US Diplomat in Pakistan shoots two, claims self-defense

From the BBC:

An American diplomat in the Pakistani city of Lahore has shot and killed a Pakistani motorcycle rider and his pillion passenger, police say.

They say that the consular official fired his pistol in self-defence. US embassy officials confirmed that an American was involved.
The men were pursuing the American in his car when the incident happened.
Weapons were recovered from the bodies of the dead men.

I’m sure that this is going to do wonders for US-Pakistan relations.
Even if the shooting turns out to be perfectly justifiable and legal, there’s going to be a lot of drama.

I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

Evidently I (( Or, more likely, someone with the same name. )) am on some sort of government watch list.
The consequences of said listing seems to be limited to merely being required to get a boarding pass at the gate when flying, rather than being able to check in online. Naturally, this ends up with me being the last person on the flight. Somewhat annoying, but at least it doesn’t involve probulation or anything.
DHS has some cutesy-name appeals process (“Traveler Redress Inquiry Program” or “TRIP“) to explicitly whitelist a falsely-flagged individual. As annoyed as I am with the existence of the DHS, the TSA, and the process, I sent off the necessary paperwork and things should be cleared up in the next few months.
I wonder what could have caused this flagging to exist. I blog under a pseudonym, and in real life am an ordinary law-abiding guy. Of course, I was in the military for a few years, own firearms, use and strongly advocate the use of strong cryptography, have formal education in physics, and am applying to graduate programs in physics outside the US. I suppose that could be suspicious, but I doubt it’d result in something as minor as slight delays at checking in at the airport.

Puerto Rico Gun Law Changes

Interesting part:

[Justice Department legal adviser Amid] Torres said the measures will include a requirement that shooting ranges keep logs of how much ammunition their members use and cap the number of bullets each client can fire in target practice at 500 per year.
Police Department legal adviser Estrella Mar Vega voiced support for the measures as ?more specific and stringent controls to monitor whether people who say they acquire weapons and ammunition at shooting clubs are using them for such purposes.?The attorney deemed it necessary to limit the use of weapons and ammunition that licensed vendors can have and distinguish that from competitive target shooting and hunting.

I went through 150 rounds of 5.56mm ammo the last time I was at the range, and that was a pretty laid-back session. If I’m shooting .22LR, going through a brick at the range in a single day is not uncommon. I’m sure there’s plenty of people who go through 500 rounds in a day or two, let alone an entire year.
I fail to see what such restrictions would seek to accomplish.
In addition, this restriction stands out:

The measure will also limit the quantity of weapons that a person con posses[sic] to take to a gun club.
?It is imperative that we control the transfer from one place to another of the firearms that are owned in Puerto Rico. With this measure we avoid possible tragedies by gun accidents and thefts,? Torres said.

Yes, they want to limit the number of firearms one can transport from home to the range. What the hell will that do?

Despite some of the tightest firearms restrictions in the United States, Puerto Rico also has one of the highest homicide rates, with drug-related gun violence blamed for the majority of the killings.

Gee, ya think?
Violent crime is a symptom. Get rid of drug smuggling, and violent crime drops through the floor. Being that the drug smugglers have no qualms about violating prohibitions on drugs, I suspect they will continue to have no problems violating firearms restrictions. Once again, gun control only affects the law-abiding.
One good thing, however, is mentioned. They say that after the Heller case, there’s now 800 registered gun owners in DC. Yes, it sucks to have to jump through the outrageous hoops they put in the way, but at least some people are standing up for their rights.

Import oddness?

