Daily Archives: August 14, 2008

Big Apple is turning into Big Brother

Outrage at New York police plan to track vehicles

The Guardian | Aug 14, 2008

Ed Pilkington in New York

The Big Apple is turning into Big Brother, civil liberties groups have warned in response to a new plan from New York city’s police chiefs to photograph every vehicle entering Manhattan and hold the details on a massive database.

New York’s police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, has proposed a major extension of security measures around the city designed to prevent a third attack on the World Trade Centre as the rebuilding of Ground Zero gathers pace.

As well as placing cameras at all tunnels and bridges into Manhattan, the 36-page plan, called Operation Sentinel, calls for a security ring to be erected at Ground Zero and for a 50-mile buffer zone around the city within which mobile units would search for nuclear or “dirty” bombs.

The proposals are partly based on the so-called ring of steel erected around the City of London in the wake of IRA bombings in the 1990s. Though the 3,000 cameras that could be mounted as a result of the plans of the New York police pale in comparison with the multitude of cameras in operation on the UK’s roads and in public places, the proposals have provoked outrage in the United States, where the concept of video surveillance is relatively unfamiliar .

Donna Lieberman, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the idea of tracking the movements of millions of people was “an assault on the country’s historical respect for the right to privacy and the freedom to be left alone”. The NYCLU is pressing the New York police to release further details of its intentions under freedom of information laws.

The toughest element of the scheme relates to preparations to secure Ground Zero once the six-hectare site is rebuilt and open to the public again. The mammoth construction project has been beset with delays that have pushed back completion beyond 2011, but the New York police want to get security measures operating well in advance.

Those measures include moveable roadblocks, security cameras across lower Manhattan and an underground bomb-screening centre through which all delivery vehicles would have to pass. In the wider 50-mile zone spanning New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Long Island, officers would be equipped with mobile detectors to intercept possible radioactive devices.

The plan to video the number plates of every vehicle would be applied to all points of entry into Manhattan, including the main Brooklyn-Battery, Holland, Lincoln and Midtown tunnels and Brooklyn, Manhattan and other bridges. Details would be kept on computer for a month.

Maoist leader to stand in Nepal PM election

Maoist leader Prachanda talks to reporters after filing his candidacy for the election of the Nepal’s prime minister in Kathmandu. Prachanda has announced he will stand in elections to become the Himalayan country’s first post-royal premier.  (AFP/Prakash Mathema

AFP | Aug 14, 2008

KATHMANDU (AFP) — The head of Nepal’s former rebel Maoists, who led a campaign of armed struggle for a decade, announced Thursday he would stand in elections to become the country’s first post-royal prime minister.

Nepal has been in political limbo since the country’s 240-year-old monarchy was abolished in late May, with the former guerrillas and mainstream political parties unable to agree who will run the new government.

“The months of political deadlock have come to an end,” Maoist leader Prachanda told reporters after filing his candidacy for the prime ministerial election set for Friday.

The Maoists, once feared rebels, are now Nepal’s most potent political force after winning just over one-third of the seats in the body that abolished the monarchy and is supposed to draft a new constitution.

In Friday’s election, the winner needs a simple majority of the votes from 595 lawmakers, or at least 298.

The Maoists have forged an alliance with Nepal’s third biggest party — the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) — meaning Prachanda has an excellent shot at winning the post.

“We have won the support of the UML. Now we will have a two-thirds majority to run the government,” said Prachanda, whose nom-de-guerre means “the fierce one.”

The Maoists have 227 seats in the assembly, while the UML has 108.

Prachanda, who signed up to a landmark peace deal with the country’s mainstream parties in 2006, has had trouble shaking off his ruthless warlord image.

But many believe he is now the right man to rebuild the impoverished Himalayan country wedged between India and China after the deadly 10-year-long civil war that ravaged the country’s economy.

The only opposition to Prachanda will come from Nepal’s oldest and second biggest party, the Nepali Congress.

Congress, led by the current prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, will field a candidate on Friday and will not participate in the new government if they are defeated, their spokesman said.

“There is no question of joining the Maoist-led government if our candidate suffers defeat,” the spokesman, Arjun Narsingh Khatri Chettri, told AFP.

“We will stay in the opposition and play a constructive role so that the peace process remains on track.”

The Maoists signed the 2006 peace deal after former king Gyanendra was forced to end a period of authoritarian rule in the face of massive protests.

