Thursday, January 07, 2010

Of Forests and Trees

The failure of the U.S. Government to detect the fairly glaring Northwest Airlines Christmas plot -- despite years and years of constant expansions of Surveillance State powers -- illustrates this dynamic perfectly. As President Obama said yesterday, the Government -- just as was true for 9/11 -- had gathered more than enough information to have detected this plot, or at least to have kept Abdulmutallab off airplanes and out of the country. Yet our intelligence agencies -- just as was true for 9/11 -- failed to understand what they had in their possession. Why is that? Because they had too much to process, including too much data wholly unrelated to Terrorism. In other words, our panic-driven need to vest the Government with more and more surveillance power every time we get scared again by Terrorists -- in the name of keeping us safe -- has exactly the opposite effect.


It's so striking how most of the policies we undertake in the name of combating Terrorism -- including our various invasions, bombings and occupations, and our always-escalating Surveillance State -- have exactly the opposite effect.

  Glenn Greenwald

Extraneous, irrelevant data clutter the system, making it even harder for analysts to make meaningful future connections. A needle is hard enough to find in the proverbial haystack, without adding still more hay. . . . Quantity cannot substitute for quality. Higher quality data collection depends not only on better guidance with respect to relevance, but also on judiciousness applied from the beginning and throughout the collection process. Unfortunately, case and statutory law has come to be regarded as some kind of nicety -- or a barrier that needs to be overcome. Not so. That law sets standards of relevancy for collection that used to hold down data clutter.

  FBI agent and 9/11 whistleblower Coleen Rowley

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

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