So, what does "High Alert" mean, anyway..?
November 3, 2001 2:21 PM   Subscribe

So, what does "High Alert" mean, anyway..?
And yeah I know it's her. Work with me here... [MORE]
posted by ZachsMind (20 comments total)
 
Professor Harvey Kushner: "The photo developing shop and the person at his job who's standing in front of the machine looking at these pictures sees something out of the ordinary needs to report it. You're working at a computer shop, and you come upon something that seems strange, some information that shouldn't be there, you need to make that call. You have to look at a truck sitting in front of a building idling with nobody in it as a suspicious abandonment. Somebody who's walking around suspiciously, overdressed when it's warm, trying to get to the center of a crowd—make the assumption that something bad can happen and call the authorities."

Why does this whole idea give me the willies? Doesn't this sound like purposefully turning our society into a paranoid surviellance state? Maybe George Orwell was just a couple decades premature in his prediction..?
posted by ZachsMind at 2:21 PM on November 3, 2001


> Maybe George Orwell was just a couple decades premature in his prediction..?

Yes, this smacks of McCarthyism. The unseen enemy is all around you. Perhaps the "War on Terrorism" is something we have to endure now for the next twenty years, or in perpetuity, as our rights and liberties are slowly taken away.

What an irresponsible use of the media.
posted by vacapinta at 3:01 PM on November 3, 2001


Yes, this smacks of McCarthyism.

I think you're overreacting. Participatory democracy involves a lot more than just going to polls on election day, and being asked to participate in homeland defense by simply being more aware of your surroundings is not at all unreasonable. Rational people should be able to draw the line between responsible reporting of things that are definitively out-of-place and reporting based on paranoid suspicion. Anything, *taken to an extreme* is destructive and McCarthyism is a perfect example of that, but this isn't even close to McCarthyism. This is simply advocating acting in situations where there is reasonable cause to believe that something may be happening. The law clearly defines "reasonable cause" and any reports and subsequent actions based solely on paranoid suspicion are subject to punishment through our existing legal system. McCarthyism was destructive because reasonable cause was completely ignored and many people were indicted on ''evidence" that under no current legal definition would be considered evidence at all. If nothing else, this country's experience with McCarthyism facilitated the introduction of stronger legal precedents that would prevent it from ever happening again.
posted by lizs at 3:38 PM on November 3, 2001


I'm with lizs here: it's basically a call for the same kind of alertness that has marked long years of sporadic IRA terrorism on the mainland. (And especially in the run-up to Christmas.) People cope without bins at stations; if an Irishman appears overly eager to buy a car with hard cash, you phone the police. And so on. It's not pleasant in its assumptions, and there's a worry that the early stages will produce a fair amount of over-reaction and plain racism, but if things like this establish what entails "sensible vigilance", then at least it suggests that going beyond such precautions is not vigilance but vigilanteism.
posted by holgate at 4:04 PM on November 3, 2001


Hell. At my place of business, a large telco/ISP, "high alert" meant a teenage security vixen challenged visitors to the building from behind a velvet rope.

Also, for some reason, it meant (on September 12, anyway) that one of the security managers went around the entire office tower, drawing the blinds. Experience tells us this prevents birds from crashing into the windows, but... hm.
posted by Sallyfur at 5:17 PM on November 3, 2001


McCarthyism is less subtle than I'm imagining. I don't have a problem with "sensible vigilance" so long as it's not directed at ME. However, Homeland Security can and probably will lead to more than just anti-terrorism. It will bleed over into more domestic and less life-threatening situations than carbombs and germ warfare. American society is disturbing when one starts to shine light upon our vigilance. Or lack of it.

Tolerance sometimes becomes purposeful ignorance. You hear neighbors arguing behind closed doors, but so loud that you can hear it through the walls. Do you call the police? Some would without a second though. Some would just ignore it. Others would only wait until they saw actual evidence that involved violence of a spouse or their children. And waiting that long might be too late.

Under this new Homeland Security America, am I duty-bound to turn them in? Or does this only apply to guys who never trim their beards and wear towels on their heads? I think not. I think what our present administration wants is for all Americans to be sort of unofficially deputized. Shrub wants a nation of narcs. Not just regarding terrorism, or the laws on the books that only fools disagree with, but also the ones that some feel invade our inalienable rights. With all the laws that exist on the books, everyone's guilty of something. Are we to start turning each other in? Turn against each other in some socially acceptable way? Not something I'd call sensible.

But then on the opposite side of the coin, it can easily be argued that turning a blind eye to any wrongdoing is akin to being an accomplice to the crime. Can one be prosecuted for silence?
posted by ZachsMind at 5:34 PM on November 3, 2001


erm. I recall there was a bit of debate about this (not reporting crimes) during the whole David Cash debacle at Berkeley awhile back.

Here's a salon article about it.
posted by fishfucker at 5:43 PM on November 3, 2001


Shrub wants a nation of narcs. Not just regarding terrorism, or the laws on the books that only fools disagree with, but also the ones that some feel invade our inalienable rights.

