Zebra 3 Report by Joe Anybody
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Homeland Security Incarcerating Refugees in USA
Mood:  blue
Now Playing: Human Rights are in the USA made toilet

Why Is the Department of Homeland Security Incarcerating Refugees Across the U.S.?



By Emily Creighton, Immigration Impact.

Posted December 1, 2009.

Last month, President Obama authorized the admission of 80,000 refugees into the U.S. in fiscal year 2010, something every President has done annually since passage of the Refugee Act of 1980. The United States has long recognized the importance of providing a safe haven for refugees. Beginning with laws granting refugee status to displaced persons after World War II and culminating with the comprehensive Refugee Act of 1980, the U.S. has sought to safeguard those who are unwilling or unable to return to their homeland based on a "well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion."

Despite this commitment to helping refugees resettle in the U.S. permanently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its sub-agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), have adopted a policy of incarcerating refugees who have not adjusted to permanent resident status after one year of residency in the U.S. (“unadjusted refugees”). Often ICE comes in contact with unadjusted refugees who have had some contact with local law enforcement; however ICE also has detained refugees who have no criminal charges pending against them. In recent months, advocates have alerted DHS and ICE about such detained refugees in regions including Minneapolis, MN; Florence, AZ; Eloy, AZ; York, PA; Atlanta, GA; Los Angeles, CA.

ICE defends this detention policy by citing section 209(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) which states that refugees who have not acquired permanent resident status after one year “shall return or be returned to the custody of the Department of Homeland Security for inspection and examination for admission.” ICE says “return to custody” means that refugees who have not applied for permanent resident status after one year may be detained and held while they complete their adjustment application and while ICE’s sister organization, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), adjudicates it. This interpretation is particularly unfair since the law prohibits refugees from applying for permanent residence until one year after they have been admitted to the U.S. as refugees. In essence, ICE detains refugees for not doing what the law bars them from doing.

ICE’s interpretation of the law has particularly harsh consequences for refugees. First, the refugee is not in removal proceedings, so he or she cannot request bond before an Immigration Judge. Without an opportunity to be released, the refugee must complete the adjustment application process in detention -- for example, he or she must appear for the required USCIS interview and obtain vaccinations while detained. In some cases, the process can take over a year.

Second, even if USCIS denies the refugee’s application for adjustment and he or she is placed in removal proceedings, ICE has charged the refugee as an "arriving alien." Under the relevant law, "arriving aliens" may not ask an Immigration Judge for a bond hearing and are entirely dependant on ICE -- the prosecutor in the case—for release from detention. The interpretation of refugees as “arriving aliens” is incorrect because refugees have already been admitted to the U.S. as a refugee. Despite this, when the agency charges them as "arriving aliens," refugees are unable to seek release from detention from a neutral decision-maker -- neither during the pendency of the adjustment application, nor during removal proceedings.

In Arizona—where representatives of detained refugees recently filed a number of habeas lawsuits challenging the detention of unadjusted refugees—ICE stated that it will release unadjusted refugees or put them in removal proceedings within 48 hours. It also promised to stop charging refugees in removal proceedings as "arriving aliens," which therefore enables refugees to seek bond from a neutral immigration judge. Yet in light of these changes, advocates in Arizona report that unadjusted refugees continue to spend time in detention and cannot proceed with their immigration cases until DHS adjudicates their adjustment applications. In addition, DHS has not officially committed to these changes or to any widespread changes in policies related to detention of unadjusted refugees.

DHS’ policy of detaining unadjusted refugees is extremely problematic -- it is not required by the language of the statute and is unsupported by the policies that drove lawmakers to pass laws protecting refugees. The word “custody” in the statute does not require ICE to take physical custody of unadjusted refugees, something ICE’s predecessor organization recognized. The former Immigration and Nationality Service reasoned that "custody" in INA § 209(a) could be satisfied by simply requiring refugees to apply for adjustment of status and compelling them to appear at the agency.

