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Sunday, June 20, 2004

Fearful asymmetry

For me, warrants, by their very existence, resonate with asymmetrical power. And doubly so when new technology is involved. For example, if the techno-equivalent of a finger-tip search of a suspect's property could be carried out surreptitiously and without the use of actual finger-tips (and the human beings they're attached to) then a warrant for it becomes entirely a power statement. Whereas with the old technology the warrant effectively permitted the searchers to enter the property and the search to be made,with new technology it is more likely to be post facto notification that the search has been made. This most certainly alters the geometry of the risk.

In a perfect world a warrant would be seen as the rule of law's light

shining into murky corners. Maybe like Hans Blix's boys searching, on behalf of the world, for WMD in Saddam's Iraq. Warrants always seemed

blunt-weaponish things to me and technology makes them blunter. Today's

warrants are wrapped in the Patriot Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Uncertainty is anathema to power. One of new technology's roles is to reduce uncertainty and enhanced certainty inevitably leads to new power agendas outwith regulation. Powerful people and powerful organizations do things simply because they can do them. Warrant or no warrant.

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