In John Brockman's Edge newsletter, an essay by Scott Atran (left) and Robert Axelrod (right), two social scientists who study and interact with violent groups "to find ways out of intractable conflicts." The piece is a response to a recent Supreme Court decision that amounts to a real "chilling effect" for anyone working for peace and reconciliation through dialogue with foreign groups that have a history of armed conflict. Before the ruling, we knew that sending money or guns to any of the four dozen groups currently designated by the secretary of state as terrorist organizations was punishable by up to 15 years in prison. But now the law has been clarified to show that, say, holding conflict resolution workshops with them, or even interviewing one of their officers for an op-ed piece, could merit the same penalty. This NPR News analysis is a good place to start for real-world examples.
From Atran and Axelrod's Edge essay:
In the course of this work and in our discussions with decision makers in the Middle East and elsewhere we have seen how informal meetings and exchanges of knowledge have borne fruit. It's not that religious, academic or scientific credentials automatically convey trust, but when combined with a personal commitment to peace, they often carry weight beyond mere opinion or desire.
So we find it disappointing that the Supreme Court, in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project, ruled that any "material support" of a foreign terrorist group, including talking to terrorists or the communication of expert knowledge and scientific information, helps lend "legitimacy" to the organization. Sometimes, undoubtedly, that is the case. But American law has to find a way to make a clear distinction between illegal material support and legal actions that involve talking with terrorists privately in the hopes of reducing global terrorism and promoting national security.
"If he really had access to these cables, we've got a terrible situation on our hands," said an American diplomat. "We're still trying to figure out what he had access to. A lot of my colleagues overseas are sweating this out, given what those cables may contain."
He said Manning apparently had special access to cables prepared by diplomats and State Department officials throughout the Middle East regarding the workings of Arab governments and their leaders.
The cables, which date back over several years, went out over interagency computer networks available to the Army and contained information related to American diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, the diplomat said.
He added that the State Department and law-enforcement agencies are trying to determine whether, and how, to approach Wikileaks to urge the site not to publish the cables, given the damage they could do to diplomatic efforts involving the United States and its allies.
SPC Bradley Manning [ at left ], 22, of Potomac, Maryland, was stationed at Forward Operating Base Hammer, 40 miles east of Baghdad, where he was arrested nearly two weeks ago by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division. A family member says he's being held in custody in Kuwait, and has not been formally charged.
Manning was turned in late last month by a former computer hacker with whom he spoke online. In the course of their chats, Manning took credit for leaking a headline-making video of a helicopter attack that Wikileaks posted online in April. The video showed a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several innocent civilians.
The Wired story hit late Sunday. Today, the Defense Department confirmed Manning's arrest and detention in Kuwait over claims he "leaked classified information." Again, from Wired News:
"United States Division-Center is currently conducting a joint investigation" says the statement, which notes that Manning is deployed with 2nd Brigade 10th Mountain Division in Baghdad. "The results of the investigation will be released upon completion of the investigation."
Wikileaks apparently didn't respond to Wired News requests for comment before the story ran, but they did reply publicly to the story on Twitter...
Here's a mid-1980s CBC News scare-story about Dungeons and Dragons driving kids to suicide featuring (at 2:49 onwards) me and my classmates (the video is dated 1985, but I'm pretty sure this couldn't have been later than my graduation from Junior High in 1984). Ignoring the crazy-ass fearmongering, it's incredibly nostalgic to see all those kids I grew up with, playing with their minis and rolling their dice.
The TSA says you can't carry a snow-globe onto a plane, even if it fits in your freedom baggie, because they can't measure how much liquid it contains, and therefore it must contain more than three oz of potential explosive, um, water.
TSA, meet Archimedes. He lived over 2,000 years ago and figured out how to calculate the volume of a object by measuring its displacement. If you actually believe that 3 oz is a magical high-danger threshold, please consider adding a delightful, hallucinatory element of science to your pseudoscience by putting an Archimedes tank at the checkpoint. It would be a lovely counterpoint to your other scientific tests, such as the ducking stool and the spirit-rattles.
"Snow globes are not permitted to be carried through security checkpoints," said Transportation Security Administration spokesman Dwayne Baird.
