Leitura para o fim-de-semana: o espião que foi longe demais

Em 1984, Jacqui conheceu Bob Lambert num protesto pelos direitos dos animais. tinha 22 anos. Apaixonaram-se. Um ano depois tiveram um filho. Mas em 1987, Bob desapareceu. A mulher nunca mais ouviu falar nele. Até que, em 2012, viu uma fotografia nas páginas do Daily Mail que o identificava como um espião que, nos anos 1980 e 1990, esteve infiltrado nos grupos defensores dos direitos dos animais. E que, várias vezes, terá ido longe demais. Uma história para ler na The New Yorker.

Ilustração: Alex Williamson

Ilustração: Alex Williamson

The Spy Who Loved Me

An undercover surveillance operation that went too far.

BY

I—JUNE 14, 2012
It was four o’clock on a Thursday afternoon, and Jacqui had just got home from work. She made a pot of coffee and took it out to the garden with the Daily Mail. It was the start of her weekend. The sun was out. She sat down at a patio table and poured the coffee, taking a minute to enjoy the scent of the wisteria that was blooming on her trellis.

She opened the paper: the Queen in Nottingham for her Golden Jubilee; bankers under scrutiny; wives and girlfriends of the England football team. Absent-mindedly, she continued to read. She barely glanced at an article titled “How Absence of a Loving Father Can Wreck a Child’s Life.” A few pages later, she came to a photograph of a smiling young man with bouffy brown curls that parted like curtains around his eyes. Even after twenty-five years, she knew the face’s every freckle and line.
She subsequently told a parliamentary committee:

I went into shock. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I started shaking. I did not even read the story which appeared with the picture. I went inside and phoned my parents. My dad got the paper from their nearest shop and my mum got out the photos of Bob and our son, at the birth and when he was a toddler. They confirmed to me, by comparing photos, it was definitely Bob.

Bob Robinson was Jacqui’s first love and the father of her eldest child. He had disappeared from their lives in 1987, when their son was two. (To protect her son’s privacy, Jacqui asked me not to use her last name.) Over the years, Jacqui had tried many times to track Bob down, but she had never been able to find him. Neither had any of the government agencies she had enlisted to help in the search. Bob had seemingly vaporized. Now there he was, staring back at her from the pages of a tabloid.

Jacqui tried to focus. “An undercover policeman planted a bomb in a department store to prove his commitment to animal rights extremists, an MP claimed yesterday,” the article that the picture accompanied began. “Bob Lambert is accused of leaving an incendiary device in a Debenhams in London—one of three set off in a coordinated attack in 1987.” (No one was hurt in the attacks, which caused millions of dollars’ worth of damage to the stores, targeted because they sold fur products.) It went on to explain that Caroline Lucas, an M.P. for the Green Party, had invoked parliamentary privilege to make the accusation. She was calling for “a far-reaching public inquiry into police infiltrators and informers.” Jacqui read on. The officer, the article said, had insinuated himself into animal-rights groups in the nineteen-eighties, creating an alter ego under which, for several years, he led a double life. Bob Robinson was Bob Lambert, and Bob Lambert was a spy.

O artigo completo está aqui.

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: por dentro da captura do maior traficante do mundo

Já é um hábito a The New Yorker brindar-nos com o melhor jornalismo do mundo. Mas esta grande reportagem sobre a captura de Joaquín Guzmán Loera, também conhecido como El Chapo, é um hino à arte de contar uma boa história. Tão, mas tão bem escrita. Leiam que vale a pena. 

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The Hunt for El Chapo

By Patrick Radden Keefe

One afternoon last December, an assassin on board a K.L.M. flight from Mexico City arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. This was not a business trip: the killer, who was thirty-three, liked to travel, and often documented his journeys around Europe on Instagram. He wore designer clothes and a heavy silver ring in the shape of a grimacing skull. His passport was an expensive fake, and he had used it successfully many times. But, moments after he presented his documents to Dutch customs, he was arrested. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had filed a Red Notice with Interpol—an international arrest warrant—and knew that he was coming. Only after the Dutch authorities had the man in custody did they learn his real identity: José Rodrigo Arechiga, the chief enforcer for the biggest drug-trafficking organization in history, Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel.

