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I don’t want to play God – even when it comes to rapists and child killers #deathpenalty

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Justice systems around the world are flawed. under a Creative Commons Licence

I’ve been completely obsessed with the Indian elections – so much so that I even hit the campaign trail to follow a politician, not generally my beat.

But on 1 May I was stopped in my tracks by a report about the botched Oklahoma execution. It really churned my insides, left me feeling pretty sick.

When I read about children being raped, I rant that even the death penalty is too good for the perpetrators. I’ve often wondered about my reaction, when nauseated by stories like that of April Jones, the Welsh five year-old murdered by paedophile Mark Bridger in 2012. These stories don’t get headlined in India. Should they be? Children’s rights groups warn that statistics about abuse are alarming, but rarely exposed. I am filled with rage and loathing. Why should these vermin be pampered in prison, or fed on public money? Why shouldn’t they suffer for their unspeakable crimes against defenceless children?

My friend Enakshi Ganguly, founder of the child rights organization HAQ, deals with child abuse every day. Watching her listening to routine help-line calls, I wonder where she gets the courage and resilience to go on fighting and dealing with this daily nightmare.

At a recent women’s rights meeting, the rape reports that routinely poured in had us all seething with anger. Yet feminists have issued a statement, pleading for sanity amidst the hysterical demands for ‘fast-track death to all rapists’. Capital punishment won’t help, they insist.  Prominent Indian feminists, after the ‘Nirbhaya’ outcry around the December 2013 Delhi rape, argued that the death penalty would lead to perpetrators killing their victims to eliminate evidence.

An angry death penalty advocate protested: ‘Think of the agony of those women – brutally tortured, battered, burnt, bitten and scratched, while being raped. Death is too good for those filthy rapists. I feel like pouring acid on their penises. Slowly. Very slowly. Castration should be part of their punishment.’

Enakshi replies patiently. She’s obviously been through this debate before. ‘You can’t say that. No matter how angry we get. Rape, torture and abuse are undoubtedly abhorrent, but capital punishment is not the solution. It is now proven beyond doubt that it is not a deterrent.’

‘We cannot go by what we feel,’ she continues. ‘Two things need to be done. We need an inquiry into why such a rise in violence is taking place in India. The rise of sexual aggression is only a manifestation of the growing culture of violence around us. It’s found in books, films and now on people’s mobile phones.

‘All around us the image is projected that it’s cool to be the macho man, killing, shooting, raping. There’s easy access to porn juxtaposed with a more traditional world where young people are not supposed to have sex before marriage. We need to look into the larger picture and we need to deal with the violent porn around us.’

Much will be written about the pros and cons of capital punishment after the Oklahoma execution. Clayton Lockett, the condemned man died a terrible death. Unbelievably, the guards even tasered him before the execution.

I find rapists and child molesters abhorrent and unforgivable. But watching The Green Mile – a 1999 film set on death row in a US prison in the 1930s – changed my perspective. Anyone who watched those terrible executions would think twice before condemning another human being. My main problem was this. The death-row man turned out innocent. Our justice system is beyond doubt, still flawed. Regrettably, the law, all too often, is still an ass.

So, at the end of the day, how can we condemn someone to death, if they turn out to be innocent. There have been many cases in recent years where this has happened.

I definitely do not want to play God. And neither can the state.

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FBI Uses Rapists and Child Molesters to Entrap Gullible People in Terror Stings #WTFnews

The FBI is under pressure to capture terrorists, even where none exist. So they work with some of the worst criminals to entrap losers that likely pose no real threat.
July 17, 2013  |


The following is an excerpt from The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism by Trevor Aaronson (Ig Publishing, 2013). 

The FBI’s search for would-be terrorists is so all-consuming that agents are willing to partner with the most heinous of criminals if they appear able to deliver targets. That’s what happened in Seattle, Washington, in the summer of 2011, when agents chose to put on the government payroll a convicted rapist and child molester.

The investigation began on June 3, 2011, when a man contacted the Seattle Police Department and told them that he had a friend named Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif who was interested in attacking Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Washington. The tipster told police that Abdul-Latif had already recruited an associate, a man named Walli Mujahidh. Seattle police referred the caller to the FBI, whose agents quickly enlisted him as an informant and launched a full investigation of Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh.

Based on these initial actions, it was clear that the FBI believed it was dealing with two dangerous potential terrorists. But in reality, what it had were two financially troubled men with histories of mental problems. Abdul-Latif, whose birth name was Joseph Anthony Davis, had spent his teenage years huffing gasoline and once told a psychologist he heard voices and saw things that weren’t there. When he was twenty-three, he tried to commit suicide by overdosing on pills intended to treat seizure disorders, later telling a psychologist that he “felt lonely and had no use to live.” His partner in the supposed terrorist plot, thirty-one-year-old Mujahidh, whose name was Frederick Domingue Jr. before his conversion to Islam, had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which causes mood swings and abnormal thoughts. Dorothy Howard, who met Mujahidh through her daughter when they lived in Pomona, California, remembered him as sweet-natured but gullible, someone who was trying hard to get a handle on his mental problems but wasn’t always successful. “Sometimes he would call me and say, ‘Mrs. Howard, I really need my medications. Can you take me to the clinic?’” Howard recalled. “Sometimes they would keep him three or four days.”

The FBI’s informant, whose name was not revealed, was the only source claiming that Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh were terrorists on the make. And the informant came with an outrageous story of his own. In addition to being a convicted rapist and child molester, according to government records, he had stolen thousands of dollars from Abdul-Latif in the past and had tried, but failed, to steal Abdul-Latif ’s wife as well. The state of Washington had also classified the informant as a high-risk sex offender, and while working for the FBI, he was caught sending sexual text messages in violation of his parole—something he attempted to hide from agents by trying to delete the messages. Despite what were obvious problems with the investigation from the start, the FBI gave the informant recording equipment and instructed him to move forward with the sting.

As Abdul-Latif and the informant discussed possible targets—after growing concerned that attacking a military base would be too difficult, given the armed guards and fortification—it became clear that the Seattle man had no capacity to carry out a terrorist attack. In fact, Abdul-Latif had little capacity for anything, since he had only $800 to his name, and his only asset was a 1995 Honda Passport with 162,000 miles. In addition, his supposed accomplice, Mujahidh, was still in Southern California. But his friend, the informant, said he could provide everything they would need for the attack, including M13 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and bulletproof vests. That Abdul-Latif didn’t have much money and didn’t know anyone who could provide him with weapons strongly suggested that the plot was nothing more than talk, and would have stayed that way had the FBI not gotten involved.

After scuttling the idea to attack Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Abdul-Latif and the informant settled on a plan to attack a Seattle processing station for incoming troops, where most of the people would be unarmed. “Imagine how many young Muslims, if we’re successful, will try to hit these kinds of centers. Imagine how fearful America will be, and they’ll know they can’t push Muslims around,” Abdul-Latif said. On June 14, 2011, Abdul-Latif and the informant purchased a bus ticket for Mujahidh to travel to Seattle from Los Angeles. Needing to select a password that would allow Mujahidh to pick up the ticket at the station, Abdul-Latif initially suggested “jihad.” He and the informant laughed about the password choice before Abdul-Latif decided on “OBL,” for Osama bin Laden.

A week later, Mujahidh arrived in Seattle, and the three men drove to a parking garage to inspect the weapons the informant had procured. Inside a duffel bag were three assault rifles. Mujahidh took hold of one of the guns, aimed, and pulled the trigger. Abdul-Latif inspected one of the other rifles. “This is an automatic?” he asked. The informant then showed him how to switch on the rifle’s setting for automatic firing. At that point, FBI agents rushed into the garage and arrested Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh. The two men were charged with conspiracy to murder officers and agents of the United States, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and four firearms counts. The FBI paid the informant $90,000 for his work on the case.

Michele Shaw was the public defender appointed to Mujahidh. When she first met him inside a jail in Seattle, she couldn’t believe he was the man the government had portrayed as a dangerous terrorist. “He is the most compliant client I have ever worked with in my twenty-two years of practicing law and so appreciative of our weekly visits,” Shaw said. From the start, Shaw knew she had a mental health case on her hands, not a terrorist case. Mujahidh was easily susceptible to the informant, she believed, because he had a history of relying on others to help him separate fantasy from reality. But the judge in the case didn’t agree. “Walli’s mental health issues in my opinion are huge and looming large, but the court stated this week on the record that my client’s mental health issues are a very tiny part of this case,” Shaw told me in October 2011. Unable to use mental health in an entrapment defense, Shaw reluctantly recommended that Mujahidh plead guilty. He agreed, and was sentenced to twenty-seven to thirty-two years in prison. For his part, Abdul-Latif pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.[Editor’s note: In March, after Aaronson’s book was published, Abdul-Latif pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 years in prison.] Had it not been for a rapist and child molester fishing for a payday, Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh would likely be today where they were in June 2011—two Americans you’d never hear about, trapped on the margins of a society to which they posed no threat.

Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif and Walli Mujahidh became terrorists because the FBI and one of its informants had incentives for making the pair into terrorists. The informant’s incentive was monetary, while the FBI agents who supervised the sting were under intense pressure from their higher-ups to build a terrorism case. At no point during the sting operation did anyone question whether someone like Abdul-Latif was more despondent loser than scary mass murderer. That is a problem inherent in today’s terrorism sting operations: the FBI and its informants are under pressure—albeit for different reasons— to see terrorists, even where none exist.

Since informants have vested interests in seeing their targets convicted—with criminal informants often having their own personal freedom on the line—it’s the FBI’s responsibility to ensure that these interests do not influence investigations. If the Bureau is following “the book” during an investigation, agents will give an informant tasking orders before each meeting between the informant and the targets. These orders will include what the informant should discuss and how he should behave during the meeting. Ideally, the meeting with the targets should be taped, giving the FBI an indisputable record of what was said. At regular intervals, FBI agents should also subject their informant to a polygraph test to make sure he isn’t lying or withholding information. If the informant fails the polygraph, or engages in criminal behavior not authorized by the FBI, agents are supposed to cut him from the ranks.

However, the FBI doesn’t always work by the book. We know this because the Bureau has documented many occasions when it doesn’t play by its own rules. Elie Assaad, the informant in the Florida stings involving Imran Mandhai and the Liberty City Seven, lied during a polygraph examination in Chicago yet continued to work as an FBI informant. In the Michael Finton case, the FBI had credible information that its informant was dealing drugs yet continued to use him until the final day of the sting operation. The informant in the Rezwan Ferdaus case was caught on an FBI video purchasing heroin and still the Bureau continued to pay him for his work. These informants were allowed to lead terrorism stings because the pressure to find would-be terrorists is so great that it’s created a precarious situation in which FBI agents identify loudmouths on the fringes of society and through, elaborate sting operations involving informants, many with criminal backgrounds, transform these powerless braggarts into dangerous terrorists engaged in horrifying plots to bomb buildings, public squares, and subway stations.

Trevor Aaronson is author of The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism (Ig Publishing, January 2013). He is also co-director of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University.


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Rape threats on : Kavita Krishnan speaks out #Vaw #Online

by  , FirstPost Apr 25, 2013


Activist Kavita Krishnan is used to caustic abuse being flung at her. It’s part and parcel of organising and attending demonstrations and an occupational hazard of being Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association. As one of the editors of Liberation, a monthly Marxist publication, she’s also used to getting unpleasant emails. Consequently, she knows how to fight back, which is what she did yesterday during a live web chat organised by Rediff.

However, does this exonerate Rediff from taking any responsibility for the abuse directed at Krishnan during a chat organised and moderated by the website? “My demands are simple,” said Krishnan when she spoke to Firstpost earlier today. “I don’t want more regulation or anything that curtails free expression. But I would like a formal apology from Rediff because they invited me and their moderators failed to restrain someone who repeatedly threatened me with rape.”

Krishnan was invited by Rediff to participate in a chat discussing violence against women. “They wanted me to speak as someone who has been part of anti-rape protests and I was happy to do this,” she said. Krishnan is among those who have been regularly called upon by various media outlets to speak about rape and its implications. “Onkar Singh from Rediff’s Delhi office came to set up the chat at my office in the afternoon,” said Krishnan. “Questions started coming in and as is the practice, I’d pick one and answer and so on. It was going fine at first.” A little later, someone with the handle “RAPIST” appeared. “They’d chosen to write the word in capitals, so it was very visible. You couldn’t miss it,” recalled Krishnan.

Screengrab of Kavita Krishnan's twitter feed where she has also posted about the Rediff incident.

Screengrab of Kavita Krishnan’s twitter feed where she has also posted about the Rediff incident.

RAPIST’s first message to Krishnan was to tell women to dress properly. “He wrote something like, ‘Tell women to not wear revealing clothes, then we will not rape them’ followed by gaali.” Krishnan replied to RAPIST, saying he was proving her point rather than making a counter-argument. “There’s no way that the person monitoring the chat in Mumbai could not have seen this exchange,” said Krishnan. “This person was writing in all caps. You couldn’t miss it. Also, I did respond. Whoever was monitoring must have seen me replying to that handle.”

After Krishnan’s reply, there was silence from RAPIST for some time. He returned after a bit with, “Kavita tell me where I should come and rape you using condom”. Again, the message was written in capital letters. “It popped up at least three or four times, all in CAPS,” said Krishnan. “I was very taken aback that this person, with a handle like that, could keep posting something like this.” Krishnan reacted sharply. “I wrote something like, ‘Give me your name and address, and I’ll show you’. I was disgusted.” The response didn’t stop RAPIST, who kept repeating his threats.

At this point, it was Rediff’s Onkar Singh who told Krishnan to log off. “He behaved with the utmost decency and had great presence of mind,” recalled Krishnan. “I was too taken aback to react properly, but he was the one who told me to get out of the chat. Before leaving, I wrote that this shouldn’t be the kind of offensive comments you should have to field and that I was leaving because of it.” That was the end of the chat and the beginning of a more tangled debate on intimidation, free speech and responsibility.

Immediately after the chat, Rediff promised Krishnan that an FIR would be lodged. “Ganesh Nadar of Rediff told me they had great connections with the Worli cyber crime lab, that they had a screenshot and they would lodge an FIR,” said Krishnan. She asked if the chat would be edited so that the abusive comments are removed. Nadar said yes. Krishnan told him that she wanted her last lines to remain because she wanted readers to know why she’d left the chat abruptly.

Nadar agreed. He also told her that it wasn’t possible to screen who left a comment because it was a live chat. Nadar changed the story later and told Krishnan that the person monitoring the chat had missed RAPIST because there were so many people sending questions.

Neither explanations seem particularly plausible to Krishnan. “I know that’s not true because I’ve done these chats before,” said Krishnan. “Screening can and is done. As for not noticing, it’s not possible to miss someone who calls themselves RAPIST, especially since I did respond to him.” Krishnan asked Nadar for a screenshot of the offending section. He said he’d send it to her along with the FIR number. He also gave her the editor’s email and suggested she write a letter detailing the incident. Krishnan did so. She also recounted her experience on Twitter and Facebook, and urged others to write to the email she’d been given about Rediff’s comment moderation policy.

This is the unedited text of Krishnan’s email to the editor of Rediff.

“Dear editor,

Mr. Ganesh Nadar fom Rediff had contacted me yesterday to participate in a live chat today, and I agreed. Mr. Onkar Singh from Delhi’s rediff office came to my office today to facilitate the chat, which was to take place from 2 pm to 3 pm. The chat had been advertised as an opportunity to chat with me as one of the activists involved in the recent anti-rape protests.

