Tag Archives: dhs

Court decision on TSA searches

I just saw Bruce Schneier’s blog post on a ruling I’m glad to see- a US District Court, in a ruling last month, that TSA is authorized to search for weapons and explosives, and nothing more. Fake passports taken from a passenger in the case were tossed out as evidence.

“The extent of the search went beyond the permissible purpose of detecting weapons and explosives and was instead motivated by a desire to uncover contraband evidencing ordinary criminal wrongdoing,” Judge Marbley wrote.

It will be interesting to see if there are moves to better train the TSA screeners in the future, or a legislative reaction expanding the powers granted. (um, how far away is that mid-term election again…? :-)


Welcome to The Homeland

“America, United States of”: The country that Michael Chertoff and an increasing number of talking heads calls, “The Homeland”.

I think that having government officials speak of their country in the third peson (The Fatherland, The Motherland, etc) is probably a warning sign of something.

As Ryan Singel writes in Wired’s Threat Level blog, There’s No Such Thing as the Homeland:

People who write and think of their country as the Homeland with a capital H tend to think that they can redefine torture, ignore international treaties, fund disinformation efforts to keep morale high, launch wars based on hunches and emphasize the power of the executive branch because they consider themselves the good guys who are the only ones who know what’s right for the country. They only want to protect the Homeland, don’t you see? The vocabulary is symptomatic of a rigid, nationalistic world view.

The history of language use as nationalist tool is well-understood. Should we assume that when the government develops this kind of talking-points guidance, they are unaware of the background? (See also Wikipedia’s Glossary of the Third Reich)


I believe that we need a solid intelligence service, and that the CIA is a necessary and largely honorable agency, filled with people who really believe in what they are doing, and who want the best for our country. And I’d like the land surrounding my home to be Secure. But it has to be free. And the new “State Security” organ seems unclear on any way to “secure” things without badly wounding the patient in the process.

We have a Constitution, which is more or less the source code for our particularly American implementation of “A Free and Just Society”. Chertoff and Friends seem very ready to “remove features”, in an foolish attempt to provide a more reliable “freedom product”.

I’m not a categorical critic of national security efforts and organizations- there are many hard-working government agents and employees who are doing essential work to keep our nation safe, who do so without losing sight of the basic freedoms that compose the concept they are working to protect. My sample set is not large, but I’ve met more dangerous and disturbing people in the Boy Scouts than among the Federal law enforcement and intelligence professionals I’ve met.

(To be fair, I have met a lot more Boy Scouts. Also, the Boy Scouts do not train their members to disguise their motives and to move unnoticed through society.)

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