Australia/2008
">
Australia/2008

Contents

  • 1 January
  • 2 February
  • 3 March
  • 4 April
  • 5 May
  • 6 June
  • 7 July
  • 8 August
  • 9 September
  • 10 October
  • 11 November
  • 12 December

[edit]

Australian States to launch high court battle against IR reforms
">
Australian States to launch high court battle against IR reforms

Thursday, December 22, 2005

After months of threats from the states to take the federal government of Australia to the High Court of Australia over its Work Choices Act, New South Wales has formally lodged a writ with the High Court. Other states have indicated that they will follow the New South Wales government’s lead.

The 30-page Statement of Claim lodged by NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca and Solicitor-General Michael Sexton claims that the Work Choices Act is unconstitutional as the act extends the commonwealth’s powers beyond what the constitution has given them. The Howard government has argued that they have such powers under the corporations provision of the constitution. Mr Della Bosca argues that the corporations provision is there to protect individuals from corporations.

Mr Sexton said “The heart of the Commonwealth legislation is its reliance on the corporations power, and the question is whether that is valid in these circumstances. In other words, whether it’s possible to legislate in effect about industrial relations simply because the employer is a trading or financial corporation”.

The Howard government’s plan effectively collapses the state’s industrial relations systems, which differ greatly from the new system.

Toyota recalls 1.7m cars after new concerns
">
Toyota recalls 1.7m cars after new concerns

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Car manufacturer Toyota is to recall almost 1.7 million cars in two simultaneous recalls, that include the Toyota Avensis and Lexus IS 250, after concerns over fuel systems, which, if combined, amount to the biggest Toyota recall for six years.

Japan’s transport ministry stated it was possible for slight cracks to appear in fuel pipes in Avensis models, which may widen if the cars continue to be used. In the United Kingdom, Toyota GB are offering free repairs, which are expected to take around four and a half hours each. The Lexus IS 250 is involved in a separate recall, with around 280 thousand models outside of Japan being recalled over a faulty fuel pressure sensor, which can possibly come loose, causing a fuel leak.

The Managing Director of Toyota GB stated “We are committed to putting the customer first and have a total focus on the quality of all our products. We will liaise with our customers to carry out the repair procedures as efficiently as possible, with minimal disruption”.

Toyota has recalled over 16 million cars globally since late 2009.

John Reed on Orwell, God, self-destruction and the future of writing
">
John Reed on Orwell, God, self-destruction and the future of writing

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It can be difficult to be John Reed.

Christopher Hitchens called him a “Bin Ladenist” and Cathy Young editorialized in The Boston Globe that he “blames the victims of terrorism” when he puts out a novel like Snowball’s Chance, a biting send-up of George Orwell‘s Animal Farm which he was inspired to write after the terrorist attacks on September 11. “The clear references to 9/11 in the apocalyptic ending can only bring Orwell’s name into disrepute in the U.S.,” wrote William Hamilton, the British literary executor of the Orwell estate. That process had already begun: it was revealed Orwell gave the British Foreign Office a list of people he suspected of being “crypto-Communists and fellow travelers,” labeling some of them as Jews and homosexuals. “I really wanted to explode that book,” Reed told The New York Times. “I wanted to completely undermine it.”

Is this man who wants to blow up the classic literary canon taught to children in schools a menace, or a messiah? David Shankbone went to interview him for Wikinews and found that, as often is the case, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Reed is electrified by the changes that surround him that channel through a lens of inspiration wrought by his children. “The kids have made me a better writer,” Reed said. In his new untitled work, which he calls a “new play by William Shakespeare,” he takes lines from The Bard‘s classics to form an original tragedy. He began it in 2003, but only with the birth of his children could he finish it. “I didn’t understand the characters who had children. I didn’t really understand them. And once I had had kids, I could approach them differently.”

Taking the old to make it new is a theme in his work and in his world view. Reed foresees new narrative forms being born, Biblical epics that will be played out across print and electronic mediums. He is pulled forward by revolutions of the past, a search for a spiritual sensibility, and a desire to locate himself in the process.

