Thursday, February 05, 2015


"No, ministers – more surveillance will not make us safer" by Cory Doctorow (my emphasis in red):
"We live in a post-evidence-based-policy world. As Ben Goldacre’s latest collection documents, what governments say they want to do and what they actually do are bizarrely decoupled. Whether the strategic goal is catching terrorists, educating children, or improving health outcomes, the tactics that government deploys are only glancingly related to what the evidence suggests it should be doing.
Instead, in every domain, over and over, the policies that prevail are those with business-models. Policies that create a large pool of wealth for a small number of players, enough money in few enough hands that there’s some left over to lobby for the continuation of that policy."
"Historically, the CIA was a Humint (“human intelligence”) agency, which conducted its work by sending spies in fancy dress to go and talk to people in the field. Now, it’s basically become another NSA, a Sigint (“signals intelligence”) agency, hoovering up data and trying to make sense of it. Why does the US now have two Sigint agencies and a greatly diminished Humint capacity? After all, it would be tactically useful for the US to know who it has killed.
I think it’s because Sigint has a business model. There are procurements for Sigint. And where there are procurements, there are lunches at well-funded thinktanks and lobbyists’ offices for Senate Intelligence Committee staffers to talk about how those procurements are the most sensible thing for government. Procurements attract junkets. Procurements produce private-sector jobs. Procurements are laundered back into lawmaking through campaign contributions.
There’s not a lot of pork in Humint. Apart from the odd airplane ticket and putty chin, Humint is basically about hiring people to go and nose around. It may involve bribing officials and other informants, but that’s not the sort of government spending that generates a lot of lobbyist activities on the Hill or in Westminster.
I think that we’ve tacitly acknowledged this in policy circles for years – if you have something you think would be good for society, you need to figure out how it will make a small group of people rich, so they will fight to keep it going. It’s how we got carbon trading! And carbon trading is a great cautionary tale for activists thinking of harnessing policy business models to attain their objectives: the people you make rich will fight for a version of your policy that makes them as rich as possible, even if it means subverting the underlying social good that your policy is supposed to attain."
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