I think the program exists. It's possible, given the precise wording of the denial statements, that the NSA could still have access to the data. Some of the waffle statements late last week followed by the carefully worded denials this week indicate to me the Telco's are limiting their lawsuit exposure and protecting their business. The legality of handing over information like that is a gray area at best, and I think the companies want to make public denials to guard against lawsuits and the bottom line. I give a more detailed explanation on my site if anyone is interested.Comment Posted By Andy On 17.05.2006 @ 13:09
It's really hard to tell how seriously we should take the rhetoric. Part of the problem isn't just individuals, like Ahmadinejad, but deciphering the thinking and decision-making processes of closed regimes like Iran's. I don't think the Iranian's are fully aware of how seriously we take this issue. I don't think they're as insular and self-deluding as Saddam was (if you haven't read anything from the IPP yet, please do - the latest issue of Foreign Affairs has a great article), but it's certainly possible they think their hand is stronger than it actually is. I think they're emboldened by Iraq and feel relatively safe from attack.
This is one reason I support some direct talks with them, even if it's behind the scenes. We need to make sure they are aware of how seriously we take this situation, and the consequences they'll face if they continue with a weapons program. I'm not necessarily advocating threats since threats often have the opposite effect of their intent. Iran cannot be swayed by threats alone.
The nuclear program is very popular in Iran and would continue regardless of who is in power. There isn't much we can do to stop it, as they do have a right to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel. But we can make it clear that they'd better play ball with inspections and tough preventative measures on weaponization.
Overall, I'm not hopeful on keeping nukes out of Iranian hands. Eventually, if they have the will, they will acquire them. There aren't any good options at this point, which sucks.Comment Posted By Andy On 12.05.2006 @ 14:05
We'll be able to tell if the Uranium is Pakistani or not. I suspect that it is. The possibility that Iran already has HEU is pretty remote. They've only had the centrifuge technology for a couple of years (from the AQ Khan network), and they are still working through many of the engineering problems associated with building large cascades. Even their 164 centrifuge cascade experienced a crash.
We'll wait and see what the tests reveal, however.Comment Posted By Andy On 12.05.2006 @ 12:52
I'm sure the NSA would want names and addresses attached to the info if they could get it. But it's probably unlikely the teleco's were willing to divulge that kind of information carte blanche. Furthermore, the mass collection of personal data on millions of American's is a gross violation of intelligence oversight rules. The system they have in place now is not as quick or flexible, but it is almost as good. They can get names if they need to for the key numbers after they analyze the traffic.
As a member of the IC, I don't worry too much about these kinds of programs as long as there is oversight. I don't care how important or intrusive a program is - if there isn't oversight then there will be abuses. Oversight keeps the government honest, and it looks to me like this program has proper oversight.
A larger issue here is the change to domestic intelligence since 9/11. We can now use tools that were exclusively used for foreign intelligence domestically. There are legitimate civil rights concerns that must be addressed. Again, the key factor is oversight by elected officials - namely, congress.
Finally, my other concern is that these tools and technologies may eventually make their way down to traditional domestic law enforcement. I predict there will be some interesting cases before the SCOTUS over the next couple of decades that will decide the legality of some of these intelligence programs in the domestic law enforcement arena. The possibilities for this kind of data mining in breaking up drug networks looks pretty impressive, but the legal issues are obviously difficult and unresolved.Comment Posted By Andy On 12.05.2006 @ 09:26
To all of you:
The Bush administration did not lie. The intelligence community believed there was WMD and we had evidence to support it. Some parts of the intelligence were hyped by the administration - mainly with respect to Iraq's Nuclear program, but most of it was based on what we thought was solid evidence.
All of you should read the Iraq Perspectives Project at http://www.foreignaffairs.org/special/iraq/ipp.pdf
You can read a summary in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs here: http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060501faessay85301/kevin-woods-james-lacey-williamson-murray/saddam-s-delusions-the-view-from-the-inside.html
This IPP report is based off interviews with all the key Iraqi leaders we have in custody, including Saddam. It gives the Iraqi side of the story prior to and during the war based on those first-hand accounts. What's clear after reading this report is that Iraq had a policy of ambiguity with respect to WMD's. They wanted their regional competitors to believe they had them, while at the same time they wanted to show the UN they didn't. Here's a substantive quote from the report:
"When it came to weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Saddam attempted to convince one audience that they were gone while simultaneously convincing another that Iraq still had them. Coming clean about WMD and using full compliance with inspections to escape from sanctions would have been his best course of action for the long run. Saddam, however, found it impossible to abandon the illusion of having WMD, especially since it played so well in the Arab world."
"Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" for his use of chemical weapons on Kurdish civilians in 1987, was convinced Iraq no longer possessed WMD but claims that many within Iraq's ruling circle never stopped believing that the weapons still existed. Even at the highest echelons of the regime, when it came to WMD there was always some element of doubt about the truth. According to Chemical Ali, Saddam was asked about the weapons during a meeting with members of the Revolutionary Command Council. He replied that Iraq did not have WMD but flatly rejected a suggestion that the regime remove all doubts to the contrary, going on to explain that such a declaration might encourage the Israelis to attack."
People have attacked our intelligence community about "screwing up" the analysis of WMD. The fact is, much of the Iraqi government believed they had WMD when in fact they didn't. How are intelligence analysts supposed to decipher the truth from a government as broken and dishonest as Saddam's government was?Comment Posted By Andy On 5.05.2006 @ 20:47
I'll believe you when I see the details of what they want to do, and specifically a proposed bill or rule change. Until then I will remain skeptical.
What you describe, Cosmo, sounds like the phone system in the UK. Unlike here, there are no free local calls. You pay for the calls you make, by the minute. So those that use the phone more, pay more - those who use it less, pay less. Here in the US you pay a flat fee for local phone service, and now, with many companies, you pay a flat fee for long distance too, no matter how many calls you make. The flat-fee system is what we have with both ISP's and web hosting (to a lesser degree). Converting to a pay-by-the byte system, it seems to me, would add a lot of complexity and overhead for companies, and confusion and headaches for users. Flat-fee is the wave of the future. Adding extra fees for premium service is fine.
Anyway, I'll reserve final judgment to see what the final proposals are.Comment Posted By Andy On 2.05.2006 @ 19:29
If it's as you describe, then I would be OK with that, but it doesn't sound like that from the descriptions I've read. It sounds like they will take the existing backbone and institute a priority scheme on it. If they want to create additional backbone capacity and charge for it things like guaranteed throughput, then that is ok. But taking the existing backbone and fundamentally changing its routing rules is not. There also must be a mechanism in any change to ensure the regular public "highway" is upgraded as needed.
I also haven't seen any discussion of how this will work in an international context. Since traffic from websites based in foreign countries will likely travel on 2 or 3 backbones, does that mean the site will have to pay 2 or 3 different companies?
In my mind, there are still too many unanswered questions and the telco's haven't been forthcoming with details.Comment Posted By Andy On 2.05.2006 @ 17:03
I think the "information superhighway" analogy works here. What if our interstate highway system suddenly became an all-toll system with priority going to those who paid the largest fees? I think our interstate system is an apt analogy in this case.
For the internet, I already pay a lot of money for a high-bandwidth connection. Any user who wants that kind of connection pays extra money for it. In turn, my ISP pays money to lease the bandwidth their users uses. Websites also pay for the bandwidth they use. Sites with a lot of video streaming will have bigger bandwidth bills than those who don't. So both sides of the equation, the websites and end users, are already paying premiums for that kind of content. What the telecoms want to do is add another middleman that we'd all have to pay by charging a toll to use the main data trunks for the internet. It's easy to see why they'd want this extra revenue stream, but it seems to me it would screw-up everything that is good and liberating about the internet. We need to keep the system we have and instead of adding middle-man to pay, ISP's and web hosts should pay a small extra fee depending on the amount of bandwidth they use to pay for mainentance and expansion of the main trunk-lines. I think that's reasonable. Everyone will bear the cost in proportion to the bandwidth they use, but there won't be any inherent limits unlike the flawed system the telco's propose.Comment Posted By Andy On 2.05.2006 @ 13:15
I didn't see the video of Cobert's performance, but I read the transcripts. I thought some of his quips were pretty funny, but others were pretty blah.
Overall though, I think it was simply very rude of Colbert to direct everything at the President. At the least, it should have been more balanced with jokes on liberal moonbattery and the press. I don't think the President shouldn't be the butt of jokes, but he shouldn't be the butt of ALL the jokes. That, to me, is the problem with Colbert in this case.Comment Posted By Andy On 1.05.2006 @ 10:51
I concede your points about Oliver Stone - I should have proffered a better example.
Talking about historical accuracy though, I'm curious about your impression of the events that took place inside the plane. Obviously, the filmmakers had to use some creativity since it's not entirely clear how events unfolded and what specific individuals did. Since you don't mention it directly in your review, did you think the unknowns the filmmakers added in were on the mark? I'm also curious if the director had access to the cockpit voice tapes that were recently revealed in the Moussaoui case and how that part meshed with what we know from them.
I really need to get a reliable baby sitter so I can go see this thing for myself in the theater.Comment Posted By Andy On 29.04.2006 @ 23:46