Friday, April 25, 2008

No Wonder Some People Hate Technology:
Grad Student Twitters Out of Egyptian Jail

In the good old days, annoying foreigners were easy to deal with. Even Americans. All you had to do was pop them in a jail. When someone came looking for them, months or years later, you could either magnanimously release them, or say that there wasn't any record of their having been held.

Simple, and neat.

It's no wonder that some people, and regimes, don't seem to approve of Information Age technology.

Take James Karl Buck, for instance ("Student 'Twitters' his way out of Egyptian jail" CNN (April 25, 3008)).

This University of California-Berkeley graduate student was in Mahalla, Egypt, covering an anti-government protest. Apparently he did something to displease the authorities, since he and his translator, Mohammed Maree, were arrested.

While being taken to the police stations, Buck got out a one-word message on his cell phone: "arrested," sent to the micro-blogging site Twitter.

As CNN put it, "Within seconds, colleagues in the United States and his blogger-friends in Egypt -- the same ones who had taught him the tool only a week earlier -- were alerted that he was being held."

After a bit of back-and-forth, Mr. Buck was released.

There are two mysteries:
  1. Why didn't the Egyptian police confiscate Mr. Buck's cell phone?
  2. What happened to Mohammed Maree?
Mohammed's family hasn't heard from him since his arrest. James tried to cover his friend and translator: "Mohammed was sitting next to me," he said. "But he didn't have the network to call. I tried to use my network to shield him until they tore us apart."

Egyptian authorities aren't saying anything about Mohammed Maree. His family thinks he is still in jail. In my opinion, that's a best-case scenario.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.