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March 2006

Guam Airport Chief LOVES Manila

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

From Marinas Variety -- "Micornesia's leading newspaper since 1972" -- this bit of high comedy. It took me a moment to get a sense of whether they were making this up, since it does so have the flavor of The Onion. I think this is for real, and  there is an accompanying story with a more serious tone. The context of this, for those who have not been following it, is that an investigation is underway to determine who planted unauthorized spying equipment (listening devices and hidden cameras) in the customs inspection areas of the Guam airport: Guam airport chief loves Manila

The executive manager of Guam International Airport Authority on Wednesday admitted traveling frequently to Manila for his weekend “rejuvenation.”

“I don’t like Manila, I love Manila,” GIAA general manager Jess Torres told this reporter. “I do not have anything to hide. I don’t like going to Philippines — I love going to Philippines. I need it for relaxation and I am entitled to that.”

When asked why he loves the city, Torres said besides shopping Manila also has “many beautiful girls.”

According to Torres it is “therapeutic” for him to be in Manila’s Ermita district every weekend because he can do everything he wants and he gets the pampering he needs.

I can get my manicure, pedicure and hair coloring in very affordable prices, and yes I love shopping at Robinson’s Galleria, walk along Malate and enjoy the warm hospitality of my Filipino friends. Would you believe that I am more familiar with the nooks and crannies of Manila than of the island?” Torres said.

He said the pass rider or buddy pass he has been using was provided to him by an employee of Continental Micronesia married to his nephew Fred Tupaz, the airport’s contractual consultant.

“It was offered to me by my niece — I never coerced her and it is her discretion whether she wants to use it or give it to a relative and it just happened that she extended it to me,” Torres said. . . .

Despite these criticisms, Torres said he is already looking forward to his next trip to Manila.

“I would love to go back to Manila again. After our meetings about our expansion projects and various improvement programs I will definitely get my break — anyway I deserve it,” Torres said.

The Office of the Public Auditor sees things a little differently, as recounted in the other story on the Marinas Varity site: OPA joins probe on airport manager’s travels

THE Office of the Public Auditor will conduct its own investigation on the frequent travels of Guam International Airport Authority general manager Jesse Q. Torres to determine whether he violated ethical standards.

Torres traveled 16 times to Manila, Philippines from February 2005 to January 2006 on Continental Airlines using a buddy pass extended to him by a Continental employee named Ana Tupaz, the wife of Fred Tupaz who is Torres’ nephew and works as an airport contractual consultant.

Public Auditor Doris Brooks said the OPA investigation was prompted by the Attorney General’s Office’s request for actions on the report that Torres has been traveling on Continental Airlines using the buddy pass of the airport vendor’s employee.

Attorney General Douglas Moylan, in a two-page letter to the public auditor, cited the Guam Procurement Law which prohibits kickbacks, gratuities, gifts and favors of any kind up to a value of $200 a year.

The law, according to Moylan, states that it shall be a “breach of ethical standards for any person who is a contractor or any person associated with, to offer, give or agree to give any employee or agent of the territory or for any employee or agent of the territory to solicit or accept for any such person or entity or agent thereof, a favor or gratuity on behalf of the territory whether or not such favor or gratuity may be considered a reimbursable expense of the territory.”

Hard to tell from this distance whether the airport manager's trips to Manila will tie into the investigation of who it was that was spying on US customs inspectors, but it certainly is suggestive!

MEANWHILE, the Philippines seems to have a customs scandal of its own, which I have just begun to try to parse. From the Manila Standard Today: Smuggling is rampant — Customs

BUREAU of Customs (BoC) officials admitted that the smuggling of shabu and other drugs into the country remains rampant.

Customs enforcement and security service chief Nestorio Gualberto told Standard Today that shabu coming from so-called high-risk countries such as China is rampant.

Gualberto explained that aside from China, other high-risk countries include Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Thailand and several African countries where the use and distribution of heroin and opiate are widespread.

Because of this, Malacañang has ordered the BoC to intensify its campaign against drug smuggling following reports that the United States State Department tagged the Philippines “drug smuggler’s paradise.”

According to BoC legal service director Reynaldo Umali, however, the agency is doing its best to curb the illegal entry of drugs and other shipments. . . .

For his part, acting Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales said his personnel are under a heightened alert status and are closely monitoring all shipments and cargo coming from these high-risk countries after the bureau received an intelligence report stipulating that a drug syndicate is attempting to bring in large shipment of drugs in the guise of candles.

Morales said all cargo and baggage coming from these countries will be placed under surveillance. He assured that smuggling will be prevented since the agency is equipped with advanced detection systems.

There is also this interesting piece from journel.com.ph in the Pilippines: Why Customs lose billions

SMUGGLING lord Samuel Uy Lee uses nine importer firms and eight Customs brokers to cheat the government of billions of pesos in badly-needed Customs revenues yearly.

And if there's truth to reports gathered by the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group that Lee has been operating in the Port of Manila since the 1990s, Customs revenue losses could even reach several billions of pesos, according to Roger S. Santos, national president of the 300,000-member Citizens Anti-Crime Assistance Group (CAAG).

According to government estimates, the Bureau of Customs loses some P100 billion in yearly revenue leakages.

As this developed, hundreds of Customs personeros (brokers'  representatives) yesterday expressed dismay over the excessive red tape in the POM formal entry division saying that their import documents are consumption import entries and that they are willing to pay the correct duties and taxes prior to the release of their goods.

''Buhat ng mabulgar ang smuggling ni Samuel Uy Lee, pati kami ay pinapahirapan ng mga taga-assessment division kahit binabayaran naming ang tama ang tarifa," said the Customs personeros, who expressed fears that it would now take them two to three weeks to have their goods released from the piers, instead of the usual five days.

They called on Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales to immediately attend to their complaints.

Also yesterday, President Macapagal-Arroyo made a surprise visit to the Manila South Harbor to personally commend Commissioner Morales for checking the  smuggling activities of Samuel Uy Lee, who was apprehended by a  CIDG team under Chief Supt. Jesus A. Versoza for alleged illegal diversion of three container vans of untaxed resin shipment to an enduser.

Santos furnished the Journal Group a three-page official Customs document listing the nine importer firms and eight Customs brokers being used by the smuggling lord.

Santos identified the nine firms as Can Walk Commercial, importer of used chasis assembly and used aluminum frame; 2) Pacific strait Enterprises, importer of used auto engine spare parts; 3) Goldsam Enterprises Inc., importer of used automotive parts; 4) Liontex Enterprises Inc. importer of frozen dough and assorted products; 5) White River Concepts Co., Inc, importer of gypsum powder and chemicals; 6) Qualitex Garments Inc., importer of poly bags, textiles and garment accessory products; 7) Wellknit Impex Mfg. Corp., importer of packaging materials and accessories; 8) Asia Clothing Co., Inc, importer of textiles, packaging materials and clothing accessories; and 9) Capital Garment Corp., importer of textiles and garment accessories.

Based on Santos' papers, the smuggling lord uses the following Customs brokers, namely 1) Jade Bros Freight Int'l Inc. 2) MS Misual Customs Brokerage, 3) Global Logistics 22 Customs Service, 4) Marcelo D. Laylo Customs Brokerage, 5) Harbor Link Brokerage Services, 6) Allblanc Customs Brokerage, 7) Elitsped Services Inc. and 8) Mark Davies Int'l Corp. . . .

But the manner of approval made on the 59 questioned import entries is highly irregular because the same were merely subjected to the so-called table examination. In plain language, according to an insider, not a single container van consigned to Lee's firms had been opened for ocular Customs examination as required by law. . . .

Customs insiders said Samuel Lee's protectors and fixers include media people who ape hard-hitting broadcasters and columnists.


