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Do the Terrorists Care about Teenage Smoking?
December 19, 2002 9:50 AM   Subscribe

Information deemed useful to terrorists is disappearing from government Web sites. I know this is old news, but this article details some of the specifics of whas has been happening. "The previous presumption, that publicly-funded information is the rightful property of the public until proven otherwise, has been replaced by the presumption that the public has to prove to a suspicious government that it deserves the information." I understand that as a nation we are hypersensitive now to terrorism, but isn't this just what the terrorists want? The loss of our freedoms to information?
posted by archimago (14 comments total)

 
Hey, but the NRC daily Event Notification Report is back! This rounds up all change-of-status reports from American nuclear reactors, and any report of lost or stolen radioactive material from reactors, labs, or their contractors. Pretty interesting in a bureaucratic way, and I find it strangely reassuring. It wasn't on the Web for a while after 9/11 ā€“ I wonder when it came back.
posted by nicwolff at 10:05 AM on December 19, 2002


I understand that as a nation we are hypersensitive now to terrorism, but isn't this just what the terrorists want? The loss of our freedoms to information?

Good point. Further proof that a leader should be intelligent, not just a cheating thief.
posted by Espoo2 at 10:27 AM on December 19, 2002


Aha. This explains why birth-control and abortion information is disappearing from the government sites! It's all in the name of security!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:30 AM on December 19, 2002


isn't this just what the terrorists want? The loss of our freedoms to information?

No, the terrorists wanted to fly some planes into our most symbolic landmarks, and they did that. The loss of freedom of information is what W's administration wants.
posted by mikrophon at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2002


Well, as someone who works in Commerical Real Estate -- this has had a direct effect on my job. Much harder to get property ownership info out of County Assessor's offices. Over the past 5-10 years, great GIS websites were springing up with loads of property information, I did most of my research on the net.

These GIS Assessor sites are rapidly disappearing...

Now I have a hands-free phone, and to get copies you usually have to make a personal appearance at the office.

And you know what? THIS IS A GOOD THING, PEOPLE!

I CAN STILL GET THE INFO I NEED, but it's a bit harder for someone in Pakistan to do the same...

I'll take basic FREEDOM over freedom of information anyday, folks.
posted by acutetype at 11:28 AM on December 19, 2002


I'll take my liver over my right hand anyday, so go ahead and chop off my right hand!
posted by languagehat at 11:38 AM on December 19, 2002


To me, this is the most important point made in the article:
The problem is that the previous presumption, that publicly-funded information is the rightful property of the public until proven otherwise, has been replaced by the presumption that the public has to prove to a suspicious government that it deserves the information. Gary Bass, of OMB Watch, a private group which monitors government spending and legislation, says "We are moving from a right to know to a need to know society."
Doesn't anyone else see this as a problem? Or is everyone just to scared of dying?
posted by moonbiter at 11:39 AM on December 19, 2002


Well, I'd have to say that acutetype is right on this. In most cases, it's not that the information has been made unavailable, but that it's been made unavailabe through the web. It's a propagandistic exaggeration to equate loss of convenience with loss of access.
posted by reality at 12:39 PM on December 19, 2002


It's a propagandistic exaggeration to equate loss of convenience with loss of access.

True. But consider that the Internet is fast becoming the medium of information acquisition. I see this as equivalent to, say 50 years ago, removing books from a library so people can not get access to them. If librarians are concerned about this today, maybe they know more than we do.

I am all for making information scarce for terrorists. I personally have no need for nuclear power plant diagrams or electricity grid maps for major cities. But the article points out that there is information disappearing that has nothing to do with terrorism.
posted by archimago at 1:05 PM on December 19, 2002


I was under the impression that terrorists basically wanted us to leave them and their countries, societies, beliefs, religions, etc. alone.
posted by howa2396 at 1:05 PM on December 19, 2002


Archimago, et al.: There's also the fact that as information services have been moving onto the Web, there has been a parallel decrease in their availability offline - after all, if it's accessible 24-hours, from virtually anywhere, without needing paper or bulky storage, why do it? Except, of course, when something like this happens. So, yes, it is more of a question of inconvenience, but that inconvenience will not be the kind we had before the web - it will be much worse.
posted by risenc at 2:06 PM on December 19, 2002


Publicly-funded information is the rightful property of the public.

Which public?

The internet is an international community, but publicly-funded information belongs to those who belong to that public.

I am quite willing to have internet access to such information restricted until such a time as my identity as a member of that public can be proven prior to granting access, much in the way as showing up in person with valid ID proves your membership to that public.

So... when we gonna get those USB plug and play retinal scanners?
posted by linux at 3:34 PM on December 19, 2002


Maybe the US is just trying to abandon its history of Common Law in favor of Roman Law. Since most of the rest of the world embraces different ideas of what freedom is, globalism demands that the US conform if we want to be a good "partner."
What this means in the long term is "guilty until proven innocent", "anything not specifically allowed by the government is unlawful", and "rights and prosperity are not natural, they are given by the government."
What the hell, they might say in Washington D.C., there really hasn't been a Constitution since FDR anyway...
posted by kablam at 5:20 PM on December 19, 2002


I'll take basic FREEDOM over freedom of information anyday, folks.

I cannot imagine how you are defining "freedom" in that sentence. Perhaps you mean (perceived) security?
posted by rushmc at 6:36 PM on December 19, 2002


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