Boing Boing 

For transgender US military personnel, the rule is still 'don't tell.'

From a Washington Post profile of trans servicemen and women:
More than two years after the repeal of the law that barred gay men and lesbians from serving in the military openly, transgender service members can still be dismissed from the force without question, the result of a decades-old policy that dates back to an era when gender nonconformity was widely seen as a mental illness.... Transgender service members are increasingly undergoing procedures to align their bodies more closely with the genders with which they identify. Medical experts, meanwhile, are urging the Defense Department to rescind a policy they view as discriminatory and outdated, noting that some of America’s closest allies, including Canada, Britain and Australia, have done so seamlessly.

Sonar tools head out in missing jet hunt


US NAVY

Debris sightings have drawn attention to a particular region, but choppy seas and rough waters deny a conclusive discovery. The TPL-25 is a military underwater microphone that could improve our chances of finding the flight data recorder, the "black box" that holds Flight 370's secrets. [Wired]

Fedbizopps: the US government's searchable database of defense-contractor opportunities


Dave from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sez, "The government often makes itself more accessible to businesses than the general public. For Sunshine Week, we compiled this guide to using FedBizOpps to keep an eye on surveillance technology contracts."

Fedbizopps is a weird, revealing window into the world of creepy surveillance, arms, and technology contractors who build and maintain the most oppressive and unethical parts of the apparatus of the US government. Everything from drone-testing of biological and chemical weapons to license plate cameras to weaponized bugs and other malware are there. The EFF post also has links to data-mining tools that help estimate just how much money the private arms dealers extract from the tax-coffers.

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Will US condemn UK for using terrorism laws to suppress journalism?


Journalist Glenn Greenwald after being reunited with his partner, David Miranda, in Rio de Janeiro's International Airport after British authorities used anti-terrorism powers to detain Miranda. RICARDO MORAES/REUTERS

In a disturbing ruling for democracy, a lower court in United Kingdom announced today that the detainment of journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was lawful under the Terrorism Act, despite the fact that the UK government knew Miranda never was a terrorist. This disgraceful opinion equates acts of journalism with terrorism and puts the UK on par with some of the world’s most repressive regimes. Miranda has vowed to appeal the ruling.

Glenn Greenwald has much more on what this means for press freedom, but I’d like to expand on one particular point:

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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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US drones could be killing the wrong people because of metadata errors

The Intercept, the "fearless, adversarial journalism" venture launched by Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media, launched with a big boom today.

Lead story on the site right now, which is https by default (and straining under launch day load at the moment) explores "The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program."

The Intercept will initially focus on NSA stories based on documents provided by Edward Snowden, and this is one such story.

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Army won't answer Freedom of Information Request on its SGT STAR AI chatbot

Dave from the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, "Seven years ago, the U.S. Army launched the SGT STAR program, which uses a virtual recruiter (an AI chatbot) to talk to potential soldiers. We put in a FOIA request for a bunch of documents related to the program, including current and historical input/output scripts. So far, the Army Research and Marketing Group--which is supposed to help with transparency--hasn't responded."

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Nun faces 30 years in prison for exposing security lapses in nuclear weapons program


Mike from Mother Jones sez, "Josh Harkinson writes about the upcoming sentencing of Megan Rice, an elderly nun and Plowshares activist who broke into the Y-12 enriched uranium facility with two fellow aging activists. The incident, which exposed glaring security flaws and was deeply embarrassing to the feds, could get the trio a maximum 30 years in federal prison. Harkinson writes:"

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UK Ministry of Defense can arrest you without warrant for taking pictures, grazing animals near NSA and drone outposts

The UK Ministry of Defense has introduced by-laws in the vicinity of bases in the UK, making it a detainable offense to take pictures or make any image of any person or thing; to graze livestock; or to fail to clean up your dog's turds. The rules also allow the MoD to put you in jail "without warrant" for setting up protest camps on MoD property.

These rules come into effect just as a recent Snowden leak revealed that one of the bases in the UK was used by the NSA and GCHQ to spy on Oxfam, Medecins Sans Frontiers, as well as Angela Merkel. Another one of the affected bases is reportedly used to pilot drones deployed in Yemen.

All in all, the rules effect 150 bases around the UK. The MoD the second-largest landowner in the UK.