Kuwait Dabbling in Allowing Foreign Investment: I Wonder What This Machine Does

Kuwait, which has strict controls on foreign investment, especially in its oil industry, has in the past few years begun to open the door a little to foreign investors in the form of something called Project Kuwait:

In March 2001, Kuwait's national assembly passed the "Foreign Direct Investment Act," which aimed at promoting foreign investment. Among other things, the Act eased restrictions on foreign banks, provided long-term protection to foreign investors against nationalization or confiscation, and eliminated the requirement for foreign companies to have a Kuwaiti sponsor or partner. In the oil sector, the Kuwaiti constitution forbids foreign ownership of Kuwait's mineral resources, but the Kuwaiti government is exploring allowing foreign investment in upstream oil development under terms . . . which provide for per-barrel fees to the foreign firms rather than traditional production sharing agreements (PSA's). The Kuwaiti government is currently making an attempt to enact legislation to facilitate foreign investment in the upstream oil sector, as part of its "Project Kuwait" initiative to boost production capacity. The Kuwaiti parliament is expected to act on the proposed legislation sometime in 2005.  . . .

"Project Kuwait" is a $7 billion, 25-year plan, first formulated in 1997 by the SPC, to increase the country's oil production (and to help compensate for declines at the mature Burgan field), with the help of international oil companies (IOCs). In particular, Kuwait aims to increase output at five northern oil fields -- Abdali, Bahra, Ratqa, Raudhatain, and Sabriya (Kuwait's third largest field) -- from their current rate of around 650,000 bbl/d to 900,000 bbl/d within three years. Project Kuwait has been repeatedly delayed, however, due to political opposition and resistance from nationalists and Islamists in parliament to the idea of allowing foreign companies into the country's oil sector. Legislation which would facilitate Project Kuwait has been introduced again in the Kuwaiti parliament in early 2005. The bill was approved by the Finance and Economic Committee in June 2005, but with amendments limiting its scope to four of the five fields, excluding Bahra. Final action on the bill by the full parliament is still pending, but is expected by the end of 2005.

In February 2003, KPC completed a draft contract and proposed financial terms for Project Kuwait. There are three major consortia competing for the project, led by: 1) ChevronTexaco (along with Total, PetroCanada, Sibneft and Sinopec); 2) ExxonMobil (along with Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Maersk); and 3) BP (along with Occidental, ONGC/Indian Oil Corp.). Reportedly, KPC prefers to have three groups working under three separate IBBCs: one for Raudhatain and Sabriya (the largest IBBC); one for Ratqa, Bahra and Abdali; and one for Minagish and Umm Gudair. Currently, foreign companies like BP, Shell, and ChevronTexaco operate in Kuwait strictly under service contracts (SCs).

Alexander's Gas & Oil Connection (2003) has more detail:

One consortium is led by US major ChevronTexaco, which is the operator and has a 50 % stake. France's Total is the second operator and has a 20 % stake. The consortium's non-operating partners are PetroCanada, Sibneft and Sinopec, each having a 10 % stake.

A second consortium is led by the UK's BP as operator with a 65 % stake, and includes the US' Occidental Petroleum and India's Indian Oil Corporation as non-operators. A third consortium is led by US major ExxonMobil as first operator with a 37.5 % stake. Shell is the consortium's second operator with a 32.5 % stake. US firm ConocoPhillips and Denmark's Maersk are non-operating participants.

I think it's really sweet how they're spreading the love around the member countries of the UN Security Council! For example, group number one includes: Chevron (US), Total (France), Petro-Canada (Canada), Sibneft (Russia), & Sinopec (China). As Henry Kissinger said, power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

This distribution sounds, well, a little familiar: From the Timesonline, 2004: Saddam ‘bought UN allies’ with oil

The UN oil-for-food scheme was set up in 1995 to allow Iraq to sell controlled amounts of oil to raise money for humanitarian supplies. However, the leaked report reveals Saddam systematically abused the scheme, using it to buy “political influence” throughout the world.

The former Iraqi regime was in effect free to “allocate” oil to whom it wished. Dozens of private individuals were given oil at knockdown prices. They were able to nominate recognised traders to buy the cheap oil from the Iraqi state oil firm and sell it for a personal profit.

The report says oil was given to key countries: “The regime gave priority to Russia, China and France. This was because they were permanent members of, and hence had the ability to influence decisions made by, the UN Security Council. The regime . . . allocated ‘private oil’ to individuals or political parties that sympathised in some way with the regime.”

The report also details how the regime benefited by arranging illegal “kickbacks” from oil sales.

From September 2000, it is said Saddam made $228m (£127m) from kickbacks deposited in accounts across the Middle East. The analysis details only the export of oil — not the import of humanitarian supplies, also alleged to have been riddled with corruption.

So here we see that same UN Security Council buy-off pattern. Interesting. So what's up?

This 2003 article, Kuwait will not Benefit form Foreign Investment in the Northern Fields Even if an Agreement with Iraq is Reached, argues that the purpose of Project Kuwait is not the additional capacity that will be generated, but rather that it is driven by "political consideration."

Kuwait may not benefit from allowing foreign investment in its upstream oil industry because it does not need the additional capacity, especially at a time when Kuwait is trimming its production along with other OPEC members to increase oil prices. Recently, Kuwait called on OPEC members to extend production cuts beyond September 2002 and lobbied successfully to prevent OPEC from increasing its quota. In a recent speech, Nader Sultan, the CEO of KPC, declared that Kuwait will invest in extra capacity only if there is a demand for it. He insisted that investment in extra capacity must be justified by the return on investment; otherwise funds will be directed toward more profitable investments. When OPEC is cutting output, there is no justification for more investment to increase capacity. This conclusion gives even more weight to the previous conclusion that "Project Kuwait" is based mostly on political considerations.

So, just what are the politics of this? Whatever the answer turns out to be, it is likely to be complex, as this 2004 article explains: Scheme to expand Kuwait's oil production likely to cause stir

One of the most heated debates is likely to be on the fate of a scheme proposed by the government to expand production from oilfields in the far north of the country, close to the Iraqi border. On the face of it, this does not seem to be high on the list of controversial subjects that have tend to raise the blood pressure of certain Kuwaiti MPs (like demands that women should be given the vote, for example). But when one points out that the scheme has been on the drawing board since 1998, it becomes clear right away that the proposals are far from straightforward.

The question now is whether the government will succeed this time, having failed thus far in separating the project - known as Project Kuwait - from the complex web of the nation's internal politics. In other words, will it be able to win the National Assembly's support for a venture which it insists is essential for the country's future and which most MPs say is either unnecessary or politically unacceptable.

The authorities are determined to push ahead regardless. An indication of their determination was the recent creation of a post on the board of the state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) dedicated to the northern oilfields scheme.

ITPBusiness.net (2005) suggests that Project Kuwait may be a way off, in effect, allowing Kuwait the use of the military capacity of the participating countries:

Some analysts, however, think it is the government astutely playing geopolitics: let foreign oil prospectors go digging along the border, and should Iraqi tanks rumble over their wells, the majors’ governments will hear their cries and run to Kuwait’s defense.

Despite the controversial nature of Project Kuwait, it seems to have survived the death of one of its key supporters, Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah.

Kuwait's government is trying to push through parliament the $8.5 billion Project Kuwait, involving multinationals to upgrade four major northern oilfields to help boost its output capacity.

"The country has set a long-term oil strategy which will not change. It is committed to increasing production capacity to meet the needs of the oil markets," Baghli said.

"Project Kuwait will eventually pass after parliament adds the legal touches and some regulatory restrictions on the government," he said.

Several MPs have objected to the plan in its current form, and the parliament is due to hold a special session on January 23 to discuss the long-awaited project, which has been under discussion since the early 1990s.

As of last week Kuwait's Energy Minister Shaikh Ahmad Fahd Al Sabah said top ministry executives will meet with audit bureau officials to 'reach an understanding on the issue':

Kuwaiti MPs and the government have discussed legal and financial objections to a controversial $8.5 billion oil investment in which foreign oil majors would participate.

Objections to the legal framework and financial details had been raised by the audit bureau, the state accounting watchdog, prompting MPs in December to withdraw a report on the long-stalled project preventing its debate in parliament.

The head of parliament's financial and economic affairs committee MP Ahmad Baqer, a former justice minister, said the panel asked the bureau to prepare a fresh report based on new information sent by the energy ministry.

The report will be assessed by the committee after three weeks when it would probably take a final decision on the investment which has been opposed by more than 20 MPs of the 50-member parliament.

Energy Minister Shaikh Ahmad Fahd Al Sabah, who attended the meeting, said top ministry executives will meet with audit bureau officials to 'reach an understanding on the issue.'

'We will study the bureau's comments on the project ... and could accept some of them to make the necessary changes,' Shaikh Ahmad said.

Eight and a half billion dollars, hmm? I think they'll reach an understanding.

UPDATE: Via Mountain Runner, I happened across this Knight Ridder news story: Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports. Why would the Administration want to reduce Mideast oil imports when Kuwait is ready to cut our oil companies such a deal?!?


Guam: Customs working to identify who authorized installation of surveillance equipment

From KUAM.com:

Guam Customs and Quarantine officials are trying to follow the paper trial and determine who authorized the installation of listening devices at the agency's screening area in the Guam International Airport. On Wednesday Airport executive general manager Jesus Torres confirmed the Airport received an aviation security grant for additional cameras after 9/11.

Officials have yet to figure out why listening devices were installed at the Customs screening area. Customs chief Ralph Sgambelluri says the investigation so far has revealed that local company Sunny Electronics was contracted to install the devices.

Officials have not said how much was paid, who authorized the installation, or where the devices were transmitting.

I just love how insecurity is the Doppelganger of the post 9/11 security fetish. While of course the whole customs surviellance story is worrisome, there's something aesthetically satisfying about this duality, reminiscent of what we used to focus on when I was a grad student studing 19th century German Romanticism. It's, like sooo ETA Hoffman.


Secure Computing: Fulfilling a Wish for the Censor

189015919001_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_I bought a book this morning for Secure Computing's  SmartFilter censor Tomo Foote-Lennox and videotaped the experience. I was Googling his name to see if my posts mentioning him had been indexed by Google, and I made an interesting discovery.

I noticed that there was a link to a review he'd posted on Amazon and I decided to learn a little more about his tastes, which are apparently very interesting. As it turned out, he'd only ever reviewed that one item.

But he did have a Wish List, which I did have a look at. While it contained only two items, I decided to grant one of his two wishes and buy him a copy of The Mistress Manual: The Good Girl's Guide to Female Dominance, which he had listed. I decided I would buy it for him, and I would videotape myself fulfilling his wish, and then I would blog it.

Imovie_hdscreensnapz001_1My sexual quirk is that I am turned on by intellectual excitement; specifically, I find ferreting out weird facts and then acting upon them sexully exciting. One of Tomo Foote-Lennox's many quirks seems to be masochism. And so the act of publicly fulfilling this wish for him is an odd species of Internet sexual act: a moment is which he and I -- who otherwise would be quite incompatible -- have a strange moment of resonance. I very much enjoyed blowing nineteen bucks to publicly buy him the book he said he wanted; I hope he enjoys receiving it just as much. I made sure Amazon wrapped his present.

I tried uploading the video to YouTube, but it isn't uploading. So probably I need to go back and re-edit to make it shorter. I'll let you know when it's up.

Shifting back into my usual social persona, I want to say that the problem with a fetishist playing censor for millions of people is that the fetsishist's gaze is a sexualizing one, and so much material which is not inherently smut will look dirty to someone viewing the world through that lens. I had an unsatisfactory correspondence with Tomo on the subject of what material about breastfeeding would make it through their censorship. Many things I could do in the lunchroom of my son's elementary school or in broad daylight on the streets of NYC would not have made it. I find this unacceptable, and I attribute part of the problem to the point of view (and arrogance) Tomo brings to the issue.

UPDATE: This Domini person thinks I've been bad, very bad. He thinks that I should have called Tomo to ask — "hey Tomo, do you want me to buy you the Mistress Manual?" — rather than turning a loaded credit card on him. (When Tomo responds to my most recent email message to him, maybe I'll ask. But I don't think he's speaking to me right now.) I gotta say that the credit card purchase, Amazon order # 102-9375069-1924901, is leaving an awfully nice paper trail to Maple Grove, Minnestota.  (Hmm, has Domini go a problem with my lifestyle as a dominant female blogger?)


Find Out How Your Site Rates on SmartFilter

If you've been wondering how to find out what SmartFilter thinks of your site and the sites you regularly read, here's how to find out what their censors think of you and your reading habits: the SmartFilterWhere URL Checker:

Finderscreensnapz001
I love the stock-art lady wit the curls in their graphic. What is she finding so fascinating on the screen? Has she perhaps found something they missed in their attempts to sanitize the web?


Guam Airport Spying Update

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

From KAUM.com: Public funds will determine who's monitoring GIAA's monitors

Thousands of dollars in taxpayers money will now be used to determine exactly who was monitoring the monitors at the Guam International Airport Authority. Through its preliminary investigation, the agency's executive manager, Jess Torres, confirms it was the Airport that paid for the installation of the security cameras by way of an aviation security grant after 9/11.

It was done so for added security measures by Pacific Security Alarm. Although he hasn't totaled up exactly how much was spent on installing the security devices, Torres estimates tens of thousands were spent. The preliminary investigation also revealed that one particular camera led straight to Torres' office. When asked how he felt knowing the monitors were monitoring one of the biggest monitors - himself - Torres stated he has nothing to hide.

"I feel deeply concerned because for all I know, even my office was bugged," he shared. "But then again on a personal basis, if they were trying to zero in on me to listen to my conversation, they are welcome to do that. If they want to photograph me on how I do my business, they are welcome to that because I have nothing to hide."

What "bugs" Torres is the idea of bugging him without his knowledge. But then again, we're back to the question of what's wrong with having monitors monitor the monitors. (After all, even the monitors need monitoring.)

Consequently, GIAA hired the team of Pacific Security Alarm and private investigator Greg Hall at a price tag that Torres says should not exceed $25,000 and should not take more than about two weeks to settle. Torres says the $25,000 that taxpayers will have to shell out will determine "where these wires are going to, who's listening to them, if they are indeed listening to them. If some of these cameras are still active or the listening devices because I'm not in the position to make that determination."


Kenya Roundup: With Press Freedom Under Seige, the Kenyan Government Hires an Ad Agency to Educate the Public about Corruption

A lot was happening yesterday with Kenya and the aftermath of the media raids, and I didn't really get a chance to get a look at what was up. So here goes:

The Independent, Saatchi hired to help Kenya's 'war on corruption'. Oh, what amazing timing. Oh my goodness you just can't make this stuff up.

The Kenyan government has hired the Saatchi and Saatchi advertising agency to handle its nationwide anti-corruption campaign.

President Mwai Kibaki launched the country's anti-corruption campaign in Nairobi last month. It began with the creation of a logo - an eye with a tiny Kenyan flag superimposed on the pupil - and a catchphrase which urges people to "see Kenya through proud eyes".

Saatchi says it envisions a campaign stretching over three years. The first phase aims to "change mindsets" and the second will show how corruption affects everybody. A third - as yet undefined phase - is expected to be "more positive" and will be launched sometime in 2008.

Saatchi's creative director, Samira Mathews, said one of the problems in Kenya was that people did not know how to identify corruption. "People have no idea that identity documents and birth certificates are freely available. They don't know their rights," she said.

Part of Saatchi's approach will be to try to mobilise people into acting against corruption. Cathrine Kinyany, a spokeswoman for Saatchi and Saatchi in Kenya, said: "We need to demonstrate the cost of corruption by saying these are the roads we could drive on, this is the building we could have, this is what our schools could look like. There must be a clear demonstration of the success of the campaign to keep people believing in the value of honesty."

However, the launch of the campaign comes at a time when the Kenyan government is embroiled in a series of corruption scandals.

