Friday, September 11, 2015

Annals of intelligence

Ten-pack of Kiribai Kairo pocket heaters, ¥336, via Japanopt.
Happy September 11!

Got a reminder, early this evening, that large portions of our government are still incompetent, in the latest FBI fail—where the Bureau accused the chairman of the Temple University physics department for sharing a sensitive design for something called a "pocket heater", don't ask, because the Times and Google don't want us to know, with our Chinese adversaries.

So they busted professor Xi Xiaoxing, a naturalized US citizen, in force, storming his house at dawn with drawn guns as his wife and daughters watched and dragging him off in handcuffs, last May, and putting his movements under restriction in such a way as to make it impossible to complete an important, almost finished research project.

Only, the thing is, it turned out that the blueprint Professor Xi sent to colleagues in China was not that of a pocket heater at all, but some completely innocuous and not secret thing—the Times doesn't want us to know exactly what, presumably because that might clue us in to what a pocket heater is—which the FBI didn't know because they didn't bother to ask an expert whether the thing they had was the thing or not. "Oops! Our bad."

Suggesting that they have taken to arresting distinguished scientists of Chinese ethnicity the way they were arresting Arab-American teenagers 14 years ago, and with approximately the same purpose: since it's so hard to know what you're doing in that business, go for the cheaper alternative of looking as if you knew what you were doing, and if it hurts somebody make it a person who will find it harder to defend himself, a person of color or immigrant or both. I hope professor Xi sues them very hard.

The other point is about what we have to fear from our out-of-control intelligence agencies and who exactly we have to fear it from. I have long believed, going back to those first Snowden documents, that even if the nerds at the NSA are collecting all the stuff they have been accused of collecting, you should fear not them, and their supposed supervillain motives, bwahahahaha, but the stupid men of action at CIA and FBI and the motive of covering asses. That's what'll get you every time.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

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