The crew of the Iceberg 1 are now free, after enduring the longest pirate kidnapping in modern history:
How’s this for a seasonal tale to warm the hearts? After almost three years in captivity, the crew of the Iceberg 1, a cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates, are home after finally being rescued.
For the benefit of those who haven’t followed the story — and there are probably plenty, as it’s had only scant coverage — the Iceberg 1 was captured back in March 2010, and has languished in pirate custody ever since.
As we reported back in the summer, the ship essentially fell between two stools. Its Dubai-based owner, who appears not to have been insured, refused to pay a ransom for it and simply went to ground, ignoring pleas for help from the hostages’ families.
Meanwhile, the governments representing the different sailors on board — six Indians, nine Yemenis, four Ghanaians, two Sudanese, two Pakistanis and one Filipino — were either unable or unwilling to mount a rescue attempt. So, too,was the multinational anti-piracy force, which generally prefers hijacked ships to be freed by ransom, on the basis that freeing sailors by force carries too much risk of casualties.
At Techdirt, Nick Masnick recounts some of the wonderful things the International Telecommunications Union would like to “help” regarding that pesky “internet” thing:
We’ve been talking about the ITU’s upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) for a while now, and it’s no longer “upcoming.” Earlier today, the week and a half session kicked off in Dubai with plenty of expected controversy. The US, the EU and now Australia have all come out strongly against the ITU’s efforts to undermine the existing internet setup to favor authoritarian countries or state-controlled (or formerly state-controlled) telcos who want money for internet things they had nothing to do with. The BBC article above has a pretty good rundown of some of the scarier proposals being pitched behind closed doors at WCIT. Having the US, EU and Australia against these things is good, but the ITU works on a one-vote-per-country system, and plenty of other countries see this as a way to exert more control over the internet, in part to divert funds from elsewhere into their own coffers.
Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the ITU, keeps trying to claim that this is all about increasing internet access, but that’s difficult to square with reality:
“The brutal truth is that the internet remains largely [the] rich world’s privilege, ” said Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the UN’s International Telecommunications Union, ahead of the meeting.
“ITU wants to change that.”
Of course, internet access has already been spreading to the far corners of the planet without any “help” from the ITU. Over two billion people are already online, representing about a third of the planet. And, yes, spreading that access further is a good goal, but the ITU is not the player to do it. The reason that the internet has been so successful and has already spread as far as it has, as fast as it has, is that it hasn’t been controlled by a bureaucratic government body in which only other governments could vote. Instead, it was built as an open interoperable system that anyone could help build out. It was built in a bottom up manner, mainly by engineers, not bureaucrats. Changing that now makes very little sense.
Canada is also on the record as being against the expansion of the ITU’s role.
Canada will look to prevent governments from taking more power over the Internet when governments sit down for 12 days of negotiations on the future of the Internet next week, but the government didn’t say Thursday where it stands on a contentious proposal that could see users pay more for online content.
Canada’s position going into the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) mirrors a number of Western allies in opposing having governments control how the Internet functions, leaving it to the current mix of public and private sector actors, according to documents released to Postmedia News under access to information laws. That stance is in contrast to proposals from some of the 193 members of the International Telecommunications Union, such as Russia, that want greater control over the Internet — more so than they already have in some cases — including more powers to track user identities online.
The meeting in Dubai will determine whether the ITU, an arm of the United Nations, will receive broad regulatory powers to set rules of road in cyberspace. The potential to centralize control over the Internet into the hands of governments has some users and hacktivists concerned that freedoms online would be crushed should a new binding international treaty change the status quo for how telecommunications companies interact across borders.
Dubai’s investigators announce another 15 suspects in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a military leader with Hamas:
Dubai has identified 15 new suspects in the assassination of a Hamas official at a Dubai luxury hotel, bringing the total number of people believed involved in the death to 26, the government said on Wednesday.
Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed last month in his hotel room in what Dubai police have said they are near certain was an Israeli hit. They said the killers travelled to the Gulf Arab emirate on European passports.
Of the new suspects, six carried British passports, three held Irish documents, three Australian, and three French, the Dubai government’s media office said in an emailed statement.
At this rate, they’ll be trying to arrest hundreds of people in connection to the assassination. Israel, of course, has not admitted any involvement (and you have to admit that previous Mossad activity didn’t appear to require a cast of this size).
Tom Gross looks at the unseemly rush to blame Israel for the killing of Hamas operative Mahmoud Mabhouh earlier this month:
Yesterday, without any actual evidence, the media in some European countries — notably Britain — went much further than even the media in Dubai, and blamed Israel unreservedly for Mabhouh’s death.
* Britons had passport details stolen by ‘Mossad death squad’ (Times of London)
* Terror of innocent Britons named as assassins: Why choose us, ask Britons whose identities were stolen by Mossad hit squad (Daily Mail, page 1). Another story on page 4 of the Daily Mail was headlined: “Dragged into a Mossad murder plot” and photo captions in the paper described those involved as “Mossad agents” and “Mossad killers”.
* And today the lead editorial in The Guardian is titled “Israeli assassinations: passports to kill”.
* And BBC Radio 4’s PM show yesterday broadcast the following at 17:35 minutes: 1 million Jews on hand to assist local Mossad executions.
Other papers mixed fact with pure nonsense about the supposed past exploits and misdeeds of Israeli intelligence.
Prominent international TV stations have also paid enormous attention to this story, blaming Israel without any concrete evidence. For example, the first four stories on the 8 am World News broadcast on CNN International yesterday concerned Mabhouh’s death (even though it occurred four weeks earlier). Only after those items did CNN report on the capture of the most senior Taliban commander since 2001, which many would argue is a far more important news story, both strategically in terms of international politics and specifically for the United States.
It’s quite possible that Israel’s secret service (Mossad) was behind the killing, but it’s also possible that this was the result of inter-factional disputes among Palestinian groups. The evidence of Israeli involvement so far is circumstantial, but the British media have often been willing to believe the worst of Israel.
There’s also this: “It would be uncharacteristically stupid of Mossad operatives if they had in fact so easily allowed themselves to be filmed, and Mossad operatives are not stupid.” That’s not to say that an operation couldn’t be an exception to the general rule, and reputations are lost even faster than they are built in the espionage/counter-espionage world.
Update: Interestingly, Fatah and Hamas are now accusing one another of complicity in the killing.