Patterico's Pontifications

12/11/2007

The Dark Side Of Privacy Laws

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Law — Justin Levine @ 9:59 pm

[posted by Justin Levine] 

Eugene Volokh examines an instance where privacy laws do far more harm than good. If anything Professor Volokh still manages to vastly understate the point and is far too deferential to the benefits of privacy law. I have long argued that the large majority of instances on how privacy laws are enforced prohibit freedoms to a much greater extent than they protect so-called “rights”. Most appeals to “privacy” are simply attempted power grabs by elites to prohibit unwelcome speech and criticism, or attempts by genuine wrong-doers to avoid valid scrutiny.

Laws to prevent people from secretly taking pictures of you going to the bathroom? Fine. I suspect most people can agree on that form of ‘privacy’. But modern privacy laws have mutated far beyond such concerns and should be viewed with extreme skepticism.

Douchebag of the Day: Chuck Adkins

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:39 pm

[Warning: rough language ahead. Sensitive souls should skip this post. -- Patterico]

The Internet truly has no shortage of scum. First it was Deb Frisch, making obscene and threatening comments directed at Jeff Goldstein’s son. Then it was Eliot Stein, mocking Cathy Seipp as she lay on her deathbed.

And now this.

Mike Hendrix of the Cold Fury blog lost his wife Christiana in July of this year, to a tragic motorcycle accident. The news broke in this post, which also features a lovely picture of Mike and Christiana:

mike-and-christiana.jpg

Fast forward to today, when a fellow named Chuck Adkins, peeved by a mildly critical post written by one of Mike’s co-bloggers, said this:

This might explain why this Christina Hendrix bitch is dead, If I had to hang around idiots like that, I’d fucking die too.

Yeah, I said that, I meant ever fucking word of it.

Classy!

adkins.jpg

Above: Chuck Adkins

(not the diet inventor, silly! That’s “Atkins”!)

Mike wrote a post about this here, in which he quoted Adkins’s stunning slur. Adkins has removed the offending quote from his original post, but if you were thinking that he has wised up and thought better of his remarks, you’d be wrong. Unless you consider this to be “contrition”:

Yeah, I took it off, I wouldn’t want little cry baby azzhat Mikey to cry himself silly, the bitch. Mother fucker lets his Co-Bloggers talk shit about other Blogs, But then WHINES when someone writes a little snark back. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! Cry baby assed bitch.

Adkins has followed up his original posting with a defiant follow-up in the same vein, titled The CryBaby fest Begins.

As you might imagine, Mike is more than mildly upset about this. His wife — who has been deceased for less than six months — had nothing whatsoever to do with any quarrel between Adkins and Hendrix. Bringing her into the mix in this way is not just a standard Internet dick move. It’s one of the most jaw-droppingly assholish moves I’ve seen on the Internet, in five years of reading blogs.

Our pal Mr. Adkins needs a public shaming. I’m happy to contribute to it here.

P.S. I often rein in my commenter Christoph, who has a tendency towards angry, self-righteous pronouncements. But somehow, I think that’s exactly what is called for here. Christoph, consider yourself unleashed. Sick ‘em, boy!

Destruction of Waterboarding Tapes approved by CIA Lawyers

Filed under: Law,Politics,Terrorism,War — DRJ @ 5:37 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The New York Times reports that CIA lawyers approved the destruction of the videotapes of al Qaeda interrogations:

Lawyers within the clandestine branch of the Central Intelligence Agency gave written approval in advance to the destruction in 2005 of hundreds of hours of videotapes documenting interrogations of two lieutenants from Al Qaeda, according to a former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the episode.

The involvement of agency lawyers in the decision making would widen the scope of the inquiries into the matter that have now begun in Congress and within the Justice Department. Any written documents are certain to be a focus of government investigators as they try to reconstruct the events leading up to the tapes’ destruction.”

Apparently the CIA employs a “Hell, No” standard when dealing with the White House:

“The former intelligence official acknowledged that there had been nearly two years of debate among government agencies about what to do with the tapes, and that lawyers within the White House and the Justice Department had in 2003 advised against a plan to destroy them. But the official said that C.I.A. officials had continued to press the White House for a firm decision, and that the C.I.A. was never given a direct order not to destroy the tapes.

“They never told us, ‘Hell, no,’” he said. “If somebody had said, ‘You cannot destroy them,’ we would not have destroyed them.”

