Monthly Archives: May 2002

FBI Given Broad Authority to Monitor

FBI Given Broad Authority to Monitor

“The Justice Department sharply eased restrictions on domestic spying Thursday, handing the FBI  broad, new authority to monitor Internet sites, libraries, churches and political organizations for clues to terrorist plots….

Ashcroft, claiming FBI agents in the field have been hampered by a range of bureaucratic restrictions, said the new guidelines would help them to do their jobs….

He said, for instance, that under present guidelines, FBI agents 'cannot surf the Web, the way you and I can,' and cannot simply walk into public events to observe people and activities.

The new guidelines give FBI agents more freedom to investigate terrorism even when they are not pursuing a particular case.” [Yahoo News] (Emphasis mine.)

At what point are we as a society going to decide that giving up our right to privacy is NOT worth the trade-off of possibly finding a terrorist somewhere, someday. It's bad enough that the FBI can walk into any library and get patron records without having to prove just cause (and the library can't even tell anybody about it), but now agents can investigate anyone, anywhere, with no cause what-so-ever. And not just libraries.

Where is this going to end?

Addendum: more from The Washington Post [via LIS News]

“But as word of the new guidelines circulated yesterday, some civil liberties groups expressed fears of a Big Brother government monitoring its citizens.

'The FBI is now telling the American people, 'You no longer have to do anything unlawful in order to get that knock on the door,' ' said Laura Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington office. 'You can be doing a prefectly legal activity like worshiping or talking in a chat room, they can spy on you anyway….'

The new rules will allow agents to surf the Internet for Web sites that might give hints to terrorist activity, according to the description. The new guidelines will allow investigators to seek out and 'identify sites and forums in which bomb-making instructions, preparations for cyberterrorism, child pornography, and stolen credit card information are openly traded and disseminated….'

The ACLU's Murphy said, however, that the new guidelines could open the door to the same kind of problems evident in the FBI's aggressive surveillance and harassment of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.”

How long before that list includes actions John Ashcroft finds personally objectionable (euthanasia, adult pornography, abortion, etc.)?  [The Shifted Librarian]

'Star Wars' Franchise Needs Helping Han

'Star Wars' Franchise Needs Helping Han

“I realized after seeing 'Episode I' what was wrong with this new 'Star Wars' series, despite its visual wonders: No Han Solo. The new series has no everyman, no skeptic. Who am I to relate to? Where am I up on that screen?

We viewed the action in the first Star Wars trilogy through the eyes of the guy who didn't fit in, who was only in it for the money and wasn't too sure about this 'Force' stuff. This new trilogy leaves a lot of viewers at the station.

– Dave Arnold, Sheridan, Ore.” [Chicago Sun-Times, via Webcrumbs] [The Shifted Librarian]

A must-have book for Linux developers

A must-have book for Linux developers. Cameron Laird: A must-have book for Linux developers “The best thing you can do for your servers and the programs you host is to buy your own copy of Thomas A. Limoncelli and Christine Hogan's book, The Practice of System and Network Administration. This new book, though aimed at administrators, is full of valuable lessons for developers, too. While it mentions Linux only once in almost 800 pages — and obliquely at that — the principles it explains will help make more sense of your work every day.” [ZopeNewbies]

Supporting Multiple-Location Users

Supporting Multiple-Location Users. Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox, May 26, 2002. About half of the users now access the Internet from more than one location. Despite the implications of this for service design, many systems assume that users remain bound to a single computer. [ia/ – news for information architects]

Another interesting quote from the article:

I know people who synchronize their office and home PCs by keeping both synchronized to a brick they strap to their belt and carry back and forth. The brick may be called a Palm Pilot, but it's still as close to the Stone Age as you come with modern technology.

The article's key assumption is that the locations from which one accesses the Internet have high-bandwidth connections.  That may or may not be true.  One has to design a product taking the uncertainty of bandwidth into account.

Disclosing Interests

That Macromedia is considered fair game, and somehow the pros are not, shows you how screwed up the system is. We should certainly be circumspect of vendors who turn into journalists, but we should be more circumspect of reporters who accept the conflicts of their employers without disclosing them. The vendor who puts on the journalism hat has a clearly disclosed interest. The reporter who doesn't dare to report on his employer, when it's material, and fails to disclose this, is much less of a journalist, imho, than the amateur with the clearly disclosed interest.

. . . journalists, pros, people whose job it is to be unconflicted, who don't disclose, set up a dangerous situation where the public believes it's being informed, but is not. This is especially important now, because their employers are playing some nasty tricks. Can we trust the pros to shine the light on them when it requires shining?

A preview quote from the upcoming piece. “Many of the professional reporters work for an industry that's getting in position to rape the Internet. How many of them, like Mr X, won't challenge their employers, or even have the guts to put up a clear disclaimer on their site?” [
Scripting News

Disclosing Interests

That Macromedia is considered fair game, and somehow the pros are not, shows you how screwed up the system is. We should certainly be circumspect of vendors who turn into journalists, but we should be more circumspect of reporters who accept the conflicts of their employers without disclosing them. The vendor who puts on the journalism hat has a clearly disclosed interest. The reporter who doesn't dare to report on his employer, when it's material, and fails to disclose this, is much less of a journalist, imho, than the amateur with the clearly disclosed interest.

. . . journalists, pros, people whose job it is to be unconflicted, who don't disclose, set up a dangerous situation where the public believes it's being informed, but is not. This is especially important now, because their employers are playing some nasty tricks. Can we trust the pros to shine the light on them when it requires shining?

A preview quote from the upcoming piece. “Many of the professional reporters work for an industry that's getting in position to rape the Internet. How many of them, like Mr X, won't challenge their employers, or even have the guts to put up a clear disclaimer on their site?” [Scripting News]