Date: Mon, 26 Aug 2002 18:00:24 -0700
From: ("Reason Express")
Subject: Reason Express - August 27, 2002
To: ("Reason's e-mail newsletter")

Reason Express

Reason's Weekly Dispatch By Jeff A. Taylor and the Reason staff Back Issues: Subscribe: Send Feedback:

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August 27, 2002 Vol. 5, No. 35

In this issue:

1. Watching the Watchmen 2. Target Practice 3. Thieves Like Us 4. Quick Hits 5. A Summit Misconceived - and other highlights from Reason Online 6. From Reason's print edition 7. News and Events

Reason Express is made possible by a grant from The DBT Group ( ), manufacturers of affordable, high-performance mainframe systems and productivity software.

1. Watching the Watchmen

When a secret court known for rubber-stamping surveillance requests says the Justice Department and the FBI are playing fast and lose with the rules, something is amiss. But last week, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said the FBI made more than 75 errors in applications for espionage and terrorism warrants. The court went so far as to label some of those mistakes "misrepresentations," a polite word for lying.

To recap, that's the secret police lying to a secret court about their secret cases. So much for the transparency of democracy, consent of the governed, and all that. Here also is a singular example of why the White House's opposition to full whistleblower protections for employees of the new Homeland Security Ministry is so wrongheaded.

Presumably, someone at the FBI knew these "misrepresentations" were wrong. But the FBI's culture is so corrupt -- the latest evidence being Steve J. Hatfill's public shaming via the well-timed leak to The New York Times -- that it is unclear where a person of conscience would turn. Organizations that operate in secret, often out of habit and every so often out of legitimate need, need strong internal controls on malfeasance and abuse.

A Homeland Security office, shielded as it would be from public disclosure and investigation, would have to depend on the decency of individuals to police a vast and powerful agency. Without the kind of protections even the lowest Ag Department gnome possesses against retaliation and recrimination, you are asking for near superhero quantities of bravery and thirst for justice.

And even if the feds start issuing capes and spandex, superheroes are very hard to come by.,2933,61112,00.html,2933,61250,00.html

2. Target Practice

After some embarrassing gaffes involving pond water and breast milk, the Transportation Security Administration appears to realize that liquids are not the most pressing threat to safe air travel. In addition, the TSA is mulling getting rid of those questions about your bags that have long been the butt of jokes but add little to safety.

In so doing, airline security is moving away from the unspoken premise that every passenger poses an equal threat to cause mayhem, and toward something that at least attempts to assess threats and then act accordingly.

"All passengers do not pose equal security threats," said Michael Wascom of the airline trade group the Air Transport Association. "Why should we continue to ask these simple questions of everyone? We should be focusing on people who are higher security risks."

Presumably such higher risks would include the woman who was taken into FBI custody after allegedly carrying a handgun on a US Airways flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia. Airport security at Philadelphia International Airport found a .357 Magnum handgun in her carry-on suitcase.

3. Thieves Like Us

Big media's attitude toward the Net has gone through several distinct stages. First there was dismissal, then curiosity, then awe when briefly coupled with the belief that dot-coms would somehow deliver billions more to the bottom line, then disappointment when that didn't happen. Now the latest, and perhaps final, stage appears: out and out hatred.

At no point has actual understanding of the new medium entered the picture.

"The vast potential of broadband has so far benefited nobody as clearly as it's benefited downloaders of pornography and pirates of digital content," Peter Chernin, president of the media giant News Corp., said at a Progress & Freedom Foundation conference. Chernin added that Net culture was "amoral" and supported "outright theft."

If Chernin and his ilk are so sure of the decadence of the Net, they should prove it once and for all by taking up songwriter Janis Ian's challenge to the music industry. Ian wants record companies to offer up their out-of-print back catalogs online. Each song would cost users pocket change, which would still be gravy over and above what the recordings currently earn the labels.

If the site does a bang up business the first day and then nada, then Chernin and the rest may be right. But if, as Ian suspects, such a site has staying power, then everyone online can't be looking for a freebie. Reasonably priced downloads will have a market.

Such a site wouldn't be hard to put up, either. Get a couple of high school kids to build the site and pay them in Red Bull and System of a Down swag. The downloads would have to be the real cash-and-carry variety, an "unlimited license" for users to do whatever they please with the music in perpetuity, not some ephemeral streamed low-fi junk. Graft on a secure credit card handler, and see who is right.

4. Quick Hits

- - Quote of the Week - -

"You see men his age going to bars or on dope. But he's home day and night. That gives me peace of mind. He's not doing anybody any harm, and he's not doing himself any harm." -- May Whittington, 85-year-old mother of Ralph Whittington, a former Library of Congress archivist who has donated his extensive collection of pornography to the Museum of Sex.

- - Surf's Up - -

According to a Websense survey, work is a great place to get your shopping done. Nearly 40 percent of workers reported going to shopping or auction sites while at work, and one quarter of all respondents figured they burnt over eight hours a week surfing on the boss' dime.

- - Ed Meese, Phone Home - -

The cyclical porn wars appear to be heating up. Four North Carolina men were charged with "distributing" porn by watching a pornographic movie on an SUV's flip-down video screen. And Marriott hotels in Michigan are "white-collar porn peddlers," according to one conservative group, for selling pay-per-view porn to guests.\Nation\archive\200208\NAT20020815a.html

- - Sticking It to the Man - -

Fed up with watching the nation's copyright laws getting rewritten by a corporate shill who doesn't know who to run a computer, Tara Sue Grubb decides to take on Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.).

5. New at Reason Online

A Summit Misconceived Their hearts are in the right place. Ronald Bailey

Fan Empowerment Days The fabulous air guitar stylings of Mr. Magnet. Tim Cavanaugh

Barr Exam Why I'll miss the "worst drug warrior in Congress." Jacob Sullum

And much more!

6. The Print Edition

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7. News and Events

Due to the Labor Day holiday, the next issue of Reason Express will appear Tuesday, September 3.


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