Below is David Shankbone’s conversation with novelist John Reed.

Contents

  • 1 On the alternative media and independent publishing
  • 2 On Christopher Hitchens, Orwell and 9/11 as inspiration
  • 3 On the future of the narrative
  • 4 On changing the literary canon
  • 5 On belief in a higher power
  • 6 On politics
  • 7 On self-destruction and survival
  • 8 On raising children
  • 9 On paedophilia and the death penalty
  • 10 On personal relationships
  • 11 Sources
  • 12 External links
Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »
UK Wikinews Shorts: July 8, 2013
">
UK Wikinews Shorts: July 8, 2013

A compilation of brief news reports for Monday, July 8, 2013.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »
US swimmer Phelps suspended over ‘pot pipe’
">
US swimmer Phelps suspended over ‘pot pipe’

Friday, February 6, 2009

United States swimmer Michael Phelps has been banned from competition and his training stipend revoked for three months by USA Swimming after Phelps was photographed smoking from a glass pipe, often used for smoking cannabis. The picture was published last Sunday by British tabloid News of the World.

USA Swimming, which is the governing body of swimming in the United States, however said that no “anti-doping” rules had been violated.

“This is not a situation where any anti-doping rule was violated, but we decided to send a strong message to Michael because he disappointed so many people, particularly the hundreds of thousands of USA Swimming member kids who look up to him as a role model and a hero,” it stated. “Michael has voluntarily accepted this reprimand and has committed to earn back our trust.”

HAVE YOUR SAY
Should Phelps have been punished at all? If so, was the punishment strict enough?
Add or view comments

The suspension will end in time for Phelps to train for the US Championships, which are to be held on the 7th of July.

Phelps has also lost sponsor Kellogg, who said that it would not renew its deal with the swimmer next month.

Phelps won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing last year, and has since become one of the world’s most famous athletes.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »
Historic Florida attraction, Gatorland, partly destroyed by fire
">
Historic Florida attraction, Gatorland, partly destroyed by fire

Monday, November 6, 2006

Gatorland, an Orlando, Florida tourist attraction known for its gator wrestling shows and its conservation programs for alligators, crocodiles, and other reptiles and birds, was heavily damaged by fire on Monday morning, November 6, 2006.

The four-alarm fire was reported at 5:55am EST. The entrance building, which contains the administration offices and the gift shop, was destroyed. The only thing left standing of it was its iconic gator head front gate, whose upper jaw was almost completely charred.

At least four animals — two gators and two snakes, which were being kept near the gift shop — were feared dead. No humans were hurt. The other gators in the public display took refuge in the central pools, and were okay. The birds were in the aviary in the back, and were in no danger.

None of the attraction venues beyond the gift shop, however, were damaged. Gatorland hopes to reopen for tourists in a week, using a temporary entrance.

Orange County Fire Rescue is investigating the cause of the fire.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »
Asbestos controversy aboard Scientology ship Freewinds
">
Asbestos controversy aboard Scientology ship Freewinds

Friday, May 16, 2008

Controversy has arisen over the reported presence of blue asbestos on the MV Freewinds, a cruise ship owned by the Church of Scientology. According to the Saint Martin newspaper The Daily Herald and the shipping news journal Lloyd’s List, the Freewinds was sealed in April and local public health officials on the Caribbean island of Curaçao where the ship is docked began an investigation into the presence of asbestos dust on the ship. Former Scientologist Lawrence Woodcraft supervised work on the ship in 1987, and attested to the presence of blue asbestos on the Freewinds in an affidavit posted to the Internet in 2001. Woodcraft, a licensed architect by profession, gave a statement to Wikinews and commented on the recent events.

According to The Daily Herald, the Freewinds was in the process of being renovated by the Curaçao Drydock Company. The article states that samples taken from paneling in the ship were sent to the Netherlands, where an analysis revealed that they “contained significant levels of blue asbestos”. An employee of the Curaçao Drydock Company told Radar Online in an April 30 article that the Freewinds has been docked and sealed, and confirmed that an article about asbestos ran in the local paper.