Show me some evidence that this is the real intent. I think you're just seeing what you want to see - whatever justifies your own prejudices against this administration. Speculative statements don't help your case.
posted by lizs at 5:53 PM on November 3, 2001


I agree with lizs; well stated, BTW. So much fretting about rights & liberties disappearing in the dead of night while the good citizens of America sleep peacefully, unaware that they will awaken to a land of...what, exactly? I see no evidence of law-abiding citizens suffering undue harm, legally or rights-wise, in the wake of 9/11. Some inconveniences, to be sure, such as lengthy delays at the airport, but certainly we aren't confusing Rights with Convenience, are we? Take a deep breath and relax. We're fine; the nation will survive; our rights will remain intact.
posted by davidmsc at 7:45 PM on November 3, 2001


We're fine; the nation will survive; our rights will remain intact.

I love the juicy irony of webboard posters claiming all is right in the world while digital snooping systems like Carnivore are working overtime cataloging more internet traffic than ever. Reread that wired article on how the FBI used 9/11 to push Carnivore onto ISPs they couldn't before.

Or is less privacy and more snooping just another inconvenience?
posted by skallas at 8:18 PM on November 3, 2001


skallas: (srug)...so what? Some loser psycho could follow me around as I go about my daily life, too; he could write down where I've been, who I've had lunch with, etc, in a little notebook. As long as he does nothing to interfere with my life, or use the data to harm me, or attack me, so what? I doubt that his actions would even be illegal, actually. There's nothing in my electronic life that the Feds could (or would want to) use against me in any way. They're looking for *bad guys*, remember? Or am I just missing some larger point here?
posted by davidmsc at 9:23 PM on November 3, 2001


The way I see it, vigilance is not per se the same thing as McCarthyism. The evils of the latter syndrome essentially revolved around bringing the full resources of the government to bear against unpopular opinion; the blacklists and the testimony of ordinary citizens before Congressional committees were about things that were in themselves often perfectly legal, such as joining the Communist party. The reason they didn't want to tell anyone someting so simple was that when they did, they were treated as though they were unindicted spies or traitors. As long as this vigilance is centered around behavioral issues, sins of commission, and the prosecution is fully transparent and overseen by impartial judiciary, it's just being careful.

One thing that increased vigilance will bring about, however, is increased false positives. There will be more instances of people with unpopular opinion or foreign appearance who are checked at airport gates. If they raise bloody murder, like Ms. Oden, it may appear that the police are interfering with personal rights, when they were just picking more people at random than before. And any system based on judgement, e.g. of a guard at the airport security gate, is going to be subject to prejudice, so there will also be people who are improperly detained, just because the cop checking them out was a jerk. In a sense, the whole country is going to start feeling like black people. (Perhaps this will lead to renewed sympathy for that issue; perhaps not.) As we've seen tonight (Trenton questioning of three "Middle-eastern" men in connection with anthrax leads to one INS detention), it can also lead to lots more false leads in the media reported as major stories.


For a little while, at least, we're probably going to be jumpy.

david: You are missing the larger point. There are powers which I am perfectly happy to give the government when there is oversight, e.g. the obtaining of a search warrant, and not otherwise, e.g. the cops don't like the way I look. One of these is privacy. I really don't think the government has any business sifting through the internet traffic of anyone it hasn't previously identified as a person of interest to an investigation and demonstrated that interest in terms of "information and belief" to a judge. If that standard is to be raised during wartime (and I believe, congressional declarations aside, that this is wartime), I want it to be explicitly sunsetted. So far, the USA Act has increased police powers considerably and increased oversight barely if at all, and the bulk of the act is, barring judicial review, permanent legislation. The appeals fallout from this bill alone is going to occupy the energies of the justice system, not to mention the civil liberties lobby, for many years to come, and to the extent that that displaces other things that's possibly a damned shame. Now, compare the government to your loser psycho. The loser psycho can't, legally, do anything to me. The government, on the other hand, can do many things to me once they begin collecting information. And before you breathe the words "but they wouldn't bother you if you're doing nothing wrong", you ought to know better. From COINTELPRO to, well, Waco, there are myriad examples.
posted by dhartung at 11:09 PM on November 3, 2001


re: "random searches" at the airport: I'm picked for a random search 3/4 times I fly (pre-9.11). (this is with my hair in a regular ponytail). I'm convinced that I pack something in my bag that looks dangerous, and I keep begging them to tell me what it is so that I can put it in the checked luggage, but they keep saying "oh, this is just random...."
posted by rebeccablood at 11:42 PM on November 3, 2001


am I just missing some larger point here?

Yep.
posted by Dirjy at 12:31 AM on November 4, 2001


Is there some kind of honorary MeFi mayor position? If so, could I nominate dhartung?

Dude always makes much sense.
posted by Optamystic at 2:18 AM on November 4, 2001


"From COINTELPRO" Bingo. give that man a postion in intel. Damn Dan... "The loser psycho can't, legally, do anything to me...." what of the LP that works for intel?
Loser does not preclude employment by these folks. And they can do much. what is "sunshine" under the 'USA Act'. sec. 224.
posted by clavdivs at 9:51 AM on November 4, 2001


i second that nomination.
posted by clavdivs at 9:51 AM on November 4, 2001


I thought Matt was the mayor? Is this gonna be an elected, or appointed position?
posted by ZachsMind at 3:55 PM on November 4, 2001


Matt is the City Manager. The Honorary Mayor would kiss babies and cut ribbons.
posted by skyscraper at 1:09 PM on November 5, 2001


High Alert a la the Attorney General reminds me of "Double Secret Probation" in Animal House, or the Escher painting with the illusion of an infinitely ascending staircase....WHAT WERE WE ON BEFORE?
posted by ParisParamus at 1:31 PM on November 5, 2001


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