Archive for December 23rd, 2010
Both The Guardian and the Associated Press are reporting that the U.N.’s top official in charge of torture is now formally investigating the conditions under which the U.S. is detaining accused WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning. Last week, I described the inhumane terms of his detention at a Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia, including being held 23 out of 24 hours a day in solitary confinement for seven straight months and counting as well as other punitive measures (such as strict prohibitions on any exercise inside his cell and the petty denial of pillows and sheets). Manning’s lawyer, former U.S. Army Major and Iraq War veteran David Coombs, thereafter publicly confirmed those facts, and then announced two days ago that efforts to persuade brig officials to allow more human conditions have failed, meaning it is likely that Manning will languish under these repressive restraints for many more months to come, at least.
In addition to confirming the facts I reported, Maj. Coombs added several disturbing new ones, including the paltry, isolated terms of Manning’s one-hour-a-day so-called "exercise" time (he’s "taken to an empty room and only allowed to walk," "normally just walks figure eights in the room," "if he indicates that he no long feels like walking, he is immediately returned to his cell"); the bizarre requirement that, despite not being on suicide watch, Manning respond to guards all day, every day, by saying "yes" every 5 minutes (even though guards cannot and "do not engage in conversation with" him); and various sleep-disruptive measures (he is barred from sleeping at any time from 5:00 am – 8:00 pm, and, during the night, "if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him").
Although prolonged solitary confinement can unquestionably constitute torture (the surgeon and journalist Atul Gawande made the definitive, undeniable case for that last year in The New Yorker), I wasn’t prepared to state based on what I could confirm that the treatment of Manning met the legal definition of torture (though it is clearly inhumane and certain to produce long-term psychological damage). That was because Manning wasn’t subjected to the full-on sensory deprivation used at America’s SuperMax prisons (his lawyer said "he can occasionally hear other inmates talk," though he cannot now) and did get the minimally required one hour a day of "exercise." But others have made the argument persuasively that this is torture.
The Washington Post reports that four prominent Republicans — former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Bush administration homeland security adviser Fran Townsend, former homeland security secretary Tom Ridge, and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey — spoke before “a forum of cheering Iranian exiles” in Paris to demand that President Obama “take the controversial Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK) opposition group off the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations and incorporate it into efforts to overturn the mullah-led government in Tehran”:
“Appeasement of dictators leads to war, destruction and the loss of human lives,” Giuliani declared. “For your organization to be described as a terrorist organization is just really a disgrace.”
The four GOP figures appeared at a rally organized by the French Committee for a Democratic Iran, a pressure group formed to support MEK.
Leaving aside the spectacle of prominent conservatives going abroad to criticize the administration’s foreign policy, there’s actually a real question here of whether Giuliani, Townsend, Ridge, and Mukasey have violated U.S. law in regard to “material support” for terrorism.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project that “the First Amendment does not protect humanitarian groups or others who advise foreign terrorist organizations, even if the support is aimed at legal activities or peaceful settlement of dispute”:
In a case that weighed free speech against national security, the court voted 6 to 3 to uphold a federal law banning “material support” to foreign terrorist organizations. That ban holds, the court said, even when the offerings are not money or weapons but things such as “expert advice or assistance” or “training” intended to instruct in international law or appeals to the United Nations.
Read more at the Wonk Room.
Yesterday, Sir David Frost landed the first television interview with Julian Assange since his release from a London jail. The 24 minute interview aired on Al Jazeera English (where Frost hosts a show called Frost Over the World) and pretty quickly they dive into some important questions: Do governments have the right to keep state secrets? And do media organizations have the right to divulge such secrets? Assuming so, where (if anywhere) must journalists draw the line? Why has WikiLeaks recently taken aim at the United States? Is it fair to characterize WikiLeaks as an anarchic organization? The list of questions goes on, including ones delving into Assange’s legal problems.
James Fallows describes how he has achieved a
… completely machine-independent computing life. I have three computers I use interchangeably — desktop and two laptops – and (with a few minor exceptions that I’ll note) I no longer have to worry about which laptop I should take to a downtown office or on a trip, or which machine has the "current" version of a file. Conceptually this sounds banal and so-last-year. In reality I’ve found it surprisingly stress-reducing never to have to think about where my info "is," since it’s wherever I want it to be. And I think I’ve learned the right way to combine SugarSync and DropBox.
Now that I know the boar-brush secret—spend at least 30 seconds by the clock loading the brush with soap—I had to try it again, this time on a non-tallow soap. I worked up lather to load the brush for around 20 seconds (and discovered that my default time with this brush was probably 5 seconds) and I got two good passes before returning to the bowl to refresh the brush. Possibly if I’d loaded the brush a little longer it may have lasted better, but I’m betting that tallow soaps work best with boar. More experimentation coming.
Three passes with the iKon bulldog open comb, a splash of Classik, and I’m ready for Pilates. (I already did 21 minutes on the Nordic, and I’m almost at the end of Robinson Crusoe.)