Weekly Roundup 12/13/2011

Beyond Guantanamo, a Web of Prisons for Terrorist Inmates
Scott Shane, The New York Times, Dec. 11, 2011

Synopsis: Federal prisons within the United States house some 269 inmates convicted of crimes tied to international terrorism, far more than the 171 inmates still held at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. Congress has prohibited bringing Guantanamo inmates to the United States for trial, but the terrorist cases already prosecuted in civilian federal courts have been absorbed without undue difficulty, according to national security reporter Shane, and have resulted in long prison sentences. And those who have been released after convictions for lesser offenses are closely monitored by the Justice Department; few are reported to have returned to terrorism.

Takeaway: The prosecutions in federal courts contrast with the results from the military tribunals at Guantanamo, according to Shane, where cases have been “excruciatingly slow,”
“hugely costly” and strongly criticized within the United States and abroad.

For CQ Researcher coverage, see my reports “Closing Guantanamo,” Feb. 27, 2009, updated March 15, 2011; “Treatment of Detainees,” Aug. 25, 2006 (with Peter Katel); and “Prosecuting Terrorists,” March 12, 2010, updated May 26, 2011.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


The Personal Computer Is Dead
Jonathan Zittrain, Technology Review, Nov. 30, 2011

Synopsis: As the computing universe shifts from personal desktop machines loaded with software we own to “cloud” computers that store our programs and information remotely and are controlled by big tech companies, dreams that the Information Age will uniquely empower individuals are on the wane. So writes Harvard Professor of law and computer science Jonathan Zittrain, who describes how cloud owners such as Microsoft and Apple can subtly or not so subtly squelch individual freedom and technological innovation..

Takeaway: “Governments have come to realize that this framework makes their own censorship vastly easier: what used to be a Sisyphean struggle to stanch the distribution of books, tracts, and then websites is becoming a few takedown notices to a handful of digital gatekeepers. Suddenly, objectionable content can be made to disappear by pressuring a technology company in the middle.”

For more, see David Hatch’s Nov. 11 report, “Google’s Dominance,” and my Sept. 16 report, “Computer Hacking.”

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer