Archive for the ‘Military’ Category
I had assumed that the import of this post was obvious, but just in case: first, the military scans every in-state computer connected to the Internet and provides the police with a list of those with child pornography. Great—no one supports them. Next, probably, it’s “drug lords” or some other public enemy. But it always seems rather quickly to devolve into identifying “troublemakers,” dissenters, those who ask awkward questions and point out awkward facts.
First, the police start becoming militarized. Now, the military is acting as a domestic police force.
This is really disturbing. I guess the idea is that people who are given authorization to use deadly force can do whatever they damn well please, including ignoring the courts. (See earlier post today about how SWAT teams are used in defiance of court rulings.) Jason Koebler writes in Motherboard:
It’s not just the NSA: A Federal Appeals Court has just noted a disturbing and “extraordinary” trend of the Navy conducting mass surveillance on American civilians, and then using what they find to help local law enforcement prosecute criminals.
In this specific case, a Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent in George scanned the computers of every civilian in Washington state who happened to be using the decentralized Gnutella peer-to-peer network, looking for child pornography. The agent, Steve Logan, found child porn on a computer owned by a man named Michael Dreyer.
Logan then passed his evidence on to local law enforcement, who arrested and eventually convicted Dreyer, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison. The US Ninth Circuit of Appeals ruled that this was a massive overstep of military authority, a disturbing trend, and a blatant violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, a law that prohibits the military from conducting investigations on civilians.
The government argued that it conducted the surveillance on the off chance that it caught a military member violating the law and suggested that it has this authority in any state with a military base.
This case, Judge Marsha Berzon argued, demonstrates that that’s clearly not the case.
“The government’s position that the military may monitor and search all computers in a state even though it has no reason to believe that the computer’s owner has a military affiliation would render the PCA’s restrictions entirely meaningless,” she wrote. “The record here demonstrates that Agent Logan and other NCIS agents routinely carry out broad surveillance activities that violate the restrictions on military enforcement of civilian law.”
The violation was so egregious that Berzon and her fellow judges argued that “the extraordinary nature of the surveillance demonstrates a need to deter future violations.”
“It has become routine practice for the Navy to conduct surveillance of all the civilian computers in an entire state to see whether any child pornography can be found on them, and then to turn over the information to civilian law enforcement when no military connection exists,” she added. . .
Doesn’t that strongly remind you of the Soviet Union back in the old days?
Too bad: a grenade launcher is just the thing for unruly study halls. But the District will keep their assault rifles and Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle, possibly for use in Homecoming combat.
Dan Froomkin gives some reasons we might not want to do that.
Dan Froomkin has an excellent column, quoting the NY Times’s evisceration of the plan.
Those who like sending Americans to fight and die in wars that never seem to accomplish their (often unclear) goals have by now created an almost impregnable wall of censorship to prevent the American public from seeing the human cost of such wars. Peter Maas writes at The Intercept:
Beheading is barbaric. The men of the Islamic State who executed James Foley and Steve Sotloff are monsters. Yet their monstrosity does not fully explain our fury over their beheading videos, or the exhortations we have heard to not share or distribute the harrowing images.
We are right to be repulsed. But I think part of our horror stems from the fact we rarely see images of American victims of war. It is the last taboo in our era of endlessly transgressive media — publishing photos or videos of injured, dying, or dead Americans in a war zone. How has this taboo been maintained? To a great degree, the reason is censorship on the part of the American government.
It is an oddity of all of the violence since 9/11: Despite constant warfare and the death of more than 5,000 American soldiers (a figure that does not include American contractors, aid workers, and journalists) — not to mention the more than 50,000 wounded — we have rarely seen photos or videos of Americans in their ultimate agony. Photographers embedded with American troops have been all but forbidden from taking pictures of dead or wounded soldiers; Michael Kamber’s Photojournalists on War is filled with tales of war photographers prevented from doing their necessary work. Until 2009, it was even forbidden to take photographs of flag-draped coffins as they returned home. I once had a minor encounter with the machinery of censorship: On a military flight out of Baghdad in 2005, a military police officer confiscated my camera after I took a few shots of the coffins on board. He returned the device after deleting the pictures.
It’s no secret why the government has repressed these sorts of images. Support for the wars since 9/11 could be undermined if Americans were to see the ghastly things that happen to their brothers and sisters in combat. This is generally attributed to a lesson supposedly learned by the generals in Vietnam: If you let photographers take pictures of American dead and injured, you will lose public support for the messy undertaking of mass violence. It’s fine to disseminate pictures and video of foreign dead and wounded, which can actually help the war effort.
It is a different thing when the victims are ours. When it comes to our own citizens, the consequences of war are preferably represented in elliptical ways that do not show torn flesh or faces of the newly dead. Instead, we see townspeople lining up and saluting as a hearse drives by, we hear the sound of taps at a funeral, we remember the flag as it was placed in a brave widow’s hands, or we see a wounded veteran with a handful of pills for PTSD. It demands a mournful response rather than an informed decision.
This censorship has spawned an odd blowback. By shielding us from disturbing imagery, our government (and editors who shy away from gore) may have made us all the more vulnerable when we finally see dead Americans. This is not an abstract theory. The two disastrous invasions of Falluja during the Iraq War were sparked by pictures of the bodies of four American contractors hanging from one of the town’s bridges in 2004. It wasn’t the event itself so much as the pictures that launched such destructive fury. Confronted with these stark but complicated images, we tend to respond with a primal scream, as The New York Post did with its identical headlines for both the Falluja desecrations in 2004 and the Islamic State beheadings a decade later: “Savages.”
In the case of the Islamic State, . . .