Koirala, 84, has been at the centre of the often violent struggle for democracy in Nepal since the 1940s. He led the coalition that forced Gyanendra to stand aside in April 2006 and has been premier ever since.

Iran calls for an Asian Union

Mottaki calls for Asian Union

Tehran Times | Aug 14, 2008

TEHRAN – Iran’s chief diplomat Manuchehr Mottaki on Tuesday called for setting up an “Asian union” amid efforts to increase Asia’s influence in the world.

Mottaki made the remarks in a meeting with Iran’s cultural envoys to foreign countries at the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization (ICRO).

The ICRO envoys’ mission is to establish cultural affinity with other nations and convey the message of the Islamic Republic which is based on justice and defending world nations’ rights.

Mottaki said culture forms the cornerstone of Iran’s relations with the world and that the international community is very receptive to Iran’s views.

The foreign minister stated that the founder of Islamic Republic the late Imam Khomeini attached special importance to poor and oppressed.

The addressees of the Islamic Revolution are not only Muslims but all people of different religions, he added.

Elsewhere in his remarks Mottaki said Africa is a rich continent with good people.

“Africa’ abundant resources and its good people have so far been ignored.”

Interaction with Africa will create new opportunities for Iran and will increase trust between the Islamic Republic and the African nations, he added.

Mottaki said Iran and Africa plan to hold a summit in 2009.

——–Iran-Arab dialogue

The foreign minister said Iran wants close relations with the Arab world. “We have proposed to the Arab League that we should launch Iran-Arab dialogue.”

Although Zionists have created problems for Iran in Latin America, Tehran should use the regional nations’ hatred towards the U.S. and their thirst for justice to develop its relations with these countries, he stated.

Mottaki was a member of ICRO before serving as lawmaker and then foreign minister

Human brain to be the battlefield of future, warns US intelligence report

The human brain could become a battlefield in future wars, a new report predicts, including ‘pharmacological land mines’ and drones directed by mind control

Brain imaging might help identify people at a checkpoint or counter who are afraid or anxious.


Uncle Sam Wants Your Brain
Drugs that make soldiers want to fight. Robots linked directly to their controllers’ brains. Lie-detecting scans administered to terrorist suspects as they cross U.S. borders.

Guardian | Aug 13, 2008

By Ian Sample

Rapid advances in neuroscience could have a dramatic impact on national security and the way in which future wars are fought, US intelligence officials have been told.

In a report commissioned by the Defense Intelligence Agency, leading scientists were asked to examine how a greater understanding of the brain over the next 20 years is likely to drive the development of new medicines and technologies.

They found several areas in which progress could have a profound impact, including behaviour-altering drugs, scanners that can interpret a person’s state of mind and devices capable of boosting senses such as hearing and vision.

On the battlefield, bullets may be replaced with “pharmacological land mines” that release drugs to incapacitate soldiers on contact, while scanners and other electronic devices could be developed to identify suspects from their brain activity and even disrupt their ability to tell lies when questioned, the report says.

“The concept of torture could also be altered by products in this market. It is possible that some day there could be a technique developed to extract information from a prisoner that does not have any lasting side effects,” the report states.

The report highlights one electronic technique, called transcranial direct current stimulation, which involves using electrical pulses to interfere with the firing of neurons in the brain and has been shown to delay a person’s ability to tell a lie.

Drugs could also be used to enhance the performance of military personnel. There is already anecdotal evidence of troops using the narcolepsy drug modafinil, and ritalin, which is prescribed for attention deficit disorder, to boost their performance. Future drugs, developed to boost the cognitive faculties of people with dementia, are likely to be used in a similar way, the report adds.

Greater understanding of the brain’s workings is also expected to usher in new devices that link directly to the brain, either to allow operators to control machinery with their minds, such as flying unmanned reconnaissance drones, or to boost their natural senses.

For example, video from a person’s glasses, or audio recorded from a headset, could be processed by a computer to help search for relevant information. “Experiments indicate that the advantages of these devices are such that human operators will be greatly enhanced for things like photo reconnaissance and so on,” Kit Green, who chaired the report committee, said.

The report warns that while the US and other western nations might now consider themselves at the forefront of neuroscience, that is likely to change as other countries ramp up their computing capabilities. Unless security services can monitor progress internationally, they risk “major, even catastrophic, intelligence failures in the years ahead”, the report warns.

