Will #Mali’s new government herald arms or armies?

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In less time than it takes for an apartment pineapple to ripen, a new government of national unity has been formed in Mali in the latest effort to restore stability after the military coup in March. It follows 5 long months of political tug-of-war between the ready-meal interim government and the frozen-dinner coup leadership headed by Captain Sanogo. The Captain was persuaded to release his grip a little, after his palms were oiled with a palatial home and “former head of state” status – including a generous allowance. The cabinet has 31 ministers, including five from Sanogo’s camp. The head of the interim government, Cheick Modibo Diarra, stays on as prime minister. For now.

Early-stage pre-coup pineapple during US training

During this incubation period, interim President Dioncounda Traore was attacked, and spent several weeks recovering in Paris. No doubt he spent more of that time in the briefing room of  Boulevard Mortier  than in recovery. Shortly after Dioncounda returned to Mali, one of the former President’s elite Red Beret guards, Staff Sergeant Amadou Traore, was murdered in his barracks. That signal seems to have been received loud and clear; no further attacks on the interim president have been reported yet.

Last month, the regional bloc ECOWAS threatened to expel Mali unless a unity government was installed, according to the BBC. Yesterday, there were news reports of ECOWAS and Algeria [ar] barring military shipments to Mali. Meanwhile, Major General Suleiman Mahmoud al-Obeidi, Libya’s former Deputy Director of Military Intelligence and Chairman of the Republican Guard in Benghazi, reveals that, when there was a weapons amnesty and surrendering of arms in Libya last year, his unit alone boycotted the deal and instead their weapons passed to mercenaries from Egypt, for onward transfer to AQIM in Algeria and Mali. Doubly painful, as it was the ousted former president Touré, aka “ATT”, who said in February that they needed more military hardware to respond to the MNLA’s attacks, widely reported to be using massive fire-power brought back from Libya.

Weapons in 30 Days or Your Next Government Half Price

We need to wait to see if the formation of a new unity government defrosts the supply of arms, and whether they’ll be delivered by shipment or in person. Just last weekend, Al Jazeera Arabic reported a training exercise in Libya (irony alert) of 2,000 troops including 800 special forces from Great Britain, France, Spain and Italy, in preparation for an incursion into Malian territory. The training programme lasted from February to June. Here’s the video:

There are many competing theories about what is going on in Mali. One school of thought insists that the plan is, and always has been, to get the boots of foreign troops on the ground. However, just as with the reports of armed rebels severing someone’s hand as a punishment for stealing (and the victim later dying), and of their threat-or-promise to repeat the exercise with hundreds more after the Eid holiday, or even of the beheading* that UNHCR’s spokesperson Melissa Fleming claimed to have happened, there’s no way of knowing if the scenario portrayed in this video sheds light on the actual situation.

How can we figure Mali out? To butcher the old standard, “follow the ransom money” and we find food for thought. For example, fresh claims of Swiss support for the rebels appeared last week. This was denied by the MNLA as a rumour created by a Swiss journalist and promoted to a fact by a website in Mauritania, where the media has carved a niche for exclusive revelations about Mali.

I was anticipating more mention of Switzerland, after a Swiss woman was apparently taken hostage in Timbuctu by a private militia who planned to trade her to AQIM. The lady was reportedly “rescued” by Ansar Dine and released for an alleged 1 million Euro, in a deal where they demanded to liaise directly with the Swiss officials, rejecting the offer of a human rights NGO to mediate.  That event was soon followed by a spectacular betrayal of MNLA by Ansar Dine, who hijacked the uprising and forced the secular separatists into a retreat from which they have yet to emerge. Speculation about how the more radical supporters of religion achieved this feat includes the investment of ransom capital to buy supporters. There have been other kidnappings: three Westerners abducted nearly nine months ago by AQIM in Mali, seen today urging their governments to help free them in an Al-Jazeera television exclusive video, and the seven Algerian diplomatic staff taken from the embassy in Gao, three of whom were returned last month, shortly after the release of one Italian and two Spanish hostages. This last exchange was said to be accompanied by a few more million Euro and the release of two more prisoners – one assumed by some to be connected to the POLISARIO – who were being held in Mauritania for their part in the kidnapping of the three Europeans.

