Patterico's Pontifications

9/11/2019

The Libertarian Case for the Surveillance State

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:59 am



Today I will drive to work. At lunchtime I will probably walk to the nearby gym to work out. After work, I’ll go where I choose. Maybe I’ll go home and stay there. Maybe I’ll go out to dinner with my wife. It’s my choice.

I am confident that one day, humans will look back on this state of affairs with nostalgia. Because at some point, humans will never again enjoy the freedom of movement we have today.

Everything will change the day the first nuclear bomb goes off in an American city.

It will happen. It’s inevitable that it will happen. It may not happen in your lifetime. But it will happen.

And the day that happens, there will be martial law. It may last only weeks, months, or years — or it may last forever. But if it happens in your lifetime, your freedom of movement will be severely restricted for years.

And you’ll support it.

Many of us yammered a lot about Obama acting like a dictator, and many also yammer about Donald Trump acting like a dictator. It’s good to be vigilant. An overbearing executive is a real danger. It’s good to watch out for it.

But if a nuclear bomb goes off in an American city today, Donald Trump will be a dictator tomorrow. A real one.

And you’ll support it.

The day that a bomb goes off in an American city, everything in this country, and this world, will change forever. The surveillance state you thought you had? You’ll remember it as the greatest era of freedom the human race has ever enjoyed — and something that will never be enjoyed in quite the same way again.

If we can prevent this from happening, for a while, it will be a victory for freedom. Even if we have to allow greater surveillance by the state now, it will be nothing compared to what’s coming after an event like the explosion of a nuclear bomb in an urban center. People will think about literally nothing else, for years. Everyone will be utterly terrified. The economy will collapse. Communication will be restricted. Freedom of movement will disappear instantly. The only priority, for years, and perhaps the main priority forevermore, will be making sure it doesn’t happen again. Whatever it takes. Whatever it takes. Yesterday’s civil libertarian will become tomorrow’s fan of the security state, overnight. Almost nobody will object, and the few who do will be drowned out, shunned, and perhaps imprisoned.

Today is 18 years after the events of September 11, 2001.

I tried to go to work on September 11, 2001. I had seen the planes hitting the World Trade Center. I knew buildings in downtown Los Angeles might be under attack before the end of the day. But I worked in the Hall of Records downtown. No terrorist cared about the Hall of Records. And I had work to do. So I drove all the way downtown, only to be turned away. Nothing was going to happen that day. I went up to my office anyway, and retrieved some work to do at home. (I’m not sure I got much done, to be honest.)

Events occurring over 2000 miles away put a stop to a lot of activity that day. I was never at serious risk and I knew it, but my organization treated the day as if we were all at risk, because that was the “safe” thing to do.

The feeling of unease lasted for a while. Those of us who experienced that day, even secondhand and even across the country, may never quite shake off the unease, but we surely don’t experience it the way we did then. Every jet plane looked like a potential weapon. The first time I got on a plane after 9/11, I was looking very closely at everyone in the airport. Whenever I saw a plane fly near downtown L.A., or soar overhead at the Hollywood Bowl, I imagined it redirecting its flight path to hurtle into a building or a crowd. I know I was not alone in these thoughts.

Now, 18 years later, people say “never forget” but increasingly people do.

Whether you forget or you never forget, today the world is a changed place. I remember a time when you could walk into the Hollywood Bowl or Disneyland or even some courthouses without going through TSA style security. We may have forgotten 9/11 but we still walk through a metal detector to see Mickey Mouse. There was Richard Reid, and a lot of people don’t remember him, but we still take off our shoes at the airport. Security is a one-way ratchet, and each new threat twists us just a little more in the direction of less freedom of movement. The ratchet locks, we get used to the new normal, and we wait for the next twist.

If a nuclear bomb goes off in an American city, we could recover. Decades later, we could reach a place that we call some degree of normalcy. But the new normal would include, compared to today, severe restrictions on freedom of movement. The new normal would include an extraordinary governmental capacity, approved by the vast majority of Americans, to monitor communications.

I don’t want government officials to be able to read my email on a whim. I want them to have to get a warrant. And warrants can get issued waaaay too easily at times. But I’m not terribly concerned by the notion that a database could exist that could be accessed — with a warrant — containing most or all electronic communications, cell phone activity and cell site data, and the like.

We hear from the civil libertarians all the time about the potential for government abuse. Why, security officials will use the database to spy on lovers or personal rivals! Well, that may happen. I don’t recall reading any stories about it, but such stories may exist and may have flown under my radar. But it’s clearly not a pervasive enough problem to have come to everyone’s attention. And, speaking as a member of “the system,” I can confirm that at least from what I have witnessed, information tends to be accessed and handled for the right reasons. The police departments I work with have access to automatic plate readers. I have never heard of a cop using that information to spy on a lover, but I have used such information in murder trials more than once. I have used cell site information countless times in murder cases, and have never heard of such information being used for personal purposes. The phone companies require a warrant to release that information.

The fact that the information exists, and that it can be accessed pursuant to proper procedures, should not concern you. It should reassure you.

Arguments for greater surveillance are not particularly popular, in these days of civil libertarianism — where one of the biggest knocks on Kamala Harris is the very fact that she was a prosecutor; where lightening punishments and releasing prisoners is one of the few issues that is truly bipartisan; where many Republicans no longer consider themselves law and order supporters but instead rail about a largely mythical “deep state.”

But I’m here to tell you. If you don’t let government target the bad guys today, government’s powers will increase exponentially in the future. Maybe not today, on the 18th anniversary of September 11, 2001. Maybe not tomorrow. But someday.

The day after a nuclear bomb goes off in one of our cities.

87 Responses to “The Libertarian Case for the Surveillance State”

  1. Those who would surrender liberty in exchange for security deserve neither liberty nor security.

    Gryph (08c844)

  2. Considering that the only penalty imposed on law enforcement for illegal surveillance is suppression of the illegally-obtained evidence in a criminal proceeding (there may have been some cases in which police officers were prosecuted the way Veritas was in Texas and California for taping Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue but I have not heard of them), it seems to me that you already have what you’re asking for, and more, Patterico.

    nk (dbc370)

  3. Bill Clinton failed us. The FBI failed us. Governor Jeb Bush failed us. The CIA failed us. And that’s an incomplete list of government/quasigovernment failures. And yet the “libertarian case” is for increased surveillance? SMDH

    Gryph (08c844)

  4. You have to be kidding, how much power have we granted them, and how have they misused it, very recently in fact.

    Narciso (9b9220)

  5. And more likely this country would tear itself apart with recriminations after a decent interval, we’re very good at that.

    Narciso (9b9220)

  6. We know law enforcement has a long history of mishandling information and abusing the information gathering process for political and personal reasons, even before the techno age. Why should we think the current generation of LEOs have more integrity than their predecessors? And even if they do, why should we think their successors will have the same level of integrity.

    I’ll put out a hypothetical situation that I think is plausible: Suppose, in a purple state, a group of cell phone employees belonging to one party decide to search out individuals whom they can blackmail into supporting their side or at least refraining from supporting the other side? Not politicians or local influencers….just normal American voters. “Oh, we have the proof that you meet X regularly at Motel 6. Would be a shame if your spouse got a hold of it. But if you donate X amount to our candidate, we don’t do that. If you do donate anything to the other candidate, we will do it.”

    And by its nature, such a scheme would always fly under the radar.

    kishnevi (0c10d1)

  7. Imagine knowing there are bad guys and instead blaming inanimate objects:

    https://mobile.twitter.com/BecketAdams/status/1171747572962287622

    harkin (58d012)

  8. Michael Sanislo
    @sparktherevolt
    ·
    NYT in the past month:

    -Capitalism caused slavery

    -airplanes caused 9/11
    _

    harkin (58d012)

  9. Anyway, Trump won’t be the dictator. Gina Helspeth will be the dictator.

    nk (dbc370)

  10. This argument is entirely unpersuasive to me. It makes no sense at all to grant further power to the very system that failed to detect and prevent multiple terrorist attacks in the hope that next time they will get it right.

    While you are probably correct that the destruction of a city with a true WMD would result in the collapse of our republic as we know it, the relatively minor and localized destruction of 9/11 already resulted in wholesale curtailment of our liberties as we once knew them. The resultant construction (or rather strenghtening) of the security state has done nothing real to change the risks, as you yourself argue. If use of an atomic weapon as a terrorist act is inevitable in your mind, then what could possibly justify any preemptive attempt to prevent it? Because it feels good?

    db (dedc15)

  11. Responsibility goes both ways.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  12. In the 90s, I worked with many Brits in Saudi Arabia. Each one that had visited the US said one thing stood out to them more than anything: public trash cans. In the UK, there were no trash cans in public places, because the IRA used them to hide bombs.

    I pray that the US never reaches that level.

    George (8a3679)

  13. We do know they will come back to finish the job, will they be based out of syria or west africa, and we know which target is left, the one they missed on 9/11.

    Narciso (9b9220)

  14. I take this as an argument against civil society altogether. What good is a civil society if it cannot secure and protect individual freedoms in the face of adversity?

    Contrary to the premises of your argument, Patterico, death is the only human inevitability. We shouldn’t invent false inevitabilities in hopes of delaying the only real one.

    Leviticus (efada1)

  15. Not to mention that for all we know Trump reads Patterico’s Pontifications and we don’t want to be giving him any ideas.

    (Although it does explain his nurturing a continuing hostility with Iran and North Korea while doing nothing to put an end to their nascent nuclear capabilities.)

    nk (dbc370)

  16. I understand in a way where P is coming from. I also have gone through thinking like this but in a more ambiguous way.

    After growing up and reading lots of history, I formed an opinion that a horrible world war was going to happen in my lifetime, based only on trends. Back then Islamic terror was not a blip on my radar, I thought it was going to be from radical leftists and the communist bloc. My friends from high school used to remind me that I would tell them the s**t was going to hit the fan by 2005. I’m glad my timing was off.

    I also have a friend who firmly believes the big final conflict will be between China and the Islamic world after the USA is neutralized by terrorist nuclear events and that Mecca will be nuked. He liked to say that only China would have the will to do it.

    harkin (58d012)

  17. Actually, a nuke already has– near a quaint American city named Alamogordo, NM in July, 1945.

    Once upon a time– and not all that long ago BTW– you could stand in the Louvre before fine works of art separated only by a velvet rope line and watched by a sleepy French guard. Or wander through Stonehenge freely; or walk the streets and mews of London unobserved; or go to an airport, obtain a paper boarding pass, go through customs and passport control then walk on a jetliner with ease in less than 20 minutes. Air travel was actually a pleasure; even enjoyable. No more.

    Since the birth of commercial aviation, of the tens of millions who have flown- how many people have hijacked planes– maybe 500, tops. Yet because of those few- those 500, our society has accepted multiple layers of added security to assure safe travel and commerce. It can’t stop hijacking completely- but it has certainly has deterred it. Because of a few, the many- who’d never think of hijacking a plane- are inconvenienced to protect all. We accept these levels of security as part of modern life; to inconvenience the many to protect the all from the few. So it is for banking, parking, allowing yourself to be tracked by cellphone pings, entering Manhattan’s Empire State Building, Washington’s National Air & Space Museum and increasingly, you local high school. So it will be with access to guns as well one day. Still, one can treasure those memories of wandering through the monoliths at Stonehenge, viewing Louvre artwork unobstructed by bulletproof glass… and walking on to a 747 without having my carry on bag searched. Standing in line to enter Disneyworld… not so much; entering Soviet Russia was easier. 😉

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  18. Everyone here for 9/11 was waiting for the next shoe to drop….we saw gaping vulnerabilities in our mass transit system, in our power grid, in our stadiums and theaters, in our banking industry, water systems, etc. However, unlike shows like 24, we haven’t seen another coordinated terrorist attack….some of it is luck….OK a lot of it is luck….as a small team with high-powered rifles and a little knowledge could still virtually shut down a city or at least paralyze it. But some of it is under-the-radar intelligence gathering both domestic and abroad…..and attempting to connect dots and taking odd behavior seriously. Is there potential for abuse? Undoubtedly and ethical lines need to be established and enforced by courts. But information is king…but so is due process…and judicial checks….and being rational.

    AJ_Liberty (ec7f74)

  19. @12. This is true. Had personal experience back in the day w/that in the UK involving the IRA, a Hyde Park trash can and a pile of littered pile of Yankee Doodle batteries. It’s because of ‘the troubles’ and their annoying habit of parking exploding cars along quiet residential streets near pubs and nestling devices into public trash cans, that London became festooned with cameras.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  20. Right seeing as the framework gave north korea tens of millions and the iran deal gave them hundreds of millions.

    What holds china together we know xinjiang is a qurrelsome province, hence their extreme measures of late

    Narciso (9b9220)

  21. …..for Rick Rescorla, this was a natural death. People like Rick, they don’t die old men. They aren’t destined for that and it isn’t right for them to do so. It just isn’t right, by God, for them to become feeble, old, and helpless sons of bitches. There are certain men born in this world, and they’re supposed to die setting an example for the rest of the weak bastards we’re surrounded with.”

    I disagree with the lame premise that it isnt right for heroic men to grow old but this is a great story about one of the almost 3,000 people killed at the World Trade Center.

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2002/02/11/the-real-heroes-are-dead

    harkin (58d012)

  22. Whoops – looks like I used a verboten word.

    Please expedite through moderation.

    [Done. – JVW]

    harkin (58d012)

  23. Thx!!

    harkin (58d012)

  24. Patterico,

    I think the one thing Trump will teach us is that institutions can be corrupted, given a will and intent to corrupt. Also, any practicing conservative should know that it is really hard to roll back government.

    I do not trust government to practice restraint. Not did the authors of the Bill of Rights. As technology advances, we can develop work arounds to make it easier to get the bad guys. And the people we are afraid are bad guys. Or we are afraid might be bad guys.

    Think back to 9-11-01. Did you think the future was more of the same? I know I did. I am glad I was wrong. And I am glad we did not give up all the civil liberties people were telling us we must sacrifice.

    Appalled (7e04e9)

  25. no that was the guy you voted for, appalled, the ones who won his first race by challenging the signatures of all his challengers, who had his reporter friends, drive out his primary rivals, who ridiculed ig’s of his friends by calling him senile, his man Johnson purged all materials that would identify jihadists,

    narciso (d1f714)

  26. Narciso,

    Good Lord, didn’t anyone tell you Obama isn’t president anymore?