“In the intelligence community, there is an extremely small number of people who understand the science and without that it’s going to be impossible to predict surprises. This is a black hole that needs to be filled with light,” Green told the Guardian.

The technologies will one day have applications in counter-terrorism and crime-fighting. The report says brain imaging will not improve sufficiently in the next 20 years to read peoples’ intentions from afar and spot criminals before they act, but it might be good enough to help identify people at a checkpoint or counter who are afraid or anxious.

“We’re not going to be reading minds at a distance, but that doesn’t mean we can’t detect gross changes in anxiety or fear, and then subsequently talk to those individuals to see what’s upsetting them,” Green said.

The development of advanced surveillance techniques, such as cameras that can spot fearful expressions on people’s faces, could lead to some inventive ways to fool them, the report adds, such as Botox injections to relax facial muscles.

India’s poor encouraged to eat rats

This is not the first time that the department secretary has come out with such an innovative idea.

Earlier, he proposed to recruit eunuchs as security guards to maternity wards in hospitals.

BBC News | Aug 13, 2008

An official in the Indian state of Bihar has come up with a new idea to encourage low caste poor people to cope with food shortages – rat meat.

The Principal Secretary of the state’s Welfare Department, Vijay Prakash, said that he was advancing his proposal after “much survey and ground work”.

Bihar’s extremely poor Musahar community are rat-eaters by tradition.

The Musahar are on the bottom strata of the caste system with the lowest literacy rate and per capita income.

Less than one percent of their 2.3 million population in Bihar is literate and 98% are landless.


Mr Prakash says his proposals to popularise rat meat eating are intended to uplift their social-economic condition.

“There are twin advantages of this proposal. First, we can save about half of our food grain stocks by catching and eating rats and secondly we can improve the economic condition of the Musahar community,” he told the BBC.

According to Mr Prakash, about 50% of total food grain stocks in the country are eaten away by rodents.

He argues that by promoting rat eating more grain will be preserved while hunger among the Musahar community will be reduced.

He said that rat meat is not only a delicacy but a protein-enriched food, widely popular in Thailand and France.

“Rats have almost no bones and are quite rich in nutrition. People at large don’t know this cuisine fact but gradually they are catching up.”

However he may find it difficult to popularise such a strategy in a conservative society like Bihar and other north Indian states.

Mr Prakash says that he has recipes to make rat eating a delicacy, which he now wants to distribute to all the hotels in Bihar.

He also wants to encourage rat farming in the same way that poultry is farmed.

While eating rat meat is still stigmatised in urban areas of the country, Mr Prakash says that his research has revealed that it is a popular food item in some parts of Bihar where it is known at roadside hotels by the name of “patal-bageri”.

This is not the first time that the department secretary has come out with such an innovative idea.

Earlier, he proposed to recruit eunuchs as security guards to maternity wards in hospitals.

“Yes, that proposal is in its advance stage and we’ll very soon engage them in various social activities of our department,” he said.

And the welfare secretary’s next plan?

“I’ll make snake catching popular for the economic value of its venom,” he said.

‘Frankenrobot’ controlled by rat brain

A hand holding a biological brain and a robot. The brain consists of a collection of neurons cultured on a Multi Electrode Array (MEA) which communicates and controls the robot via a Bluetooth connnection. Scientists in Britain announced that they had stitched together thousands of rat neurons into primitive brains capable of controlling the movement of robots.  (AFP/DIEM Photo/Reading Univ.)

AFP | Aug 14, 2008

PARIS — Meet Gordon, probably the world’s first robot controlled exclusively by living brain tissue.

Stitched together from cultured rat neurons, Gordon’s primitive grey matter was designed at the University of Reading by scientists who unveiled the neuron-powered machine on Wednesday.

Their groundbreaking experiments explore the vanishing boundary between natural and artificial intelligence, and could shed light on the fundamental building blocks of memory and learning, one of the lead researchers told AFP.

“The purpose is to figure out how memories are actually stored in a biological brain,” said Kevin Warwick, a professor at the University of Reading and one of the robot’s principle architects.

Observing how the nerve cells cohere into a network as they fire off electrical impulses, he said, may also help scientists combat neurodegenerative diseases that attack the brain such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“If we can understand some of the basics of what is going on in our little model brain, it could have enormous medical spinoffs,” he said.

Looking a bit like the garbage-compacting hero of the blockbuster animation “Wall-E”, Gordon has a brain composed of 50,000 to 100,000 active neurons.

Once removed from rat foetuses and disentangled from each other with an enzyme bath, the specialised nerve cells are laid out in a nutrient-rich medium across an eight-by-eight centimetre (five-by-five inch) array of 60 electrodes.

This “multi-electrode array” (MEA) serves as the interface between living tissue and machine, with the brain sending electrical impulses to drive the wheels of the robots, and receiving impulses delivered by sensors reacting to the environment.

Because the brain is living tissue, it must be housed in a special temperature-controlled unit — it communicates with its “body” via a Bluetooth radio link.

The robot has no additional control from a human or computer.

From the very start, the neurons get busy. “Within about 24 hours, they start sending out feelers to each other and making connections,” said Warwick.

“Within a week we get some spontaneous firings and brain-like activity” similar to what happens in a normal rat — or human — brain, he added.

But without external stimulation, the brain will wither and die within a couple of months.

“Now we are looking at how best to teach it to behave in certain ways,” explained Warwick.

To some extent, Gordon learns by itself. When it hits a wall, for example, it gets an electrical stimulation from the robot’s sensors. As it confronts similar situations, it learns by habit.

To help this process along, the researchers also use different chemicals to reinforce or inhibit the neural pathways that light up during particular actions.

Gordon, in fact, has multiple personalities — several MEA “brains” that the scientists can dock into the robot.

“It’s quite funny — you get differences between the brains,” said Warwick. “This one is a bit boisterous and active, while we know another is not going to do what we want it to.”

Mainly for ethical reasons, it is unlikely that researchers at Reading or the handful of laboratories around the world exploring the same terrain will be using human neurons any time soon in the same kind of experiments.

But rats brain cells are not a bad stand-in: much of the difference between rodent and human intelligence, speculates Warwick, could be attributed to quantity not quality.

Rats brains are composed of about one million neurons, the specialised cells that relay information across the brain via chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Humans have 100 billion.

“This is a simplified version of what goes on in the human brain where we can look — and control — the basic features in the way that we want. In a human brain, you can’t really do that,” he said.

For colleague Ben Whalley, one of the fundamental questions facing scientists today is how to link the activity of individual neurons with the overwhelmingly complex behaviour of whole organisms.

“The project gives us a unique opportunity to look at something which may exhibit complex behaviours, but still remain closely tied to the activity of individual neurons,” he said.

Unmanned spy planes to police Britain

An American spy plane on a practice mission at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada

Independent | Aug 6, 2008

By Kim Sengupta

The Government is drawing up plans to use unmanned “drone” aircraft currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan to counter terrorism and aid police operations in Britain.

The MoD is carrying out research and development to enable the spy planes, which are equipped with highly sophisticated monitoring equipment that allows them to secretly track and photograph suspects without their knowledge, to be deployed within three years.

The plans have been backed by the House of Commons Defence Committee but have attracted criticism from civil liberties campaigners concerned about the implications of covert surveillance of civilians.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) can obtain clear images while flying at up to 50,000ft. If ministers give the scheme the go-ahead the UK will be among the first countries to use UAVs to monitor its own citizens.

The Israeli military operates them over Palestinian cities such as Gaza and Ramallah, while the US Customs and Border Protection agency flies them over the Mexican border to detect illegal migrants along specified routes.

Gareth Crossman, director of policy at the civil rights watchdog Liberty, said: “The question is not so much about the technology but what one does with it. We have quite definite laws about where CCTV can be used but of course with UAVs you have much greater ability to gather material in private spaces and this would lead to concern.”

He added: “If they are used to simply hover to gain random information then that would obviously be a matter of worry and a civil liberty issue.”

UAVs are currently restricted to military installations in Salisbury Plain because of regulations banning them from using the same airspace as civil aircraft. However, a commercial consortium led by BAE Systems will provide the safety measures necessary for the planes to fly over the UK within three years.

The MPs’ report says the MoD is “closely involved with the development of procedures and regulations which allow UAVs to operate in national and Nato airspace. But the committee indicates that the ministry should do more.”

The BAE Systems consortium is partly funded by a number of government agencies, but not the MoD, which has an observer status on the project, called the Astraea programme. The next stage of the project is due to cost £44m, with private companies providing half of that.

