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London Heathrow customs agent interrogates Edward Snowden's attorney Jesselyn Radack

Jesselyn Radack, an attorney who represents NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, was detained and interrogated while transiting customs at Heathrow airport in London. Kevin Gosztola reports:

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Pussy Riot's Amnesty International press conference

Joly sez, "The good folks at Tom Tom Magazine captured Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina talk about the importance of Pussy Riot's collective structure, being influenced by punk and Riot Grrrl, and a Russia without Putin. February 5th, 2014. Skip to 7:00 for when they start talking. The video begins with Flaming Lips frontman, Wayne Coyne, speaking off camera."

Pussy Riot Amnesty International Press Conference at Barclay's (Thanks, Joly!)

Who is still imprisoned in Guantanamo?


With Obama pledging in the latest State of the Union address to finally shutter the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay -- something he's been promising to do since his 2008 election campaign -- it's worth revisiting the people who remain imprisoned there, more than a decade after the GW Bush administration declared its War on Terror.

There are 155 men in Guantanamo. 77 have been cleared for transfer but there is no country to which they can be sent. 45 men are in "indefinite detention" -- unable to be prosecuted, often because of the brutal torture inflicted on them by Guantanamo's jailers, but unable to be released because the US government considers them to be a threat. 31 more are awaiting prosecution.

This month, the American Psychology Association dropped all proceedings against a member who designed, oversaw, and participated in the torture at Guantanamo. They had previously denied a request to censure other members who participated in torture.

The protocol designed by John Leso, the doctor that the APA will not censure, involved intravenously hydrating a victim until he urinated on himself; sleep deprivation; forcing the victim to bark like a dog; keeping the victim naked and subjecting him to extreme cold; spinning the victim in a swiveling chair to disorient him; putting the victim into stress positions; depriving the victim of mattresses and other bedding; keeping the victim in isolation from all human contact; and more.

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Ukrainian riot police strip protester naked in sub-zero weather

In this video, Ukrainian riot police have stripped a protester naked in subzero conditions and are parading him in public before putting him in a police van. The protester is stoic in the face of humiliation.

Daniel, who wrote our feature on #euromaidan, says that it's getting worse there: "Tires burning, police started shooting to kill, body count was at 7 this morning. Hard to say, lots of people disappear. I'm wearing bulletproof vest."

Of the protester in the video, he says, "look at his statue - what a spirit."

Stay safe, Daniel.

berkut, polonenuy

Ukraine government sends text to protesters: "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance"


Ukraine's dictatorship is revelling in its new, self-appointed dictatorial powers. The million-plus participants in the latest round of protests received a text-message from the government reading Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.

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Leaked trove of 55,000 photos detail brutal torture and killing of 11,000 Syrian detainees

A Syrian defector who worked for the regime as a forensic photographer leaked over 55,000 photos detailing the deaths of at least 11,000 people, almost all young men, believed to have been political prisoners who were in custody of the Bashar al-Assad regime. The photos were validated by a trio of globally recognized human rights lawyers with experience at the International Criminal Court. One of the lawyers, Professor David Crane, did an interview (MP3) with CBC Radio's As It Happens in which he compared the photos of the bodies to the pictures that emerged from the Nazi's death camps; saying that they were emaciated to the point of death and showed evidence of brutal torture. The photos came to light on the eve of a fresh round of peace-talks between the Assad regime and the various rebel factions in Syria.

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David Cameron to press: sign up for voluntary government control -- OR ELSE

David Cameron, whose government has participated in a programme of shameful intimidation of The Guardian over its publication of the Snowden leaks; has warned the British press that it had best sign up for a "voluntary" system of government regulation, or it will face "hideous statutory regulation." David, you keep using the word "voluntary." I do not think it means what you think it means.

Australians ask their government for humane refugee treatment for Christmas


Australian Asher Wolf's taken to the Guardian to explain why her family is spending Christmas petitioning for humane refugee treatment from the Australian government. Wolf enumerates the conditions under which Australia keeps refugees in its off-shore camps -- conditions that Amenesty considers to be torture, conditions where basic sanitation and health-care are denied to families fleeing war, torture and death threats. Deprived of the shoes, hearing aids, and medicine they managed to smuggle out of their own countries, these refugees, including children, are denied sufficient water, exposed to malaria and TB, and are brutalized into suicide attempts. Gay detainees are sent to camps in PNG, where homosexuality is illegal. Orphans get it even worse -- though the immigration minister Scott Morrison is their legal guardian, these children are left with no one to advocate for them.

According to the UN High Commission on Refugees, the Australian government is spending 1000% more torturing and detaining migrants than it would spend on "community processing" on the mainland. But wasting money on cruelty curries favour with racist voters, so it is the preferred option. For now. But, perhaps, not if Australians in great number write to the minister to explain that his cynical games with innocent human lives will cost him more votes than they win.

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Queen Elizabeth pardons Turing (but not the 50,000 other gay men the law unjustly criminalised)


Alan Turing has received a pardon under the "Royal Prerogative of Mercy by the Queen," 61 years after he was "chemically castrated" by court order as punishment for homosexuality. Less than two years of forced hormone treatments drove him to suicide at the age of 41. The pardon came at the request of the government's justice secretary. It's a wonderful vindication of Turing.

But I agree with Turing's biographer Dr Andrew Hodges, who says that the idea of a pardon for Turing establishes the principal that "a sufficiently valuable individual should be above the law which applies to everyone else." In my view, the Queen should have pardoned every man and woman persecuted under the cruel and unjust law that ruined so many lives.

But I'll take Turing. For now. And if Stephen Fry gets his wish and we get Turing on a bank note, I'll frame one and hang it in my office.

Read the rest

UK spies cooperated in torture, didn't want to upset US spies

A UK government inquiry into the practice of torture of suspects rendered by MI5 and MI6 found that British spies did not speak out against torture because they didn't want to offend the CIA.

Amnesty petition to release Chelsea Manning

Alan sez, "Amnesty International have a petition up that asks for the release of Manning. The petition argues that both on humanitarian grounds and on account of the pre-trial treatment, Manning is deserving of a clemency release."

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Doctors were compelled by US military and CIA to harm detainees, report says


A guard walks through a cellblock inside Camp V, a prison used to house detainees at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, March 5, 2013. Photo: Reuters.

Post-9/11 detainee interrogration policies of the US Defense Department and CIA forced medical professionals to abandon the ethical obligation to "do no harm" to the humans in their care, and engage in prohibited practices such as force-feeding of hunger strikers, according to a report out this week. "Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror" [PDF Link] was produced by 19-member task force of Columbia University's Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the Open Society Foundations. The LA Times has a summary here.

Wife of imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker to deliver birthday cards to China Consulate in SF, Wed., Oct. 9, 2013


Filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen.

For those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area who would like to show support, here's a quick update on the case of imprisoned Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, who made the documentary "Leaving Fear Behind," which is embedded above. Wangchen and a collaborator who is a Tibetan monk are in prison in China for the crime of making this film. It documents the opinions of ordinary Tibetan people about China's communist government, and the exiled Dalai Lama, in the year leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They interviewed 108 Tibetan people; that number is a sacred number in Tibetan Buddhism.

From filmingfortibet.org and friends-of-tibet.org:

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Argentine Judge wants to place officials from Franco regime on trial

"Spain, whose judges have aggressively pursued human rights abuse cases far beyond its borders, finds itself on the receiving end of such an inquest." A judge in Argentina is trying to extradite and bring to justice Spanish police officials accused of torturing opponents of the regime under Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator who died in 1975. Victims of those abuses "filed a lawsuit in Buenos Aires in 2010, after getting nowhere in Spain because of a 1977 amnesty law meant to smooth Spain’s return to democracy." Raphael Minder has more in the NYT.

NSA contracted with notorious French spy-tech company VUPEN

Michael from Muckrock sez, ""Documents requested by MuckRock from the National Security Agency show it had a contract with the French security researcher VUPEN whose founder and CEO Chaouki Bekrar puckishly touts himself as the 'Darth Vader of Cybersecurity.' While the NSA redacted the price of the subscription, VUPEN is apparently hoping the year-long contract is a sign of things to come: It recently tweeted it was setting up shop in Maryland."