Within days Mauritania benefited from a capitulation by the EU (Note: the EU Africa team is led by a Spaniard) finally agreeing to their exorbitant new terms for renewing the fishing agreement, and an agreement from Spain to salvage the small aircraft “donated” to Mauritania in June last year to help in the fight against illegal immigrants, and which had remained, unairworthy and stranded on the tarmac, more or less the whole time.

This brings me to another stranded plane – the famous “Air Cocaine” Boeing jet from South America which landed/crashed just north of Gao in a village called Tarkint at the end of October 2009, and was reportedly torched by the smugglers after their cargo of drugs had been retrieved. The local mayor was known as an intermediary with AQIM for the release of kidnap victims.

The char grilled remains of “Air Cocaine” /JON SISTIAGA

“Air Cocaine” was registered in Saudi Arabia,  rented in Venezuela, and had made previous trips from Colombia  under a licence issued by Guinea Bissau, but which had expired at some point. The drug trafficking was said to be linked to AQIM, and this flight’s cargo could have been worth anything between 150 and 300 million Euro. Some of these details only became apparent much later, after WikiLeaks’ cables release, as the original investigation was handled by the intelligence services and shrouded in secrecy.  There were dozens of arrests, but few detentions or convictions in connection with this scandal. Then last week, we learned that the last two suspects, one French, one Spanish, had been released in Mali. The drug smuggling case against the Spaniard was thrown out.  This chap is a real charmer: a former Madrid policeman, until he was busted for trafficking, drugs, explosives, weapons, and counterfeit identity documents. He also had a suspended sentence in Mali connected to the gruesome murder [es] of a Colombian with a forged Ukrainian passport. He apparently plans to stay in Mali. One would hope he is short of alternatives but why leave Mali, when half the world is ready to come to you?

Additionally, a wealthy businessman from Tilemsi in the Gao region – Mohamed Ould Awaynat – who had been sentenced to one year in prison for his part in the trafficking scandal, was reportedly released in January this year, in an alleged deal with the Malian government. In exchange for his freedom, he is said to have paid to recruit and train northern fighters to boost the ranks of the army against the MNLA. They do say money makes the world go around. If you add massive cash flows from drug trafficking it begins to spin put of control. That is certainly what appears the be the case in Mali.

All these rebel groups in Mali seem like just so many finger puppets. But to which “invisible hand” do the fingers belong?

If you enjoy bizarre details – and you’ve got this far, so I should take that as given – then you might be further entertained by the fact that the article in the previous link, by Andy Morgan in Think Africa Press, was posted on FaceBook in a now lifeless MNLA group, requiring 14 comments to post in its entirety. The comment poster uses the name Ghazi Agizul and, although his bio says he’s a proud Amazigh from Tunisia, I found it odd that “Ghazi” used a translation tool to render the English original into French, which should be a natural language for him. That he didn’t post a link to Google Translate or use a Note instead of 14+ comments is not mysterious, only irritating. If it transpired that Andy Morgan and Ghazi Agizul were one and the same person, that would be interesting. It would also raise many general questions about the clandestine online and offline activities of certain people who present themselves publicly as working in the media, but that is a whole other story. Going back to the article itself, it’s too lengthy to analyse in depth but there are some factual errors, which always has the effect of eroding credibility. For example,  Mr Morgan claims to have spent years in northern Mali, yet placed Kati near Timbuktu. I wouldn’t blame him if the article was simply too long for him to cope with when it got to proof-reading.

Also in the WikiLeaked cable, we learn of another incident involving a plane:  US military making a “hard landing” 65 miles from Bamako, and receiving assistance. ATT was happy to help because “he knew the United States was coming to help Mali”. Sadly, nothing could be done to help the three US military and their three civilian companions who died in a vehicle accident in April this year. Will the US be coming to help again; will they feel they no longer need an invite?

Short of the IAEA declaring that there are nuclear weapons hidden in the barren wastelands of northern Mali, I wonder how many more UN agencies or NGOs can enter the fray, wringing their collective hands over the many unverified domestic dramas that they claim are engulfing this most coveted of would-be war zones, declaring every incident a war crime, and clamouring at the gates to be allowed in to rescue Mali from itself and the horrors of Sharia law’s unjust desserts.

As ATT noted in February, with a prescience we have yet to fully to appreciate: “There are many rumors. If we are not careful, we’ll fall into the hands of those who are attacking Mali and who want to oppose the government.”

