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"Counter-Terrorism"

[written September 12, 2001]

I'm kind of tired of arguing about the terrorist attack at this point, and surely you know all the details by now. I just wanted to share some general points that I thought were important about the whole thing.

First. The Internet news sites were all inaccessible. They were overloaded with requests. For many people who wanted to get online for info, those were their only sources. I was able to get onto some smaller news sites though. For most of my info, I was on IRC as I always am. A very old chat system on the Internet, it lets many different interest groups share info instantly. I'm in something like 7 channels, 3 of them daytrader channels, so I had access to real-time newswire headlines as well as all the sites going up about the incidents. IRC really is a great tool. Nothing else comes close to comparing. It's distributed and not used by the mainstream, so it's always accessible and full of important info when big things happen. It also has decentralized server systems, although not quite P2P. But P2P would be absurd and insecure for IRC anyway. It's a living definition of what ARPA was intented to be.

Second. I wrote a while back that our privacy is already gone. Well, security also applies. More specifically privacy and security are just not 100% assured. We have to allow for the fact that we can't stop everything. But we can raise the barriers so high that a very small number of people are then capable of committing illegal acts like terrorism/cracking/whatever. I'm talking to a bunch of people who say, for instance, that passengers should've tried to attack the hijackers and shit like that. Well! Isn't everyone a fucking hero. Everyone's an action movie aficionado. Right. They're actually the guy who gets knifed at the beginning of the movie. There's a fine line between courage and stupidity, and usually that line's determined by how knowledgeable you are about the situation. And assuming that most passengers aren't fucking Navy SEALs, Black Ops, or counterterrorists, that means NOT MANY PEOPLE ARE FIT TO ATTACK HIJACKERS. Yay, let me jump on an anxious hijacker who was going to land at an airport in Mexico and let us go. Oh wait, he's strapped with C4 and he's so scared he's going to detonate it! YAY I'm a hero! On the other hand, if you're in a position to retain control of the cockpit, then by all means try. If you're in a position to stop the government from reading your mail, then do your best to stop it. If you're in a position to stop hackers from infiltrating a network, then go ahead. But come on, mindless heroics hurts more than helps. The passengers really didn't know that they would be used as a bomb. I mean, come on. When has that happened in America, or to Americans? Of course, in saying that, it sounds like the fourth plane was steered into the ground, perhaps by heroic passengers/pilots. If so, then wonderful.

Next. Since I talk to traders, most of them are right wingers who love to trash liberals. As soon as shit like the terrorist attack happens, the conservatives seem so ready to turn in all our rights that make America so great, just for the appearance of safety. I was talking to some guys who thought that making public crypto illegal as well as restricting free press and giving away some of our rights to privacy was okay, for national security. They said that citizens have too many rights right now and not enough responsibilities. One guy was like, oh maybe now schools will allow public prayer, funny how it works!!!

For crying out loud.

Okay, for the most part, it's all been pretty good. I mean, watching NYC handle this has impressed me. I thought rabid New Yorkers would just turn into a crazy mob, but they were pretty calm and civilized about the whole thing. Casualties have been limited because of some luck and because of hard working rescuers. It's all gone smoothly.

But these other people, people who didn't have to deal with it directly, sat there spouting off shit about how we need to basically tear up the Constitution. What it indicates to me is that a lot of people don't truly understand and believe in the values and freedoms of the Constitution, they've just been taught to say so. Not much different from how many people are taught religion. It's the equivalent of brainwashing.

There's no excuse for wanting to sacrifice civil liberties. It indicates a profound misunderstanding of how the US works. Doing shit like limiting free press makes us no better than any other country. These people think that normal people having access to all this information is BAD, when in fact, it's the best thing to happen to us. It shows us how worse things were in the past, and how bad they are now. We don't have to rely on the government telling us how good a job it's doing. We just haven't quite learned to assimilate an information culture with our morals and values yet.

The government is going to push privacy-removing shit on us now while we're all paranoid about our own safety. They will push Carnivore hard, the system the FBI wants to use to monitor all communications including Internet communications. There's a Wired article about how the FBI is already hassling ISPs to install Carnivore software. You can kiss privacy goodbye. They will want to remove crypto from the hands of Americans, for good, because maybe some terrorist will be using it to transmit info. And many Americans will say, okay, sure, that's reasonable, we need to keep them from blowing us up. These Americans are ignorant of the fact that their rights are being handed over. And they'll miss it when it's gone. But they don't care. They just want to feel safe.

Next. So what's the real problem? Security. It's not about whether passengers should've subdued the terrorists. It shouldn't be passengers' responsibilities to do that in the first place. Hijackers should NEVER have gotten in the cockpit in the first place. That is a cardinal sin. People say airport security is bad, but really it's not that bad, even with all the loopholes. Retaining control of airplanes in the air is the main problem. Although putting more heavily armed guards in airports is something I would welcome, like they do in European airports and most airports around the world. Putting armed men on planes is not a bad idea either.