VUPEN are also the war criminals who flog zero-day exploits to repressive governments with terrible human-rights records to help them spy on dissidents.

Naturally, it was a no-bid contract.

Read the rest

Ten arrests in 87 minutes: How NYPD dispersed peaceful Occupy Wall Street protests

A short film by Paul Sullivan that chillingly breaks down the creepy tactics New York City police used to intimidate and harass protesters, and arrest them for expressing their first amendment rights in public space. In these examples, it seems they used "the momentum of arrests" to deter the spirit of the crowd--not because the individuals shown here actually posed a threat to the public, or had harmed anyone or done anything bad.

[via Sparrow Media, HT: Glen E. Friedman]

Family of slain Chilean folk singer Victor Jara file suit against his accused torturer and killer, with help from CJA

Huge human rights news from Latin America today: the Center for Justice & Accountability and the family of Victor Jara are suing the man indicted by Chilean prosecutors for torturing and killing Jara in 1973. Pedro Barrientos is accused of firing the shot that killed the Chilean folk singer and activist, but Barrientos currently resides in Florida.

Through the lawsuit, Jara's family hope to prove his culpability in a federal courtroom in Jacksonville, Florida, with rarely-used US laws addressing human rights violations committed outside of the country.

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EFF: don't let Cisco off the hook for participating in Chinese repression


The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit against Cisco, which seeks to call the company to account for actively participating in human rights abuses in China through its participation in China's network surveillance. In 2008, a leaked PowerPoint presentation showed that Cisco was participating in initiatives like "Combat Falun Gong Evil Religion and Other Hostilities." The case's plaintiff has been detained and harassed in China since filing his suit. EFF's amicus brief carefully lays out the case against Cisco and explains how they actively collaborated in programs of surveillance and repression.

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Stephen Fry to David Cameron and IOC: a Russian 2014 Olympics would be a repeat of the 1936 Berlin games


Comedian and national treasure Stephen Fry has written an open letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the International Olympic Committee calling on them to move the upcoming Winter Olympics from Russia to another country, specifically, any country in which homosexuality is not criminalized and LGBT people are not violently scapegoated as they are in Russia. Vladimir Putin recently rammed through legislation that bans being gay, talking about being gay, or advocating for the rights of LGBT people, and violent gangs routinely and savagely attack LGBT people, with impunity. Vicious practices like "corrective rape" and murder are ignored by the police. Fry compares bringing the Olympics to Russia in 2014 to cowardice that led to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which legitimized Hitler and the Nazis on the global stage.

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Molly Crabapple goes to Guantanamo Bay


Artist Molly Crabapple visited Guantanamo Bay and documented the bizarre conditions in which men cleared of all crimes are held without charge at a cost of millions, forever, in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. Crabapple documents the boondoggle that is Gitmo with admirable clarity, and her illustrations are especially poignant.


Afghans sold Nabil to Afghan forces from his hospital bed. Injured and terrified, he huddled together with five other men in the underground cell of a prison in Kabul. Interrogators whipped him. The screams of the tortured kept him awake at night. According to a statement filed by Clive Clifford Smith, Nabil’s lawyer at the time, “Someone—either an interpreter or another prisoner—whispered to him, ‘Just say you are al Qaeda and they will stop beating you.’”

At Bagram, Americans held Nabil naked in an aircraft hanger that was so cold he thought he’d die of exposure, while military personal in warm coats sipped hot chocolate. When Nabil tried to recant confessions he’d made under torture, the soldiers just beat him more, according to a statement filed by Clifford Smith. Finally, the military transferred Nabil to Kandahar, and then to Guantánamo Bay.

Nabil arrived at Gitmo’s Camp X-Ray in February 2002. With its watchtowers, clapboard interrogation huts, and rings of barbed wire, X-Ray looks nothing but surreal—a concentration camp on the Caribbean. For the four months it took the JTF to build permanent prisons, Nabil lived in a metal cage under the burning Cuban sun. For hygiene, he had one bucket for water and another for shit. During the seven hours it took me to complete a drawing of X-Ray, I nearly passed out from the mosquitos and heat.