To work in the Mexican drug trade is to have a nickname, and Arechiga went by the whimsically malevolent handle El Chino Ántrax. He supervised the armed wing of the Sinaloa—a cadre of executioners known as Los Ántrax—and coördinated drug shipments for the cartel’s leader, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, who was known as El Chapo, or Shorty. Arechiga was a narcotraficante of the digital age, bantering with other criminals on Twitter and posting snapshots of himself guzzling Cristal, posing with exotic pets, and fondling a gold-plated AK-47. Guzmán, who is fifty-seven, typified an older generation. Obsessively secretive, he ran his multibillion-dollar drug enterprise from hiding in Sinaloa, the remote western state where he was born, and from which the cartel takes its name. The Sinaloa cartel exports industrial volumes of cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine to America; it is thought to be responsible for as much as half the illegal narcotics that cross the border every year. Guzmán has been characterized by the U.S. Treasury Department as “the world’s most powerful drug trafficker,” and after the killing of Osama bin Laden, three years ago, he became perhaps the most wanted fugitive on the planet. Mexican politicians promised to bring him to justice, and the U.S. offered a five-million-dollar reward for information leading to his capture. But part of Guzmán’s fame stemmed from the perception that he was uncatchable, and he continued to thrive, consolidating control of key smuggling routes and extending his operation into new markets in Europe, Asia, and Australia. According to one study, the Sinaloa cartel is now active in more than fifty countries.

On several occasions, authorities had come close to catching Guzmán. In 2004, the Mexican Army descended on a dusty ranch in Sinaloa where he was holed up, but he had advance warning and fled along a rutted mountain track in an all-terrain vehicle. Three years later, Guzmán married a teen-age beauty queen named Emma Coronel and invited half the criminal underworld of Mexico to attend the ceremony. The Army mobilized several Bell helicopters to crash the party; the troops arrived, guns drawn, to discover that Guzmán had just departed. American authorities have no jurisdiction to make arrests in Mexico, so whenever D.E.A. agents developed fresh intelligence about Guzmán’s whereabouts all they could do was feed the leads to their Mexican counterparts and hope for the best. In Washington, concerns about the competence of Mexican forces mingled with deeper fears about corruption. A former senior Mexican intelligence official told me that the cartel has “penetrated most Mexican agencies.” Was Guzmán being tipped off by an insider? After a series of near-misses in which Chapo foiled his pursuers by sneaking out of buildings through back doors, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City took to joking, bitterly, that there is no word in Spanish for “surround.”

Guzmán developed “a Zorro-like reputation,” Gil Gonzalez, who pursued him in Mexico for the D.E.A., told me. In dozens of narcocorridos, the heraldic Mexican ballads that glorify traffickers, singers portrayed Guzmán as a country boy turned cunning bandit who had grown rich but not soft, his cuerno de chivo, or “goat horn”—Mexican slang for an assault rifle with a curved magazine—never far from his side.

Yet Guzmán himself remained maddeningly obscure. Only a few photographs of him circulated publicly. A famous series taken after an arrest in 1993 shows a stocky, dark-eyed, square-jawed young man standing awkwardly in a prison yard; he gazes at the camera with a shyness that seems at odds with his fearsome reputation. Chapo escaped eight years later, and had been on the run ever since. Because he might have had plastic surgery to alter his appearance, the authorities could no longer be sure what he looked like. One narcocorrido captured the predicament: “Only he knows who he is / So go looking for someone / Who looks just like him / Because the real Chapo / You’ll never see again.”

The authorities tried to track Guzmán by monitoring telephone lines. Narcotics smuggling necessitates regular phone communication between farmers and packers, truckers and pilots, accountants and enforcers, street dealers and suppliers. But traffickers at the top of the hierarchy maintain operational security by rarely making calls or sending e-mails. Guzmán was known to use sophisticated encryption and to limit the number of people he communicated with, keeping his organization compartmentalized and allowing subordinates a degree of autonomy, as long as the shipments kept running on time. “I never spoke to him directly,” one former Sinaloa lieutenant told me. “But I knew what he wanted us to do.”

The Sinaloa cartel is sometimes described as a “cellular” organization. Structurally, its network is distributed, and has more in common with a terrorist organization like Al Qaeda than with the antiquated hierarchies of the Cosa Nostra. When the cartel suffers the loss of a major figure like El Chino Ántrax, it can reconstitute itself—but not without a few phone calls among the leadership. At the D.E.A., which taps hundreds of phone lines and e-mail accounts associated with traffickers, the process of applying pressure to a criminal organization and then monitoring furtive attempts at outreach is known as “tickling the wires.” When El Chino Ántrax was arrested in Amsterdam, the cartel was still coping with two other high-level losses: in November, the twenty-three-year-old son of one of Guzmán’s closest associates was arrested while trying to cross the border in Nogales; in December, Mexican troops in a helicopter shot and killed another key cartel enforcer, on a stretch of highway by the Sea of Cortez.

