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Friday, April 4, 2008

Detaining the Innocent

How efficient are the mechanisms of the War on Terror? In yesterday's New York Times, Jeffrey Rosen wrote, in a review of Eric Lichtblau's Bush's Law: The Remaking of American Justice, that Lichtblau alleges that of the 2,700 individuals locked up after 9/11 by American authorities, "[M]ost of those men were never shown to have connections to terrorism." Imagine a line of people 2,700 long. Most long movie lines comprise maybe a hundred or so at most. So a line of 2,700 people would be more than 25 times as long as a long movie line. Each to be locked up. Cheney's "law," according to Klein, is that if a person or situation represents a 1 percent potential terrorist threat, authorities must respond as if a 100 percent certainty of attack exists. That makes for a lot of interrogations and detentions, lucrative business for the myriad security contractors the government employs at taxpayer expense.

However, if just one of them had a micro-nuclear bomb in his knapsack . . . .

Hmmmn . . . .

Experience over time will enable us better to judge the probability of this. At this point it's hard to see how standard cost-efficiency models can be applied to the threat of mass destruction. What's the dollar-value of 10,000 lives? Or 100,000? Or one-eighth the population of New York, which would be 1,000,000 lives. How much damage would a micro-nuclear bomb do? Should we detonate one in the Nevada desert to try to gauge this? One always hears about nuclear suitcase-bombs but has anyone ever set one off? Do they work?

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