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In Bungled Spying Operation, NSA Targeted Pro-Democracy Campaigner (theintercept.com)
146 points by r721 on Aug 15, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 58 comments



Meanwhile in New Zealand the government is hastily amending legislation to allow the GCSB to spy on all New Zealanders. The GCSB being an organisation so partisan that it was at one point directed by a childhood friend of the Prime Minister.


"A Fijian military soldier stands guard on Parliament grounds." -- is it normal to not have a magazine engaged in a rifle like that when on guard duty?


Most Western militaries realized they were having far more problems with with accidental discharge injuries and deaths than actual live-fire incidents, even in actual combat zones, and so training calls for the weapon to be unloaded until needed.


The answer to that is better, sterner discipline, not guards who can't actually, y'know, guard.


They still have magazines on them, so they can respond to a threat in a few seconds. And no amount of discipline can completely prevent accidental discharge.


The way to prevent accidental discharge is to keep the rifle slung over one's shoulder, with an empty chamber, rather than nervously gripping it with one's finger on the trigger guard as pictured in TFA. That posture serves no purpose other than the intimidation of the ignorant. And it's clear from this picture the magazines, if they exist, aren't secured in one place on a sensible leather belt, but rather are rolling around in the bottom of one or more of those giant pouches he's got hanging around.


It's very unlikely that he is there to actually guard anything. In most countries, outside a state of emergency or war, soldiers do not have any right to shoot citizens in the streets. Even if someone specifically attacks the soldier, the correct response is to back away and call the police to handle it.

He's just standing there either for ceremonial reasons or for training (possibly both). In any case, his only task is to stand there and call the police if there's trouble.


No, he's literally guarding the place. The correct response to an attack may involve inserting the clip, chamber a round and issue a loud warning before possibly firing.

An attack on the guard himself is likely to lead to a resolute counterattack.

Soldiers guarding typically have limited police jurisdiction of the area they guard in most countries.

This should be common knowledge.


Both you and your parent commenter are sometimes correct, depending on the situation (believe it or not, laws vary from country to country, there are many different types of military groups in each, etc).

Your point of view is not always correct, so it should definitely not be common knowledge.


The historical nature of soldiers of armed guards with the authority to kill you lends credence to his suggestion that it's not an unreasonable expectation to believe that they _could_ shoot you.

Local mileage and laws may vary, but erring on the side of caution when you see a soldier means that it's prudent to act as if he can legally fire upon you -- even if that assumption is not actually true at that specific time or place.


He's showing proper trigger discipline, he looks fine. If it's any consolation then it stands to reason that he's posing for the camera, too.


This attitude is not just wrong, it's dangerously wrong.

It's this sort of blame-driven, individual-focused, ask-the-unachieveable answer that makes it completely impossible for organizations to move beyond a relatively low level of quality/competence. It's satisfying to say, because it can always be applied and always makes the speaker feel smart/superior. But its universal applicability is a hint that it's not going to actually solve many problems.

If you'd like to learn why and what the alternative is, I strongly recommend Sidney Dekker's "Field Guide to Understanding Human Error":

https://www.amazon.com/Field-Guide-Understanding-Human-Error...

His field of study is commercial airline accident review, so all the examples are about airplane crashes. But the important lessons are mostly about how to think about error and what sort of culture creates actual safety. The lessons are very much applicable in software. And given our perennially terrible bug rates, I'd love to see our thinking change on this.


> It's this sort of blame-driven, individual-focused, ask-the-unachieveable answer that makes it completely impossible for organizations to move beyond a relatively low level of quality/competence.

Keeping one's finger off of the trigger is not unachievable; indeed, every infantry organisations instils that from the beginning in its riflemen. It's really Not That Hard. And indeed, one sees that negligent discharges are actually pretty rare, even in war zones.


You seem now to be talking about something different than me. I'm referring to your notion that "better, sterner discipline" will help. It won't.

That approach quickly plateaus. Then more discipline harms improvement because people just start covering up mistakes to avoid punishment. In addition to being covered in the book on air safety I already mentioned, your "beatings will continue" theory is basically why Detroit spent decades trying and failing to make cars as reliable as Toyota's. This was true even when Toyota went to great lengths to teach GM how to do it.

That experience was covered engagingly in This American Life's episode NUMMI:

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/403/n...


