Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


What's Classified, Doc? (The Clinton Emails and the FBI)

So I have a very specific question about the “classified emails”, and it seems not to be answered by “Statement by FBI Director James B. Comey on the Investigation of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Use of a Personal E-Mail System .” A few quotes: From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 […]


CIA Reveals Identity of Bin Laden Hunter

In the Atlantic Wire, Uri Friedman writes “Did the CIA Do Enough to Protect Bin Laden’s Hunter?” The angle Friedman chose quickly turns to outrage that John Young of Cryptome, paying close attention, was able to figure out from public statements made by the CIA, what the fellow looks like. After you’re done being outraged, […]


Questions about a Libyan no-fly zone

With the crisis in Japan, attention to the plight of those trying to remove Colonel Kaddafi from power in Libya has waned, but there are still calls, including ones from the Arab League, to impose a no-fly zone. Such a zone would “even the fight” between the rebels and Kaddafi’s forces. There are strong calls […]


The Emergent Chaos of Facebook relationships

This is a fascinating visualization of 10MM Facebook Friends™ as described in Visualizing Friendships by Paul Butler. A couple of things jump out at me in this emergent look at geography. The first is that Canada is a figment of our imaginations. Sorry to my Canadian friends (at least the anglophones!) The second is that […]


The TSA’s Approach to Threat Modeling

“I understand people’s frustrations, and what I’ve said to the TSA is that you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we’re doing is the only way to assure the American people’s safety. And you also have to think through are there other ways of doing it that are less intrusive,” Obama said. “But […]



Friday night an arrest warrant went out, and was then rescinded, for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. He commented “We were warned to expect “dirty tricks”. Now we have the first one.” Even the New York Times was forced to call it “strange.” I think that was the wrong warning. Wikileaks is poking at a very […]


Transparent Lies about Body Scanners

In “Feds Save Thousands of Body Scan Images,” EPIC reports: In an open government lawsuit against the United States Marshals Service, EPIC has obtained more than one hundred images of undressed individuals entering federal courthouses. The images, which are routinely captured by the federal agency, prove that body scanning devices store and record images of […]


Dear England, may we borrow Mr. Cameron for a bit?

Back when I commented on David Cameron apologizing for Bloody Sunday, someone said “It’s important to remember that it’s much easier to make magnanimous apologise about the behaviour of government agents when none of those responsible are still in their jobs.” Which was fine, but now Mr. Cameron is setting up an investigation into torture […]


Cyberdeterrence Papers

This just came past my inbox: The National Research Council (NRC) is undertaking a project entitled “Deterring Cyberattacks: Informing Strategies and Developing Options for U.S. Policy.” The project is aimed at fostering a broad, multidisciplinary examination of strategies for deterring cyberattacks on the United States and the possible utility of these strategies for the U.S. […]


What the FBI Was Doing on Beethoven's Birthday

This is unfair, but I can’t resist. Nine days before we found out again that PETN is hard to detonate, the FBI was keeping us safe: FBI FINALLY MAKES AN ARREST OVER ‘WOLVERINE’ LEAK The FBI has announced the capture of an individual connected with the leak of 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” … […]


Fingerprinted and Facebooked at the Border

According to the Wall St Journal, “Iranian Crackdown Goes Global ,” Iran is monitoring Facebook, and in a move reminiscent of the Soviets, arresting people whose relatives criticize the regime online. That trend is part of a disturbing tendency to criminalize thoughts, intents, and violations of social norms, those things which are bad because they […]


The Conch Republic

Apparently, in a sovereign-in-cheeck move, the the Florida Keys have withdrawn from the United States, and declared themselves to be “The Conch Republic.” Their motto is “We seceded where others failed.” Perhaps you haven’t heard of them because they make all the good jokes, making writing about them hard. I heard about them because of […]


Some thoughts on the Olympics, Chicago and Obama

So the 2016 Olympics will be in Rio de Janeiro. Some people think this was a loss for Obama, but Obama was in a no-win situation. His ability to devote time to trying to influence the Olympics is strongly curtailed by other, more appropriate priorities. If he hadn’t gone to Copenhagen, he would have been […]


What Was Wrong With the Old FISA?

The Get FISA Right group is publicizing our need to re-think the laws. They have discussion going on on their site, as well as on The Daily Kos. I recommend catching up there, or reading Adam’s recent post here. I have to ask what was wrong with the old FISA? It wasn’t a bad system, […]


What Should FISA Look Like?

Jim Burrows is working to kick off a conversation about what good reform of US telecom law would be. He kicks it off with “What does it mean to “get FISA right”?” and also here. To “get it right”, let me suggest that we need: One law that covers all spying Require warrants when the […]


MI5 Head Critiques Government on Liberties

The BBC reports: A former head of MI5 has accused the government of exploiting the fear of terrorism to restrict civil liberties. Dame Stella Rimington, 73, stood down as the director general of the security service in 1996…”Furthermore it has achieved the opposite effect – there are more and more suicide terrorists finding a greater […]


The New Openness?

This photograph was taken at 11:19 AM on January 20th. It’s very cool that we can get 1 meter resolution photographs from space. What really struck me about this photo was.. well, take a look as you scroll down… What really struck me about this is the open space. What’s up with that? Reports were […]


Children, Online Risks and Facts

There’s an interesting (and long!) “Final Report of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force to the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State Attorneys General of the United States.” Michael Froomkin summarizes the summary.” Adam Thierer was a member of the task force, and has extensive commentary on the primary online safety issue today […]


Biometric Fail reported

A South Korean woman entered Japan on a fake passport in April 2008 by slipping through a state-of-the-art biometric immigration control system using special tape on her fingers to alter her fingerprints, it was learned Wednesday… During questioning, the woman allegedly told the immigration bureau that she had bought a forged passport from a South […]


Terrifying Financial Blacklists Falling Down

There’s a list, maintained by the UN security council, of people who can’t have their money. Once you’re on the list, there’s no way to get off. The global blacklisting system for financiers of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups is at risk of collapse, undermined by legal challenges and waning political support in many countries, […]


Actually, Randall, We Tried That

And the reason it doesn’t work is that just because you’re allowed to own something doesn’t mean you’re allowed to export it. The use, ownership, production, etc. of crypto was never restricted, only its export. In an Intenet-enabled world, export control brings lots of hair with it, which is why it was important to fight […]


Responses to Terror: Boston and Ashdod, Israel

An Israeli teenager has been arrested after he donned a mask and prowled the streets of his town with a big rucksack and toy gun for a school project. The boy, 15, was seized by police in the southern town of Ashdod suspecting he was a Palestinian militant. The student was quoted as saying he […]


Ridiculing the Ridiculous: Terrorist Tweets

A group of soldiers with the US Army’s 304th Military Intelligence Battalion have managed to top previous military research on terrorist use of World of Warcraft. Realizing that mentioning the word “terrorist” can allow researchers to acquire funding to play the popular MMOG, they turned attention to the popular, if architecturally unscalable micro-blogging system, Twitter. […]


The Skype Issue

According to The New York Times in, “Surveillance of Skype Messages Found in China,” the Chinese provider TOM has software in place that reads Skype text messages, and blocks ones that use naughty words and terms, like “Falun Gong,” “Independent Taiwan,” and so on. A group of security people and human rights workers not only […]


Cleared Traveler Data Lost

Verified Identity Pass, Inc., who run the Clear service have lost a laptop containing information of 33,000 customers. According to KPIX in “Laptop Discovery May End SFO Security Scare” the “alleged theft of the unencrypted laptop” lost information including names, addresses, birth dates and some applicants’ driver’s license numbers and passport information, but does not […]


Paper Breach

The BBC reports in “Secret terror files left on train” that an … unnamed Cabinet Office employee apparently breached strict security rules when he left the papers on the seat of a train. A fellow passenger spotted the envelope containing the files and gave it to the BBC, who handed them to the police. We […]


Apparently The State Department Didn’t Learn From Regular Passports

The Washington Times reports that the State Department is going to be producing “passport cards” for people who regular travel by car or boat to/from Canada, Mexico and Carribean. About the size of a credit card, the electronic-passport card displays a photo of the user and a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip containing data about […]


Who Watches the Watchlists?

The idea of “watchlists” has proliferated as part of the War on Terror. There are now more than 63 of them: As part of its regular “risk management” service, which provides screening, tracing, and identity and background checks on potential clients or trading partners, MicroBilt will now offer a “watch list” service that checks these […]


Marty Lederman, on a roll

You see, the CIA apparently uses the less dangerous version of “waterboarding” — not the Spanish Inquisition method, but the technqiue popularized by the French in Algeria, and by the Khmer Rouge — involving the placing of a cloth or plastic wrap over or in the person’s mouth, and pouring or dripping water onto the […]


On the Frequency of Fake bin Laden Messages

I’ve noticed that every time there’s a new message from Osama bin Laden, the press very carefully calls into question its authenticity. For example, CNN’s article “Purported bin Laden message: Iraq is ‘perfect base’” opens: Al-Jazeera broadcast on Thursday an audiotape on which a voice identified as Osama bin Laden declares “Iraq is the perfect […]


Liechtenstein Über Alles?

The New York Times had a story, “Tax Inquiry? Principality Is Offended:” After weathering days of criticism from Germany over a spectacular tax evasion case, Liechtenstein — sometimes seen as the inspiration for the satirical novel from the 1950s about a tiny Alpine principality that declared war on the United States — is digging in […]


Total Kabab Awareness

In a May, 2006 post entitled Codename: Miranda, I joked about having my grocery purchases linked to another Chicagoan due to poor schema design. There, I joked about buying: … granola, yogurt, hummus — the healthy stuff which probably alerts Admiral Poindexter’s Bayesian classifier to my fifth-column status. Maybe this wasn’t jocular after all, as […]


TSA knows what you read

Privacy advocates obtained database records showing that the government routinely records the race of people pulled aside for extra screening as they enter the country, along with cursory answers given to U.S. border inspectors about their purpose in traveling. In one case, the records note Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Gilmore’s choice of reading material, […]


Dear FBI: Fusion requires critical mass

The FBI runs what they call “Fusion Centers” for intelligence sharing. There’s a fascinating quote in the Washington Technology article, “Boeing to staff FBI Fusion Center:” “As a police chief of the 19th largest city in the nation, and in possession of a top secret clearance, by law I cannot set foot unescorted in the […]


893 Million, and Whadda Ya Get?

♫Another DHS network, and we’re not sharing yet.♫ So reports Haft of the Spear, in “You’ll Share and You’ll Like It!” The Homeland Security and Justice departments have spent $893 million on information-sharing networks in the last two years but still do not have effective networks in place, according to a report from the Government […]


Facebook Hangover

On Dave Farber’s list, Brock Meeks pointed us to a delightful Facebook Smackdown. Brock says, What do Facebook, the CIA and your magazine subscription list have in common? Maybe more than you think… Trust me, it’s worth the look. And indeed it is worth looking at, along with Patrick Schitt’s contribution of the background […]


"Terrorists Proving Harder to Profile"

…terrorism suspects from atypical backgrounds are becoming increasingly common in Western Europe. With new plots surfacing every month, police across Europe are arresting significant numbers of women, teenagers, white-skinned suspects and people baptized as Christians — groups that in the past were considered among the least likely to embrace Islamic radicalism. The demographics of those […]


Dennis Lormel's Authoritarian Streak

In a post at the Counter-terrorism blog, “National Security Letters…An Important Investigative Tool for the FBI” Dennis Lormel writes: The Inspector General (IG), U.S. Department of Justice, has issued a report delineating audit findings identifying significant deficiencies in NSL recordkeeping and reporting processes. This determination is quite troubling and inexcusable. Troubling and inexcusable? Well, you’d […]


When I Hear "Precise Machining," Iran Springs to Mind

The New York Times has an article “U.S. Presents Evidence of Iranian Weapons in Iraq.” It contains this gem: They said that at least one shipment of E.F.P.’s was captured as it was being smuggled across the border from Iran into southern Iraq in 2005. The precise machining, the officials said, is another feature that […]


Old-Fashioned Values

This is probably the most important minute of video you’ll see this week, but on a better week, it won’t be. Thanks to manfromlaramie for finding this.


Information Security Needs

The NYT reports, “Rough Treatment for 2 Journalists in Pakistan” and indeed reporting is dangerous in countries where they do not respect the sort of basic rights we in the civilized world have championed for nigh 800 years. However, a computer was seized, sources were roughed up and possibly jailed or killed: Since then it […]


Robert Anton Wilson Defies Medical Experts

Robert Anton Wilson Defies Medical Experts and leaves his body @4:50 AM on binary date 01/11. All Hail Eris! On behalf of his children and those who cared for him, deepest love and gratitude for the tremendous support and lovingness bestowed upon us. (that’s it from Bob’s bedside at his fnord by the sea) RAW […]


Liechtenstein Expands

The BBC reports that Modern measuring methods proved that Liechtenstein’s borders are 1.9km (1.2 miles) longer than previously thought. The border has been changed in some of the more remote corners of the mainly mountainous state, which has now grown in size by 0.5sq km (123 acres). Black Unicorn tattoo by Monique’s Euro Tattoo and […]



It may seem hard to believe, but a nuclear-armed power has made peace with al-Qaeda. I know, with the Bush administration’s stunning competence, as demonstrated in the aftermath of Katrina, in keeping gas below a dollar a gallon, in containing Iraq while keeping North Korea from getting nuclear weapons, it’s hard to believe that they’d […]


Inconceivable Levels of Destruction

There’s been a great deal of talk around the London plot about the impact of the destruction of ten airliners. Senior US officials called it inconceivable. Now, destroying 10 planes might be murder on the scale of 9/11. It would certainly be shocking and despicable. I’d like to point out that the Iraqi people can […]


Emergent Effects of Security Rules

In London, and apparently some other parts of Europe, you can no longer bring electronics on board, including laptops, which are this here Jazz Combo’s instruments of choice. It’s much worse for actual musicians, many of whom have antique and irreplacable instruments which they usually carry on board. The NY Times reports in “Tighter Security […]


Fear Wears Off: More UK Liquid Explosives Plot

As the shock and awe wears away, we learn more about what happened and why. Perhaps this plot was not about to go operational, as MSNBC reports that “U.S., U.K. at odds over timing of arrests.” Meanwhile, after years of debate over warrantless surveillance, the Washington Post reports that a “Tip Followed ’05 Attacks on […]



Is that enough acronyms yet? In Adam’s previous post, Justin Mason commented: There’s another danger of this — even if the number is an opaque ID, the *presence* of the RFID chip means than an attacker can remotely detect the presence of an I-94, therefore a foreign passport, therefore a tourist ripe for a mugging […]


Attack of the Clones?

EKR is the voice of reason when he points out that of course RFID passports are clonable, when he responds to all the press brouhaha about, Lukas Grunwald’s demonstration at Black Hat showing that an RFID passport can be duplicated using off the shelf parts. This outcome is hardly surprising, this is yet another side […]


DHS Has Nothing Better To Do, Apparently

A federal Department of Homeland Security agent passed along information about student protests against military recruiters at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz, landing the demonstrations on a database tracking foreign terrorism, according to government documents released Tuesday. From San Francisco Chronicle, “Terror database tracks UC protests U.S. agent reported on ’05 rallies against military […]


Return on (Other People’s) Investment

‘The Australian’ has a great story on “Focus key to crack money-laundering.” Its focused on the testimony of a British expert on “money laundering” and includes: Last year, British banks, accountants and lawyers made some 200,000 reports to the authorities. But in the three years since Britain’s law was implemented, there had been only one […]


ACLU: Feds snooping on Fedwire?

Press release describes a FOIA request seeking info on governmental surveillance of Fedwire, among other programs. This would be troubling. It is difficult to overstate the extent to which the Federal Reserve System values its reputation for ethical behavior and fair play. A reputation, I might add, that based on my observations it deserves.


