348 of 366

in 13.12.2012, 365: the 2012 edition, 365:2012, Chirstmas, Day 348, HDR, Refraction, Terrorism, Video

348 of 366

  • Photo owner: Jay Daverth
  • Date Taken: Thu, 2012-12-13 13:54
  • Date Uploaded: Mon, 2012-12-31 01:05
  • Views: 0

226 of 366

in 13.08.2012, 365: the 2012 edition, 365:2012, Abstract, Bubbles, Day 226, innervisionswally, Terrorism, Video

226 of 366

  • Photo owner: Jay Daverth
  • Date Taken: Tue, 2012-08-14 16:38
  • Date Uploaded: Tue, 2012-09-25 01:03
  • Views: 0
And so it ends...
I've looked and looked, but alas it seems I have finally missed a shot. After 590 daily shots, I have nothing for this day but a black frame.
With all the life changes it could have been worse, but I admit I am quite sad :-(
02 May

Obama, Osama and the Making of a Martyr

in Barack Hussein Obama, Osama bin Laden, Terrorism
A still of 2004 Osama bin Laden video

Image via Wikipedia

It is the height of childish naiveté to believe in Evil with a capital ‘E’.  There are indeed all manner of imaginable (and as yet unimaginable) evil acts and ideologies; those that inflict suffering and run counter to a generally shared vision of global justice.  Yet no serious student of history can conclude that people themselves are ever truly Evil.  The very worst villains of our collective global society, from Hitler to Stalin and, yes, bin Laden, were each seeking to actualize a utopic vision of peace and prosperity.  Each has been, therefore, motivated by the very same ideals of goodness embodied in our own Judeo-Christian foundations. 

Yet as the old cliché goes, he who lives by the sword must die by it.  The moment bin Laden constructed the pseudo-religious framework through which to elevate his Fatwa into the realm of violence, he surrendered any semblance of moral authority he may have once claimed. As both the movement’s primary architect as well as its principal propagandist, he belonged to a class of ideologues beyond conversion, redemption, or reason.  Much as Bush saying that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” bin Laden’s declaration of Takfir against Muslims who failed to support his version of Islam constructed an essentially Manichean worldview in which there was no middle ground. 

No matter how truly horrifying have been the acts perpetrated under the al-Qaedist banner, Osama bin Laden was above all a man fighting for salvation.  First and foremost the salvation of the House of Saud, then the pan-Islamic nation, and finally the whole of the human race.  Fuelled by an inflated perception of his role in the Soviet collapse, resentment of Western politico-economic policies and cultural disdain for modern secular liberalism among Arab nations, the ideological author of al-Qaedism sought to challenge an emergent global order that itself has inflicted untold suffering to the majority of the planet. 

While bin Laden’s ideological justification for violence may have been anathema to our own understanding of world peace, it did not emerge in a vacuum.  For elevating capitalism to monolithic proportions, Bill Clinton must shoulder some blame for both creating the fertile soil within which al-Qaeda thrived as well as for failing to grasp to full potential of bin Laden’s allure among the deprived and marginalized.  For allowing himself to be manipulated time and again into destruction at home and abroad, George W. Bush is destined to fade into obscurity as the unequivocal loser of this epic battle; the Goliath whose very defeat elevated David to mythical status.  Yet much as his predecessors, Obama inherited more than just a propagandist; he was left with a genuine threat to the ideals of civil society and global democracy.  Were it not possible to capture and contain this threat, I find it difficult to fault him for ordering a kill.

Yet whatever relief we may feel at the ‘resolution’ of this decade-long manhunt, we must remember that, as RAND terrorism expert, William Rosenau, noted in the wake of the Iraq invasion:

Al-Qaeda is a worldview, not an organization. Before 9/11, some parts of the US intelligence community described al-Qaeda as a hierarchical, cellular terrorist group with bin Laden at the centre, barking out orders to his ‘troops’ in the field and plotting attacks around the world. This mistaken perception was a hangover from cold-war era thinking about terrorism ... [rather it] is made up of a politically, nationally and ethnically diverse group of militants who don’t agree on everything but subscribe in general terms to an ideology. Bin Laden’s genius was in packaging and promoting an ideology that found enormous appeal among some elements of the Muslim world, and that allowed militants engaged in local struggles to reconceptualise their fights as part of a broader global struggle.

No matter how inevitable bin Laden’s death may have been, we should be careful not to characterize it as a victory.  At minimum, his story serves to illuminate our own failure to create an equitable society in which violent ideologies hold no influence.  Yet in a more practical sense, we must understand that his death does nothing to erase his ideas and may contrarily serve to strengthen his adherent’s resolve.  Al-Qaeda is not a snake but a hive of bees – cutting off the head does little but inflame the passions of its soldiers who, incidentally, may simply birth a new queen.   Rather, if we truly seek an end to this conflict, we must couple his death with our own redemption by acknowledging the harm inherent in capitalist totalitarianism and renouncing violence in all its forms.  Without this, all we’ve managed to do is kill an elderly diabetic with a big mouth.

