Friday, May 23, 2003
1. NEW NUCLEAR WEAPONS: NO NUCLEAR TESTS UNLESS CONGRESS SAYS SO.
The once-secret Nuclear Posture Review called for development
of a new class of small nukes for bunker-busting (WN
15 Mar 02), but
newer studies indicate that high-yield earth-penetrating weapons might
be needed. No problem, the administration said, we'll just develop those too.
The first step was to lift the 1993 ban on low-yield weapons. Of course, new
weapons must still be tested. Efforts by the Democrats to retain the ban failed,
but they did succeed in passing an amendment that would require Congressional
approval before testing. The same requirement applies to the high-yield bunker
busters. That would seem to give Congress the power to block new weapons, but
observers note that since 9/11 it's
probably much easier to rally public support for testing.
2. PUBLIC SUPPORT: THE MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY COLORING BOOK.
This year's celebration of Public Service Recognition Week, we confess, slipped
by without our notice. It is celebrated each year during the first week of May
to honor government employees. We were reminded of our negligence this week when
we received a copy of the Missile Defense Agency Coloring Book, prepared just for
the occasion. The first page is President Ronald Reagan; it continues with an Aegis
missile being launched from a ship, and an airborne laser zapping an enemy missile
just after launch. You can't recruit your supporters too young. The coloring book
came complete with crayons, which were identified as "made
3. PRIVACY: PENTAGON RENAMES ITS INVASIVE SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM.
By any other name, this program still smells. Back in
January, the Senate banned deployment of the Total Information Awareness
Program, headed by the infamous John Poindexter of Iran Contra fame,
until the Pentagon provides an analysis of its impact on civil liberties
(WN 24 Jan 03). The Bush administration
tried again as part of an intelligence authorization bill with an even
more invasive version (WN
2 May 03). Same
result. Now it's back with a report and a new name: "Terrorist Information
Awareness Program." "The previous program," a spokesman said, "created
the impression that TIA was to be used for developing dossiers on U.S.
could people have gotten such an idea?
4. LIE DETECTORS: "I CAN'T HELP IT IF MY PREFRONTAL CORTEX LIED."
The only thing worse than a lie detector that doesn't work would be one that does.
The last bit of your privacy would be taken. Relax, we're
not there yet. Now that the National Academy of Sciences has effectively
trashed the polygraph (WN 18 Apr 03), alternative lie detectors are cropping
up. One, described in Technology Review for June, senses blood volume
and level of oxygenation in the prefrontal cortex. The claim is that
you have to think harder to lie, but we all know people for whom it seems
effortless. WN offers a one-year free subscription to the first person
who demonstrates he or she can beat it.