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Syrian citizen journalists risk death, targeted; city of Homs facing starvation
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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Syrian forces have been shelling the Baba Amr district of Homs, Syria for almost a month. Civilians and journalists are amongst the dead, and Wikinews spoke to a local citizen journalist, attracting attention both from the world’s media and from the Syrian Armed Forces. According to Wikinews’ source, much of Homs is without water, and a city facing starvation.

Syrian forces began a ground assault on Homs February 4, using troops, and bombarding the city with tanks and artillery. To this day, the bombardment continues. Soldiers frequently clash with anti-government protesters, and ‘freedom fighters’ of the Free Syrian Army in violent, often deadly encounters. In the Baba Amr district of the city, “Omar” [for his safety, we only use his first name, Ed.], a citizen journalist with the Homs Media Center, created an account on the Bambuser website where users can stream live footage from PCs or mobile phones. He then pointed a camera out of his home, overlooking the city, and began broadcasting footage live on the Internet.

The violent, often deadly, events following may have, indirectly, resulted from this action. Journalists discussed in this article put their lives in jeopardy to give the world a record of events; in some cases, dying doing so. But, their deaths may not have been accidental; evidence suggests possible intentional targeting by Syrian government forces.

Omar usually began broadcasting just before sunrise. At 5:18 a.m. (EET) in Homs on February 9, Omar started his live broadcast; the sky still dark, with only a few lights flickering around the area. Sporadic gun and rocket fire between Syrian forces and the Free Syrian Army audible on the live feed. By sunrise, gun battles had ceased, the city silent except for the occasional rooster welcoming the morning sun. As daylight broke tanks inside the city, and artillery on its outskirts, began shelling buildings and other targets. Throughout the morning, rocket fire and tank shelling could be heard getting closer and closer to Omar’s position.

At approximately 07:40 EET, nearly two-and-a-half hours into the broadcast, the camera’s microphone records the audio of the brief, but distinct, ‘whistle’ of a rocket or shell as it sails through the air. It strikes close to the camera’s position, causing it to wobble an shake, nearly tipping over; smoke obscures the camera’s view, debris falling onto it whilst sounds of parts of nearby buildings collapsing are heard.

The camera continues to film, apparently undamaged. Omar’s house isn’t so lucky, suffering a direct hit from a rocket. Out of the camera’s view, people inside the house begin to scream. Less than two minutes later, a second rocket strikes the house just above and behind the camera’s position; again, causing it to shake. The sun casts the rising smoke’s shadow on the house next door as more debris hits the camera. Further screams are heard as rubble collapses around people inside. Those inside, running and shouting, now make up most of the broadcast audio; some begin to pray, whilst others bring round a car to carry out the injured or dead. Moments later another rocket is fired, residents screaming warnings to each other of another possible incoming strike. An explosion is heard, and smoke can be seen rising, center-right of the camera shot, from the rocket striking nearby.

A few minutes later, two men are seen coming out onto their balcony and looking in the direction of the house that was just hit. They talk, looking and pointing in the direction of Omar’s house, with the sound of gunfire in the area. At 07:50, they go back inside and out of sight.

Three minutes later a rocket is fired, striking that house, exactly where the two men were standing. It is unknown if they were killed or injured in the attack, but according to Omar the attacks around his home left five dead, three women and two men; Omar himself survives unscathed.

Despite the deaths in the February 9 attack, Omar kept his camera rolling whenever awake; but, that was about to change.

February 15 was a relatively quiet morning but, as sunrise gave way to the daylight, rockets began hitting targets in the city for the eleventh consecutive day. Shortly before 08:00 EET, a small plume of black smoke appears, left side of the live broadcast, an oil pipeline having sustained its first direct hit. Moments later, a second strike on the pipeline is in-shot, also to the left of the camera’s view. The acrid smoke from this strike quickly begins to grow.

Shortly after the second hit on the pipeline Omar enters the room, moving the camera to show both strikes. Twin plumes of thick black smoke are now visible rising in the distance. Omar states the oil pipeline sustained damage from an attack by Syrian military aircraft. From a United States Department of State satellite photo taken after the bombing, the pipeline is seen near a densely populated area of the city, with farmland lying to the west. The smoke from the pipeline fire blankets nearly all of the populated area, to the east, in range of the photo.

After repositioning the camera, Omar decided to leave his house to undertake some field work; a fortuitous move as Omar stated on his Twitter stream, “after we left the house” a rocket made a direct hit on it, leaving a hole in one of the sides. There were no injuries in the attack, the building being unoccupied at the time.

With sunset closing in and the pipeline still ablaze, Omar turned off his camera, not just for the night — indefinitely. Omar now believes he is in too much danger to broadcast further, tweeting: “[I] really am confused […] am worried to turn the live camera on. It’s become very dangerous.” Omar has since left his home.

Crucial as some of the live footage may be at getting pictures of bloodshed inside Syria out; for now, much of the output which ended up hosted on Bambuser has dried up. On February 17, the Syrian government blocked access to the website and its mobile phone application. Despite government action, some isolated examples of live footage continue making their way out of Syria, mainly from mobile phones.

Bambuser speculate that Syrian authorities’ move to block access may be a result of Omar’s live footage showing the oil pipeline fire on Feburary 15. That footage was rebroadcast on several major news networks, including CNN, BBC News, Al Jazeera and Sky News.

“We believe this footage was the trigger for the Syrian government to block access to bambuser.com and disable the possibility to broadcast live video with mobile phones on Syrian 3G,” said a Bambuser statement on their website. Bambuser has been blocked previously in other countries. Access to the site was blocked by Egypt in January 2011, during their revolution. Bahrain blocked the site six months ago, and it remains blocked to this day.

Bambuser’s statement continues: “Not only have we helped them get their message out, but they also say it means much in terms of morale for everyone in this situation. They [The Syrian people] know the world is watching, sharing and it gives them hope. No matter where in the world there is unrest, we at Bambuser always do our best to support and help observers”.

