Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 19th, 2009

More on the terrorist trials

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"What I’m absolutely clear about is that I have complete confidence in the American people and our legal traditions and the prosecutors, the tough prosecutors from New York who specialize in terrorism" — Barack Obama, yesterday.

"Holder said five other Guantanamo detainees would be tried by military tribunals. The five include Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri, who is accused of masterminding the 2000 attack on the USS Cole warship in Yemen; and Canadian Omar Khadr, accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan" —NPR, yesterday.

"’Administration officials say they expect that as many as 40 of the 215 detainees at Guantanamo will be tried in federal court or military commissions . . . . and about 75 more have been deemed too dangerous to release but cannot be prosecuted because of evidentiary issues and limits on the use of classified material’ . . . If true, that means that there are 75 so-called ‘Fifth Category’ detainees who might be subject to indefinite detention without trial" — The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder, yesterday, quoting The Washington Post.

* * * * *

Can anyone reconcile Obama’s homage to "our legal traditions" and his professed faith in jury trials in the New York federal courts with the reality of what his administration is doing:  i.e., denying trials to a large number of detainees, either by putting them before military commissions or simply indefinitely imprisoning them without any process at all?

During his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, Eric Holder struggled all day to justify his decision to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial because he has no coherent principle to invoke.  He can’t possibly defend the sanctity of jury trials in our political system — the most potent argument justifying what he did — since he’s the same person who is simultaneously denying trials to Guantanamo detainees by sending them to military commissions and even explicitly promising that some of them will be held without charges of any kind.

Once you endorse the notion that the Government has the right to imprison people not captured on any battlefield without giving them trials — as the Obama administration is doing explicitly and implicitly — what convincing rationale can anyone offer to justify giving Mohammed and other 9/11 defendants a real trial in New York?  If you’re taking the position that military commissions and even indefinite detention are perfectly legitimate tools to imprison people — as Holder has done — then what is the answer to the Right’s objections that Mohammed himself belongs in a military commission?  If the administration believes Omar Khadr belongs in a military commission, and if they believe others can be held indefinitely without any charges, why isn’t that true of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?  By denying jury trials to a large number of detainees, Obama officials have completely gutted their own case for why they did the right thing in giving Mohammed a trial in New York.

Even worse, Holder was reduced to admitting — even boasting — that this concocted multi-tiered justice system (trials for some, commissions for others, indefinite detention for the rest) enables the Government to pick and choose what level of due process someone gets based on the Government’s assessment as to where and how they’re most likely to get a conviction: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 November 2009 at 10:28 am

Organizational learning and Islamic militancy

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I’ve long been interested in organizational learning and once had a good library of books by Chris Argyris, who focused on that. I think I’ve been interested because I’ve worked in several organizations that were highly resistant to learning—which I think is typical: learning leads to innovation, which means change, and those in power strongly prefer that things not change for fear that their power will be diminished by change.

Bruce Schneier:

Organizational Learning and Islamic Militancy (May 2009) was written by Michael Kenney for the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s long: 146 pages. From the executive summary:

Organizational Learning and Islamic Militancy contains significant findings for counter-terrorism research and policy. Unlike existing studies, this report suggests that the relevant distinction in knowledge learned by terrorists is not between tacit and explicit knowledge, but metis and techne. Focusing on the latter sheds new insight into how terrorists acquire the experiential "know how" they need to perform their activities as opposed to abstract "know what" contained in technical bomb-making preparations. Drawing on interviews with bomb-making experts and government intelligence officials, the PI illustrates the critical difference between learning terrorism skills such as bomb-making and weapons firing by abstraction rather than by doing. Only the latter provides militants with the experiential, intuitive knowledge, in other words the metis, they need to actually build bombs, fire weapons, survey potential targets, and perform other terrorism-related activities. In making this case, the PI debunks current misconceptions regarding the Internet’s perceived role as a source of terrorism knowledge.

Another major research finding of this study is that while some Islamic militants learn, they do not learn particularly well. Much terrorism learning involves fairly routine adaptations in communications practices and targeting tactics, what organization theorists call single-loop learning or adaptation. Less common among militants are consequential changes in beliefs and values that underlie collection action or even changes in organizational goals and strategies. Even when it comes to single-loop learning, Islamic militants face significant impediments. Many terrorist conspiracies are compartmented, which makes learning difficult by impeding the free flow of information between different parts of the enterprise. Other, non-compartmented conspiracies are hindered from learning because the same people that survey targets and build bombs also carry out the attacks. Still other operations, including relatively successful ones like the Madrid bombings in 2004, are characterized by such sloppy tradecraft that investigators piece together the conspiracy quickly, preventing additional attacks and limiting militants’ ability to learn from experience.

Indeed, one of the most significant findings to emerge from this research regards the poor tradecraft and operational mistakes repeatedly committed by Islamic terrorists. Even the most "successful" operations in recent years — 9/11, 3/11, and 7/7 — contained basic errors in tradecraft and execution. The perpetrators that carried out these attacks were determined, adaptable (if only in a limited, tactical sense) — and surprisingly careless. The PI extracts insights from his informants that help account for terrorists’ poor tradecraft: metis in guerrilla warfare that does not translate well to urban terrorism, the difficulty of acquiring mission-critical experience when the attack or counter-terrorism response kills the perpetrators, a hostile counter-terrorism environment that makes it hard to plan and coordinate attacks or develop adequate training facilities, and perpetrators’ conviction that they don’t need to be too careful when carrying out attacks because their fate has been predetermined by Allah. The PI concludes this report by discussing some of the policy implications of these findings, suggesting that the real threat from Islamic militancy comes less from hyper-sophisticated "super terrorists" than from steadfast militants whose own dedication to the cause may undermine the cunning intelligence and fluid adaptability they need to survive.

The comments at the link are quite interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 November 2009 at 10:00 am

Oceans, about CO2: "No more for me, I’m full"

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Christine Dell’Amore at National Geographic News:

The world’s oceans, which normally gobble up carbon dioxide, are getting stuffed to the gills, according to the most thorough study to date of human-made carbon in the seas.

Between 2000 and 2007, as emissions of the potent greenhouse gas carbon dioxide skyrocketed, the amount of human-made carbon absorbed by the oceans fell from 27 to 24 percent.

In terms of ocean processes, “that’s a pretty large drop, and the trend is pretty clear: The ocean can’t keep up with [human-made carbon],” said study leader Samar Khatiwala, an oceanographer at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Khatiwala is careful to point out that the total uptake of carbon is not declining—the rate is just not growing as fast as it used to.

But if the oceans continue to be overwhelmed by carbon, more of the gas will remain in the already warming atmosphere, the authors say. (See global warming fast facts.)

“Ultimately the ocean is what’s controlling what’s going on here,” said Chris Sabine, a supervisory oceanographer at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Washington, who was not involved in the research.

“It’s a big deal that it’s becoming less efficient in taking up CO2.”

Continue reading.

UPDATE: More info here.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 November 2009 at 9:49 am

Gillette 7 o’Clock SharpEdge

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As is my practice, I used the Semogue 2000 for a second day: two days for each outing. It’s breaking in gradually. I got a very good first and last pass lather since the brush was fresh from the soap—Tryphon Old American Barbershop. The second pass was still not so great, but serviceable.

The Gillette 7 o’Clock SharpEdge, made in St. Petersburg, is an excellent blade, more or less equivalent to Swedish Gillettes. I broke open a pack and will be using those for a while. In the Gillette English Aristocrat, it did a superb job: totally smooth face, no nicks or burn. (Note that this is NOT the 7 AM blade line—totally different blade.)

TOBS Shave Shop seemed the appropriate aftershave, and now I’m good to go.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 November 2009 at 9:28 am

Posted in Shaving

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