Weekly Links

“Winter Forest in black and white,” Montreal, December 18, 2003. By: Franz Dejon.

By Sarah Bakhtiari

Score one…for liberal institutionalism! The Central Intelligence Agency’s director John Brennan indicated this past week that the agency will no longer practice enhanced interrogation techniques (like waterboarding), even if ordered to do so by a future president.

…and one for democratic legitimacy and transparency! Before his tenure in office ends, President Obama seeks to improve transparency on drone strikes, and institutionalize the process for conveying the government’s drone activities on an annualized basis.

…and one for political science? A blog post not to be missed on how three political scientists posed as crooks and terrorists to conduct their research. Too far? You be the judge.

…but one loss for private military security companies? Don’t miss this expose on Eric Prince, or “Echo Papa” the founder of Blackwater (and follow-on companies), who’s being investigated for attempts to sell defense services to Libya, amongst other things. The piece chronicles Prince’s efforts to illicitly transform agricultural crop-duster planes into weaponized counterinsurgency vehicles destined for Africa via front companies. And I quote, “We do not have a risk as long as everyone keeps quiet.” Problematically, many of the employees were apparently unwitting as to the nature of the business or the company’s ownership by Prince. Once apprised of the program’s intent and ownership, one employee reflected the more widespread concern about offering up an armored military aircraft for private consumption. Get even more deets here. (And in case you’re a newcomer to private security issues, check out this 2016 article by Deborah Avant in ISQ, or the Private Security Monitor project housed at the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy at the University of Denver.)

With the Panama Papers all over the news, some are asking if they’re the real deal, including this Brookings post that suggests the papers are the result of a covert intel op. By whom, you ask? By the Russians themselves. Or by America’s Central Intelligence Agency. Or, in yet another take, simply that the papers reflect the near-reality of information anarchy in contemporary society. Technology: a means to greater transparency and accountability, or to privileging a different set of gatekeepers?

The technophobia that began in the 1980s around robotics and high-tech warfare hasn’t been warranted by the developments to date, according to Joshua Foust. More hype than real concern for the implications of technology on war, Foust recommends the techno-alarmists redirect their efforts toward small arms control. (Of course, we all know who would beg to differ with Foust, at least with respect to technology’s innocuousness.) In case you need a comparative reference on national small arms control policy, check out this backgrounder. Or read the March 2016 Small Arms Survey report on the mechanics of small arms trafficking from the United States, where traffickers are identified shipping weapons, parts, ammunition, and accessories to at least 46 countries and foreign territories on six continents.

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