Ruin The assorted ramblings of Brendan Tobolaski

Confirmation Bias with Bulk Data Collection

But there’s another danger that Snowden didn’t mention that’s inherent in the government’s having easy access to the voluminous data we produce every day: It can imply guilt where there is none. When investigators have mountains of data on a particular target, it’s easy to see only the data points that confirm their theories — especially in counterterrorism investigations when the stakes are so high — while ignoring or downplaying the rest. There doesn’t have to be any particular malice on the part of investigators or analysts, although prejudice no doubt comes into play, just circumstantial evidence and the dangerous belief in their intuition. Social scientists refer to this phenomenon as confirmation bias, and when people are confronted with data overload, it’s much easier to weave the data into a narrative that substantiates what they already believe.
Matthew Harwood on Aljazeera America

This has been my concern since I first heard about the NSA’s bulk data collection. They seem to only be searching for evidence that would prove guilt and not collecting evidence that would prove innocence. The presumption of innocence is also gone. Of course, without any evidence of false prosecution, its only a concern, except:

Mayfield’s biographical details, particularly his religion and representation of an alleged terrorist, contributed to the FBI lab’s reluctance to re-examine the mistaken identification. According to the OIG, “One of the examiners candidly admitted that if the person identified had been someone without these characteristics, like the Maytag repairman, the laboratory might have revisited the identification with more skepticism and caught the error.”

This is awful. Its absurd that the primary evidence that led the FBI to suspect Mayfield, the fingerprints, were not actually his. Instead, they ignored that evidence and proceeded to build a case against him because of some circumstantial evidence. This should not happen under any condition.

US Government Thinks Trials are too hard

“It’s a significant risk … to say, ‘Oh well, we’ll just turn him over to the immigration service’” if a criminal case falls apart, said the prosecutor, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “You can’t count on the justice system working out just the way you want it to.”

One current federal terrorism prosecutor said the Ali case and the potential for his eventual release is another reason why foreign Al Qaeda suspects picked up overseas should not be brought to the United States but should instead be detained at Guantánamo or some other facility.

Josh Gerstein at Politico

Of course you can’t count on the courts to rule your way. That’s the way that it was designed. Its supposed to be a check on the rest of government. The prosecuters simply failed to make their case and, they lost. They can whine all they want but, this is the way that the system is supposed to work.

The thought that we should avoid trying accused terrorists in court is absurd. The prosecuters may not like that trials aren’t going their way but deciding that instead of trying them that they will simply hold them without trial is absurd and wrong. If we wish to punish these people for their alleged actions then the justice system needs to make their case in a trial. If they fail to do so then the only right thing to do is to let them go

US considers killing a citizen

An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, US officials say, and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year.

The CIA drones watching him cannot strike, because he’s a US citizen and the Justice Department must build a case against him, a task it hasn’t completed.

The Guardian

Of course they have to make a case against him. It isn’t and should not be legal for the government to kill a citizen without a conviction. If they wish to proceed with a legal case against him. He needs to have the opportunity to defend himself as guaranteed by the fifth amendment.