Previous month:
March 2006
Next month:
May 2006

April 2006

The Guam Customs Channel Was Apparently for Jerry Yingling (former Airport Executive Manager) and Lieutenant Pete Daga (former acting Airport Police Chief)

This is part of an ongoing series on unauthorized cameras and listening devices found in the Customs area of the Guam Airport.

Safariscreensnapz116Regular readers will recall the unclaimed spy equipment that was found a while back in the Customs area of the Guam Airport. (See my March 3rd, Unauthorized Surveillance Cameras in Guam Airport: Who Was Watching The Customs Channel?.) There was an inquiry into just who was watching Guam Customs, and the report is now out, though it raises at least as many questions as it gives answers: KUAM: Report on Airport's listening equipment released

A collaborative investigation conducted by Pacific Security Alarm and private investigator Greg Hall answered three questions posed by the Guam International Airport Authority: Who installed the audio and video system in the Guam Customs area? When was the system installed? And who was playing Big Brother on Customs?

According to the report submitted to GIAA and Customs officials today, the investigations found answers to those questions and the answers pointed to former Airport executive manager Jerry Yingling and former acting Airport Police chief Lieutenant Pete Daga.

Seven cameras and seven microphones were found inside the Customs screening area at the Airport, purchased and installed by Sunny Electronics and general manager John Wilson. According to the investigator's interview with Daga, the equipment was purchased for two reasons - for security purposes following September 11, 2001 and because of numerous complaints about Customs officers stealing from arriving passengers.

Customs director Rick Blas doesn't buy the justification. He told KUAM News, "When you look at some of these documents submitted as review, these documents indicate they were purchased as far back as April 30, 2001. So where do they get off saying it was all done in the interest of security at the Airport?"

Also stated Blas, "They used the people's money to purchase [this] equipment. Things that weren't quite necessary as they claim to be."

The investigator points out that the camera and audio systems weren't the only things purchased. In fact, there are invoices showing monitoring equipment had also been purchased. Hall indicates in his report that through the investigation he learned the surveillance was being monitored by Yingling and Daga in their personal offices. While Yingling declined to comment on the findings, Blas maintains the cameras and microphones were all part of an ongoing turf war at the time between Customs and the Airport.

"Something done like this is an attack on law enforcement," he said. "This is why people like Pete Daga have no business in law enforcement. These people have jeopardized the lives of my officers who do go out in the general public, do surveillance work and they also do controlled buys. They must be held accountable one way or another."

The investigator also indicates that he interviewed Yingling about the equipment. Hall was told the systems were purchased around the time of the 9/11 attacks and during a time when he, as Airport manager at the time, had received death threats and threats to his staff. Yingling told the investigator the systems were to be placed throughout the Airport to prevent a repeat of the Seventh-Day Adventist Clinic shootings or any terrorist threats. Despite invoices stating otherwise, Hall concluded the audio/video system was installed in July 2002.

So who was watching and listening all Customs movement? Hall explained to GIAA officials, "It was intended for chief Daga and general manager Yingling...it is possible they did watch and listen, however there is no direct evidence that indicates they actually did."

I'm not up on the legal fine points, but it seems to me that surreptitiously monitoring inspections held by U.S. Customs in the a secured area of an airport is probably illegal. So what did they want to know bad enough that they'd want to break the law to find out? Was this information for their own consumption? Or were they monitoring for third parties?

KUAM reports that "Customs director Rick Blas plans to file criminal charges against former Guam International Airport Authority executive manager Jerry Yingling and former GIAA police chief Lieutenant Pete Daga" for "unlawfully intercepting communication of his staff and passengers."

MEANWHILE, Airport Manager Jess Torres weighs in:

Current GIAA Executive Manager Jess Torres said he has not finished reviewing the inch-thick report yesterday but expected to do so today.

"I realize the sensitivity of the report, and yes, Mr. Daga is still my employee here," he said.

"But as far as (possible disciplinary action) I don't want to jump the gun on that one. I'll review it and talk to the people that I need to talk to and then whatever action needs to be taken, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

Recall that Torres is the guy who LOVES Manila,  loves it so much that he was apparently accepting very frequent subsidized trips because he could get such deals there on personal grooming services. (While he's there, he probably gets to commiserate with the Philippine airport managers who have a few problems involving customs of their own.)


AND IN OTHER GUAM NEWS:

  • The Associated Press reports that Japan wants to explain their estimate that Tokyo should pay $26 billion to move 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam:

    Surprised by the cost, Japan will ask the United States to explain its estimate that Tokyo will pay some $26 billion for the realignment of the U.S. military here, a top government official said Thursday.

    U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Richard Lawless made the estimate on Tuesday, shocking some Japanese officials.

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said Japan would seek a clarification from Washington. The Lawless comment came days after the two countries agreed that Japan would pay some $6 billion to help move 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

    "We need to ask the U.S. side which items are included," Abe said. "This amount is not the result of any agreement, and we have not received any request from the U.S. to shoulder this amount."

    Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Thursday that he did not know how the Americans arrived at that estimate, and that the government would not impose a tax increase to pay for the realignment.

    The number has drawn considerable attention in Japan, since it would amount to more than 60 percent of the country's entire annual defense budget of $42 billion.

  • The Washington Times reported in March: Pentagon 'hedge' strategy targets China

    The Pentagon is moving strategic bombers to Guam and aircraft carriers and submarines to the Pacific as part of a new "hedge" strategy aimed at preparing for conflict with China, Pentagon officials said yesterday.
        Peter Rodman, assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, told a congressional commission that the response to the emerging military threat from China is part of the White House national security strategy made public yesterday.

    (I dunno. This week, it looked like the biggest conflict Bush was heading for with China was whether he or Chinese President Hu Jintao were going to get to drink that last of the champagne.)

"What we are witnessing is a political purge of the CIA."

Safariscreensnapz115Larry Johnson has a another good post on Mary McCarthy ends with a powerful passage that bears wider broadcasting:

What we are witnessing is a political purge of the CIA. The Bush Administration is working to expel and isolate any intelligence officer who does not toe the line and profess allegiance to George. It is no longer about protecting and defending the Constitution. No. It is about protecting the indefensible reputation of George Bush.

The firing of Mary McCarthy and her trial in the media is a travesty. Particularly when George Bush continues to harbor leakers who put selfish political motives above the welfare of this nation. It remains to be seen if Mary McCarthy had anything to do with the leak of secret prisons. There is no doubt, however, that Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Stephen Hadley, Dick Cheney, and George Bush directly participated in a campaign to leak misleading intelligence information to the American people. Patrick Fitzgerald's court filings make that point abundantly clear. Under George Bush, America is being asked to tolerate Gulag Politics. That is something I find intolerable and unconscionable.

And it is worth noting also that this was the week in which Bush apologized to the Chinese President for a protestor during the White House welcome ceremony and pushed the issue by making sure she was criminally charged.


Comment Section Management, Larry Johnson style: a Tutorial

Because of his background, and his willingness to be a vocal supporter of Valerie Plame, Larry Johnson of NO QUARTER, is a magnet for wingnut trolls. (His Wikipedia entry is a battleground.)

He has an interesting post, The Firing of Mary McCarthy: She used to be his boss.

Regardless of what he wrote however, because of who he is and who she is, predictably the trolls show up. What he does with them, I find really interesting (and very funny).

Of course, the most famous of troll management tactics is Teresa Nielsen Hayden's disemvoweling. He doesn't use than one. (Nor do I, actually.) He has some other good ones.

I chuckled the whole way through reading that comment section. I especially admire his willigness to break the frame and respond to them (nail them/warn them) inside their own comments. And an expressed willingness to delete and ban are other important elements. But the overal Gestalt is what I admire most about his comment section management style.


Consider Philippine Coup Plotter Gregorio Honasan as Played by Peter Sellers

Safariscreensnapz112Funniest thing I read all day: from the LA Times, Philippines' Top Fugitive Is 'a Very Slippery Guy.' This sounds straight out of a Peter Sellers Inspector Clouseau movie:

Although his handsome face is well known throughout the country, he is proving hard to catch. Police have organized a nationwide manhunt, set up a hotline and offered a reward of $100,000 for information leading to his capture, but to no avail. . . .

Traveling one day by bus while dressed as a woman, Honasan found his fellow passengers giggling at him, and he feared he had been recognized. But it turned out he had forgotten to shave that morning and his fellow passengers believed him to be a careless transvestite.

By the way, InspectorClouseu.com has a survey where their readers voted for their favorite Insepctor Clouseu Pink Pather disguises: Hunchback (Wait till you see the full effect with the heump !) ; Dentist (There is only one man who could have pulled the wrong tooth ... ha ha ha ... It's Clouseau ha ha ha ... KILL HIM ha ha ha ...KEEELLL HIM! ...); Salty Sea Dog (Jist an old salty sea deawg here pump'n up de bird'n..); Toulouse LeTrec (Special Delivery...A Behm. Where you expecting one?), etc. . .

MEANWHILE, while we're being extremely earnest, I thought I'd note in passing that following last week's letter from Former President Ford in which he pardoned spoke out in support of Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush showed up in person to kiss Betty Ford.


Can someone please translate this blog post and send it to me in English?

I'm not sure what language this is in. Maybe Czech? But I love the bit which is in English:

Bizardná odpoveď pre PISS (personal internet schizophrenic slave)

. . . and I would really like to know the context. Can someone help?

I love the concept. How much do they cost? Where can I get one? (On second thought, I'll take a dozen.)


Scam Agent on the Rampage!

A "literary agent" who took exception to the blog Making Light mentioning that she had made someone's list of the 20 worst literary agents, seems to have tried to get some of the blog's authors fired. Go read Making Light to find out how you can help.

You might also want to visit the following pages:


Pollen

(For those wondering why I've posted so little this week, I've been busy working on something else. And also I've been having the worst allergy problems I've had in about 4 years. When the pollen count drops, I expect I'll return to my usual volume of posts.)

Safariscreensnapz104
(Graphic via pollen.com)


Tesanovic: "We are the police," says one, slightly embarrassed. He meant the secret police.

From the latest installment of Jasmina Tesanovic's series on the Scorpions trial in Belgrade:

Sighs from the audience. Today we are sitting in the usual crowd with relatives of victims and criminals, but there is a new, third lot in dark suits and fancy caps. The wife of one war criminal asked the men in suits, "Who are you, if I may know."

"We are the police," says one, slightly embarrassed. He meant the secret police.

She retreats in awe. I guess her husband claimed too that he was on a secret mission. A mission of secretly executing as many people as he could.

Continue reading "Tesanovic: "We are the police," says one, slightly embarrassed. He meant the secret police." »


New satellite imagery of Iran's nuclear sites - now on Google Earth

Nantaz 25 February 2006Ogle Earth's Stefan Geens found some I found some new high-resolution imagery of Iran's nuclear processing facilities and turned them into an overlay: New satellite imagery of Iran's nuclear sites - now on Google Earth

Via a Reuters report today, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) has released new commercial imagery of Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities taken by DigitalGlobe just a few weeks ago. The images are in a PDF report by Paul Brannan and David Albright, the latter an ex-UN arms inspector and nuclear proliferation expert. (ISIS, whose motto is "Employing science in the pursuit of international peace" has impeccable non-partisan credentials.)

The PDF is fascinating, but the main images lack easy historical comparisons. Luckily, Google Earth already has very high resolution imagery of both the Natanz and Isfahan sites from a few years ago, also taken by DigitalGlobe. What I've done is repurpose the images from the PDF, which are annotated, as overlays on Google Earth, so that we can see the progress in the construction at both sites over the past few years.

Here is the KMZ file.

Recall my suggestion of April 9th for helping stabilize the situation with Iran:

First of all, get current 1 meter satellite images of the entire country of Iran up on Google Earth. They're out there. It's really just a matter of money. As is obvious from the relentless theme of invisibility in the recent Iranian weapons tests, the feisty Iranian government has its head under the couch and thinks all kinds of things can't be seen. So let the world take a close look at every square inch of Iran, so a housewife in Pleasantville or Tokyo can look at and speculate about the purpose of suspicious looking ventilation shafts. Having such imagery publicly available will also slow down our own warmongers when they realize that that same housewife can do damage assessments on areas they might choose to nuke. And it would be helpful for disaster relief and therefore reduce civilian casualties in the event of an actual attack on Iran. (Good for everyone all around.)

Thanks, Stefan!

UPDATE: On a related topic, see also his post Hack alert: Terrorists don't love Google.


Jasmina Tesanovic, Belgrade: New Normality: when law and justice find their ways through the fearful leaks of those who are selling history in bits and pieces.

On Boing Boing, Jasmina Tesanovic continues her series on the Belgrade Scorpions Trial: Belgrade: New Normality

Today from Hague tribunal, on video link, a protected witness is speaking at the Scorpions Trial.  . . .

He is so far and yet so near: he is the guy who owned the video cassette with the execution of the six Muslim civilians. After repeated death threats he leaked it to the Hague tribunal judges though Natasa Kandic, our heroine on this grim war stage.

This small woman is fearless today in the court as well as in 2004 when she first got the video. We heard that the cassette existed, and was distributed among video clubs in the region. And today's witness confirmed this: we all knew of the crime... I made copies and played them in the soldiers' dorms. This film distributor in the war-criminal economy did many other useful things for the cause: he owned transportation vehicles for fruit, food, whatever... and of course, now it pops out without any doubts, he transported PEOPLE; the Human Packages.

During all these court sessions, it was obvious that Scorpions were not much for soldiers. On lost his leg on the front-line and is the pet of all the others; but since they weren't in fact soldiers, what were they actually doing?

This protected witness with no address, escaped to Hague with his family after he sold the cassette to the Justice.  . . .

He said loudly: the Scorpions were transporting the civilians in buses from Srebrenica, close to the border line with Muslims. They executed them there and the bodies were left to the other side be collected and buried. To Fake it: pretend they were killed in a battle.

Links to her previous posts about the Scorpoions trial are in my right sidebar. Do I need to say read the whole thing?  You know you should.


Wonder where they got the face. (And you should, too.)

D8h042eg0Two stories to be read together:

The Chicago Tribune: Bear attack victim gets face transplant

BEIJING, CHINA -- A man whose face was badly disfigured after an attack by a black bear two years ago received a partial face transplant Friday, in what a hospital described as a first for China.

The hospital's claims, if verified, would make China the second country to conduct the procedure. . . .

In the operation, a statement from Xijing Hospital in the central city of Xi'an said, Li Guoxing was given a new cheek, upper lip, nose, and an eyebrow from a single donor. No details were provided about the donor.

. . . and then read this one: Wanjia Forced Labor Camp Examined Falun Gong Practitioner's Organ Conditions Four Times

The police from the local "610 Office" took her to four different hospitals in Harbin to perform blood tests and to checkup on the condition of her internal organs. Her testimony caused quite a stir in the court.  . . .

A female doctor at Heilongjiang No. 2 Hospital commented that the skin of my thigh was very fair and fine when she examined it. She asked if I had any skin allergy. She was checking me out and noticed that I was scratching my thighs. She said, "Does your skin feel itchy very often?" I replied, "My skin feels itchy because I was ordered to sleep next to a fellow Falun Gong practitioner suffering from severe scabies. Next she did a test on my wrist. Five minutes later, the area she tested on became red. She asked if I had allergy to any medicine, and  . . .

. . .  so the witness lived to tell the tale.

So, um. Why are the media outlets credulously replicating the press release without pressing the issue of facial provenance? Enquiring minds want to know. Today, Falun Gong. Tomorrow bloggers. Shouldn't we ask?

Wonder how Hao Wu's organs are doing.

UPDATE, April 19th: See also the BBC: China 'selling prisoners' organs'.


Can Rumsfeld Last?