Organizations that work with detained refugees continue to urge DHS to reconsider its policy of detaining unadjusted refugees and to this end, recently submitted a letter to DHS with policy suggestions. DHS acknowledged receipt of the letter. Hopefully, in any new policy, DHS will cease using "custody" in INA 209(a) as another means to detain refugees. This is not the purpose or intent of this statutory provision. Instead, the statute was designed to encourage refugees to apply for adjustment and to lawfully remain in the United States. Let’s hope the agency acts quickly to issue fair and humane new policy, so that future refugees will not have to suffer the unnecessary detention that current refugees face.


Posted by Joe Anybody at 2:16 PM PST
Factors outside Obama's control to shape Afghanistan campaign
Mood:  d'oh
Now Playing: More War is not Hope and Change
Topic: WAR

Factors outside Obama's control to shape Afghanistan campaign

Whether U.S. President Barack Obama's pledge to redouble the U.S. commitment to the war in Afghanistan finds eventual success will depend on a number of external factors -- including cooperation from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, support from NATO allies and competence among Afghan's security forces. In outlining a timetable for withdrawal, Obama has established criteria for success that will largely hinge on the Afghan government's ability to root out endemic corruption and train security forces to fight a Taliban weakened by U.S. soldiers. Though NATO has pledged to support the mission with at least 5,000 more troops, most European leaders are wary to pledge any further blood and treasure to the unpopular war. The New York Times (12/1) , The Washington Post (12/2) , The Independent (London) (12/2)

Posted by Joe Anybody at 1:17 PM PST
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Elections in Honduras link to letterI wrote
Mood:  crushed out
Now Playing: Honduras Election Crime and the USA is endorsing it

Z3 Readers here is a letter I sent to congress and to the President regarding illegal elections in Honduras




Posted by Joe Anybody at 2:20 PM PST
Friday, 27 November 2009
WalMart Bullshit
Mood:  mischievious
Now Playing: Website full of information on Walmart





Wal-Mart provides an up-front savings for shoppers, but the cost is carried by increasingly brutal labor conditions, especially in China, but also in the U.S. Because Wal-Mart is now the largest corporation in the world, its practice of disregarding human rights for the sake of a good sale on the other side of the world is setting an ominous trend in an industry that is now trying to keep up with Wal-Mart by wringing more labor for less and less compensation.

Consider, also, that foreign cheap labor comes in part because of their socialist government that covers daily living expenses of the workers, so the true cost of labor is actually through subsidies by a Communist system.  By supporting Wal-Mart, we endanger American Free Enterprise and prop up totalitarianism.

Now Wal-Mart is leading the way in implementing RFID product tracking, leading the way to more of an Orwellian big brother world of tyranny here in the United States and elsewhere in the world.

This is creating a very serious breach of conscience for millions of otherwise upright Americans, who can sense that these low prices come at a price. It is time to stop patronizing increasingly slave-like labor conditions at home and abroad.

Sterling D. Allan
April 30, 2002, with update Jan. 29, 2004

Posted by Joe Anybody at 12:38 PM PST
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Mood:  lyrical
Now Playing: its all in the song....




We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals when they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the foe, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they'd all flown in the last war

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
No, no!

I'll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
For I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?


There's nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are out-phased, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now parting on the right
And their beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no!


Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Posted by Joe Anybody at 2:25 PM PST
AIG screws over small town by jacking up water bills
Mood:  loud
Now Playing: Profits over People - AIG greed ruins lives in Middlesboro and Clinton



Bailed-Out AIG Forcing Poor to Choose

Between Running Water and Food

By Yasha Levine, AlterNet
Posted on November 26, 2009,



What are we getting in return for the bailout? So far, predatory credit card rates, exorbitant bank fees and obscene Wall Street bonuses. But we're being robbed in other, sneakier ways, too. It seems that taxpayers in the poorest, most vulnerable parts of the county are getting plundered by the same institutions they bailed out. One example is AIG's underhanded fleecing of residents of rural Kentucky.

Middlesboro and Clinton are two tiny, impoverished towns in southern Kentucky with a combined population of 12,000. In 2008, Middlesboro's per capita income was $13,189 a year, only a few hundred dollars more than the average worker earned in third-world Mexico. That is if they were lucky to even get a job. Real unemployment hovers somewhere around 30%, and the state is so broke that half the people eligible for unemployment benefits can't receive them. Life may be tough and most people live in poverty, but that doesn't mean they can't be made a little poorer. That's the lesson locals learned after bailed-out insurance villain AIG took over their water utility and instantly raised rates to squeeze an extra $1 million in profits out of its new customers, forcing some to consider choosing between running water and food.

The towns are so rural, their residents have yet to be touched by the Internet revolution. Forget comment sections or forum threads. In Clinton, you have to track down actual hand-written notes that residents filed with city hall to read their complaints about the rate increase. Luckily, city officials were nice enough to scan some of them.

Here's one, dated August 8, 2009:

My husband and I are on a fixed income and with everything going up in price this would be very a very large burden on us as well as most of the citizens of Clinton. Our town is mostly of people like us and this would be such a hardship for us. A 50.8% raise is outrageous on anything. Please do not let this happen. It would mean the difference in bringing buying food and medicine or paying a high water bill to make someone else's life easier.

Here is how the AIG takeover went down: In 2005, flush with cash from its shady dealings in the mortgage derivatives market, AIG announced that it was in the process of acquiring Utilities Inc., a holding company that controlled scores of small water utilities across 17 different states. With just 300,000 customers, the company wasn't huge, but it boasted of being the largest privately held water utility in the country.

"We have long considered water infrastructure as an attractive investment opportunity and an excellent complement to [our] existing energy infrastructure portfolio. Utilities Inc. is a leader in this industry and we are pleased that [we have] the opportunity to acquire this business,” AIG Chairman and CEO Win J. Neuger gloated in a press release.

AIG had reason to be pleased with its purchase. Water utilities are one hell of a profitable business, with international corporations easily making a 20 to 30% profit margin, according to a 2007 report by Food and Water Watch. In the US, federal regulations limit profits to 10%, a pesky rule that companies easily subvert by shuffling their income around and “investing” it in side businesses. These kinds of returns would be the envy of the pharmaceutical and oil industries. How do water companies do it? According to Food and Water Watch, they charge 50% more for services than public utilities and pocket the difference, thereby unleashing the potential of the free market.

People who have been ripped off by bailed-out banks' schemes to trick late fees out of their customers will recognize what Utilities Inc. did to the people of Middlesboro and Clinton. In the summer of 2008, as AIG was teetering and desperate for funds, it "upgraded" its billing system, and suddenly a slew of late fee charges hit the struggling locals.

Residents had been getting their water bills like clockwork for as long as anyone could remember, but confusion and disorder set in as soon as Utilities rolled out its new and improved billing system. Monthly statements started coming late or didn't come in for months at a time. People were double-billed and double-penalized for bills that never arrived. One month, a bill would include sewer fees, the next month it wouldn't—and you'd be charged if didn't catch the omission. It's obvious the new invoice system was designed for pure harassment, creating chaos and reaping the rewards of the late fees it generated.

Internally, Utilities referred to their revamp of the billing system as "Project Phoenix." It sounded eerily similar to the CIA's "Phoenix Program," which was designed to terrorize, kill and torture uppity Vietnamese villagers into submission during the Vietnam War. One month after Project Phoenix started wreaking havoc on locals, AIG collapsed and took the first of over $150 billion in taxpayer bailout funds. That meant Project Phoenix could still go on terrorizing locals—which it did.

Here is how a local newspaper described the new billing program in Clinton in March, 2008:

It wasn’t until the summer of 2008 that the new bills began to arrive and from Day One, they were messed up. Few customers here in Clinton [called] the water company because they got multiple bills. One business thought it got a break when its bill went down somewhat, only to discover that the bill hadn’t included sewer costs. This went on for several months. Finally, the [sewer bill] showed up – due in full – on one bill. Requests to spread out the payment fell on deaf ears. . . . Some of us were so confused by the bills, we paid them every time they came in. . . . Fears of bad credit reports and shut offs kept most customers paying whenever a bill arrived.