From the Financial Times, World Bank anger over Kenya raid:

The World Bank's top official in Kenya said yesterday that a police raid on a leading media group was inexcusable, adding that the unprecedented media crackdown could affect relations between donors and the government.

Colin Bruce, the bank's country director, told the Financial Times the bank was waiting for an explanation for last Thursday's night raid on the Standard Group, which forced a tele-vision station off the air for more than 12 hours.

"I recognise there have been statements made about internal intelligence and matters of that sort, but frankly I cannot think of a scenario under which that kind of action as it turned out can be excused," Mr Bruce said. "It's very serious, and in fact we are awaiting an explanation . . . and it could in fact affect that relationship [with the donors]."

From African News Dimension: Central Bank Boss could face corruption charges

The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission has completed investigations on Central Bank governor Andrew Mullei over corruption allegations and asked the Attorney-General to take action against him.

It means Dr Mullei could face court charges arising from allegations concerning his management, which had caused a major split between the Treasury and the Central Bank Board.

"We did receive some complaints, allegations, which we did investigate some time back," Mr Nicholas Simani, the spokesman of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) told reporters.

"We came up with specific recommendations, which we forwarded to the Attorney-General for appropriate action," he added but refused to divulge details of the recommendations.

Mr Mullei is at the centre of a series of allegations raised in an anonymous letter by staff, which were first raised in May last year. The Treasury, which sits on the bank board, took exception to the way the complaints, were handled by other directors and suggested there was a risk of a cover-up.

IOL: Angry Kenyans swarm through streets in hordes

Nairobi - Thousands of angry Kenyans, including prominent opposition politicians, paraded through Nairobi on Tuesday protesting last week's police heavy-handed raid on the country's second largest media group.

More than 2 000 people took part in the demonstration organised by opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), a coalition of parties opposed to President Mwai Kibaki, and poured scorn on last Thursday's raid, which saw a Standard Group's printing press damaged, thousands of newspapers burnt and its television station taken off the air for several hours.

"We are demonstrating in order to protect press freedom in Kenya. Press freedom in Kenya is under siege," former roads minister and ODM leader told the crowd that had gathered outside Kibaki's office.

And from Flickr, a photo of the March 2nd raid on the East African Standard taken by Fredrick Onyango:

The caption reads:

Standard newspaper employee run past copies of the newsprint bundles ready for distribution as he flee from the security personnel called the "Kanga Squad" which raided the printing plant and destroyed copies of newsprint that was to be circulated to the public the next day. The squad destroyed newsprint worth millions of shillings and switched of a television station owned by the standard media group.


Secure Computing: My Letter to Paxworld

This is part of a series on Secure Computing and SmartFilter.

I just sent the following letter to Anita Green, V.P. for Social Research at Paxworld, a socially responsible mutual fund with significant investments in Secure Computing (SCUR):

Dear Anita Green:

I am writing to express concern about one of the companies in the Paxworld Balanced Fund's portfolio, Secure Computing (SCUR). While I am not one of Paxworld's investors, I support the general philosophy of companies like yours. I am an investor in the New Alternatives Fund which emphasizes alternative energy.

I have several concerns about the SCUR. Chief among these is that it is my understanding that they are licensing their censorship software, SmartFilter, to the oppressive governments of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Tunisia.  It really ought to be illegal for them to export content restriction software to governments that restrict freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It isn't yet, but this practice should be strongly discouraged on human rights grounds.

Secondly, this same software has been licensed to the US Military and is in use controlling what military personnel and security contractors can read overseas. If all they were filtering out was hardcore porn, that would be one thing. But their filtering is much more expansive and includes, for example, the popular weblog BoingBoing which no reasonable person would consider smut. Also there seems to be a political bias to which sites are available for viewing and which are not. And the company seems to have a very aggressive idea of what constitutes pornography and nudity. I had a very unsatisfactory correspondence with Tomo Foote-Lennox of Secure Computing yesterday about what kinds of depictions of breastfeeding might make it through their filters, for example. Mr. Foote-Lennox seems to have a very sexualized concept of the mother infant relationship which bears some examination in light of the censorship power he exercises and his claims that he is protecting the interests of children.

I would like to encourage you to consider divesting Paxworld of their SCUR holdings.

Sincerely,

Kathryn Cramer

I suppose I should also have mentioned SCUR's unsubstantiated claims in their 2004 report about various domains hosting vast troves of porn but I didn't want to go on too long.

 


Secure Computing, Smart Filter, & the Female Breast

MbThis is part of a series on Secure Computing and SmartFilter. The image to the right is via the Got BreastMilk? Project.

Following the New York Times story Popular Web Site Falls Victim to a Content Filter, concerning Secure Computing's product SmartFilter blocking BoingBoing,  I wrote the following letter to Tomo Foote-Lennox, of Secure Computing, who is apparently the guy in charge of deciding what is smut and what isn't. He claims to be a defender of the interests of children:

In an e-mail message to Xeni Jardin, another of Boing Boing's chiefs, Tomo Foote-Lennox, a director of filtering data for Secure Computing, asked why the bloggers were starting a war. "We discussed several ways that you could organize your site so that I could protect the kids and you could distribute all the information you wanted," Mr. Foote-Lennox wrote.

One of the BoingBoing posts that Secure Computing used to justify classifying involved a shot showing a cat attempting to nurse on a woman's breast: Japanese TV show about cat that loves human milk. The image was very blurry and involved less actual nudity than your average shot of an Oscar-night dress. As a very experienced nursing mother, my hunch was that nursing, not an interspecies relationship, nor the expanse of cleavage, was at issue. So I wrote to Secure Computing's Censor-in-Chief to ask about this issue.

Nursing_1Regular readers of this blog are aware that I write with some frequency about breastfeeding issues, and may even be aware that when BBC Radio needed a Representative of American Womanhood to talk about nursing in public, they picked me. I have spent hundreds of hours nursing in public and have nursed on most major airlines and even nursed from the podium while doing public speaking. This is not a political stance, but rather a matter of pure practicality. The BBC pitted me against a man who said over and over that Public nudity is not socially acceptable, in the context of arguing that a nursing mother (Margaret Boyle-White) who refused to stop when confronted by UK police should have been arrested. I was followed on the program by Scottish MP Elaine Smith, who had introduced the bill recently passed at the time of the program making it an offense to stop mothers breastfeeding in public. (Preventing a woman from breastfeeding is already illegal in the State of New York.)

So I wrote the following letter to Foote-Lennox, to try to tease out whether what I suspected was true:

Dear Thom Foote-Lennox:

I am writing to express concern about your remarks concerning BoingBoing in the New York Times. As a long time BoingBoing reader, I am quite certain that it is by no stretch of the imagination a porn site. But I am also a nursing mother, so I am also concerned about what exactly causes you and your company to draw the conclusion the the nursing cat post was porn.

Nursing is not a sexual act. While there exist adults who sexualize children and the activities of children such as nursing, that is not what is going on in that image. The nursing cat seems to me simply a stand-in for a breast pump. Breast engorgement is a real phenomenon and dealing with it is a practical, not a sexual problem.

So what exactly about the nursing cat is sexual?

Sincerely,

Kathryn Cramer
Pleasantville, New York

He replied:

We never called it porn.  We have categories for pornography, but we rated this as nudity.  Some of our customers want to limit the viewing of nude pictures in their schools or offices.  We give them the ability to make that choice.

- Tomo

I wrote back:

So a site that, say, depicted public breast feeding would make your list as nudity?

Kathryn

He replied:

Look at our categories on our web site.  Medical diagrams (women nursing cats on television don't count) are rated as nudity if they are explicit, but also as health, educational or consumer information.  Many elementary schools choose to block all nudity, but high schools usually exempt health and education, meaning if it is health or education, you ignore any other category it may have.

- Tomo

I wrote back:

You are aware that in some countries where women are not even allowed to expose their faces in public, it is socially acceptable for women to bare their breasts to feed their infants, yes?

K

It strikes me when I read his replies that, first of all, my basic intuition is correct. It was exposing the human breast in the context of nursing that was perceived as sexual and inappropriate, not the surreal twist given it by Japanese TV.