    Appalled (7e04e9)

  27. You talk about a corrupt takeover, of course he campaigned against the surveillance state, and built one 100 times more vast, even though the capacities were more potential then actual,

    narciso (d1f714)

  28. Narciso,

    NOAA, FEMA, the Air Force. All respond to the rot at the top. The word is corrupt. I meant that word, and not the policy changes that have you exercised.

    Appalled (7e04e9)

  29. Don’t know why anyone is jumping on the host on this one. Maybe the post was phrased a little provocatively (and it worked, we all read it) but his point seems right on. The security measures we all live with now often seem pointless, unnecessary and annoying but then so do most precautions. I’ve been driving for 40+ years and can’t recall a single time where I actually needed to wear a seatbelt, but still buckle up every time. I grumble at paying the premiums, but after the little shaking we had here in LA in July, was relieved that the EQ insurance was in place if we ever need it.

    Of course those are imperfect analogies, but what is the alternative to government surveillance to, we hope, prevent terrorism? There’s the potential for abuse of data whenever people gather it (Google, if you’re reading this, I don’t mean you; your record is spotless). The terrorists also abused our lack of effective security on 9/11. Is there a realistic way to return to a 9/10 world? (Not a rhetorical question, if there is a way I’m all for it.)

    RL formerly in Glendale (40f5aa)

  30. the panopticon, to quote bentham, demands more authority, and yet can’t prevent even minor incidents, but it’s tops in self preservation, those that actually took proactive steps to extract info, to develop patterns of networks, were either legally sanctioned or purged from employment, and the data companies want to make ignorance of the reality of our current world,

    narciso (d1f714)

  31. If Patterico’s scenario played, Congress and the American people are likely to react like they did after 9/11, Do Something!!!

    Then we’ll get the Patriot Act 3.0, because “doing something” will be the only thing they care about, it’s human nature. 5 years later, when the immediacy has worn off, maybe future people will decide to change things, but we saw what happened after 9/11, 18 years later have we repealed the Patriot Act?

    Colonel Klink (Ret) (6e7a1c)

  32. 18.J_Liberty (ec7f74) — 9/11/2019 @ 9:42 am

    Everyone here for 9/11 was waiting for the next shoe to drop….

    No, I thought they had shot their bolt, they rnn out
    the string. Amyone connected with them left the country

    That was it.

    I thought there was no time safer in the United States than September 12, 2001.

    I thought it was a minimum of six months before they could do anyting else. As it is, they didn’t get the chance. (Yes, there was the shoe bomber but he was based outside the country. He didn’t need to be withn the borders of the United States to set off his bomb, but the people who sent him wanted this to take place within he borders of the United States.)

    However, unlike shows like 24, we haven’t seen another coordinated terrorist attack….some of it is luck….

    Most of it is deterrence. </b

    The same thing that was actually preventing airplane hijackings for most of the previous
    thirty years.

    People confused security with deterrence; what they thought was security, was really deterrence. But then someone came up with a new use for airplane hijackings,

    Plus alzo, the terrorist sponsors (in Saudi Arabia and other places) had some use for air travel, the the U.S. banking system etc. So they wouldn’t do too much destruction. It’s just that,prior to the September 11 attacks, they thought they could calibrate the U.S. response.

    If the attacks had a strategic purpose, it was to help the Taliban gain total control of Afghanistan because the Northern Alliance would despair of getting any help from the United States.

    And here we are again. The Taliban (read: Pakistani intelligence) wanted their opposition to despair

    In 2001, I think maybe they expected that the United States would react with at most a missile attack or two, which they were prepared for.

    Doing only that after the nerve center of the U.S military, the Pentagon, plus the two tall buildings, had been attacked, would really cause the Northern Alliance to despair – and they’d just killed their leader, too.

    Sammy Finkelman (8dcc71)

  33. They also wanted to destroy the fome of the Capitol.

    And they expected nothing major from the United States.

    whch woud make the United States look weak.

    The United States wans’t helping the Northen Alliance much, but they ahd hope, and hope was keeping them fighting on.

    Sammy Finkelman (8dcc71)

  34. *dome of the Capitol. The target of Flight 93 was not the White House. Destroying he Capitol would be much more destructve to the functioning, or the appearance of functionning of the government of he United States.

    What saved the Capitol was that they saved it for last. And cell phones.

    Sammy Finkelman (8dcc71)

  35. Yes, because the people who failed us did so because they didn’t have enough power.

    Frankly, if a nuclear bomb goes off in a US city, the rule should be that the top levels of the WH, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the minority and majority leaders of Congress are all taken out and shot.

    I think that would be FAR more effective than any surveillance state.

    Kevin M (19357e)

  36. Here is a better argument, I think:

    David Brin, The Transparent Society (available on Kindle at Amazon, use patterico’s link)

    From the blurb:

    In New York and Baltimore, police cameras scan public areas twenty-four hours a day. Huge commercial databases track you finances and sell that information to anyone willing to pay. Host sites on the World Wide Web record every page you view, and “smart” toll roads know where you drive. Every day, new technology nibbles at our privacy.Does that make you nervous?

