Information Warfare: March 18, 2004

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In 1962, the U.S. Patent Office issued a patent (number 3,060,165) for a process that turns ricin (a poison made from Castor beans) into a biological weapon. Not a very effective biological weapon, but a weapon nonetheless. Until last year, that patent (in particular, the documents describing the process covered in the patent) were available at the Patent Office's web site (uspto.gov). No more. But the information is available on many other web sites (espacenet.net, a site run by the European Patent Organization, for example.) U.S. government agencies have, since September 11, 2001, been removing material from their web sites that "might be useful to the enemy." The fact that the information is also available elsewhere on the web is not a factor. That's because those in charge of U.S. government web sites are not responsible for sites in foreign countries, and "cleansing" their own sites makes them largely immune to attacks from the media for "assisting terrorists." The enemy in this case is not terrorists, but the media, and the damage they do to ones reputation and career prospects. As a result, much information of legitimate use to people in, and out, of the government, has been removed from the internet. Some of this stuff is now available to people with a .mil or .gov email address (who are granted password access to the sites), but a lot of information is simply gone. Well, not completely. Much, if not most, of it is available on other sites outside the United States. But that's not what this is all about. It's all about the constant information war between the media and government bureaucrats fearful of being tagged as not doing their jobs.

 


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