*I assume Ms Fleming meant to say “stoning” – but there is no solid evidence of that having happened, either. If she did witness a beheading, I’d have liked her to verify in reply to my question, especially since her bio includes the phrase “Tweets highlight the stories of human suffering and resilience I witness every day.” [my emphasis].

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Anonymous Hackers Give 5 million STRATFOR Emails to WikiLeaks

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27 Feb 2012:

George Friedman

George Friedman

WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files – more than five million emails from the Texas-headquartered “global intelligence” company Stratfor. The emails date from between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods, for example:

“[Y]ou have to take control of him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control… This is intended to start our conversation on your next phase” – CEO George Friedman to Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla on 6 December 2011, on how to exploit an Israeli intelligence informant providing information on the medical condition of the President of Venezuala, Hugo Chavez.

The material contains privileged information about the US government’s attacks against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Stratfor’s own attempts to subvert WikiLeaks. There are more than 4,000 emails mentioning WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. The emails also expose the revolving door that operates in private intelligence companies in the United States. Government and diplomatic sources from around the world give Stratfor advance knowledge of global politics and events in exchange for money. The Global Intelligence Files exposes how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world.

The material shows how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients. For example, Stratfor monitored and analysed the online activities of Bhopal activists, including the “Yes Men”, for the US chemical giant Dow Chemical. The activists seek redress for the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India. The disaster led to thousands of deaths, injuries in more than half a million people, and lasting environmental damage.

Stratfor has realised that its routine use of secret cash bribes to get information from insiders is risky. In August 2011, Stratfor CEO George Friedman confidentially told his employees: “We are retaining a law firm to create a policy for Stratfor on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. I don’t plan to do the perp walk and I don’t want anyone here doing it either.”

Stratfor’s use of insiders for intelligence soon turned into a money-making scheme of questionable legality. The emails show that in 2009 then-Goldman Sachs Managing Director Shea Morenz and Stratfor CEO George Friedman hatched an idea to “utilise the intelligence” it was pulling in from its insider network to start up a captive strategic investment fund. CEO George Friedman explained in a confidential August 2011 document, marked DO NOT SHARE OR DISCUSS: “What StratCap will do is use our Stratfor’s intelligence and analysis to trade in a range of geopolitical instruments, particularly government bonds, currencies and the like”. The emails show that in 2011 Goldman Sach’s Morenz invested “substantially” more than $4million and joined Stratfor’s board of directors. Throughout 2011, a complex offshore share structure extending as far as South Africa was erected, designed to make StratCap appear to be legally independent. But, confidentially, Friedman told StratFor staff: “Do not think of StratCap as an outside organisation. It will be integral… It will be useful to you if, for the sake of convenience, you think of it as another aspect of Stratfor and Shea as another executive in Stratfor… we are already working on mock portfolios and trades”. StratCap is due to launch in 2012.

The Stratfor emails reveal a company that cultivates close ties with US government agencies and employs former US government staff. It is preparing the 3-year Forecast for the Commandant of the US Marine Corps, and it trains US marines and “other government intelligence agencies” in “becoming government Stratfors”. Stratfor’s Vice-President for Intelligence, Fred Burton, was formerly a special agent with the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and was their Deputy Chief of the counterterrorism division. Despite the governmental ties, Stratfor and similar companies operate in complete secrecy with no political oversight or accountability. Stratfor claims that it operates “without ideology, agenda or national bias”, yet the emails reveal private intelligence staff who align themselves closely with US government policies and channel tips to the Mossad – including through an information mule in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Yossi Melman, who conspired with Guardian journalist David Leigh to secretly, and in violation of WikiLeaks’ contract with the Guardian, move WikiLeaks US diplomatic cables to Israel.

Ironically, considering the present circumstances, Stratfor was trying to get into what it called the leak-focused “gravy train” that sprung up after WikiLeaks’ Afghanistan disclosures:

“[Is it] possible for us to get some of that ‘leak-focused’ gravy train? This is an obvious fear sale, so that’s a good thing. And we have something to offer that the IT security companies don’t, mainly our focus on counter-intelligence and surveillance that Fred and Stick know better than anyone on the planet… Could we develop some ideas and procedures on the idea of ´leak-focused’ network security that focuses on preventing one’s own employees from leaking sensitive information… In fact, I’m not so sure this is an IT problem that requires an IT solution.”

Like WikiLeaks’ diplomatic cables, much of the significance of the emails will be revealed over the coming weeks, as our coalition and the public search through them and discover connections. Readers will find that whereas large numbers of Stratfor’s subscribers and clients work in the US military and intelligence agencies, Stratfor gave a complimentary membership to the controversial Pakistan general Hamid Gul, former head of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, who, according to US diplomatic cables, planned an IED attack on international forces in Afghanistan in 2006. Readers will discover Stratfor’s internal email classification system that codes correspondence according to categories such as ‘alpha’, ‘tactical’ and ‘secure’. The correspondence also contains code names for people of particular interest such as ‘Izzies’ (members of Hezbollah), or ‘Adogg’ (Mahmoud Ahmedinejad).

Stratfor did secret deals with dozens of media organisations and journalists – from Reuters to the Kiev Post. The list of Stratfor’s “Confederation Partners”, whom Stratfor internally referred to as its “Confed Fuck House” are included in the release. While it is acceptable for journalists to swap information or be paid by other media organisations, because Stratfor is a private intelligence organisation that services governments and private clients these relationships are corrupt or corrupting.

WikiLeaks has also obtained Stratfor’s list of informants and, in many cases, records of its payoffs, including $1,200 a month paid to the informant “Geronimo” , handled by Stratfor’s Former State Department agent Fred Burton.

WikiLeaks has built an investigative partnership with more than 25 media organisations and activists to inform the public about this huge body of documents. The organisations were provided access to a sophisticated investigative database developed by WikiLeaks and together with WikiLeaks are conducting journalistic evaluations of these emails. Important revelations discovered using this system will appear in the media in the coming weeks, together with the gradual release of the source documents.
Public partners in the investigation:

More than 25 media partners (others will be disclosed after their first publication):

Al Akhbar – Lebanon – http://english.al-akhbar.com
Al Masry Al Youm – Egypt – http://www.almasry-alyoum.com
Bivol – Bulgaria – http://bivol.bg
CIPER – Chile – http://ciperchile.cl
Dawn Media – Pakistan – http://www.dawn.com
L’Espresso – Italy – http://espresso.repubblica.it
La Repubblica – Italy – http://www.repubblica.it
La Jornada – Mexico – http://www.jornada.unam.mx/
La Nacion – Costa Rica – http://www.nacion.com
Malaysia Today – Malaysia – http://www.malaysia-today.net
McClatchy – United States – http://www.mcclatchy.com
Nawaat – Tunisia – http://nawaat.org
NDR/ARD – Germany – http://www.ard.de
Owni – France – http://owni.fr
Pagina 12 – Argentina – http://www.pagina12.com.ar
Plaza Publica – Guatemala – http://plazapublica.com.gt
Publico.es – Spain – http://www.publico.es
Rolling Stone – United States – http://www.rollingstone.com
Russia Reporter – Russia – http://rusrep.ru
Ta Nea – Greece –- http://www.tanea.gr
Taraf – Turkey – http://www.taraf.com.tr
The Hindu – India – http://www.thehindu.com
The Yes Men – Bhopal Activists – Global http://theyesmen.org
Nicky Hager for NZ Herald – New Zealand – http://www.nzherald.co.nz

via BNO Breaking News

Headlines 19 Dec 2011

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In addition to news from Palestine, Syria, Egypt and the Bradley Manning trial, these are the headlines of the day.

Ship sinks: Rescuers battled high waves Sunday as they searched for 200 asylum seekers missing and feared dead after their overcrowded ship sank off Indonesia’s main island of Java. So far 33 people have been rescued. Nearly 250 people fleeing economic and political hardship in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Turkey were trying to reach Australia when they ran into a powerful storm 20 miles off Java’s southern coast on Saturday. The ship – carrying more than twice its capacity – broke apart, survivors said.

Platform collapses: An oil drilling platform capsized and sank amid fierce storms off Russia‘s east coast Sunday, plunging dozens of workers into the churning, icy waters. Four were confirmed dead and 49 were missing off the coast of Sakhalin Island, the Emergencies Ministry said. Fourteen were rescued by a ship. There were no immediate reports of environmental damage.

Deadly riot: Violence between striking oil workers and the authorities in western Kazakhstan spread over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 14, the country’s general prosecutor said Sunday. The clashes began Friday in Zhanaozen, where police officers opened fire on workers who had occupied a city square for six months demanding better wages. On Saturday, protesters blocked railroad tracks in nearby Shetpe.