JoeojnweneyhtWell, maybe the country has a better ethical immune system than we thought. It's been only a matter of days since Sy Hersh's New Yorker article came out, alleging that not only was the US considering an attack on Iran, but that the US was considering a nuclear attack. And now there is clearly Rumsfeld blood in the water. As Larry Johnson remarks:

Like it or not, Don Rumsfeld's time as Secretary of Defense is running out. The real question is who will be next to step out of the shadows and denounce him.

There has been some fretting about civilian control of the military in light of the "revolt against Rumsfeld," but as Fred Kaplan points out in Slate, military control of the military would be more moderate than Rumsfeld's brand of civilian control:

It's an odd thought, but a military coup in this country right now would probably have a moderating influence. Not that an actual coup is pending; still less is one desirable. But we are witnessing the rumblings of an officers' revolt, and things could get ugly if it were to take hold and roar.

There is little mention of the Iran standoff in the articles on the revolt, but I think Digby's take is basicly correct:

It's obvious to me that this call for Rumsfeld's resignation by six generals is about stopping this operation in Iran first and foremost. It is not a coincidence that the first salvo came from Sy Hersh last Sunday.

Personally, I've been in favor of a Rumsfeld resignation since before Abu Ghraib, and I never did quite understand how he managed to survive that politically. But the US military now finds itself at the crossroads of a possible war with Iran: they must speak now or forever hold their peace, and some are speaking. And given the bleak trajectory of the situation with Iran, I think that's historically important, even if Rumsfeld continues as Secretary of Defense.

One can only hope that Bush's recently stated support for Rumsfeld is as fleeting as his last-ditch support for Harriet Meirs and Michael Brown, a "you're doing a heck-of-a-job Rummy!" preceding a resignation. I had wanted to continue on with this post on what it would mean if Rumsfeld were able to keep his job, but I find the prospect too upsetting. I think instead I'll just pause for a moment to appreciate those who are standing up to him.

(Graphic via The Moderate Voice.)


Geoff Hartwell finishes Perfect Stranger

My amazingly talented step-son, Geoff Hartwell has finished his CD, to be entitled Perfect Stranger, and now has 4 songs available to hear on his Myspace Music site.

Finderscreensnapz005

Goblin ReservationFor you science fiction folk, the song "Godfather" was written after the funeral of science fiction cover artist Richard Powers. Richard was Geoff's godfather.

Bio from Geoff's site:

The Geoff Hartwell Band is a tasty mix of soulful roots and driving rock with a knack for fearless improvisation. Led by the soaring guitar and vocals of Geoff Hartwell the band blazes through emotional originals and fresh takes on well-loved standards. Geoff Hartwell is a Westchester NY native who has lived and breathed music. Growing up, he studied guitar fiercely and was playing NYC venues like CBGB's, Kennys Castaways and the Lion's Den by the time he was in his teens. In addition to studying music full-time at Hartwick College, he was also a Samuel J. Nelson scholarship recipient in recognition of his academic aptitude. After music school, Hartwell toured internationally with a rock musical production of "The Birds". Then he returned to Westchester to give back to the community he grew up in. He became a faculty member in the music department at the Northern Westchester Center for the Arts. He has also taught at the National Guitar Workshop, which included guest faculty such as John Scofield and Pat Metheny. Summer 2006 he'll be teaching a week-long Slide guitar seminar called "Southern Fried Slide" at their Austin, TX campus in addition to their main campus in CT. Hartwell is also a featured instructor on an innovative new internet-based teaching site called WorkshopLive . Geoff Hartwell has a Keyman endorsement with Hamer Guitars, is sponsored by Sam Ash Music and is preparing for the release of a new original cd. "There is something incredibly satisfying about a guitar lick that gallops up the strings and tags every sweet note in its path...Saucy!" -Guitar Player Magazine, December 2003

Geoff HartwellHe can be found in person most Tuesday nights running the Blues Jam at Jackson & Wheeler in Pleasantville, New York.

David took this picture at the Kittle House in Mt. Kisco, NY on March 31st.


Mitläufer in the Caucus-Race: Google Helps Keep China Safe from the Indecency of Democracy; Intel to Help, Too.

Mailscreensnapz004

Here are two news stories to be read side by side.

Xinhua (China): Central news websites back Internet self-censorship (via Rebecca MacKinnon & Imagethief)

  BEIJING, April 11 (Xinhua) -- China's central news websites on Tuesday backed the proposal of major Beijing-based portals for self-censorship and the eradication of pornographic and violent Internet content.

    In a joint announcement, 11 news websites vehemently supported the initiative, saying it represents the aspiration of China's Internet users.

    "Chinese websites are capable and confident of resisting indecent Internet content," the announcement said.

  The websites also vowed to play a leading role in self-censoring Internet content in compliance with the "Eight Honors and Disgraces", a new concept of socialist morality set forth by Hu Jintao, president and general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, recently.

    "We will make the Internet a vital publisher of scientific theories, spread the advanced cultures and promote decency, so as to boost economic growth, maintain social stability, and promote the building of a socialist harmonious society," they pledged.  . . .

    "We are in a stern opposition to indecent on-line messages that undermine public morality and the culture and fine traditions of the Chinese people," the proposal acknowledged.

. . . and the New York Times: Google Chief Rejects Putting Pressure on China

BEIJING, April 12 — Google's chief executive, Eric E. Schmidt, whose company has been sharply criticized for complying with Chinese censorship, said on Wednesday that the company had not lobbied to change the censorship laws and, for now, had no plans to do so.

"I think it's arrogant for us to walk into a country where we are just beginning operations and tell that country how to run itself," Mr. Schmidt told reporters from foreign news organizations.

Mr. Schmidt is visiting China this week to promote Google's new Chinese search engine and to meet with officials of government ministries. He announced the opening of a research and development center in Beijing's high-technology district and also introduced a Chinese-language brand name for the company's domestic search engine — Gu Ge, which roughly translates as "a harvesting song."

But in briefing sessions that involved both Chinese and foreign reporters, Mr. Schmidt faced questions about the censorship controversy that has involved Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Cisco Systems.

At a Congressional hearing in February, executives from the four companies were criticized as collaborating with the Chinese government to silence dissidents. Google's Chinese search engine, introduced in January, blocks subjects restricted by the government, including searches for "Tibet" and "democracy."

On Wednesday, Mr. Schmidt defended the decision to cooperate with the censors, saying that accepting the restrictions of Chinese law were unavoidable for Google to enter the Chinese market. "We had a choice to enter the country and follow the law," Mr. Schmidt told the foreign reporters. "Or we had a choice not to enter the country."

Interestingly, Google Inc. is having a few issues with democracy of  its own. From the San Jose Mercury News: Google shareholder wants two-tiered stock structure dismantled

A pension fund that owns 4,735 Google shares -- out of a total of 297 million -- filed a proposal Wednesday asking the Mountain View company to dismantle its two-class stock structure. That arrangement gives co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and Chief Executive Eric Schmidt control of Google.

But to pass, the measure would require the support of those from whom it wants to strip power -- Brin, Page and Schmidt hold nearly 70 percent of the voting control of the company. . . .

Google has two classes of stock. The class B shares held by the three executives count as 10 votes for every share, compared to one vote for every share of class A stock held by most other shareholders. The proposal will be voted on during Google's annual shareholder meeting on May 11.

As of March 17, Brin, Page and Schmidt owned 76.1 million shares of Google stock, almost all of it class B. The shares represented 25.6 percent of all shares outstanding, but gave them voting power worth 68.8 percent.

But returning to the matter at hand, Google's co-option into the Chinese censorship apparatus, I can't help but be astonished how easy it is for smart guys like Schmidt to be transformed into Mitläufer.

MEANWHILE, not wanting to be left out of the Caucus-Race, Intel Corp. has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Shanghai company Baidu: Intel and Baidu 'join hands' in China

HONG KONG (MarketWatch) -- Intel Corp. and Internet search engine Baidu.com have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop search applications for Intel platforms in a deal that could have important branding and technology implications for the two companies in China's high-stakes online market.
According to a press release issued by Baidu's (BIDU : 56.80, +1.22, +2.2% ) offices in Shanghai, the two companies will cooperate in developing search applications for laptops, handsets, personal computers, and other home appliances.

Baidu is basically viewed as a direct competitor to Google's (GOOG : 408.95, -0.71, -0.2% ) growing aspirations in China. The Shanghai-based startup is widely viewed as having a better search engine for Chinese text, however, its ability to search the international web pages lags behind Google. . . .

Intel spokesman Thomas M. Kilroy said the cooperation would "provide optimized search performance".

Um. Optimized for what?

I think it's time for a quote from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: Chapter III - A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale

Alice09a_1'What IS a Caucus-race?' said Alice; not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that SOMEBODY ought to speak, and no one else seemed inclined to say anything.

'Why,' said the Dodo, 'the best way to explain it is to do it.' (And, as you might like to try the thing yourself, some winter day, I will tell you how the Dodo managed it.)

First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (`the exact shape doesn't matter,' it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no `One, two, three, and away,' but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out `The race is over!' and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, `But who has won?'

This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, 'EVERYBODY has won, and all must have prizes.'

Ah, capitalism! As Richard at The Peking Duck remarks:

Now that China is (or at least seems to be) the place to go to get rich, this seems to be everyone's attitude. "Who are we to impose our cultural beliefs on another country...?" All such complex ethical issues dissolve in front of the one god worshipped by everyone, money.


Rent-a-Fed: Consultants Advisory Group is back and they're offering the best US government services money can buy!

Regular readers will remember my adventures earlier this year involving a strange secretive company called the Consultants Advisory Group (CAG). (See also the Noriegaville News: Shadowy Panama Company Illegally Runs Black-Ops in Haiti.) The are re-marketing themselves in their new improved website, offering the best US government services money can buy.

Got to love this ad copy:

Established in 1997, CAG INTERNACIONAL S.A. is a privately owned international business corporation closely held by American expatriates and staffed by the finest independent contractors from the CIA, FBI, US and Foreign Military Services, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and the Departments of Justice and Commerce.

Wow. Is this going to be a franchise like MacDonald's? Government in a Happy Meal box? One stop shopping for your governmental authority needs? This is a pretty ambitious product line. One wonders if they are also planning to add national parks and a space program!

(I mean really, are they begging to be perceived as a CIA proprietary, or what? And if they were one, would they be on their knees trying to convince you? This is practically a Rent-a-Fed operation according to their copy. I doubt they can deliver that in actuality.)

Countries where they claim to be active include Panama, Kenya, and Somalia. How active is a matter for speculation, but it doesn't look like they are very active yet. And how come they didn't mention Haiti?

Despite CAG's persistent claims, I have a hard time believing that the proprietors of CAG are US ex-pats. CAG tries too hard to push the Americanness of their enterprise without a sense of how Americans do business. Note that their site lacks most of the usual contact info and does not even give an indication of the country in which they are incorporated.

(Thanks GW!)


The Iran Stand-Off: What the Internet Community Can Do

This is the second in a series on Iran. The first was Iran Maneuvers: Of Missile Tests & "Salami Tactics", which discusses Iran's recent military maneuvers and the hardware tested. The third is Iran Stand-off: The devil is in the details.

Yesterday Seymour Hersh's article The Iran Plans: Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb? came out in the The New Yorker; a more accurate subtite for the article would have been Will president Bush resort to nuclear war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb?, since that it really what is at issue in the piece. I do wonder why The New Yorker used such a low-key title given the article's actual argument.

Today, Reuter's published an article, Iran accuses US of "psychological war," labelling the Hersh article as psychological warfare.

There is really a lot to be said about the Hersh piece and the situation with Iran. But for the moment, I'll address just a few points. First of all, I believe that Hersh is probably giving an accurate description of the various opinions about what ought to be done about the Iran nuclear problem. What I found especially striking about reading all the material on the Iran military maneuvers was the extent to which the Iranian military and the US necocons were off on their own little planet fixinging for a fight, and the extent to which the rest of us are really not part of the conversation. So for me the most significant paragraph in the Hersh piece was this one:

[Robert] Joseph’s heavy-handedness was unnecessary, the diplomat said, since the I.A.E.A. already had been inclined to take a hard stand against Iran. “All of the inspectors are angry at being misled by the Iranians, and some think the Iranian leadership are nutcases—one hundred per cent totally certified nuts,” the diplomat said. He added that ElBaradei’s overriding concern is that the Iranian leaders “want confrontation, just like the neocons on the other side”—in Washington. “At the end of the day, it will work only if the United States agrees to talk to the Iranians.”

It seems to me that the moment the US uses a nuclear weapon in the 21st century, it loses all moral authority for preventing other countries from having nuclear weapos, and that the discourse for this century is very likely to become how to disarm that problem country the United States.

Another key passage thaht indicates to me just how far off the rails the thinking has gone:

The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. “Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap,” the former senior intelligence official said. “ ‘Decisive’ is the key word of the Air Force’s planning. It’s a tough decision. But we made it in Japan.”

Made it in Japan? Made it in Japan when we didn't know any better and didn't know what else to do. I don't think either of those excuses are available on the pulldown menu just now.

It seems to me that there are a few things the Internet community can do to promote peace and stability in the face of what looks to be a dangerously insane stand-off. (And wasn't that piece of deterrence theory only acting crazy? Not being crazy? Have we made the transition from acting to being?)

First of all, get current 1 meter satellite images of the entire country of Iran up on Google Earth. They're out there. It's really just a matter of money. As is obvious from the relentless theme of invisibility in the recent Iranian weapons tests, the feisty Iranian government has its head under the couch and thinks all kinds of things can't be seen. So let the world take a close look at every square inch of Iran, so a housewife in Pleasantville or Tokyo can look at and speculate about the purpose of suspicious looking ventilation shafts. Having such imagery publicly available will also slow down our own warmongers when they realize that that same housewife can do damage assessments on areas they might choose to nuke. And it would be helpful for disaster relief and therefore reduce civilian casualties in the event of an actual attack on Iran. (Good for everyone all around.)

Secondly, the Internet community should be taking on and dismantling the Iranaian censorship apparatus, because the information on the Internet needs to get to those innocent people most likely to get killed in this, and also cultural crosspollenization will reduce the chance of war.

Third, open source, free translation tools too and from Farsi and all the languages of countries on the UN Security Council needs to be easily available as quickly as possible.

While it may not be possible for the rest of us to intrude on the toxic relationship between the Iranian government and the neocons, it seems to me that these three things should be tried.

(See also Greenpeace's site Don't nuke Iran which links to a Google Earth KMZ file with casualty estimates for nuclear strikes at various locations.)

UPDATE: See my new post Iran Stand-off: The devil is in the details.


Jame Patrick Kelly's photo: riding the bench

116822156_133ad0fa7c

"riding the bench": John Kessel, Beth Gwinn, Michael Arnzen, Kathryn Cramer and Liz and Sheila Williams waiting for a free ice cream sundae.  Originally uploaded by jaspkelly (aka James Patrick Kelly).

We were waiting outside the restaurant for the Tachyon dinner at ICFA in Ft. Lauderdale. (Liz was sad because she'd fallen off the mechanical horse.)  HERE's the big version.


" . . . the definition of a coward . . ."

Wehavemet01Larry Johnson on the allegations that President Bush authorized the Plame leakGeorge W. Bush, Rogue President

Today's revelation is simple and riveting--the effort to smear Joe Wilson went to the very top of the White House. This was not an operation of rogue political operators. Instead, we have a rogue President. If we can impeach a President for lying about a blow job from an intern, the time has come to impeach a President from giving the American people a line of bullshit about Iraq used to justify a war that has left almost 2400 American soldiers dead. George Bush did not leak to protect America. He leaked to cover his ass. That, my friends, is the definition of a coward.

Seems to me it's also got something to do with the definition of solopsism.


More4's Two Segments on Aegis and the Infamous Security Contractor Videos

More4 News in the UK has two TV segments concerning the infamous Aegis security contractor videos. One came out a week ago and one came out today.

The first segment, Under the Aegis, came out on the 31st:  More 4 News has exclusively interviewed a team member of Aegis that allegedly shot at Iraqi civilians.

Safariscreensnapz065

The second segment, Road Wars, came out today:

Mailscreensnapz003

More4 News has learnt that the security company Aegis is trying to close down the website which claims to show videos of Aegis employees firing at civilians in Iraq.

With a multi-million pound contract from the U.S government, the security firm Aegis is a company that makes big profits from the chaos in Iraq.

Last week More4 news uncovered evidence linking the firm directly to videos that surfaced last year of contractors shooting at civilian cars to keep them away.

The former Aegis worker who published the videos on his website spoke to us last week on condition of anonymity.

Now he's agreed to talk openly to Nima Elbagir about the videos, his website - and the High Court action Aegis is taking tomorrow to close it down. Here's her exclusive report.

The most interesting aspect, to me, about these is that More4 claims to have legal documents from the law firm S. J. Berwin (which also represented Sandline) claiming that the security contractor who filmed and distributed the video is in violation of Aegis's copyright, presumably because since he filmed it at work, such videos would be considered work for hire. That strikes me as an . . . um . . .  innovative use of copyright law.


Looking for My Kind of Web Design:
Writing & Designing the Sensor Web

Every once in a while, I get in a mood and I want to radically reconfigure what my blog is and does at the information architecture level: the mood I described previously as "being tired of writing on a roll of paper towels."

Well, I'm in that mood again. Yes, I have a Typepad Pro account, and yes, in principle I can customize my CSS, but I stopped doing that some time back because I found that customized CSS in Typepad made me a whole lot less fleet of foot in making sudden changes to response to the flow of readerly traffic. If you use customized CSS, then you have to tinker with your customized CSS every time you want to make a change, rather than using the Typepad GUI.) When there are sudden changes of circumstance -- such as for a few hours having the best site on the planet concerning the NOLA levee breaks -- I down want to mess around with CSS. Those are precisely the times when I don't want to touch the code and instead want to focus on content. So instead, I do a lot of fancy things with Typelists and Flickr badges.

So whenever I'm in this mood, I google "blog design" and discover once again that what you are supposed to do when you design your blog is make a splashy graphic for the top of your page and figure out clever ways to make your sidebar items visually distinctive. And you are supposed to remove all excess information from your page (the same thing the clutter busting books recommend you do with your living room). But both at home and in my blog, I inhabit an irretrievably information-bearing space. So I am looking for the best ways to stuff in  more info, not strip it down.

So although I am perfectly capable of making a lovely visually distinctive splash-graphic that would express the inner self I want you to know, I just don't have room for that kind of thing.

First of all, after several years of not, I finally made myself put up pix of my book covers. I am terrible about remembering to do self-promotional stuff. If I just put the book covers up, and a million-odd page views flow by, presumably I've done that job relatively painlessly, and I can get down to telling you what I'm on about today.

Secondly, most of my readers each day don't come in by the front door (only about 20%). So whatever messages I want to get across will be lost of the other 75% of my readers if they aren't on every page. So I work my sidebars very hard. I'm constantly creating new sidebar Typelists, and adjusting them, and turning them on and off. Today I want you to know how to donate to Pakistan earthquake relief finds, tomorrow, I want you to know all the best lines from the Kenya corruption scandals, and the day after that I may want to share my immense link farm having to do with military the Iranian military maneuvers.

One of the things the articles on blog design tell you to do is find your niche topic and stick to it, since readers want things made simple for them. I'm not going to do that, and so I need a blog design that will just deal with the fact that my interests change from day to day.

And these compete for space with my immense blogroll, various Flickr photo-feeds on subjects I'm watching, and my vast collection of tags. I've really heavily gotten into using tags lately. (A day or so I went looking for an easy way to do a tagcloud in Typepad and failed. The easy automated tagcloud thingie didn't like my RSS feed. I'm not sure it would have done what I had in mind anyway. I had been through this exercise before, it turns out.)

Whenever I'm in this mood, I find myself trying things I tried last time I felt like this. One  thing I tried today that didn't work last time I tried it was making feeds to add to a blog out of RSS feeds from Connotea searches.  Last time I tried this, it didn't work. This time it did. I don't know why. (The feed in question is added to password protected blog in my site for my own use for note-taking.)

One thing I did learn from spinning my wheels on this yet again (and puttering around in Connotea) is that there is a word for part of what I do with my blog. In addition to being a means of publication, it is also  what's called a sensor web. While certainly my blog serves to give you information, one of its primary purposes is for me to be able to suck information in. I talked about this in my interview with Carol Pinchefsky:

Cramer says, "After a year or so, I began to understand that by blogging, I was actually receiving a lot more info than I was putting out. By this point, I regard my blog as rather like my tongue. Sure I can use it to talk with, but more fundamentally it is a sensory organ."

Who knew that NASA already has a Sensor Web Applied Research Planning Group? So. Here I am in Pleasantville reinventing the wheel, I guess. Here is how they define the term:

Sensor Web Definition
A system composed of multiple science instrument/processor platforms that are interconnected by means of a communications fabric for the purpose of collecting measurements and processing data for Earth or Space Science objectives.

Sensor Web Concept
The following illustration depicts the principle Sensor Web concepts. Note that some platforms are shown having science instruments whereas others do not have instruments. An example of a platform with no instruments is a computer system that executes a numerical meteorological forecast model and that provides its results to one or more other platforms.

And they have this nifty graphic to illustrate:

Concept

Unlike NASA, I don't have millions of dollars of equipment with which to take data. But the model looks very familiar to me. The "Communications Fabric" is the combination of my email accounts and my comment sections; the "Data Synthesis/Fusion" is blogging in combination with consultation with others, and my primary end user is me, but you get to share.

So can someone out there help design the sensor web blog? That's what this is, and I know it is not optimally designed. (And yes, I'll keep banging away at it, whenever I get in this mood.)


Publishers Weekly, the New York Times, & Science Fiction Reviewing

Safariscreensnapz063_1My husband, David Hartwell, is quoted in Ron Hogan's new Publishers Weekly article "Too Geeky for Its Own Good?" on the new New York Times science fiction reviewer David Itzkoff (pictured below):

David_itzkoffAnd some sci-fi publishers still see Itzkoff's column as a hopeful sign. Among them is David Hartwell, the Tor senior editor who worked on Counting Heads. "In these difficult days, an enthusiastic reviewer for science fiction is a gem," he notes, citing Michael Dirda of the Washington Post as the nation's only top-notch book reviewer willing to discuss SF novels seriously. "There isn't anybody like that at the Times and never has been. They just can't get beyond the modernist separation of high art and low art. I like Itzkoff's enthusiasm, though, and I'm interested in seeing how he develops as a reviewer. I would like to have somebody at the New York Times promoting the idea that science fiction might be fun to read." (Gerald Jonas's one-page column of capsule reviews, after running on a near-monthly basis for years, began to slowly disappear once Sam Tanenhaus took over the Review.)

Hogan also posted material that didn't make it into the final piece on his blog,  Galleycat.  See also Emerald City & The Mumpsimus.


Welcome, Readers from India Curious About Google Earth

Looking at my referrer logs this morning, I notice I'm getting a lot of hits out of India on my Google Earth archive. I had a quick look at CNN to see what was up.  This is what's up:

Safariscreensnapz044

Here is my response, originally written for inclusion in an article for the February 16th issue of Nature. (Our article was published, though this passage ended up on the cutting room floor.)

While there are occasional media articles about Google Earth having military applications, governmental and private military sources interviewed for this article said that they found Google Earth useful for the same reasons everyone else does, but that for military applications, Google Earth has a number of important limitations, chief among these, the freshness of the images and their lack of date stamp. Activities such as nuclear interdiction, and monitoring drug trafficking or troop positions require access to current satellite and aerial photography as well as a munificent budget for purchasing current imagery from private sources.

