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May 25, 2022

Wednesday Morning Rant [Joe Mannix]

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Ignorant Techno-Policing

Over the past year, there have been some startling revelations about government and technology and how the government uses technology to achieve its ends. The common theme in all of it is the rank incompetence and profound ignorance that seems to permeate every interface between policing and technology. The examples that come immediately to mind are the Rittenhouse and Sussman trials.

During the Rittenhouse trial, I was horrified to see how lackadaisical people are with data and their gross overestimation of their own knowledge and expertise. The DA and his team were tossing files back and forth as E-Mail or SMS attachments. No good chain of custody, no verification that the files were unchanged, no robust protocol. This is unacceptable, and no technically-savvy organization would permit such behavior. When the police enhanced a video clip that ostensibly showed Rittenhouse doing ... something, the defense challenged it and the police put their expert up for questioning. The defense dismantled him.


He was not an expert, he was an operator who used software he had been trained to use. He didn't know how the software worked, and he didn't understand what underlying technologies were used. He just knew how to click the buttons and produce an output. Everyone involved in the prosecution was a technological cargo-cultist. They went through the motions but they didn't know how anything worked. Despite their profound ignorance and blind trust, however, they were thoroughly convinced they knew everything. They called themselves experts and then got humiliated by non-expert outsiders who trapped them with their own ignorance.

The revelations around the Sussman trial do nothing to improve the perception that these people are incompetent and not motivated by justice. The entire "secret connections to Alfa Bank" was predicated not on some known data channel or evidence that Trump's businesses were colluding with Russian information ops, but instead was based on misunderstanding communications related to E-Mail spam. Per my understanding, someone at Alfa was on a mailing list for spam. This is not nefarious. In this case the feds - unlike the locals in the Rittenhouse case - did have people with enough expertise to question this. These people were ignored, because it was good enough to keep pushing forward with their crimes and besides, they knew in their guts that Trump was guilty and so the ends justified the means - and it looked great to people who don't know anything. Very high-tech.

These people who have the gall to convert a republic into a technocratic police state are also ignorant and stupid in their chosen domain. Technology is magic, and it says what they want it to say. Anyone who questions it from the inside is ignored and anyone who questions it from the outside is called a white supremacist. They're not experts. They're not even armchair enthusiasts. They just press the buttons and railroad their opponents. They don't understand (or they ignore) "garbage in, garbage out" and fall back on "the computer says he's guilty!"

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posted by Open Blogger at 11:00 AM

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