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Author Topic: I'm a photographer, not a terrorist  (Read 23951 times)
Misirlou
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« Reply #40 on: December 17, 2009, 12:13:27 PM »
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Quote from: slobodan56
Ah, the beauty of ignorant arrogance!

From the Times article "Most Domestic 'Jihadists' Are Educated, Well-Off":

"Historically, the idea that terrorists come from [poor and quasi-literate] backgrounds is a complete myth," says Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at Georgetown University. "They are much more likely to be well-educated and come from middle-class and wealthy families."

The whole article here: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,...1947703,00.html

Not to mention that most of the 9/11 terrorists were also well-educated, and that Bin Laden himself comes from one of the wealthiest Saudi families.

It is never a good idea to underestimate your opponents.

Umm, I've been in the same room, or on the same battlefield with some of these people, so I'm less "ignorant" of them than any handful of academics and writers. I've also read the books, fatwas and manifestos some of the others have written, over a period of 25 years. It's not "underestimating" to take a honest appraisal of what one sees with one's own eyes. Education is not the same thing as experience, wealth is not the same thing as intelligence, literate does imply wise. Clearly, we could point to any number of famous, wealthy, beautiful fools in the news these days.

It's very easy to "mirror image" one's opponent. Ahmed went to a university in Paris, and since I went to a University, he must think like I do. Well, he may have attended some classes, but he may also believe some things I find quite bizarre, and have a very weird view of the way things work outside his own country. Remember when Dianne Sawyer interviewed Sadam Hussein during the run up to Gulf War I? He seemed shocked to learn that people were allowed to openly ridicule politicians in the US. He had a profound misunderstanding of the life in a western country. It's not "arrogant" to note that, and exploit it. If you're not used to living in a country like the US, you're probably not much better prepared to operate there than your average American would be to operate in the Sahara or a jungle in Laos.

I think what some of us are trying to say is that there are many ways one can try to protect the public against terrorists, and although harassing wedding photographers is clearly fruitless, there are a vast array of techniques in use that were developed via long experience. It's a really bad idea to fully divulge those techniques to the publc, because that's just giving the enemy the keys. So when people who aren't involved in the thinking behind the protection measures start making pronouncements about terrorists being too "smart" to do this or that, they may just not know the full background.

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alain
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« Reply #41 on: December 17, 2009, 02:25:43 PM »
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Quote from: Misirlou
Well, having dealt with these bastards face to face, as Jonathan has, I can say emphatically that many of them are really quite apallingly ignorant. I can't go into great detail here, but I can tell you many of us who are veterans of recent conflicts are very gratified that certain cultures consider aiming a weapon with the sights to be "unmanly," relative to simply spraying lead from the hip. You would be shocked at the stupid things some of them do.

...

Now, there are plenty of other devils out there who are far more worldy and aware. But if most them weren't as idiotic as they are, we'd have a much more serious problem on our hands. Or, maybe they wouldn't be terrorist in the first place, if they weren't so ignorant and indoctrinated.

Terrorists normally don't operate in a conflict area, those are freedom fighters.  This mostly to fight some foreign army that occupies they're country, this is completely different.  It's very rare that those freedom figther operate outside there home country.
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alain
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« Reply #42 on: December 17, 2009, 02:28:16 PM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
If you visited the Statue of Liberty, would you spend most of your time photographing the guards, the security cameras, door locks, and things like that?

First with a decent dslr it doesn't make a difference.   I would probably take details of,  structures, materials, utility infrastructure etc...  Probably not the guards because I respect the guards privacy.
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alain
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« Reply #43 on: December 17, 2009, 02:32:37 PM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
This is an area of concern, which is why there are background checks that you need to go through to be law enforcement or security, especially at the federal level. To get through the vetting process you'd have to be a "sleeper" agent--someone with a clean background and criminal record, and no traceable connections to any terrorist group. I've been through this process, and trust me, it is VERY thorough.

Given the sheer cost of doing even a simple background check and the very low wages of most security guards, it's very unlikely that most background checks are thorough.  

