Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who played a key role in last January’s protests in Egypt, recounts how he was arrested by Egyptian police, the 11 days he spent in custody, and what he discovered after he was released:
“I felt like I was captured for 11 years, because I’m seeing a new version of Egyptians — all of a sudden, everyone is empowered, passionate.”
Last year, Ghonim set up a Facebook page to memorialize the killing of a young Egyptian man, Khaled Said, at the hands of Egyptian police. On that page, he urged Egyptians to take to the streets. His call helped organized the first protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. He said he wasn’t trying to start a political movement; rather it was a call for human rights.
“Allowing law enforcement records to be forwarded to N-Dex would be a benefit to law enforcement agencies not only in Minnesota, but also across the nation. As we are all aware, criminals are not concerned with geographic or political jurisdictional boundaries.”—Ron Sager, president of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, wrote in support of a program, known as the National Data Exchange, that would nationalize criminal intelligence data. Minnesota is weighing whether to link a statewide database with the FBI information-sharing system, despite concerns by privacy and open-government advocates about the accuracy of such data, among other issues. Read the full article.
Private company hoarding license-plate data on U.S. drivers
Capitalizing on one of the fastest-growing trends in law enforcement, a private California-based company has compiled a database bulging with more than 550 million license-plate records on both innocent and criminal drivers that can be searched by police.
The technology has raised alarms among civil libertarians, who say it threatens the privacy of drivers. It’s also evidence that 21st-century technology may be evolving too quickly for the courts and public opinion to keep up. The U.S. Supreme Court is only now addressing whether investigators can secretly attach a GPS monitoring device to cars without a warrant.
A ruling in that case has yet to be handed down, but a telling exchange occurred during oral arguments. Chief Justice John Roberts asked lawyers for the government if even he and other members of the court could feasibly be tracked by GPS without a warrant. Yes, came the answer.
Meanwhile, police around the country have been affixing high-tech scanners to the exterior of their patrol cars, snapping a picture of every passing license plate and automatically comparing them to databases of outstanding warrants, stolen cars and wanted bank robbers. Read more.
Photo Courtesy of Steve Reed: Security guards at the Arden Fair mall in Sacramento see this visual interface after digitally scanning a license plate.
From the Washington Post: “About 12,000 people were slain last year in Mexico’s surging drug violence, according to grim tallies reported Monday by the country’s leading media outlets. Annual indexes of torture, beheadings and the killing of women all showed increases.”
“A circuit judge ruled last month that New Beginnings Baptist Church is the rightful owner of the building that houses the Redneck Shop, which operates a so-called Klan museum and sells Klan robes and T-shirts emblazoned with racial slurs. The judge ordered the shop’s proprietor to pay the church’s legal bills of more than $3,300.”—KKK Store Is Black Church’s Property, South Carolina Judge Finds (via npr)
Fireworks. Medical needles. Insect spray. Cooking fuel. Flammable gas torches. Ammunition. Yes, people forget they have cooking fuel in their travel bags. Or, amazingly, they thought it was acceptable in the first place to take cooking fuel onto an airplane.
So what happens to all that bizarre crap security screeners have to confiscate? It doesn’t just disappear, after all. Turns out a mammoth defense contractor you’ve probably never heard of called Science Applications International Corporation gets paid a lot of money to dispose of it. They just won a contract worth $46.8 million for that very task from the Transportation Security Administration.
Hi Tumblrs! We’re interrupting for a moment to ask for your support. This holiday season, take a moment to support the Center for Investigative Reporting so we can continue to reveal injustice and produce the investigative reporting you depend on! Want to learn about the impact of our work? Read more below from our Executive Director Robert J. Rosenthal.
Since 1977, CIR has been on the forefront of nonprofit investigative reporting, telling thousands of stories on all platforms and through prominent outlets, reaching millions.
Over the years, these stories have sparked federal legislation, policy at all levels of government, United Nations resolutions, public interest lawsuits and changes in corporate practices.
Here are a few examples from the past year:
A Senate committee launches a probe after a CIR investigation found that the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis has done little to improve the nation’s intelligence data.
A police chief resigns amid an FBI investigation and murderers are convicted following dogged reporting by The Chauncey Bailey Project, a collaboration of dozens of news organizations, including CIR, into the murder of Oakland Post editor Bailey by a corrupt group about which he was reporting.
A grand jury is convened following reporting by Stanley Nelson of the Concordia Sentinel in Ferriday, La., that identified a leading suspect in the unsolved 1964 murder of Frank Morris. Nelson is part of The Civil Rights Cold Case Project, a collaboration of award-winning journalists, documentary filmmakers, civil rights attorneys, universities and others working together to seek truth; create conditions for justice; and foster reconciliation connected with hundreds of unsolved, racially motivated murders from the Civil Rights era.
