Emergency Services? Not For Me, Thanks.

Firefighters and emergency service workers are to be yet another set of set of eyes and ears on the domestic front of the War on Terra, at least under a new program. If this spreads nationwide, I’m afraid I’m going to have to pass on the services of local public safety agencies.

Among the things firefighters and EMS/EMT members are to be on the lookout for are “…firearms or weapons boxes; surveillance equipment; still and video cameras; night-vision goggles; maps, photos, blueprints; police manuals, training manuals…” and flight manuals. Hmmn, let’s see: I’ve got a couple of mil-surplus ammo cans, and more cameras than you can shake a stick at. I’m not sure what constitutes “surveillance equipment”, but between a couple pairs of binoculars, a monocular or two, and some portable audio-recording equipment and microphones, I’ve probably got something adequately “suspicious”. I’m a photographer, so photos are a given; I also have a bunch of maps, including a bunch of government and military maps and charts – many of which, purchased before “everything changed” on 9/11/01, are no longer available to the public. I have some blueprints on my computer (including, OMG, those of several bridges, from when I was researching the I-35W bridge collapse), and scattered throughout my thousands of books are a number of “training manuals” of various sorts, including a couple of “police manuals”; let’s not even go into all the military training and reference publications on my computers. Last but not least, somewhere in the aforementioned mountain range of books is a pilot’s manual – admittedly, it’s for a P-51/F-51 Mustang, but, still. Taken at face value, these guidelines would suggest I’m a prime AOT-DT suspect, something I hope I need not add, that is far from true.

How about “little or no furniture other than a bed or mattress”? That describes many of the people living in tenements throughout this city, including most of the tenants of my former slumlord, er, landlord.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not fundamentally opposed to this idea, nor the old citizen-spy program that disappeared quietly a few years ago, because both are potentially useful, low-impact methods of information collection. The flaw, as far as I can tell, is that these programs always include too much enemies-are-everywhere paranoia, and far, far too little training. Are emergency services personnel being taught how to differentiate between the equipment of a meth cook, and that of a homebrewer? When they see my junk drawer full of electrical components, is their first instinct “electrical hobbyist”, rather than “bomb maker”? Sadly, probably not. So far, it always comes down to “report whatever you think is suspicious” – but this is one area where amateurs with dubious judgment probably shouldn’t be left to their own devices. Without meaningful direction, this sort of thing is nothing more than HUMINT data-mining…

(H/T to Bruce Schneier.)

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General, Security | on November 27th, 2007| Comments Off on Emergency Services? Not For Me, Thanks.

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