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Comment Re:Access management nightmare? (Score 1) 632

An Arduino? For a military data system? Handled by PFCs and below? On a daily basis?

Fine, a hardened arduino. Standards exist for this. Military enclosures are a solved problem.

"Hey Bob, we just got five new guys transferring in. Go program all the guns." "Hey Bob, Bravo squad was out on a patrol when you did all the guns yesterday for the new guys. Go make sure all the guns are programmed." "Hey Bob, two guys transferred out. Go program all the guns again." "Hey Bob, ..." "If you say go program the guns again one more time, I'm going to smack you..."

Yep, that job's gonna suck, I'm not going to deny it. That's why the Sergeant will set up the program, then hand the (hardened!) programmer to the <= E3 for doing the rounds. Possibly multiple times daily. I expect the programmer to get thrown across the room more than once out of frustration and boredom.

In the days when I was issued an M16 on a regular basis, I was handed a weapons card with my name, weapon ID, and signature on it. When I drew my weapon from the armory, I handed the E1 behind the door my card, he went to the rack, picked up the weapon, put my card in its place, and handed me the M16. When I turned it in, the process went in reverse. The armorer had no idea who belonged to what weapon. The company admin did, maybe. Has that system changed in 25 years? Maybe. Maybe not. It worked and was simple.

Nope, that system hasn't changed, thank $diety. I don't think you gave your armorer enough credit, though; he probably had a list of every weapon and whose card it was matched to, I know mine did. Today, if he's good, it's both on paper and in the computer.

Plug in, system doesn't communicate. Look at gun, realize that is it a model 2 trigger lock and go back to the office to find the model 2 programmer that came in yesterday. What do you mean the shipment with the model 2 programmer isn't here yet? We got model 2s on the rack we need to program. Radar, get me General Hammond on the phone.

If the US military adopts this kind of "feature", then we know the game is over and we might as well all learn Korean or Chinese.

And this is where the two of us agree completely. The day the U.S. Army adds something like this to the arsenal I'll know we finally stopped taking combat seriously. There's no way Combat Arms would get talked into adding another point of failure to the M16, it's bad enough already. And fielding a rifle that requires both a clean connector and fresh batteries to operate is a non-starter. My point wasn't that this system would be a good idea.

All I was trying to say is that the logistics of data management isn't as bad as it seems at first glance. Most of the data should already be in place in the Armory; add a fingerprint scanner to the armorer's laptop (Admin's laptop already has one, so the supply chain is in place) and you've got everything you need even if Admin doesn't want to share their toys. A flat file, a folder of data, and a small script give you the data load. All that's missing is a documented procedure and I can easily see this system being logistically manageable. A useless, potentially deadly, worse-than-worthless pain in the third point of contact, but totally manageable.

Comment Re:Access management nightmare? (Score 1) 632

I cannot imagine what a nightmare it will be to manage weapons access thru fingerprints into a large military unit.

I don't know; with the right equipment (arduino board with a memory card?) all the armorer would have to do is walk down the rack with his interface deck and upload the relevant files. I'd assume that either the entire unit would be authorized for all weapons or that each unit would be keyed to its assigned bearer. The Admin branch has all of the fingerprints on file, and the armorer should have a list matching arms to soldiers. The work to make this job suitable for a private would be fairly minimal, especially if the programming equipment can query the weapon for its serial number - plug in, wait while the program checks the serial and uploads the appropriate print profiles, unplug; lather, rinse, repeat.

Comment Re:Access management nightmare? (Score 1) 632

That's the exact opposite of my experience; when my U.S. Army armorer issued my weapon it was always the same one. I had a card I'd hand him with the weapon buttstock number and serial number printed on it; we'd both verify that the weapon issued matched my card at check-in and check-out. I also had my serial number memorized, so the card was somewhat redundant.

I rather appreciated being the only one to handle, fire, and care for it; I don't think I'd have the same confidence in a weapon that was subject to the tragedy of the commons. When I'm issued a weapon I'd like to be sure that it's well-maintained and ready to function immediately, not spend the next hour or so cleaning and inspecting it for deficiencies. This is definitely one of those times when if you want something done right you really ought to do it yourself.

Furthermore, rifles ought to be sighted in to the user; you can't pick up a random M-16 and expect to hit a target at 300 yards. I had my own sighting numbers written down as well, should the case arise that I would need to pick up a random rifle and use it; however, changing the front sight on an M16 or M4 is cumbersome without a specialized key, and the person a rifle is assigned to can get huffy if you return it with the sights changed.

I don't know where you served, but if you were not always issued the same weapon then your armorer was lazy and didn't care enough about your welfare. Please tell me what organization that was so I can make sure I never join it.

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.

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