In Jerusalem, an organization called MEET (Middle East Education Through Technology) has figured out that technology is a potent way to bridge the gaps and try to create peace.
In Jerusalem, an organization called MEET (Middle East Education Through Technology) has figured out that technology is a potent way to bridge the gaps and try to create peace.
Shaker Aamer, last British resident held in camp, tells of harsh regime to break strikers' resistance
Increasingly brutal tactics are being used in an attempt to break the hunger strike by detainees at Guantánamo Bay, according to fresh testimony from the last British resident still held in the camp.
Shaker Aamer claims that the US authorities are systematically making the regime more hardline to try to defuse the strike, which now involves almost two-thirds of the detainees. Techniques include making cells "freezing cold" to accentuate the discomfort of those on hunger strike and the introduction of "metal-tipped" feeding tubes, which Aamer said were forced into inmates' stomachs twice a day and caused detainees to vomit over themselves.
The 46-year-old from London tells of one detainee who was admitted to hospital 10 days ago after a nurse had pushed the tube into his lungs rather than his stomach, causing him later to cough up blood. Aamer also alleges that some nurses at Guantánamo Bay are refusing to wear their name tags in order to prevent detainees registering abuse complaints against staff.
Speaking last week from the camp in Cuba, exactly four months after he joined the hunger strike, Aamer said: "The administration is getting ever more angry and doing everything they can to break our hunger strike. Honestly, I wish I was dead."
The momentum behind efforts to release Aamer – who has spent more than 11 years without trial inside the camp – mounted sharply last week with David Cameron raising the issue directly with the US president, Barack Obama, during the G8 summit in Northern Ireland.
On Wednesday, in a response to a parliamentary question about what had been discussed by the two leaders, Cameron revealed that his next step would be to write to Obama about the "specifics of the case and everything that we can do to expedite it". He added: "Clearly, President Obama wants to make progress on this issue and we should help him in every way that we can with respect to this individual."
The prime minister's comments are the most positive indication to date that Aamer will eventually be freed – he has been cleared for release twice since 2007.
Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal charity Reprieve, who passed a transcript of his conversation with Aamer to the Observer, said: "These gruesome new details show just how bad things are in Guantánamo. The whole thing is at breaking point. Clearly the US military is under enormous pressure and doing everything it can to hurt the men and break the hunger strike."
Although the military initially denied that there was a hunger strike inside Guantanámo, it now concedes that, of the 166 detainees, 104 are on hunger strike and 44 are being force-fed.
Aamer also documents his declining health and how the camp's regime deliberately inflates the weight of detainees on hunger strike. Aamer, who has permission to live in the UK indefinitely because his wife is a British national, said: "They said I was 160lb, but I was 154lb a few days ago. Unless there has been a miracle, my weight has not gone up without eating. But they cheat by adding shackles and sometimes even pressing down as they do it to add to your weight.
"If you have a medical standard for when a detainee should be force-fed for his own health, then force-feed him when it can still save his health. Don't wait until his body is so harmed by the lack of food that all you are protecting is the US military – from the harm of a prisoner dying for a principle."
Aamer describes his daily diet at Guantánamo as a cup of tea or two each day with a low-calorie sweetener and occasionally an Ocean Spray powder mix that has 10 calories – enough to give an energy boost.
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Facing a tight withdrawal deadline and tough terrain, the U.S. military has destroyed more than 170 million pounds worth of vehicles and other military equipment as it rushes to wind down its role in the Afghanistan war by the end of 2014.
The massive disposal effort, which U.S. military officials call unprecedented, has unfolded largely out of sight amid an ongoing debate inside the Pentagon about what to do with the heaps of equipment that won’t be returning home. Military planners have determined that they will not ship back more than $7 billion worth of equipment — about 20 percent of what the U.S. military has in Afghanistan — because it is no longer needed or would be too costly to ship back home.
That has left the Pentagon in a quandary about what to do with the items. Bequeathing a large share to the Afghan government would be challenging because of complicated rules governing equipment donations to other countries, and there is concern that Afghanistan’s fledgling forces would be unable to maintain it. Some gear may be sold or donated to allied nations, but few are likely to be able to retrieve it from the war zone.
Therefore, much of it will continue to be shredded, cut and crushed to be sold for pennies per pound on the Afghan scrap market — a process that reflects a presumptive end to an era of protracted ground wars. The destruction of tons of equipment is all but certain to raise sharp questions in Afghanistan and the United States about whether the Pentagon’s approach is fiscally responsible and whether it should find ways to leave a greater share to the Afghans.