Pakistan protest: More than 30,000 Islamists rallied Sunday against the United States in the Pakistani city of Lahore following NATO air strikes last month that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The protest was organized by Jamaat-ud-Dawa, widely believed to be a front group for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba militant organization. Hafiz Saeed, the head of Jammat-ud-Dawa, demanded Pakistan cut off ties with the United States.

Yemen violence: Four Yemeni soldiers and two al Qaeda-linked militants were killed in clashes in the country’s south, officials said Sunday. The fighting took place overnight outside the city of Zinjibar, the Abyan province capital, which Islamic militants seized this year. Fighting with the militants has continued as Yemen tries to emerge from its political crisis. President Ali Abdullah Saleh is due to step down by the end of the month.

Pilots strike: Spanish airline Iberia canceled a third of its flights Sunday because of a strike by pilots fearing job losses when company planes are diverted for use by Iberia’s planned new budget carrier. Iberia said it scrapped 91 flights, mostly domestic routes. Iberia, Spain‘s flagship carrier, insists that no job cuts are planned among its 1,600 pilots.

Election discord: Etienne Tshisekedi, Congo‘s opposition leader, on Sunday declared himself winner of the presidential vote, despite placing second in official election results. Tshisekedi said incumbent President Joseph Kabila’s government “is dismissed starting today.” The declaration came two days after the country’s supreme court upheld Kabila’s victory in the November vote.

Oil deal: Russia‘s Tatneft and Iran have signed a $1 billion preliminary deal to develop the Zagheh oil field, state TV reported Sunday, deepening Moscow’s business links with Iran despite U.S. calls for further sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program. The field, located outside the town of Deilam on the shores of the Persian Gulf, contains an estimated 3 billion barrels of heavy crude oil.

SYRIA: The government agreed Monday to an Arab League plan to send foreign monitors, bowing to growing international pressure to end its bloody crackdown on a nine-month uprising. However the opposition saw the deal as a stalling tactic, especially given reports by activists that more than 100 people were killed on the same day.

EGYPT: Military police and Central Security Forces (CSF) killed three protestors in a failed attempt to clear protesters from Tahrir Square on Sunday night. Protesters accused security forces of using sewage water mixed with kerosene gas during the attack. Two protesters were shot dead by security forces. It is unclear precisely who fired the fatal bullets but video taken from the scene shows both military police and CSF officers shooting into the crowd.

PALESTINE: Celebrations marking the release of 550 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails stretched into the early hours of yesterday morning, but life outside prison will not necessarily mean freedom from the long arm of Israeli authorities.

BRADLEY MANNING: A government digital forensic examiner retrieved communications between accused WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning and an online chat user identified on Manning’s computer as “Julian Assange,” the name of the founder of the secret-spilling site that published hundreds of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables.

MORE NEWS SUMMARIES:

Syria tweets from today http://snup.us/DC Videos: http://snup.us/fde

Mauritania tweets from today: http://snup.us/MRT – Mauritanie nouvelles – الأخبار الأخيرة

Iran Prisoner List http://snup.us/DG and tweets from today http://snup.us/DH

Yemen tweets from today http://snup.us/YF

English: Kim Jong-il, North Korean leader

via News of the Day From Across the Globe.

You Know Twitter?

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Is Twitter attractive to you?

Do you like being able to post random thoughts, snippets of information, important news you want to share, converse with people in short bursts? Twitter has attracted over 160 million user accounts, which have generated more than 30 billion pieces of content, although not each one has an actual living person behind it. Reflect on those numbers, and that growth curve. You soon realise that nobody can really know everything there is to know, or see everything there is to see on Twitter. It’s like trying to see the whole of the country from your window. But what do you know about Twitter?

Do you know about Trending Topics?

participate
I noted this image, used by Twitter in their help pages to illustrate the explanation for hashtag trending with a certain irony. To see that they chose to use #IranElection, still the longest ever trending topic in the history of Twitter, was a great compliment at the time the help pages were published. It was also a source of validation, and even tacit support from the developers for the cause of the people of Iran. Now though, it just makes me feel nostalgic.

Twitter was a very different application back in the Summer of 2009, when there were tens of thousands of users on the #IranElection tag. Collectively, we were pretty savvy too; we excelled at learning how to game and manipulate the rather naive application logic to get our messages out and to storm trending topics pretty much at will.

