US official backs Marines' request to classify photos of forces urinating on Taliban corpses

A still from a 2011 video posted online that showed Marines urinating on dead bodies. [Reuters]


A still from a 2011 video posted online that showed Marines urinating on dead bodies. [Reuters]

"In an apparent expansion of the government’s secrecy powers, the top official in charge of the classification system has decided that it was legitimate for the Marines to classify photographs that showed American forces posing with corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan," reports the NYT's Charlie Savage.

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White House leaks name of Kabul CIA chief, yet no one goes to prison

Soldiers take photos as U.S. President Barack Obama (C) shakes hands with troops after delivering remarks at Bagram Air Base in Kabul, May 25, 2014. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)


Soldiers take photos as U.S. President Barack Obama (C) shakes hands with troops after delivering remarks at Bagram Air Base in Kabul, May 25, 2014. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

The identity of the top CIA officer in Afghanistan was exposed over the weekend by the White House when his name was included by mistake on a list given to news organizations of senior officials participating in President Obama’s surprise visit with US troops.

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Afghan Taliban critiques journalism ethics of The Daily Beast


The website banner for shahamat-english.com, an English-language website of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

A Daily Beast story about Taliban’s ruling council meeting for peace talks in Pakistan “violates the basic principles of journalism” and is "nonsense," according to the Afghan Taliban. That's not as bad as having your news organization banned on Reddit, but it's still gotta hurt.

The Taliban's critique, below, in full:

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US spies supplied intelligence on investigative journalist to NZ military

US spy agencies fed "metadata" about a New Zealand journalist's communications to New Zealand's military spies, who were upset that he had reported on human rights abuses against Afghani prisoners of war. Jon Stephenson was writing for McClatchy and "various New Zealand news organisations." The NZ Defense Force later attempted to discredit Stephenson, saying he had invented a visit to to an Afghan base, a claim it retracted after Stephenson brought a defamation suit against it. NZ government is presently pushing legislation to allow its military spies conduct domestic surveillance of NZ citizens, even a leaked NZDF manual discloses that the media are classed with foreign spies and extremist organisations as threats to the state.

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Proto-warblogger Kevin Sites returns to Afghanistan. Here's the reporting gear he's packing.

Xeni Jardin and Kevin Sites worked together to create one of the world’s first “warblogs,” when Kevin was a CNN correspondent headed into Iraq, and later, Afghanistan. Ten years later, Kevin is returning to Afghanistan to reconnect with the people whose lives he documented. He shares a snapshot of his gear bag, and the details on what’s inside, as he prepares for what may be his last trip into a war zone.

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Mine Kafon; a bamboo tumbleweed that clears landmines

The "Mine Kafon" is Massoud Hassani's artificial tumbleweed, made from lightweight materials like bamboo. It is designed to be blown across uncleared minefields, detonating forgotten mines. It was Hassani's grad design project for Design Academy Eindhoven. It continuously broadcasts its location, captured via GPS, plotting out safe, mine-free paths through the fields.

Mine Kafon (via Make)

Taliban uses CC instead of BCC, exposes identity of 400+ contacts

A Taliban spokesperson sent out a press-release and used CC instead of BCC, exposing a long list of Taliban press-contacts, as well as several parties friendly to Taliban communiques.

The list, made up of more than 400 recipients, consists mostly of journalists, but also includes an address appearing to belong to a provincial governor, an Afghan legislator, several academics and activists, an l Afghan consultative committee, and a representative of Gulbuddein Hekmatar, an Afghan warlord whose outlawed group Hezb-i-Islami is believed to be behind several attacks against coalition troops.

Taliban Oops Reveals Mailing List IDs [Muhammad Lila, ABC] (via Techdirt)

Junkbot insects from a metalworker in Afghanistan


Noah sez, "I thought you would appreciate these giant insects made from repurposed materials (including vehicle parts and bits of a blown up toolbox) by metalworker Ben Marcacci, who is currently at Camp Dwyer in Afghanistan."

Noah is correct.

I started making these types of piece's when I relocated to Camp dwyer (Aug 2011), I had the equipment and scrape material to do so, prior to Dwyer I traveled from base to base. Not being able to work with my first love (metal work) I found myself drawing more and more , but I like 3D, I like building things...so my skills for creating sculpture morphed into collecting "found objects" (soda tab, lock washers, o-rings, AFG coins) and I would build jewelry (mainly earrings) I gave a pair to my girlfriend and sisters, and the they wanted MORE... I continued to make them and I started cannibalizing items I would find in Local afghan bazaars. I'm currently working on a 3rd generation earring.

Giant (Upcycled) Metal Arachnids & Insects in Afghanistan (Thanks, Noah!)