To make it harder for Clinton residents to file complaints, AIG closed the utility's local office as soon as it took over the company. Pleas made by phone were rejected.

Local citizens are angry, upset and fearful. Many senior citizens on fixed incomes are already stretched past the breaking point. Others living below the poverty line without hope of getting a job are worried about how to pay another rising utility bill.

Customers we’ve talked to “want to do something,” but say they cannot afford to file to intervene in the case. The trip to Frankfort is daunting and expensive. Some dare not leave the jobs or businesses they have for the time it would take to travel and attend a hearing in Frankfort.

In November 2008, right as AIG was recieving the second installment of its bailout and the economy was in a free-fall, AIG's water utility notified Middlesbro and Clinton residents that it would be raising rates by 51%. It would mean more than $750,000 in additional revenue a year, just from 8,000 customers. The money wouldn't be used to fund infrastructure improvements—none had been made and none were planned. No, according to a company spokesman, the utility was trying to recoup money it had invested in its "improved" billing system, in effect forcing the victims of the billing system to pay for their own fleecing. 

It seems Utilities was quite honest about explaining that a good chunk of the $750,000 would be transferred straight into the pockets of its investors, according to the West Kentucky Journal of Politics and Issues.

[Another] reason came from [the] company's financial expert, Pauline M. Ahern, who opined that a rate increase will allow [the utility] to “earn a range of common equity cost ratio of 11.60% to 12.10%.” In the present market, that is an attractive return on investment.

One million dollars may not seem like much these days, but it sure meant a lot to the poverty-stricken residents of Middlesbro and Clinton. There were quite a few bleak handwritten statements filed with Clinton's city hall during a public hearing on the water rates increase. It makes sense to quote them to get a feel for the level of despair that exists in rural communities like this all over the United States.

Here's one from August 8, 2009:

I get $675.00 a month, if they raise the water, or utilities, I can't pay them. I would have to go without water, etc. or gas. I'm disabled and I can't walk. Raising the utilities hurt a lot of people here in Clinton. Not just me but everyone. As it is I can't pay the water bills because its high. But I pay what I can.

And here is another from August 12, 2009:

I feel that a rate increase of 50.8% will add a heavy burden on our small rural community. Our citizin [sic] that lives in our city are on Social Security, have full time jobs that pay barely minimum wage or are working as many as 3 part time jobs to make their monthly budget.

And another from May, 2009:

“I always have a high bills [sic] to pay. I pay what I can. I am on disable. [sic] I try not to use too much water. But yet I have a high water bill. If the bill goes up, I will be lucky to pay them $10.00 instead of $80.00.

In the end, Kentucky's regulatory commission reduced the water rate increase from 50.1% to 30%. How long before they try raise the rate again? Or until the energy company decides to follow suit? It's hard to say. But one thing is for certain: AIG's takeover shows again that the American people were screwed by the bailed-out billionaires, who, instead of showing gratitude or willingness to reciprocate, have been preying upon the most vulnerable Americans like they are 15th century barons soaking the peasants.

And as our cities and states start leasing out and selling public infrastructure to pay off their municipal debts, we can expect banks to gain more control of public wealth. Middlesbro and Clinton are a glimpse into the future of post-privatized America.





Posted by Joe Anybody at 2:07 PM PST
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Off Grid in Montana
Mood:  cool
Now Playing: interesting blog on Off Grid Living
Topic: Survivalist

Z3 Readers the link below is interesting in the relevant survivalist information ...the political views are not what I support....Sealed

More about Off Grid Montana



I don’t live in the teepee, but in a trailer down the hill. I come up to the teepee to get online because there’s good reception without a cell satellite. We are building a cabin starting Spring of 2010. Our plan is cement wall against the hillside, another two walls of cement, and the front wall standing 12′ X  3′ logs side by side and energy efficient windows. We just got an 80 watt solar panel and Xantrex xPower 1500. We plan to get more deep cycle batteries and a few more solar panels. So what do we do when the sun doesn’t shine? Honda 5500watt gas generator. I like organic foods and eat and shop, sometimes, at Real Foods in Helena. Just remember, ‘green’ is the new ‘red’.

