Tag Archives: Adrian Chen

Wikileaks 2.0

http://bankofamericasuck.com/

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

A member of the activist collective Anonymous is claiming to be have emails and documents which prove “fraud” was committed by Bank of America employees, and the group says it’ll release them on Monday. The member, who goes by the Twitter handle OperationLeakS, has already posted an internal email from the formerly Bank of America-owned Balboa Insurance Company

The email is between Balboa Insurance vice president Peggy Johnson and other Balboa employees. (Click right to enlarge.) As far as we can tell, it doesn’t show anything suspicious, but was posted by OperationLeaks as a teaser. He also posted emails he claims are from the disgruntled employee who sent him the material. In one, the employee says he can “send you a copy of the certified letter sent to me by an AVP of BofA’s [HR department] telling me I am banned from stepping foot on BofA property or contacting their employee ever again.”

OperationLeaks, which runs the anti-Bank of America site BankofAmericasuck.com, says the employee contacted the group to blow the whistle on Bank of America’s shady business practices. “I seen some of the emails… I can tell you Grade A Fraud in its purest form…” read one tweet. “He Just told me he have GMAC emails showing BoA order to mix loan numbers to not match it’s Documents.. to foreclose on Americans.. Shame.”

An Anonymous insider told us he believes the leak is real. “From what I know and have been told, it’s legit,” he said. “Should be a round of emails, then some files, possible some more emails to follow that.” The documents should be released Monday on Anonleaks.ch, the same site where Anonymous posted thousands of internal emails from hacked security company HBGary last month. That leak exposed a legally-questionable plot to attack Wikileaks and ultimately led to the resignation of HBGary CEO Aaron Barr.

Katya Wachtel at Clusterstock:

Anonymous said late Sunday evening, however, “this is part 1 of the Emails.” So perhaps more incriminating correspondence is to come. And to be honest, these messages could be incredibly damaging, but we’re not mortgage specialists and don’t know if this is or isn’t common in the field. The beauty is, you can see and decide for yourself at bankofamericasuck.com.

But for those who want a simple explanation, here’s a summary of the content.

The Source

The ex-Balboa employee tells Anonymous that what he/she sends will be enough to,

crack [BofA’s] armor, and put a bad light on a $700 mil cash deal they need to pay back the government while ruining their already strained relationship with GMAC, one of their largest clients. Trust me… it’ll piss them off plenty.

The source then sends over a paystub, an unemployment form, a letter from HR upon dismissal and his/her last paystub and an ID badge.

He/she also describes his/herself:

My name is (Anonymous). For the last 7 years, I worked in the Insurance/Mortgage industry for a company called Balboa Insurance. Many of you do not know who Balboa Insurance Group is, but if you’ve ever had a loan for an automobile, farm equipment, mobile home, or residential or commercial property, we knew you. In fact, we probably charged you money…a lot of money…for insurance you didn’t even need.

Balboa Insurance Group, and it’s largest competitor, the market leader Assurant, is in the business of insurance tracking and Force Placed Insurance…  What this means is that when you sign your name on the dotted line for your loan, the lienholder has certain insurance requirements that must be met for the life of the lien. Your lender (including, amongst others, GMAC… IndyMac… HSBC… Wells Fargo/Wachovia… Bank of America) then outsources the tracking of your loan with them to a company like Balboa Insurance.

The Emails

Next comes the emails that are supposed to be so damaging. The set of emails just released shows conversational exchanges between Balboa employees.

The following codes pertain to the emails, so use as reference:

  1. SOR = System of Record
  2. Rembrandt/Tracksource = Insurance tracking systems
  3. DTN = Document Tracking Number. A number assigned to all incoming/outgoing documents (letters, insurance documents, etc)

The first email asks for a group of GMAC DTN’s to have their “images removed from Tracksource/Rembrandt.” The relevant DTNs are included in the email — there’s between 50-100 of them.

In reply, a Balboa employee says that the DTN’s cannot be removed from the Rembrandt, but that the loan numbers can be removed so “the documents will not show as matched to those loans.” But she adds that she needs upper management approval before she moves forward, since it’s an unusual request.

Then it gets approved. And then, one of the Balboa employees voices their concern. He says,

“I’m just a little concerned about the impact this has on the department and the company. Why are we removing all record of this error? We have told Denise Cahen, and there is always going to be the paper trail when one of these sent documents come back. this to me seems to be a huge red flag for the auditors… when the auditor sees the erroneous letter but no SOR trail or scanned doc on the corrected letter… What am I missing? This just doesn’t seem right to me.

We suspect this is the type of email that Anonymous believes shows BofA fraud:

leak one

Image: Anonymous

Click here to see why these emails prove nothing interesting, and to see what what Bank of America says about the emails >

Chris V. Nicholson at Dealbook at NYT:

A Bank of America spokesman told Reuters on Sunday that the documents had been stolen by a former Balboa employee, and were not tied to foreclosures. “We are confident that his extravagant assertions are untrue,” the spokesman said.

The e-mails dating from November 2010 concern correspondence among Balboa employees in which they discuss taking steps to alter the record about certain documents “that went out in error.” The documents were related to loans by GMAC, a Bank of America client, according to the e-mails.

“The following GMAC DTN’s need to have the images removed from Tracksource/Rembrandt,” an operations team manager at Balboa wrote. DTN refers to document tracking number, and Tracksource/Rembrandt is an insurance tracking system.

The response he receives: “I have spoken to my developer and she stated that we cannot remove the DTNs from Rembrandt, but she can remove the loan numbers, so the documents will not show as matched to those loans.”

According to the e-mails, approval was given to remove the loan numbers from the documents.

A member of Anonymous told DealBook on Monday that the purpose of his Web site was to bring attention to the wrongdoing of banks. “The way the system is, it’s made to cheat the average person,” he said.

He had set up a Web site to post bank data that WikiLeaks has said it would release, and was subsequently contacted this month by the former Balboa employee. It has been speculated that the documents, which have yet to be released, would focus on Bank of America. The spokesman for Anonymous said he had no direct ties to WikiLeaks, which is run by Julian Assange.

Nitasha Tiku at New York Magazine:

WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, has threatened to leak damning documents on Bank of America since 2009. And Anonymous has backed WikiLeaks’ mission as far as the free flow of information. But these e-mails date from November 2010. Plus, they don’t exactly amount to a smoking gun. Whether or not the e-mails prove real, it’s clear Bank of America should have expanded its negative-domain-name shopping spree beyond BrianMoynihanSucks.com.

Naked Capitalism:

The charge made in this Anonymous release (via BankofAmericaSuck) is that Bank of America, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Balboa Insurance and the help of cooperating servicers, engaged in a mortgage borrower abuse called “force placed insurance”. This is absolutely 100% not kosher. Famed subprime servicer miscreant Fairbanks in 2003 signed a consent decree with the FTC and HUD over abuses that included forced placed insurance. The industry is well aware that this sort of thing is not permissible. (Note Balboa is due to be sold to QBE of Australia; I see that the definitive agreement was entered into on February 3 but do not see a press release saying that the sale has closed)

While the focus of ire may be Bank of America, let me stress that this sort of insurance really amounts to a scheme to fatten servicer margins. If this leak is accurate, the servicers at a minimum cooperated. If they got kickbacks, um, commissions, they are culpable and thus liable.

As we have stated repeatedly, servicers lose tons of money on portfolios with a high level of delinquencies and defaults. The example of Fairbanks, a standalone servicer who subprime portfolio got in trouble in 2002, is that servicers who are losing money start abusing customers and investors to restore profits. Fairbanks charged customers for force placed insurance and as part of its consent decree, paid large fines and fired its CEO (who was also fined).

Regardless, this release lends credence a notion too obvious to borrowers yet the banks and its co-conspirators, meaning the regulators, have long denied, that mortgage servicing and foreclosures are rife with abuses and criminality. Here’s some background courtesy Barry Ritholtz:

When a homeowner fails to keep up their insurance premiums on a mortgaged residence, their loan servicer has the option/obligation to step in to buy a comparable insurance policy on the loan holder’s behalf, to ensure the mortgaged property remains fully insured….

Consider one case found by [American Banker’s Jeff] Horwitz. A homeowner’s $4,000 insurance policy, was paid by the loan servicer, Everbank via escrow. But Everbank purposely let that insurance policy lapse, and then replaced it with a different policy – one that cost more than $33,000. To add insult to injury, the insurer, a subsidiary of Assurant, paid Everbank a $7,100 kickback for giving it such a lucrative policy — and, writes Horwitz, “left the door open to further compensation” down the road.

That $33,000 policy — including the $7,100 kickback – is an enormous amount of money for any loan servicer to make on a single property. The average loan servicer makes just $51 per loan per year.

Here’s where things get interesting: That $33,000 insurance premium is ultimately paid by the investors who bought the loan.

And the worst of this is….the insurance is often reinsured by the bank/servicer, which basically means the insurance is completely phony. The servicer will never put in a claim to trigger payment. As Felix Salmon noted,

This is doubly evil: it not only means that investors are paying far too much money for the insurance, but it also means that, as both the servicer and the ultimate insurer of the property, JPMorgan Chase has every incentive not to pursue claims on the houses it services. Investors, of course, would love to recoup any losses from the insurer, but they can’t bring such a claim — only the servicer can do that.

Note there are variants of this scheme where insurance is charged to the borrower (I’ve been told of insurance being foisted on borrowers that amounts to unconsented-to default insurance, again with the bank as insurer; this has been anecdotal with insufficient documentation, but I’ve heard enough independent accounts to make me pretty certain it was real)

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

Just because something has a lot of anecdotal evidence behind it doesn’t necessarily mean the specific case is true. But the forced-place insurance scam has been part of other servicer lawsuits, so it definitely exists. Whether this set of emails shows that taking place is another matter. Apparently this is just the first Anonymous email dump, so there should be more on the way

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic

Parmy Olson at Forbes:

Yet however inconclusive the e-mails may be, the leak may have wider implications as Anonymous gradually proves itself a source of comeuppance for disgruntled employees with damning information about a company or institution. Once the domain of WikiLeaks, the arrest of key whistleblower Bradley Manning suggested the site founded by fellow incarcerate Julian Assange could not always protect its sources. “A lot depends on the impact of this week,” says Gabriella Coleman, a professor at NYU who is researching Anonymous, who added that “Anonymous could go in that [WikiLeaks] direction.”