Omar is not alone in being at-risk; on February 18 a funeral for three men, shot and killed by Syrian forces during an anti-government protest the prior day, was being held in the central Mezzeh district of Damascus.

Over fifteen thousand people, including women and children, filled the streets paying their respects. After a prayer, during which mourners remained completely silent, the procession turned into a mass-protest. With mourners-turned-protesters marching down the streets, the sky over Damascus darkened and snow began falling. With the change of weather appearing to embolden the protesters, their chants grew louder.

Shortly thereafter, Syrian forces surrounded the front of the march, and opening fire with live rounds and tear gas. Panicked people quickly scattered, turning the once-peaceful march into a stampede. At least one was shot and killed. Dozens of others sustained injuries. This was the first time Syrian forces opened fire on protesters in central Mezzeh.Those people are just a small fraction of those who have been killed or injured since the uprisings began. It is estimated that from five thousand to upwards of seven thousand people have been killed since January of last year. As a result, on February 20, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced it was attempting to negotiate a cease fire by all parties “to facilitate swift Syrian Arab Red Crescent and ICRC access to the people in need.”

The ICRC wants troops to halt their attacks in cities that have seen the most fighting in order to deliver care packages. Bijan Farnoudi, a spokesman for the Red Cross, said discussions include “several possibilities” in which the packages can be delivered. Though the organization has been delivering food and supplies to as many cities and citizens as possible, heavy fighting in areas such as the Baba Amr district of Homs has made it increasingly difficult for aid to be delivered. Even while the Red Cross worked to negotiate a cease fire, reports out of Homs on February 20 said Syrian forces were amassing troops and tanks outside the city in preparation for an all-out ground invasion. According to Omar, the shellings continued, but on February 24, the Red Cross announced it was allowed to begin evacuating injured women and children from the city.

On February 21, a member of the Homs Media Center was killed by a rocket as Syrian forces continued their bombardment of the city for an eighteenth straight day. Rami al-Sayed was reported to have been severely injured by a rocket while attempting to evacuate individuals to a makeshift hospital, during what activists call the worst day of bombardment since Syrian forces began their attack on the city on February 4. According to Bambuser, he and three others were inside a car when it was hit by a mortar, immediately killing the others. Sayed bled to death at the hospital.

Sayed was a videographer “crucial in getting the truth out through his videos posted on the Internet. We will really miss him, especially the medical team who relied on him to document all the civilian injuries and deaths on video,” said Omar in an interview with CNN. Sayed also was one of the men affiliated with the account ‘syriapioneer’ on Bambuser. Like Omar, he would broadcast live footage of the events on the ground in Homs. Bambuser published the last known message sent out to friends and family: “Babaamr is facing a genocide right now. I will never forgive you for your silence. You all have just give us your words but we need actions. However our hearts will always be with those who risk their life for our freedom. … In a few hours there will be NO place called BabaAmr and I expect this will be my last message and no one will forgive you who talked but didn’t act.” Sayed, 26, had a daughter of 18 months. In December, a citizen-journalist cousin of Sayed’s, Basil al-Sayed, was also killed. In a statement to Wikinews Omar described Sayed as “my best friend” and they both have worked as citizen journalists for about “10 months”, around the beginning of the uprisings.

The killings didn’t end there. Another two journalists were killed February 22, whilst at the Homs Media Center. Marie Colvin, a Sunday Times journalist, and award winning French photographer Rémi Ochlik, were killed when rockets hit the center. At least two others were injured in the attack, French journalist Edith Bouvier and British photographer Paul Conroy.

The Syrian government denies involvement, saying their deaths were “absolutely not” caused “by Syrian armies.” The following day Bouvier made a video plea to Syrian forces that she be allowed to leave Homs to seek medical attention. Conroy stated, despite leg wounds, he was “OK.”

Omar was in a Skype conversation with a friend at the media center when the attack took place. He recorded the call’s audio using a web camera and posted the video on YouTube; sounds of explosions and possible gunfire can be heard throughout. Reports strongly suggest the media center attack was deliberate; radio communications between Syrian government forces indicate orders to attack the building — whilst making it appear individuals died caught in a gun battle with terrorists.

HAVE YOUR SAY
What are your thoughts on the situation in Syria?Is the report from the Arab League credible in light of our video footage?How do you believe the international community should respond?
Add or view comments

It is because of situations such as that on February 16, the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA) voted, “[…] overwhelmingly to call on both the government and allied forces and armed groups to stop all violence or reprisals immediately.” The UN GA press release expressed grave concern at the Syria’s deteriorating situation and, “[…] condemned a raft of violations carried out by the authorities, such as the use of force against civilians, the killing and persecution of protesters and journalists, and sexual violence and ill-treatment, including against children.”

Calling on Syria to abide obligations under international law, the UN GA “[…] demanded that the Government, in line with the 2 November 2011 Action Plan of the League of Arab States, and its decisions of 22 January and 12 February 2012, without delay, stop all violence and protect its people, release all those detained during the unrest, withdraw all armed forces from cities and towns, guarantee peaceful demonstrations and allow unhindered access for Arab League monitors and international media.”

137 nations voted for the General Assembly’s resolution, twelve opposed and 17 abstained. As with many UN GA resolutions, the findings and conclusions are non-binding.

Earlier, on February 4, the United Nations Security Council failed to pass resolution S/2012/77, supporting Arab League actions pursuing peace in Syria. This resolution was vetoed by Security Council members China and Russia.

The Arab League’s goal, according to their report on Syria, “is to protect Syrian citizens through the commitment of the Syrian government to stop acts of violence, release detainees and withdraw all military presence from cities like Homs, and an end to violence in Syria.” The League noted Homs, Dera‘a, Idlib, and Hama as the cities primarily affected by such incidents. The report claims all such incidents were caused by “armed groups” or “entities not mentioned in the protocol [report].”

