Judge stands by order demanding release of CIA torture records

A military judge has rejected the US government’s attempts to keep accounts of the CIA’s torture of a detainee secret, setting up a fateful choice for the Obama administration in staunching the fallout from its predecessor’s brutal interrogations.

In a currently-sealed 24 June ruling at Guantánamo Bay – described to the Guardian – Judge James Pohl upheld his April order demanding the government produce details of the detentions and interrogations of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri during his years in CIA custody. The Miami Herald also reported on the ruling, citing three sources who had seen it.

Among those details are the locations of the “black site” secret prisons in which Nashiri was held until his September 2006 transfer to Guantánamo; the names and communications of CIA personnel there; training and other procedures for guards and interrogators; and discussions of the application of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”…

Pohl’s orders represent a watershed in disclosure for the commissions. Lawyers for Guantánamo detainees charged with war crimes have long criticised their lack of access to CIA detentions files, which they say prevents them from fully defending their clients, several of whom are known to have been abused in custody…

The options available to the government, should it continue its challenge to keep Nashiri’s interrogations secret, have now contracted substantially…

Pohl’s order does not necessarily mean that the public will gain greater insight into the CIA’s infamous post-9/11 interrogations. Only lawyers for Nashiri will get to view the CIA records.

Additionally, there is confusion over whether the CIA will in fact comply with the order, as the military commissions have never before ordered the agency to do anything. While the agency has fought hard to limit the Senate’s purview of its detainee torture – to the point where its operatives crossed a technical firewall that the Senate considers an act of spying on it – flouting a judge’s order would be a flagrant and visible act of defiance.

There’s a bit of blather over redaction and the Senate talking about doing this or that. I’m not convinced we have any elected officials with enough backbone to release documentary evidence of the torture we all know was committed in our name by the Republican administration from 2000-2008.

Frankly, I’m still of the opinion that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld – and any leading bureaucrats in our spy agencies who authorized the use of torture on detainees – be put on trial for war crimes. We would ask for no less if our citizens were subject to the same injustice.

Dumb crook of the day

Minnesota police arrested a burglary suspect who apparently forgot to log out of Facebook after checking his profile during a break-in at a St. Paul home.

The homeowner came back to his house and found that credit cards, cash and a watch were missing. The thief had also left behind a pair of Nike tennis shoes, jeans and a belt that he apparently discarded because it had been raining outside.

He also left behind his information on James Wood’s computer.

“World’s dumbest criminal,” Wood told CBS Minnesota. “I don’t know. I started to panic, but then I noticed he had pulled up his Facebook profile.”

Wood began posting on Nicholas Wig’s profile and the 26-year-old eventually texted him. After they made a plan to meet up later to exchange items, Wood went for a walk. He then spotted Wig on the street and called police…

When Wig was arrested, he was wearing Wood’s watch.


SCOTUS rules coppers must get a warrant to search cellphones

Coppers snooping cellphones

In an emphatic defense of privacy in the digital age, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police generally may not search the cellphones of people they arrest without first getting search warrants.

Cellphones are unlike anything else police may find on someone they arrest, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. They are “not just another technological convenience,” he said, but ubiquitous, increasingly powerful computers that contain vast quantities of personal, sensitive information.

“With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans the privacies of life,” Roberts declared. So the message to police about what they should do before rummaging through a cellphone’s contents following an arrest is simple: “Get a warrant…”

The Obama administration and the state of California, defending cellphone searches, said the phones should have no greater protection from a search than anything else police find. But the defendants in the current cases, backed by civil libertarians, librarians and news media groups, argued that cellphones, especially smartphones, can store troves of sensitive personal information.

“By recognizing that the digital revolution has transformed our expectations of privacy, today’s decision is itself revolutionary and will help to protect the privacy rights of all Americans,” said American Civil Liberties Union legal director Steven Shapiro…

In the cases decided Wednesday, one defendant carried a smartphone, while the other carried an older flip phone. The police looked through both without first getting search warrants…

A ride on horseback and a flight to the moon both “are ways of getting from point A to point B, but little else justifies lumping them together,” Roberts said…

The decision will protect cellphones from warrantless searches going forward, but it may not be of much help to defendants in pending cases, or those whose convictions are final, said lawyer Gerry Morris…He said that courts could allow evidence to be used from police searches of cellphones that were done in “good faith” and relied on the law as it stood when the searches were conducted.

Still a two-fold victory. We’ve acquired the sort of protection many folks – from geeks to civil libertarians – agree we need in a digital age. Now, the task remains to take the modernized version of privacy and stick in the eye of paranoids ranging from the White House and Congress to the NSA.

“Nafurahi” translates to “Happy”

Pharrell Williams made his song “Happy” freely available to use and encouraged people all over the world to make their own videos for the song. Hundreds of groups have taken him up on the offer, but most are lip-dubs or dancing to the original recording.

This one is a full cover version in Swahili, liberally sprinkled with French, from the city of Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The performers, from KivuYouth Entertainment, are awesome.

I have an abiding love for Afro-French rock. My favorite of the genre being Wock. And special thanks to Ursarodinia for finding this and passing it along.