Global Investigative Journalism Network Biosphere 2: How a Sci-Fi Stunt Turned Into the World's Biggest Earth Science Lab Flickr: Image If you were born after 1980 or so, then you probably most closely associate the concept of a manmade biosphere with Pauly Shore and fart jokes you didn't even think were funny when you were eleven. But unlike the Biodome, the Biosphere was an actual thing. And it was almost as disastrous as the movie. In 1991, an apocalypse-fearing oil billionaire named Ed Bass poured $150 million into building the Biosphere 2, a 3-acre-wide complex of glass and steel. The New York Times' new documentary about the Biosphere 2 splashes the spotlight back on the once-ambitious effort to build a self-sustaining space station in the Arizona desert. The structure was built by Peter Pearce, an erstwhile associate of the famed Buckminister Fuller, the futurist who patented the geodesic dome. It was the largest "closed system" ever built, and it still is to this day. Ocean with coral reef Mangrove wetlands Tropical rainforest Savannah grassland Fog desert Image: Flickr Image: Flickr
Indicting the US Government for crimes against humanity – unsealing the evidence It is opportune that only a couple of weeks after three-times human rights awardee Bradley Manning presented his case against the US Government for war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, details have been released (see video trailer above) of a 15 month investigation by the Guardian and the BBC into torture centres in Iraq, coordinated by US Special Forces commander, James Steele, and former US General Petraeus. Add in evidence of system-wide torture and massacres in Iraq and Afghanistan as compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (see below) with additional evidence from a number of other sources (also below) and what we have is much more than a dossier but an indictment – unsealed and without need for a grand jury – that could form the basis of charges raised against the US Administration either in the World Court or – deliciously turning the tables – at the military tribunal of Bradley Manning. The game is afoot! Note 1. Note 2. Note 3. Note 4. Note 5. Note 6. A. B.
How to Build a Secret Facebook The NSA's Utah data center near Bluffdale, Utah. Via Google Street View Since retiring from a three-decade career at the NSA in 2001, a mathematician named William Binney has been telling anyone who will listen about a vast data-gathering operation being conducted by his former employers. "Here’s the grand design," he told filmmaker Laura Poitras last year. "You build social networks for everybody. That then turns into the graph, and then you index all that data to that graph, which means you can pull out a community. The invasive spying program Binney described—one that could build a "social graph" of nearly any user of the American Internet, like some massive, secret Facebook—was in the works, he says, when he left the agency. But now we know more about one aspect of the US's surveillance arsenal. Agencies like the FBI, which itself has been quietly pushing for a "back door" system like this, call it crucial for national security. William Binney in Laura Poitras's "The Program," 2012.
Tracking James Steele, the alleged coordinator of Iraqi torture centres: US War Crimes Tribunal investigation #1 James Steele today We have tracked down the man identified by The Guardian and the BBC who they alleged supervised death squads and torture squads, first in El Salvador, then Iraq (under General Petraeus). James Steele, named in the joint Guardian/BBC investigation, lives in Texas and operates as a counter-insurgency consultant. Significantly he styles himself as ‘Counsellor to US Ambassador for Iraqi Security Forces’. In other words, though not officially employed by the US military he is acting in a private capacity, offering the same services he coordinated when on active service in Iraq. Below, are the knowns, unknowns and known unknowns of Steele. Note: Between now and June and the commencement of the Tribunal of the US Government for War Crimes (which the media is myopically reporting as the Trial of Bradley Manning, the person responsible for reporting these war crimes) we will be providing further details of these crimes and who the perpetrators are. A. B. C.
The Revolution Will Be Live-Mapped: A Brief History of Protest Maptivism The revolution may not be televised, but it will be Google-mapped with crowdsourced data from social media networks. Modern-day digital cartography is transforming the ancient art of protest—with live tactical maps built by cyberactivists using Google Maps, Umaps, or the open source world map open street map, and updated in real-time with tips from the ground sent via social media. The maps help activists avoid police, find shelter, medical help, food and other protest groups, and stay mobile to avoid arrest or violence. This kind of maptivism was instrumental during the Arab Spring two years ago. Now, as Turks in Instanbul protest the authoritarian rule of Prime Minister Tayyip, live maps and social media are again playing a crucial role—enough to compel Tayyip to call Twitter "the worst menace to society." Savvy Turks created a Google map on June 1 to track police movement near Taksim Square. Not long after Libya, people starting rising up in Syria.
