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Links 20 August 2013

During my time in the labyrinth of footloose youth, I’ve barely had time for other Internet reading. However, current affairs did manage to poke through a bit in the past couple of days. The themes of interest for me were the detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda while passing through London (Greenwald is the journalist who receieved Edward Snowden’s classified documents about NSA spying); a call for Swedes, men and women, to wear hijabs in solidarity with a pregnant Muslim woman who was assaulted in the street for wearing a hijab; and testimonials from Egyptian revolutionary youth showing how torn, angry, disgusted, and betrayed they are by the horrifying turn toward authoritarianism their country has taken. Here are the links.

The Guardian, “David Miranda’s Detention at Heathrow ‘Extraordinary’ Says Senior MP“:

    “David Miranda, who lives with Glenn Greenwald, was returning from a trip to Berlin when he was stopped by officers at 8:05 a.m. and informed that he was to be questioned under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. He was held for almost nine hours and officials confiscated electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.
    “‘It is an extraordinary twist to a very complicated story,’ [Kenneth] Vaz [chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee] told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday. … ‘What needs to happen pretty rapidly is we need to establish the full facts — now you have a complaint from Mr. Greenwald and the Brazilian government. They indeed have said they are concerned at the use of terrorism legislation for something that does not appear to relate to terrorism, so it needs to be clarified, and clarified quickly.’ …
    “Miranda was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual. According to official figures, most examinations under Schedule 7 — over 97% — last less than an hour, and only one in 2,000 people detained are kept for more than six hours. …
    “Widney Brown, Amnesty International’s senior director of international law and policy, said: ‘It is utterly improbable that David Michael Miranda, a Brazilian national transiting through London, was detained at random, given the role his partner has played in revealing the truth about the unlawful nature of NSA surveillance. David’s detention was unlawful and inexcusable. … There is simply no basis for believing that David Michael Miranda presents any threat whatsoever to the UK government.'”

Washington Post, “U.S. Had Advance Notice of Britain’s Plan to Detain Reporter Glenn Greenwald’s Partner“:

    “White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that U.S. officials had received a ‘heads-up’ that London police would detain David Miranda on Sunday, but he said the U.S. government did not request Miranda’s detention, calling it ‘a law enforcement action’ taken by the British government.
    “‘This was a decision that was made by the British government without the involvement and not at the request of the United States government. It’s as simple as that,’ Earnest said. …
    “Greenwald, in an e-mail on Monday, said his partner had been questioned about a variety of subjects including ‘what stories we were working on at that moment.’
    “‘David was asked mostly about the work Laura Poitras, the Guardian and I were doing on NSA stories…’ Greenwald said. ‘He was also asked about Brazil, the political situation in Brazil, and his friends and family.’ …
    “Greenwald declined to respond to a question about whether Miranda had served as a courier for classified material related to the paper’s NSA coverage.”

BBC News, “David Miranda Detention: MP Asks Police for Explanation“:

    “‘I remained in a room, there were six different agents coming and going, talking to me,’ Mr. Miranda said. ‘They asked questions about my entire life, about everything. They took my computer, video game, mobile phone, my memory cards, everything.’
    “In Germany, Mr. Miranda had been staying with U.S. filmmaker Laura Poitras, who has also been working on the Snowden files with Mr. Greenwald and the Guardian, according to the newspaper.
    “His flights were being paid for by the Guardian. A spokesman said he was not an employee of the newspaper but ‘often assists’ with Mr. Greenwald’s work. …
    “Mr. Greenwald said the British authorities’ actions in holding Mr. Miranda amounted to ‘bullying’ and linked it to his writing about Mr. Snowden’s revelations concerning the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). …
    “He told the BBC police did not ask Mr Miranda ‘a single question’ about terrorism but instead asked about what ‘Guardian journalists were doing on the NSA stories.’
    “Mr. Greenwald said he would respond by writing reports ‘much more aggressively than before.’
    “‘I have lots of documents about the way the secret services operate in England,’ he said. ‘I think they are going to regret what they did.'”

The Guardian, “NSA Files: Why the Guardian in London Destroyed Hard Drives of Leaked Files“:

    “Guardian editors on Tuesday revealed why and how the newspaper destroyed computer hard drives containing copies of some of the secret files leaked by Edward Snowden. The decision was taken after a threat of legal action by the government that could have stopped reporting on the extent of American and British government surveillance revealed by the documents. …
    “The initial UK attempts to stop reporting on the files came two weeks after the publication of the first story based on Snowden’s leaks…. Two senior British officials arrived at the Guardian’s offices to see [Editor-in-Chief Alan] Rusbridger and his deputy, Paul Johnson. They were cordial but made it clear they came on high authority to demand the immediate surrender of all the Snowden files in the Guardian’s possession.
    “They argued that the material was stolen and that a newspaper had no business holding on to it. The Official Secrets Act was mentioned but not threatened. …
    “After three weeks which saw the publication of several more articles on both sides of the Atlantic about GCHQ and NSA internet and phone surveillance, British government officials got back in touch and took a sterner approach. ‘You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back,’ one of them said.”

Al Jazeera, “Swedes Don Hijab to Support Muslim Woman“:

    “Scores of Swedish women from various faiths have posted pictures of themselves wearing hijab, or traditional Muslim headscarves, in solidarity with a woman attacked in a Stockholm suburb, apparently for wearing one.
    “Police spokesman Ulf Hoffman said an unknown assailant had attacked the pregnant woman in the suburb of Farsta on Friday by banging her head against a car.
    “Hoffman said the man shouted slurs which have led police to believe the attack was motivated by the woman’s religion. …
    “Using hashtag #hijabuppropet (hijab outcry) women posted their photos in headscarves on the social networking sites Twitter and Instagram. …
    “In an opinion piece published in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet on Sunday, the organisers of ‘hijabuppropet’ urged Justice Minister Beatrice Ask to ‘ensure that Swedish Muslim women are guaranteed the right to personal safety and religious freedom, without being subject to verbal and physical attacks.'”

A few of the hijab photos posted to twitter, from the “Traveler in Time” tumblr account.

More photos from BuzzFeed, “Women in Sweden Wear Headscarves After Muslim Woman Is Assaulted.”

Jack Shenker in Mada, “Beyond the Voice of Battle“:

    “What is happening in Egypt at the moment, and what is being lost? Lives, above all else; hundreds of them….
    “But beyond people, something else is being lost, too — just as those most invested in the old Egypt intended. For me, the most powerful expression of Egypt’s revolution has never been anything tangible, but rather that state of mind when the world seems to tip on its head and bevel with possibility, where the landscape of imagination is recast. I first encountered it on January 25 2011….
    “The deployment of the police across the road in front of us was a signal that…we would come a stop, engage in some minor scuffling, and then be herded into a harmless protest pen so that the capital could get on with its day. But on this occasion, with reports of mass unrest spreading throughout the city, something was different. Nobody among the marchers slowed, nobody broke ranks, and instead they just kept on going, right towards those shields, chanting and glaring mutinously into the eyes of those that held them…. In the end, the troops simply gave way. And as we pushed past them and onto the empty street behind, several protesters broke into a run — or more accurately a skip, a dance, a hodgepodge of hops and jumps — and many began whooping and hollering and even kissing the ground. …
    “That newfound sense of agency, of an ability to shape the world around you in ways you never knew existed — that gave me my definition of revolution…. Nothing can pose a greater threat to elites wishing to preserve their political and economic privileges than that sense of agency, and since Egypt’s revolution began, not a single farm, factory, classroom or college in the land has remained entirely immune from its influence.
    “Which brings us to the scenes on Egypt’s streets today. The relentless imposition of state violence creates binaries as well as bodies: You are either with us or against us, pro-military or pro-Brotherhood, an Egyptian or a terrorist. And binaries from above achieve the opposite of imagination from below. … How Egypt’s defenders of the status quo, forced onto the back foot by a revolution that struggles against authoritarianism and state violence, have longed to [undermine the independent thought of the people]. In their current ‘war on terror,’ as the strapline on state television puts it, they finally have the enemy, the fight and the stage on which to do so. Thus far, their efforts are meeting with spectacular success.”

Yasmin El Rifae in Cairo, again, “Dispatches“:

    “Egypt has given me a life-changing political education in the last two and a half years. … It’s hard, now, not to feel like something has been stolen from me. As I write this, I am deeply aware of how many others have had the much more devastating loss, the theft, of a loved one or a limb.
    “The past days have left me with a feeling of uselessness and alienation. I condemn both the Brotherhood and the security forces in their inter-locking cycle of violence and lies. There is no place for me in the street, or in a national conversation determined to start and end with chauvinistic nationalism. So I stay in and watch the city descend into silence, the streets emptying of life as military curfew approaches.
    “This is not the first time the state has pushed us to the edge…. It’s not the first time, but it might be the bloodiest and the scariest – and the one receiving the loudest applause. I do not know how we will move forward from here, or when we will stop flaunting our cruelty as a source of pride.”

