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Stallman: Thousands Dead, Millions Deprived of Liberties 1632

Hobart noted that Richard Stallman has written a very well said piece on the civil liberties that we will no doubt be deprived of following the recent terrorist attacks on the US. I know RMS takes a lot of heat for being out there sometimes, but this is a really well said bit and worth a read.

Thousands dead, millions deprived of civil liberties?

By Richard Stallman

The worst damage from many nerve injuries is secondary -- it happens in the hours after the initial trauma, as the body's reaction to the damage kills more nerve cells. Researchers are beginning to discover ways to prevent this secondary damage and reduce the eventual harm.

If we are not careful, the deadly attacks on New York and Washington will lead to far worse secondary damage, if the U.S. Congress adopts "preventive measures" that take away the freedom that America stands for.

I'm not talking about searches at airports here. Searches of people or baggage for weapons, as long as they check only for weapons and keep no records about you if you have no weapons, are just an inconvenience; they do not endanger civil liberties. What I am worried about is massive surveillance of all aspects of life: of our phone calls, of our email, and of our physical movements.

These measures are likely to be recommended regardless of whether they would be effective for their stated purpose. An executive of a company developing face recognition software is said to be telling reporters that widespread deployment of face-recognizing computerized cameras would have prevented the attacks. The September 15 New York Times cites a congressman who is advocating this "solution." Given that the human face recognition performed by the check-in agents did not keep the hijackers out, there is no reason to think that computer face recognition would help. But that won't stop the agencies that have always wanted to do more surveillance from pushing this plan now, and many other plans like it. To stop them will require public opposition.

Even more ominously, a proposal to require government back doors in encryption software has already appeared.

Meanwhile, Congress hurried to pass a resolution giving Bush unlimited power to use military force in retaliation for the attacks. Retaliation may be justified, if the perpetrators can be identified and carefully targeted, but Congress has a duty to scrutinize specific measures as they are proposed. Handing the president carte blanche in a moment of anger is exactly the mistake that led the United States into the Vietnam War.

Please let your elected representatives, and your unelected president, know that you don't want your civil liberties to become the terrorists' next victim. Don't wait -- the bills are already being written.

Copyright 2001 Richard Stallman

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted in any medium provided the copyright notice and this notice are preserved.

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Stallman: Thousands Dead, Millions Deprived of Liberties

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  • by bconway ( 63464 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @03:40PM (#2310631) Homepage
    Does it bother anyone besides me that Congress is using the terrorist attacks as a blank check to take away civil liberties? As we all know, a bill has been proposed that would require back doors in all encryption products, which is NOT okay in my book. I'm all in favor of heightened security carried out in an intelligent manner, and I'm willing to give up some liberties for security, but the way this whole thing has been blamed on the internet is completely ridiculous.
    • by Doctor_D ( 6980 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @03:51PM (#2310747) Homepage Journal
      Yeah, it bothers me that lawmakers and policymakers are going bonkers with "security measures." I'm honestly questioning the motivations of these measures. I mean, the "heightened security" that we've had at the airports since the WTC bombing where at the airports asked those three stupid questions. Honestly who in their right mind would say yes? Honest citizens won't simply because it's not true. Criminals with no iq whatsoever would say yes, but if they are wanting to bring a bomb on board an aircraft, you simply wouldn't say yes to the questions.

      It seems to me in this hysteria people are looking for a good scapegoat, wheter it be flight training schools, MS's Flight Simulator, contruction at Logan Airport, some middle eastern terrorist (that the US supported at one time), strong encryption, Quake, or whatever. Unfortunatley many people here in the US will say "There needs to be a law for <blank>" and then go back to downing a six pack and watching TV.

    • Does it bother anyone besides me that Congress is using the terrorist attacks as a blank check to take away civil liberties?

      Bother, yes. Suprise me? No. There are certain members of Congress who will exploit any tragedy, sacrifice any human life and trample the rights of any citizen to pursue their own political agendas.

      I personally wouldn't call it "using" the terrorist attacks, but rather "Dancing on the graves" of all those who died last week.
    • This post is a very interesting experiment with the Slashdot community. The message carbon-copies RMS's statement above (enough to warrant a -1: Redundant).
      No flamers about "just trying to grab attetion" here, however! Far from pointing out the obvious equality between the opinion expressed by BConway and RMS's, the conversation is intelligent and focuses on the facts.
      Why do we bitch about RMS making a statement and respond positively to a rehash of the same statement from someone else?
      I thought the Slashdot community prided itself on being a little bit open-minded. Kneejerk condemnations of people's opinions based on their identity is not only rude, it's stupid. Hats off to BConway for making this so clear.
    • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @04:37PM (#2311229) Journal
      on the internet!

      Please, tell me where it has? Last time I checked, most informed (not speculative) news analysis in mainstream papers (not Wired News) has discussed $6/hr rent-a-cop airport security, unpreparedness of the Pentagon, the years of flight training taken by the bad guys, and Osama bin Laden's ability to finance all of this and create terrorist cells around the world. Where's this clamor against the net that I haven't seen on the 10+ websites I read daily on the subject?

      • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @05:38PM (#2311681) Homepage Journal
        As another poster has noted, most news papers have been calling this a "technically sophisticated" attack. They seem to think that encrypted email made the co-ordination possible and that wholsale government postal privacy violations will be able to keep such things from happening again. It was backhanded and disturbingly stupid. An article like this in last weeks New York Times and an interview with Dan Quale finally made me realize this was more than speculation.

        This week the papers are getting down to business. Check out these two articles from today's New York Times:

        This one recomends ISP censorship. [] with the lame excuse for corporate control of the public network as, "But the community standards that most Internet service providers apply can be more restrictive." Today it's hate speach, tomorow it will be embarasing or unpopular speach.

        This one detailing the FBI making it easier for an ISP to turn over email. [] Try this thrilling quote that got their attention, "The online posting on Aug. 30 sounded like the rantings of a crank: The subject was "911," and it warned "Something is going to happen tomorrow . . . REPENT!" On Sept. 4, the author of the first message, "Xinoehpoel," was back: "Wait 7 days," he wrote." At least the article goes on to worry about improper collection making such priceless quotes inadmissable. So what's the solution, hint hint? Monitoring? Geee, to bad that it won't work as the above quote really could contain a message and is indiscerable from pure garbage.

        There you go. Reputable, non speculative reporting for you advocating government and corporate controls on the internet. Why would big publishers like that? Other news sources have not even bothered to mention privacy.

      • John Keegan, defence correspondent, blames the Internet [].

        "The World Trade Centre outrage was co-ordinated on the internet, without question," he writes. "If Washington is serious in its determination to eliminate terrorism, it will have to forbid internet providers to allow the transmission of encrypted messages - now encoded by public key ciphers that are unbreakable even by the National Security Agency's computers - and close down any provider that refuses to comply.

        "Uncompliant providers on foreign territory should expect their buildings to be destroyed by cruise missiles. Once the internet is implicated in the killing of Americans, its high-rolling days may be reckoned to be over."
      • From the respected UK broadsheet: []

        "ordinary Americans will have to learn to bear... interference with their liberty of instant electronic access to friends and services... If Washington is serious in its determination to eliminate terrorism, it will have to forbid internet providers to allow the transmission of encrypted messages...

        The register rip's the article [] to pieces better than i ever could.

  • America is the land of the free, with liberty, and justice for all. If we take away this liberty to "prevent further terrorism," we will take away America, and we will be left with a shell of what we used to be. This country isn't perfect, we don't always do everything right, but our principles are some of the most pure in the world, and if we change those so that we can protect ourselves, we will kill ourselves, and there will be no America.
    • America is the land of the free, with liberty, and justice for all

      Check that, it's the land of liberty and justice for all those who can afford it. I mean, does anybody really doubt that after seeing Rodney King's attackers walk, after seeing OJ walk, and after seeing mentally retarded people with no money for expensive lawyers get the chair in Texas despite obvious mental incompetence? Does anybody really think that it's "liberty and justice for all" in a place where a respected journalist [] gets the death penalty and the courts won't even listen to an appeal WHEN SOMEONE COMES FORWARD AND COPS TO THE MURDER that the journalist was accused of?

      When you can get ass-raped in a police station bathroom by a racist motherfucker with a gun, is it really freedom and justice for all? What about when unarmed people get shot in the back whlie running away?
      One of my biggest problems with all of this WtC stuff is the UGLY NATIONALISM that it has bred. People who knew that the US government didn't have their best interests in mind on Monday now slap flags on their cars and sing patriotic hymns as if just because we were attacked we're suddenly in the right about everything. Well I've got news for you. Just because Lee Harvey Oswald was killed doesn't mean that he was a great guy that deserved our support.

      America is what it is. The people are going to get EXACTLY as much as they're willing to put up with. America will be america even if we turn into a jackbooted fascist state (which I don't think is that likely). The only difference is that we'll have a few fewer assholes singing patriotic hymns that were written by rich white slaveholders.

      • I said very clearly that we don't always do the right things. The principle is the important thing, the law, as it was intended, is just. The problem is how individuals carry out the law, as in the situations you describe. We're not perfect, nobody is, and terrible things happen here, but we try, we have good intentions, and we're the best thing going if you look around the world.
        • One of the problems with your law system, which is not about individuals, but about the principle, is that each pay his/her own bill. In most european countries, the loser pays the bill of the winner. This means that you'l get good lawyers even if you'r poor - if you have a good case.
    • Then we lost America a long time ago. Maybe it was back when they interned American citizens of Japanese decent. Or maybe it was when Lincoln suspended habeus corpus. Or maybe it was when Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts.

      You might want to rework your central thesis a little bit. Did we lose America back in 1798? If so, then what is it you are defending with your rhetoric. If America was not lost back in 1798 then perhaps you can delineate which liberties we are able to lose and maintain "America" and which we are not able to lose.
      • The key difference between those incidents and the current one is that those were "merely" temporary restrictions, while the bill in question is permanent.

        The constitution makes specific exceptions for temporary revocation of rights for as long as necessary, but no longer. This is not that.

        (suspension of habeus corpus sucks, but it tends to make logical sense, and is fair. interning japanese people is overreactive, foolhardy, and unfair. assigning survellance teams to follow around anyone who had been in recent contact with others in japan is reasonable, however.)
  • please RMS (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by gol64738 ( 225528 )
    RMS, i respect your opinion when it comes to software, but please don't voice any other political opinions. the remark about our 'unelected president' makes your peice look stupid anyways...
    • C'mon, we needed at least one flame-war capable Stallmanism in there!
    • I have to agree... I hate that Bush is in office, but this statement utterly nullifies any kind of rational argument.
    • Excellent point.

      Even when a pundit seems to have a point, it immediately looses credibility as soon as the inevitible political cheap shot is thrown in.

      This is what made Katz' last article so disturbing. 5,000 dead, and he's railing on "old media" and taking cheap shots at Bush.

      This is a problem inherant in OS advocacy as well: Good ideas get lost because some pedantic or childish taunt thrown into the whole to make it seem less serious.

    • Are you totally incapable of separating two personas in the same person? I'm sure you have opinions on software. Do those opinions void the value of your political opinions?

      Why can't the guy talk about politics if he wants to? While I don't think that he's officially speaking for the Free Software Foundation with this article, and speaking only for himself, everything that he's about has to do with wider politics and society in general, and not just whether or not 14 year olds have to pay for their w4r3z at the store, or whether they can download and compile them themselves at no cost.

      RMS has said over and over and over and over and over that it's all about freedom. I'm sorry, I meant that it's all about Freedom. With a capital (F). Read this article again, and see if you think it's totally inappropriate. It's about Freedom isn't it? Or did I miss something?

    • I'll admit, he had me until that remark. Otherwise, I think he makes some good points that aren't in the typical RMS-style. That 'unelected president' remark throws the whole thing off IMO.

      G. W. Bush was in fact elected; not by me, perhaps not by RMS, but he is our president, and I stand behind him 100% on most of the recent issues. I personally think he's doing a great job so far, especially in his public appearances.
    • RMS, i respect your opinion when it comes to software, but please don't voice any other political opinions. the remark about our 'unelected president' makes your peice look stupid anyways...
      I too, respect RMS's opinions when it comes to software and licensing. But I disagree with your sentiment that he should not voice other political opinions. Stallman has every right to voice any other political opinions he might entertain. Just as you have the right to your beliefs, and I have the right to respond to them, and everyone has the right to respond to me.

      It is your choice whether you accept RMS's remarks concerning "other political opinions", but in no way should you attempt to bar him from offerring those opinions.

      Your point about RMS saying "unelected president" is right on the money. The President was certainly elected -- not by the people -- by the Supreme Court. I have my own strong opinions on this issue, but all they do is interfere with the matter at hand. I stand behind our President now: not because I agree with him or his approaches, but because I realize the turmoil disagreal would cause at this point in time.

      I, for one, took RMS's words to heart. The last clause about our "unelected president" detracted from his point, but does not render his points irrelevant.

      So, to sum up: if you believe in your own civil liberties, please do not attempt to curtail others'.

      Sorry that was so long winded, it's been a crazy week. If you think I'm wrong, please don't flame me, respond and offer your views instead.

    • I agree, that was totally uncalled for, and quite frankly, exactly what the terrorists want: to divide us.

      RMS should be ashamed of himself.

  • by kermyt ( 99494 )
    A tooth for a tooth!! sounds like we will all be blindly gumming our food soon.

  • Face Recognition. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by chinton ( 151403 )
    Given that the human face recognition performed by the check-in agents did not keep the hijackers out, there is no reason to think that computer face recognition would help.

    Because, we all know that check agents stay awake at night trying to memorize the faces of all know criminals and terrorists, and can name them on sight... Of all of the arguements against face recognition software this has to be the lamest one I have ever heard.

    I can't calculate PI to 1000 digits in my head, I guess my computer can't either...
  • Given that the human face recognition performed by the check-in agents did not keep the hijackers out, there is no reason to think that computer face recognition would help.

    Um...yeah, see, that's not true. I'm capable of remembering, what, a few thousand faces? Tens of thousands? A facial-recognition system can (reportedly) distinguish millions.

  • Sign the petition (Score:5, Informative)

    by claus.wilke ( 51904 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @03:46PM (#2310686)
    There is a petition to sign. Current count already over 85000.

    `In the aftermath of the ruthless attack on the World Trade Center and
    Pentagon, we implore the leaders of the United States to ensure that
    justice be served by protecting the innocent citizens of all nations all
    over the world.

    We demand that the President maintain the civil liberties of all U.S.
    residents, protect the human rights of all people at home and abroad, and
    guarantee that this attempted attack on the principles and freedoms of the
    United States will not succeed.

    We plead for a thorough investigation of the terrorist events before any

    We call for PEACE and JUSTICE, not revenge. LET THERE BE PEACE ALL OVER
  • surveillance of all aspects of life: of our phone calls, of our email, and of our physical movements.

    The head of the CIA has already said that their ability to retrieve information has far surpassed their ability to analyse it. And that's just from "regular" information channels, spies, probes on suspected crazies, etc.

    Do you really think if they tapped "all aspects of life" that they have the manpower to analyse it? Does anyone realise how much information that is?

    • true but...
      What happens when someone reports you as un American, then they go through that data, explicitly looking for you, then tie anything they believe as unAmerican(with no real proof its, just your ID/Login) and use that to lock you away for treason?

      They may not beable to do it in a night, but I bet they could go through all of it within a week, if there just looking for you, and not trying to correlate all data about every one.
  • Given that the human face recognition performed by the check-in agents did not keep the hijackers out, there is no reason to think that computer face recognition would help.

    Gosh, do you think maybe a computer can scan millions of faces a lot quicker than a $6.00/hour bored rent-a-cop?

    • The only problem is the hijackers would not have been in the database yet.
    • What is the big deal with face recognition? WTF is wrong with that? Personally, I am not WILLING to give up any of my liberties because of this terrible act of terrorism, but how does face recognition computers infringe on my liberties? You are already in a public place, you're in the open, people can see you, so can cameras(which are already there anyway), what difference does it make if there are cameras connected to computers doing face recognition to be sure that no known criminals/terrorists board a plane?

      Privacy can be important, especially for someone acting justly who has enemies, but in public there is no privacy. You are already out in the open, anyone who wants can snap a picture of you. Everyone sees you picking that monster weggie, everyone see you wipe that hanger off your nose, everyone sees you checking out that hot chick's ass while you're walking with your wife...

      The day someone puts a camera in my house(or in too close a proximity), forces dna sampling, forces me to turn over personal information, etc., then I'll be pissed.

      Personally, I'm not sure what I think about gun registration laws, and other such things that exist already, but complaining about face recognition is like complaining about putting up a website with pictures of you and people coming to download them, YOU PUT IT THERE, just like being out in public.

      note: I'm still open to any arguments about why it's bad, but right now I just don't see it as a threat in any way at all.

  • And what better time for government to propose legislation that limits freedom than right after a national tragedy that has everybody scared. A Washington Post poll this weekend found that 60% off Americans would trade freedom for security right now. I appreciate RMS's effort, but I fear this battle has already been lost.
    • What they're talking about wouldn't have prevented what happened last Tuesday. People are clamoring for them to do something, and about why this even happened. What the populace doesn't understand is that they (the terrorists) know that we've got abilities to track and crack this stuff- so they don't use crypto to avoid being caught as easily. And, as others point out, they're not going to honor our laws (Did they honor them last Tuesday? What makes people think that they're going to start now?) and use crypto that doesn't have the backdoors, etc.

      It boils down to which freedoms are you talking about- restricting many of them don't guarantee security in the slightest. Everything done up to this point has been exactly opposite to what the government has been saying- it's reacting hysterically to the problem and letting the terrorists win.
  • Please let your elected representatives, and your unelected president, ... [emphasis mine]

    Yeah, that was real helpful. What a dork. And he wonders why he is marginalized so often. Restraint could get him much further in this world.

  • 1. "Given that the human face recognition performed by the check-in agents did not keep the hijackers out, there is no reason to think that computer face recognition would help."

    Jeez, that's like saying that a human can't keep track of 20,000 messages at a time so computers can't either. No honestly, while I do not agree with face cams on the street or in public places, I can agree with them in airports, because it's been widely held that it isn't unconstitutional to withhold some civil liberties to protect the Public.

    2. "Meanwhile, Congress hurried to pass a resolution giving Bush unlimited power to use military force in retaliation for the attacks. Retaliation may be justified, if the perpetrators can be identified and carefully targeted, but Congress has a duty to scrutinize specific measures as they are proposed. Handing the president carte blanche in a moment of anger is exactly the mistake that led the United States into the Vietnam War."

    That's just out and out bullshit too. That's not what led the United States into Vietnam, that's what got Marines there, but the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and Congress's recent vote are not the same. The Gulf of Tonkin was a slippery slope into war, Congress basicly voted for war, just like they did in 1812, 1846, 1861, 1898, 1917 and 1941. Not the same as the Gulf of Tonkin.

    3. "But that won't stop the agencies that have always wanted to do more surveillance from pushing this plan now, and many other plans like it. To stop them will require public opposition."

    Stallman must have missed US Government class in high school and college. Just because Congress votes on something and the President signs it, doesn't mean it will be there forever, the Supreme Court will decide that. There are some wacky congress-critters out there, but I doubt that this long battle about crypto and people tracking will slip in under the guise of "Public Safety".

    That was one big FUD piece there, and yep, I think Stallman was out there.
    • Stallman must have missed US Government class in high school and college. Just because Congress votes on something and the President signs it, doesn't mean it will be there forever, the Supreme Court will decide that. There are some wacky congress-critters out there, but I doubt that this long battle about crypto and people tracking will slip in under the guise of "Public Safety".

      The Supreme Court upheld several laws past by congress that curtailed civil liberties during McArthism, no reason why it would be different now. Although RMS does use some lame examples, and shot it in the foot with his 'un-elected' comment, his point is true.We must act now.
  • I'm glad RMS said this - and so tactfully! We are all afraid of these very things happening. As members (most of us) of the open source community our representetives, as it were, need to express how we feel.

    Sure, RMS, ESR and Linus were never voted in, aren't always in agreement and have as much opposition as support within the OSS community however they are the people that CNN, Cnet and the like quote as being our collective voice. Even if slashdot has modded similar posts up to 5 numerous times those posts aren't going to be read by your congressman unless they are typed out on nice paper by someone like RMS.

    And to RMS, thank you. When these rights are taken away atleast we can say, "told you so."
  • ... for the Stallman's to strike back. "Oh no, I don't want anyone to know that I went into Kmart today".

    Face it Richard, no one really cares about where you or I go, or what we did today, our lives just aren't that important. That placed on the fact that there is absolutly no law that currently prevents face recognition software from being used, either in public or private sectors, makes your little diatribe about it just an excercise in scaring people about the new laws.

    And I seem to recall that President George Bush did not need Congress to OK his sending thousands of troops into Saudia Arabia. The President is the Commander-in-chief and not Congress in order to provide for swift deployment of forces when needed. So the Congress blank-check bit is also little weak for an argument.

    So, this gets to the phone taps. The FBI want's to be able to tap any phone a specific person can use, instead of having to get one for each phone. I do have to agree that that sounds a little over-zealous, and could provide a carte-blance to tap the entire cellphone network. But just remember that any evidence recovered that does not pertain to the specific charges cannot be used. Yes, they could listen to your phone call just because you happend to let that guy who is under suspicion use your cell once three years ago. But if you confess you stole burritos from 7-11, they cannot use your phone call in court. And having worked for a mobile phone company and occasionally have to listen to phone calls to monitor the system, I can tell you that most phone calls are boring beyound belief.

    So what was your point again???

    OK ... I'm done ranting.
  • One thing that is painfully obvious from the other countries that have to deal with the constant threat of terrorism is that some liberties do have to be surrendered. More government knowledge and control of what we do is something that we have to accept.

    Really, if we continue with our current system there is no doubt that this could happen again. To all the people who say, "Give me freedom or give me death," this is the time to make your choice. Stand on the side of continued complete freedom and invite the terrorists in with open arms. Or give up a few freedoms and help stop the next attack before it starts.

    We haven't dealt with this before, but other countries like UK and Israel have, and their experience is clear: the choice really is between death and loss of freedom. I'm firmly in the camp of living, and I hope that people like Richard Stallman realize their folley and join me before we get hit again!
    • As for me, I say, "Give me Liberty, or give me death!"

      Patrick Henry
    • This is silly (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @04:06PM (#2310907)
      Okay, so the UK have CCTV cameras all over the country. Net result ? they can squelch pretty thefts in high streets and issue speeding tickets automatically. Yet the IRA still strike. Gee, I wonder why the camera didn't pick them up.

      British citizens have "chosen" to give up their freedom for nothing.

      That's only one example. In France, there is a law that forbids people to use any kind of encryption. Net result ? Algerian terrorists, the ETA, the FLNC still plant bombs in the country. French people too have given up their freedom for nothing.

      I'm all for giving up things that make it possible to catch terrorists, but freedom is not one of them. Watching people is not the solution.

  • I noticed that the Chicago Tribune had an article about the tension between security and liberty [] today. IMHO, whether or not Congress will move to restrict civil liberties right now is not as important as whether or not civil liberties are even being discussed. Whether or not they are even on the radar or the average person.

    It is very likely civil liberties will be hedged for a short time. But now, the debate is on the front page of the newspaper rather than the techno-backwaters of Slashdot. People will notice the loss of their freedom. Up to now, freedom was being eroded and few noticed or cared.

    I think that the short-term consequences, sadly, will include depriving U.S. citizens of civil liberties in the name of safety. But I think the long-term consequences are a heightened awareness of the balance and tension between security and liberty.

  • Mr. Stallman is clearly upset, and his statement regarding our president is inflammatory and disrespectful. Don't get me wrong--I can sympathize with Mr. Stallman. But if moderators on /. could moderate stories, this one might just get the old "Troll" or "Flamebait" markings.

    Regarding everything else--I agree. I really, really do. The problem that most people (at least on /.) aren't recognizing is that we're in the minority here. Joe Redneck, Aunt Minnie, and Mr. Jones don't care about our or their privacy right now. In fact, they're just mad at the people who committed the terrible acts or terrorism. More than 80% of Americans support the idea of the US going to war. That's how serious this is.

    We really need to be more careful. I know we don't want our country to spiral down that toilet we all know as big brotherhood. But if we make statements like this and the public media starts to publicize it like mad; we're soon going to find ourselves on the wrong end of those big guns. Those 80% of Americans that support our country right now are just going to think we're just a bunch of terrorists ourselves; or at the very least that we "harbor and assist" them. That certainly won't help our fight.

    So folks, let's turn this down a notch. Let's choose our words with a little more caution because we may not be able to win these battles right now; and frankly we can't get ourselves confused by America as the enemy. Let's just take a little time to help our government using polite tactics instead of attacking them. Our view just doesn't have the support of the people right now.

  • Boneheaded, opportunistic comment of the day []. Last week Jerry Falwell blamed the WTC attack on the ACLU, feminists, and gays. Here's what ESR has to say about it;

    Raymond, the libertarian open-source guru, known for his love of firearms, suggested that if the passengers of the hijacked jets had had guns the four-plane tragedy might have been prevented: "We have learned today that trying to keep civilian weapons out of airplanes and other areas vulnerable to terrorist attack is not the answer either -- indeed, it is arguable that the lawmakers who disarmed all the non-terrorists on those four airplanes, leaving them no chance to stop the hijackers, bear part of the moral responsibility for this catastrophe."
    The story about this took less than five minutes to be rejected by the editors. Apparently when your stock is circling the drain, a member of the Board of Directors saying something like that isn't something you necessarily want publicised.

    Think air rage is bad now? Try arming those drunk businessmen and see what happens.

  • Many have stated the flaws in this piece by RMS. I won't repeat them.

    However, since RMS is always a lightning rod for discussion, we are now all continuing to talk about the possibility of the US federal government lessening the civil liberties of the citizens it represents.

    Please keep discussing it. Please contact your elected representatives (RMS's unnecessary anti-Bush statement notwithstanding) and tell them what you think. And RMS, please keep having opinions. If nothing else, it keeps us all talking, and that is A Good Thing (c).
  • by litewoheat ( 179018 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @03:57PM (#2310807)
    To take this a bit further...

    The new enemy is practically undefined and is broadly described as "terrorist organizations and the states that support and harbor them". America, Joe Sixpack's America, cannot wage a war against this new enemy without first putting a face on it. That face is Osama Bin Laden, whether or not he had any involvement in New York and Washington.

    Our new war will have no victory. Soon, Americans will grow used to news reports of military actions in Middle Eastern countries more so then with the same from Kosovo and Iraq. This is because this war will be ongoing as will the state of war and its consequences on civil liberties and domestic tolerance. Getting to the point To win this war America, and its allies, need to prove a negative, that is that terrorism no longer exists. Does this mean that, eventually, the focus of this war could be "terrorists" in Montana? What about First Amendment protected Hate groups or far from center muckrakers. What comes after that? Double Plus Good Domestic Security? Telescreens? Thought Police? We're on a slippery slope here with Double Plus Crisco.
  • We've lost nothing yet? These are just proposals... and tons of poposals get shot down every year. Yes, these may require more fighting than most, but don't assume just because a few congressmen want them, that they're going to happen.

    I swear, I'm half-expecting people to get uptight about a non-existant plan to make everyone wear a homing device so they can be found if abuiling collapses on them...
  • Please explain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by artemis67 ( 93453 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @04:00PM (#2310851)
    Given that the human face recognition performed by the check-in agents did not keep the hijackers out, there is no reason to think that computer face recognition would help.

    So, we now require all check-in agents at all airports to memorize the faces of thousands of known terrorists? I must have missed that in the news...

    Personally, I'm all for placing face regocnition systems in airports. If it will save lives, beginning with mine and my family's, then let's get it done. Absolutely.

    Look, the age of technology is here, and the criminals are already using technology to the max. The use of facial scanning technology, matching against wanted or known criminals in airports is not a violation of civil liberties, IMO. The unrestricted use of facial scanning technology by government may be, but it is important that we build out our legal system to accomodate new technologies AND protect civil liberties.

    For example, we could make a distinction between "scanning and matching" and "tracking" (without a court order).

    What I'm totally against is reactionary diatribes about the loss of civil liberties that don't cast an eye towards reshaping law. We have to keep seeking out that unique balance between protecting civil liberties and protecting society.
    • How would face scanning have prevented the WTC and Pentagon attacks again?

      I honestly can't think of how it would have, but maybe you can help me with that.

      • It might have prompted a more thorough search of the bags of the hijackers, most of whom were already known to the CIA to be involved in terrorism.

        In the bags, someone would have found a video about how to fly a commercial jet and some plastic knives.
        • Re:Please explain (Score:4, Insightful)

          by danheskett ( 178529 ) <> on Monday September 17, 2001 @06:32PM (#2311997)
          First off, thanks for the response.

          Second, the hijackers were carrying those items on their carry-on bags? I havent heard that, but it sounds true. Plastic knives though? The only confirmation I heard was plastic "box-cutters" and "razors". Those are legal items to carry on planes (well, until last tuesday anyways). They would show up on an X-Ray scan, and no one cared about them. There is no-precedent involved with disallowing passengers to board with shaving razors and/or box-cutters. They arent weapons, really.

          So lets say someone gets stopped and is searched, and has a video on how to fly a jet plane. Does that mean they cant fly? Is that illegal? Is being Arab and having a how-to-fly video make you a terrorist? Does being on a "watch" list make you a terrorist?

          The real fact of the matter is that even with this face recognition software in place at Logan on the day of the attack, nothing could have stopped these men once they had their attack in motion. They didnt need any weapons to speak of, they didnt break any laws before hand (excepting consipiracy and other thought-based crimes), and they were in the country legally. We can take away all these freedoms we enjoy to try to curb terrorism, but in fact, we wont have any effect on them. Terrorists dont need missles or bombs; they will use whatever they at their disposal.
  • by zulux ( 112259 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @04:02PM (#2310868) Homepage Journal

    I understand *fully*, why face recognition systems in public places is wrong. BUT, the airlines have a right and a duty to know who their customers are, and if face recognition systems help peal off the layers of anonymity they should be allowed to use them. Airlines have the right to know with whom they are doing business with. The business transition of purchasing a ticket is done on a contractual basis, and the airlines and the customer have the right know who the other party in the contract is.
  • by beanerspace ( 443710 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @04:02PM (#2310870) Homepage
    Sometime last week, I suggested voluntary biometrics as must one small measure to help facilitate idendification of the average joe. The thought is that as we are routed to more automated inspections, enforcement officers are freed up to perform more thorough human inspections. I've seen facial recognition and other technologies suggested as well.