So you're relatives and "friends", neigbours,... did give you feedback that they where questioned to check you out?
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #44 on: December 17, 2009, 02:50:50 PM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
While that may be true of jihadi elite/leadership, my experience is that many of the low-level foot soldiers...
Low-level foot soldiers are not going to be the terrorist hijacking four planes simultaneously and successfully hitting three high-level targets by flying them (or execute any other high-profile terrorist act), so what is the point in declaring terrorist (in general) stupid, idiotic and ignorant?
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Slobodan

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alain
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« Reply #45 on: December 17, 2009, 03:10:36 PM »
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Quote from: Misirlou
Umm, I've been in the same room, or on the same battlefield with some of these people, so I'm less "ignorant" of them than any handful of academics and writers. I've also read the books, fatwas and manifestos some of the others have written, over a period of 25 years. It's not "underestimating" to take a honest appraisal of what one sees with one's own eyes. Education is not the same thing as experience, wealth is not the same thing as intelligence, literate does imply wise. Clearly, we could point to any number of famous, wealthy, beautiful fools in the news these days.

It's very easy to "mirror image" one's opponent. Ahmed went to a university in Paris, and since I went to a University, he must think like I do. Well, he may have attended some classes, but he may also believe some things I find quite bizarre, and have a very weird view of the way things work outside his own country. Remember when Dianne Sawyer interviewed Sadam Hussein during the run up to Gulf War I? He seemed shocked to learn that people were allowed to openly ridicule politicians in the US. He had a profound misunderstanding of the life in a western country. It's not "arrogant" to note that, and exploit it. If you're not used to living in a country like the US, you're probably not much better prepared to operate there than your average American would be to operate in the Sahara or a jungle in Laos.

I think what some of us are trying to say is that there are many ways one can try to protect the public against terrorists, and although harassing wedding photographers is clearly fruitless, there are a vast array of techniques in use that were developed via long experience. It's a really bad idea to fully divulge those techniques to the publc, because that's just giving the enemy the keys. So when people who aren't involved in the thinking behind the protection measures start making pronouncements about terrorists being too "smart" to do this or that, they may just not know the full background.

Terrorist usually avoid battlefields ;-)  I agree fully with you that most of them will think quite differently, like most of us think different.  

" there are a vast array of techniques in use that were developed via long experience."  --> the problem is that there are seldom checks if the "experience" has some use anymore or  if it's effective.  This is often blocked with it's "secret" and most involved parties have clearly a benefit with getting "more".  

BTW.  ironic :  I have a very effective garden fence against pink elephants, never seen one inside my garden.   How it works is secret.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #46 on: December 17, 2009, 03:40:35 PM »
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Quote from: Misirlou
... I've been in the same room, or on the same battlefield with some of these people, so I'm less "ignorant" of them than any handful of academics and writers... It's not "underestimating" to take a honest appraisal of what one sees with one's own eyes...
While useful, anyone's personal experience is usually far from being a sufficient condition for any serious analysis, and more often than not leads to the proverbial "not seeing the forest for the trees" syndrome. If opposite would be true, than any floor-trading stock trader would know more about economy than members of the federal reserve board (often academics themselves)... any paramedic would know more about medicine than university professors... etc.

Besides, as someone has already pointed out, "being in the same room or battlefield" with you disqualifies them as terrorists, at least those we in the western world should be afraid of.

And again, some of the key players in the 9/11 attack spent years living, getting high education and working in the West. Yes, they have a different value system, but stupid, idiotic and ignorant they aren't (unless, of course, you assume that not adopting our value system makes them so). Those who "never heard of soap" are not going to fly planes against us.

But just for fun, let's assume you are right and that they are really that stupid and ignorant... in such a case, they surely would not know how to operate a modern dslr, hence any photographer with a dslr should be automatically above suspicion... and only poor souls with Holgas and Dianas should immediately be arrested.  
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #47 on: December 18, 2009, 07:19:30 AM »
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Quote from: alain
Terrorists normally don't operate in a conflict area, those are freedom fighters.  This mostly to fight some foreign army that occupies they're country, this is completely different.  It's very rare that those freedom figther operate outside there home country.

This statement is both extremely ignorant and highly insulting. Please explain why a majority of the "freedom fighters" operating in Iraq are from Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, etc. I was in Ramadi in late 2006 when the local tribes decided they'd had enough of the "freedom fighters" terrorizing the locals, and formally allied themselves with the US military to get rid of them. As a result, Al-Anbar province went from one of the most dangerous places in Iraq to one of the safest.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #48 on: December 18, 2009, 07:25:15 AM »
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Quote from: slobodan56
Low-level foot soldiers are not going to be the terrorist hijacking four planes simultaneously and successfully hitting three high-level targets by flying them (or execute any other high-profile terrorist act), so what is the point in declaring terrorist (in general) stupid, idiotic and ignorant?