Yes you do seem to be having a different conversation. We were discussing firearm safety. There is a right way, and that way is well understood. States which encourage cavalier firearm handling in their soldiery (I don't propose firing this soldier, but certainly let's fire whoever trained him) are explicitly valuing some other goals over the lives and health of residents.


That's like saying programmers would get their projects done sooner if they'd just type faster.


A better analogy is probably something along the lines of TDD.


Your statement is something akin to "who needs daily code testing, just get programmers who can, you know, program".

It's dumb.

Systematic measures to reduce problems are wise.


Until such time as those "systematic measures" actually compromise the ability of people to do their job.

Carrying a weapon implies the possibility that it will need to be used at a moment's notice, and it's a hell of a lot quicker to flip a safety off than reload. These measures could wind up with someone dead.

I agree with the GP - if accidental discharges where that much a problem, then the problem is poor firearms discipline, something that can be trained and drilled into people. These are better called NDs (negligent discharges), and they're called "negligent" for a reason: the shooter was doing something horribly wrong.

NDs will get you kicked out of recreational ranges in this country at a minimum. It can also be a ticketable or jailable offense.

Firearms discipline 101 basically breaks down to keeping your finger out of the trigger guard until you intend on shooting something, and possibly the weapon on safe (depending on situation).

Hardly unreasonable or "unachievable" as another put it.

If the guards are incapable of this one simple thing, something that recreational shooters are held to a high standard on, they should be replaced with people who can.


> Carrying a weapon implies the possibility that it will need to be used at a moment's notice

These positions are largely ceremonial, an incident requiring them to use their weapon will happen less than once a decade.

Also, Recreational shooters aren't holding a rifle 8 hours a day every day for years at a time. The increased amount of time combined with the monotony of the job dramatically increases the risk of mistakes.

Ultimately the odds of there being an incident which requires the guard to be able to start firing immediately is less than the odds of accidental discharge.


It is curious that wtbob knows better than the countless militaries and policy makers around the world on this topic.


That was clearly a posed picture. Possibly, when dealing with the public (like journalists) they unload and stow magazines.


Yes. It is a universal sign of non-violence unless in self-defense (including the defense of others').


Am I the only one here who thinks this was not all bad? It seems the problem was not so much the investigation itself, but the handling of the aftermath, once the spies realized there was no corroborating evidence, combined with their bias-inducing excitement to catch a "baddie."

When terrorist attacks happen successfully, and enforcement agencies had some prior knowledge of them, people blame the agencies. So surely when there is some evidence apparently linking somebody to a planned terrorist attack, the agencies are duty bound to at least investigate it. Of course, they're also duty bound to investigate it within the law, and if the investigation turns out to be unfounded, they should forget about it. That's not what happened here, and that's the problem.

The fact is, this was not just some bloke of a bureaucrat from New Zealand who happened to be targeted as a terrorist. He grew up in Fiji, and his best friend was a high ranking Fijian military officer. Their travel patterns aligned. They had membership in the same group (yeah, it's a "pro democracy" group, but is a terrorist group going to call themselves "pro terrorism?"). They made allusions to stabbing the leader of Fiji.

If the initial evidence was based on any one of these factors in isolation, I can see how pursuing the case would be a waste of time. However, it seems what landed Fullman on the radar was the combination of all these factors. He had the right background (pre-coup Fijian origin), relationships (high ranking Fijian military friends), travel patterns (back and forth at the same time as an ousted military officer), and resources (again, friends with a high ranking military officer).

Had he actually been planning an attack, and the agencies sat on all this information, how would that look afterward? It would look like an agency failed to do its job in preventing the violent overthrow of an ally.

I don't fault the agency for opening an initial investigation. There was plenty of evidence to warrant at least looking into the guy. What seems to be the problem was the extrajudicial revocation of his right to travel and do business, before any corroborating evidence existed.

Wouldn't the proper way to handle this investigation have been more covertly? Sure, scoop up as much data as you want -- just enough to see if he actually is planning an attack. But why remove his passport? Keep him under surveillance and watch for any sudden moves, sure. But why the need to restrict his travel? What purpose does that serve?

And once they found the investigation was unwarranted, they should have immediately dropped it. Had they done this covertly, the guy never would have known he was even under surveillance. But instead they seized his passport and many of his possessions before having the evidence to do so. He was fully aware of the investigation in such a way that it materially and negatively impacted his life.

To be fair, though, they did handle the aftermath in a somewhat commendable fashion. They lifted the restriction on his passport without any further hassle, within two years. That's pretty quick. Perhaps they should have done more (apology, compensation), but even by US standards that seems like a fairly equitable outcome. He never went to prison.

At the end of the day, it sucks for this guy. He was in the wrong places, with the wrong people, at the wrong times. But I have trouble faulting the agencies for their initial suspicion. It's their handling of the aftermath that I have a problem with.


Look, the fact is that the suspect was never a terrorist, nor harbored concrete plans of violence. From this follows that at no point during this debacle did they have real evidence of a terrorist plot!

The intelligence they had can at best be of the quality you described in your post. You state he was friends with a high ranking Fijian military officer, but this is incorrect since at the time of these suspicions he was friends with a defector from the military, which is quite another thing. A defector has no formal power, and most informal contacts within the military will be known and monitored. As a consequence, defector is not the rich source of resources you imply.

You state that his travel patterns aligned, but this is just circumstantial evidence of the known fact that they were part of the same NGO, which reasonably was known from the outset since the NGO was the original target of the surveillance!

The most serious intelligence is the loose talk about killing, guess how hard loose talk about killing is to come by? On HN I easily found a comment endorsing the assassination of Bush Jr by use of a drone strike, so I guess we are all terrorists in the eyes of your law given that we're both members on this organisation that is planning to assassinate Bush Jr.


What I think IS all bad: yours is one of the most substantial replies to the story, and it's been down-voted to the bottom of the comments because people don't like your suggestion. Meanwhile, there could actually be worthwhile discussion going on here.

_--------------------------------

I don't know New Zealand law, but if it's like US law, I'd be really pissed about my government using FVEY partners to brush aside domestic surveillance restrictions. That's the first non-starter for me. And it infuriates me that we let NSA do it with FBI in cases other than a hand-off if someone makes it to our borders.

Another concern, which I suspect many others here share with me, is that your ideal solution requires that the top cultural value of these organizations be regulatory compliance. There are a lot of reasons to find that hard to expect.


It's more simple than that. If the US respects natural rights, yet violated this guy's rights at the behest of a foreign government, that should be a crime.

Of course, they should investigate it reasonably, but all the evidence is circumstantial. Turning on the NSA surveillance is a criminal act.


The US is only constitutionally obligated to respect these "natural rights" of its own citizens. As long as nations have borders, that will remain true.


The USA is a signatory of the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights, which grants natural rights regardless of citizenship.


The things you point out are reasonable. But I think you slightly presuppose the legitimacy of the surveillance regime.

Pick a government at random from around the world. Give it surveillance technology that is not 100% accurate, and there will be many, many cases where the officials use the imperfect data on the basis of seemingly reasonable fears and suspicions to act without due process and without much guidance from the rule of law.

When your job is to prevent catastrophic events, you will be inclined to trust any instrument you have at your disposal, even if it is not completely trustworthy.

This is why surveillance powers (or any powers that make it easy to diagnose various forms of thought crime (e.g. premeditation) should be avoided, since they lead to over-confidence on the part of law enforcement and apologies when they lead to innocent lives being ruined.

The same "reasonableness" criteria can be used to justify torturing someone who seemingly knows information that could save lives but refuses to reveal it.

One of the main benefits of putting process and institutional structure behind law enforcement is to take the emotion out of it and avoid one person deeming something reasonable based on a narrow context that really is not.


It was not all that bad.

But there was some oversight, and mis-steps.

He shouldn't have been hassled until there was reasonable evidence that he was a bad guy - or there was something really significant on the line.

We need surveillance, but we also need procedure, lawfulness, oversight.

Also I should point out that we also need a good,free press. The linked article is decent, but also one-sided.

It would seem that the primary issue this guy faces is not being able to get a job? From bad press? Ironic?


> We need surveillance

Source? We got by fine for thousands of years without the level of surveillance that's enabled today.


"> We need surveillance Source? "

A) There is no need for 'source'? Asking for 'source' does not count as an argument. Where is your 'source' for 'we got by for thousands of years?' for example?

B) We didn't 'get by for thousands of years' without surveillance. Spying has been part of statecraft for 5000 years. The very first textbook on any subject, written more than 2000 years ago - 'The Art of War' has a chapter dedicated to it.

C) If you were ever exposed to what is actually going on in this and other countries, you'd immediately change your tune. It happens often. Here in Canada, we had a fuzzy new Prime Ministerial candidate who wanted to kill a new surveillance bill. Until he became PM and got his 'daily security briefings' as to the reality of the world. And 'poof' - his promise to overthrow the bill disappeared immediately as his naivte withered against the facts.

