RE: WATPA: CPSR's Response to September 11th Events (fwd)

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From: ching wah chin (
Date: Thu Sep 27 2001 - 10:19:13 EDT

although all patriotic americans should
share in the concern at the anticipated
erosion of civil liberties due to the
present governmental drive towards the
use and control of technologies against
terrorism, we should also not forget
that technologies by their very nature
generally are intent neutral. even the
most heinous weapon of destruction can
be beneficial if used for a productive
purpose; even the most innocuous tool
can be used to torture and maim.

unfortunately, the terrorist attacks
have destroyed the core assumption
supporting any hope for narrow
scope and duration. this is not a
temporary or limited war. the
terrorist attacks have initiated a
long war directed at the heart
of our existence, which can only be
fought on broad fronts with patience
and stamina. and with far far higher
stakes than for the usual shoplifting
suspect or demonstrator resisting arrest.

who would want to explain to the next
thousands of terrorist victims that
an attack was not stopped because the
terrorist had rights?

an over simplification of the issue,
such as an unthinking denial of the
tools to combat terrorism, will simply
ensure the next disaster. oversight
of the use of those tools, as is
presently already available through
civil remedies, may be a safer
alternative, while still preserving
those liberties of a civil society.
any intentional abuse of tools should
be dealt with swiftly and severely,
perhaps even mandatory redress made
for honest errors in judgment; there
must be no carte blanche to strip
americans of their very essence as
free americans. but handcuffing
methods to stop terrorism, will simply
prolong the war and increase the

this in no way downplays the difficulties
in balancing civil liberties with
necessary police powers. it is true
that terrorists by their very acts reject
any interest in further discussions
with them. but it is just as true
that terrorists will win if we can
no longer enjoy free discussions
amongst ourselves.

ching wah chin

-----Original Message-----
From: William Langham []
Sent: Wednesday, September 26, 2001 10:06 PM
Subject: WATPA: CPSR's Response to September 11th
Events (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: 20 Sep 2001 17:37:35 -0000
Subject: CPSR's Response to September 11th Events

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
shares in the
worldwide shock and horror in response to the
September 11
terrorists attacks. As computer professionals, we are
saddened to see the use of technology for such
destructive purposes.
We hope to see technologists helping, perhaps in minor
important roles, in restoring infrastructure and
preventing future

The events of the past week have left Americans from
preschoolers to
policy-makers confused, scared, and searching for
responses. Although the desire for swift action is
decisions made at this time may affect our world for
years to
come. As we formulate reactions to these attacks, we
should consider
the reasoning behind these decisions, and work to
avoid simplistic

The world we live in is one of advanced communications
and computer
technology that may seem threatening. It has only
been a few days
since the hijackings, but the Senate has already
passed legislation
increasing federal wiretap powers, and new legislation
to limit the
use of cryptography has been discussed.

It's certainly true that cryptography and the Internet
could be used
as tools for planning of terror. However, these tools
serve useful,
valid purposes that should be protected. On September
11, we learned
the awesome destructive potential that commercial
jetliners have when
used as weapons, but no serious commentators have
suggested banning
passenger airplanes. Cryptography and email have been
lifelines for
oppressed peoples fearing reprisals for open

Used correctly, encryption technologies might even be
powerful weapons
in the fight against terrorism, as concerned
individuals in areas
occupied by terrorists might provide valuable
information via
encrypted channels.

Increases in the use of Internet surveillance
technologies like
Carnivore and new limits of encryption are short-term
actions that
may have the appearance of bold action, but their
value is limited and
their costs may be real.

New legislation allowing the increased use of
surveillance in order to
track terrorists has been discussed. Protection of
civil liberties
requires that any such legislation should be narrow in
scope and duration.

These hijackings also demonstrate the shortcomings of
the National
Missile Defense proposals. Space-based missile
systems could not have
prevented hijackers from taking over the planes. Even
if an NMD system
had been in place, and the planes had been tracked,
it's far from
clear that they could have been shot down without
causing death and
destruction comparable to - if not worse than - that
which happened
during the crashes.

This is not to say that there is no role for
thoughtful use of
technology in trying to prevent future terrorist
actions. Improved
security scanners, passenger "panic buttons" on
airlines, cross-checks
between passenger names and FBI "watch lists" are
just few of the
tools that might be implemented to increase airline
security and
reduce the latitude for future attacks.

Tradeoffs between liberty and security are not
appropriate if the
liberty lost is real and the security gained is
illusory. Political,
military, and business leaders should work towards
solutions that
will provide meaningful security while respecting
civil liberties.

> Susan Evoy * Managing Director
> Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
> P.O. Box 717 * Palo Alto * CA * 94302
> Phone: (650) 322-3778 * Fax: (650) 322-4748

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