Colombia's supreme court on Feb. 27 convicted two close aides of former president Alvaro Uribe for illegal eavesdropping on the communications of the conservative leader's top opponents. Maria del Pilar Hurtado, former head of the now-disbanded DAS intelligence agency, and Bernardo Moreno, Uribe's chief of staff, were both found guilty on several charges, including conspiracy, and each face more than 10 years in prison. The convictions were widely anticipated since a number of former DAS agents accused them of ordering wiretaps of journalists, human rights defenders, politicians and even members of the supreme court who had been critical of Uribe. President Juan Manuel Santos ordered the DAS shut down shortly after taking office.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Jan. 20 that the Chinese government should radically revise its proposed legislation on counter-terrorism to make it consistent with international law and the protection of human rights. The draft law was made public for consultation in November and is expected to be adopted in 2015 after minimal revisions. HRW charges that the draft law's definition of what constitutes "terrorism" is "dangerously vague and open-ended," constituting a "recipe for abuses."
An arsonist set fire to a mosque in the Swedish town of Eskilstuna Dec. 25, injuring five people. Some 20 worshippers were attending midday prayers when the fire broke out. Police said the blaze began when assailants hurled an incendiary device through a window of the mosque, on the ground floor of a residential building. The attack comes amid a fierce debate in Sweden over immigration policy. The far right wants to cut the number of asylum-seekers allowed into Sweden by 90%. On Dec. 3, the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats brought down the minority governing coalition after it had been in power for just 10 weeks, refusing to support its proposed budget and forcing a special election. The new election is scheduled for March. (BBC News, Al Jazeera, Dec. 15; EurActiv, Dec. 18; Daily Mail, Dec. 3)
Daily Kos is currently pushing a petition warning of the imminent demise of "net neutrality." It reads: "FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed a new set of rules that will allow Internet service providers to charge web publishers extra for preferential treatment. Large websites like Fox News could pay for priority service to ride in the fast lane and reach more people online—while independent blogs like Daily Kos, nonprofits, small businesses and any website that can’t afford it will be left out in the cold. The FCC will consider this 'pay-to-play' rule on May 15th, so let's nip it in the bud now." OK, we encourage readers to sign the petition, by all means. But we have little faith that online petitions really make much difference, or that this eventuality (inevitability?) can be nipped in the bud...
The new commissioner of the New York Police Department (NYPD) William Bratton announced April 16 the disbanding of a surveillance unit used to spy on Muslim communities. The Demographics Unit, established in 2003, utilized plainclothes detectives to map communities both inside and outside New York City, tracking the movements and conversations of Muslim individuals. According to the New York Times, the unit, composed of around 12 detectives, was created to look for "hot spots" of radicalization that could theoretically provide early warning of possible terrorist activities. Surveillance focused on 28 "ancestries of interest." At a pretrial examination (PDF) before the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Commanding Officer of the Intelligence Division Thomas Galati admitted that the program had never generated a lead. The tactics of the unit had drawn significant criticism and generated two federal lawsuits.
Transcripts of conversations between the highest leaders of the FARC guerillas were revealed by Colombian media Feb. 15 after being intercepted by the Armed Forces. The transcripts reveal dialogues between the FARC’s peace delegation in Havana, Cuba and the guerrilla group’s highest military commander Rodrigo Londoño Echeverry AKA "Timochenko." Colombia’s military intelligence was able to access the conversations after breaking through their encrypted codes protecting their communication mediums. Colombia's Blu Radio station gained access to the transcripts. A scandal over sying on the peace delegations has forced the dismissal of four top military commanders.
Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón announced Feb. 4 that an investigation will be opened into claims of eavesdropping on both government and rebel delegations to ongoing peace talks with the FARC guerilla group. The revelations were published in weekly Semana the day before. Based on 15 months of reports from an unnamed inside source, Semana concluded that a Colombian military intelligence unit funded and coordinated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) monitored the text messages and e-mails of representatives of both the government and the FARC involved in the Havana peace negotiations. Under the code name "Andromeda," the military's Technical Intelligence Battalion, or BITEC 1, operated a "gray chamber" to monitor the intercepted communications underneath a bar and restaurant in Bogotá, according to Semana. Opposition lawmaker Iván Cepeda dismissed the investigation, saying that only Pinzón himself could have ordered the eavesdropping, and that he should resign immediately. (Colombia Reports, Feb. 4)
World War 4 Report has been keeping a dispassionate record of Barack Obama's moves in dismantling, continuing and escalating (he has done all three) the oppressive apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) established by the Bush White House. On the day of his 2014 State of the Union address, we offer the following annotated assessment of which moves over the past year have been on balance positive, neutral and negative, and arrive at an overall score: