Category Archives: History

Weapons and judging intent

I’ve been pondering this case for a while. Does it seem odd to anyone else that a poison gas ingredients merchant would claim to not be aware of the intent of the Iraqi regime?

The court found him guilty of aiding war crimes, as “his deliveries facilitated the attacks”.

“He cannot counter with the argument that this would have happened even without his contribution,” the presiding judge said.

However, the judges ruled that van Anraat was not aware of the genocidal intentions of the Iraqi regime when he sold the ingredients for poison gas.

I could see him saying he would not expect it to be used on a particular enemy…but is that not the exact problem with arms sales? Consider this recent statement in the VOA by the US State Department, for example:

“Indonesia has made significant progress in advancing its democratic institutions and practices in a relatively short time.” As a result, the department has decided to waive conditions placed on the sale of lethal military equipment to Indonesia and on U.S. financing of Indonesian military purchases.

Needless to say, some folks were critical of the announcement and wondered how the US can influence, or even know, the intentions of the buyers. Also from the VOA:

A leading U.S. human rights group concerned with Indonesian issues criticized the wavier late Tuesday. Karen Orenstein is the national coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network. “The East Timor and Indonesia Action condemns in the strongest term possible the issuance of this national security wavier. This is just a clear abuse of executive power. You can’t press for military reform and human rights and accountability when you have no leverage to do so. We’ve just given away the store,” he said.

So does the US have preventive or detective measures in place to prevent abuse in Indonesia? Are they working towards preventing this kind of abuse elsewhere? Hindsight is 20-20, as they say, but what about preventing the Anraat of today? I mean what kind of message does the US give the world when they are the only country in the world to vote no on the UN measure against illegal arms sales?

Correspondence Patterns

I like the conclusions in this study:

“Darwin and Einstein correspondence patterns: These scientists prioritized their replies to letters in the same way that people rate their e-mails today.”

Not only does it vindicate my habit of attending to some communication instantly, while letting other things wait for eons, but it also raises interesting implications for confidentiality and data retention.

Death by Disney

I have issues with Disney for a whole number of reasons. Perhaps someday I will create a page to explain. I think it all started with a book I read as a kid about the CIA’s use of Scrooge McDuck and Huey, Louie, etc. in Latin America propaganda. Not that I disagreed with the use of comic-books, but if you read the actual comics they distributed you would know what I mean.

Bruce Schneier writes about the DMCA review by the US Congress today.

Posts on his blog seem more and more factual and less opinionated, perhaps due to time or just the general issue of dealing with the firestorm that can follow from giving any perspective. On the other hand, his links to “good information” all point to groups who oppose some aspect of the DMCA. Anyway, I read through the links that Bruce provided and this section stood out to me:

    (3) As used in this subsection-

    (A) to “circumvent a technological measure”? means to descramble a scrambled work, to decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner; and

    (B) a technological measure “effectively controls access to a work”? if the measure, in the ordinary course of its operation, requires the application of information, or a process or a treatment, with the authority of the copyright owner, to gain access to the work.

    17 U.S.C. 1201(a)(3).

I’ll try the trackback system again instead of posting directly.

ATM Fraud and Bank Security

The Register has a fascinating report on how British Banks failed to deal with the fact that phantom withdrawls from ATMs were a real problem, until a man of integrity discovered it and (arguably) saved the system:

“This is the story of how the UK banking system could have collapsed in the early 1990s, but for the forbearance of a junior barrister who also happened to be an expert in computer law – and who discovered that at that time the computing department of one of the banks issuing ATM cards had “gone rogue”, cracking PINs and taking money from customers’ accounts with abandon.”

I posted it on Bruce’s blog today as well: