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REALLYFOOLISHDATA.GOV



Published: Wed, April 3, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Los Angeles Times: White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. has directed all federal agencies to purge Web sites of information useful to terrorists. Hmm. Seems logical. Maybe even obvious. But then nothing is safely obvious when confronting bureaucracies and the kind of mindlessness that can infect groups of humans, even accountants, when they inhabit an office and start filing things.

In olden France, bureaucrats were esteemed for professionalism and intelligence. Their reputation suffered later over here. Recall the Immigration and Naturalization Service approving visas recently for two Arab hijackers, long dead along with their many victims. Here's why Card issued his memo: As late as February, according to the White House, at least four government Web sites carried detailed instructions on making explosives, building a germ factory, spreading contaminants and poisoning vast water s upplies. Read that last sentence again. Now, let's ponder together: This means that despite a September effort to remove sensitive information like pipeline routes, for five months after Sept. 11 federal Web sites disseminated instructions on developing weapons of mass destruction to anyone with a PC. What planet are those Web masters from?

Electronic coves: It's conceivable, theoretically, that government is suddenly so concerned with openness (except when the vice president meets with energy companies) that it simply dumped everything into millions of little electronic coves. And then plumb forgot about the bomb-making and plague-spreading recipes. We've all found forgotten things in a dresser drawer, though rarely with national security implications. But never mind Sept. 11. What are we doing spreading such information to any civilian at any time? Even if this information is available elsewhere on the Web. Wasn't one Timothy McVeigh sufficient? The United States is not up against the Grenada police force this time. Fanatical Al Qaeda operatives planned for years, even translating U.S. military training manuals. Does anyone think AlQaeda.org posts "Osama's Guide to Secure Caves" or "Tips to Combat Terrorists'?

So here, just to be clear, are some other items we probably don't want on federal Web sites: nuclear ICBM launch codes. Where the last smallpox germs are stored; who has the key. Map to the vice president's secret hideaway. How to build Special Forces radio scanners. Which U.S. ports have the weakest security. How to sink supertankers in harbor mouths. The precise movements of all missile subs. Shift change procedures at nuclear power plants and home phones of all security guards behind on mortgage payments. A countdown clock to the moment that U.S. fighters will stop patrolling over major cities.

Meanwhile, maybe Chief of Staff Card should send another memo, reminding federal agencies to clean out Web sites regularly, even without major terrorism acts, just as pretty much every homeowner cleans his garage.




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