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The Pentagon Got Punk'd!

Thursday, May. 25, 2006 1:36 AM

Experts at the Department of Defense have been well and truly punk'd.

In testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee earlier this month, DOD officials and contractors warned that al-Qaeda militants had modified video war games to portray U.S. troops as the bad guys, and cast heavily-armed Islamic militants as heroes.

"What we have seen is that any video game that comes out ... (al-Qaeda) will modify it and change the game for their needs," said Dan Devlin, a Defense Department public diplomacy specialist.

Committee members were then shown an alleged clip from a mod to Battlefield 2, a popular military video game published by Electronic Arts.

"I was just a boy when the infidels came to my village in Blackhawk helicopters," the narration states over a montage of running gunfights, explosions, and helicopter assaults.

But it turns out the footage is not modified, and the opening narration was lifted from the satirical comedy, Team America: World Police.


A school district in Illinois will require all students sign a pledge agreeing that evidence of "illegal or inappropriate" behavior posted on the internet could be grounds for disciplinary action. The concept being that, should a student blog about apocalyptic fantasies of turning the campus into a charnel house, or threatening harm to another student or teacher, that the school district's ThoughtPolice will dash into action.

One parent expressed her disapproval of the program. "I don't think they need to police what students are doing online. That's my job."

Associate Superintendent Prentiss Lea countered, "The concept that searching a blog site is an invasion of privacy is almost an oxymoron. It is called the World Wide Web."

But asserting authority over activities that exist outside of the school purview and physical premises? Questionable, at best.

Actually being able to read students' diaries and blogs? Highly impractical. Most blog sites, including LiveJournal and Diaryland, allow users to block access to a select group of friends. (Personally, I'd either start writing in code, or writing so as to make searches inefficient. Given, however, that disciplinary action might include suspension or expulsion, students choosing any of the above techniques do so at their own risk.)

And a follow up to yesterday's mention of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' latest lame defense of the NSA's alleged data-mining program.

Civil liberties lawyers are disputing Gonzales' legal reasoning � that phone call records qualify as 'business records' and do not enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy or 4th Amendment protections. They point out that while pen register collections may not violate the 4th Amendment, they do violate the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, as well as the USA PATRIOT Act.

We already know that the Bush Administration has flaunted FISA and ignored USA PATRIOT. The question is why Congress remains unwilling to exercise its power of oversight. (And, yes, I mean the barking sounds coming out of the offices of Pelosi, Conyers, and Feinstein.)

When the Chief Executive and his associates continue to flaunt the law, how many times must you assert his right to private counsel and approve the nominations of like-minded thieves and liars?

Insanity, it is said, consists of repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results.

We are not gracing President Bush with counselors of character or wisdom; we are freeing the inmates to run the asylum.

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