August 2nd, 2006

Usenix Security 2006.

I'm in Vancouver attending Usenix Security 2006. It's beautiful here — the weather is perfect, we're right next to the water and mountains, and i'm surrounded by all these nice and good-looking Canadians.

Richard Clarke gave the keynote talk this morning. The five-year anniversary of September 11, 2001 is approaching, and according to Clarke, the United States has mostly wasted these five years. He recounted how, the day after 9/11, Bush asked him for an organizational chart of Al Qaeda, with the goal of putting red Xs through all the top-level managers as each was captured or killed. Clarke recommended the movie The Battle of Algiers as a depiction of what happened to the French when they tried to do just the same kind of thing in Algeria, and lost the war despite having captured or killed all of the important people they targeted, because in the process they generated so much hatred and resentment that a new second generation of terrorists grew up hating the French.

According to Clarke, terrorism should be addressed through intelligence, law enforcement, diplomacy, and public relations — it's not a military problem. But when all you have is a hammer (read "large conventional military force"), everything looks like a nail. Apparently, in the White House bunker after 9/11, Donald Rumsfeld actually said we needed to bomb Iraq because there weren't enough things to bomb in Afghanistan. Clarke thought he was joking.

The title of Clarke's book, "Against All Enemies", is from the oath that naturalized United States citizens and government officers take to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. In the United States, it is a civic duty to watch out for domestic enemies of the constitution.