Noting that the US military had recycled information from a press release issued when he arrived at Guantánamo, describing him as “an admitted planner for Al-Qaeda terrorist operations,” but dropping a claim that he had “admitted that he was the Al-Qaeda Emir of Zahedan, Iran,” I suggested that he had never, in fact, been appraised adequately since his arrival, as no tribunal had been held to assess him as an “enemy combatant,” and noted, moreover, that his file was one of 14 missing from the classified military assessments of 765 prisoners, which were recently released by WikiLeaks.
In addition, I lamented that it was “unlikely that the evident truth about Obama’s Guantánamo — that the only way out is by dying — will shift public option either at home or abroad,” and also noted that, “whatever Inayatullah’s alleged crimes, it was inappropriate that, because of President Obama’s embrace of his predecessor’s detention policies, he died neither as a convicted criminal serving a prison sentence for activities related to terrorism, nor as a prisoner of war protected by the Geneva Conventions.”
As is now known, however, the unlamented death of a man held in such a disturbingly aberrant manner only scratched the surface of the horrors surrounding his death.
As his attorney, Paul Rashkind, a federal defender in Miami, told the Associated Press on Thursday, he had tried to kill himself twice at Guantánamo, and was severely mentally ill, with what the AP described as “a long-term mental illness that predated his time in custody.” Rashkind said, “This was a young man who suffered significant psychosis, a paralyzing psychosis beginning many years ago, long before he got to Gitmo.”
In an interview with the Miami Herald, Rashkind explained that his client’s psychological problems were “so severe” that he had “arranged to bring a civilian psychiatrist to the base to work with him” — although this had not happened by the time of his death. “I have no doubt it was a suicide,” Rashkind also said, adding, “This is really a sad mental health case … starting from childhood.”
In his discussion with the AP, Rashkind also explained that he was “not permitted to provide details” about either of his client’s two previous suicide attempts, “except to say both were serious,” although he did explicitly state, “He was close to death the first time.” The Miami Herald also noted that “[l]egal sources familiar with the case” had explained that he “had spent long stretches in the psychiatric ward at Guantánamo,” although Rashkind was at pains to point out that the authorities in Guantánamo “treated him pretty humanely, I’d have to say,”
Disturbingly, however, Rashkind also claimed that, as well as failing to recognise that his client’s mental health issues had made suicide a strong possibility, the US authorities had seized the wrong man.
His real name, according to Rashkind, was Hajji Nassim, and as the Miami Herald put it, “he had never been known as Inayatullah anywhere but in Guantánamo, had never had a role in al-Qaeda and ran a cellphone shop in Iran near the Afghan border.” In addition, as the AP described it, he had “finished school up to the fifth grade [and] was married,” and “there was no evidence to support the allegations against him.”
As Rashkind described it, “I will tell you as far as I’m concerned he never did a violent act, he never planned a violent act. He was not a terrorist. His mental health issues made it difficult to address why he was there.”
Adding that he was “still trying to contact family members in Iran and Pakistan to notify them of the death,” Rashkind told the AP that he was not at liberty to discuss the case openly because “some evidence is classified and because of US government secrecy rules.” He did, however, explain that he visited Nassim “every three months, along with a Pashtun translator,” and that he had last spoken to him by phone just two weeks before his death to discuss his ongoing habeas corpus petition.
After telling the AP that he had also planned to visit him again in June, after a hearing in the District Court in Washington D.C. regarding his habeas petition, Rashkind also said, “I can tell you he was fine at that time. In his conversations he seemed like he was doing well and he was looking forward to our visit that was coming up.”
Speaking to the Miami Herald, Rashkind called the case “an outlier” in Guantánamo’s history, “partly because Nassim was brought there so late in the camps’ history and partly because of his mental health issues.” According to Rashkind, he had, literally, fallen between the cracks, and was “never designated for trial, indefinite detention or release.”
His closing words echo what, to me, is the particular sadness and injustice I feel whenever anyone dies in Guantánamo, that cruel aberration created by the Bush administration, whose continued existence — and Obama’s failure to close it — mocks any attempt America might make to present itself to the world as a force for good, and an upholder of justice.
“I don’t think he belonged there at all,” Rashkind said, adding, “To me, this is a human tragedy.”
The cable, sent in March 2006 from the US embassy to Washington, quotes Pakistan’s then Deputy Chief of Air Staff for Operations, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Khalid Chaudhry, as saying that the airmen, most of whom came from rural villages, were being radicalised by extremist Islamic clerics. The cable quotes AVM Chaudhry as saying, “You can’t imagine what a hard time we have trying to get to trim their beards.” The cable notes that, “This last comment refers to the tradition of conservative Muslims to grow full beards as a sign of piety.”
The cable also says that Chaudhry claimed “to receive reports monthly of acts of petty sabotage, which he interpreted as an effort by Islamists amongst the enlisted ranks to prevent PAF aircraft from being deployed in support of security operations in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border.”
Chaudhry was briefing visiting US officials at the Pakistan Air Force Headquarters and impressing upon them the need to ensure “the F-16 deal has enough sweeteners to appeal to the public - a complete squadron of new F-16s, with JDAM and night-vision capability - but not to offer the PAF things that it cannot afford.” Pakistan was in talks with the US to buy F-16 fighter aircraft and the US had voiced security concerns.
The cable quotes Chaudhry as telling the delegation, “off the record”, that PAF aircraft were regularly called to provide air support to military and security forces when they get into tight spots in the FATA… “dryly adding that Army brass and the ground forces commanders would deny it.”
Strauss-Kahn case raises issue of diplomat abuse in U.S.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn appears in M…
The case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is an extreme example of alleged sexual assault by an elite member of the international community. But the charges against him also shine a light on how diplomats and international officials have been accused of abusing maids or nannies in the United States, and have largely escaped prosecution.
