Daily Archives: January 1, 2008

UK, US, China and Russia Among World’s Most Intrusive Surveillance Societies


 Click image to expand

Wired | Dec 31, 2007

By Kim Zetter

Privacy International, a UK privacy group, and the U.S.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center have put together a world map of surveillance societies, rating various nations for their civil liberties records.

Both the U.S. and the UK are colored black for “endemic surveillance,” as are Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Russia, China and Malaysia.

Among the trends that the two organizations have tracked:

* The 2007 rankings indicate an overall worsening of privacy protection across the world, reflecting an increase in surveillance and a declining performance on privacy safeguards.

* Concern over immigration and border control dominated the world agenda in 2007. Countries have moved swiftly to implement database, identity and fingerprinting systems, often without regard to the privacy implications for their own citizens

* The 2007 rankings show an increasing trend amongst governments to archive data on the geographic, communications and financial records of all their citizens and residents. This trend leads to the conclusion that all citizens, regardless of legal status, are under suspicion.

* The privacy trends have been fueled by the emergence of a profitable surveillance industry dominated by global IT companies and the creation of numerous international treaties that frequently operate outside judicial or democratic processes.

* Despite political shifts in the US Congress, surveillance initiatives in the US continue to expand, affecting visitors and citizens alike.

* Surveillance initiatives initiated by Brussels have caused a substantial decline in privacy across Europe, eroding protections even in those countries that have shown a traditionally high regard for privacy.

* The privacy performance of older democracies in Europe is generally failing, while the performance of newer democracies is becoming generally stronger.

* The lowest ranking countries in the survey continue to be Malaysia, Russia and China. The highest-ranking countries in 2007 are Greece, Romania and Canada.

* The 2006 leader, Germany, slipped significantly in the 2007 rankings, dropping from 1st to 7th place behind Portugal and Slovenia.

* In terms of statutory protections and privacy enforcement, the US is the worst ranking country in the democratic world. In terms of overall privacy protection the United States has performed very poorly, being out-ranked by both India and the Philippines and falling into the “black” category, denoting endemic surveillance.

* The worst ranking EU country is the United Kingdom, which again fell into the “black” category along with Russia and Singapore. However for the first time Scotland has been given its own ranking score and performed significantly better than England & Wales.

* Argentina scored higher than 18 of the 27 EU countries.

* Australia ranks higher than Slovakia but lower than South Africa and New Zealand.

Serious questions hang over assassination

Benazir Bhutto Assassination Video

New video appears to show Bhutto being shot

Daily Times | Jan 1, 2008

NYT report asks why crime scene, BB’s car were cleaned up before investigation

By Khalid Hasan

Washington: With accounts of the cause of Benazir Bhutto’s death shifting from bullet wounds to the bombing that followed the gunfire, it’s too early to discount the possibility that the assassin, or assassins, got some help from Pakistan’s many official reservoirs of extremist Islamist sympathy, writes Roger Cohen in the New York Times on Monday.

He finds it suspicious that both the crime scene and Benazir’s car were cleaned up before investigators had access. Supporting Senator Hillary Clinton’s call for an international inquiry, he asks, “How can Musharraf, who showed his contempt for an independent judiciary by dissolving the Supreme Court in November, oversee a credible investigation? It should be accompanied by a US Congressional inquiry into post-9/11 American policy toward Pakistan,” he suggests. The United States, out of misplaced deference to Musharraf, failed to secure Benazir the protection she was demanding, he points out.

Her husband, Asif Zardari, visited the United States shortly before her death to plead for help, but was denied the meetings he sought at the top levels of the State Department. Similarly, the Bush administration failed to pressure Musharraf to accept Benazir family demands for FBI involvement in the investigation of the attempted assassination of Benazir on October 18. Cohen believes that years of strong economic growth have expanded a Pakistani middle class that wants democracy’s rule of law. Radical Islamist parties constitute a minority and democratic forces outweigh the theocratic.

