Posted by: Kevin | July 15, 2008

More Kickass News

Yesterday in Reuters:  

A U.S. watch list of terrorism suspects has passed 1 million records, corresponding to about 400,000 people, and a leading civil rights group said on Monday the number was far too high to be effective.

400,000 people, are you fucking kidding me!?!?!  How is it even possible to follow up on those kind of numbers? 

This is an excellent example of what happens when we unleash a mindless bureaucracy to solve complex problems.  The ultimate goal of a bureaucrat is to keep his/her job.  In this situation that means making sure that you cant be held responsible for some kind of terrorist act.  So if you have any doubt about someone, put him on the list.  There’s no cost to you to put him on the list but the potential cost if you don’t is huge.  Same for taking names off the list.  What if you’re wrong?  Better leave him on the list just to be safe.

The result is that the list gets huge and unmanageable.  Worse still, those unfortunate “false positive” cases get screwed because there is no cost to the bureaucracy for screwing them.  If anything, the organization is rewarded with a larger budget to help investigate all the individuals on the watch list. 

I don’t have any solutions to offer here.  I’ve been deeply skeptical of the Department of Homeland Security from the start.  Not because I believe it’s intentions are malevolent, simply because it was an attempt to solve a bureaucratic problem with another bureaucracy.  This seems like the logical result of such a poorly thought out solution.


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