Foreign diplomats have been the subject of at least 11 civil lawsuits and one criminal prosecution related to abuse of domestic workers in the last five years, according to a Reuters review of U.S. federal court records. The allegations range from slave-like work conditions to rape, and the vast majority of the diplomats in these cases avoided prison terms and financial penalties.
Strauss-Kahn, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, was charged on Sunday with sexually assaulting a hotel maid. He does not have full diplomatic immunity, but IMF rules grant him immunity limited to acts performed in his “official capacity.” He was denied bail Monday and sent to jail in New York. He did not enter a plea, and his lawyer said he intends to plead not guilty.
A common theme in many of the incidents involving alleged abuse of maids and nannies is the elevated legal status of the foreign officials, which some experts say can lead to an improper sense of superiority and make them believe they are unaccountable. Also, most of the alleged victims come from countries where women have few rights, making them easy prey. “In short, diplomatic immunity means diplomatic impunity,” says Mark Lagon, former head of the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Even when judges in the United States have ruled against diplomats, the officials have recourse to another option most other defendants do not: They can simply leave the country.
And in many cases, despite pleas from the State Department for action, government officials in the diplomats’ home countries do not pursue sanctions. “There’s no accountability,” said Janie Chuang, an assistant professor at the Washington College of Law at American University in Washington. “You can totally get away with it.”
The IMF said its immunity provisions are not applicable in Strauss-Kahn’s case because he was visiting New York on personal business. Had he been able to leave the United States and fly to his native France, his fate likely would have turned on a different issue — extradition. The two countries do not have an extradition treaty, and there is some troubled recent history between the United States and France.
“Two words: Roman Polanski,” said Martina Vandenberg, a partner with law firm Jenner & Block in Washington and an expert in abuse cases involving foreign diplomats. She was referring to Polish-French film director Roman Polanski, who has avoided prosecution in the United States for more than 20 years on charges of having sex with a minor.
In July, 2008, a lawsuit was filed against an attache in the Embassy of Kuwait, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al Naser, and his family, parts of which foreshadowed the allegations against Strauss-Kahn. Their former maid, Regina Leo, an Indian immigrant, alleged that she was forced to work as much as 18 hours per day and was sexually abused. According to court documents, on one occasion in 2005, Leo said that Al Naser “forcibly embraced and pinned (Leo), twisting her arm to control her, and then began kissing and fondling her … Despite (Leo’s) resistance, (Al Naser) forced himself upon her and raped her.”
Al Naser did not respond to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, and is believed to have left the United States. He could not be reached, and a spokesman for the Embassy of Kuwait declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.
Another case, filed in April 2007 by a Tanzanian maid against Alan Mzengi, a minister-counselor at the Tanzanian Embassy, and his wife, Stella, helped spark an inquiry into alleged abuse by foreign diplomats in the United States. A July, 2008, study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that 42 employees of foreign diplomats alleged they had been abused. The actual number was probably higher, the GAO found, because domestic workers are often fearful of reporting abuse.
The maid in the Tanzanian case, Zipora Mazengo, alleged that the Mzengis held her as “a virtual prisoner in their residence, stripping her of her passport, refusing to permit her to leave the house unaccompanied.” According to the suit, which was filed in federal court in Washington, they paid her nothing for four years and forced her to work in their catering business. She claimed she escaped after making a desperate plea for help to a customer of the catering business, who provided cab fare.
A U.S. magistrate judge awarded Mazengo more than $1 million in back pay and attorneys’ fees. Alan Mzengi moved to cancel the award, arguing “it was not necessary to respond because he was a diplomat” with immunity under the Vienna Convention. In April 2008, a federal judge denied the motion in part, finding that the Mzengis’ catering business was exempt from diplomatic immunity. But instead of paying the award, the Mzengis left the country.
A December 2009 State Department cable made available by Wikileaks, and provided to Reuters by a third party, shows the U.S. government has asked the Tanzanian government to investigate the case. “While payment of the lost wages to Ms. Mazengo is our first priority, we also hope that any diplomat who has treated his domestic staff in such an abusive manner would face appropriate sanction upon his return home,” the cable said. In an e-mail, a State Department official said discussions with the Tanzanian government are ongoing. The Tanzanian Embassy did not respond to a request for comment.
The State Department has said it plans to get tough on alleged abuse of domestic workers by foreign diplomats. “Whether they’re diplomats or national emissaries of whatever kind, we all must be accountable for the treatment of the people that we employ,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a speech on Feb. 1 to the Interagency Taskforce to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
EXEMPTION FROM IMMUNITY
The Vienna Convention, ratified by the United States in 1972, contains an exemption from immunity for “action relating to any professional or commercial activity exercised by the diplomatic agent in the receiving State outside his official functions.” But that exemption did not protect Araceli Montuya, a former maid in the household of Lebanese Ambassador Antoine Chedid. On April 26, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington threw out a case in which Montuya alleged that Chedid and his wife underpaid and verbally abused her. The judge’s decision relied, in part, on a State Department filing in a separate case, which found that when diplomats hire domestic workers, “they are not engaging in ‘commercial activity’ as that term is used in the Diplomatic Relations Convention.”
In a rare criminal case that began as an FBI investigation into alleged domestic worker abuse, a World Bank economist from Tanzania — who, like Strauss-Kahn, qualifies for only limited immunity related to official duties — pleaded guilty in March, 2010, to two counts of making false statements. The economist, Anne Margreth Bakilana, hired a Tanzanian woman, Sophia Kiwanuka, to work in her home in Falls Church, Virginia, and improperly withheld Kiwanuka’s wages and threatened to send her back to Tanzania, according to court records. Unaware that she had been taped by Kiwanuka at the request of the FBI, Bakilana then lied to federal investigators about her statements. She was sentenced to two years probation and fined $9,400. A civil case is ongoing in federal court in Washington. Jonathan Simms, an attorney for Bakilana, said he believed she was not longer in the United States. A World Bank spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Domestic workers continue to allege abuse by foreign diplomats. On March 25, four former cooks and housekeepers for Essa Mohammed Al Manai, a senior Qatari diplomat, filed a civil lawsuit alleging they were paid less than 70 cents per hour and “forced to work around the clock” at Al Manai’s six-bedroom home in Bethesda, Maryland. The suit also claimed that Al Manai sexually assaulted one of the women.
Al Manai could not be reached for comment, and the Embassy of Qatar did not respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Brian Grow; Editing by Amy Stevens and Eddie Evans)
The Hindu : News / International : Prosecution of WikiLeaks will stifle free speech, says Amnesty
“More information is always better than no information”
Amnesty International on Thursday condemned attempts by American authorities to prosecute WikilLeaks founder Julian Assange describing it as a bid to “stifle” free speech in the name of national security.
“National security should not be used to stifle freedom of speech except in very restricted circumstances where there is clear evidence that there is a genuine threat to national security. We are committed to protecting free flow of information and believe that more information is always better than no information,” Amnesty’s Asia Pacific director Sam Zarifi told The Hindu on the launch of its annual human rights world report. The report also criticises the Indian government over its treatment of “marginalised communities,” especially the Adivasis.
His remarks came as it was reported that the American government had opened a grand jury hearing into the leak of secret official documents as a prelude to deciding whether to prosecute Mr. Assange for alleged espionage.
Mr. Zarifi also denounced the ill-treatment of Bradley Manning, the young American soldier held in solitary confinement after being arrested for allegedly leaking thousands of restricted documents.
“The harsh and punitive conditions in which he has been held are very problematic under international law,” he said.
On the circumstances surrounding the capture and killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by American forces, Mr. Zarifi said Amnesty had asked both America and Pakistan to provide more information as to what exactly happened.
Questions on Osama
“We’ve some serious questions. We would have preferred to see Osama put on trial so the world would know what he did,” he said commending Indian action in putting Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving terrorist involved in the Mumbai attacks, on trial.
On several other fronts, however, India’s record on human rights left much to be desired, he said pointing to Amnesty’s report that the government failed to protect the rights of marginalized communities facing threat from big corporate interests.
“Protests by Adivasis and other marginalized communities against moves to acquire their lands and natural resources without proper consultation or consent resulted in the suspension of key corporate-led projects. Human rights defenders in these cases were attacked by state or private agents with politically-motivated charges, including sedition, being brought against some,” the report says.
Generally, it claims, institutional mechanisms meant to protect human rights and human rights defenders remained “weak and judicial processes failed to ensure justice for many victims of past violations and abuses.” Also, despite its growing global clout India “did not speak out against gross human rights violations” in neighbouring countries putting its “economic and strategic interests above human rights considerations.”
. The New Statesman and other news organizations believe they have uncovered another aspect of the WikiLeaks organization that indicates it is unfit to be trusted by whistleblowers. But, for anyone who understands confidentiality agreements there may be nothing extraordinary or even draconian about the agreement.
A confidentiality agreement is essentially a non-disclosure agreement. Included are details noting the “owner of the information,” the “receiver of the information,” a definition of what it considers to be “information,” why the agreement is necessary, what information is covered by the agreement, a definition of the permitted use of the information, any exceptions to the agreement, and penalties that could be imposed if the agreement is breached.
What news organizations seem to be taking issue with, rather ridiculously, is the word “owner” and the idea that WikiLeaks might be marketing this information to media organizations.
The New Statesman and others consider the use of the word “owner” to be proof that the organization finds it has “commercial ownership over the information that has been leaked to it.” But, the word “owner” is the term that is used in these agreements. It is standard and may not be proof the organization sees itself as literally owning the information.
Amnesty International hails WikiLeaks and Guardian as Arab spring 'catalysts' | World news | The Guardian
The world faces a watershed moment in human rights with tyrants and despots coming under increasing pressure from the internet, social networking sites and the activities of WikiLeaks, Amnesty International says in its annual roundup.
"The year 2010 may well be remembered as a watershed year when activists and journalists used new technology to speak truth to power and, in so doing, pushed for greater respect for human rights," Amnesty’s secretary general, Salil Shetty, says in an introduction to the document. "It is also the year when repressive governments faced the real possibility that their days were numbered."
But, Shetty adds, the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, and elsewhere, remains unpredictable: “There is a serious fightback from the forces of repression. The international community must seize the opportunity for change and ensure that 2011 is not a false dawn for human rights.”
The 432-page report reviews 156 countries and territories, of which at least 89 were found to restrict free speech, 98 carried out torture or other ill-treatment and 48 had documented prisoners of conscience.
The report covers only to the end of 2010, and thus only the very beginnings of the so-called Arab spring – Ben Ali was not deposed until mid-January. However, subsequent uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, many spread via mobile phones and social networking, reinforce Amnesty’s message about the importance of technology and communication.
"It took old-fashioned newspaper reporters and political analysts to trawl through the raw data, analyse it, and identify evidence of crimes and violations contained in those documents," Shetty said.
"Leveraging this information, political activists used other new communications tools now easily available on mobile phones and on social networking sites to bring people to the streets to demand accountability."
One example highlighted by Shetty was Tunisia, where WikiLeaks revelations about Ben Ali’s corrupt regime combined with rapidly-spreading news of the self-immolation of a disillusioned young man, Mohamed Bouazizi, to spark major protests.
