terrorism – chris nelson dot ca
May 302014

I recently had a chance to catch up on some of my backlog of podcasts, including some of Dan Carlin’s Common Sense and Hardcore History. The most recent episode of Common Sense is named “Show 275 – The Specter of Dissent” and is a bit of a combination of history and current events commentary. Dan can be sensationalist, slow to get started, and slow to finish on a topic, but I think for this item the format is warranted.

He spends time going over the history of radicalization and protest in the US and how it relates to our current situation as described in some of the revelations from Edward Snowden and Glen Greenwald. In fact, but much of the podcast seems to be prompted by one of Greenwald’s stories earlier this month – “Glenn Greenwald: from Martin Luther King to Anonymous, the state targets dissenters not just “bad guys“. Policies and procedures raised from the article are throw-back to red scares and Hoover era:

Among the information collected about the individuals, at least one of whom is a “US person”, are details of their online sex activities and “online promiscuity” – the porn sites they visit and surreptitious sex chats with women who are not their wives. The agency discusses ways to exploit this information to destroy their reputations and credibility.

… Another slide describes the tactics used to “discredit a target”. These include “set up a honeytrap”, “change their photos on social networking sites”, “write a blog purporting to be one of their victims” and “email/text their colleagues, neighbours, friends, etc”. In accompanying notes, GCHQ explains that the “honeytrap” – an old cold war tactic involving using attractive women to lure male targets into compromising, discrediting situations – has been updated for the digital age: now a target is lured to a compromising site or online encounter. The comment added: “a great option. Very successful when it works.” Similarly, traditional methods of group infiltration are now accomplished online.

As Dan points out, perhaps these tactics are approved by the majority of Americans when used against our enemies. However, what is also increasing becoming apparent is that the net of “enemies” includes extremely broad definitions:

The NSA explicitly states that none of the targeted individuals is a member of a terrorist organisation or involved in any terror plots. Instead, their crime is the views they express, which are deemed “radical”, a term that warrants pervasive surveillance and destructive campaigns to “exploit vulnerabilities”.
…These incidents were not aberrations of the era. During the Bush years, for example, documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed, as the group put it in 2006, “new details of Pentagon surveillance of Americans opposed to the Iraq war, including Quakers and student groups”. The Pentagon was “keeping tabs on non-violent protesters by collecting information and storing it in a military anti-terrorism database”.

This is a very disturbing revelation. The evidence seems to suggest that the net of suspicion is cast on domestic dissent – anyone who challenges the administration and status quo. This is extremely bad for the health of our system. As Greenwald puts it:

“… the implicit bargain that is offered to citizens: pose no challenge and you have nothing to worry about. Mind your own business, and support or at least tolerate what we do, and you’ll be fine. Put differently, you must refrain from provoking the authority that wields surveillance powers if you wish to be deemed free of wrongdoing.”

I highly recommend both Greenwald’s article and Dan Carlin’s podcast episode for some thought provoking content.

Feb 012007


Most folks have heard about the Aqua Teen Hunger force ads (up for weeks in 12 other cities) causing a terrorist scare in Boston by now. I know if I was going to plant a bomb it would look like a Lite-Brite showing a cartoon character flipping the bird. Sigh. But their press conference just takes this absurdity to a new level:

Two suspects arrested for their part in a hair-brain TV cartoon marketing campaign that ultimately paralyzed downtown Boston held a wild and mocking press conference Thursday, during which they would only answer questions regarding… their hair.

“I feel like my hair is pretty perfect but altogether I want to redirect this to the haircuts of the ’70s,” Berdovsky said, ignoring reporters’ shouts.

“I really like the one where the hair curls around to the back,” Stevens replied.

“Oh yeah, that one’s so hot,” Berdovsky then responded.


Jul 312005

(I’m back in town and my skin is slowly hydrating. I always forget how dry Calgary & BC can be)

First, a little background as to why I was talking to homeland security in Canada – Calgary has a full service (as far as I can tell) US customs and immigration office in the airport. On US bound flights, you have to go through them before you get to US departure gates. It has always seemed a bit odd to me that Canada would give up that much sovereignty. At the same time it would really suck to get to the US and be turned back for whatever reason.

I had my multi-entry parole for an alien papers on hand (gained by filling out an I-131 and paying a couple hundred bucks), and based on my Mexico/US border experiences, expected a swipe of my passport, a glance at the papers, and a wave. This was not the case in Calgary. They had me fill out a new I-94, which I thought my multi-entry parole make obsolete, then proceeded to run 15 minutes worth of background checks on me. I still must be Canada, the Esquire in the waiting room had nipples showing. After being called up from the empty waiting room they slapped some stamps on my new I-94 and parole (first time it had been stamped) and I was done. I’m not sure what to think. Is the US/Mex border protocol that much more slack? Or is it just that the guys in Canada are so bored that they like to do everything possible?

On the airport security end of things they didn�t seem to give a damn about my shoes, which is all the rage at SAN right now (regardless of whether or not they set off the metal detector). No mechanized chemical sniffers here either – though security had us walk around them in San Diego anyway. They did plance a squinty eye on electronics, inspecting laptops and asking about cameras. My bag was flagged and I was waved over. �You have folding scissors in your bag sir.� I replied that I was pretty sure I didn�t. She showed me the x-ray screen that showed my microtool. �Ah�, I said, and showed that the key chain tool had no knife blade. It makes itself useful by with a couple of small screwdriver heads and some very small pliers. Full sized tools are not allowed of flights of course, because of their clubbing/stabbing potential. Small tools, like eyeglass repair kits, are supposed to be allowed according to the TSA. I had specifically bought the microtool so that I could carry it on (I never check my bag), and had been doing so for about 10 flights over this last year.

�No tools�, she said, and dropped it into a box of knives and lighters. Bugger. I briefly tried to reason with her on TSA regulations, but quickly thought better of that as as it was pretty clear it wasn’t going to happen. Of course, she told me I could have it shipped for the same price I bought it for. Maybe she gets commission. I want to see the financials of the shipping company at the airport. That�s got to be the sickest profit margin around. So anyway, I guess a screwdriver an inch long is a deadly weapon. Maybe they are afraid of me MacGyvering my seat console to show porn on the TV screens. I can see the 24 hour news headline: Moral Terrorist cripples aircraft, 36 offended.

It seems to me that these two events have two possible lessons. One – you are at the mercy of the security person’s interpretation of regulations. Or Two – the system is so broken that it takes a while before someone does the correct action, surprising you. Either way, it doesn’t give one much confidence in the system.

Feb 242004

U.S. Still Mining Terror Data – Mega Super. When I came back from Costa Rica I got to experience the new border security. Everyone not from the US was digitally finger printed and had their mug snapshotted by a digital camera attached to the agent’s computer. I gave them a big smile. Terrorists never smile.

I’ve often wondered what happens to the babies on baby product commercials. Do they ever sue? Case 4158, Jonny Frank vs. Mr and Mrs Frank – “PUBLIC NUDITY & CHILD LABOUR WITHOUT CONSENT”

I saw Spellbound last night. I liked it.