Nursey_1When breastfeeding in public for those hundreds of hours (sometimes even in elementary schools [gasp!]; always with at least one child present), I utterly failed to to provide health, educational, and consumer information. Here's voice-over I forgot to give: You know, dear, using breastmillk as eye-drops works as well for clearing up pink-eye as commercial pharmaceuticals! And it works pretty well in clearing up ear infections when used as ear drops as well! I assumed you knew. You did know that, didn't you? Mothers: always remember to educate the public while nursing in public, lest your public nursing be taken as some kind if sexual act!

Secondly: here I am talking to the Internet Censor-in-Chief for the US Military and their overseas contractors and for three countries (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar), and he has this oddly sexualized idea of breastfeeding. He's just this guy, and he's entitled to his personal quirks, but exactly how did this situation evolve to put him in charge of deciding what is sexual and what is not? What is porn and what is not? What he was giving me was distanced by being a description of how software works, but was really very close to the rantings of that strange little man the BBC pitted me against who just kept repeating "nudity is not socially acceptable."

Combining this with questions about the legitimacy of Secure Computing's claims to have found vast quantities of porn on some sites, I conclude that the awarding of these sweeping contracts to them was really quite premature, even if you accept the idea that the military and three whole countries need their Internet censored (which I don't). What exactly qualifies this guy to evaluate what is and is not nudity, porn, inappropriate, etc.? Did he have some special training? Even Justice Potter Stewart was reduced to trying to define porn by saying "I knowing when I see it." Secure Computing offers much more than a definition: multiple categories of inappropriate material, each with their own definition. So just where does this guy Tomo get off telling the world exactly the manner in which the female breast may and may not be displayed on the Internet?

What I think we have here is censorship practiced as a kind of fetishism: Secure Computing employees read the Internet with a dirty mind and then have their way with it based on what they read into what they see.


Firedump: 3C-QRF the Second

Post mirrored from Soj at Flogging the Simian via also Alex Harrowell at The Yorkshire Ranter, as part of Operation Firedump, for the purpose of taking Viktor "Merchant of Death" Bout's planes out of circulation:

Right, another go to get 3C-QRF seized...

Soj is going for the Romanian Ministry of Transport. Post mirrored..

This is the text in Romanian language. If you want to participate, copy this:

    Domnul Ministru Gheorghe Dobru,

    Va scriem pentru a va informa cu respect despre existenta aeronavei model BAC-111, cu numarul de inregistrare 3C-QRF, cu numarul de fabricatie 61, care in prezent este localizata pe aeroportul Baneasa in Bucuresti, Romania.

    Aceasta aeronava este utilizata de compania "Jetex Flight Support", care este inregistrata in Guineea Ecuatoriala, dar in principal isi realizeaza afacerile in Sharjah in Emiratele Arabe Unite.

    Aceasta aeronava cu numarul de inregistrare 3C-QRF apartine companiei "San Air General Trading". In data de 16 martie 2004, Comitetul Consiliului Securitatii Natiunilor Unite a pus in discutie o lista care contine nume a indivizilor si companiilor carora le este interzisa calatoria si desfasurarea afacerilor datorita implicarii lor in razboiul civil din Liberia.

    http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/committees/Liberia3/1521_list.htm

    Compania "San Air General Trading" se afla pe aceasta lista. Aeronava QC-3RF a fost de asemenea utilizata pentru a transporta arme catre Republica Democrata Congo in 2004, ceea ce reprezinta o violare a Hotararii Comitetului Consiliului Securitatii Natiunilor Unite.

    Desfasurand afaceri cu aceasta companie si aproband planurile sale privind operarea in Romania reprezinta o violare a Rezolutiei 1521 a Comitetului Consiliului Securitatii Natiunilor Unite.

    Cu respect va cerem luarea masurilor, de urgenta, necesare pentru interzicerea derularii afacerilor sau uzului personal pe aceasta aeronava. Aven informatii privind montarea unui alt motor pe aeronava, de asemenea, am dori confiscarea acestei aeronave de catre autoritati.

    Va multumim pentru timpul acordat si pentru luarea in considerare a cererii noastre.

    (your name and contact info)

It should be sent to this email: bpresa@mt.ro (Romanian Ministry of Transportation)
CC emails to Romanian press: marius.tuca@jurnalul.ro, razvan.ionescu@evz.ro, redactia@adevarulonline.ro, carol@cotidianul.ro, office@realitatea.tv, pr@protv.ro, stiri@antena3.ro

This is the English translation of the above letter. This is simply for non-Romanian speakers.

    Dear [Transportation] Minister Gheorghe Dobru,

    We write to respectfully inform you that there is a model BAC-111 aircraft, registration number 3C-QRF, serial number 61, which is currently located at the Baneasa Airport in Bucuresti, Romania.

    This airplane is being leased by the company "Jetex Flight Support", which is registered in Equatorial Guinea, but does business primarily in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

    This airplane with registration number 3C-QRF belongs to San Air General Trading, Inc. On March 16, 2004, the United Nations Security Council Committee issued a list of individuals and companies prohibited from traveling and doing business because of their involvement in the civil war in Liberia.

    http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/committees/Liberia3/1521_list.htm

    The company San Air Trading, Inc. is on this list. This airplane QC-3RF was also used to fly in weapons to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2004, also in violation of a United Nations Security Council Resolution.

    Doing business with this company and allowing their planes to operate in Romania is violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1521.

    We ask that you immediately issue a prohibition for any business or individual to use this airplane. We have information that a replacement motor is soon to be installed on this plane, therefore we ask that this airplane be immediately confiscated by the authorities.

    We thank you for your consideration in this matter,

    (your name, contact info)

Time to move, lads. We may not have much.


Anti-Intelligence: Secure Computing (SCUR)

Before I begin, I want to say that there needs to exist something like the US Munitions List for the various types content restriction software and that it should be illegal to export content restriction software and various DRM enforcement tools to countries that do not respect freedom of speech and freedom of the press. There really ought to be a law --

This blog post started out as a remark on a headline from American Chronicle: New Anti-Intelligence Leak Initiatives Adopted by Gov't. The headline pertains to leaks involving the CIA. But before the ink was even dry on the post, I found a really fine example of what one might mean by "Anti-Intelligence."

If there is such a thing as anti-intelligence, it must certainly figure into the business model of the company Secure Computing, which is making money selling censorware to oppressive governments. (That'll teach the world to sing!)

Mark Frauenfelder writes:

It helps corrupt dictators oppress their people. In defiance of the US government's stated goal of promoting democracy around the world, Secure Computing has the gall to license its filtering products to totalitarian governments, such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. These countries, which have government-run ISPs, pass all their citizens' web requests through centralized filters. Can you imagine having a business model that includes selling tools of oppression to tyrants?

Their product description for SmartFilter, currently blocking BoingBoing and possibly also Google's translation tools, begins:

Protect your organization from the risks associated with employee Internet use with SmartFilter® Web filtering. By controlling inappropriate Internet use with SmartFilter, organizations can reduce legal liability, enhance Web security, increase productivity, and preserve bandwidth for business-related activities. SmartFilter puts you in control.

But given whom they are selling to and the purpose it's being put to, it might as well read:

Protect your country from the risks associated with citizen Internet use with SmartFilter® Web filtering. SmartFilter puts you in control.

Why wait for the Dystopian Future when you can have it right now?

Secure Computing’s executives are John McNulty, President, Chairman and CEO; Tim Steinkopf; Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Vincent M. Schiavo, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Sales; Mike Gallagher, Senior Vice President, Product Development; Mary K. Budge, Senior Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel, Paul Henry, Vice President, Strategic Accounts, and Scott Montgomery, Vice President, Product Management. T. Paul Thomas has resigned after a "brief stint" as senior vice president, marketing and corporate strategy in early March.

Looks to me like the one possibly responsible for the worrisome international deals is probably Vincent M. Schiavo, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Sales.

Speaker_schiavoPrior to joining Secure Computing, Vince Schiavo was president at PolyServe, Inc., an enterprise software development firm, where he guided the company from concept to international presence with multimillion-dollar annual software revenues. With 21 years in the computer industry, Mr. Schiavo has a proven track record in OEM sales, distribution channels, direct sales, business development, marketing and team leadership. He served as Vice President, Worldwide Sales at Sonic Solutions, Inc. and has also held sales and marketing positions with Radius, Inc., Apple Computer, Inc. and Data General Corporation. Mr. Schiavo has a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Maryland.

Secure Computing is a publicly held company with ticker symbol SCUR. This is a chart of how their stock as done over the past year:

Mailscreensnapz001

This Press Release came out from the company over Business Wire this morning:

Secure Computing's SmartFilter and Webwasher Products Help Customers Manage Internet Usage Policies While Preserving Bandwidth

SAN JOSE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 6, 2006--Secure Computing Corporation (NASDAQ:SCUR - News), the experts in securing connections between people, applications and networks(TM) today announced that its SmartFilter® and Webwasher® Secure Content Management suite can help companies manage important bandwidth and maintain employee productivity during high profile events such as college basketball's signature event, the 2006 NCAA Basketball Tournament, which is also known as March Madness(TM).

I imagine it also helps whole countries preserve bandwidth during public beheadings or while  filling mass graves, yes? I think I need a new category: Corporate Navel-Gazing.

Here are their major shareholders. Perhaps some could be pursuaded to divest themselves of SCUR on moral grounds.

Safariscreensnapz001

To date, Secure Computing's press coverage seems to have been dominated almost entirely by their press releases. There seems to be almost no discussion of the company or the nature of its products on the financial discussion boards. Perhaps that needs to change.

Also, their execs do make public appearances from time to time. Someone might want to go see Paul Henry, VP of Strategic Accounts, and ask what is strategic about selling censorware to tyrants. Here are a few of his speaking engangements:

Finally, if any of the Secure Computing execs are reading this, I suggest they read about the recent media shutdown in Kenya, for example, before they license their products to any more oppressive governments. This isn't about whether the US rock'n'roll lifestyle can be exported, or whether  corporate employees or people in the milotary get to see nipples at work. This is about very basic freedoms: Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press. Thou shalt not export censorware to tyrants.

UPDATE: It appears that one of SCUR's major stockholders, Paxworld Balanced Fund, is a socially responsible mutual fund. We should all politely request that they request themselves of SCUR.

(See also Websites blocked by political stripes for Marines in Iraq? on BoingBoing.)


Department of Justice Investigating Price Fixing in the Online Music Market: "The antitrust division is looking at the possibility of anti-competitive practices in the music download industry."

Recently I have been writing about legislation involving proposals for "Digital Rights Management" designed to protect Hollywood and the music industry. Well, while these corporations have been busy weeping about the violations of their digital "rights" and trying to overhaul the Internet and the consumer electronics industries to make the whole world take care of them and their revenue streams -- and they're only just getting started -- they are already being investigated for price fixing.  (Again, I think I know who the real pirates are.)

From the Independent: US launches price-fixing probe into online music market

Music companies including EMI, the company behind Coldplay, are under investigation for alleged price fixing in the surging online market.

In the latest blow to the troubled music industry, officials from the US Justice Department are poised to issue subpoenas to leading players as they open an inquiry into the issue.

Although the investigators were tight-lipped yesterday, it is understood that the UK's EMI, along with Germany's Bertelsmann, Warner Music of the US and Japan's Sony are central to the inquiry.

The US Justice Department, which usually works in conjunction with the FBI, said yesterday: "The antitrust division is looking at the possibility of anti-competitive practices in the music download industry."

At the heart of the investigation is the suggestion that the four major labels have been placing pressure on Apple, the computer company that has taken a strong hold of the download market, to increase prices.

Let's all shed a few crocodile tears for the poor beleaguered music industry!


Shadow Company Advance Screenings to be Held in Austin
March 12th, 14th, & 18th

Purpose Films has a rather good documentary on the private military industry, Shadow Company, coming out soon. There will be screenings at the South by SouthWest Festival in Austin. I highly recommend it. (I saw a draft version.) You can see a trailer via their website.  Also, do read Matt Armstrong's favorable review HERE.

2:00 PM, Sunday March 12th - Austin Convention Center
11:15 AM, Tuesday March 14th - Austin Convention Center
7:15 PM, Saturday March 18th - Alamo S. Lamar 1

Previewscreensnapz001

Previewscreensnapz002_1


Haiti: Rene Preval's Inaugeration to Be Delayed

From the BBC:

Haiti's electoral council says the second round of parliamentary elections will be delayed.

Council head Rosemond Pradel said it was impossible to keep to the 19 March date because complaints from the first round were still being dealt with.

This means that in the absence of a parliament, the inauguration of President-elect Rene Preval, set for 29 March, must also be delayed.

(see also my Haiti archive.)


Guam: "If Rick Blas doesn't know that something's going on at his agency, something's wrong."

More on Guam and the spying equipment found in the customs area of the airport there:

KUAM: Former TSA chief calls for federal investigation of Rick Blas

Local customs and quarantine director Rick Blas called on the assistance of his federal counterpart to assist in the investigation of about surveillance equipment found hidden in various security sensitive areas at the Guam International Airport Authority, as numerous wireless cameras and listening devices were found during a sweep of the Customs screening and airport offices yesterday.

While officials still have no concrete answers on who installed the devices or where they are transmitting to, there's a new twist in the investigation as the former Transportation Security Administration director has called for a federal inquiry into Blas.

While Blas is trying to determine the identity of Big Brother - identifying precisely who installed surveillance cameras and listening devices throughout the customs screening area - former TSA federal security director Adolph Sgambelluri is requesting a federal investigation into the cameras and Blas. Sgambelluri declined to do an interview today but tells KUAM, "If Rick Blas doesn't know that something's going on at his agency, something's wrong."

The former TSA official says several years ago he became aware of an investigation alleging Customs officers were interrogating passengers coming off flights from the Philippines. Sgambelluri claims the interrogations were done without probable cause. He maintains the feds and TSS had nothing to do with the installation of surveillance equipment at the airport.

KUAM News asked whom he believes installed the cameras - Sgambelluri maintains it was Blas himself.  . . .

In the meantime, unnamed sources from the Airport tell KUAM News that after September 11, 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration mandated the agency install more security cameras around the facility. At the FAA's instruction, the Airport installed numerous cameras within its facilities, but sources could not say where those cameras were installed.

Wouldn't it be fun if those cameras turned out to have something to do with Jack Abramoff's big checks he was throwing around in Guam? What a made-for-TV movie that would make!

See Pacific News Daily last week: Lawyer explains lobbyist checks

A California attorney, whose office received more than $400,000 in payments from the Superior Court of Guam for now disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, said he was told that most of the payments needed to be in $9,000 checks to comply with local court procurement rules.

UPDATE 3/6: KUAM News this morning reports that a "federal aviation security grant allowed for the enhancement of security measures" at the airports, but they still haven't established that whatever was up with the security cameras etc in customs was legit.


Unauthorized Surveillance Cameras in Guam Airport: Who Was Watching The Customs Channel?

GuamThere's a suggestive news story just out of Guam from Pacific News Daily: FBI takes airport spy devices

FBI agents have taken custody of mini-surveillance cameras and listening devices found Thursday at the island's airport as part of a joint investigation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Several listening devices and at least three small cameras were found after the Guam Department of Customs and Quarantine received a tip from U.S. Customs, said Guam Customs Director Rick Blas. The devices were concealed in the area where customs agents check arriving passengers and their bags.

At least two of the cameras were "live," or in operation, when they were discovered, Blas said, adding that local officials do not yet know where the camera signals were going. . . .

Guam Customs Director Rick Blas yesterday said he believes the equipment was installed during the term of former airport Executive Manager Gerald Yingling. Blas, who was customs chief at the time Yingling ran the airport, said he recalled people working in the same areas where the devices were found Thursday.