Lloyd’s List reported that work on the interior of the Freewinds was suspended on April 27 after health inspectors found traces of blue asbestos on the ship. According to Lloyd’s List, Frank Esser, Curaçao Drydock Company’s interim director, joined Curaçao’s head of the department of labor affairs Christiene van der Biezen along with the head of the local health department Tico Ras and two inspectors in an April 25 inspection of the ship. “We are sending someone so that they can tell us what happened, where it came from, since when it has been there,” said Panama Maritime Authority’s director of merchant marine Alfonso Castillero in a statement to Lloyd’s List.

The Church of Scientology purchased the ship, then known as the Bohème, in 1987, through an organization called Flag Ship Trust. After being renovated and refitted, it was put into service in June 1988. The ship is used by the Church of Scientology for advanced Scientology training in “Operating Thetan” levels, as well as for spiritual retreats for its members. Curaçao has been the ship’s homeport since it was purchased by the Church of Scientology.

According to his 2001 statement, Lawrence Woodcraft had been an architect in London, England since 1975, and joined Scientology’s elite “Sea Organization” (Sea Org) in 1986. He wrote that he was asked by the Sea Org to work on the Freewinds in 1987, and during his work on the ship “noticed a powdery blue fibrous substance approximately 1 ½” thick between the paint and the steel wall,” which he believed to be asbestos. He also discovered what he thought was blue asbestos in other parts of the ship, and reported his findings to Church of Scientology executives. Woodcraft discussed his experiences in a 2001 interview published online by the Lisa McPherson Trust, a now-defunct organization which was critical of the Church of Scientology.

The Freewinds regularly inspects the air quality on board and always meets or exceeds US standards.

Church of Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw responded to Radar Online about the asbestos reports, in an email published in an article in Radar on May 1. “The Freewinds regularly inspects the air quality on board and always meets or exceeds US standards,” said Pouw. She stated that two inspections performed in April “confirmed that the air quality is safe,” and asserted that the inspections revealed the Freewinds satisfies standards set by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Clean Air Act.

Pouw told Radar that “The Freewinds will be completing its refit on schedule.” The Church of Scientology-affiliated organization Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) had been planning a cruise aboard the Freewinds scheduled for May 8, but according to Radar an individual who called the booking number for the cruise received a message that the cruise had been delayed due to ongoing work on the ship. Citing an article in the Netherlands Antilles newspaper Amigoe, Radar reported on May 6 that a team from the United States and supervised by an independent bureau from the Netherlands traveled to Curaçao in order to remove asbestos from the Freewinds.

…if the Church of Scientology claims to have removed the blue asbestos, I just don’t see how, it’s everywhere. You would first have to remove all the pipes, plumbing, a/c ducts, electrical wiring etc. etc. just a maze of stuff.

“I stand by everything I wrote in my 2001 affidavit,” said Lawrence Woodcraft in an exclusive statement given to Wikinews. Woodcraft went on to state: “I would also comment that if the Church of Scientology claims to have removed the blue asbestos, I just don’t see how, it’s everywhere. You would first have to remove all the pipes, plumbing, a/c ducts, electrical wiring etc. etc. just a maze of stuff. Also panelling as well, basically strip the ship back to a steel hull. Also blue asbestos is sprayed onto the outer walls and then covered in paint. It’s in every nook and cranny.”

Many Scientologist celebrities have spent time aboard the Freewinds, including Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Chick Corea, Lisa Marie Presley, Catherine Bell, Kate Ceberano, and Juliette Lewis. Now magazine reported that Tom Cruise has been urged to seek medical attention regarding potential asbestos exposure, however a representative for Cruise stated he has “absolutely no knowledge” of the recent asbestos controversy. Cruise, Holmes, Travolta and Preston have celebrated birthdays and other events on the Freewinds.

There is not now and never has been a situation of asbestos exposure on the Freewinds.

In a May 15 statement to the United Kingdom daily newspaper Metro, a representative for the Church of Scientology said that “There is not now and never has been a situation of asbestos exposure on the Freewinds.” The Asbestos and Mesothelioma Center notes that agencies have recommended anyone who has spent time on the Freewinds consult with their physician to determine if possible asbestos exposure may have affected their health.

Raw blue asbestos is the most hazardous form of asbestos, and has been banned in the United Kingdom since 1970. Blue asbestos fibers are very narrow and thus easily inhaled, and are a major cause of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer which can develop in the lining of the lungs and chest cavity, the lining of the abdominal cavity, or the pericardium sac surrounding the heart. The cancer is incurable, and can manifest over 40 years after the initial exposure to asbestos.

“This is the most dangerous type of asbestos because the fibres are smaller than the white asbestos and can penetrate the lung more easily,” said toxicologist Dr. Chris Coggins in a statement published in OK! Magazine. Dr. Coggins went on to note that “Once diagnosed with mesothelioma, the victim has six months to a year to live. It gradually reduces lung function until the victim is no longer able to breathe and dies.”

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »
ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data
">
ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Late last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed objections to the United States Government’s ‘secret’ attempts to obtain Twitter account information relating to WikiLeaks. The ACLU and EFF cite First and Fourth amendment issues as overriding reasons to overturn government attempts to keep their investigation secret; and, that with Birgitta Jonsdottir being an Icelandic Parliamentarian, the issue has serious international implications.

The case, titled “In the Matter of the 2703(d) Order Relating to Twitter Accounts: Wikileaks, Rop_G, IOERROR; and BirgittaJ“, has been in the EFF’s sights since late last year when they became aware of the US government’s attempts to investigate WikiLeaks-related communications using the popular microblogging service.

The key objective of this US government investigation is to obtain data for the prosecution of Bradley Manning, alleged to have supplied classified data to WikiLeaks. In addition to Manning’s Twitter account, and that of WikiLeaks (@wikileaks), the following three accounts are subject to the order: @ioerror, @birgittaj, and @rop_g. These, respectively, belong to Jacob Apelbaum, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Rop Gonggrijp.

Birgitta is not the only non-US citizen with their Twitter account targeted by the US Government; Gonggrijp, a Dutch ‘ex-hacker’-turned-security-expert, was one of the founders of XS4ALL – the first Internet Service Provider in the Netherlands available to the public. He has worked on a mobile phone that can encrypt conversations, and proven that electronic voting systems can readily be hacked.

In early March, a Virginia magistrate judge ruled that the government could have the sought records, and neither the targeted users, or the public, could see documents submitted to justify data being passed to the government. The data sought is as follows:

  1. Personal contact information, including addresses
  2. Financial data, including credit card or bank account numbers
  3. Twitter account activity information, including the “date, time, length, and method of connections” plus the “source and destination Internet Protocol address(es)”
  4. Direct Message (DM) information, including the email addresses and IP addresses of everyone with whom the Parties have exchanged DMs

The order demands disclosure of absolutely all such data from November 1, 2009 for the targeted accounts.

The ACLU and EFF are not only challenging this, but demanding that all submissions made by the US government to justify the Twitter disclosure are made public, plus details of any other such cases which have been processed in secret.

Bradley Manning, at the time a specialist from Maryland enlisted with the United States Army’s 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, was arrested in June last year in connection with the leaking of classified combat video to WikiLeaks.

The leaked video footage, taken from a US helicopter gunship, showed the deaths of Reuters staff Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen during a U.S. assault in Baghdad, Iraq. The wire agency unsuccessfully attempted to get the footage released via a Freedom of Information Act request in 2007.

When WikiLeaks released the video footage it directly contradicted the official line taken by the U.S. Army asserting that the deaths of the two Reuters staff were “collateral damage” in an attack on Iraqi insurgents. The radio chatter associated with the AH-64 Apache video indicated the helicopter crews had mistakenly identified the journalists’ equipment as weaponry.