Bureaucratic shakeup, rule changes and two separate internal investigations at the California state architect’s office, plus the release of $200 million in bond funds for seismic safety of K-12 schools, follow a California Watch investigation that revealed the failure to fully enforce the state’s landmark earthquake safety law for public schools.
The U.S. State Department requests copies of “The Price of Sex,” the documentary film about international sex trafficking, to use for training at the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and in embassies around the world.
New laws and penalties are put in place for nursing homes after California Watch revealed that hundreds of homes took money from a taxpayer fund intended to hire staff and boost wages in the name of quality care, but actually cut staff and reduced wages.
The superintendent of public instruction in California calls for an immediate review of school textbooks and a community group gathers 20,000 signatures in opposition to a curriculum after our environmental reporter discovered that the American Chemistry Council directly provided textbook passages that downplayed the environmental risks of plastic grocery bags.
The state Department of Real Estate launches an investigation after we reported about a Southern California housekeeper who was scammed by an unlicensed mortgage lender. At least one reader was so moved by the housekeeper’s story that he donated money directly to her.
I don’t use online file-sharing networks to download copyrighted music and movies, not due to some position I take on the matter, but mostly because I’m paranoid about linking my computer to anything that can feasibly inject malicious software. So I didn’t hesitate to drop by the site Youhavedownloaded.com, because I knew they wouldn’t have any records of my Internet activity. Guess I took the Department of Homeland Security’s whole “Stop. Think. Connect.” cybersecurity campaign seriously.
But so seemingly powerful is the new site, I’m not providing a link to it here. You’ll have to decide whether to go there yourself. Once you do, the site will automatically check your IP address against a massive database of 50 million unique identities and spit out a list of files you may have downloaded from a file-sharing network, everything from “Pink Librarians” to “Maroon 5 Reinterprets the Christmas Classics.”
How does the site do this? Many file-trading networks are public, and the entertainment industry relies on this fact to collect information for randomly targeted lawsuits against people who are alleged to have illegally downloaded copyright-protected material. Youhavedownloaded.com is simply making it easier for the world to see this information.
[Site founder Suren] Ter-Saakov said he’s received emails from users whose information was listed but who deny having downloaded any files (he also said people can have their information removed on request). ‘One guy claimed he downloaded stuff only because his grandmother was ill and he wanted to watch a ‘Harold & Kumar’ movie to cheer himself up,’ Ter-Saakov said. ‘Another kid wrote and asked to have his information removed because he was downloading porn and was afraid his parents would be able to see what kinds of movies he downloaded.’
Krebs adds that there are significant limitations with the database. IP addresses can be dynamic and change over time, or an address at a home or business may cover the activity of multiple users. But searching “Family.Guy” out of curiosity turned up numerous IP addresses, as seen above. We already know that relying too heavily on IP addresses for copyright-infringement lawsuits
Local police say they have used unarmed Predators based at Grand Forks Air Force Base to fly at least two-dozen surveillance flights since June. … ‘We don’t use [drones] on every call out,” said Bill Macki, head of the police SWAT team in Grand Forks. ‘If we have something in town like an apartment complex, we don’t call them.’
“I don’t think the levels that are approved for use in wine in the EU and Australia will give that laxative effect.”—
Wendell Lee, general counsel for the Wine Institute, the trade group for California’s wine industry. Lee commented on the news that the Australian government has given the nod to winemakers to begin using a chemical contained in laxatives.
Fewer face deportation because of criminal charges, data shows
The number of people facing deportation because of criminal charges has declined steadily the past three fiscal years, according to data released by the U.S. Justice Department.
Instead, in California and beyond, a growing number are accused only of entering the United States without permission.
The Obama administration has pledged to focus its immigration enforcement on “criminal aliens,” illegal immigrants who’ve been convicted or accused of serious crimes. At the front of this effort, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed the Secure Communities program. The initiative is installing the federal immigration database in every jail in the nation so that when police scan arrestees’ fingerprints, a computer checks their residency status. Read more.
It’s known as the Shredder Challenge. The military’s think tank of crack technology researchers known as DARPA launched a curious contest earlier this year that few people thought was actually possible: Develop a computer algorithm that can aid in reassembling shredded documents. The idea was to figure out how war fighters could extract useful intelligence from them as quickly as possible.
A San Francisco-based team actually succeeded and won a $50,000 prize for their efforts. It wasn’t magic. All the winning technology can do is “suggest fragment pairings to human assemblers for verification,” meaning grunts still have to get ink on their hands. But the team still managed to build algorithms that could assist in piecing together more than 10,000 puzzle parts of shredded documentation, according to DARPA.
So why couldn’t this same technology be used to stymie attempts by Wall Street executives and financial regulators to destroy documents that may paint a picture of wrongdoing? You might recall that shredded records were a major feature of the Enron energy scandal. And how about the Securities and Exchange Commission’s habit of destroying records that could be used as evidence against alleged white-collar criminals?
My family has been dealing directly with HIV and AIDS for almost 30 years, yet the disease and its effects still feel so foreign to me. My father, a hemophiliac, contracted HIV in early 1982 after a blood transfusion shortly after I was conceived. He died in 1991 when I was right, my sister 10. Coming from a large family, he had three brothers, and three nephews, all hemophiliacs, all infected with HIV. Some have lived and some have died.
What I can tell you from experiencing AIDS up close is that it is an awful way to leave this life. It is brutal on both its victim and their family. I have known the disease my whole life, intimately so, yet when I see the efforts put forth by the broader community to stem the spread and effects of AIDS. I somehow disassociate and feel like it is something that has not deeply effected my life. I have no idea why, as I’m not against speaking out, telling our story, or giving my time and resources.
The only answer I have been able to come up with is that AIDS, just like so many of the things that life can afflict you with, is something you deal with, you manage, and try to continue to live your life and move forward. I think that has been the testament of my family, it has never defined them, or prevented them from living. Granted ignoring the disease completely and not openly speaking about it has its drawbacks. I am glad for the work of the broader community to rid the world of a disease so awful that affects so many, many you would never think. But I would remind you all to keep living, to not let AIDS define your life, that it can be the driving force that reminds you everyday to keep living and moving forward.
For World AIDS Day, we’re inviting you to share your AIDS stories with us here on The Atlantic Tumblr. If you know someone who is living with AIDS, or are HIV positive yourself, feel free tosubmit a post or tag your entry with#My AIDS Story and we’ll post your submissions here.
It’s almost 2013, so perhaps no one should be surprised that a reality show in the works would mimic the 1996 dystopian flick “Escape From L.A.” What’s chilling is that the show is not fiction and may in the end say more about the post-Sept. 11 surveillance state than anything else so far.
Two everyday Americans will be awarded $1 million if they can successfully sneak out of Los Angeles without being detected by digital video cameras, pilotless drones, GPS monitoring devices and facial recognition technology.
Blackberry phones can be geo-located even if the battery has been removed. That’s one of many realities about privacy in the 21st century, and it’s one of the many tools a team of professional human trackers will have at their disposal for catching the two men. The trackers will reportedly work from an operations center in downtown L.A. “constructed specifically for this project.”
The highly trained team of professional pursuers is led by host and master tracker, Kevin Reeve, whose company, onPoint Tactical LLC, offers a scouting, tracking and wilderness survival skills course, which has been taken by SEALs, Rangers, FBI, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and other law enforcement agents.
My only question: If the two men actually succeed, would it undermine the hundreds of millions of dollars L.A. has spent securing the city since 9/11?
“The relevant constitutional text is the Fourth Amendment which says, ‘The right of the people to be secure in their houses, persons, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated. But that doesn’t answer the question: Is it an unreasonable search of our persons or effects to be monitored in public spaces?”—On today’s Fresh Air, law professor Jeffrey Rosen talks aboutUnited States v. Jones, a case the Supreme Court is currently considering. At issue is whether police need to have a warrant from a judge before attaching a secret GPS monitor to a car to track a suspect around the clock. (via nprfreshair)
“When I was 16 years old, I assembled a 2.3 million electron volt beta particle accelerator. I went to Westinghouse, I got 400 pounds of translator steel, 22 miles of copper wire and I assembled a 6-kilowatt, 2.3 million electron accelerator in the garage. When it was finished, I would plug it in, there was this huge crackling sound as I consumed 6 kilowatts of power, I blew out every circuit breaker in the house. All the lights were plunged in darkness. And my poor mom would come home every night, see the lights flicker and die, and say to herself, ‘Why couldn’t I have a son who plays baseball?’”—Michio Kaku built a particle accelerator in his garage in high school (via nprfreshair)
Though most are known to deal with drugs and weapons, a new FBI threat assessment says street gangs have been moving into some different territory lately: human trafficking. The FBI says gang members increasingly are pushing women and children into prostitution.
Pilotless drones have become a fixture in the public’s imagination and potent symbol of the nation’s 10-year war on terror. Who could have imagined such a thing when, say, “Back to the Future” was still in theaters?
So says Kenneth Anderson, contributor to the legal blog Volokh Conspiracy. Would we merely call them a fleet? An armada, perhaps? Submit your own idea. I like “collective,” only because it’s funny and no one’s coming to a consensus anytime soon about where and when they should be used.
“Delaying action is a false economy: For every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would be needed to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”—A quote from the 2011 World Energy Outlook report by the International Energy Agency. The agency warns that we are on the path to 11-degree warming if we don’t curb emissions now.