Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Amnesty Shocker
So, picture yourself in a movie theatre, some frenetic music starts up, then the water starts to pour. It could be an ad for spring water or even vodka, it’s slick. But within seconds the slick commercial pans down and delivers a big dose of shock.

Amnesty International actually staged a waterboarding session in order to sharpen its campaign against it and beginning in May the commercial will air as a preview in theatres throughout Britain.

“It’s not a stunt, ” insists Sara McNeice of Amnesty. “This constitutes torture. We don’t need to gloss it up, we don’t need to call it an enhanced interrogation technique. It’s torture, it should be illegal it should never be used,” she adds.

Malcolm Nance, a former American military officer, trained personnel to resist water boarding and claims it feels like slow motion murder. He acted as a consultant for Amnesty during the production of the commercial.

“These videos that Amnesty International has put out are pretty realistic, ” says Nance. “These people are being tortured and this is just not how the American public, I’m certain, wanted their government to dishonour themselves,” he says.

Water boarding is now an iconic symbol in what has become known as the 'War on Terror". It is emblematic of the controversy and confusion now surrounding the war itself. The Bush Administration bans the practice of waterboarding for the military, but not intelligence officers which is why Amnesty International says it wants the American public to demand it be banned outright.

“This isn’t about being anti-American or taking an anti-American stance on the issue this is about an anti-torture stance people and the public don’t want to see people being tortured in their name” insists McNeice.

But some scholars warn that a shock ad will only add to all the confusion surrounding the debate. Professor Michael Levin of City College in New York is a noted scholar on the philosophical question of when and if torture is justified.

Levin insists he is not advocating waterboarding or any other kind of aggressive interrogation technique but he points out that there is a realistic question to asked : How tough should governments get when lives are on the line?

“There have to be firm rules, it has to be to protect the innocent, it has to be non-punitive,” he says before insisting that the blanket ban that Amnesty is advocating is not realistic.

“I don't see how you can honestly say that there are techniques you just can't use to save thousands of innocent lives, it just seems absurd." Says Levin.

Amnesty claims its commercial is the "video the CIA doesn’t want you to see”. It says almost four hundred thousand people have already viewed it online, even before it’s been released in theatres. And so the debate continues with another battleplan, on a different battlefield with Amnesty’s latest salvo coming soon to a theatre near you.

Watch report on the video.

By Paula Newton, International Security Correspondent.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
The Defectors
Their first salvo is hardly revolutionary, but those launching the Quilliam Foundation say it will be much more than just a talk shop. Quilliam is the first of its kind, a think-tank run by former extremists, ‘defectors’ from Islamist thinking who insist they will stand up to terrorists by blowing apart their ideology. Watch Paula Newton's report.

“We really are rocking the boat, this is the first time you’ve had Muslim voices coming up and saying ‘we’ve got problems,’ says Ed Husain, one of the directors of this new think-tank. He adds, “Within the Muslim community thus far there’s been a denial, there’s no problem guys.”

For those caught up in modern day terror, denial is not an option. Rachel North survived the train blast on the Piccadilly line in London in July 2005. She says that almost three years later she is still in search of answers that may only come from those once so inspired by terror.

“You start to see that what you’re dealing with has solutions it’s not a black and white situation where fear and panic and hysteria about terror rules,” says North. “You’re actually dealing with people at the end of the day, people you can communicate with,” she adds.

One of those people is now Maajid Nawaz, another Quilliam director who used to recruit extremists all over Europe. He says he will now methodically, patiently debunk what he calls the ‘Islamist lie’.

“We’ve done this because for the first time a counter-extremism think tank has been established by former Islamists to critique the ideology, to critique Islamism and that voice can only come from Muslims because we’ve developed a theological and political critique of this ideology and in a nutshell what I’d say is we’re deciding to fight back with ideas,” he says as he strolls through the London university where he used to conduct much of his extremist recruiting.

Why does any of this matter? I put that question to Nawaz and asked him will any of his efforts really make us any safer?

“Definitely it makes us safer because terrorism grows out of Islamism, Islamist inspired terrorism is a phrase I use because it grows out of those who share the same ideology. The Al-Qaeda world view came from somewhere.”

By Paula Newton, CNN’s International Security Correspondent.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
The Virtual Strip Search
It’s coming soon to a crowded corner near you, a camera that can actually see through your clothes. It’s called the T5000 Camera and while it was first designed for space and has been used to measure the hole in the ozone layer it is now just one more security surveillance tool.

The camera works like a telescope to screen you from as far as 80 feet away, even when you’re moving. Its best application would be in crowded spaces where security authorities want to increase surveillance without slowing people down. Authorities can search for concealed weapons and explosives without you ever knowing it.

“We are genuinely looking through clothing,” says Clive Beattie of Thru Vision, a British company now piloting the camera. “It’s almost a glowing light bulb, you don’t see the detail that people might be concerned about.”

That ‘detail’ he’s referring to is body parts, but the camera actually makes people look like glowing blobs because of how it works. The camera picks up on electromagnetic rays that all of us, and all objects, give off naturally. These rays are called Tera-hertz or t-rays.

Thru Vision claims the camera is completely safe. “We’re not having to eradiate people with x-rays or any other type of radiation,” says Beattie.

We showed what the camera could do to people taking a stroll in Piccadilly Circus, central London, already one of the most spied on corners in the world. Some were still uneasy about a camera that can get under your skin.

“Yeah, maybe, a bit over the top I think” said one woman who couldn’t help but giggle when she saw the glowing images on the screen.

The crucial question is; will it actually make us any safer? Even this camera would likely not have detected the London bombers as they carried their explosive laden knapsacks. So many people are carrying so many packages it would take more than one camera to catch them, but very vigilant security personnel.

Privacy advocates worry security officials are relying too much on technology, extending the reach of ‘big brother’ without really making us any safer.

“What we should consider is how much we want to lose aspects of our privacy in order to attain a sort of notional security, in most cases this isn’t real security, it’s a sense of safety, that has very little real effect.” says a David Murakami Wood a researcher who studies the effects of new technology on society.

It seems authorities though are convinced a ‘sneak peak’ is worth it. Thru Vision says it has already sold its camera to a few companies in the London, including the Canary Wharf financial complex and they say the US military has also expressed its interest.

And remember, if the camera is in use as you’re walking around a crowded event in the next few years, you’ll never know it.

By Paula Newton, CNN’s International Security Correspondent.

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