Tag Archives: Spy

UK spy agency chief apologizes for old prejudice against gays

The head of Britain’s digital espionage agency has apologized for the organization’s historic prejudice against gays, saying it failed to learn from the treatment of World War II codebreaker Alan Turing.

In a rare public speech, GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan told a gathering organized by the rights group Stonewall that the agency’s ban on gay people had caused long-lasting psychological damage to many and hurt the agency because talented people were excluded from working there.

“The fact that it was common practice for decades reflected the intolerance of the times and the pressures of the Cold War, but it does not make it any less wrong and we should apologize for it,” Hannigan said Friday at the conference organized by Stonewall, which campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.

The speech offered a poignant tribute to Turing, the gay computer science pioneer and architect of the effort to crack Nazi Germany’s Enigma cipher. Turing was convicted of indecency in 1952 and stripped of his security clearance. He later committed suicide.

A 2014 film about Turing, “The Imitation Game “ starring Benedict Cumberbatch, brought his story to a new generation. At GCHQ, Turing is now seen as a genius — “a problem-solver who was not afraid to think differently and radically,” Hannigan said.

It was partly to honor Turing that the agency’s headquarters was lit up during a global celebration of gender and sexual diversity last year.

“It was also kind of an act of atonement — for the lost opportunity of his early death,” Hannigan said. “Who knows what Turing would have gone on to do, where, for example, he might have taken his pioneering interest in artificial intelligence, which is the thing everyone is talking about. We will never know and should, as a society, never repeat that mistake.”

Hannigan said things are different now.

To make the point, he shared a story about an internal agency blog headlined “So it’s goodbye from him.” Hannigan said that at first he thought it was written by someone who was leaving the agency for the private sector. It turned out to be the story of a transgender employee who had finally decided to start the process of transition.

“We have a lot of courageous staff, civilian and military, straight and gay, who have deployed to Afghanistan, to Iraq, and other conflicts…,” Hannigan said. “But it takes a particular kind of courage to write what Emma wrote in front of thousands of her colleagues.”

Hannigan said he was proud the blog was the most “liked” the agency had ever had, and that the comments were genuinely supportive. But he stressed that GCHQ was still far from a utopia.

“That is the real point of diversity for me,” he said. “To do our job, which is solving some of the hardest technology problems the world faces for security reasons, we need all talents and we need people who dare to think differently and be different. … Dull uniformity would completely destroy us.”

Jon Stewart talks about moving on from ‘The Daily Show’

Aug. 6 will be a dark day for many. Jon Stewart, the irreverent host of The Daily Show, the satirical news program that a proportionately large audience considers more newsworthy than the actual news, will finally step down as the show’s host after 16 years.

The announcement came in February. It’s like losing a best friend for some viewers, many of whom have never lived without the 52 year-old New Yorker’s withering, bluntly caustic dissection of current affairs. A study in 2010 in revealed most young Americans got their news from The Daily Show — even more than from The New York Times and CNN.

“That was never my intention, but for a result like that, you can only be so grateful,” he says. “We obviously did something right.”

So what’s next for the figurehead of satire and inventive analysis? Perhaps a move into filmmaking? Stewart’s directorial debut Rosewater, for which he left The Daily Show for 12 weeks to film in Jordan, indicates that’s a possibility.

The movie is based on a book and the experiences of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian journalist imprisoned by Iran after he was connected to reports on violence against protestors of the country’s presidential elections.

Iranian authorities presented an interview he did on the Daily Show that year as evidence that he was in communication with an American spy, and Bahari spent 118 days in prison being brutally interrogated.

With his close personal connection with Maziar, Stewart felt compelled to work with him on a film of his torturous experiences, while also presenting the terrifying period with a humorous slant.

Casual in a gray sweater and dark jacket, Stewart spoke about his impending departure, his rep as “the most trusted man on TV,” and facing his critics.

Jon, firstly, like so many others, I’m very sad to hear you leaving The Daily Show. Why are you putting us through this?

Life. Time to move on. It’s been 16 years. It’s considered normal for someone looking to move on after that time. And it really has something to do, we all, especially in television and especially now, we all have a certain shelf life. I’ve set up a framework there that would be difficult for me to mutate, in a large enough way that it would make sense to me. The changes that I’ve made there are incremental and I think or I know, I’m at a point where I don’t know how to advance this anymore. I don’t know how to maintain it till it withers. The only thing that would decrease my participation there is a feeling to evolve it properly, to not want to stay there for the wrong reasons and having nothing to do with a greener grass somewhere.

It’s been likened to Oprah’s departure from network television.

I’m in good company then. Look, it is what it is, it’s my decision that was certainly in the back of my mind for some time, and finally I made my mind up. And if the world didn’t fall apart with Oprah’s departure, I think mine will have little impact.

So is it a personal decision, based rather than a professional one?

My family is certainly a factor. They’re always the main factor in all my decisions.

It will seem so strange not to have you on screens in the run up to an election though.

People have said this to me and while incredibly complimentary, I’ve been through it many, many times. It’s the same to me. And there’s only so many ways one can skin a cat. It’s becoming a redundant process, it’s going to be the same process. Nothing was going to be wildly different.

I think what people will miss most is your balance. You were frequently referred to as “the most trusted man on TV,” and as a fake news anchor, coming across more rational and together than any of the actual news disseminators on our screens.

Our show was always incentivized in maybe a different way. So much of news media is incentivized toward extremity and conflict. Because imagine you have a channel and its 24 hours of news. But in reality, only seven minutes of news happens a day, so they have to expand that. Those kinds of apparatus are built for 9/11, for catastrophe, for earthquake. All their resources are required for this incredibly large, incredibly urgent story. So in the absence of that, they’re not going to say, “Don’t watch us, but we’ll be here when it’s necessary.” They’ll try and gin up anything to that urgency. Ebola is a very serious issue, but they will make it more serious and more urgent than it needs to be. So that you feel compelled to tune into them. And I always just wanted to make the best show I could make every day. I don’t ever look at it as a responsibility. We work hard to control the only thing we can control, which is the quality we put out.

Back when you signed on for The Daily Show 15 years ago, it seemed that you were being groomed for the other late night talk shows. What was it about The Daily Show that stood out for you?

Because when you’re doing something that many days a week and writing that much material about it, you have to be driven about the point of view or you’ll be a bit lost. And I did a talk show that wasn’t about current events and feeling less grounded. I didn’t care as much about OJ Simpson or Monica Lewinsky, I needed it to be something that I really cared about.

The Daily Show connection in Rosewater is so absurd and crazy, did you almost feel a responsibility to get this story out there?

Yes, and I’ve said to Maziar, “I’d love to do a sequel if you can get yourself arrested somewhere else, we can work on that (laughs).” That wasn’t really the impetus for it, as much as, we had run some pieces about Iran, not so much having to do with the election but rather the culture. Maziar, when we’d found out that he had been arrested, you know, obviously it was an incredible shock, and we tried to contact the families and things, what they felt was best in continuing to publicize it. But as far as you know, this project, it really came much later when Maziar and I became friends. He and I used to have breakfast in the city when he would come by and that’s where the impetus for turning the book into a movie, began to come up.

When did you first meet him?

I hate to tell you this, but when we go to a place, generally that’s actually a picture, we’re standing in front of a green screen. Iran was the first time we sent someone somewhere. George Bush had called Iran the Axis of Evil and so, at the show, that was a relatively irresistible moniker that we thought, we must go to this place. To see evil with our eyes. But we couldn’t get in. Right before the 2009 election, they liberalized their entrance visa, because so many journalists were coming in to witness the election. So we snuck in on that. Without having any intention of covering the election. And the rest of it caught us off guard. So that was, that was more something that was a happenstance rather than a surprise And Maziar, he was Iranian but he worked for Newsweek. He had a connection with someone and not actually being journalists ourselves, we had contacted people for help in setting up bits. And because he was one of the people who had worked out of London, because he was Iranian, we were just asking him to participate, and get his feet on the ground.

But didn’t you ever feel these skits were going to put him at risk?

God no, we never, honestly, it never occurred to us. We had left before the revolution began in earnest and I thought a lot about it since then, the idea was there something in that. The problem of responsibility, what we did was nothing, what Maziar did was nothing. He wasn’t a spy, our interview with him meant nothing to that. When a country weaponizes the banal or idiocy or the innocuous, you ask yourself what could we have done differently and you ask yourself, nothing. Because whatever pretense they were using was false. It’s like if you get arrested walking down the street, you say to yourself, “What could I have done to not get arrested,” and you think, “Well, I could have just not walked.” The things that were being done were in no way what they were being used for. And I can’t imagine Maziar thought it was a risk either. It was a man, Jason Jones, wearing a kafiya, in sunglasses, being filmed, in the open saying to Maziar, “I’m an American spy, and I’d like to ask you about Iran.” I think you’d be hard pressed to think in any scenario that that might get me in trouble. It’s just so stupid. So I think that was, we thought a lot about it, you know, what he really got in trouble for was witnessing atrocity. What we could have done differently was not have someone not witness atrocity and that’s not an option.

Why take this one as your directorial debut?

Maziar had written this incredible book. And he asked if I knew how to make this into a movie. And not knowing how to do that, I said, “Of course, I know how to do that” (laughs). But it was going to be helping him to produce it. So we were going to establish a decent list of writers and people that we thought might make a great script for it. But that process was so glacial and took so long, and my eventual involvement as a writer and as a director was due to my impatience. I’d never been through that. We produce things like, 9 o’clock in the morning, you have a stupid idea, by 5 o’clock it’s on television. It was more the frustration of a movie that should be made as a current event, rather than a historical artifact. And I think we both came to the conclusion that if we want this film to be done, we were going to have to do it ourselves. But what I realized during this whole process, this whole experience, is that technology has changed the very face of what it means to be a journalist and what it means to bear witness. Because these regimes, generally have apparatuses that exist to suppress information, Western regimes as well, America as well. They may not be as ham-handed about it, it may not appear so kabuki in its practice, but journalists in America would be hard pressed to say they’d never felt the pressure to suppress information in some form from government or other entities. Well now that dissemination of information has been democratized, those regimes extend their tentacles much more forcefully, but in many more directions and that apparatus has become much not only much more expensive and unwieldy, but so much more ineffective.

The Iranian government has been, expectedly, critical of your film.

I expect nothing but absurdity. … I know I did everything I could to be fair and right with the story. I know there was nothing I could have done to make them feel, “Yea that’s fair, I see where we went wrong.” I tried to just feel as good about it, the integrity about it, as I could. Whatever they say, they say.

The critics have been somewhat unkind of the film too.

I’m used to it. You don’t perform in clubs, you don’t host the Oscars a couple of times without people drawing moustaches on your face and kicking you in the nuts. That being said, I do take seriously the notion of clarity of vision and recognize that I don’t know everything, I’m only too aware of that.

You use humor to tackle such a tricky, sensitive subject, and that’s really what you’ve done when it comes to politics your entire career, why is that?

I think some of that is wiring. I think it’s just, how I cope. Repression and humor.

Was this as a child? Because I read where you endured anti-Semitic bullying as a child.

You know, I came into a type of abuse, which all children face as a child in all places. Children have a unique ad special quality where they will assess you, find your weak spot, find what it is that they will hang on to and utilize it. But in no way was it, this was not a Louis Malle movie, it was in no way more than what the Italian kids in my school faced for being Italian. Or the Irish kids. Or the dork kids or the tall kids or heavy kids. Because of how my brain is wired, I tended to deflect it as humor where kids genetically superior to me would use fisticuffs. That, I don’t want to ever portray it that I ever suffered under this oppressive, it was very middle-class kid bullshit. I’m generally someone who likes to prat fall and run.

Broad coalition demands accounting of surveillance of Muslim leaders

A broad-based coalition of 45 organizations led by the American Civil Liberties Union is calling on the president to “provide a full public accounting” of surveillance against U.S. Muslim leaders.

The demand was prompted by new revelations, reported by journalists Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain and contained in documents secured by the ACLU, of U.S. intelligence targeting for surveillance leaders in the Muslim community in the United States. The White House has called for a review of training and policy materials for racial or religious bias but, according to the coalition, not yet offered a position on the surveillance concerns.

According to the reports, thousands of U.S. community leaders, activists and organization representatives came under surveillance by federal intelligence agencies. Greenwald reported on July 9 that the National Security Agency spied on organizational emails, phone records, member and donor lists, and civil rights strategies, among other information.

The coalition, in a letter to President Barack Obama, wrote, “The First Look report is troubling because it arises in this broader context of abuse. Documents obtained through an American Civil Liberties Union Freedom of Information Act request show that the FBI has been mapping a broad spectrum of communities, including American Muslim communities, the African American community and Latino American communities, without any basis for individualized suspicion. Under the guise of community outreach, the FBI targeted mosques and Muslim community organizations for intelligence gathering. It has pressured law-abiding American Muslims to become informants against their own communities, often in coercive circumstances. It has also stigmatized innocent Muslims by placing them on the No Fly List and other watch lists. In short, the government’s domestic counterterrorism policies treat entire minority communities as suspect, and American Muslims have borne the brunt of government suspicion, stigma and abuse.”

The letter continued, “These practices hurt not only American Muslims, but all communities that expect law enforcement to serve and protect America’s diverse population equally, without discrimination. They strike the bedrock of democracy: that no one should grow up fearful of law enforcement, scared to exercise the rights to freedom of speech, association and worship.”

The coalition includes:


American Civil Liberties Union

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Amnesty International

Arab American Institute

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus

Brennan Center for Justice

Center for Community Change

Center for Constitutional Rights

Council on American-Islamic Relations

Defending Dissent Foundation

Free Press

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders

Human Rights Campaign

Human Rights Watch

Interfaith Alliance

Islamic Society of North America

Lambda Legal

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Muslim Advocates

Muslim League Fund of America

Muslim Public Affairs Council

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Legal Defense Fund

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Coalition on Black Civic Participation

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

National Immigration Law Center

National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild

National Lawyers Guild

National Network for Arab American Communities

National Religious Campaign Against Torture

National Security Network

National Urban League

New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute

New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Partnership for Civil Justice Fund

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund

The Sikh Coalition

South Asian Americans Leading Together

Transgender Law Center

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

“The FBI has apparently been targeting American Muslim religious leaders for surveillance on seemingly bias-based suspicion of terrorism,” said Rea Carey of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “Our nation’s history is scarred with examples of secret surveillance of entire communities based purely on bias: it was wrong to surveil gay men and lesbians in the 50s, it was wrong to surveil African-American Civil Rights leaders in the 60s; it was wrong to surveil women’s rights leaders in the 70s, and it is wrong today to surveil civil rights leaders of the American Muslim community. We stand with a broad coalition of religious and civil rights leaders in calling on President Obama to initiate an investigation and end this practice immediately.” 

Abed Ayoub, policy director, of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said on July 10, “The magnitude of these revelations is shocking. The Obama administration, through its directives and instructions, has shown zero regard for protecting the Constitutional Rights of the Arab- and Muslim-American communities.”

NSA debate pits far left, right against middle

Revelations of massive government collections of Americans’ phone and email records have reinvigorated an odd-couple political alliance of the far left and right.

A number of Democratic civil liberties activists, along with libertarian-leaning Republicans, say the government actions are too broad and don’t adequately protect citizens’ privacy.

But this unlikely coalition might have trouble doing anything more than spicing up the national debate. Solid majorities of Americans and their elected representatives appear to support the chief elements of the government’s secret data-gathering, and even some of Congress’ most outspoken, pro-limited-government tea partyers are wading cautiously into the discussions.

Among other things, the latest privacy-vs.-security struggle may test libertarianism’s clout within the Republican Party. In political circles, it’s a favorite topic since the tea party emerged, built largely on antipathy toward President Barack Obama’s major health care expansion.

“This is a marginal national security group within our party,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said of those who call the government snooping unwarranted or unconstitutional. “I just don’t see how anybody gets elected as a Republican” by running to the “left of Obama on national security,” said Graham, one of the Senate’s most hawkish members.

Leading the libertarian charge is Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has clashed with Graham on other issues, including the use of unmanned aircraft to kill terrorism suspects.

Paul told “Fox News Sunday” he would ask “all the Internet providers and all of the phone companies” and their customers to join a class-action lawsuit against surveillance techniques that he called “an extraordinary invasion of privacy.”

“Get a warrant and go after a terrorist, or a murderer or a rapist,” Paul said. “But don’t troll through a billion phone records every day. That is unconstitutional.”

Paul is weighing a possible presidential bid. His father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, drew a loyal libertarian following in his unsuccessful presidential campaigns.

The furor over security and privacy came with the disclosure – in unauthorized leaks to news organizations – of two far-reaching programs run by the National Security Agency. One gathers hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records to – the administration says – search for possible links to known terrorist targets abroad. The other allows the government to tap into nine U.S. Internet companies and gather all communications to detect suspicious behavior that begins overseas.

A handful of congressional liberals have raised complaints similar to Paul’s.

“I want our law enforcement people to be vigorous in going after terrorists,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who has long called himself a socialist, told MSNBC. “But I happen to believe they can do that without disregarding the Constitution.”

The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, and it guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. The American Civil Liberties Union – often a target of conservatives’ derision – has filed a lawsuit saying the NSA programs violate those provisions.

Congressional leaders of both parties are mostly defending the surveillance programs. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was especially outspoken Tuesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“I’ve been briefed on all of these programs,” Boehner said. “There are clear safeguards,” he said. “There’s no American who’s going to be snooped on, in any way, unless they’re in contact with some terrorists somewhere around the world.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said last week, “Everyone should just calm down and understand that this isn’t anything that is brand new. It’s been going on for some seven years.” Reid said Congress will “try to make it better.”

It’s not unprecedented for liberal Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans to join forces on issues that essentially bend the left-right spectrum into a circle. Such activists, for example, generally support gay marriage and, in some cases, marijuana legalization.

Those out-in-the-open issues, however, differ from the covert NSA surveillance matter. Public support for gay rights has grown dramatically, and drug legalization is a comparatively low-profile issue.

America was founded by people who railed against a British government they considered oppressive. But Americans also want the federal government to protect them, a task that grew more daunting after the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

Some tea party-backed senators, who have joined Paul in other causes, are moving cautiously on the NSA matter.

“What we have seen so far is troubling,” but “at this point we don’t have a clear picture of what their policy is,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told reporters Tuesday.

Cruz sought to link the NSA matter to other scandals where Obama’s critics feel on safer ground. That includes the Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of tea party-related groups seeking tax-exempt status.

“Given the pattern of misconduct we have seen with the IRS, given the pattern we have seen throughout the administration,” Cruz said, “their past actions do not engender trust.”

Even as some critics say anti-terrorism programs go too far in scooping up electronic records, others say they’ve done too little to thwart terrorist attacks. They cite the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings and the 2009 fatal shooting of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas.

Cruz said both criticisms are warranted.

In the Boston and Fort Hood, cases, he said, “the administration was well aware of the terrorists long before the act of terrorism was committed,” yet, “for whatever reason, dropped the ball and didn’t act to prevent actual terrorists who took the lives of innocents.” Cruz said the government may have been “focusing more energy on casting the net wide and invading the privacy of law-abiding Americans rather than targeting the bad guys.”

A CBS News poll conducted June 9-10 showed that while most approve of government collection of phone records of Americans suspected of terrorist activity and Internet activities of foreigners, a majority disapproved of federal agencies collecting the phone records of ordinary Americans. Thirty percent agreed with the government’s assessment that the revelation of the programs would hurt the U.S.’ ability to prevent future terrorist attacks, while 57 percent said it would have no impact.

Marine denies mocking Bradley Manning’s homosexuality

A former supervisor of the Marine Corps brig that housed an Army private charged with sending U.S. secrets to the WikiLeaks website denied this week that he was making light of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s homosexuality when he referred to the soldier’s underwear as “panties” in a staff memo.

Marine Corps Master Sgt. Brian Papakie testified as a prosecution witness on the seventh day of a pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, near Baltimore. The hearing will determine whether the nine months Manning spent in Marine Corps custody in Quantico, Virginia, amounts to illegal pretrial punishment, and whether his case should be dismissed as a result. The military contends Manning had to be confined to his cell at least 23 hours a day, sometimes without clothing, to prevent him from hurting or killing himself during his confinement July 2010-April 2011.

Papakie testified on cross-examination about a memo he wrote after the brig commander ordered Manning stripped of his underwear each night starting March 2, 2011. Manning stood naked at attention for a prisoner count the next morning, causing a stir that prompted Papakie to write an email to ensure it didn’t happen again.

“Make sure he is not standing at attention naked for evening count right before taps. You should be taking his panties right before he lays down,” Papakie wrote.

Under questioning by defense attorney David Coombs, Papakie said he uses the word interchangeably with “skivvies” and “underwear” when discussing men’s undershorts.

“I’ve always used the phrase, ‘Don’t get my panties in a bunch,’ which is what I tell the staff all the time,” he said.

Papakie acknowledged that he knew Manning was gay but said he didn’t consider the word “panties” homophobic. He conceded that it was not professional to use the term in a memo.

Papakie followed another witness, Marine Corps Master Sgt. Craig Blenis, who testified that Manning’s sexual orientation was among the factors that led him to recommend Manning remain on injury-prevention status despite two psychiatrists’ repeated recommendations that his conditions be eased.

Manning was arrested in May 2010, before the military lifted a ban on gays serving openly in the armed services.

Manning’s lawyers must show that his treatment at Quantico was either intentional punishment or so egregious that it was tantamount to punishment. The government has the burden of proving by preponderance of the evidence that it had a legitimate purpose in imposing the restrictions.

The judge, Col. Denise Lind, could dismiss all charges if she finds for the defense but military legal experts say that’s unlikely. A more common remedy is extra credit at sentencing for time served. Manning’s lawyers have asked for 10-for-1 credit if the judge refuses to dismiss the case.

Manning’s treatment drew international attention and was condemned by his supporters, who consider him a heroic whistleblower. United Nations torture investigator Juan E. Mendez called Manning’s treatment “cruel, inhuman and degrading.”

The 24-year-old is charged with 22 offenses, including aiding the enemy, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. He’s accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010.

He’s also charged with leaking a 2007 video clip of a U.S. helicopter crew gunning down 11 men later found to have included a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The Pentagon concluded the troops acted appropriately, having mistaken the camera equipment for weapons.

Judge defends sentence in webcam spy case

After fielding criticism in emails, blogs and newspaper columns, a judge this week defended his decision to give a 30-day jail sentence to the former Rutgers student who used a webcam to spy on his gay roommate.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman said the punishment is harsh enough to deter others from doing the same thing, but not so severe that it will dump 20-year-old Dharun Ravi into prison with hardened criminals.

“I can’t find it in me to remand him to state prison that houses people convicted of offenses such as murder, armed robbery and rape,” Berman said. “I don’t believe that fits this case. I believe he has to be punished and he will be.”

Ravi reported to jail on May 31 to start serving his sentence.

In March, a jury found Ravi guilty of 15 criminal charges, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation. He used his webcam in September 2010 to stream – and view – seconds of live video of roommate Tyler Clementi and another man kissing, and told others they could watch another encounter two days later. Clementi jumped to his death from New York City’s George Washington Bridge just days after the ordeal began.

Some gay rights activists have portrayed his story as a prime example of the consequences of bullying young gays. And Ravi’s defenders see him as a scapegoat for a death that they don’t believe he was responsible for – and was not charged with.

Berman said he wanted to explain further the sentence he handed down last week largely because it’s being appealed by prosecutors, who say it’s too lenient, and he wanted to provide appellate judges for a clear rationale for his decision.

His amplification came during a hearing to clear the way for Ravi to report to jail – even though he could have remained free while prosecutors appeal the sentence. His lawyer said he would also begin working on his 300 hours of community service and start paying the more than $11,000 in fines and assessments that are part of his punishment.

Ravi requested permission on May 29 to start serving as he apologized for the first time for his actions, which he described in a statement as “thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish.” In court May 30, Ravi answered questions from his lawyer and Berman but did not say any more about his apology.

Ravi’s lawyer Joseph Benedict said he’s still appealing the conviction altogether.

To start serving while the prosecutor’s appeal looms, Ravi had to agree to waive his protection from double jeopardy. He is now not allowed to argue that he’s already served his time if prosecutors prevail on their appeal and give him a longer sentence.

It’s not clear whether he will serve the full 30 days. In most cases, New Jersey county jail inmates with 30-day sentences automatically have them reduced by 10 days for good behavior. A warden at Middlesex County Jail was not immediately available to say whether that would apply to Ravi.

Clementi’s parents, who had been fixtures in the courtroom for Ravi’s previous appearances and throughout a trial that lasted three weeks, did not attend on May 30.

During the hearing, Berman reiterated something he said last week when he sentenced Ravi: Even though bias intimidation is usually referred to as a hate-crime, he does not believe that title fits this case. “I don’t defend his actions against Tyler Clementi, nor does he,” Berman said. “I don’t think it was motivated by hatred, and I’ll stand on that.”

The judge said that he believes lawmakers who crafted New Jersey’s bias intimidation laws expected it to be applied mostly in cases involving assaults or violence – not one like this.

For that reason, he said, justice would be served by handing down a sentence well under the usual 5-to-10 year range for a second-degree crime such as bias intimidation.

And he said he sees the $10,000 he ordered Ravi to pay to a group for bias-crime victims as a major part of the punishment.

Berman, a former prosecutor in the county, clashed in court with Middlesex First Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure over both the need for a written order on the day’s proceedings and the wording of it.

He also asked the prosecutor what she believed an appropriate sentence would have been.

She said five years.

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Former Rutgers student sentenced to 30 days in Webcam spy case

Former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail today for using a webcam to spy on Tyler Clementi, Ravi’s gay roommate who committed suicide in September 2010.

Ravi activated a dorm-room Webcam to spy on Clementi in a romantic encounter with another man and encouraged others to spy, via the Web, on his roommate. Soon after, Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.

After a four-week trial in New Jersey, Ravi was convicted in March of 15 criminal charges including invasion of privacy, tampering with evidence and bias intimidation.

When he entered the courtroom this morning, he faced up to 10 years in prison and deportation to India, where he was born and remains a citizen, though he has lived most of his life in New Jersey.

The case has turned both Clementi and Ravi, who for just three weeks shared a Rutgers University dorm room they were randomly assigned, into widely known symbols. Clementi is seen as an example of what can happen to young gays who are too often bullied even as acceptance of gays has increased. Ravi has been portrayed as a young man victimized by overzealous prosecutors who reacted to a tragedy by piling on charges.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman sentenced Ravi after hearing emotional statements from Clementi’s family and friends and Ravi’s family and friends.

Ravi’s mother, through tears, blamed the media for misconstruing the facts and “ripping” apart her son, who cannot safely go out in public. After her statement, she hugged her son, who declined to address the court.

Clementi’s mother, through tears, said, “The devastation of the loss of my son was more than I could bear… I felt like a piece of me died.”

The judge, after hearing the statements, stressed the guilty verdicts from the jury and the lack of an apology from Ravi. He said Ravi’s pre-sentencing letter was unimpressive and inadequate and that, while he might some day clear his record, Ravi could never expunge the pain and harm he caused.

He said the sentence he imposed was balanced, constructive and would hopefully provide “a measure of closure” and then announced that Ravi would serve 30 days in jail, plus probation.

The judge also recommended that Ravi not be deported, but observed the decision rests with the federal government.

Ravi’s lawyers have said there will be an appeal.

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Guilty verdict in Rutgers spycam case

A former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate’s love life was convicted of invasion of privacy and anti-gay intimidation Friday in a case that exploded into the headlines when the victim threw himself to his death off a bridge.

Dharun Ravi, 20, shook his head slightly after hearing guilty verdicts on all 15 counts against him. He and his lawyers left the courthouse without comment, his father’s arm around his shoulders.

He could get up to 10 years in prison, by some estimates — and could be deported to his native India, even though he has lived legally in the U.S. since he was a little boy — for an act that cast a spotlight on teen suicide and anti-gay bullying and illustrated the Internet’s potential for tormenting others.

Prosecutors said Ravi set up a webcam in his dorm room in September 2010 and captured roommate Tyler Clementi kissing another man, then tweeted about it and excitedly tried to catch Clementi in the act again two days later. A half-dozen students were believed to have seen the live video of the kissing.

Within days, Clementi realized he had been watched and leaped from the George Washington Bridge after posting one last status update on Facebook: “Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry.”

At a courthouse news conference after the verdict, Clementi’s father, Joe, addressed himself to college students and other young people, saying: “You’re going to meet a lot of people in your life. Some of these people you may not like. Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean you have to work against them.”

Rutgers said in a statement: “This sad incident should make us all pause to recognize the importance of civility and mutual respect in the way we live, work and communicate with others.”

During the trial, Ravi’s lawyer argued that the college freshman was not motivated by any hostility toward gays and that his actions were just those of an immature “kid.” The defense also contended Ravi initially set up the camera because he was afraid Clementi’s older, “sketchy”-looking visitor might steal his belongings.

