Asawin Suebsaeng

Asawin Suebsaeng

Reporter

Asawin Suebsaeng is a reporter at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. He has also written for The American Prospect, the Bangkok Post, and Shoecomics.com.

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A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., Asawin came back to DC with hopes of putting his flimsy Creative Writing major, student newspaper tenure, and interest in human rights and political chicanery to some use. He started cutting his teeth at F&M's student-run weekly, The College Reporter, serving as editor in chief. He has interned at The American Prospect, been a reporter for the Bangkok Post, and scribbled for ShoeComics.com. His favorite movie is either Apocalypse Now or Pirahna 3D, depending on the day or mood.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for May 1, 2012

| Tue May 1, 2012 11:27 AM EDT

Sgt. 1st Class Raja Richardson, platoon sergeant with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, Task Force 2-28, 172nd Infantry Brigade, leads a patrol across a ridgeline outside of Forward Operating Base Tillman. Photo by the US Army.

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4 Things to Know About CISPA

| Fri Apr. 27, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

On Thursday, the House passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (HR 3523) by a 248-168 vote. The bill, commonly known by its acronym, CISPA, aims to make it easier for government agencies and private industry to share information about cyber threats. But all that information-sharing worries privacy advocates and civil libertarians, who say the bill lacks safeguards against abuse. Supporters like Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who introduced the bill last November, insist that it is a necessary step in cracking down on illegal hacking and foreign spying, and would not be used to target things like file-sharing sites and free speech on the internet.

Now that the bill has passed the House, the focus shifts to the Senate, which is crafting an alternate version of the bill that could be voted on as early as May. Here are four things to know about CISPA.

1. Those for, those against. The usual suspects on both sides—rights organizations, consumer groups, big business, telecommunications—came out to endorse or condemn the bill. Here are some big names that have issued ringing endorsements of CISPA:

…and some key players that have denounced the bill:

2. The vague language. As with charges leveled at other recent controversial pieces of legislation, much of the debate over CISPA is about what the language in the bill actually means. CISPA would allow and encourage companies and government agencies to share internet users' information with each other without court orders or subpoenas so long as the company or agency can cite a "cybersecurity purpose." Proponents say that this will allow companies facing online attacks to report intrusions to the government and get help promptly without having to worry about unnecessary red tape. Critics, however, say there is a substantial potential for abuse in the vagueness of the phrase "cybersecurity purpose." "Right now, companies can only look at your communications in very specific, very narrow situations," Trevor Timm, a blogger and activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the Daily Beast on Monday. "The government, if they want to read them, needs some sort of warrant and probable cause. This allows companies to read your communication as long as they can claim a cybersecurity purpose."

It's widely known that many major companies—including Facebook and Time Warner, for instance—already share plenty of user information with federal authorities in the interest of monitoring for national security threats or cyber crime. The concern here is that the bill would allow authorities to disregard the standard practice of subpoenas and court orders in such scenarios. "Essentially, this bill would preempt…other laws related to privacy," Greg Nojeim, a senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told Mother Jones.

"Safe": The Dumbest Critique of Extrajudicial Killing Ever Made

| Fri Apr. 27, 2012 5:40 AM EDT
"If you skirt due process, I will come for you."

Safe
Lionsgate
95 minutes

Trying to decipher the myriad plot twists of Safe is a lot like attempting to eat your own head: You won't be able to do it, and passersby will point and laugh if you try. The new movie is the latest entry into the Jason-Statham-attacking-everything-that-moves subgenre. But unlike most of the other brainless fare to which the actor has lent his considerable thew, this film seems hell-bent on pummeling the audience with confusion.

The premise of Safe is, on its surface, straight and clean: Statham stars as Luke Wright, an ex-NYPD superstar who, on a whim, rescues a precocious 12-year-old Chinese girl he's never met before. Since the child is being chased by Russian mobsters, Triad gangsters, and crooked cops through the mean streets of Brooklyn, Wright's act of spontaneous altruism commences a citywide mad-dash of headshots and roundhouse kicks. The stage appears set for a by-the-numbers, harmless thriller in which we get to sit back and watch Jason Statham kick the shit out of nameless, unsympathetic henchmen.

If only writer-director Boaz Yakin had been content to stick with the formula. Instead, the film devolves into a needlessly complicated and bizarrely recounted story that ties together organized crime, New York politics, the War on Terror, human trafficking, and covert extrajudicial hit-jobs into one long stretch of garbled dialogue. By the time the credits roll, it's exceedingly difficult to remember who blackmailed whom, which criminals were in bed with which government officials, and who exacted revenge upon whom. What it all boils down to is that greedy CIA agents control everything in New York City, from the elite police squads to the mayor's mansion.

Out of his bungled script, Boaz Yakin did manage to set one new standard: He created the shallowest, sloppiest, most incoherent critique of American power that has ever emerged from Statham-based cinema. The final product looks something like what you'd get if you merged The Trials of Henry Kissinger with Tony Scott's Domino.

Charles Taylor Convicted of War Crimes. Finally!

| Thu Apr. 26, 2012 4:49 PM EDT
Charles Taylor, in custody in 2006

On Thursday, Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, became the first head of state convicted of war crimes by an international court since German naval commander Karl Dönitz (Hitler's successor) faced judgment at the Nuremberg trials. Taylor, who cut his teeth in the '80s as an embezzler and a warlord, was convicted by a UN-backed court in The Hague of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Liberian government handed him over to UN security officials in March 2006.

The court at The Hague found Taylor guilty of providing weapons and technical support to Revolutionary United Front rebel forces fighting in the brutal civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002. (The rebels paid Taylor in blood diamonds in exchange for his support.) The RUF army gained international notoreity for its child soldiers, sadistic attacks on civilians, and widespread use of torture. Announcing the verdict, presiding judge Richard Lussick called Taylor's support for the RUF fighters "sustained and significant." Taylor will serve out his sentence in a maximum security prison in the United Kingdom.

Taylor's six-year presidency was by marked by a record of repression and the Second Liberian Civil War. Here are some bizarre facts about the busted war criminal.

1. Taylor went to school in the United States. Like other mass murderers and foreign terrorists, Taylor was educated in America. In 1977, he graduated with a degree in economics from Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. While at studying at Bentley, Taylor was also busy fathering a second child and showing off his sports car on campus grounds. Other notable Bentley alumni include Dallas Cowboy Mackenzy Bernadeau and Mike Mangini, the drummer for the prog-metal band Dream Theater. Comedian Jay Leno also attended, but dropped out after his first semester.

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