Sunday, March 25, 2007

Tracking the Terrorists

TIDE is not just a detergent, and their list is one which one ought to avoid:

Each day, thousands of pieces of intelligence information from around the world -- field reports, captured documents, news from foreign allies and sometimes idle gossip -- arrive in a computer-filled office in McLean, where analysts feed them into the nation's central list of terrorists and terrorism suspects.

Called TIDE, for Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, the list is a storehouse for data about individuals that the intelligence community believes might harm the United States.

Ostensibly this list is for the terrorists; in reality... it depends on how cynical one wishes to be. As I recall Stalin had a list of those who might do harm to his own country. But it's not as if Americans would ever put anyone on the list who wasn't a real threat to our way of life, is it? Then again, how radical must one be to present a threat to the American way of life? Better work lots of overtime and spend that dough just so They don't get too suspicious.

But in addressing one problem, TIDE has spawned others. Ballooning from fewer than 100,000 files in 2003 to about 435,000, the growing database threatens to overwhelm the people who manage it...

We'll chalk this up to improvements in intelligence. We may have gotten it wrong when it came to those danged WMDs, but I'm certain that we're doing better; hence every additional file represents another triumph for Freedom over Terror. It's called progress, and if you don't believe in its inevitability, you're a reactionary zealot, which is to say an idiot.

TIDE has also created concerns about secrecy, errors and privacy. The list marks the first time foreigners and U.S. citizens are combined in an intelligence database. The bar for inclusion is low, and once someone is on the list, it is virtually impossible to get off it. At any stage, the process can lead to "horror stories" of mixed-up names and unconfirmed information...

But what are a few horror stories in the grand scheme of things? You don't want the terrorists to win do you? For the Greater Good, sacrifices must be made. Freedom must triumph. England--I mean America--prevails.

I've been thinking about re-reading 1984, but I think I'll let it go so long as we're privy to an approximate reproduction of the thing. Enjoy the spectacle. This is seriously historic.

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