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United States Government Technology

Embarrassing Stories Shed Light On US Officials' Technological Ignorance 299

Posted by samzenpus
from the Is-this-thing-on? dept.
colinneagle writes "Speaking at the SXSW Conference recently, Dr. Peter W. Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, recalled one U.S. official who was 'about to negotiate cybersecurity with China' asking him to explain what the term 'ISP' (Internet Service Provider) means. This wasn't the only example of this lack of awareness. 'That's like going to negotiate with the Soviets and not knowing what "ICBM" means,' Dr. Singer said. 'And I've had similar experiences with officials from the UK, China and Abu Dhabi.' Similarly, Dr. Singer recalled one account in which Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of the U.S. Homeland Security Department from 2009 to 2013, admitted that she didn't use email 'because she just didn't think it was useful.' 'A Supreme Court justice also told me "I haven't got round to email yet" — and this is someone who will get to vote on everything from net neutrality to the NSA negotiations,' Dr. Singer said."
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Embarrassing Stories Shed Light On US Officials' Technological Ignorance

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  • An advantage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Etherwalk (681268) on Monday March 10, 2014 @05:01PM (#46449435)

    This is in some ways an advantage--SCOTUS is supposed to change slowly. But it also results in crazy rulings at times, like the idea that you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in who you call. The judges who made that decision a few decades ago grew up when there were still *shared phone lines* between neighboring houses.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Monday March 10, 2014 @05:07PM (#46449511)

    I'm looking at you, Kathleen Sebelius. The fiasco is just one obvious symptom. The world depends utterly on science and technology, but is being guided by people who I will describe politely as "technically challenged."

    We've seen the results recently, and they're not pretty. I think our democracy itself is going to have to go through a thorough upgrade to remain viable. IQ tests for politicians? No, it's not egalitarian. It's not the American way. It may, however, allow the country to survive in something like its present form over the next century.

  • by TheMeuge (645043) on Monday March 10, 2014 @05:18PM (#46449661)

    I once attended a seminar by one of the heads of emergency response from the city that's often portrayed as the world's biggest terrorism target. He was going on about communications equipment that is stored away for use after a low-yield nuke detonation. I asked the speaker whether the equipment and storage facilities are shielded against EMP. He asked me what "EMP" is.

    I walked out.

  • Re:supreme court (Score:4, Interesting)

    by whoever57 (658626) on Monday March 10, 2014 @05:49PM (#46450013) Journal

    The Courts are supposed to weigh cases based on the facts and arguments presented, and not so much on their own personal experiences.

    Conextual knowledge is usually required to make good decisions. Without that context, decisions are likely to be random. Yes, the lawyers should present information to develop context, but where to start? Do they have to start with 1 + 1 = 2 ? Obviously not. So what assumptions should they make about the knowledge of a judge? Probably they start with what a ordinary person would know; but if a judge knows less than an ordinary person?

  • by tlambert (566799) on Monday March 10, 2014 @06:11PM (#46450255)

    Like Fawn Hall in 1986? Ollie North's secretary, who printed out his emails so she could shred them?

  • by Frobnicator (565869) on Monday March 10, 2014 @06:41PM (#46450497) Journal

    These people have access to all the modern conveniences via their jobs. They have chosen not to learn anything about them which would be O.K. if it wasn't critical to their job performance.

    Actually the SCOTUS has shown they are more than willing to learn about something required for them to do their jobs.

    Go back a few years when they had a specific case about video games and free speech in 2011. They set up a lab and played the ultra-violent games for a few days, both online and off, to help make a decision. (All of them agreed with the free speech, two dissented saying it was not regulating speech, but was regulating the sale of products.)

    Historically the judges have been willing to get their hands dirty and view the gritty details when they are called to review them for a case. They have traveled to remote locations, dug through physical evidence, and gotten their hands dirty. They may not be hardcore gamers or telecom experts, but when it comes to ruling on the law they are making determinations based on the exact wording on the law. Such a decision can be made based on reviewing the facts, reviewing details provided by experts, and looking at the specific items enough to satisfy their opinions.

"Floggings will continue until morale improves." -- anonymous flyer being distributed at Exxon USA