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February 29, 2012

Your shiny new surveillance dystopia, freshly unpacked
Posted by Patrick at 11:58 AM * 98 comments

Read (or at least skim) this all the way to the end. Note the interesting distinction implicit in the last line. Then note the source.

By the way? It’s working.

Comments on Your shiny new surveillance dystopia, freshly unpacked:
#1 ::: Priscilla King ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 12:56 PM:

Regrettable. As mentioned on a comment to the WNYC link ("working" above)--I'd like to read/hear more Muslims denouncing the murders and atrocities committed in the name of their religion. I'm actively looking for links.

#2 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 01:01 PM:

The obvious solution: get as many of your friends together as you can, and patronise as many of these places as you can.

Any conventions coming up in the area?

#3 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 01:21 PM:

So it's OK to eat in an Indian restaurant if you're Anglo, but not if you're Indian?

Fuck this whole thing. This country has gone completely nuts.

#4 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 01:23 PM:

Priscilla King, 1: You are a troll, and I claim my five pounds.

#5 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 01:44 PM:

I am disturbed by how quickly Priscilla found this post, given that she posted the same question on the third link, the radio article.

Priscilla - have you read any of the condemnations of terrorism by Muslims posted by Ahmad shortly after you posted? Do you need any more urls?

Of course the odds are that she/ he/ it isn't going to return here.

#6 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 02:00 PM:

Priscilla has likely harvested her blivvit of self-righteous smug and moved on. Like one of those SF aliens that feeds off of negative emotions.

#7 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 02:09 PM:

I am torn between removing the link to Priscilla's blog and leaving it for the...edification of the community.

I'm not feeling very kind today. I'll leave it.

#8 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 02:10 PM:

Quite aside from the political and ethical concerns I have with this kind of undisciplined surveillance (and its clear intent to be used as a damper on the cultural and political life of Muslims), it's downright moronic from a counter-radicalism and intelligence-gathering point of view. Along with driving perfectly innocent people to dissatisfaction with their treatment by government agencies, this will drive already dissatisfied people further towards radicalism. And, it will drive the small minority who are already radicalized and actively aiding militant organizations into much deeper cover, making it more difficult to find out what they're doing. It's fail-fail all around, something any experienced intelligence operative could have told them. I expect some did, and were ignored because the NYPD felt a a need to be doing something about Teh Terror, however unproductive. Unless, of course, the people running this operation really do know what they are doing: ensuring a long-term supply of suspects to justify the existence and growth of the anti-terrorism apparatus

#9 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 02:11 PM:

On second thought, I suspect she's trolling for outraged clicks. Gone.

#10 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 02:13 PM:

TexAnne @ 4:

For trolls to be worth as much as £5 I'd think they'd have to be a lot scarcer than they are. The phrase "a dime a dozen" springs to mind.

#11 ::: Manny ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 02:22 PM:

All part of the march to this, I fear.

#13 ::: Geri Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 03:00 PM:

Abi @ #9: FYI, Priscilla King at #1 is still there.

In addition to the distress of the surveillance itself, it (and The New Inquiry report of it) are just plain sloppy. In the table of contents of the poorly-named 2007 Naussau County Demographics Report, Section 4 is named "Locations of Concern." On page 26, it's renamed "Identified Locations." Right....

In his post on The New Inquiry, Aaron Brady uses the name of Section 5 as the headline, "Locations Requiring Further Examination," but then lists the contents of Section 4. In the report, Section 5 contains photos and information for 3 places, each with an "unverified" location type.

Beyond the clerical sloppiness, the information in the overview and summary is not supported by the contents of the report.

The more I read the report, especially the "information of note" accompanying each entry, the more creeped out I get. There are so many ways the report could be misused, and so few apparent benefits to its creation or existence.

#14 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 03:05 PM:

Geri Sullivan (13): The post is still there, but the name no longer links to her site.

#15 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 03:05 PM:

Geri Sullivan @13:

Her blog link isn't there any more.

Although it was interesting in its own way (to those of us who classify infraponts, at least), it had ads and I didn't want to boost its stats.

#16 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 03:29 PM:

It sounds to me like "Locations Requiring Further Examination" basically amount to "Restaurants we'd like to eat at if the county will pay" with a smattering of other places thrown in for verisimilitude.

Either that or blatant racial profiling.

#17 ::: Fuzzy ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 03:42 PM:

"Locations Requiring Further Examination Especially On Tuesdays When Aria Afghan Kabob Does That Great Lamb And Pepper Thing"

#18 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 03:53 PM:

Personally, I'd like to read/hear more Christians denouncing the murders and atrocities committed in the name of their religion.

#19 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 03:53 PM:

Just so, Fuzzy.

#20 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 04:43 PM:

Maybe we need a TV quiz show, something like "What's My Atrocity", with a panel of pundits who have to guess the ideology and/or religious zealotry based on descriptions of their acts of terrorism.

#21 ::: giltay ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 04:57 PM:

I'll take Smallpox Blankets for $400, Bruce.

#22 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 05:32 PM:

So many restaurants to investigate, so little time.

I was interested in the fact that Guyanese were one of the nationalities disaggregated. Why not Trinidadians as well?

#23 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 10:21 PM:

Not Indian/Middle Eastern enough, I suspect.

I heard the NYPD was doing a lot of this stuff in NJ and CT also, including a girls' school. Pre-teen girls. (Emptywheel is following this story.)

#24 ::: Geri Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 03:18 AM:

Mary Aileen & abi (#13 & 14): Thanks, and sorry I didn't read abi's #7 comment more carefully. Duh.

#25 ::: Marek ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 03:56 AM:

Jacque's idea at #2 is something I would wholeheartedly support. I would in fact start a rotation and confuse the hell out of the surveillance people.

Also, I'd like to read/hear more soccer fans denouncing the murders and atrocities committed in the name of their sport.

#26 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 04:35 AM:

Interesting that I seem to be the only one here at least whose first thought was "ah, the police have made a list of places likely to be targeted by anti-Muslim violence. How useful," and whose third thought (after "oh, I get it") was "who publishes something inflammatory that's five years old without making it clear at the outset that it's no longer current information?"

I guess we do. And the result is outrage. Yes, it's working all right.

#27 ::: Mark Richards ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 05:58 AM:

The level of detail in some of the "Identified Locations" is both infuriating and frightening. I don't think anybody can easily distinguish between Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Iranians or any of the other flavors of South Asians being profiled in this report, which means a certain degree of overly intrusive inquiry had to have been performed.

Our tax dollars at work, making us no safer than we were before.

#28 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 08:02 AM:

Zander @26:

Please tell me that I'm misparsing your comment. Because from right here it reads like a smarmy accusation of hypocrisy.

If you want to talk about the age of the data, go for it. Do you think that this surveillance is likely to still be occurring? If not, do you have any guesses why it stopped? My feeling, given recent revelations about the NYPD, is that it's probably a five year old slice of an ongoing data stream.

If it stopped, is it OK that it occurred at all?

If you want to discuss your initial reaction, and whether you think the police might well have assembled such a list for those reasons, I'm sure many people would find it a useful discussion. Is that consistent with the way the police have dealt with crimes against these sorts of establishments? If not, can you think of any explanations for the gap?

But, to the extent that I could untangle your deliberate obliqueness, what you seem to be doing is the same old, "I think you will find that you are the [insert thing someone else is accused of]." That's not nearly as clever a rhetorical technique as most people who use it think it is. Moreover, it doesn't make anyone smarter, nor lead to good conversation.

Shorter me: if you have a genuine contribution to this conversation, make it in clear, plain prose. If you're using this conversation to assert any kind of superiority over the rest of the community, don't.

#29 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 08:37 AM:

"Hang on, Fred. Whaddya mean you've worked out a scam where you can get the chief to pay for us to eat at every middle eastern restaurant within 50 miles of the city?"

#30 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 08:41 AM:

Zander @26--

If you follow the news, or Google "surveillance", "muslim", and "NYPD", you know that this is an ongoing program, currently being defended by Mayor Bloomberg as apporpriate.

#31 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 11:26 AM:

Zander, #26: Interesting. Am I the only person here who immediately had the thought, "This guy is either incredibly naive or lacking the remotest hint of a clue?" *scans rest of thread* No, apparently not. When 3 people say you look like a duck...

#32 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 12:37 PM:

I still wonder how the New York *City* police force justifies activity on other *states*? Didn't there used to be something called Jurisdiction?

#33 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 12:47 PM:

@ 32

Careful there, Neil.

Chicago might be next on their list.

And, apparently, "jurisdiction" is one of those pesky issues that went out the door post-9/11. (Probably right after the "prudence" in "jurisprudence.")

#34 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 12:55 PM:

Yes, Neil, there was. And noted liberal governor Chris Christie of New Jersey is denouncing these activities by the NYPD.

But it goes way beyond other states. The NYPD has offices worldwide and a bigger total staff than the FBI.

#35 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 01:07 PM:

Xopher Halftongue @ 34:

Mmmmm. And half the competence, it would seem.

#36 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 01:52 PM:

pedantic peasant @ 35:

No, about the same level of competence (half of a half-wit actually rounds down to zero). I'm restraining myself from entering rant mode and running down all the half-assed incompetence of the FBI over the years; I'll just point out that the FBI has been outed as just as bigoted a bunch of anti-Muslims as the NYPD. Their standard anti-terrorism training for local law enforcement agencies included warnings that any Muslim should be suspected of terrorism automatically.

The ostensible reason for the expansion of the NYPD intelligence-gathering operations to national and international scope was that NYC was bound to be a target of future terrorist activity, and that they didn't think that the national intelligence agencies were doing enough to protect New York in particular. I doubt very much that anyone has analyzed their activity over the last 10 years to determine if it had any practical effect or was cost-effective; I'm certain that its real reason for existing now is the Iron Law of Institutions.

#37 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 02:01 PM:

I don't think anybody can easily distinguish between Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Iranians

I don't think this is true. I can't, but my colleagues seem to be able to tell pretty quickly and easily. (Most of them are Indian or Pakistani.)

#38 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 02:56 PM:

Okay. Sigh. Everybody comfortable? Might as well get on with this. As an American, I abhor and repudiate the following recent acts of violence and/or terrorism [list snipped]. As a 'caucasian,' I abhor and repudiate the following recent acts of violence and/or terrorism [list snipped]. As a male, I abhor and repudiate the following recent acts of violence and/or terrorism [list snipped].

I'm kind of tired. I guess I'll have to do the rest later.

#39 ::: Catherine Crockett ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 05:35 PM:

Xopher @34: NYPD has offices worldwide? This is actually the first I've heard of it. Googling is getting me some information: they allegedly have someone in Toronto. I guess I have to find out where and do an information picket, it's not well known that the bozos are here. Ick! [Not that ours are anything wonderful, but...]

#40 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 06:21 PM:

Aside from picking out the ethnicity of the employees, it would have been a lot cheaper (but maybe not tastier!) to do this with Google.

Aside from the obvious 1984-ish undertones, one thing this tells me is that NYPD has way too much spare time available to stroke their paranoia.

#41 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 06:32 PM:

It reminds me a little of the British police tactics of undercover officers infiltrating dangerous and evil* environmental groups a decade ago. At least 2 of the officers had relationships within the groups resulting in children whilst under false names. Basically they were using dodgy tactics against political targets, I presume because of similar sorts of paranoia.

*sarcasm alert

#42 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 07:09 PM:

I just need a reality check here - are we really saying that this is, or was, an official document prepared by the NYPD or by some state government agency, and paid for with tax dollars?

I mean, anyone can write a document and call it "Naussau County Demographics Report". It could be some loonies... please?

If it is the police its not the nastiness and the petty intrusion that surprise me so much as incompetence. It all looks a bit slapdash. And completely unaware of who these people are. And they don't know what "demographics" means.

I think our London cops would be, well, more *professional* about it. Not any less racist or whatever, but more aware both of the nature of the people they are spying on and the effect on the community if such an absurdly racist excercise ever got to be public knowledge. But perhaps London police are more used to this sort of thing.

Also of course we faced a rather nasty domestic bombing campaign on-and-off for thirty years, run by people far less easily distinguished from a stereotype "normal" white Brit than Asians would be. So they are perhaps more tooled up for this kind of surveillance. In Belfast they had - maybe still have - a database of pictures of every building. Every last house and garden. And software to spot things like the whether the windows were open or shut, or the curtains drawn in the daytime. Now that's intrusive.

