Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login

Some days I wish I could purchase a huge lighted sign, kilometers in length, and place it on the moon.

It'd say "The internet is not broken" I think I'd make it flash.

That's it. It's not perfect, security is a real threat and hassle to those on it, but it's not broken. It does not need fixing by the government.

I am very sorry that the FBI is unable to track communications on the net. Really I am. But this is no different than the problem they had before telephones were invented. In fact, throughout much of our nation's history, law enforcement had no idea what kind of communications criminals had. The universe did not explode. Somehow life went on.

I read last week that although most recent college grads are having problems finding work, there are exceptions. One of those are, sad to say, legal professionals seeking government work. The federal government is snatching up young lawyers and even paying off all their college bills in addition to their salary. In return we're creating an army of legal attack dogs in each agency looking for new ways to "fix" things for their paymasters.

Once again, it's not perfect. But it does not need fixing. What we're seeing now isn't the end of some long civil discussion about what rights everybody should have in a technological world. It's the beginning -- just the beginning -- of a new world where a lot of things we took for granted just a decade ago aren't going to be true any more.




> I am very sorry that the FBI is unable to track communications on the net. Really I am. But this is no different than the problem they had before telephones were invented. In fact, throughout much of our nation's history, law enforcement had no idea what kind of communications criminals had. The universe did not explode. Somehow life went on.

Related: I wince every time someone says it's the FBI's job to catch criminals, and we should make it easier for them to do so. No, it's not their job to catch criminals, period. Their job is to catch criminals while protecting everybody's fundamental human rights. It's part of their job description, part of their raison d'etre, and yes, it's a tough job. If you can't accept a tough job, you don't deserve a badge.

Once you realize what the FBI's job really is, it becomes difficult to accept the argument that giving them humongous surveillance capacities makes it easier for them to do their job. In fact, indiscriminate surveillance prevents the FBI from doing their job, because it contradicts their very raison d'etre.

Every time a law enforcement agency complains about not being able to spy on random Internet users, you know they're slacking off.


> I wince every time someone says it's the FBI's job to catch criminals, and we should make it easier for them to do so. No, it's not their job to catch criminals, period.

If "catching criminals period" was their job, there are no shortage of criminals for them to catch using their current powers.

So, when they want new powers, the relevant question is "what new criminals are they going after?"

Of course, we're all criminals. It's almost impossible to avoid committing a felony or two per day.


"I wince every time someone says it's the FBI's job to catch criminals, and we should make it easier for them to do so. No, it's not their job to catch criminals, period. Their job is to catch criminals while protecting everybody's fundamental human rights. It's part of their job description, part of their raison d'etre, and yes, it's a tough job. If you can't accept a tough job, you don't deserve a badge."

Amen! It's not our duty to give up individual liberty in order to make it easier for the FBI or any other government organization to catch the fringe terrorists and criminal element.


A felony? Really? I have no grasp of how your laws are divided in the states and presumed the "every-day accidental crimes" would be misdemeanors. What felonies are you referring to?


Felony soda tossing: http://www.wireclub.com/topics/off_topic/conversations/T6K1R...

Felony mic check: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/01/12/1054041/-Occupy-San...

Felony protesting: http://www.soarclub.com/2012/03/felony-protest-in-front-of-g...

I also recall a few years back there was a man charged with a felony for "digging fossils" with his son in the wrong place.

And a man charged as a sex offender for grabbing a child that ran in front of his car (to lecture him).

I found another where a man was charged with felonies for throwing seed pods at police, but that's not really an "every-day accidental crime."

So, yes, most incidents are misdemeanors, but if you commit them in the wrong place, at the wrong time, or with the wrong people present, it can be a felony.


> presumed the "every-day accidental crimes" would be misdemeanors.

It's interesting that you're accepting of the idea that ordinary activities are likely to be crimes.

It's actually rational to have harsh penalties for minor things. You're trying to control people. Minor penalties won't be heard about by others. In addition, prosecutors and police aren't much interested in minor things. Harsh penalties get their attention.

The only way to break this cycle is to stop criminalizing these minor things, which is something that a govt with a control fetish will never do.

By accepting the idea that ordinary activities can be criminal, you're buying into that fetish. Your "but they shouldn't be felonies" is either embarrassment or ignorance of the consequences of said "buy into".

Here's my rule. If I'm unwilling to have my mother shot for doing {thing}, said thing should not be a crime. That's an appropriate rule because criminalizing said thing will result in someone being shot....




"Related: I wince every time someone says it's the FBI's job to catch criminals, and we should make it easier for them to do so. No, it's not their job to catch criminals, period. Their job is to catch criminals while protecting everybody's fundamental human rights. It's part of their job description, part of their raison d'etre, and yes, it's a tough job. If you can't accept a tough job, you don't deserve a badge."