Anonymous is not an institution like WikiLeaks. It is global, has no leader, no clear hierarchy and no identifiable spokespeople save for pseudo-representatives like Gregg Housh (administrator of whyweprotest.net) and Barrett Brown.

It has some ideals: Anonymous tends to defend free speach and fight internet censorship, as with the DDoS-ing of the web sites of MasterCard, Visa and PayPal after they nixed funding services to WikiLeaks, and the DDoS-ing of Tunisian government Web sites. It is also great at spectacle. The group’s hacking of software security firm HBGary Federal not only gained oodles of press attention, it inadvertently revealed the firm had been proposing a dirty tricks campaign with others against WikiLeaks to Bank of America’s lawyers.

That hack led, rather organically, to the establishment of AnonLeaks.ru, a Web site where the Anonymous hackers posted tens of thousands of HBGary e-mails in a handy web viewer. While it took just five supporters to hack HBGary, hundreds more poured through the e-mails to identify incriminating evidence, leading to more press reports on the incident.

Such is the nature of Anonymous–global, fluid, intelligent, impossible to pin down–that it is could become an increasingly popular go-to for people wishing to vent damaging information about an institution with questionable practices.

The collective already receives dozens of requests each month from the public to attack all manner of unsavoury subjects, from personal targets to the government of Libya, from Westboro Baptist Church to Facebook. It rarely responds to them–as one Anonymous member recently told me, “we’re not hit men.”

Yet for all its facets as both hot-tempered cyber vigilantes and enlighteners of truth, Anonymous is becoming increasingly approachable, as the latest emails between OperationLeakS and the former BoA employee show. Assuming this particular employee doesn’t end up languishing in jail like Manning, more people may now be inclined to follow suit.

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The Idea That There Are Sexual Images On MTV Is Shocking… Shocking

Brian Stelter at NYT:

MTV executives have a new hit drama on their hands, featuring the sexual and drug-fueled exploits of misfit teenagers. They also have something else — a fear that coming episodes of the show may break the law.

In recent days, executives at the cable channel became concerned that some scenes from the provocative new show “Skins” may violate federal child pornography statutes.

The executives ordered the producers to make changes to tone down some of the most explicit content.

They are particularly concerned about the third episode of the series, which is to be broadcast Jan. 31. In an early version, a naked 17-year-old actor is shown from behind as he runs down a street. The actor, Jesse Carere, plays Chris, a high school student whose erection — assisted by erectile dysfunction pills — is a punch line throughout the episode.

The planned changes indicate that MTV, which has been pushing the envelope for decades, may be concerned that it pushed too far this time.

“Skins” is a calculated risk by MTV which is eager to get into the scripted programming business. The channel, a unit of Viacom, has long tested American standards for sexuality and obscenity on television with shows like “The Real World” and “Jersey Shore.”

Those reality shows have generally involved adults, but for “Skins,” the producers purposefully cast actors ages 15 to 19, most of whom had never acted before.

MTV’s president and other executives declined interview requests on Wednesday. An MTV spokeswoman, Jeannie Kedas, insisted that the future episodes of “Skins” were still works in progress. She would not confirm that MTV executives were fearful of running afoul of child pornography laws.

Jon Bershad at Mediaite:

According to the article, some MTV executive watched a cut of the show and suddenly freaked out because they were afraid that they had broken child pornography laws. They rushed to have the episode in question edited. And then…just for kicks I suppose…they decided to call up The New York Times to have them report on the whole thing. If you believe that, well, you’re probably pretty naive (no offense!). While I’m sure there’s a possibility that MTV edited a scene from the show after standards and practices got a look at it, I have pretty high doubts anyone was legitimately worried about getting hauled off to jail. No, this seems like nothing but a rumor designed to get a new show some press.

But what does that mean? Basically it means that MTV is now marketing their show with the promise of potential child pornography and the media is helping them. Not only did The New York Times cover this “story” (on the front page!), but a bunch of other media outlets picked it up. Morning Joe did a whole segment this morning that began with Joe Scarborough asking “Why should I be afraid of Skins?” You know there were some good high fives all around the MTV offices when that sentence got uttered.

Shows like Skins have always gotten by on their controversy and the promise of scandalous content. A few years ago, the show Gossip Girl used a brilliant ad campaign that quoted negative and outraged reviews from the likes of the Parents Television Council. However, actually going out and saying the phrase “child pornography” is just so damned cynical. MTV is basically betting that they will get more viewers if people think there are actual naked 15 year olds on this show. They may be right but, God, is it a creepy way to run your business.

So, no, Skins is not child pornography. In fact, it’s a neutered version of the original British show (which, by the way, was actually pretty darn good for two seasons) since MTV isn’t able to feature profanity or nudity.* People are going to say MTV should be ashamed and they certainly should. Not for airing an edgy show, but for trying to profit off the demand for child porn. And anyone who reports this nonsense should feel ashamed for believing it.

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

Of course, the main reason MTV’s target audience will continue to tune into this lackluster remake of the British version is because of its purported edginess. (Tuesday’s premier boasted solid numbers.) And herein lies the problem: How do you make a super-edgy teen drama while simultaneously reassuring some suit back at Viacom that he won’t be carted off as a kiddie pornographer?

Here’s our suggestion: gratuitous violence. Have one of the kids mow down a bunch of pedestrians in an SUV or something—just make sure she’s fully-clothed while doing it.

Erin Brown at Newsbusters:

“Skins” is hypocritical programming for MTV, which has been praised for its portrayalof the reality of teen pregnancy with the hit show “16 and pregnant” and its follow up series “Teen Mom.” The platform of casual sex and living life without consequences as appears in “Skins” stands in direct contrast to the harsh realities that actual teen mothers face and as Michael Inbar for the “Today” show put it, “the often painful resultsof youthful hookups.”

To further entice indecent behavior among teens, the MTV website for “Skins” has launched a new section called, “Where it went down.” Readers are encouraged to anonymously post on a mapof the world where “every kind of trouble” occurred. The website whereitwentdown.com actually encourages posters to “Browse and share the places where memories were made – and the scattered pieces of nights you can’t really remember. Post the truth about the biggest parties, heartbreak, friends, sex, and every kind of trouble.”

Despite the nasty content, one media critic still found a way to praise the show. “‘Skins’ feels raw and gritty… Only the show’s target audience will know how true its portrayal of adolescence is, but it should make many parents pay closer attention to what’s going on in their teenagers’ lives” wrote Amy Amatangelo of the Boston Herald.

Despite its success, the media need to accurately report the consequence-free filth that this show and this network are promoting. Truthful reviews such as this onefrom James Poniewozik from Time magazine can go a long way in exposing the muck of this program.

“There’s far more flesh, swearing and toking on Skins than on the edgiest CW soap, but what may be most shocking to an American audience is how insouciantly it defies teen TV’s unwritten mandate of consequences. On U.S. teen dramas, you can titillate the audience with bad behavior so long as, at some point, there’s a pregnancy scare or a cautionary drug overdose…Skins, like the movies Superbad and Dazed and Confused, instead admits that teenagers seek out sex and drugs because they feel good.”

Juli Weiner at Vanity Fair:

Given MTV’s history of publicity stunts, the network spokeswoman’s claims of Skins’s legality seem convincing. Recall Snooki’s globe-squatting kerfuffle: the Jersey Shore employee was supposedly going to be dropped in a ball over Times Square at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. At the last minute, though, sphere-ensconced Snooki was relocated to New Jersey, as MTV never received permission to conduct the event in Times Square. The ordeal engendered weeks of press coverage.

For other instances of MTV publicity stunts, look no further than nearly every annual iteration of the Video Music Awards, a broadcast that inevitably includes an unforeseen act of animosity (cf. Bruno and Eminem) or adoration (cf. Britney and Madonna).

James Poniewozik at Time:

I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but the concerns seem to stem from the fact that many of the actors who play teens on the show (as in the original British version) are under 18. So while there’s not live sex on camera—having seen four episodes in advance, I actually found the series’ depictions of drugs more unusual for American TV than its sex scenes—the definition of pornography is trickier when underage actors are involved.

As Stelter notes, a picture of a naked minor can itself be ruled child porn if it’s sufficiently sexualized. But the one scene the piece describes executives specifically being concerned about—a male character shown running down the street naked—is not, as I recall, a sex-charged scene. (It’s played, like a lot of scenes in Skins, for a combination of drama and slapstick.)

It raises scads of definitional questions: Does the fact that the actor is shown (but not shown naked) in other sexual scenes therefore make this scene more sexualized? Does the presence of other sex scenes involving other characters elsewhere in the episodes make the scene more sexual? Would the scene constitute pornography if it were, say, an underage actor running naked down a street in a war movie? Are depictions of teen characters in sexual situations inherently pornographic, or does the use of teen actors drive it over the line? What’s dirtier: two adult actors playing teens having sex, or a teenage actor shown naked in a scene that doesn’t involve sex?

Again, not a lawyer. (And I haven’t seen every episode shot, so it’s possible there is other, unmentioned material they’re nervous about.) But I have to wonder, if MTV’s executives are suddenly concerned about the legal liability, how could it not have occurred to them earlier in the process—especially since the use of teen actors has been one of the show’s best-publicized aspects, and since the show was very directly adapted from a British show that already exists for comparison?

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Filed under Families, TV

It’s Been A Good Long Time Since We’ve Had A Nice Internet Fight

Glenn Greenwald:

On June 6, Kevin Poulsen and Kim Zetter of Wiredreported that a 22-year-old U.S. Army Private in Iraq, Bradley Manning, had been detained after he “boasted” in an Internet chat — with convicted computer hacker Adrian Lamo — of leaking to WikiLeaks the now famous Apache Helicopter attack video, a yet-to-be-published video of a civilian-killing air attack in Afghanistan, and “hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records.”  Lamo, who holds himself out as a “journalist” and told Manning he was one, acted instead as government informant, notifying federal authorities of what Manning allegedly told him, and then proceeded to question Manning for days as he met with federal agents, leading to Manning’s detention.

On June 10, former New York Times reporter Philip Shenon, writing in The Daily Beast, gave voice to anonymous “American officials” to announce that “Pentagon investigators” were trying “to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks [Julian Assange] for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security.”  Some news outlets used that report to declare that there was a “Pentagon manhunt” underway for Assange — as though he’s some sort of dangerous fugitive.

From the start, this whole story was quite strange for numerous reasons.  In an attempt to obtain greater clarity about what really happened here, I’ve spent the last week reviewing everything I could related to this case and speaking with several of the key participants (including Lamo, with whom I had a one-hour interview last night that can be heard on the recorder below, and Poulsen, with whom I had a lengthy email exchange, which is published in full here).  A definitive understanding of what really happened is virtually impossible to acquire, largely because almost everything that is known comes from a single, extremely untrustworthy source:  Lamo himself.  Compounding that is the fact that most of what came from Lamo has been filtered through a single journalist — Poulsen — who has a long and strange history with Lamo, who continues to possess but not disclose key evidence, and who has been only marginally transparent about what actually happened here (I say that as someone who admires Poulsen’s work as Editor of Wired‘s Threat Level blog).

[…]

Actually, over the years, Poulsen has served more or less as Lamo’s personal media voice.  Back in 2000, Poulsen would quote Lamo as an expert source on hacking.  That same year, Poulsen — armed with exclusive, inside information from Lamo — began writing about Lamo’s various hacking adventures.  After Lamo’s conviction, Poulsen wrote about his post-detention battles with law enforcement and a leaked documentary featuring Lamo.  As detailed below, Lamo is notorious in the world of hacking for being a low-level, inconsequential hacker with an insatiable need for self-promotion and media attention, and for the past decade, it has been Poulsen who satisfies that need.

On May 20 — a month ago — Poulsen, out of nowhere, despite Lamo’s not having been in the news for years, wrote a long, detailed Wired article describing serious mental health problems Lamo was experiencing.  The story Poulsen wrote goes as follows:  after Lamo’s backpack containing pharmaceutical products was stolen sometime in April (Lamo claims they were prescribed anti-depressants), Lamo called the police, who concluded that he was experiencing such acute psychiatric distress that they had him involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for three days.  That 72-hour “involuntary psychiatric hold” was then extended by a court for six more days, after which he was released to his parents’ home.  Lamo claimed he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a somewhat fashionable autism diagnosis which many stars in the computer world have also claimed.  In that article, Poulsen also summarized Lamo’s extensive hacking history.  Lamo told me that, while he was in the mental hospital, he called Poulsen to tell him what happened, and then told Poulsen he could write about it for a Wired article.  So starved was Lamo for some media attention that he was willing to encourage Poulsen to write about his claimed psychiatric problems if it meant an article in Wired that mentioned his name.

It was just over two weeks after writing about Lamo’s Asperger’s, depression and hacking history that Poulsen, along with Kim Zetter, reported that PFC Manning had been detained, after, they said, he had “contacted former hacker Adrian Lamo late last month over instant messenger and e-mail.”  Lamo told me that Manning first emailed him on May 20 and, according to highly edited chat logs released by Wired, had his first online chat with Manning on May 21; in other words, Manning first contacted Lamo the very day that Poulsen’s Wired article on Lamo’s involuntary commitment appeared (the Wired article is time-stamped 5:46 p.m. on May 20).

Lamo, however, told me that Manning found him not from the Wired article — which Manning never mentioned reading — but from searching the word “WikiLeaks” on Twitter, which led him to a tweet Lamo had written that included the word “WikiLeaks.” Even if Manning had really found Lamo through a Twitter search for “WikiLeaks,” Lamo could not explain why Manning focused on him, rather than the thousands of other people who have also mentioned the word “WikiLeaks” on Twitter, including countless people who have done so by expressing support for WikiLeaks.

Although none of the Wired articles ever mention this, the first Lamo-Manning communications were not actually via chat.  Instead, Lamo told me that Manning first sent him a series of encrypted emails which Lamo was unable to decrypt because Manning “encrypted it to an outdated PGP key of mine” [PGP is an encryption program].  After receiving this first set of emails, Lamo says he replied — despite not knowing who these emails were from or what they were about — by inviting the emailer to chat with him on AOL IM, and provided his screen name to do so.  Lamo says that Manning thereafter sent him additional emails encrypted to his current PGP key, but that Lamo never bothered to decrypt them.  Instead, Lamo claims he turned over all those Manning emails to the FBI without ever reading a single one of them.  Thus, the actual initial communications between Manning and Lamo — what preceded and led to their chat — are completely unknown.  Lamo refuses to release the emails or chats other than the small chat snippets published by Wired.

Using the chat logs between Lamo and Manning — which Lamo provided to Poulsen — the Wired writers speculated that the Army Private trusted Lamo because he “sensed a kindred spirit in the ex-hacker.”  Poulsen and Zetter write that Manning confessed to being the leaker of the Apache attack video “very quickly in the exchange,” and then proceeded to boast that, in addition, “he leaked a quarter-million classified embassy cables” to WikiLeaks.  Very shortly after the first chat, Lamo notified federal agents of what Manning told him, proceeded to speak to Manning for the next several days while consulting with federal agents, and then learned that Manning was detained in Iraq.

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

Here’s how it worked in the Manning case: Manning first contacted Lamo by IM on May 21st. On May 24th, Lamo called Poulsen to let him know about the potential story, but witheld details. Lamo began working with the feds to nab Manning. On May 26th, Manning was arrested. The day after Lamo learned of Manning’s arrest, he told the whole story to Poulsen, who drove miles to pick up a zip drive with the chat logs, according to the CJR. Poulsen wrote the post and published June 6th.

We see here how Lamo functions essentially as an informal stringer for Poulsen. Lamo told the BBC that he had even told Manning he was a journalist. That Lamo then turned on his source is a pretty blatant violation of journalistic ethics, but never mind; Poulsen gets his story and Lamo gets his name in the papers.

In typical hyperbolic fashion, Wikileaks has been Tweeting allegations that this means Wired was in collusion with Lamo and, thus, the US government. Really, what’s going on doesn’t differ much from any source-journalist relationship.

But Wired’s role is indeed colored by Poulsen’s strong relationship with Lamo—and the fact that Lamo turned Manning into the authorities. When hackers come to the media with, say, evidence of a massive iPad security flaw, they usually demand some sort of anonymity. Manning didn’t have this option, since, technically he wasn’t speaking with a journalist. But the fact that Lamo presumably intended from the beginning to dish to Poulsen complicates things.

The exact role of Wired in this—and the extent to which Lamo misled Manning to think he was a journalist—could presumably be answered by looking at the full chat logs Lamo gave Poulsen. But Poulsen told Greenwald that Wired didn’t release the full transcript because it detailed “personal matters” or sensitive government information. Bullshit. Poulsen and Lamo have been working as an informal hacker-journalist unit for years. It’s time to get some Wikileaks-style transparency on how it all works.

More Greenwald:

Poulsen’s concealment of the chat logs is actively blinding journalists and others who have been attempting to learn what Manning did and did not do. By allowing the world to see only the fraction of the Manning-Lamo chats that he chose to release, Poulsen has created a situation in which his long-time “source,” Adrian Lamo, is the only source of information for what Manning supposedly said beyond those published exceprts.  Journalists thus routinely print Lamo’s assertions about Manning’s statements even though — as a result of Poulsen’s concealment — they are unable to verify whether Lamo is telling the truth.  Due to Poulsen, Lamo is now the one driving many of the media stories about Manning and WikiLeaks even though Lamo (a) is a convicted felon, (b) was (as Poulsen strangely reported at the time) involuntarily hospitalized for severe psychiatric distress a mere three weeks before his chats with Manning, and (c) cannot keep his story straight about anything from one minute to the next.

To see how odious Poulsen’s concealment of this evidence is, consider this December 15 New York Times article by Charlie Savage, which reports that the DOJ is trying to prosecute WikiLeaks based on the theory that Julian Assange “encouraged or even helped” Manning extract the classified information.  Savage extensively quotes Lamo claiming that Manning told him all sorts of things about WikiLeaks and Assange that are not found in the portions of the chat logs published by Wired:

Among materials prosecutors are studying is an online chat log in which Private Manning is said to claim that he had been directly communicating with Mr. Assange using an encrypted Internet conferencing service as the soldier was downloading government files. Private Manning is also said to have claimed that Mr. Assange gave him access to a dedicated server for uploading some of them to WikiLeaks.

Adrian Lamo, an ex-hacker in whom Private Manning confided and who eventually turned him in, said Private Manning detailed those interactions in instant-message conversations with him.

He said the special server’s purpose was to allow Private Manning’s submissions to “be bumped to the top of the queue for review.” By Mr. Lamo’s account, Private Manning bragged about this “as evidence of his status as the high-profile source for WikiLeaks.”

Wired magazine has published excerpts from logs of online chats between Mr. Lamo and Private Manning. But the sections in which Private Manning is said to detail contacts with Mr. Assange are not among them. Mr. Lamo described them from memory in an interview with the Times, but he said he could not provide the full chat transcript because the F.B.I. had taken his hard drive, on which it was saved. . . .