But more specifically, Americans always shrug off security. Over and over I see it again. You see it most in computing and the Internet. People are notoriously bad at keeping their systems secure, choosing shitty passwords if leaving password protection at all. These two guys drove around Manhattan checking for insecure networks and found that less than 40% of them were secured at ALL, with even the basic included crypto. Fucking SAD. At the same time, people are always hassling companies to make things easier, like getting on board flights and getting through security checkpoints. People want convenience, but they don't realize that it comes with a sacrifice of security.

I've never had a problem with security routines. I want to know that what I'm doing is completely safe. Like when I went bungee jumping, I assumed all the stuff they made me do before I even started was for my protection. I wasn't scared because it would have to be pretty safe for them to let me do it. In airports I don't mind security at all. I know I'm not guilty of anything, and I want those who are to be apprehended before they get on board. If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to lose from security.

But the FBI wants to make you think you have to give up your Constitutionally guaranteed privacy to get security. Even though most threats are abroad, and not committed by US citizens. And if they are, then you can get warrants or permission for tapping in the US. All Constitutionally acceptable. But not losing privacy or freedom of speech and press. We must protect things like that.

Next. People say we need to give more money to the intel agencies because those damn liberals have been cutting spending there for ages. Pfft. I am pretty sure the CIA and NSA gather almost all the information out there, and have plenty of sources, spies, etc. I mean, that's what they live for. That's what they train people for. Code breakers, disinformation specialists, spies, all that crap. I'm sure they're doing great in that area.

But look at it this way. The government, intel agencies, and the military are still stuck in conventional warfare philosophy. Even as technologically advanced as we are, the military and government are still VERY slow to adopt new technology because there's too much resistance among the old school and among the American public. See, I don't advocate adding more troops and weapons, but just making sure we get the latest technologies out there which are more efficient, powerful, and require less manpower.

This terrorist attack used simple knives as far as we know, and used our own commercial planes against us. This woke up America to the 21st century, a reality where wars are not fought between countries so much as they are between civilized countries and terrorists. Terrorists are small and can strike anywhere with a lot of modernized power, while the military and CIA and whoever else try to coordinate a bureaucratic method of disposing of them with conventional weapons.

Only recently have you seen more emphasis on special ops like the SEALs and Rangers and Green Berets and whatnot. These guys train with SWAT teams a lot because much of what they have to do these days is urban fighting, not open field or jungle fighting. They are being trained for specialized tasks, not all out war. This is what is needed against terrorism, combined with information wars conducted by the code breakers.

Where the US runs into problems with this kind of old school thinking is that no terrorist act can ever happen in the US. It's not like war, which is supposed to be a last resort. Counterterrorism has to be proactive and preemptive. When a terrorist group starts doing something, you send in your guys and quell them. In terrorism, a good offense is the best defense. You keep those guys off-guard and on the run so they can't sit down and plan things. It's the new era of warfare, kids. We have to go after offenders, not try to catch them in the act. Gone are the days when villains were easy to spot and pick out on a map. They are everywhere and they are nowhere. Sitting around hoping to find out their street address won't work.

Another example of old school thinking. The first plane hit the WTC building. Not only did it veer straight off course, but another plane did as well, circling around Manhattan before hitting the target. WHO was watching the air traffic control screens? And how come jets weren't sent up in the air until WELL after this was all done? Shouldn't someone at the Pentagon have been notified? It goes to show you that NO one prepared for this type of event. Not even our defense. They didn't even consider getting jets up in the air just in case. There may not have been enough time to do anything, but ANYTHING would have been nice. It's like Pearl Harbor, no one thought all those warning signs meant anything, and no one was sure if the morning attack was a drill or not if they weren't directly involved. We were caught unaware. AGAIN. After the damn Affleck movie just came out too. 50 years from now we'll have World Trade Center, starring Ben Affleck Jr. and Lil' Josh Hartnett!

Next. I find it interesting this happens within the context of a bear market. Right before, the Dow broke 10k, and many world indices broke significant supports after the events yesterday. I won't go so far as to say the market predicted this, but in a long-term view, it does confirm the fact that bearish events tend to occur in bear markets, and bullish events tend to occur in bull markets. It's as though there is a psychological pressure that builds up one way or the other worldwide, and at certain points it breaks.

Finally. It's time that the US stopped acting (again) like it's isolated from the rest of the world, while under the table it meddles elsewhere. Obviously the US needs resources from other places on the planet and conducts business internationally, so it won't isolate itself. So then it needs to be more visible and committed abroad. Like when it says it's going to punish people, it needs to punish them. Not just say so and then not do anything. I talk to people who are angry that this happened on our soil. But violence happens abroad daily. We kind of ignore it. It's time to be more involved internationally (I mean, the American public) and to hold our government accountable for its wishy washy actions. The US has to be forceful against people who refuse to play civil with the rest of the world. The less forceful the US is, the more it's placed into bad situations where it needs to do things like support one side, or bomb places and kill civilians, and so on. Just go after the bad people. Hard.

And god dammit, stop saying we have too much freedom!! Are you crazies out of your minds?! Too much freedom? Give it to those benevolent power-hungry corps and governments?



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