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Closing arguments in Bradley Manning court-martial paint Wikileaks source as glory-seeking traitor

Inside a small courthouse on the Army base in Fort Meade, Maryland, Army prosecutors are presenting closing arguments in their case against Pfc. Bradley Manning, who leaked hundreds of thousands of government documents to Wikileaks.

According to Maj. Ashden Fein today, the 25-year-old former intel analyst betrayed his country’s trust and handed government secrets to Julian Assange in search of fame and glory, knowing that in doing so, the material would be made visible to Al Qaeda and its then-leader Osama bin Laden.

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Interview with a US Air Force drone pilot

"Albert Hibpshman is a United States Air Force (USAF) pilot of manned and unmanned aircrafts. During his recent deployment to Afghanistan, Hibpshman was a Mission Commander flying MC-12Ws [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircrafts] as well as a Group Liaison Officer, responsible for the coordination between five flying squadrons and Army, Marine and special forces units at bases spread throughout southern Afghanistan." Speaking with Muftah.org, Hibpshman shares his personal experience with contemporary drone warfare, and the human side of cyberwar. Xeni 5

In final phase of Bradley Manning trial, a defense of Wikileaks

Charlie Savage at the New York Times covers proceedings in the court-martial of PFC Bradley Manning at Ft. Meade, on the day the defense rested its case. The final witness for the defense was Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler, who authored this widely-cited paper on WikiLeaks. Benkler testified that the organization served a legitimate journalistic role when Manning leaked it some 700,000 or more secret government files.

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Why Thor's Hammer is on military headstones

John Brownlee on how the U.S. military's epic journey into religious tolerance reached Odinism.
Mjölnir is a weapon of honor and virtue, and a fitting symbol for any noble warrior. So it’s appropriate that American soldiers can now request the symbol for Thor’s Hammer be placed on their headstone if they die in the line of duty. But Mjölnir’s path toward becoming an acceptable headstone option wasn’t easy. It practically took the power of Thor to get it there.

US Army adds The Guardian to its internal censorwall

Lest its personnel find out about the ways in which the NSA has gone on a campaign of lawlessness, the US Army has begun to censor The Guardian's website on its networks. Cory 4

Australian Army on institutional sexism: The standard you walk past is the standard you accept

Michael sez, "In response to a breaking scandal the head of the Australian Army gives a textbook example on how to respond to sexual abuse in the military, hell, misogyny in any organisation: blunt, unambiguous, drawing on both institutional policy and personal ethics, and frankly a bit terrifying in a Tywin Lassister kind of way. I quailed and I'm not even a soldier. I also think there should be more of this."

If you become aware of any individual degrading another, then show moral courage and take a stand against it. No one has ever explained to me how the exploitation or degradation of others enhances capability or honors the traditions of the Australian army. I will be ruthless in ridding the army of people who cannot live up to its values and I need every one of you to support me in achieving this.

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. That goes for all of us, but especially those who by their rank have a leadership role.

Chief of Army message regarding unacceptable behaviour

(Transcript: Skepchick)

(Thanks, Michael!)

Documentary about US Army's WWII "tactical deception unit"

During World War II, the US Army deployed a "tactical deception unit" to Europe. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, aka the "Ghost Army," consisted of artists, ad directors, actors, and other creative folks who used inflatable tanks, sound effects trucks, and good ol' fashioned bullshit to trick the German forces. It included the likes of fashion designer Bill Blass, fine artist Elsworth Kelly, and photographer Art Kane. A documentary about the Ghost Army, directed by Rick Beyer, aired last month on PBS. You can watch it for free right here! The Ghost Army story would make for a great black comedy too! The Ghost Army (Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)

Know your chemical weapons


These know-your-chemical-weapon posters were produced by the Medical Training Replacement Center at Camp Barkeley near Abilene, Texas as training materials for soldiers being sent to fight in WWII. They're a weird mix of cheerfulness and atrocity:

Of the four chemicals mentioned here—phosgene, lewisite, mustard gas, and chlorpicrin—three were used in World War I. (Lewisite was produced beginning in 1918, but the war ended before it could be used.) Phosgene, which irritates the lungs and mucus membranes and causes a person to choke to death, caused the largest number of deaths among people killed by chemical weapons in the First World War. (Elsewhere on Slate: A firsthand account of what it felt like to be hit by mustard gas.)

