New publication: “The Global Terrorism Database: Accomplishments and Challenges”

The Journal ‘Perspectives on Terrorism’ published on Volume IV (Issue 1) a paper on “The Global Terrorism Database: Accomplishments and Challenges”, by Gary LaFree.

Here is the abstract:

“The paper provides an update on the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), an open source event database that now includes information on over 82,000 domestic and international terrorist attacks since 1970. [1] GTD was launched by computerizing data originally collected by the Pinkerton Global Intelligence Service (PGIS).[2]  Following computerization, the research team has continued working to update and validate the data. This paper describes original data collection efforts and the strategies employed to improve the quality and comprehensiveness of the data, addressing also the strengths and weaknesses of Open Source data in general and the GTD in particular. The paper  also provides descriptive statistics on the contents of the most recently available version of the GTD and offer observations about the future of event databases.”

Click here for the full-text article.

AP discloses identity of secret CIA prisoner who froze to death in the Salt Pit prison

The Salt Pit: 2001-2003
Dana Priest disclosed 5 years ago the existence of the existence of a “black-site” or secretly-run CIA interrogation facility in Afghanistan code-named the “Salt Pit.” Located to the north of Kabul’s business district, the Salt Pit was reported to be an abandoned brick factory built on a 10-acre site, consisting of a three-story building, as well as several smaller buildings. The facility was established as an interrogation center following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. In addition to serving as a detention facility, the site was reportedly also used to train Afghan counterrorism forces. Eventually the site was expanded to serve as a CIA’s substation which was accessible only to CIA agents and a small number of Afghan guards.

As of the time of the March 2005 Washington Post article, the brick factory had already been torn down. This followed the 20 November 2002 death of an Afghan detainee at the “Salt Pit” who froze to death overnight after having been stripped naked, was buried and kept “off-the-books”.

Investigating the detainee’s death and establishing accountability
The CIA’s Inspector General investigated the death, and said that the Salt Pit officer displayed “poor judgment” in leaving the detainee in the cold. (‘Ironically, this phrase was also recently used to describe officially the conduct of the lawyers who wrote the so-called ‘torture memo’s’.)

The inspector general referred the Salt Pit death to prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia. Two federal prosecutors, Paul J. McNulty and Chuck Rosenberg, conducted separate reviews. Each prosecutor concluded he couldn’t make a case against any CIA officer involved in the death. Neither would discuss his decision.

The former U.S. official familiar with the case said federal prosecutors could not prove the CIA officer running the Salt Pit had intended to harm the detainee — a point made in a recently released government document that also disclosed Rahman’s name.

The current U.S. official insisted that the case was adequately scrutinized. The official also said a CIA accountability review board was held in connection with the death.

The CIA declined to discuss whether the two agency officers cited in the inspector general’s report were punished.

But when the case was put before Kyle D. Foggo, the CIA’s third-ranking officer at the time, no formal administrative action was taken against the two men, said two former intelligence officials with knowledge of
the case. The unresolved questions about Rahman’s death have led to new scrutiny by the Obama administration.

An ongoing Justice Department criminal inquiry, led by prosecutor John Durham, is aimed at whether CIA operatives crossed the
line in a small number of cases including the Salt Pit death.

New details emerge
AP now discloses that the man was Gul Rahman, a suspected Afghan militant captured with four others on Oct. 29, 2002 in Islamabad during a joint US-Pakistani operation against Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, an insurgent group headed by Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is designated a global terrorist by the U.S. His nom de guerre was Abdul Manan.

Rahman was apparenlty “violently uncooperative” when he was transferred to the Salt Pit.

At one point, the detainee threw a latrine bucket at his guards. He also threatened to kill them. His stubborn responses provoked harsher treatment. His hands were shackled over his head, he was roughed up and doused with water, according to several former CIA officials.

The exact circumstances of Rahman’s death are not clear, but the Afghan was left in the cold cell on the morning of Nov. 20, when the temperature dipped just below 36 degrees. He was naked from the waist down, said two former U.S. officials familiar with the case. Within hours, he was dead.

CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., sent a team “to gather the facts,” the current U.S. official said. “The guidance was for the people on scene to preserve everything as it was.”

A CIA medic at the site concluded the Afghan died of hypothermia. A doctor sent later confirmed that judgment. But the detainee’s body was never returned to his family for burial.

One of the other captured persons was Dr. Ghairat Baheer, a physician who is Hekmatyar’s son-in-law and a leader of Hezb-e-Islami. The other persons were two guards and a cook of Baheer. Rahman had driven from Peshawar to Islamabad for a medical checkup and was staying with Baheer, an old friend. Baheer is now a member of a Hezb-e-Islami delegation that met this month in Kabul  for peace talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

In an interview with AP Baheer described the Salt Pit, saying it “contained a patchwork of small, windowless cells”.

“I was left naked, sleeping on the barren concrete,” said Baheer. His toilet was a bucket. Loudspeakers blared. Guards concealed their identity with masks and carried torches.

Baheer said his American interrogators would tie him to a chair and sit on his stomach. They hung him naked, he said, for hours on end.

Demos publication on the database society

Read the report here.

This pamphlet is about what the public thinks about how personal information is used. It sets out the opinions and ideas expressed by 40 people following a month-long, deliberative ‘people’s inquiry’. Over 13 hours they were informed by a series of expert presentations, and then given the time and space to reflect, debate and decide what they thought about the use of communications data, targeted advertising and the use of medical information.

They heard from expert representatives from the NHS, search engines, mobile phone companies, from lawyers and from consumer advocates. The aim was to facilitate an informed discussion with participants considering a range of opinions on the risks, benefits, opportunities and challenges of the phenomenal explosion in the means to gather and use personal information.

Across our three topics inquiry members were asked to consider the legitimacy of personal information use; the extent to which they can control it; and which ‘calls to action’ they demanded regulators, government and businesses listen to. The people’s inquiry indicated that people are not running scared of the database society, but at the same time they care deeply about its governance. They recognise that there are legitimate ways to gather and use information. But over the course of the inquiry they came to require more convincing that the aspirations driving the use of personal information were realistic, or that information would only be used to pursue the intended purposes.

EU action plan on the ‘Internet of Things’

Read it here.
Draft report here.

EDRI presentation on the topic here.