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No Charges for Pair Arrested in Ohio:

The two men arrested in Marietta, Ohio and accused aiding terrorism after they had purchased numerous cell phones and airport information was found in their car will not be charged after all, local prosecutors announced today.

Washington County Prosecutor James Schneider said he didn't have enough evidence to present the felony terrorism charges to a grand jury. He said in a news release he needed more information to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

The charges will be dropped at a hearing Tuesday in Marietta Municipal Court and a $200,000 bond reduced to $1,000 each, Schneider said in a phone interview. . . .

"At this time we didn't see a link that we could prove," Schneider said, adding he was referring to both terrorism in general and any specific group.

But Schneider said the investigation is open and he could still present evidence to a grand jury to pursue terrorism-related charges.

The two men are still charged with a misdemeanor count of falsification accusing them of lying about why they bought the phones, Schneider said.

Schneider said his office and federal authorities don't believe "the defendants pose an imminent threat at this time."

An attorney for one of the men welcomed the announcement.

"We're grateful the Washington County Prosecutor's Office has been willing to keep an open mind and look at all the evidence and make their decisions based on the evidence," said William Swor, a Michigan lawyer representing Ali Houssaiky of Dearborn, Mich.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. No Charges for Pair Arrested in Ohio:
  2. Update on Ohio Arrests:
  3. Another Terror Plot Foiled?
  4. The Foiled Plots:
DavidBernstein (mail):
Can someone enlighten me with regard to what non-crime related reason someone would buy dozens of cell phones, and then throw away the boxes and chargers? I know that the purchasers claimed they would resell them for more money, but (1) to whom? Why coldn't these others buy them at the same stores; and (2) why wouldn't the buyers want the boxes and chargers?
8.14.2006 11:30pm
liberty (mail) (www):
I guess it could be if they had a business with a dozen or two dozen people that needed to be in contact with each other. So they bought all the phones to hand out to the workers who will be spread out doing sales, e.g.

Very unlikely that this couldn't be easily proven if it were the case though.
8.14.2006 11:54pm
liberty (mail) (www):
oh, I didn't see that they threw away the chargers, yeah thats weird. Most people want to chrage their work cellphones.
8.14.2006 11:55pm
Just a guess:
Can someone enlighten me with regard to what non-crime related reason someone would buy dozens of cell phones, and then throw away the boxes and chargers? I know that the purchasers claimed they would resell them for more money, but (1) to whom? Why coldn't these others buy them at the same stores; and (2) why wouldn't the buyers want the boxes and chargers?

Perhaps for resale overseas. I was surprised reading this article just how much some phones are fetching in Iraq, which may also be true other places in the Middle East. And this might also explain why the chargers are worthless, if the standard outlets are a different voltage where the phones are resold.
8.15.2006 12:12am
Rohan Verghese (mail):
I'm not even sure what crime related reason you would need that many cellphones for. If it's as a signal for a bomb, surely you only need 2 or so. Why hundreds?

Honestly, it sounds more like a get-rich-quick scheme. Either some part of the phone, or maybe the phone card, could be resold for more of the cost of the phone.
8.15.2006 12:18am
Mahan Atma (mail):
And as we all know, the burden is on the defendants to prove their innocence.
8.15.2006 12:41am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
I find throwing away the chargers to be a mystery too, unless it has to do with the intended buyers not needing them or being able to use them. Thus, the other poster's suggestion of different voltages in the middle east could be right. I also question why a terrorist would need hundreds of cell phones to make bombs, unless he is planning to blow up hundreds of planes, or IEDs (both scary thoughts). I am sure the FBI will look into this and, for all the agency's problems, I trust the FBI more than local police to uncover a terrorism link, if there is one to be found.
8.15.2006 12:43am
Erasmussimo:
The nutcases here were all set to lynch these fellows. There were a few cool heads calling for calm and patience. Now that the DA has concluded that he has insufficient evidence to prosecute, people are still trying to prove something?!?! C'mon, guys, let's be reasonable. You were wrong to assume guilt. You jumped to conclusions with insufficient evidence. Now that your fantasies of terrorists prowling the aisles of Wal-Mart have been blown away, couldn't you at least learn a lesson about jumping to premature conclusions?
8.15.2006 12:43am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
The need for many of them is because a terrorist, certainly at least at the highest levels of Al Qaeda, can only make one call per phone before tossing it, to avoid interception by the NSA.

As for defendants and burdens and what not, this is an example of why we cannot fight terrorism with only the criminal justice system. Those men might be completely innocent. They also might be low-level runners for Al Qaeda. In the criminal justice system, they are innocent until proven guilty, and no action can be taken against them. If they are in league with terrorists, the only way to prosecute them would be to catch them in the act of turning the phones over to a known terrorist. And even then, Erasmussimo would ask what's illegal about giving somebody, even a terrorist, a bunch of cell phones you can buy at any Wal-Mart. Under the criminal justice system, we are powerless to act generally until the crime has already been committed, and we can take very little action against those who give necessary aid and comfort to the terrorists.
8.15.2006 1:01am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"As for defendants and burdens and what not, this is an example of why we cannot fight terrorism with only the criminal justice system. Those men might be completely innocent."

I see, so we have to assume they're guilty, even if they're innocent! Only then we will have been proven to have thwarted the terrorists! Neat trick, that.

By the way, did you see that the President of Iran, Mahmood Ahmandinejad, had his own BLOG? Yes! Check it out:

http://www.ahmadinejad.ir/

Notice how it lets you change the background color of the masthead. Even this site doesn't do that! HA!

Unfortunately, they keep censoring the comments I've added. Thank G*d we here in the U.S. are more open-minded and amenable to free discourse than tha--- Oh wait... never mind.
8.15.2006 1:08am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"Under the criminal justice system, we are powerless to act generally until the crime has already been committed..."

Right. What this country really needs is some kind of conspiracy statute. Maybe then the criminal justice system would be as powerful as we need it to be!
8.15.2006 1:10am
Erasmussimo:
And even then, Erasmussimo would ask what's illegal about giving somebody, even a terrorist, a bunch of cell phones you can buy at any Wal-Mart.

You know, the problem with idle speculation is that it's usually wrong, and the idle speculator usually ends up eating his words. No, I wouldn't ask that. What you're describing is a crime, and should be prosecuted as a crime. The law really does work, if you let it. The value of the law is that it protects innocent people from lynchmobs who are all too quick to string up somebody because their names are foreign.
8.15.2006 1:15am
Arvin (mail) (www):
Can one not even wonder if an unprosecuted defendant might be up to something bad? Yes, they're innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law, which is why they're not in prison. But if they really did something we'd consider unusual (like buy hundreds of cell phones and throw out the chargers), there's no reason we can't speculate and/or surveil.
8.15.2006 1:26am
Erasmussimo:
Arvin, sure we can speculate. But what's the difference between speculation and ugly gossip? Are you sure that there isn't a single thing in your past that, if taken out of context and made public, could become the source for all sorts of fascinating speculation? Innocent people have lost their jobs because of speculation like this. Let's stick to the facts.
8.15.2006 1:31am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"Can one not even wonder if an unprosecuted defendant might be up to something bad?"

What, you're not going along with the guy who thinks the presumption of innocence is what's wrong with the American justice system?

You people are gettin' soft, man. And that's just what the terrorists would want, dammit!
8.15.2006 1:36am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
It is a crime, Erasmussimo? Providing a bunch of pre-paid cell phones to some guy who's going to forward them on to some other guy, who's going to ship them off to Pakistan for use by Osama? How would we prove that the guys who were arrested knew that the guy they sold them to intended to use them to help terrorists communicate?

Kindly note that nowhere did I suggest these men should have been locked up and sent to Guantanamo. I simply pointed out that the criminal justice system is not well-suited toward stopping things before they become crimes. And when the crimes which are coming are massive acts of terrorism killing thousands of people, I would like to bring other tools to bear besides simply "catch and release" by local cops.
8.15.2006 1:37am
fishbane (mail):
But if they really did something we'd consider unusual (like buy hundreds of cell phones and throw out the chargers), there's no reason we can't speculate and/or surveil.

In fact, I'd like to propose a new club, called Safety Through Ametuer Surverillance Inc. If we could get a good number of solid, reliable citizens (30% or so of the population should do it) to keep a close eye on the, you know, less solid ones (like the kind who try to run businesses by reselling things in markets we don't understand), we could truly be safe. I think STASI could be a great success at keeping us free.
8.15.2006 1:43am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"I simply pointed out that the criminal justice system is not well-suited toward stopping things before they become crimes."

And of course, you simply ignored all the tools law enforcement actually has to stop things before they become crimes. Like Section 371, which is one of the most commonly employed statutes in the history of federal law enforcement.

But hey, don't let facts get in the way, now.

"And when the crimes which are coming are massive acts of terrorism killing thousands of people, I would like to bring other tools to bear besides simply 'catch and release' by local cops."

And there's nothing like assuming you're right to make your argument sound reasonable (to yourself, anyway.)
8.15.2006 1:49am
Arvin (mail) (www):
Erasmussimo,

Well, to me the difference is in the intention of the questioner / gossiper, and to that, one can look at the way the question is phrased. Obviously no one knows what lurks in the heart of the person asking / spreading rumors, but look at David Bernstein's first comment to this thread. It seems to be a request for information rather than a condemnation or an assumption of guilt.

To give an example: say I was one day arrested for cocaine possession, but then charges were dropped. It would not be out of line for someone to ask whether there could be non-criminal reasons for my possession of cocaine that would result in me geting arrested (and the answer would be of course, for research purposes, but perhaps I had misplaced my permit, which the police were later able to verify). It WOULD be out of line to throw me in prison without a conviction, and perhaps even to automatically assume criminal use (though the latter to a lesser extent).

And to fishbane: good luck with your club. I think we already have similar local groups though, called Neighborhood Watch. And if the only time you think we should pay attention to someone is when they out-and-out break the law instead of doing things we think are unusual, well, you're entitled to your opinion. Personally, I'd rather someone look into it. If it's discovered that there are no malintentions, then great. But I don't see the harm in asking the questions. As long as people are intelligent enough to realize the asking of questions doesn't automatically mean that the person being asked about is guilty.
8.15.2006 2:08am
sam24 (mail):
Is it OK if I don't invite them home for supper?
8.15.2006 2:37am
duran:
I read the following on another forum:


I think I have a little insider info since I do deal with cell phones at work from time to time. Here is the story:

Walmart sells various prepaid phones including Tracfone. Tracfone are the oldest (or at least one of the oldest) prepaid cell phone companies in the country. They used to use a system in which their phones were not usable with other services, only with their service. Since they changed to GSM, the phones can be 'flashed' and then used with any GSM company. Well, Walmart has some of these phones for $18.97 (nokia 1100) and there are many companies out there that pay up to $28-$32/piece for these phones. WHY? Well, Tracfone is subsidizing the cost of the phone because they think they can get their money back on the service. I have done it many many times. I still do it whenever I am not too busy doing something else. They were stripping the phones which is very common to save $$$ on shipping. These companies that buy the phones only want the phone and the battery. In case of the new phones Walmart is starting to sell (Motorola C139) the customers need the chargers too but they are taking off the boxes as well.



Link to post

I do not personnally know whether this is accurate information or not, but it certainly seems plausible.
8.15.2006 9:05am
Shangui (mail):
Personally, I'd rather someone look into it. If it's discovered that there are no malintentions, then great. But I don't see the harm in asking the questions. As long as people are intelligent enough to realize the asking of questions doesn't automatically mean that the person being asked about is guilty.

I don't have a problem with this, but "look into it" is very different from "arrest them and charge them with aiding terrorists and planning to blow up a bridge," especially when the authorities themselves said there were absolutely no ties between these guys and any known terrorist groups. If, in fact, they were planning to sell the phones to a front for Osama, wouldn't it have been much better to let the first stage of that happen and thus figure out another link in this possible chain?

Personally, I still think it's disgusting to arrest people for doing something that's perfectly legal when there is NOTHING else to suggest they are up to no good. The fact that one cannot think of a non-terrorism-related reason for doing this (see DB comment at top) is not good enough reason to arrest someone. Keep an eye on them? Yes. But that's pretty different.
8.15.2006 9:10am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Buying an equivalent phone in the UK costs me something over $50. If I knew how to flash a WalMart phone to do the same, I'd replace my half-dozen or so foreign phones with cheaper ones.

The rechargers that come with the WalMart phones don't work overseas without a transformer. That's more weight and more electronics than I want to carry.

This certainly looks like a market-driven operation by the phone-buyers. Of course, there's a downside to unregistered and unregulated phones. So how do we close that "loophole"?
8.15.2006 9:16am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Mahan, I'm well aware of the conspiracy statute, thank you. The proper citation, by the way, is 18 USC s. 371, not just "section 371", of which there are quite a few in the United States Code in different titles.

And I never said there were NO mechanisms in the law allowing us to prosecute someone before a crime was committed. I said that the criminal justice system is not generally suited to do so.

Suppose the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were all arrested a few weeks before then. Under your much-vaunted conspiracy statute, all they get is 5 years in prison. Not much deterrent force, there. And there's no guarantee they'd even get that much. There are idiots in the world out there, some of whom wind up on juries, who make disgusting comments even today like "boxcutters? Are you seriously telling me these planned to take over a plane with boxcutters? And fly it into the WTC? What are you smoking?"
8.15.2006 9:21am
Arvin (mail) (www):
Shangui says:
Personally, I still think it's disgusting to arrest people for doing something that's perfectly legal when there is NOTHING else to suggest they are up to no good.

I'd agree. Except, as reported, the arrest
comes after a traffic stop Tuesday led police to thousands of dollars in cash, several disposable cell phones and instructions of how to obtain private flight information. Police also found a list of flight passengers in the car.