The committee says: “In the response to our report we expect the MoD to set out why it supports the Astraea programme only in an ‘observer role’ and its future plans with regard to this programme.”

The MPs say full consideration should be given to evidence given to the committee by a weapons company that meeting the air safety requirements would open the way for UAVs to be used in disaster relief, crowd control, anti-terror surveillance, maritime searches and support for the Coastguard, police, fire and intelligence services.

The UAVs will give law enforcement agencies huge scope for surveillance. Robert Emerson, a security analyst who specialises in deciphering aerial images, said: “Satellite images can be affected by clouds and lack of light, with UAVs you can avoid that by choosing the height at which you fly. There is now also Google Earth, but these are often old images out of date. There is tremendous potential in material gathered by UAVs.”

He added: “There will obviously be implications for privacy, human rights, etc. That is something the Government will have to address and I imagine that there will be protests from some quarters. But you certainly cannot blame police and intelligence services for wanting to use them.”

There are also concerns over safety, however. In April 2006 a UAV used by US Customs and Border Protection crashed in Arizona when its engine was accidentally turned off by the team piloting it. At the end of the first investigation into an un-manned aircraft accident, America’s National Transportation Safety Board issued 22 recommendations and its chairman talked of a “wide range of safety issues involving the civilian use of unmanned aircraft”.

Many corporations pay no U.S. taxes, new report finds

“You know, gentlemen, that I do not owe any personal income tax. But nevertheless, I send a small check, now and then, to the Internal Revenue Service out of the kindness of my heart.”

– David Rockefeller

Detroit Free Press | Aug 12, 2008

WASHINGTON: Many corporations pay no U.S. taxes, new report finds

Most U.S. corporations and foreign companies doing business in the United States pay no federal income tax, according to a new report from Congress.

The study by the Government Accountability Office, expected to be released today, said two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1998 to 2005 and about 68% of foreign companies doing business in the United States avoided corporate taxes over the same period.

Collectively, the companies reported trillions of dollars in sales, according to the GAO’s estimate.

“It’s shameful that so many corporations make big profits and pay nothing to support our country,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who asked for the GAO study with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

An outside tax expert, Chris Edwards of the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, said increasing numbers of limited liability corporations and so-called “S” corporations pay taxes under individual tax codes.

The study did not investigate why corporations weren’t paying federal income taxes or corporate taxes and it did not identify any corporations by name. It said they may escape paying taxes because of operating losses or tax credits.

Cops toting M-16s patrol Arkansas town under 24-hour lockdown

Crime-plagued Arkansas town expands 24-hour curfew

Safety valued above civil liberties, officials say

Associated Press | Aug 13, 2008


HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. — Officers armed with military rifles have been stopping and questioning passers-by in a neighborhood plagued by violence that’s been under a 24-hour curfew for a week.

On Tuesday, the Helena-West Helena City Council voted 9-0 to allow police to expand that program into any area of the city, despite a warning from a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas that the police stops were unconstitutional.

Police Chief Fred Fielder said the patrols have netted 32 arrests since they began last week in a 10-block neighborhood in this small town on the banks of the Mississippi River long troubled by poverty. The council said those living in the city want the random shootings and drug-fueled violence to stop, no matter what the cost.

“Now if somebody wants to sue us, they have an option to sue, but I’m fairly certain that a judge will see it the way the citizens see it here,” Mayor James Valley said. “The citizens deserve peace, that some infringement on constitutional rights is OK and we have not violated anything as far as the Constitution.”


McCain suggests Iraq war military tactics to secure American neighborhoods

The area under curfew, in what used to be a West Helena neighborhood, sits among abandoned homes and occupied residences in disrepair.

White signs on large blue barrels warn those passing by that the area remains under curfew by order of Valley. The order was scheduled to end at 3 p.m. Tuesday, but Valley said the city council’s vote would allow police to have the same powers across Helena-West Helena.

Among the curfew operation’s arrests, 10 came from felony charges, including the arrest of two people carrying both drugs and weapons, Fielder said. The police chief said the officers in the field carry military-style M16 or M4 rifles, some equipped with laser sights. Other officers carry short-barrel shotguns. Many dealing crack cocaine and marijuana in the city carry pistols and AK47 assault rifles, he said.

“We’ve had people call us, expressing concern for their children,” Fielder said. “They had to sleep on the floor, because of stray bullets.”