Well, He Had Valid ID (Houston Edition)

Houston police and the federal Transportation Security Administration disagree over who is responsible for allowing a man with what appeared to be bomb components board an aircraft at Hobby Airport last week. Although the FBI eventually cleared the man of wrongdoing, police officials have transferred the officer involved and are investigating the incident while insisting […]


Questions about 'Ignoring The "Great Firewall of China"'

Later today at the Privacy Enhancing Technologies workshop, , Richard Clayton will be presenting a talk on “Ignoring the Great Firewall of China.” I’ll be the ‘session chair’ for the session, which usually means I make sure the speaker is in the room, has some slides on a computer, and knows how much time they […]


Proud Comments About Bank Spying

Over at the Counterterrorism Blog, Dennis Lormel writes “Initial Comments about Terrorist Financing and “The One Percent Doctrine”” and “U.S. Government Terrorist Financing Initiative Involving SWIFT:” …I was in the FBI in a leadership role responsible for terrorist financing. Immediately after 9/11, we realized we had to develop financial investigative methodologies different than anything we […]


SWIFT spies

The United States Treasury Department has had secret access to records maintained as part of the SWIFT system, which it has been using secretly for years to identify financial ties to terrorist entities. The Washington Post has more.


The FBI's Use of Data Brokers

Although the federal government and local law enforcement agencies nationwide use private data brokers, the FBI said that practices used by these companies to gather private phone records without warrants or subpoenas is illegal, according to an Associated Press article on A senior FBI lawyer, Elaine N. Lammert, told lawmakers the bureau was still […]


"The Far Enemy"

I’ve been meaning to blog about “The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global ” by Fawaz Georges for quite some time. The book is a fascinating look at the internal debates of the various Jihadist sub-groups, and takes its title from an argument over targeting the “near enemy,” or local government, or the “far enemy,” […]


Lapel Pins?!?

There is an AP article in todays Washington Post about Cynthia McKinney, a Georgia Congresswoman who was in a scuffle with the police today after refusing to identify herself upon entering one of the House buildings in the “Capitol Complex”. The truly scary part of the article was this: Members of Congress do not have […]


The Emergent Field of War and Economics?

There’s a fascinating new paper available from West Point’s Combatting Terrorism Center, on “Harmony and Disharmony: Exploiting al-Qa’ida’s Organizational Vulnerabilities.” What I found most fascinating about the paper was not the (apparently) new approach of reading what the terrorists are saying to gain insight into their weaknesses, but its adoption of the language of economics […]


Hasta La Vista Secure Flight

As mentioned on Freedom To Tinker and by Lauren Gelman, at the Center for Internet and Security, the TSA has mothballed it’s plans to deploy Secure Flight. Though the TSA will surely come up with something else, this is definitely a step in the right direction.


Musings on The Future of the State

I love the little corners of the law that is ancient rights and privileges. They illustrate ways in which our institutions have evolved, and from where they came, we can learn much about where they may go. That’s why I was delighted to read “Russian-Israeli who Left Newfoundland and Labrador Church Sanctuary Is Deported.” Church […]


The Trouble With Illicit

[Update: I meant to tie this more closely to “Illicit” book review, because I think this illustrates those hard choices.] There’s some fascinating competing legal goals on display in the Washington Post story “Area Police Try to Combat a Proliferation of Brothels:” “Sometimes it takes five or six interviews to break these girls [sic], to […]


Real ID Even More Expensive Than Predicted

Bruce Schneier links to an AP article about the hideous costs of the RealID Act. Early estimates were for $120 million, current estimates are for $300 million for the first year alone, and that’s just for three states, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington state. So we can safely say that nationally we’re looking at billions of […]



Illicit, by Mosés Naím is a tragic book. It is considered, insightful, wide-ranging, deep, and so close to amazing. Had Naím gone just a little further, it could have been brilliant, and the tragedy is that he didn’t. Perhaps I should back up, and explain. Naím is the editor of Foreign Policy. He has written […]


Two on the Iraqi Army

A spokesman for the American military command that oversees training of the Iraqi forces also said that while he did not know the security forces’ ethnic mix, he believed that there were more Sunni troops than the election data suggested. From the New York Times, “Election Results Suggest Small Role For Sunnis in Security Forces.” […]


Those Boy Scouts…Always Building Nuclear Reactors

Now 17, David hit on the idea of building a model breeder reactor, a nuclear reactor that not only generates electricity, but also produces new fuel. His model would use the actual radioactive elements and produce real reactions. His blueprint was a schematic in one of his father’s textbooks. Ignoring safety, David mixed his radium […]


Nuclear Surveillance

In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous […]


Do Wiretap Revelations Help the Terrorists?

The question is a fair and natural one to ask, and I’d like to examine it in depth. I think my intuitive answer (“revelations about wiretaps don’t help the terrorists”) is wrong, and that there are surprising effects of revealing investigative measures. Further, those are effects I haven’t seen discussed. Allow me to explain the […]


Legal Analysis of the Wiretaps

One of the really cool things about blogs is that very smart, knowledgeable people can offer up their opinions on topics of the moment. In this case, it’s Orin Kerr and Daniel Solove offering up extended legal analyses of the wiretaps. (Well, extended from the lay perspective, anyway.) Professor Kerr has posted “Legal Analysis of […]


Torturing The Norms

Of a Financial Times online >poll about torture, Alice Marshall asks “ How did this even get to be part of the conversation?” Meanwhile, the BBC reports on the investigation of a Swiss Senator in “CIA abduction claims ‘credible:’” He went on: “Legal proceedings in progress in certain countries seemed to indicate that individuals had […]


America Needs a Full Time President

Ryan Singel has a post “Bush Wiretaps Supremely Illegal,” in which he discusses how this aspect of wiretaps are settled law. Perry Metzger’s excellent “A small editorial about recent events” is also worth reading: As you may all be aware, the New York Times has reported, and the administration has admitted, that President of the […]


The shame of it all

[Adam updates: The reporter has recanted his story, “Federal agents’ visit was a hoax .”] Apparently, the Staasi are watching what we read. A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung’s tome on Communism called “The Little Red Book.” Two history professors […]


Government Secrecy and Wiretaps

I’d like to respond to Dan Solove’s article “How Much Government Secrecy Is Really Necessary” with the perspective of a veteran of the 1990s crypto wars, in which we fought the NSA for the practical right to build and use encryption to protect sensitive data. A central tenat of the government’s position was that there […]


NSA Spying on Americans Without Warrants

“Bush Secretly Lifted Some Limits on Spying in U.S. After 9/11, Officials Say.” A 10 page story in the New York Times opens: Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without […]


Torturing People

Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a speech in which she made apparently definitive statements about our policies towards torture. See Jack Balkin, “Rice: ‘U.S. Personnel’ Don’t Enage in Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment ”Wherever They Are.’” Then be sure to see Marty Lederman’s follow-up, “Condi Rice’s ‘No Torture” Pledge: Don’t Believe the […]


American Torture Chambers

After the Second World War, Germans claimed they didn’t know what was being done to Jews, Catholics, Gays, Gypsies and others by their government. We, as Americans, have no such excuse. We know what’s being done in our name, and have failed to stop it. The American government is torturing prisoners, and sending prisoners to […]


On Torture

I sometimes feel that I have nothing to add to the “debate” around torture, other than the formerly-obvious “torture is ineffective and morally repugnant.” Nevertheless, I feel that keeping silent, or even allowing the debate to occur without adding my voice to the chorus of reason. So, some others’ posts this past week: In Jack […]


Iraq-al Qaeda Link Questioned

The New York Times has a story, “Report Warned Bush Team About Intelligence Doubts:” “It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers,” the February 2002 report said. “Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to […]


Strategy In Iraq: Stay the Course vs Partial Disruption

Global Guerrillas has a fascinating post, “PARTIAL vs. COMPLETE SYSTEM DISRUPTION.” The thesis is that Iraqi guerrillas and terrorists have the ability to complete the collapse of Iraq into anarchy, but have chosen not to, for reasons that he lays out. As van Creveld predicted in “The Transformation of War,” we lack a good way […]


10m (or more) Stolen Passports

Arab News picks up an Agency France Presse story, “Terrorist Access to Stolen Passports Alarms Interpol:” (Via Flogging the Simian’s Nov 4 PDB.) NEW YORK, 4 November 2005 — With 10 to 15 million stolen passports in use around the world at the present time, the global struggle against terrorism is seriously hampered, Interpol Secretary-General […]


Imperial Ambition, Poor Execution

In “The endgame on Iraq began a long time ago,” Thomas Barnett writes some shocking things: This is Musab al-Zarqawi’s worst nightmare: the Americans safe behind their compound walls and everyday he’s doing battle against Iraqis, or-more to the point-against Shiites increasingly backed by Iran, no friend to the global Salafi jihadist movement, being as […]


The Nation-State: Violent and Exclusive

I usually call my collections of links ‘small bits,’ rather than roundups, because I make no effort to round up all of what’s interesting about a subject. But today’s subject, especially the first items, I can not call small. I start with the most horrific, Rebecca MacKinnon’s “Chinese activist bludgoned to death in front of […]


The Big Privacy Picture

“Smart Borders: A wholesale information sharing and surveillance regime” is Krista Boa’s overview of the amorphous and opaque ‘Smart Border’ program: Smart Borders encompasses a range of individual and cooperative initiatives, including US-VISIT, biometric passports in both nations, automated passenger risk assessment, and no fly lists among many others, all of which put privacy rights […]


Who Obeys the Laws of War?

There’s a fascinating article on, a Kurdish site: “Emergence of a better Kurdish 4GW frightens Turkey:” An interesting observation is that HPG is now playing by all the rules set up by international conventions, treaties and war-laws [Jus in Bello] (which ARGK unfortunately occasionally broke). People in the military or with a military background […]


CounterTerrorism and Bureaucracy

In “Bureaucracy Kills,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross writes (quoting CNN): FEMA halted tractor trailers hauling water to a supply staging area in Alexandria, Louisiana[.] The New York Times quoted William Vines, former mayor of Fort Smith, Arkansas, as saying, “FEMA would not let the trucks unload. . . . The drivers were stuck for several days on […]


"Iran's Nuclear Ambitions" Pitch

Earlier, I mentioned the Powerpoint deck being used to pitch the idea of Iran’s Nuclear ambitions. Now, courtesy of Edward Tufte’s forums, we have links to the presentation (PDF). This is mentioned in “U.S. Deploys Slide Show to Press Case Against Iran ” in the Washington Post. The presentation is a nearly classic example of […]


Security Bloggers Spit-Polish DHS

Or maybe just spit on them, and then rub it in. Not Bad For a Cubicle has “’t Plan on It: From what I can tell, the best way to keep a building from catching fire would be put these clowns in charge of burning it down. They truly are The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot […]


"Taking Stock of the Forever War"

The New York Times Magazine has a long (14 screen) article, “Taking Stock of the Forever War,” reflecting on the four years since the attacks on New York and Washington. It seems fairly even-handed overall: any article that long will have points people contest. I’m in full agreement with the general thesis, that the United […]


Who Will Rid Me of This Meddlesome Bureaucracy?