Despite the League’s claim, live footage broadcast more than a month after the report was filed suggests the opposite as tanks continued to bombard cities like Homs. The League, in their report, go on to say Syrians “believe the crisis should be resolved peacefully through Arab mediation alone, without international intervention. Doing so would allow them to live in peace and complete the reform process and bring about the change they desire.”

Omar disagrees with the League’s conclusion that Syrians do not want international intervention. He believes if “the world” doesn’t act soon, many more will die from starvation. Medical supplies have not been making their way to makeshift hospitals and food is scarce. Much of the city is without water and Syrian forces continue their assault on the city. In a statement to Wikinews on Wednesday, Omar said “if they stay like this [the world] just watching us, people will die not because of the shelling, they will die because of starvation. We are surrounded. There is no food, no water and no medical supplies. If the world doesn’t do anything we will die from starvation. In the coming days I can see a massacre from starving.”

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News briefs:May 28, 2010
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Wikinews Audio Briefs Credits
Produced By
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Recorded By
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Written By
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Listen To This Brief

Problems? See our media guide.

[edit]

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News briefs:April 20, 2010
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Wikinews Audio Briefs Credits
Produced By
Turtlestack
Recorded By
Turtlestack
Written By
Turtlestack
Listen To This Brief

Problems? See our media guide.

[edit]

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House of Flying Daggers (Movie review)
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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Opened in limited release on December 3, 2004 (New York City and Los Angeles, 145 screens)

House of Flying Daggers is a martial-arts action/romance film.

Contents

  • 1 Cast and crew
  • 2 Plot
  • 3 Production notes
  • 4 External links

Turkish planes bomb PKK targets in northern Iraq

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Turkish planes bomb PKK targets in northern Iraq
Published in December 15th, 2018
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Thursday, July 24, 2008File:December 2007 bombing of northern Iraq.jpg

Turkey’s military said in a statement posted on their website that warplanes bombed thirteen Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets overnight in northern Iraq.

In what the statement termed an “intensive strike,” Turkey targeted PKK hideouts along the Turkish frontier which is known as a major stronghold for the PKK. The statement claimed, “All thirteen targets were successfully hit,” though there were no estimates on casualties, they were said to be forthcoming.

“Operations as part of the fight against terrorism will continue with determination both at home and abroad,” said the military’s press release. Turkish planes have been bombing northern Iraq intermittently since December 16. Just last February 240 militants were killed and dozens of PKK hideouts and camps were destroyed when the army conducted a ground offensive against the PKK bases in the region.

Ahmed Danis, PKK, told Agence France-Press by phone: “The bombing lasted until midnight. The PKK forces have not suffered any casualties, because we have taken all the necessary precautions to reduce our losses.”

The Turkish Armed Forces have a one year authorization for cross-border military action against the PKK, which expires in October.

Hamilton wins ‘incredible’ Bahrain race, F1’s 900th Grand Prix

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Hamilton wins ‘incredible’ Bahrain race, F1’s 900th Grand Prix
Published in December 15th, 2018
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sunday saw Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton win the Bahrain Grand Prix after an “incredible” race he spent battling with teammate Nico Rosberg. It was F1’s 900th ever World Championship Grand Prix.

The two Mercedes drivers were neck-and-neck throughout the race, with Hamilton usually in front. Rosberg started from pole position after Hamilton made a mistake in qualifying, going off-track and settling for second. After the race Hamilton said it was “an incredible day, a really tough day” and he wanted some relaxation time.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo had to start from thirteenth despite qualifying third after an incident in Malaysia last race saw him given a ten-place grid penalty. His car left the pits with a wheel loose, and stewards imposed the penalty after deeming it unacceptably dangerous. Ricciardo managed to finish fourth to score his first points of the season after a disqualification in the opening race in his native Australia.

Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel continued to struggle with technical problems, including his drag reduction system and gearbox. Starting from tenth ahead of teammate Ricciardo, he was able to reach sixth by the finish line. He missed much of the final practice session before qualifying after he spun off the track and beached his car. The closure of the night race was marked with a fireworks display.

Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado also saw his troubles continue. Having newly switched to Lotus, he failed to complete the opening two races this year and damaged his car with an accidental wheelie practicing for this one. Exiting the pit lane on the 41st lap Maldonado struck the side of Sauber racer Esteban Gutiérrez with sufficient force to send the Mexican’s car onto its back before rolling back upright.

many things learned, and helpful for the future

Gutiérrez received medical attention on-site and in hospital as a precaution, but was uninjured. “Wow!” Gutiérrez told his team via radio before leaving the car. “What was that?” Maldonado received a stop-and-go penalty and finished outside the points.

Stewards had further punishment for the Lotus driver after the race. He will have a five-place grid position penalty at the start of his race in China. He also had three points added to his racing driver’s licence, a new system this year comparable to a normal motorist receiving points after traffic offences.

Maldonado seemed to imply the other driver played a roll in the collision. “We will need to have a look again at what happened,” he said, “as Esteban seemed to be off his line coming into turn one — maybe he missed his braking point, I don’t know — and by then I was in the corner with nowhere to go”.

Wow! What was that?

Fan opinion is sharply against him, with some using the derogatory nickname Crashtor Maldonado. Others said his punishment was unfair compared to Ricciardo’s ten-place grid position drop after his team’s mistake in Malaysia. Gutiérrez thanked supportive fans via social media after the race in English and Mexican, and returned to the circuit yesterday as teams took to testing.

Maldonado was not alone in causing accidents. Jules Bianchi received a drive-through penalty after colliding with Adrian Sutil, leaving both cars sporting punctures. Sutil later retired from the race.

Other retirements included Marcus Ericsson and Kevin Magnussen, both rookies, who separately pulled up at the trackside. Fellow newcomer Daniil Kvyat of Russia, who claimed the title of F1’s youngest-ever points scorer at the season opener, was placed just outside the points despite setting one of the fastest laps of the early part of the race. He had also scored in Malaysia.

“Not an easy race for us yesterday!” Kvyat tweeted on Monday. “But many things learned, and helpful for the future.”

The podium was rounded out by Sergio Pérez in third, claiming Force India’s second-ever podium finish off the back of a failure to even start in Malaysia with a gearbox malfunction. Nico Hulkenberg took fifth. Both he and ninth-place Fernando Alonso celebrated upon completing the race, arms in the air. Williams racers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas scored seventh and eight place respectively. Kimi Räikkönen claimed the final scoring position of tenth despite a minor collision with Magnussen at the race start.

Williams, who this year are using new bright white livery on their cars, where able to keep the coloured stripes of sponsor Martini. Constraints from the host nation meant the word Martini itself, however, was changed to ‘racing’ on the cars. Williams test driver Susie Wolff of Scotland started a competition during the race weekend to win one of her Martini-coloured caps for submitting pictures of designs using the Martini colours.

A further near miss was suffered by Bottas when he ran off-track after becoming caught in battling between Räikkönen and Ricciardo. His team radioed to promise a complaint would be made to race director Charlie Whiting.

Rosberg told his Twitter followers “Great fight with @LewisHamilton but I’m back in two weeks to take the win”. Hamilton tweeted “What a race! Amazing to get my first win in Bahrain” and also paid tribute to his Mercedes team.

Anti-government protestors turned out in their thousands at the start of the race weekend. The peaceful rally at the capital, Manama, was marred by small groups throwing molotov cocktails at police. The protestors were opposed to the international attraction giving patronage to Bahrain. Events at the circuit were given heavy security.

The race has been the target of intense protesting for several years.

Global markets plunge

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Global markets plunge
Published in December 14th, 2018
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Friday, October 10, 2008

Stock markets across the world have fallen sharply with several seeing the biggest drop in their history.

Asian markets saw the biggest sell-off. The Nikkei dropped 9.62% to reach a 20 year low. Japan also saw a collapse of a mid-size insurance company, Yamato Life Insurance Company, which declared bankruptcy. The Hang Seng, which was one of the few markets that was positive yesterday, fell 7.19%. Australia dropped by 8.4% and South Korea saw a 9% fall.

In Europe, markets dropped at the open with the FTSE losing 11%. They have recovered only sightly with all European markets losing more than 5%. The European sell off was more about the Asian lows then any specific news. European banks and financial institutes saw the most selling. Also, oil related companies saw large drops as an result of an expected decrease in oil consumption.

The U.S. markets opened lower with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling below 8,000, before recovering slightly. President George W. Bush made an address on the economy and said markets were being “driven by uncertainty and fear.”

Oil has seen losses of more than US$6 in trading with the current price of a barrel of oil less than $80. This is a year low for oil. News also came out that OPEC will hold an emergency meeting on November 18 to discuss the falling price of oil.

Charities, such as Cats Protection, today said that they have lost much of their funds in collapsing banks. Cats Protection had a total of £11.2 million saved in the now-collapsed Kaupthing bank.

The British National Council for Voluntary Organisations said that 60 of its 6,500 have lost money due to the collapse of banks.

Contents

  • 1 Stock markets
    • 1.1 Dow Jones Industrial Average
    • 1.2 FTSE 100
    • 1.3 Nikkei 225
  • 2 International reaction
    • 2.1 George W. Bush
    • 2.2 Gordon Brown
    • 2.3 Jim Flaherty
  • 3 Market data
  • 4 Sources

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell to its lowest level in five years at 8,579.19, falling 679 points in one day. This, at 7.3%, is the eleventh largest percentage fall in the history of the index. The growth then continued, with the index being up over 150 points on the start of the day at one point.

The index, did however, recover, and as of 19:30 UTC was up 17.68 points, or 0.21%, pushing the index up to almost 8600.

Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners, commented on these massive falls. “What we’ve seen here was one big margin call that just kept feeding on itself, so the opposite could happen. But you need a catalyst,” he said. “I’m more convinced now than ever that this market has made a bottom. The capitulation came when we breached 8,000,” he continued. “It doesn’t mean we can’t go back and revisit that level.”

The UK’s FTSE 100 index fell dramatically to close below 4000, in the index’s worst week in history. This is despite the fact that just a few days ago the index was above 5000, and the index peaked above 5500 in September.The FTSE 100 index has fallen by 41% this year.

Barclays Wealth analyst Henk Potts commented on this massive fall. “We are drowning in a sea of red numbers,” he claimed. “Investors are concerned about the exacerbation of the credit crunch and the gloomy forecasts for economic growth. The reality is that most investors have been spooked by the sheer pressure that the credit crunch is putting on the global economy.”

The Japanese Nikkei 225 has recorded it’s third biggest drop in history with a massive sell-off in the exchange that has resulted in USD 250 billion being knocked of the index’s value.

Toyota, which is the second largest carmaker in the world, fell by the largest amount in 21 years, while Elpida Memory, the world’s largest manufacturer of computer memory, dropped in value to a record low.

Masafumi Oshiden, a fund manager in Toyota commented on the drop.”It’s capitulation,” he said. “There are lots of forced sellers. If you’re a fund that’s going bust you need to close out all your positions.”

George W. Bush commented on the financial situation earlier today. “Over the past few days, we have witnessed a startling drop in the stock market — much of it driven by uncertainty and fear,” he said. “This has been a deeply unsettling period for the American people. Many of our citizens have serious concerns about their retirement accounts, their investments, and their economic well-being.”

Bush then continued by promoting the government’s plan’s to get through the crises. “Here’s what the American people need to know: that the United States government is acting; we will continue to act to resolve this crisis and restore stability to our markets. We are a prosperous nation with immense resources and a wide range of tools at our disposal. We’re using these tools aggressively.”

Gordon Brown, the UK Prime Minister, also spoke on the economy. “I think we quickly realised that we cannot solve the problems we have got as a result of the sub-prime market collapse simply by improving liquidity,” he said speaking in Birmingham to business leaders earlier today. “That would simply not be enough to deal with the bigger problem of rebuilding the banking system for the future and restoring trust is a fundamental element of that.”

Jim Flaherty, the Canadian minister for finance, also commented today on the recent incidents in the economy. “It is important to underline that Canada’s banks and other financial institutions are sound, well capitalized and less leveraged than their international peers,” he claimed. “Our mortgage system is sound. Canadian households have smaller mortgages relative both to the value of their homes and to their disposable incomes than in the U.S.”

“”However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the continuing disruption of global credit markets, which has been severe and protracted, is making it difficult for our financial institutions to raise long-term funding. This is beginning to affect the availability of mortgage loans and other types of credit in Canada,” he continued. “The Government has therefore decided to act to address the current scarcity of private sector lending to Canadian mortgage markets and lending markets overall. This is going to make loans and mortgages more available and more affordable for ordinary Canadians and businesses.”

20:15, 10 October, 2008 (UTC)
  • DJIA
  • 8.451,19 128,00 1,49%
  • Nasdaq
  • 1.649,51 4,39 0.27%
  • S&P 500
  • 899,22 10,70 1,18%
  • S&P TSX
  • 9.264,57 335,61 3.50%
  • IPC
  • 19.952,30 357,87 1,76%
  • Merval
  • 1.215,990 71.340 5,54%
  • Bovespa
  • 35.615,26 1,474.03 3,97%
  • FTSE 100
  • 3.932,06 381,74 8,85%
  • DAX
  • 4.544,31 342,69 7,01%
  • CAC 40
  • 3.176,49 266,21 7,73%
  • SMI
  • 5.347,22 451,62 7,79%
  • AEX
  • 258,05 23,92 8,48%
  • BEL20
  • 2.123,44 117,44 5,24%
  • MIBTel
  • 15.438,00 1,081,00 6,54%
  • IBEX 35
  • 8.997,70 905,20 9,14%
  • All Ordinaries
  • 3.939,50 351,80 8,20%
  • Nikkei
  • 8.276,43 881,06 9,62%
  • Hang Seng
  • 14.796,90 1,146,37 7,19%
  • SSE Composite
  • 2.000,57 74,01 3,57%

    ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data

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    ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data
    Published in December 14th, 2018
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    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    Late last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed objections to the United States Government’s ‘secret’ attempts to obtain Twitter account information relating to WikiLeaks. The ACLU and EFF cite First and Fourth amendment issues as overriding reasons to overturn government attempts to keep their investigation secret; and, that with Birgitta Jonsdottir being an Icelandic Parliamentarian, the issue has serious international implications.

    The case, titled “In the Matter of the 2703(d) Order Relating to Twitter Accounts: Wikileaks, Rop_G, IOERROR; and BirgittaJ“, has been in the EFF’s sights since late last year when they became aware of the US government’s attempts to investigate WikiLeaks-related communications using the popular microblogging service.

    The key objective of this US government investigation is to obtain data for the prosecution of Bradley Manning, alleged to have supplied classified data to WikiLeaks. In addition to Manning’s Twitter account, and that of WikiLeaks (@wikileaks), the following three accounts are subject to the order: @ioerror, @birgittaj, and @rop_g. These, respectively, belong to Jacob Apelbaum, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Rop Gonggrijp.

    Birgitta is not the only non-US citizen with their Twitter account targeted by the US Government; Gonggrijp, a Dutch ‘ex-hacker’-turned-security-expert, was one of the founders of XS4ALL – the first Internet Service Provider in the Netherlands available to the public. He has worked on a mobile phone that can encrypt conversations, and proven that electronic voting systems can readily be hacked.

    In early March, a Virginia magistrate judge ruled that the government could have the sought records, and neither the targeted users, or the public, could see documents submitted to justify data being passed to the government. The data sought is as follows:

    1. Personal contact information, including addresses
    2. Financial data, including credit card or bank account numbers
    3. Twitter account activity information, including the “date, time, length, and method of connections” plus the “source and destination Internet Protocol address(es)”
    4. Direct Message (DM) information, including the email addresses and IP addresses of everyone with whom the Parties have exchanged DMs

    The order demands disclosure of absolutely all such data from November 1, 2009 for the targeted accounts.

    The ACLU and EFF are not only challenging this, but demanding that all submissions made by the US government to justify the Twitter disclosure are made public, plus details of any other such cases which have been processed in secret.

    Bradley Manning, at the time a specialist from Maryland enlisted with the United States Army’s 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, was arrested in June last year in connection with the leaking of classified combat video to WikiLeaks.

    The leaked video footage, taken from a US helicopter gunship, showed the deaths of Reuters staff Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen during a U.S. assault in Baghdad, Iraq. The wire agency unsuccessfully attempted to get the footage released via a Freedom of Information Act request in 2007.

    When WikiLeaks released the video footage it directly contradicted the official line taken by the U.S. Army asserting that the deaths of the two Reuters staff were “collateral damage” in an attack on Iraqi insurgents. The radio chatter associated with the AH-64 Apache video indicated the helicopter crews had mistakenly identified the journalists’ equipment as weaponry.

    The US government also claims Manning is linked to CableGate; the passing of around a quarter of a million classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Manning has been in detention since July last year; in December allegations of torture were made to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the conditions under which he was and is being detained.

    Reports last month that he must now sleep naked and attend role call at the U.S. Marine facility in Quantico in the same state, raised further concern over his detention conditions. Philip J. Crowley, at-the-time a State Department spokesman, remarked on this whilst speaking at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; describing the current treatment of Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”, Crowley was, as a consequence, put in the position of having to tender his resignation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    Despite his native Australia finding, in December last year, that Assange’s WikiLeaks had not committed any criminal offences in their jurisdiction, the U.S. government has continued to make ongoing operations very difficult for the whistleblower website.

    The result of the Australian Federal Police investigation left the country’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, having to retract a statement that WikiLeaks had acted “illegally”; instead, she characterised the site’s actions as “grossly irresponsible”.

    Even with Australia finding no illegal activity on the part of WikiLeaks, and with founder Julian Assange facing extradition to Sweden, U.S. pressure sought to hobble WikiLeaks financially.