Posted by Joe Anybody at 2:52 PM PST
Updated: Thursday, 26 November 2009 3:01 PM PST
Saturday, 21 November 2009
ByBee Torture Defense fund
Mood:  cheeky
Now Playing: Torture Memo Author Sets Up Defense Fund to Fight Possible Impeachment
Posted Thursday, November 19, 2009 7:32 AM

Torture Memo Author

Sets Up Defense Fund to

Fight Possible Impeachment

Michael Isikoff
The federal judge who helped draft Justice Department memos on torture has set up a legal defense fund to pay the costs of defending against possible disciplinary or impeachment proceedings. Jay Bybee, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge in Las Vegas, quietly set up the fund last July following widespread news reports that he and a former deputy, John Yoo, were the focus of a long-running investigation by the Justice Department's internal ethics unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), over their role in crafting the memos.

But there were no public references to the fund until this, week when Declassified noticed that a link to the fund had popped up on the Web site of Keep America Safe, an advocacy group set up last month by Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, that is highly critical of President Obama's national-security policies. The fund is listed as one of Keep America Safe's "causes we support."

The defense fund may be about to become extremely useful for Bybee, who anticipates legal expenses "well in excess of $500,000" as a result of the Justice investigation, according to  a letter from the U.S. Judicial Conference ethics committee posted on the fund's Web site. Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday that, after a nearly year-long delay and numerous internal reviews, the OPR report into the torture memos was finally slated to be released at the end of this month.

As NEWSWEEK reported last February, the initial draft of the report, completed during the waning days of the Bush administration, concluded that Bybee (at the time assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel) and Yoo may have violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they drafted a controversial Aug. 1, 2002, memo on torture.

But then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey rejected the draft report and directed that copies of its findings be sent for comment to the targets (including Bybee, Yoo, and Steve Bradbury, who had by then become assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel). Since then, the report has been redrafted and, after a further round of comments, is now being reviewed for final release by David Margolis, a veteran career prosecutor at the Justice Department.

The initial 2002 memo, signed by Bybee but believed to have been principally drafted by Yoo, concluded that during wartime, President Bush as commander in chief could unilaterally disregard a federal law banning torture in the prosecution of the war on terror. It also concluded that harsh interrogation techniques proposed by the CIA did not constitute torture unless they resulted in the "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." That conclusion opened the door for the CIA to use a wide array of "enhanced" interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, that were approved in a separate memo by Bybee and Yoo on the same day.

Since then, there have been calls for Bybee's impeachment from some liberal advocacy groups and law professors. "He's the only person holding an office that could be the target" of impeachment, said Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, a liberal advocacy group that has campaigned for "accountability" over the use of torture techniques during the Bush era.

But legal sources familiar with the OPR report (who asked not to be identified discussing it because the process is ongoing) say it is believed to have undergone numerous revisions since the original draft and that it is far from clear what its final conclusions will be. Maureen Mahoney, Bybee's lawyer, declined to comment on the specifics of the report but said, "If DOJ follows settled rules of law, it cannot possibly conclude that Judge Bybee's conduct was unethical."

Bybee, who served in the Justice Department under both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, was President George W. Bush's first nominee to be assistant attorney general in charge of OLC, the office that effectively serves as legal adviser for the entire federal government. He was then nominated by Bush to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and confirmed in March 2003—well before the existence of the torture memos or the CIA's use of waterboarding had become publicly known.
 The letter sent to Bybee in May by the chair of the U.S. Judicial Conference's Committee on Codes of Conduct gave approval for the judge to set up the fund based on a set of facts he had presented. Those include the OPR inquiry, and the possibility that the Justice Department might launch investigations into torture and that "some members of Congress have indicated impeachment may be considered."

The letter, from Judge M. Margaret McKeown, approves the creation of a defense fund in which "others may solicit contributions," provided it adheres to rules that the committee has laid down for other judicial funds in the past, namely that the list of contributors be "blind" so that Bybee never learns their identities, and it not include lawyers who have cases before the judge.

James Spears, a Washington lawyer who is one of three trustees of the fund, declined to comment on how much the fund has raised. But the former Justice Department colleague of Bybee's did say, "We're confident that he'll be vindicated."

Posted by Joe Anybody at 8:03 PM PST
Monday, 16 November 2009
GITMO detainees = Court - update Nov 16 2009
Mood:  don't ask
Now Playing: refer a further five GTMO detainees, including self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, for trial federal court i

A Half Measure of Justice

http://ow.ly/Dau9 (original post was found here)
United States, War on Terror | Posted by: Tom Parker, November 16, 2009 at 6:50 PM

The Obama administration’s decision to refer a further five GTMO detainees, including self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, for trial federal court in New York City is a small but significant victory for the rule of law.

Carrie Lemack, whose mother was killed on board one the planes flown into the World Trade Center, welcomed the transfer telling the BBC:

“At the end of the day my mother and nearly three thousand others were murdered. And they deserve the right to have a trial of their murders and their families, me, my sister, so many other families of 9/11, deserve our day in court to hold to account those who did these terrible offenses.”

Yet this decision has predictably provoked a backlash from right-wing Republicans who can’t seem to help themselves when the opportunity for fear-mongering presents itself. Indeed, the Republican Party is proving to be one of Osama bin Laden’s most consistent boosters.

Rudy Giuliani was one of many Republican politicians to make the pilgrimage to Fox News to denounce the decision.  The former mayor said that bringing KSM to New York would be “repeating the mistake of history” and he accused the Obama administration of adopting a “pre-9/11 approach” to fighting terrorists.

Rather odd since this is the selfsame Giuliani who hailed the conviction of the aspirant 9/11 hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui in federal court in May 2006 by telling reporters: “The greater value is demonstrating what America is like. America won tonight.” Poor Rudy, he seems a bit confused.

Carrie Lemack and Rudy 2006 have a powerful point, one President Obama himself recently underscored in his eulogy to the victims of the Fort Hood shootings:

“We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes.”

Being a nation of laws is no small thing. The rule of law is the foundation on which our way of life is built. It commands respect. Without the rule of law the constitution would, as John J. McCloy famously remarked, be just a scrap of paper.

It is the rule of law that has made America what it is and we set it aside at our peril. That is why the transfer of five terrorist suspects to the federal courts is such a good thing.

It also why the referral of five other cases to the reconstituted Military Commissions is such a mistake. Of particular concern is the referral of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri’s case. Al-Nashiri is alleged to have been the leader of the successful plot to bomb the USS Cole in 2000, in which 17 US sailors were killed.

The USS Cole bombing occurred prior to the apparent start of the Global War on Terror or the passage of the Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which begs the question of whether or not Military Commissions have any logical jurisdiction over the case. Furthermore, the Cole bombing was investigated by the FBI and federal prosecutors making the federal courts a practical venue as well.

The families of the USS Cole victims have been particularly outspoken in their criticism of President Obama’s national security policies and it is difficult to escape the conclusion that in this instance the administration simply decided to sacrifice principle to political expediency.

And that’s the problem. The Military Commissions are political courts. They exist to ensure convictions in cases where there is insufficient evidence to take to a real court. This is not justice and Commission judgments will lack any legitimacy. And once again we will have allowed the unscrupulous fear-mongers among us to undermine American values and hand Al Qaeda another propaganda victory.

Posted by Joe Anybody at 12:01 AM PST
Friday, 13 November 2009
Fruitflies and Drones - USA warfare technology
Mood:  mischievious
Now Playing: How easy (Fun) killing by remote control
Topic: WAR

Of Fruit Flies and Drones


Published: November 12, 2009


PASADENA, CALIFORNIA — I hadn’t thought much about the relationship between fruit flies and Predator drones before visiting the California Institute of Technology, but Caltech, which boasts more than 30 Nobel laureates, teaches many things, not least about the fast-growing field of robotics and war.


Fruit flies, as I learned from a graduate student, use optic flow to navigate their environment. Optic flow is the apparent motion of the landscape relative to the insect as it flies through it. When the insect gets closer to an object, that object appears to get larger; the expansion in the optic flow field triggers a collision avoidance response in the fly, which veers away from the expanding object.

“The insect eye is not, and does not need to be, high resolution to make this computation, so it follows that low resolution sensors can be employed in robotics and serve the same purpose,” she told me.

Call this bio-mechanics — biologically inspired engineering principles. It’s a booming field. You’ll find fruit flies tethered to pins under microscopes in a virtual arena with the aim of developing simplified command algorithms that will tell a robot sensor how to mimic the insect for navigation. The feedback loop for the robot is simple: If an object is expanding at a certain rate, that equals proximity, so turn away!

The U.S. military is interested in such experiments because robotics is its hot new thing. The loss of more than 5,000 U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 has concentrated minds on putting robots rather than flesh and blood in harm’s way.

When the United States went into Iraq in 2003, it had a handful of pilotless planes, or drones; it now has over 7,000. The invasion force had no unmanned ground vehicles; the U.S. armed forces now employ more than 12,000. One is called the PackBot and is made by iRobot, manufacturers of the popular robot vacuum cleaner called the Roomba.

Since taking office, President Obama has shown a quiet predilection for drone warfare. He’s been vacuuming up targets. There are two programs in operation: a publicly acknowledged military one in Iraq and Afghanistan and a covert C.I.A. program targeting terror suspects in countries including Pakistan.

As Jane Mayer notes in a groundbreaking recent piece in The New Yorker, “The intelligence agency declines to provide any information to the public about where it operates, how it selects targets, who is in charge, or how many people have been killed.”

According to a just-completed study by the New America Foundation, quoted in Mayer’s piece, Obama has authorized as many drone strikes in Pakistan in nine and a half months as George W. Bush did in his last three years in office — at least 41 C.I.A. missile strikes, or about one a week, that may have killed more than 500 people.

The dead have included high-value targets like Osama bin Laden’s oldest son and Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban leader in Pakistan — as well as bystanders. Circling drones have struck panic. But as Mayer notes, “The embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radically new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force.”

These are targeted international killings, no less real, and indeed more insidious, for their video-game aspect. The thing about robotic warfare is you can watch people get vaporized on a screen in Langley, Virginia, and then drive home for dinner with the kids. The very phrase “go to war” becomes hard to distinguish from going to work. That’s a conflation fraught with ethical danger. The barriers to war get lowered.

P.W. Singer, the author of an important new book called “Wired for War,” told me that, “We are at a breakpoint in history. The U.S. Air Force this year will train more unmanned system pilots than fighter and bomber pilots combined. And, as Bill Gates has noted, robotics are now where computers were back in 1980.”

Now you might think that a “pilot” sitting behind a computer bank in Nevada blowing away people in Afghanistan is less liable to combat stress than a soldier in a unit deployed there, but Singer said the opposite has often proved the case

It’s time for a reckoning, especially from a president who campaigned so vigorously against the “dark side” of the war on terror. Congressional review of the drone programs and the full implications of robotic warfare is essential to cast light and lay ground rules. The Obama administration should not be targeting people for killing without some public debate about how such targets are selected, what the grounds are in the laws of war, and what agencies are involved. Right now there’s an accountability void.

There are also broader questions. When robots are tomorrow’s veterans, does war become more likely and more endless? Do drones cow enemies with America’s technological prowess or embolden them to think America is not man enough to fight? What is the psychological toll on video-screen warriors?

There’s nothing innocent after all about the fluttering of a fruit fly’s wing.



Posted by Joe Anybody at 7:09 AM PST
Updated: Friday, 13 November 2009 10:32 AM PST

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