    David Brin is worried, but not just about privacy. He fears that society will overreact to these technologies by restricting the flow of information, frantically enforcing a reign of secrecy. Such measures, he warns, won’t really preserve our privacy. Governments, the wealthy, criminals, and the techno-elite will still find ways to watch us. But we’ll have fewer ways to watch them. We’ll lose the key to a free society: accountability.

    The Transparent Society is a call for “reciprocal transparency.” If police cameras watch us, shouldn’t we be able to watch police stations? If credit bureaus sell our data, shouldn’t we know who buys it? Rather than cling to an illusion of anonymity-a historical anomaly, given our origins in close-knit villages-we should focus on guarding the most important forms of privacy and preserving mutual accountability. The biggest threat to our freedom, Brin warns, is that surveillance technology will be used by too few people, not by too many.

    Kevin M (19357e)

  37. I tried to go to work on September 11, 2001

    I did go to work that day. No choice. We were in Seattle, doing a technical demo for one William Gates and it was NOT going to be postponed. And as of the moment the towers were hit, we still had work to do. Which we did, the demo worked, we got the contract, yada yada yada.

    Then we had a 1200 mile drive home.

    Kevin M (19357e)

  38. The very simplest thing we can do to prevent such an attack is to be absolute assh0les about nuclear proliferation. Unlike guns, shooting back isn’t a satisfactory answer, so we need nuclear weapon control. The states that have nukes now, with the possible exception of France, are responsible enough (and self-interested enough) to prevent loose nukes.

    The problem is with states like North Korea that have lied repeatedly to get access to nuclear technology. They need to give up their nukes, or else. If we fail to do this, we WILL have one of their nukes in a US city within the next 20 years.

    And that’s probably a silver lining, as we would then remove their nuclear capability quite adamantly. If that happened before 23 other countries developed nuclear weapons, there would be some hope. Otherwise no amount of surveillance would stop the Last War.

    Kevin M (19357e)

  39. Unlike guns, shooting back isn’t a satisfactory answer, so we need nuclear weapon control. The states that have nukes now, with the possible exception of France, are responsible enough (and self-interested enough) to prevent loose nukes

    So you’re saying Pakistan, and North Korea are responsible enough!?!

    I’d put Israel on likely to use as a first strike. Add India to that as well, plus the risk of a stolen, or just misplacing one, is a definite possibility. (Sure, South Africa gave all of them to Israel during the change of government too, 100%)

    Colonel Klink (Ret) (6e7a1c)

  40. I’ve lived my entire life under the threat of nuclear war. In elementary school, we had drills, hiding under desks, from the fear of it all. Mostly, we thought of it as a joke.

    Gawain's Ghost (b25cd1)

  41. I very much doubt that Israel would lose track of one of their nukes, but yes, they might use one first against Iran, if they were convinced that Iran was, or was about to become, a nuclear weapons state.

    Heck, I would have the US use them first against North Korea tomorrow afternoon. Twenty years ago, even 10 years ago, that would have been anathema. But we did not take the forthright action the situation demanded and now we either do nothing some more, or we send for the word that anyone can have nukes.

    And anyone will. People who don’t see the existential danger to mankind in that are stupider than Trump’s left teat.

    Yes, Pakistan is a problem, too, as far as leakage is concerned, but using them against India 1st OR 2nd is suicidal, and they know it. But rather than weakening my argument, this strengthens it.

    Imagine 12 Pakistans and tell me how long the world lives.

    Kevin M (19357e)

  42. *now if we do nothing some more, we send the word…

    Kevin M (19357e)

  43. Mostly, we thought of it as a joke.

    I think that very few really understood what an H-bomb could do (or understand today). Duck & Cover was a joke indeed wrt fusion bombs that could kill everything for tens of miles. But that does not mean that the threat was not real.

    Kevin M (19357e)

  44. 41. Kevin M (19357e) — 9/11/2019 @ 3:09 pm

    Yes, Pakistan is a problem, too, as far as leakage is concerned, but using them against India 1st OR 2nd is suicidal, and they know it. If some other country somewhere uses it and gets away with it by which I mean the regime that used them srvives, or some country uses it in response and gets condemned it may not look so suicidal any more.

    There are some countries that have an interest in nuclear proliferation because they want somebody else to try to get away with it first.

    I think one of those countries is China. (that woould like some other country to go first. There are people in their military who are really bothered by the fact that thse weapons are almost like paper tigers.)

    It’s not ndcessary for the United States to use nuclear weapons to destroy another country’s nuclear arsenal. We have plenty big non-nuclear bombs. It is more important to maintain the nuclear taboo. Besides which, it would be another Chernobyl or worse.

    Sammy Finkelman (8dcc71)

  45. Only this is from KevinL

    Yes, Pakistan is a problem, too, as far as leakage is concerned, but using them against India 1st OR 2nd is suicidal, and they know it.

    The sentence ending “it may not look so suicidal any more” and what follows is mine.