As the cartel attempted to regroup, authorities on both sides of the border intercepted scores of phone calls, texts, and e-mails. They learned that Guzmán would soon be coming to Culiacán, the state capital of Sinaloa, for a meeting with his sons Alfredo and Iván—ascendant traffickers who were both close friends of El Chino Ántrax. The D.E.A. presented an intelligence dossier to authorities in Mexico, and in mid-January a special-forces unit of commandos from the Mexican Marines, or SEMAR, began to assemble at a forward operating base near the resort town of Los Cabos, along the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. The marines, who are the Mexican equivalent of Navy SEALs, were joined by a small group of American advisers. Mexican authorities code-named the mission Operation Gargoyle. Its object was to capture Guzmán.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the government of Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto informed the marines and their American partners that they would have approximately three weeks to bring down the drug lord. A U.S. official involved in planning the operation told me that this was true. Fighting drug traffickers in Mexico has become a matter of triage, and the SEMAR unit was soon to be redeployed to battle another cartel, the Knights Templar, in the restive state of Michoacán. (Eduardo Sánchez, the chief spokesman for the government of Mexico, denied that any such time limit was in place. “There was no window,” he said.)

As the marines and their advisers moved into Los Cabos, they tried not to attract attention. A battleship anchored off the coast was used as a decoy, so that curious observers might conclude that the sudden influx of commandos was part of a standard naval exercise. But one reason that Guzmán had remained at large so long was his unparalleled network of informants. One person involved in the operation told me, “As soon as we landed, he knew.”

Guzmán had always been a master of escape. Born in the mountain village of La Tuna, in Mexico’s wild and craggy Sierra Madre Occidental, he was the oldest child of a subsistence farmer who dabbled in the drug trade. For generations, Sinaloan ranchers had cultivated cannabis and opium, and children were taken out of elementary school to assist in the harvest. Guzmán left school for good in third grade, and in the seventies, in spite of his illiteracy, he became an apprentice to two drug chieftains: Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who owned a fleet of airplanes and was known as the Lord of the Skies; and Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, a police officer turned drug baron, who ran the Guadalajara cartel and was known as El Padrino—the Godfather.

Guzmán started as a kind of air-traffic controller, coördinating cocaine flights from Colombia. But he was clever and aggressive, and quickly began to acquire power. One night in November, 1992, Guzmán’s henchmen massacred six people at a crowded discothèque in Puerto Vallarta. They severed the telephone lines so that nobody could call for help, then walked inside and opened fire on the dance floor. The targets were Tijuana-based traffickers whom Guzmán was challenging for control of the lucrative smuggling routes through Baja California. They were in the bathroom when the shooting started, and fled without being harmed. The next spring, the traffickers arranged for their own hit men to murder Guzmán at the international airport in Guadalajara. As gunfire erupted, Guzmán scrambled out of his vehicle and crawled to safety. Seven people were killed, including Archbishop Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo. (The gunmen apparently mistook him for Guzmán.) Ocampo’s murder caused a political uproar, and it was not long before Guzmán, who had gone into hiding, was picked up by authorities in Guatemala and turned over to Mexico. He was sentenced to twenty years in prison, on charges of conspiracy, drug trafficking, and bribery, and ended up in Puente Grande, in Jalisco, which was considered one of the most secure prisons in Mexico.

Behind bars, Guzmán consolidated both his empire and his reputation. He bought off the prison staff and enjoyed a life of relative luxury: he conducted business by cell phone, orchestrated regular visits from prostitutes, and threw parties for favored inmates that featured alcohol, lobster bisque, and filet mignon. While he was there, the Mexican attorney general’s office subjected him to psychological interviews. The resulting criminal profile noted that he was “egocentric, narcissistic, shrewd, persistent, tenacious, meticulous, discriminating, and secretive.”

One day in January, 2001, a prison administrator pulled aside a makeshift curtain that Guzmán had draped across the entrance to his cell and shouted, “He’s escaped!” A subsequent investigation determined that Guzmán had hidden in a laundry cart pushed by a paid accomplice. But many in Mexico speculate that he didn’t have to bother with subterfuge. Guzmán controlled Puente Grande so thoroughly by the time of his exit that he might as well have walked out the front door. Criminal charges were eventually brought against seventy-one people who worked at the prison, including the warden.