The Iraqi Wolf Brigade & ‘Frago 234′: US War Crimes Tribunal investigation #2 The Wolf Brigade together with order Frago 234 (see below) was first exposed over two years ago when Wikileaks began to publish material provided by whistleblower Bradley Manning. This article merely pulls together that material, given that in less than three months time a trial will commence. The Wolf Brigade – an Iraqi death squad, set up by US Special Forces coordinator James Steele – was the subject of a recent Guardian/BBC investigation: the full 50 minute video of this investigation is provided below. A Wolf Brigade raid at close quarters is shown above. Note 1. Note 2. The Wolf Brigade The US advisor to the Wolf Brigade from the time of its formation until April 2005 was James J. Recruitment to the Wolf Brigade was organised by the US-installed interim government, headed by Iyad Allawi during 2004. Needless to say, the operations of the Wolf Brigade were in contravention of the Geneva Convention. Torture and Frago 234 Torture during the Iraq War was subject to Frago 234. See also
The Motherboard Guide to Avoiding the NSA If you've been reading the headlines about the NSA mining intelligence data from the world's largest data mongers, and haven't already burnt down your house with everything you own in it and set sail for a libertarian expat community in Chile, then there are some less dramatic suggestions in store for you. Evading the NSA's comprehensive surveillance system is no simple task, especially as we only know snippets of the agency's capabilities. But we're going to try our best. First, it's time to take an inventory of anything you own or are borrowing that can be traced. Cash Image via Flickr Most of us have substantial paper trails, but ironically, it's real-life paper that should be the least of your worries right now. Prepaid Credit Cards Image via Flickr You'll need an alternative to those pieces of plastic that do little more than turn you into a moving surveillance target, walking from geographic checkpoint to geographic checkpoint. Bitcoin Illustration by the author Phone Image Via Internet
Guantanamo | Gareth Peirce, Andy Worthington, Wikileaks, interviews with former detainees: US war crimes tribunal investigation #3 As part of our series of investigations for a proposed US war crimes tribunal we decided on the matter of Guantanamo Bay to go direct to the experts: Gareth Pierce, Andy Worthington, Wikileaks and, of course, the former detainees. Below, we present highlights of the investigations conducted by Andy Worthington, links to the Wikileaks files on Guantanamo and audio interviews with former Guantanamo detainees. Above is a video of a talk (January, 2012) by Gareth Peirce, who has written a book on Guantanamo (‘Dispatches from the dark side: on Torture and the death of justice’) and whose clients include Moazzam Begg and Shakar Aamer. Breaking… Gitmo detainees on now indefinite hunger strike. The overall picture that emerges from the Wikileaks files, Worthington’s flawless analysis, and Peirce’s observations is of a facility that history will show is of a level that any Nazi (and we use that term here in its true historical context not as a pejorative) would be proud of. A. B. 1. 2. C. Links
Meet the Man Behind the Push to Ban Killer Robots Image via Wikipedia Depending on who you ask, armed robots that can discern by themselves when and how to stage attacks, without guidance from humans, present either an unprecedented danger to humanity or its greatest mechanism of defense. But both sides agree that such "lethal autonomous robots," as they're known, are on their way whether we're ready for them or not. The prospect of free-thinking war machines waging the ultimate battle against the human race has been bouncing around most of our minds since Arnold promised us that he'd be back in the 1980s. That was back when the idea of a walking, talking robot soldier was, like Schwarzenegger himself, more caricature than distressing. Less then three decades and more than a few drone strikes later, a new UN report is calling for "national moratoria" on developing killer robots in every country on the globe. MOTHERBOARD: Why is it important that we acknowledge this report, and these issues, right now?
Afghanistan atrocities: US war crimes tribunal investigation #4 Kabul, March 2013 Recently a small but significant demonstration in support of Bradley Manning took place in Afghanistan (see photo above). Via Wikileaks, Manning told the world the truth about what was happening there. Below, as part of our series of investigations for a proposed prosecution of the US for war crimes, we compile the evidence Manning raised (in the Afghan War Diaries) about war crimes in Afghanistan, as well as more recent evidence and extensive links. Incidentally, ask any historian and they will explain that no one – not even the Russians, not the British, not the Tartars, nor the Mongols – ever won a war in Afghanistan. War crimes 11 June, 2007. . 17 June, 2007. August 21, 2008. May 5, 2009. September 4, 2009. December 26, 2009. February 12, 2010 . February 21, 2010. March 11, 2012. Links:
Yes, the NSA Can Spy on Every US Citizen NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. Photo via Wikimedia Commons On June 9, two reporters from the Guardian newspaper announced to the world the source of one of the most significant classified-document leaks in history. Both the media and the public were shocked by the news that the NSA had such broad digital surveillance capabilities. We learned earlier this year that the FBI's top priority for 2013 is to increase their online surveillance authority. In 2011, before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, then General Counsel of the FBI Valerie Caproni made the following statement: "…the FBI and other government agencies are facing a potentially widening gap between our legal authority to intercept electronic communications pursuant to court order and our practical ability to actually intercept those communications." The challenge for Mr. BAH has worked for the FBI facilitating an implementation of CALEA for some time.
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori: US War Crimes Tribunal investigation #5 Three years ago, to this week, WikiLeaks posted a 40-minute video showing an attack by US military on unarmed civilians from an Apache helicopter. The attack, which took place in New Baghdad on 12 July, 2007, saw over a dozen people killed. In the aftermath of the attack, US military officials withheld all details, despite several FOIs from Reuters (as well as innocent Iraqi civilians, two of those killed were Reuters journalists, Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen). In February 2010, Bradley Manning, a US private, uploaded the video of the attack to Wikileaks. On April 3, 2010, Wikileaks released the video ,“Collateral Murder” with added subtitles, to the world. “Collateral Murder” has since been seen by millions of people and has caused outrage. The above version of the video is a more recent one and includes Bradley Manning’s voiceover (secretly recorded as part of his testimony a few weeks back at a pre-trial hearing). ‘Dulce et decorum est’
The strange similarities in Google, Facebook, and Apple’s PRISM denials After the news broke yesterday about a secret government surveillance program called PRISM, the companies named in the news reports — led by Google, Apple, and Facebook — responded with denials. In effect, they were saying two things: We do not give the government direct access to our servers. And we’ve never heard of PRISM. Some added a third point: We want more sunlight on this issue, too. Forgive me if I don’t think that’s saying much. First, the context: Yesterday the Washington Post published a slide deck reportedly intended for an audience of top National Security Agency advisors, detailing the PRISM program. These denials of the report all seem oddly similar, with Facebook chiming in most recently to say it also hasn’t heard of PRISM. Let’s look at each of the three denial points in turn. They aren’t accessing our servers directly This claim hinges on one word, “directly.” We have never heard of PRISM Imagine the following conversation: Apple: For real? Apple: Cool, cool.