That may be what we wish, but I wonder how often each of the following to phrases are heard within FBI evaluations:

- That's some great police work there, Lou.

- That's some great civil liberties protection there, Lou.

That which gets measured gets done.


The claim about an army of legal attack dogs is absolutely inaccurate. Law students seeking government work do not have it any better than college graduates as a whole. In fact, budgets at the federal and state level are hemorrhaging and law students are having a harder time than ever gaining government work. In some cases it's more competitive than private practice. DOJ hiring numbers for recent grads are down dramatically. Some departments have even cancelled their summer programs. Given the oversupply of new lawyers graduating these days, it's far more accurate to say we're creating an army of legal stray dogs than attack dogs.

There are lawyers working hard at places like the EFF to combat these kinds of government policies. I think it's more productive to focus ire on these policies rather than attacking the legal profession as a whole.

[] http://www.mainjustice.com/2011/01/24/justice-department-und... [] http://abovethelaw.com/2011/05/would-you-work-as-a-federal-p...


To torture the analogy further, stray dogs are typically more dangerous than attack dogs - there's nobody (company) holding their leash, and they still have sharp teeth (developed knowledge of a relatively opaque topic).


> I am very sorry that the FBI is unable to track communications on the net. Really I am. But this is no different than the problem they had before telephones were invented. In fact, throughout much of our nation's history, law enforcement had no idea what kind of communications criminals had. The universe did not explode. Somehow life went on.

A gem, so I wanted to highlight it from the rest of your post.


It would be a gem, were it true.

Generally criminals have had the same kinds of communication as the rest of us. Before the internet, the telephone. Before the telephone the telegraph. Throughout both and before, regular mail.

The FBI and preceding law enforcement forces have demanded and found ways to tap these communication mechanisms. Some private networks escaped their surveillance - such as the Rothschild carrier pigeon network - but government surveillance of private individuals is not a new problem.

What is relatively new is that the mechanisms that would be used to provide it are easily exploitable by a clever person sitting in a room in China. You can't easily give the FBI tools to catch local criminals without creating exploitable security threats in our own infrastructure.


Pedantry: The telephone predates the FBI by about 30 years or so.


I'm amazed that we insist on treating all undesirable activities as crimes instead of trying to treat them as social problems with social solutions more often. It has worked wonders for Portugal in the war on drugs, and TBH, I think it would work well for a lot more types of social ills. Criminalization marginalizes those that engage in undesirable activities and pushes them underground and as far away from any sort of help to help them overcome the problem.

It's possible that such an approach would have some intended consequences like the abuses we see in the psychiatric community of the problemization of every behavior that isn't considered "normal", but this would be far better than the current prison-industrial complex that promotes an incarceration system that exarberates the problem instead of promoting healing.

A classic example of a social ill that the FBI likely exploiting to justify the passage of this law that would probably better solved with social solutions is child pornography. I seriously would be surprised if most sexual predators of children don't first start off as casual consumers of child porn and things worsen from them. Dealing it as a social problem probably leaves a lot more room for those people to seek psychiatric treatment early on instead of promoting avoidance behaviors that allows consumption to grow unnoticed by those close to the person with the problem.

I'd much rather see a Federal Bureau for the Study and Treatment of Social Ills.


The federal government is snatching up young lawyers and even paying off all their college bills in addition to their salary.

Law student here: I'd like to see a citation for this.[1] More likely, the lack of employment opportunities for legal grads burdened with high levels of debt means that the government can afford to be unusually choosy about the quality of legal graduates it hires.

1. This is the sort of joke only a law student could love. Sorry.


I wonder how long it'll take for surveillance appliances to morph into content filters..

Who say's China doesn't innovate? They've been a great inspiration to our federal babysitters for years.


I've been following the Bo Xilai story in the NYT and elsewhere. I find it very interesting that not only is the Chinese government spying on all their citizens, but they have been spying on each other.

A recent article stated that the only secure communication in China is basically in writing or in person. Absolutely no electronic communication is trusted.

The same people within the US government using pushing for far reaching citizen spying have to understand that these tools will most certainly be turned on them.


> I am very sorry that the FBI is unable to track communications on the net. Really I am. But this is no different than the problem they had before telephones were invented. In fact, throughout much of our nation's history, law enforcement had no idea what kind of communications criminals had. The universe did not explode. Somehow life went on.

Governments/states have been opening and snooping people's mail and correspondence for thousands of years... the telephone isn't some new invention that allowed them a novel window into criminal communications.


Opening people's snail mail is a bit too conspicuous to happen on a large scale without causing an outcry. Imagine everyone started getting their letters delivered with a torn envelope re-sealed with FBI tape. There'd be riots.

So I guess GP's point can be expressed more accurately as: Throughout much of our nation's history, law enforcement had no way to track people's communications on such a massive scale as they are trying to do now.


