Entries Tagged 'War on Terror' ↓

Carrying Gunpowder through Airport Security

by Rhona Mahony. Last Thursday, December 5, I brought five ounces (140 grams) of old-fashioned black gunpowder to San Francisco airport. I also brought along a boarding pass for United flight 720 to Denver that I had created at home, in an computer art program. TSA agents accepted the boarding pass. They also took no notice at all of the gunpowder. Accepting the boarding pass was reasonable. Boarding passes that we design and print at home look just like ones designed by the airlines that we print at home. I had thought, though, that I might elicit a short conversation about the gunpowder. Mind you, I had packed the stuff safely. It was in three separate jars: one of charcoal, one of sulphur, and one of saltpetre (potassium nitrate). Each jar was labeled: Charcoal, Sulphur, Saltpetre. I had also thoroughly wet down each powder with tap water. No ignition was possible. As a good citizen, I had packed the resulting pastes into a quart-sized “3-1-1″ plastic bag, along with my shampoo and hand cream. This bag I took out of my messenger bag and put on top of my bin of belongings, turned so that the labels were easy for the TSA inspector to read.

It was my suitcase that caught the attention of the TSA fellow watching the baggage X-ray monitor. He frowned. Then he waved over a stocky TSA co-worker. The co-worker picked up my suitcase and carried it down to me at the end of the conveyor belt. “Anything sharp or fragile in here?,” he asked. “Not that I can think of,” I said. What had the first fellow seen? Continue reading →

Report from Guantanamo #3

by Rhona Mahony. Barbara Olshansky, a visiting professor at Stanford Law School, spoke at Stanford on May 29 to describe her work on behalf of people who have been imprisoned as suspects in the "War on Terror." She did not hide her passion under a formal suit or polite legal terms. She wore her black, tightly frizzy hair long. Her red, Cat Woman eyeglasses had sparkley sequins. At times her eyes teared up, at others her voice cracked. Her colleague on the speakers’ panel, Marc Falkoff, described her as a force of nature. Yes! A ball of fire!

That night, Olshansky didn’t want to talk about Guantanamo. We know about Guantanamo. The domestic fuss, the international scandal, and the dismay of allied governments have worn down the Bush Administration. Now everyone, even President Bush, wants to close it. Olshansky was worried about the other prisons, places less famous and places completely secret, where a still unknown number of people are locked up without being charged, without access to a lawyer, and without trial.

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Report from Guantanamo #2

by Rhona Mahony. Marc Falkoff came to Stanford University last week, on May 29, to describe his Guantanamo clients. Like his colleague on the speakers’ panel, Anant Raut, he wore a fine suit and looked like a prudent member of the legal establishment. He is now a professor at Northern Illinois University’s law school. When he began to work for Guantanamo prisoners, he worked at an expensive law firm, Covington & Burling. I learned something immediately: Covington represented Fred Korematsu, the Japanese-American man whose internment during World War II was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1944 in Korematsu vs. United States. Continue reading →

Report from Guantanano #1

by Rhona Mahony. Anant Raut came to Stanford University last week, on May 29, to describe the men locked up in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo, Cuba. He is a lawyer, now working for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, who has represented five of the prisoners. He has been to Guantanamo and met his clients in person. Continue reading →

Calling Little Brothers and Little Sisters

By Rhona Mahony. Marcus Yallow lives in San Francisco in 2010. He is a 17 year-old high school student who likes to program, tinker, and play an elaborate game, part puzzle and part race, whose clues are hidden on the Internet and about the city.
Little Brother coverOne afternoon when he and his friends are skipping school to play the game, the Bay Bridge explodes and collapses. The Department of Homeland Security arrests Marcus and his friends as suspects in the bombing. After all, they are not where they should be. Their pockets are full of electronic gadgets, some encrypted. Marcus politely asks to call his parents to arrange a lawyer. Instead, a sack goes over his head, the drawstring is pulled tight, and he is loaded onto a boat and, hours later, off of it. Nameless government agents question him roughly for days. When he is set free, back on the sidewalk in San Francisco, his city has changed. All communication is recorded: land lines, cell phones, email, the Internet. All movement is monitored: by closed-circuit televisions, automobiles’ electronic toll booth passes, traffic check points, and frequent ID checks of pedestrians. One of Marcus’s friends was injured when they were arrested and wasn’t released with them. Where is he? Is he still alive? Marcus vows to use his technological creativity to rally the young people of San Francisco. They must thwart the lockdown. They must make adults understand how destructive and how ineffectual it really is. Continue reading →