Weekend Thoughts - 9.17.16

   Image  by  Rich Edwards , courtesy of  Creative Commons  licensing.

Image by Rich Edwards, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Happy Saturday y'all! Below, I have rounded up some things for you to think about this weekend:

1. The U.S. Federal government is planning to expand its ability to hack up to millions of machines with a single warrant, and unless Congress passes legislation to block Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the new rules will go into effect December 1st. Essentially, the government is claiming that it needs this expanded hacking authority to identify and investigate large networks of malware controlled by criminals, or what is known as a "botnet". These botnets have the ability to erase data on machines, such as hospital systems and personal cell phones and computers. However, the government has not provided a detailed explanation about its hacking tools and how it intends to use them, which could result in data loss caused by the FBI. There is no shortage of evidence that the government has (plausibly unintentionally) placed hacking tools in the hands of criminals in years past, and it could happen again. I would encourage anyone reading this to speak up about this to friends and family, and contact your local representatives in an effort to block Rule 41 from being used in the future.

2. A man who served in the U.S. Marines for four years was reportedly terminated from his post as a West Virginia police officer for neglecting to shoot and kill an armed civilian (with an unloaded gun that wasn't pointed at him) who was not threatening the man's safety. The former Marine was using his military training that taught him to assess "the whole person" before using deadly force. Military servicemen and women are provided with extensive firearm training, and there are strict rules concerning the rules of engagement with others. Identifying a weapon doesn't warrant shooting a suspect; each threat must be judged holistically to minimize risk. In addition to this is the concept that a gun should only be pointed at another person when its handler intends to kill the target. This is very different from modern police training: "Police training — though its content and length varies enormously across police departments — by and large does not prepare policemen to manage high-stress situations the way the military prepares its soldiers," The Washington Post reports. "Police training tends to be short and classroom-based, and rarely emphasizes deescalation." In addition, there is not as much legal accountability for police as there is for military members. The West Virginia police department placed the former Marine on administrative leave, investigated his actions, and terminated him in late June for "failing to eliminate a threat" and placing other officers' lives at risk. It seems that our police forces have a long way to go to catch up to the maturity of our military's firearm handling training and conflict deescalation practices.

That's all for this week's edition of Weekend Thoughts. Until next week, keep thinking wilder.