    Sammy Finkelman (8dcc71)

  46. You know what’s really an existential danger to mankind?

    Israel being treated as something of a pariah state.

    Sammy Finkelman (8dcc71)

  47. they don’t think so sammeh, 3 million Israeli vs a billion moslems,

    https://hotair.com/archives/ed-morrissey/2019/09/11/modest-olive-branch-china-lifts-16-tariffs-eve-trade-negotiations/

    narciso (d1f714)

  48. Sammy, you miss my point almost exactly.

    The danger is in the possession of nuclear weapons by increasingly unstable regimes. North Korea and to a lesser extent Iran are the current examples, but the danger of a conflagration increases as the number of weapons states increases.

    Both Iran and NK signed a treaty that, in exchange for them forswearing nuclear weapons forever, they got the means to develop peaceful nuclear power. Both used these nuclear resources to do what they swore not to do: develop nuclear weapons technology. If that is allowed to stand, then the entire treaty collapses. If they are seen to have strengthened their national security as a result (and the US standing back because of the threat is a pretty good indicator), then other countries will do the same thing.

    And eventually you get 10 or 12 multi-way stand-offs like Pakistan vs India, or Japan vs China vs Taiwan vs North Korea vs Philippines and eventually someone fracks up. If you think it would be contained to A vs B, you are far more hopeful than I.

    Example: Iran strikes Israel. Israel vaporizes Iran, and neighbors are upset. Russia vaporizes Israel. What does the US do?

    Yes, some of this exists now, but that is a terrible argument for more.

    Kevin M (19357e)

  49. Can anyone give me a convincing argument that North Korea and Iran will be the last nuclear weapons states? Or, failing that, why many such on this fragile planet is a good idea?

    Kevin M (19357e)

  50. no, because this may encourage south korea and japan, the iran deal, sparks programs from the uae to Algeria, which have been in varying degrees of development,

    narciso (d1f714)

  51. 37… yes, thankfully, I was home in California but I had nearly a dozen colleagues on trips in the East, Midwest and Southwest… they all managed to rent cars or ride with those that did and had long drives home to the Bay Area, LA or Dallas.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  52. Our company had previously instituted a policy of not flying together on the same flights as a result of PSA Flight 1771 that was taken over by a madman and flown into the ground in December of ‘87. 9/11/01 hardened that policy.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  53. “They hate us for our freedom,” the man said.

    So we rid ourselves of a lot of our freedom, but they seem to hate us still.

    “We obviously haven’t given up enough of our freedom yet,” comes the reply.

    Jerryskids (702a61)

  54. I’ve never been a fan of the current level of security theater. I don’t believe I’d be a fan of more of it, even in light of a disaster.

    Nic (896fdf)

  55. @40. LOL Yeah, vividly recall sitting on the floor against the wall along the elementary school hallway, hands clasped behind our necks to protect from flying glass… teachers repeatedly crowing, ‘no talking’… it was October, 1962.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  56. If use of an atomic weapon as a terrorist act is inevitable in your mind, then what could possibly justify any preemptive attempt to prevent it? Because it feels good?

    Imagine your comment minus the last sentence (a sarcastic question). Wouldn’t it be much better? I think it would.

    The idea is not to prevent it. It’s to delay it as long as possible. Much like the reasons people exercise. Do they think they will prevent death entirely? No. They hope to delay it as long as they can.

    Patterico (ac5491)

  57. I take this as an argument against civil society altogether. What good is a civil society if it cannot secure and protect individual freedoms in the face of adversity?

    Contrary to the premises of your argument, Patterico, death is the only human inevitability. We shouldn’t invent false inevitabilities in hopes of delaying the only real one.

    You’re of course correct. A bacteria or virus, or a meteor, or nuclear war, could wipe us out before the nuclear terrorism scenario I describe unfolds. It is impossible to predict the future with total accuracy.

    But despite my contentious headline, all I am doing is placing some weight on the security side of the scale in the balancing that all sensible people agree must take place in the face of the terror threat. My argument is easier to dismiss if you interpret it as an argument for abolishing all individual freedoms. But of course I am not doing that. I advocate regaining the warrant requirement to access information, for example.

    All I am saying is this: if you truly value liberty (as I do), it makes sense to take account of the fact that some arguable lack of privacy now (specifically in the form of allowing government to access large databases of information accessible only by warrant) can prevent major losses of privacy later. It’s an argument few in the comment thread are tackling head on.

    But I knew it would not be a popular argument in these times. I only hope the event that is coming comes too late for me to say I told you so. But I did. Here, today.

    Patterico (ac5491)

  58. Don’t know why anyone is jumping on the host on this one. Maybe the post was phrased a little provocatively (and it worked, we all read it) but his point seems right on. The security measures we all live with now often seem pointless, unnecessary and annoying but then so do most precautions. I’ve been driving for 40+ years and can’t recall a single time where I actually needed to wear a seatbelt, but still buckle up every time. I grumble at paying the premiums, but after the little shaking we had here in LA in July, was relieved that the EQ insurance was in place if we ever need it.

