Archive for the ‘Censorship’ Category

Soft Crimes Against Democracy

September 11, 2007

Soft Crimes Against Democracy
What ever happened to freedom of information? Ruth Rosen
September 07 , 2007

Disgraceful, shameful, illegal, and yes, dangerous. These are words that come to mind every time the Bush administration makes yet another attempt to consolidate executive power, while wrapping itself in secrecy and deception.

And its officials never stop. In May, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit group, filed a lawsuit seeking information from the White House Office of Administration about an estimated five million e-mail messages that mysteriously vanished from White House computer servers between March 2003 and October 2005. Congress wants to investigate whether these messages contain evidence about the firing of nine United States attorneys who may have refused to use their positions to help Republican candidates or harm Democratic ones.

The administration’s first response to yet another scandal was to scrub the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request section from the White House Office website. One day it was there; the next day it had disappeared. Then, Bush-appointed lawyers from the Justice Department tried to convince a federal judge that the White House Office of Administration was not subject to scrutiny by the Freedom of Information Act because it wasn’t an “agency.” The newly labeled non-agency, in fact, had its own FOIA officer and had responded to 65 FOIA requests during the previous 12 months. Its own website had listed it as subject to FOIA requests.

For those who may have forgotten, Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act in 1966 to hold government officials and agencies accountable to public scrutiny. It became our national sunshine law and has allowed us to know something of what our elected officials actually do, rather than what they say they do. Congress expressly excluded classified information from FOIA requests in order to protect national security.

Scorning accountability, the Bush administration quickly figured out how to circumvent the Act. On October 12, 2001, just one month after the 9/11 attacks, Attorney General John Ashcroft took advantage of a traumatized nation to ensure that responses to FOIA requests would be glacially slowed down, if the requests were not simply rejected outright.

Most Americans were unaware of what happened — and probably still are. If so, I’d like to remind you how quickly democratic transparency vanished after 9/11 and why this most recent contorted rejection of our premier sunshine law is more than a passing matter; why it is, in fact, an essential aspect of this administration’s continuing violation of our civil rights and liberties, the checks and balances of our system of government, and, yes, even our Constitution.

On Bended Knee

Lies and deception intended to expand executive power weren’t hard to spot after 9/11, yet they tended to slip beneath the political and media radar screens; nor did you have to be an insider with special access to government officials or classified documents to know what was going on. At the time, I was an editorial writer and columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. From my little cubicle at the paper, I read a memorandum sent by Attorney General John Ashcroft to all federal agencies. Short and to the point, it basically gave them permission to resist FOIA requests and assured them that the Justice Department would back up their refusals. “When you carefully consider FOIA requests,” Ashcroft wrote, “and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decision unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk of adverse impact on the ability of other agencies to protect other important records.”

He then went on to explain, “Any discretionary decision by your agency to disclose information protected under FOIA should be made only after full and deliberate consideration of the institutional, commercial, and personal privacy interests that could be implicated by disclosure of the information.”

And what, I wondered, did such constraints and lack of accountability have to do with finding and prosecuting terrorists? Why the new restrictions? Angered, I wrote an editorial for the Chronicle about the Justice Department’s across-the-board attempt to censor freedom of information. (“All of us want to protect our nation from further acts of terrorism. But we must never allow the public’s right to know, enshrined in the Freedom of Information Act, to be suppressed for the sake of official convenience.”)

Naively and impatiently, I waited for other newspapers to react to such a flagrant attempt to make the administration unaccountable to the public. Not much happened. A handful of media outlets noted Ashcroft’s memorandum, but where, I wondered, were the major national newspapers? The answer was: on bended knee, working as stenographers, instead of asking the tough questions. Ashcroft had correctly assessed the historical moment. With the administration launching its Global War on Terror, and the country still reeling from the September 11th attacks, he was able to order agencies to start building a wall of secrecy around the government.

In the wake of 9/11, both pundits and the press seemed to forget that, ever since 1966, the Freedom of Information Act had helped expose all kinds of official acts of skullduggery, many of which violated our laws. They also seemed to forget that all classified documents were already protected from FOIA requests and unavailable to the public. In other words, most agencies had no reason to reject public FOIA requests.

A few people, however, were paying attention. In February 2002, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to evaluate the “implementation of the FOIA.” Ashcroft’s new rules had reversed former Attorney General Janet Reno’s policy, in effect since 1993. “The prior policy,” Leahy reminded the GAO, “favored openness in government operation and encouraged a presumption of disclosure of agency records in response to FOIA requests unless the agency reasonably foresaw that disclosure would be harmful to an interest protected by a specific exemption.”

And what was the impact of Ashcroft’s little-noticed memorandum? Just what you’d expect from a presidency built on secrecy and deception — given a media then largely ignoring both. The Attorney General’s new policy was a success. On August 8, 2007, the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government issued “Still Waiting After All These Years,” a damning report that documented the Ashcroft memorandum’s impact on FOIA responses. Their analysis revealed that “the number of FOIA requests processed has fallen 20%, the number of FOIA personnel is down 10%, the backlog has tripled and the cost of handling a request is up 79%.” During the same years, the Bush administration embarked on a major effort to label ever more government documents classified. They even worked at reclassifying documents that had long before been made public, ensuring that ever less information would be available through FOIA requests. And what material they did send out was often so heavily redacted as to be meaningless.

“Soft Crimes” Enable Violent Ones

Six years after Ashcroft instituted his policy, some of our legislators have finally begun to address what he accomplished in 2001. In April, 2007, the House of Representatives passed legislation to strengthen and expedite the Freedom of Information Act. On August 3, Senators Pat Leahy, once again chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and John Cornyn (R-TX) successfully shepherded the Open Government Act into law, despite strong opposition from administration outrider Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who had earlier placed a hold on the bill. Like the House bill, the legislation attempted to make it easier to gain access to government documents.

Will it make a difference? Probably not. The Coalition of Journalists for Open Government views the legislation as too weak and compromised to be effective against such an administration. Steven Aftergood, Director of the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists notes that the administration might well succeed in claiming that the White House Office of Administration is not an “agency.” “It’s obnoxious, and it’s a gesture of defiance against the norms of open government,” Aftergood told the Washington Post. “But it turns out that a White House body can be an agency one day and cease to be the next day, as absurd as it may seem.”

It’s not only absurd; it’s dangerous. This is an administration that believes it has complete authority to ignore the law every time it mentions the supposedly inherent powers of a commander-in-chief presidency or wields the words “executive privilege.” Its non-agency claim is but one more example of its arrogant defiance of laws passed by Congress.

Ashcroft’s quashing of the FOIA, following on the heels of the Patriot Act, was just the beginning of a long series of efforts to expand executive power. In the name of fighting “the war on terror” and “national security,” for instance, Bush issued an executive order on November 1, 2001 that sealed presidential records indefinitely, a clear violation of the 1978 Presidential Records Act in which Congress had ensured the public’s right to view presidential records 12 years after a president leaves office.

And what did this have to do with preventing a potential terrorist attack? Absolutely nothing, of course. It just so happened that 12 years had passed since Ronald Reagan left the Oval Office. Many people believed, as I did, that locking down Reagan’s papers was an effort to stop journalists and historians from reading documents that might have implicated Papa Bush (then Reagan’s vice president) and others — who, by then, were staffing the younger Bush’s administration — as active participants in the Iran-Contra scandal.

When the White House claimed that its administrative office was not subject to the FOIA, an August 24th editorial in the New York Times — now more alert to Bush’s disregard for the rule of law — asked, “What exactly does the administration want to hide?” It rightly argued that the “administration’s refusal to comply with open-government laws is ultimately more important than any single scandal. The Freedom of Information Act and other right-to-know laws were passed because government transparency is vital to a democracy.”

How true. It’s taken a long time for our paper of record to realize that “soft” crimes are actually hard assaults against our democracy. The restrictions on FOIA and an executive order to seal presidential records may seem tame when compared to the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib, Haditha, and Guantanamo, not to mention warrantless surveillance, the extraordinary rendition of kidnapped terror suspects to the prisons of regimes that torture, and the imprisonment of so-called enemy combatants.

But don’t be lulled into thinking that the act of censoring information, of shielding the American people from knowledge of the most basic workings of their own government, is any less dangerous to democracy than war crimes or acts of torture. In fact, it was the soft crimes of secrecy and deception that enabled the Bush administration’s successful campaign to lure our country into war in Iraq — and so to commit war crimes and acts of torture.