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Spooks and American Exceptionalism

Ex-CIA agent Philip Giraldi takes a stab at explaining how his fellow retired spooks -- Democrat and Republican -- can be so comfortable with a president who has given himself the power to order assassinations and a regime where the constitution has been effectively suspended. It's all down to American Exceptionalism: "It's OK when we do it, because we're the good guys."

US Department of Defense's public domain archive to be privatized, locked up for ten years


Archivist Rick Prelinger sez, "The U.S. Department of Defense has entered into a contract with T3 Media to get its gigantic still and moving image collection digitized at no cost to the government. In exchange, T3 Media will become the exclusive public outlet for millions of images and videos for ten years. Unlike most other developed nations, the U.S. Government does not claim copyright on video, film, photographs and other media produced by its workers. The immense number of works in the U.S. public domain have enabled countless researchers, makers and citizens to read, view and make many new works. True, those wishing to use modern military materials (1940s-present) in DoD's archives often need to negotiate their release with military public affairs, but these materials have traditionally been available for just the cost of duplication. This is soon to change."

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Getting your head around the Pentagon's titanic, enormous, unauditably large budget


A long, infographic-laden Mother Jones explainer tries to make sense of the US's insanely gigantic military budget, which dwarfs all US spending save Social Security. America's military owns more than 170 golf courses and manages enough land to host 93 Los Angeleses, and the Afghan/Iraq invasions have no meaningful peace dividend -- they're a permanent upward ratchet on the military budget.

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DIY Drone Shadow Handbook: how to create accurate drone-shadow street art


James Bridle has released a CC-licensed DIY Drone Shadows handbook (PDF), which explains, in detail, how to make accurate drone-shadow street art in your town/neighborhood. It's part of a larger project around Dirty Wars, a documentary on drone warfare currently touring the UK.

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Why haunted houses have suits of armor


Over on Long Forgotten (a Haunted Mansion blog that is so fantastically great that every post is a cause for celebration), there's a new post about suits of armor and haunted houses that reveals (among other things) that the helmet of the famous armor by the Haunted Mansion's infinite corridor was originally an ornamental piece worn by Martin Luther's archenemy Albrecht von Brandenburg, the indulgence-flogging Archbishop of Mainz. What's more, there's a damned good reason why they only used the helmet (click through to find out why).

For me, though, the highlight of the piece was this excellent description of why suits are armor are inherently spooky:

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Inspiration for Kelly McGillis's Top Gun character now Pentagon #2

Christine fox

Christine Fox, the former mathematician at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar who inspired Kelly McGillis's character in Top Gun, has become the first female Deputy Secretary of Defense, the number two role at the Pentagon. Fox will serve in an "acting capacity" until a permanent person is confirmed for the job by the Senate. (CNN)

Rooster-faced warriors of 16th century Germany


16th century German soldiery sure understood how to strike terror into their enemies' hearts: the rooster-headed armored visor (ca 1530) must have been a sight to behold. Now on display at the Met in NYC (Bashford Dean Memorial Collection, Bequest of Bashford Dean, 1928)

Close Helmet with Mask Visor (via Neatorama)

Video of the Maui Space Surveillance Complex

From the US Air Force's Airman magazine:

The Maui Space Surveillance Complex is located on Mount Haleakala, a dormant volcano on the island of Maui in Hawaii. It’s one of three sites Air Force Space Command operates that makes up the Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep-Space Surveillance network, which tracks man-made objects orbiting the Earth.
"Capturing Space"

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.

Smoking is good for you, under very limited circumstances


Behold, the Craven A tin that saved the life of Royal Flying Corpsman Arthur Mann, who was shot down by the Red Baron himself. In a later battle, this tin stopped a bullet and saved his life.

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Wildcat: galloping 16mph robot

Wildcat is a fast-sprinting, 16MPH Boston Dynamics robot whose gallop is a precision joy to behold.

Boston Dynamics is often featured here for its amazing robots: the humanoid Petman; the zippy Cheetah; the high-jumping Urban Hopper; the pole-climbing Rise; and the pack-slinging BigDog.

Introducing WildCat (via JWZ)

F-16 fighter jet converted into drone

Planeeeee

Boeing and the US Air Force have converted retired F-16 fighter jets into drones, designated as QF-16s. According to Boeing, "While in the air, the QF-16 mission included a series of simulated maneuvers, reaching supersonic speeds, returning to base and landing, all without a pilot in the cockpit." The military claims that they will use the drones for dogfight training. Video of the first pilotless test flight below. (Thanks, David Steinberg!)

