, regardless of what's in that video, collection of intelligence against US Persons falls under the 4th amendment's "probable cause" umbrella. Unless a Federal judge has granted a warrant for collection of specific evidence of a crime, then this is one of the things that the Constitution tells the government that it specifically cannot do.

The fact that the DOJ wants to take a different interpretation based on the FICA and USAPATRIOT acts doesn't make it better, it makes it an intentionally perpetrated abomination.

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