I do not believe in a 'surveillance state' (i.e. arbitrary surveillance) and I generally believe that citizens should have the right to privacy as per other criminal issues. But I also believe that if you are building a bomb in your basement, and the Feds want to know why, they can get a court order and 'surveil' you.


> But I also believe that if you are building a bomb in your basement, and the Feds want to know why, they can get a court order and 'surveil' you.

I also don't think that mere suspicion of building a bomb in your basement gives the government scary powers over you. This is why there is such a thing as due process. Because you never know when you might be wrongfully accused.


If the Feds thought I was building a bomb, they surveilled my email with a court order, found nothing and moved on, I could care less.

It's when there's not process that's the problem.

As far as 'accused', I'm not worried about that because I'm not building a bomb so there's no way they'd have evidence.

They'd have to fabricate it, which is a whole other level of fraud.

Again, a long as it's done rationally, then we'll be just fine.

I suggest there are very, very few cases wherein people's live have been upended because of 'too much surveillance'.

The 'no fly list' is one bad example, it's because we don't have ways to uniquely identify people, and there's no process for removal. So if you have the same name as a terrorist, you're out of luck. Or of you get on by accident - no process for saying 'hey, I'm a normal guy'. Again procedural failrues mostly.

Or entrapment, or an accusation which turns out to be false that throws your life in a bind.

But it's not that common, and usually the result of back decisions on the side of the Feds, not so much inherently bad nature of surveillance.

One issue - and that is mass surveillance - LAPD has cameras to know where every license plate is going at all times ... that I don't like. They should not be able to record any licence plates unless there is 'cause' - for example. Same for facial recognition in NYC and London.

I think we'll find the sweet spot on this.


The rapid speed of communication today is unprecedented, and it allows decentralized terrorist groups to form and morph at a very high pace and cause high levels of destruction. Surveillance, ideally, can act as a counterforce to that.

I highly suggest reading "The Seventh Sense," which looks at the impact that high speed networking has and will have on the world. It frames it as the next era of power, where the last one was industrialization. It's a very good read with balanced viewpoints, and touches on subjects like terrorism and surveillance. Basically, the thesis is that networks are expanding into a great power, and we are completely unable to control them, especially with existing power structures.


> "...unprecedented..."

Every age has unprecedented circumstances. I suggest this reform: Anyone saying "But the founding fathers didn't have..." gets hit in the face with a shovel before they can get the next word out because they committed the crime of not thinking the obvious: that every fucking week there's something the founding fathers didn't have and they were not such dopes as to not foresee that.

CRISPR/Cas9 will make the internet look like two cans and a string. How much surveillance will be enough for you then?


We actually didn't. There are occasional periods where technology or general progress outstrips the state's historical ability to monitor what is going on. International communications were traditionally so small in number that it was pretty easy to monitor all of them. Going back far enough even internal travel was sufficiently rare that vague descriptions of people were enough to get them caught because strangers really did stand out. For example in Elizabethan England plenty of Catholic priests were caught because someone was supplying descriptions of them from Rome.

Whether we need surveillance or not, and if we do to what extent is a valid discussion. Don't try and bring some sort of golden past into it, you'll only undermine your case.


Arguable - history is not pretty. And today an individual can be a much greater threat than any time in the past. So yes I think our future will be one of constant Surveillance. We need to manage that, not deny it.


"But there was some oversight, and mis-steps."

Meant to say 'lack of oversight and mis-steps.

It's almost a pointless discussion here on HN, most readers are religious about the subject.


Treating a citizen as guilty until proven innocent is enough of a problem to discredit the governments actions here.

That plus the whole five eyes spying on each others citzens thing.


The morale of the story is apparently don't get involved in ANY activists groups no matter what side of the aisle you are on.

This makes it really seem like any association with any activist group, whether you're anti-(insert subject here) or pro-(insert subject here) is going to get you into trouble regardless.

It really makes trying to get good people involved in activism (in any form) a real challenge if this is going to become the norm - more people will simply stay home and keep their heads in the sand, which is even more disturbing and problematic.

There was a time when the press was the ultimate check on government authority and overreach. These days, its clear most news outlets are in bed with said government and its really down to the citizens to keep government power in check, which makes these incidents all the more troubling.