Sebastian comments on the impediments that the government is putting up to limit the importation of surplus M1s from South Korea.
I’m a bit confused, because the M1 that I bought in 2005 from the CMP was one the US had loaned the Greek government, prior to its return. I’d imagine that things would be similar with Korea. The CMP has been selling M1s to the public for decades without incident (( To the extent of my knowledge. )), so why would a government official think it’d be an issue now? I’m presuming that any M1s imported from Korea would go through the CMP or, at the very least, through an FFL — why would concerns about the guns ending up in the hands of bad guys be any different for these fine rifles than with any other type of gun?
If anything, you’d think it’d be a good thing for criminals to have M1s: they’re large, difficult to conceal, require a bit of training to use effectively (( For example, reloading quickly. )), are incredibly loud, have a limited, non-expandable ammunition capacity, and shoot relatively expensive .30-06 ammo.
They’d better not be cut up, crushed, or melted. M1s are fantastic rifles, and I would be hugely put out if they destroyed them.


The recent court ruling in California, which overturned the state’s gay marriage ban (( I agree with the court; banning gay marriage is wrong. )) cited the Heller case thusly:

Tradition alone, however, cannot form a rational basis
for a law. Williams v Illinois, 399 US 235, 239 (1970). The “ancient lineage” of a classification does not make it rational. Heller, 509 US at 327. Rather, the state must have an interest
apart from the fact of the tradition itself.


Joe on Mobile Crypto

The Saudi and UAE governments are thinking of banning certain services on BlackBerry phones, as theyare encrypted and communicate to foreign systems.
Joe reminds us that while encrypted communications can be used for nefarious purposes, they can also be used for good. Phil Zimmermann, inventor of the common encryption software PGP feels the same way.
Indeed, they are used for good far more than for evil, and their use is almost ubiquitous: essentially any site that deals with personal or financial information is SSL-encrypted. Gmail uses SSL by default, and now even Google Search is available over SSL. Most instant-messaging clients use SSL between the client and server, and Skype uses transparent, end-to-end encryption for all voice, video, and chat messages, as well as file transfers.
In a way, crypto is not unlike firearms (( Even the government considers certain cryptosystems to be munitions, and restricts their export, although the restrictions have been considerably lessened in my lifetime.)) : it can be used by bad guys plotting dastardly deeds, but its benefits to society are considerably greater than its drawbacks.
In fact, I consider strong crypto to go hand-in-hand with free speech: being able to speak privately (and, on a related note, anonymously) is one of the strongest foundations of liberty. I hold this believe so strongly that I regularly use and encourage others to use strong crypto in their everyday lives. For those wishing to contact me securely, my PGP key is available here. One can also send me an S/MIME-signed message and I will reply with a signed+encrypted message.

Mixed Feelings

I’ve got mixed feelings on Wikileaks, particularly when it comes to ongoing military action.
On one hand, Wikileaks seeks to bring unethical behavior by governments and corporations to light. I respect and support this.
On the other hand, there’s some information that should not be published, such as information detailing or identifying sources, as it can put people at great risk. I think that such information should have been redacted to protect the innocent. In addition, there’s the ethical issue of the whistleblower breaking an oath to reveal classified information to the public. Where does one draw the line?
Hopefully he made the right choice, and innocent people are not harmed as a result. I can only hope that I never face such a dilemma.

On Openness

Last night I had the pleasure of having dinner with several members of the local free unix group. While the conversation was interesting, stimulating, and extraordinarily geeky, a particular exchange struck a chord with me.
We were discussing opportunistic encryption and how, despite its shortcomings, it’s still better than nothing (( For example, STARTTLS for SMTP offers no protection from a man-in-the-middle attack, as certificates are not checked against a list of trusted authorities. However, this is no different than if the message was sent over an unencrypted link, but STARTTLS offers protection against passive wiretapping. )). Several of us lamented that implementing strong security is often hard, and usually beyond the abilities of most average users. Thus, having opportunistic encryption on the server end (e.g. having webmail, IMAP, POP, SMTP, etc. connections use SSL by default) can often add security to an otherwise insecure connection without needing any action on the user’s part.
One of the other folks at the meeting mentioned that if we had a completely open, transparent society, then we wouldn’t need to worry about such security, as there’d be no secrets to protect.
An interesting concept, to be sure, but not one I can really see taking off; people have too many secrets.
Perhaps it’s not secrets on the scale of nuclear weapon schematics, orders of battle, or other secrets of that magnitude, but most people have information that they either wish to keep to themselves or share with a limited number of people without that information being known to the general public: medical records, business plans, love letters, financial information, etc. Most people have a reasonable belief and expectation that their phone calls and emails are private, even though such communications are almost always insecure. This, I think, needs to change — private citizens need more control over their personal information, particularly when their information is stored and transmitted by third parties.
Take, for example, Facebook: people post an enormous amount of personal information to Facebook on a daily basis, and feel comfortable doing this because Facebook allows various degrees of control over who can access that information (( Of course, that information can always be re-published by users who are authorized to see it, or through security breaches and other nefarious methods.)). Whether or not they should feel comfortable posting personal information online is an entirely different matter, but users do have some degree of control over their information and they can choose to not post their information in the first place.
On the other hand, look at ChoicePoint. They gather information from a huge variety of services, collect it, and sell it. The amount of data they store is staggering. There’s a lot of issues with ChoicePoint which, to me, relate to control of information: private citizens are not ChoicePoint’s customers, and have no leverage or ability to change the information collected or stored by the company. Once the company has the information, they’re unlikely to let it go.
As a personal example, I recently moved from Tucson to another city in Arizona to live with my wife. I filled out the change-of-address form with the USPS. She filled out the forms with various government agencies to change her last name after the wedding. Suddenly, we’re bombarded with mail saying, in general, “Welcome to the neighborhood, [last_name] family! Here’s [various_commercial_offers] for new residents!” She’s lived at that address for years. We don’t want this crap, nor did we sign up for it, yet our names and addresses have become public record by the simple act of changing my address and her changing her last name. At the very least, there should be a means of preemptively opting-out from the disclosure of this information to entities outside the post office and government. Same thing with voting records — evidently voter registration information is public, including one’s name, address, and telephone number (I’m not sure about political affiliation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were public.). Every election cycle, we get bombarded with?political?mailings and phone calls, with no means of opting-out from them.
My wife and I have no problem with certain information being used for legitimate purposes. For example, the post office needs to know my new address so they can forward mail. This is fine. The Social Security Administration and Motor Vehicles Department need to know that my wife changed her last name. That’s also fine. We even understand that credit and insurance companies need to have some means of evaluating how much of a risk a potential customer might be, and that some information must be shared (( Though it’d be nice if information-sharing was prohibited by default, and that one would need to authorize an individual company before they’d have access to the information. Of course, a creditor would rightly refuse to offer credit to someone unless the individual authorized that company, but right now that data is basically free-for-all.). But we do have major problems with a lack of control over personal information.
In short, the default state for information relating to private citizens should be “private”, and individuals should have the ability to control the distribution of their personal information. Basically, it’d be nice to have Fourth Amendment-type protections against corporations, as well as government. Cryptography only goes so far, but it can help.
Public companies and governments, on the other hand, are a completely different matter. With certain limitations (trade secrets, legitimate national security interests, etc.), I think that information should be open and transparent to the public, particularly when an organization interacts with private citizens or their personal information.

Running Interference

One nice thing about the recent Arizona immigration law is that it’s running remarkably good interference for the permitless carry law in Arizona.
Sure, the permitless carry law isn’t really a big deal in Arizona, but what little drama that could be stirred up against it has been replaced with ire for the immigration law and I haven’t heard a peep against the carry law in any media recently.

Government Humor

The government recently released a report with recommendations for planning a response to a nuclear weapon being detonated in a US city.
On page 20, they describe the “no-go” zone — the region most directly affected by the nuclear blast and radiation — as follows: “The [no-go] zone might be depicted as a large concrete rubble area (with a very large hole in the middle)”
Seems like a pretty apt description to me…