The reason is that the globes contain liquids, and TSA rules say that only liquids, gels or aerosols in containers of three ounces or less are allowed through security in carry-on bags...
"I would think they would just say 'no,' because they can't really determine how many ounces are in there," Baird said.
If you've always wondered how AES -- the Advanced Encryption Standard, the gold-standard for crypto -- works, and if you enjoy explanations in stick-figure cartoon form, you are in luck, for Moserware's "A Stick Figure Guide to the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)" is funny, lucid and fascinating.
BB pal Sean Bonner is traveling in Thailand, and spotted this street hawker selling fake identification cards. "Check it," he emails, "For the low price of 3,000 baht I could have bought a California Drivers License!" I dig the assortment of press passes. Pick me up one, Sean, but make sure mine also has the bald white dude's photo on it, just like the one belonging to "Miss Heather Roberts," below (click to enlarge). Flickr image link.
Jesse Brown, a BoingBoing guest-blogger, is the host of TVO's Search Engine podcast.
Here's what DPA, Germany's national news wire reported this past September 11th 10th:
A terrorist attack occurred in the city of Bluewater, California. The suicide bombers were German rappers, the "Berlin Boys".
A half hour later DPA issued a correction: there had been no bombing. The "Berlin Boys" are not a rap group. The city of Bluewater does not exist.
It was all an elaborate publicity stunt to promote the satirical German film Short Cut to Hollywood. Filmmaker Jan Henrik Stahlberg and his team fooled their entire nation by creating fake websites and videos:
John Schwartz at the New York Times has filed a more thorough report than the AP item I blogged. His piece includes details about the Kansas-born man who filed the lawsuit, with representation from the ACLU. Snip:
The lawsuit was brought in 2005 by Abdullah al-Kidd, who was born Lavoni T. Kidd in Kansas and converted to Islam in college. He was arrested in 2003 at Dulles Airport as he prepared to fly to Saudi Arabia for graduate work in Islamic studies, and was held for weeks under a law that allows the indefinite detention of material witnesses to a crime. After his detention, he was ordered to stay with his in-laws in Las Vegas; his travel was restricted over the next year.
Mr. Kidd, who was not called as a witness in the case in which he was detained and was never charged with a crime, sued Mr. Ashcroft and other officials in 2005, challenging his detention as unconstitutional and saying it cost him his marriage and his job. His lawyers argued that he was held as part of a secret Bush administration policy to use the material witness statute as a tool to detain and interrogate people when there was insufficient evidence to charge them with a crime.
Over at Wired's Danger Room blog, news that an environmental nonprofit has obtained photos of the Department of Energy's "specially designed trucks" used to transport nuclear material around the United States. They pretty much look like any other transport truck, which is a little creepy, considering what they contain while they're rollin' down the highway. Just this week, a similar vehicle carrying missiles overturned -- so, safety concerns are in the air right now. Snip:
"The trucks carrying nuclear weapons and dangerous materials such as plutonium pass through cities and neighborhoods all the time and the public should be aware of what they look like," says Tom Clements of the Friends of the Earth group based in Columbia, South Carolina, which obtained the photos through a Freedom of Information Act request. "Release of these photos will help inform the public about secretive shipments of dangerous nuclear material that are taking place in plain view."
Above: Gary McKinnon and his mother, Janis Sharp. Below, a guest opinion post by Oxblood Ruffin, a writer and human rights activist based in Munich, Germany.
Gary McKinnon is a Scottish technical expert, or as he is referred to by US federal prosecutors, the perpetrator of "the greatest military hack of all time." This claim is "total fucking bullshit", a phrase common amongst information security professionals.
Although Mr. McKinnon has high name-recognition factor in the United Kingdom he is virtually unknown to the American public. He is a mentally challenged hacker who waltzed through ninety-seven US military Web sites before being caught. Mr. McKinnon was looking for evidence of UFOs. He has Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism. It doesn't make him Rain Man but it does create a different perceptual framework.
Gary McKinnon was arrested in the UK in November 2002 after a thirteen month hacking spree into US military networks. He was eventually caught because he used his own email address to download a program called RemotelyAnywhere. Before the bust McKinnon had been under surveillance by Britain's High Tech Crime Unit. But then he did that, dare I say, retarded thing.
