Hunger Strike at Gitmo

8 April 2007

13 people are on a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay, according to the New York Times, partially as a result of the conditions at a new center there. They are all being force-fed.

“We don’t have any rights here, even after your Supreme Court said we had rights,” Majid al-Joudi, a hunger striker, told a military physician, “If the policy does not change, you will see a big increase in fasting.”

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YouTube Offers Blocking to Thailand

7 April 2007

YouTube has offered to allow the Thai government to block specific items, according to BBC News, saying that would be better than the country having the entire site blocked. Thailand currently has a ban on YouTube, because of material deemed offensive to the monarch.

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Washington Bill Against REAL ID

6 April 2007

Washington has become the fourth state to prohibit compliance with the REAL ID Act as it stands now, according to the ACLU. The bill was passed in the house 95 to 2, and would prevent compliance unless it is fully funded by the federal government and stronger protections for privacy are put in place.

In regards to the funding though, I don’t see how it makes much of a difference which branch of the government funds it. Someone would have to, and it’s obviously going to be the taxpayers either way.

In regards to the privacy, every step is, well, a step, but less than a tenth of the states have made this move.

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Secret Prisons in Ethiopia

5 April 2007

An investigation by the Associated Press has found that the US interrogates suspects from 19 countries in Ethiopia, a country known for human rights abuses. Human rights groups, lawyers, and several Western diplomats say that hundreds of people, including children, have been transferred secretly and illegally from Kenya and Somalia to secret prisons in Ethiopia. The people include refugees, Canadians, an American, French, and Swedes.

John Sifton of Human Rights Watch describes it as a “decentralized, outsourced Guantanamo.”

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Bush is Quite Clever

4 April 2007

Bush has used a recess appointment to make a Republican fund raiser our ambassador to Belgium, according to Fox News.

The headline on Fox’s homepage? “Bush Out-Foxes Appointment Foes.” By “appointment foes,” of course, they mean “majority in Congress.” And by “out-foxes” they presumably mean “bypasses check and balance system that depends on.” The way it’s phrased makes it seem as though Bush, in a moment of genius, finds a way to defeat these evil people who are opposing the appointment. Yes, he’s quite clever, he’s done it 167 times in fact.

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No, You May Not Discuss Polar Bears

3 April 2007

You can, actually, but not certain things about them, like why they might start eating Russians. According to the St. Louis Dispatch, their possible hunting of Russians is because polar bears might have to change their food source, which is because of global warming, which you can’t discuss, which is because the White House says so.

Two scientists from the Fish and Wildlife Service going to a conference had to promise not to discuss sea ice, global warming or climate change, which has a major impact on their ability to discuss polar bears, since global warming is a major issue in the arctic.

In addition, according to PEER, scientists will face restrictions on what they can say in private as well. Any discussion of anything deemed of “official interest” will have to go through the chain of command, whether on- or off-duty.

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British Detainee Released from Gitmo

2 April 2007

A British resident who was released from Guantanamo Bay this weekend made his first statement since then, according to the State. Bisher al-Rawi, 37, said within his statement that “The hopelessness you feel in Guantanamo can hardly be described. You are asked the same questions hundreds of times… Allegations are made against you that are laughably untrue, but you have no chance to prove them wrong. There is no trial, no fair legal process.”

Al-Rawi, who had been held for five years, was never given a trial. He and his friend, Jamil el-Banna, were arrested in Gambia when trying to return to Britain with what officials said was suspicious electronic equipment. According to his lawyer, it was a battery charger. El-Banna is still in Guantanamo.

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This is National Security

1 April 2007

Another government office has lost their computers, according to the New York Times, this time 20 desktop computers. This is the 13th time in just over four years that an audit has found this office to be missing computers; it also sometimes uses computers that it’s not supposed to be, such as one listed as destroyed.

No big deal though, the office is only the National Nuclear Security Agency, which does most of the country’s designing and building of nuclear warheads, and only 14 of the computers have been used for classified information.

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FBI Director Better Off Than He Thought

31 March 2007

So the FBI’s been having problems, sure, but there have been a fortunate turn of events for it recently, kind of. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Director Mueller told Congress Tuesday that he wanted administrative subpoenas because “We do not have an enforcement mechanism for national security letters.”

It turns out that they do, and in fact have had such a mechanism since the Patriot Act was reauthorized a year ago. Mueller was apparently just unaware of it.

James Dempsey, policy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said that “The FBI director doesn’t know the law that he’s enforcing.’

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Census Data Not to be Shared

30 March 2007

The ACLU, Japanese American Citizens League, and Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee have all asked Congress to ensure that census data will not be shared with surveillance agancies, according to the ACLU. This follows a report in USA Today that said census data had been shared during WWII when Japanese were kept in internment camps.

“Wartime hysteria led our government to violate the privacy and trust of Americans,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. She also noted that, while the census was important, it could not be effective if people were afraid of who might find out what their responses were.

It was also discovered in 2004 that the Census Bureau had shared some zip code information about Arab Americans.

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