Thursday, November 30, 2006



Wash. Post:
The U.S. government agreed yesterday to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit filed by an Oregon lawyer who was arrested and jailed for two weeks in 2004 after the FBI bungled a fingerprint match and mistakenly linked him to a terrorist attack in Spain. ...
This raises the question: What good is "information sharing" if the information is wrong? The courts may be wondering that, too. The Post says Mayfield can "continue pursuing his legal challenge to the constitutionality of the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law, which was used to obtain his personal records while he was under investigation."

There's a strong argument against the government's wide-net approach to problems like terrorism, and Darshak Sanghavi put it pretty succinctly yesterday in Slate:
[E]ven highly accurate screening tests have many false positives. Take a random airport test for cocaine that correctly identifies 99 percent of cocaine smugglers and correctly excludes 99 percent of nonsmugglers, and assume about 100 smugglers enter an airport of 100,000 passengers. Among smugglers, 99 would have a positive test, and one would be negative. But among law-abiding travelers, 999 would have false-positive tests. Thus, only 99 out of 1,098 people who test positive, or less than 10 percent, are real smugglers. So, a lot of innocent people endure fruitless internal body-cavity searches.
But then, what have you got to worry about, if you're not a smuggler.

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