Later On

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

Archive for March 7th, 2014

It’s high time we rethought the drone program.

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US Drone Kills 5 Allied Afghan Troops, mistaking them for Taliban.

I don’t think the US would simply accept it if Allied Afghan troops mistakenly killed 5 US troops—but maybe we would.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2014 at 7:52 pm

An SR-71 Blackbird pilot shares his experiences

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Interesting reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2014 at 5:52 pm

Posted in Military

Odd but intriguing: California bases reproductive rights law on actual science

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Using evidence to determine the fate of legislation! What an innovative and potentially fruitful idea!

Irin Carmon reports at MSNBC:

EUREKA, Calif. – It did not look particularly like a history-making day in the Redwoods. The jars of condoms and the pinned-up primer on the HPV vaccine at the Six Rivers Planned Parenthood were undisturbed, and the waiting room was no more taxed than any other Saturday. The usual lone protester, loosely referred to as “the pastor,” had come early, before the clinic even opened, and gone home.

But inside the employee kitchen, there was proof of something special about this January morning, days after the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. “Well-behaved women rarely make history,” read a note affixed to some irises. “Today we make history!!!” Another card thanked one nurse practitioner by name for “blazing the trail.”

Thanks to a law passed last year, California is actually adding abortion providers – nearly fifty nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and physicians’ assistants, trained to provide aspiration abortions in the first trimester –with more to come.

The state is bucking a nationwide trend as a wave of new restrictions is forcing abortion providers across the country to shut their doors. In Texas, the second-largest state after California, initial enforcement of a law passed last year initially put a third of the clinics of the state out of commission, and when new regulations go into effect in September, all but a half-dozen clinics are expected to close.

Meanwhile, in California, a Eureka nurse practitioner – who worried about the safety of being named in the press – had just officially become one of the new providers of vaccuum aspiration abortion, the most common procedure.

“I am used to being in a place where we are talking about all the options for birth control and for pregnancy,” she said simply. “It was just a no-brainer, a logical next step.”

The fact that it was an ordinary day – boring, even – was the whole point. The most radical move of all wasn’t just passing a law to expand abortion access. It was treating the termination of a pregnancy like any other medical procedure, and seeing if that changed women’s lives.

“I don’t really see the need for this bill here,” said Assemblyman Don Wagner, an Orange County Republican, at a committee hearing last April for AB154, which would eventually make the nurse practitioner’s day possible. He wondered why there were no women testifying that they had been unable to access an abortion.

“Where is the evidence that there are underserved populations out there?” Wagner asked.

Evidence was something of a magic word to Tracy Weitz, testifying that day in her capacity as a medical sociologist at the University of California, San Francisco. Weitz had overseen a massive peer-reviewed study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, that had trained the Eureka nurse practitioner and dozens of other advanced-practice clinicians on providing aspiration abortions. Armed with a waiver from the state, the study set out to determine whether such clinicians could provide early aspiration abortions as safely as physicians. Eleven thousand abortions later, there was no meaningful difference.

Weitz doesn’t perform abortions, but her colleagues at San Francisco General Hospital do, and they specialize in later ones. And over the years, they’d noticed something.

“We were serving an extraordinarily high number of women later in gestation who were coming from throughout California,” Weitz told Wagner.

The later in pregnancy an abortion occurs, the more expensive it is. And though abortion remains an extremely low-risk procedure – the study had actually shown it was even safer than previously believed – complications rise too. Someone who doesn’t want to be pregnant anymore likely isn’t interested in drawing out the process, either.

“When you talk about, where’s the evidence of lack of access,” Weitz continued, “it’s in the disparity in the number of low-income women geographically located in [remote areas]…who do not access their abortion until later in the second trimester.”

In other words, lifting the barriers would make it easier for women to get abortions earlier in pregnancy. . .

Continue reading.

In other news, Michael Meved spoke at the conservative CPAC conference to say, ““There has never been a state in this country that has ever banned gay marriage. That is a liberal lie.”

For the record, this article lists 30 states that have banned same-sex marriage.

I think perhaps Mr. Medved was going for the Big Lie, but picked one a little too big: instead of a size 2 or 3, he went for size 8, and it was just too big to fly (cf. elephants, symbol of the GOP).

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2014 at 3:42 pm

DHS uses email intercepts to question US citizen about her sex life

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Many people seem still to be angry that Edward Snowden revealed to us the surveillance state in which we now live. Most of those people, I suspect, have yet to be questioned about their sex life because of private messages they sent. James Fallows pointed out this article at “Papers, Please.”

At first blush, a lawsuit filed last week by the ACLU on behalf of a sociology professor at Indiana University wrongly detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection seems to be about whether CBP is exceeding the limitations on its police powers, and detaining US citizens for purposes unrelated to customs and borders.