As if you cannot read through paper through other means besides opening an envelope. I imagine that it would be problematic to read all snail mail, but if they have machines to read the destination address in a serial fashion, there's always the possibility of tagging along another machine next to it or even embedded on the previous one to read the contents inside the envelopes with something not in the electromagnetic visible range.


"Throughout much of our nation's history," that kind of technology has been unavailable.


Steaming open letters was/is fairly invisible though.


I read last week that although most recent college grads are having problems finding work, there are exceptions. One of those are, sad to say, legal professionals seeking government work. The federal government is snatching up young lawyers and even paying off all their college bills in addition to their salary. In return we're creating an army of legal attack dogs in each agency looking for new ways to "fix" things for their paymasters.

Got a link for that? Given that there are about 600K less government jobs in the US currently than there were when this administration took office, I'd be surprised if there's been a great surge in legal hiring (although I'm willing to be convinced).


Got a link for the 600k figure? According to the US Office of Personnel Management, http://www.fedscope.opm.gov/employment_access.asp, these are the annual numbers:

  Sept 2011 - 2,130,289  
  Sept 2010 - 2,113,210
  Sept 2009 - 2,038,183 
  Sept 2008 - 1,938,821


The 600k is probably across all government sectors, not just federal: http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/CES9000000001

Federal employment is slightly above its medium-term average: http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/CES9091000001

The large spike in 2010 is the US census, which by law must be conducted every 10 years. Other than that, though, federal employment isn't exactly ballooning; the trend is (gently) downward, as you can see from both the graphs and the monthly numbers underneath.


I'm not saying we should give government's back doors and censor the Internet...

But anyone who has been the target of a DDoS attack can tell you the Internet is very much broken.


> In fact, throughout much of our nation's history, law enforcement had no idea what kind of communications criminals had. The universe did not explode. Somehow life went on.

Not really. Crime rates have been going down. Murder rates have been going down. People's lives have been saved, that wouldn't have "gone on" before.

This is due, in part, to better policing. To what extent this has do to with wiretapping abilities can be debated/analyzed, but a "somehow life went on" attitude is pretty much a blunt argument for "let's never change anything then", and is therefore irrelevant to the discussion.


This is due, in part, to better policing.

That's... debatable.

I think it's due to Disney movies.


Well I didn't say it's entirely to better policing, hence the "in part".

For a citation, why not look at the last part of this article which was very popular on HN a few months ago:

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2012/01/30/120...

273 points: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3691372

You're going to have a hard time debating that improved police techniques haven't made a difference at all, regardless of your personal opinion of Disney movies.


Crime rates could be going down because...

1. The methodology of collecting and reporting crime statistics has changed;

2. The use of said "improved police techniques" has discouraged people from reporting crimes;

3. The "justice" system has favored reducing its rate of Type I errors at the expense of increasing its Type II errors;

4. Enforcement of the laws is no longer consistent across and within jurisdictions;

5. There are more corrupt legal officials, and they are in better positions than ever before;

6. Social conditions and individual motivations have changed, and people are less inclined to commit crimes.

I'm not saying any of these are true, but they are all equally plausible explanations (as is any combination of them). You cannot establish a causal relationship by correlation (and "common sense") alone; you must identify all of the variables and control for them.


According to Freakonomics, low crime rates are due to birth control and/or the ability of couples to decide when and where they want to have kids.

[edit: birth control and the Rowe vs. Wade abortion ruling]


That argument is one theory, highly controversial. I'm certainly not saying it doesn't play a part, but it's still a hotly debated question among experts as to what is ultimately responsible for the crime drop. Most likely, it's due to a combination of factors, for the basic reason that social phenomena like crime tend to be very complicated. We would be extraordinarily lucky if it could be pinned down a single, simple explanation.

And while the socioeconomic distribution of the population would be expected to play a part (which is certainly affected by family planning), it would be highly unlikely for progress in policing techniques not to play a part at all.


Downvoted?? Really?!

I'm pretty sure this is contributing to the discussion, no matter how unpopular it may be. I'm disappointed.


It's being downvoted because you're drawing an illusory correlation solely to be contrarian. This does not contribute to the discussion.

I think the decreased crime rate is due to global warming! There's a perfect negative correlation between crime rate and average global temperature, so clearly the data support my opinion.


Not at all. It's pretty far-fetched to say that any link between policing and crime rates is illusory. It's certainly not the only causation, but it would be ludicrous to say they weren't related. It is rather ludicrous to talk about global warming and crime, unless you can come up with a truly plausible mechanism for it.

And I'm certainly not being contrarian either. I'm saying that the argument that "life went on" even when the government had no wiretapping ability, has no relevance here. You might as well say that life went on in the gulags in Russia. That's the point I'm arguing -- that "life went on" is not a valid argument in any context, because it's generic and doesn't address any of the actual issues.

Oh well, go ahead and downvote away... it's only numbers! :P




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: