Daily Archives: March 31, 2012

Child witnesses to Afghan massacre say Robert Bales was not alone


U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, pictured here at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California in August 2011, has been charged with 17 counts of murder in the deaths of 17 Afghan villagers. Spc. Ryan Hallock/Dvids/ Handout / EPA

Village residents told reporters and Afghan government officials that after the roadside bomb attack, U.S. troops lined up men from the village against a wall and told them they would pay a price.

msnbc.com | Mar 31, 2012

Here are two versions of what happened the night of March 11, when 17 Afghan villagers were shot to death.

First, the Army version: Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, troubled by marriage woes, drunkenly left Camp Belambai, 12 miles from Kandahar, with a pistol and an automatic rifle and killed six people as they slept. Bales then returned to the base and left again for another village, this time killing 11. He acted alone and he admitted to the killings, according to the Army.

Then there is the account that child witnesses provided Yalda Hakim, a journalist for SBS Dateline in Australia. Hakim, who was born in Afghanistan and immigrated to Australia as a child, is the first international journalist to interview the surviving witnesses. She said American investigators tried to prevent her from interviewing the children, saying her questions could traumatize them. She said she appealed to village leaders, who arranged for her to interview the witnesses.

In the video, the children told Hakim that other Americans were present during the rampage, holding flashlights in the yard.

Bales’ attorney claims ‘information blackout’ from government

Noorbinak, 8, told Hakim that the shooter first shot her father’s dog. Then, Noorbinak said in the video, he shot her father in the foot and dragged her mother by the hair. When her father started screaming, he shot her father, the child says. Then he turned the gun on Noorbinak and shot her in the leg.

“One man entered the room and the others were standing in the yard, holding lights,” Noorbinak said in the video.

A brother of one victim told Hakim that his brother’s children mentioned more than one soldier wearing a headlamp. They also had lights at the end of their guns, he said.

“They don’t know whether there were 15 or 20, however many there were,” he said in the video.

Army officials have repeatedly denied that others were involved in the massacre, emphasizing that Bales acted alone.

Bales, who was flown to a maximum-security military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., was charged last week with 17 counts of murder and six attempts of attempted murder.

The massacre came several days after a roadside bomb attack that cost one soldier his leg. Village residents told reporters and Afghan government officials that after the roadside bomb attack, U.S. troops lined up men from the village against a wall and told them they would pay a price. The Pentagon has denied those allegations.

Gen. Karimi, assigned by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to investigate the murders, told Hakim that he, too, wonders whether Bales acted alone and how he could left the base without notice.

“Village elders said several soldiers took part and that there is boot prints in the area,” Karimi told Hakim. He said villagers told him that they saw three or four individuals kneeling and that helicopters were overhead during the rampage.

“To search for him?” Karimi said he asked them.

“No,” he said they told him. “They were there from the very beginning.”

Governor demands report on state trooper tickets quota competition


An e-mail from police Lieutenant Anthony Schirillo urging troopers to hand out more tickets. Photo: Contributed / CT

ctpost.com | Mar 30, 2012

by Ken Dixon

HARTFORD — State Police said Friday that a barracks commander’s attempt to inspire his troopers to catch more speeders by offering a pizza prize was misconstrued as a requirement for enforcement quotas.

But troopers believe that it might be part of an illegal effort on the part of the high-ranking officials.

The Thursday incident at Troop I in Bethany, whose patrol area includes Interstate 84, became the focus of criticism Friday from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the president of the troopers union.

“Quotas are not appropriate and are illegal,” Malloy told reporters after the monthly meeting of the State Bond Commission, adding that he has given Public Safety Commissioner Reuben F. Bradford until Monday to submit a full report.

Memo: Pizza For Troopers Who Issue Most Tickets

“Apparently they do step up enforcement in the spring,” Malloy said, adding that last week a DOT worker was killed by a motorist on Route 8 in Waterbury. “It’s probably an appropriate step to take in the spring.”

Just before noon on Thursday, Lt. Anthony Schirillo III, Troop I’s commander, issued an “all hands on deck” email for Friday. “We have to issue 60 infractions/misdemeanors each shift for a total of 180 infractions, in order to outperform Troop F and Troop G,” he wrote.

Schirillo’s email indicated that Troop F, on Interstate 95 in Westbrook, and Bridgeport-based Troop G recently reported writing 301 tickets and 345 tickets on consecutive days, respectively.

“We can do better,” wrote Schirillo, the former commander of Troop G. “I am asking that everyone, myself included, contribute to this effort. Based on the number of on-duty personnel, 60 infractions a shift would proportionately put us above both troops. Note, if we happen to issue 350 tickets in one day that would be stellar.”