Yingling yesterday said there were cameras installed at the airport during his tenure after the 9-11 terror attacks. At the time, he said, the Federal Aviation Authority told the airport to "beef up security at the airport" and the airport had several cameras installed around the facility.

Yingling yesterday said he did not know if the devices found on Thursday were the same ones. Yingling said he didn't know the make of the cameras that were installed. He also did not know who installed them and where they were placed at the airport.

Current airport Executive Manager Jess Torres has said that old work orders on file at the airport will be examined to determine who authorized and paid for the placement of the cameras and listening devices. Torres said the devices discovered Thursday were not authorized under his watch.

So. What's up with this? Who would want to monitor what was happening in US Customs inspections in Guam? Probably the private sector, I would guess. And probably someone with goods passing through customs. Smugglers? Or?

Guam_apt_ext_nightBut OK, say smugglers want to do this. How do they gain access to secure areas in the first place to plant the surveillance equipment? Hmm.

See also KUAM News: Surveillance equipment discovered at Customs office

For the last year, the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency has heard rumors about being under surveillance. Officials say it was merely speculation, that is until today when a thorough sweep was made in the customs airport offices and screening area.

Customs and their federal counterpart found numerous surveillance items, including cameras and listening devices, in places they thought were secure. Now officials are concerned that they may have violated the civil rights of thousands of passengers and their employees.

Looking at a small, pin-sized, non-intimidating object, you probably wouldn't think too much of what it contains. To a layperson, it merely looks like a small panel for some electrical wires, but the small pinhole in the center is actually a camera. This is just one of many found during a sweep of the Customs' airport offices this morning. Director Rick Blas says he was shocked with the findings, wondering who would go to such great lengths to keep an eye on his agency. "You would think that we would be safe in our homes, but as we found out this morning that is not the case," he said.

Apparently for an undetermined amount of time, Big Brother has been watching Customs officers conducting daily business at the Guam International Airport, from screening passengers, entering and exiting their offices, to cameras inside the break room and surrounding each secondary search area. During this morning's sweep officials found numerous items that looked like switches in the screening area at the Airport, but Blas confirms they weren't switches at all; in fact, they were listening devices.

Poking around for images, I found this lovely historical postcard of Vice President Spiro Agnew's arrival at the Guam Airport.

2_photos_vice_president_agnew_arriving_g

The airport is having a logo design contest (deadline tomorrow). Maybe one should do a design that involves bugs. Something sort of retro, maybe early-Nixionian. They had bugs back then, too, didn't they?

(See also my follow-up post.)


Kenya: The Standard Is Back Online

The East African Standard, a paper attacked during yesterday's media shutdown in Kenya, is back online and back in business. They have an impressive video of the masked men who attacked CCTV in Kenya taken by security camera, which is available for viewing. I'm going to try to arrange to mirror it so we don't suck up all their bandwith; it is well worth watching.

Help_viewerscreensnapz001


Media Shutdown in Kenya

See Mentalacrobatics for excellent coverage of the media shutdown.

I went to look at a news story on the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation site a moment ago, and on the page there was this ominous message, which I take to be a form of SOS:

BREAKING NEWS:  Kenya Television Network, KTN is off-air and Standard newspapers off streets after people said to be security agents conducted an overnight operation shutting down their facilities. Information Minister denies prior knowledge of the raid. KBCNewsAlert…

Kbcwithfire

They also have a story on the raid on a newspaper printing plant there:

Raid on media House condemned
The Standard Group Chief Executive Tom Mshindi has condemned the invasion on the Group’s printing plant and offices, saying it was an unwarranted affront on Media freedom.

Journalism.co.za seems to have the most detailed account:

Close to 100 masked men, some armed with AK-47 assault rifles, raided the offices and printing press of Kenya's Standard Group, stopping the operations of its television station and newspaper, writes Eric Nyakagwa.

The masked men staged simultaneous raids on the editorial offices of Kenya Television Network (KTN) and the group’s printing press in a Nairobi industrial area, where they vandalized machines and carried away some machinery crucial for production.
At both premises, the raiders, who struck shortly after midnight on Wednesday night, roughed up security officers who were on duty and managed to access the group’s headquarters after one of the men in the group identified themselves as a police officer and demanded entry.

The security men were all herded into a corner as the attackers demanded access to the editorial floors and the KTN transmission room where they took away a computer, some power units and interfered with cables, effectively disabling transmission.

At the printing press, they vandalised equipment and burned most of the Thursday papers, which were either rolling off the press or were being packaged fordistribution.

See also

  • African News Dimension: Kenya : Police raid, shut down KTN and burn Standard newspaper
  • Reuters: KENYA: Leading media house shut down by armed men

    The men, who stormed the media house at 1.00 a.m. local time [10.00 GMT], took away computers and transmission equipment, damaged the presses and set fire to Thursday's editions of the country's oldest newspaper. "We have very strong evidence to suggest that these acts were carried out by the police," Mshindi said.

  • The BBC: 'Police' raids close Kenya paper

    Staff say they were beaten and forced to lie on the floor

  • AP: Gunmen shut down Kenyan paper, TV station
  • The closure came after three journalists were detained without charge for a story Saturday that alleged Kibaki met secretly with a key opponent. Kibaki and former environment minister-turned Kibaki foe, Kalonzo Musyoka, have denied the meeting took place.

    Mutua said police on Tuesday summoned The Saturday Standard Managing Editor Chacha Mwita, News Editor Dennis Onyango and journalist Ayub Savula and questioned them.

    The journalists remain in police custody, and authorities have yet to comment about the detentions. Mshindi has said no charges have been filed.

Alex at Yorkshire Ranter provides more details and Kenyan diplomatic contact info world wide. See also Xeni at BoingBoing.

CnnkenyaUPDATE: The kenyan government now admits to the raid. From CNN:

The police spokesman said journalists at the Standard had been paid to write a series of fabricated articles about the government, and that police were acting on intelligence information about "an intended act" that would threaten national security.

I've been trying to parse the politics of all this on the fly. There is an interesting Flickr photostream, also featured on BoingBoing, concerning governmental hostility to journalists in Kenya. In it figures Health minister Charity Ngilu. 105418887_67db38b9cb_mThe photo to the right is captioned:

Health Minister Charity Ngilu found herself in a tight spot when journalists blocked her way. They wanted to know which side she was supporting during the referendum elections in Kenya held in November last year. She voted 'Yes' but the government lost their quest for a new constituion by more than a three million voters who said 'No' against the government two.

There are some recent articles in which she is featured. One I found intrguing was this one from the Standard: Ngilu says all parties in Narc must be consulted

The National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) chairperson, Charity Ngilu, wants constituent parties to be consulted before party recruitment and elections are held.

The Health minister, who dismissed reports that her colleagues were forming another party, said none of the partners in Narc should be ignored.

"First, we must sit down and agree on modalities before anyone calls for member recruitment or elections," she said.

A local dairy reported yesterday that President Kibaki’s allies were split on whether to form another party, Narc-Kenya, or hold elections for the ruling coalition.

Ngilu said despite the woes afflicting the coalition, those still supporting it must agree on whether to hold elections or not.

Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has abandoned the coalition to join the Official Opposition party, Kanu, to form the Orange Democratic Movement. The two coalitions are fielding candidates in the Kasipul-Kabondo by-election scheduled for today.

Livestock minister Joseph Munyao has backed the move to form another party.

Munyao, who is the Democratic Party secretary-general, said they were trying to find ways of "working round" the issue.

"We are burning midnight oil to come up with a solid body for next year’s General Election. If we decide that it will be the same coalition then it will be," he said.

Burning the midnight oil? Looks to me like someone's been burning the midnight newspaper. There's also this story: Ngilu, Central MPs headed for NARC showdown

I have a few correspondents in that neck of the woods and am trying to get a sense of what to make of all this. I'll let you know what I find out.

