“The Gray Box”: Upcoming New York Event on Solitary Confinement

by | March 9, 2012

Last month we wrote about the release of Susan Greene’s remarkable article and accompanying video called “The Gray Box“–one of the most powerful and comprehensive pieces of investigative reporting that has ever been done about solitary confinement in America.

Next week, the publisher of “The Gray Box,” the Dart Society–an organization of journalists who cover trauma, conflict, and human rights–will sponsor an event in New York. In addition to Susan Greene, it features Solitary Watch’s own James Ridgeway; Brian Nelson, who spent time inside Tamms supermax; Laura Rovner, who has filed groundbreaking lawsuits challenging solitary confinement; and Katherine Sanguinetti of the Colorado DOC.

The event is cosponsered by John Jay College’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice, and will take place at the college on the afternoon of Thursday, March 15. It is free and open to the public but space is limited, so it is necessary to R.s.v.p.–see details in the following flyer.

Jean Casella

Jean Casella is the director of Solitary Watch. She has also published work in The Guardian, The Nation, and Mother Jones, and is co-editor of the book Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement. She has received a Soros Justice Media Fellowship and an Alicia Patterson Fellowship. She tweets @solitarywatch.

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  • Alan CYA # 65085
  • Alan CYA # 65085
  • Alan CYA # 65085

    Where this leads:

    Everything a person does – from traveling to buying groceries – is to be displayed on a graph, allowing the NSA to paint a detailed picture of any given individual’s life.

    With this in mind, the agency now indeed looks to be “the most covert and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever,” as Wired.com puts it.

    William Binney, NSA’s former senior mathematician-gone-whistleblower, holds his thumb and forefinger close together and tells the on-line magazine:

    “We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”


  • Alan CYA # 65085

    Another way that this trend is already adversely affecting our lives can be found here:


    Harris latest book, “The Fear Index,” stars a hedge fund driven by an algorithm run wild. And the more Harris researched its plot, the more plausible it seemed to become.

    I went to see a hedge fund in London. They showed me a room full of computers. And in the course of the 20 minutes that I watched, this machine made $1.5 million without any human intervention.

    But the new game in town is high-frequency trading, with computers and their algorithms moving in and out of stocks as many as tens of thousands of times a day.

    Bloomberg News feeds are digitalized and go straight into the machine, and buzzwords are picked out, “panic, rumor, fear, slump.”

    And, you know, you just get a few milliseconds’, maybe, advantage if the machine can work out what this news story is going to do to the markets in the next few minutes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And that’s what your novel gets at, the ability of an algorithm to exploit that anxiety.

    ROBERT HARRIS: …we are the victims of some sort of gigantic H.G. Wells-like science fiction creation, which is the markets, so huge in the — in the numbers of shares and the vast values of transactions every day, so fast with the speed, that it has somehow slipped the control of human beings, and almost is itself a kind of Frankenstein’s monster run amok in the world.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In the U.S., high-frequency firms represent only 2 percent of the 20,000 or so trading firms operating today. But they now account for nearly three-quarters of all trades.

    And the average time a stock investment is held these days is 22 seconds. If time is money, microseconds are now millions. In a recent so-called TED talk on cutting-edge technology, tech whiz Kevin Slavin wowed the audience by describing buildings now being hollowed out in Lower Manhattan. Why? So that high-frequency trading firms can move in and get as close as possible to New York’s point of entry for the Internet at a so-called carrier hotel in Tribeca.

    KEVIN SLAVIN, technology consultant: And this is really where the wires come right up into the city. And the further away you are from that, you’re a few microseconds behind every time. These guys down on Wall Street, they’re eight microseconds behind all these guys going into the empty buildings being hollowed out up around the carrier hotel.

    Just to give you a sense of what microseconds are, it takes you 500,000 microseconds just to click a mouse. But if you’re a Wall Street algorithm and you’re five microseconds behind, you’re a loser.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Who are these people?

