Wednesday, March 8, 2006

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Guess who wrote this report?

A major organization has just released its report on the U.S. human rights record in 2005. The report does not paint a pretty picture:

There exist serious infringements upon personal rights and freedoms by law enforcement and judicial organs in the United States.

Secret snooping is prevalent and illegal detention occurs from time to time. The recently disclosed Snoopgate scandal has aroused keen attention of the public in the United States. After the Sept.11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. President has for dozens of times authorized the National Security Agency and other departments to wiretap some domestic phone calls. With this authorization, the National Security Agency may conduct surveillance over phone calls and e-mails of 500 U.S. citizens at a time. It is reported that from 2002 through 2004, there were at least 287 cases in which special agents of FBI were suspected of illegally conducting electronic surveillance. In one of the cases,a FBI agent conducted secret surveillance of an American citizen for five years without notifying the U.S. Department of Justice. On Dec. 21, 2005, the U.S. Senate voted to extend the Patriot Act,a move that aroused keen concern of public opinion. The law makes it easier for FBI agents to monitor phone calls and e-mails, to search homes and offices, and to obtain the business records of terrorism suspects.... the U.S. Defense Department had been secretly collecting information about U.S. citizens opposing the Iraq war and secretly monitoring all meetings for peace and against the war. According to a report of the New York Times, in recent years, FBI had been collecting information on large numbers of non-governmental organizations that participated in anti-war demonstrations everywhere in the United States through its monitoring network and other channels. The volume of collected information is stunning.

Now, guess who wrote this report?
Is it: 1) Amnesty International
2) Human Rights Watch
3) Freedom House
4) American Civil Liberties Union
5) The State Council of the People's Republic of China
You can find out the answer by clicking on the links.... or read after the jump.

Obviously, the only interesting answer is China.

Here's my question -- although some of the facts asserted in the report don't ring true ("the income level of African American families is only one-tenth of that of white families"), on the whole the report is about as well sourced as your typical NGO.

So, why was my instinct to automatically reject it? Because it's more than a bit rich for China's government to lecture the United States about surveillance techniques it carries out on a routine basis. However -- and here's the disturbing question -- if the U.S. engages in these practices as well, then what is the external validity of its own human rights report?

posted by Dan on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM


Stalin used to do the same sort of thing. 60 years on it looks even more ludicrous than it did then.

posted by: Robert Schwartz on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM [permalink]

Perhaps you are rejecting it because of that whole pot calling the kettle thing.

posted by: Terrye on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM [permalink]

Maybe you're rejecting it because the bases of the argument are all very selectively chosen?

posted by: Charles Martin on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM [permalink]

Maybe you accept the US govt report because you like the arguments they have selectively chosen

posted by: Darwin on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM [permalink]

Maybe you are rejecting it because it contains howlers like this [page 16]:

William J. Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education,once said that the only way to lower the crime rate in America was for all black women to have abortion.
posted by: mobile on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM [permalink]

Well, with all that illegal surveillance going on, at least the US government will be very well-informed about other countries' abuses.
Not to mention hypothetical exchanges like:
"We believe that political prisoners are regularly tortured in Syria."
"How do you know?"
"We send them there."

posted by: ajay on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM [permalink]

A phrase like "aroused keen concern of public opinion" is a dead giveaway that this report had to have been written by someone with a Communist Party background.

posted by: Zathras on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM [permalink]

What is it about written English from international sources that makes it so obvious that it's not from a native speaker? "The unchecked spread of guns has caused incessant murders." Weird.

Additionally, how much do you want to bet that much of the language is lifted directly from the reports...

posted by: Klug on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM [permalink]

As grandma used to say...

"Consider the source."

Come to think of it, grandma, with a sixth grade education, had a lot more common sense than most politicians I know.

posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM [permalink]

They're wrong on income, but they weren't just making S*** up. 10% is the correct figure for wealth -- i.e., the median net worth of an African American family is 1/10 that of the median white family. That's been true for at least the last 20 years.

posted by: Joel Bloom on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM [permalink]

They do this every year about this time when we release our report on human rights in China. It's usually pretty comic, though I suppose you could translate our pravda and it would sound just as dumb.

posted by: TRT on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM [permalink]

We should welcome the opportunity to have our faults exposed as they should as well however justified or not.

posted by: Lord on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM [permalink]

The Chinese are as adept as native phone surveillance opponents in the art of selective journalism. The phrase "domestic phone calls" masks the true nature of the calls in question - that they had been made to suspected terrorists overseas. Woudln't "half-domestic" be more accurate?

posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM [permalink]

I like "intermestic." In part because this would be the first time it appears outside a political science textbook.

posted by: Chris Lawrence on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM [permalink]

However -- and here's the disturbing question -- if the U.S. engages in these practices as well, then what is the external validity of its own human rights report?

Perhaps to provide a basis for showing that when we do render someone to countries like Syria, Morocco, Egypt or Algeria in violation of the Convention Against Torture, that there is, in fact, a basis for believing that these people will be tortured.

posted by: Randy Paul on 03.08.06 at 11:29 PM [permalink]

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