Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

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As Matt Stoller points out: Bush wants to track you everywhere. BushCo has decreased our personal and national security, and made us all less safe, through the aggressive use of security theater. That is what they are doing when they constantly shout 9/11. And security theater, not security, is at the heart of all the security measures they have taken.

Security theater has been defined as ostensible security measures which have little real influence on security whilst being publicly visible and designed to show that action is taking place. Security theater has been related to and has some similarities with superstition.
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Security theater has a real monetary cost but does not provide tangible benefits. Most security theater involves restricting people’s behaviour in very visible ways that likely involve intrusions into liberty and privacy

Stoller quotes Schneier on Security about a particularly worrisome scene in this security theater drama, one in which we are all actors, reluctant, or unaware. The Bush administration wants RFID chips in drivers licenses, as well as passports:

The Bush administration is advocating radio frequency identification (RFID) chips for both U.S. and foreign passports, and that’s a very bad thing.

These chips are like smart cards, but they can be read from a distance. A receiving device can “talk” to the chip remotely, without any need for physical contact, and get whatever information is on it. Passport officials envision being able to download the information on the chip simply by bringing it within a few centimeters of an electronic reader.

Unfortunately, RFID chips can be read by any reader, not just the ones at passport control. The upshot of this is that travelers carrying around RFID passports are broadcasting their identity.

Think about what that means for a minute. It means that passport holders are continuously broadcasting their name, nationality, age, address and whatever else is on the RFID chip. It means that anyone with a reader can learn that information, without the passport holder’s knowledge or consent. It means that pickpockets, kidnappers and terrorists can easily–and surreptitiously–pick Americans or nationals of other participating countries out of a crowd.
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Unfortunately, there is only one possible reason: The administration wants surreptitious access themselves. It wants to be able to identify people in crowds. It wants to surreptitiously pick out the Americans, and pick out the foreigners. It wants to do the very thing that it insists, despite demonstrations to the contrary, can’t be done.

Normally I am very careful before I ascribe such sinister motives to a government agency. Incompetence is the norm, and malevolence is much rarer. But this seems like a clear case of the Bush administration putting its own interests above the security and privacy of its citizens, and then lying about it.

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We may have missed a great opportunity for cross cultural cross galaxy communication; and this after all the hard work being done at Seti.

As CNN reports:

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) — — Federal officials say it was probably just some weird weather phenomenon, but a group of United Airlines employees swear they saw a mysterious, saucer-shaped craft hovering over O’Hare Airport in November.
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At least one O’Hare controller, union official Craig Burzych, was amused by it all.

“To fly 7 million light years to O’Hare and then have to turn around and go home because your gate was occupied is simply unacceptable,” he said.