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February 27, 2005

Letters, We Get Letters!

One thing I can say for popping up on the radar screen of wider blogdom every now and then; it gets you on some interesting email lists. I haven't seen this anywhere else yet, and I've no idea as to the email's accuracy or lack thereof when it comes to the situation(s) described. I'll look around. If I run across anything pertinent, I'll update the post.

Top O' The Post Update: I've moved the whole thing to the "Continue Reading" section, for reasons which will become apparent.

Another email, with almost the exact same headers, has appeared, this time shilling for Protest Warrior Brian Henderson. Another apparently faked mac.com address is used as well. I think I've gotten emails like this before, but I've never really paid attention. If today wasn't Sunday, usually the low point of the entire week when it comes to blogfodder, I probably would have ignored them this time as well. Popfile did accurately classify them as spam, after all.

I think what the two emails represent is the next generation of astroturfing. Rather than having some odd number of citizens send in almost the exact copy of a letter to the editor, someone has decided to spam bloggers with a variety of politically-themed emails. It's the use of astroturfing as a strategic weapon in the culture wars, a step up from its deployment two years ago as a tactical tool. Pretty clever, when it comes right down to it.

I wonder who's paying for it? And, as both of the emails this morning are obviously from the Right, is there an equivalent astroturfing operation on the Left?

I'm betting there isn't, at least for now. If it's successful, there will be.

AIR MARSHAL DIRECTOR FLYING AMERICA INTO NEXT DISASTER

By a front-line Federal Air Marshal

(The author remains anonymous out of fear of retaliation)

Governments like to keep secrets. This is a simple fact of life. There are things that the government says and does that they would rather not have disclosed to anyone other than those with a “need to know”. To this end, the government has created a whole series of “classifications” that dictate exactly who gets to know what. There are even parts of this classification system that are themselves classified to prevent people from revealing that that particular classification category is very important. The whole thing smacks of “Big Brother” and is enough to give anyone a headache. Believe it or not, there is a method to the madness: Information is power.

Our government goes to great lengths to protect certain types of information because it wants to keep our enemies in the dark. Why? The amount of information that you know about your enemy’s strengths and weaknesses can have an incredible impact on how well you can defend yourself and attack him. It’s just like having another football team’s playbook. If you know exactly what the other team plans to do in every possible situation, then your defense and offense will be able to stop the other guy cold and win the game.

This can be applied to almost any highly competitive activity: Baseball, business, stocks, courtroom litigation, and national defense. It’s the reason why our nation spends trillions of dollars on intelligence collection, and it’s also the reason why we try to guard our national defense secrets so closely. Everyone understands this.

Everyone except for Thomas Dewey Quinn and his management cronies. You see Thomas Dewey Quinn, the current Director of the US Federal Air Marshal Service, believes that the best way to defend our nation’s commercial airliners is by giving the bad guys our entire playbook. Thomas Dewey Quinn has allowed CNN (and other news networks) complete access to all of the Federal Air Marshal Service’s secrets (which is classified as “Sensitive Security Information” –– dissemination and discussion of which is strictly limited to US law enforcement and intelligence agencies only), and then Quinn authorized those same media outlets to release that information to the world.

To make matters worse, a high-ranking executive within Federal Air Marshal Service Headquarters, has now leaked information that Thomas Dewey Quinn has been providing national security information to civilians that have absolutely no need to know.

This latest leak provides photographs of country western singer Lyle Lovett and an unidentified woman being personally escorted by Thomas Dewey Quinn, through the high security areas of the Federal Air Marshal Service Headquarters secret training facility. The photos also show Quinn allowing Lovett and the unidentified woman access to the secret training facilities while Federal Air Marshals were practicing the very tactics that they may have to use to defend airliners from terrorists –– Quinn then allowed Lovett and his companion to participate in the secret training.

This type of abuse of authority has been going on for quite some time and has often involved several other high-ranking executives in the Federal Air Marshal Service (the Headquarters leak is now believed to have come from senior executives within the Service who realize that their own survival hinges upon the removal of Thomas Dewey Quinn, and the appointment of a more reasonable and stable Director).

Why would Thomas Dewey Quinn allow this to occur? Surely Quinn, a former executive in the US Secret Service, is well aware of the necessity to keep protective measures a secret. The US Secret Service would never allow anyone to know how their agents plan to protect the president in any scenario, let alone film those agents practicing the tactics they would use, and then release that information to the world. The US Secret Service will not even disclose whether or not the President's limo has armor or not. That type of classified information would jeopardize the safety of the President, and it would severely reduce the effectiveness of the US Secret Service as a law enforcement agency.

Yet this is exactly what Thomas Dewey Quinn has done to the men and women of the Federal Air Marshal Service. By revealing every little detail about their mission and methods, Quinn has placed the lives of the flying public in mortal danger. Even the Secret Service knows that a bunch of agents in pretty business suits can only go so far to protect someone. At least Secret Service agents have high altitude sniper/surveillance teams, move in large teams, wear body armor, utilize state-of-the-art equipment, and use radios to communicate.

Thomas Dewey Quinn unbelievably advertised to the world on the February 17th CNN video, that Federal Air Marshals, while in flight, CANNOT communicate with each other or the Mission Operations Center on their PDAs –– the very same PDAs Quinn personally acquisitioned himself! Can you say "DataMAX", the company that supplied the Service with the costly, yet faulty PDA software that has never functioned properly to this day?

The hard truth is that any terrorist willing to sacrifice their life, will succeed in an assassination attempt, because visible deterrence only works against people who ARE afraid to die. Organizations like Al Qaeda are feared by the US Secret Service because these people are not afraid to die and are not afraid to sacrifice 10, 20, or even a hundred people to overwhelm “the men in black” and achieve their goals (which is why the Secret Service does not allow its protectees into areas with this type of threat). This is exactly the type of threat that Federal Air Marshals face everyday, and the element of surprise is the most important advantage that they have to combat any threat.

Terrorists cannot plan a successful hijacking if they don’t know the specifics of who, where, how, or how many when dealing with Federal Air Marshals. Let’s face it, terrorists are very risk adverse. Terrorists will never attempt something that could become an embarrassment to them, and they will never attempt anything that they are not reasonably sure will succeed. Nothing hurts a terrorist cause like a news story talking about how “XXX Government Agency defeated yet another terrorist attack and demonstrated that the US homeland is secure.”

Federal Air Marshals are committed to defending the flying public with their last breath if necessary, and we owe it to them to give them every advantage necessary to ensure that 9/11 never happens again. Federal Air Marshals do their jobs every single day knowing that they may face overwhelming odds, and they accept this because they have unshakable faith in their training, skills, resolve, and personal dedication to those who died on 9/11.

The Federal Air Marshal motto of “Unseen, Unheard, and Undeterred” is a statement of pride among Federal Air Marshals (which in a fit of retribution against the rank and file for their fight against his foolish and dangerous policies, Quinn and his management cronies have officially bastardized their motto to now read “Unseen and Unheard”, ). The motto is still the basis of every Federal Air Marshal's protective value: The element of surprise allows them to overcome any challenge.

The damage that Thomas Dewey Quinn has done to the Air Marshal Service and national security of the United States is so irreparable that it is being compared to the damage inflicted by spies such as Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, and Julius & Ethel Rosenberg. Thomas Dewey Quinn has betrayed the agents of the Federal Air Marshal Service and provided Al Qaeda (and any other terrorist organization) with a step-by-step manual on how to spot, disable, defeat and kill Federal Air Marshals before they even know a hijacking has begun.

After 9/11 we all vowed to “Never Forget” the thousands of Americans who died on that day. Thomas Dewey Quinn and his executive management cronies of the Federal Air Marshal Service, have not only forgotten, they have betrayed an entire system dedicated to preventing another 9/11, and in doing so, they have betrayed the memories of our hollowed dead and of the United States of America.

Update: The anecdote about the Lyle Lovett tour is apparently true. The only thing I've been able to locate on the PDAs is this story from Geek news.

MSNBC News is reporting that the new air marshals assigned to passenger flights are having some issues with their PDAs. US$6.9 million was spent to outfit the marshals with wireless PDAs made by Palm. The specific devices were not identified, but apparently the plan was to allow marshals to communicate with one another while on flights. However, the devices were interfering with the cockpit instrument panel, and the marshals were asked not to use them.

Most of the rest is op-ed, so there's not really anything to verify. If anyone is interested in the original email headers, they've been slightly munged and posted below.