The report also highlights the importance of new technology elsewhere, for example China, where “My father is Li Gang” – the cry of a senior policeman’s son after he killed a young woman while drunk driving – became a euphemism on China’s tightly controlled internet space for rife nepotism. Similarly, “empty chair” took the place of Liu Xiaobo’s name on Chinese web forums after such a chair took the place of the jailed rights activist at the Nobel peace prize ceremony.
Shetty said: “Not since the end of the Cold War have so many repressive governments faced such a challenge to their stranglehold on power. The demand for political and economic rights spreading across the Middle East and North Africa is dramatic proof that all rights are equally important and a universal demand.
"In the 50 years since Amnesty International was born to protect the rights of people detained for their peaceful opinions, there has been a human rights revolution. The call for justice, freedom and dignity has evolved into a global demand that grows stronger every day. The genie is out of the bottle and the forces of repression cannot put it back.”
As Julian Assange wins the Sydney Peace Prize for “exceptional courage in pursuit of human rights,” NPR reports that “a federal grand jury in Virginia is scheduled to hear testimony on Wednesday from witnesses” in the criminal investigation of his whistle-blowing group, as “prosecutors are trying to build a case against [the] WikiLeaks founder  whose website has embarrassed the U.S. government by disclosing sensitive diplomatic and military information.” The NPR story — based in part on my reporting of a Grand Jury Subpoena served two weeks ago in Cambridge — explains what has long been clear: that “the WikiLeaks case is part of a much broader campaign by the Obama administration to crack down on leakers.”
Specifically, NPR accurately reports, the effort to turn Assange and WikiLeaks into criminals for doing nothing more than what newspapers, Bob Woodward, and administration officials frequently do — disclose government secrets to the public without authorization — is merely one prong in the Obama administration’s unprecedented war against whistleblowing:
A Worrisome Development
National security experts say they can’t remember a time when the Justice Department has pursued so many criminal cases based on leaks of government secrets.
Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists has been following five separate prosecutions, part of what he calls a tremendous surge by the Obama administration.
For people who are concerned about freedom of the press, access to national security information, it’s a worrisome development,” says Aftergood, who writes for the blog Secrecy News [ed: and is a vocal WikiLeaks critic].
Aftergood says some of the most important disclosures of the past decade, including abuses by the U.S. military at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, came out because people concerned about overreach blew the whistle on the government.
”Leaks serve a very valuable function as a kind of safety valve,” he adds. “They help us to get out the information that otherwise would be stuck.”
The Obama Justice Department doesn’t agree.
The vast majority of publicly disclosed high-level government corruption and lawbreaking over the last decade has come from unauthorized leaks, with the majority of it over the last year from WikiLeaks. Thus, it’s hardly surprising that high-level government officials — even those who ran on a platform of protecting and venerating whistle-blowing — want to destroy it through a mix of persecution and intimidation. To its credit, the DOJ recently announced that it would not prosecute Thomas Tamm, the mid-level DOJ officials who informed the New York Times about the Bush warrantless eavesdropping program. But that has been a rare exception, as the DOJ is actively prosecuting an array of whistleblowers who exposed similar levels of corruption and wrongdoing — in blatant violation of Obama’s decree to “Look Forward, not Backward” when it comes to protecting powerful Bush-era political officials who committed serious crimes. Indeed, the prosecution of WikiLeaks — which, unlike government employees, has no duty to safeguard government secrets — would be the greatest blow to press freedoms and whistleblowing in the last several decades at least.
Assange was awarded this peace prize yesterday because — unlike other Peace Prize recipients — his work has been relentlessly devoted to impeding wars (not escalating them) by exposing the truth about the destruction and suffering they spawn. Beyond that, even the most vehement WikiLeaks critics, such as NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller, admit that the disclosures from WikiLeaks (and allegedly Bradley Manning) played at least some role in sparking the democratic rebellions in the Middle East, as those documents highlighted in new detail the breadth of the corruption of many of those despots:
And that does not count the impact of these revelations on the people most touched by them. WikiLeaks cables in which American diplomats recount the extravagant corruption of Tunisia’s rulers helped fuel a popular uprising that has overthrown the government.
And yet, many of the very same people who cheer for those democratic uprisings continue simultaneously to cheer for the administration that (a) steadfastly supported those dictators (and in some cases still supports them in exchange for doing America’s bidding) while (b) persecuting with Grand Jury investigations, imprisonment, and crushing solitary confinement those who seem to have helped spawn those rebellions. That the U.S. Government is obsessed with crushing one of the few remaining avenues for learning what it does (whistleblowing) — and forever imprisoning those who have brought more transparency to its wrongdoing and deceit than all media outlets combined (WikiLeaks, Assange and, if the accusations are true, Manning) — underscores just how central a role secrecy plays in maximizing government power and the ability of officials to abuse it. This secrecy regime is the heart and soul of the National Security State.
But to really see the true purposes served by secrecy, just consider this truly amazing ACLU report from yesterday. In 2009, the ACLU filed a FOIA request seeking information about how the Government has interpreted and applied the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 — the bipartisan legislation which vested lawbreaking telecoms with retroactive immunity and drastically expanded the Government’s domestic eavesdropping powers (in order to legalize the crux of the once-controversial Bush NSA program). Unsurprisingly, the Most Transparent Administration Ever refused to provide anything other than the most heavily redacted documents in response to that FOIA request, though it was enough, explained the ACLU, to “confirm that the government had interpreted the statute as broadly as we had feared and even that the government had repeatedly violated the few limitations that the statute actually imposed.”
But since then, the ACLU has been aggressively pursuing more documents, including attempting to find out which specific private industry telecoms are cooperating in these eavesdropping programs. Two weeks ago, the DOJ provided its explanations as to why it refuses to produce that information. Among those documents was what the ACLU calls ” this unexpectedly honest explanation from the FBI" about the real reason it insists on concealing this information. Just behold the noble purposes fulfilled by the secrecy regime (click on image to enlarge):
As the ACLU succinctly put it:
There you have it. The government doesn’t want you to know whether your internet or phone company is cooperating with its dragnet surveillance program because you might get upset and file lawsuits asserting your constitutional rights. Would it be such a bad thing if a court were to consider the constitutionality of the most sweeping surveillance program ever enacted by Congress?
This is the real purpose of the Government’s devotion to the secrecy regime: it prevents any meaningful accountability on the part of those in power. Preventing the public from knowing what they’re doing (and what their “private partners” are doing) ensures no backlash ensues and there is no accountability possible. That, manifestly, is the Obama administration’s overarching goal in adopting the Bush/Cheney version of the “state secrets” privilege and thus shielding even presidential crimes from judicial review: by keeping everyone, including courts, in the dark about what they do, they shield themselves (the public/private consortium that runs the National Security and Surveillance States) from the rule of law. And by keeping the public in the dark about what they do, they maintain exclusive control over information and thus shield and enable their own propaganda.
Whistleblowers in general — and WikiLeaks and Assange in particular — are one of the very, very few genuine threats to that scheme. And that — and that alone — is why they are being targeted with such fervor and force. And it’s why those who believe in greater transparency and in subverting that secrecy regime should do everything possible to defend whistleblowers from this assault.
* * * * *
Philosophy Professor Jonathan Lear has a very interesting article inThe New Republic on what motivated P.J. Crowley to speak out against Bradley Manning’s detention conditions and the important public values fulfilled by that type of (exceedingly rare) candor from public officials.
And for those in Boston: on May 26, I’ll be speaking to the annual meeting of the ACLU in Massachusetts. Ticket information is here. In advance of that event, I was interviewed by them on multiple civil liberties issues; those short video segments can be viewed here.
The Hindu : News : Musharraf argued against ‘premature’ withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq
Told Senator John McCain that West Asian leaders were worried that such a move would spread sectarian strife throughout the Gulf region
In April 2007 Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf told Senator John McCain that he and many West Asian leaders were worried that a “premature pull-out” of U.S. and coalition forces from Iraq would spread sectarian strife throughout the Gulf region.
During a meeting on April 3, 2007, which was reported in a U.S. Embassy cable, Mr. Musharraf said he understood American public opinion was against prolonging U.S. presence in Iraq, but hoped U.S. leadership could communicate the importance of the mission in Iraq.
In the future, Muslim peacekeeping troops (including Pakistanis) could replace U.S. forces under a United Nations umbrella, he told the Senator. In this context, he underlined the importance of increasing the capacity of the Iraqi armed forces and police.
Iraq and Afghanistan
The cable (103788: secret/no forn) contained extensive notes on the discussion between the Senator and President on a wide range of issues, centred on Iraq and Afghanistan. “Musharraf agreed with Senator McCain that Muslim countries needed to lead efforts to help Iraq’s Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds reach political consensus before a major withdrawal of coalition troops.” The Pakistan President noted there could be little improvement in the situation in Iraq without broader political participation from the Sunnis.
Conflicts outside Iraq also contributed to the unstable situation in the region, Mr. Musharraf said, and added that he was working on building consensus within the Muslim world on the Palestinian issue.
“Alluding to his own outreach to the moderate Muslim world, Musharraf noted there was space for non-Arab nations to play a role on Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and that Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia had agreed to form a united voice to help promote peace in the region,” the cable said.
The Pakistan President used the opportunity to plead Syria’s case with the United States, saying he believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could play a positive role in both Iraq and Lebanon, and that Assad could be “handled” if the U.S. understood his issues. “If you want him to play ball, he needs comfort on other fronts — namely, the Golan Heights.” On Iran, Mr. Musharraf agreed it could not be allowed to create further divisions in Iraq.
Pakistan facing fallout
Asked for his views on Afghanistan, Mr. Musharraf said Pakistan was facing the fallout from security decisions made in the 1980s. His take on the situation: “People who came to fight with the mujahideen against the Soviets settled in Pakistan’s tribal areas and now had families. These people — mostly Uzbeks and Arabs — developed links with al Qaeda. Recently, tribal groups in both South and North Waziristan were taking action against Uzbeks and other foreigners because of the foreigners’ cruel and high-handed behavior. Pakistan’s military provided covert support in the form of arms and ammunition.”
Mr. Musharraf said originally, the Taliban movement was a reaction against growing tribalism and warlord-ism in Afghanistan. “Since Russia and India supported Afghanistan’s (ethnic Tajik) Northern Alliance, Pakistan’s natural ally was the (ethnic Pashtun) Taliban. This all changed after 9/11, Musharraf said, and Pakistan had captured and killed hundreds of al Qaeda fighters near Tora Bora,” the cable added.
Mr. Musharraf also voiced concern over Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s frequent pronouncements about Pakistan’s “failure” to capture Taliban leader Mullah Omar in Balochistan’s capital Quetta. “Let me tell you,” Musharraf emphasised, “Omar would be mad to be in Quetta — he has too many troops to command in southern Afghanistan to make it feasible. In fact, the only parts of Balochistan where there are Pakistani Taliban are in the province’s Afghan refugee camps, which we are planning to shut down.”
Mr. Musharraf said most Pashtuns in Balochistan were traders and had no reason to join the Taliban. “They want roads to increase their trade, not to fight.” But the same could not be said for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, he said.
