February 6, 2006
Surprise! [8:16 am]
Likse just about every other element of execution by this administration, this President’s illegal wiretaps also don’t seem to do anyone any good. The story of this administration — “all hat, no cattle” when it comes to actually doing the job they were elected to do, but absolutely kick-ass when it comes to claiming power and taking care of their toadies: Surveillance Net Yields Few Suspects [pdf]
Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use.
Bush has recently described the warrantless operation as “terrorist surveillance” and summed it up by declaring that “if you’re talking to a member of al Qaeda, we want to know why.” But officials conversant with the program said a far more common question for eavesdroppers is whether, not why, a terrorist plotter is on either end of the call. The answer, they said, is usually no.
FON’s idea, floated just three months ago in a Web posting by founder Martin Varsavsky, is to sign up people who have WiFi hot spots in one of two ways.
Linus members — named after Linus Torvalds, who created the freely distributed Linux software — will share their hot spot with other Linus members for free.
Bill members, named after Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, will charge for access to their hot spot. FON will get some of that revenue and share it with Internet service providers.
[...] FON faces a hurdle, because most service providers prohibit subscribers from sharing access with people outside their household. Many broadband subscribers share their access now for free, though, and it’s hard for Internet service providers to stop them.
Traffic from a FON-connected hot spot would be easy for an ISP to identify, said Glen Fleishman, editor of the WiFi Networking News site, because users have to authenticate themselves at a FON server.
Varsavsky wants to partner with service providers to get them to allow their subscribers to set up FON hot spots. It has signed up a Swedish provider, Glocalnet, and is in discussions with US companies.
To win over the providers, Varsavsky points out that Linus members need Internet service to be Linus members. ”In fact, FON is an incentive to become a customer of an ISP,” he said.
The Massachusetts Port Authority’s move to shut down private alternatives to $8-a-day WiFi Internet access at Logan International Airport have sparked an interstate brouhaha.
After major airline, telecommunications, and electronics trade associations denounced Logan’s policy, utility commissioners from nine states and the District of Columbia told the Federal Communications Commission last week that it could set a dangerous nationwide precedent.
“Massport’s actions, if allowed to stand, would result in a monopolized wireless broadband market at Logan International Airport and could set a dangerous precedent of encouraging other regulatory authorities across the country to seek to limit competition,” 10 state officials said in a filing with the FCC, which is reviewing a Continental Airlines challenge to the Logan ban.
At least, that’s my interpretation of their decision to give up some column-inches on the op-ed page today to Richard Cravatts, in whose Orwellian apologia today he offers to interpret the Constitution and the Patriot Act for members of the American Library Association too dumb to understand that, as our President has already concluded, if you have to ask for a warrant, then the terrorists have already won: When librarians protect terrorists [pdf]
NEWTON, WHICH this year was named as the country’s safest town, can now add a second designation to its Chamber of Commerce brochures: It can boast of being a town that is not only safe for its residents but which also protects the privacy rights of would-be terrorists who wish to use its library. After a credible terror threat to Brandeis University was traced to a public computer at the Newton Free Library on Jan. 18, the FBI and local police rushed to secure the computer, with the possibility of identifying the nature of the threat and the person behind it.
What law enforcement had not anticipated, however, was that their pressing search would be abruptly sidetracked when Kathy Glick-Weil, the library’s director, informed them that no one was searching anything without a warrant.
Glick-Weil, like many of her counterparts who are members of the American Library Association (ALA), was well-prepared to stymie the investigative efforts of government officials. In fact, since the passing of the Patriot Act and its Section 215, which governs searching in libraries and bookstores, librarians have been apoplectic at the notion that government officials, in their view, now have authority to kick through library doors and randomly monitor the reading and Internet surfing habits of their patrons.
The ALA’s sentiments, and Glick-Weil’s decision to become a ”human shield” for 10 precious hours while the FBI waited to secure a warrant and seize the computer, would be very noble — save for one important point: They are based on a misunderstanding of both Section 215 of the Patriot Act as well as the protections provided in the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.
I look forward to the day that Mr. Cravatts agrees to allow a warrantless search of his office, or his home, or his car. Until then, thank goodness for the diligence of the ALA, and kudos to Kathy Glick-Weil!!!
WHILE I couldn’t agree less with Richard Cravatts’s take on the enforcement of the laws concerning privacy, I will agree with his contention that librarians know the Dewey Decimal System. That a librarian’s professional training concentrates on mastering the use of the system is quite off the mark, however, and as enlightened a concept in the 21st century as starting a fire with a stone and a spark. In any event, should he himself ever need to be catalogued, I’ve got a spot for him on the shelf at 621.945. That would be the 620s for Engineering, 621.9 for Tools and Fabricating Equipment, and, specifically, 621.945 for Boring Tools.