During the chat, someone with a handle ‘RAPIST’ repeatedly intervened in capital letters. In one ‘question’ he said, “Kavita tell women not to wear revealing clothes then we will not rape them.” The same man then posted another question several times: “Kavita tell me where I should come and rape you using condom.” Both questions were in block capitals and very visible. Mr Nadar initially said live chats cannot be ‘screened’ – which I know for a fat is not true since I have been in such chats with other media groups. Later Mr Nadar said that the man in the Rediff Mumbai office monitoring the chat failed to spot the ‘RAPIST’ because there were ‘so many questions.’ I find this difficult to believe since this was the only handle in capital letters and the questions were also in capitals.

Yet, no one from Rediff did anything to screen the guest – me – from such offensive questions, or to block someone with a handle of ‘RAPIST’ from the chat!

Mr. Ganesh Nadar has informed me that Rediff has taken a screenshot of the chat and is filing an FIR and sending the screenshot to Worli cyber crime labs to identify the ‘RAPIST.’ But I am yet to get a copy of the screenshot though I have asked for it; excuses are being made. I am also yet to receive the FIR number. Mr Nadar is very vague and contradictory about why the transcript of the chat is yet to be posted; whether the RAPIST’s questions will be screened there; whether I will receive a screenshot or only the transcript (which will only have the questions I responded to); and other queries that I have.

I demand a public apology from Rediff for its failure to ensure that a chat organised by them was a safe space for me, a woman. Condoning and allowing such intimidatory behaviour against women keeps women out of the online space – just as rape keeps women off the streets. I resent this intimidation, and in this instance, hold Rediff squarely responsible for failing to keep ‘RAPIST’ out of the chat.

Expecting a public apology from you.

Kavita Krishnan,

Secretary, AIPWA”

So far, the only response Krishnan has got from Rediff is an aggrieved email from Nadar asking why she’d put the editor’s email in the public domain. It’s a perplexing question to Krishnan. “The email I was given is not a personal email,” said Krishnan. “It’s not a violation of privacy. I don’t even know who the editor is. What I have and what I’ve circulated is a generic, professional email. It’s the kind of email to which people write letters to the editor, which is what I and a few people did.”

Krishnan has not received either the screenshot or the number of the FIR that they promised they’d lodge. The chat has not been uploaded. Some have urged Krishnan to file an FIR herself but Krishnan doesn’t think it’s her place to do so. “I think it’s for Rediff to do because they organised the chat and it was during something they organised that I received these personal threats,” she said. “It’s their responsibility. I’m more than happy and willing to appear and testify should they need me to, but I think it’s their responsibility to take measures that will give their guests a sense of security.”

On hindsight, Krishnan has just one regret: “I should have taken a screenshot of that transcript. Not because I want to make it public – I shouldn’t have to. Rediff told me it was a public chat, so it’s in any case public – but because I should have kept my own record of this man’s behaviour towards me. But I was just too taken aback and disgusted then. I just shut my computer.”

The incident has reiterated to Krishnan how concerted an effort there is to corner and threaten women in the virtual space. “It’s a reflection of the intimidation and lack of security that we talk about in the physical space,” she said. “We can’t let this happen. Women, much like Dalits, Muslims and other minorities, must be free to access and make use of the virtual space without fearing for their personal safety and without the threat of this kind of abusive and personal intimidation.”

Despite the ugly trolling she’s faced, Krishnan is unequivocally against any kind of increased Internet regulation that could be manipulated to curb free speech. “There’s many kinds of hate speech and it exists in the real and the virtual world, but that’s no reason to impose any kind of government regulation of the internet,” she said. “Whatever someone says, I believe they’re free to say it. The difference on the Internet is that anonymity offers security to the victimiser rather than the victim, which is the concern. It falls upon all of us, individually and collectively, to uphold the norms that will ensure security and encourage debate, rather than intimidation. That’s why all I’m asking for from Rediff is a public, formal apology. It’s just churlish to invite me to a chat, to do nothing when I’m exposed to this kind of intimidation and to not even enquire after my wellbeing afterwards.”


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