    Perhaps what's needed is NOT legislation as the article suggests. For as with toll bridges, once set, they are very difficult to repeal.

    Instead, why not voluntary programs? For example, my enrollment in the above program would automatically expire in a year's time, unless I opt out right away. No harm is done either way, as I choose to go the long route.

    Granted, we are temporarily suspending some of our civil liberties, in return for safety, but in a way where we control the duration and participation in the program.
  • Logic Error (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pmc ( 40532 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @04:03PM (#2310876) Homepage
    Given that the human face recognition performed by the check-in agents did not keep the hijackers out, there is no reason to think that computer face recognition would help.

    This does not make much sense. Generalising gives "Given that humans cannot do something means that computers cannot do it either" should explain. I really don't know what is meant here. We have something that is already happening poorly. Someone has suggested that using technology would improve it, and this is an infringement of civil liberties. Sorry, I just don't buy that argument.

    Airlines have a right (and, de facto, an obligation, especially now) to know who is using them. Using computers can make their execution of this duty much more effective: it is counterproductive (to say the least), to demand that they forgo this because the use of this technology by some other body may infringe civil liberties.

    It may be that the use of the same technology, for a different end, by a different body, will be an infringement of civil liberties: by all means fight that battle then. But to try to stop a technology that has beneficial uses because it also has bad uses is luddite.

    And to fight the battle with the weapon "it's no better than what we've already got" is just dumb.
  • by nanojath ( 265940 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @04:04PM (#2310877) Homepage Journal
    One thing that is clear from this is that Mr. Stallman has no particular knowledge of this photo identification system. This system applies a multi-point comparative analysis of key facial features which are very difficult to alter/disguise (distance between eyes, etc). In combination they provide a very high degree of accuracy in positive identification based on a photograph. Mr. Stallman's comparison to individual surveillance by a human is meaningless because it is impossible for a human to do what this system could do - compare an individual to a database of known criminals.

    Although careful oversight would clearly be needed, if properly administered this system, allowed only to check against existing wanted criminals and terrorists and not allowed to track the movements of those not in the database or to store long-term information on non-tagged individuals, could provide a very powerful tool to intercept people who should not be allowed on an airplane.

    The idea that this is a loss of liberty is grabage. You need to present identification at an airport; you have no right to travel by air anonymously, airports are public places and noone has any right to expect not to be exposed to surveillance in this context. Mr. Stallman needs to learn to pick his battles, stick to what he knows, and choose his words more carefully. This tragedy is a little too recent to be using the phrase "thousands die" as a point of rhetoric. And though I am not at all a Bush supporter or fan, I agree with comments about Mr. Stallman's parting shot. Mr. Bush was elected: he was put into power by the Electoral College like every president that has served The United States of America.

  • If there's any people out there who don't think there's anything wrong with mandating government backdoors in all encrypting software, consider this: How can they mandate that encryption software retains that backdoor unless they prevent people from seeing the source code? This would be the death of any open source software that happens to do encryption. This asinine attitude that congress has, that lerge corporate software is the only software that needs to exist, is rearing it's ugly head again here. It's the same attitude that made it so that the DMCA prevents open source DVD players. If you can't beat open source down by technical means, then beat it down with the law.

    I don't often agree with RMS, but today I do. In our country's mad panic we are enacting changes that will reduce our freedoms forever, and all in the hypocritical name of protecting our freedom.

  • [this is a repost from another thread on the same subject]

    I fully expect to be lambasted for this, but even as one who has said "you can have my PGP when you pry it from my cold dead fingers", and as one who understands how quickly the minions of ObL can switch communication methods, I think the "fight the man" attitude is selfish, ignorant, and in the long run, a position which will fail in the marketplace of ideas.

    I condemn those who would outlaw strong encryption products. These people (including elected officials) are ignorant and they would throw out the baby with the bath water, as many have pointed out.

    I also condemn the comments made by those who say "aw shucks, 5000 deaths isn't so bad... X people die from Y each year." Those who make such comments are both insensitive and ignorant. They are insensitive to the pain felt by tens of thousands directly affected as well as those who, like me, take these attacks very personally in spite of not knowing a soul who perished. If for no other reason, the fact that I lived in Manhattan for 9 years makes my blood boil at comments like these.

    Those who dismiss the importance of this event have failed to grasp one essential fact about the various individuals and groups who have allied
    themselves against the U.S. That is, they will stop at nothing. If you think 5000 is acceptable, then next time it will be 5000000, if these SOBs get their hands on a nuke. Would that be OK with you? These people will only stop when we kill them. I refer you to the Washington Post, which has plenty of interesting and compelling information and commentary by people who are in a position to know. For starters, I suggest the transcript of a chat with Vernon Loeb: /nation/attack_loeb.htm [] . These comments underscore my personal belief that there is nothing the U.S. can do to appease these terrorists, because what they desire is the extinguishment of the "light on the hill" represented by the U.S.

    Another in-depth viewpoint is offered by Robert D. Kaplan, who has spent considerable time visiting the trouble spots of the world, including the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier: tm []

    Now, to my main point. There is a wealth of technical and creative talent here at Slashdot. In my naivete, I somehow thought that even the radical
    uber-Libertarian chic here would be blunted by the enormity of last week's events. I figured that maybe, just maybe, these events would unleash a fury which would turn towards fighting the bastards who did this, rather than childishly clinging to yesterday's anti-government paranoia. I somehow hoped that people here would be as outraged as I am, and that they would sign up to use their skills (in their own idiom) to find these SOBs and to protect the U.S. from future attacks, just as countless citizens did after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Hah! What an idiot I was to believe that.

    Look, I'm not real comfortable with the govt reading my electronic transmissions either. I strongly believe in the 4th amendment. I am well aware that the FBI (aka "Famous But Incompetent") has been a poor custodian of its already considerable powers, and has been quite spotty in its investigatory competence, as the Wen Ho Lee investigation showed.

    But, my belief is that if you want to preserve *any* of your rights to electronic privacy, you should moderate your viewpoint. Only children maintain the fantasy that no negotiation and no compromise is necessary. I challenge the /. community to devise an effective response to the events of 11 September. This response should not simply be "no compromise in the defense of our privacy rights" which incidentally did not have any effective means of enforcement until PGP 1.0. Rather, it should include technical assistance to help protect U.S. safety AND ALSO OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS.

    Thank you!

    P.S. -- I wrote a letter to my Representative proposing that all DEA agents be re-assigned to keep track of those on "watch lists", such as two of the hijackers who somehow eluded the FBI.

  • by Glock27 ( 446276 )
    Stallman is making a very good and important point here.

    It seems like every time I hear the media covering the terrorist attacks, I hear someone saying "Of course I'm ready to give up some freedom to improve security." These people don't seem to realize that if we give up civil liberties in response to these attacks, the terrorists have succeeded! Giving up those freedoms means the terrorists have forced us to change our way of life - that should be the LAST thing we want or allow.

    On the specific subject of flight safety, I've heard two proposals that (especially combined) would eliminate the threat of this type of attack almost completely without requiring additional airport security at all:

    • More armed air marshals in plainclothes randomly on flights.
    • Armored (Kevlar) secure bulkheads for the flight compartment of commercial planes.

    The only other flight related measure that would impact airport/airline employess (but not the general public) would be greater security measures for them to eliminate problems like the ramp access that one terrorist team apparently had, allowing them to get a bomb on board.