It has been known that investigators were looking for evidence that one or more people in Boston served as an intermediary between Private Manning and WikiLeaks, although there is no public sign that they have found any evidence supporting that theory. . . .

“At some point, [Manning] became satisfied that he was actually talking to Assange and not some unknown third party posing as Assange, and based on that he began sending in smaller amounts of data from his computer,” Mr. Lamo said. “Because of the nature of his Internet connection, he wasn’t able to send large data files easily. He was using a satellite connection, so he was limited until he did an actual physical drop-off when he was back in the United States in January of this year.”

Lamo’s claim — that Manning told him that he physically dropped off a disk with classified information to WikiLeaks’ “intermediaries” in Boston — is nowhere to be found in the chat logs released by Poulsen. And while there are a couple of vague references in the chats to Manning’s interactions with Assange, there is also little in the released portions about Assange using an “encrypted Internet conferencing service” to talk to Manning or specially creating a “dedicated server” for Manning to use.  Yet here is Lamo, on the front page of The New York Times, making these incredibly inflammatory accusations about what Manning supposedly told him — accusations that could implicate both WikiLeaks and numerous individuals in the Boston area, including MIT students who (due at least in part to Lamo’s prior accusations) have been the subject of WikiLeaks-related probes by the FBI.

Whether Manning actually said these things to Lamo could be verified in one minute by “journalist” Kevin Poulsen.  He could either say:  (1) yes, the chats contain such statements by Manning, and here are the portions where he said these things, or (2) no, the chats contain no such statements by Manning, which means Lamo is either lying or suffers from a very impaired recollection about what Manning said.  Poulsen could also provide Lamo — who claims he is no longer in possession of them — with a copy of the chat logs (which Lamo gave him) so that journalists quoting Lamo about Manning’s statements could see the actual evidence rather than relying on Lamo’s claims.  Any true “journalist” — or any person minimally interested in revealing the truth — would do exactly that in response to Lamo’s claims as published by The New York Times.

But manifestly, those descriptions do not apply to Kevin Poulsen.  It’s been almost two weeks since Savage wrote his story in which he prominently pointed out that Wired has the evidence — but has not released it — which would confirm whether Lamo is telling the truth about these vital matters, and Poulsen has said nothing.  Moreover, I sent Poulsen an e-mail two days ago — here — expressly asking whether or not the chat logs contain what Lamo says they contain about WikiLeaks and Boston-area “intermediaries,” and he has ignored the inquiries.  This is not the behavior of a journalist seeking to inform the public, but of someone eager, for whatever reasons, to hide the truth.

Evan Hansen and Kevin Poulsen at Wired. Poulsen:

On Monday, Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald unleashed a stunning attack on this publication, and me in particular, over our groundbreaking coverage of WikiLeaks and the ongoing prosecution of the man suspected of being the organization’s most important source. Greenwald’s piece is a breathtaking mix of sophistry, hypocrisy and journalistic laziness.

We took the high ground and ignored Greenwald and Salon the first time they pulled this nonsense. Now it’s time to set the record straight.

If you’re just tuning in, Wired.com was the first to report, last June, on the then-secret arrest of Pfc. Bradley Manning. I learned of the arrest from Adrian Lamo, a well-known former hacker on whom I reported extensively from 2000 to 2002. It was Lamo who turned Manning in to the Army and the FBI, after Manning — isolated and despondent — contacted him online and began confiding the most intimate details of his life, including, but by no means limited to, his relationship with WikiLeaks, and the vast databases he claimed to have provided them.

Co-writer Kim Zetter and I followed up the story four days later with a piece examining Manning’s motives. The Washington Post had just run a fine story about Manning’s state-of-mind: At the time of his discussions with Lamo, he’d been through a bad breakup and had other personal conflicts. But I felt — and still do feel — that it’s a mistake to automatically ascribe Manning’s actions to his feeling depressed. (For one thing, his breakup occurred after the leaking.) There’s an implicit political judgment in that conclusion: that leaking is an aberrant act, a symptom of a psychological disorder. Manning expressed clear and rational reasons for doing what he did, whether one agrees with those reasons or not.

So we went into the logs of the chats Manning held with Lamo — which Lamo had provided Wired and The Washington Post — and pieced together a picture of why Manning took his historic actions, based on his own words (“Suspected Wikileaks Source Described Crisis of Conscience Leading to Leaks“). As a sidebar to the article, we published excerpts from those chat logs.

We’ve had several more scoops since then, reporting new information on Manning’s history in the Army, and revealing the internal conflict his alleged disclosures triggered within WikiLeaks.

But those first stories in June either excerpted, quoted or reported on everything of consequence Manning had to say about his leaking. We’ve led the coverage on this story, and we would gain nothing by letting another scoop simmer unreported on our hard drives.

The debate, if it can be described as that, centers on the remainder of Manning’s conversations with Lamo. Greenwald argues that Wired.com has a journalistic obligation to publish the entirety of Manning’s communications. As with other things that Greenwald writes, the truth is the opposite. (See the statement above by Wired’s editor-in-chief.)

Greenwald’s incomplete understanding of basic journalistic standards was first displayed in his earlier piece on this subject, last June, titled “The Strange and Consequential Case of Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo and WikiLeaks.” This is where he first claimed that Lamo and I have “long and strange history together.”

That “history” began in 2000, when, while reporting for the computer security news site SecurityFocus.com, I contacted Lamo to use him as an expert on security issues at AOL. I sought him out because he’d been quoted in a similar capacity in a Salon.com article the year before.

Later, Lamo began sharing with me the details of some of his hacking. Lamo was nearly unique among hackers of that period, in that he had no evident fear of discussing his unlawful access, regardless of the inevitable legal consequences. He cracked everyone from Microsoft to Yahoo, and from MCI to Excite@Home. And he freely discussed how he did it, and sometimes helped the victim companies close their security holes afterward.

This came at a time, prior to the passage of California’s SB1386, when companies had no legal obligation to reveal security breaches, and hackers, facing tough criminal sanctions, had a strong disincentive to reveal it themselves. Lamo’s transparency provided an invaluable window on the poor state of computer security.

Using little more than a web browser, he was able to gain sensitive information on critical infrastructure, and private data like Social Security numbers. He changed a news story on Yahoo — at the time the most-trafficked news source on the web — undetected. In the intrusion that finally resulted in his arrest, he cracked The New York Times intranet and added himself to the paper’s internal database of op-ed contributors.

Some people regarded him as a hacker hero — Kevin Spacey narrated a documentary about him. Others argued he was a villain. At his sentencing, Lamo’s prosecutors argued he was responsible for “a great deal of psychological injury” to his victims.

To Greenwald, all this makes Lamo “a low-level, inconsequential hacker.” This conclusion is critical to his thesis that Lamo and I have something more than a source-journalist relationship. Greenwald’s theory is that Lamo’s hacks were not newsworthy. But, this line of thought goes, in exchange for the chance to break the non-news of his intrusions, I reported them — getting Lamo attention among the readers of SecurityFocus.com.

What he fails to report is that those same breaches were also covered by the Associated Press, Reuters, Wired magazine (well before my tenure at Wired.com), cable news networks, every tech news outlet and several national newspapers, and that Lamo spoke freely to all of them.

Greenwald:

Last night, Wired posted a two-part response to my criticisms of its conduct in reporting on the arrest of PFC Bradley Manning and the key role played in that arrest by Adrian Lamo.  I wrote about this topic twice — first back in June and then again on Monday.  The first part of Wired‘s response was from Wired.com Editor-in-Chief Evan Hansen, and the second is from its Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen.  Both predictably hurl all sorts of invective at me as a means of distracting attention from the central issue, the only issue that matters:  their refusal to release or even comment on what is the central evidence in what is easily one of the most consequential political stories of this year, at least.

That’s how these disputes often work by design:  the party whose conduct is in question (here, Wired) attacks the critic in order to create the impression that it’s all just some sort of screeching personality feud devoid of substance.  That, in turn, causes some bystanders to cheer for whichever side they already like and boo the side they already dislike, as though it’s some sort of entertaining wrestling match, while everyone else dismisses it all as some sort of trivial Internet catfight not worth sorting out.  That, ironically, is what WikiLeaks critics (and The New York Times‘ John Burns) did with the release of the Iraq War documents showing all sorts of atrocities in which the U.S. was complicit:  they tried to put the focus on the personality quirks of Julian Assange to distract attention away from the horrifying substance of those disclosures.  That, manifestly, is the same tactic Wired is using here:  trying to put the focus on me to obscure their own ongoing conduct in concealing the key evidence shining light on these events.

In a separate post, I fully address every accusation Hansen and Poulsen make about me as well as the alleged inaccuracies in what I wrote.  But I’m going to do everything possible here to ensure that the focus remains on what matters:  the way in which Wired, with no justification, continues to conceal this evidence and, worse, refuses even to comment on its content, thus blinding journalists and others trying to find out what really happened here, while enabling gross distortions of the truth by Poulsen’s long-time confidant and source, the government informant Adrian Lamo.

The bottom line from Hansen and Poulsen is that they still refuse to release any further chat excerpts or, more inexcusably, to comment at all on — to verify or deny — Lamo’s public statements about what Manning said to him that do not appear in those excerpts.  They thus continue to conceal from the public 75% of the Manning-Lamo chats.  They refuse to say whether Lamo’s numerous serious accusations about what Manning told him are actually found anywhere in the chat logs.  Nor will they provide the evidence to resolve the glaring inconsistencies in Lamo’s many public tales about the critical issues:  how he came to speak to Manning, what Lamo did to induce these disclosures, and what Manning said about his relationship to WikiLeaks and his own actions.  Every insult Wired spouts about me could be 100% true and none of it changes the core fact:  Wired is hiding the key evidence about what took place here, thus allowing Lamo to spout all sorts of serious claims without any check and thus drive much of the reporting about WikiLeaks.

