Effect Measure

I know there are readers here who will say this is the “price of freedom” or some such nonsense. But give me a break. The father-in-law of a Swede didn’t want him to travel, so he dropped a dime on him to the FBI, saying he had links to al Qaeda:

When the husband refused to stay home, his father-in-law wrote an email to the FBI saying the son-in-law had links to al-Qaeda in Sweden and that he was travelling to the US to meet his contacts.

He provided information on the flight number and date of arrival in the US.

The son-in-law was arrested upon landing in Florida. He was placed in handcuffs, interrogated and placed in a cell for 11 hours before being put on a flight back to Europe, the paper said. (Agence France Presse via Yahoo, h/t Boingboing)

The Swedish authorities are a bit saner and are charging the father-in-law with aggravated libel. The father-in-law is one stupid sonofabitch, no question. But he has a plausible defense:

He has admitted sending the email, but said he didn’t think “the authorities were so stupid that they would believe anything. But apparently they are.”

He said he “couldn’t help the US authorities’ paranoid reaction”.

On second thought, maybe it’s not such a good defense. How could he think US authorities weren’t that stupid?


  1. #1 RM
    November 7, 2007

    I think the father-in-law’s comments are a CYA tactic – if he didn’t think they were going to believe the email, why’d he send it?

  2. #2 M. Randolph Kruger
    November 7, 2007

    I with RM. If we are so vilified in the EU as being paranoid the kid was lucky he wasnt Tasered, waterboarded, his tennis shoes confiscated and an anal probe shoved up his tail.

  3. #3 Caledonian
    November 7, 2007

    As much as the rest of the world likes to mock our litigious approach to the world, this man needs to take a page from the US’s playbook and sue his father-in-law.

    As for the US authorities… they’re likely to be immune from any appropriate punishments.

  4. #4 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    November 7, 2007

    Oh, he can sue.

    Two problems:
    1. Swedish court systems works with semi-professional groups instead of random jurors, so you see some bad systematics in which cases are summarily dismissed or not.

    2. In a non-litigious culture, you can’t get money worth damn, and a symbolic victory doesn’t mean enough. (This is slowly changing, so there is hope for an efficient civil court system yet.)

  5. #5 Caledonian
    November 7, 2007

    Swedish court systems works with semi-professional groups instead of random jurors, so you see some bad systematics in which cases are summarily dismissed or not.

    It’s not obvious to me that random selection is any better, although if the juror pool is small and known, I guess litigants could try to game the system by examining past decisionmaking. It’s much harder to manage that in the US – although the lawyers certainly try.

    In a non-litigious culture, you can’t get money worth damn

    Hmm. Is the inability to punish people through lawsuits compensated for by the greater number of laws against things, in your opinion?

  6. #6 Janne
    November 7, 2007

    Torbjörn is rather negative there. As far as lawsuits go, the Swedish system works pretty well. We don’t have a jury system (that’s an Anglosaxon tradition). Instead the sitting court is a mix of judges and appointed lay judges serving for a period, with lay judges in the majority at lower court and judges in the upper.

    And as for law suit awards, no, we can’t get huge amounts. You can get renumerated for any costs incurred for the damage, and you get awards for the anguish and stress. But since medical care is very low-cost, for instance, you don’t get awarded much for that in contrast to the US (where the cost of medical treatment can be a substantial portion of those huge sums). As for the punitive damage that will generally come out as a fine, paid to the state, not paid to the injured party. Which makes some sense; if it’s a punishment, it should be a fine just as fos other crimes and misdemeanors, and why should the injured party benefit from it over and above the already awarded compensation for damages and anguish?

  7. #7 Caledonian
    November 8, 2007

    Because it’s not a good idea to set the State to make a judgement that the State directly benefits from?

  8. #8 neal
    November 8, 2007

    Why do you take every opportunity to slam the the US government or US law enforcement officials? What if this fellow really was al Qaeda and was coming to the US to cause more death and destruction, and the US officials did not take the tip seriously and did not arrest him? What if he was successful in a terrorist endeavor? What if it was your family that suffered the consequences? What would you have to say then? Just looking at the other side of the story…

  9. #9 daedalus2u
    November 8, 2007

    You might want to look at this blog (and related links) about just how the US justice system works.


    Threatening to have a man’s family in Egypt tortured unless he confesses to something he had no part in.

    Then cover it up.

    Neal, if they had tortured him enough, they would have been able to get him to confess. That makes the torture ok, doesn’t it? Afterall, isn’t torturing self-confessed terrorists ok?

  10. #10 MattXIV
    November 8, 2007

    The US authorities reaction was entirely reasonable (it does happen sometimes). They had a tip saying the guy was potentially a terrorist, so they detained him until they figured out what was going on. He wasn’t in their custody excessively long and the reports don’t say that he was mistreated while in custody, so I don’t see what the problem is.

