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US State Department cables leaked by Wikileaks, and analyzed today in the New York Times, show how the Obama administration avoided "public confrontations" with Hosni Mubarak over issues human rights.
Another cable, dated March 2009, offered a pessimistic analysis of the prospects for the "April 6 Movement," a Facebook-based group of mostly young Egyptians that has received wide attention for its lively political debate and helped mobilize the protests that have swept Egypt in the last two days. Leaders of the group had been jailed and tortured by the police. There were also signs of internal divisions between secular and Islamist factions, it said.
The United States has defended bloggers with little success. When Ambassador Scobey raised several arrests with the interior minister, he replied that Egypt did not infringe on freedom of the press, but that it must respond when "people are offended by blogs." An aide to the minister told the ambassador that The New York Times, which has reported on the treatment of bloggers in Egypt, was "exaggerating the blogger issue," according to the cable.
American diplomats also cast a wide net to gather information on police brutality, the cables show. Through contacts with human rights lawyers, the embassy follows numerous cases, and raised some with the Interior Ministry. Among the most harrowing, according to a cable, was the treatment of several members of a Hezbollah cell detained by the police in late 2008.
Lawyers representing the men said they were subjected to electric shocks and sleep deprivation, which reduced them to a "zombie state." They said the torture was more severe than what they normally witnessed.
(PHOTO: A protester displays a message on a placard of the Egyptian flag during a demonstration outside the press syndicate in central Cairo January 27, 2011. Demonstrations demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1981, have raged since Tuesday in several Egyptian cities, with the biggest clashes in Cairo and Suez. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis)
"Confirming what a few have reported this evening: in an action unprecedented in Internet history, the Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet. (renesys.com)
See also this related post at BGP.
As I publish this blog post, we're just a few hours away from the planned start time of mass protests in Egypt, possibly the largest yet in a week of historically large gatherings calling for Hosni Mubarak to step down from some 30 years in power. Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic tells Boing Boing,
A Twitter follower stepped up to translate excerpts from the Egyptian protest plan that's been floating around (the one that said don't use Twitter or Facebook). We're only publishing excerpts -- i.e. this is more general information and demands, not tactical stuff -- but they are amazing.Translations and scans are here at The Atlantic.
In Egypt, thousands of protesters are gathering at demonstrations in Cairo, Alexandria, and many other cities, calling for an end to the 30-year rule of president Hosni Mubarak:
The rallies had been promoted online by groups saying they speak for young Egyptians frustrated by the kind of poverty and oppression which triggered the overthrow of Tunisia's president. Egyptian blogger Hossam El Hamalawy said technology was important in facilitating "the domino effect" needed for demonstrations like this one to progress.
Amazing video here, a "Tienanmen Square" moment in which (around 1:21) a man (soon joined by other) faces off an approaching
tank water cannon vehicle. And another here, just two of many eyewitness shots of the mass gatherings unfolding today. Lots more here.
On today's episode of the Southern California Public Radio program The Madeleine Brand Show, I joined host Madeleine Brand for a discussion of the role technology and social media played in the recent political upheaval in Tunisia.
Tunisia's interim leaders announced a new government today after a surge of violent demonstrations toppled autocratic president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Many reporters and bloggers (and now, uh, Muammar Qadaffi) have been quick to credit Wikileaks, Twitter, and Facebook with fomenting unrest in the country. But is it accurate to describe what is unfolding in Tunisia as "a Twitter revolution"?
Some related reading today:
• Tunisia: That 'WikiLeaks Revolution' meme (CSM)
• The brutal truth about Tunisia (The Independent)
• Qaddafi Sees WikiLeaks Plot in Tunisia (NY Times / The Lede)
• Tunisia: Fears of Insecurity Overshadow the Joys of Freedom
• Arab World: Where is Ben Ali Headed to? (Global Voices)
• Tunisia: How the US got it wrong (Al Jazeera / opinion)
• Tunisia invades, censors Facebook, other accounts (CPJ)
• Wikileaks - US embassy cables: Tunisia - a US foreign policy conundrum (Guardian)
• The 2010-2011 Tunisian protests (Wikipedia)
• First thoughts on Tunisia and the role of the Internet (Foreign Policy)
(PHOTO at top of post: Students hold placards and flowers during a sit-in protest in Beirut January 17, 2011, organized by Lebanese activists Tunisians living in Lebanon to show solidarity and support for the people in Tunisia. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi)
Rioters burn a policeman's hat during clashes with the police in downtown of the capital Tunis January 14, 2011. Tunisian President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali declared a state of emergency on Friday and warned that protesters would be shot in an increasingly frantic effort to quell the worst unrest in his two decades in power. Then, he fled the country.
More on the fast-moving changes in Tunisia today, and protests in which tens of thousands called for change, at this Boing Boing post. More photos follow, below. But this one, taken after Ben Ali flew out of the country, may really sum it up best.
Fast-moving change today in Tunisia (not that you'd know it from watching American cable TV news—if you're in the US, keep your eye on Twitter, blogs, and more worldly online news organizations instead).
• New York Times: "President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia has left the country amid growing chaos in the streets, French diplomats say, and the prime minister went on state television Friday night to say he is in charge."
• Here is a YouTube playlist of eyewitness videos from the protests in Tunisia.
• The Awl points to this helpful primer on Tunisia in Mother Jones Magazine.
• This Wikileaks-leaked State Department cable became a catalyst in the social upheaval.
• Here's a Foreign Policy Magazine piece that puts forth an argument that Wikileaks and social media played important roles.
• Responding more or less to those who might describe it as "a Wikileaks revolution," Ethan Zuckerman tweeted earlier, "Think it would be a mistake to give too much credit to Wikileaks [...] this has much more to do with unemployment, poverty, and inequality."
• Evgeny Morozov echoes this sentiment in his Foreign Policy opinion piece: "First thoughts on Tunisia and the role of the Internet"
Before this, no one has heard from Manning himself about those conditions. Snip:
I am one of the few people allowed to visit Bradley Manning while he is detained in the Quantico brig. Manning is held in "maximum custody," the military's most severe detention policy. Manning is also confined under a longstanding Prevention of Injury (POI) order which limits his social contact, news consumption, ability to exercise, and that places restrictions on his ability to sleep.
Manning has been living under the solitary restrictions of POI for five months despite being cleared by a military psychologist earlier this year, and despite repeated calls from his attorney David Coombs to lift the severely restrictive and isolating order. POI orders are short-term restrictions that are typically implemented when a detainee changes confinement facilities and these orders are lifted after the detainee passes psychological evaluation.
Our conversations, which take place in the presence of marines and electronic monitoring equipment, typically revolve around topics in physics, computer science, and philosophy; he recently mentioned that he hopes to one day make use of the GI Bill towards earning a graduate degree in Physics and a bachelors in Political Science. He rarely if ever talks about his conditions in the brig, and it is not unusual for him to shy away from questions about his well-being by changing the subject entirely.
When I arrived at the brig on December 18th I found him to be much more open to lines of inquiry regarding his circumstances, and in a two and a half hour conversation I learned new details about his life in confinement.
Bradley Manning Speaks About His Conditions (firedoglake)
The article includes a petition to the brig commander, asking him to remove Manning's uneccessary POI status.
A note about the author of the piece: David House is a 23-year-old researcher at MIT who helped set up the Bradley Manning Support Network, a group raising funds for Manning's legal defense. Glenn Greenwald has an account here of House being harassed at the border, like others associated in one way or another with Wikileaks.
[The order] will provide periodic reviews of evidence against dozens of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, according to several administration officials.
The draft order, a version of which was first considered nearly 18 months ago, is expected to be signed by President Obama early in the New Year. The order allows for the possibility that detainees from countries like Yemen might be released if circumstances there change.
But the order establishes indefinite detention as a long-term Obama administration policy and makes clear that the White House alone will manage a review process for those it chooses to hold without charge or trial.
A reminder that various news organizations are still doing the hard work of digging through the Wikileaks-leaked US diplomatic cables, and parsing out the newsworthy contents. The Guardian's archive of daily recaps is here. We're now 23 days into Cablegate, and today's edition is here: it includes a nod to related coverage in the New York Times and Der Spiegel.
In today's batch, cables concerning nuclear reactors in Bulgaria; Richard Branson's disdain for the quality of the UK's education system, Libya vs. Marks & Spencer in Tripoli; and Syria's belief that Israel was behind the sniper killing of General Muhammad Suleiman, President Bashar al-Assad's top security aide.
Also, revelations of Afghan heroin growers holding back reserves of the drug like bank savings; surveillance of "individuals moving radioactive substances" around London waved off by British security services before the poisoning of Litvinenko.
And finally, the US threatening Italy to ensure no international arrest warrants were issued for CIA agents accused of being involved in cleric Abu Omar's abduction.
A lot of leaks for one day. If my count is correct, less than 2,000 of the 250,000 cables have been released or reported on to date—just a fraction.
The defense has raised the conditions of PFC Bradley Manning's confinement conditions on multiple occasions with the Quantico confinement facility and the Army Staff Judge Advocate's (SJA) Office assigned to handle this case. Our efforts, unfortunately, have not resulted any in positive results. To its credit, the SJA office is attempting to correct this situation. However, given the fact that Quantico is a Marine Corps facility, it has similarly had no success.
PFC Bradley Manning, unlike his civilian counterpart, is afforded no civil remedy for illegal restraint under either the Federal Civil Rights Act or the Federal Tort Claims Act. Similarly, the protection from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and Article 55 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) does not generally apply prior to a court-martial. Thus, the only judicial recourse that is available is under Article 13 of the UCMJ. Article 13 safeguards against unlawful pretrial punishment and embodies the precept that an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Article 13 provides that:
No person, while being held for trial, may be subjected to punishment or penalty other than arrest or confinement upon the charges pending against him, nor shall the arrest or confinement imposed upon him be any more rigorous than the circumstances required to insure his presence, but he may be subjected to minor punishment during that period for infractions of discipline.