Pentagon tried to prevent publication of Afghanistan corpse abuse photos

The Los Angeles Times this week published photographs of US soldiers in Afghanistan posing with the mangled bodies of Afghan men believed to be suicide bombers.

Government officials were quick to condemn the behavior. But today, news that the Pentagon sought to prevent the publication of these images, in a dispute that stretched on for weeks with LA Times editors.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today said, “The reason for that is those kinds of photos are used by the enemy to incite violence, and lives have been lost as the result of the publication of similar photos.”

Only 2 of of the images were published. 16 more were received by the war correspondent who wrote the piece; the paper will not release them.

“They are just awful,” he said, calling the two that were published “the least gruesome.”

Photo: A soldier from the Army’s 82nd Airborne with a dead insurgent’s hand on his shoulder. (Los Angeles Times / April 18, 2012)

TOM THE DANCING BUG - Hunger Games 2012

Visit the TOM THE DANCING BUG WEBSITE, and follow RUBEN BOLLING on TWITTER.

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After slaying of 16 Afghan civilians, American Army sergeant held for investigation

An elderly Afghan man sits next to the covered bodies of civilians killed by an American soldier in Kandahar province, March 11, 2012. REUTERS/ Ahmad Nadeem

An American soldier is reported to have "stalked from home to home" before dawn, then methodically killed at least 16 civilians including 9 children, and 3 women. One of the dead appears to be a girl of toddler age.

The incident took place in a rural community in southern Afghanistan on Sunday morning. Eleven of the victims were members of one family. Photographs of the bodies circulating online show bullet wounds to the head, execution-style. Five or more additional civilians are reported to have been seriously injured.

"It is not the first time US soldiers have intentionally killed Afghan civilians but the death toll is unprecedented for a single soldier."

Quentin Sommerville, BBC correspondent in Kabul, tweeted a series of observations this morning as news spread:

A tiny girl in a red and green dress, is she 2 or 3 years old? There's a single gunshot in the middle of her temple. She almost looks asleep.

The killer in Kandahar is described as a "conventional US soldier" by ISAF sources, i.e., not Special Forces. Reuters and locals saying more than one solider involved, but ISAF insisting that this was an "individual acting alone".

From ex-US diplomat,"If you're an Afghan, you've seen a Florida pastor try to burn a Koran, then Marines urinate on dead Taliban soldiers, then burning of the Koran, and now this... all within 10 months. We don't have the benefit of the doubt. Time for us to get out of there."

Is the international mission here in danger of losing its most important supporter... the Afghan people?

More: NYT, CSM, CNN, Reuters, AFP, AP, Guardian.

Your tax dollars at work: Afghan Air Force used as "flying drug mules"

Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room on reports (utterly shocking reports!) that Afghanistan’s military uses its US-bought aircraft to transport drugs throughout the country.

At a cost of nearly $2 billion for two years’ worth of building the Afghan Air Force, the U.S. inadvertently purchased a more convenient mechanism for trafficking opium and weapons than Afghanistan’s drug lords were previously using. But it actually gets worse than that. The aerial trade in guns and drugs through the Afghan Air Force appears to be financing the rearmament of private militias hedging against the country’s implosion after the U.S. leaves.

Read more: Afghan Air Force: Flying Drug Mules That Fuel Civil War | Danger Room | Wired.com.

Related item at the Wall Street Journal, requires subscription.

Inside Kabul: landmine survivor aid activist live-blogs from lockdown in Afghanistan

I've known of James Hathaway and the NGO he co-founded, Clear Path International, for many years. They do great work to help civilian survivors of landmine blasts, people who now have disabling injuries, live better lives through medical care, education, improved mobility and access, and other forms of support. Clear Path originally focused their efforts in Vietnam, but have since expended into other conflict/post-conflict zones including Cambodia and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, James says, is “by far our largest project,” with work ongoing in 19 of the country's 34 provinces. James returned to Kabul to work with the CPI team there, just as the security situation abruptly escalated to a new level of crisis.

James and crew are spending a lot of time with bulletproof vests on, in safe rooms, and surrounded by very heavily armed security guys. James is blogging daily, and explains why he's there and what they're trying to accomplish in the following account, republished here in entirety with permission.

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Afghan goat giveaway “lacked accountability”

Government investigators suspected that goats may have been used to bribe locals in Afghanistan, but found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the goat-giving program. [Muckrock]

Sebastian Junger on Marine Afghan corpse urination incident

From the combat filmmaker's Washington Post op-ed: "There is a final context for this act in which we are all responsible, all guilty. A 19-year-old Marine has a very hard time reconciling the fact that it’s okay to waterboard a live Taliban fighter but not okay to urinate on a dead one." (via @pourmecoffee)