Submit a link Features Reviews Podcasts Video Forums More ▾

Guatemala: Rios Montt genocide trial, day 18. "If I can't control the Army, then what am I doing here?"

Rios Montt listens to a prosecution witness, during the tribunal.

I am blogging from inside the Supreme Court in Guatemala City, where the trial of former Guatemalan Army General and US-backed dictator Guatemalan José Efrain Rios Montt and his then chief of intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez has reconvened for the 18th day. Here's a good recap of Monday's proceedings, and here's another.

For the past two weeks, I have been here in Guatemala with Miles O'Brien, observing the trial in court and interviewing people involved in the story for a forthcoming report on PBS NewsHour. We have interviewed Rios Montt's daughter, Zury Rios, who is her father's most diligent defender. We have interviewed scientists whose work is entered as evidence in the trial. We traveled to the Ixil area where the conflict at the center of this trial took place, and we interviewed Ixil Maya survivors about their experiences in the US-backed counterinsurgency attacks. We interviewed government officials who worked closely with Ríos Montt, who believe that what happened was not genocide, but the unfortunate collateral damage of a just war against "International Communism."

As covered in previous Boing Boing posts, the past few weeks of the trial have included personal testimonies from dozens of Ixil Maya survivors of mass killings, rapes, torture, forced adoption, and displacement. More than two dozen forensic anthropologists from the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) have testified about human remains exhumed and analyzed from mass graves. Many other expert witnesses, or "peritos," have testified: among them, Patrick Ball of hrdag.org, who analyzed data of deaths during the armed conflict, to help judges make their decision about whether the mass killings constituted a focused attack by the Guatemalan Army, led by Ríos Montt, against the Ixil Maya ethnic group.

In other words: Was this genocide?

Not according to "The Foundation Against Terrorism," which published a 20-page paid newspaper supplement over the weekend here in Guatemala. "The Farce of Genocide in Guatemala: a conspiracy perpetrated by the Marxists with the Catholic Church." It's an interesting read.

The 18th day of the tribunal began this morning with defense witnesses for Ríos Montt and Sanchez.

Read the rest

Laser on ship shoots down drone

NewImageAbove is a US Navy demonstration of a high-energy laser on a moving ship shooting down a drone. The Office of Naval Research just announced that they plan to deploy the system next year. "Our conservative data tells us a shot of directed energy costs under $1," Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder said. "Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to fire a missile, and you can begin to see the merits of this capability." (Navy.mil)

Gas masks for babies, 1940


From the Imperial War Museum in London, a couple of incredible photos of nurses testing out infant gas-masks: "Three nurses carry babies cocooned in baby gas respirators down the corridor of a London hospital during a gas drill. Note the carrying handle on the respirator used to carry the baby by the nurse in the foreground."

GAS DRILL AT A LONDON HOSPITAL: GAS MASKS FOR BABIES ARE TESTED, ENGLAND, 1940 (via Kadrey)

Laotian all-women bomb clearance team, "most dangerous job in world," to speak in U.S.

In the photo above: "Manixia Thor (left) and a member of her all women’s bomb clearance team head into the field to clear unexploded ordnance in the Lao countryside." In April, Manixia is on a speakers' tour in the US, focused on the urgent need for funding of bomb clearance and survivor assistance efforts in Laos.

Read the rest

How children become "cannon fodder" for Mexican drug cartels

Wired's Danger Room blog points to this new report [PDF] by the NGO International Crisis Group, which details how Mexican drug cartels recruit and coerce kids as young as 11 years old to kill. Narcos “have recruited thousands of street gang members, school drop-outs and unskilled workers” over the last decade, and the report claims “cartel bosses will treat the young killers as cannon fodder, throwing them into suicidal attacks on security forces.” [Wired.com] Xeni

Controversy over Esquire profile of the SEAL who shot bin Laden (or maybe didn't)

Was Phil Bronstein's 15,000-word Esquire profile of the SEAL Team 6 member who killed Osama bin Laden, a Navy SEAL who is "now retired and struggling to make ends meet while dealing with the psychological and physical scars of war," a bunch of “Complete B-S”? That's what some of "The Shooter's" fellow SEALs told CNN's Peter Bergen.