If Chapo’s escape suggested that the Mexican political system had been corroded by drug money, his subsequent years as a fugitive did not diminish this impression. He retreated to Sinaloa and expanded his operations, launching violent turf wars with rival cartels over control of prized entry points along the U.S. border. The sociologist Diego Gambetta, in his 1993 book “The Sicilian Mafia,” observes that durable criminal enterprises are often woven into the social and political fabric, and part of their “intrinsic tenacity” is their ability to offer certain services that the state does not. Today on the streets of Culiacán you see night clubs, fortified villas, and an occasional Lamborghini. Chapo and other drug lords have invested and laundered their proceeds by buying hundreds of legitimate businesses: restaurants, soccer stadiums, day-care centers, ostrich farms. Juan Millán, the former state governor of Sinaloa, once estimated that sixty-two per cent of the state’s economy is tied up with drug money. Sinaloa remains poor, however, and Badiraguato, the municipality containing Guzmán’s home village, is one of the most desperate areas in the state. There had always been some sympathy for the drug trade in Sinaloa, but nothing deepens sympathy like charity and bribes. Eduardo Medina Mora, Mexico’s Ambassador in Washington, described Guzmán’s largesse in the state: “You are financing everything. Baptisms. Infrastructure. If someone gets sick, you provide a little plane. So you have lots of local support, because you are Santa Claus. And everybody likes Santa Claus.”

Mexico’s municipal police were poorly trained, poorly paid, and poorly equipped, rendering them susceptible to bribery. “In practical terms, organized crime literally privatized the municipal police forces across many parts of the country,” one senior Mexican official told me. Guzmán’s influence over the public sector was not confined to law enforcement. Last year, a former bodyguard for the current governor of Sinaloa, Mario López Valdez, released a series of YouTube videos in which he described accompanying López Valdez, who had just taken office, on a trip to meet with Guzmán. In one video, the bodyguard played a recorded conversation in which the Governor appeared to instruct his subordinates not to antagonize the Sinaloa cartel—and, instead, to crack down on its rivals. López Valdez insisted that the recording was doctored. Last August, the bodyguard was discovered beside a road in Sinaloa. He had been decapitated.

As long as Guzmán remained in the mountains, the inhospitable terrain and the allegiance of locals appeared to guarantee his safety. In 2009, Dennis Blair, President Barack Obama’s national intelligence director, met with Guillermo Galván, who was then Mexico’s Secretary of Defense. Galván told him that everybody knew, roughly, where Guzmán was. The challenge was taking him into custody. According to a diplomatic cable that was later released by WikiLeaks, Galván explained that Guzmán was believed to move among a dozen or so ranches, and to be protected by up to three hundred armed men. The peaks of the Sierra Madre Occidental are steep and jagged, and the roads that vein their contours often taper to a single dirt track. An armored convoy would be spotted by Guzmán’s lookouts well before it arrived at its destination. And if a Blackhawk helicopter was dispatched to attack his outpost he would hear it thundering across the valley from miles out, leaving plenty of time to flee.

More recently, however, intelligence collected by Mexican authorities and the D.E.A. indicated that Guzmán might be changing his habits. There is a saying in the Mexican drug trade that it is better to live one good year than ten bad ones. Many young men enter the industry expecting to enjoy a decadent life for a short time before being incarcerated or killed. Young narcos behave recklessly: they go to night clubs, they race Bentleys, and they post pictures of themselves online with their co-conspirators (and with the occasional dead body). The only traffickers in Sinaloa who beat the odds are those who are content to follow a more austere life in the mountains. Until lately, Guzmán had taken that approach. But because he was tired, or married to a much younger woman, or overconfident of his ability to escape, Guzmán began spending time in Culiacán and other cities. “Here’s a guy who has made hundreds of millions of dollars in the drug trade, and he’s living like a pauper up in the mountains,” Mike Vigil, a former D.E.A. agent who worked in Mexico for many years, told me. “He likes the fiestas. He likes the music. He likes to dance.” Another law-enforcement official speculated that, though Guzmán was accustomed to a rustic life, Emma Coronel was not. “She’s not much of a mountain person,” he said, adding that they had twin daughters, and, even though Guzmán was a fugitive, his wife was adamant that he be present in the girls’ lives: “She would go out of her way to maintain that family life.”

Guzmán had other weaknesses. “He loves the gourmet food,” a D.E.A. official told me. From time to time, he would be spotted at an elegant restaurant in Sinaloa or in a neighboring state. The choreography was always the same. Diners would be startled by a team of gunmen, who would politely but firmly demand their telephones, promising that they would be returned at the end of the evening. Chapo and his entourage would come in and feast on shrimp and steak, then thank the other diners for their forbearance, return the telephones, pick up the tab for everyone, and head off into the night.

It has been reported, erroneously, that Guzmán used a statellite phone; in fact, his favored communication device was the BlackBerry. Like many narcos, he was suspicious of satellite phones, because most of the companies that manufacture them are American and the devices are relatively easy for law-enforcement officials to compromise. But the BlackBerry is made by a Canadian company, and Guzmán felt more comfortable using one. This trust was misplaced: by early 2012, the D.E.A. had homed in on Guzmán’s BlackBerry, and could not only monitor his communications but also use geolocation technology to triangulate his signal.

