posts about or somewhat related to ‘terrorism’
A note to governments from Index on Censorship:
Index on Censorship here. We’ve noticed some you have had trouble telling the difference between terrorists and journalist lately (yes, you too Barack: put the BlackBerry down). So we thought as people with some experience of the journalism thing, we could offer you a few handy tips to refer to the next time you find yourself asking: journalist or terrorist?
Have a look at your suspect. Is he carrying a) a notebook with weird squiggly lines on it, or b) an RPG-7. If the latter, odds on he’s a terrorist. The former? Most likely a journalist. Those squiggly lines are called “shorthand” – it’s what reporters do when they’re writing things down for, er, reporting. It might look a bit like Arabic, but it’s not, and even if it was, that wouldn’t be a good enough reason to lock the guy up.
Still not clear? Let’s move on to the questioning part.
Background: In Egypt, Al Jazeera journalists are on trial for having links to a “terrorist organization”; in England, a court ruled that the detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner at Heathrow Airport was legal because carrying the Edward Snowden NSA documents is, um, terroristy; in Morocco, a journalist was charged last fall with “inciting terrorism” because he linked to an Al Qaeda video; and in the United States the government admits that journalists could be targeted with counter-terrorism laws as they do their jobs (see here, here, and here for all things depressing).
The Wall Street Journal reports that a little known government agency now has the authority to hold and monitor data on US citizens for up to five years, even if the individual has never committed a crime.
The goal, it appears, is to use the data to predict future — or potential — criminal activity.
Via the Wall Street Journal*:
[New] rules now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center to examine the government files of U.S. citizens for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them. That is a departure from past practice, which barred the agency from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or related to an investigation.
Now, NCTC can copy entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. Previously, both were prohibited…
The changes also allow databases of U.S. civilian information to be given to foreign governments for analysis of their own. In effect, U.S. and foreign governments would be using the information to look for clues that people might commit future crimes.
Under the new rules, the NCTC can request access to any governmental database that it “reasonably believes” contains “terrorism information.”
Considering the National Security Agency is currently building a massive information center in Utah to monitor almost “all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails,” the NCTC wont be want for information.
BONUS: Looking for more about government surveillance? Check the FJP Surveillance Tag.
Wall Street Journal, U.S. Terrorism Agency to Tap a Vast Database of Citizens.
* This WSJ article is paywalled if you go directly to the site. If you want to read it, copy the title, paste it in Google and follow the search result back to the WSJ.
The United States appears to have a new counterterrorism strategy built especially for the online age: troll extremist sites and forums.
The program, called Viral Peace, seeks to occupy the virtual space that extremists fill, one thread or Twitter exchange at a time. Shahed Amanullah, a senior technology adviser to the State Department and Viral Peace’s creator, tells Danger Room he wants to use “logic, humor, satire, [and] religious arguments, not just to confront [extremists], but to undermine and demoralize them.” Think of it as strategic trolling, in pursuit of geopolitical pwnage…
…In an interview at a Washington coffee shop near his State Department office, Amanullah explains that online extremists have “an energy, they’ve got a vitality that frankly attracts some of these at-risk people,” Amanullah says. “It appeals to macho, it appeals to people’s rebellious nature, it appeals to people who feel downtrodden.” Creating a comparable passion on the other side is difficult. But it’s easier if the average online would-be jihadi has his mystique challenged through the trial by fire that is online ridicule…
…But all that is several steps ahead of Viral Peace at the moment. Viral Peace doesn’t have a strategy yet. And to hear Amanullah and his colleagues tell it, the State Department won’t be the ones who come up with one. It’s better, they argue, to let Muslims in various foreign countries figure out which message boards to troll and how to properly troll them. Americans won’t know, say, the Tagalog-language Internet better than Filipinos; and as outsiders, they won’t have the credibility necessary to actually make an impact. The best the State Department can do is train good trolls — which Amanullah began to do this spring.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a campaign rally in Eastern France proposes criminal penalties for citizens who visit Web sites that advocate hate or violence. He spoke in the aftermath of the murders of seven people by an Al Qaeda inspired gunman.
Electronic Frontier Foundation, French President Sarkozy Sees Opportunity for Censorship, Seizes It.
As the EFF notes, there are serious issues the proposal, among them: who defines hate speech; it hasn’t been shown that “criminalizing access to hate speech or terrorist content will end the very real problems of hate crime and terrorism”; and once a criminalization regime takes place it’s a very small step to censorship and “overblocking”.
When a democratic country such as France decides to censor or criminalize speech, it is not just the French that suffer, but the world, as authoritarian regimes are given easy justification for their own censorship. We [the EFF] urge French authorities to judge crime on action, not expression.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Lucie Morillon of Reporters Without Borders wonders whether Sarkozy proposes a full-fledged Internet surveillance system in France.