There are about twenty Tamil-owned businesses within 200 metres of my front door. And until a few years ago some of them had Tamil Tiger posters up. "Guerrilla Leader of the Month" calendars in the corner shop. Really and truly.

#43 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 07:35 PM:

That blog no longer linked to from the #1 post seems to have about 75 original posts in 3 hours. Maybe not a human hypogethyran (;-) but some bot. We could be in Serdar Argic territory. Google very easily finds me quite a number of posts on similar topics on other sites supposedly by the same person.

Or a sort of blogpool. Some far right groups in Britain have used teams of volunteers to respond quickly to posts on various forums on topics such as race and immigration - you can sometimes spot them by a sort of boiler plate language. I think they do some kind of search for certain topics, then get their supporters to log on and comment within a few minutes.

I've also seen what looks like a tactic of deliberately siccing a poster on to a particular forum for a few weeks trying to turn their debates in a particular direction. Then after having pissed in one stream for a while the poster moves on to another.

#44 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 07:43 PM:

Abi @ 28 - I read it as straight as it is, that Zander's first thought was about targets of anti-muslim violence, and then the light bulb went off. Possibly because that felt like my reading of the post. The way my RSS feed handles headlines, I clicked on the first link having skimmed the post, but still lacking context. My first thought was "hey, tasty food...somewhere...oh." I caught what it was about the third listing, but I wasn't sure. It took me going back, reading the headline, reading the main post closely, and going back to read the last line on the first link for me to be sure that what I was looking at was an NYPD list. The OP is cryptic enough that my post-work brain didn't process it well.

#45 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 07:45 PM:

Ken Brown: "hypogethyran" is the adjectival form -- what you asked for was an equivalent to "infrapontic". For the noun, drop the n on the end.

#46 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 07:46 PM:

Ken Brown @ 42:

I wouldn't expect the Tamil Tigers to be planning to do anything nefarious in Britain. Sri Lanka, perhaps, and maybe Tamil Nadu, depending on how the state government reacts to Sri Lankan requests for extradition, etc., now that's a different story. I have been expecting an active revanchist splinter group of the Tiger diaspora (probably taking up the name of the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam) to arise, whether in Tamil Nadu or somewhere outside the Indian Ocean Rim.

#47 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 08:11 PM:

guthrie @ 41:

Agents provocateurs and agents de grossesse are an old and time-dishonored tradition. You've probably heard that by the late 1950s something like 13 of the members of the US Communist Party were either FBI agents or FBI informants (I had this from both an official of the party and an FBI agent). When my wife Eva was going to the Philadelphia College of Art there was a male non-student who was working his way through the politically-active female students, sleeping with as many as he could and getting them pregnant if possible. It finally became clear that he was a narc, hired by either the Political Squad of the Philly Police, or by the FBI.

☭ Yes, there was such a unit, run by George Fencl, who later became Chief of Police during the time when the Homicide Department turned into something the Ramparts Division in LA would have envied.

#48 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 08:31 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 47... by the late 1950s something like 1⁄3 of the members of the US Communist Party were either FBI agents or FBI informants

Did you ever see the episode of "Get Smart" where Max infiltrates one Circle of KAOS and finds out that everybody in the Circle was from various spy agencies?

#49 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 10:10 PM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) #47: I suspect that Communist Party situation was one of the inspirations for The Man Who Was Thursday.

#50 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 10:22 PM:

Guthrie at #41:
If a man gets a woman pregnant while using an assumed name, does the child take his real name or his assumed one?

#51 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 11:18 PM:

David Harmon #49 that kind of situation maybe. But not the exact same one, seeing as the book was published at about the same time the FBI was being founded, and maybe ten years before there was a CPUSA...

#52 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 11:30 PM:

Ken @ #51
In my own experience, if a man gets a woman pregnant outside of an actual committed relationship, it doesn't really much matter what his name is/was -- the child takes the mother's name.

YMMV, of course, but that was sort of weirdly dismissive and sexist a jump to make.

#53 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 11:32 PM:

Whoops - sorry! That last post should have been addressed to Erik at #50, not to Ken.

#54 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 01:21 AM:

Bruce C. #47: there was a male non-student who was working his way through the politically-active female students, sleeping with as many as he could and getting them pregnant if possible

On first reading, that seemed like a complete non-sequitur action, as in "what in the world was he hoping to accomplish by doing THAT?"

Then I realized that you were talking about (I'm guessing) 40 years ago or thereabouts, and his objective was most likely either (1) to damage the social and legal credibility of the women by making them into Obvious Tramps, or (2) more pragmatically, to limit their ability to be activists by making them into single mothers, or some combination of the two. Am I right?

#55 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 01:53 AM:

Lee @ 54:

Yes, this was in the mid-1960's when having a child "out of wedlock" was considered a social disgrace and was in fact a major impact on the economic and educational future of the mother.

One of the motives was to force the mothers to leave school. This both damaged their credibility and reduced their contact with their previous circle of fellow activists, and it was a long-term deterrent to their engaging in political activism.

It was a particularly ugly bit of dirty tricks, one that the Stasi or the Pinkertons might have been proud of.

#56 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 07:08 AM:

IIRC in around 1900 the Communist cell in St Petersburg consisted of five men, four of whom were agents of the Okhrana. No idea whether they were interconscious or not, sadly...

#57 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 08:25 AM:

Lee #54: Plus there was the more practical and direct objective of damaging the student by driving them right out of college. Back then pregnancy and out-of-wedlock birth meant that, in most cases, the woman could not continue her education.

Not only, of course, at college. I recall a bright girl who started high school with me, and vanished. I found out that she had got pregnant. Discovering that her pregnancy meant that she had to drop out of school destroyed the balance of her mind.

#58 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 08:27 AM:

I knew a woman to whom that was done. She called it state-sponsored rape. Close enough for me.

#59 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 08:39 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 36:

Not really arguing with you. Saying the NYPD had half the competence of the FBI was not meant to be praise of the FBI, really. Gawd knows, the FBI is paranoid, bigoted and has been used as your government-sponsored branch of domestic terrorism (TM) since its inception.

But, even if the FBI are an often bigoted, knee-jerk collection of hypochondriac paranoids, at least they do manage to find actual terrorists some of the time.

No, this does not excuse their inventing them even more frequently, but it is a (very minor)improvement over the Jacques Clouseau/Keystone Cops behavior of the NYPD who appear to be so busy cadging meals and arranging entrapments that they completely miss the genuine threats being carried out in close proximity.

And yeah, as some pointed out above, I'm not sure that somewhere the spirit of O. Bin Laden isn't watching the security theater and the growing factionalism that is splitting "America" apart at the seams, and laughing at a plan accomplished.

#60 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 08:54 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 47, and responders:

State sponsored rape sounds nowhere near strong enough to me. While I am sure some will claim this was mild and humane (and gawds help us, clever) when compared to the fascist practice of "disappearing" people or having them hauled out and shot, this seems to me to be one of the most vile and despicable moves I have ever seen or heard of. Worse than the others, in fact, and more cowardly, as it is done in a way to ruin the women and hide the involvement of the authorities.

The (ahem) person, is probably in advanced age or deceased at the moment, but I would love to see him pulled into court, tried, publicly shamed and excoriated, and then have him forcibly DNA tested, and his estate attached for retroactive child support for all such children. If proof can be made it was under orders, get them too.

#61 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 10:23 AM:

Lee #54:

I strongly suspect the agent in question saw the consequence-free sex (and being able to abandon girlfriends when they got knocked up) as a fringe-benefit of the assignment. Shitty but not all that surprising.

#62 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 11:57 AM:

albatross @ 61:

I'm sure you're right about that. There is another aspect of the situation I hadn't mentioned, one I find extremely troubling: the young man in question was black, and all of his victims were white. He used variants of the line, "If you don't sleep with me, it means you are a racist." It worked fairly often on young, middle-class, liberal girls. I would not be surprised if the victims lost much of their liberalism and support for the civil rights movement as a result. And I suspect the agent saw it as a way to take revenge on Whitey. This tactic was nasty, evil, and, unfortunately, effective in far too many ways.

#63 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 12:06 PM:

pedantic peasant @ 60:

One of the reasons I brought this story up is that I think if that agent was brought up to public recognition now he would have a lot of supporters. I'm certain that if he had been made public in the 1960s he would have.