    Based on a State Department letter, online payments site PayPal suspended WikiLeaks account in December. Their action was swiftly followed by Visa Europe and Mastercard ceasing to handle payments for WikiLeaks.

    The online processing company, Datacell, threatened the two credit card giants with legal action over this. However, avenues of funding for the site were further curtailed when both Amazon.com and Swiss bank PostFinance joined the financial boycott of WikiLeaks.

    Assange continues, to this day, to argue that his extradition to Sweden for questioning on alleged sexual offences is being orchestrated by the U.S. in an effort to discredit him, and thus WikiLeaks.

    Wikinews consulted an IT and cryptography expert from the Belgian university which developed the current Advanced Encryption Standard; explaining modern communications, he stated: “Cryptography has developed to such a level that intercepting communications is no longer cost effective. That is, if any user uses the correct default settings, and makes sure that he/she is really connecting to Twitter it is highly unlikely that even the NSA can break the cryptography for a protocol such as SSL/TLS (used for https).”

    Qualifying this, he commented that “the vulnerable parts of the communication are the end points.” To make his point, he cited the following quote from Gene Spafford: “Using encryption on the Internet is the equivalent of arranging an armored car to deliver credit card information from someone living in a cardboard box to someone living on a park bench.

    Continuing, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) expert explained:

    In the first place, the weak point is Twitter itself; the US government can go and ask for the data; companies such as Twitter and Google will typically store quite some information on their users, including IP addresses (it is known that Google deletes the last byte of the IP address after a few weeks, but it is not too hard for a motivated opponent to find out what this byte was).
    In the second place, this is the computer of the user: by exploiting system weaknesses (with viruses, Trojan horses or backdoors in the operating system) a highly motivated opponent can enter your machine and record your keystrokes plus everything that is happening (e.g. the FBI is known to do this with the so-called Magic Lantern software). Such software is also commercially available, e.g. for a company to monitor its employees.
    It would also be possible for a higly motivated opponent to play “man-in-the-middle”; that means that instead of having a secure connection to Twitter.com, you have a secure connection to the attacker’s server, who impersonates Twitter’s and then relays your information to Twitter. This requires tricks such as spoofing DNS (this is getting harder with DNSsec), or misleading the user (e.g. the user clicks on a link and connects to tw!tter.com or Twitter.c0m, which look very similar in a URL window as Twitter.com). It is clear that the US government is capable of using these kind of tricks; e.g., a company has been linked to the US government that was recognized as legitimate signer in the major browsers, so it would not be too large for them to sign a legitimate certificate for such a spoofing webserver; this means that the probability that a user would detect a problem would be very low.
    As for traffic analysis (finding out who you are talking to rather than finding out what you are telling to whom), NSA and GCHQ are known to have access to lots of traffic (part of this is obtained via the UK-USA agreement). Even if one uses strong encryption, it is feasible for them to log the IP addresses and email addresses of all the parties you are connecting to. If necessary, they can even make routers re-route your traffic to their servers. In addition, the European Data Retention directive forces all operators to store such traffic data.
    Whether other companies would have complied with such requests: this is very hard to tell. I believe however that it is very plausible that companies such as Google, Skype or Facebook would comply with such requests if they came from a government.
    In summary: unless you go through great lengths to log through to several computers in multiple countries, you work in a clean virtual machine, you use private browser settings (don’t accept cookies, no plugins for Firefox, etc.) and use tools such as Tor, it is rather easy for any service provider to identify you.
    Finally: I prefer not to be quoted on any sentences in which I make statements on the capabilities or actions of any particular government.

    Wikinews also consulted French IT security researcher Stevens Le Blond on the issues surrounding the case, and the state-of-the-art in monitoring, and analysing, communications online. Le Blond, currently presenting a research paper on attacks on Tor to USENIX audiences in North America, responded via email:

    Were the US Government to obtain the sought data, it would seem reasonable the NSA would handle further investigation. How would you expect them to exploit the data and expand on what they receive from Twitter?

    • Le Blond: My understanding is that the DOJ is requesting the following information: 1) Connection records and session times 2) IP addresses 3) e-mail addresses 4) banking info
    By requesting 1) and 2) for Birgitta and other people involved with WikiLeaks (WL) since 2009, one could derive 2 main [pieces of] information.
    First, he could tell the mobility of these people. Recent research in networking shows that you can map an IP address into a geographic location with a median error of 600 meters. So by looking at changes of IP addresses in time for a Twitter user, one could tell (or at least speculate about) where that person has been.
    Second, by correlating locations of different people involved with WL in time, one could possibly derive their interactions and maybe even their level of involvement with WL. Whether it is possible to derive this information from 1) and 2) depends on how this people use Twitter. For example, do they log on Twitter often enough, long enough, and from enough places?
    My research indicates that this is the case for other Internet services but I cannot tell whether it is the case for Twitter.
    Note that even though IP logging, as done by Twitter, is similar to the logging done by GSM [mobile phone] operators, the major difference seems to be that Twitter is subject to US regulation, no matter the citizenship of its users. I find this rather disturbing.
    Using 3), one could search for Birgitta on other Internet services, such as social networks, to find more information on her (e.g., hidden accounts). Recent research on privacy shows that people tend to use the same e-mail address to register an account on different social networks (even when they don’t want these accounts to be linked together). Obviously, one could then issue subpoenas for these accounts as well.
    I do not have the expertise to comment on what could be done with 4).
    ((WN)) As I believe Jonsdottir to be involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), what are the wider implications beyond the “WikiLeaks witchhunt”?
    • Le Blond: Personal data can be used to discredit, especially if the data is not public.

    Having been alerted to the ongoing case through a joint press release by the ACLU and EFF, Wikinews sought clarification on the primary issues which the two non-profits saw as particularly important in challenging the U.S. Government over the ‘secret’ court orders. Rebecca Jeschke, Media Relations Director for the EFF, explained in more detail the points crucial to them, responding to a few questions from Wikinews on the case:

    ((WN)) As a worse-case, what precedents would be considered if this went to the Supreme Court?
    • Rebecca Jeschke: It’s extremely hard to know at this stage if this would go to the Supreme Court, and if it did, what would be at issue. However, some of the interesting questions about this case center on the rights of people around the world when they use US Internet services. This case questions the limits of US law enforcement, which may turn out to be very different from the limits in other countries.
    ((WN)) Since this is clearly a politicised attack on free speech with most chilling potential repercussions for the press, whistleblowers, and by-and-large anyone the relevant U.S. Government departments objects to the actions of, what action do you believe should be taken to protect free speech rights?
    • Jeschke: We believe that, except in very rare circumstances, the government should not be permitted to obtain information about individuals’ private Internet communications in secret. We also believe that Internet companies should, whenever possible, take steps to ensure their customers are notified about requests for information and have the opportunity to respond.
    ((WN)) Twitter via the web, in my experience, tends to use https:// connections. Are you aware of any possibility of the government cracking such connections? (I’m not up to date on the crypto arms race).
    • Jeschke: You don’t need to crack https, per se, to compromise its security. See this piece about fraudulent https certificates:
    Iranian hackers obtain fraudulent httpsEFF website.
    ((WN)) And, do you believe that far, far more websites should – by default – employ https:// connections to protect people’s privacy?
    • Jeschke: We absolutely think that more websites should employ https! Here is a guide for site operators: (See external links, Ed.)

    Finally, Wikinews approached the Icelandic politician, and WikiLeaks supporter, who has made this specific case a landmark in how the U.S. Government handles dealings with – supposedly – friendly governments and their elected representatives. A number of questions were posed, seeking the Icelandic Parliamentarian’s views:

    ((WN)) How did you feel when you were notified the US Government wanted your Twitter account, and message, details? Were you shocked?
    • Birgitta Jonsdottir: I felt angry but not shocked. I was expecting something like this to happen because of my involvement with WikiLeaks. My first reaction was to tweet about it.
    ((WN)) What do you believe is their reasoning in selecting you as a ‘target’?
    • Jonsdottir: It is quite clear to me that USA authorities are after Julian Assange and will use any means possible to get even with him. I think I am simply a pawn in a much larger context. I did of course both act as a spokesperson for WikiLeaks in relation to the Apache video and briefly for WikiLeaks, and I put my name to the video as a co-producer. I have not participated in any illegal activity and thus being a target doesn’t make me lose any sleep.
    ((WN)) Are you concerned that, as a Member of Parliament involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), the US attempt to obtain your Twitter data is interfering with planned Icelandic government policy?
    • Jonsdottir: No
    ((WN)) In an earlier New York Times (NYT) article, you’re indicating there is nothing they can obtain about you that bothers you; but, how do you react to them wanting to know everyone you talk to?
    • Jonsdottir: It bothers me and according to top computer scientists the government should be required to obtain a search warrant to get our IP addresses from Twitter. I am, though, happy I am among the people DOJ is casting their nets around because of my parliamentary immunity; I have a greater protection then many other users and can use that immunity to raise the issue of lack of rights for those that use social media.
    HAVE YOUR SAY
    Do you believe the U.S. government should have the right to access data on foreign nationals using services such as Twitter?
    Add or view comments
    ((WN)) The same NYT article describes you as a WikiLeaks supporter; is this still the case? What attracts you to their ‘radical transparency’?
    • Jonsdottir: I support the concept of WikiLeaks. While we don’t have a culture of protection for sources and whistleblowers we need sites like WikiLeaks. Plus, I think it is important to give WikiLeaks credit for raising awareness about in how bad shape freedom of information and expression is in our world and it is eroding at an alarming rate because of the fact that legal firms for corporations and corrupt politicians have understood the borderless nature of the legalities of the information flow online – we who feel it is important that people have access to information that should remain in the public domain need to step up our fight for those rights. WikiLeaks has played an important role in that context.I don’t support radical transparency – I understand that some things need to remain secret. It is the process of making things secret that needs to be both more transparent and in better consensus with nations.
    ((WN)) How do you think the Icelandic government would have reacted if it were tens of thousands of their diplomatic communications being leaked?
    • Jonsdottir: I am not sure – A lot of our dirty laundry has been aired via the USA cables – our diplomatic communications with USA were leaked in those cables, so far they have not stirred much debate nor shock. It is unlikely for tens of thousands of cables to leak from Iceland since we dont have the same influence or size as the USA, nor do we have a military.
    ((WN)) Your ambassador in the US has spoken to the Obama administration. Can you discuss any feedback from that? Do you have your party’s, and government’s, backing in challenging the ordered Twitter data release?
    • Jonsdottir: I have not had any feedback from that meeting, I did however receive a message from the DOJ via the USA ambassador in Iceland. The message stated three things: 1. I am free to travel to the USA. 2. If I would do so, I would not be a subject of involuntary interrogation. 3. I am not under criminal investigation. If this is indeed the reality I wonder why they are insisting on getting my personal details from Twitter. I want to stress that I understand the reasoning of trying to get to Assange through me, but I find it unacceptable since there is no foundation for criminal investigation against him. If WikiLeaks goes down, all the other media partners should go down at the same time. They all served similar roles. The way I see it is that WikiLeaks acted as the senior editor of material leaked to them. They could not by any means be considered a source. The source is the person that leaks the material to WikiLeaks. I am not sure if the media in our world understands how much is at stake for already shaky industry if WikiLeaks will carry on carrying the brunt of the attacks. I think it would be powerful if all the medias that have had access to WikiLeaks material would band together for their defence.
    ((WN)) Wikinews consulted a Belgian IT security expert who said it was most likely companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, would have complied with similar court orders *without advising the ‘targets*’. Does that disturb you?
    • Jonsdottir: This does disturb me for various reasons. The most obvious is that my emails are hosted at google/gmail and my search profile. I dont have anything to hide but it is important to note that many of the people that interact with me as a MP via both facebook and my various email accounts don’t always realize that there is no protection for them if they do so via those channels. I often get sensitive personal letters sent to me at facebook and gmail. In general most people are not aware of how little rights they have as users of social media. It is those of uttermost importance that those sites will create the legal disclaimers and agreements that state the most obvious rights we lose when we sign up to their services.
    This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
    ((WN)) Has there been any backlash within Iceland against US-based internet services in light of this? Do you expect such, or any increase in anti-American sentiments?
    • Jonsdottir: No, none what so ever. I dont think there is much anti-American sentiments in Iceland and I dont think this case will increase it. However I think it is important for everyone who does not live in the USA and uses social services to note that according to the ruling in my case, they dont have any protection of the 1st and 4th amendment, that only apply to USA citizens. Perhaps the legalities in relation to the borderless reality we live in online need to be upgraded in order for people to feel safe with using social media if it is hosted in the USA. Market tends to bend to simple rules.
    ((WN)) Does this make you more, or less, determined to see the IMMI succeed?
    • Jonsdottir: More. People have to realize that if we dont have freedom of information online we won’t have it offline. We have to wake up to the fact that our rights to access information that should be in the public domain is eroding while at the same time our rights as citizens online have now been undermined and we are only seen as consumers with consumers rights and in some cases our rights are less than of a product. This development needs to change and change fast before it is too late.

    The U.S. Government continues to have issues internationally as a result of material passed to WikiLeaks, and subsequently published.

    Within the past week, Ecuador has effectively declared the U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges persona-non-grata over corruption allegations brought to light in leaked cables. Asking the veteran diplomat to leave “as soon as possible”, the country may become the third in South America with no ambassadorial presence. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have no resident U.S. ambassador due to the two left-wing administrations believing the ejected diplomats were working with the opposition.

    The U.S. State Department has cautioned Ecuador that a failure to speedily normalise diplomatic relations may jeapordise ongoing trade talks.

    The United Kingdom is expected to press the Obama administration over the continuing detention of 23-year-old Manning, who also holds UK citizenship. British lawmakers are to discuss his ongoing detention conditions before again approaching the U.S. with their concerns that his solitary confinement, and treatment therein, is not acceptable.

    The 22 charges brought against Manning are currently on hold whilst his fitness to stand trial is assessed.

    U.S. Housing prices down 9% since February

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    U.S. Housing prices down 9% since February
    Published in December 14th, 2018
    Posted by in Uncategorized
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    Sunday, June 26, 2005

    The median house price in the United States plunged 6.5% in May to $217,000. In February of 2005, the median price of a home was $237,300.

    The Economist newspaper said in its June 16th issue; “In other words, it looks like the biggest bubble in history.” by way of reference to what is happening with housing prices in the USA and much of Europe.

    Japan provides an example of how a boom can turn to bust. Property prices have dropped for 14 years in a row (40% from their peak in 1991); and yet, the rise in prices in Japan during the decade before 1991 was less than the increase over the past ten years in most of today’s “housing boom” countries.

    The total value of residential property rose by more than $30 trillion over the past five years in developed economies, an increase equivalent to 100% of the combined GDPs of those countries. This increase dwarfs all previous house-price booms and is greater than the global stockmarket bubble in the late 1990s. Much of the recent housing activity is being driven by speculative demand. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that 23% of all American houses bought in 2004 were for investment, not for owners to live in. Another 13% were bought as second homes. NAR also found that 42% of all first-time buyers made no down-payment on their home purchase last year.

    Many investors are buying solely because they think prices will keep rising, which is a warning sign of a financial bubble. In Miami, Florida, as many as half of the original buyers resell new apartments even before they are built, and properties can change hands two or three times before somebody finally moves in.

    Britain’s Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) reported prices have been falling for ten consecutive months. Forty nine percent of their surveyors reported falling prices in May. This was the weakest report since 1992 during Britain’s previous house-price bust.

    US Secretary Rice responds to European enquiries on alleged CIA prisons

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    US Secretary Rice responds to European enquiries on alleged CIA prisons
    Published in December 14th, 2018
    Posted by in Uncategorized
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    Wednesday, December 7, 2005

    The United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has begun to address concerns raised by the EU, the Council of Europe, and several member countries about the CIA’s detention practices upon her arrival in Germany for a European tour that began Tuesday.

    “As a matter of US policy, the United States’ obligations under the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which prohibits, of course, cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment, those obligations extend to US personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside the United States,” said Rice, speaking from the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on Wednesday.

    Media reports and Human Rights groups have alleged that the CIA transported renditioned prisoners through European countries, which could violate European laws and the sovereignty of countries involved. Secretary Rice claimed that the United States has respected the sovereignty of other countries, and that it has not transported detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture, and has not transported anyone to a country when we believe he will be tortured.

    “We consider the captured members of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates to be unlawful combatants who may be held, in accordance with the law of war, to keep them from killing innocents. We must treat them in accordance with our laws, which reflect the values of the American people. We must question them to gather potentially significant, life-saving, intelligence. We must bring terrorists to justice wherever possible,” Rice told reporters before she left from Andrews Air Force base on Monday.

    Rice said that European nations should realize that interrogations of terrorist suspects have produced information that has saved European lives. However, Secretary Rice provided no specific cases.

    “Secretary Rice made extra-legal rendition sound like just another form of extradition. In fact, it’s a form of kidnapping and ‘disappearing’ someone entirely outside the law,” said Tom Malinowski, a Human Rights Watch official in Washington.

    The CIA practice known as “extraordinary rendition” is used to interrogate terrorist suspects outside the U.S., where they are not subject to American legal protection.

    “Kidnapping a foreign national for the purpose of detaining and interrogating him outside the law is contrary to American values,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on the Khalid El-Masri case. “Our government has acted as if it is above the law. We go to court today to reaffirm that the rule of law is central to our identity as a nation.”

    The ACLU feels the government has to be held to account over “extraordinary rendition”.

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