US torture regime triggers blowback

The United States government, for several years after the attack on 9/11, approved the use of torture in contravention of international treaties to which the US is a signatory. Now we see what can happen when such illegal activities are sanctioned by our government despite illegality and without accountability.

As reported in the Washington Post:

At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.

James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Waterboarding often involves strapping a person down on a gurney or bench and pouring cold water over a cloth covering the face. It causes the sensation of drowning. “The wet cloth creates a barrier through which it is difficult — or in some cases not possible — to breathe,” according to a Justice Department memo in May 2005 about the CIA’s use of the technique.

President Obama has condemned waterboarding as torture.

“They knew exactly how it was done,” a person with direct knowledge of what happened to the hostages said of the Islamic State militants. The person, who discussed the hostages’ experience on the condition of anonymity, said the captives were held in Raqqah, a city in north-central Syria.

Blowback is a bitch.

Amazing video of Apple’s “spaceship” campus

Before his death, Steve Jobs approved the designed for a new Apple campus in Cupertino. The site is a former HP campus, which was completely demolished.  The new Apple structures on the site are said to resemble a futuristic spaceship theme, although I think that is a bit far-fetched.

Here are a couple of design documents for the project:




Construction is now well underway. Check out this drone-based video showing the current state of progress on the site. Best watched full-screen and HD.


Quotations of the day: gin edition

Beloved, we join hands here to pray for gin. An aridity defiles us. Our innards thirst for the juice of juniper. Something must be done. The drought threatens to destroy us. Surely, God who let manna fall from the heavens so that the holy children of Israel might eat, will not let the equally holy children of Niggeratti Manor die from the want of a little gin. Children, let us pray.

Wallace Thurman, writing in Infants of Spring. (via Good Reads)

Gin’s a spirit unto herself. She’s a loner. Gin can gnaw on the back of your neck till she nigh-on draws blood, and she can just as easily kiss you softly behind each ear, stroke the back of your shivering hand, and make you know that everything’s going to be okay. And it will, you know. It really will. 

Gaz (aka Gary) Regan, from The Bartender’s Gin Compendium. (via The Quotation of the Day Mailing List)

Richard Posner takes down same-sex marriage opponents

Judge Richard Posner, a conservative judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, heard an appeal of successful lower court judicial challenges to same-sex marriage in Indiana and Wisconsin on Tuesday. He repeatedly sought the opponents to same-sex marriages to state a rational reason why same-sex marriage should be disallowed. The state counsels struck out totally with Posner.

Slate has outtakes of the oral arguments that should be required reading listening for everyone.

The NSA builds a search engine

The Intercept is reporting that the NSA has a built a Google-like search engine of its intelligence collections which is used by nearly two dozen US government agencies.

The National Security Agency is secretly providing data to nearly two dozen U.S. government agencies with a “Google-like” search engine built to share more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats, according to classified documents obtained by The Intercept.

The documents provide the first definitive evidence that the NSA has for years made massive amounts of surveillance data directly accessible to domestic law enforcement agencies. Planning documents for ICREACH, as the search engine is called, cite the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration as key participants.

ICREACH contains information on the private communications of foreigners and, it appears, millions of records on American citizens who have not been accused of any wrongdoing. Details about its existence are contained in the archive of materials provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.


So they are collecting this information, including data generated by American citizens that in no way are targets of normal law enforcement actions. In effect, this data is used in ways not at all related to national security. This is the surveillance state writ large. And, as shown in the image above, this information is searchable by the so-called “5-eyes”: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

ICREACH has been accessible to more than 1,000 analysts at 23 U.S. government agencies that perform intelligence work, according to a 2010 memo. A planning document from 2007 lists the DEA, FBI, Central Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency as core members. Information shared through ICREACH can be used to track people’s movements, map out their networks of associates, help predict future actions, and potentially reveal religious affiliations or political beliefs.

The creation of ICREACH represented a landmark moment in the history of classified U.S. government surveillance, according to the NSA documents.

Outrageous law enforcement quote of the day (updated)

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?

Sunil Dutta, a 17 year police officer and professor of homeland security at Colorado Tech University, in an over-the-top essay in the Washington Post.  At the time I posted this, there were in excess of 5,000 comments to his essay, mostly negative.

Update: John Gruber points to this video of Sunil Dutta on duty:

Sunday night summary of events in Ferguson

Via Gawker:

Police in Ferguson were caught on camera Sunday night threatening to mace one reporter and shoot another. At least two other journalists also claim they were arrested while following police orders.

Shortly after 10 pm Sunday night, police began launching tear gas at protesters and demanded that reporters turn their cameras off.

In a confrontation caught on the KARG Arugus Radio livestream, a cop noticed Mustafa Hussein filming with his camera lights on—which police claim makes it hard for them to see—and confronted him, allegedly pointing a gun at him.

“Get down, get the fuck out of here and get that light off, or you’re getting shot with this,” the officer yells at Hussein.

Another journalist was reportedly shot with a beanbag.

Also threatened by police Sunday night was MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who was filming when police told him, “Media do not pass us, you’re getting maced next time you pass us.”


When confrontations with heavily militarized police began in Ferguson, MO, last Wednesday evening, I was going through my Twitter timeline to check what I might have missed during the day. I immediately came upon a stunning stream of tweets written on the scene by both community members and a few reporters. The horror of what was happening, with the police kitted out in military gear and military weaponry was riveting. And a number of tweets contained photos showing the full extent of governmental abuse as the police launched tear gas, blared an acoustic weapon, and used flash-bang grenades against a mostly peaceful crowd. While scanning Twitter, I turned on my TV around 8 pm to see how it was being covered on TV and not one of the three cable “news channels” were reporting anything about what was going on Ferguson.

David Carr has written a must-read article that reflects what I was thinking that evening: without Twitter the mainstream media would have reported virtually nothing about the events that transpired and continue to transpire in Ferguson.


Ferguson, Missouri, was just a place — a working-class suburb of St. Louis — before an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by the police, before protests and looting erupted, before local forces responded with armored vehicles, tear gas and rubber bullets, and Ferguson became #Ferguson.

Last Wednesday night, my Twitter feed began to explode with videos, photographs and messages, all depicting the kind of mayhem we’re accustomed to seeing in war-torn corners of the globe, except that this was happening smack dab in the middle of America.

The story had already received its share of attention, but now it was breaking in a new and scary way, with reporters arrested, protesters gassed, stun grenades exploding and a line of police in riot gear confronting a group of protesters who were milling about.

The chaos was evident by about 8 p.m. Eastern time. I immediately turned on CNN and found a tribute to Lauren Bacall mixed with wall-to-wall coverage of the rescue effort in northern Iraq.

* * *

On Thursday, after the chaos, there was a huge in-migration of news media. Perhaps even absent the conflagration on Twitter, journalists would have shown up. Perhaps cable news would have turned hard toward the story, and the kind of coverage that eventually drew the attention of the president and the governor of Missouri would have taken place. Perhaps all the things that led to the security situation in Ferguson being handed over to cooler heads would have ensued. But nothing much good was happening in Ferguson until it became a hashtag.

Twitter is a type of press credential that anyone can use, anywhere, to get the word out on serious news. You can curate who you follow to create of mix of interests and credible Twitter users that can give you a heads-up from anywhere.