That’s bad, but unsurprising in light of the history of abuse of limited administrative search powers as a pretext for unrelated police purposes by CBP and other DHS components, notably the TSA.

What’s more unusual, however, is the complaint that the DHS is using email messages, presumably obtained from the NSA (unless the DHS has some email interception program of its own) as the basis for detention and interrogation of US citizens who aren’t trying to travel or ship any goods across US borders.

And what was the subject of this warrantless custodial interrogation of a non-traveling US citizen by armed “Customs and Border Protection” officers, based on email intercepts? Her sex life.

No, we’re not making this up.

Professor Christine Von Der Haar of Indiana University tells the story in her complaint, in an interview with the Bloomington Herald-Times in 2012 at the time of the bizarre CBP doings that led to her lawsuit, and in a video interview with the Indianapolis Star last week when the lawsuit was filed.

A few years ago, Dr. Von Der Haar, a US citizen, reconnected online with Dimitris Papatheodoropoulos, a Greek freelance transport and logistics manager and consultant who she had been friends with as a teenager, 40 years earlier, at an international school they both attended in Switzerland.  After a year’s exchange of email, some of which Dr. Von Der Haar says was “flirtatious and romantic in nature”, Mr. Papatheodoropoulos arranged for a visit to Dr. Von Der Haar in Bloomington during her summer break from university teaching.

Von Der Haar believes her friend is a victim of a cultural misunderstanding. His emails signed off “I love you. I miss you. I kiss you.” Marriage, though, was beyond the pale for two adults in their mid-50s who hadn’t seen each other for decades, they say.

Sure, his language is flowery, but Von Der Haar laughs about it, slightly embarrassed: “We’re silly. He’s a Greek man. What can I say?.”

Mr. Papatheodoropoulos obtained a 10-year, multiple entry B1/B2 business and tourism visa to the US, allowing him to consult with business associates and negotiate contracts as well as visit friends. Since he works as a freelancer, and wasn’t sure how long he would be staying in the US, he shipped a computer and some other electronic equipment by air freight, but removed the hard drive with his data and carried it with him.

On arrival, Mr. Papatheodoropoulos cleared US customs and immigration and was admitted to the US without incident. But when Dr. Von Der Haar took him back to the Indianapolis airport a few days later to pick up the items he had shipped by air freight, they were referred to the CBP office at the airport.

According to Dr. Von Der Haar’s complaint, armed CBP officers detained both her and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos, took them into separate rooms, and stood blocking the exit door while they interrogated Dr. Von Der Haar about, “the nature of her relationship with Mr. Papatheodoropoulos … the contents of email messages that Dr. Von Der Haar and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos had sent each other … [and] if she and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos were having sexual relations.”

Given that Mr. Papatheodoropoulos had retained his hard drive that contained the emails, the only way that the Customs and Border Protection Agents could have reviewed the emails is for someone to have surreptitiously monitored the communications between Dr. Von Der Haar and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos and reported those communications to the agents questioning her. Defendant Lieba admitted that employees of the United States had read email communications between Dr. Von Der Haar and Mr. Papatheodoropoulos.

Dr. Von Der Haar was taken into the back room of the CBP office for questioning twice, for a total of about half an hour, while Mr. Papatheodoropoulos was questioned for “approximately 4 1/2 – 5 hours” before he emerged and was allowed to leave. His Greek passport (property of the Greek government) was confiscated without warrant, leaving him unable to leave the US even had he decided to cut his visit short, and he was “served with notice that a proceeding was initiated against him for removal from the United States” on the basis that:

You obtained your B1/B2 visa by misrepresenting your intentions to come to the United States to wit; It is your intention to immigrate to the United States, you abandoned your foreign residence, you intend to overstay your admission to the United States.

“None of this was true” according to the complaint. Mr. Papatheodoropoulos requested an expedited trial on these allegations, but “the removal action did not proceed. His passport was returned to him and he left the United States at the end of August of 2012 and has not returned.”

What are we to make of this episode?

First, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2014 at 3:34 pm

US takes position that it does not have to observe human rights in other countries

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The US already is on shaky moral ground in its full-throated condemnation of the outrageous crime of invading another country on flimsy pretext—to be clear, the US is talking about Russia sending troops in Crimea (which Russia adjoins) and not about the US invasion of Iraq. And now the US is taking the position that it is free to violate human rights so long as it does that in other countries.

Charlie Savage has the story in the NY Times:

In 1995, Conrad Harper, the Clinton administration’s top State Department lawyer, appeared before a United Nations panel in Geneva to discuss American compliance with a global Bill of Rights-style treaty the Senate had recently ratified, and he was asked a pointed question: Did the United States believe it applied outside its borders?

Mr. Harper returned two days later and delivered an answer: American officials, he said, had no obligations under the rights accord when operating abroad. The Bush administration would amplify that claim after the Sept. 11 attacks — and extend it to another United Nations convention that bans the use of torture — to justify its treatment of terrorism suspects in overseas prisons operated by the military and the C.I.A.

The United Nations panel in Geneva that monitors compliance with the rights treaty disagrees with the American interpretation, and human rights advocates have urged the United States to reverse its position when it sends a delegation to answer the panel’s questions next week. But the Obama administration is unlikely to do that, according to interviews, rejecting a strong push by two high-ranking State Department officials from President Obama’s first term.

Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman, declined to discuss deliberations but defended the existing interpretation of the accord as applying only within American borders. Called the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it bars such things as unfair trials, arbitrary killings and the imprisonment of people without judicial review.

“The legal position held by prior administrations — Republican and Democratic — is a carefully considered position with a strong basis in the text of the treaty, and there is a very high bar for change under those circumstances,” she said.

Still, in a 56-page internal memo, the State Department’s former top lawyer, Harold Koh, concluded in October 2010 that the “best reading” of the accord is that it does “impose certain obligations on a State Party’s extraterritorial conduct.”

And in January 2013 Mr. Koh went further in a 90-page memo on the Convention Against Torture. “In my legal opinion, it is not legally available to policy makers to claim” it has no application abroad, he wrote. Michael Posner, the former assistant secretary for human rights, shared that view. Both stepped down in 2013 and have not been replaced by political appointees.

In Mr. Obama’s first term, when the State Department was preparing to file an earlier report to the United Nations about the accord, both officials pushed to reverse the United States’ position. But military and intelligence lawyers resisted, officials said, and the final report in 2011 said only that the United States was “mindful” that many disagreed with the position it had taken in the past.

The ambiguous comment in the report left the door open to re-examine the question for the coming United Nations presentation. But the administration never fully re-engaged with the issue, officials said. . .

Continue reading.

The torture issue has been avoided by President Obama, who abjures us to look forward, not back, though (strangely) he seems very much determined to look back in the case of Edward Snowden. Of course, Snowden revealed how our government is spying on us, whereas those who tortured seemed in general to torture people who were not US citizens. I assume that is Obama’s reasoning.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2014 at 10:53 am

Cool doorknobs

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Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2014 at 10:46 am

Posted in Daily life

Snowden: I raised NSA concerns internally over 10 times before going rogue

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It’s often been said that Snowden should have go through channels—even Obama has said that. Well, apparently he did try going through channels. Andrea Peterson reports at the Washington Post:

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said he repeatedly tried to go through official channels to raise concerns about government snooping programs but that his warnings fell on the deaf ears. In testimony to the European Parliament released Friday morning, Snowden wrote that he reported policy or legal issues related to spying programs to more than 10 officials, but as a contractor he had no legal avenue to pursue further whistleblowing.

Asked specifically if he felt like he had exhausted all other avenues before deciding to leak classified information to the public, Snowden responded:

Yes. I had reported these clearly problematic programs to more than ten distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them. As an employee of a private company rather than a direct employee of the US government, I was not protected by US whistleblower laws, and I would not have been protected from retaliation and legal sanction for revealing classified information about lawbreaking in accordance with the recommended process.

Snowden worked for the CIA before becoming an NSA contractor for various companies. He was working for Booz Allen Hamilton at an NSA facility in Hawaii at the time he leaked information about government programs to the press.

In an August press conference, President Obama said there were “other avenues” available to someone like Snowden “whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.” Obama pointed to Presidential Policy Directive 19 — which set up a system for questioning classified government actions under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. However, as a contractor rather than an government employee or officer, Snowden was outside the protection of this system. “The result,” Snowden said, “was that individuals like me were left with no proper channels.”

Elsewhere in his testimony, Snowden described the reaction he received when relating his concerns to co-workers and superiors. The responses, he said, fell into two camps. “The first were well-meaning but hushed warnings not to ‘rock the boat,’ for fear of the sort of retaliation that befell former NSA whistleblowers like Wiebe, Binney, and Drake.” All three of those men, he notes, were subject to intense scrutiny and the threat of criminal prosecution.

“Everyone in the Intelligence Community is aware of what happens to people who report concerns about unlawful but authorized operations,” he said.

The other responses, Snowden said, were similar: suggestions that he “let the issue be someone else’s problem.” Even the highest-ranking officials he told about his concerns could not recall when an official complaint resulted in the shutdown of an unlawful program, he testified, “but there was a unanimous desire to avoid being associated with such a complaint in any form.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2014 at 10:22 am

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