The smells that these posters warn soldiers-in-training to be wary of are the everyday scents of home: flypaper, musty hay, green corn, geraniums, garlic. The choice of analogies seems particularly appropriate for soldiers raised on farms­—a population that would become increasingly small in every war to follow.

Four WWII Posters That Taught Soldiers to Identify Chemical Weapons by Smell (via Kadrey)

(Images: National Museum of Health and Medicine)

US military continues to abuse and abandon wounded soldiers

In 2010, The New York Times uncovered systemic abuse within units meant to help wounded Army soldiers transition through months-and-years-long treatment and rehabilitation. Today, The Colorado Springs Gazette has a profile about one of the soldiers who stood up for Warrior Transition Units back then. The abuses exposed by the Times weren't fixed and Jerrald Jensen ended up becoming a victim himself. After questioning the mistreatment in the system, he was nearly given a less-than-honorable discharge, which would have cost him long-term Veteran's benefits — a pattern that the Gazette has found happening over and over among the most-vulnerable wounded Army men and women who need the most care in order to rehabilitate from their service injuries. The treatment described here is disgusting, all the more so when you compare it to Jensen's service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Exposing this kind of crap is why journalism exists. Maggie

Black Code: how spies, cops and crims are making cyberspace unfit for human habitation


I reviewed Ronald Diebert's new book Black Code in this weekend's edition of the Globe and Mail. Diebert runs the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto and has been instrumental in several high-profile reports that outed government spying (like Chinese hackers who compromised the Dalai Lama's computer and turned it into a covert CCTV) and massive criminal hacks (like the Koobface extortion racket). His book is an amazing account of how cops, spies and crooks all treat the Internet as the same kind of thing: a tool for getting information out of people without their knowledge or consent, and how they end up in a kind of emergent conspiracy to erode the net's security to further their own ends. It's an absolutely brilliant and important book:

Ronald Deibert’s new book, Black Code, is a gripping and absolutely terrifying blow-by-blow account of the way that companies, governments, cops and crooks have entered into an accidental conspiracy to poison our collective digital water supply in ways small and large, treating the Internet as a way to make a quick and dirty buck or as a snoopy spy’s best friend. The book is so thoroughly disheartening for its first 14 chapters that I found myself growing impatient with it, worrying that it was a mere counsel of despair.

But the final chapter of Black Code is an incandescent call to arms demanding that states and their agents cease their depraved indifference to the unintended consequences of their online war games and join with civil society groups that work to make the networked society into a freer, better place than the world it has overwritten.

Deibert is the founder and director of The Citizen Lab, a unique institution at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. It is one part X-Files hacker clubhouse, one part computer science lab and one part international relations observatory. The Citizen Lab’s researchers have scored a string of international coups: Uncovering GhostNet, the group of Chinese hackers taking over sensitive diplomatic computers around the world and eavesdropping on the private lives of governments; cracking Koobface, a group of Russian petty crooks who extorted millions from random people on the Internet, a few hundred dollars at a time; exposing another Chinese attack directed at the Tibetan government in exile and the Dalai Lama. Each of these exploits is beautifully recounted in Black Code and used to frame a larger, vivid narrative of a network that is global, vital and terribly fragile.

Yes, fragile. The value of the Internet to us as a species is incalculable, but there are plenty of parties for whom the Internet’s value increases when it is selectively broken.

How to make cyberspace safe for human habitation

Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace

US State Department orders removal of Defense Distributed's printable gun designs

The US State Department has ordered Defense Distributed to take down the designs for a working 3D printed gun, citing export control rules set out in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Defense Distributed's Cody Wilson is appealing, and says that ITAR does not apply to "non-profit public domain releases of technical files designed to create a safe harbor for research and other public interest activities" -- though this carve out is for works stored in a library. Wilson's appeal may turn, then, on whether the Internet is a library for the purposes of this regulation. In the meantime, the designs are still up on The Pirate Bay, and are for sale in printed form in an Austin bookseller. More than 100,000 copies of the designs were downloaded from Defense Distributed's servers in the brief time that they were online.

“Until the Department provides Defense Distributed with final [commodity jurisdiction] determinations, Defense Distributed should treat the above technical data as ITAR-controlled,” reads the letter, referring to a list of ten CAD files hosted on Defcad that include the 3D-printable gun, silencers, sights and other pieces. “This means that all data should be removed from public acces immediately. Defense Distributed should review the remainder of the data made public on its website to determine whether any other data may be similarly controlled and proceed according to ITAR requirements.”

Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas in Austin, says that Defense Distributed will in fact take down its files until the State Department has completed its review. “We have to comply,” he says. “All such data should be removed from public access, the letter says. That might be an impossible standard. But we’ll do our part to remove it from our servers.”

Wilson's project is raising some important legal questions, such as whether design files can be considered expressive speech under the First Amendment, and whether the Internet is a library. The question of code-as-speech was famously considered in the Bernstein case, where strong crypto was legalized. However, as we discovered in the 2600 case, judges are less charitably inclined to code-as-speech arguments when they're advanced by non-academics, especially those with counter-culture stances.

Impact litigation -- where good precedents overturn bad rules -- is greatly assisted by good facts and good defendants. I would much rather the Internet-as-library question be ruled on in a less emotionally overheated realm than DIY guns.

State Department Demands Takedown Of 3D-Printable Gun Files For Possible Export Control Violations [Andy Greenberg/Forbes]

(Thanks to everyone who sent this in!)

Anti-war ads from the 1930s


On the Vintage Ads LiveJournal, a fascinating set of anti-war ads from the 1930s protest group World Peaceways (see the full-sized version to read the text). They ran an anti-imperialist anti-war campaign that described soldiers as pawns in the corrupt games of the rich and powerful, and called on everyday people to refuse to involve America in future wars.

World Peaceways (1930s pacifist/anti-war organization) produced some of the boldest propaganda posters of that era, largely aimed at looking at what had come about in the aftermath of the First World War, including the Depression, and death on a scale the world had not seen before, as well as lasting enmity that was quickly brewing into the Second World War.

The name "World Peaceways" was used in the famous Star Trek episode "City on the Edge of Forever" to represent the pacifist movement that Edith Keeler belonged to. The story claimed that her peace work would keep America out of the war for too long and thus lead to Germany winning and taking over the United States. Kirk HAD to let her die - because if he saved her (as he apparently had) then all of history would change.

Sunday Sampler of Anti-War Ads

What ouija boards and military contractors have in common

The power of suggestion, your own expectations, and even your emotions can cause your body to move without you actively telling it to. This weird phenomenon is called the ideomotor effect. It's what makes ouija boards work and it's the mechanism behind $60,000 bomb-detecting devices that an American company was recently caught selling to the Iraqi government. Needless to say, the devices did not actually detect bombs. Maggie

Russian paratroopers deploy inflatable Orthodox church

Bruce Schneier writes, "This is a film of a training session of the Russian Army deploying an inflatable Orthodox church and paratrooping priests. Too weird for me to blog."

Paratrooper priests and airborne temples at the service of Russian army (Thanks, Bruce!)

Guatemala: Rios Montt genocide trial, Day 19

Former General and dictator Rios Montt, in a crush of reporters in the Guatemalan Supreme Court. Photo: @xeni.

I am blogging from inside the Guatemalan Supreme Court in Guatemala City this morning, on day 19 of the trial of former Guatemalan General and genocide and de factor dictator Rios Montt, and his then-head of intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez. Montt's 1982-1983 regime was supported by the United States; during this era many thousands of non-combatant civilians were killed.

My report from yesterday's proceedings is here.

An excellent report from Kate Doyle is here at riosmontt-trial.org, a project of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

The court adjourned at mid-day yesterday, as Judge Jazmin Barrios scolded Ríos Montt's defense team for effectively delaying the judicial process by failing to have defense witnesses present.

This early closure of the trial followed a dramatic moment: the court played series of interviews with Ríos Montt and two senior Army figures, filmed in 1982 by American documentary filmmaker Pamela Yates (Granito, When the Mountains Tremble). The silent, 86 year old Ríos Montt leaned back in his chair and looked up at the younger version of himself at the height of his physical and political vigor; it was a surreal scene, here in the courtroom.

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