Perhaps not, but that doesn't stop them from building and planting IEDs, or manning a mortar, or blowing themselves up in the middle of a crowded market. Those missions may not be as high-profile as 9/11, but they've killed more people.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #49 on: December 18, 2009, 07:27:45 AM »
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Quote from: alain
Given the sheer cost of doing even a simple background check and the very low wages of most security guards, it's very unlikely that most background checks are thorough.  

So you're relatives and "friends", neigbours,... did give you feedback that they where questioned to check you out?

Yes. Some had an investigator visit in person.
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Misirlou
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« Reply #50 on: December 18, 2009, 09:42:19 AM »
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Quote from: alain
" there are a vast array of techniques in use that were developed via long experience."  --> the problem is that there are seldom checks if the "experience" has some use anymore or  if it's effective.  This is often blocked with it's "secret" and most involved parties have clearly a benefit with getting "more".

What evidence do you have of that? How do you know what procedures are in use, and which ones have stopped attacks lately? Do you really think you're getting the whole story in the open press? I don't think so.
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alain
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« Reply #51 on: December 18, 2009, 10:31:41 AM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
This statement is both extremely ignorant and highly insulting. Please explain why a majority of the "freedom fighters" operating in Iraq are from Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, etc. I was in Ramadi in late 2006 when the local tribes decided they'd had enough of the "freedom fighters" terrorizing the locals, and formally allied themselves with the US military to get rid of them. As a result, Al-Anbar province went from one of the most dangerous places in Iraq to one of the safest.

In WWII a lot of freedom fighters against the nazi's crossed borders very frequently.  A lot of them (that survived) are considered big heroes now.  Also in WWII some local "authorities" collaborated with the nazi's, to keep things quiet (and often to get wealthy), thousands and thousands went to the gaschamber because of this.  

But those freedom fighters are very unlikely to use a DSLR to get info outside there occupied country.
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alain
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« Reply #52 on: December 18, 2009, 10:35:43 AM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
Yes. Some had an investigator visit in person.

Jonathan, I doubt this was done for being a security guard at a building, maybe for guarding weappons of mass destruction.
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alain
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« Reply #53 on: December 18, 2009, 10:51:00 AM »
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Quote from: Misirlou
What evidence do you have of that? How do you know what procedures are in use, and which ones have stopped attacks lately? Do you really think you're getting the whole story in the open press? I don't think so.

Well I know that my fence againts pink elephants is extremely effective.  But it's working is highly secret.

I do know some "research" (in my expertise) against terrorists threats that is complete absurd, but expensive.  It's so easy to avoid and gives so much expensive  false positives that it's completely unusable.   You won't find those facts in the results, even if well known, a lot of people have benefits from going on with it.

Common sense security measures on the other hand are not mentioned or implemented, probably because it won't generate income.
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Misirlou
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« Reply #54 on: December 18, 2009, 01:06:40 PM »
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Quote from: slobodan56
While useful, anyone's personal experience is usually far from being a sufficient condition for any serious analysis, and more often than not leads to the proverbial "not seeing the forest for the trees" syndrome. If opposite would be true, than any floor-trading stock trader would know more about economy than members of the federal reserve board (often academics themselves)... any paramedic would know more about medicine than university professors... etc.

Besides, as someone has already pointed out, "being in the same room or battlefield" with you disqualifies them as terrorists, at least those we in the western world should be afraid of.

And again, some of the key players in the 9/11 attack spent years living, getting high education and working in the West. Yes, they have a different value system, but stupid, idiotic and ignorant they aren't (unless, of course, you assume that not adopting our value system makes them so). Those who "never heard of soap" are not going to fly planes against us.

But just for fun, let's assume you are right and that they are really that stupid and ignorant... in such a case, they surely would not know how to operate a modern dslr, hence any photographer with a dslr should be automatically above suspicion... and only poor souls with Holgas and Dianas should immediately be arrested.  

You're straw-manning my argument. We never defined "terrorist" so we are doing apples and orange comparisons all over the place. If you're mostly concerned about 911 style aircraft hijackers, then why are we discussing harassment of photographers on the street? And I never said all of them are completely stupid in the first place. Just that some are, and that it would wrong to think that they're too wiley to be caught with seemingly ordinary measures. Remember how the millenium bomber was caught crossing the border?