#64 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 12:59 PM:

As I understand it, the NYPD has taken on a certain number of anti-terrorist functions at the behest of the CIA and FBI precisely because, as a municipal police force, they are not bound by federal limits on where and how they can operate. In particular, they can operate both inside and outside US borders.

It actually came up in a recent episode of Castle--they were working with the CIA on a case, and the CIA needed the NYPD detectives to look at bank records the CIA was legally forbidden to access. It was a bit of a squick moment. It's a hazard of cop shows: those moments of severe cognitive dissonance when they portray limits on governmental power as an unfair obstacle, unconscionably preventing them from doing What They Must to Protect the Public.

#65 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 01:03 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 63


I hadn't thought of that. I want to say you are wrong. I want, at the very least, to believe that like the abtn. ultrasound issue going on in the other thread, the supporters would soon find themselves inundated by the offended, angry, and incredulous, and shortly thereafter, without support.

I so want to. But I am not sure I am right.

#66 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 01:54 PM:

David Harmon @ 49: "I suspect that Communist Party situation was one of the inspirations for The Man Who Was Thursday."

As Ken Brown mentioned, The Man Who Was Thursday was published in 1908. This is itself a bit shocking, isn't it? I find that I'm constantly forced to remind myself of how un-novel the revolutionary spirit is: the sixties is remarkable not in its vision nor its originality, but mostly in its scale and visibility. Neither, as it turns out, were the repressive responses it evoked particularly original.

#67 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 03:00 PM:

heresiarch @ 64, 66:

the CIA needed the NYPD detectives to look at bank records the CIA was legally forbidden to access

The FBI has been for the last 6 or 8 years heavily invested in a program to create liaison groups in local law enforcement agencies. Once created, they isolate the groups from their own chains of command citing security concerns and need-to-know, and then use the groups to circumvent the legal limitations on FBI surveillance and jurisdiction. In the process, they often also circumvent various Constitutional provisions for due process of law by ignoring warrants and issues of probable cause.

If you want further details on this, I can cite what happened here in Portland when the city government finally caved to the FBI demands to allow this.

Neither, as it turns out, were the repressive responses it evoked particularly original.

No, indeed. The Red Squad, under whatever name, was an invention of the 19th century, not the 20th. Nor was it an American invention, though I must say that American law enforcement took to it with unparalleled relish.

#68 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 05:56 PM:

Bruce #67 - what the FBI are doing - isn't that illegal? Especially in any sort of democracy where there is supposed to be oversight and accountability?

(It's getting bad here in the UK, where the condems are hellbent on privatising the police, the latest plans being to privatise everything except the right to arrest and a couple of other things, which would be a total waste of time because being able to arrest people is very handy in a lot of circumstances. And instead of well paid state employees who at least have some loyalty to an ideal of law and order, we'll have under paid people of even more variable capabilities trying to meet targets that won't have any relation to real life)

#69 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 07:55 PM:

But Bruce, they keep telling us that this anti-stovepiping is absolutely necessary to protect us from terrorists, who are under every rock! And in every purveyor of delicious food as well, it seems.

#70 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 02:55 AM:

guthrie @ 68:

Especially in any sortsemblance of democracy where there is supposed to be the pretence of oversight and accountability?


Michael Roberts @ 69:

I guess we'll just have to pave over the rocks and eat Freedom Fries. Which reminds me, have I told you about the $6 million cover my fair city is being required by the Department of Homeland Security to put over the municipal reservoir to keep terrorist from dropping fiendish potions into it? if we don't build it they won't give our police force all the pretty toys like tanks and machine guns they've been giving everyone else.

#71 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 05:30 AM:

@63: One of the reasons I brought this story up is that I think if that agent was brought up to public recognition now he would have a lot of supporters.

Not if it came out that the agent was black, I don't think. *That* angle might actually silence the wingnut fringe a bit.

#72 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 07:09 AM:

Does anyone know whether there was any truth in the joke that the FBI was the primary financial support for the American communist party? The idea was that agents were the only member who paid their dues.

#73 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 11:24 AM:

Nancy Lebowitz @ 72:

I've never seen any real evidence for the claim, such as the party account books. I've been told that story by a number of people who were either Party members of close to the CP at one time. One of those people was my uncle, who for several years in the 1930's was the treasurer of the Maryland CP, and another was a professional fund raiser who worked for progressive and socialist causes from the 30s into the early 70s, so I put some faith in the claim. And it's just too good a story not to retell.