Omar Robert Hamilton in Mada, “Everything Was Possible“:

    “I mourn the dead and I despise those killing them. I mourn the dead and I despise those sending them to their deaths. I mourn the dead and I despise those that excuse their murder. How did it come to this? How did we get here? What is this place?
    “There were moments when we could have broken the army’s grip on the country. We should have stayed in Tahrir after Mubarak was ousted. … But we left. Everyone said they would be back the next day and then, somehow, they weren’t. People wanted to shower and to sleep in their own beds. Then spontaneous cleaning brigades of earnest patriots spread through the city and by midday everything was nice and tidy and gone. …
    “Had all the forces that were supposedly against the military — the revolutionaries, the liberals, the Brotherhood and the Salafis — ever truly united where might we be today? Dead, possibly. But maybe not. Maybe somewhere closer to a civilian state. A real, ideological alliance was never possible. But a tactical, practical one might just have worked. But rather than work together each party repeatedly met with and made deals with the army, consistently placing the generals in the strongest tactical position. Everyone was to blame. …
    “It was transformative: the belief we all shared, for a moment, in each other. In an eternity of disappointment and greed and malice that moment…in which having a community was preferable to being alone with a book, had a value that will never be lost. You cannot underestimate how important these two and half years have been for people, how empowered, how unafraid people were. The existence of the revolution should not be confused with the existence of a political leadership and process. The revolution is dead when we say it’s dead. The revolution is dead when we will no longer die for it. …
    “I cannot stand up to death today. Today I am a coward who can only write. I see the revolution being dragged away to be shot over a shallow grave and I don’t know what to do. But I do know that, before it’s too late, we will grab it, we will fight for it. We have to, or we will never be able to live with ourselves.”

Lee Smith in Tablet, “What’s Wrong with Egypt’s Liberals? For Starters, They’re Not Liberals“:

    “If some observers mistakenly predicted that the Twitter-friendly liberals who thronged Tahrir Square two and a half years ago would become the new face of Egypt, almost no one could have guessed that those same liberals would soon find themselves demonstrating in favor of military rule. Now American journalists, analysts, and Middle East experts all want to know what happened to a political movement whose ostensible goal was to overthrow an authoritarian leader in order to usher in a golden age of Egyptian democracy. …
    “Seen through modern Western eyes, none of this makes sense. Just because the anti-Morsi camp allegedly put millions of people into the streets to demand the elected president’s ouster doesn’t make the army’s action ‘democratic.’ But for some observers in the Middle East, the strange bedfellows that Egyptian liberals seem to prefer are not so shocking: The coup is merely the latest inflection of a longer historical arc that unites authoritarians and liberals in a profound ambivalence about Western values and the West itself. ‘I’m not at all surprised this was the work of what we’ve come to call the liberals,’ said Samuel Tadros, author of the newly published Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity….
    “Tadros…told me in a recent interview that they were never liberals in the first place, or at least not as the term is usually understood in Western political communities. ‘In Egypt, liberalism didn’t start as it did in Europe with the emergence of an independent bourgeoisie that sought to limit the powers of the state and other entrenched institutions like the church and the aristocracy. In Egypt, there was no crisis pitting the individual against the state because liberalism was born with the rise of the civil-servant class in the mid 19th century. Since civil servants are a part of the state, this liberalism is not at all interested in limiting the role of the state.’ …
    “Because the civil-servant class owed its advancement — education, employment, rise in salaries — to the state, it came to see the state as the agent of change, he explains. And not surprisingly the liberals came to worship the institution that embodied state power in its purest form, the ruler. ‘It is the job of the ruler to impose modernity on a reluctant population,’ said Tadros. Arab liberals understand themselves as members of an elite class that shares little in common with the unwashed masses. If the ruler can’t modernize the masses, at least he must protect the advantages that the state lavished on the liberals.”

David Kenner in Foreign Policy, “How 36 Egyptian Prisoners Suffocated to Death in the Back of a Police Van“:

    “Of all the ways to die, this was one of the most horrible. On Monday, the Egyptian government acknowledged that its security forces had killed 36 Islamist prisoners the day before…. Security officials said that the prisoners had rioted while in a prison truck and captured a guard, causing the officers to respond by firing tear gas and the prisoners to die of asphyxiation. If that’s the case, crowd control experts say, the prisoners perished in agony — gasping for air and incapable of resisting their guards. …
    “Lawyer Ossama ElMahdy visited the morgue on Monday…and tweeted extremely graphic pictures of the bodies. He wrote that the dead men’s faces were so blue — almost black — that the families assumed they were burned, but they were not.
    “It is possible to kill 36 people with tear gas, but it is extremely difficult…. ‘It would be an agonizing death as well, with a burning sensation on all the wet areas of the body, a gasping and even gagging sensation, coughing, tightness of the chesta gasping and even gagging sensation, coughing, tightness of the chest,’ said Sid Heal, a former officer in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and expert on crowd control techniques. … Whatever happened in that prison truck, however, did not convince the police officers to let in fresh air and save their prisoners’ lives.”

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