“We’re making history doing what we’re doing here,” said Maj. Gen. Kurt J. Stein, head of the 1st Sustainment Command, who is overseeing the drawdown in Afghanistan. “This is the largest retrograde mission in history.”
The most contentious and closely watched part of the effort involves the disposal of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, the hulking beige personnel carriers that the Pentagon raced to build starting in 2007 to counter the threat of roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The massive trucks, known as MRAPs, came to symbolize the bloody evolution of wars that were meant to be short conflicts but turned into quagmires.
The Pentagon has determined that it will no longer have use for about 12,300 of its 25,500 MRAPs scattered at bases worldwide, officials said. In Afghanistan, the military has labeled about 2,000 of its roughly 11,000 MRAPs “excess.” About 9,000 will be shipped to the United States and U.S. military bases in Kuwait and elsewhere, but the majority of the unwanted vehicles — which cost about $1 million each — will probably be shredded, officials said, because they are unlikely to find clients willing to come pick them up.
“MRAPs have served us well in the current war, but we will not need all that we bought for Iraq and Afghanistan in the future,” Alan Estevez, the assistant secretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness, said in a statement. “It is cost prohibitive to retrograde and reset MRAPs that we do not need for the future.”.......
It's official. We are living in a surveillance state. This week's revelations that wave after wave of Verizon call data, and an endless sea of emails and Facebook posts, are all being trawled by government dragnets are shocking but not really surprising. We've known for years that the government's intelligence machinery has invisible means of cultivating and harvesting personal data in service of a war against terror that has taken over not just America's foreign policy, but also our inboxes and homepages. Like the video footage of the backpack-laden Boston bombers melting into the crowd, this week's disclosures are just an in-your-face reminder that forms of privacy once taken for granted -- getting lost in a crowd or maintaining a private email account -- are all but gone.
The absence of clear proof of harm from surveillance can make it impossible to challenge in court. In February of this year, the Supreme Court held that lawyers, journalists, and civil society groups including PEN American Center, where I work, lacked standing to challenge a law that allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on communications with foreign nationals. The Amnesty vs. Clapper decision held that the groups had failed to show they had suffered actual harm. In a convoluted Catch-22, advocates could not prove they were being monitored precisely because the program and its targets were kept secret, yet failure to so prove obviated a challenge in court. The case was lost and the program endures -- as far as we know -- intact.
That harm from these stealthy programs is hard to prove doesn't mean it does not exist. American history and contemporary international examples suggest that the harm can take multiple forms and be irreparable for individuals affected. In U.S. history, aggressive covert surveillance has persistently veered into government efforts to thwart and punish lawful dissent. During the McCarthy era, the FBI spied on suspected communists and used information collected to get them fired from their jobs, to foment dissent in their organizations, and to leak damaging information to the press. The sense of siege was particularly acute among the creative community, where writers and actors came under suspicion, were barred from working, and sometimes saw promising careers destroyed. During the Vietnam War and civil rights movement, intelligence-gathering was used to intimidate and blackmail activists.
While today's government data-mining tactics may be more precise and its motives more justifiable, we don't really know enough to be certain. The divulgences to date, many of which have been leaked rather than shared, tell us little about how many people -- guilty or innocent -- have been identified, suspected, scrutinized, questioned, and otherwise affected by the data collected. While the stories of those wrongly targeted by these newly exposed tactics haven't yet been told, mass-scale systems that base suspicion on algorithms must make mistakes. While the vast majority of officials with access to information generated by these schemes may maintain a strictly professional focus on ferreting out terrorism, the absence of transparency seems to virtually ensure that those who do not can go undetected. That the victims of error and overreach may be mostly foreign nationals does not mean the harm isn't real or that the consequences won't reverberate back to hurt Americans and American interests......
The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA's history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows
The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he said.
Snowden will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world's most secretive organisations – the NSA.
In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions," but "I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant."
Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. "I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing."
He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. "I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me."
Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. "I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in." He added: "My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them."
He has had "a very comfortable life" that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. "I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."
Ongoing rampant sexual assault within America's armed forces is a tragedy. The 2012 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members (WGRA) found that an estimated 26,000 active-duty servicemembers were sexually assaulted last year, and recent allegations of sexual assault by officers assigned to prevent that very crime have lent the situation a sinister irony. The U.S. military is clearly facing, in the words of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, "a crisis."
Last week, Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, declared that confronting the problem was his "No. 1 priority." Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno went further, saying: "The Army is failing in its efforts to combat sexual assault and sexual harassment." He said that fighting the crime is now "our primary mission." Repeating the claims of his two predecessors, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel vowed to solve the chronic problem of sexual assault and stated that "every option is on the table."
The estimated incidents of "unwanted sexual contact" within the military have increased since the previous survey in 2010 despite internal reforms. When reviewing the Pentagon and service websites dedicated to preventing sexual assault, it is difficult to comprehend the vast number of new directives, memoranda, instructions, policies, and awareness-raising campaigns that have been introduced over the past three years -- none of which seems to be having an effect. Nancy Parrish, president of Protect Our Defenders, referred to these efforts as "half-hearted, half-measured reform Band-Aids."
Unfortunately, however admirable the recent condemnations of sexual assault in the military, they're unlikely to have much impact, because sexual assault in the military is not a military problem. It is anAmerican problem. Scholars, retired officers, and others have longed warned of the creeping militarization of American society. However, as the Pentagon yet again renews its sexual assault prevention efforts, it must not discount the socialization of the American military.
The data suggest that one servicemember is sexually assaulted every 20 minutes and that one American citizen is sexually assaulted every two minutes, but it is difficult to directly compare military and civilian sexual assault rates. The WGRA defines "unwanted sexual contact" as "completed or attempted sexual intercourse, sodomy (oral or anal sex), penetration by an object, and the unwanted touching of genitalia and other sexually-related areas of the body." Survey participants were asked to report incidents occurring in the past 12 months. Meanwhile, the Department of Justicesurvey used to calculate sexual assaults nationwide asks participants if anyone has "attacked" or "threatened" them by "grabbing, punching, or choking" or by "any rape, attempted rape or other type of sexual act" over the course of the past six months. ......
WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to open a new phase in the nation’s long struggle with terrorism on Thursday by restricting the use of unmanned drone strikes that have been at the heart of his national security strategy and shifting control of them away from the C.I.A. to the military.
In his first major speech on counterterrorism of his second term, Mr. Obama hopes to refocus the epic conflict that has defined American priorities since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and even foresees an unspecified day when the so-called war on terror might all but end, according to people briefed on White House plans.
As part of the shift in approach, the administration on Wednesday formally acknowledged for the first time that it had killed four American citizens in drone strikes outside the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, arguing that its actions were justified by the danger to the United States. Mr. Obama approved providing new information to Congress and the public about the rules governing his attacks on Al Qaeda and its allies.
A new classified policy guidance signed by Mr. Obama will sharply curtail the instances when unmanned aircraft can be used to attack in places that are not overt war zones, countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The rules will impose the same standard for strikes on foreign enemies now used only for American citizens deemed to be terrorists.
Lethal force will be used only against targets who pose “a continuing, imminent threat to Americans” and cannot feasibly be captured, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a letter to Congress, suggesting that threats to a partner like Afghanistan or Yemen alone would not be enough to justify being targeted.
The standard could signal an end to “signature strikes,” or attacks on groups of unknown men based only on their presumed status as members of Al Qaeda or some other enemy group — an approach that administration critics say has resulted in many civilian casualties. In effect, this appears to be a step away from the less restricted use of force allowed in war zones and toward the more limited use of force for self-defense allowed outside of armed conflict.
In the speech he will give on Thursday at the National Defense University, Mr. Obama will also renew his long-stalled effort to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Officials said they would make a fresh push to transfer detainees to home countries and lift the ban on sending some back to Yemen. The president plans to reappoint a high-level State Department official to oversee the effort to reduce the prison population.
The combined actions constitute a pivot point for a president who came to office highly critical of his predecessor, George W. Bush, yet who preserved and in some cases expanded on some of the counterterrorism policies he inherited. Much as Mr. Bush did in 2006 when he acknowledged and emptied secret overseas C.I.A. prisons, Mr. Obama appears intent on countering criticism of his most controversial policies by reorienting them to meet changing conditions.
In his speech, Mr. Obama is expected to reject the notion of a perpetual war with terrorists, envisioning a day when Al Qaeda has been so incapacitated that wartime authority will end. However, because he is also institutionalizing procedures for drone strikes, it does not appear that he thinks that day has come. A Pentagon official suggested last week that the current conflict could continue for 10 to 20 years.
Yet even as he moves the counterterrorism effort to a next stage, Mr. Obama plans to offer a robust defense of a continued role for targeted killings, a policy he has generally addressed only in passing or in interviews rather than in a comprehensive speech. A White House official said he “will discuss why the use of drone strikes is necessary, legal and just, while addressing the various issues raised by our use of targeted action.”.....