As in earlier reports, the destruction of the tapes was attributed to former CIA clandestine director Jose A. Rodriguez, and I think he had a good reason for wanting to destroy them:

“The former official said Mr. Rodriguez decided in November 2005 that he had sufficient authority to destroy the interrogation videos, based on the written authorization given to him from lawyers within the branch, then known as the Directorate of Operations.
***
The former intelligence official who described the decision to destroy the tapes said Mr. Rodriguez’s primary concern was the safety of C.I.A. agents whose faces could be identified in the tapes. The tapes were destroyed amid growing Congressional and legal scrutiny into the C.I.A’s detention and interrogation program.”

I wonder if this means the investigations will continue but without the intense anti-Bush rhetoric?

Probably not. Driver’s Wile E. Coyote post seems appropriate right now.

– DRJ

More Proof Waterboarding Works; Former CIA Agent says it was Necessary Torture

Filed under: Terrorism,War — DRJ @ 4:35 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

ABC reported yesterday that John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent who interrogated al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah, claims that subjecting Zubaydah to 35 seconds of waterboarding produced valuable information that thwarted terrorist attacks … and it was necessary torture:

“A leader of the CIA team that captured the first major al Qaeda figure, Abu Zubaydah, says subjecting him to waterboarding was torture but necessary. In the first public comment by any CIA officer involved in handling high-value al Qaeda targets, John Kiriakou, now retired, said the technique broke Zubaydah in less than 35 seconds.

“The next day, he told his interrogator that Allah had visited him in his cell during the night and told him to cooperate,” said Kiriakou in an interview to be broadcast tonight on ABC News’ “World News With Charles Gibson” and “Nightline.”

“From that day on, he answered every question,” Kiriakou said. “The threat information he provided disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks.”

Kiriakou said the feeling in the months after the 9/11 attacks was that interrogators did not have the time to delve into the agency’s bag of other interrogation tricks. “Those tricks of the trade require a great deal of time — much of the time — and we didn’t have that luxury. We were afraid that there was another major attack coming,” he said.”

The use of waterboarding and other techniques were directed by CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and were always a “last resort:”

“The former intelligence officer says the interrogators’ activities were carefully directed from Langley, Va., each step of the way. “It wasn’t up to individual interrogators to decide, ‘Well, I’m gonna slap him.’ Or, ‘I’m going to shake him.’ Or, ‘I’m gonna make him stay up for 48 hours.’

“Each one of these steps, even though they’re minor steps, like the intention shake, or the open-handed belly slap, each one of these had to have the approval of the deputy director for operations,” Kiriakou told ABC News.

“The cable traffic back and forth was extremely specific,” he said. “And the bottom line was these were very unusual authorities that the agency got after 9/11. No one wanted to mess them up. No one wanted to get in trouble by going overboard. So it was extremely deliberate.”

And it was always a last resort.

“That’s why so few people were waterboarded. I think the agency has said that two people were waterboarded, Abu Zubaydah being one, and it’s because you really wanted it to be a last resort because we didn’t want these false confessions. We didn’t want wild goose chases,” Kiriakou said. And they were faced with men like Abu Zubaydah, Kiriakou says, who held critical and timely intelligence.

Remember Stashiu who recounted threats from GTMO inmates? That’s not unusual – Zubaydah also threatened his captors – and yet Kiriakou believes the US’ success in prosecuting the war on terror makes it unnecessary to continue using waterboarding:

“A former colleague of mine asked him [Zubaydah] during the conversation one day, ‘What would you do if we decided to let you go one day?’ And he said, ‘I would kill every American and Jew I could get my hands on…It’s nothing personal. You’re a nice guy. But this is who I am.‘”

In that context, at that time, Kiriakou says he felt waterboarding was something the United States needed to do.

“At the time, I felt that waterboarding was something that we needed to do. And as time has passed, and as September 11th has, you know, has moved farther and farther back into history, I think I’ve changed my mind,” he told ABC News.

Part of his decision appears to be an ethical one; another part, perhaps, simply pragmatic. “I think we’re chasing them all over the world. I think we’ve had a great deal of success chasing them…and, as a result, waterboarding, at least right now, is unnecessary,” Kirikou said.
***
Now retired, Kiriakou, who declined to use the enhanced interrogation techniques, says he has come to believe that water boarding is torture but that perhaps the circumstances warranted it.

“Like a lot of Americans, I’m involved in this internal, intellectual battle with myself weighing the idea that waterboarding may be torture versus the quality of information that we often get after using the waterboarding technique,” Kiriakou told ABC News. “And I struggle with it.”