The US government also claims Manning is linked to CableGate; the passing of around a quarter of a million classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Manning has been in detention since July last year; in December allegations of torture were made to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the conditions under which he was and is being detained.

Reports last month that he must now sleep naked and attend role call at the U.S. Marine facility in Quantico in the same state, raised further concern over his detention conditions. Philip J. Crowley, at-the-time a State Department spokesman, remarked on this whilst speaking at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; describing the current treatment of Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”, Crowley was, as a consequence, put in the position of having to tender his resignation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Despite his native Australia finding, in December last year, that Assange’s WikiLeaks had not committed any criminal offences in their jurisdiction, the U.S. government has continued to make ongoing operations very difficult for the whistleblower website.

The result of the Australian Federal Police investigation left the country’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, having to retract a statement that WikiLeaks had acted “illegally”; instead, she characterised the site’s actions as “grossly irresponsible”.

Even with Australia finding no illegal activity on the part of WikiLeaks, and with founder Julian Assange facing extradition to Sweden, U.S. pressure sought to hobble WikiLeaks financially.

Based on a State Department letter, online payments site PayPal suspended WikiLeaks account in December. Their action was swiftly followed by Visa Europe and Mastercard ceasing to handle payments for WikiLeaks.

The online processing company, Datacell, threatened the two credit card giants with legal action over this. However, avenues of funding for the site were further curtailed when both Amazon.com and Swiss bank PostFinance joined the financial boycott of WikiLeaks.

Assange continues, to this day, to argue that his extradition to Sweden for questioning on alleged sexual offences is being orchestrated by the U.S. in an effort to discredit him, and thus WikiLeaks.

Wikinews consulted an IT and cryptography expert from the Belgian university which developed the current Advanced Encryption Standard; explaining modern communications, he stated: “Cryptography has developed to such a level that intercepting communications is no longer cost effective. That is, if any user uses the correct default settings, and makes sure that he/she is really connecting to Twitter it is highly unlikely that even the NSA can break the cryptography for a protocol such as SSL/TLS (used for https).”

Qualifying this, he commented that “the vulnerable parts of the communication are the end points.” To make his point, he cited the following quote from Gene Spafford: “Using encryption on the Internet is the equivalent of arranging an armored car to deliver credit card information from someone living in a cardboard box to someone living on a park bench.

Continuing, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) expert explained:

In the first place, the weak point is Twitter itself; the US government can go and ask for the data; companies such as Twitter and Google will typically store quite some information on their users, including IP addresses (it is known that Google deletes the last byte of the IP address after a few weeks, but it is not too hard for a motivated opponent to find out what this byte was).
In the second place, this is the computer of the user: by exploiting system weaknesses (with viruses, Trojan horses or backdoors in the operating system) a highly motivated opponent can enter your machine and record your keystrokes plus everything that is happening (e.g. the FBI is known to do this with the so-called Magic Lantern software). Such software is also commercially available, e.g. for a company to monitor its employees.
It would also be possible for a higly motivated opponent to play “man-in-the-middle”; that means that instead of having a secure connection to Twitter.com, you have a secure connection to the attacker’s server, who impersonates Twitter’s and then relays your information to Twitter. This requires tricks such as spoofing DNS (this is getting harder with DNSsec), or misleading the user (e.g. the user clicks on a link and connects to tw!tter.com or Twitter.c0m, which look very similar in a URL window as Twitter.com). It is clear that the US government is capable of using these kind of tricks; e.g., a company has been linked to the US government that was recognized as legitimate signer in the major browsers, so it would not be too large for them to sign a legitimate certificate for such a spoofing webserver; this means that the probability that a user would detect a problem would be very low.
As for traffic analysis (finding out who you are talking to rather than finding out what you are telling to whom), NSA and GCHQ are known to have access to lots of traffic (part of this is obtained via the UK-USA agreement). Even if one uses strong encryption, it is feasible for them to log the IP addresses and email addresses of all the parties you are connecting to. If necessary, they can even make routers re-route your traffic to their servers. In addition, the European Data Retention directive forces all operators to store such traffic data.
Whether other companies would have complied with such requests: this is very hard to tell. I believe however that it is very plausible that companies such as Google, Skype or Facebook would comply with such requests if they came from a government.
In summary: unless you go through great lengths to log through to several computers in multiple countries, you work in a clean virtual machine, you use private browser settings (don’t accept cookies, no plugins for Firefox, etc.) and use tools such as Tor, it is rather easy for any service provider to identify you.
Finally: I prefer not to be quoted on any sentences in which I make statements on the capabilities or actions of any particular government.

Wikinews also consulted French IT security researcher Stevens Le Blond on the issues surrounding the case, and the state-of-the-art in monitoring, and analysing, communications online. Le Blond, currently presenting a research paper on attacks on Tor to USENIX audiences in North America, responded via email:

Were the US Government to obtain the sought data, it would seem reasonable the NSA would handle further investigation. How would you expect them to exploit the data and expand on what they receive from Twitter?

  • Le Blond: My understanding is that the DOJ is requesting the following information: 1) Connection records and session times 2) IP addresses 3) e-mail addresses 4) banking info
By requesting 1) and 2) for Birgitta and other people involved with WikiLeaks (WL) since 2009, one could derive 2 main [pieces of] information.
First, he could tell the mobility of these people. Recent research in networking shows that you can map an IP address into a geographic location with a median error of 600 meters. So by looking at changes of IP addresses in time for a Twitter user, one could tell (or at least speculate about) where that person has been.
Second, by correlating locations of different people involved with WL in time, one could possibly derive their interactions and maybe even their level of involvement with WL. Whether it is possible to derive this information from 1) and 2) depends on how this people use Twitter. For example, do they log on Twitter often enough, long enough, and from enough places?
My research indicates that this is the case for other Internet services but I cannot tell whether it is the case for Twitter.
Note that even though IP logging, as done by Twitter, is similar to the logging done by GSM [mobile phone] operators, the major difference seems to be that Twitter is subject to US regulation, no matter the citizenship of its users. I find this rather disturbing.
Using 3), one could search for Birgitta on other Internet services, such as social networks, to find more information on her (e.g., hidden accounts). Recent research on privacy shows that people tend to use the same e-mail address to register an account on different social networks (even when they don’t want these accounts to be linked together). Obviously, one could then issue subpoenas for these accounts as well.
I do not have the expertise to comment on what could be done with 4).
((WN)) As I believe Jonsdottir to be involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), what are the wider implications beyond the “WikiLeaks witchhunt”?
  • Le Blond: Personal data can be used to discredit, especially if the data is not public.

Having been alerted to the ongoing case through a joint press release by the ACLU and EFF, Wikinews sought clarification on the primary issues which the two non-profits saw as particularly important in challenging the U.S. Government over the ‘secret’ court orders. Rebecca Jeschke, Media Relations Director for the EFF, explained in more detail the points crucial to them, responding to a few questions from Wikinews on the case:

((WN)) As a worse-case, what precedents would be considered if this went to the Supreme Court?
  • Rebecca Jeschke: It’s extremely hard to know at this stage if this would go to the Supreme Court, and if it did, what would be at issue. However, some of the interesting questions about this case center on the rights of people around the world when they use US Internet services. This case questions the limits of US law enforcement, which may turn out to be very different from the limits in other countries.
((WN)) Since this is clearly a politicised attack on free speech with most chilling potential repercussions for the press, whistleblowers, and by-and-large anyone the relevant U.S. Government departments objects to the actions of, what action do you believe should be taken to protect free speech rights?
  • Jeschke: We believe that, except in very rare circumstances, the government should not be permitted to obtain information about individuals’ private Internet communications in secret. We also believe that Internet companies should, whenever possible, take steps to ensure their customers are notified about requests for information and have the opportunity to respond.
((WN)) Twitter via the web, in my experience, tends to use https:// connections. Are you aware of any possibility of the government cracking such connections? (I’m not up to date on the crypto arms race).
  • Jeschke: You don’t need to crack https, per se, to compromise its security. See this piece about fraudulent https certificates:
Iranian hackers obtain fraudulent httpsEFF website.
((WN)) And, do you believe that far, far more websites should – by default – employ https:// connections to protect people’s privacy?
  • Jeschke: We absolutely think that more websites should employ https! Here is a guide for site operators: (See external links, Ed.)

