posts about or somewhat related to ‘WOT’

New York Times reporter James Risen, via Twitter.

James Risen recently won the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Journalism Award for excellence in journalism.

The Pulitzer Prize winning national security reporter has long been hounded by the US Justice Department to disclose his confidential sources from his 2006 book State of War.

As the Washington Post wrote back in August, “Prosecutors want Mr. Risen’s testimony in their case against Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA official who is accused of leaking details of a failed operation against Iran’s nuclear program. Mr. Risen properly has refused to identify his source, at the risk of imprisonment. Such confidential sources are a pillar of how journalists obtain information. If Mr. Risen is forced to reveal the identity of a source, it will damage the ability of journalists to promise confidentiality to sources and to probe government behavior.”

While accepting the Lovejoy Award, Risen had this to say:

The conventional wisdom of our day is the belief that we have had to change the nature of our society to accommodate the global war on terror. Incrementally over the last thirteen years, Americans have easily accepted a transformation of their way of life because they have been told that it is necessary to keep them safe. Americans now slip off their shoes on command at airports, have accepted the secret targeted killings of other Americans without due process, have accepted the use of torture and the creation of secret offshore prisons, have accepted mass surveillance of their personal communications, and accepted the longest continual period of war in American history. Meanwhile, the government has eagerly prosecuted whistleblowers who try to bring any of the government’s actions to light.

Americans have accepted this new reality with hardly a murmur. Today, the basic prerequisite to being taken seriously in American politics is to accept the legitimacy of the new national security state that has been created since 9/11. The new basic American assumption is that there really is a need for a global war on terror. Anyone who doesn’t accept that basic assumption is considered dangerous and maybe even a traitor.

Today, the U.S. government treats whistleblowers as criminals, much like Elijah Lovejoy, because they want to reveal uncomfortable truths about the government’s actions. And the public and the mainstream press often accept and champion the government’s approach, viewing whistleblowers as dangerous fringe characters because they are not willing to follow orders and remain silent.

The crackdown on leaks by first the Bush administration and more aggressively by the Obama administration, targeting both whistleblowers and journalists, has been designed to suppress the truth about the war on terror. This government campaign of censorship has come with the veneer of the law. Instead of mobs throwing printing presses in the Mississippi River, instead of the creation of the kind of “enemies lists” that President Richard Nixon kept, the Bush and Obama administrations have used the Department of Justice to do their bidding. But the effect is the same — the attorney general of the United States has been turned into the nation’s chief censorship officer. Whenever the White House or the intelligence community get angry about a story in the press, they turn to the Justice Department and the FBI and get them to start a criminal leak investigation, to make sure everybody shuts up.

What the White House wants is to establish limits on accepted reporting on national security and on the war on terror. By launching criminal investigations of stories that are outside the mainstream coverage, they are trying to, in effect, build a pathway on which journalism can be conducted. Stay on the interstate highway of conventional wisdom with your journalism, and you will have no problems. Try to get off and challenge basic assumptions, and you will face punishment.

Journalists have no choice but to fight back, because if they don’t they will become irrelevant.

Bonus: The NSA and Me, James Bamford’s account of covering the agency over the last 30 years, via The Intercept.

Double Bonus: Elijah Parish Lovejoy was a minister in the first half of the 19th century who edited an abolitionist paper called the St. Louis Observer. He was murdered by a pro-slavery mob in 1837. More via Wikipedia.

Images: Selected tweets via James Risen.

Drones

By Matt Bors, via @KenRoth. Select to embiggen.

The Guantánamo Memoirs of Mohamedou Ould Slahi
Via Slate:

Mohamedou Ould Slahi began to tell his story in 2005. Over the course of several months, the Guantánamo prisoner handwrote his memoir, recounting what he calls his “endless world tour” of detention and interrogation. He wrote in English, a language he mastered in prison. His handwriting is relaxed but neat, his narrative, even riddled with redactions, vivid and captivating. In telling his story he tried, as he wrote, “to be as fair as possible to the U.S. government, to my brothers, and to myself.” He finished his 466-page draft in early 2006. For the next six years, the U.S. government held the manuscript as a classified secret.
When his pro bono attorneys were allowed to hand me a disk labeled “Unclassified Version” last year, Slahi had been a Guantánamo detainee for more than a decade. I sat down to start reading his manuscript nearly 10 years to the day from the book’s opening scene:
“[Redacted] July 2002, 22:00. The American team takes over. The music was off. The conversations of the guards faded away. The truck emptied.”
We’re in the middle of the action. Slahi’s life in captivity had begun eight months earlier, on Nov. 20, 2001, when Slahi, then 30, was summoned by Mauritanian police for questioning. He had just returned home from work; he was in the shower when police arrived. He dressed, grabbed his car keys—he went voluntarily, driving himself to the police station—and told his mother not to worry, he would be home soon.

Overview: How the United States kept him silent for 12 years.
Part 01: Endless Interrogations.
Part 02: Disappeared.
Part 03: Family.
Timeline of Slahi’s detention.
Image: Handwritten page from Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s memoir (PDF), via Slate.

The Guantánamo Memoirs of Mohamedou Ould Slahi

Via Slate:

Mohamedou Ould Slahi began to tell his story in 2005. Over the course of several months, the Guantánamo prisoner handwrote his memoir, recounting what he calls his “endless world tour” of detention and interrogation. He wrote in English, a language he mastered in prison. His handwriting is relaxed but neat, his narrative, even riddled with redactions, vivid and captivating. In telling his story he tried, as he wrote, “to be as fair as possible to the U.S. government, to my brothers, and to myself.” He finished his 466-page draft in early 2006. For the next six years, the U.S. government held the manuscript as a classified secret.

When his pro bono attorneys were allowed to hand me a disk labeled “Unclassified Version” last year, Slahi had been a Guantánamo detainee for more than a decade. I sat down to start reading his manuscript nearly 10 years to the day from the book’s opening scene:

“[Redacted] July 2002, 22:00. The American team takes over. The music was off. The conversations of the guards faded away. The truck emptied.”

We’re in the middle of the action. Slahi’s life in captivity had begun eight months earlier, on Nov. 20, 2001, when Slahi, then 30, was summoned by Mauritanian police for questioning. He had just returned home from work; he was in the shower when police arrived. He dressed, grabbed his car keys—he went voluntarily, driving himself to the police station—and told his mother not to worry, he would be home soon.

Overview: How the United States kept him silent for 12 years.

Part 01: Endless Interrogations.

Part 02: Disappeared.

Part 03: Family.

Timeline of Slahi’s detention.

Image: Handwritten page from Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s memoir (PDF), via Slate.

Visualizing Drone Strikes in Pakistan
Out of Site, Out of Mind visualizes every known drone strike in Pakistan since 2004. To date, there have been 3,105 casualties.
Of those casualties, 175 were children, 535 civilian, 2,348 “other” (status unknown) and 47 high profile. 
The visualization is interactive and lets you mouse over for additional details about each strike. Lower on the page and not shown here is the latest news from establishment and alternative media about drones, policy and their effects.
Image: Out of Site, Out of Mind by Pitch Interactive.

Visualizing Drone Strikes in Pakistan

Out of Site, Out of Mind visualizes every known drone strike in Pakistan since 2004. To date, there have been 3,105 casualties.

Of those casualties, 175 were children, 535 civilian, 2,348 “other” (status unknown) and 47 high profile. 

The visualization is interactive and lets you mouse over for additional details about each strike. Lower on the page and not shown here is the latest news from establishment and alternative media about drones, policy and their effects.

Image: Out of Site, Out of Mind by Pitch Interactive.

President Barack Obama, who vastly expanded U.S. drone strikes against terrorism suspects overseas under the cloak of secrecy, is now openly seeking to influence global guidelines for their use as China and other countries pursue their own drone programs →

Via Reuters:

"People say what’s going to happen when the Chinese and the Russians get this technology? The president is well aware of those concerns and wants to set the standard for the international community on these tools,” said Tommy Vietor, until earlier this month a White House spokesman.

FJP: Standards.

Jihadnalism

A few weeks after its previous English-language Twitter account was suspended, al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda linked group from Somalia, has reappeared on the site.

The previous @HSMPress account was suspended when it was used to announce that al-Shabab would kill a French hostage, and then used to announce that it had, indeed, killed him. The new account is @HSMPress1

Meantime, Aaron Zelin writes in Foreign Policy about how persistent hacking attacks on traditional online forums used by militant Islamist groups are affecting their media strategies. For example, many are moving from password protected and relatively “closed” community forums to social sites such as Twitter.

