Uncovered CIA abuses from the not-so-distant past

A recent LA Times article and a recent New York Times article detail some rather horrifying abuses by the CIA from a long-secret CIA report released this week.

The specific acts in question include:

  • Brandishing of weapons, including a gun and a power drill, during interrogation sessions;
  • Firing a gun in the room next door to a detainee in an attempt to convince the prisoner another suspect had been executed;
  • Threats against family members of a suspect (two incidents);
  • The use of cigar smoke during interrogations (two incidents, during one smoke was intentionally used to induce vomiting);
  • Forcing a detainee into stressful positions;
  • Bathing a detainee with a stiff brush of the sort used to clean bathrooms;
  • Waterboarding;
  • A “pressure point” technique: restricting a detainee’s carotid artery to the point where he/she would start to pass out, then shaking the detainee to wake him/her; and
  • A mock execution.

I’m glad to see the reports detailing these horrific and inhumane acts declassified and brought to the attention of the public. I do believe sunlight is the best disinfectant, and hopefully the shame brought on by the publicity of these incidents will deter others from similarly inhumane treatment of future prisoners.

I find the stuff brush bath, weapon brandishing, and mock execution to be the most disturbing of the incidents. That’s not to say the rest aren’t disturbing as well, just those incidents in particular are things I would hope decent people would not do. And I still hold out hope that our government is run by decent people.

But I have to ask the question: If these things aren’t torture, what is?

Knocking down granny: unacceptable police brutality

How do scum like this get a badge and gun?

Stephen’s blog at geeks.pirillo.com and Infowars both report on an incident involving Virginia Dotson, an 84-year old Alzheimer’s patient. Warning: the video is very disturbing to anyone with any sense of decency.

I am grateful that the woman wasn’t injured. I hope the officer that used what I can only describe as egregiously excessive force are fired; hopefully, he/she (I can’t really tell gender from the video) will be spending the rest of his/her life in retail, fast food, and manual labor hell.

What’s unfortunately likely to happen: suspension with pay while investigation is pending, desk duty for a few months until the people forget about this, and back on the streets.

And we wonder why some people don’t trust cops.

The creepiest phone company

Recently, I read a Computer World blog entry on Google Voice, which is Google’s entry into the VoIP telephone service arena.

At the surface, it looks pretty innocuous: a free phone number complete with voicemail and free domestic long-distance dialing. Dig a little deeper, and the disturbing part sinks in. Quoting the article:

Google already has a profile about your interests and surfing habits. If you use Gmail, it examines the content of your mail as a way to target ads. With Google Voice, it will know who you’re talking to, and when you’re talking to them — and will have records of your voice mail, and possibly recordings of your actual calls themselves.

The traffic analysis (call records, i.e., who is calling whom, when, and for how long) is scary enough by itself. The “free” transcription of voicemails, offered by a company called Google, is probably the creepiest thing I have come across in my entire time in cyberspace. Quite possibly it exists to serve Google’s self-interest as much as that of Google Voice users.

An anonymous commenter opines:

Am I worried? No. Why? Because we have laws in place to protect us against the misuse of that information. Frankly, I’d much rather have Google know more about my habits. That way when someone does steal my identity and try to use it maliciously (something that is much more likely to happen then a company using my information maliciously) it’ll be a piece of cake to prove that they are not me.

My response to this is simple. We cannot rely entirely on the law to protect us against misuse of information. A company whose entire reason for existence revolves around indexing data and making it available is not a company I will easily trust with my telephone calling habits. It’s scary enough that Google has developed a mobile phone OS and has used the words “open source” enough in the description of that OS while still failing the criteria for free software as it relates to the SDK (software development kit).

There is a huge difference, now more than ever, with free as in freedom, and
free meaning zero monetary cost.

The part I find scariest is that there is no way to tell a Google Voice number apart from a number whose usage is NOGDB (None Of Google’s Damn Business). At least the people that run, say, AT&T know how to maintain the privacy of a telephone network. I feel somewhat comfortable trusting AT&T with my telephone traffic. I don’t think I’ll ever be that comfortable placing that level of trust in Google. Here’s hoping the FCC, DOC, and equivalent agencies worldwide keep a close eye on them.