You don’t have to be a historian to know that “soft” crimes are what make hard crimes possible. They can also lead to an executive dictatorship and the elimination of our most cherished civil rights and liberties.

Historian and journalist Ruth Rosen, a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, teaches history and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. A newly updated edition of her book, The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America was published in January 2007.

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This article has been made possible by the Foundation for National Progress, the Investigative Fund of Mother Jones, and gifts from generous readers like you.

© 2007 The Foundation for National Progress


How Killing Becomes a Reflex – War Psychiatry and Iraq Atrocities By Penny Coleman

August 24, 2007

How Killing Becomes a Reflex – War Psychiatry and Iraq Atrocities By Penny Coleman

By Penny Coleman
08/23/07 “

In 1971, Lt. William Calley was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the massacre of some 500 civilians in the Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai. In response to Calley’s conviction, Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) convened the “Winter Soldier Investigation.” Over a three-day period, more than a hundred veterans testified to atrocities they had witnessed committed by U.S. troops against Vietnamese civilians. Their expressed intention was to demonstrate that My Lai was not unique, that it was instead the inevitable result of U.S. policy. It was a travesty of justice, they claimed, to focus blame on the soldiers when it was the policy makers, McNamara, Bundy, Rostow, Johnson, LeMay, Nixon and the others who were truly responsible for the war crimes that had been committed.

In 2004, the release of the Abu Grahib photographs broke the unforgivable silence in the mainstream press about atrocities committed by American soldiers in Iraq. Haditha followed, then Mahmoudiyah, Ishaqi, and at this writing, countless other instances of savage, homicidal violence directed at civilians have been reported. The July 30 issue of the Nation included an article, “The Other War,” by Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian, which used interviews with 50 combat veterans to make the case that American soldiers are using indiscriminate and often lethal force in their dealings with Iraqi civilians. These veterans, the authors report, have “returned home deeply disturbed by the disparity between the reality of the war and the way it is portrayed by the U.S. government and American media.” I would wager that they are more deeply disturbed by the reality itself than the way the media reports it, but certainly government and media distortions are another layer of betrayal. In a letter protesting that article, Paul Rieckhoff, president of the anti-war organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, made an argument parallel to that of VVAW, namely that “(a)nyone who wants to write a serious piece about the ethical lapses of the U.S. troops should start and end the article by putting blame where it belongs — on the politicians who sent our troops to war unprepared and without a clear mission” (the Nation, 7/13/07).

I’m not suggesting that American soldiers take no responsibility for their actions. Like Rieckhoff, I would argue that we must balance outrage at criminal and sadistic acts with the insistence that we “guard against blaming this new generation of veterans for the terrible and tragic circumstances” that led to those acts. And I agree that, once again, the architects have been given a free pass and that the soldiers, who are doing exactly what they have been trained to do, are taking the blame. But I want to focus on an aspect of the situation that is never addressed in the mainstream media, and not often enough elsewhere: specifically that American troops are trained to act in criminal and sadistic ways.

Military training has been part of the experience of millions of young American men since the Revolutionary War. Prior to the Vietnam era, however, that training consisted largely of practicing military skills and learning to manage military equipment. It is only in the last half century that training has evolved into an entirely new phenomenon that makes use of the principles of operant conditioning to overcome what studies done over the last century have consistently demonstrated, namely, that healthy human beings have an inherent aversion to killing others of their own species.

Operant conditioning holds that organisms, including human beings, move through their environment rather haphazardly until they encounter a reinforcing stimulus. The experience of that stimulus becomes associated in memory with the behavior that immediately preceded it. In other words, a behavior is followed by a consequence, and the nature of the consequence, reward or punishment, modifies the organism’s tendency to repeat the behavior. Today’s recruits are intentionally and methodically subjected to a training regimen that is explicitly designed to turn them into reflexive killers. And it is very effective. It is also carefully concealed. The military would prefer to keep their methods out of sight because of the moral and ethical discussions, not to mention the legal restraints, which public scrutiny and constitutional debate might impose. Or so I would like to believe.