On December 23, 2012… Abdullah Muhammad Mahmud, a writer for the jihadi news agency Dawa al-Haqq Foundation for Studies and Research, which is disseminated via a Wordpress blog, provided guidance to online jihadi activists. Mahmud told his comrades that going forward, it was legitimate to use Twitter and Facebook as sources of information for jihadi-related issues. This advice was in a sense revolutionary, as jihadis had previously emphazized the importance of the forums as a method for authenticating materials, to prevent forgeries of official group content. At the same time, though, many grassroots activists had already been active on online social media platforms for a few years on an individual basis.

If the dissemination of official releases is no longer to be done centrally, it has the potential to make the forums obsolete, and usher in a new era whereby jihadi activists primarily rely on social media platforms to interact with one another. It could also force groups that are part of al-Fajr’s distribution network to evolve and change their methods of content dissemination. There is already some evidence that this shift has started during the ongoing forum takedown.

Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute, just released a report on online jihadi behavior for the New American Foundation.

Images: Screenshots of selected Twitter posts by HSM Press, al-Shabab’s English-language press agency. Select to embiggen.

On Secrecy, War, Teenagers and Headlines

00Last Friday a US drone strike killed US-born Abdulrahman al-Awlaki in Yemen. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because two weeks before a drone strike killed his US-born father. At the time, the US government said that the son was a twenty-something Al Qaeda fighter. A recently released birth certificate shows he was 16. What follows is a back and forth across two articles that focus on the issue, followed by a third, New York Times article that appeared today and calls this relatively new form of warfare a success.

01Glenn Greenwald: Two weeks after the U.S. killed American citizen Anwar Awlaki with a drone strike in Yemen — far from any battlefield and with no due process — it did the same to his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, ending the teenager’s life on Friday along with his 17-year-old cousin and seven other people.

02Amy Davidson: Maybe he was just in the wrong place, like the Yemeni seventeen-year-old who reportedly died, too. Abdulrahman’s family said that he had been at a barbecue, and told the Post that they were speaking to the paper to answer reports said that Abdulrahman was a fighter in his twenties. Looking at his birth certificate, one wonders what those assertions say either about the the quality of the government’s evidence—or the honesty of its claims—and about our own capacity for self-deception. Where does the Obama Administration see the limits of its right to kill an American citizen without a trial?

03Glenn Greenwald: It is unknown whether the U.S. targeted the teenager or whether he was merely “collateral damage.” The reason that’s unknown is because the Obama administration refuses to tell us. Said the Post: “The officials would not discuss the attack in any detail, including who the target was.” So here we have yet again one of the most consequential acts a government can take — killing one of its own citizens, in this case a teenage boy — and the government refuses even to talk about what it did, why it did it, what its justification is, what evidence it possesses, or what principles it has embraced in general for such actions. Indeed, it refuses even to admit it did this, since it refuses even to admit that it has a drone program at all and that it is engaged in military action in Yemen. It’s just all shrouded in total secrecy.

04The New York Times: Another Victory for a New Approach to War

The death of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi is the latest victory for a new American approach to war: few if any troops on the ground, the heavy use of air power, including drones and, at least in the case of Libya, a reliance on allies…

…[T]he last six months have brought a string of successes. In May, American commandos killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. In August, Tripoli fell, and Colonel Qaddafi fled. In September, an American drone strike killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a top Qaeda operative and propagandist, in Yemen.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Mirror Wikileaks and it Will Not Fall.

Or something like that.

On Sunday, Wikileaks began releasing classified documents from Guantanamo Bay Prison in Cuba:

These memoranda, which contain [the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo Bay] recommendations about whether the prisoners in question should continue to be held, or should be released (transferred to their home governments, or to other governments) contain a wealth of important and previously undisclosed information, including health assessments, for example, and, in the cases of the majority of the 171 prisoners who are still held, photos (mostly for the first time ever).

When Wikileaks last dumped a trove of sensitive documents, they were hit hard by a Distributed Denial of Service Attack that essentially took the site offline.

Half a year later, Wikileaks and its volunteers are now using the elasticity and redundancy of the Web to prevent DDoS attacks from preventing access to information again. How they’re doing it is through the use of mirrors.

What does that mean?

A mirror is simply a server that duplicates the data that is found on other servers. You can think of it as a type of file synchronization.

Commercial companies such as Amazon do this with their Elastic Cloud computing. The logistics are different (Amazon is duplicating data instances across their own servers) but the concept is the same: have multiple copies of information available across the globe so that if anything happens at one node, another can serve the data.

The video above visualizes the Wikileaks global mirror ecosystem via Google Earth. We recommend viewing it full screen so you can see the details of what’s being shown.