Hapless water managing bureaucrat is the perfect cover for a terrorist. They'll just need to dig deeper because there is no way the intelligence could be wrong. We believe the coffee and shoe shops are code words where the most nefarious elements discuss their evil plans, over a cup of chai.


This isn't surprising, if you understand that the mission of the American military and intelligence apparatus is to promulgate American Values (I.e. Hegemonic control), not democracy. You need only look to the juntas that the CIA have installed and supported in Latin America alone to see that this is demonstrably the case.

Consider that NZ were worried Fiji were getting close to China. This would be the US's concern too - so roughing up some political exiles would curry favour with the Fijian regime, potentially staying their burgeoning relationship with China.

There was no bungle.


As long as this stayed secret, you're right. It wasn't a bungle.

Which is why state secrecy is a fast track to tyranny - or at the very least keeps inefficient government workers employed, regardless of how many times they mess up (causing real consequences on peoples lives).

I'm guessing your allusions to the old cold war CIA strategy being present day strategy (as opposed to counter terrorism) is why you're being downvoted.


The pro-democracy campaigner in this article openly admits to discussing assassinating the prime minister of Fiji with other members of his group. It seems kind of silly to act incredulous when you find out that he might, then, have been watched by a few intelligence agencies to see what he was planning to do next. Even if he ends up doing nothing, you want to make sure he's going to do nothing.

-----

The Intercept asked Fullman if he or Mara had ever heard of — or been involved in — discussions about overthrowing or assassinating Bainimarama. Far from denying it, he said that sort of talk happened frequently within Fijian pro-democracy circles. However, he said it was just angry ranting, when the alcohol was flowing, something completely different from real plans.

“People would say things like, ‘Please can we just hire the Americans to send one drone to Fiji to get rid of those bastards’, or ‘Let me go back to Fiji and I’ll just get a knife and stab him!’” Fullman said. “It’s venting. It’s our way of maintaining sanity — we just sit and bitch about everything. We don’t want violence. We want something where there’s control, a planned approach. More to the effect where it’s the people who protest and say, ‘Enough is enough. This is wrong. We want to go back to the old constitution and have elections.’”


OK, but what I didn't see (maybe I missed it) in the article is any knowledge of that by the New Zealand authorities ahead of this action. And even if that were the case this would be an incredibly heavy handed response to this kind of venting. You can hear people say I wish we could drone strike {{politician name}} on a daily basis and it should take a lot more than that to get your passport revoked. Surely we can find a more reasonable response that reflects the reality that people say things like this without serious intent all the time.

The article also points out that was timed such that it would be a convenient gesture of goodwill towards the Fijian government during negotiations. So there's also a believable reason why the government of New Zealand might have subjected these folks to this. The level of reaction doesn't fit the evidence at hand. The effects for this guy are ongoing as he now must put up with more hassle every time he travels forever. IMO it's just not a reasonable response.

All for his very reasonable advocacy for democracy and maybe someone venting without serious intent about killing a dictator.


I've seen the enemy and he is not only us, he's the guy at the shoe store and the coffee shop. All it takes to be labeled a terrorist is a clueless person in a position of power, and your visit to Starbucks for overpriced coffee is now a link to terrorism.


Sounds like you know a lot about it. Welcome on the watchlist.


Haha the Fijian "military soldier" forgot to insert his magazine.


It is intentional.

Automatic rifle toting soldiers in public places (eg: downtown Paris) are generally threatening, so, to emphasize their intention to operate those weapons only as self-defense, they remain unloaded until necessary.

Loaded cartridges are stored on their person though, just in case.


Then why is he clutching the grip rather than leaving the rifle slung over his shoulder with an empty chamber? That would be less "threatening", and certainly more sensible. It would also be more responsive, as the magazine could be loaded all the time, and on the rare occasion shooting is required, shooting could take place without fumbling with a seldom-used, packed-away magazine.

Perhaps this is a cultural thing, but I've used firearms all my life, and this posture signifies, "We menace the public with 'assault rifles', but we hire amateurs for the menacing so after three old ladies got clipped we took away their bullets." That is, if one harbored ill intent, the presence of this sort of "security" would encourage rather than discourage one's nefarious plans.


Your interpretation is correct, the intent is that they operate on a purely reactive basis. But it's a show of strength to assuage the public rather than actual security -- if there was an actual security risk then you would most definitely see their rifles loaded properly and the area would be closed off to the public (especially to ambitious photographers).