War Psychiatry, the army’s textbook on combat trauma, notes that “pseudospeciation, the ability of humans and some other primates to classify certain members of their own species as ‘other,’ can neutralize the threshold of inhibition so they can kill conspecifics.” Modern military training has developed carefully sequenced and choreographed elements of what many would call brainwashing to disconnect recruits from their civilian identities. The values, standards and behaviors they have absorbed over a lifetime from their families, schools, religions and communities are scorned and punished. Using cruelty, humiliation, degradation and cognitive disorientation, recruits are reprogrammed with an entirely new set of learned responses. Every aspect of combat behavior is rehearsed until response becomes reflexive. Operant conditioning has vastly improved the efficacy of American soldiers, at least by military standards. It has proven to be a reliable way to turn off the switch that controls a soldier’s inherent aversion to killing. American soldiers do kill more often and more efficiently. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of On Killing, calls this form of training “psychological warfare, [but] psychological warfare conducted not upon the enemy, but upon one’s own troops.”

The psychological warfare that is being conducted on today’s recruits is a truly disturbing indication of the worldview of our leadership, both military and political. The group identity they are drilling into these kids, the “insider” identity, is based on explicit contempt not only for the declared enemy of the week, but for the entire civilian population, with a special emphasis on women and homosexuals. In an army that is now 15 percent female and who knows (don’t ask, don’t tell) what percentage gay, drill instructors still rely on labels like “girl” or “pussy,” “lady” or “fairy” to humiliate, degrade and ultimately exact conformity. Recruits are drilled with marching chants that privilege their relationships with their weapons over their relationships with women (”you used to be my beauty queen, now I love my M-16″), or that overtly conflate sex and violence (”this is my rifle, this is my gun; this is for fighting, this is for fun.”). Aside from teaching these kids to quash their innate feelings about killing in general, they are being programmed with a distorted version of not only what it means to be a man, but of what it means to be a citizen. To ascend to the warrior class, one must learn to despise and distrust all that is not military. Chaim Shatan, a psychiatrist who worked with Vietnam-era veterans, described this transformative process as deliberate, as opposed to capricious, sadism, “whose purpose is to inculcate obedience to command.”

There are any number of ways that modern training methods both support violence, aggression and obedience and help to disconnect a reflex action from its moral, ethical, spiritual or social implications, but one of the best illustrations of this process is the marching chants, or “jodies,” as they are known in the services. “Jody” is the derivative of an African-American work song about Joe de Grinder, a devilish ladies’ man who is at home making time with the soldier’s girlfriend while the soldier is stuck in the war (”ain’t no use in going home; Jody’s on your telephone”). According to the military, jodies build morale while distracting attention from monotonous, often strenuous, exertion. The following, originally a product of the Vietnam era, has been resurrected for training purposes in every war since and is an example of the kind of morale building that has been judged appropriate to the formation of an American soldier:

Shell the town and kill the people.
Drop the napalm in the square.
Do it on a Sunday morning
While they’re on their way to prayer.

Aim your missiles at the schoolhouse.
See the teacher ring the bell.
See the children’s smiling faces
As their schoolhouse burns to hell

Throw some candy to the children.
Wait till they all gather round.
Then you take your M-16 now
And mow the little fuckers down.

Thankfully, the brainwashing has not yet been developed that will override the humanity of most American soldiers. According to the troops interviewed in the Nation, the kind of psychotic brutality described in the marching cadence above is indulged by only a minority. Still, they described atrocities committed against civilians as “common” – and almost never punished. As multiple deployments become the norm, however, and as more scrambled psyches are sent back into combat instead of into treatment, it is frightening to consider that the brainwashing may yet prevail. Given the training to which these soldiers have been subjected and the chaotic conditions in which they find themselves, it is inevitable that more will succumb to fear and rage and frustration. They will inevitably be overwhelmed by cumulative doses of horror, and they will lose control of their judgment and their compassion. Thirty-six years ago, American veterans tried to cut through the smoke and mirrors of the official response to civilian atrocities, the version that scapegoated soldiers and ignored those who gave the orders. As then Lt. John Kerry put it, “We could hold our silence; we could not tell what went on in Vietnam, but we feel (that it is) not reds, and not redcoats (that threaten this country), but the crimes which we are committing.” The soldiers who, following orders, have run over children in the road rather than slow down their convoy will never be the same again, regardless of whether government and the media tell the truth. Nor will the soldiers manning checkpoints who shoot, as ordered, and kill entire families who failed to stop, only to learn later that no one had bothered to share with them that the American signal to stop – a hand held up, palm towards the oncoming vehicle – to an Iraqi means, “Hello, come here.” I have heard a number of the men cited in the Nation article speak about their combat experiences, and they are tormented by what they saw and did. They want to tell their stories, not because they are looking for absolution, but because they want to believe that Americans want to know. But neither are they willing to take the blame.

They have already carried home the psychic wounds and the dangerous reflexive habits of violence that will always diminish their lives and their relationships. In return, they are hoping we will listen to them this time when they ask us to look a little harder, dig a little deeper, use a little more discernment. Or have we already arrived at a point in our collective moral development when, as Shatan predicted, “Like Eichmann, we … consider evil to be banal and routine?”

Penny Coleman is the widow of a Vietnam veteran who took his own life after coming home. Her latest book, Flashback: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide and the Lessons of War, was released on Memorial Day, 2006. Her blog is called Flashback

Wikipedia and the art of censorship

August 20, 2007

This from my friend Jack:

I thought this article was worth passing on. The aspect that really compelled me to post this were the examples of spin doctoring in the case of Bhopal. For those of you who remember, I did a great deal of research into Bhopal last spring, so I have a particularly vested interest in anything regarding that disaster. Anyhow…here’s the article:


Wikipedia and the art of censorship

It was hailed as a breakthrough in the democratisation of knowledge. But the online encyclopedia has since been hijacked by forces who decided that certain things were best left unknown.

By Robert Verkaik
Published: 18 August 2007

The secret of Wikipedia’s phenomenal success is that anyone can edit the millions of comments, facts and statistics published on the pages of the world’s most popular online encyclopaedia. But that of course is also its greatest weakness.

The chance to rewrite history in flattering and uncritical terms has proved too much of a temptation for scores of multinational companies, political parties and well-known organisations across the world.

If a misdemeanour from a politician’s colourful past becomes an inconvenient fact at election time then why not just strike it from the Wikipedia record? Or if a public company is embarking on a sensitive takeover why should its investors know of the target business’s human rights abuses?

Now a website designed to monitor editorial changes made on Wikipedia has found thousands of self-serving edits and traced them to their original source. It has turned out to be hugely embarrassing for armies of political spin doctors and corproate revisionists who believed their censorial interventions had gone unnoticed.

Some of the guilty parties identified by the website, such as the Labour Party, the CIA, Republican Party and the Church of Scientology, are well-known for their obsession with PR. But others, such as the Anglican and Catholic churches or even the obscurely titled Perro de Presa Canario Dog Breeders Association of America, are new to the dark arts of spin.

The website, Wikiscanner, was designed by Virgil Griffith, a graduate student from the California Institute of Technology, who downloaded the entire encyclopaedia, isolating the internet-based records of anonymous changes and IP addresses.

He matched those IP addresses with public net-address services and helped uncover the world’s biggest spinning operation.

Mr Griffith says: “I came up with the idea when I heard about Congressmen getting caught for white-washing their Wikipedia pages. Every time I hear about a new security vulnerability, I think about whether it could be done on a massive scale and indexed. I had the idea back then, I’ve been busy with scientific work so I sat on it until a few weeks ago when I started working on the WikiScanner.”

Wikipedia says Mr Griffith has found something they had long suspected. A Wikipedia spokes-man said: “Wikipedia is only a working draft of history, it is constantly changing and so relies on volunteers editing the pages. But deliberate attempts to remove facts or reasonable interpretation of facts is considered vandalism. We are dealing with this kind of thing all time, so that our volunteer workers are changing edits back when we think they should be changed. But it’s not perfect, it is just more transparent than some people realise.”

Wikiscanner has analysed a database of 34.4 million edits performed by 2.6 million organisations or individuals since 2002.

Although it is not known who made each individual edit, or how senior that person was within any organisation, Mr Griffith says it is fair to link the change to the owner of the computer’s IP address.

Exxon Mobil and the giant oil slick

An IP address that belongs to ExxonMobil, the oil giant, is linked to sweeping changes to an entry on the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989. An allegation that the company “has not yet paid the $5 billion in spill damages it owes to the 32,000 Alaskan fishermen” was replaced with references to the funds the company has paid out.

The Republican Party and Iraq

The Republican Party edited Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party entry so it made it clear that the US-led invasion was not a “US-led occupation” but a “US-led liberation.”

The CIA and casualties of war

A computer with a CIA IP address was used to change a graphic on casualties of the Iraq war by adding the warning that many of the figures were estimated and not broken down by class. Another entry on former CIA chief William Colby was edited to expand his cv.

The Labour Party and careerist MPs

An anonymous surfer at the Labour Party’s headquarters removed a section about Labour students referring to “careerist MPs”, and criticisms that the party’s student arm was no longer radical.

Dow Chemical and the Bhopal disaster

A computer registered to the Dow Chemical Company is recorded as deleting a passage on the Bhopal chemical disaster of 1984, which occurred at a plant operated by Union Carbide, now a wholly owned Dow subsidiary. The incident cost up to 20,000 lives.

Diebold and the dubious voting machines

Voting-machine company Diebold apparently excised long paragraphs detailing the US security industry’s concerns over the integrity of their voting machines, and information about the company’s chief executive’s fundraising for President Bush. The text, deleted in November 2005, was very rapidly restored by another Wikipedia contributor, who advised the anonymous editor, “Please stop removing content from Wikipedia. It is considered vandalism.”

The Israeli government and the West Bank wall

A computer linked to the Israeli government twice tried to delete an entire article about the West Bank wall that was critical of the policy. An edit from the same address also modified the entry for Hizbollah describing all its operations as being “mostly military in nature”.

The dog breeders and fatal maulings

A dog breeders association in America removed references to two fatal maulings of humans by the Perro de Presa Canario dogs in the US. In 2001 a woman was attacked and killed by two Presa Canario/Mastiff hybrids in the hallway of her apartment building in San Fransisco. Last year a pure-bred Presa Canario fatally mauled a woman in Florida.

The gun lobby and fatal shootings

The National Rifle Association of America doctored concerns about its role in the increase in gun fatalities by replacing the passage with a reference to the association’s conservation work in America.

Discovery Channel and guerrilla marketing

A source traced to Discovery Communications, the company that owns the Discovery Channel, deleted reference to company’s reputation for ” guerrilla marketing”.

MySpace and self-censorship

Someone working from an IP address linked to MySpace appears to have been so irritated by references to the social networking website’s over-censorial policy that they removed a paragraph accusing MySpace of censorship.

Boeing and a threat to its supremacy

Boeing has made it clear that it is not just one of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers, but is in fact the leading company in this field.

The church’s child abuse cover-up

Barbara Alton, assistant to Episcopal Bishop Charles Bennison, in America, deleted information concerning a cover-up of child sexual abuse, allegations that the Bishop misappropriated $11.6 million in trust funds, and evidence of other scandals. When challenged about this, Alton claims she was ordered to delete the information by Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori.

Amnesty and anti-Americanism

A computer with an Amnesty International IP address was used to delete references accusing the charity of holding an anti-American agenda.

Dell computer out-sourcing

Dell removed a passage about how the company out-sourced its support divisions overseas.

Nestle and corporate criticism

Someone from Nestle removed criticisms of some of the company’s controversial business practices, which have all subsequently been re-added.

The FBI and Guantánamo

The FBI has removed aerial images of the Guantánamo Bay Naval base in Cuba.

Scientologists and sensitivity

Computers with IP addresses traced to the Church of Scientology were used to expunge critical paragraphs about the cult’s world-wide operations.

News International and the hypocritical anti-paedophile campaign

Someone at News International saw fit to remove criticism of the News of the World’s anti-paedophile campaign by deleting the suggestion that this amounted to editorial hypocrisy. The original entry reminded readers that the paper continued to “publish semi-nude photographs of page three models as young as 16 and salacious stories about female celebrities younger than that.”

Oliver Letwin and his great disappearing act

An edit linked to the Conservative Party IP address expunged references to The MP Oliver Letwin’s gaffe during the 2001 general election when he reportedly said he wanted to cut “future public spending by fully 20 billion pounds per annum relative to the plans of the Labour government” . The accompanying paragraph, explaining that when his own party failed to support the move he took a low profile on the election campaign, was also removed.