The tool of choice for the US military and for private military contractors under contract to the US government, for example, is Georgia Tech's FalconView, which is more sophisticated  than Google Earth in its ability to incorporate data from such sources as Predator drones in something approaching realtime. In summary, despite Internet rumors to the contrary, Google Earth is not a military grade tool.

Naturecover2There was also a piece of email circulating on the Internet making false claims about military applications of Google Earth which, as nearly as I can tell, was bogus.

On the other hand, Google Earth can be successfully used to assist with disaster relief. I direct your attention both to my Hurricane Katrina archive and my Pakistan Earthquake archive. In both cases, the existence of tools like Google Earth allowed spontaneous and effective responses by volunteers, using digital cartography to provide support for releif efforts and to meet the needs of individuals seeking information.

Let the world help.


Guambramoff, the Musical!

SO. I've been waiting to find out who that spy equipment found in the customs area of the Guam airport was feeding to, and money was alocated for an inquiry, and I presume its being spent, but no answers have come out yet.

But meanwhile, the Guam branch of the Abramoff scandal is heating up. (Is it too novelistic to hope for that the unauthorized video and audio from customs was feeding to some firend of Abramoff's? Or would that be just too much fun?) Here are some stories that cry out for some kind of musical accompayment, and perhaps some snappy choreography.

Continue reading "Guambramoff, the Musical!" »


Iran Maneuvers: Of Missile Tests & "Salami Tactics"

This is the first in a series on Iran. The second, dated April 9th, is The Iran Stand-Off: What the Internet Community Can Do. The third, dated April 12th, is Iran Stand-off: The devil is in the details.

SafariScreenSnapz035Introduction

As I write this, news coverage of Iran's third missile test performed during their current military maneuvers is propagating outwards in the form of stories by the Associated Press and Reuters. There have been at least two previous tests since the beginning of the maneuvers:

  1. The testing of an alleged stealth, multiple warhead missile, tested on March 31st, and
  2. an underwater missile alleged to be very fast and difficult to see with sonar.

Chah Bahar Airport, IranFor the past four days, I've been following the news coverage of the  Iran military maneuvers, and taking notes. Hence my relative blog silence. This is a topic I approach with caution for a number of reasons. First, I was motivated to start this blog three years ago by the advent of the Iraq war and so the advent of a new war is something I would feel very strongly about. And so I wanted to better understand what I was looking at before jumping in. Second, all of the solutions that start Why don't we just . . . are inadequate to the task, no matter how you fill in the blank, whether it be with take out their nuclear facilities, or invade or give peace a chance.

I personally don't want anyone to be in possession of nuclear weapons, least of all a religious dictatorship. Our own possession of nuclear weapons -- and I phrase it this way, since as US citizens we are complicit in this -- while it must have some deterrent effect, also compromises our moral authority to demand that other countries forgo them. Surely, the US possesses enough nukes to turn the entire region into a plain of sea-green glass. But just at the moment, Iran seems unimpressed by our hoard.

"Salami Tactics"

Before I give the high points of the past four days of coverage, I wanted to remark on a pun made by Condaleeza Rice (or perhaps by her speech-writers) that no one seemed to get. In close chronological proximity to when a successful missile test is announced by a guy who's last name is Salami (Brigadier General Hossein Salami), Condaleeza Rice expresses dismay at Iran's "salami tactics" and everyone reacts with utmost seriousness. (Well, everyone except Pravda ("Condoleezza Rice believes USA may invade Iran because of its ‘salami tactics’"), which seems to have this riff on Rice going, the subtext of which is that the problem with Rice is that she needs to get laid more often.) CNN earnestly explained the salami concept:

Rice called Iran's nuclear strategy a "salami" tactic, referring to how Tehran continued to change its ambitions slice by slice.

"First it was just going to be conversion," she said. "Then it was just going to be a small scale R and D [research and development], then it was going to be about centrifuge production. So I don't see Iran particularly constrained by the fact that the IAEA continues to operate in Iran right now.

"If Iran makes that threat and carries through on it then we will have a better view of what Iran's intentions really are," she said.

But even Pravda didn't get beyond sexual innuendo and the implication that maybe she was saying the guy was a dick.

Certainly, the usage of "salami tactics" has a history. For example:

In Hungary the decisive moment, portending the end of the democratic prelude to Communist dictatorship, came in February 1947, when Béla Kovács general secretary of the Smallholders' party, was arrested by the Soviet authorities on charges of reactionary conspiracy. . . . But the country's real boss was now Mátyás Rákosi one of the outstanding figures of international communism and a self- confessed practitioner of so-called "salami tactics," which consisted of slicing up the Opposition piece by piece until all opposition was destroyed.

And another version of the same (John Horvath in 2000):

Half a century ago, in order to assume and consolidate power, the Communist Party in Hungary, led by the ultra-Stalinist Matyas Rakosi, adopted a strategy known as "salami tactics". This entailed a gradual process of threats and alliances as a means of overcoming opposition. Consequently, the communists were able to exert their influence and eventually dominate the political landscape -- slice by slice.

It's ironic that five decades later the same tactics are being used, this time not by a Moscow trained communist elite, but by a capitalist elite based in Washington. What the KGB succeeded in doing in Hungary and the rest of Central and Eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War the FBI has now been doing in the post Cold War period.

Interesting how the discourse of the Cold Wars creeps in here. The phrase is picked up in the context of Iran by Gary Samore at the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations in November of 2005.

Using these salami tactics, Iran calculates that it can defeat Western efforts at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting to refer Iran to the UN Security Council.  So far, it appears that Iran’s gamble is working.  At the last IAEA Board of Governors meeting in September, the Western group had enough votes to refer Iran to the Security Council, but backed down when Russia threatened to vote against the resolution.  Instead, the Western group sponsored a resolution which formally found Iran in non-compliance with its safeguards agreement, which establishes the legal basis for referral, but stopped short of actually making the referral.  Russia and China abstained on the resolution.  Moscow argued against the resolution on the grounds that Iran would retaliate by suspending some IAEA inspections or resuming enrichment activities, and the Council was in a poor position to respond because there is no political support for tough sanctions.  In fact, the Europeans were sympathetic to these arguments and secretly relieved that Russia blocked referral.  Even for the US, delay serves Washington’s focus on efforts to stabilize Iraq and to destabilize Syria, which (if successful) will weaken Iran’s strategic position and improve Washington’s ability to intimidate Iran over the nuclear issue.  Thus, it appears unlikely that the IAEA will refer Iran to New York at the next IAEA meeting in Vienna on November 24.

In the meantime, Iran calculates that it has a window of opportunity to advance its nuclear program.  In particular, Iran is free to continue working to fix problems at its conversion facility and build up a stockpile of UF6 feed material.  More dangerously, Iran may decide at some point that it is strong enough to risk a resumption of some enrichment activities.  Following its usual salami tactics, for example, Iran might decide to resume some enrichment research and development or production of additional centrifuge components, while maintaining the suspension on the actual completion or operation of the pilot enrichment plant.

It comes up again in an interview with Joseph Cirincione, director of the Nonproliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. in January of this year.

The Iranian government seems to have concluded that its extended negotiations with Europe are pointless and that it can slowly resume its enrichment program without suffering either UN sanctions or U.S. military strikes. It's not quite full speed ahead; it's more like a steady acceleration of the nuclear program. Iran is proceeding very carefully here. It's trying to avoid a direct confrontation and has adopted "salami tactics" -- that is, Iranian officials move an inch at a time towards resumption of the program and each inch, they say, doesn't violate any treaties or commitments. Each step in and of itself is not related to any weapons work and each time they're testing to see whether the Europeans will back down . . .

It seems to me that this discourse in the context of Iran is informed as much by the frustration of the analysts at the lack of a simple solution, as it is by the actual tactics if Iran. (And these tactics are familiar to anyone who's ever tried to get a kid to clean his room; there's nothing especially military about this concept. In fact, the invoking of the concept seems to me to reveal some of the possibly appropriate paternalism at work here.)

The Tactics of Salami

But let's get back to this guy Salami. He does actually have a reputation of sorts. From Iran Focus in November of 2005: Iran promotes top commander of suicide bombers

A top military commander who has been responsible for recruitment of suicide bombers in Iran’s armed forces was on Sunday promoted to the position of Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Brigadier General Hossein Salami was appointed as the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the IRGC while Brigadier General Ali Fazli was promoted the position of Director of Operations in the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

During an inauguration ceremony, the Commandant of the IRGC, Major General Rahim Safavi, said that the latest reshuffles in the IRGC meant that the elite military force was “on the path of expansion”.

Salami is best known for his efforts to recruit radical fanatics loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei into Iran’s armed forces.

On July 4, 2004, Salami, who was IRGC’s Director of Operations at the time, called for the destruction of the United States during a ceremony to recruit suicide bombers that were willing to attack Western and Israeli targets.

“Now, America knows that Muslims with their desires for martyrdom have discovered a new technology and are capable of technological production. This has made [the U.S.] fear them”, Salami was quoted as saying by the state-run news agency ISNA. . . .

He said that the West and Israel were terrified of suicide operations. “Now, no part of the Islamic world is safe and secure for America, thus the U.S. cannot move forward in the region is currently trying to secure its present location”.

That's a little more interesting that metaphors made with lunch meat, yes? Let no one claim that an attack on Iran is necessary to reduce terrorism. And there's a little more to Salami's tactics than that. From Iran Focus in January of 2006, Firebrand strategist to head Iran’s Air Force:

Salami is known as the father of the IRGC’s “asymmetric warfare” doctrine, which he helped to develop in the months preceding the war in Iraq. At the time, Salami was Director of Operations in the IRGC command headquarters.

The military doctrine is based on two components as strategic tools in any military confrontation: the massive use of suicide operations to target U.S. and Western interests around the world, and the use of weapons of mass destruction.

On July 4, 2004, General Salami called for the destruction of the United States during a ceremony to recruit suicide bombers that were willing to attack Western and Israeli targets.

“Now, America knows that Muslims with their desires for martyrdom have discovered a new technology and are capable of technological production. This has made [the U.S.] fear them”, Salami was quoted as saying by the state-run news agency ISNA.

In his new position as commander of the IRGC’s Air force, General Salami will be in charge of the country’s ballistic missile development project, a key component of the asymmetric warfare doctrine. Missiles are important as means of delivery for such weapons.

SO. On March 31st, Iran tested a missile with "very advanced" features and Salami's name was all over the world, via the AP and Reuters, he said it was a "defensive" weapon. And Condaleeza Rice has just been talking about "salami tactics." A pun, perhaps, but a very dark and complex one.

The Logic of the Fireworks Display

The Iran military maneuvers have some of the dramatic logic of a fireworks display about them. First missile tested (presumably on schedule) on the 31st. Second successful test done on April 2nd. Third test on April 3rd. What did they do on April 1st? Was there an unsuccessful test of something? Or are they going to test a total of 4 things, spaced at 2 day intervals? If it does follow the fireworks display logic, the most impressive should be last. The maneuvers are supposed to continue until the 6th and are expected to involve more tests.

Overall, for something that seems calculated to be a in impressive display, the missile launches and maneuvers have a striking lack of visual information. (See also EagleSpeak on this point.) I have collected images relating to the maneuvers and test on Flickr HERE.

By contrast, there are large numbers of photos of the earthquake damage out there: Seemingly the press has been primed by the Pakistan earthquake to pay attention. But this series of earthquakes has killed about 70 people; the death toll of the Pakistan quake was a thousand times that. Ruined Iranian villages are probably not the lasting visual image Iran was hoping for with this display of military tech.

Pay No Attention to the Missiles Behind the Curtain

Another interesting aspect of the maneuvers is that until the first missile test, the Western press paid them virtually no attention. Certainly, the test are newsworthy, but the maneuvers all by themselves are more significant than a lot of what finds its way through the AP wire. (Reuters did run a short squib as did UPI.) Even on March 30th, the message seemed to be: If you attack Iran's nuclear facilities then Iran takes on Israel.

As nearly as I can tell, there was never any doubt that Iran had weapons systems capable of reaching Israel. The question was rather whether Israel's defense systems could stop them from reaching their targets. So why wasn't there more coverage of the maneuvers to start with? My feeling when noticing it was that to some extent it was out  of a desire to keep the vision of pre-emtive strikes and invasions tenable, something we might cheer for.

But really, there is no easy way out. There wasn't last week, and there isn't now.

So on to chronology. . . .

March 30th, 2006

SafariScreenSnapz025

From Aljazeera: Iran’s eager for peace, but beware of its nuclear might

Iran's announcement of staging the large-scale military maneuver, which will last till April 6 near the northern coasts of the Gulf, with over 17,000 soldiers and 1,500 naval vessels of various types and sizes joining the operation, came while UN Security Council discuss future measures over the Islamic Republic's right to pursue nuclear technology.

The UN five permanent members agreed on a statement that demands the Islamic Republic halt all activities related to uranium enrichment, setting the stage for the first action by the world body over fears that Tehran seeks producing nuclear weapons as claimed by Washington and Israel.

While U.S. and the European Union push the Security Council to adopt tough measures against Iran, Russia and China, which are afraid that harsh means against Tehran would run counterproductive, highly oppose the move. . . .

Dismissing efforts by the Bush administration that it is trying to build up international consensus against Tehran over its nuclear program, [Admiral Morteza] Saffari further stated that “It may seem that this country is trying to bring about international consensus and believes that it has been successful, but this is not the case. It is trying to force Iran into submission through its psychological warfare and its bullying propaganda”.

“We will resist and bear whatever costs that may entail”, Saffari said, noting that during the naval exercises unmanned airplanes will be used to “collect intelligence about the enemy” and anti-air missiles will be deployed to attack “enemy targets”.

From the Islamic Republic News Agency: Iran to launch massive naval wargame titled "Holy Prophet" on March 31 (pub date the 29th):

Iran is to launch a massive joint naval wargame titled "Holy Prophet (PBUH)", beginning on March 31 with shooting of a Shahab II Missile into the air with the message of "Peace and Friendship" for the regional countries, Persian Gulf, and Sea of Oman littoral states.

What is the nature of this "friendship"? Or is this a purely Orwellian usage?

In the UK, the Times Online did seem to get the general point: Defiant sabre-rattling

Rear-Admiral Muhammad Ibrahim Dehghan, the spokesman for the operation, said that the focus of the excercise would be the strategic Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Gulf: “If the enemy wants to make the area insecure, he should rest assured that he will also suffer from the insecurity, since we know the location of his vessels.”

March 31st, 2006

The AP chimes in. AP: Iran says it has tested radar-dodging missile:

Iran successfully test-fired a missile that can avoid radar and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads, the military said Friday.
Gen. Hossein Salami, the air force chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards, did not specify the missile's range, saying it depends on the weight of its warheads.

But state-run television described the weapon as "ballistic" — suggesting it's of comparable range to Iran's existing ballistic rocket, which can travel 1,250 miles and reach arch-foe Israel and U.S. bases in the Middle East.

"Today, a remarkable goal of the Islamic Republic of Iran's defense forces was realized with the successful test-firing of a new missile with greater technical and tactical capabilities than those previously produced," Salami said on state-run television.

It showed a clip of the launch of what it called the Fajr-3, with "fajr" meaning "victory" in Farsi.

"It can avoid anti-missile missiles and strike the target," Salami said.

He said the missile would carry a multiple warhead, and each warhead would be capable of hitting its target precisely.

Plus stories from Reuters, Iran Focus, and a longer version of the AP story with this endearingly capitalistic passage:

Meanwhile, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani said Iran is willing to sell the weapons it produces at competitive prices.