#74 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 11:37 AM:

LMM @ 71:

I'm not so sure of that. From a Modern Wingnut perspective, the story has three good features:

  1. It's about white liberals being taken in by a slick black con-man, and the girls were humbled by being put in their places ("Kinder, Küche, Kirche").

  2. Because it's about inter-racial sex, it's very titillating, and could be an endless source of scandalized conversation.

  3. And by approving of what a black man did, because of its political effect, they can lay claim to not being racist.

It has all the characteristics of the standard Wingnut pre-breakfast exercise: fervent belief in many contradictory things.

#75 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 11:02 AM:

Bruce, there's also an element of "Those libs are so dumb, that even a..."

(Stomach does not permit me to finish the sentence.)

#76 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 01:04 AM:

"The NYPD argues that the surveillance of Muslim Student Associations is justified because a dozen alumni of the groups went on to be arrested or charged with terrorist plots."

Are they surveilling veterans as well? Timothy McVeigh and Eric Randolph Roberts are probably not the only terrorists who had US military training.

(duh, Lee Harvey Oswald. I'm sure there are more.)

For some reason I doubt they've got that kind of program in place.

#77 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 02:41 AM:

Bruce Cohen@47 - I met several members of what was probably the Philly Police Red Squad back in the early 90s. I was living in New Jersey, and went over to Philly one weekend for an anarchist convention. During the daytime it was at the Philadelphia Friends' School, and there was a large American car parked out front with four guys in suits sitting in it. For the evening, the convention moved to an anarchist-run coffeehouse a mile or two away, and the same car was parked out front. There was only one obvious thing to do about it - go offer them some coffee. (They declined, saying they'd brought their own. And this was before the cops-and-donuts meme had really taken off.)

#78 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 03:53 PM:

Speaking of surveillance dystopia....

Gov't. agencies, colleges demand applicants' facebook passwords.

In Maryland, job seekers applying to the state's Department of Corrections have been asked during interviews to log into their accounts and let an interviewer watch while the potential employee clicks through wall posts, friends, photos and anything else that might be found behind the privacy wall.

Previously, applicants were asked to surrender their user name and password, but a complaint from the ACLU stopped that practice last year. While submitting to a Facebook review is voluntary, virtually all applicants agree to it out of a desire to score well in the interview, according Maryland ACLU legislative director Melissa Coretz Goemann. While submitting to a Facebook review is voluntary, virtually all applicants agree to it out of a desire to score well in the interview, according Maryland ACLU legislative director Melissa Coretz Goemann.

#79 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 05:16 PM:

Debbie: Yet another reason I don't want a FB account....

#80 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 06:55 PM:

Yes, yet another reason. Also, why (apart from LinkedIn, for obvious reasons) all of my online behaviour uses this pseudonym or an obvious variant on it.

So, no Google+ for me, either - because G wants something that explicitly will put me in a situation where either I tell my prosepctive employer an obvious lie, or tell them it's none of their business (to which the response is "well, we don't have to give you a job, either"), or tell them "that's a different Mahmoud Ahmedinijad" (no, that's not my name, but it's just about as net-unique). Sure it is.

I have no problems telling employers a little white lie when it's no business of theirs anyway ("I don't have one" rather than "I don't have one with my name on it") but "it doesn't bother me that much that you lied to me. What does bother me is that you think I'm that stupid I wouldn't notice" doesn't just apply to family.

#81 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 01:32 AM:

Jacque @ 79:

Bet you didn't know FBI stood for FaceBook Incrimination.

#82 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 03:10 AM:

Paraphrasing Bruce Cohen @ #8, I'm nigh convinced this is basically a government-sponsored terrorism-generating apparatus. Take marginalized groups of people, get them (rightfully) angry at the government, and drive them sufficiently underground that you'll have plausible deniability when they make a move.


#83 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 08:40 AM:

A. J. Luxton #82: or supply them with incriminating hardware and goad them into "making a terrorist plan" for which you cannot only arrest them, but use to justify further abuses.

