One of the CIA's waterboarding torturers called himself "The Preacher" and shouted religious nonsense while performing executions

More word from the ongoing attempt to bring the people responsible for years of CIA torture to justice: one of the three waterboarding specialists at Guantanamo was called "The Preacher" because while he was drowning suspects to the point of near death, he "would at random times put one hand on the forehead of a detainee, raise the other high in the air, and in a deep Southern drawl say things like, 'Can you feel it, son? Can you feel the spirit moving down my arm, into your body?'" Read the rest

Illinois schools don't just lock special ed kids in solitary, they also restrain them

Last month, Propublica published a characteristically blockbuster piece on the use of "quiet rooms" in Illinois schools, especially in special ed programs: these are a euphemism for solitary confinement, and their use is so cruel and grotesque that Propublica's reporting prompted state level action to ban quiet rooms in schools and reform the policy on their use. Read the rest

After Trump reversed Obama's restrictions on private federal prisons, states started banning them instead

Back in 2016, it looked like the private prison industry would finally die, thanks to an Obama memo directing the DoJ to reduce their use for federal prisoners, but the sector retrenched, doubling down on the slave-labor camps it maintained for US immigration authorities, and aggressively lobbying states to jail their citizens in private prisons. Read the rest

Quiet Rooms: Illinois schools lead the nation in imprisoning very young, disabled children in isolation chambers

20 years ago, Illinois was rocked by a scandal after the widespread practice of locking schoolchildren, especially those with disabilities or special needs, in small, confining boxes was revealed. The teachers who imprisoned these children argued that they did so out of the interests of safety -- that of the imprisoned students, of the other students, and of school staff. Read the rest

Massive leak of Chinese government documents reveal the "no mercy" plan for Muslims in Xinjiang

The New York Times has received a 403-page leak of internal Chinese state documents related to the ethnic cleansing effort in Xinjiang province, which has seen the creation of more than 500 concentration camps where Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities have been subjected to torture, rape and medical experimentation. Read the rest

Facebook sues notorious spyware company NSO Group for 1,400 attacks on diplomats, journalists, dissidents, and government officials

[Addendum 2/20/2020: Following a legal complaint, the Guardian removed its article of 14 June 2019 and apologised to Mrs Peel. We are happy to clarify that Yana Peel is not, and was not, personally involved in the operation or decisions of the regulated Novalpina Capital investment fund, which is managed by her husband Stephen Peel, and others. Mrs Peel was not involved in any decision-making relating to the fund’s acquisition of NSO. Mrs Peel only has a small, indirect and passive interest in the fund. She does not own, whether directly or indirectly, any Novalpina Capital entity or any stake in NSO Group.] The NSO Group is one of the world's most notorious cyber-arms dealers, selling hacking tools to some of the world's most oppressive regimes that are used to identify targets for arrest, torture and even murder. The Israeli company went through a series of buyouts and buybacks, ending up in the hands of the European private equity fund Novalpina. Novalpina has pledged to rehabilitate the NSO Group's reputation by reforming its practices and limiting the sale of its spying tools to legitimate actors (whomever they may be). But research from the world-leading Citizen Lab (previously) revealed that NSO was behind a string of attacks on Whatsapp users last may, which was used to target human rights campaigners, journalists, and political dissidents. Facebook has filed a lawsuit against the NSO Group, accusing the company of being behind Whatsapp attacks in 20 countries (Whatsapp is a division of Facebook); Facebook claims that the attacks swept up at least 100 members of civil society groups. The suit seeks an injunction against future NSO Group attacks on Whatsapp and unspecified monetary damages. NSO is also being sued in Israel for allegedly helping to entrap the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was kidnapped, murdered and dismembered at the direction of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Facebook's suit presents a mixed bag of legal theories: they accuse NSO Group of violating California contract and property law, but also of violating the tremendously flawed Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a 1986 federal anti-hacking law that Facebook drastically expanded when it sued a competitor called Power Ventures in 2008 (the CFAA was also the law used to hound Aaron Swartz to death). Read the rest

Muslim woman who escaped from a Chinese concentration camp describes gang-rapes, torture, forced medical experiments

Sayragul Sauytbay is a Chinese Muslim of Kazakh descent who escaped en route to one of the notorious Xinjiang province concentration camps for Muslims in 2018, after she was sentenced to serve as a regular inmate following her release after more than a year's incarceration as a camp teacher; after she escaped into Kazakhstan, she was given asylum in Sweden. Read the rest

The treadmill was commonly used to punish prisoners with hard labor

Well, it's not the Iron Maiden or the Brazen Bull, but the treadmill of today's fitness centers does have a "tortuous history" as Dan Kopell writes at Wirecutter:

Inventor William Cubitt subscribed to the “no pain, no gain” philosophy. His “Tread-Wheel,” which was described in the 1822 edition of Rules for the Government of Gaols, Houses of Correction, and Penitentiaries (published by the British Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline and for the Reformation of Juvenile Offenders), was presented as a way for prisoners to put in an honest day’s labor. Prisoners used treadmills in groups, with up to two dozen convicts working a single machine, usually grinding grain or pumping water, sometimes for as long as eight hours at a stretch. They’d do so “by means of steps … the gang of prisoners ascend[ing] at one end … their combined weight acting upon every successive stepping board, precisely as a stream upon the float-boards of a water wheel.”...

This was considered to be more humane, at least compared with earlier methods of punishment, which centered on hanging or exile to British colonies. Hard labor on a treadmill for a fixed term, the theory went, could rehabilitate an offender, who could then return to society and family. Never mind that the prisoner was often left shattered by the experience. Oscar Wilde spent two years on the treadmill as punishment for “gross indecency with certain male persons.” In a poem about his incarceration, he wrote: “We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns, /And sweated on the mill: /But in the heart of every man /Terror was lying still.”

Read the rest

AOC condemns solitary confinement for Paul Manafort

Federal convict and Trump crony Paul Manafort is to be held in solitary confinement at the notorious Riker's Island prison while he faces trial for fraud in a New York court (solitary confinement is standard procedure for high-profile prisoners); Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (whose district includes Riker's) publicly condemned the use of solitary confinement for any prisoner, including Manafort, adding that, "if people aren’t willing to apply principles evenly, no matter the person, then they aren’t fighting for criminal justice reform" and "a prison sentence is not a license for gov torture and human rights violations. That‘s what solitary confinement is." She concluded with "Manafort should be released, along with all people being held in solitary." Read the rest

ICE is detaining thousands of immigrants in solitary confinement in U.S.

Newly obtained documents show that under the administration of Donald Trump, thousands of ICE detainees who are mostly from Central America are “sometimes forced into extended periods of solitary confinement for reasons that have nothing to do with rule violations.” Read the rest

Human Rights Watch reverse-engineered the app that the Chinese state uses to spy on people in Xinjiang

China's Xinjiang province is home to the country's Uyghur ethnic minority and other people of Turkic Muslim descent; it has become a living laboratory for next-generation, electronically mediated totalitarianism; up to 1,000,000 people have been sent to concentration/torture camps in the region, and targets for rendition ot these camps come via compulsory mobile apps that spy on residents in every conceivable way (naturally, war criminal Eric "Blackwater" Prince, brother of billionaire heiress Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is into this stuff up to his eyeballs, as are other American collaborators). Read the rest

The New York Times's chilling multimedia package on China's use of "smart city" tech to create an open-air prison

One of my mottoes is that the important thing about tech isn't what it does, it's who it does it to, and who it does it for; this is especially important in discussions of "smart city" tech, which can easily be turned to systems of population-scale surveillance, control and oppression. Read the rest

After boasting about running his company from prison, Martin Shkreli gets solitary confinement

Martin Shkreli's poor impulse control continues to land him in terrible trouble: his price-gouging on lifesaving drugs didn't land him in prison, but his profligate boasting about it did (to say nothing of the revocation of his bail after he put a bounty on Hillary Clinton's hair follicles). Read the rest

Chelsea Manning is being held in prolonged solitary confinement, a form of torture

Chelsea Manning -- whistleblower, torture survivor, hero -- is back behind bars for refusing to testify before a grand jury about her whistleblowing activity; for 16 days, she has been held in solitary confinement in a cell for 22 hours/day, not able to speak to others, denied access to the law library, and prohibited from having reading materials. Read the rest

Chelsea Manning has been jailed for refusing to testify at a grand jury about her whistleblowing

Last week, Chelsea Manning announced that she would fight a subpoena to appear before a Grand Jury and testify about her whistleblowing activities, citing her concern that "testimony before grand juries is secret, grand juries can create fear by suggesting that some members of a political community may be secretly cooperating with the government. In this way, grand juries can seed suspicion and fear in activist communities." Read the rest

Turks let CIA director listen to tapes of Khashoggi torture and execution

CIA director Gina Haspel listened to audio of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi's torture and execution in Istanbul's Saudi embassy, reports the BBC.

They say Ms Haspel was allowed to listen to the audio during a visit to Turkey earlier this week....Soon after the murder on 2 October, Turkish media quoted officials as saying they had audio recordings of Khashoggi's interrogation and death, but gave no details about the contents or how the audio had been obtained

Gina Haspel somehow getting to listen in on Khashoggi being tortured is like when the editor of a travel magazine somehow gets to spend a month in Bali. Read the rest

FBI will face lawsuit for putting people on the No-Fly list for refusing to inform on friends

Even though the DoJ has expressly prohibited using the No-Fly list to gain leverage over potential informants, the FBI has continued its longstanding practice of blackmailing American citizens by putting them on the No-Fly list because they refused to work as informants. Read the rest

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