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. Read the rest
Jacob N. Shapiro, author of The Terrorist's Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations , sets out his thesis about the micromanagement style of terrorist leaders in a fascinating piece in Foreign Affairs. It comes down to this: people willing to join terrorist groups are, by definition, undisciplined, passionate, and unbalanced, so you have to watch them closely and coordinate their campaigns. From the IRA to al Qaeda, successful terrorist leaders end up keeping fine-grained records of who's getting paid, what they're planning, and how they're spending. This means that in many cases, the capture of terrorist leaders leads to the unraveling of their organizations, but the alternative is apparently even worse -- a chaotic series of overlapping, self-defeating attacks and out-of-control spending.
Recall that Moktar Belmoktar was hounded out of the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in part over his sloppy expense reporting, and that he went on to found the group that took more than 800 hostages in a gas plant in Algeria. This kind of budget-niggling is apparently common: Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of al Qaeda since 2011, was reportedly furious that Yemeni affiliates had bought a new fax machine, because the old one worked just fine.
Read the rest
"A large percent of the reaction in Boston has been security theater," writes Popehat
. "'Four victims brutally killed' goes by other names in other cities. In Detroit, for example, they call it 'Tuesday.'...and Detroit does not shut down every time there are a few murders. 'But Clark,' I hear you say, 'this is different. This was a terrorist attack.' Read the rest
The Boston Globe is among many media outlets to report this weekend that Russia was surveilling suspected bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011, and "warned the FBI of the alleged bomber’s radical shift
" towards "suspicious activities." The FBI acknowledged Friday
that it has investigated him in 2011, after that prompt, but "did not find any terrorism activity" in the behavior they observed online and in person, when they interrogated him at his home. The 26 year old was killed early Friday morning during a firefight with police in Watertown, MA. Bonus
: The name of the boat his brother Dzhokhar was found hiding in, on Friday? "The Slipaway II." Read the rest
When bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon on Monday, my Facebook feed was immediately filled with urgent messages. I watched as my friends and family implored their friends and family in Boston to check in, and lamented the fact that nobody could seem to get a solid cell phone connection. Calls were made, but they got dropped. More often, they were never connected to begin with. There was even a rumor circulating that all cell phone service to the city had been switched off at the request of law enforcement.
That rumor turns out to not be true. But it is a fact that, whenever disaster strikes, it becomes difficult to reach the people you care about. Right at the moment when you really need to hear a familiar voice, you often can't. So what gives?
To find out why it's frequently so difficult to successfully place a call during emergencies, I spoke with Brough Turner, an entrepreneur, engineer, and writer who has been been working with phone systems (both wired and wireless) for 25 years. Turner helped me understand how the behind-the-scenes infrastructure of cell phones works, and why that infrastructure gets bogged down when lots of people are suddenly trying to make calls all at once from a single place. He says there are some things that can be done to fix this issue, but, ultimately, it's more complicated than just asking what the technology can and cannot do. In some ways, service failures like this are a price we pay for having a choice and not being subject to a total monopoly. Read the rest
When bombs explode in a crowded city street, individuals and governments naturally ask themselves, "Could we have prevented this if we had been paying better attention to people and things that were out of place?" Trouble is, that question leads to a whole cascade of other questions — covering everything from personal privacy to racism.
M. Neelika Jayawardane is associate professor of English at SUNY-Oswego. She's giving a talk this afternoon on "If you see something, say something" and other campaigns aimed at getting average people involved in public security. I happened to be here on campus for a separate speaking engagement and thought this was something that BoingBoing readers would be interested in "sitting in" on, given the recent tragedy in Boston.
I'll be liveblogging this, updating regularly with key points and ideas from Jayawardane's talk. It's worth noting that her perspective is not the only way to think about these issues. I'm posting this in hopes that it will present some interesting information and spark good conversations. If you're interested in engaging with Jayawardane afterwards, she said that you can reach her via Twitter. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to seeing what she has to say — and what you all have to say about that. Read the rest
At Scientific American, Larry Greenemeier has a piece about the science behind the three (possibly four) improvised explosive devices that killed at least three people yesterday in Boston
. It might be easy to build bombs like these, but their DIY construction techniques also leave clues that help investigators find the people responsible. Read the rest
Two days after a group of Somali islamist militants vowed to execute Kenyan hostages, and tweeted a video of a captive pleading for the Kenyan government to help free them, the Al-Shabaab Twitter account @HSMPress was suspended. A Google cache is visible here. Warning: includes gruesome photos. The group took a French intelligence officer hostage, then apparently murdered him after an unsuccessful attempted raid by the French military which the US assisted). An @HSMPress press release about that killing is available on Twitlonger.
The Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen Twitter account has been around since 2011, promoting the group's vision of strict sharia law in Somalia, 140 characters at a time. The US State Department was reportedly looking in to shutting it down ages ago. Wonder what took them so long?
For its part, Al Shabaab blames its "Christian enemies" for suspending its Twitter account. And they do sound rather miffed about being blocked on the popular social networking platform.
Read the rest
The National Security Archive, a nonprofit founded by journalists and scholars in 1985 "to check rising government secrecy," has published all of the available official government documents about the mission to kill the leader of al-Qaeda.
Read the rest
Filmmaker Laura Poitras follows the tragic return home to Yemen of a Guantánamo Bay prison detainee, Adnan Latif.
Courthouse News Service has an extensive explainer
on the state of a legal battle between The National Security Agency and a group of non-terrorist AT&T customers who claim that warrantless wiretapping violates their rights. The short version: NSA argues it is immune from their federal lawsuit because REASONS. Read the rest
Mother Jones today published a second part of the video secretly recorded at a Mitt Romney fundraiser in Boca Raton. The first bombshell will forever be known as "47 percent," but the portion getting attention today focuses on a response the Republican presidential candidate gave to a question about the Israel/Palestine peace process. The tl;dr there: he doesn't believe it'll happen, and intends to "kick the ball down the road" and let the next administration deal with it, or something like that.
But here's a derpworthy moment in the video that may be of interest to science fans, and people who have actually done some reporting on how so-called "dirty bombs" work.
Here's a transcript for the relevant portion of the video:
Read the rest
“Illicit drug use is a form of domestic terrorism to some extent,” Wilmington, Massachusetts Police Chief Michael Begonis said today
. “It is preying on folks who are more susceptible and who need a better life. And it’s something that we need to deal with head on.” Like hell, writes Mike Riggs at Reason.com
. (via @radleybalko) Read the rest
Drug cartels are building their own diesel submarines in the jungles of South America
. A recently caught version wasn't fully submersible—the engine needed to bring in air via a snorkel that stuck out above the waterline—but it did have a range of 3000 miles. (Via Mo Costandi) Read the rest
The NYT has an update on the case of designer Takeshi Miyakawa. The 50-year-old Japanese artist, who lives in New York City, was arrested last month while he draped plastic “I ♥ NY” bags stuffed with LEDs and batteries from trees in Manhattan and Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The act frightened some observers who thought "his art installation, timed to coincide with the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, was a series of bombs." He was charged with reckless endangerment, criminal nuisance and “planting a false bomb,” then imprisoned on Rikers Island and ordered to undergo a mental evaluation. He's out now. Maybe he should have a conversation with Star Simpson. Read the rest
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