It’s interesting that Kiriakou’s feelings about the urgency to get information from our enemies has changed in the years since 9/11. It doesn’t sound like Zubaydah’s feelings have changed one bit.

– DRJ

Colorado Gunman Published Columbine-Style Threats; Committed Suicide

Filed under: Crime — DRJ @ 1:34 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Matthew Murray, the gunman in the shootings at the Colorado Springs’ New Life Church and the Arvada mission training center, was shot numerous times but died of a self-inflicted wound:

“The man who killed four people at a church and missionary training center died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound, police said Tuesday.

Matthew Murray, 24, was struck multiple times by a security officer at New Life Church Sunday but died after firing a single shot at himself, the El Paso County Coroner’s Office concluded after an autopsy.”

Murray reportedly left threatening web posts that targeted Christians:

“KUSA – 9Wants to Know has discovered more than a dozen writings posted by Matthew Murray where he warns of an impending rampage and copied the statements of one of the Columbine High School gunmen.

On Monday, police confirmed that 24-year-old Murray was the gunman in the deadly shootings at both the Youth With a Mission center on the Faith Bible Chapel campus in Arvada and at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Three people, including Murray, were killed in Colorado Springs, and two others died in Arvada. Five other people were wounded.

“You Christians brought this on yourselves,” Murray wrote on a Web site for people who have left Pentecostal and fundamentalist religious organizations. It was the most recent posting of his on the site, dated Sunday, December 9 at 11:03 a.m.

Murray lived with his parents in a home in unincorporated Arapahoe County where police conducted a search on Sunday night.

In the Web writings, which are now being investigated by Colorado Springs Police, Arvada Police and the FBI, Murray warned, “I’m coming for EVERYONE soon and I WILL be armed to the @#%$ teeth and I WILL shoot to kill. …God, I can’t wait till I can kill you people. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame, I don’t care if I live or die in the shoot-out. All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you … as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world.”

If the time on the posting is accurate, it was posted after the 12:30 a.m. shooting Sunday morning in Arvada and before the 1:10 p.m. Sunday afternoon shooting in Colorado Springs.”

The report indicates Murray’s 11:03 AM post (“You Christians brought this on yourselves”) resembles writings by Columbine gunman Eric Harris. His last posts apparently followed months of escalating threats of violence by Murray, so much that other users and a pyschologist offered help:

“Throughout his writings, which spanned several months, Murray’s violence continued to accelerate. Some of the users tried to counsel Murray and one psychologist even offered her services after reading his poem called “Crying all alone in pain in the nightmare of Christianity”.

Murray rebuffed her offer. “I’ve already been working with counselors. I have a point to make with all this talk about psychologists and counselors ‘helping people with their pain,’” he wrote.”

This also sounds similar to the Virginia Tech shooting in which the gunman used the interval between shootings to write letters and prepare for his final assault.

Earlier posts here and here.

– DRJ

Iraq’s National Security Adviser Rejects Permanent US Base in Iraq

Filed under: International,War — DRJ @ 11:28 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

The United States and Iraq recently began the process of entering into long-term agreements by signing a Declaration of Principles. The next step is to flesh out the terms of the agreement, including the possibility of US bases on Iraqi soil.

Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie wants the good without the bad:

“We need the United States in our war against terrorism, we need them to guard our border sometimes, we need them for economic support and we need them for diplomatic and political support,” Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said.

“But I say one thing, permanent forces or bases in Iraq for any foreign forces is a red line that cannot be accepted by any nationalist Iraqi,” he said, speaking to Dubai-based al Arabiya television in an interview broadcast late on Monday.”

I don’t blame him but we’ll see.

– DRJ

Bill Clinton’s Interesting Campaign Moments

Filed under: 2008 Election — DRJ @ 9:05 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Basically, I think Bill Clinton wants Hillary to win the Presidency but sometimes I wonder if he’s conflicted on the idea.

In late November, Clinton claimed he had opposed the Iraq war “from the beginning” although he had previously been seen as supporting the war. His statement may have helped Hillary with some voters but it primarily served to draw attention to the fact that Hillary’s position on Iraq is more moderate than many Democratic voters want.

More recently, Bill Clinton broached the subject of Hillary’s decision to put her political goals on the back-burner during their marriage:

“Campaigning for his wife, former President Clinton says that when they were starting out he was so struck by her intellect and ability he once suggested she should just dump him and jump into her own political career.

That didn’t happen, of course, and on Monday he gave an Iowa crowd his version of why it didn’t.