#85 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 03:41 PM:

Help, please, on who it was who wrote about the super-computer that had all of humanity's info fed into it and was supposed to be able to answer any question. They tested it with three? four? leaders - religious, political, military.

The machine had a lens to see who was asking each question, though the requests and answers were on (punched?) tape.

Nothing happened. They got the genius who'd designed the machine in, and he said he'd need the questions. With great reluctance, he got them.
He made one adjustment and then the machine worked.

One was "How can I assume power for life?" and the answer was "Explode a bomb in a major city. Spend the rest of your career searching for the other ones."


He had gone to the wall opposite and taken down the "Think" sign.


Yeah, yeah, Speaker to Managers is going to pull out that this is Budrys again.

#86 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 06:41 PM:

That certainly doesn't sound like any Asimov I've read. The one where they ask the computer, "Is there a God" and it says, "There is now" is by Fredric Brown, but that's not the one you're asking for.

#87 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 09:01 PM:

Or rope them into being arrested by supplying them with plans/money/advice/etc. Which seems to be one of their habits (which they never actually admit afterward - but it's surprising how often their Seekrit Recording Devices aren't working when all the planning is actually happening).

#88 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 09:07 PM:

There's an interesting video making the rounds on those TSA body scans don't work very well -- they're easier to get around than metal detectors. Not only do we have a surveillance dystopia, but it's an incompetent one.

#89 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 01:48 AM:

Carol Kimball @ 85:

Yeah, yeah, Speaker to Managers is going to pull out that this is Budrys again.

Nope, you've stumped me this time. The only things I could think of are the Asimov and Brown stories that David Goldfarb mentioned.

#90 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 02:26 PM:

Carol Kimball @ 85:

I am wondering if you are conflating two separate stories.

I vaguely recall one, with a computer and a "Think" sign, but I cannot remember much else about it. I too would say Asimov, but am open to correction.

The other is by Clarke, and I think one of the Tales From the White Hart. It concerns a military supercomputer that went pacifist after the General in charge of the project tried to bully the senior engineer once too often.

J Homes.

#91 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 03:03 PM:

You know, this whole business of Paypal vs. Smashwords.... I'm wondering if a case could be made that Paypal's function in this process approaches that of a public utility, and might come under the purview of the FCC. (Or the FTC?) Having a look at them in their aspect as a monopoly seems like it migth be a productive question to ask...?

#92 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 03:17 PM:

Re: unfound story

I am about as sure of this as I am of most stuff (i.e. my accuracy varies), as it hit at the age when I believed that people who had risen to greatness were necessarily benevolent.

The three leaders' questions were grossly inconsistent with their public image.

The computer gives horrendously "perfect" answers to each, once it has had the "Think" command removed.

It might have been in a best-of collection. Obviously early - the feed being punched tape.

Has the mindset of Sturgeon, but I can't remember him running with the computer technology.

#93 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 05:26 PM:

The story with the THINK sign is, IIRC, in one of Clifton Fadiman's two mathematical anthologies (Fantasia Mathematica and The Mathematical Magpie), but my copies of those are deep in storage somewhere.

#94 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 05:41 PM:

J Homes, #90: The Clarke story is called "The Pacifist", and it is indeed a White Hart tale.

I think the Asimov story people are dimly remembering is the one in which Multivac is asked, "How can entropy be reversed?" There is an answer, but it takes so long for it to be found that there is no one left to give the answer to; however, the implementation of the answer solves that problem. It ends with the statement "LET THERE BE LIGHT."

#95 ::: LizardBreath ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 05:55 PM:

The "Think" sign story is Sturgeon: The Nail and the Oracle is the name of the story.

#96 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 06:14 PM:

Lee, that story is "The Last Question," and I saw it done as a planetarium show when I was a kid!

#97 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 10:02 PM:

#95 ::: LizardBreath

The "Think" sign story is Sturgeon: The Nail and the Oracle is the name of the story.

Yes, it is. I just reread it with the exquisite care that fragile old paperback needed, and it's even more appropriate and chilling than I had remembered. I confabulated some details, but the essence is dead-on, and it's well worth hunting up.

Thank you, LizardBreath.

#98 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 03:21 PM:

North Atlantic Books has been publishing all of Sturgeon's short fiction, both what's been published already, and what's never been published before.

They also publish some very good martial arts books.

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