Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Learnable lessons from Manning, Snowden and inevitable others 14 – when fear collides with expediency

Posted in business and convergent technologies, in the News by Timothy Platt on November 14, 2013

This is my fifteenth posting on what is becoming a series of leaks and unauthorized disclosures of classified US government documents that relate to its War on Terror (see John Peter Zenger, Henry L. Stimson, Edward J. Snowden and the challenge of free speech and the first thirteen postings to this series, available at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 as postings 225 and loosely following.)

And I write here about a phenomenon that is all too common in government, with responsibilities that should be maintaining and addressed in-house and by accountable government employees and agencies, farmed out to third part providers – and generally lowest bid providers at that. The dynamics of this can be toxic and particularly where this means that the people and businesses performing critical functions see even very significant financial incentive in cutting corners to reduce their own costs in fulfilling contracts awarded to them through this type of bidding process. And when ongoing news story releases, and certainly since the Manning and Snowden leaks, keep revealing that even the cursory background checks performed in awarding them security clearance showed red flag warnings that were ignored – this indicates that this lowest bid farming out of background checks is not working.

I am writing here of a system built to fail, and how this has developed through pursuit of business as usual practices, as if security clearance of key employees and contractors, and the work they are to do were routine and of low risk if mismanaged or poorly performed. And this is how Homeland Security and too much of our national security effort have operated, with lavish attention made in indiscriminately broadly reaching surveillance of the general public but with little real attention paid to who is doing this work or who is seeing the results of their efforts.

I write this on October 20, 2013 – just over three weeks before it is set to go live to the blog and as of this writing, Edward Snowden is living in Russia and viewed by many, worldwide as being a hero for revealing existence of broadly overreaching and unjustifiably intrusive surveillance programs on essentially everyone. I write this in the aftermath of a mass shooting in which the shooter was awarded high level security clearance even though he had a documented record of mental illness and even though he was overtly symptomatic when reviewed for security clearance – by a private company that is paid by the head for the numbers of people they clear, and not for doing the background checks themselves, creating a disastrous conflict of interest between them and both Homeland Security and the public it should be protecting. And as of this writing, I have yet to see any indication and either in news coverage or through any other channels that anyone in a position of decision making authority in any of this has learned anything.

• Governmental positions have largely hardened in support of broad based and globally inclusive surveillance of the general civilian public and even from elected officials,
• Absent any justifying evidence concerning any particular members of the public that could in any way be used in arguing the case for a legal warrant on anything like a case by case basis,
• And in spite of presumptive Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches or seizures built into the United States Constitution that should in principle limit or prevent this type of open-ended surveillance activity.

“Unreasonable” in this has simply been diluted in meaning to allow for essentially anything here.

Our national leadership in the United States has set and pursued a series of precedents in all of this, that will in time come back to haunt all of us. And as disturbing as I find these current surveillance programs and how they are carried out, that is what really concerns me – what with time is sure to follow, with this as justifying precedent.

You can find this and related postings at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and in my first Ubiquitous Computing and Communications directory page. I am also listing this under my In the News posting category.


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