Secret Prisons

by Miguel de Icaza

The Washington Post yesterday ran an article that claims that the CIA has a network of secret prisons where they have been incarcerating suspects. The CIA denies such prisons exist:

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.


Mid-level and senior CIA officers began arguing two years ago that the system was unsustainable and diverted the agency from its unique espionage mission.

"We never sat down, as far as I know, and came up with a grand strategy," said one former senior intelligence officer who is familiar with the program but not the location of the prisons. "Everything was very reactive. That's how you get to a situation where you pick people up, send them into a netherworld and don't say, 'What are we going to do with them afterwards?' "

Billmon weights in:

The plot line should be familiar to students of the Abu Ghraib atrocities. Interrogation tactics originally developed and/or authorized for use against "high value targets" at Guantanamo were exported first to the broader Gitmo population, and then to Iraq, where they were put into mass production by a group of half-trained or entirely untrained intelligence officers and MPs. The result was an entirely predictable moral and political disaster -- one which may have cost the United States whatever slim chance it had of establishing a popular, pro-Western government in Baghdad.

Likewise, the CIA's mini-archipelago seems to have grown like a poisonous weed in the absence of any coherent strategy for fighting Islamic terrorism, other than the initial impulse to hunt down the "evildoers." But now, like a dog who chases cars and actually catches one, the war cabinet faces the awkward question of what do with its secret prisoners and their secret prisons, even as the media finally starts to peel back the layers of secrecy. This story is going to cause something close to panic in more than one Eastern European capital, I suspect, and a relatively quick exit from that Soviet-era "compound." Where will the CIA take its human contraband now?

It seems to me that the Cheney administration has been trapped -- both by its ostentatious rejection of the "law enforcement" model of counterterrorism, and by its complete, willful failure to understand the limits of hard power and the steadily rising importance of soft power in a struggle that will last years, if not decades. Policies based on the adrenaline rush of war fever (circa 2002) were never likely to be sustainable. They also haven't brought us any closer to capturing Osama or prevented the transformation of Al Qaeda from an organization to a movement, one that is much more difficult to fight with dirty war tactics.

In other news, Mexico joined the International Criminal Court which upset a few people in the US:

Washington had warned Mexico that if it ratified the ICC and refused to sign an accord exempting U.S. nationals from the court's jurisdiction, it would cut 11.5 million dollars in funding from aid programs for fighting drug trafficking, according to human rights groups. The amount is equal to almost 40 percent of the economic aid Mexico receives from the United States.

Posted on 03 Nov 2005

Linux Desktop

by Miguel de Icaza

Nat makes an observation about the Linux Desktop.

Posted on 02 Nov 2005

Imeem and Mono

by Miguel de Icaza

Today we did a news brief with the Imeem folks. Imeem developed a client tool to create private networks with a number of tools (blogs, instant messaging, profiles, searching, file sharing).

Imeem uses Mono on their servers and also they use it on their MacOS port to reuse the same codebase that they had on Windows. Like iFolder, they are creating a native Objective-C interface using Cocoa and communicating with Mono to call into the engine.

My understanding is that Imeem uses Mono's cryptographic codebase extensively.

Someone should do an interview with Dalton Caldwell founder and CEO of Imeem.

Posted on 31 Oct 2005

CORBA and Web Services

by Miguel de Icaza

Michi Henning participates in a discussion at Steve Vinoski's blog.

Posted on 30 Oct 2005

These Modern Times

by Miguel de Icaza


AN INGENIOUS fraudster is believed to be sunning himself on a beach after persuading leading banks to pay him more than Euro 5 million (£3.5 million) in the belief that he was a secret service agent engaged in the fight against terrorist money-laundering.

The man, described by detectives as the greatest conman they had encountered, convinced one bank manager to leave him Euro 358,000 in the lavatories of a Parisian bar. "This man is going to become a hero if he isn’t caught quickly," an officer said. "The case is exceptional, perfectly unbelievable and surreal."

Posted on 28 Oct 2005

Flight of the Conchords

by Miguel de Icaza

A few weeks back, when I was in LA I left the TV on as I read my email. I catched a stand up comedy show on HBO from a band called Flight of the Conchords on HBO's One Night Stand. You should watch it if you have a chance (it is available with cable on demand in a few places).

Posted on 26 Oct 2005


by Miguel de Icaza

I have been following the Fitzerald investigation in the last few weeks. As much as can be followed by the prosecutor that has so far not done any public appearances nor said a word about his findings or his strategy.

Following the investigation has thus been limited to reading the various speculations based on who is being subpoenaed and the public statements done afterwards. An other interesting source of information in this puzzle is the PR campaign from those targeted by this opaque investigation.

A few interesting links on the subject:

A Cheat Sheet to get acquainted with the participants.


In other words, instead of blowing sky high, the volcano may simply snore loudly, roll over, and go back to sleep. And as Dean points out, since all the testimony Fitzgerald has collected is covered by the grand jury secrecy laws, we may never know what he found.

One can easily imagine the howls of protest on the left, and the smug satisfaction on the right, should this come to pass. It would be particularly bitter finale for those of us who all along have regarded the Plame outing as a proxy for the more fundamental crimes committed along the march to war in Iraq.

Unlike some (see Justin Raimondo's last two columns, for example) I've never had more than a forlorn hope that Fitzgerald would delve into the Niger forgeries, the Chalabi connection, the Office of Special Plans, the Downing Street Memos or any of the other investigative leads into the heart of the neocon conspiracy. Nor have I seen any evidence -- or even plausible speculation -- that would lead me to believe Fitzgerald has expanded his probe beyond the immediate matter at hand: the leak of Valerie Plame's identity and CIA affiliation. But, like most hardcore Cheney administration haters, I've been content with the busting-Al-Capone-for-tax-evasion metaphor. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld: You go to war with the indictments you can prove, not the ones you'd like to prove.

Jeff Cohen:

But there's a special reason this scandal is so personally satisfying to me as a media critic. It's because elite journalism is on trial. Powerful journalists are playing the role usually played in these scandals by besieged White House operatives. They're in the witness dock. It's a New York Times reporter who is failing to recall key facts...mysteriously locating misplaced documents...being leaned on to synchronize alibis.

Elite journalism is at the center of Weaponsgate, and it can't extricate itself from the scandal. Because, at its core, Weaponsgate (or, if you're in a hurry, "Wargate") is about how the White House and media institutions jointly sold a war based on deception -- and how the White House turned to these media institutions to neutralize a war critic who challenged the deception.

A particularly cute quote from Billmon:

Of course, everybody’s free to indulge in their favorite theories about Whose Behind It All. After all, we are talking about the era of "dark actors playing their games," to quote the conveniently dead David Kelly. Like Watergate, this is one of those cases where paranoid conspiracy theories are simply alternative rough drafts of history.

Posted on 26 Oct 2005

Manu Chao's new Album

by Miguel de Icaza

The new Manu Chao album Siberie m'etait contéee... is wonderful. The lyrics are the best that Manu has put out so far and I can only understand half of them. If you were looking for an excuse to learn french, this is it.

I was only able to order this from There must be a cheaper choice. If I did not have a busy schedule it would have been just as expensive to fly to Paris and get back to get the CD.

Posted on 25 Oct 2005

Ajax.Net source public

by Miguel de Icaza

I missed the announcement of the Ajax.Net source code, it was announced here.

A discussion forum is available here and various Ajaxy controls are available from their Subversion repository:

	svn co

Posted on 24 Oct 2005


by Miguel de Icaza

Dear Lazyweb,

Is the era of Ali-G over?

Update: Bastien Nocera points out that it is over, but there are a couple of Sasha movies coming out. Its the end of an era.

Posted on 24 Oct 2005

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