    Of course those are imperfect analogies, but what is the alternative to government surveillance to, we hope, prevent terrorism? There’s the potential for abuse of data whenever people gather it (Google, if you’re reading this, I don’t mean you; your record is spotless). The terrorists also abused our lack of effective security on 9/11. Is there a realistic way to return to a 9/10 world? (Not a rhetorical question, if there is a way I’m all for it.)

    I was indeed deliberately provocative but I think you’re getting my point better than most.

    Patterico (ac5491)

  59. Can anyone give me a convincing argument that North Korea and Iran will be the last nuclear weapons states? Or, failing that, why many such on this fragile planet is a good idea?

    It’s hard to see how we avoid it. We’re talking about 75-year old technology.

    And I think the NK and Iran examples demonstrate the problem clearly: ultimately, if a country is determined to pursue nuclear weapons, the only way they can be stopped is by blowing them up before they acquire the means to retaliate.

    Sanctions can only delay the inevitable, especially when there are countries like China (with NK), Russia (with Iran) and yes, the US (with Israel) willing to look the other way for their friends.

    Dave (1bb933)

  60. “I think the one thing Trump will teach us is that institutions can be corrupted, given a will and intent to corrupt”

    I never before heard a person say they required Donald Trump to instruct them on institutions and corruption.
    _

    “What saved the Capitol was that they saved it for last. And cell phones.

    Flight 93 was delayed 45 min so they had an assist in the delay. All four fatal flights were scheduled within 20 min of each other. If all four had taken off on schedule, Flight 77 (Pentagon) would have taken off last.

    harkin (58d012)

  61. I haven’t thought about it for awhile, but I’ve long believed that a terrorist nuke hitting an American city is a matter of when, not if.
    And when it does happen, it will impact the structure of our government and society. I’d like to believe that we’ll be bigger and better than the terrorists, that our rights will not unnecessarily be infringed in the pursuit of obliterating those who wish to obliterate us.

    Paul Montagu (dfd657)

  62. Who were the folks that fought tooth and nail against the initiation of security-related procedures, policies, government entities post 9/11… were they on the Left or the Right?

    Per my recollection, social media was in its infancy in the early 2000s. BIG DATA, BIG TECH weren’t yet factors. In the present day, whether we like it or not, these corporations and the government have access to virtually every bit of information there is to know about you. Is that a good thing? I think the answer is not only “no”, but “Hell No!”. It’s too late, the cat’s out of the bag.

    Embrace The Suck.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  63. Surveillance and data bases is all fine and good, but if we really want real security I see no way except a cashless economy. Electronic money only, disbursed through a government-issued and monitored electronic cash card. All money, from whatever source, will be remitted to the government. The government will deduct the appropriate taxes and the balance will be available to the consumer. Red flags will be programmed into the system for suspicious purchases such as guns and explosives and purchases by suspicious persons such as airline tickets by foreign visitors with expired student visas, for a couple of examples. Contraband such as illegal drugs and weapons could still be bought by the barter system but the purchase and resale of the legitimate bartered goods would form detectable patterns.

    It’s just a thumbnail, but I think you get the picture. What do you think?

    nk (dbc370)

  64. I was on the Navajo reservation during the attack.
    They called off school for the day and sent the kids home “out of an abundance of caution”. Some of those kids ride a bus for an hour or more each way and live in places most Americans would consider to be beyond remote.
    Not to mention that Navajos from other parts of the Rez couldn’t find that school with a map and so there is no way in hell a jihadist was ever going to find that school ever.

    The over reaction was understandable. Bush became a bit of a dictator with his liberty infringements post 9-11. I can imagine Trump as well.
    Much rather Trump than Obama, Hillary or Warren

    steveg (354706)

  65. The actor Shia Labeauf claimed an FBI agent told him the govt was not only collecting metadata, but listening to, recording, and logging our phone calls (he said 1 in 5 were recorded). This was some years before Edward Snowden. I absolutely believe this. If they were doing this in 2008 I wouldn’t be surprised if they were recording everything now. They know and have everything. Yep the cat’s not going back in the bag.

    JRH (52aed3)

  66. @63 If we use the patriot act as our measure, IIRC, it was the far Libertarian end of the Right and the mid to far left who fought most against it and the neo-cons who were most for it.

    Nic (896fdf)

  67. “And I think the NK and Iran examples demonstrate the problem clearly: ultimately, if a country is determined to pursue nuclear weapons, the only way they can be stopped is by blowing them up before they acquire the means to retaliate.”

    The lesson any authoritarian state learned from Iraq and Libya is “you better get nukes”.

    Davethulhu (fe4242)

  68. It’s just a thumbnail, but I think you get the picture. What do you think?

    Why should police be the only ones required to wear body-cams?

    Dave (1bb933)

  69. Thank you! Thank you! I was just thinking about that, and I couldn’t get past the logistical problems of putting closed circuit cameras everywhere. Bedrooms and bathrooms would not be insurmountable but parks, farms, beaches, wilderness areas?