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13 Apr

Nobody is supposed to touch me where my bathing suit covers

in Law Enforcement, Terrorism, TSA / Homeland Security, WTF?!

Except the TSA?  Enough.  Enough!!!

TSA Frisks 6 Year Old.

You can watch the parents (the ones who posted the video) speak out here along with the token apologist “journalist”.

16 Jun

Bin Laden's Dirty Underwear and Civilian-Based Defense

in Civil Rights, Law Enforcement, Nonviolence, Surveillance Society, Terrorism, TSA / Homeland Security
From the photograher, Dean Shaddock: This was ...

Image via Wikipedia

When you fly trans-Atlantic as frequently as I do, the trips tend to blur into one another.  One constant, however, is the frenetic and arbitrary suspicion I encounter at the U.S. entry points.  Be it drug-sniffing dogs, the Egyptian stamps in my passport, or the general contemptuous stares from under-trained TSA yahoos, there may as well be a sign above the jet bridge reading “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”  Add the TSA’s plan to capture and track your airport movements through your personal gadgets, an air marshal program that costs approximately $200 million per arrest (the marshals themselves have been arrested with far higher frequency), the constant pillaging of our first, fourth and fifth amendment rights, and our $30 billion annual losses of public and private funds (countless billions more in its assault on the tourism industry), and you’ve got a boondoggle of paranoia combined with egregious corporate cronyism to produce a system whose expense is exceeded only by its utter uselessness.

Festering underneath all of this is the industries’ dirty little secret – that for all reforms elsewhere in law enforcement and intelligence, airport security is running the exact same playbook that failed so miserably to prevent 9/11.  You can put as many badges and blue uniforms you want on them, but the TSA are nothing more than the same old cast of players, spasmodically trying to dazzle us with their shiny new (yet demonstrably ineffective) props while phoning-in dialogue from the same, tired script.  This kind of expensive theater may have been appropriate in the weeks and months following 9/11, but it’s time we grow up.  The bottom-line is that none of this Madison-Avenue bravado is helping to capture actual terrorists - nay, of the 29,000 or so arrests from the DHS, nearly all were for unrelated charges such as counterfeiting, narcotics, and child pornography.  Of the average 50 or so of those arrested annually on “terrorist-related” activities (based on incredibly broad metrics) culminating in convictions, nearly all have resulted from investigations operating well outside airport jurisdictions.

Considering that 9/11 was an aircraft-centric attack (and planes always make attractive targets), our disproportional obsession with airport security (at the expense of more potentially catastrophic targets such as shipping ports, network infrastructures, etc.) had a certain short-term logic.  Yet as seductive as this may have been, the time has come to recognize that in the near decade since 9/11, not a single one of these airport security programs has withstood an independent investigation of its efficacy.  Rather, on the occasion that an actual terrorist – say, the shoe or underwear bomber – managed to pull off an attempt, what prevented casualties was not the billions we spend in anticipating absurdly-specific attack scenarios, it was not the endless hours of theater spent removing shoes, and it certainly was not the confiscation of a four-year olds play-do or the destruction of an old man’s rectal seton.  No, in each case it was not the TSA but us - fellow passengers who understand that sometimes our safety is in our own hands.

In the ad-hoc sense, this is the perfect example of civilian-based defense (open-source security in the modern vernacular) and I would not be the first to point out that this is generally a good thing.  After all, surrendering your security to a third party not only breeds complacency but dismantles our most effective means of front-line defense.  I believe moreover that this kind of self-determination fosters a more committed civic engagement while providing substantial returns on effectiveness.  Yet I would level the same criticism at civilian-based defense that I would at our “professional”  systems – namely that security must be carefully balanced with a clear definition of precisely what it is we are securing.  If we want to secure the safety of our physical bodies, whatever the costs, then marshal law is probably our best option.  If, however, we want to secure our right to life – that is, our right to preserve and freely participate in our socio-cultural system of choice – then we must be certain that our means do not dismantle our ends and become a causal factor in the very problem they purport to address.

Case in point is the FBI’s sudden realization that, thanks to programs like New York City’s ‘See Something, Say Something’ campaign, all terrorists need to do is leave a harmless bag of underwear lying around in order to cause mass panic, disrupt commerce and distract law enforcement.  Ordinarily I would file this under the ‘no duh’ folder and move along.  But the fact that the chief federal law-enforcement agency of the United States has just figured this out – and that the media outlets find it newsworthy – demonstrates that after nearly ten years, most people still have little to no clue – no clue about who terrorists are, no clue why they hate us, and no clue how to fight back.

Authoritarian conceptions of security diminish our ability to protect ourselves.  At their core, ‘See something, Say something’ programs and their ilk are not only the worst possible perversion of civilian-based defense, but as evidenced by the panic they reap, are actually themselves a form of insecurity.  Even putting aside the fact that such campaigns have never once (repeat: not once) resulted in a terrorism-related arrest, the entire concept reeks of the same self-aggrandizement inherent to all forms of domestic counter-terrorism since 9/11 – that terrorism is somehow akin to conventional warfare and therefore remains the domain of government.  It is a nod to the fact that only an engaged citizenry can defend against a diffuse and nebulous network of attackers yet a simultaneous refusal to cede central authority in the solution.  It infantilizes people by providing the  illusion of open-source security without any of the concurrent tools and empowerment.  Worse, they come with the implicit admonishment that we should all remember our place in this conflict and leave security to the professionals.

Why must it be this way? Perhaps there is some plausibility to the assumption that the government has failed to focus on the only demonstrably effective avenue of security because they simply have no expertise or awareness of civilian-based defense.  Suspending our disbelief for the time being, this would indicate such a tremendous oversight that we must seriously question the leadership in the DHS.  No, the more logical, albeit tremendously more cynical, explanation is that the continued focus on centralization is tied into the governments twin obsessions over ownership and indispensability.

With regards to the latter, the government is more than aware that it is running out of things to justify its present incarnation.  After decades of ceding political authority to international corporations and simultaneously eroding its own regulatory powers, security is virtually all it has left.  As we the people have defined the job, this is the state’s primary responsibility – to ask the people for help would be akin to an admission that they are not up to the task.  There is no such thing here as ‘change we can believe in’ – as in the final days of the Soviet Union, security-related expenses account for more than half of the national budget.  While this fact may be part of a far larger discussion that needs to take place, for the time being the government will continue to claim a monopoly over the means and direction of security.

Of course, the state is likely also aware that this need not be a zero-sum issue.  After all, an effective civilian-based defense requires coordination, training, study, planning, instititutionalization – all the things that government is really good at.  Yet while centralized bureaucracy may pursue such indispensability, it will find it nearly impossible to maintain ownership.  When those who wish us harm are unified only by ideology, security is affirmed only by articulating a counter-ideology; an explicit yet fluid vision of the world we would like to see and a set of principles by which this will be actualized.  And therein lies the contradiction of ownership – when real people are asked to provide for their own security, we are going to demand returns – we will not be content to view this as a permanent state of warfare, but rather insist on a proactive and sincere analysis of the underlying causes.  And this will seriously undermine the case for the corporatist, neo-liberal planet upon which those who control government now depend.

06 May

It was a Muslim immigrant who saved the day in Times Square

in Terrorism

Yet one fact being ignored in the American media’s sensationalist
narrative about the failed bombing is that the man who was responsible
for police finding the bomb was Muslim. The UK’s Times Online reports
that Aliou Niasse, a Senagalese Muslim immigrant who works as a
photograph vendor on Times Square, was
the first
to bring the smoking car to the police’s attention.

Yes, but don'tcha know that this was actually all a plot to get us to let our guards down and forget that immigrants are evil, Muslims are evil, and damned are we when the twain shall meet!?!

25 Jun

Fixing Airport Security

in Civil Rights, Police Abusing Power, Security Studies, Terrorism, TSA / Homeland Security

Nobody knows more about airport security that Bruce Schneier, and his work on subverting the TSA formed one of the central arguments of my doctoral thesis.  Bruce has a new essay up that is worth checking out – if for no other reason than the importance of keeping this issue alive:

book-sos-175wThe Constitution provides us, both Americans and visitors to America, with strong protections against invasive police searches. Two exceptions come into play at airport security checkpoints. The first is "implied consent," which means  that you cannot refuse to be searched; your consent is implied when you purchased your ticket. And the second is "plain view," which means that if the TSA officer happens to see something unrelated to airport security while screening you, he is allowed to act on that.

Both of these principles are well established and make sense, but it's their combination that turns airport security checkpoints into police-state-like checkpoints.

The TSA should limit its searches to bombs and weapons and leave general policing to the police - where we know courts and the Constitution still apply.

23 Jan

Oh Happy Day!

in Barack Hussein Obama, George W. Bush, Politics, Terrorism

President Obama yesterday eliminated the most controversial tools employed by his predecessor against terrorism suspects. With the stroke of his pen, he effectively declared an end to the "war on terror," as President George W. Bush had defined it, signaling to the world that the reach of the U.S. government in battling its enemies will not be limitless.

While Obama says he has no plans to diminish counterterrorism operations abroad, the notion that a president can circumvent long-standing U.S. laws simply by declaring war was halted by executive order in the Oval Office.

Key components of the secret structure developed under Bush are being swept away: The military's Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, facility, where the rights of habeas corpus and due process had been denied detainees, will close, and the CIA is now prohibited from maintaining its own overseas prisons. And in a broad swipe at the Bush administration's lawyers, Obama nullified every legal order and opinion on interrogations issued by any lawyer in the executive branch after Sept. 11, 2001.

It was a swift and sudden end to an era that was slowly drawing to a close anyway, as public sentiment grew against perceived abuses of government power.