“I thought it would be wrong for me to rob her of the chance to be what I thought she should be,” said Clinton. “She laughed and said, ‘First I love you and, second, I’m not going to run for anything, I’m too hardheaded.‘”

One of Hillary’s problems is that she is perceived as hard-shelled, distant, and unwilling to compromise. Now Bill reinforces that by calling her hard-headed. As Jon Lovitz’ SNL character, the pathological liar, would say, “That’s the ticket.”

There’s more:

“I thought she was the most gifted person of our generation,” said Clinton, who said he told her, “You know, you really should dump me and go back home to Chicago or go to New York and take one of those offers you’ve got and run for office.”

It makes sense that she considered something other than practicing law. After all, she may not have received many offers to practice law outside Arkansas since she didn’t pass the bar.

I really do wonder whether Bill Clinton wants Hillary to win or lose.

– DRJ

Ventura County Star: Comments? What Comments?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:10 am

Yesterday I told you that the Ventura County Star had deleted a civil comment that had disputed some assertions in an op-ed by the paper’s editor.

Since then, several commenters left comments critical of the comment deletion.

Those comments have also been deleted.

What’s more, there is no hint they ever existed. And the comment box is gone.

It’s as if the op-ed never had comments to begin with.

It’s OK. They figure you won’t notice.

Mike Lief has the rundown, with assistance from See Dubya. And I have the full story, with links and snapshots, at Hot Air.

UPDATE: Editor Joe Howry has left a comment on his op-ed, apologizing for the removal of the comments, and stating that the comments were removed without his knowledge or authorization. Several comments have been restored.

He also blames the deletion in part on “inappropriate language” in comments. This is disingenuous, as several comments noted in the links above contain no inappropriate language — unless, of course, Howry considers it “inappropriate” to simply disagree with his op-ed.

Inside the Jury Room at the Holy Land Foundation Trial

Filed under: Crime,Terrorism — DRJ @ 12:00 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Holy Land Foundation terror financing trial in Dallas began in August 2007 and ended in a mistrial in late November 2007. The trial and verdict/mistrial were covered in several posts here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The presiding trial judge was out of town when the jury announced it had reached a verdict, so the verdict was sealed for several days until the judge returned to receive it. What happened next was quite unusual – the Fort Worth Star-Telegram link for this quote has been archived but I linked it here:

“Jurors finally indicated that they had reached verdicts last Thursday. But their decisions were sealed until Monday because federal District Judge A. Joe Fish was out of town.

As Fish read the results, it appeared that jurors had acquitted Abdulqader on all charges, El-Mezain and Abdulrahman Odeh on most charges, and failed to reach decisions on any counts involving Baker, Elashi or Holy Land itself. But even that partial result was precarious. When the judge polled each juror whether he or she agreed with the verdicts – normally a formality – things turned chaotic, as three jurors disavowed the vote.

Fish sent the jury back to resolve the differences, but after about an hour, they said they could not continue, and the judge declared a mistrial.”

The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) followed up on this unusual proceeding. I’m not familiar with this organization but several of its contributors are well-regarded, and IPT claims to have discovered some serious problems in the jury room:

“The terrorism-support trial of five Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) officials, which began July 24, already had been stressful for 49-year-old Kristina Williams. She had lost her job two weeks into it. Now during deliberations, she felt bullied and intimidated virtually every time she voiced an opinion.

“When I’d get off the jury I’d come home every night and basically cry because I felt like every time I spoke I would get knocked down, criticized, one way or the other for something pertaining to the way I voted,” Williams said in an exclusive interview.

While several jurors favored acquittals, just one out of the 12 did most of the knocking down. In fact, interviews with three HLF jurors – speaking publicly for the first time – suggest that juror William Neal’s stridency may have changed the trial’s outcome. Neal even claimed credit for steering jurors away from convictions in a recent radio interview. Until now, he has been the sole source for public perception of the deliberations and the government’s case.

The three jurors interviewed by the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) showed the Neal-created perception as skewed. All three jurors say they disagree with his views of the evidence and the prosecution’s case. To them, it seems clear that Neal made up his mind going into the jury room and refused to consider any argument in favor of guilt. He preferred to read the court’s instructions rather than look at exhibits in evidence, they said. And his often snide manner intimidated and bullied those who disagreed with him.

The effect this had on the case is clear. When a juror walked out in frustration after just four days of deliberations, it followed a confrontation with Neal. When another juror briefly refused to cast a vote, it was after a confrontation with Neal. Williams broke down several times during the 19 days jurors spent locked in debate. Each incident followed what she felt was an attack by Neal.