Addressing tens of thousands of worshippers at Friday prayers in Tehran University, Rafsanjani said the country's 1980-88 war with Iraq had made it self-reliant in armaments.

"Today, our military requirements -- from jet fighters to bullets -- can be produced inside the country," he said.

"We can provide low-priced weapons to many countries," he added.

And then there was an earthquake that leveled three villages. Meanwhile, the Strategy Page suggests that the Iranians want us to bomb them. And ThreatsWatch publishes a piece on how the lack of specifics on the missile tested is leading to "wild speculation."

SafariScreenSnapz024

April 1st, 2006

No new tests seem to have taken place on April 1st. (Or perhaps something was tested, but without the desired results.) The New York Times publishes its story on the first test, though it contains little that wasn't in the wire stories. More stories about the first test continue to appear. By evening there are competing stories about whether of not there are secret meetings in the UK  to plan strikes against Iran (the Telegraph & the BBC).

April 2nd, 2006

The Washington Post runs a widely quoted story by Dana Priest, Attacking Iran May Trigger Terrorism

As tensions increase between the United States and Iran, U.S. intelligence and terrorism experts say they believe Iran would respond to U.S. military strikes on its nuclear sites by deploying its intelligence operatives and Hezbollah teams to carry out terrorist attacks worldwide.

Iran would mount attacks against U.S. targets inside Iraq, where Iranian intelligence agents are already plentiful, predicted these experts. There is also a growing consensus that Iran's agents would target civilians in the United States, Europe and elsewhere, they said.

U.S. officials would not discuss what evidence they have indicating Iran would undertake terrorist action, but the matter "is consuming a lot of time" throughout the U.S. intelligence apparatus, one senior official said. "It's a huge issue," another said.

A story in the Korea Times remarks,

Washington has difficulty concentrating on North Korea's nuclear issue as it has more urgent tasks stemming from Iran and Iraq, Chun Yung-woo, Seoul's top envoy to the six-party talks, said in Seoul on Sunday.

"Washington's top-level officials have other high-priority issues such as those from Iran and Iraq," he said. "So it might be difficult for them to focus on North Korea. But it doesn't necessarily mean that they forgot the North Korean nuclear issue."

IN the late morning (EDT), the Associated Press reports a second missile test:

Iran conducted its second major test of a new missile within days on Sunday, firing a high-speed torpedo it said no submarine or warship can escape at a time of increased tensions with the U.S. over its nuclear program.

The tests came during war games that Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have been holding in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea since Friday..

On the maneuvers' first day, Iran said it successfully tested the Fajr-3 missile, which can avoid radar and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads..

The new torpedo, called the "Hoot," or "whale," could raise concerns over Iran's power in the Gulf, a vital corridor for the world's oil supplies and where the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet is based. During Iran's war with Iraq in the 1980s, Iranian ships attacked oil tankers in the Gulf, and Iran and the U.S. military engaged in limited clashes..

Iran's state television stopped its normal programs to break news of the torpedo test, showing it being launched from a ship into the Gulf waters, then hitting its target, a derelict ship..

Gen. Ali Fadavi, deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards' navy, said the ships that fire the Iranian-made Hoot had radar-evading technology and that the torpedo - moving at 223 miles per hour - was too fast to elude..

"It has a very powerful warhead designed to hit big submarines. Even if enemy warship sensors identify the missile, no warship can escape from this missile because of its high speed," Fadavi told state television..

The Hoot's speed would make it about three or four times faster than a normal torpedo and as fast as the world's fastest known underwater missile, the Russian-made VA-111 Shkval, developed in 1995. It was not immediately known if the Hoot was based on the Shkval.

Reuters chimes in shortly thereafter, and later there are reports by IRNA and Iran Focus (which has footage of the test).

SafariScreenSnapz029

Which brings us to today, April 3rd, 2006

IRNA published some early-morning sabre-rattling: Iran firmly responds to any attack: Military official; plus a video of the first test was made public, again released by Iran Focus. The New York Times gets around to reporting on the second test, as does the Chicago Tribune. And the maneuvers and missile tests are featured on ABC's Good Morning America, during the course of which Richard Clarke remarks that Iran's terrorism networks make "al Qaeda look like a Kindergarten" but pointedly refrains from remarking on what these missiles might be for (at least in the clip I saw).

Time for the next test! Shortly before noon, Eastern Time, Reuters reported a third test: Iran test fires new torpedo in shipping zone.

Iran test fired a new torpedo in the Strait of Hormuz off its south coast, the world's main nexus for shipping oil, state television reported on Monday.

Iran rarely gives enough details of its military hardware for analysts to determine whether Tehran is making genuine advances or simply producing defiant propaganda while pressure ratchets up on its nuclear program.

Although Iran can draw on huge manpower, its naval and air force technology is largely dismissed as outmoded.

"Revolutionary Guard naval forces a few minutes ago test fired a powerful torpedo in the Strait of Hormuz. This torpedo is capable of destroying enemy warships and submarines at any depth and moving at any speed," state television said.

The test comes in the middle of Gulf wargames that started on Friday. Iran earlier in the wargames said it had tested a radar-evading missile and an underwater missile that can outpace enemy warships.

And from the AP: Iran Says It Has Tested Another Torpedo

The torpedo can target submarines at any depth and is powerful enough to "break a heavy warship" in two, a spokesman for Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Mohammad Ebrahim Dehghani, told state television. He did not announce the name of the new torpedo or give details on its speed or range.

On Sunday, Iran announced it had tested a different torpedo, the new high-speed "Hoot," which means "whale." It moves at up to 223 mph, and Iran said it was too fast for any enemy ship to elude.

Not long after that, the AP released this story: Blix: Iran Years Away From Nuclear Bomb

OSLO, Norway - Former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said Monday that Iran is a least five years away from developing a nuclear bomb, leaving time to peacefully negotiate a settlement.

Blix, attending an energy conference in western Norway, said he doubted the U.S. would resort to invading Iran.

"But there is a chance that the U.S. will use bombs or missiles against several sites in Iran," he was quoted by Norwegian news agency NTB as saying. "Then, the reactions would be strong, and would contribute to increased terrorism."

Iran's WargamesAND, most recently, Reuters released an expanded version of their story, complete with a link to a video having to do with the third test. I think someone is getting the hang of this game. And even Scientific American has ventured a comment on the proceedings.

I just wish the stakes weren't so high.

Conclusion

I wish I had an easy answer, that I could finish a sentence that begins Why don't we just . . . The only right way to end the sentence right now seems to me  . . . be very very careful.

Continue reading "Iran Maneuvers: Of Missile Tests & "Salami Tactics"" »


Forthcoming screenings of Shadow Company

From Nick Bacanic of Purpose Films:

Two sets of screenings to announce and some quick news.

1. HOTdocs Toronto - North America's premier
documentary film festival - "Shadow Company" screens twice

Screening #1: May 1st 8:30pm - Bloor Cinema
Screening #2: May 5th 11:30pm - Bloor Cinema

The director of the film (that is, me) will also  be speaking on a filmmaking panel earlier that  day about the making of "Shadow Company" (time to be determined) If you are a morning person you can also catch  Alan Bell and me on Canada AM (CTV) at 7:45am -  as well as a guest appearance on "The Hour" a one-hour CBC chat show that should make for some interesting discussion.

2. Boston Independent Film Festival - for those of you in New England the screening times are

Screening #1: April 21st 2006, 10:00pm, Somerville 2
Screening #2: April 22nd 2006, 12:45pm, Somerville 3

3. Washington DC screenings - locations/dates are  not confirmed yet but a number of non-governmental organisations (as well as members of the US government) have approached us about screening the film - so we will definitely be going ahead with a screening and a detailed Q&A in DC as soon as it's practical to organise the event and the invite list.

A review from the Toronto Star is below the cut.

Continue reading "Forthcoming screenings of Shadow Company" »