Finally, Wikinews approached the Icelandic politician, and WikiLeaks supporter, who has made this specific case a landmark in how the U.S. Government handles dealings with – supposedly – friendly governments and their elected representatives. A number of questions were posed, seeking the Icelandic Parliamentarian’s views:

((WN)) How did you feel when you were notified the US Government wanted your Twitter account, and message, details? Were you shocked?
  • Birgitta Jonsdottir: I felt angry but not shocked. I was expecting something like this to happen because of my involvement with WikiLeaks. My first reaction was to tweet about it.
((WN)) What do you believe is their reasoning in selecting you as a ‘target’?
  • Jonsdottir: It is quite clear to me that USA authorities are after Julian Assange and will use any means possible to get even with him. I think I am simply a pawn in a much larger context. I did of course both act as a spokesperson for WikiLeaks in relation to the Apache video and briefly for WikiLeaks, and I put my name to the video as a co-producer. I have not participated in any illegal activity and thus being a target doesn’t make me lose any sleep.
((WN)) Are you concerned that, as a Member of Parliament involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), the US attempt to obtain your Twitter data is interfering with planned Icelandic government policy?
  • Jonsdottir: No
((WN)) In an earlier New York Times (NYT) article, you’re indicating there is nothing they can obtain about you that bothers you; but, how do you react to them wanting to know everyone you talk to?
  • Jonsdottir: It bothers me and according to top computer scientists the government should be required to obtain a search warrant to get our IP addresses from Twitter. I am, though, happy I am among the people DOJ is casting their nets around because of my parliamentary immunity; I have a greater protection then many other users and can use that immunity to raise the issue of lack of rights for those that use social media.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Do you believe the U.S. government should have the right to access data on foreign nationals using services such as Twitter?
Add or view comments
((WN)) The same NYT article describes you as a WikiLeaks supporter; is this still the case? What attracts you to their ‘radical transparency’?
  • Jonsdottir: I support the concept of WikiLeaks. While we don’t have a culture of protection for sources and whistleblowers we need sites like WikiLeaks. Plus, I think it is important to give WikiLeaks credit for raising awareness about in how bad shape freedom of information and expression is in our world and it is eroding at an alarming rate because of the fact that legal firms for corporations and corrupt politicians have understood the borderless nature of the legalities of the information flow online – we who feel it is important that people have access to information that should remain in the public domain need to step up our fight for those rights. WikiLeaks has played an important role in that context.I don’t support radical transparency – I understand that some things need to remain secret. It is the process of making things secret that needs to be both more transparent and in better consensus with nations.
((WN)) How do you think the Icelandic government would have reacted if it were tens of thousands of their diplomatic communications being leaked?
  • Jonsdottir: I am not sure – A lot of our dirty laundry has been aired via the USA cables – our diplomatic communications with USA were leaked in those cables, so far they have not stirred much debate nor shock. It is unlikely for tens of thousands of cables to leak from Iceland since we dont have the same influence or size as the USA, nor do we have a military.
((WN)) Your ambassador in the US has spoken to the Obama administration. Can you discuss any feedback from that? Do you have your party’s, and government’s, backing in challenging the ordered Twitter data release?
  • Jonsdottir: I have not had any feedback from that meeting, I did however receive a message from the DOJ via the USA ambassador in Iceland. The message stated three things: 1. I am free to travel to the USA. 2. If I would do so, I would not be a subject of involuntary interrogation. 3. I am not under criminal investigation. If this is indeed the reality I wonder why they are insisting on getting my personal details from Twitter. I want to stress that I understand the reasoning of trying to get to Assange through me, but I find it unacceptable since there is no foundation for criminal investigation against him. If WikiLeaks goes down, all the other media partners should go down at the same time. They all served similar roles. The way I see it is that WikiLeaks acted as the senior editor of material leaked to them. They could not by any means be considered a source. The source is the person that leaks the material to WikiLeaks. I am not sure if the media in our world understands how much is at stake for already shaky industry if WikiLeaks will carry on carrying the brunt of the attacks. I think it would be powerful if all the medias that have had access to WikiLeaks material would band together for their defence.
((WN)) Wikinews consulted a Belgian IT security expert who said it was most likely companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, would have complied with similar court orders *without advising the ‘targets*’. Does that disturb you?
  • Jonsdottir: This does disturb me for various reasons. The most obvious is that my emails are hosted at google/gmail and my search profile. I dont have anything to hide but it is important to note that many of the people that interact with me as a MP via both facebook and my various email accounts don’t always realize that there is no protection for them if they do so via those channels. I often get sensitive personal letters sent to me at facebook and gmail. In general most people are not aware of how little rights they have as users of social media. It is those of uttermost importance that those sites will create the legal disclaimers and agreements that state the most obvious rights we lose when we sign up to their services.
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
((WN)) Has there been any backlash within Iceland against US-based internet services in light of this? Do you expect such, or any increase in anti-American sentiments?
  • Jonsdottir: No, none what so ever. I dont think there is much anti-American sentiments in Iceland and I dont think this case will increase it. However I think it is important for everyone who does not live in the USA and uses social services to note that according to the ruling in my case, they dont have any protection of the 1st and 4th amendment, that only apply to USA citizens. Perhaps the legalities in relation to the borderless reality we live in online need to be upgraded in order for people to feel safe with using social media if it is hosted in the USA. Market tends to bend to simple rules.
((WN)) Does this make you more, or less, determined to see the IMMI succeed?
  • Jonsdottir: More. People have to realize that if we dont have freedom of information online we won’t have it offline. We have to wake up to the fact that our rights to access information that should be in the public domain is eroding while at the same time our rights as citizens online have now been undermined and we are only seen as consumers with consumers rights and in some cases our rights are less than of a product. This development needs to change and change fast before it is too late.