It is now March 3rd there, and the new front page is up on the KBC site:

Police admit raid on media

GREAT BLOG COVERAGE of the media shutdown from Mentalacrobatics in Kenya. I'm just starting to read it.

There is a letter being crossposted on the blogs of Kenya which reads:

Press Freedom: Letter to Kibaki
Dear President Kibaki:

On March 2, 2006 government forces raided the headquarters and printing plant of the Standard Group. In addition to destroying equipment and newspapers, they shut down the KTN news station.

This latest attack follows the jailing of three journalists from Standard Newspaper, attacks on Citizen Weekly, and ongoing harassment of journalists by government-sponsored forces.

I urge you to condemn these attacks and to support freedom of the press.

**Please copy and paste a copy of this letter on your blog. You may alter the wording to suit your needs.

The rest of us outside Kenya should also urge President Kibaki to condem the attacks and support freedom of the press.

Mentalacrobatics has a number of really fine posts on the situation. I'm going to mirror two of them to get them to the larger audience they deserve:

Raid on EA Standard

The raid was a matter of State Security. When you rattle a snake you must be prepared to be bitten by it.
National Security minister, John Michuki

I had written this long post on the illegal raid on the EA Standard this morning when this quote by Michuki a man so detached from reality he should be not be holding any position of power, lit up my screen. The man has lost it completely. He needs to go now.

OK let’s just make this official, our government has totally lost it. An elite police force, set up to fight armed robbery, carjacking, outlawed sects, illegal paramilitary militias is used to shut down a media house? Madness.

A quick read of the story has identified two areas of concern for me:

  1. The raid was led by Mr James Njiru, assistant police commissioner in charge of operations at the provincial police headquarters. Njiru’s boss the Nairobi Provincial Police Chief Mwangi King’ori, claims that he did NOT know that the raid was taking place. Even more shocking, The head of the Police, the number one guy, Police Commissioner Major General Hussein Ali has expressed shock at the raid on the Standard offices. Ali, who called the ‘Standard’ newsroom from Seychelles where he is on official duty, said he was unaware of the raid and said he would be issuing a statement later after getting the full report from his officers in Nairobi. It looks like the raid was timed to coincide with Ali being out of the country.
  2. The raid was aimed at a media house, yet the Information Minister Mutahi Kagwe claims he did NOT know the raid was taking place.

Who ordered the raid? Who knew about the raid? Why wasn’t the police chain of command observed and informed? Or rather, who is powerful enough to ignore the police chain of command? All roads lead to State House as Michuki proudly boasts.

This has got to be the most stupid thing that the government could do. It is so stupid you start to look for a hidden story. There must be something else going on … but no it was just a stupid move.

What have they achieved? The EA Standard will still come out, this type of action seems to galvanise not intimidate Kenyan journalists, and with the power of the internet the whole world is talking about this story. Search for Kenya Police Raid on Google news and you will find that CNN, BBC, San Jose Mercury News - USA, Reuters, Xinhua - China, Financial Times - UK, Washington Post, Mail & Guardian Online - South Africa, United Press International, Pravda - Russia, African News Dimension, CPJ Press Freedom Online, ABC News, Los Angeles Times, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, Hindustan Times, India all carry the story and those are only from page 1 of around 4 (and counting) pages on the story. 

What the hell is Alfred Mutua going to bang on about at his next press conference? How will he be able to look at his former colleagues in the eye?
Pictures from the BBC

    1 comment    March 2nd, 2006            

Press harrasement Kibaki style

Two Standard editors and a reporter were yesterday questioned and detained by police for hours  over a story, which claimed that Kalonzo Musyoka had met Kibaki at State House two weeks ago, published last Saturday … Afterwards, the three said they were not questioned but were asked to record what they knew about the story and disclose their source … they were then told to wait for instructions “from above” on the way forward.

This is ridiculous. The one thing that drives me mad about Kenya is the stupid, “orders from above” nonsense. Here we have professionals doing their job and they get harassed by police for no reason other than, “orders from above”. If anyone feels that the journalists have broken the law then let him follow due process and take them to court.  Kenya Democracy Project asks, “… how insecure can a regime be that they move in with a sledge hammer to stifle a story- especially if it is allegedly “not true”.”

Do not forget that this comes hot on the heels of last week’s move to muzzle the press when thirteen employees of the Weekly Citizen were arrested as dozens of police officers swooped on vendors and confiscated copies of the newspaper. The 43 newspaper vendors who were also arrested for selling the newspapers were behind bars for 3 days and then released without being charged. Kumekucha observers, “Reading between the lines, the whole objective was just to intimidate the poor newspaper vendors so that they’ll be frightened to sell the next issue of the Weekly Citizen.” I agree with him. All this at a time when the government spokesman is busy spending tax payers money on adverts about “Democratic Space” that President Kibaki has so kindly given us.

Kalonzo Musyoka should stand up and voice his disapproval with these latest arrests. That would be true leadership.

    7 comments    March 1st, 2006            

There is a webring of 159 Kenyan blogs. (The members of the Kenyan Blogs Webring are spread all over the world.) Links to them can be found here. Some of them are covering the media shut down. (As is usual with a bunch of blogs, many have not been upated in a while.) Poking around the in-Kenya discussions is interesting, in that there is a certain contingent saying stuff like I know where the government is coming from. I'm sorry, but that response smacks strongly of Stockholm Syndrome. There can be NO EXCUSE for the Kenyan government to behave this way.

UPDATE: From the Thinker's Room, blogging from Kenya:

Well! Whenever I say Mwai Kibaki is the type of man who never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity, he grits his teeth in determination and exemplifies the notion. And then when I say that no matter how low the bar is set, the Kibaki Government will find a way to slither under.

For me, this photo by Fredrick Onyango just says it all:

99275129_5198d9b305

The caption reads:

Journalist take to task former internal security minister Dr. Chris Murungaru over the Anglo leasing scandal that has fleeced the country billions of Kenyan shillings. The minister is said to have sanctioned the purchase of Military and naval ships during his tenure as a minister.With the vibrant and libralisation of the media in Kenya, most of the government official are being put on the spot on how they are spending the taxpayers money.

I just love the expressions on the faces of the members of the press in this photo and others in the photostream.

UPDATE: Mentalacrobatics has security camera pix from the raid on CCTV which I have taken the liberty of uploading to Flickr so that they may achieve broader distribution:

Securitycampix

Mentalacrobatics comments on the pix:

Here are some stills taken during the raid from internal CCTV cameras. The raid were carried out by a rapid response unit code-named the Kanga Squad, detectives from Nairobi provincial CID headquarters and officers from the General Service Unit. They are wearing bright orange reflective vests with “QRU” for Quick Rescue Unit/Quick Response Unit which indicates their day job of fight hardcore criminals like carjackers, bank robbers and murder hit squads.

These pictures are very disturbing. In some of them they have an employee spread eagled on the floor with a gun pressed against his/her head and a boot in his/her face. Remember these are NOT criminals being man handled like this. These are Kenyan men and women who went to work only to be pistol whipped and roughed up by an elite police squad.

Here are some very-much-to-the-point comments from au lait in Kenya:

So, surprise, surprise. 'Our' dear government has once again proven that it is hellbent on its peculiar course of self-destruction. As one person said today, this government is surely "suicidal".

Enyewe seriously, what were they thinking?

That's the first thing that came to mind when I woke up today to the news that KTN and Standard offices had been invaded commando style by guys in masks and the police.

It really comes doesn't come as news that our government is not made up of the sharpest tools, BUT did the person who ordered this attack even stop to think? At all?

Who told those guys to attack after midnight? Is that the only time that those who sit in State House can find their way to I&M or Nation Centre (invoking precedent here). And then some bright guy, decided they should wear ski masks. I wonder if they bought them from the same store Al-Qai'dah frequents.

I've come across people defending the government's action but really? I mean really people really? Those guys were thugs!!!! Common thugs. Why the dramatic ski masks if this was all a clean exercise to rein in an out-of-control media house?