The jury found Ravi not guilty on some subparts of some of the charges, but guilty of all 15 counts as a whole.

The most serious charges — bias intimidation based on sexual orientation, a hate crime — carry up to 10 years behind bars each. But legal experts said the most Ravi would probably get all together at sentencing May 21 would be 10 years.

Before the trial, Ravi and his lawyers had rejected a plea bargain that would have spared him from prison. He would have gotten probation and community service and would have been given help in avoiding deportation.

Ravi was not charged with causing Clementi’s death, and the suicide remained largely in the background at the trial, though some witnesses mentioned it and the jury was told Clementi had taken his life.

Prosecutors were not allowed to argue directly that the spying led to his death; defense lawyers were barred from saying there were other reasons he killed himself.

Each bias intimidation charge included five questions. A finding of guilty on any of them made Ravi guilty of the entire charge. The jury issued a split verdict on those subquestions.

It found, for example, that Ravi did not try to intimidate Clementi’s romantic partner, identified in court only as M.B., and that Clementi reasonably believed Ravi was trying to intimidate him because of his sexual orientation. It split on questions of whether Ravi knowingly or willfully intimidated Clementi because of his sexuality.

Clementi’s death was one in a string of suicides by young gays around the country in September 2010. President Barack Obama commented on it, as did talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

New Jersey lawmakers hastened passage of an anti-bullying law because of the case, and Rutgers changed its housing policies to allow people of the opposite sex to room together in an effort to make gay, bisexual and transgender students feel more comfortable.

Testimony came from about 30 witnesses over 12 days, including 32-year-old M.B. Ravi himself did not testify, though the jury watched a video of his interrogation by police.

Ravi and Clementi, both 18-year-old freshmen from comfortable New Jersey suburbs, had been randomly assigned to room together, and Clementi had arrived at college just a few days after coming out to his parents as gay.

A string of students testified they never heard Ravi say anything bad about gays in general or Clementi in particular. But students did say Ravi expressed some concern about sharing a room with a gay man.

On Sept. 19, according to testimony, Clementi asked Ravi to leave their room so that he could have a guest. Later, Ravi posted on Twitter: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

Ravi told police that he watched only seconds of the encounter via computer.

His friend Molly Wei testified that she and a few other students also watched the live stream of the men kissing. (Wei was initially charged in the case but was later accepted into a pretrial program that will allow her to keep her record clean.)

Two nights later, Clementi asked for the room alone again. This time, Ravi tweeted: “I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it’s happening again.” He also texted a friend about a planned “viewing party” and, two students said, went to friends’ rooms to show them how to access the feed.

However, there was no evidence the webcam was turned on that night. Ravi told police he had put his computer to sleep. Prosecutors argued Clementi himself unplugged the computer.

According to testimony, Clementi submitted a room-change request form and talked to a resident assistant about what happened. He also used his laptop to view Ravi’s Twitter site 38 times in the last two days of his life. He killed himself Sept. 22.

Spy agency a good place for gays to work

A British LGBT civil rights group is releasing its list of 100 top employers in 2012, and among the best organizations is M15, the British Secret Service.

Ernst & Young tops the list. In second place is the Home Office and Barclays ranks third.

MI5’s position in the Top 100 is a first, according to Stonewall, which planned to release the complete list at a ceremony later on Jan. 11 in London.

“Competition for a place in the Top 100 was fiercer than ever this year,” said Ben Summerskill, Stonewall chief executive. “With new, more demanding criteria, every employer securing a position in the Top 100 has performed impressively – and the participating employers collectively employ over 1.9 million people. The index remains a powerful tool used by Britain’s 1.7 million gay employees and 150,000 gay university students to decide where to take their talent and skills.”

Liz Bingham, of Ernst & Young, said, “A strong commitment to diversity and inclusiveness is not only important for our people, but is also a business imperative in what is an increasingly competitive and interconnected world.”

Jonathan Evans, director general of MI5, said, “The Security Service has worked hard in recent years to promote equality and diversity across all areas of its work. We are pleased to be recognized by Stonewall, but there is still more we can do. We will continue to support lesbian, gay and bisexual staff to make MI5 a truly inclusive place to work.”

The index is based on a range of key indicators which this year included a confidential survey of employees, according to Stonewall.