    ROBERT HARRIS: They don’t hire anyone to work who has less than a Ph.D. in the natural sciences or mathematics and that weren’t peer-reviewed in the top 15 percent.

    We’re talking about the influence of physicists and mathematicians. And the speed and power of computers and of the Internet and the Web have utterly changed everything….
    what is worrying, I think, about this high-frequency trading. We won’t know it’s disastrous until the disaster has occurred.

  • Alan CYA # 65085

    I have a lot of respect for this field and sorely wish that I could attend.

    Well this meeting is about solitary confinement there are broader issues of authoritative control that are dangerously creeping into all of our lives globally. Only a few recognize the threat.

    Here are two examples of recent articles in The Atlantic that caught my attention.


    “We’re Underestimating the Risk of Human Extinction”


    One treat noted by this scientist:

    ” …the possibility of the development of technologies that could make it
    a lot easier for oppressive regimes to weed out dissidents or to
    perform surveillance on their populations, so that you could have a
    permanently stable tyranny, rather than the ones we have seen
    throughout history, which have eventually been overthrown.

    I think artificial intelligence—once it gains human and then
    superhuman capabilities—will present us with a major risk area.
    There are also different kinds of population control that worry me,
    things like surveillance and psychological manipulation
    pharmaceuticals. (Like the ones currently used in Control Units)

    If we are going to go extinct because of artificial intelligence,
    it’s not going to be because there’s this battle between humans and
    robots with laser eyes.

    Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is interesting in that it created a
    scenario in which humans have been biologically and socially
    engineered to fit into a dystopian social structure, and it shows how
    that could be very bad.

    If one day you have the ability to create a machine intelligence that
    is greater than human intelligence, how would you control it, how
    would you make sure it was human-friendly and safe?

    An actual case for the first threat is found in this second article:

    “Surveillance Inc: How Western Tech Firms Are Helping Arab Dictators”


    For all of the good this technology has done, activists are also
    beginning to understand the harm it can do. As Evgeny Morozov wrote in
    The Net Delusion, his book on the Internet’s darker sides, “Denying
    that greater information flows, combined with advanced technologies… can result in the overall strengthening of authoritarian regimes is a dangerous path to take, if only because it numbs us to potential regulatory interventions and the need to rein in our own Western corporate excesses.”

    Recent investigations by the Wall Street Journal andBloomberg News
    have revealed just how expansively these technologies are already
    being used. Intelligence agencies throughout the Middle East can today
    scan, catalogue, and read virtually every email in their country. The
    technology even allows them to change emails while en route to their
    recipient, as Tunisian authorities sometimes did before the

    These technologies turn activists’ phones against them, allowing
    governments to listen in on phone calls, read text messages, even scan
    cell networks and pinpoint callers with voice recognition. They allow
    intelligence agents to monitor movements of activists via a GPS
    locator updated every fifteen seconds. And by tricking users into
    installing malware on their devices — as is currently happeningin
    Syria – government agents can remotely turn on a laptop webcam or a
    cell phone microphone without its user knowing.

    These companies seem fully aware of what they’re doing – after all,
    the better they understand how to help secret police find and
    terrorize dissidents, the better their products will do on the market
    — but far less concerned about the implications. As Dutch member of
    the E.U.

    Parliament Marietje Schaake told us last week, “The bulk of this
    digital arms trade happens under the radar; through spin-offs of
    well-known companies, but mostly by players without a reputation to
    lose with consumers.”

    Unfortunately, apart from the work of a few individuals, this problem
    has gone mostly ignored by Western governments, and the digital
    surveillance trade still seems to be flourishing.

    In Solitary Watch’s next article you quote Pennsylvania inmate Derrick Stanley.

    Asked if there was anything he’d like people to know, Stanley replied, “I want them to know this: In life there is a time for everyone to speak up.

  • nigh

    Reblogged this on pastproduction.

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