One of the facets of the response to and analysis of Katrina is that the disaster is large enough that everyone can choose an aspect of it to look at from the comfortable heights of their favorite hobby-horse. Be it the incompetence of (state, federal, or local) government, the evils of (small or big) government, […]


Bring Back The 9/11 Commission

As historians, they did a fantastic job of gathering information. They have credibility and stature. They have the perspective to tie the destruction of New Orleans to the destruction in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, and to consider the failures of leadership and the failures of response in the context of massive new spending to […]


Bush Fires Cherntoff

(CNN reports🙂 President Bush told reporters on Friday that millions of tons of food and water are on the way to the people stranded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina — but he said the results of the relief effort “are not acceptable.” He then went on to fire DHS Secretary Cherntoff. I’m such a […]


Disaster Preparedness

Researchers from the non-profit Rand Corp. looked at the ability of local agencies to meet federal standards for responding to urgent-case reports of infectious diseases like bubonic plague, anthrax or botulism. Of 19 local public health agencies called in 18 states, only two met the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s standards, which include […]


"The Offending Articles Will Be Disposed Of"

Our Saudi allies, displaying their tolerance: Paper cups with Hebrew writing disturbed both employees and medical staff at King Khaled National Guard Hospital on Saturday. The catering subcontractor for the hospital coffee shops began using them on Saturday after their usual supply ran out. “We were shocked and angry,” said an employee. “How can Israeli […]


The Malaysia Option

Sunday’s Washington Post has a story, “U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq:” The Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq, recognizing that the United States will have to settle for far less progress than originally envisioned during the transition due to end in four months, […]


Passport Forgery Legal in UK?

The arrest of the Algerian-born Britain with 452 forged European passports at Bangkok’s Don Muang airport is only the latest in incidences of document forging in Thailand. … But here’s the rub: The suspect, 35 year old Mahieddine Daikh, may not be charged with any crime. To date none of the government’s whose forged passports […]


The Control Impulse, The Security Canard, and The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Flyertalk brings us the story of Continental Airlines and Boston’s Logan Airport having a little spat. The core of the dispute is that Continental offers its customers Wifi access for free. But Boston wants to charge for it. Boston has always had a bit of a control thing. That’s not unique. There are lots of […]


Long Bits of Stuck in McCarran International Airport

Kudos to McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas) for having free wifi. And congrats to my fellow Defcon attendees for stealing the cookie that authenticates me to this blog off that wireless net. Tech Policy points to Bill West at Counterterror blog, in “Liberty & Security vs. Terror – an American Perspective.” Its worth reading in […]


Are Police the Best Response?

A few weeks ago, it came out that the MTA wasn’t spending their security budget: In December 2002, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced it had completed a lengthy assessment of potential threats to the city’s transportation infrastructure, from subway lines to major bridges. The authority, which had begun the study in the weeks after the […]


What Do You Have to Do To Get Fired Here?

Ryan Singel has the scoop. The GAO report to Congress is also covered in the New York Times, “Flight Database Found to Violate Privacy Law:” “Careless missteps such as this jeopardize the public trust and D.H.S.’ ability to deploy a much-needed, new system,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, wrote on Friday to Secretary Michael […]


"Not the Blitz"

So says SteveC, and he’s right: Its a relatively small group of criminals. At the same time, I can’t agree with his feeling that “These bombings occured in all probability because of our unprovoked invasion.” The United States was attacked before we invaded Iraq or Afghanistan. People who will kill civilians on the tube are […]


Oh, That's Why

Last week, I asked, Now, if Evan Kohlmann can get to this gathering, and if John Walker-Lindh can meet bin Ladin, why haven’t we penetrated and shut down more groups which are openly calling for murder? Today’s New York Times has the answer in “Large Volume of F.B.I. Files Alarms U.S. Activist Groups:” WASHINGTON, July […]


Small Bits: Silver Linings, Presidential Game Theory, Disclosure, War

Privacy Law lists the 16 states that now have notification laws. Thanks, Choicepoint! At Balkin, ‘JB’ has a long discussion of why 2nd term Presidents all seem to be scandal ridden…since the 22nd Amendment took away what game theorists call ‘the long uncertain shadow of the future.’ I nearly said something about ‘experimental confirmation’ here, […]


Homegrown Bombers, ID Cards, Intelligence Activity, and Profiling

The folks over at The Counterterrorism Blog have been doing a great job the last week or so. Lots of very high quality posts, good roundups around the London attacks. I wanted to point and comment on several of their recent posts. First is Where do Homegrown British Suicide Bombers Come From?, a first person […]


"Israeli Style Profiling"

Less useful is another call for “Israeli style profiling,” in Bill West’s Bolstering Transit Security the Old Fashioned Way: The more such officers there are, and the better trained they are, especially if they are trained in behavioral profiling techniques like the Israeli security services have used for decades, the better protected these transportation systems […]


On "Bringing To Justice"

First, let me say that the response from not only Blair, but all of London is inspiring. They are refusing to panic after these attacks. The underground is open and running this morning (with some nervousness). At Balkanization, Kim Lane Scheppele makes an interesting point about “Britain’s State of Emergency, and the anti-terrror laws in […]


"These cruel, wanton, indiscriminate bombings of London…"

My sympathies to the people of London, and all those around the world who are worried about their loved ones in London. Wikipedia has a clear summary of what’s happened, along with this translation from the pigs responsible: We continue to warn the governments of Denmark and Italy and all the crusader governments that they […]


What Is Terrorism?