Gary McKinnon left his email address plus a number of taunting messages such as, "Your security is crap" on US military servers. Personally, I think the messages were on the polite side. America's military network security is the cyber equivalent of Swiss cheese. My granny could have pulled off McKinnon's hacks and she was well in the grave before they even transpired. Because remember, if you wanted to intrude into US military sites in 2001 all you had to do was key in: user = guest; password = hello.
And so Gary McKinnon was arrested by the High Tech Crime Unit in Britain. He detailed everything and confessed without an attorney being present. Now bear in mind, this is a guy who has Asperger and didn't fully comprehend the consequences of what he had done. Yet his confession was signed-off on, and the process began.
Weighing in on that post, an astute BB commenter noticed that if you do a Google Maps search for 1554 Walnut Avenue, Antioch, CA -- the address of the Antioch home where Garrido detained Jaycee Dugard (and her children, fathered by rape) -- you can see an overhead view of all the tents, tarps and sheds that Garrido's parole officer(s) and local police were too incompetent to bother checking, despite the fact that the guy was a convicted rapist. The overhead view in Google Maps has since been widely reported and blogged, so that's old news 4 days later.
But not this. Check out what another commenter noticed. When you're at that address in Google Maps, switch over to Street View mode. You'll see something chilling. Right in the 1554 Walnut Avenue driveway, you see a beat-up van with a rusty, trashed exterior, and what looks like a man behind the steering wheel. Follow the van.
Over at The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy website, Electronic Frontier Foundation Legal Director Cindy Cohn writes about the so-called Presidential Surveillance Program, the "still-shadowy set of programs that spy on Americans in America without any probable cause or warrant." The EFF, as regular BB readers know, has fought this program for several years now -- in 2006, it filed suit against AT&T for providing the NSA with direct access to its database of communications records. Snip from Cohn's essay:
While the details are unknown, credible evidence indicates that billions of everyday communications of ordinary Americans are swept up by government computers and run through a process that includes both data-mining and review of content, to try to figure out whether any of us were involved in illegal or terrorist-related activity. That means that even the most personal and private of our electronic communications - between doctors and patients, between husbands and wives, or between children and parents - are subject to review by computer algorithms programmed by government bureaucrats or by the bureaucrats themselves.
It's a bizarre turn of events, these unwarranted general searches. Our country was founded on the rejection of "general warrants" - pieces of paper that gave the Executive (then the King) unchecked power to search colonial Americans without cause. The Fourth Amendment was adopted in part to stop these "hated writs" and to make sure that searches of the papers of Americans required a probable cause showing to a court. The warrantless surveillance program returns us to the policies of King George III only with a digital boost. It subjects a huge number our daily digital papers to threshold surveillance, then adding subsequent, more intrusive warrantless surveillance if faceless government computers and bureaucrats determine that our communications or communications patterns merit further scrutiny.
Both Yoo and Hayden draw from a similar bag of tricks to defend the surveillance programs, including claims that there was a "gap" between our domestic surveillance and our foreign intelligence surveillance.
This week, we learned that the Obama administration will continue the Bush administration's practice of relocating war-on-terror detainees to other countries for offshore imprisonment and interrogation, with promises that their treatment will now be more closely monitored to ensure that they are not tortured. Human rights advocates condemn the decision as an extension of a program that creates conditions in which abuse is likely to flourish with impunity. U.S. Says Rendition to Continue, but With More Oversight(NYT).
In related news, the ACLU is protesting an agreement between the US and Britain which may lead to hacker Gary McKinnon being extradited to the US, after he penetrated the defenses of poorly secured US Government computers. According to reports, McKinnon suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, and has testified that he was searching for evidence of extra-terrestrials and UFO activity.
Well, this little viral number didn't take long to become the stuff of screaming Drudge sirens. So, over at CNET, Declan McCullagh wrote about an update to a cybersecurity bill that first circulated this spring. In his interpretation of the bill (which I haven't read in entirety, full disclosure), Declan says the bill gives the White House new power to unplug private-sector computers from the Internet in the case of national emergency. Snip:
[Critics of the earlier bill are] not much happier about a revised version that aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors. CNET News has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft of S.773 (excerpt), which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.
The new version would allow the president to "declare a cybersecurity emergency" relating to "non-governmental" computer networks and do what's necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for "cybersecurity professionals," and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.
Commenting on this article, ZDNET's Sam Diaz argues that the White House is not equipped to hold the keys (where are these magical keys, btw?). "The argument that the government is ill-equipped and shouldn't be trusted with the such far-reaching power is no joke."
In February, opponents of REAL ID were given a bit of hope when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that she wanted to repeal the REAL ID Act, the federal government's failed plan to impose a national identification card through state driver's licenses. But what has taken place since is no return to sanity, as political machi nations have produced a cosmetic makeover called "PASS ID" that has revived the push for a national identification card.
The PASS ID Act (S. 1261) seeks to make many of the same ineffectual, dangerous changes the REAL ID Act attempted to impose. Fundamentally, PASS ID operates on the same flawed premise of REAL ID -- that requiring various "identity documents" (and storing that information in databases for later access) will magically make state drivers' licenses more legitimate, which will in turn improve national security.
In today's New York Times, an article about psychologists Bruce Jessen (L) and Jim Mitchell (R) -- two military retirees with no Al Qaeda expertise, foreign language skills, or experience in conducting interrogations. Their lack of experience didn't stop them from pawning themselves off as top architects of America's "war on terror." They sold their psychological credentials and familiarity with the brutal tactics used decades ago by Chinese Communists to the CIA, which in turn paid them millions of dollars as contractors.
The NYT story details how Mitchell and Jessen directed the torture and interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, who was at the time described as "Al Qaeda's No. 3."
In late July 2002, Dr. Jessen joined [Dr. Mitchell] in Thailand. On Aug. 1, the Justice Department completed a formal legal opinion authorizing the SERE methods, and the psychologists turned up the pressure. Over about two weeks, Mr. Zubaydah was confined in a box, slammed into the wall and waterboarded 83 times.
The brutal treatment stopped only after Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen themselves decided that Mr. Zubaydah had no more information to give up. Higher-ups from headquarters arrived and watched one more waterboarding before agreeing that the treatment could stop, according to a Justice Department legal opinion.
The torture biz worked out pretty well for these guys. Million dollar homes, $1,000-2,000 per person per day from the CIA, even spinoff startups -- one bizarrely named "Wizard Shop." As one person familiar with their pay arrangements told Vanity Fair in 2007, "Taxpayers [were] paying at least half a million dollars a year for these two knuckleheads to do voodoo." More from today's NYT story:
Dr. Mitchell could keep working outside the C.I.A. as well. At the Ritz-Carlton in Maui in October 2003, he was featured at a high-priced seminar for corporations on how to behave if kidnapped. He created new companies, called Wizard Shop, later renamed Mind Science, and What If. His first company, Knowledge Works, was certified by the American Psychological Association in 2004 as a sponsor of continuing professional education. (A.P.A. dropped the certification last year.)
Related research: "Educing Information,"a 2006 report by top interrogation experts that examined which methods work in interrogations. The report effectively debunks Mitchell and Jessen's credentials and torture techniques. PDF of report, and FAS.org post about the document.
The oppressive regime that controls Burma/Myanmar is in the news this week after yesterday's sentencing of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kui over bogus "internal security" crimes. This related item: amateur online spooks using Google Earth have noticed an unexplained formation in the Burmese jungle which some believe may be linked to the state's clandestine nuclear program. Upshot: it's probably not, but that leaves wide room for other possibilities. Please post your most colorful conspiracy theories in the comments.
The main facility, which measures 82 by 84 metres, can been seen on satellite images published on both Google Earth and Google Maps Earth is showing a mysterious building in Burma's jungle that some commentators think may be linked to activity by Burma's regime to develop their own nuclear weapons like North Korea.
It features a pitched, blue corrugated roof, which, at first glance, makes it look like an over-sized swimming pool.
The large industrial complex is located in a rural area of central Burma, east of Mandalay near the town of Pin Oo Lwin.
That's the same zone in which defectors recently told two Australian researchers that the Burmese army had been building a nuclear research and engineering centre with support from North Korea and Russia.