“A discredited Musharraf can do nothing for Pakistan without credible elections. Credibility requires international monitors or a transitional arrangement allowing all major parties to participate in the vote’s organisation. The election should be held on or as soon as possible after January 8. A large sympathy vote for Benazir’s Pakistan Peoples Party is likely.

Benazir’s loss, he adds, is devastating. Her Kennedy-like family tragedy leaves the fathomless void of what might have been. Cohen, who was with Benazir at Oxford, concludes with a tribute: “Of grace and conviction her unusual fusion of East and West was formed. Only Pakistani democracy can avenge, in part, the disappearance of the rare bridge she offered and offset the American mistakes that led to this loss.”

. . .


The Benazir Bhutto dossier: ‘secret service was diverting US aid for fighting militants to rig the elections’

Bhutto sought to reveal damning allegations against Pakistan’s intelligence agencies

Jesuits plan for life post-Kolvenbach


Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach: Jesuits meeting to elect new Black Pope

National Catholic Reporter | Dec 28, 2007


There’s a story in the 1892 Jesuit review Woodstock Letters where an older Jesuit tells a younger man who is about to start teaching that the order’s schools nationwide the previous year were weak because they had to hire laymen. Now that the faculty are all Jesuits, he says, the secular schools will be coming to the order for advice.

Today, 107 years later, when, although numbers are rising in the developing world, the American Society has shrunk from 8,000 in 1960 to 3,000, Jesuits are turning to lay collaboration and leadership to achieve the Jesuit mission. How to continue doing this will be a central concern of the order’s General Congregation, its highest governing body, when it convenes in Rome Jan. 6.

General Congregations — this is the 35th — are usually held either to elect a general or when the general, having consulted advisers, convenes one for special reasons.

Some 219 delegates from all over the world, including 27 from the United States, both ex officio and elected, will gather to select a new general to replace Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, 80, the first general in modern times to resign. The rest of the agenda of the meeting indicates that while there may be fewer to carry it out, the Jesuit mission in the future will clearly emphasize justice and environmental issues.

After electing a new general, delegates will consider 262 postulates (proposals), from which the new general and the delegates will set priorities for the new generation. Soon the leadership of Jesuits will belong to men born after the 1960s, with no memories of Vatican II, Vietnam, civil rights marches, the movement in those years of the Jesuit seminaries from remote suburbs into the big cities, and the thrill of turning the altar around and saying Mass in English.

This year the American assistancy ordained only 16 men. By 2021 the 10 geographical provinces will be five. For example, the New England, New York, and Maryland plus the South Carolina and Georgia provinces will all be one.

The new general, says Fr. Howard Gray, former rector of John Carroll University and now adviser to Georgetown’s lay president, will be in the mold of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, who served from 1965 until 1983 and whose influence and skills set the tone of the modern Society. Kolvenbach has continued Arrupe’s priorities, while he improved relations with the Vatican by keeping a low personal profile and establishing links between the Jesuit curia and Vatican offices. As a result, Jesuits interviewed for this article do not foresee Jesuit-papal friction, in spite of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s role in removing Fr. Thomas Reese as editor of America magazine, the U.S. Jesuits’ flagship publication. Jesuit Fr. George Coyne, former director of the Vatican Observatory, describes Benedict XVI as bright and open-minded to people who can match his intellectual acumen.

According to Gray, Coyne, the Whispers in the Loggia Web site and other sources, the delegates will be asking about: Fr. Orlando Torres, a Puerto Rican, now secretary for formation in Rome; Fr. Mark Rotsaert, Belgian president of the European Jesuit Conference; Fr. Lisbert D’Sousa from India; Fr. Mark Raper, Australian provincial and onetime head of the Jesuit Refugee Service; and possibly Fr. Frederico Lombardi, former head of the Vatican Radio who is now the pope’s PR man.

They are expected to reaffirm the sometimes controversial statements of Congregations 32-34 on the relationship between faith and justice, inculturation and the Society’s relationship with lay men and women. But of the 262 proposals, 42 concern justice, and the next 41 are on ecology, the new generation’s Vietnam.

Dedication to the environment, said Fr. Roger de la Rosa, a California Jesuit chemist, will move the Society into the 21st century, in dialogue with culture and science. The other issues — governance and lay collaboration — are linked. How will new initiatives be received?

The following assessment of what can be expected in the upcoming General Congregation is based on the planning documents, a lecture by historian Jesuit Fr. John Padberg and interviews with a cross section of American Jesuits from different age groups and different parts of the country, including: Frs. Howard Gray, George Coyne, Ross Romero, Paul Mueller, Thomas Greene and Roger de la Rosa — the last four of whom are young.

* The delegates will elect a general with international experience and vision. Americans must start thinking internationally. More Third-World young Jesuits will be getting degrees in the United States and living in American communities. In California, with the most vocations, half the scholastics were born outside the United States, including de la Rosa. A high percentage of men in formation have already spent many months in Latin America and the Third World. The East will teach the West about dialogue, said de la Rosa. Some older Jesuits must quickly adjust to the fact that the Jesuit complexion will darken and the new generation will be sensitive to any whiff of racism.

* Lay leadership of Jesuit institutions will be the norm. Leaders will have to experiment in training laypersons in the Jesuit ethos. From novitiate to final vows, it takes about 13 years to “form” a Jesuit. Now the hope is that through a series of experiences — doing the Spiritual Exercises, attending workshops on Jesuit identity and international tours or pilgrimages, such as those run by Gray and Fr. Patrick Samway of St. Joseph’s University, to visit St. Ignatius’ birthplace in Paris, and the Jesuit-founded AIDS orphanage-hospice-and village in Nairobi — lay leaders will emerge with a Jesuit “brand.”

* Jesuit leadership will think nationally more than locally. The new governance structure will likely give powers to a national superior who can override province structures and decide that this school will be closed or handed over to lay leadership and that school will get Jesuit personnel.

* Local communities will be asked to face their weaknesses. A provincial’s statement, “Responding to the Call of Christ,” says successful communities have a weekly community Eucharist and meal where all are expected to be present; regular community meetings for prayer and conversations; days of reflection twice a year; and regular hospitality, especially for apostolic partners.

Mueller notes that some Jesuits see their community as a “place of refuge,” away from apostolic obligations. This, he said, is no way to reestablish our credibility. We must deliberately design our communities, he said, for both hospitality and prayer, where visitors see us at home and are attracted to our way of life.

There’s a story about 16th-century Pedro Martinez, the first Jesuit to land and die in North America. He was a Spanish swordsman who disdained religion, but accompanied friends to a Jesuit community one day just to mock them. Instead, he was so impressed that he wanted to join. Could that happen today?

* Paradoxically, as numbers fall, the Society takes on more responsibilities. In starting Nativity middle schools and Cristo Rey high schools in poor, racially mixed neighborhoods, Jesuits seem confident that somehow we can staff them with idealistic young lay men and women. Fr. Mark Raper, in a newsletter, grants that prudence may require us to cut back our commitments, but adds that Ignatius counseled that we “be ready to be regarded as fools.” Jesuit Fr. James Brodrick concludes his biography of Francis Xavier with the observation that Xavier’s zeal surpassed his judgment in his decision to go to China, a country he knew nothing about. But Brodrick quotes Robert Browning: “Man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Or what’s a heaven for?”

Jesuit Fr. Raymond A. Schroth of St. Peter’s College, Jersey City, N.J., has just published The American Jesuits: A History.

Snorting a Brain Chemical Could Replace Sleep

Wired | Dec 28, 2007

A nasal spray of a key brain hormone cures sleepiness in sleep-deprived monkeys. With no apparent side effects, the hormone might be a promising sleep-replacement drug.

In what sounds like a dream for millions of tired coffee drinkers, Darpa-funded scientists might have found a drug that will eliminate sleepiness.

A nasal spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests. The discovery’s first application will probably be in treatment of the severe sleep disorder narcolepsy.

The treatment is “a totally new route for increasing arousal, and the new study shows it to be relatively benign,” said Jerome Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA and a co-author of the paper. “It reduces sleepiness without causing edginess.”

Orexin A is a promising candidate to become a “sleep replacement” drug. For decades, stimulants have been used to combat sleepiness, but they can be addictive and often have side effects, including raising blood pressure or causing mood swings. The military, for example, administers amphetamines to pilots flying long distances, and has funded research into new drugs like the stimulant modafinil(.pdf) and orexin A in an effort to help troops stay awake with the fewest side effects.

The monkeys were deprived of sleep for 30 to 36 hours and then given either orexin A or a saline placebo before taking standard cognitive tests. The monkeys given orexin A in a nasal spray scored about the same as alert monkeys, while the saline-control group was severely impaired.

The study, published in the Dec. 26 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, found orexin A not only restored monkeys’ cognitive abilities but made their brains look “awake” in PET scans.

Siegel said that orexin A is unique in that it only had an impact on sleepy monkeys, not alert ones, and that it is “specific in reversing the effects of sleepiness” without other impacts on the brain.

Such a product could be widely desired by the more than 70 percent of Americans who the National Sleep Foundation estimates get less than the generally recommended eight hours of sleep per night(.pdf).

The research follows the discovery by Siegel that the absence of orexin A appears to cause narcolepsy. That finding pointed to a major role for the peptide’s absence in causing sleepiness. It stood to reason that if the deficit of orexin A makes people sleepy, adding it back into the brain would reduce the effects, said Siegel.

“What we’ve been doing so far is increasing arousal without dealing with the underlying problem,” he said. “If the underlying deficit is a loss of orexin, and it clearly is, then the best treatment would be orexin.”

Dr. Michael Twery, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, said that while research into drugs for sleepiness is “very interesting,” he cautioned that the long-term consequences of not sleeping were not well-known.

Both Twery and Siegel noted that it is unclear whether or not treating the brain chemistry behind sleepiness would alleviate the other problems associated with sleep deprivation.

“New research indicates that not getting enough sleep is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders,” said Twery.

Still, Siegel said that Americans already recognize that sleepiness is a problem and have long treated it with a variety of stimulants.

“We have to realize that we are already living in a society where we are already self-medicating with caffeine,” he said.

He also said that modafinil, which is marketed as Provigil by Cephalon and Alertec in Canada, has become widely used by healthy individuals for managing sleepiness.

“We have these other precedents, and it’s not clear that you can’t use orexin A temporarily to reduce sleep,” said Siegel. “On the other hand, you’d have to be a fool to advocate taking this and reducing sleep as much as possible.”

Sleep advocates probably won’t have to worry about orexin A reaching drugstore shelves for many years. Any commercial treatment using the substance would need approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which can take more than a decade.

Parking outside your home could cost more if you have a long car


Owners of many ordinary family cars could see the price of annual permits almost double

Daily Mail | Dec 31, 2007


Motorists face a fresh financial onslaught with rules linking the cost of parking outside their homes to the length of their cars.

Owners of many ordinary family cars – including the Ford Focus, Renault Scenic and Vauxhall Vectra – will see the price of annual permits almost double as part of a move to encourage drivers to switch to small hatchbacks.

Campaigners condemned the move as another ‘stealth tax’ for hard-hit family motorists already struggling to pay high fuel prices, congestion charges and road duties.

Norwich Council will be the first authority to link parking permit prices to vehicle length in a move which will raise millions of pounds in extra revenue.

The Local Government Association said many other town halls were watching the experiment ‘with great interest’ with a view to copying the scheme.

A number of town halls are already penalising drivers of ‘gas-guzzling’ larger cars by linking parking costs to vehicle emissions. But the Norwich scheme marks a change by charging according to the car’s dimensions, with vehicles divided into three bands.

Any car longer than 14ft 7in will be in the highest category, with the cost of an annual on-street parking permit rising from the current flat-fee of £16 to £30 – a 90 per cent hike.

For the middle band of cars over 12ft 10in, fees will rise steeply to £22, while all smaller cars will enjoy a price freeze.

Campaigners are angry that the bands place many modest- sized family cars in the same category as the biggest gas-guzzling 4x4s, while ignoring the level of harmful pollution each vehicle produces.

For example some models of the popular Ford Focus are classed as ‘large’, as are the Ford Mondeo, the Renault Espace and Renault Megane, and the Vauxhall Vectra.

Virtually all estate cars will be hit – regardless of emissions – yet older small hatchbacks with inefficient and dirty engines will still benefit from lower charges.

The VW Golf Estate will cost more to park than the Golf hatchback because it is 13 inches longer – even though its engine emissions are 20 per cent lower.

Some models of the Ford Fiesta – which most would consider a small car – just cross the line into the middle-sized category by a fraction of an inch.

Labour-run Norwich City Council has rubber- stamped the move despite fierce opposition.

The RAC Foundation motoring group said: “This discriminates against families with children, who are more likely to drive longer vehicles like estate cars.”

The National Taxpayers’ Alliance said: “Saving the planet shouldn’t be used as an excuse for new stealth taxes. Ordinary motorists deserve a break.”

And traffic enforcement firm NCP said: “What if you drive a Toyota Prius, which is quite a big car, but has very low emissions, or a large electric vehicle? Would you have to pay more too?”

If similar policies are adopted by cities with higher parking charges – such as London boroughs, where it typically costs £100 a year to park outside one’s own home – motorists could face huge fee increases.

Norwich council defended the rules. Councillor Brian Morrey admitted the move would lead to a rise in revenue but insisted that was ‘not the point’ of the plan and the money would be ring-fenced for transport improvements.

He said: “It is a deliberate attempt to push people towards owning smaller cars, which generally have lower emissions but also don’t cause such problems with parking.

“Wherever we drew the line some cars were going to fall just the wrong side of it, but after lengthy discussions we decided these sizes were a good compromise.”

A spokesman said permits would be issued based on car models using a detailed database of dimensions.

Putin: Russia-China interaction helps build Just World Order

Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and U.S. President George W. Bush at the APEC summit

China Daily | Dec 30, 2007

Moscow — Relations between Russia and China have a strong impact on the formation of a just world order, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

“Russian-Chinese relations provide a vivid example of friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation, based on long-term, strategic interests. Russian-Chinese political, economic and humanitarian ties have been developing vigorously, bringing visible benefits to the Russian and Chinese peoples. Strong interaction between our two countries in the world arena is an important factor of building a just world order with due account taken of civilized political-economic diversity,” Putin said in a message of greetings to Chinese President Hu Jintao, according to the Kremlin press service.

“The success of the Year of China in Russia and the Year of Russia in China provides a vivid example of the two countries’ shared wish to further develop mutual understanding and effective cooperation. The agreement you and I have reached to make the most successful events of the national years regular, will undoubtedly help deepen mutual trust and traditional friendship between our peoples,” the Russian president said.

Police plans for Halifax bar surveillance cameras cause concerns

CBC | Dec 31, 2007

The Halifax bar where 38 people were arrested after a brawl last week may become the first in Canada to allow police and liquor inspectors to monitor its security cameras over the internet, a plan that worries privacy experts.

The Dome nightclub was briefly shut down by the Alcohol and Gaming Authority after a fight in the bar spilled out onto Argyle Street early last Monday morning.

In order to reopen, the bar offered police and liquor inspectors the right to monitor their security cameras.

But not everyone likes the idea.

One patron, Mary-Anne Hietala said the problem of violence appears to be getting worse, but she doesn’t like the idea of police officers watching her on a surveillance camera.

“They’re going to have us online there. They’re probably going to be looking up stuff about us. It’s getting crazy. I mean it really is. I know they have to do something, but they’ve got to find something else,” Hietala said.

Labour and Environment Minister Mark Parent said the cameras will be used only to watch for outbreaks of violence.

But he admits it would be possible for liquor inspectors to use the surveillance cameras to check up on underage drinking and other liquor law infractions.

That’s something that worries privacy lawyer David Fraser.

“I wonder how much thought went into putting in place the adequate controls to make sure this information is managed appropriately, so that only the people who have a real need to know any of this information have access to it,” he said.