As for him clutching the grip instead of slung over -- he is probably posing for the picture and he's clearly displaying appropriate trigger discipline, so I wouldn't be concerned.


I can probably load and ready an empty rifle that's in my hands faster than I can move a slung, loaded rifle from my back into my hands. That's using a proper sling and not the improvised sling shown in the picture. It's also significantly safer to have the rifle in his hands than loaded on his back. It wouldn't be that hard for the trigger to catch on something and fire a round while the rifle is still slung. Carrying an unloaded weapon, with proper trigger and muzzle discipline, is perfectly safe.


I specifically noted that the chamber should be empty. There's nothing that can happen accidentally to a slung rifle that will chamber a round. Keeping one's finger on the trigger guard while standing around is not proper trigger discipline. It's appropriate in an active, attentive situation, and perhaps photography is such a situation, but ISTM this person is allowing his habit of always being unloaded to foster some bad habits.


Mistakes happen. Once you put a magazine on a weapon it's pretty easy to ready it. Think about how many people die every year because someone was cleaning a gun they thought was unloaded but wasn't.

What about keeping your finger on the trigger guard do you have a problem with? Where do you think his finger should be when he's carrying his rifle?


Yes that's why experienced gun users regularly bump back the slide/open the breech a crack/otherwise check the chamber when handling firearms. I've seen firearm instructors who could perform that action in tenths of a second with their favorite semiautomatic pistols. In a variety of situations, it's just as important to be able to confirm that a chamber is loaded as it is to be able to confirm the converse.

You do know that a missing magazine is no proof of an empty chamber, right?

My "problem" is experience. An acquaintance who was a little too fond of the "commando" trigger finger posture inadvertently fired a shot in my presence. The firearm was properly pointed at the ground so tragedy did not ensue, but this person was soon convinced to leave his fingers on the grip where they belong, until such time as he is sighting his intended target. For rifles without pistol grips, it's fine to wrap one's hand around the neck of the stock.

[EDIT:] I wonder whether my difficulties in this thread stem mostly from cultural differences? In every nation in which I've encountered soldiers holding their rifles in this posture in public spaces, including to my chagrin USA, their presence has made me feel less safe. I don't assume that they know what they're doing, nor that their commanding officers do. I am not comforted when it's pointed out that their firearms have been somehow neutered, as if that were possible. A firearm has one valid purpose. If it's not time to kill someone, it's not time to handle firearms. Leave it holstered, leave it slung, leave it racked. Go to the range often enough to be comfortable handling your firearm safely, and other than that don't handle it until lives are threatened. Firearms are not suitable tools for rhetoric or ceremony or morale or intimidation, and the growing number of third-world-attitude governments (like that of USA) who see them that way are a blight upon humanity.


I think this discussion is straying off topic. I don't want to get into a discussion of when it is or isn't appropriate for the military, LEOs, or civilians to carry weapons. Your original argument was that slinging a loaded rifle vs carrying an unloaded rifle as shown in the picture is: 1) less threatening 2) more responsive 3) safer

I'm perfectly willing to concede the first point. Holding a weapon in your hands is a more aggressive posture than carrying it slung. For the second point, I've already mentioned that I can load and ready a weapon in my hands faster than I can unsling and ready a rifle from my back.

Our main point of disagreement seems to be on the third point. You are correct that a rifle with no magazine can still have a round in the chamber. This is why you should clear any weapon when you pick it up. If someone has cleared a weapon and never attached a source of ammunition the weapon won't have a round in the chamber. If they attached a magazine then there is a chance that they also put a round in the chamber even if they weren't supposed to. Not attaching a magazine prevents this mistake from being possible. While a round could be in the chamber in either case, I'd rather see an unloaded rifle than a loaded one.

We also disagree on hand placement on the pistol grip. In the case you mentioned your acquaintance had a readied weapon he did not intend to fire immediately, with the safety off, and placed his finger on the trigger. The weapon firing was the result of multiple mistakes. It sounds like your acquaintance has decided to prevent one of those mistakes in the future by changing how he holds his pistol grip. Hopefully he also learns to use his safety.

It's also important to remember that the person in the photo is a soldier and not just some random guy with a gun. Soldiers should always handle weapons the way they intend to use them. In stressful situations people fall back to what they're in the habit of doing. Soldiers should be used to carrying their rifle in a way that lets them take the safety off and fire the weapon without moving their hand on the pistol grip.




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