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February 01, 2005

Al Qaeda Rule 18 on Torture; Noninformative Actions and Bayesian Updating

Via some blogger who I forgot to note, see The Telegraph on Rule 18 of the Al Qaeda handbook -- claim you were tortured. The U.S. government has posted therulebook.

Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga, Moazzam Begg and Richard Belmar finally arrived back in Britain last week after their three-year imprisonment in Guantanamo, to near-universal acclaim and sympathy. Their lawyers insist that they are totally innocent of any involvement in terrorism. The men themselves say that they have been tortured,...

...the al-Qa'eda training manual discovered during a raid in Manchester a couple of years ago. Lesson 18 of that manual, whose authenticity has not been questioned, emphatically states, under the heading "Prison and Detention Centres", that, when arrested, members of al-Qa'eda "must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by state security investigators. [They must] complain to the court of mistreatment while in prison".

This is a good example of a principle I frequently apply: if people will do X in either state A or state B, then we you see them do X, don't change your beliefs as to which is more likely, A or B. You have not gotten any information from observing them do X.

The Al Qaeda book looks like it might have other interesting cloak and dagger stuff too-- how to do surveillance, and so forth....


P.S. James Lileks has a good example of this idea too, in a post today:

Anyway, Moyer says:

I read the news just this week and learned how the Environmental Protection Agency had planned to spend $9 million -- $2 million of it from the administration's friends at the American Chemistry Council -- to pay poor families to continue to use pesticides in their homes. These pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and the industry were going to offer the families $970 each, as well as a camcorder and children's clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the study.

That’s pretty damned dastardly, isn’t it? Well, the program is called Children’s Health Environmental Exposure Research study. (CHEER, in other words. Blame some tone-deaf bureaucrat for that.) It’s being carried out in Duval County, FL, which A) uses pesticides year round, B) has the highest pesticide concentrations in the area, C) has previous data that can be compared to the CHEER results, and D) a local health-care system already studying pesticide impact. The EPA study wants to see if pesticides already on the market have any adverse effect. Of course, they could just ban RAID, like that. They could ban all pesticides. In the absence of this, however, a study seems like --well, I don’t know, a good idea. Now: the participation guidelines say nothing about income requirements, so he’s extrapolating that only "poor people" will participate. The "camcorder" is used to record the child’s behavior. The family gets to keep it. "Offer the families . . .children’s clothing" makes it sound as if the poorest of the poor is shivering naked in the Brutal Florida Winter, and have agreed to blow half a can of ant poison up Junior’s nostrils every day in exchange for clothes - but it’s just a frickin’ CHEER-logo T-shirt, for heaven’s sake, part of a package of lovely parting gifts.

My point is this: do you think Moyer’s outrage would have been any different if the government had cancelled a program that evaluated pesticide impact on children?

Posted by erasmuse at February 1, 2005 02:36 PM

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