In an interview with the IPT Dec. 3, Neal said he had no regrets. He disputed only some parts of the other jurors’ stories – he said he can’t remember telling Williams to go home if she was relying on the evidence in the jury room — but stopped short of saying it didn’t happen. “We had so many conversations they tend to blend together,” he said.”

According to IPT, the three jurors described a contentious jury room dominated by Neal. As noted above, one juror, Sylvester Holmes, became so frustrated he asked to be dismissed and an alternate took his place:

“Holmes got so frustrated that he walked out, forcing deliberations to start over when an alternate took his place. That deprived those favoring a guilty verdict of an ally. He wrote to the court saying he did not “feel that I can give the defendant’s (sic) justice. Due to the circumstance in this case, I ask to be dismiss (sic) for this case.”

Holmes, a supervisor at a recycling plant, said he thought all the defendants were guilty but saw no point in arguing further. “I felt they were wasting my time,” he said.”

After the mistrial, Neal gave interviews that provided interesting insight on his view of the case and terrorism financing in general:

“Neal, a graphic artist, apparently felt the same way about others wasting his time. He was interviewed by Dallas radio and television stations within days of the trial and by the Dallas Morning News. Thus far, his assertions have provided the only detailed insider assessment about the prosecution case.

Neal made his disdain clear two days after the mistrial in an interview on Dallas radio station KRLD. “A lot of the jurors couldn’t even say words that had four syllables,” Neal said on the Ernie and Jay show on KRLD 1080 AM. “They just picked the jury based on socio-economical reasons. A lot of these people are blue collar, you know, working UPS, working food, cafeteria cashier. You had people [from] secluded lifestyles. They had no idea of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They had no idea about worldly affairs. To get them and you show them bombs and show them kids – that’s not our lifestyle so we’ve got to vote them guilty because of that. That’s the whole reason.”

The Dallas Morning News noted Neal “also had difficulty calling Hamas a terrorist group. ‘Part of it does terrorist acts, but it’s a political movement. It’s an uprising.’”

He reinforced that assessment in the IPT interview, saying he read the Hamas charter twice during deliberations. “They haven’t always been a bombing kind of group,” he said. Hamas’ first actions involved shootings and stabbings. Its preamble to the charter includes this: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

So, to Neal, what is Hamas? “It is marked as a terrorist organization. My personal viewpoint, I didn’t know too much before. I see it as a political struggle. Our country was founded on a terrorist act. The Boston Tea Party wasn’t a tea party, dude. It was a rebellion against the king’s wrath. They fought back against an oppressive government.”

He argues that prosecutors never proved that Palestinian charities, the zakat committees, were controlled by Hamas. HLF routed its money to the committees. Absent that proof of Hamas control, Neal reasons, the defendants can’t be convicted. Within hours of the mistrial, he told reporters the government’s case “was strung together with macaroni noodles.”

“There were so many gaps in the evidence, I could drive a truck through it,” he told the Morning News. That, the three other jurors interviewed said, was not the case. Neal simply refused to consider it as valid evidence. Even at the end, a majority favored convicting Baker and Elashi, Williams and the unnamed juror reported.

If the jurors’ recollections are correct, Neal’s mind may have already been made up before the deliberations began:

“Neal told the IPT he went into deliberations with no opinion and wanted to see where the evidence took him. The other jurors never knew how he was voting on secret ballots, he said. Neal told interviewers it was the other jurors who had their minds made up before deliberations started, that it was their refusal to budge that dragged out deliberations.

That’s just wrong, the anonymous juror said. “If he believed not guilty across the board, if he wanted to talk about the case, that was fine. But he shouldn’t have said stuff that wasn’t true,” the juror said. Asked to clarify, the juror said, “He talks a lot about people not changing their minds. I changed my mind throughout the deliberations on several defendants. I guarantee you he never changed his mind throughout. He was at not guilty from the time he sat in there.

In addition, according to the three jurors’ analysis of the deliberations, Neal was an angry man:

When things got heated, the one constant was Neal’s involvement, the three other jurors interviewed say. Williams remembers one confrontation that prompted other jurors to demand a break to let tempers cool. A woman juror was going toe to toe with Neal, Williams said. At one point, she explained something and said “that is my opinion.”

“Well f*** your opinion,” Neal hollered back at her.

The IPT article provides significant detail on several claims in the trial as well as the opinions of the interviewed jurors regarding the evidence. I encourage you to click on the link and read the whole thing.

H/T and thanks to Chas.

– DRJ


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