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First POST: Precrime

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, July 24 2014


  • The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux have obtained and published the US government's secret (though "unclassified") rulebook for placing people on its main "known or suspected terrorist" database, as well as the no-fly list and selectee list, which triggers extra screening at airports.

  • The ACLU's Hina Shamsi, head of its National Security Project, reviewed the document and told The Intercept, "“Instead of a watchlist limited to actual, known terrorists, the government has built a vast system based on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a terrorist act in the future. On that dangerous theory, the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out.” Shades of Philip K. Dick, who invented the term "pre-crime" to describe a police agency focused on identifying and deterring people before they commit crimes.

  • The rulebook, Scahill and Devereaux point out, specifically states that "irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary" to create a "reasonable suspicion" that would allow someone's name to be placed on these lists, and states that "uncorroborated" social media postings may be sufficient grounds for such suspicion as well.

  • Reuters reports that several Israeli soldiers and a civilian have been detained "on suspicion of leaking Gaza casualty figures over social media before families of the dead or wounded could be formally informed."

  • The Israel-Gaza fighting as seen from space.

  • How open data and crowdsourcing enabled the Indonesian public to watchdog their recent national election.

  • Following in the footsteps of Google and Facebook, Twitter issued its own diversity report, finding that three out of ten of its employees are women, and just one in ten of its tech employees are female. About one in ten are neither white or Asian.

  • MIT Media Lab grad Matt Stempeck (and friend of PDM) has announced he is joining Microsoft as their Director of Civic Technology for New York. Welcome to the neighborhood, Matt!

  • Speaking of civic tech, Azavea has announced that it is becoming a Google Civic Information API Partner, providing information from its Cicero database, including contact information and social media accounts for all elected officials in the US, including local city and county council members for 98 cities.

  • Here's a new guide from the Transparency and Accountability Initiative on when and how to use tech appropriately.