My point was, and remains, that there are a lot of people working very hard every day to stay one step ahead of any number of serious enemies. They take their jobs very seriously, and most of them are extremely good at what they do. There are also some over-zealous types at the fringes who do things like detaining wedding photographers. We can agree the second group are not helping, but that gives you no ability to make judgements about the value of what the first group is doing. Serious analysis by outsiders is compromised in this case by a very serious lack of facts.

Anyone who has ever worked inside a national security organization can tell you that their is a vast chasm between the public perception of what intelligence organizations do and what actually happens. The movies and the newspapers would have you believing some of the big US intel organizations are doing things daily which are physically impossible. There's a sort of running narrative that paints every last possible action in a negative light, and inexplicably ignores countervailing evidence that is staring everyone straight in the face.

Consider that most of what is publically known about intelligence sources and methods came from people who hate the intelligence community. Anyone with access to sources and methods takes an oath to never reveal them, and violation of that can carry the strictest penalties. So when a newspaper runs a story with supposedly insider information, it came from either someone who really doesn't know what they're talking about, or is a traitor. You may call them "whistleblowers" if you like, but consider that some of those whistles kill people. A few days after 911, the Washington Post ran a story that we were tracking Bin Laden via his satellite phone. Guess how long he continued to use that phone.

In the movies, anyone with a security clearance seems to be able to access any classified fact at any time. In the real world, programs are broken into small compartments with very limited access, to keep them safe. One individual may see only a small piece of the puzzle. Sometimes they're only seeing part of a deception plan, so if they go blabbing to the press, they may be saying thigs they believe to be true, but really are not.

Lest you worry that such a complex series of compartments promotes abuse, know that every single one is tracked down to the last dollar by congress. A long time ago, a number of politicians realized they could say pretty much anything they wanted to about intel people, because they knew the intel people couldn't publically disagree without revealing classified information. So now we have an arrangement whereby congress members frequently get briefed on a program, approve it wholeheartedly, then make public statements later that they didn't know, and are outraged. And the people who work in the organizations just keep doing their jobs in silence.

I'm retired now. But I'm still not going to let out the most insignificant piece of classified data. All I can say is that the threat is real. There are a lot of good people dedicating their lives to countering it. Some of them are highly competent, others are clueless. Same thing on the other side. The difference is that the good guys are generally so conscious of their duty that they won't even spill the beans when they're smeared in the most outlandish ways. The bad guys are so ruthless they'll cut the heads off reporters to make political points, use children to deliver remotely controlled bombs, specifically target civillian women, etc., etc. And yes, we still catch them from time to time because they do things you would consider senseless.

I'm sorry if you don't want to believe that, and I'm sorry I can't provide any more details, but that's the way it has to be.
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Misirlou
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« Reply #55 on: December 18, 2009, 01:25:32 PM »
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Quote from: alain
Well I know that my fence againts pink elephants is extremely effective.  But it's working is highly secret.

I do know some "research" (in my expertise) against terrorists threats that is complete absurd, but expensive.  It's so easy to avoid and gives so much expensive  false positives that it's completely unusable.   You won't find those facts in the results, even if well known, a lot of people have benefits from going on with it.

Common sense security measures on the other hand are not mentioned or implemented, probably because it won't generate income.

Well, I'm not part of the compartmented program that looks at pink elephants, but I haven't see that particular threat well mentioned in the literature.

Yes, some programs fail. Some that were expected to fail actually succeed. It's not like you can go down to the anti-terrorist store and buy a defensive process with many satisfied customers and a nice warranty,
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #56 on: December 18, 2009, 04:13:46 PM »
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Quote from: Misirlou
... If you're mostly concerned about 911 style aircraft hijackers, then why are we discussing harassment of photographers on the street? And I never said all of them are completely stupid in the first place. Just that some are, and that it would wrong to think that they're too wiley to be caught with seemingly ordinary measures....
I am not sure what to make of this, so please help me understand (and to avoid unintentional "straw-manning"). Are you suggesting that "harassing street photographers" is one of those "seemingly ordinary measures" capable of netting real terrorists? If that is what you are saying, then I will continue to vigorously dispute it as mind-boggling. Are you suggesting that after police asks them why they are taking pictures, they will get nervous, act strange, break down and admit wrong-doing? Carrying explosive in your trunk while crossing a border (the millennium bomber) is a rather good reason to act nervously and strange... but taking pictures?