The cable recorded in detail the Pakistan President’s views on the ethnic dimension in the Afghanistan situation: “Musharraf said the Taliban were mainly in Afghanistan. Karzai’s policies, Musharraf believed, alienated Afghanistan’s Pashtuns by favoring (ethnic Tajik) Panshiris. After Coalition forces joined the Northern Alliance to oust the Taliban government, there was no change in the ethnic makeup of the victors when it came to planning. Panshiris were disproportionately represented in the government, even though they had never ruled before and were, Musharraf believed, the natural enemy of the country’s majority Pashtuns.”
One of Pakistan’s biggest concerns, Musharraf said, was the spread of talibanisation, “especially into settled and urban areas.” Countering talibanisation required a well thought out strategy to cleanse society of the Taliban culture and to encourage moderation. “Modernization and economic development were the way forward, Musharraf noted.”
In response to Senator McCain’s question about whether he was worried Afghanistan would become a narco-state, Mr. Musharraf answered that he was, especially because if it did it would affect Pakistan. “Musharraf thought Afghanistan could follow the example of other countries — such as India — where narcotics were purchased legally and channeled into the international pharmaceutical industry. It was a $500-600 million annual industry, Musharraf said, and the profits made from legal poppy sales could go toward poverty alleviation instead of to the Taliban.”
Who is WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning? - The Washington Post
In January 2010, more than 130 people gathered to celebrate the opening of Room B-28, a “hacker space” in the basement of the computer science building at Boston University. The room had two rows of computers running open-source software, and, in conformity to the hacker ethic, its walls were painted with wildly colored murals, extensions of the free expression to be practiced there. That was the reason for the power tools, too — in case someone wanted to build something amazing and beautiful, such as the musical staircase, under construction now, that chimes when you step on it.
One of the visitors was a young Army specialist named Bradley Manning, on leave from duty in Iraq. He had been working with computers, modifying code, since he was a kid. David House, founder of the hacker space, said he immediately sensed that Manning “was in the community,” someone who understood how technology could be empowering. This was the sort of world Manning hoped to inhabit one day, friends said. He had joined the Army so the GI Bill would finance his education. He had his eye on a PhD in physics.
OFFICIAL Message from the Coordinating Council of the Youth Revolution of Change: A call for all people in the world ... #Yemen
A call for all people in the world to support and stand with our peaceful revolution in YEMEN
We call every Yemeni woman, man, child and elders, inside or outside of Yemen, for those who love YEMEN and the people of YEMEN to stand a Silent moment every day starting this Monday May 10th at 12:00 noon time according to your local time, please set your daily alarm.
In what has to be one of the more bizarre moments for those with an interest in media and human rights, the government of Iran — well-known for the detention of foreign journalists — called for the government of Syria to investigate the disappearance of Dorothy Parvaz, an Al Jazeera journalist, who holds American, Canadian, and Iranian citizenship and traveled to Damascus on her Iranian passport.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the Iranian foreign minister, said at a news conference in Doha on Monday that Iran wanted the Syrians to look into the matter.
“I hope that it is not true, but if that is the case, then we demand the government of Syria to look into this,” Salehi said in response to a question on what Iran would undertake to secure Parvaz’s release.
Most recently, Syria confirmed Parvaz’s detention. No word yet from Iran on next steps, with regard to the Parvaz case or their own long-standing position on detaining foreign journalists.
Assange right to slam Swedish courts: lawyers - The Local
Nearly one third of lawyers in Sweden, including best-selling author and lawyer Jens Lapidus, believe that criticism directed at the country’s legal system by WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange is warranted, according to a new survey.
“He is partially right about the Swedish legal system,” writes Lapidus, a defence attorney and author of the best selling 2006 crime novel “Snabba Cash” (‘Easy Money’), along with prominent defence lawyer Johan Åkermark, in an article published on Thursday in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
The authors reference a study published in Legally Yours, a trade publication for the legal profession in Sweden, which surveyed 9,000 lawyers.
The survey, known as the Juristbarometern, revealed that 31.9 percent of lawyers answered yes when asked if they agreed with Assange’s criticism of the Swedish legal system.
According to Lapidus and Åkermark, both of whom are partners in the same law firm as Assange’s Swedish attorney Björn Hurtig, the WikiLeaks’ founder is justified in taking issue with several aspects of the Swedish criminal justice system.
Writing in DN, the two lawyers explain that Assange is warranted in questioning Sweden’s rules on remanding suspects in custody, which often prevent defence attorneys from having a chance to review material used as the basis for remand decisions until minutes before prosecutors present the evidence to a judge.
“We’re of the opinion that remand in Sweden is used in a way that many other states governed by the rule of law would find unfamiliar,” they write.
Speaking to Legally Yours, Hurtig said the statistics cited by Lapidus and Åkermark show that “mistrust of our legal system is greater than many believe”.
“The system is built up so that, in principal, the suspect doesn’t have any insight into the preliminary investigation,” he said.
In addition, Lapidus and Åkermark share Assange’s concerns about having lay judges, many of whom are retired politicians rather than trained legal professionals, preside over trials in Swedish courtrooms.
Also problematic for Assange is the possibility that, were he ever to face trial in Sweden, it would likely be held behind closed doors, a common practices when it comes to sex crime cases in Sweden.
While Lapidus and Åkermark admitted they didn’t have any statistics on closed-door trials, “our impression is that proceedings are held behind closed doors more often in Sweden in many other states governed by the rule of law”.
The authors are quick to point out, however that “Sweden has is a well functioning state based on the rule of law and in many respects is a model internationally”.
Lapidus and Åkermark emphasise that, while they “don’t care specifically about Julian Assange” or the question of his innocence or guilt, they feel a responsibility to “remove the stains that exist in our system” which Assange’s criticism has highlighted.
In February, a London court ruled that Assange could be extradited to Sweden to face questioning over sex crimes allegations stemming an August 2010 visit to Sweden by the WikiLeaks founder.