    Instead of these relatively unobtrusive measures, we will likely get very expensive, intrusive and draconian measures like automated chemical sniffers and millimeter wave "x-ray" machines. My prediction is that the terrorists will not attempt this type of attack again, and the public will absorb the cost and inconvenience for no gain whatever. Also we will likely be faced with fairly massive domestic surveillance, which will be useless if the enemy has half a clue, and will only serve to further erode our personal liberties (see the proposed encryption backdoors, for instance).

    Don't forget the words of a great American (the only person to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution):

    "Those that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
    --Ben Franklin--

    I hope that our current leaders can step up to the plate and make the right decisions, so that America can remain free, while eliminating the international terrorist threat to the extent possible.

    186,282 mi/s...not just a good idea, its the law!

  • Please let your elected representatives, and your unelected president, know that you don't want your civil liberties to become the terrorists' next victim.

    *chuckle* I'll have to remember that, it's quite amusing.

    And COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATE in this context.

    I didn't vote for Bush, but I recognize him as my elected president, especially now.

  • Fallacy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jdavidb ( 449077 )

    Given that the human face recognition performed by the check-in agents did not keep the hijackers out, there is no reason to think that computer face recognition would help.

    I'm sure I'll get flamed or worse either for disagreeing with RMS or for suggesting that "evil" face-recognition might be an effective deterrent, but the above statement is not true. Human face recognition performed by the check-in agents didn't work, but do you think it would've worked if the check-in agents were the CIA agents who'd been looking for two of the hijackers for a couple of weeks? Do you think the computer face recognition is more likely to be like the bored, underpaid check-in agents, or more like the highly trained CIA agents especially familiar with their targets?

  • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @04:10PM (#2310960) Journal
    Okay, maybe it's time for a more nuanced opinion on civil liberties in wartime and afterwards.

    RMS, and Roblimo before him, [] correctly argue that we must not let our freedom of speech (and freedom to control our personal property!) be compromised by mandatory crypto backdoors. Putting aside the fact that such a decree would be totally unenforceable, and that users would surely revolt (I know I would), and that it would surely be found unconstitutional as prior restraint on speech, nonetheless this is a terrible idea that we need to fight.

    (Note that all discussion of this in connection with this incident is 100% theoretical anyway. If the bad guys used crypto, we don't know it yet - only grandstanding politicians have suggested anything of the kind.)

    But I must say that I feel very differently about face recognition - particularly in airports. Such a system could have caught some of the hijackers - several of whom who were WANTED BY THE FBI and FLEW UNDER THEIR OWN NAMES! - before they killed 5000 people. Extending it to public spaces such as Times Square is more questionable to me, but particularly in airports where the possible harm is now much greater than we ever imagined, I think this is a technology that would be welcome.

    Remember that you already give up a lot of rights while you fly. It's too bad, and I don't enjoy having to check potentially hazardous luggage (e.g. knives) any more than the next guy, but flying is materially different from all other forms of transit. You can't crash an Amtrak train into much more than another train, or a station. You can't do that much with a bus. But you can kill thousands with a plane, and as such we need to exercise extreme caution there.

  • Regardless of whether you're worried about a Big Brother scenario in which the FBI arrests you for conspiring to violate the DMCA or some such, there are some obvious adverse consequences for requiring encryption back doors
    • Problems with international porting. Do you need to publish a different version of the software for each country, with a back door usable by only that nation's law enforcement community?
    • If there's a back door for the encryption that's embedded in the software, it's necessarily a public key scheme, and we've seen that with massive resources, these schemes can be cracked. The key embedded in software used for a large proportion of US e-mail would be a very attractive target for cracking.
    • Open source encryption software can be trivially modified to remove back doors. For that matter, with a little work, binary distributions probably can be also. But that might not stop regulations that prohibit open source encryption. Or they might require expensive registration with a government agency, which practically speaking rules out underfunded open source development.
    There's no need to invoke a nightmare scenario to see the potential problems.
  • by cavemanf16 ( 303184 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @04:16PM (#2311029) Homepage Journal
    Handing the president carte blanche in a moment of anger is exactly the mistake that led the United States into the Vietnam War.

    I'm sorry, I completely agree that giving up any freedoms we have would be a very bad idea, but I take issue with the above statement from RMS. First, the Vietnam War was fought over an ideology, a non-direct threat of a 3rd world country, and one in which we had very little vested interest. Reporting from Vietnam that a US Navy ship was deliberately attacked (when it was a fishing vessel that got too close to the ship and that was it), which was yellow journalism at its best, is far different than watching in horror as your countrymen are dying, buildings are falling, and your capital of your country is being attacked.

    Everyone needs to quit being such pantywaists and realize what happened on 9/11/01 - OUR COUNTRY WAS ATTACKED on its own soil! Let's quit talking about this shit and go do something already. Not fighting to keep your freedoms when they're attacked is just as bad as voting to do away with some of them! Osama, the Taliban, and plenty of islamic fundamentalists hate the US way of life - life, liberty, free speech, and the right to believe whatever you want to believe. Islamic terrorists believe its their Allah appointed duty to annhilate their enemies, and do so while lying about what they're actually doing (i.e. - no one is claiming responsibility for this attack). Talking and hoping and giving them stuff has failed. It's time to punish the evil with consequences for evil acts, no matter the casualties.

    Wouldn't you do everything in your power to keep an evil doer from raping your wife after they have so completely infiltrated your everyday life that there's no stopping their evil actions?

  • Something that we need to consider--in fact, the only thing worthy of public debate after Tuesday's attack--is our balance between Liberty and Security.

    Often in the past we have traded security for liberty--for example, when we assigned blacks and women the right to vote, or when we allowed a new state to join the union. Each of these movements--and many others like them that are by far too numerous to list here--have helped create the impression that "civil liberties" are a absolute good in and of themselves. But down that road lies anarchy, if we travel it far enough.

    What many liberals often forget, and their uneducated conservative oppoents are slow to mention, is that we have as often traded liberty for security. When we discarded the Articles of Confederation for the strong federal government of the Constitution, we traded liberty for security. When we joined the United Nations, we traded liberty for security. Every time we sign a new treaty, pass a new law, or apply the old law to a new thing, we are trading the liberty of Americans for the security of Americans--and not always the same Americans.

    In this brave new world of the 21st century, we will have choices to make as a nation. Do we trade the freedom of disposable e-mail address and anonymous soapboxes for the security of accountability? Do we trade the security of childhoods free from terrorism for the liberty of invisible travel?

    These choices, and many more, should be discussed in a rational, national conversation--one as free from empty rhetoric and petty politics as possible. Richard Stallman was eloquent, but the message above is neither free from empty rhetoric nor petty politics. To wit:

    WHY are civil liberties important? Of course they're threatened in the wake of this terrorism--but so is the security of the nation. To win the argument in favor of personal liberty over national security, it is necessary to state and defend the reasons why civil liberties are more important--not simply state their moral superiority as some assumed point.

    Also... unelected president? Hardly. Geroge W. Bush was just as elected as any other president we've ever had. The popular vote has NEVER mattered, only the votes of the Electoral College. This was true when George Washington was chosen more than two hundred years ago, and this was true when George W. Bush was chosen just last year.
  • by small_dick ( 127697 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @04:24PM (#2311120)
    during the election, i didn't like either choice, viewing both as products of nepotism.

    the bush and gore families are powerful political engines...not as powerful as the kennedy machine, but still powerful.

    to claim that President Bush is an "unelected president" takes away from what i view as a sacred document--the US Constitution.

    the man is legally the president of the united states, so show some respect, and do not use that wording.

    otherwise, i agree fully with the paper. the dotGOV will use this incident, and the emotional aftermath, to erode our freedoms.
  • by packetgeek ( 192142 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @04:39PM (#2311245) Homepage
    This is what I hear:

    piss moan whine Don't take away my freedom

    bitch piss moan You better not use this to take advantage of me

    gripe bitch whine Oh no, the guy I didn't want for President gets war time powers during war time

    What I do not hear:

    Members of congress here is a way to realize Civil Liberties AND the protection of world citizens

    Mr President I wish to help, here are some possible solutions to the problem

    I'm sorry people but if we are only going to bitch about what our government officials do and never give them workable ideas and solutions then shame on us.

    And remember as Abraham Lincoln told us, we have a "government OF the people, BY the people FOR the people"
    that statement requires your active partitcipation not just you criticisms.
  • One Straw Man: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rkent ( 73434 ) <rkent&post,harvard,edu> on Monday September 17, 2001 @04:47PM (#2311313)
    Given that the human face recognition performed by the check-in agents did not keep the hijackers out, there is no reason to think that computer face recognition would help.

    Likewise, since human face recognition has not eliminated civil liberties in America, there is no reason to think that computer face recognition would do so. So what's the big deal?

    Perhaps a better argument is that current face recognition technology sucks, and almost certainly would NOT have helped in this situation.
  • by blamanj ( 253811 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @05:38PM (#2311682)

    While I, too, am concerned that there will be attempts to ride roughshod over some of our civil rights, I think this piece is a rather inflammatory.

    If you read the Constitution [], you will notice that above all, the framers worked at balance. Balance of powers (executive/legislative/judiciary) and balance of rights. In the Bill of Rights [], the 4th Amendment says, in part

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...

    Note the word "unreasonable." This is a rather vague word; intentionally so. It is up to society to determine unreasonable search and seizures. There is no guarantee of absolute privacy. While I feel we should set the bar as high as possible, the example RMS uses of video recognition technology, especially in a public place, is certainly not unreasonable, given of course, that such technology does not result in hundreds of innocent people being held or detained inappropriately.

    People are concerned about knee-jerk right wing reactions, lets not make the same mistake in defense of civil liberties and oppose everything that is suggested. Save energy for the battles that really matter.

  • Given that the human face recognition performed by the check-in agents did not keep the hijackers out, there is no reason to think that computer face recognition would help.

    This is the only real argument that Stallman puts forth save, "I don't want big brother is watching me!!!"

    Does anyone else see this as ridiculous. The whole purpose of putting computerized facial recognition in place is because humans aren't perfect. Neither are computers for that matter, but humans are much more flawed. What are you going to do, make all of the Security Guards memorize faces of all suspected terrorists? I wouldn't trust myself to pick out one, why should I trust a $6 rent-a-cop?

    You could use this to identify "possible" suspects, and then rather than just gang probe them, place an armed air marshall on board, like they have in Israel. The air marshall can supervise the flight, and has one leg up on the competition, should anything happen, because he/she is prepared.

    Don't get me wrong. I don't want everyone tracking all of my personal travel, but if you're travelling, that information is already in a database, the airline you're flying with, who I'm sure has no beef sharing this information with the goverment. What possible civil liberty encroachment is there?

    Seriously folks. You guys need to calm down.

  • by dgroskind ( 198819 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @06:30PM (#2311988)

    It would have been helpful if Stallman had said what measures he would tolerate. It is a given than in wartime some restrictions are necessary.

    He might have also addressed the question of duration. Some restrictions might be acceptable temporarily.

    He might also have addressed under what condition he would accept more stringent restrictions. If the attacks continued or reoccur, more restrictions might be necessary than they are now.

    He might also have addressed the issue whether it is better to err on the side of too few or too many restrictions. It's unlikely the legislators are going to get it exactly right.

    Stallman might also have made a distinction between rights, which are defined by the U.S. Constitution, and privileges, which can be removed at the whim of the legislature. Clearly, we would be willing to give up more privileges than rights and for longer.

    One question to ask is what restrictions on traditional rights might have prevented the attack on September 11. The next question to ask is what restrictions would prevent terrorists from using poison gas and biological weapons in the future.

    Whatever the answers to those questions are, they are the ones we will have to live with.

  • by harrystottle ( 522425 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @07:41PM (#2312279)
    Hello from the UK.

    It may help, with regard to what I'm about to say, that you know "where I'm coming from"
    I'm a computer consultant involved in a project with major security angles (so I've made myself aware of the issues) I'm nowhere near as skilled as many of the slashdot contributors but it pays the bills.

    I'm also a political philosopher, atheist, transhumanist and libertarian anarchist.

    Generally, as you might expect, therefore, I oppose a great deal of what both the US government and my own stand for.
    However, I also try to be both pragmatic and objective.

    OK, so much for the bio.

    You may be aware that we've had a little local difficulty with our own home grown terrorists for the past 30 years. A number of points ought to be sticking out like sore thumbs as a result of our experience.

    First off, as I've said, I'm no supporter of the British establishment. But one thing is crystal clear. No one knows more about combating terrorism than the Brits. No one even gets close. They were the first victims of modern terrorism (Palestine, late 40s) and have since fought it actively in every corner of the world. British anti terrorist special forces have been trained in real terrorist situations ever since the second world war. The Israelis come a not very close second (their experience is too parochial).

    What lessons have arisen from that expertise?

    Well, for a start, we've learned that the only terrorism which can be defeated is that which - unlike the current threat - has a very narrow base of support. (Oman is the classic example) Other forms can be suppressed and, to some extent, controlled, but not defeated. Why not? For the simple reason that Terrorism is a response to historical and political conditions. If those remain as they were when the terrorism began, then, even if you manage by extraordinary good fortune to wipe out every member of the current generation of terrorists, more will emerge, like mushrooms, from the background environment. If you don't tackle the conditions which produced the problem, you will reap a regular harvest.

    Alarmingly, I do not hear, in the current debate, any mention of what needs to be done in order to reduce the political pressures which produced this attack. Unless AT LEAST as much effort goes into that political effort then the result of even a successful military campaign will be worse than you can probably imagine. Not immediately, not perhaps for 10 or 20 years. But unlike American politicians, the enemy here is patient and has time on its side. Don't lose sight of the fact that Tuesday 11 September 2001 has been in the planning stage for at least 8 and probably 10 years.

    If we do nothing to tackle the background causes of this cancer, then even if we succeed in excising the current tumour, it has already metastasised and will inevitably flare up again in the future. And given the developments in delivery systems for biological agents (eg anthrax) and the progress being made in genetic engineering, the attack in 2011 or 2021 can be expected to kill not a few thousand, but millions or even hundreds of millions.

    Having said that, terrorists, even when they carry out devastating attacks with the high degree of professionalism we saw on our TV screens, aren't very clever politically. The key breakthroughs in our Irish problem have generally come about as a result of the IRA committing atrocities which even their own supporters couldn't stomach. This has, at times, not only choked off their major source of funding (from the terrorists main supporting country, the USA) but also made it very difficult for them to justify their actions to their own grass roots.

    It is very clear, from the speed with which even terrorist sponsor countries like Libya and Syria have jumped on the condemnation bandwagon, that this is precisely what has happened among the vast Islamic community who, though generally hostile to the USA, have recognised the World Trade Centre as an attack too far. The Pentagon, on its own or even the White House might have been regarded as legitimate military targets and you'd have seen a lot more than a few angry Palestinian teenagers dancing in the streets. But most Moslems, even the ones who hate the US, are not so unreasonable that they would seek to justify massive civilian casualties.

    It is that reaction which should form the core of the political analysis and response.

    The world is now divided into two hostile camps. The vast majority of us are hostile to what the Hussein/Laden axis carried out last week.

    I'm not claiming that the figures I'm about to give are accurate, but they are in the right ballpark..

    In excess of 99.9% of the human population would probably like to see bin Laden and/or Hussein quickly executed, together with all those for whom we can prove a valid connection to the attack, or preparation for the attack. There are, nevertheless possibly a million or so, who fully support the terrorists aims and methods, even including what they did in New York.

    Of that million, probably no more than 5000 are combatants. We need not worry about killing any of those. Their deaths will be widely seen - even amongst the usually anti American community - as completely fair game. Their deaths will, of course, rouse fierce resentment from the million, but they were already in the enemy camp in any case, so the situation will not have been made any more dangerous than it already is.

    However, each death outside that circle of combatants will probably:
    a) "promote" ten of the million non combatant supporters to full combatant status in their own right and
    b) recruit 10 new terrorist supporters - including possible future combatants - from the currently outraged wider Islamic community who otherwise would, regretfully, have "tolerated" (they wont stretch as far as "support") the shooting of their wild dogs.

    You can see this attitude most clearly in Pakistan. The military leadership will keep the lid on their generally Laden supporting population in order to ensure that they themselves do not wake up in the firing line. They are currently host to 2.5 million Afghan refugees - who are no friends of either the Taliban or Bin Laden. But if ONE of their number back home is killed by a coalition attack - you can expect a hundred recruits to the anti American cause. And the rest of the Pakistan population would go apeshit. Not that they would necessarily seek to become terrorists themselves, but they would certainly make it easier for terrorists to conduct their business.

    It is crucial, therefore, to have very precise targets and stick rigidly to those.

    The problem of precision, of course, lies in locating the 5000 combatants. As we've already learned, 12 of the 19 identified had been living in the USA on and off for most of the past few years. How many more are already there? Where are the rest? Its extremely unlikely that they are still hanging around the known training camps in Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan etc. They will have dispersed back to their home villages, or to entirely different countries around the world. What are we going to aim at then?

    If the coalition sticks to the Runsfeld line, the answer to that is going to be "whatever we can find - even if there isn't a terrorist within a hundred miles - providing it hurts the host country and makes them think twice about allowing terrorists to operate freely within their borders ever again" That way lie many thousand newly motivated terrorists.

    There must be No blanket bombing. No non-combatant casualties - even at the cost of greater casualties for our side.
    In this war, we need brains and bullets not blather and bombs. Precision targeting, should mean the sniper's bullet not the laser guided smart bomb. I'm more than happy to see the talk of lifting the ban on CIA assassinations. This is indeed a dirty war and, paradoxically, if fought dirty, will actually be a lot safer for the rest of us.

    The Brits have had no compunction in that direction. Its been a major factor in their relative success. Check out, for example, and.htm for a brief intro to some of the things we got up to in Ireland and elsewhere. It was the IRA's reluctant realisation that they were up against military tactics at least as effective as their own, but with much better funding, that eventually forced them to consider the peace process.

    And that, above all, or at least alongside the military manoeuvres, is the light that must be placed at the end of the tunnel. If there is no prospect of political reform, there is no prospect of an end to the War on Terrorism. After all, if they're already prepared to sacrifice their lives, what else have they got to lose?

    Primarily this means, somehow, forcing Israel and the Palestinians to share, peacefully, a territory over which both claim sovereignty.

    The administration has already spoken of flushing out the roots of terrorism. In fact, it has no current strategy for dealing with that ambitious project at all. There are mixed signals coming from Runsfeld. On the one hand he talks about using small units of special forces - which is encouragingly realistic. Assassination is the appropriate tool here. On the other, he talks about the terrorists not having capital targets to go after, but their harboring countries do; so we might go after those instead. Teach them not to support the terrorists in future. This is alarming nonsense. And precisely the kind of behaviour which will increase the problem by recruiting more terrorists to the cause.

    Indeed, most depressingly, such talk indicates that they haven't even understood what the "roots of terrorism" are. They are not spoilt arab ex-playboys with too much money (bin Laden) or egomaniacal despots who used to be on our side (Hussein) or training camps in the desert. The roots of terrorism are the political conditions which have provoked widespread anger amongst about 25% of the human population. Are we going to kill them all? Thats what you'll have to do if you wish to flush out the roots of terrorism without confronting the political issues.

    There are many such issues, but, without doubt, the strongest, most important root of all, is the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinians. Find the magic formula for that one, and most of the rest will wither on the vine. Even Iraq would cease to be a problem if it was no longer able to nurture support through its unconditional succour to the Palestinians. This is the area we should be most focussed upon.

    One final point on the emerging shape of the Coalition policy. As touched on above, we are apparently supposed, from now on, to be going after not just the combatants themselves, but after the countries which provide support, or merely harbour them. I wonder if the author of that policy is aware that, had the UK adopted such a policy say 15 years ago, it would have necessarily needed to attack Eire for harbouring and the USA for allowing its Irish contingent to provide most of the logistical and financial support which kept the IRA going. Somehow, I can't see the USA having been so keen to support such a policy at that time. Now, of course, that they have become the target, however, we seem to get a faint whiff of double standards...

    Moving on... the threat to our civil liberties,

    The naivete of some of the responses I've read here is absolutely frightening. It seems that some of you seriously believe that this war is going to be "over by Christmas". Let me make it plain. I'm a fanatical privacy advocate. Indeed I hope in the near future to be able to promote the concept of near absolute safety achieved through and dependant upon the guarantee of near absolute privacy.

    Despite that, if I genuinely believed that giving up my rights to privacy for, say, a couple of weeks, or even months, would guarantee success in this war, I would probably concede that it was a price worth paying.

    However, first, I would want the control of that situation in my own hands. In other words, at the point I decide that either my sacrifice of privacy is no longer effectively contributing to the war effort, or that the authorities are abusing my surrendered privacy, I would want to be able to switch my privacy back on - regardless of whether they approved or not.

    Failing that degree of personal autonomy (which is difficult, though not impossible, in today's world) I would accept no less than a democratically controlled policy where the decision was made not by elected representives but, using a national referendum, by the people themselves in a single issue vote. With a guarantee - enshrined in the wording of the referendum - that the powers being ceded would be time limited to, say, 12 months, after which the powers would lapse unless renewed by another referendum.

    Secondly, we are not talking about a short term policy here. I've already made it clear that until and unless you can cure the Arab-Israeli problem (at least), the roots of terrorism will continue to thrive. Those who favour anti-privacy measures will clearly expect them to be in place for as long as the terrorist problem remains. Until, in fact, the roots of terror have been eliminated. So ask yourself the question. How long is it going to take to sort out the Middle East?

    Its already taken more than 50 years. I see no immediate reason to believe we could achieve significant progress in less than another 10 or 15 years. Are you really prepared to lose your privacy rights for that long? And do you really believe, that if you gave them away so easily (i.e. without the annual referendum above) that you could ever easily win them back?

    And with the so called War on Drugs as a precedent, do you (anti-privacy lobbyists) really understand what you're suggesting. You're already widely regarded as a near police-state with the highest prison population in the western world and have already suffered massive unchallenged breaches to your sacred constitution - the authors of which must be spinning in their graves.

    Please, for your own sakes, and for the sake of those who died on September 11, don't sacrifice even more of your freedoms in the mistaken belief that it will protect them. What you'll end up with is a country which is no longer worth protecting.

    On September 11 2002 we will commemorate the first anniversary of this horrific attack on civilisation. I hope that the most appropriate name for this day in the future will reflect the fact that it will be recognised as the day the world began to turn away from intolerance, and began instead to pay more than lip service to the very freedoms which are supposed to be enshrined in and protected by - first and foremost - your very own American constitution.

    I hope it will be called World Liberty Day.
    I know the dead deserve nothing less.

    I would like to think that our own actions,
    between now and that first sad anniversary,
    and all those anniversaries to come,
    will make us all feel that we deserve it too.

    Harry Stottle
  • Heh.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by DragonPup ( 302885 ) on Monday September 17, 2001 @10:51PM (#2312814)
    I misread the headline at first. I thought it said, "Stallman Dead, Millions deprived of liberties". Maybe I need new glasses...


One can't proceed from the informal to the formal by formal means.