Twitter and Facebook were paralyzed this past week by DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks. As I understand it, those attacks are still ongoing. In this Wired Epicenter blog post by Eliot Van Buskirk, open source advocates propose that the only real solution to this vulnerability is to engage in another DDOS: "distributed delivery of service." As Bittorent is to filesharing, the thinking goes, so would an open microblogging network be to 140-character thought-blips.
“The total failure of Twitter during the DDoS attacks highlights the fact that, with Twitter, we're relying on a single service for mass communication of this type,” said open microblogging supporter and Ektron CTO Bill Cava. “Most everyone understands it's ridiculous to expect one service to provide email support to the world. The same is true for micro messaging. The reality is, it can’t and won’t continue this way for too much longer.”
The OpenMicroBlogging standard already exists -- it’s just that Twitter’s not playing along, possibly because it could lose market share if the open standard succeeds before it manages to monetize its service. One platform that adheres to the Open MicroBlogging (OMB) standard is Laconi.ca, an open-source Twitter-style network launched by Status.net on July 2 of last year (others include OpenMicroBlogger and Google’s Jaiku).
Laconi.ca, which seems to have gained more traction than the other two OMB platforms, forms the backbone of Identi.ca — an open-source Twitter clone with features Twitter lacks (image uploading, trackbacks, native video playback, OpenID) that lets you post updates to its own network as well as Twitter and Facebook. Status.net will soon add the ability to follow Twitter and Facebook feeds using the corresponding APIs, so users will soon be able to make Identi.ca their default short messaging communications hub -- even if those services won’t use the open standard.
In what appears to be a beauty pageant held at a prison in Russia, scores of women gather around a makeshift runway in the courtyard as their fellow inmates strut their stuff. I don't read Russian, but the photographs alone tell a great story.
The Smoking Gun today published the results of a seven-week investigative probe into Pranknet, an anonymous, web-organized group of meanies who pulled a bunch of particularly sadistic phone pranks on businesses and residents throughout the US.
A number of American television news networks have been breathlessly covering Pranknet's hijinks of late. These are the jerks who thought it was funny to call low-budget hotel rooms and convince occupants that they had to break open windows to escape imminent deadly gas leaks, or smash televisions to evade impending doom. As one Fark commenter put it, "I'm not sure who sucks more, the prank callers or the idiots that listen to them and destroy their hotel rooms."
Photo inset at left: 25-year old Tariq Malik, Pranknet's founding bully, pictured in a webcam still taken in his Windsor, Ontario bedroom. I think it's fair to debate whether or not calling Malik a "telephone terrorist" (as TSG does in the headline) is inflammatory and over the top, but I will say this: what he and his anonymous coward buds did was cruel, lame, and could have caused physical injury or loss of life, in addition to the substantial property damage reported.
You can hear a female victim panicking and crying on the recording below.
Malik and his fellow Pranknet anons refer to her as a "crazy bitch," then they whine about how many idle logins are in the chat room with only a few participating in the prank. Other recordings reflect the stronger sort of racist and homophobic language one might find in the dregs of chan. I hope Malik and the perps who helped him get the absolute maximum possible sentences, to be accompanied in prison by cellmates who lack a sense of humor.
But guess what? Like so many anonymous internet bullies, tough-guy Tariq "Dex" Malik lives with his mommy. Snip from TSG:
On July 22, a pair of TSG reporters approached "Dex"'s building at 1637 Assumption Street in Windsor, where he lives in the ground-floor 'B' apartment. Calling to his mother, who was standing near an open living room window, a reporter asked her to summon her son. The woman disappeared into "Dex"'s adjoining bedroom, where the pair could be heard whispering. Despite repeated requests to come out and speak with TSG, "Dex" hid with his mother in his bedroom, the windows of which were covered with plastic shopping bags, a towel, and one black trash bag.
As the sun set and his room darkened, "Dex" did not reach to turn on a light. The notorious Internet Tough Guy, who has gleefully used the telephone to cause all kinds of havoc, was now himself panicking. He had been found. And, as a result, was barricaded in Pranknet World Headquarters with his mom, while two reporters loitered outside his window and curious neighbors wondered what was up.
That's when the online outlaw came up with a plan.
Tariq Malik, the 25-year-old founder and leader of Pranknet, decided to call the police.