16 February 2005

They are outsourcing torture because they know it’s illegal

Our government, under a secretive program known as “extraordinary rendition”, that abducts and ships suspects off to foreign lands to be tortured.
The extraordinary-rendition program bears little relation to the system of due process afforded suspects in crimes in America. Terrorism suspects in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East have often been abducted by hooded or masked American agents, then forced onto a Gulfstream V jet, like the one described by Arar. This jet, which has been registered to a series of dummy American corporations, such as Bayard Foreign Marketing, of Portland, Oregon, has clearance to land at U.S. military bases. Upon arriving in foreign countries, rendered suspects often vanish. Detainees are not provided with lawyers, and many families are not informed of their whereabouts.

The most common destinations for rendered suspects are Egypt, Morocco, Syria, and Jordan, all of which have been cited for human-rights violations by the State Department, and are known to torture suspects. To justify sending detainees to these countries, the Administration appears to be relying on a very fine reading of an imprecise clause in the United Nations Convention Against Torture (which the U.S. ratified in 1994), requiring “substantial grounds for believing” that a detainee will be tortured abroad. Martin Lederman, a lawyer who left the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2002, after eight years, says, “The Convention only applies when you know a suspect is more likely than not to be tortured, but what if you kind of know? That’s not enough. So there are ways to get around it.”

So tell me again how our Republican leadership in the U.S. government doesn't enable torture like the barbarous regimes they support across the globe? Oh, we only do that to suspected terrorists. But who judges the judges and where are the checks and balances, as the founding fathers of this once great republic set forth?

10 February 2005

Banks technically aren't responsible for what happens on your PC

So when $90,000 gets lifted from your online banking account via a virus planted by a villainous hacker from a foreign land, your sole recourse is to sue the bank as Miami businessman Joe Lopez is now experiencing.
When he checked his account, Lopez found that $90,348.65 had been wired to Parex Bank in Riga, Latvia -- without his approval. "I thought I was going to throw up," he said.

According to the complaint filed on Thursday, about $20,000 of the money was withdrawn by the fraudulent recipient in Latvia. The rest, roughly $70,000, was frozen by Parex, where it remains.

The U.S. Secret Service, which investigates computer-based attacks on banks, sent Lopez a letter in November saying its "initial examination" had determined that a variant of a virus called coreflood had existed on his computer systems.

Bank of America spokeswoman Eloise Hale said Friday she was not aware of the complaint. But Hale reiterated comments she made for an article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in November that the bank's "internal review of the transaction and documentation confirm all appropriate steps took place."

It's being called a "landmark case" as the ruling may be one of a precedent setting nature. Who is to blame -- the person who doesn't secure their computer or the bank that issued general alerts and warnings about conducting online banking account activity in a secure fashion? We'll have to wait and see how this plays out in the courts.