Fraser said the province needs to establish strict rules about how long videos can be archived, who can look at them, and what they can be used for.

So far the Department of Environment and Labour hasn’t decided on any of these issues.

225 delegates going to Rome to elect new Jesuit General

“It’s always been a European,” Cooke said, but the new leader may, for the first time, hail from a continent other than Europe.

An Asian, Indian or Latin American could emerge this time, Cooke said. “It’s probably a 50-50 chance — more of a chance than ever before,” he said.

Kolvenbach asked Pope Benedict XVI if he could retire, and the pope has agreed.

Buffalo News | Dec 27, 2007

By Jay Tokasz

The president of Canisius College will be among the 225 Jesuit delegates from around the world meeting in Rome next month to elect a new leader of the international Society of Jesus, an order of Catholic priests that dates back 450 years.

The Rev. Vincent M. Cooke is scheduled to depart for Rome on Jan. 4 for the 35th General Congregation, which will include the election of a new superior general for the worldwide order. The congregation meeting begins Jan. 7.

Cooke could be gone for more than a month. John J. Hurley, executive vice president of the college, will serve as acting president during that time.

It will be Cooke’s second stint as an electing delegate in a process that mirrors a papal election.

In 1983, Cooke was part of the 33rd General Congregation, which elected the current superior general, the Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach.

Like the pope, the superior general of the Jesuits is elected for life.

Kolvenbach asked Pope Benedict XVI if he could retire, and the pope has agreed.

Cooke, president of Canisius since 1993, was selected by colleague priests from the New York Province of Jesuits along with the Rev. Thomas H. Feely, who is based in New York City.

They are two of 34 delegates from the United States who will participate in the paper balloting inside the Jesuit curia, located just outside the walls of the Vatican.

Balloting continues until a majority of the voting delegates agrees on a candidate.

An American has never been elected superior general, and that trend is likely to continue, Cooke said.

“There’s an outside chance, but a very outside chance,” he said.

Most Americans don’t have the language skills necessary for the post, Cooke said, because the superior general must be fluent, at a minimum, in English, Spanish and Italian.

“It’s always been a European,” Cooke said, but the new leader may, for the first time, hail from a continent other than Europe.

An Asian, Indian or Latin American could emerge this time, Cooke said. “It’s probably a 50-50 chance — more of a chance than ever before,” he said.

The election is preceded by four days of information-gathering, known as the “murmuratio,” during which the delegates are allowed to ask any other member of the congregation about any member of the Society of Jesus who might be an apt superior general.

“People will tell you quite frankly what they think,” said Cooke, the lone American who participated in the last election.

There is a caveat, though: No campaigning allowed, either for oneself or for anyone else.

After the election, members of the General Congregation will stay in Rome to discuss topics such as the promotion of new vocations, how protecting the environment plays into the mission of the society, Jesuit community life and the Jesuit vow of obedience to the pope.

. . .

Listen: 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus

(06 Jan 08 – RV) 225 Jesuit priest have arrived here in Rome over the weekend ahead of tomorrow’s opening mass for the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus. The Congregation was called by outgoing General Superior, Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach in 2006, when he announced his retirement from the post of leading the worlds’ 19 thousand Jesuits after almost 25 years. Emer Mc Carthy caught up with Jesuit Communications director, Fr. Thomas Rochford and to find out more about this once in a lifetime gathering…

At Vatican Radio

Doctors express concern about official version of Bhutto’s death

New York Times | Dec 31, 2007

by Jane Perlez

Lahore, Pakistan — New details of Benazir Bhutto’s final moments, including indications that her doctors felt pressured to conform to government accounts of her death, fueled the arguments over her assassination Sunday and added to the pressure on Pakistan’s leaders to accept an international inquiry.

Athar Minallah, a board member of the hospital where Bhutto was treated, released her medical report along with an open letter showing that her doctors wanted to distance themselves from the government theory that Bhutto had died by hitting her head on a lever of her car’s sunroof during the attack.

In his letter, Minallah, who is also a lawyer, said the doctors believed that an autopsy was needed to provide the answers to how she actually died. Their request for one last Thursday was denied by the local police chief.

