CIA torture of innocent captives

This report has parallels to the Pentagon Papers. The CIA torture of innocent captives is well documented. It reminds me of the book Chain of Command which I read back in 2006. Remember the photographs of detained prisoners that caused a media sensation? Wow by comparison to the forced rectal feedings in the CIA report those photos really were just the tip of the iceberg.

tortureThe report turns out to be a series of blunders one right after another. Questionable evidence that enhanced torture resulted in deeper intelligence vs. ‘normal’ torture. And of course one type of “torture” forcing someone to stand for more than 72 hours. Yet the Senate report indicates less than 72 hours is ‘normal’ torture. Forcing prisoners to stand for three consecutive days is torture especially when normal torture is repeated on a weekly basis.

Beyond the obvious black eye, the report reveals horrifically cruel actions. A short passage on page 110 sums up the ineffectiveness of the program. CIA reveals they were holding prisoners determined to be confined by mistake. Yes innocent civilians were abducted, flown to secret prisons and tortured. As in all wars innocent people were at the wrong place at the wrong time:

A Year After DETENTION SITE COBALT Opens, the CIA Reports “Unsettling Discovery That We Are Holding a Number of Detainees About Whom We Know Very Little”

In the fall of 2003, CIA officers began to take a closer look at the CIA detainees being held in Country raising concerns about both the number and types of detainees being held by the CIA. CIA officers in Country X provided a list of CIA detainees to CIA Headquarters, resulting in the observation by CIA Headquarters that they had not previously had the names of all 44 CIA detainees being held in that country. At the direction of CIA Headquarters, the Station in Country X “completed an exhaustive search of all available records in an attempt to develop a clearer understanding of the [CIA] detainees.” A December 2003 cable from the Station in Country X to CIA Headquarters stated that; “In the process of this research, we have made the unsettling discovery that we are holding a number of detainees about whom we know very little. The majority of [CIA] detainees in [Country X] have not been debriefed for months and, in some cases, for over a year. Many of them appear to us to have no further intelligence value for [the CIAl and should more properly be turned over to the [U.S. military], to [Country X ] authorities or to third countries for further investigation and possibly prosecution. In a few cases, there does not appear to be enough evidence to continue incarceration, and, if this is in fact the case, the detainees should be released.”

The CIA knew they held and tortured innocent people but the band played on:

Records indicate that all of these CIA detainees had been kept in solitary confinement. The vast majority of these detainees were later released, with some receiving CIA payments for having been held in detention.

Cash payments? Were they paid more than college students who volunteer for sleep deprivation studies at local hospitals?
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CIA torture modeled from The Vietnam War

The CIA’s Torture report has quickly left the nightly news and Sunday talk shows.

tortureContinuing my read of the full report I was somewhat intrigued the CIA enhanced interrogation techniques were sourced from the North Vietnamese in a war fought over 40 years ago.

Have our intelligence teams not evaluated more recent torture programs from the former Soviet Union, East Germany or Chile?

With the revelations of the NSA high tech spying from Edward Snowden its somewhat surprising that more efficient forms of intelligence gathering were not deployed against Al Qaeda in order to capture high level leaders.

Abu Zubaydah’s capture and subsequent torture by the CIA is a key focus on the early CIA Torture report. It appears that most of the intelligence gained from Abu Zubaydah was a result of standard interrogation techniques, not the enhanced torture that serves has a source for the Senate’s report:

In May 2003, a senior CIA interrogator would tell personnel from the CIA’s Office of Inspector General that SWIGERT and DUNBAR’s SERE school model was based on resisting North Vietnamese “physical torture” and was designed to extract “confessions for propaganda purposes” from U.S. airmen “who possessed little actionable intelligence.” The CIA, he believed “need[ed] a different working model for interrogating terrorists where confessions are not the ultimate goal” 139

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Committee Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program
Exec Summary Background and History Part I and II – Page 33

While this page serves as merely a sidenote to history, seemingly forever linking our military actions to Vietnam, there are more concerns regarding the actions taken by the CIA, The White House and the FBI in regards to withholding informaiton on the torture program from our elected leaders.

CIA torture report: The role of enhanced interrogation methods

Enhanced interrogation is simply today’s political spin to a torture technique used for over 500 years. Waterboarding as a method of torture dates back to Spain in the 1500s. The Senate’s declassified report regarding the role of the CIA’s use of torture in the war on terror after 9/11 has been a most revealing so far. I wonder if the full report will ever be declassified. Maybe to further strengthen our democracy it should take less than the 40 year wait for the Pentagon Papers.

torture

In today’s instant twitter-world of “news” the world has learned of CIA techniques as abhorrent as rectal rehydration and a technique — so innocent at first glance — prolonged standing until you realize how this form of torture, as written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago is hideous to a human under interrogation.

Torture is simply inhumane. I am respectful of US Senator John McCain’s address on the floor of the Senate indicating his view that the CIA’s torture was wrong. The US can be better by not torturing prisoners. Proven, established interrogation methods (not torture) firmly established provide information needed in the war on terror. Senator McCain himself was tortured as an American POW during the Vietnam War. He speaks from a point of view that most Americans cannot fully understand. I applaud his service to our country during the War in Vietnam and more importantly his personal survival as a tortured prisoner of war. As outlined in the Pentagon Papers the US military used waterboarding in Vietnam.

In just reading the Senate’s executive overview the most chilling issue is that the CIA specifically withheld their acknowledgement of torture to the President. The second most important, but seemingly forgotten is the destruction of videotapes by the CIA of prisoners under torture. Clearly the CIA learned from Nixon’s Watergate.

I am beginning to feel again, after reading the Pentagon Papers that our democracy and leader of nations in today’s complex world has taken a temporary step backward.