"It also had information about airport checkpoints, and what would be accomplished there, so this is a little bit unusual," Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks says.

Is that enough for a conviction? I don't think it is. Obviously it wasn't even enough for the prosecutors to press charges. But I'd think it might be enough for an arrest.
8.15.2006 10:08am
goesh (mail):
Despite my deep suspicions of muslims in general, I must admit I believe these guys were thinking they could somehow get these phones back home, visit some relatives and make some money in the process.
8.15.2006 10:28am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Interesting point about the subsidy here in the US, and the profit overseas. Might even be possible.

I am told the Middle East's cultures are trading cultures. Seems to be the case. They seem to be the only ones who've figured out this way to make money fast and easy. The rest of us are dummies, it appears.

Not anything more than a coincidence that the phones in question have components useful for killing Americans and others who oppose jihad. Or, if it's not a coincidence, it's certainly not a problem for some.
8.15.2006 10:29am
18 USC 1030 (mail):
All the stuff related to flights was older information that was left there by a family member, who worked for an airline. Do I buy that? I'm not sure, but it seems to me that if this information was that which could actually be used to hint at a possible terrorist plot, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be let go now. It does worry me, however, that people that work for an airline can leave information like that laying around.

As to having that many phones, there are many reasons--those legitimate and those that are not. Many young people who want phones buy these because they don't require anything other than buying a phone and a prepaid card. Regular phones you generally need a contract and a credit card--something teens don't have. So does this explain needing 600 phones? No, but it does demonstrate that there is a possible demand for the phones.

Many criminals (drug dealers) use these phones in order to communicate and then get rid of the phones. Is this good? No, of course not. However, last I checked--even if they were providing the phones to drug dealers--this would not be terrorism.

Of course, we have all heard that these phones can be dismantled to be used as a detonator for bombs. And, terrorists can use the phones to communicate.

I think most likely, however, is the fact that these phones are quite expensive in other countries. Young people in other countries (in the middle east and elsewhere) like these phones for the same reason that students here do. However, they cost much more there than they do here, also indivdiuals here that go back "home" to visit wish to contact home, and need a reasonably affordable method to do so. Certain stores such as Walmart, Target, and Radio Shack sell these phones far cheaper than Cell phone stores. Thus, in many cases the phones are purchased there and sold elsewhere. In fact, Target has policy limiting the sale of large numbers of phones in order to prevent resellers from making money off them:

"At Target stores, customers are limited to a "reasonable amount," or about two prepaid phones each, said Ebony Moore, assistant manager for the Walker store. 'We don't want local retailers coming in, especially when they're on sale, and trying to get 15 here, or 15 at another location, then putting them on their own shelves,' Moore said."
Article also talks about the regularity of reselling these phones.

So, could this be for illegal purposes? Sure. But, could it be for legal purposes? yes.
8.15.2006 10:36am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
I suggested an answer in an earlier comment thread.

http://volokh.com/posts/1155298140.shtml#132301


One possible way to "buy phones at retail" in one of the cheapest countries in the world and make money would be to buy the phones for $20, pull the SIMs, unlock the phones, and sell them overseas for $40.


It looks like the UK prices for pay-as-you-go phones are down to about 29 quid + airtime. That's about $55 these days. The prices might be worse in Third World hell holes.

Disimtermediation is a definite possibility.

The US has some of the lowest prices on earth because of a large and very efficient market (including big-box stores) that has been a free trade zone for more than 200 years.

At the same time, we were late to the game in GSM adoption and mot Americans have never heard of a SIM. But anywhere else on earth you can buy any phone, go into any newsagent and buy a SIM and start using the phone. When you need more airtime, buy cards from any newsagent and feed your phone [Discussion of current UK anti-terror SIM purchase restrictions avoided for brevity].

TRAC phone hopes that people will not buy loads of their phones and ship them overseas (hence the 3-at-a-time purchase restrictions) but there are an awful lot of big box stores out there.

If you can make $20,000 for a few days work, the economics would work out.
8.15.2006 10:52am
Just me:
I can maybe see why the chargers are useless to those who'd buy the phones, esp. if abroad with different voltage.

But why throw them away? Aren't they worth something on ebay? If Tracfone uses Nokia models, then the chargers should work with many Nokia models, no? And there is a big market of people buying 2d chargers for home and office, etc.

So why just toss them, if you're in it for the cash?
8.15.2006 11:00am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Oh, not another Martha Stewart/Scooter Libby-esce case of a giving false information when there is no underlying crime?

This should be a lesson to us all: When asked inconvenient questions by a cop or prosecutor, while he or she won't like it, it's best to just politely decline to reply.
8.15.2006 11:18am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Duncan Frissell:

Discussion of current UK anti-terror SIM purchase restrictions avoided for brevity

Shame, I for one would find that very interesting.
8.15.2006 11:22am
Houston Lawyer:
A friend of a friend runs a prepaid cell phone company. They are handy for people with no or bad credit. They are also useful for those who are running from creditors, ex-wives and the law. There are apparently quite a few in the latter category.

The guys in question may be innocent or they may not. The DA is clearly doing his job. I'm sure that these guys are in somebody's surveilance folder somewhere now.
8.15.2006 11:33am
Mahlon:
Yeah, I guess I'm willing to risk it. What are the odds that these guys are actually terrorist runners shipping these phones to Iraq, Afghanistan, or Detroit for use in IEDs or for one-use communication. Yeah, we can take that risk, right? I mean just because these guys looked and acted like they were doing something wrong, that's not reason to take them in for quesstioning. Right??? Instead of wasting time on this stuff, we should have our law enforcement officers arresting 5-year olds for kicking teachers, right?

BULL%*&#

We're at war, people. Wake up.

If these guys were trying to make a legitimate buck, fine. But business carries risk. Unless they are idiots, they should know that in the current climate, being mistaken for a terrorist when acting like a terrorist is a very real risk.

If you want to take their word for what they were doing, I can't stop you. I can, and do, think you naive, however. It is a national tragedy that we are forced to look with suspicion on people who appear to be of a particular ethnic background, to question their motives at every turn. I, however, did not bring this necessity to pass. It would be an even greater national tragedy to fail to do so, and wake up one morning to something that makes 9/11 look petty.
8.15.2006 11:45am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Buying at big-box retail might give you a profit margin worth working for.
But why not buy wholesale?
These folks limit their orders to all the phones the store has. Then they go to another store.
It would be easier, and the cost of goods sold would be less, to buy all at once from a wholesaler.

Problem? Wholesalers keep too many records. May not take cash.

That nothing can be proven is not the same as not suspicious and worth keeping an eye on.

Remember, people, being an enemy of the US does not equal innocence.
8.15.2006 12:06pm
Unamused:
The rechargers that come with the WalMart phones don't work overseas without a transformer. That's more weight and more electronics than I want to carry.


