December 25, 2004

FBI Memos on Prisoner Abuse Expose DoD Lies

Greetings. I'd like to offer a cheery "Happy Holidays" today, but it's difficult given the sorts of revelations that keep appearing in the news.

While there aren't dramatic photos to capture the public's attention this time around, the content of FBI memos recently made public have exposed as lies Department of Defense denials of widespread abuse and torture of prisoners.

A detailed reading of the materials indicates that FBI agents were not only shocked to see what they believed to be illegal abuse and torture of prisoners at Guantanamo, but also discovered that DoD interrogators/torturers routinely claimed to be FBI agents, apparently attempting to ensure that the FBI would be blamed if the abuses ever came to light. The FBI also expressed quite understandable concerns that the accuracy of information obtained under such conditions could be highly doubtful.

Suddenly, the previous abuse, torture, and coercion claims of Guantanamo prisoners, which had been denied by DoD and even doubted by some of the prisoners' attorneys, have been confirmed by the FBI itself.

No doubt President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld will attempt to again blame lower level lackeys for what now clearly appears to be institutionally-approved abuses -- the sorts of activities that the U.S. fought for decades to eradicate among our cold war adversaries.

In the name of our great country, what have we allowed ourselves to become?

I wish you all the best for the holiday season.


Posted by Lauren at 09:26 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein

December 16, 2004

The Dark Side of Google

Greetings. Google has some great search services. We all depend on them. But merely having a couple of smiling young founders and a "do no harm" slogan doesn't change the increasing risks associated with their operations.

Google has created a growing information repository of a sort that CIA and NSA (and the old KGB) would probably envy and covet in no uncertain terms -- and Google's data is virtually without outside oversight or regulation.

It is reported that Google has maintained a record of essentially every search (including the IP address information, time/date stamps, etc.) done on their systems, and has developed internal tools specifically to mine "interesting" tidbits from this vast storehouse. Even persons who turn off their cookies (which Google uses in significant profusion) could likely be tracked to all of their searches with sufficient effort. For static-IP address users, this effort could be relatively minimal.

In an age of ever-eroding civil liberties, the value of this data to governments, litigants, and others on an ongoing and retrospective basis could be vast indeed.

The added benefit to Google of having access to the scanned and OCR'd versions of millions of books (whether copyrighted or not) most likely vastly exceeds any immediate or even medium-term advertising revenue possibilities. The mere availability of this new mass of data, even before a single outside search relating to it has been logged, will be of incredible value to Google in an untold number of ways once they start crunching on it. And thanks to the new deals Google is making with libraries, the copyright holders won't see a dime in return.

Google has become the smiling 800-pound gorilla of the Internet. They've done this with the help of a somewhat fanatical following who just can't imagine that someday Google might do (or be compelled to do) something nasty with all that data they have salted away.

What makes this all the more difficult is that their services are so good, and that there is no reason to suspect at this point that Google has evil intentions. But rosy motives don't provide immunity from what has repeatedly been revealed to be Google's naive world view (particularly toward privacy -- and some would argue -- copyright issues) and the ways in which their vast machine could someday become an instrument of genuine repression despite Google's best intentions today.

Something to think about, at least.


Posted by Lauren at 12:14 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein

December 12, 2004

Military Medical Stupidity

Greetings. While our young (and thanks to inane and in some cases underhanded Ready Reserve call-ups, many not so young) soldiers and marines are being ground up in Iraq, our leaders claim that -- if nothing else -- the wounded are getting the best in medical care. Given that the rate of major limb amputations is reportedly running double that of previous wars, this is what you'd expect to hear them say.

But here's a little story that got my attention. In the midst of the tragic stream of lost arms and legs, and families screaming bloody murder trying to get the treatments that were promised for severely disabled casualities who are now back in the States, it's a comparatively small matter. But it's the sort of thing that sticks in your mind.

A 19-year-old Marine was injured during a fire fight in Iraq and had a mangled hand. Doctors prepared to cut off his wedding ring to work on saving the finger. The Marine insisted he wanted to keep the ring and requested to sacrifice the finger instead. Amazingly, military doctors went along with his request, and cut off his finger. In the confusion that followed, the ring was lost anyway.

That a kid injured in battle might make such a "romantic" request is perhaps understandable. That the doctors in charge of his case would accede to such a request is unbelievable, even under the circumstances. Civilian doctors have been charged with malpractice for less. What the military doctors should have done is say, "Marine, we're making the medical decisions here. You need that finger more than that ring."

What bothers me most about this story isn't so much the particular incident. It's the nagging feeling that this may represent a broader and more serious pattern of poor judgment among those treating our troops for far more serious injuries. I hope that is not the case.


Posted by Lauren at 09:54 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein

December 11, 2004

Fourth-Grade Girl Arrested for Scissors in School

Greetings. I just love stories like this. In Philadelphia, moronic school officials called police when a 10-year-old girl was discovered to have brought a pair of scissors to school. She wasn't threatening anyone or anything like that -- she just had the scissors among her belongings.

The obliging cops, in the best of "no common sense" traditions, handcuffed the child and hustled her off to the police station -- almost as much fun as a donut break! I gather that there were no other serious crimes anywhere around Philly that day, otherwise one might question the allocation of law enforcement resources, eh?

Police later decided that no crime had actually been committed and released the girl. (What? No cages available on Guantanamo for this dangerous potential terrorist?)

The school district then proceeded to suspend her for five days, and may expel her to their special disciplinary school for hardened criminals.

All in all, another fine example of zero-tolerance stupidity at the hands of zero-intelligence officials.


Posted by Lauren at 08:10 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein

December 09, 2004

New "Google Groups" Mangles Netnews Messages + Related Copyright and Privacy Issues

Greetings. When Google obtained the massive Usenet netnews archive some years ago and became the de facto netnews repository via their "Google Groups" service, there were concerns expressed that they might attempt to assert ownership or otherwise leverage these materials, most of which are at least in theory under the original copyright control of their authors.

Google's new version of Google Groups appears to include a feature, ostensibly one assumes for spam control, with significant potential privacy and other serious problems (based upon my current observations of how the system is operating).

I urge you to examine the details.

Thanks very much.


Posted by Lauren at 10:24 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein