05/23/13: Phys.Org reports a new University-hosted database has tracked over 11,000 flights by more than 120 aircraft linked by past investigations to renditions. It also contains details of over 50 private companies contracted for or by the CIA in relation to rendition flights. The database is the latest addition to the Rendition Project, an online project designed to analyse the global system of rendition, secret detention and torture initiated by the US. The new database will enable users to search for, and visualise, underlying data contained within the Rendition Project via an interactive map showing rendition flights. Flight data underpinning the database is collated from over 40 separate sources. Launched in May 2012, the Rendition Project is part of wider research to collate and analyse huge amounts of data on the global rendition system. It is led by Dr Ruth Blakeley, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Kent's School of Politics and International Relations, and Dr Sam Raphael, Lecturer in Politics at Kingston University. They work closely with Reprieve, a UK-based legal action charity which has led the way in investigating secret prisons and representing victims of rendition and torture. The Rendition Flights Database, produced in collaboration with The Information Lab, a company specialising in this type of web tool, can be viewed here.
05/21/13: The Washington Times reports a cheap new encryption technology for mobile phones completely blocks eavesdropping, even from warrant-wielding law enforcement agents – raising fears the technology could fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals. The software poses a growing problem that US law enforcement agencies call “going dark” – the spread of communications technologies that cannot be intercepted even with a warrant because agencies lack the technical capabilities. But experts say the feds’ proposed solution to get around the blackout – by legally mandating the insertion of “back doors” into such software to allow eavesdropping – creates an opening which could be exploited by hackers, online criminals or cyberspies. The issue is not unique to the United States. Intelligence and counter-terrorism officials in the United Kingdom are concerned about the new mobile phone application, called Seecrypt, according the London Mail on Sunday. The app provides individual users with military grade encryption — sending voice and text over the Internet in an a scrambled data stream that can only be deciphered by another user. The new application, which is free to download and will cost $3 a month, is made by a South African-based company, Porton Group, that boasts “we don’t comply” with such mandates, said CEO Harvey Boulter. The program does not have a “Legal Intercept” capability. Last year, the US company Silent Circle caused consternation in law enforcement circles when they launched a similar package here.
05/01/13: Politico reports the FBI says its agents are on solid legal ground if they continue to question a terrorism suspect who has asked for an attorney, as they reportedly did with Boston Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The February 2011 article by Carl Benoit, a lawyer and FBI Academy instructor, points to two federal appeals court rulings that concluded such questioning was constitutional and that evidence obtained as a result could be used in court. The article appeared in the Law Enforcement Bulletin, an FBI publication aimed at “the larger policing community.” The Los Angeles Times reported last week that Tsarnaev “asked several times for a lawyer, but that request was ignored.” DOJ’s current policy on questioning terror suspects without Miranda warnings does not give explicit guidance, at least publicly, about how to proceed if a suspect invokes his right to counsel.
05/01/13: CNN reports Director of National Intelligence James Clapper believes an independent review of how the government handled its investigation of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev prior to the attack is a prudent step “to ensure that nothing was missed.” Clapper spokeswoman Shawn Turner said the DNI believes all of the agencies involved in collecting and sharing information “took all the appropriate steps,” but that the Intelligence Community inspector general, a watchdog that investigates risks, vulnerabilities, and deficiencies within sixteen intelligence-related agencies and departments across the government will lead a review. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with Boston police days after the April 15 bombings. His brother Dzhokhar, also a suspect, remains in custody and has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction.
05/01/13: The New York Times reports Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah edged closer on Tuesday to acknowledging that the powerful Lebanese Shi‘ite organization’s fighters were battling rebels in neighboring Syria, threatening to drag Lebanon deeper into that conflict. Nasrallah warned in a televised speech that Hezbollah could become more deeply involved in the future, and warned that Syria had “real friends” who would not allow it “to fall into the hands” of America or Israel. As President Obama faces questions about whether the Syrian government has crossed what his administration has called the “red line” of using chemical weapons in the conflict, Nasrallah sketched some red lines of his own. He warned of “very serious repercussions” if rebels destroyed or damaged the shrine of Sayida Zeinab, a revered pilgrimage site for many Muslims near Damascus.
05/01/13: The Washington Times reports President Obama Tuesday vowed to redouble his efforts to close the US detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. “I don’t want these individuals to die,” the President said of detainees currently on a hunger strike. “Obviously, the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can. All of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this. Why are we doing this?” He decried the US policy of holding the suspects without trial “in a no-man’s land” in perpetuity. “That is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop.” Congress has blocked efforts to move detainees to the United States, even though the Government has tried and convicted other terrorism suspects on US soil without incident.
05/01/13: The Blog of Legal Times reports the Justice Department has renewed its effort to shut down a lawsuit in Washington over the scope of information a former US defense intelligence officer can publish in a memoir about service in the war in Afghanistan. DOJ lawyers said in court papers filed April 26 that the government has determined that some of the details in the book, Operation Dark Heart, written by Anthony Shaffer, are classified and cannot be publicly disclosed. “[T]here is no First Amendment right to publish classified information,” DOJ lawyer Scott Risner wrote. Shaffer’s book, DOJ said, reveals “intelligence activities, sources and methods, as well as information about military plans and the foreign activities of the United States that … could reasonably be expected to cause serious identifiable damage to our national security.”