The U.S. Government continues to have issues internationally as a result of material passed to WikiLeaks, and subsequently published.

Within the past week, Ecuador has effectively declared the U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges persona-non-grata over corruption allegations brought to light in leaked cables. Asking the veteran diplomat to leave “as soon as possible”, the country may become the third in South America with no ambassadorial presence. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have no resident U.S. ambassador due to the two left-wing administrations believing the ejected diplomats were working with the opposition.

The U.S. State Department has cautioned Ecuador that a failure to speedily normalise diplomatic relations may jeapordise ongoing trade talks.

The United Kingdom is expected to press the Obama administration over the continuing detention of 23-year-old Manning, who also holds UK citizenship. British lawmakers are to discuss his ongoing detention conditions before again approaching the U.S. with their concerns that his solitary confinement, and treatment therein, is not acceptable.

The 22 charges brought against Manning are currently on hold whilst his fitness to stand trial is assessed.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »
Suicide bomber strikes Afghanistan restaurant
">
Suicide bomber strikes Afghanistan restaurant

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A suicide bomber has killed at least seven people in an attack on a restaurant situated in south-eastern Afghanistan. Twenty people are seriously injured in the attack.

The attack took place in the Urgun district of Paktika province, which shares its border with that of Pakistan.

Governor Mohammed Akram Akhpelwak said that most of those killed are civilians. He added that intention of the attack could have been to target a senior provincial official and an Afghan special forces commander.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

« Previous Entries