A quirk in how the U.S. government defined terrorism meant that when Chechen rebels blew up two airliners almost simultaneously over Russia last year, only one was counted in an annual tally of terrorist attacks. On board one plane were 46 Russians. But the other had 43 Russians and an Israeli citizen — a foreign […]


"Well, umm, He Had Valid ID"

AP is reporting “Man With Chain Saw, Sword Is Let Into U.S.:” On April 25, Gregory Despres arrived at the U.S.-Canadian border crossing at Calais, Maine, carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood. U.S. customs agents confiscated the weapons and fingerprinted […]


More on Deep Throat

The Telegraph has a roundup story, “FBI Deep Throat branded a traitor by Nixon aides:” Charles Colson, Nixon’s chief counsel who served seven months in jail for his role in the Watergate scandal, confessed to understanding the dilemma Mr Felt faced. But he added: “When any president has to worry whether the deputy director of […]


Choicepoint vs CIA

The New York Times has a long article on the successors to Air America, “C.I.A. Expanding Terror Battle Under Guise of Charter Flights.” The bit that really caught my attention was: On closer examination, however, it becomes clear that those companies appear to have no premises, only post office boxes or addresses in care of […]


The FBI Goes Undercover

The New York Times is reporting on a number of undercover investigations that have lead to charges against people accused of helping or trying to help terrorists. in “Trying to Thwart Possible Terrorists Quickly, F.B.I. Agents Are Often Playing Them.” The use of undercover agents is an excellent move by the FBI, and should be […]


Don't Be So Proud Of This Technological Terror You've Created

The New York Times reports on the “Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism” in “U.S. Effort to Secure Foreign Ports Is Faulted:” The Department of Homeland Security’s effort to extend its antiterrorism campaign overseas by enlisting help from importers and foreign ports has been so flawed that the program may have made it easier at times to […]


Emergent Bits of Security

(Updated shortly after posting with Eric Rescorla’s evidence presentation.) Nick Owen has a post about Net Present Value and Annual Average Loss Expectancy. If you think security is all about vulns and 0day, you probably don’t need to read this post, and your boss is going to keep rejecting your spending proposals. Carrie Kirby argues […]


Small Bits: Labelling Software, People, Aaron Weisburd's Foreign Policy

Gunnar Peterson offers up a label for software that he stole from Jeff Williams. I had a good, if short, back and forth with Geoff, of Screen Discussion, in his comments, on using photographs to enhance criminal background checks, by including photos with the records of criminals, so the viewer of a report can compare. […]


DHS Planning Better

Cryptome publishes “Homeland Security Council: 15 Attack Scenarios“, “DHS Universal Task List v.2.0“, and “DHS Target Capabilities List v.1.0.” It looks like a well executed set of planning docs. Some quotes from the New York Times: The agency’s objective is not to scare the public, officials said, and they have no credible intelligence that such […]


"Rendition" or Openness?

Juan Non-Volokh writes: Ignatius notes that espionage and interrogation experts tend to doubt that torture works. As a friend with experience in that area put it to me: Torture makes people tell you what they think you want to hear, when what you want is the truth. Nonetheless, rendition may result in the torture of […]


Has Hezbollah Studied Boyd?

Iraq The Model points to this WorldNetDaily article: Designating Hezbollah a terror group in Europe will mean “the sources of [our] funding will dry up and the sources of moral, political and material support will be destroyed,” Nasrallah told Al Manar, Hezbollah’s satellite television station. Boyd discusses war as having moral, mental, and physical dimensions, […]


(T)ourism (S)uppression (A)gency

Webflyer has a good post about the economics of new security rules that the TSA wants to impose: Requiring information to be submitted an hour before flight takeoff involves a full 75 minutes greater notice than currently provided. This will mean passengers turning up at the airport at least an additional hour in advance of […]


More on Choicepoint

Enter ChoicePoint’s two-building campus in Alpharetta, and you get the feeling you are being watched. starts a new story at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Use Bugmenot to login.) It’s sort of ironic. Choicepoint is focused on identifying people, rather than identifying behavior that leads to trouble. They figure once you have an account, they want you […]


Openness: Maps

After RSA, some friends and I went up to Russian River. I was looking at some old maps at the Quinvera Quivira Vineyard, and the caption under one said “The author of this map is believed to have had access to Drake’s secret maps.” Today, large scale maps of everywhere are easily available. But there […]


Small Bits: T-Mobile, Google, Passports, Terrorism

Jack Koziol has a long post on security issues with T-Mobile’s web site. (Via /.) Did you know that Google’s “Dissatisfied? Help us improve” link only appears on the first page of a search? That’s fascinating–they expect their search to be so good that they get what you want on page 1, and you’ll complain […]


An Open Society?

Eric Rescorla discusses this account: Officer Primiano expressed extreme frustration with me as soon as I began speaking of my rights to photograph in public places. She wanted to debate the wisdom of my taking pictures and asserted that in the wake of the Sept 11th attacks on our country, I should be more interested […]


More on Fighting Terrorist Ideas

I liked how my previous post on this subject read. It was very positive, and I like being positive about the future. (I’m not very good at it.) However, there’s a contrast which needs to be drawn, between the way Yemen (Yemen? Yemen!?!) is handling some prisoners and the way the US is handling some […]


Charlie Wilson's War

I’ve recently finished Charlie Wilson’s War, which Jeff Moss suggested to me. Charlie Wilson was a Congressman from Texas. Gust Avrakotos was a CIA officer. Together, they conspired to get hundreds of millions of dollars funneled to the Afghanistan resistance. The story is simply astounding–at times you think this can’t be true, but it all […]


Fighting Terrorist Ideas

I believe that the Wahabbi-inspired terrorist strain of Islam represents a great material danger to the ideals of liberty and equality, as well as to free inquiry and science. (The state’s response to this danger also creates a great threat to those goods.) It is thus a pleasure to see a Yemini judge taking to […]


Small Bits of Chaos: Vidal, SP2, Iraq

Gore Vidal has a few choice words about the President’s Inaugural address, at DemocracyNow. A Russian company, MaxPatrol, has published a paper on bypassing heap and stack protection for Microsoft Windows XP with SP2. Winterspeak has an interesting summary of Iraq: The big bet that President Bush placed all these months ago, the bet that […]


Patterns of Conflict, Easier on the Eyes

I’ve been posting a fair bit about Boyd. Boyd’s wrote very little. Most of his communication was in the form of briefs. At least two of you have publicly admitted to getting the slides, and, if you’re like me, struggled with the form of the presentation: A scan of a typed, hand-annotated presentation book. There’s […]


"Just the Standard Rhetoric"

…Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told Muslims making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that Rushdie was an apostate whose killing would be authorised by Islam, according to the Iranian media. How very reassuring and level-headed of the British to respond by saying: The Foreign Office said: “The key thing from our point of view […]


Small Bits: Secret Law and Security, Root-Fu, New Blog, and Canadians Stagnate

Cory Doctrow points to a letter he’s sent American Airlines about The security officer then handed me a blank piece of paper and said, “Please write down the names and addresses of everyone you’re staying with in the USA.” and his Kafka-esque experience in trying to find out why they were asking. Good on Cory […]


The Iron Fist and the Orange Revolution

There’s a fascinating and moving article in the New York Times about how elements of Ukranian intelligence aided Yushchenko in his bid to overturn the first, fraudulent election: Whether the collaboration was a convergence of political aims, or a pragmatic understanding by the siloviki that Mr. Yushchenko’s prospects were rising, is subject to dispute. Yulia […]


On Torture

The New York Times reported yesterday that the White House fought for the CIA’s right to torture. In a letter to members of Congress, sent in October and made available by the White House on Wednesday in response to inquiries, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, expressed opposition to the measure on the grounds that […]


Hotel Rwanda

I saw Hotel Rwanda this weekend. It’s a true story of a hotel manager who saved over 1,000 people from genocide. If you’ll allow me a moment of disgusted sarcasm, I look forward to the sequel, Hotel Darfur, now in pre-production. The story is the same: No one is bothering to intervene in African genocide, […]


Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish?

The Supreme Court has just heard a case, Tenet vs Doe, over promises allegedly made to spies: Two former Soviet-bloc diplomats recruited to spy for the CIA during the Cold War say the agency later reneged on promises to compensate them for the dangerous missions they performed.  The husband and wife team are bringing this […]


Boyd's Relevance Today

In a comment, Ian Grigg asks, “I haven’t got to the modern stuff yet, so quite what he has to say that is currently relevant eludes me for now.” Over at Defense and the National Interest, there’s an article that draws heavily on Boyd: In a new briefing [1.7 MB PPT], three retired officers—each hailing […]



John Boyd was arguably the best fighter pilot in American history. While at the Air Force Fighter weapons school, he was not only undefeated, he won every fight so fast he was known as “Forty second Boyd.” While there, he wrote the “Arial Attack Study,” which transformed the study of fighter combat from an art […]


Small Bits of Chaos

Much as I hate blogging anything from Slashdot, Why the Space Station Almost Ran Out of Food is great. (The previous crew had permission to borrow the current crews’ food, but didn’t record how much they’d eaten.) Maybe they could get jobs working for the Social Security administration. John McWhorter has a new book out, […]


370,000 Absconders

Buried in this story about tracking illegal immigrants is the interesting item that as of early 2003, of 6,000 Muslims who absconded within the US after being told to leave the country, only 38 percent had been found. That left over 3,500 still at large. How many have been caught since then? Where are the […]


Jihad Watch: Muslims claim unfair treatment at Canadian border

I’ve been debating if I should respond to this idea of unlimited searches of Muslims again, and realized that there’s a perhaps interesting analogy. JihadWatch quotes an AP story BUFFALO, N.Y. — An Islamic civil rights group Wednesday accused U.S. border agents of religious profiling after dozens of American Muslims were searched, fingerprinted and photographed […]


The Intent of a Tank

“We used to talk about the intent of a tank,” Colonel Thomas explained in an interview. “If you saw one, you knew what it was for. But the intent of electrons – to deliver a message, deliver a virus, or pass covert information – is much harder to figure.” Ian Grigg points out an interesting […]