    The comments by the father about the US authorities being “paranoid” are just ass covering. If you send a tip into law enforcement about someone being involved in serious criminal activity, they will look into it, even if it seems superficially unlikely, as they should. The FBI seems to have conducted themselves reasonably; I’m pissed off at the guy’s father-in-law who thinks throwing around accusations like that is some kind of joke.

  11. #11 neal
    November 8, 2007

    Do you believe everything you read on the internet? Do you ever double-check a story, or a statement?

    But, wait…where did it say the US tortured the Swede?

  12. #12 M. Randolph Kruger
    November 8, 2007

    And the system works. He sued and they are going to get their asses hammered finanancially for it. The agent? Probably scooping up dog crap at the canine training facility now. In those days it caused everyone to look at each other and determine their nationality. That was also the case on December 8, 1941.

    The difference in that year and this is that those people were rounded up and put into camps for the duration of the war. They too sued. The US Courts upheld the Roosevelt Administrations actions in the interests of national security and they are absolutely lucky it hasnt happened again. Precedent is set and the ACLU be damned.

  13. #13 revere
    November 8, 2007

    neal: I don’t take every opportunity. Not enough time for that. I take the opportunities they hand me on a silver platter. Your logic is Stasi logic. It worked well enough for them, I guess.

  14. #14 revere
    November 8, 2007

    Matt: Cuffed and detained for 11 hours and then denied entrance into the country?

  15. #15 Neal
    November 8, 2007

    “revere: Your logic is Stasi logic”

    Stasi: The Communist East German Intelligence and Security Service?

    I don’t think so.
    ’nuff said.


  16. #16 daedalus2u
    November 8, 2007

    Neal, yes I do check stories I read on the internet. I did read about this story years ago. I did check multiple links to this blog, they seemed to check out.

    Did you check out any of the links? There were quite a few. Linking to articles about the case, to the redacted court documents.

  17. #17 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    November 8, 2007

    I guess litigants could try to game the system by examining past decisionmaking

    They rotate the pool of lay judges (thanks, Janne!), but perhaps the litigants can game the sitting court a bit.

    But I was thinking of the consensus behavior that this results in. And reflecting Janne, maybe I am a tad negative, just because I like what I see of the anglo-saxon system.

    I have been a witness in a traffic case. (A guy tried to tail end us on the high way, and then crashed himself instead of both of us – good choice. The court procedure must have been the police measuring him as drunk or otherwise affected. Or perhaps they found him endangering others. I never made the effort to find out, though as a witness I could find the specific procedure papers.) And it looked professional and fair enough.

    Is the inability to punish people through lawsuits compensated for by the greater number of laws against things, in your opinion?

    I don’t think so. The newspapers have claimed that we have few laws and regulations compared to other nations.

    I can personally compare doing Swedish and US taxes, or filling in legal papers for security purposes at work. The swedish tax system is a hike in the park, but I needed professional help with the first US tax. (But the next year I could copy the first year procedure.)

  18. #18 Lisa the GP
    November 8, 2007

    Revere, check out Naomi Wolf’s new book. I think you’ll like it.

  19. #19 revere
    November 8, 2007

    Lisa: One of my colleagues told me the same thing. So I guess I should read it. Thaks for the tip.

  20. #20 Tasha
    November 9, 2007

    “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security deserves neither and will lose both.”

  21. #21 Corkscrew
    November 10, 2007

    Your logic is Stasi logic.

    More to the point, it’s quack medicine logic: “These homeopathic pills might improve your chances of surviving cancer. Can you really justify the risk of not taking them?”

    That’s no more justifiable than “If these people might be terrorists, can you justify not arresting them?” In both cases, if there is bugger-all in the way of good evidence, the only remotely valid answer is “hell yes”.

    And for why? In the case of the quack medicine, the answer is clear: because you’ll quickly be inundated with quacks and snake-oil salesmen looking to sell you a bridge. And the answer is the same for this Swedish guy’s case. What this case demonstrates is a quick and easy way to perform a denial-of-service attack on US travellers. It’s been abused once, and it’ll certainly be abused again.

  22. #22 Melanie
    November 11, 2007

    Lisa, reveres:

    Read on: 10 steps to fascism.

  23. #23 M. Randolph Kruger
    November 11, 2007

    My only problem with the Wolf book is that its been written post of the 9-11 attacks. So is life imitating art or art imitating life. I think the latter. We dont control the press on the right by any stroke of the imagination. In fact it wouldnt hurt my feelings if K. Couric and Brian Williams took a little trip….for about the next 30 years.

    I think if you look at the Roosevelt Administration you will see definitively that the same definitions could have been applied to that period too. The difference? We had an enemy that we could actively see and respond to.

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