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36 posts from December 2007

December 15, 2007

Best digital photo frame?

Here's a question for the hivemind...

What is the best digital photo frame? I'm picking one out as a Christmas present for my grandmother.

Ideally, I'd like to get one with WiFi, but it's not essential.

I don't care if it comes with an mp3 player, a clock radio, or interchangeable decorative face plates.

I what I really care about is the picture quality.



diver, originally uploaded by jujubh.

Today's FlickrFind by jujubh.

December 13, 2007

Mike Gravel mashup

HT: Rad Geek, by way of commenter, bunty.

December 12, 2007

Blackwater's State Department liaison resigns

The head of the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Kevin Barry, has stepped down.  Barry was the liaison between State and Blackwater.

December 11, 2007

ISOO told Vice President's office "not an agency"

Steve Aftergood of Secrecy News reports on the latest skirmish in Dick Cheney's long battle to make the Vice President's Office into a fourth branch of government:

The Office of the Vice President is not an "agency" for purposes of the executive order on classification and therefore its classification and declassification activity no longer need be reported to the Information Security Oversight Office, the Justice Department finally informed ISOO Director Bill Leonard in a newly disclosed letter (pdf).

In a January 9, 2007 letter to the Attorney General, Director Leonard had questioned the OVP's refusal since 2003 to submit to normal oversight. He was following up on a complaint (pdf) filed with ISOO by the Federation of American Scientists, which was also forwarded to the Attorney General.

The OVP's position is not consistent with a "plain text reading" of the executive order, Mr. Leonard wrote (pdf) to the Attorney General at that time.

Cardin and Hastings hold hearing on torture, helmut testifies

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) and Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) held a field hearing on US torture policy yesterday in Maryland. The hearing was sponsored by the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (aka "The Helsinki Commission").

Helmut of phronesisaical critiqued "ticking bomb" justifications for torture at yesterday's hearing. I hope his remarks will help counteract our leaders' collective fixation on TV torturer Jack Bauer from Fox's ticking bomb drama 24.

Helmut's new book, On Torture, is forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press.

December 10, 2007

Viacom lobbyists hired CIA torture team leader for "Kite Runner" movie

[Majikthise Exclusive]

A retired CIA agent who led the team that waterboarded terror suspect Abu Zubaydah went on to work as a security consultant for the film adaptation of The Kite Runner (2007).

Lobbyists for Viacom helped the producers of the film retain retired CIA agent and "countererrorism expert", John Kiriakou, according an Oct 4 article in the International Herald Tribune--before Kirkakou went public about his career as a torturer.

The producers of Kite Runner realized belatedly that the film's release might put movie's child stars in serious danger:

In late July, with violence worsening in Kabul, studio executives looked for experts who could help them chart a safe course. Aided by lobbyists for Viacom, Paramount's parent company, they found John Kiriakou, the retired CIA operative with experience in the region, and had him conduct interviews in Washington and Kabul.

"They wanted to do the right thing, but they wanted to understand what the right thing was," Kiriakou said. [IHT]

The Kite Runner is an adaptation of a Khaled Husseini novel that touches on ethnic tensions in Afghanistan, rape, and the Taliban. The release of the film was delayed for several weeks because the boys were getting threats and the producers needed time to get them out of Afghanistan.

On Dec. 5, the IHT reported that four young actors and accompanying adult relatives had been whisked off to the United Arab Emirates for their own protection:

Months of spadework by at least 20 studio executives, relief workers, diplomats and even a former CIA counterterrorism operative culminated last week when the boys, who were in the midst of final exams, obtained visas and boarded a plane for the United Arab Emirates. [IHT]

The film opens on Dec. 14.

Majikthise is first publication to report on Kiriakou's work as a security consultant in light of his torture revelations.

Pelosi issues statement on torture briefings

Nancy Pelosi says told in the fall of 2002 that certain torture techniques were legal and that the Administration was considering making use of them.

Spencer Ackerman of TPMM recently posted Pelosi's official statement on the matter:

"On one occasion, in the fall of 2002, I was briefed on interrogation techniques the Administration was considering using in the future. The Administration advised that legal counsel for the both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal.

"I had no further briefings on the techniques. Several months later, my successor as Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, was briefed more extensively and advised the techniques had in fact been employed. It was my understanding at that time that Congresswoman Harman filed a letter in early 2003 to the CIA to protest the use of such techniques, a protest with which I concurred."

Pelosi's statement is consistent with yesterday's story by Warrick and Eggen in the Washington Post.  The article said Pelosi was briefed about waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods in September, 2002.

Pelosi seems to be putting a lot of weight the distinction between being told that torture was legal and being told the CIA was torturing people.

If Pelosi knew that the Administration and the CIA had signed off on the legality of torture, what did she do about it?

As Pelosi notes in her statement, the subsequent ranking Democrat on the Intel Committee Jane Harman was briefed on advised that the techniques had already been employed. Pelosi says she "concurred" with Harman's 2003 protest letter to the CIA. Does that mean she signed something, or did she just silently agree with Harman?

After Pelosi  became House Majority Leader, she replaced Harman as committee chair. Come to think of it, Pelosi replaced Harman with Sylvestre "Jose Rodriguez is Jack Bauer" Reyes.

KBR employee says she was gang raped by coworkers and detained in Iraq

Brian Ross and Justin Rood have broken an explosive story of rape and false imprisonment in the Green Zone that raises questions about the contractor Halliburton/KBR, the US government, and the military.

A 22-year-old former Halliburton/KBR employee says she was gang-raped by her coworkers and imprisoned by the company in a shipping container. According to papers filed in a lawsuit against KBR and its former parent company Halliburton, the victim was only released from the container after intevention by the US State Department.

KBR issued a statement that the US authorities called off the company's internal investigation. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who helped get his constituent out of the shipping container, says that the State and Justice Departments are stonewalling his investigation.   

KBR has mysteriously "lost" the rape kit after receiving in from US military doctors.

No criminal charges have been laid and KBR wants the civil suit heard in closed-door arbitration.

HT: Eric

Religious vigillantes killed 40 women in Basra

Juan Cole points to a horrifying news item about religious vigilantes in Basra suspected of murdering at least 40 women in the past year:

BAGHDAD (AP) — Religious vigilantes have killed at least 40 women this year in the southern Iraqi city of Basra because of how they dressed, their mutilated bodies found with notes warning against "violating Islamic teachings," the police chief said Sunday.

Maj. Gen. Jalil Khalaf blamed sectarian groups that he said were trying to impose a strict interpretation of Islam. They dispatch patrols of motorbikes or unlicensed cars with tinted windows to accost women not wearing traditional dress and head scarves, he added.

"The women of Basra are being horrifically murdered and then dumped in the garbage with notes saying they were killed for un-Islamic behavior," Khalaf told The Associated Press. He said men with Western clothes or haircuts are also attacked in Basra, an oil-rich city some 30 miles from the Iranian border and 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.

"Those who are behind these atrocities are organized gangs who work under cover of religion, pretending to spread the instructions of Islam, but they are far from this religion," Khalaf said.

"Your makeup and your decision to forgo the headscarf will bring you death," according to the red graffiti proliferating in certain districts.

Notes are found affixed to the mutilated bodies that explain why the victim was targeted. Stated motives include alleged adultery and violations of "Islamic teachings."

The authorities estimate that the true death toll exceeds the 40 murders reported so far. Many families are too afraid to come forward, they say.