Defense Department: FOIA = Terrorism Tool

Some days it’s just absolutely boggling where our taxpayer money goes to thanks to Pentagon bureaucrats who are more concerned about covering their asses from political reprisal than actually figuring ways to logically strengthen our security. I’ll break it down. Here’s what they’re doing:

The Defense Department is sending St. Mary’s University School of Law $1 million to help fight terrorism by studying ways to limit the scope of the Freedom of Information Act, a landmark open government law that celebrated its 40th anniversary Tuesday.

And here’s the paper-thin reasoning:

He said he believes it’s only a matter of time before terrorists figure out how to hack into computers that run the nation’s infrastructure.

So far, Addicott said, he doesn’t know of any terrorists who have used freedom of information laws to get such information, but he believes it is inevitable that they will.

“They don’t need bombs anymore,” he said. “They can hack in and tell the Hoover Dam to release the water.”

And here’s the truth:

“It seems like we’re just losing all our freedoms in the name of homeland security, and I just wonder where the real threat is,” he said. “We’re not going to keep terrorists from finding out about power plants and water supplies by tightening the Freedom of Information Act.”

McMasters made a similar point, saying the best security often comes from public pressure to fix weaknesses once they are exposed.

Exactly. It’s like our government has taken on the old Microsoft security mentality, whereby if you supposedly keep the vulnerability a secret, no one will know about it (raise your hand if you feel safe running Windows 98 without patches visiting Russian sites on IE4). Having the government bury their head in the sand and pretending everything is safe from attack by refusing to acknowledge those vulnerabilities is uh… criminally stupid. What we need is more information and more people pointing out flaws in security similar to how open source projects secure their exploitable code. It’s open source government, and it’s built that way for a damned good reason.

11 Comments
  1. I like to think that a dam won’t release water unless some guy turns some type of giant wheel counterclockwise. Call me old-fashioned, but maybe we should spend more time rethinking whether or not we want computers to be able to do EVERYTHING for us, and less time (and, apparently, money) attacking the Freedom of Information Act.

  2. Gee, what a great way to spend a million bucks! So much for the citizens of the country knowing what their government is up to and holding the government accountable. Of course government accountability has been a joke for a very long time. It’s true what the politicians say. They really do hate us for our freedom. Of course “they” are not terrorists but our own government.

  3. The dam operation is 100% digitally automated. Everything depends on software. The building you work in may be totally automated by now. If not, it won’t be long. Give me a computer and the access code and I will reprogram your heating and air conditioning, burglar and fire alarms, security cameras, etc.(automated building controls). How about it Stephen, do we want all secrets to be released based on the Freedom of Information Act?

  4. Anyone can phone the employees of a dam and get passwords and computer access. It is called social engineering. Kevin Mitnick was especially known for social engineering. Read the book “The Art of Deception” by Kevin Mitnick. He also has some books with the word Intrusion in the title.

    It would be easier for a terrorist to social engineer the employees or just pay off an employee than to sift through a bunch of documents. People are the weakest link in security.

    The real terrorist in this country is the government.

  5. “Give me a computer and the access code and I will reprogram your heating and air conditioning, burglar and fire alarms, security cameras, etc.(automated building controls). How about it Stephen, do we want all secrets to be released based on the Freedom of Information Act?”

    So you really believe that the way the Freedom of Information Act is written now that the government will give out “all secrets” like access codes to damns? Damn, get a clue or go back to the Republican party and stop watching the blow hards on the Faux network.

  6. Julian: only if they don’t fall under the national security provision that was written back when the FOIA became law. They saw there was a need for some secrets to remain that way for good reason, and we shouldn’t ignore that the extensive section of the FOIA exists.

    The argument on their end is that if there’s a hole in the side of our bank vault, we should put some duct tape over it so no one notices instead of patching it. That’s dumb.

  7. Sol: Please refrain from personal attacks on fellow commenters. If you want to rebut someone, do it with facts.

  8. That the Feds should be doing this with taxpayer funds should not surprise anyone; the Feds have been running anti-drug-reform seminars, instructing narks and their allies on how to try to counteract the efforts of drug law reformers, on our dime and our time, with our taxpayer supplied resources, since the early 1990’s.

    That this conflicts with the political process – as specifically proscribed against in the Hatch Act – should be obvious, but because all three branches of Gub’mint are in the control of the Republicans and their weak-sister, me-too Dem enablers, attempts to use the Hatch Act to punish these transgressions have gone nowhere.

    And so, with the blessings of the Feds, local and State drug law reform initiative supporters stand in the place of David facing Goliath…and Goliath swiped David’s sling, which David had bled ‘green blood’ to pay for.

  9. 1. Of course they’re doing it with tax dollars. What other dollars would the fed gov’t really have access to? :)

    2. Restricting data access is the natural reaction of people ignorant of security best practices.

    3. America consistently gets the government it deserves. Stop electing morons.

    Example: Sen. Ted Stevens: “Ten of them”..(movies)..”streaming across that internet and what happens to your own personal internet? I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday…Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially…No one can charge anyone for massively invading this world of the internet…I want people to understand my position….these people are arguing whether they should be able to dump all that stuff on the internet ought to consider if they should develop a system themselves. Maybe there is a place for a commercial net but it’s not using what consumers use every day.

  10. Erm. Morons was a bit harsh. Call them “people ignorant of the issues about which they’re called to have an opinion”

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