Google 'recognizes' Palestine


First the United Nations, now Google. On Thursday, the Palestine News Network noticed that the Internet giant had changed the tagline for the Palestinian edition of its search engine,, from the "Palestinian Territories" to "Palestine." The decision comes after a November vote by the U.N. General Assembly to recognize Palestine as a non-member state over the objections of Israel and the United States.

Here's how looked earlier this year, according to the Wayback Machine Internet archive. The gray words in Arabic below the word "Google" say, "Palestinian Territories."

And here's how the same page looks today, with the word "Palestine" instead:

The change is obviously a minor one, but within the context of the fraught politics of the Middle East, Google's decision could be interpreted as a victory for advocates of Palestinian statehood who supported Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's recent decision to circumvent the long-stalled, U.S.-supported peace process with Israel.

This isn't the first time Google has found itself at the center of a geopolitical dispute. In 2010, for instance, a Nicaraguan commander cited a border demarcation on Google Maps to justify a raid on a disputed area along his country's border with Costa Rica. And in China, Google has been locked in a long-running dispute with the government over censorship and what materials to make available on its search engine. 

As for the company's latest foray into international relations, something tells me it won't be enough to jumpstart the moribund peace process.


After bin Laden documentary premiere, CIA heroine remains elusive

The documentary promising to set the record straight on the mission to kill Osama bin Laden finally aired on Wednesday night, but the identity of the fabled female CIA officer at the center of the manhunt remains elusive.

The documentary Manhunt, which debuted on HBO, makes the oft-cited argument that the "Maya" character, played by Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty, is merely an amalgamation of multiple real-life CIA officers. While most insiders agree that Maya is a composite character, they also contend that one woman in particular most embodies Maya's identity as depicted in the movie.

To refute this position is to ignore the preponderance of first-person accounts and deeply reported articles on the subject since the May 2011 raid. For example, the Navy SEALs who've spoken out about their experience during the raid all describe a singular headstrong female CIA agent. In Matt Bissonette's No Easy Day, the CIA analyst depicted fits the exact mold of Maya, who loudly proclaimed in Zero Dark Thirty that she was "100 percent" certain of bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad and worked intimately with SEAL Team 6.

"The CIA analyst who was the main force behind tracking the target to Abbottabad said she was one hundred percent certain he was there," wrote Bissonnette. "She had been our go-to analyst on all intelligence questions regarding the target."

Bissonnette's fellow SEAL Team 6 member, the so-called "Shooter," also corroborated Zero Dark Thirty's account of Maya in his 2013 interview with Esquire. While quibbling about a number of innaccuracies in the movie, he praised the depiction of Maya.

The portrayal of the chief CIA human bloodhound, "Maya," based on a real woman whose iron-willed assurance about the compound and its residents moved a government to action, was "awesome" says the Shooter. "They made her a tough woman, which she is."

And then there's the Washington Post's Greg Miller, one of the best-sourced CIA reporters in Washington, who didn't hedge at all regarding the singularity of the Maya character, reporting in December that Maya is a 30-something CIA agent with a distinctive dose of moxie:

The female officer, who is in her 30s, is the model for the main character in "Zero Dark Thirty,"a film that chronicles the decade-long hunt for the al-Qaeda chief....

Colleagues said the on-screen depiction captures the woman's dedication and combative temperament.

"She's not Miss Congeniality, but that's not going to find Osama bin Laden," said a former CIA associate, who added that the attention from filmmakers sent waves of envy through the agency's ranks.

Miller's reporting even delved into the CIA officer's post-bin Laden work life:

She has sparred with CIA colleagues over credit for the bin Laden mission. After being given a prestigious award for her work, she sent an e-mail to dozens of other recipients saying they didn't deserve to share her accolades, current and former officials said.

The woman has also come under scrutiny for her contacts with filmmakers and others about the bin Laden mission, part of a broader internal inquiry into the agency's cooperation on the new movie and other projects, former officials said.

The CIA agent's continued anonymity is not for lack of trying on the part of the media. Just this week, reporter Marc Ambinder speculated that Maya is a cross between former CIA analyst Nada Bakos (right) and a "second-generation American" who was assigned to the manhunt after 2004. "Bakos looks strikingly like Jessica Chastain's ‘Maya,'" wrote Ambinder. "And Bakos was responsible ... for ferreting out several promising leads."

But when contacted by Foreign Policy, Bakos rejected Ambinder's speculation. "I have never met Bigelow or Boal," she said, referencing reports that Maya met with Zero Dark Thirty director Mark Boal. "I also left the Agency before the Abbottabad raid."

In all likelihood, the composite of Maya is probably split up into two phases. The first phase involved multiple female officers who pursued bin Laden in the aftermath of 9/11. Cindy Storer, a CIA officer, suggested this to the Daily Beast in January. "The fact of the matter is that one person is not around that long, doing that much," she noted. The second phase may have involved just one CIA officer during a much more recent stretch of time prior to the 2011 raid. That would do much to explain why the SEAL Team 6 members and Greg Miller all have one particular female agent in mind. Of course, we'll never know for sure -- until "Maya" tells her story once and for all.