Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Do you feel secure, yet?

As I listened to the news yesterday while working in the kitchen (see below), I heard an alarming report from the newsdesk of MSNBC. For an unknown reason, a plane was diverted from Dulles airport from London to an airport in Maine. Later, it was reported that the plane carried on it a passenger who was on the watch list for terrorists. The passenger was apprehended in Maine and was not allowed entry into the US. This morning, it was revealed who this grave threat is.


Scott said...

From (bold fonts are mine)
"The government official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said Islam was placed on a watch list after multiple intelligence sources in recent weeks indicated the peace activist may have associations with potential terrorists."

I of course went ballistic when I saw the articles this morning. Reeks of the fatuous Fellow Traveler charge which destroyed so many during the McCarthy witch hunts.

B.D. said...

(Side note: Funny, I have to log in again to post on my own blog).

Good point, Scott. This story infuriated me when I read it and it only got worse throughout the day. My outrage was not mitigated in the least by the fact that Ted Kennedy was on the list at one point either.

FWIW, Kennedy had a devil of a time getting off of the list - it took a call to several top government officials for him to get it corrected. I wonder what it will take to remove Cat Stevens, assuming he wants to be removed. I mean, the man repudiates violence in virtually every medium he selects to share his views (music, speeches, websites, interviews).

To my mind, this another example of why the regulations that govern the use of these databases are terribly flawed. I'd like to see the structures of the databases as I bet they are flawed in how they flag a person as well.

Scott said...

I actually did a little analysis at work on just that issue. There is a surprisingly short list, and here are the problems I found:

1) Data for ships, companies, and individuals are in a single table, with less than 3000 rows.
2) There is no break down for first, last, and middle name, requiring a manual or code driven best guess.
3) Many duplicate records, most without detail.
4) Bizarre file formatting, as if they had been designed by a first quarter CS student (or anyone in our old group but us ;), with a trailing ctrl+z character which chokes most data loading utilities.

Here's the U.S. Treasury site with a list of alledged baddies. At least Osama is in there.

I couldn't find the name Islam anywhere, though I haven't loaded data for over a month. Sadly, I find it probable he was flagged because he is a good and charitable person and the last thing the neocons want to see is publicity for a prominent and good Muslim. Being an expatriate inflames them all the more.

B.D. said...

That's pretty damn scary. Then again, what else would one expect from government employed "intelligence" workers?

Why do Republicans mistrust and despise government employees in virtually every area except defense and intelligence, where they are awed by every utterance, burp, fart?