But say it does make them nervous and police takes them for questioning... they will be released hours later, a minor inconvenience for the would-be terrorist, but a major shock for ordinary photographers. Remember that taking a potential terrorist to a police station does not guarantee much... some 9/11 guys actually went themselves to a police station (to report a stolen car). Some of 9/11 guys were actually reported to the local FBI by their flight instructors for acting strange (i.e., being interested only in learning how to land a plane). I can assure you that I would act nervously, as would most law-obiding citizens, if police starts questioning me in public for a perfectly legal activity (i.e., photographing).

But why stop at photography? If you want to provoke someone to act nervously, why not randomly stopping people on the street for talking on their cells (who knows, maybe they are in the midst of coordinating an attack and would act nervously)? Why not stop people driving by (who knows, maybe one in million drivers passing by an important building is the one providing a getaway car at the moment or carrying explosives)?

As for the millennium bomber, again I am not sure what you are suggesting. I assume you are referring to him being stupid and acting strange and thus causing suspicion by the border agents? However, maybe it helped that he was under surveillance by Canadian authorities for years and that they tipped US customs that his border-crossing is imminent? Even if he was caught because of "ordinary measures" (i.e., random inspection, or inspection based on suspicion), these measures are indeed ordinary at border-crossings, and designed specifically for that purpose.

Quote
... I'm sorry if you don't want to believe that...
I am not sure which part of what I've been saying makes you come to the conclusion that I do not believe there are good guys doing good things in intelligence services (including yourself). On the contrary, I do believe that is the right place to track terrorists (i.e., by and within intelligence services, and mostly outside public view). So allow me to use this opportunity to express my gratitude for their (and yours) good work. But I still believe harassing photographers in public is not helpful: every minute thus spent is a minute wasted in the pursuit of real terrorists.  

On a lighter note (and in a facetious tone), I am glad I learned we've never caught Bin Laden because of... the Washington Post.  
« Last Edit: December 18, 2009, 05:25:44 PM by slobodan56 » Logged

Slobodan

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N Walker
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« Reply #57 on: December 18, 2009, 04:54:53 PM »
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Re Section 44 photo incidents - British Journal of Photography and Police efforts to highlight the need to invoke S44.

http://fooooo.com/w/138a36ed9812593b733386b76e92a90e

http://www.bjp-online.com/public/showPage.html?page=872051
« Last Edit: December 18, 2009, 05:34:47 PM by Nick Walker » Logged

Misirlou
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« Reply #58 on: December 18, 2009, 05:04:56 PM »
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Quote from: slobodan56
Are you suggesting that "harassing street photographers" is one of those "seemingly ordinary measures" capable of netting real terrorists?...

As for the millennium bomber, again I am not sure what you are suggesting. I assume you are referring to him being stupid and acting strange and thus causing suspicion by the border agents?

On a lighter note (and in a facetious tone), I am glad I learned we've never caught Bin Laden because of... the Washington Post.  

No, I'm not suggesting that at all. Harassing photographers, as I've said three times now, is generally pointless. Terrorists do use cameras to help plan their attacks. I've seen photos recovered from the laptops in Afghanistan (at a homeland security conference in Philadelphia - not talking classified data here), and there were lots of careful shots of assorted buildings, bridges, etc. in DC and NY. I'm pretty sure they weren't just admiring the architecture. But it would be difficult indeed to make that harder for them. As Jonathon pointed out, I'd rather let them take the photos, and add that to the stack of evidence if I already have one of them under surveillance for other reasons. (There were also hand sketches. Rather silly to start confiscating pencils.)

And I've even been victim of this myself. I had a security guy stop me from taking pictures of a rollercoaster in Northern CA, from the parking lot no less, with a Hasselblad on a tripod. Ludicrous. I showed him my ID, and that ended the "discussion" of course.

You're following my general point on the millenium bomber. With all of our vaunted security apparatus, it came down to the personal instincts of a border patrol agent. Who knows how many lives she saved, with nothing but her intuition and experience?

Yes, the WP phone incident is one the great unheralded bad examples of our time. Every time I hear a lot of moaning about Bin Laden still being on the loose, I think back to that. I'm sure it's the same for all of us who were working intel at the time. As far as I can tell, the leak came from a congressional staffer, or an actual member of congress. Remarkably stupid.
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