Adrian Chen tries to figure it out. Esquire stands by the story. [Gawker]

CIA director promotes woman who approved destruction of CIA "harsh interrogation" videos

A woman has been placed in charge of the CIA’s clandestine service for the first time in the agency’s history, reports the Washington Post. She's a veteran officer whom many in the agency support, and the high-level appointment is seen as a step forward for women in Washington. That's the good news! The bad news is...
[S]he also helped run the CIA’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and signed off on the 2005 decision to destroy videotapes of prisoners being subjected to treatment critics have called torture. The woman, who remains undercover and cannot be named, was put in the top position on an acting basis when the previous chief retired last month. The question of whether to give her the job permanently poses an early quandary for [CIA Director John] Brennan, who is already struggling to distance the agency from the decade-old controversies.

More: "CIA director faces a quandary over clandestine service appointment". [The Washington Post, via @dabeard]

There's some speculation it's this person. [Gawker]

Biggest threat in the Pacific, according to top U.S. Admiral? Climate Change.

Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, "no smelly hippie," according to Wired News, believes the consequences of a warming planet are likely to “cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.” According to Danger Room, he said, “You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level. Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.” [Danger Room | Wired.com] Xeni

NSA’s secret domestic spying program, code named "Ragtime," uncloaked in new book

According to Marc Ambinder and D.B. Grady's new book Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry, the secretive National Security Agency spying programs have become institutionalized, and have grown, since 9/11.

Shane Harris at the Washingtonian read through the book's account of these sweeping and controversial surveillance programs, conducted under the code name "Ragtime":

Ragtime, which appears in official reports by the abbreviation RT, consists of four parts.

Ragtime-A involves US-based interception of all foreign-to-foreign counterterrorism-related data; Ragtime-B deals with data from foreign governments that transits through the US; Ragtime-C deals with counterproliferation actvities; and then there's Ragtime-P, which will probably be of greatest interest to those who continue to demand more information from the NSA about what it does in the United States.

P stands for Patriot Act. Ragtime-P is the remnant of the original President’s Surveillance Program, the name given to so-called "warrantless wiretapping" activities after 9/11, in which one end of a phone call or an e-mail terminated inside the United States. That collection has since been brought under law, but civil liberties groups, journalists, and legal scholars continue to seek more information about what it entailed, who was targeted, and what authorities exist today for domestic intelligence-gathering.

Harris, who is an experienced national security reporter, analyzes some of those findings in his Washingtonian item. You can buy a copy of the book here (released Feb. 14, 2013).

(HT: Laura Poitras/Freedom of the Press Foundation)

Army releases some documents on Bradley Manning case

In response to Freedom of Information Act requests, the military today released 84 court documents related to the case of Bradley Manning. As is routine, many of the documents are redacted.

The Army private is charged with being the source of classified documents published by WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization headed by Julian Assange.

The documents released today include court orders, and various rulings read aloud in court. The DoD says more documents will be released, pending review and redaction.

Read the rest

Stealth fighter pilots' planes making them sick. Air Force to pilots: Get over it.

Pilots of the US Air Force's F-22 Raptor stealth fighters are experiencing choking, coughing, memory loss, confusion, and blackouts (hypoxia) because of the way the planes are designed. At least one fatal crash is blamed on the phenomenon, and even ground crews have been sickened while working on F-22s when engines are running. The Air Force says there's nothing that can be done. Xeni

Obama vows more transparency on drones. What we get: more secrecy.

Trevor Timm at Freedom of the Press Foundation: "In the wake of the government's secret legal rationale for the targeted killing of American citizens leaking to the press, President Obama has now twice vowed to bring more transparency to national security issues, and in particular, drone strikes. Yet since his two statements, his administration has instead moved to prevent more information from reaching Congress, the courts, and the public." Xeni

Reviews for a Predator Drone toy

The reviews on the Amazon page for a toy Predator drone are pretty trenchant:

You've had a busy play day - You've wiretapped Mom's cell phone and e-mail without a warrant, you've indefinitely detained your little brother Timmy in the linen closet without trial, and you've confiscated all the Super-Soakers from the neighborhood children (after all, why does any kid - besides you, of course - even NEED a Super-Soaker for self-defense? A regular water pistol should be enough). What do you do for an encore?

That's where the US Air Force Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator from Maisto comes in. Let's say that Dad has been labeled a terrorist in secret through your disposition matrix. Rather than just arrest him and go through the hassle of trying and convicting him in a court of law, and having to fool with all those terrorist-loving Constitutional protections, you can just use one of these flying death robots to assassinate him! Remember, due process and oversight are for sissies. Plus, you get the added bonus of taking out potential terrorists before they've even done anything - estimates have determined that you can kill up to 49 potential future terrorists of any age for every confirmed terrorist you kill, and with the innovative 'double-tap' option, you can even kill a few terrorist first responders, preventing them from committing terrorist acts like helping the wounded and rescuing survivors trapped in the rubble. Don't let Dad get away with anti-American activities! Show him who's boss, whether he's at a wedding, a funeral, or just having his morning coffee. Sow fear and carnage in your wake! Win a Nobel Peace Prize and be declared Time Magazine's Person of the Year - Twice!

This goes well with the Maisto Extraordinary Rendition playset, by the way - which gives you all the tools you need to kidnap the family pet and take him for interrogation at a neighbor's house, where the rules of the Geneva Convention may not apply. Loads of fun! [Maurice Cobbs]

This is the best toy ever. Finally, I can pretend that I'm a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize! It's like I'm sitting right there in the White House with my very own kill list! [Raini Pachak]

Extreme multi-purpose tarp -- great for casual Fridays


Finland's Varusteleka sells a multipurpose "Jerven Fjellduken" tarpaulin that you're meant to wear, sleep under, and sleep in. It makes you look like a well-camouflaged Nordic Nazgul.

Jerven bag, those are almost words of power among hunters, outdoorsmen and soldiers the world over. Jerven has been making the Fjellduken since 1982, besides the obvious hunting trips and hikes the Fjellduken has seen action in Afghanistan in the hands of Norwegian and Danish special forces.

You won't find any hi-fi bullshit in your Jerven bag, the technical bits start and end at the zippers, that's it. All of Jervens products are made and developed by the very same people who use them. The unique design and materials make the Jerven bag an incredibly versatile and high performing piece of equipment. This is not your standard modern trinket, which relies on never ending lists of one after another more trivial properties and features to impress people, this is simple perfection at its best!

Jerven Fjellduken Extreme multi-purpose tarp / sleeping bag (via Making Light)

For sale: no-name Chinese attack drones


Jeffrey sez,

The algorithmic overlords of Alibaba are sending me astonishing stuff via their "suggested crapgadgets you might be interested in" hourly email. Wireless car key duplicators and GPS jammers came first. But today they have truly outdone themselves, suggesting that I might be interested in a "small attack UAV". Yes, you heard right.

This actually does claim to be the real deal. From the page: "ball tripod head freely rotates to guide the UAV attacking targets. Engine uses mechanical and electronic three grades insurance with high security. The UAV is mainly used in the mountains, hills and complex terrain conditions; does effective short-range real-time attack to the fixed ground target or slowly move targets, such as artillery hole, command post, communication station, radar station, oil truck, oil depot and other small and temporary goals."

They state a production capability of ten pieces per month. I am tempted to ask for a price quote, if only to nudge the Alibaba Algorithm into sending me even more offers from the cloak and dagger side of the Crapgadget Universe....

SKY-02 small attack UAV (Thanks, Jeffrey!)