To defend this concealment, Hansen claims that they “have already published substantial excerpts from the logs.”  But the parts they are concealing are far more substantial:  75% by their own account, and critically, the person who played a key role in hand-picking which parts to publish and which parts to conceal is the person whom BBC News accurately describes as “Mr Lamo’s long-term associate Kevin Poulsen.”  Poulsen claims he “either excerpted, quoted or reported on everything of consequence Manning had to say about his leaking,” but that begs the key question:  is everything — or anything — that Lamo has been claiming about Manning’s statements found in the chat logs or not?  Why won’t Wired answer that question?  Below, I set forth what Lamo has claimed that is not in the chat logs and why it is so vital to know if it’s there.

Hansen’s defense principally relies on a total strawman:  that I’m calling for the full, unedited release of the chat logs.  Hansen insists that Wired cannot do this because of privacy concerns for Manning.  He titles his response “The Case for Privacy,” and claims “that the logs include sensitive personal information with no bearing on Wikileaks.”

But neither I nor anyone else I’ve read has called on Wired to indiscriminately dump the chat logs without any redactions or regard for Manning’s privacy.  Back in June — once Poulsen’s claims that they were withholding only private information and national security secrets was proven false by TheWashington Post‘s subsequent publication of chat excerpts that fell into neither category — this is what I called on Wired to do:

Wired should either publish all of the chat logs, or be far more diligent about withholding only those parts which truly pertain only to Manning’s private and personal matters and/or which would reveal national security secrets. Or they should have a respected third party review the parts they have concealed to determine if there is any justification for that. At least if one believes Lamo’s claims, there are clearly relevant parts of those chats which Wired continues to conceal.

Then, on Sunday, I noted several important events that transpired since I wrote that June article: most prominently the fact that Wired‘s source, Lamo, had spent six months making all sorts of public claims about what Manning told him that are nowhere in the chat excerpts published by Wired. Moreover, the disclosures by WikiLeaks gut Poulsen’s excuse that Wired‘s concealments are necessary to protect national security secrets (an excuse Hansen did not even raise).  As a result of those developments, this is what I wrote on Sunday that Wired should do:

What they ought to do, at the absolute minimum, is post the portions of the chat logs about which Lamo had made public statements or make clear that they do not exist. . . . Poulsen could also provide Lamo — who claims he is no longer in possession of them — with a copy of the chat logs (which Lamo gave him) so that journalists quoting Lamo about Manning’s statements could see the actual evidence rather than relying on Lamo’s claims.

For anyone who wants to defend Wired here, I’d really like to know:  what possible excuse is there for their refusal to do this?  Even if you trust Poulsen — despite his very close and long relationship to Lamo — to conceal some parts of the chats on privacy grounds, what justification is there for Wired‘s refusal to state that either (a) Lamo’s claims about what Manning told him are supported by the chat logs (and then publish those portions), or (b) Lamo’s claims are not found in the chat logs, thus proving that Lamo is either lying or has an unreliable recollection?  While Adrian Lamo runs around spouting all sorts of serious accusations about what Manning supposedly told him that are not found in Wired‘s excerpts — claims which end up in the world’s largest news outlets — and while he issues one contradictory claim after the next about these events, how can anyone claiming to be a journalist not inform the public about whether those stories are true?  For Wired defenders: what justifies that obfuscatory behavior, that refusal to say whether Lamo’s claims are true or false based on the chat logs?

zunguzungu

Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy:

I love a good blog fight as much as anyone, but after reading several thousand words of accusations and counter accusations being slung between Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald and Wired‘s Evan Hansen and Kevin Poulsen, I’m left scratching my head trying to figure out what, exactly, this particular dispute is all about.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, first of all: congratulations. Second, here’s a quick synopsis: On June 6, Poulsen and his colleague Kim Zetter broke the sensational story that a young Army intelligence officer, Bradley Manning, had been arrested for disclosing classified information to WikiLeaks, including a video showing a U.S. helicopter gunship killing three civilians in Iraq and more than 250,000 State Department cables. Wired‘s main source was Adrian Lamo, a former hacker who says he turned Manning in to U.S. authorities after the latter confessed to the deed in a Web chat. As Lamo explained his motivation: “I wouldn’t have done this if lives weren’t in danger.”

Four days later, Poulsen and Zetter published a new article on Manning, as well as an incomplete transcript of Lamo and Manning’s chats, which had begun on May 21 and continued for a few days. “The excerpts represent about 25 percent of the logs,” they wrote. “Portions of the chats that discuss deeply personal information about Manning or that reveal apparently sensitive military information are not included.”

That same day, the Washington Post published its own article on Manning’s arrest, quoting from the logs, which the paper said it had received from Lamo. Some of the quotes do not appear in Wired‘s excerpts. Wired also continued to follow the story.

On June 18, Greenwald wrote a long blog post raising questions about Poulsen’s scoop and about Lamo. He said he found the story “quite strange,” called Lamo an “extremely untrustworthy source,” and accused Poulsen of being “only marginally transparent about what actually happened here.”

What was curious about Greenwald’s post was that he didn’t challenge any specific facts in Wired‘s reporting; he just pointed to what he saw as inconsistencies in the story, as well as Lamo’s account, and condemned the ex-hacker’s actions as “despicable.” He didn’t suggest outright that Manning had not actually confessed to Lamo. He didn’t try to argue that Manning hadn’t broken the law. He didn’t say the log excerpts were fabricated. He did, however, complain that Lamo had told him about conversations with Manning that were not in the chat-log excerpts published by Wired, and called on the magazine to release them. Poulsen said he wouldn’t be doing so, telling Greenwald: “The remainder is either Manning discussing personal matters that aren’t clearly related to his arrest, or apparently sensitive government information that I’m not throwing up without vetting first.”

Still with me?

Then, on Monday, several weeks after the cables had begun trickling out, Greenwald again returned to the issue. In a torqued-up post titled “The worsening journalistic disgrace at Wired,” he excoriated the magazine and Poulsen for refusing to release the full logs, calling Poulsen’s behavior “odious” and “concealment” of “key evidence.” Greenwald appears to have been motivated to weigh in anew by Firedoglake — a left-leaning website whose members had been obsessively trolling the Web for stories about Lamo and Manning, and even pulled together a handy, color-coded expanded transcript from the logs — as well as by a flawedNew York Timesarticle reporting that the Justice Department was trying to build a conspiracy case against WikiLeaks frontman Julian Assange. Presumably, the logs would be an important part of the prosecution’s argument.

Wired responded to Greenwald Tuesday night with twin posts by Hansen, the magazine’s editor in chief, and Poulsen. Greenwald fired back with two angry posts of his own today (1, 2). Long story short: Wired reiterated its refusal to release the logs (Poulsen: “[T]hose first stories in June either excerpted, quoted or reported on everything of consequence Manning had to say about his leaking”), Greenwald rejected that explanation, and both sides traded some nasty barbs about each other and made competing claims about the nature of Poulsen’s relationship with Lamo.

What still remains a mystery to me is what, exactly, Greenwald thinks is being covered up here. What is he accusing Wired of doing, and why? Does he think that the full transcript of the logs would somehow exonerate Manning, or prove Lamo a liar? And if he catches Lamo telling a journalist something that wasn’t in the logs, what then?

Greg Mitchell at The Nation:

8:20 For a good running twitter debate on Greenwald vs. Wired (see below), check out @felixsalmon and @penenberg.   And Jeff Jarvis tweets:  “Now I need a journalist (& FDL) to cut through personal, professional invective among @ evanatwired, @ kpoulson, @ ggreenwald to answer Qs.”

Karl at Patterico’s:

More to the point, Wired gets even in a two-part article by EIC Evan Hansen and Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen.  The latter writes:

On Monday, Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald unleashed a stunning attack on this publication, and me in particular, over our groundbreaking coverage of WikiLeaks and the ongoing prosecution of the man suspected of being the organization’s most important source. Greenwald’s piece is a breathtaking mix of sophistry, hypocrisy and journalistic laziness.

That’s the tip of an iceberg that includes an undisclosed conflict of interest and more than one major factual error.  But is it breathtaking?  Perhaps the folks at Wired never noticed until now that inaccuracy, sophistryhypocrisy, free-floating rage and undisclosed conflicts are Greenwald features, not bugs.

Significantly, Hansen and Poulsen include Salon in their critique.  Granted, if Salon was serious about maintaining some minimum level of integrity, they wouldn’t have brought Greenwald on board in February 2007, as he had already been exposed as a egomaniacal sock-puppeteer.  It is nevertheless a timely reminder of that lack of standards on the part of both Greenwald and Salon.

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake:

Over the past few days, FDL readers have worked hard to transcribe every available recorded interview with Adrian Lamo, and their work has made manifestly clear that Lamo consistently makes contradictory claims for what appears in the chat logs. Further, Lamo has made statements that contradict Wired’s own reporting on the matter.

I’m proud of the citizen journalism here at FDL that was used by Glenn Greenwald to meticulously document many of the inconsistencies in the Wired narrative, and which will no doubt continue to be used as the Lamo-Manning story evolves over time.  I hope at the very least it has put an end to outlets like the New York Times using Lamo as a source for front page stories without going back and looking at what Lamo has said (or hasn’t said) in the past, because there is no excuse now.

Here are the chat logs, here are the previous Lamo interviews, and here is a timeline of events.  Any journalist writing on the subject can easily make themselves familiar with the history of what has been said and written, and they should be responsible for making sure that anything they produce is contextualized within that.

I’m not sure why Hansen thinks transcribing interviews and logging articles qualifies as “discrediting Lamo.”  Lamo’s own words and actions are responsible for any indictment being made in the press, and Wired’s decision to sit on the chat logs makes them an active participant in whatever claims Lamo makes about their contents.

If Hansen doesn’t think the credibility of the key source for Wired’s reporting on this story can hold up when simply compared to his own words, I’d say they’ve got bigger problems than Glenn Greenwald.

John Cole:

What is particularly odd is that this is an online journal that should know better about this sort of thing- the logs will eventually come out. Maybe some of you were right about Wired, that it is basically People magazine for the online set, and I should find better sources in the future. At any rate, all we can do for now is keep the pressure up and refuse to visit Wired or any affiliates until they come clean. Hit em in the statcounter, I guess.

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Filed under New Media, Technology

Buggin’ Out

Dorsey Shaw at New York Magazine:

Last night, The Daily Show devoted an entire segment to the very unfunny bed bug problem that’s sweeping New York. Thankfully, host Jon Stewart managed to bring the funny by including an informative, but disturbing clip from Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno series that featured the actress dressed up like a giant bed bug who emotes while getting penetrated by a penis that is actually a knife. And you thought Blue Velvet was weird.

Gulliver at The Economist:

BEDBUGS have been resurgent in America since the mid-1990s. But the situation has gotten out of hand in recent years. New York City, where bedbugs have been found in movie theatres and clothing stores, has been especially hard-hit. Now, USA Today reports, even workplace infestations are on the rise:

Nearly one in five exterminators have found bedbugs in office buildings in the U.S., according to a recent survey of extermination firms by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky. That compares with less than 1% in 2007.

“It’s a national issue,” says Ron Harrison of pest control firm Orkin. “Not all of us have to go to work and worry about it, but we all have to be sensitive to it.”

Most cubicle dwellers and corner office executives are blissfully unaware of bug problems. And many wrongly think infestations take place only in the homes of unclean folks or in college dorms. But bedbugs can survive in a multitude of eek-evoking settings, such as offices, movie theaters and libraries

The Internal Revenue Service, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, and even Time magazine have discovered bedbugs in their offices recently, according to the USA Today report. (The Economist‘s offices are still bedbug-free—at least as far as I know.) The problem, of course, is that bedbugs are highly mobile. They can travel on people and on the things that people travel with—suitcases, duffel bags, clothing, and so on. That’s why we business travellers have to be so wary. But there’s only so much you can do, right?

Jasmine Moy at The Awl:

So, I realized that my apartment was infested. Because never breathing again is not an option, I sought a solution.

Here is a short list of things that you should absolutely not do. Not only do these things not solve your problem, they’re expensive and time consuming.

1. DO NOT PANIC. Panicking leads to doing all of the things on this list.

2. Do not throw away your mattress. Even if you put a sign that says, “bedbugs!” on it, you never know who might pick it up, including someone else in your building, which means you’re making the problem bigger for yourself.

3. Do not buy a new mattress. If you haven’t thoroughly attended to the rest of your belongings, they’ll find your new mattress in no time.

4. Do not move. You’ll probably move them with you.

5. Do not bring all your clothes to the dry cleaner. It’s pointless, see above.

There are however a number of cheap ways to start combating the problem.

1. Get carpet tape (that’s the thick, double-sided stuff) and roll a line of it in your apartment doorways, which will keep them from getting in or out of your room/apartment. (Some have suggested outlining your bed with it, which seems extreme and is not aesthetically pleasing but would work as a preventive measure.)

2. Put the legs of your bed in small plastic containers and put ½ an inch of baby oil in the containers, which will keep bugs from getting into or out of your bed (they’re not good climbers).

3. Invest in mattress covers to cover your mattress and box spring.

4. Buy a gallon or so of rubbing alcohol and some spray bottles. Rubbing alcohol is your new best friend. It not only kills bed bug eggs, but also works as a repellent to keep them from laying new ones, and keeps them from biting you at night.

However, whatever the Internet says about being able to conquer the bugs all by yourself, I wouldn’t try it. Just as it’s unwise to get cut-rate Lasik, or fly to Mexico for plastic surgery, the risks outweigh the cost of paying a good professional.

My roommate had been working at a restaurant and the owner there recommended Mario to us. He was no-nonsense and comforting. He assured us that we weren’t dirty people and that we had nothing to be ashamed of. Just last week he’d seen a bedbug crawling on a guy’s shirt on the subway (oof) so really, you can get them any place! This somehow managed to make me feel both better and not-at-all better at the same exact time.

Before he could come and spray (fumigating almost never works in one shot, he said, and heating/freezing all your things costs a fortune and requires days in extreme temperatures, either below 10 degrees or above 115 degrees Fahrenheit), we had to take every object we owned, spray it thoroughly with rubbing alcohol, and bag it. Electronics could be given a once over with alcohol wipes. All clothes had to be put in the dryer for 10 minutes and bagged.

“When I get there,” he informed us, “I want all the bags in the center of each room, leave suitcases out, mattresses uncovered, all shelves and dressers empty. I will not touch your apartment unless this is done.” Yes, sir!

Over the course of the next week, as I carried load after load of laundry up and down my 5th floor walkup to the corner laundromat, I couldn’t think of anything worse that could happen to a person, short of terminal illness or loss of a limb. Even then, I assumed this had a silver lining: “Hey! Less body area to feast on!”

I sprayed myself head to toe in rubbing alcohol each night. I slept without covers and kept a flashlight next to my bed so that when I woke up in the middle of the night (I was being startled awake by nightmares several times an evening, go figure), I could try to catch them in the act. Why? I don’t know. Too afraid to kill a bug with my bare hands, I’d probably have just flicked it onto something else to burrow in.

Every morning I’d spend fifteen minutes inspecting every inch of my body to see whether a bite I had was a new one or not (some people mark them with pens, but that seems, to me, to call more attention to them than necessary).

You start looking for bedbugs on strangers on the train. You start imagining what kind of people let them get to the point at which piles of them are found in corners, and mattresses are covered like beehives. I was afraid to tell people I had bedbugs, afraid that if they knew, they wouldn’t want me in their houses. I wouldn’t blame them.

Bedbugs are, in a word, traumatic. But little by little, the bags started to accumulate. It turned out to be a great excuse to clean house. Any clothes that weren’t worth carrying up the four flights of stairs after their cleansing trip in the dryer went straight into a Salvation Army bin outside the laundromat. I invested in those vacuum seal bags, which conveniently also saved me a ton of storage space! I felt good knowing that all the clothes I was wearing were sealed in bags that no bug could penetrate.

Christine Egan at Huffington Post:

Dear paranoid, irrational, germophobic humans:

We understand from recent media reports that some of you have become infatuated — dare we say, obsessed — with us lately. We can’t blame you, but this madness really has to stop.

We live together, and yet we don’t know each other at all. You’re so critical, so judgmental, so hateful, so unwilling to work on the problems in our relationship. It’s sad, really.

Now, we don’t want to get into a whole name-calling thing here, but we think you’re being hypocritical — and we don’t take pleasure in saying so.

But you go to the beach. You sit outside. Mosquitoes bite you. You scratch, complain briefly, apply ointments, and perhaps suggest to your host that he invest in screens. But do you fumigate the boardwalk, set your host’s front porch on fire and throw away the sundress, flip flops or Bermuda shorts you were wearing on the night you drank frozen margaritas in front of the beach bonfire and got 17 mosquito bites? No, you do not.

Even worse, you go back to the beach, weekend after weekend, summer after summer, year after year — only to get bitten again and again. As if that weren’t bad enough, you consistently exhibit this same masochistic behavior at the lake (hideous horse flies), the mountains (odious black flies), and yes, even in your own home: We hate to tell you this, but your filthy pets have fleas, and your bratty kids have head lice. (Which is just plain gross. Please keep them away from us.) And do you wage war against the millions of no-see-ums in your backyard? Of course you don’t, because they’re tiny and have a cute name. Personally, we no-see-the-attraction.

So why the hell are you in such a panic over us all of a sudden — particularly in urban areas like New York City? We don’t spread disease (thank menacing mosquitoes for West Nile Virus and those ticks for Lyme Disease), crawl around your kitchen counters (have you ever seen an earwig? talk about ugly), or cause you any major harm. All we do is nibble you a little, and hell, lots of you don’t even feel our bites or end up scratching at all.

Sure, we may inadvertently give some of you an impressive reddish rash (we can’t help it), but do us a favor and please don’t call us “disgusting” or “nasty” in public. That hurts our feelings. Who do you think we are, anyway, pubic lice? (The very definition of disgusting. And we know you’ve had the crabs, by the way. We live in your bed, remember?) Furthermore, do you have any idea how many dust mites you reside with every day in your McMansions with granite counter tops, media rooms and cathedral ceilings? No, you don’t. And you sure as hell don’t want to, either.

Nina Burleigh at Time:

For reasons still unknown, bedbugs really seem to like the state of Ohio. The problem is so dire in Cincinnati that some people with infested apartments have resorted to sleeping on the streets.

Cincinnati created a Bedbug Remediation Commission in 2007 and, like other local and national governments around the world, the city is trying to mobilize strategies to control infestations of the resilient insects, which can hide in almost any crack or crevice and can go a year or more without eating. On Aug. 10, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a consumer alert about off-label bedbug treatments, warning in particular of the dangers of using outdoor pesticides in homes. The Ohio Department of Agriculture has mounted a more unusual response to the crisis: it petitioned the EPA for an exemption to allow in-home use of propoxur, a pesticide and neurotoxin banned in the 1990s out of concern for its effects on children. (See the top 10 weird insect mating rituals.)

Although the EPA rejected Ohio’s propoxur plea in June, the agency has scheduled an Aug. 18 meeting with state and municipal leaders to try to formulate an abatement strategy everyone can live with. Among the meeting’s participants: representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and, no joke, the Department of Defense.

“We are hopeful that the outcome of this meeting provides a solution,” says Ohio agriculture secretary Robert Boggs. “Quite frankly, something needs to happen, and it needs to happen quickly.”

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

Sorry, we’re trying to be more copacetic about bedbugs. But, they’ve invaded the Empire State Building! Towering symbol of modernity? New York icon? Bed bugs don’t give a bed bug fuck. They’re taking it down, from the bottom up.The building issued this statement:

“Like so many other buildings in New York City, the Empire State Building had a small incident of bedbugs. The occurrence was specific to a uniform storage area in the basement of the building. The area has been treated and fully cleared.”

This tourist from Buffalo was pretty copacetic about it, though: He told the Daily News, “You would think that for $20 a ticket, it should not be infested with bugs.”

Wonkette:

Bedbugs! They’re destroying Freedom & Liberty even faster than Debbie Riddle and terror babies combined. In Ohio and several other states, the critters have become so unruly that local governments are calling on the feds — including the Department of Defense — to help find a solution.

Why is Defense the agency you turn to when plotting your War on Bugs? Because they issue Technical Guides on pest management and control. Also, bedbugs might become a national security issue because they scare Americans. Scaring Americans often leads to Americans declaring war, and war is the DoD’s bailiwick. See how that works?

Your Wonkette remembers early rumblings of Bedbug Fever back in the mid-aughts, before the problem reached Full-Blown Epidemic proportions. At the time we lived in New York City, which has since turned into a war zone in which bedbugs compete with cockroaches for territorial control. It’s like the Bloods and Crips all over again. Oh, and did you hear about those bedbugs who crashed the Manhattan movie theaters the other day? They’re worse than not-mosques.

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A Stabbing In A New York City Taxi Cab

Foster Kamer at The Village Voice:

A cab driver picked up a 21-year-old fare yesterday in Murray Hill on 24th and Second around 6 p.m. The fare — “visibly drunk” — gets in the cab, and reportedly asks the driver: “Are you a Muslim?” The driver answers that he is. And what happens next? The fare, as we’ve now heard, stabs the cab driver. Here’s where it gets strange:Michael Enright of Brewster, New York, who was booked on charges of attempted murder and assault with a weapon as a hate crime, is listed on Facebook as an employee of the New York City-based Intersections International, a “global initiative dedicated to promoting justice, reconciliation and peace across lines of faith, culture, ideology, race, class, national borders and other boundaries that divide humanity.” And a few weeks ago, they announced their support for — you guessed it — the Cordoba House, better known to many as the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

Just to recap, again, via the New York Daily News, Enright got in the cab last night “visibly drunk,” asked the driver if he was a Muslim, and proceeded to do this:

[Takes] out the knife from his Leatherman tool and stabbed the unsuspecting driver in the throat, upper lip, arm and hand, police said.

The driver, unidentified, escaped the cab, locked Enright in the back seat, and called the cops, who arrested and booked Micheal at the 17th Precinct on charges of attempted murder and assault with a weapon as a hate crime. He was presumably shipped off to Bellevue to get his head checked out and is being arraigned in court sometime today.

This doesn’t really distinguish itself from any other hate crime in too many ways, besides the fact that it was in broad daylight, and also, again, Enright was apparently trashed. But Murray Hill is, to many New Yorkers, a neighborhood synonymous with moneyed young white kids and the fratty bars they get sloshed at. But: This Michael Enright of Facebook is

(A) from Brewster, New York,
(B) Graduated from Brewster High School in 2007,
(C) is presumably living in New York City as he lists himself as a student at the School of Visual Arts and also,
(D) as an employee of Intersections International from August 2009 through “present.”

And on August 3, 2010, Intersections International came out with this press release:

Intersections supports the efforts of its partner organizations, The Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement, to develop a Community Center and Muslim prayer space, called “The Cordoba House,” at 47-51 Park Place in Manhattan. The vision is to create a place where individuals–regardless of race, faith or ethnicity–will find a center for learning, art, cultural expression and athletics; and most importantly, a center guided by the universal values of all religions–compassion, generosity, peace and human dignity.

Enright’s Facebook picture shows him wearing what appears to be a flack jacket in another country, for what it’s worth, but that’s not too telling of anything, which may or may not be Afghanistan, where the Michael Enright involved in this altercation was recently filming “military exercises” with a “combat unit” as reported by the New York Post.

Nick Rizzo at Mediaite:

Enright’s Facebook page also lists him as a supporter of Assemblyman Greg Ball, the maverick conservative Republican who represents his home district and is running a heated primary campaign for the New York State Senate.  While Ball is an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration (here’s a video of him talking about illegal immigration as he walks through Enright’s home town), he has never made a statement about the Cordoba House. Ball was unavailable for comment at press time.

Ben Smith at Politico:

Alleged anti-Muslim attacker works at pro-Park51 group

The apparent anti-Muslim assault on a New York city cabbie by a man shouting “Assalamu Alaikum. Consider this a checkpoint” produced an immediate round of recriminations over its connection to opposition to a New York Islamic Center and an apparent rising tide of Islamophobia.

But as often at the intersection of politics and violent crime, the story doesn’t appear to fit any easy stereotype: The alleged assailant, Michael Enright, is — according to his Facebook profile and the website of the left-leaning media organization Intersections International — a student at the School of Visual Arts and a volunteer for Intersections, which recently produced a statement of support for the Park51 project and is funded by the mainstream, liberal Collegiate Church of New York.

Intersections did not respond to two messages, and the group does not appear to be picking up the phone. Enright did not respond to a message through his Facebook account.

But this appears to be the same man: Police described Enright as a resident of Brewster, 21 years old, and an employee of an “Internet media company who had recently spent time with a combat unit in Afghanistan filming military exercises until this past May.”

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:

At Politico, Ben Smith notes that Enright’s films were apparently sponsored by a left-leaning group called Intersections: Alleged anti-Muslim attacker works at pro-Park51 group.

Smith’s headline is a bit misleading, however, because Intersections is involved in many different projects, not just in supporting Park51. Enright was a volunteer filmmaker for Intersections, and there’s no reason to believe he was involved with or sympathetic to their support for Park51.

Donald Douglas:

Smith links to a Little Green Footballs update, where Charles conveniently ignores (safe link) his earlier allegations against “Fox News” and “right-wing websites,” and instead offers some lame dodge about how “there’s no reason to believe” Enright was involved with the Cordoba Initiative.

The non-profit, Intersections, has released a public statement.

And according to a 5:24PM EST update at New York Times:

Mr. Enright is a volunteer with Intersections International, a nonprofit that works to promote cross-cultural understanding and has spoken out in favor of the proposed Islamic cultural center near ground zero. Mr. Enright, who shuffled into court with a collared t-shirt, cargo shorts and shackles around his ankles, has also worked with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, Mr. Martin said.

It’s now 3:00PM on the West Coast, and I don’t see an update or correction at Little Green Footballs.

I know most conservatives have long written off Charles Johnson as a disturbed crank. For me, well, C.J.’s pomposity’s both fascinating and funny — frustrating too, since the MFM gives him an unbelieveable amount of coverage and credibility. And of course, while I’d never hold my breath, Charles’ ignorant and unhinged rant on the cabbie attack deserves a retraction at the least. The guy’s a tool.

*******

Special Note: I thank God the cabbie, Ahmed H. Sharif, a Bangladeshi immigrant, is going to be okay.

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:

That’s the preliminary report. It sounds awful, and if true it is awful. But I think the glee of some folks e-mailing me the story is both repugnant and fairly unfounded.

This is almost certainly an isolated incident, in the sense that Michael Enright was almost surely acting alone. Indeed, if he was a lone psycho, that would mean that by any measure this is far more of an “isolated incident” than any of the recent Islamic terrorist attacks the Obama administration and the press insisted were isolated incidents. By the Left’s own logic, there is, if anything, far less reason to say this attack (if the early reports are accurate) reflects American “Islamophobia” than there was to say that the Ft. Hood shooter or the attempted Christmas and Times Square bombers represented the worldwide Muslim community.

I could say a lot more, but let’s wait for the facts. (Recall, for instance, that when a census worker was found dead, much of the lefty blogosphere’s immediate reaction was to pin responsibility on conservatives, Fox et al. It turned out the man wasn’t lynched by “southern terrorists.” He committed suicide.)

Alex Pareene at Salon:

Ahmed H. Sharif, the driver slashed by Enright, has released a statement via the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. Sharif, who says he feels “hopeless and insecure,” says Enright was friendly and chatty until suddenly going silent and then cursing and screaming.The full release:

Ahmed H. Sharif, 43, a yellow taxi cab driver slashed across the neck, face and shoulders by a passenger during an anti-Muslim hate crime will stand with fellow New York Taxi Workers Alliance members, and community, immigrant and Muslim organizations to call for an end to the bigotry and anti-Islamic rhetoric in the debate around the Park 51 Islamic Cultural Center, referred to as the Ground Zero Mosque. “I feel very sad. I have been here more than 25 years. I have been driving a taxi more than 15 years. All my four kids were born here. I never feel this hopeless and insecure before,” said Mr. Sharif. “Right now, the public sentiment is very serious (because of the Ground Zero Mosque debate.) All drivers should be more careful.”

On Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 Mr. Sharif picked up the perpetrator at 24th Street and Second Avenue, his first fare for the shift, and headed toward Times Square. The man, 21, started out friendly, asking Mr. Sharif about where he was from, how long he had been in America, if he was Muslim and if he was observing fast during Ramadan. He then first became silent for a few minutes and then suddenly started cursing and screaming. There, at about 6:15pm at Third Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets, he yelled, “Assalamu Alaikum. Consider this a checkpoint,” and then slashed Mr. Sharif across the neck. As Mr. Sharif went to knock the knife out, the perpetrator, continuing to scream loudly, cut the taxi driver in the face (from nose to upper lip), arm and hand.

“While a minority of has-been politicians spew ignorance and fear, it’s the working person on the street who has to face the consequences,” said NYTWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai. “This kind of bigotry only breeds more violence and makes taxi drivers all the more vulnerable on the streets where there are no bully pulpits or podiums to hide behind.” The US Department of Labor reports taxi drivers to be thirty times more likely to be killed on the job than other workers.

The 13,000-member NYTWA called on the District Attorney to be vigilant in its prosecution of the attempted murder and hate crime and urged the Governor to sign the Taxi Driver Protection Act, passed by the state legislature on June 26th, 2010, increasing penalties on crimes against taxi drivers and requiring a sign in all taxis, “WARNING: Assaulting a Taxi Driver is Punishable by Up to Twenty-Five Years in Prison.” “Maybe if the warning sign was there, this kind of stranger who comes to us with hatred would have to think twice,” said Anwar Hossain. “At least we could feel safer and not alone. No matter what political issue is going on, at least we could be treated as equal Americans and feel protected.”

UPDATE: Josh Duboff at New York Magazine

Adrian Chen at Gawker

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There Are Slow News Days And Bizarre News Days. This Was One Of The Latter.

Philip Shenon at The Daily Beast:

Prosecutors in Sweden have withdrawn their warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, calling the rape charges against him unfounded. Still, a separate allegation of molestation remains. Philip Shenon talks to Assange’s supporters about his reaction to the charges.

Swedish prosecutors dropped rape allegations Saturday against the elusive founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, only hours after they issued an arrest warrant for him on the charges.

The prosecutors said on their website that the rape charges, which seemed to threaten the very existence of WikiLeaks given Assange’s central role in the whistleblowing website, were being dropped for lack of evidence.

At the same time, the prosecutors seemed to leave open the possibility that Assange was under investigation for other crimes in Sweden, a nation that had seemed on the verge a few days ago of becoming a new, permanent home for WikiLeaks. Assange had been in Sweden earlier this week.

Assange’s supporters struggled Saturday to track him down and ask him how he planned to defend himself against the rape and molestation charges that were first reported in a Swedish tabloid newspaper.

Assange, who leads a nomadic existence, mostly living in the homes of friends and supporters in several countries, communicates directly with news organizations and the public through the social-networking site Twitter, and he took to Twitter Saturday to defend himself.

Without revealing his whereabouts, he described the rape and molestations allegations as a “dirty trick.” The charges, he said, are “without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing.” He added: “Needless to say, this will prove hugely distracting.” Before the rape charges were dropped, one of Assange’s closest supporters in Europe told The Daly Beast “I want to believe this is some sort of trick against Julian.”

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

Police originally issued an arrest warrant for 39-year-old Assange, an Australian citizen, on suspicion of rape and sexual harassment (“molestation” is the literal Google translation). Assange was in Sweden last week, seeking help from Sweden’s Pirate Party in hosting Wikileaks data.

Assange and Wikileaks took to Twitter, as is their style, to denounce the allegations. “We were warned to expect ‘dirty tricks.’ Now we have the first one.” As if to prove his point, Swedish police withdrew the warrant today, saying the rape suspicions are “unfounded,” according to the AP. However, the molestation/sexual harassment accusation still stands. (This charge won’t lead to an arrest warrant.)

This is suspicious timing for such a hiccup. Wikileaks made a splash recently with its Afghanistan War Diaries leak, and is currently locked in a tense standoff with the Pentagon over 15,000 unreleased classified Afghanistan war documents. Conspiracy alert! Did the Pentagon send a Predator drone over to Sweden to accuse Assange of rape and molestation!? Or, you know, maybe it was some boozy hook-ups gone awry. Either way, thank God: this Wikileaks thing has been lacking a sex angle for way too long.

Update:
The Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet has an interview with one of Assange’s two accusers, an unidentified 30-year-old woman. She tells Aftonbladet that the other alleged victim contacted her about an incident with Assange, and the two went to the police together last week.

The women and Assange met during his stay in Stockholm and have neither met him or each other before.
The woman in her thirties say that on her part, she was sexually assaulted or molested, but not rape.
The story begain this friday. Another woman contacted her and told of a similar but worse story. That woman is in her twenties.

The woman says that at first the sex was consensual, but turned non-consensual in both cases. She also refutes the idea that the Pentagon or any of Assange’s detractors are behind the accusations:

The conspiracy theories that are flooding the net at the moment are discarded by the woman

“The accusations against Assange are of course not staged by neither the Pentagon or anyone else. The responsibility for what happened to me and the other girl are with a man with a disturbed view of women and problems accepting a no”

Fun fact: Aftonblade is the Swedish tabloid which recently tapped Assange to write a bimonthly column. Something tells us this deal is off.

Dan Riehl:

I’m in no way a supporter of what this fellow has done. But given the little that’s being reported, I can’t help but agree with him that the charges are disturbing. Welcome to the intelligence big leagues, Assange. I suspect you’re about to get knocked out of the park. Be very afraid. I suspect that, more than anything, is what the charges are meant to convey. That, and to provide grounds for your arrest.

Rick Moran:

I don’t think we can dismiss the possibility of a set up, but how would you convince the police to play along?  Or getting a couple of women to lie for you and have them keep quiet about it is not an easy task, especially when you consider they would have to appear in court and carry the conspiracy for a considerable length of time.

I do not believe the US government would be behind any shenanigans, but I wouldn’t put it past some rogue elements to take it upon themselves to punish the leaker. We don’t know enough to even guess yet, so perhaps we should just contemplate the fate of someone who proved himself a publicity whore and may have gotten burned for it.

Steven Taylor:

Considering news of the warrant just came out, it would seem that someone jumped the gun issuing it in the first place.  I have almost no opinion concerning Assange,* but it doesn’t take one to state that a rape allegation is quite serious and one would like to think that law enforcement would have their act together in terms of issuing a warrant, especially regarding someone for whom said warrant will be international news.

It is unclear to me what “molestation” means in this context, as in an American legal context it makes one’s mind leap to child molestation, but the treatment in the AP story (and other stories I have heard to this point in the day) don’t seem to be treating it as such.

___________________

*And yes, I know that bloggers are allegedly supposed to have instant deep (and, of course, utterly correct) opinions about everything, I will reserve any definitive statements about Assange or even Wikileaks, as it is one of the things for which I only have passing information at the moment and therefore have not formed a fully informed opinion as yet.

UPDATE: James Fallows

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Geese-icide

Erik Hayden at The Atlantic with the round-up

Isolde Raftery at New York Times:

It’s a doomsday plan for New York’s geese.

A nine-page report put together by a variety of national, state and city agencies shows that officials hope to reduce the number of Canada geese in New York to 85,000 from 250,000.

That means that roughly 170,000 geese — two-thirds of the population — will be killed.

The nearly 400 geese gassed to death this month after being rounded up in Prospect Park in Brooklyn — as well as an unknown number of other geese killed in New York City in recent weeks — were but a small part of the ambitious overall goal outlined in the document, which was obtained by City Room.

“The state of New York has close to 250,000 resident Canada geese, which is more than three times the state’s population goal of 85,000,” the report states. It is unknown how many have been killed so far.

Choire Sicha at The Awl:

The War Against Birds (Birds: We Have Always Been At War With Them!) just got insanely serious: “A nine-page report put together by a variety of national, state and city agencies shows that officials hope to reduce the number of Canada geese in New York to 85,000 from 250,000.” By, you know, euthanizing them and burying them. (Somehow, may I add, actually eating them doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone?)

I guess… we’re winning.

Mike Vilensky at New York Magazine:

What?! That is goose genocide! Hopefully a few of these geese have their special flight feathers strapped on again and survive, without holding it against humans for systematically gassing and killing their families, so that we can someday improve the now out-of-control goose-human relations. We’re sorry, Sticky!

Dan Collins at Huffington Post:

There’s a war going on between the goose-lovers and the goose-exterminators. I may have already given this away, but I am on the side of the exterminators.

Anybody who hasn’t been living in a cave for the last couple of years knows that in January 2009, a flock of geese ran into a US Airways plane that had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport, forcing the plane to land in the Hudson. Ever since we have spent our official American celebrations applauding Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the most popular old guy in the country.

It has also caused us to rethink our position on geese. There are about 20,000 Canada geese living in the region. While they’re far from the only birds who run into airplanes, their size and their tendency to fly in large groups makes them a special danger. In 1995, an Air Force surveillance plane ran into a flock in Alaska and crashed, killing all 24 people on board.

After Flight 1549, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the Wildlife Service, agreed that Canada geese could be rounded up from city-owned properties within five miles of LaGuardia or Kennedy Airport. It’s since been expanded to seven miles.

This year, while the geese were molting and earthbound over the past few weeks, official goose-killers working with the Department of Agriculture rounded up about 1,200 and took them off to be euthanized. There are other ways to control the goose population – you can oil their eggs so they won’t hatch, or hire a border collie to shoo them off to a different location. But just grabbing the suckers and gassing them is by far the simplest.

Not everybody agrees this is a good idea. After several hundred geese were removed from Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Paper, in an editorial entitled Meadows of Shame, said it was “a horrifying crime that not only calls into question our abilities as stewards of the earth but also our core values as a species.”

And – irony of ironies – the one place where the geese are not being rounded up at all is the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, which is virtually right next door to JFK. It’s run by the National Park Service, which has refused to allow goose collectors from the Department of Agriculture to round any of them up.

“We have not documented the fact that these geese are in fact a danger to the flying public,” said Dave Avrin, a National Park Service official.

“The safety of the flying public is important to the National Park Service,” he added. “But in order to take a major action such as the removal of the geese we have to go through a compliance process.”

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

Goodbye, geese. New York is planning to “reduce the number” of Canada geese in the state from 250,000 to 85,000. They’re not shipping 170,000 geese off to a magical gooseland, though. They’re killing them.

On July 14, 400 Geese were rounded up in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and gassed, sparking such outrage you would have thought they were 400 little infants. But that was just the opening salvo of a full-fledged War on Geese: a new report has deigned that two-thirds of the population of New York’s Canada geese must be slaughtered due to safety and health concerns.

On the bright side, here is an excellent recipe for slow cooker barbecue goose sandwich.

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