A follow-up email offered pizza to the trooper writing the most tickets.

Matthew Andrews, president of the Connecticut State Police Union, said state law prohibits quotas, and he’s concerned.

“Our members won’t comply with an illegal order or a ticket quota and will always use discretion as allowed by our department policy and the law,” Andrews told reporters in the Capitol complex.

Andrews said that major holidays usually prompt extra enforcement efforts, but he’s concerned that this is a divisionwide effort to require more ticket production.

“This wasn’t just specifically Troop I,” Andrews said. “It’s going on around the state that there’s an increased desire to issue more tickets and we don’t think it’s proper. Troopers will always do their job. Tickets are there to correct that behavior.”

Andrews said he was withholding judgment on Schirillo until the commissioner’s report is issued. “We don’t believe it’s the lieutenants or the captains,” he said. “We believe it could be from a higher command that’s asking for this.”

There are 12 barracks throughout the state and currently 1,080 troopers. A 1991 law prohibits the imposition of quotas on troopers.

Lt. J. Paul Vance, spokesman for the state’s Division of State Police, said Schirillo was merely cheerleading in attempt to outperform the two other barracks.

“There’s no way there were any required quotas,” Vance said in a phone interview. “Lt. Schirillo was saying, `Let’s go and work and give a little bit more, work a little bit harder, there are speeders out there.’ It was motivational and maybe he needed a little polish on it.”

Trucker With Traveling Torture Chamber Admits to More Murders


Serial killer Robert B. Rhoades pleaded guilty this week to murdering Patricia Candace Walsh and her newlywed husband, Scott Zyskowski, in 1990. Illinois Department of Corrections

courant.com | Mar 30, 2012

By CHRISTINA NG

A Texas trucker who kept a traveling torture chamber in the cab of his rig pleaded guilty to murdering a newlywed couple more than 20 years ago.

Robert Ben Rhoades, 66, is already serving a life sentence without parole for the 1990 murder of 14-year-old runaway Regina Walters in Illinois.

Prosecutors say the trucker kept a mobile torture chamber in the cab of his long-haul rig.

“There’s this compartment that’s hidden completely from view other than between the seats,” Steve Smith, first assistant for the 112th District Attorney’s office in Texas, told ABCNews.com.

The dungeon-like compartment was described in “Roadside Prey” by Alva Busch, a book written about Rhoades. The rig was equipped with handcuffs on the ceiling, which enabled Rhoades to chain his female victims so that he could torture them before killing them.

Prosecutors believe Rhoades may have put many other women through the cycle of “kidnap, torture, and kill,” but Smith said they do not know how many women he may have hurt, since he traveled so much.

“That was the problem with him,” Smith said. “He was on the interstate everywhere.”

Department of Defense outlines Skynet and Terminator development

geek.com | Mar 30, 2012

By: Matthew Humphries

Technology is taking an ever larger role in the systems we rely on every day. The military is not immune to this, and in fact helps push forward innovation if it benefits them. Multiple projects funded by DARPA prove this.

However, we have seen a fictional take on where too much reliance on machines and automation can lead. Yes, I’m referring to Skynet as depicted in the Terminator movies. Now it seems the US Department of Defense is heading in exactly that direction with its research projects and investment.

Zachary J. Lemnios holds the position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering in the US Government. Yesterday he released a letter entitled, “The Department of Defense Is Placing a Big Bet on Big Data.” through a new government site called the Defense Innovation Marketplace. It broadly outlines how new systems are being developed and brought online to “understand and interpret” the growing amount of data being gathered by military sensors.

White House ‘Big Data’ Push Means Big Bucks for Drone Brains

That’s not the worrying bit, though. These so-called Big Data projects have a $250 million budget to spend every year, and one of the projects underway could be named Skynet it’s so close to the artificial intelligence seen in the movies.

The project does not have a name yet, but it could be multiple projects as far as we know. The aim is clear, though. The DoD wants to create a system that combines sensing, perception, and the ability to make decisions to create a “truly autonomous system.” The end result? A system that will be “agile … maneuver and understand their environment … make decisions by themselves … know when to call upon a human.”

I think they should call it the T-100 as it’s a first attempt, don’t you?

To achieve this intelligent, autonomous system the DoD is investing heavily in tools and techniques to analyze large amounts of data, that offer the ability to understand and react to real-world conditions, and act dynamically without human intervention. So basically a network of machines acting on their own based on the situation and commands sent down from a central command system.

There is also a call for ideas to aid the project with 20 open solicitations available. Who is going to step up and offer to develop a foolproof kill switch?

Read more at Defense Innovation Marketplace (PDF)