Assange’s lawyers appealed the ruling in early March and his appeal is scheduled to be heard on July 12th.
Bomb plot targeted Montreal subway, U.S. embassy in 2004, WikiLeaks cable shows
The RCMP believed that a man linked to Osama bin Laden was planning to bomb Montreal’s subway system in late 2004, then detonate another device at Ottawa’s U.S. embassy weeks later, according to a secret cable released by WikiLeaks this week.
According to the cable, the RCMP put the Tunisian man under 24-hour surveillance and were preparing to arrest him after the force received a letter from someone claiming to have overhead details of the bomb plot.
The then-28-year-old man, whose name was not in the cable, was working as a car wash attendant and part-time security officer, the cable said.
As his name did not come up in any police databases and he had no known criminal history, the American embassy wrote that the RCMP doubted the threat was real, but took precautions nonetheless. Security was increased around U.S. government buildings in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, Quebec City and Ottawa.
No attacks were ever carried out.
"RCMP stated such letters are received frequently and, although serious, doubt this particular threat to be credible," the cable reads.
The embassy did note in its cable that “few letters are received specifically mentioning the bombing of the U.S. embassy.”
In the cable, the U.S. embassy in Ottawa said it was told about the bomb threat on Dec. 3, 2004, five days after the RCMP received a tip about the plot. The alleged bomb plots were supposed to take place in Montreal on Dec. 15 and in Ottawa on Jan. 10, 2005.
The embassy, the cable said, “inquired as to why the RCMP waited several days before providing such information. RCMP were unable or unwilling to respond but the indication seemed to be they were proceeding appropriately.”
Had the RCMP arrested the man, the U.S. embassy said in its missive that it was going to ask to take part in any interrogation.
The cable also said that the Tunisian man had come to Canada in 2000 and applied for Canadian citizenship.
"RCMP indicated his pending immigration file would be denied, but would not provide detail," the cable said.
American diplomats were told that one of the key reasons why they had failed to find bin Laden was that Pakistan’s security services tipped him off whenever US troops approached.
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) also allegedly smuggled al-Qaeda terrorists through airport security to help them avoid capture and sent a unit into Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban.
The claims, made in leaked US government files obtained by Wikileaks, will add to questions over Pakistan’s capacity to fight al-Qaeda.
Last year, David Cameron caused a diplomatic furore when he told Pakistan that it could not “look both ways” on terrorism. The Pakistani government issued a strongly-worded rebuttal.
But bin Laden was eventually tracked down and killed in compound located just a few hundred yards from Pakistan’s prestigious military academy in Abbotabad.
The raid by elite US troops was kept secret from the government of Pakistan. Only a tight circle within the Obama Administration knew of the operation.
In December 2009, the government of Tajikistan warned the United States that efforts to catch bin Laden were being thwarted by corrupt Pakistani spies.
According to a US diplomatic dispatch, General Abdullo Sadulloevich Nazarov, a senior Tajik counterterrorism official, told the Americans that “many” inside Pakistan knew where bin Laden was.
The document stated: “In Pakistan, Osama Bin Laden wasn’t an invisible man, and many knew his whereabouts in North Waziristan, but whenever security forces attempted a raid on his hideouts, the enemy received warning of their approach from sources in the security forces.”
Intelligence gathered from detainees at Guantanamo Bay may also have made the Americans wary of sharing their operational plans with the Pakistani government.
One detainee, Saber Lal Melma, an Afghan whom the US described as a probable facilitator for al-Qaeda, allegedly worked with the ISID to help members flee Afghanistan after the American bombing began in October 2001.
His US military Guantanamo Bay detainee file, obtained by Wikileaks and seen by The Daily Telegraph, claims he allegedly passed the al-Qaeda Arabs to Pakistani security forces who then smuggled them across the border into Pakistan.
He was also overheard “bragging about a time when the ISID sent a military unit into Afghanistan, posing as civilians to fight along side the Taliban against US forces”.
He also allegedly detailed “ISID’s protection of Al-Qaida members at Pakistan airports. The ISID members diverted Al-Qaida members through unofficial channels to avoid detection from officials in search of terrorists,” the file claims.
Politico.ie | L33t Leakers: WikiLeaks gets rebooted in Ireland
IrishLeaks.ie, an Irish leaking platform modelled on WikiLeaks will launch on May 1st, with plans to enable whistleblowers to safely expose abuses of power. Dara McHugh spoke with IrishLeaks, to discuss their plans for the website.
IrishLeaks was founded only recently, but the idea has been developing for a long time, and the founders draw inspiration from a wide range of ideas, movements and figures. They draw attention to the powerful effects of information access in the recent uprisings in North Africa or the more local work of Veronica Guerin in exposing crime. In cases such as these knowledge can be transformative, giving rise to political engagement and potentially ending abuses.
The all-too-public trials and tribulations of WikiLeaks have given rise to much discussion about the best practices for leaking organisations. Although much of this discussion, as Harry Browne argues this week, has been fact-free attacks on the website by journalists overly sympathetic to state power, there are legitimate discussions to be had on the hows and whys of activist leaking.
Organisations that embark on this project must maintain secrecy to protect themselves; they justifiably fear reprisal from the powerful forces their work offends. Secrecy breeds hierarchy, and authoritarian behaviour was named as one of the points of schism within WikiLeaks. Former Wikileaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg criticised the management style of Julian Assange and argued that this, combined with a single-minded focus on the United States, meant that many leaks went unpublished. To resolve the centralisation that is arguably at the root of these problems, Domscheit-Berg suggested that ‘there needs to be a thousand Wikileaks’.