These days, not so much. Twitter is growing up and is a very different app now. It has obvious barriers and monitors in place that control content, trends, etc. It has a massive team compared to the hardy band of about eight people that were there last year. And it has a strategy. There are clear signs to me, as a technically literate person, that Twitter development is sacrificing the social media information value proposition in favor of a profit based model. They have to do that; it’s too big to be free. We have to accept it as a fact of our digital life.

Are Tweets or Tweeters censored?

This past week or so the debate about whether twitter is censoring content and trending topics has been raging over the mysterious non-appearance of #WikiLeaks in the Trending Topics. Canny users switched to #CableGate and, lo and behold! it was trending in minutes. Then we were fed some line about how #WikiLeaks couldn’t trend because it is also a user name. Wrong. There are several examples of trending topics that are also user names. See more on this debate here.

One form of censorship could be imposed by having a secret ranking score for every Twitter user. If that ranking was used when determining the “value” or “quality” of a tweet, and for example whether or not to include it in trending topics, it would indeed be interesting. It would also amount to a certain kind of censorship, though under another name. And surely those who use Twitter most heavily, as most rights advocates do, are going to be more prone to any errors or skew in the ranking system. It can’t after all, be a manual process. Or can it?

Is Twitter subject to political  influence?

In my opinion, Twitter started to shrink back from unbridled information distribution pretty soon after it became clear that #IranElection was not just a flash in the pan. I thought for a while that programmed changes to re-tweets was the first casualty, but on closer inspection of my archive for #IranElection tweets I noticed that in fact certain users were being censored from the Twitter API as early as the end of June 2009. Or in other words, from the time that the State Department allegedly “stepped in” to “persuade” Twitter not to go ahead with their scheduled downtime, for the sake of people in Iran who were using Twitter to communicate with the outside world. None of that is actually what happened. Firstly, it was not Twitter’s planned downtime but their network service provider. Second, it was not the State Department who intervened, but a mass of users on Twitter, FaceBook and elsewhere on the internet, using status updates, phone calls, emails and fax messages to plead with the network provider on behalf of the Iranian people to postpone their scheduled maintenance.

That the State Department intervention story was actually denied by Biz Stone, one of the founders of Twitter, in an email to the BBC soon afterwards, and again later by co-founder Evan Williams, lends credence to my account of these events. However, that the State Department claimed responsibility, and the April 2010 announcement on the Twitter blog that Twitter would be giving the Library of Congress unbridled access to the entire tweet database, conjures up some rather different, and potentially disturbing thoughts.

Do tweets disappear?

On several occasions I have talked to friends on Twitter whose tweets have never made it onto their timeline. They just seem to disappear. There could be many reasons for this. That it has only ever happened to these friends when posting criticism of things like government policy or controversial subject matter could be because most of my friends are protesters or controverts. It could just be a coincidence. If you believe in coincidences.

Have you ever tried searching for your tweets on Google? How does that work out for you? For me it is as much hit as miss, and if I search specifically for tweets on my user url I get less than 6000 results even though I have posted over 106,000 tweets at the time of writing this post. What is that about? I don’t know, and although it is of no help to anyone else who might want to see my old tweets, I don’t really care on a personal level, because I archive most of my tweets anyway. But not many people do that, and it is strange to think that their tweets might not be available via Google. Will the Library of Congress eventually make my tweets available to me via a web interface? I doubt it.

Have you tried subscribing to an RSS feed of tweets? I use Google Reader extensively, with over 230 feeds,  and the ones from Twitter are by far the worst performing, have the highest number of missing items, and are the least frequently updated of all.

Is Twitter high risk?

Do you worry that you might be punished for posting on Twitter, like the disgruntled air traveller in Ireland who was fined for an offhand remark about blowing an airport “to the sky” (and who incidentally was the cause of a trending topic: #IamSpartacus with about 30000 tweets). Cheer up, at least you won’t be sentenced to 15 years prison like blogger Hossein Ronaghi Maleki (@khorramdin) in Iran or sent to a labour camp for a year like one woman in China.

What does this mean for  people like me who want to use social media to raise awareness and share information about events? For my part, I am waiting for the next thing to come along. I am hoping it will be free, open, reliable, robust and secure, and enduring this watered-down, glitzed-up iteration of Twitter in the mean time.