Pakistani and Western security experts said the government’s insistence that Bhutto, a former prime minister, was not killed by a bullet was designed to deflect attention from the lack of government security around her. On Sunday, Pakistani newspapers covered their front pages with photographs showing a man apparently pointing a gun at her from just yards away.

Her vehicle came under attack by a gunman and suicide bomber as she left a political rally in Rawalpindi, a city virtually adjacent to the capital where the Pakistani army keeps its headquarters, and where the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency has a strong presence.

The government’s explanation, that Bhutto died after hitting her head as she ducked from the gunfire or was tossed by the force of the suicide blast, has been greeted with disbelief by her supporters, ordinary Pakistanis and medical experts. While some of the mystery could be cleared up by exhuming the body, Bhutto’s husband said Sunday that he so distrusts the government he declined a request for a post-mortem examination. “I know their forensic reports are useless. I refuse to give them her last remains,” he said.

Minallah distributed the medical report with his open letter to the Pakistani news media and the New York Times. He said the doctor who wrote the report, Mohammad Mussadiq Khan, the principal professor of surgery at the Rawalpindi General Hospital, told him on the night of Bhutto’s death that she had died of a bullet wound.

Khan declined through Minallah to speak with a reporter on the grounds that he was an employee of a government hospital and was fearful of government reprisals if he did not support its version of events.

The question of an autopsy has become central to the circumstances of Bhutto’s death because of conflicting versions put forward by the Pakistani government, which have stirred an already deep well of distrust of the government.

On the night Bhutto was assassinated, an unidentified Interior Ministry spokesman was quoted by the official Pakistani news agency as saying that she had died of a “bullet wound in the neck by a suicide bomber.”

The next day, Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema, the Interior Ministry spokesman, recast that version of events, telling a news conference Bhutto had died of a wound sustained when she hit her head on a lever attached to the sunroof of the vehicle as she ducked a bullet and was thrown about by the force of the blast. “Three shots were fired, but they missed her,” Cheema said. “Then there was an explosion.”

An international inquiry on Bhutto’s death could not be carried out without an exhumation, a difficult decision in a Muslim country, said a former senior Pakistani police official, Wajahat Latif, who headed the Federal Investigative Agency in the early 1990s.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said Saturday that the Bush administration should condition its future aid to Pakistan on its willingness to undertake an independent international inquiry.

Threats to personal privacy more severe in 2007

More and more data is being gathered about citizens

UK, China, Russia, and the US among the worst

BBC | Dec 31, 2007

Privacy rights ‘fragile’ in 2007

Threats to personal privacy got more severe in 2007, a report has claimed.

Compiled by Privacy International and the Electronic Privacy Information Center the report details global trends in privacy protection and surveillance.

It found that in 2007 more nations than ever ranked as places where surveillance had become “endemic”.

The move toward greater surveillance had left the fundamental right to a private life “fragile and exposed”, the report said.

Complex threat

The 1,000 page report from the two campaigning groups details what governments, companies and lobby groups have done in the past 12 months to defend or dismantle privacy online or offline.

Overall, wrote the report’s authors, privacy protection “worsened” during 2007.

As in previous years the report found no nation which consistently tried to uphold privacy or gave substantial help, legislative or otherwise, to protect personal data.

Greece topped the table of 47 countries ranked in the report and was the only one that was identified as having “adequate safeguards against abuse”.

Most countries surveyed were classed as having “some safeguards but weakened protections” or a “systemic failure” to defend citizen’s private lives.

In 2007 the survey found surveillance “endemic” in nine countries – compared to five in 2006.

The nine were – England, Wales, Malaysia, China, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and the US.

The report said that greater scrutiny of citizens grew out of two trends – government efforts to beef up national security and a burgeoning industry built around surveillance or the data it collects.

It noted that action by lobby groups or campaigners to protect privacy were “marginal” and added that any substantive effort to fight back could struggle against the complex and diverse threats ranged against privacy.

. . .


Britain rated worst in Europe for protecting privacy