Today's Blogs

Sheikh It Out

Bloggers scrutinize Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s omnibus confession, contemplate the solvency of Google’s privacy move, and take sides on the Iranian denouncement of 300.

Sheikh it out: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has been in secret CIA facilities since his capture in 2003, has claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, the death of journalist Daniel Pearl, and more than two dozen other planned or executed terrorists acts. Bloggers are suspicious about the timing of this announcement, which comes four years after his arrest and in the middle of a Justice Department flareup.

Law professor Jon Seigel at Law Prof on the Loose doubts the veracity of Mohammed’s confession: “I believe Mohammed is a terrorist, although I have only the U.S. government’s word for it. But let’s face it, we picked this guy up four years ago, we’ve held him in secret detention centers for years, he has no access to counsel, and we’ve subjected him to who knows what treatment. After all that, I’d confess to shooting the Pope. If we’re going to abandon our ideals of justice in pursuit of the war against terror, we have to accept that confessions we obtain will have limited credibility. Maybe Mohammed did plan 9-11, but I don’t believe it because of his confession. I want some real evidence.”

Larisa Alexandrovna at investigative-journalist blog at-Largely smirks at the timing: “[H]ad this confession showed up a bit, um, sooner, I might find it less staged. But given how the Bush administration abuses the tragedy of September 11 for political reasons and how often they do it, plus the timing of this confession,’ I am highly skeptical. No, I am more than skeptical.”

But Debbie Hamilton of counterterrorism blog Right Truth questions the cynicism: “Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s confessions should be good news, but some can’t be happy with that. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed himself said he was not under duress when he confessed. Torture like many other things, is in the eye of the beholder.”

Mash at lefty Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying claims that the Combatant Status Review Tribunal inadvertently gave him a soapbox: “Instead of a trial exposing Mohammed’s guilt in an atrocity that killed nearly 3000 people, we are left with charges backed by ‘classified’ information and a statement proudly justifying his acts.”

Read more about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Google breaks records: Google announced Wednesday that it will begin making anonymous its records of Internet addresses and search times after 18 to 24 months. While this comes as good news to privacy-wary bloggers, others worry that international legal requirements will moot these claims of data anonymity.

At Cato-at-Liberty, the blog of the libertarian Cato Institute, Jim Harper hopes that Google will not repeat AOL’s mistake of releasing shoddily anonymous data: “There are interesting things that can be done to synthesize data, making it statistically relevant while factually incoherent. Hopefully, Google will sic some of its finest famously-smarty-pants engineers on the task of making their anonymous data really, really anonymous.”

Matt Browner Hamlin at Tibet Will Be Free voices concern about Google records in China: “Google should do the right thing and make clear that their decision to anonymize search records applies to users inside China and Tibet. Moreover, Google should anonymize search date inside Tibet and China within a matter of days or weeks, not months and years. China’s track record of using internet records to jail dissidents is reason enough to protect Google’s users quickly and not give the Chinese government another tool to stifle dissent.”

Internet-related blog Morrison explains that European laws render Google’s efforts irrelevant: “[W]hile, Google may anonymize your search logs after 18 months, if you are in Europe, your Internet Service Provider will still have a record of everything you do online.  In fact, Your ISP may well have access to more information about you than Google.”

Read more about Google’s efforts.

Thermopy-leer: Iranian officials and citizens are bristling over the depiction of Persians in the action film 300, which arrived in theaters just in time for the Persian New Year. A cinematic adaptation of a Frank Miller comic book, 300 depicts the Battle of Thermopylae from the perspective of the Spartans. Bloggers empathize with irate Iranians but also attempt to defend the film.

Marty Kaplan at The Huffington Post notes the political angles of 300: “What’s unusual about ‘300’ is its convergence with the axis-of-evil message Washington favors. Ancient Persians is a proxy for contemporary Iran; the Spartans are stand-ins for America’s Western Civ forebears. The Persian are costumed as though they just stepped out of one of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist training camps; the Greeks look like they spend all their free time at Bally Total Fitness.”

But AbuElRey at miscellany blog The Flax wonders what the big deal is: “Whatever its merits, or lack there of, ‘300’ has never been presented as anything but a film adaptation of a comic book. There has been no pretence or attempt to portray the film, or its source as historically accurate. Any criticism of ‘300’ that doesn’t take into account it’s fantasy comic origin, is spectacularly missing the point.”

Read more about Iranian reaction to 300.