Barry Eisler

Monday, January 30, 2017

Predictably, ISIS is cheering Trump's Muslim ban (actually, not just predictably. Predicted). Yes, I know, it's not really a Muslim ban. You don't have to convince me. Convince the people ISIS is recruiting with it.

It's not just that targeting refugees, immigrants, and green card holders based on their religion is capricious and cruel. It's that it's dangerous. Once again, the people wrapping themselves most ostentatiously in the flag of national security are the ones who create the most hazards--to the citizenry and to the republic.

When you're about to do the very thing your enemy most ardently hopes you'll do, it doesn't mean ipso facto your move is dumb. But it ought to give you pause, at least.
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Friday, January 13, 2017

Defense Against Foreign Danger; Instruments of Tyranny at Home

Consider the way tools of national (in)security policy initially deployed abroad inevitably find their way home: bulk surveillance, black sites, torture, police militarization.

Now consider that one of the CIA’s long-practiced core competencies is undermining regimes it deems threatening or otherwise unfavorable.

James Madison said, The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home. Is it possible he was on to something?

Nah, thats crazy. Only Putin could ever interfere with the sanctity of American democracy.
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Friday, November 25, 2016

Another Chance to Get It Right

Anyone who knows the work of novelist Andrew Vachss will recognize his influence on my latest novel, Livia Lone (along with that of his wife, former sex crimes prosecutor Alice Vachss).

I've read most of Vachss's books, but there's one I missed, called Another Chance to Get It Right: A Children's Book for Adults, that was just reissued in a stunning new edition. It's a short read, with gorgeous illustrations, most of them graphic-novel style, and deals with Vachss's signature subject of child protection.

I've been getting a lot of good feedback about Livia Lone, including comparisons to Vachss's work, which is enormously flattering to me. Various people, moved by the story, have asked how they can fight human trafficking and child abuse. Well, unsurprisingly, the best child-protection initiative I’m aware of has been spearheaded by Vachss himself. It’s called The Legislative Drafting Institute for Child Protection, and anyone who wants to help protect children from the sorts of horrors I depict in Livia Lone can do simply by financing the work of the LDICP. I’ve done so myself and hope anyone reading this post will do so, too. For a few mouse clicks and whatever money you can spare, you can help accomplish a lot of good in the world.

Do it now, while it's on your mind. You can think of it as another chance to get it right.
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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Why Torture is Now De Facto a Policy Choice, Not a Crime

Absolutely not a surprise that Mike Pence refuses to rule out torture in a Trump administration.

I've been writing about this since 2009. Obama had a duty to prosecute torture; instead, he decided to "look forward as opposed to looking backward," rendering torture a de facto policy choice instead of a crime.

If President X has the power to prohibit torture, it follows that President Y has the power to permit it. Well, now we have President Y. This was not only predictable; it was predicted.
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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Every 25 Seconds, Cops Arrest Someone for Drug Possession

I urge you to read this article by Alice Speri in the Intercept. 89,000 people jailed--no, not per year, per day.

The war on some drugs is fantastically cruel, counterproductive, self-inflicted insanity. If it were enforced across the board--rather than disproportionately against minorities--two thirds of America's adult population would be in prison.

People who support this madness: would you feel the same way if your kid decided to try a joint and wound up arrested, tried, imprisoned, permanently denied the right to vote even after released and with a permanent felon record afterward? Could you really support prohibition if you knew it would do all that to your own child, rather than assuming that kind of thing only happens to the children of others?

I wish someone would ask this of candidates for high office. But we can at least ask ourselves.
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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Prohibition Propaganda

Yes, the 1950's level of fear-mongering and bullshit is part of what makes this Diane Feinstein op-ed such an embarrassment. But the real propaganda lies in what's missing: zero consideration of the costs of the status quo the senator prefers--AKA, prohibition.

When rational people evaluate policies, they intuitively know to weigh the costs and benefits of the available alternatives. When someone insists on discussing only the (arguable) costs of only one of the alternatives, that person has abandoned rationality--or is a deliberate propagandist.

Californians, ignore the fear-mongering and the bullshit and the unreason. Rebuke the dinosaurs. Vote YES on Proposition 64 on Nov. 8.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Snowden, the Movie

Gripping drama, potent activism—guest blogging about Oliver Stone’s Snowden biopic over at BoingBoing today.

"The movie succeeded splendidly as popular entertainment. But there’s another level worth discussing, too.

"Logically, it shouldn’t particularly matter who Snowden is. His background, his formative experiences, his motivations, his life—none of these is relevant compared to what we’ve learned from him: that the US government developed and deployed an unprecedented and illegal system of mass surveillance, foreign and domestic; that the head of the US intelligence apparatus was lying about this system in sworn testimony before a Senate oversight committee; that the NSA has been subverting the very encryption standards upon which Internet security—banking, shopping, medical, everything—depends. And so much more. In the face of government actions as toxic to democracy as these, who brought the actions to our attention seems of distinctly secondary importance.

"And yet, I know as a novelist that we humans are wired to focus more on who than we are than what. If I can get you to care sufficiently deeply about my characters, for example, I can afflict them with only the most trivial travails and you’ll still be entertained. Conversely, if you don’t care about my characters, I can put in play the fate of all of civilization and you probably won’t even finish the book. There’s something about our species that makes us understand “what” at least partially through the prism of “who.” This is why so many people give the candidate of their preferred party so much latitude to violate their own party’s stated principles. When your party’s the one doing it, it just feels different.

"So it's no surprise that..."

Read the whole thing over at Boing Boing.
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