    You solved the problem. Everybody wears one or body cams, that send alerts if removed or tampered with, like the monitors of prisoners released on bail. People would be allowed to apply for “privacy permits” to have them turned off on approved occasions if they show a sufficient need and pass a thorough background check, like “may issue” concealed carry now but much more stringent, and pay the appropriate fee or “privacy tax”.

    nk (dbc370)

  70. one or *more* body cams

    nk (dbc370)

  71. GoPro or go home…

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  72. You know how we sit around and say: “you know, I remember a time when, if you didn’t know something, you couldn’t just look it up in two seconds. We didn’t have the Internet or Wikipedia. We just didn’t know!”

    Years from now, people will say: “you know, I remember a time when people would actually sit around and argue about what they’d said just five minutes before. Remember that? Endless arguments about ‘no I didn’t say that!’ and ‘oh yes you did.’ People would even say ‘I wish I had everything recorded so we could just rewind it.’ Can you believe it? They had no idea that in twenty years, everyone would be able to rewind everything they saw and heard and there would never be an argument like that ever again!”

    Patterico (ac5491)

  73. When it happens I’ll link that comment and people will say “OH COME ON WE ALL KNEW IT WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN”

    Patterico (ac5491)

  74. I haven’t thought about it for awhile, but I’ve long believed that a terrorist nuke hitting an American city is a matter of when, not if.
    And when it does happen, it will impact the structure of our government and society.

    You’re halfway there with me. Just take the next logical step. Martial law. There’s what you’d like to think would happen, and then there’s what will actually happen.

    Patterico (ac5491)

  75. Bill Burr’s new special is hysterical.

    Patterico (ac5491)

  76. Martial law. There’s what you’d like to think would happen, and then there’s what will actually happen.

    I’m frankly a bit skeptical. In the affected area, and its surroundings, of course.

    Nationwide? I doubt it. It would be a waste and misdirection of resources, sort of like the TSA strip-searching grandmothers in airports after 9/11, but raised to the Nth power.

    I suppose a lot will depend on the circumstances of the attack, who was responsible and whether more attacks are plausibly imminent.

    A Hiroshima/Nagasaki-sized nuclear bomb detonated at or near ground level would not destroy that much of a major city. The city would become uninhabitable, but people not in the immediate area of the explosion would survive if evacuated (as they surely would be). There are a lot of variables, of course, but the death toll might “only” be about ten times that of 9/11.

    Dave (1bb933)

  77. Patterico,

    I still disagree that it is any kind of solution (or mitigation, if you prefer) to willingly give up whatever random personal liberties the state demands the curtailment of as part of the project to protect whatever liberties may remain after each click of the ratchet.

    Delaying total destruction of a thing has only two benefits: first, if there is any hope whatsoever of restoring the thing to its original condition; or second, to allow those things (and people within) of value within time to be removed, or to flee, to a new places of safety and growth.

    If destruction is inevitable, there is no point. If there is no hope of restoration, there is no point. The only useful purpose of delay would be the construction of a parallel society elsewhere that could preserve the original guarantees of liberty envisioned in the American project before total destruction of the original ensues.

    db (26ef7a)

  78. ^^ read it if you read nothing else today ^^

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  79. Instead of “deep state” I remember it as the “entrenched bureaucracy” or even the “military-industrialist complex”

    The modern day “deep state” is intertwined with the bureaucrat unions… you know, the type of unions that want to eliminate property tax limitations so they can leverage out more tax revenue to pay for raises, pensions and other benefits

    steveg (354706)

  80. You have to know waht dangers and warnings to take seriously and what not to.

    yesterday, the fire alarm went on at the Brooklyn office Board of Elections while training classes were going on. It was basically ignored.

    Because: They wouldn’t schedule a fire drill at such a time.

    And if there had been a real fire, there would have been some other confirmation of it.

    It was correctly assessed by everyone as a problem with the fire alrmm.

    Also someone came to the rooms to check out – thast people weren’t ;eaving i guess and the public address system made some unclear remarks from time to time.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  81. its not as inflammatory as say ramparts,

    http://meaninginhistory.blogspot.com/2019/09/your-fbi-in-peace-and-war.html

    narciso (d1f714)

  82. this is why they threw out the smodenko bait ahead of time,

    https://dailycaller.com/2019/09/13/doj-inspector-general-fisa-abuse/

    narciso (d1f714)

  83. What is the Libertarian position on North Korea and its nukes? I think even Libertarians can perceive a threat.

    Kevin M (19357e)

  84. What is the Libertarian position on North Korea and its nukes? I think even Libertarians can perceive a threat.

    I suspect pure Libertarians would say that stationing troops overseas brings us into unnecessary conflict, and that we’d have a lot less to worry about from countries like the DPRK and Iran if we just minded our own business.

    Ultimately, Libertarians are isolationists, aren’t they?

    Dave (1bb933)

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