Sunday, April 28, 2013

"Homeland Security" memo

MEMORANDUM FOR:  John LaPoint, chief of marine vessel tracking directorate.

FROM:  Bob Aliason, R&D manager, personnel tracking group.

SUBJECT:  New vessel tracking technology tests.

John, I can't tell you how pleased I am with the initial results we have gotten from this newly proposed vessel tracking technology we have code named "WiFiEye."

We all remember the reaming we took over the costs of installing all of those coastal AIS receivers disguised as cell phone towers. We're also still getting claims from the Department of the Interior for damage to coastal wetlands when they were installed. Complaints from all of the cell phone users grumping they weren't getting a cell signal from them didn't help things either. What made all of this worse was we never identified a single threat by collecting AIS data. I think the perps were just turning off their AIS transmitters before they offloaded their nerve gas, or suitcase nukes. I told everyone at the time that you shouldn't be able to shut them off before the legislation was passed.

WiFiEye hardly has any costs, and provides much greater detail on when, and where boats have been, almost to the exact foot. The concept is deceptively simple. Marine chart plotter manufacturers are rapidly implementing WiFi systems in their systems, and year by year the market penetration will increase. We published a vague research RFI and ended up awarding a sole source contract to a clever software company in India for almost pennies. The bids we got from Boeing and SWRI, staggered us. This wasn't a manned Mars mission we were proposing.

Anyway John, the task was to see if we could internet hack a WiFi enabled chart plotter, and install a small program. This little subroutine tells the chart plotter to turn on it's "Track" function. Once that's done, the little resident program uploads all of the track data to our secret cloud server when ever it gets internet access. Since we have our WiFiEye program active on the boat, we can also monitor mobile devices such as phones and tablets, and use them to identify the owner, and look for potentially suspicious behavior. The Indian software group successfully accomplished this in just two weeks, and are now pitching us on some very interesting Apple store apps that could be created. 

Now we recognize we would get some flak if the liberal boating public found out. As an alternative we have planned a meeting with the Republican House Committee on Homeland Security's Cybersecurity subcommittee to pitch our proposed "In Defense of Boating Safety Act." This would require chart plotter manufacturers to implement this important life saving security technology, and save us some development bucks at the same time. I'm confident that truly patriotic boaters would endorse it. At any rate we could also sneak it into the back of the budget bill with some fuzzy language, and no one would ever notice. Who reads that stuff?  Most of the public doesn't boat or care anyway.

Since we have all of those fake cell towers anyway, we could add WiFi transmitters to them to increase the detection range of illicit boating activity for the enhanced safety of all us. Some good security will keep the public off of these hot spots. I'm preparing a phase II program budget, and I will let you know how the subcommittee meeting goes. I'm sure they will be enthusiastic because they need to keep us happy because we know a lot about them.

John, let me know what you think, Bob. 


  1. What makes you think the boating community is "liberal" and that the "republicans" would back such a program but the "democrats" would not, cause clearly they do. Do yourself and the rest of your loyal followers and leave the politics out of it. you started to loose me with the "flare gun defense" blog, but this one takes the cake....

  2. Anon, you're reading more into those stories than was intended. The Flare gun for self defense has been discussed at one point or another on every major boating forum from Wooden Boat to THT and back again. These are where I learned the 37mm launcher could be used. The idea for the story was the lead, and his charred male anatomy. Exploding rounds, zombies, pirates, drawn on eyebrows, and other flights of fancy come from my imagination. The thoughts about magnesium burning on a boat were however real. It was never a commentary on any 2nd amendment issues. Perceived size of some male's genitalia on their Phallic Fifty go fast boats was intentional.

    The Homeland piece was in part driven by the extensive, and spirited comment thread that was in the Panbo piece:

    ...and this piece was just light hearted exploration of where technology can, and maybe could take us.

    I said the liberal boating public. This is certainly not all boaters, and I have the general impression Republicans tend to be more hawkish, and hence maybe more prone to endorse this non existent approach. But since it doesn't exist in the first place, we will never know.

    The key word here is non-existent. There are no disguised cell phone towers, and no one has proposed it, I think...yet.

    If you can't poke a little fun at those in power, it would be a tragic loss of freedom for all of us. Look at the comedian in Egypt who was jailed for poking fun at their President....

    And look at my little cartoon "Presidential Boating" and you will see I can gently smite both side of the political fence, and both presidents were losers in the debate.

    If I upset you, it was never my intention to do so, or any readers.

    Thanks for the comments, Bill

  3. I enjoted this piece Bill; it read a lot like an excerpt from a Michael Crichton novel. Political or not, keep on ranting.


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