Remember when Jose Padilla was arrested at O'Hare airport in May 2002? A few weeks later, then Attorney General John Ashcroft made a big show of interrupting a trip to Moscow to hold a press conference:
I am pleased to announce today a significant step forward in the war on terrorism. We have captured a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or "dirty bomb," in the United States.
But the dirty bomb charge didn't stick. After being held without any charges for three years in military custody, Padilla, an American citizen, was transferred to civilian court in 2005 and formally charged with the much less heinous crime of conspiracy. The Feds just couldn't back up their contention that Padilla posed a grave threat to national security.
Deborah Sontag's must-read about the flimsy evidence the government intends to present at Padilla's criminal trial later this month - even for just the conspiracy charge - is chilling. They're relying largely on tapped conversations to prove their case, yet not all of them are of Padilla and in none of them does he discuss violent plots.
And the government has still gone ahead with charging a detainee at Guantanamo with conspiring to detonate a dirty bomb with Padilla, the same charge the government couldn't make stick earlier.
That Mr. Mohamed faced dirty bomb charges and Mr. Padilla does not speaks to the central difference between being a terrorism suspect in Guantánamo and a criminal defendant charged with terrorism offenses in the United States....
David Cole, a professor of law at Georgetown University and author of books on terrorism and civil liberties, sees the difference between the two systems more critically: "What this says clearly is that they feel that they can get away with using tainted evidence in the military commission system that they can’t use in the criminal court system."
We'll, of course, be watching the case - if it even goes forward. Padilla is undergoing evaluation this week as to whether he is mentally fit to stand trial. His lawyers contend that his long period of detainment and harsh interrogation have left him mentally damaged.
William, we hardly knew ye:
The FBI's file on former Chief Justice William Rehnquist - made public more than a year after his death - indicates the Nixon and Reagan administrations enlisted its help in blunting criticism of him during confirmation hearings.
The file also offers insight into the hallucinations and other symptoms of withdrawal that Rehnquist suffered when he was taken off a prescription painkiller in 1981. A doctor was cited as saying that Rehnquist, an associate justice of the Supreme Court at the time, tried to escape the hospital in his pajamas and imagined that the CIA was plotting against him.
Every day, men from all over Africa take the perilous journey through the continent and the open seas in search of a better life in Europe. They leave behind their families, paying hundreds of dollars for a square inch of space on a boat off the coast of West Africa.
From there, they battle rough weather conditions, malnutrition and trauma for several days on an open, overcrowded boat, in hopes of seeing the shores of Spain or Italy. Many of them, however, don't make it. Last week a overloaded fishing boat from Senegal capsized twice while sailing to Spain's Canary Islands, leaving at least 80 passengers dead.
The tale is sadly typical of migrant boats making their way to Europe. Many of the boats are ill-equipped for the journey, and rescue workers and police often intercept the journey and escort them back to shore. The migrants are then helped back to health, detained and either released or deported to their country of origin. For those sent back, the experience doesn't necessarily deter them. One man on his second attempt to reach Europe from Nigeria says, "I am, of course, very afraid of making this boat journey again but there is no other way. I and other Africans like myself feel we have no choice. I have to try and make a better life, I pray that God will see me through." As Austin Wainwright, a worker with the Spanish Red Cross, relates, the journey is harrowing, but far too many Africans "would rather die trying to make it to Europe than to stay in their country."
Europe has responded to illegal immigration by introducing patrol boats, planes and helicopters off the shores of Mauritania, Senegal and Cape Verde. Also, last month, the EU introduced new measures to deal with illegal immigration, including allocating 40 million euros to boost job creation in Africa. Improving the African economy is a great idea. Unfortunately, nobody has found a magic formula for Africa yet, and 40 million euros is nowhere near enough.
The San people of Botswana have won a landmark case today in a battle over their land in the Kalahari desert. Also known as the Bushmen, the San were forced to leave the land that their ancestors had inhabited for 20,000 years in order to make way for Botswana's wildlife and tourism industry, as well as lucrative diamond mining (including operations by De Beers, which has denied such claims). The Guardian takes the government line:
The government insists the Bushmen have changed their lifestyle so much that they no longer belong in the Kalahari reserve, an animal sanctuary the size of Belgium, and are affecting conservation efforts. They are better off in settlements, where they have access to clinics and schools, it says, adding that diamond mining has nothing to do with the decision. The government complains that the Bushmen's foreign supporters, including South African anti-apartheid hero, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and British actors Julie Christie and Colin Firth, are romanticising a hunter-gatherer lifestyle which no longer exists.
Advocacy group Survival International, by contrast, hailed the legal ruling in favor of the Bushmen as a "victory for indigenous peoples everywhere in Africa."
The shooting death of Lebanese Minister Pierre Gemayel and the poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko were the most prominent political murders of 2006. But, as this week's FP List shows, their assassinations aren't the only ones setting off political crises and stoking intrigue around the world. The truly sad part: This List of political killings is hardly exhaustive. Picking off an opponent or political foe is still a tragically common way of redrawing the political landscape in many countries.
Every day, journalists around the world risk their lives in the pursuit of truth. Their harrowing experiences go largely unrecognized, but the effects of their work are immense - from giving a voice to those often unheard to defending the freedom of expression. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) recently honored the recipients of its annual International Press Freedom Awards, distinguishing selected international journalists who continue their work despite continued attacks, imprisonment, and harassment. This week, FP caught up with the three awardees, Colombian photojournalist Jésus Abad Colorado, Yemeni editor Jamal Amer, and Gambian journalist Madi Ceesay to learn more about their work in unfree societies.
Medica Mondiale, an NGO working in Afghanistan, says that there is a worrying increase in the number of women who are committing suicide in the country. In a press release issued last week, it was revealed that women are increasingly escaping forced marriages and abuse by lighting themselves on fire. Though exact figures are difficult to identify, cases are reported daily in the city of Herat and thought to have doubled in Kabul, with 36 cases recorded this year. Women who reach the point of suicide tend to believe that, given their social standing in society, there is no judicial or cultural protection for them if they wish to escape - a feeling that is undoubtedly intensified by the condition of Afghanistan today.
According to the BBC, delegates from countries with similar female suicide rates (including Bangladesh, Iran, India, and Sri Lanka) came together in Afghanistan to discuss the issue on Tuesday. We'll keep you posted on their ongoing efforts.
The Washington Post's Nora Boustany describes the changed atmosphere in Washington regarding the International Criminal Court.
Now, as the court prepares to begin public hearings on its first case, the debate among senior U.S. military officials seems to be shifting away from staunch opposition, and a fresh assessment of the court seems to be underway. The new attitude has been prompted in part by the court's record since it began operations three years ago; Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, an Argentine, has dismissed hundreds of petitions for cases against the United States.
Iraq and Afghanistan have provided the ICC a quick opportunity to dispel the Pentagon's worst fears, and the court has seized the chance to show that it's after janjaweed - not GIs. With American hostility muted, the court now needs to catch and try those it has indicted. Appearing harmless to the superpower was an important challenge; inspiring fear among its targets is the next one.
Religious observance in the West is supposed to be a personal decision. That’s what makes it so upsetting when anyone tells someone else how they should practice their faith. Here's an example: just a week after the Jack Straw’s controversial remarks regarding veiling, the BBC reports that an observant Muslim English teacher in Dewsbury, England was suspended from work for wearing a veil in class. Supposedly, her students couldn’t understand what she was saying when her mouth was covered. Dewsbury MP Shahid Malik critcized the teacher, telling the BBC, "There is no religious obligation whatsoever for Muslim women to cover themselves up in front of primary school children."
Evidently his statement is supposed to hold more weight because he’s a Muslim. That assumption is wrong. Individual Muslims interpret the Koran and the sayings of the prophet Muhammad differently. (There’s an article from the October Atlantic Monthly that touches on the issue.) Some believe that a woman's veil should cover everything but her eyes; others believe that a woman only needs to cover her hair; and still others believe that any sort of head covering is unnecessary. Jews do the same thing. The book of Deuteronomy says that you shouldn't boil the meat of a calf in the milk of its mother, resulting in practices ranging from Jews who eat cheeseburgers to Jews who have separate sinks for meat and dairy products in their kitchens. We Westerners believe it's an individual's right to determine how to interpret religious guidelines.
To be fair, if the students couldn't understand their teacher, that is a problem. But there's language to avoid this kind of situation, without telling people how to practice their religion: Are there any physical or religious restrictions that would keep you from functioning in your job properly? Sound familiar?
Did she or didn't she? After a week of tabloid speculation, Madonna has indeed become the latest Hollywood celeb to adopt abroad. A judge in Malawi approved Madonna's application for adoption of a motherless one-year old boy named David. Although Malawi law does not allow for inter-country adoptions, and generally requires people who want to adopt to spend 18 months being evaluated by Malawian child welfare workers, officials waived these restrictions for the pop star, who is worth an estimated $460 million.
But as with Angelina Jolie when she adopted her son Maddox from Cambodia, did a poor country toss aside its standard operating procedures in the face of fame and fortune? Whether you think overseas Hollywood adoptions are admirable or a PR stunt (or both), the trend raises serious concerns about identity issues associated with international adoptions and international adoption laws and standards., It seems status and wealth shouldn't provide evidence of parental capabilities, the suitability of which should be scrutinized regardless of who is adopting where.
Nonetheless, there's no denying an upside. Her charity, Raising Malawi, is setting up an orphan care center that will also have projects based on Kabbalah. Material girl's all grown up.
The Serbian authorities are doing their damndest to convince international prosecutor Carla del Ponte that they're serious about catching indicted war criminal Ratko Mladic. To wit, Serbia just announced that they sacked five police officials for inadequate zeal in pursuing Mladic. The authorities have good reason to tout their seriousness: negotiations with the European Union hang in the balance.
Mladic is one of a handful of men on the lam for genocide and crimes against humanity. Many of them have benefited from the drift in international attention occasioned by the war on terrorism. The EU, to its credit, has kept steady pressure on Serbia, and my guess is that they'll cough up Mladic at some point soon.
Answer: Anyone. The Washington Post is reporting that over the weekend the White House and its House allies successfully watered down an earlier version of the military commissions bill to include a less restrictive description of how the government could designate civilians as "unlawful enemy combatants."
The [unlawful enemy combatant] definition applies to foreigners living inside or outside the United States and does not rule out the possibility of designating a U.S. citizen as an unlawful combatant.
That means that anyone the government decides "has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" [ital mine] or its military allies can be detained indefinitely. In other words, a U.S. citizen in the United States. And they've successfully defined the "battlefield" as anywhere and everywhere. Plus, if Congress writes and passes it, it's unlikely the Supreme Court would step in and declare the definition unconstitutional. I'm less enthused by this military commissions compromise by the minute.
Literature is under attack in Turkey. Tomorrow, prize-winning novelist Elif Shafak will go on trial in Istanbul over comments about the Armenian genocide that a character makes in her best-selling novel, The Bastard of Istanbul. The offensive comment: "I am the grandchild of genocide survivors who lost all their relatives at the hands of Turkish butchers in 1915," says Dikran Stamboulian, a minor Armenian character in the book. And for that reference to a genocide, Ms. Shafak is being charged with insulting "Turkishness." The case against her is being led by ultranationalists, one of whom recently linked the possibility of Turkey's accession to the EU and Ms. Shafak's novel as stripping away Muslim identity in Turkey, mostly by those who, like Ms. Shafak, "support a more open Turkey,...world citizens, half-Turks."
Unfortunately, Shafak is hardly the first to be charged with this broad and ridiculous offense. More than 60 writers and publishers have been prosecuted under new laws introduced 18 months ago. And though Turkey has long had restrictions on its writers, it seems that, with Turkey undergoing a real identity crisis over whether to seek EU membership, there's never been more at stake. We'll be sure to watch the case.
Despite having the support of a majority of the Senate, the alternative plan for military commissions backed by Sens. McCain, Graham, and Warner might face a filibuster led by Sen. Bill Frist, who is seriously toeing the White House line on the treatment of detainees and warrantless wiretapping. But since the White House might ultimately get most of what its wants out of a possible compromise bill, why the threat of a filibuster? Could it be that Frist, who clearly harbors presidential aspirations, wants to steal McCain's spotlight?
In other news, the International Committee of the Red Cross will meet next week for the first time with the 14 high-level detainees now held at Gitmo who sparked off this current row in the first place.
This is Li Wufeng, China's top Internet cop.
A quiet man who fidgets in his seat and whose voice is at times nearly inaudible, Li is the director-general of China's State Council Information Office (SCIO), the agency in charge of regulating Internet content inside China. I and a handful of other Western journalists met with Li for an hour today in the SCIO's main office in Beijing.
Li started by giving us the latest stats on China's Internet presence. They are impressive, including 120 million Internet users and 30 million bloggers. Staggering numbers, particularly considering the extent to which the Chinese state continues to control the Internet. This is a subject Li pooh-poohs. In fact, by his account, China not only doesn't censor the Internet, it doesn't even know how.
We have neither the technology nor the manpower" to censor or filter the Internet, Li told us. "We have just dozens of people in the Internet affairs bureau. Half of them are here today [in the room]," he added.
It was a strange denial, especially considering the large amount of time Li spent more or less defending China's Internet censorship. Repeatedly pressed by the journalists in the room, Li said that "it is an international practice to regulate or filter the Internet" and that "China has adopted the international practice ... just like the United States." I told Li that I found it hard to believe that China does not have the technology or manpower to censor or filter the Web, particularly given the large number of high-profile cases, including, by some accounts, the blocking of nytimes.com and some human rights Web sites from within China. Li went on the defensive. "We have our own choice of the Internet content" within China, he said. "If someone is shouting bad things about me from outside my window, I have the right to close that window." Sound strangely like an admission? It did to me, too.
Won't the midterms be dirty. Bush has thrown down the gauntlet. In his speech today, the president announced that he is immediately sending legislation to Congress that would allow the United States to establish military tribunals for enemy combatants - the same tribunals that the Supreme Court struck down in June (finding them unconstitutional because Congress hadn't approved them). This move is predictable. Ever since the Supreme Court decision came down, the administration has been planning to seek congressional approval. But the announcement today that more than a dozen high-value enemy combatants - including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the architects of the 9/11 attacks - have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay puts anyone wishing to debate the legality, fairness, and sensibility of these tribunals - during the fifth anniversary of 9/11 and the run-up to the midterms - in a very unenviable position. Hence the brilliant political timing.
So, it looks very likely that the administration will get to keep its closed tribunals - where those prosecuted and their counsel can be prohibited from even learning the evidence against them. I haven't yet seen the legislation in question, which could be vastly different from what ultimately emerges from Congress. But the tribunal the administration wanted initially looked a little something like this:
Reports from Pakistan suggest that much of the intelligence that led to the raids came from that country and that some of it may have been obtained in ways entirely unacceptable here. In particular Rashid Rauf, a British citizen said to be a prime source of information leading to last week's arrests, has been held without access to full consular or legal assistance. Disturbing reports in Pakistani papers that he had "broken" under interrogation have been echoed by local human rights bodies. The Guardian has quoted one, Asma Jehangir, of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, who has no doubt about the meaning of broken. "I don't deduce, I know - torture," she said. "There is simply no doubt about that, no doubt at all." If this is shown to be the case, the prospect of securing convictions in this country on his evidence will be complicated. In 2004 the Court of Appeal ruled - feebly - that evidence obtained using torture would be admissable as long as Britain had not "procured or connived" at it. The law lords rightly dismissed this in December last year, though they disagreed about whether the bar should be the simple "risk" or "probability" of torture."
As I've mentioned before, if the case collapses there would be the most almighty stink in Britain. It would introduce into British politics U.S. style judge-bashing. Calls for Britain to scrap the Human Rights Act would grow ever louder.
The 24 suspects arrested by the British authorities can be held for 28 days before they are charged. Their prosecution will create a politically charged debate about the trade-offs between security and liberty. Any defense lawyer worth his salt is going to challenge the evidence being used against them, claiming that suspects implicating them in the plot were likely tortured in Pakistan. (Information obtained in this manner is inadmissible in British courts.) Considering that Pakistan was instrumental in the arrest and the year long investigation into the 24, this could be a fertile furrow for the defense.
One can just imagine the row that would follow if the case against these men collapsed because key prosecution evidence was deemed inadmissible. In the past, members of the judiciary have shown themselves to be willfully blind to the dangers posed by terrorism, with Law Lords making glib statements about how the "real threat" comes not from terrorism, but from anti-terror laws. All of which makes one wonder if the combative Home Secretary John Reid was launching a pre-emptive strike when he lashed out on Wednesday at judges, among others, for failing to "understand the depth and magnitude" of the terrorist threat to Britain and bemoaned that we are "unable to adapt our institutions and legal orthodoxy as fast as we need to."
Israel's defense minister, Amir Peretz, might soon face another challenge in addition to the wars in Gaza and Lebanon. This week, a team of three Morrocan lawyers filed a lawsuit against Peretz for war crimes.
The lawsuit charges Peretz with a long series of crimes, including the destruction of communication sites, undermining general health and the environment, deliberate attacks on women and children, and crimes against humanity.
The lawyers claim Peretz, who still holds Moroccan citizenship after emigrating to Israel in 1956, is subject to Morrocan law. The team may ask Interpol to aid in bringing Peretz to justice in Morroco. Because most of Israel's population is a mixture of immigrants, many from Arab states, this move could set a precedent for more war crimes lawsuits against Israelis with dual citizenship.
What happens when 10,000 lawyers get together in Hawaii? I don't know either, but I'm sure someone is going to get sued. And apparently, the American Bar Association thinks so too.
The ABA is holding its annual meeting in Honolulu starting tomorrow, but it won't be sponsoring the previously-scheduled longboard surfing contest. It seems the ABA lawyers are a little too afraid of the liability. But never fear: The litigators will still surf. The Hawaii State Bar Association and LexisNexis have just agreed to sponsor the event in the ABA's place. And just in case, they'll have lifeguards on duty.
On Monday, for the first time ever, a U.S. federal court provided online access to nearly all the exhibits submitted in a recent criminal case. The case? United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui. Several of the exhibits are still classified and under seal (including one entitled "schizophrenia video" submitted by the defense), but there are nearly 1,200 other documents, videos, and photographs available - everything from Moussaoui's report cards from 1975, photographs of the inside of a flight simulator, and "1 box cutter". There's also the "substitution for testimony" from several terror detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks. I'm guessing that releasing all of the exhibits is kosher despite Moussaoui's pending appeal of his life sentence, but it just makes every armchair attorney out there able to now render an opinion on whether he should be able to withdraw his guilty plea.
From the start, Uganda has been a tricky case for the International Criminal Court. The ICC issued indictments for several Lord's Resistance Army leaders last year, but prominent voices in the country have argued all along that the indictments are getting in the way of a negotiated settlement. As we've discussed on Passport recently, there has been a lot of talk about amnesty for LRA fighters who come in from the field. As we mentioned in the Morning Brief today, there is now news that the familar peace versus justice dilemma has become even more acute: The Ugandan government is actually seeking a waiver from its international obligation to arrest LRA leaders so that it can negotiate with them. So far, the ICC appears to be standing its ground.
The precise motivations of the Ugandan authorities in the unfolding saga are unclear. The government, we should recall, formally asked the ICC to investigate LRA atrocities. So its current stance is a dramatic reversal. It could be that the government is now wary that the court's investigators might be nosing into the conduct of government officials and so would prefer to pull the plug. Whatever their calculations, it's important to recognize that the ICC's founding document, the Rome Statute, offers a way out: The UN Security Council has the power to suspend investigations in the interests of international peace and security. It would be an embarrassing climb-down, but it may yet happen.
The International Criminal Court may have a warrant out for his arrest, but that didn't stop Uganda from offering full amnesty to the rebel leader Joseph Kony, head of the infamous Lord's Resistance Army.
It's a strange move on the part of the Ugandan government, as their military - and the United Nations - have long been trying to capture Kony, considered responsible for the death and kidnapping of thousands of civilians, especially children, during the 19-year civil war. Perhaps the Ugandan government is hoping the offer could facilitate peace at talks that begin next week in Sudan. But Kony has already rejected the amnesty deal, calling it irrelevant since it has no effect on the ICC proceedings against him.
Yesterday's election in Kuwait was a resounding disappointment for female candidates, who were permitted to compete against men for the first time in the history of Kuwait's parliament. Although women make up 57% of the 340,000-strong electorate, that didn't translate into any seats for them. However, many remain hopeful that the increased presence of reformist candidates, who will now hold 33 of the 50 seats, will make it easier for women to win next time around. But reformists will have to tread carefully; despite a reputation for standing up to the ruling family, the parliament always faces the possibility of being dissolved at the emir's pleasure.
You have to hand it to the Supreme Court. Yes, the Hamdan decision this morning was a rebuke to the Bush administration, and Justice Breyer again invoked the lack of a "blank check" from congress after 9/11. And yes, the justices stated in no uncertain terms that treaties and statutes matter - and that they apply in the war on terror. That's not a small victory for people who believe that the Bush administration has usurped more power than is constitutionally authorized to the president. But what the court has NOT done is tell the president he can never have his military tribunals. He can simply go to congress and ask for more authority, and if congress agrees to alter the Uniform Code of Military Justice, those military tribunals are still a possibility. Jack Balkin calls it a democracy-forcing decision. The president can't decide on his own, and congress has always had the authority to regulate military justice - so the court is using the democratic process as a lever to enforce that power balance.
So, the big question: Would congress pass such an alteration to the UCMJ allowing military tribunals for enemy combatants? Will the administration even pursue such a change before the midterms? How ugly will those campaigns be if this is an election issue?
The BBC has pulled back from its earlier report today that an impending Fatah-Hamas deal would include the provision that Hamas implicitly recognizes Israel's right to exist. They are now reporting that while Fatah and Hamas have agreed to a common political strategy, the accord has no mention of recognizing Israel. Despite this new accord - the text of which hasn't been released - Israel has stated that it has no bearing on the current crisis. Israeli troops and armed Palestinian militants are massing on either side of the Gaza border. Progress that seemed to be made after the meeting between Olmert and Abbas last week appears naive in hindsight.
But in a new ForeignPolicy.com exclusive, former Swedish diplomat Mathias Mossberg has a radical proposal for ending the territorial stalemate in Israel and the occupied territories. What if Israelis and Palestinians abandoned the seemingly endless and bloody road to a two-state solution, and instead adopted a completely original form of statehood? What if they adopted not two states next to one another, but states on top of one another? Check it out.
Voters in the West African country of Mauritania overwhelmingly approved a new constitution for their country this past weekend, less than a year after a bloodless military coup gave the boot to two decades of autocratic rule.
Under the watchful (and approving) eyes of African Union and Arab League observers, 80-90% of those who cast ballots favored the new constitution. Among the provisions of the document are a timetable for elections, presidential term and age limits, and the requirement that future heads of state swear an oath not to try to extend their term of office beyond that constitutionally permissible.
With economic growth a solid 5.5% last year and the territorial dispute with Western Sahara dormant for the time being, things could be looking up for Mauritania. And in a country where 20% of the population unemployed, a little stability could go a long way. Next issue on the national agenda: slavery. Rights groups say it's still practiced, despite being abolished in 1981.
The ICC's chief prosecutor says his office has so far documented "a significant number of large scale massacres," each "with hundreds of victims," as well as hundreds of cases of alleged rapes in Darfur, according to a report to the UN released yesterday. The report goes on to state that Sudanese authorities have failed to investigate or prosecute cases currently under investigation, which means the ICC would have jurisdiction to proceed with prosecutions. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo says he expects to file charges, presumably in the next few months, but Sudanese officials said today that the ICC doesn't have authority and that Sudanese trials have simply been slowed by logistical factors.
The ICC moving forward on Darfur is good news not just for Darfur, but for the ICC. If the court can bring Darfur war criminals to justice, it may signal to the Bush administration that their cold-shoulder stance toward the court deserves a rethink.
Guantanamo Bay has closed its doors to the media. Editor & Publisher reports that reporters from the Los Angeles Times and the Miami Herald are being booted off the island after writing stories about last weekend's detainee suicides. A reporter from the Charlotte Observer is allowed to stay until Saturday, but is being denied access to the prison camp. A Pentagon spokesperson is quoted as saying that the camp cannot accommodate all the reporters who want access, and so it is only impartial and fair that no reporters be allowed at the camp. Note to the Bush administration: Nice try, but in this case, the world's ignorance is not bliss.
The Associated Press reported yesterday that Google founder Sergey Brin admitted his company may have acted a little too hastily in censoring results for its China search engine, and that it might consider reversing course. Brin said,
"It's perfectly reasonable to do something different, to say, 'Look, we're going to stand by the principle against censorship and we won't actually operate there.' That's an alternate path," Brin said. "It's not where we chose to go right now, but I can sort of see how people came to different conclusions about doing the right thing."
I wonder if Brin read the current issue of FP, in which David Vise questioned Google's commitment to its principles. At any rate, Google can't have been happy about all the backlash when it decided to do business in China. Personally, I'm on the fence about this. Censorship is clearly wrong, but I don't know if it helps the Chinese for Google to completely withdraw. At any rate, I do think that Brin has expressed some thoughtfulness with his statements yesterday. Too often, you hear corporate execs unequivocably touting free market principles without considering other implications. It will be interesting to see if Google actually does revamp its China policies. To keep up with all things search engine-related, check out Danny Sullivan's outstanding Search Engine Watch blog. By the way, I'm surprised that there hasn't been more about this in today's news, but I guess with British Parliament closing and gearing up for the World Cup, people have been otherwise distracted.
Passport, FP’s flagship blog, brings you news and hidden angles on the biggest stories of the day, as well as insights and under-the-radar gems from around the world.