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Politech is the oldest Internet resource devoted to politics and technology. Launched in 1994 by Declan McCullagh, the mailing list has chronicled the growing intersection of law, culture, technology, and politics. Since 2000, so has the Politech web site.

Stewart Baker: What's in the water at Cato?

[Stu Baker was a member of the Markle task force: 
http://www.markletaskforce.org/ --Declan]

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: What's in the water at Cato?
Date: Sun, 17 Oct 2004 19:29:04 -0400
From: sbaker@steptoe.com <sbaker@steptoe.com>
To: 'Declan McCullagh' <declan@well.com>
CC: Albertazzie, Sally <SAlbertazzie@steptoe.com>


Jim Harper seems to have slept through September 11.  In the weeks before
the attacks, we identified two of the hijackers as al-Qaeda killers, knew
they were in the country, but couldn't find them -- even though they had
drivers licenses, phones, etc., in their own names.  And, until we have a
method for rapidly checking private databases for suspects, we still won't
be able to find them.

Evidently that's fine with Jim.  He'd rather rely on three other techniques,
which seem to be teaching Arab kids to read, huddling behind more and higher
blast walls, and using something called "human intelligence" -- unaided by
any technical advances made during Steve Jobs's lifetime.

Evidently recognizing that nobody else is likely to feel safer under the
Harper Three-Point Plan, he also trashes the report by misstating its
impact.  His claim that dozens of laws will have to be amended is flat
wrong.  There is already plenty of legal authority for gathering information
from private sources.  The charts simply set forth existing law, without
proposing to water down any of them.  In fact, the safeguards recommended by
the Markle task force actually add restraints to the government's current
capabilities (a fact that gave me real pause when I was part of the task

At bottom, the task force recommends that the government use -- with
safeguards -- capabilities that the private sector already uses with
enthusiasm.  If Sprint can already tell that Messrs Atta and al-Hazmi make a
lot of phone calls to each other and to Afghanistan, and can use the
information to offer them cheap long-distance, most of us would like our
government to use the same information to keep our families alive.

Stewart Baker

Posted by Declan McCullagh on Oct 18, 2004

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