My latest read: Disruptive Possibilities

There can be no doubt today that Big Data has changed everything. Jeffery Needham has written a great book Disruptive Possibilities: How Big Data Changes Everything. Its all about the impact of Hadoop in the cloud as the ultimate computing platform.

Disruptive Possibilities: How Big Data Changes EverythingI was very pleased reading his work when I found his personal story at the end regarding the application of Hadoop in neuroscience as a method to address Sturge-Weber Syndrome. We know it as having a port wine stain on your face. His story made me appreciate his desire to throw Hadoop at the datasets that may one day reveal a cure for this syndrome. I am amazed at how he described reteaching himself not only how to walk down a hallway, but train his body to hit a baseball after losing vision in his right eye.

My favorite segment of Disruptive Possibilities is chapter five: When Clouds meet Big Data. Needham also makes a very easy read in chapters one to four where he lays the foundation based upon his deep experiences with Hadoop. And yes you can run Hadoop off laptops found in a dumpster.

There is much to learn in university circles about the impact of Disruptive Possibilities and Hadoop.  Worry not its not the computing or research units that I am thinking about but rather HR, Admissions and just about every other campus unit that would benefit from moving their data into a Hadoop cluster in order to data mine their future.

Battle of Ong Thanh anniversary

Today marks the 47th anniversary of the Battle of Ong Thanh. This battle was a tremendous loss for American troops, ambushed forty miles northwest of Saigon during Operation Shenandoah II.

october 17

Ong Thanh Battle date 1967

On this weekend in 1967 the battle in Vietnam and a student protest turned riot in Madison resulted in a turning point for the State of Wisconsin. While affluent students were protesting Dow Chemical at Bascom Hill, blue collar boys from the south side of Milwaukee were dying in battle.

The soldiers including Danny Sikorski, Jack Schroder and football All American Don Holleder served under the command of Terry Allen Jr. on this fateful day.

In Madison Paul Soglin, (the city’s current Mayor) led student protests that turned violent. After this battle 64 Americans were dead. Even today this is a shocking number of American losses in a small battle. The Tet Offensive began less than 90 days later.

It was in David Maraniss’ award winning book They Marched Into Sunlight the Sikorski family in Milwaukee would receive ~$740 from the Army to bury their son Danny. He was one of the first Black Lyons killed in Bravo Company. Yet at the same time The Pentagon Papers reveal the Michelin Corporation secured a reimbursement agreement from the U.S. Government for ~$700 per tree destroyed in combat on their rubber plantations in Vietnam.

The Army’s report on the battle of Ong Thanh remained classified for almost four years until released in 1971.

My latest read: Online Payments Risk Management

Online Payments Risk Management is certainly a hot topic. The 2013 holiday data breach at Target and more recently, a new large data breach at Home Depot the need for organizations to understand Online Payments Risk Management is more important today truly than ever before.
online payments risk managementI think there is no better way than for companies and payment card providers to step back and acknowledge many “security” measures are not effective today in combating cyber crime.

Ohad Samet’s book is a great introduction to payment risk management from multiple angles and can be a good base document to build upon in bringing PCI compliance efforts to online payment websites.

It may even be interesting to see how Samet positions of Loss over Fraud.  The implications can be rather surprising.

Samet has organized this book into logical sections regarding approaches and the use of analytics to optimize tracking losses while also addressing the role of the organization and the people implementing secure transactions.  Regardless of its 2013 publication, section 3 on Tools and Methods provides solid, industry tested solutions that should be reviewed annually.

That said its time to roll up your sleeves and begin protecting consumers.

My latest read: Numbers Rule Your World

I have enjoyed Kaiser Fung‘s blog JunkCharts for some time. He provides insight regarding data visualizations. His book Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probabilities and Statistics on Everything You Do reveals how statistics and data mining find insights too good to pass up. Numbers make good stories even more compelling.

Numbers Rule Your WorldKaiser Fung takes an excellent approach to confirming that data analysis is now key to improving outcomes and discovering insights.

Fung outlines the use of big data analysis to solve five problems:

1. Fast Passes/Slow Merges: managing traffic patterns by the Minnesota DOT. This chapter reveals how frustrating statisticians can become when confronting politicians who ignore data.

2. Bagged Spinach/Bad Score tracked a deadly E. coli outbreak that caused three deaths across 23 states.

3. Item Bank/Risk Pool is a fascinating chapter about Florida insurance policies. Hurricane seasons come and go and yet an established city mayor and established businessman could not maintain an ongoing insurance business even with years of experience in state government. I found this chapter interesting to discover how the state games the insurance system say for say….Hurricane Wilma. For Higher Education this chapter also reveals Admissions related stories that are most interesting when compared to hospital billing. Fung also brings into focus the Golden Rule lawsuit that successfully charged discrimination against minority applicants in the insurance industry.
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My latest read: The Art of Capacity Planning

The impact of cloud computing on O’Reilly’s 2008 Art of Capacity Planning has shifted quite a bit to say the least. Its still a great resource and well worth the read for any web administrator, manager or director.

The Art of Capacity PlanningMy interest in revisiting is remembering Chapter 4: Predicting Trends. This touches two important factors today: cloud and procurement.

While in 2008 it was possible to ramp up a cloud, today a very high capacity cloud can be deployed in less than 10 minutes.

At the time of the book’s publication (2008) AWS pricing looked competitive. Yet today those prices are considered somewhat excessively high.

The Art of Capacity Planning now is all looking at cloud solutions by Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure has kept Amazon’s EC2 busy in releasing new services and even more aggressive pricing models. Under AWS users get free access to CentOS, LAMP stack, Git and WordPress.

But the Art of Capacity Planning touches on the very important component of Procurement. Procurement and Cloud contract solutions taught by UCLA has been very beneficial to my cloud projects.
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