Fielder said officers had not arrested anyone for violating the curfew, only questioned people about why they were outside. Those without good answers or acting nervously get additional attention, Fielder said.

However, such stops likely violate residents’ constitutional rights to freely assemble and protections against unreasonable police searches, said Holly Dickson, a lawyer for the ACLU of Arkansas who addressed the council at its packed Tuesday meeting. Because of that, Dickson said, any convictions coming from the arrests likely would be overturned.

“The residents of these high-crime areas are already victims,” she said. “They’re victims of what are happening in the neighborhoods, they’re victims of fear. But for them to be subject to unlawful stops and questioning … that is not going to ultimately going to help this situation.”

The council rejected Dickson’s claims, at one point questioning the Little Rock-based attorney if she’d live in a neighborhood they described as under siege by wild gunfire and gangs.

“As far as I’m concerned, at 3 o’clock in the morning, nobody has any business being on the street, except the law,” Councilman Eugene (Red) Johnson said. “Anyone out at 3 o’clock shouldn’t be out on the street, unless you’re going to the hospital.”

The curfew is the second under the mayor’s watch since the rival cities of Helena and West Helena merged in 2006. That year, Valley set a nightly citywide curfew after a rash of burglaries and other thefts.

Police in Hartford, Conn., began enforcing a nightly curfew for youths after recent violence, including a weekend shooting that killed a man and wounded six young people.

Helena-West Helena, with 15,000 residents at the edge of Arkansas’ eastern rice fields and farmland, is in one of the nation’s poorest regions, trailing even parts of Appalachia in its standard of living.

In the curfew area, those inside the homes in the watch area peered out of door cracks Tuesday as police cruisers passed. They closed the doors afterward.

Green Beret says leader shot, mutilated Afghan civilian

Associated Press | Aug 12, 2008


FT. BRAGG, N.C. — The leader of an Army special forces team grinned as he held the severed ear of an Afghan man he suspected of being an insurgent after he shot him and left his body in the desert, a Green Beret testified Tuesday.

The testimony by Sgt. 1st Class Ricky Derring came at a military hearing for his team leader, Master Sgt. Joseph D. Newell, 38, from Tecumseh, Mich. Newell, who has been in the military for two decades, could face court martial on a murder charge in the March 5 killing of the Afghan civilian.

Derring said Newell returned to the spot where he left the man’s body and “made a stabbing motion and I could see his arms cutting.” Newell then walked back to the team’s vehicle with the man’s ear in his hand, Derring said.

“He shook the ear and grinned,” Derring said.

Under cross examination by Newell’s civilian attorney Todd Conormon, Derring said he didn’t actually see Newell cut off the man’s ear.

The Article 32 hearing that is expected to last two days is similar to a civilian grand jury. It is not used to decide guilt, only whether there’s enough evidence to court martial Newell, who was assigned to the Ft. Bragg-based 3rd Special Forces Group. The Army hasn’t released details about Newell such as his age, hometown and how long he has served.

Derring said his team was escorting a convoy of supplies in Helmand province, when they saw two civilian cars in the distance. The soldiers fired a warning shot and went to investigate.

Derring, a 50-caliber machine gunner on the team, said Newell asked the man through an interpreter whether he was an insurgent or had improvised explosive devices. He questioned him about a photo of a weapon on his cell phone.

“Joe was asking him questions: Where did he get the phone, was he placing IEDs, was he Taliban,” Derring testified during a hearing at Ft. Bragg, an Army base near Fayetteville.

Derring said the man answered no. But Derring said he, Newell and the interpreter believed the man was an insurgent because Taliban forces often use cell phones to communicate and call in their locations.

Newell drew his gun and shot him, left him in the desert, then returned and cut off his ear, Derring testified. Newell took the body to another place in the desert, “and kicked sand over his face a little bit,” Derring said.

Derring responded to Conormon’s questions about hard feelings between Newell and other team members. Derring said they would argue about tactics and other matters, adding that Newell had to assert himself because he was a newer member of the team.

Derring said he was upset about the shooting and later told another sergeant what had happened.

“He basically said Master Sgt. Newell had a screw loose,” Derring said.

Newell later talked to Derring about the killing, during which Derring told Newell he never wanted to be in that kind of situation, Derring said.

“He told me, ‘Don’t worry, nothing will come of it.’ He said, ‘If it does, I’ll just say I was attacked,’” Derring testified.