Chris Soghoian Interview

My started a blog which comments on a recent local radio interview with computer researcher Chris Soghoian.

WFHB describes the interview this way:

Does the government’s “no-fly” list make air travel any safer? Do other supposed “security measures” really protect us from terrorists? Host Chad Carrothers spends an hour with Chris Soghoian, the Bloomington grad student who drew national attention when he set up a website that allowed visitors to print fake Northwest Airlines boarding passes in an effort to expose flaws in national security policy. The federal Transportation Security Administration forced him to take down the page and the FBI raided his Bloomington home and “borrowed” his computers and passport. Find out why Chris did what he did, his views on the role that researchers, academics, and common citizens take in studying, criticizing and pointing out the flaws in our security systems, and why he thinks the federal government hasn’t learned the intended lesson in this WFHB local radio exclusive.

I thought the WFHB interview was a disappointing though, becuase even if the way the U.S. views security is fundamentally flawed, and we aren’t made more safe, Chris still invests himself, both in terms of the time and energy of his research, and in terms of belief in the narrative of security. Fundamentally, this narrative of security suggests that there is an amorphous human threat set on harming and amorphous sense of “us”, and that we can do something to protect “ourselves” from it.  The thing that is troubling about this narrative of security is that it never fully aknowledges that the threats we perceive are from other humans, nor does it seek to understand those who we perceive as threatening in a way that is more complex (or even compassionate) than stereotypes or prejudices.  Stepping outside of that narrative, I find that the prospect of violence is still troubling, but that the motivations for violence can be quite rational and mirror motivations or violence that follows from my life, or its cultural context.  So, trying to protect myself from harm seems pretty futile, either personally, in belief in the idea of security, or through the proxy of goverment in waging wars or making policy decisions about airline regulations.  It seems far more likely that some kind of harm, either physical or psychological, will follow from these actions than some kind of harm will befall me as a result of a terrorist attack.  I hope that we can live our lives in a way that seeks to understand others, and seeks to change the relationship between people, or nation-states, or cultures that make violence and retaliation seem almost rational.

Tor, which is discussed at the end of the interview, is pretty awesome, however, at least from a technological standpoint.  It’s software that is fairly easy to use that allows you to anonymize your web (and other Internet) traffic. Still, I don’t want to get caught up in thinking of this cat and mouse game between government and individuals, repression and privacy.  I’d like to think that I’m accountable for the communication that I make and consume and that if I’m targetted for that, I can address it headlong and get support from my friends and community rather than having to hide things that are totally reasonable.

TMLE interview

Here’s a good interview with Spoons from a DC paper. I think it’s human and compelling and I hope Defiance, Ohio interviews sometimes come off this nice.


EXPRESS: Did you get to talk to [NOFX singer/Fat Wreck Chords chief] Fat Mike when you saw him at the Goons’ show?
SPOONBOY: No. I think he does really bad things with punk. I really don’t like Fat Wreck Chords or NOFX … for years and years Fat Wreck Chords was really apolitical, poppy and accessible and it became the face of punk, which is [a shame] because for me it’s a lot more of a politicized idea.More recently, since Bush was elected, it’s gotten a lot more politicized but it’s liberal politics that don’t get to the root of it. I don’t feel like Rock Against Bush makes any sense when Bush is just the symptom of systemic problems.

Fat Mike did the Punk Voter thing, but it’s just a recruiting campaign to get punk kids to vote Democrat. For me, punk is about rejecting power structures and having Punk Voter or Rock Against Bush is surrendering your power to these people. They’re Democrats, they’re a little to the left of Bush, but it’s still like, “Work for the system, surrender your power to these people.” It doesn’t seem punk to me. Punk Voter seems like an oxymoron.

EXPRESS: Does the rest of the band have the same politics?
SPOONBOY: Bepstein has different politics. I don’t believe in God; he’s pretty into Judaism. He thinks government is a good thing. More or less he wants to live the lifestyle he grew up in: suburban upper-middle class. That’s a pretty different from my point of view. But two people should be able to get along regardless of their politics as long as they’re not jerks.


So Oliver is trying to figure out what’s best for his kids, Stuse is working on an audio documentary about alternatives in education from the roadtrip of free schools and alternative schools she took in the spring, Ben is reading Teruvina’s copy of the Teenage Liberation Handbook, and Patrick’s friend Rich is working on a web portal designed to encourage science and engineering study for kids in Indiana, but seemingly lacking an underlying educational vision.  All of these things came up in the course of one weekend, which is a little crazy.  At least regarding Rich’s situation, I found this link on boingboing to the awesome Instructables website that shows a student in Ghana making his own headphones.  So, it seems like the science fair on the Internet with feedback model has some merit.  I think it speaks to one important idea – that kid-specific content and knowledge frameworks aren’t nearly as successful as kids finding an interface to real knowledge frameworks whether it’s the public library, Instructables, or Wikipedia.