IrishLeaks is one more, at least. The founders have accepted Domscheit-Berg’s diagnosis with regards to internal organisation, but unlike his OpenLeaks project, they are not willing to merely provide a technical solution for organisations looking to receive leaks. Instead, they will receive, collate and release the information. The latter will be done via the website itself, with the readership expected to take it further and challenge the abuses of power exposed, instead of relying on the stoking of public outrage through big media partnerships. In keeping with this, they will aim to release all data simultaneously, rather than the drip-feeding approach taken by WikiLeaks in their release of diplomatic cables.
Internally, the Irish platform hopes to build on a member’s experience with CrowdLeaks.org, the Project Anonymous-initiated website that finds, aggregates and disseminates data from WikiLeaks (and related) releases. With all those involved in the project voting on decisions and internal positions given to those who do the work, rather than those appointed, this is an attempt to trial a more democratic organisation.
It is a small group of volunteers and so the issue of capability remains. The organisation will simply have to trial its processes and hope that the leaks come at a rate they can handle.
WikiLeaks’s notoriety is a major part of its problems. It is attacked by the most powerful state in the world, its major alleged source is tortured and faces trial for treason and its leader must fight extradition for alleged sexual misconduct. It is little wonder then, that IrishLeaks have decided to opt for a more low-profile approach. By avoiding media partnerships and counting on their readers to do the broader dissemination work, they will try to avoid the limelight and focus discussion where it belongs, on the released information.
But disclosures of confidential information will beget a backlash, even if the site does not court fame. An Irish leaking site won’t face the same scale of reprisals as those directed against WikiLeaks, but if it is effective it will meet attacks. Whether the democratic processes will be robust in the face of external attacks remains to be seen, but it will certainly be a useful experiment.
The same can be said for the group as a whole. IrishLeaks.ie is another iteration of the WikiLeaks concept, taking on many of the criticisms leveled against that organisation. Activist leaking is an expanding phenomenon, born from the spread of the Internet and freely available cryptographic technology. WikiLeaks was not the first leaking service and it won’t be the last. The Irish version are tweaking the concept and giving it another go.
Wikileaks: Police Arrested Movie Pirate As “A Personal Favor” To Movie Official | TorrentFreak
Geremi Adam, the movie cammer for the Scene release group ‘maVen’, will go down in history as a grand master of his art. Despite difficulties in pinning a crime on him, eventually Adam was arrested. According to a cable released by Wikileaks, that arrest was carried out as “a personal favor” to a movie industry official, setting off a tragic chain of events which would ultimately lead to Adams’ death.
Between 2004 and mid 2006, the Scene group ‘maVen’ released some of the best ‘Telesync‘ versions of pirated movies onto the internet including Bourne Supremacy, Collateral, Spongebob Squarepants, Mission Impossible 3 and Superman Returns. Then, at the end of July 2006, ‘maVen’ releases suddenly stopped.
It transpired that the FBI, at the behest of the MPAA, had been investigating ‘maVen’ and had labeled him the ‘world leader’ in movie piracy. They handed their file to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in April 2006. By September, Geremi Adam was under arrest after ‘camming’ the movies How to Eat Fried Worms and Invincible. At the time, camming a movie in Canada wasn’t an offense so unsurprisingly, Adam was released.
Someone clearly wanted maVen out of action and Adam punished. One month later Adam was arrested again. The arrest triggered a chain of events which would lead to Adam, who had a history of depression, enduring a 14 month wait for any charges to be brought. He went on the run, was detained and eventually sentenced to jail. Adam began using drugs in jail to cope with his imprisonment and shortly after his release he tragically died of an overdose.
So who was pulling the strings behind the scenes to ensure that so many resources were spent on chasing Adam who, with his camming, wasn’t even committing a crime? Thanks to a US diplomatic cable dated 12th December 2006 and released by Wikileaks this week, we now have the answer.
The cable begins by revealing that having previously reported in March 2006 that 40 to 50% of all pirate movies around the world could be linked to camming in Montreal, by the third quarter of that year the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association’s (CMPDA) had revised that figure down to 18%.
The cable reported that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) considered camming to be a low priority issue and doubted the reports of how much damage it was doing to Canadian industry. As a result they preferred to focus their IP-related resources on dealing with serious issues such as counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
The RCMP had encouraged the CMPDA to finance their own civil action to enforce their rights. Although not detailed by name, it is clear that when the cable reported that the individual behind most of Montreal’s camming had been arrested twice, there could be little doubt it was referring to Geremi Adam. The RCMP, at this stage, had been clear – Adam would not receive jail time.
The cable goes on to bemoan the lack of effective legislation to deal with camming and at one stage even refers to it as a “high-tech pastime”. It describes how Adam operated, suggesting a “drag and drop” operation which allowed “films such as The Chronicles of Narnia [to] be shown in a Montreal theater and later sold in DVD form on big city streets within a matter of hours.”
According to the cable, proving distribution was the key to a successful prosecution. In end, the fact that Adam’s cammed copies appeared online was enough to land him in jail. His initial arrest, however, was prompted by less official means.
“With regard to the arrest of the individual who had been pursued by the CMPDA, RCMP officers stated that they arrested the individual ‘as a personal favor’ to a CMPDA official, and that they did not view theater camcording as a major issue’,” reads the US diplomatic cable.
“The officers said that IPR holders could pursue legal action against suspects engaged in camcording via the civil code without needing to engage the RCMP. They acknowledged, however, that a conviction under the civil code would not result in prison time, and would usually involve a relatively small fine,” it continues.
The cable reveals that the RCMP carried out this “favor” despite believing that Adam was “a small player” who was not receiving “lucrative financial rewards for his work.”
“One RCMP officer expressed concern that the RCMP not be seen as ‘the enforcement arm of industry’, noting that the ‘industry comes to [the RCMP] more and more’ with requests for action,” the cable concludes.