Are you sure about that? Every electronic device I've bought in the last 6 years or so has a 100-240V/50-60Hz charger.
8.15.2006 12:14pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Buying at big-box retail might give you a profit margin worth working for. But why not buy wholesale? These folks limit their orders to all the phones the store has. Then they go to another store. It would be easier, and the cost of goods sold would be less, to buy all at once from a wholesaler.

Problem? Wholesalers keep too many records. May not take cash.


Agreed, that struck me as rather odd about their second story claiming that these were for resale over seas. It seems to me that you'd get them far cheaper and quicker if you bought them wholesale both in terms of the mark-up and not having to drive from place to place. Also those sorts of purchases would be easier to track for their employer reporting expenses so that these "legitimate businessmen" can dutifully report their income taxes. But as you said, a wholesaler might keep records of the transaction that a retail store wouldn't keep when dealing with a customer who paid in cash.
8.15.2006 12:27pm
Philistine (mail):
Why would a wholesaler sell an item as a loss-leader if he's not completely sure it's going to be offered as part of the package that makes him money?

It's one thing for a wholesaler to sell 500 itmes to Wal-Mart, or some store where the expectation is that it's going to be resold along with the service. It's another thing to sell it to some guy who's most likely buying the item to be sold without the service. That way, the wholesaler actually loses money on the deal.
8.15.2006 12:46pm
Erasmussimo:
Mahlon writes We're at war, people. Wake up.

I'd like to dispute this kind of reasoning. We are in a conflict, no doubt about that. But that conflict is nothing like a conventional war. We need to address it seriously. But to treat it like a conventional war is just as naive as to deny that a conflict exists. B52s and Abrams tanks are useless in this conflict. We must realize that this will be an extended conflict with no clear ending. Therefore, the kind of sacrifices that we can justifiably make in a conventional war are not appropriate to this situation. It's appropriate to ask the citizenry to sacrifice some of its freedoms for the well-defined duration of a conventional war. But it is an entirely different matter to suggest that we should relax Constitutional protections for an indefinite period. Down that path lies tyranny.

It is a national tragedy that we are forced to look with suspicion on people who appear to be of a particular ethnic background, to question their motives at every turn.

I find this reasoning pernicious. Racism is an act of volition, not something forced upon us. You are freely choosing to be racist. Don't blame your free choice upon others.
8.15.2006 12:50pm
The Arbusto Spectrum:
It is truly disappointing that a website that purports to be run and populated by Libertarians, who should be overjoyed by examples of entrepreneurs taking advantage of market arbitrage opportunities, are so frightened by the world that they want the government to clamp down on these activities simply because of the entrepreneurs' ethnicity.
8.15.2006 12:52pm
Ming the Merciless Siamese Cat (mail):
Unamused:

It may well be right about the chargers. The charger for my Sony Ericsson phone, purchased in Asia, doesn't work worth a damn when I am traveling in the US.

Like you, that surprised me.

As for purchasing the phones from a wholesaler. I'm not at all sure that a couple of dudes off the street could get a better wholesale price on a couple hundred phones than the retail price at Walmart. I assume that Walmart has driven its usual very hard bargain with its supplier (in China?) for millions of units and is selling the phone with little if any mark-up in anticipation of selling higher margin talk-time recharges.

Nor does it seem particularly likely that terrorists are going to have surrogates buy hundreds of phones in the US and ship them to where ever, thereby incurring unnecessary risks of being tracked and discovered, just to save a few bucks.

International phone market arbitrage sounds like the most likely explanation.
8.15.2006 1:14pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Aren't defendants who stand trial pronounced "not guilty" as opposed to "innocent?" Can't we stipulate that many defendants are found not guilty even though they did the crime (and I'm sure the converse is true, too)? If someone is murdered in a drive-by shooting, but no one is brought up on charges, does that mean everyone is innocent of the crime? Someone did it, even if no one is found guilty.

I also fail to understand why people protest "but they're innocent until proven guilty," when the context isn't a courtroom. I don't doubt the DA was correct in not pressing charges, but I also wouldn't be suprised if these guys were up to no good. My mind doesn't have to use "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" as it's standard in making judgements. It can use common sense. That said, I fully support the standard when someone's freedom is at stake.
8.15.2006 1:24pm
Lively:
Since these guys are just trying to make a profit...I hope the prosecutors pulled their tax returns and made sure the fellows are on the up and up. I think their story doesn't pass the smell test and there is something else going on.
8.15.2006 1:33pm
Erasmussimo:
I also fail to understand why people protest "but they're innocent until proven guilty," when the context isn't a courtroom.

You have a good point. The problem here is the state of our knowledge. When the DA decides not to prosecute, that is not a declaration of innocence, but a statement that guilt cannot be proven. Yes, such people could well be guilty. But -- and this is the key point -- any statements about guilt are mere idle speculation. What's the point of speculating? I could speculate that you molest and cannibalize small children, or you could speculate that I am an al-Qaeda terrorist attempting to subvert innocent Americans with my evil postings -- but such speculations are pointless because they are unfounded. We might as well be speculating about the size of Prince Charles' genitals. It's just idle gossip.
8.15.2006 1:54pm
SG:
While I agree that this is not your traditional nation-state conflict and is likely to drag on for quite awhile so we must be careful so as not too excessively lose our civil liberties.

But it seems to me that, given a well-founded desire for people to be safe, we're in a greater danger of losing our civil liberties by popular demand in the wake of attacks, successful or not. Look at what we now endure just to get on a plane.

It's a hard problem and a difficult balance to strike, but I don't think the current practice will hold. Another successful attack of any consequence, and the publicwill demand otherwise.

"You found a couple of young muslim men with a thousand cell phones? Paid for in cash? They threw away the chargers? Lock 'em up. We'll find charges later"

It doesn't mean I like it, but I can see it happening.
8.15.2006 2:01pm
te (mail):

but I also wouldn't be suprised if these guys were up to no good.

That's exactly why we need the ability to hold suspected terrorists without charges pending further investigation. No doubt they are doing SOMETHING wrong.

{sarcasm off} Anyway, I don't know anthing about this other than what I saw on TV (so that makes me an expert, too) but the wife of one of the guys said that they just bought and resold phones, that they had travelled so far because all of the phones locally were too expensive because other people were already doing the same thing, and that "if they can make $5 a phone, why not"? Or something like that.

The level of creeping paranoia displayed by some of the posts above is considerably more frightening than anything these guys were up to.

It seems to me that they were just engaging in a very low level of arbitrage. They find a cheap price on phones, buy as many as they can, and then resell them each for a couple of dollars more to people who aren't industrious enough to search out the cheaper prices. This sort of thing goes on all the time.

I was at a little store out in the middle of nowhere a few weeks ago and I noticed that they had cases of Kirkland Signature branded products for sale, which is the Costco house brand. I shop at Costco sometimes and they were selling things like baby formula in individual packages for about 3 or 4 times what you would pay at Costco. So here is someone who takes their truck and goes to Costco somewhere and buys cases and cases of things and then brings them back and sells them at outrageous prices to people who don't have the means or initiatve to drive all the way to Costco.

Except for the fear-huffing above, there is ZERO evidence that these guys were doing anything different than that.
8.15.2006 2:04pm
Huck (mail):
There are really some arbitrage chances internationally. Simple example: Apple sells the cheapest MacBook Pro in the US for $1999. Exaxtly the same sells in Germany for 1949 Euro.

1949 Euro ist (at 1.27 $/Euro) about 2475 $. Even after dutifully paying European import tax you get them more than 10% cheaper in the US.
8.15.2006 2:18pm
Huck (mail):

Are you sure about that? Every electronic device I've bought in the last 6 years or so has a 100-240V/50-60Hz charger.


You bought higher quality. A simple US charger (110V/60Hz only) may cost 2$, the multichargers you mention may cost 4$. If the product self is in the 20$ range and mainly sold in the US, there is much incentive to sell the cheaper.
8.15.2006 2:25pm
Erasmussimo:
SG, you're right to worry about the public losing its head in the aftermath of an attack and going overboard. Indeed, we've already done it with 9/11. Fortunately, the Founders foresaw exactly this problem (in fact, they expressed many concerns about it) and provided for it with the judiciary. One of the most important tasks of the judiciary is to put the brakes on wild excursions by the people. This leads to complaints about the judiciary frustrating the will of the people and the judiciary being anti-democratic. Such complaints are valid -- but they fail to appreciate the Constitution. Let's hope that the judiciary continues to keep the Republic on a steady course.
8.15.2006 2:29pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):

Every electronic device I've bought in the last 6 years or so has a 100-240V/50-60Hz charger.

But not phones because they want compact and super cheap chargers for commodity items like this.
8.15.2006 2:53pm
SG:
Erasmussimo:

That's certainly the plan (and my weren't the Founders prescient?). In practice...

Well, the Supreme Court is made up of American citizens. Some even fly back and forth to Europe on occassion. They are hopefully a little more judicious (pun intended) but they are not immune to the same fears as anybody else.

Or did the Supremes disallow the Japanese internment in WWII?
8.15.2006 2:54pm
Erasmussimo:
Yes, the Supreme Court makes mistakes -- plenty of them. But it's our strongest bulwark against panic.
8.15.2006 3:04pm
SeaLawyer:
There is no way that the cell phones where for this or to prevent the nsa from tapping their phones.
8.15.2006 3:04pm
Mahlon:
Erasmussimo, please do not change my words in an attempt to justify your naivete. I did not say we were in a conventional war. The battle we are waging is far more sinister.

Your comment does, however, have some merit. You at least acknowledge that this situation is entirely different from a conventional war. You further acknowlege that it is reasonable for some civil liberties to be suspended in conventional war, but advocate that to do so with the current enemy is inappropriate. In other words, you propose that when an enemy changes tactics so radically that the conflict cannot be called traditional war, that we, the attacked, may not alter our tactics to defend ourselves. You propose to permit the enemy to dictate our response by their selection of methods of attack. Instead, you want to employ the same system which protects those accused of speeding and jaywalking. They use suicide bombers and we'll use lawyers.

Brilliant!!

You then totally abandon logic in favor of a label. Because you disagree with my conclusions you call me a name - racist. Fine - if you're more comfortable with the label, so am I. I'm a racist, then. But I plan on being alive in a country that is free from savage murders by those who want to suppress my children's right to choose how to live and how to worship. I only want my daughter to wear a burka if she wants to do so.

By the way, I'll just skip over the part where you assume I treat (or think about) all Muslims the same. I, of course, didn't suggest we round up all the Muslims in the country and put them in camps. You apparently think doing so to Americans of Japanese descent in WWII was appropriate. I was just talking about two young Arab men, far from their home state, purchasing large quantities of known components for bombs under circumstances which appear suspicious.

By the way, what label would you apply to the men who flew the planes into the WTC and detonated bombs in London's subway system? Just curious.
8.15.2006 3:07pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
The total profit appears to be far more than $5/phone. TracFone sells the Nokia 2600 online for $20, with 120 anytime-anywhere minutes. Unlocked (no longer tied to TracFone), the phone itself sells for upwards of $80.

But if these kids where just doing the buying, for someone else handling the rest of the chain, they obviously only made a fraction of that.
8.15.2006 3:24pm
Erasmussimo:
Mahlon, I'm not sure that a discussion with you will prove constructive, but I'll give it a try.

In other words, you propose that when an enemy changes tactics so radically that the conflict cannot be called traditional war, that we, the attacked, may not alter our tactics to defend ourselves. You propose to permit the enemy to dictate our response by their selection of methods of attack. Instead, you want to employ the same system which protects those accused of speeding and jaywalking. They use suicide bombers and we'll use lawyers.

Gee, where did I say that?

I am surprised that you embrace racism so readily. The problem with racism is not that it is evil, but that is incorrect. Generalizations about people with different color skins usually turn out to be incorrect.

Please, let's keep this discussion cool. If you raise the temperature, I'll not engage you.
8.15.2006 3:45pm
SG:
To be clear, Islam is not a race. It is a system of beliefs. It is quite fair to make judgements about a system of beliefs. We do so all the time.
8.15.2006 4:03pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
Erasmussimo said:
Racism is an act of volition, not something forced upon us. You are freely choosing to be racist. Don't blame your free choice upon others

Racism, at its root, is believing something different about someone solely because of their race. This is NOT always incorrect. It IS racist, by its technical definition, to speculate that a black person is more likely to have sickle cell anemia than a white person (because I think this because of his race). But is it wrong? I don't think it is.

In the same way, is it wrong to say that a terrorist that would be a threat to the United States is MORE LIKELY (though not certainly) to be middle-eastern?

Now, it is true that no one has forced me to view middle easterners differently when on a plane. I chose to hold this view myself. But I hold this view because of past events. Is it likely that this middle-easterner on the plane is a terrorist? No. But if I had to pick ONE person to watch, and only one, who would be the most likely, in your opinion, all other things being equal?

No question, this is racist. But is it incorrect?

Now, it was not I who asked certain people of a certain ethnicity to fly planes into our buildings. Thus it was not I who created the situation in which I believe I've drawn the logical conclusion. It WAS my choice to draw this conclusion, rather than ignore the evidence for political sensibilities.

Now, another argument might be made regarding whether it is a good idea to profile because of the costs associated with it and all that, but I'm not sure one can say that based purely on the question of who is the more likely threat, profiling based on a person's race is incorrect in terms of finding the likely threat.
8.15.2006 4:18pm
zooba:
Mahlon: Hur hur why not just start up the enternment camps again.

Oh yea, because the "war" on terror will never end and that means life in prison for millions.

The same problems are present with your little idea. You basically suggest scrutiny by race for an indefinite period of time, creating a society of second class citizens.

And no one would be suggesting these guys were criminals but for their race. I'm awaiting the 42 USC 1983, but i'm sure the police would get off on qualified immunity.
8.15.2006 4:25pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Note:

The use of the term "racist" or "racism" as a manipulative scam is worn out. Has no legs.

That's because everybody has figured it out.
8.15.2006 4:40pm
BobN (mail):
Now, I haven't read every single post, but I don't think I saw a single one asking why exactly anyone should be allowed to manufacture or sell prepaid cell phones.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that many posters here would object to that infringement on commerce.
8.15.2006 5:14pm
BobN (mail):
Now, I haven't read every single post, but I don't think I saw a single one asking why exactly anyone should be allowed to manufacture or sell prepaid cell phones.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that many posters here would object to that infringement on commerce.
8.15.2006 5:15pm
Mahlon:
zooba - First, I don't know what "Hur hur" means. Second, the word is internment, not enternment. And I make no suggestion that we open camps again. In fact, I argue against them, albeit not directly. Finally, my "little idea" seems to be far less instrusive and damaging than internment camps.

You state that "no one would be suggesting these guys were criminals but for their race." Your statement is disingenuous. I stated quite clearly that the reason these men were identified was because of their behavior.

But now that you mention it, I do not have a problem with profiling. And once someone notices that little old asian women like to blow themselves up in crowded bus terminals, I'll advocate profiling them, too.
8.15.2006 5:26pm
Erasmussimo:
Arvin, here's your central logical error:

In the same way, is it wrong to say that a terrorist that would be a threat to the United States is MORE LIKELY (though not certainly) to be middle-eastern?

No, it's not wrong to say that. What *IS* wrong is to reverse the causality and declare that a Middle Easterner is more likely to be a terrorist than anybody else. In other words, if we already know that we have a terrorist in custody, and you ask me to estimate the chances that he is a middle-easterner, then it is reasonable for me to estimate that those chances are higher than the hypothesis that he is not a middle-easterner. However, you can't reverse that probability and apply it to any given Middle Easterner.
8.15.2006 5:30pm
SeaLawyer:

Now, I haven't read every single post, but I don't think I saw a single one asking why exactly anyone should be allowed to manufacture or sell prepaid cell phones.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that many posters here would object to that infringement on commerce.


Good point. In fact I have thought about having restrictions on these types of phones. For the simple reason that they are used more and more by the criminal element in our society and now are being used by terrorist. We already have a mountain of restrictions or bans on all sorts of products. At this point I am undecided on that issue.
8.15.2006 5:31pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
Several milennia from now, archaeologists will be going through our landfills and wonder why our society discarded so many possessions in relative good or re-usable condition. Must be because we are all terrorists.
8.15.2006 6:02pm
Erasmussimo:
I have no problem with Congress banning such telephones. Unfortunately, such a ban would apply only inside the United States; it would still be easy for foreign terrorists to obtain such telephones. Perhaps this could be addressed through international treaty -- although this Administration is not likely to have much success recruiting the assistance of foreign governments.
8.15.2006 6:50pm
SG:
Erasmussimo:


What *IS* wrong is to reverse the causality and declare that a Middle Easterner is more likely to be a terrorist than anybody else.



It may be possible to infer a higher likelihood of Middle Eastern person being a terrorist than anybody else, but there's not enough agreed upon data yet to make that statement.

But let's do a little back of the envelope calculations:

Let's say there are 2 million Middle Easterns in the country. On 9/11, 19 of them revealed themselves to be terrorists. This gives a p(terrorist|Middle Easter) = 19/2e6, or 9.5e-6.

There are approximately 30 million African Americans. The Beltway Sniper case revealed 2 to be terrorists. p(terrorist|African American) =6.67e-8

I believe there are approximately 40 million Hispanics. Jose Padilla is believed (albeit not proven) to be a terrorist. p(terrorist|hispanic) = 2.5e-8

Finally caucasians: Let's say 200 million. Of those, lets count the unibomber, Terry Nichols and whatshisface, and Johnny Lindh Walker. p(terrorist|Caucasian) = 2e-8.

We can repeat the exercise for the religion of the person. Say there are 2 million Muslims in the United States. 23 of the above mentioned people were Muslim, so p(terrorist| Muslim) = 1.15e-5

The converse: (p(terrorist|~Muslim) = 3/298 million = 1.007e-8

By these calculation, the likelihood of any particular person being at terrorist is quite low, but a person in the United States of Middle Eastern descent is roughly 2 orders of magnitude more likely to be a terrorst than someone not of Middle Eastern descent. The probablility of a Muslim being a terrorist vs a non-Muslim is 3 orders of magnitude.

Now I haven't don't have exact numbers so this is just back of the envelope. But I'd say it's pretty fair to judge that a Middle Eastern person, and certainly a Muslim, holds a measureably higher risk of being a terrorist than the converse.

I'd welcome corrections to the math or the data.
8.15.2006 7:01pm
Ruester:
Long time lurker, but this was too much....



I am surprised that you embrace racism so readily.....

If you raise the temperature, I'll not engage you.



Uhhh...Okay.

You say the man embraces racism, then demand "civility" with the "stick" of taking your ball and going home.

Frankly, I'm surprised that you embrace political correctness so readily at the risk of your own hide, and then use such childish tactics in an attempt to enforce your worldview.

Erasmissmiomomahdiinejad... you're not a serious person.
8.15.2006 7:58pm
Erasmussimo:
SG, it's funny, I went through the same calculations but stopped halfway through when I realized that the assumptions are false. What you're not taking into account is the fact that terrorists will do the exact same calculation and come to the same conclusion, and therefore take action to counter it. In other words, they know the same things we know, and they know that a Middle Easterner is more likely to draw attention than a white person, so they'll concentrate on recruiting somebody who doesn't look like a Middle Easterner. That means that every ounce of effort we put into looking harder at Middle Easterners is diverted away from looking for the real terrorist -- a serious blunder.

Racism isn't just unethical -- it leads to dangerously incorrect conclusions.
8.15.2006 8:01pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
Erasmussimo says:
What you're not taking into account is the fact that terrorists will do the exact same calculation and come to the same conclusion, and therefore take action to counter it. In other words, they know the same things we know, and they know that a Middle Easterner is more likely to draw attention than a white person, so they'll concentrate on recruiting somebody who doesn't look like a Middle Easterner. That means that every ounce of effort we put into looking harder at Middle Easterners is diverted away from looking for the real terrorist -- a serious blunder.

Racism isn't just unethical -- it leads to dangerously incorrect conclusions.

By your logic though, if we focus on all races and not just a few, terrorists will make another calculation, realizing that middle-easterners will now warrant the same speculation as someone Asian, white, or black. Therefore, since there are fewer middle-easterners in the country, they are less likely to be singled out for a search. And, because it is much easier for them to recruit middle-easterners than other races, they will do so. Consequently, if we focus on everyone, regardless of race, middle-eastern terrorists will continue to attack us.

Or, we might think that it would be harder to recruit non-middle-easterns into the cause -- not impossible, surely, but harder. And that these efforts might get them noticed more.

Regardless, this is a better source of inquiry, IMO: the EFFECTIVENESS of racial profiling. If it is not effective, there is no reason to do it, and part of the effect calculated can be the effect it has on the targetted community (e.g. someone on the edge of turning against the country might just be pushed over if people continually assume he's a terrorist) or the targetters themselves (e.g. the more you see someone as a threat because of their race, the more disharmony you sew between races). But racial profiling should not be discarded purely because it's racist, unless we also condemn Sickle Cell Anemia Awareness groups that don't also go to Chinatown.
8.15.2006 8:15pm
SG:
Erasmussimo, I've got to disagree. There's a couple advantages to focusing on the most statistically likely perpetrators.

One is that they are the most statistically likely. There's limited security resources, we should apply them were we get the most bang for the buck. The fact that terrorists could change their procedures doesn't mean they have changed their procedures. The current data does not suggest that they have.

Secondly, if we do get so successful at reducing Islamic terrorism through appropiately focused effort that they are forced to change their operational procedures, that change makes them easier to identify and stop in the future.

Terrorists so far seem to work in small cells of trusted members, generally co-worshippers at a mosque. If the jihadis have to start recruiting Rotary Club members because we've been so successful at surveiling and infiltrating mosques, then they've had to greatly increase their visibility and risk of detection.

FWIW, I look at the number and don't think the return is necessarily there on increasing scrutiny of Middle Easterners. I do believe it's there for increased scrutiny of Muslims, however.
8.15.2006 8:19pm
Ruester:

they know that a Middle Easterner is more likely to draw attention than a white person


Racist
8.15.2006 8:44pm
Erasmussimo:
The problem here is not that racial profiling closes a window -- it's that it opens up a new hole. If the terrorists know that little old ladies are going to get less scrutiny, you can guarantee that they'll put their efforts into recruiting little old ladies. They don't need to find little old ladies at the Women's Garden Club -- they need only find some Islamic little old ladies who would pass for white.

Another consideration is that you don't need to search every single person -- all you need to do is make the searches random enough to rob the terrorist of confidence that his plan will work. If you deviate from randomness, you give him an angle to exploit.

Next, there is the matter of alienating people. If we treat Islamic or Middle Eastern people more harshly than we treat white people, that will only breed more resentment and ultimately more terrorists. How do you know that the increased number of terrorists you might catch this way will be greater than the increased number of terrorists you might generate by doing so?

Lastly, there is a matter of perceived fairness. Suppose that they discovered, for some strange reason, that people with a wart on their right cheek turned out to have a higher probability of being terrorists. How you would you feel if you had a wart on your right cheek and were constantly being subjected to thorough searches while people with warts on their left cheeks sailed through unsearched?
8.15.2006 8:57pm
Brett Bellmore:
The suggestion that these phones should be banned because they can be used for illegal purposes would be laughable, if similar logic weren't used so often to ban or heavily regulate other items, also used almost exclusively for legal purposes.
8.15.2006 9:10pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
Yes, but how much harder is it to be able to find a little old lady willing to A) attempt to commandeer the plane or B) blow it up? Because, if it were that easy, don't you think they'd have tried? How much do you want to bet that even the politically correct TSA does not order the strip search of little old ladies, and that stuff hidden in their bras is probably pretty safe from detection?

Randomness does NOT mean that terrorists will therefore not try because they don't know who will be searched. I'd bet they'd play the odds.

And as to warts: if you could statistically show that people with warts on their right cheeks were more likely to blow up planes, I personally would not be offended that they did a more thorough check on my right-face-warted person, because I would understand why they did it. But again, that's a DIFFERENT question than whether we should abandon the policy simply because it's wartist. We are now asking about its effectiveness, which, IMO is the right question to ask. The effects of profiling based on warts can be taken into account, as stated in my last comment, but the point is that the wartist nature of the profiling should not be the only deciding factor.
8.15.2006 9:30pm
SG:
To be clear, I don't think anyone is suggesting that we only look at Middle Eastern looking folks to the exclusion of others. You're debating what's known as a "straw man".

And as I read you, you started to perform the calculations, and a priori decided that even looking at the data was invalid, because "terrorists will do the exact same calculation and [...] take action to counter it." I don't see any actual data to suggest that increased scrutiny wouldn't be effective (in conjunction with other random measures), just your assertion.

Is this an example of what you describe as "rational"? Because it really seems more faith-based. I'd like to see some, you know, data that applying greater scrutiny to Muslims would actively reduce our security. Failing some actual data, I'm compelled to reject your assertion on the grounds that it's logically absurd.
8.15.2006 9:56pm
Ruester:

If the terrorists know that little old ladies are going to get less scrutiny, you can guarantee that they'll put their efforts into recruiting little old ladies.


That's what I'd do. Utterly true. And utterly futile. But at least ErostheMussolini and I have found common ground.


Next, there is the matter of alienating people. If we treat Islamic or Middle Eastern people more harshly than we treat white people, that will only breed more resentment and ultimately more terrorists. How do you know that the increased number of terrorists you might catch this way will be greater than the increased number of terrorists you might generate by doing so?


Who cares? Talk about a strawman....


Lastly, there is a matter of perceived fairness. Suppose that they discovered, for some strange reason, that people with a wart on their right cheek turned out to have a higher probability of being terrorists. How you would you feel if you had a wart on your right cheek and were constantly being subjected to thorough searches while people with warts on their left cheeks sailed through unsearched?


"Perceived Fairness"?

You're out of your mind aren't you?

If skinny balding guys with obviously teutonic last names had made a habit of invading schools and stringing bombs between the basketball hoops while 1100 children sat in the gym, or liked to hijack aircraft and use them as flying bombs, or had a strange affiliation with self-immolation in Malaysian night clubs, not to mention redecorating Sbarro pizzerias, I'd EXPECT a little more scrutiny at Gate 11. We're not talking about warts. We're talking about culture. NOT RACE. NOT RELIGION. Culture.

Again, Ethanollinguini, you're not a serious person.
8.15.2006 10:50pm
Monty:
But let's do a little back of the envelope calculations:

Let's say there are 2 million Middle Easterns in the country. On 9/11, 19 of them revealed themselves to be terrorists. This gives a p(terrorist|Middle Easter) = 19/2e6, or 9.5e-6.

There are approximately 30 million African Americans. The Beltway Sniper case revealed 2 to be terrorists. p(terrorist|African American) =6.67e-8

I believe there are approximately 40 million Hispanics. Jose Padilla is believed (albeit not proven) to be a terrorist. p(terrorist|hispanic) = 2.5e-8

Finally caucasians: Let's say 200 million. Of those, lets count the unibomber, Terry Nichols and whatshisface, and Johnny Lindh Walker. p(terrorist|Caucasian) = 2e-8.

We can repeat the exercise for the religion of the person. Say there are 2 million Muslims in the United States. 23 of the above mentioned people were Muslim, so p(terrorist| Muslim) = 1.15e-5

The converse: (p(terrorist|~Muslim) = 3/298 million = 1.007e-8

By these calculation, the likelihood of any particular person being at terrorist is quite low, but a person in the United States of Middle Eastern descent is roughly 2 orders of magnitude more likely to be a terrorst than someone not of Middle Eastern descent. The probablility of a Muslim being a terrorist vs a non-Muslim is 3 orders of magnitude.