Return-path:
Received: from ms-mta-02-eri0 (ms-mta-02-eri0 [10.25.8.235])
by ms-mss-04.southeast.rr.com
(iPlanet Messaging Server 5.2 HotFix 1.21 (built Sep 8 2003))
with ESMTP id <0ICJ00K9FWPEJT@ms-mss-04.southeast.rr.com> for
BigWig AT nc.rr.com; Sat, 26 Feb 2005 22:36:50 -0500 (EST)
Received: from ncmx01.mgw.rr.com (ncmx01.mgw.rr.com [24.25.4.95])
by ms-mta-02.southeast.rr.com
(iPlanet Messaging Server 5.2 HotFix 1.21 (built Sep 8 2003))
with ESMTP id <0ICJ005FHWPEE1@ms-mta-02.southeast.rr.com> for BigWig AT nc.rr.com
(ORCPT BigWig AT nc.rr.com); Sat, 26 Feb 2005 22:36:50 -0500 (EST)
Received: from fed1rmmtao10.cox.net (fed1rmmtao10.cox.net [68.230.241.29])
by ncmx01.mgw.rr.com (8.12.10/8.12.8) with ESMTP id j1R3alsQ013338 for
; Sat, 26 Feb 2005 22:36:47 -0500 (EST)
Received: from [10.0.1.2] (really [68.108.125.233])
by fed1rmmtao10.cox.net (InterMail vM.6.01.04.00 201-2131-118-20041027)
with ESMTP id <20050227033644.DOAL2123.fed1rmmtao10.cox.net@[10.0.1.2]> for
; Sat, 26 Feb 2005 22:36:44 -0500
Date: Sat, 26 Feb 2005 19:36:46 -0800
From: Air Marshal ALERT
To: BigWig@nc.rr.com
Message-id: <24dc238a1c541a731e44646fa15407c6@mac.com>
MIME-version: 1.0 (Apple Message framework v619.2)
X-Mailer: Apple Mail (2.619.2)
Content-type: multipart/alternative; boundary=Apple-Mail-25-171703917
X-Virus-Scanned: Symantec AntiVirus Scan Engine
Original-recipient: rfc822;BigWig AT nc.rr.com
Subject:

Posted by Bigwig at February 27, 2005 09:43 AM | TrackBack
Postscript:
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.
Comments

Interesting that all this should happena dn that none would be any the wiser. Are we sure this newstory is credible as it sounds a little too unbelievable to accept.

Posted by: Mad House Madman at February 27, 2005 01:04 PM

I'm assuming you're talking about the air marshall story, rather than the astroturf attempt or the protest warrior. :)

Like I said in the post, the details seem to be true, and the rest is op-ed column. Take it with as much or as little salt as you like.

Posted by: bigwig at February 27, 2005 02:32 PM

You might be interested in Michelle Malkin's scathing post on Quinn here.

Kevin L. Connors
Editor, The Daily Brief

Posted by: Kevin L. Connors at February 27, 2005 03:43 PM

Re astroturfing. That fact that any of these astroturfed letters makes it onto a newspaper's opinion page speaks reams about the slovenliness of the journalism 'profession'. How many seconds would it take an opinion page editor to Google on a key phrase to determine if the letter is unique or part of a spam campaign? It is asking too much of newspaper editors to exercise a small amount of due diligence to ensure that they are not being conduits for spam? After all, these folks do make a claim to being professionals.

Posted by: MrGrumpyDrawers at February 27, 2005 05:03 PM

I received both of these emails myself, fwiw.

Posted by: John Behan at February 27, 2005 05:09 PM

Such a “comment”—with a slightly left tilt—was posted on my blog today. If you'd like me to email it to you I'd be happy to.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at February 27, 2005 10:39 PM

> How many seconds would it take an opinion page editor to Google on a key phrase to determine if the letter is unique or part of a spam campaign?

That won't help against competent letter campaigns.

If I arrange to have each paper receive the letter on the same day, there's a reasonable chance that all of them will have made the publish/not publish decision before the first one to go with "publish" hits the search engines.

Why? There's latency in both the editors office and the search engines. (The latter is significant. Example - "Nikki Cappelli" was a Googlewack until the Tuesday after the superbowl, even though it was one of the top queries on Superbowl Sunday and the following Monday AND folks started posting about it during the game.)

Assume that all papers make the "publish
the letter on the same day

Posted by: Andy Freeman at February 28, 2005 11:20 AM
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