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How The Cleveland Press broke the story of Los Alamos a year-and-a-half before Hiroshima

The Manhattan Project was a secret, but it wasn't as secret a secret as you've been lead to believe, writes Rebecca Rosen at The Atlantic. Not only was the construction of an atomic weapon a topic of Washington gossip, but the entire "secret city in the desert" thing got blown open in 1944 when a columnist for a Midwestern newspaper ran across Los Alamos while on vacation. In light of our current debates about state secrets and security, it's probably less interesting that columnist Jack Raper found Los Alamos, and more interesting that he, and his paper, chose to buck the self-enforced system of silence that characterized World War II media.

General Wesley Clark is a burner

M. Otis Beard sez, "John Perry Barlow has confirmed the rumor with journalists: General Wesley Clark did indeed attend Burning Man 2013. . . but what does it mean?"

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DoD office can't process FOIAs because fax machine broken, no money for new one

MuckRock News reports that Freedom of Information Act requests faxed to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) started coming back as undeliverable a couple weeks ago. The OSD confirms their fax machine is down, possibly for another few months, because there's no money in their tens of billions of dollars a year budget for a new one, and they can't switch to email as a request method. "The office that oversees the most powerful military in history (not to mention the best-funded) is unable to project when its single fax machine will once again be operational."

Bid on the spy-rock that Lockheed and the DoD stiffed a subcontractor on

Gregory Perry says he got stiffed by Lockheed Martin. He says they asked a company he co-owned to develop a fake spy-rock for the Department of Defense in the early 2000s, but didn't pay the company, whereupon he got screwed by his partners, and shafted by Lockheed on the royalties they owed him on the spy-rocks they made later for America's spooks. He's been listing it on eBay (along with the Lockheed/DoD paperwork), looking for the millions he believes he's owed.

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Report: Transgender people serve in US military at a rate double the general population

Amid much talk of Chelsea Manning's transitional status, this interesting factoid shared by Boing Boing pal Andrea James: a Williams Institute study says trans people serve in the US military at rates double that of the general population. Despite the math, "they nonetheless face discrimination during and after service."

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Coming soon: More than one data point on the transgender experience in the military

Part of the problem with the Chelsea Manning situation is that it's spawned a lot of not-terribly-well-informed discussion about the roles and experiences of transgendered people in the military. There's a risk of this one big anecdote coming to represent the whole. Enter the Kinsey Institute — America's favorite source of sexuality science — which just got a grant to do actual research on the lives of transgender service members.

Manning’s gender hell: Shades of gray in a black-and-white world

We asked writer, film director, Boing Boing contributor, and transgender educator and activist Andrea James what she thought about the media confusion following Private Manning's gender transition revelation. Below, Andrea's thoughts.Read the rest

Pfc. Manning transitions gender: 'I am Chelsea.'


A self-portrait snapshot Bradley Manning took, and emailed to his supervisor in the Army in April, 2010, prior to leaking government documents to Wikileaks.

One day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking secret government files to Wikileaks, Pfc. Bradley Manning today announced via NBC TODAY the decision to live life as a woman.

We first wrote about this aspect of Manning's story in 2010, after realizing that a series of chat logs circulating on the internet--which we'd published without understanding the subtle references within--spoke to Manning's desire to transition.

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Bradley Manning sentence to be delivered Aug. 21, 10am US Eastern


U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning arrives at the courthouse during his court martial at Fort Meade in Maryland August, 20, 2013. REUTERS/Jose Luis Magana

In a courtroom at Fort Meade on Wednesday, August 21, at 10am Eastern time, Judge Army. Col. Denise Lind will deliver the sentence in Bradley Manning's court-martial. The 25-year-old former intelligence analyst is charged with sharing more than 700,000 secret government documents with Julian Assange and Wikileaks. The transparency organization published those documents online, and shared them with news organizations.

Manning faces up to 90 years in prison, and will receive credit for 3.5 years already served in custody, some in solitary confinement. No minimum sentence applies; Judge Lind convicted him last month of most charges brought against him by the government, including 6 violations of the US Espionage Act of 1917.

Here is the latest transcript of court proceedings [PDF], captured by stenographers who were crowdfunded and hired by Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Manning's attorney will give a press conference after the sentence delivery. Follow this Twitter list, for updates from reporters who are there at the Fort Meade media operations center.

One of those reporters, Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News, wrote an important piece today about the kind of treatment Manning is likely to receive in military prison as a transgender person.

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