It Don’t Gitmo Better Than This

Tibetan monks shot by Chinese police for praying on Dalai Lama’s birthday

The International Campaign for Tibet reports that "Two Tibetan monks were shot in the head and several others seriously injured after Chinese police opened fire at a crowd gathered to peacefully celebrate the 78th birthday of the Dalai Lama in Nyitso, Tawu, eastern Tibet, on Saturday (July 6)."

As Tibetans celebrate the Dalai Lama's 78th birthday, a video snapshot of Tibet Lobby Day

As the world marks the Dalai Lama's 78th birthday, the Tibetan community marks a grim milestone: 120 Tibetans, mostly youth, have burned themselves alive to protest China's repressive rule. Xeni Jardin traveled to Washington, DC to document a group of Tibetan-American activists asking lawmakers to open up immigration doors for political refugees, and hold China accountable. Read the rest

Death and the Mainframe: How data analysis can help document human rights atrocities

Between 1980 and 2000, a complicated war raged in Peru, pitting the country’s government against at least two political guerilla organizations, and forcing average people to band together into armed self-defense committees.

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The making of Family Restaurant, a short film for kids with LGBT parents by Andrea James

Longtime friend and Boing Boing contributor Andrea James has just completed a Kickstartered short film for children from LGBT families. I saw it this week, and was blown away by how funny and sweet it was. I know how hard she's worked on this; a true labor of love. I hope kids (and grown-ups) far and wide have a chance to experience both the art and the message. For readers in the SF Bay Area, there's a screening on Sunday June, 2013 in the Frameline LGBT film festival at San Francisco's Castro Theatre. Andrea writes in to Boing Boing with the backstory.—Xeni JardinRead the rest

How many people have died in the Syrian civil war?

In the fog of war, it's not easy to figure out how many people die. Even in the cleanest combat, accurate records are not really a common military priority. Worse, there are often incentives for one side or the other to play up the death counts (or play them down), alter the picture of who is doing the killing and who is dying, and provide evidence that a conflict is getting better (or worse).

All of that creates a mess for outside observers who want to see accurate patterns in the chaos — patterns that can help us understand whether an evenly matched war has turned into a bloodbath, or a genocide. The Human Rights Data Analysis Group is an organization that takes the messy, often conflicting, information about deaths in a warzone and tries to make sense of it. Today, they released an updated version of a January report on documented killings in the Syrian civil war.

They say that there were 92,901 documented deaths between March 2011 and April 2013. That number is extremely high, and tragic. But the number alone is maybe not the most important thing the data is telling us.

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Long-lost diary of Nazi racial theorist and Hitler confidant recovered


Photo: ICE HSI. Click to enlarge.

In Washington today, US officials and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum representatives announced the seizure of a long-lost diary maintained by a close confidant of Adolf Hitler.

The recovery of this historical document was the result of an extensive investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The author of the so-called "Rosenberg Diary" was Alfred Rosenberg, a leading member of the Third Reich and of the Nazi Party during World War II.

Rosenberg was one of the intellectual authors behind key Nazi beliefs, including persecution of Jewish people, expansionist “lebensraum” (living space) ideology, the "master race" theory, and the rejection of modern art as "degenerate." He was tried at Nuremberg, sentenced to death, and hanged on October 16, 1946, after having been convicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The diary will eventually be displayed in the Holocaust Museum. More photos, video from the press conference where the seizure was announced, video of Rosenberg speaking, and more of the story behind this important historic artifact are below.

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Morning prayers at Guantanamo's Camp 5, where hunger strikers are held

At Freedom of the Press Foundation, Jason Leopold writes about this video he shot at the section of Guantánamo where the hunger strikers are being held. What you hear around 3 minutes in is the a Muslim call to prayer being led by the leader of the hunger striking detainees, from inside his cell.

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Guatemala: Audio and video livestreams of genocide trial for ex-dictator Montt

Rios Montt. Photo: James Rodriguez.

As noted in previous Boing Boing posts, former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Rios Montt is on trial in Guatemala City this week, three decades after the army he presided over massacred Ixil Maya villages in the Central American country's highlands. Former G2 commander Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez is his co-defendant.

Ríos Montt, 86, was trained at the notorious US Army School of the Americas and was celebrated and supported by the Reagan administration as a law-and-order tough guy who promised to bring an end to "indiscriminate violence."

Under his regime, the country entered a new phase of bloodbath; the scope of which Guatemala had never before known. And at last, with this tribunal, a legacy of impunity and silence is challenged. Whether the outcome amounts to justice will be a matter of debate for generations to come. But one of the most notorious mass murderers in Guatemalan history is finally on trial.

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Malware-Industrial Complex: how the trade in software bugs is weaponizing insecurity

Here's a must-read story from Tech Review about the thriving trade in "zero-day exploits" -- critical software bugs that are sold off to military contractors to be integrated into offensive malware, rather than reported to the manufacturer for repair. The stuff built with zero-days -- network appliances that can snoop on a whole country, even supposedly secure conversations; viruses that can hijack the camera and microphone on your phone or laptop; and more -- are the modern equivalent of landmines and cluster bombs: antipersonnel weapons that end up in the hands of criminals, thugs and dictators who use them to figure out whom to arrest, torture, and murder. The US government is encouraging this market by participating actively in it, even as it makes a lot of noise about "cyber-defense."

Exploits for mobile operating systems are particularly valued, says Soghoian, because unlike desktop computers, mobile systems are rarely updated. Apple sends updates to iPhone software a few times a year, meaning that a given flaw could be exploited for a long time. Sometimes the discoverer of a zero-day vulnerability receives a monthly payment as long as a flaw remains undiscovered. “As long as Apple or Microsoft has not fixed it you get paid,” says Soghioan.

No law directly regulates the sale of zero-days in the United States or elsewhere, so some traders pursue it quite openly. A Bangkok, Thailand-based security researcher who goes by the name “the Grugq” has spoken to the press about negotiating deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars with government buyers from the United States and western Europe. In a discussion on Twitter last month, in which he was called an “arms dealer,” he tweeted that “exploits are not weapons,” and said that “an exploit is a component of a toolchain … the team that produces & maintains the toolchain is the weapon.”

The Grugq contacted MIT Technology Review to state that he has made no “public statement about exploit sales since the Forbes article.”

Some small companies are similarly up-front about their involvement in the trade. The French security company VUPEN states on its website that it “provides government-grade exploits specifically designed for the Intelligence community and national security agencies to help them achieve their offensive cyber security and lawful intercept missions.” Last year, employees of the company publicly demonstrated a zero-day flaw that compromised Google’s Chrome browser, but they turned down Google’s offer of a $60,000 reward if they would share how it worked. What happened to the exploit is unknown.

Welcome to the Malware-Industrial Complex [Tom Simonite/MIT Technology Review]

(via O'Reilly Radar)

Privacy groups, activists and journalists call on Skype to document its privacy practices

A coalition of journalists, privacy advocates, and Internet activists have published an open letter to Skype and Microsoft, calling on them to "publicly document Skype’s security and privacy practices" in a Transparency Report:

1. Quantitative data regarding the release of Skype user information to third parties, disaggregated by the country of origin of the request, including the number of requests made by governments, the type of data requested, the proportion of requests with which it complied — and the basis for rejecting those requests it does not comply with.

2. Specific details of all user data Microsoft and Skype currently collects, and retention policies.

3. Skype’s best understanding of what user data third-parties, including network providers or potential malicious attackers, may be able to intercept or retain.

4. Documentation regarding the current operational relationship between Skype with TOM Online in China and other third-party licensed users of Skype technology, including Skype’s understanding of the surveillance and censorship capabilities that users may be subject to as a result of using these alternatives.

5. Skype's interpretation of its responsibilities under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), its policies related to the disclosure of call metadata in response to subpoenas and National Security Letters (NSLs), and more generally, the policies and guidelines for employees followed when Skype receives and responds to requests for user data from law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the United States and elsewhere.

Open Letter to Skype (via /.)