Now I haven't don't have exact numbers so this is just back of the envelope. But I'd say it's pretty fair to judge that a Middle Eastern person, and certainly a Muslim, holds a measureably higher risk of being a terrorist than the converse.

I'd welcome corrections to the math or the data.


Sorry, but that's faulty logic. Just because two kids at Columbine were murderers doesn't mean that a student from Columbine is anymore likely to be a murderer than a kid from Riverdale.
8.16.2006 1:17am
SG:
Nope, not faulty logic, but it is incomplete. Left unstated is that Islamic terrorism and Muslims have a non-zero correlation.

Proof of that is left as an exercise for the reader.
8.16.2006 1:37am
Erasmussimo:
SG writes, To be clear, I don't think anyone is suggesting that we only look at Middle Eastern looking folks to the exclusion of others. You're debating what's known as a "straw man".

Gee, that's what the initial poster was talking about: profiling Middle Eastern people. I am responding to his explicit statements, not some straw man.

And as I read you, you started to perform the calculations, and a priori decided that even looking at the data was invalid, because "terrorists will do the exact same calculation and [...] take action to counter it." I don't see any actual data to suggest that increased scrutiny wouldn't be effective (in conjunction with other random measures), just your assertion.

You misunderstand the logical process I went through. It's not the data that I rejected, it's the assumption you make in the calculation that the process of selecting terrorists is based exclusively on ethnicity. Neither of us have any actual data; we're both making assumptions about how terrorists are recruited. Your calculation is predicated on the assumption that they are recruited based solely on ethnicity. I assume that a rational terrorist who is aware of racial profiling will respond in a rational manner to evade the racial profiling; this would invalidate your calculation.
8.16.2006 1:58am
Ryan Waxx:
Erasmussimo, you are purposefully ignoring the operative phrase in the quote...

...to the exclusion of others.

Remember that part? You can read above to refresh your memory. That's the part that makes the difference, and by the way demolishes your argument. No wonder you try as hard as you can to ignore that clause.

You aren't just unserious, you're dishonest.
8.16.2006 2:24am
SG:
Erasmussimo:

There's lots of good ways to argue aginst profiling on ethnicity (try the 14th Ammendment) or religious practice (look to the 1st). Or you could argue against profiling on moral and ethical grounds (the Japanese internment). Or you could point out that that the American tradition is rich with examples of refusing to surrender out liberties to fear ("Give me liberty or give me death"). Or you could challenge the data I've put forth. Any of these could provide rich legal and/or rhetorical grounds for arguing against a policy of profiling.

But instead of any of that, you choose to misrepresent my argument ("profiling Middle Eastern people" [to the exclusion of others]), impute arguments to me that I never made ("Your calculation is predicated on the assumption that they are recruited based solely on ethnicity."), ignore the data that I have presented ("Neither of us have any actual data") and ignore the arguments that I've made ("if [profiling causes a] change [in] their operational procedures, that change makes them easier to identify and stop in the future.").

I don't know if you believe that you're presenting some sort of valid counterargument, but you do look exceptionally dishonest.
8.16.2006 3:10am
SG:
As a datapoint, the Brits are beginning to discuss profiling airline passengers

Key quote:

The passenger-profiling technique involves selecting people who are behaving suspiciously, have an unusual travel pattern or, most controversially, have a certain ethnic or religious background.


Perhaps someone should tell them that profiling doesn't work...
8.16.2006 3:18am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
1. One possible reason for ditching the chargers is that the users meant to use one set at a time, and then discard it, to prevent tracing, etc. You don't need a thousand chargers in that scenario, only a few.

2. The rest poses a problem that sometimes occurs in the law. I cannot see any innocent reason for this pattern of action. On the other hand, it's hard to see proof beyond a reasonable doubt of criminal reasons.
Had a case here where a guy was stopped, within a short distance of the border with Mexico, in possession of $10,000 in cash. Hard to see any legit reason for that.... on the other hand, it's a stretch to consider it clear proof that he was buying drugs. Government went with a forfieture action rather than a prosecution, and lost that, too.
8.16.2006 3:24am
Erasmussimo:
SG and Ryan Waxx, I don't continue discussions that have degenerated into mudslinging.
8.16.2006 11:25am
Ryan Waxx:
Ah, I see. So misrepresenting arguments, ignoring the parts you dislike of an argument, inventing strawmen, keeping the strawmen going after being corrected, etc isn't bad etiquitte but heaven forfend someone notices.

How... utterly predictable.
8.16.2006 11:36am
SG:
Erasmussimo:

If you feel that you're arguing in good faith perhaps you might want to consider why your arguments appear not to be to multiple people.

FWIW, I think you believe you're arguing in good faith (which is why I wrote that you "look" dishonest, not that you were), but you're not actually addressing the arguments that are being raised. If I felt you were arguing in bad faith, I wouldn't respond to you.
8.16.2006 1:32pm
Erasmussimo:
Well, chaps, I have been searching for a long time for a good place to discuss differences with conservatives. I have found a good local group where I meet face-to-face with several conservatives (one very far to the right), a libertarian, a pox-on-all-their-houses cynic, and a left winger. I greatly enjoy these meetings because the other participants are all older men who want to learn, not prove themselves. We discuss issues at length, and our disagreements are often deep but never sharp. I have learned a great deal from these men, and probably I have learned the most from the most conservative of them.

For several years I have attempted to find something similar on the Internet, but to no avail. It seems that the Internet is a place for argument, not discussion. I had high hopes that this site, run by academics, would be an exception. I am sad to say that, while the overall quality of commentary is superior to most blogs, it remains primarily a place of confrontation, not mutual respect. I shall have to continue my search elsewhere. Farewell, and best wishes.
8.16.2006 3:25pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Watch your ass - that screen door closes pretty fast. :)
8.16.2006 8:38pm
Ruester:
Wow, EroticMusselSoup, you are an incredible wimp.

And intellectually dishonest to boot.

Enjoy dhimmitude. I won't be joining you.

Yours,
Ruester
8.16.2006 8:48pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It is certainly possible that there are good and innocent reasons to have scores of cheap cell phones of a particular type, a huge amount of cash, and airline inside information.

But, as Damon Runyan said of a different issue, that's not the way to bet.

I expect the presumption of innocence would be a little less presumed if the perps were named, oh, say, Buford and Earl and were artificially bald and had a couple of tons of ammonium nitrate in the back of the peacup.

But there are lots of farmers named Buford and Earl, who use peacups, and ammonium nitrate. But that wouldn't be the way to bet.

My suggestion is that law enforcement is never unaware of where these guys are or who they're with. Not for the next half century.
8.16.2006 8:56pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
That would be the prudent course of action, Richard.
8.16.2006 9:38pm