That February, the agency confirmed that Guzmán had travelled to Los Cabos for a liaison with a prostitute. He had been married at least three times, and he had relationships with many mistresses; nevertheless, he appears to have had an unflagging appetite for paid companionship. (Numerous current and former officials noted Guzmán’s prodigious consumption of Viagra. “He ate it like candy,” one said.) The D.E.A. agents who monitored his e-mails and texts marvelled at the extent to which his communications seemed focussed not on managing his multinational empire but on juggling the competing demands of his wife, his ex-wives (with whom he remained cordial), his girlfriends, and his paid consorts. “It was like ‘Peyton Place,’ ” a former law-enforcement official who kept track of the communications told me. “It was a non-stop deal.”

After authorities traced the BlackBerry signal to a mansion on a cul-de-sac in a wealthy enclave near the coast, Mexican troops burst through the front door of the building. Whether or not Guzmán had been alerted in advance remains unclear, but he had enough time to sneak out the back of the property; he went to an adjacent resort, where he blended into a crowd of vacationers before moving on. Over the next three days, the authorities pursued him as he moved around the city, desperately trying to arrange an escape route to the mountains.

At one point during the chase, Guzmán must have realized that his BlackBerry had been compromised, and decided to turn this setback to his advantage. He met up with a subordinate and gave him the BlackBerry. Someone involved in the operation said of Guzmán, “He took us for a ride.” The authorities, unaware of the handoff, chased the signal around Los Cabos, until they finally pounced on the sacrificial subordinate. While they were occupied with arresting him, Chapo made it into the desert, where a private plane picked him up and flew him back to the safety of the Sierra Madre.

“He changed it up after Los Cabos,” one U.S. law-enforcement official told me, adding a line worthy of a narcocorrido: “He’s an illiterate son of a bitch, but he’s a street-smart motherfucker.” Rather than switch BlackBerrys, as he had done in the past, Guzmán now appeared to have stopped communicating altogether.”

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: um pai fala pela primeira vez sobre os crimes do filho

Em Dezembro de 2012, Adam Lanza entrou na escola de Sandy Hook e matou 20 estudantes e seis funcionários. Assassinou a própria mãe e suicidou-se. Um ano depois, o seu pai, Peter Lanza, aceitou falar pela primeira vez sobre o assunto. O resultado é um artigo que é um murro no estomago. E uma ode à arte jornalística de contar uma história que necessita de uma grande dose de humanidade: como reage um pai ao facto de que o próprio filho cometeu um massacre? O artigo foi publicado esta semana na The New Yorker. 

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THE RECKONING

The father of the Sandy Hook killer searches for answers.

BY 

In Peter Lanza’s new house, on a secluded private road in Fairfield County, Connecticut, is an attic room overflowing with shipping crates of what he calls “the stuff.” Since the day in December, 2012, when his son Adam killed his own mother, himself, and twenty-six people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, strangers from across the world have sent thousands upon thousands of letters and other keepsakes: prayer shawls, Bibles, Teddy bears, homemade toys; stories with titles such as “My First Christmas in Heaven”; crosses, including one made by prison inmates. People sent candy, too, and when I visited Peter, last fall, he showed me a bag of year-old caramels. He had not wanted to throw away anything that people sent. But he said, “I was wary about eating anything,” and he didn’t let Shelley Lanza—his second wife—eat any of the candy, either. There was no way to be sure it wasn’t poisoned. Downstairs, in Peter’s home office, I spotted a box of family photographs. He used to display them, he told me, but now he couldn’t look at Adam, and it seemed strange to put up photos of his older son, Ryan, without Adam’s. “I’m not dealing with it,” he said. Later, he added, “You can’t mourn for the little boy he once was. You can’t fool yourself.”

Since the shootings, Peter has avoided the press, but in September, as the first anniversary of his son’s rampage approached, he contacted me to say that he was ready to tell his story. We met six times, for interviews lasting as long as seven hours. Shelley, a librarian at the University of Connecticut, usually joined us and made soup or chili or salads for lunch. Sometimes we played with their German shepherd. When Peter speaks, you can still hear a strong trace of rural Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, where he and his first wife—Nancy, Adam’s mother—grew up. He is an affable man with a poise that often hides his despair. An accountant who is a vice-president for taxes at a General Electric subsidiary, he maintains a nearly fanatical insistence on facts, and nothing annoyed him more in our conversations than speculation—by me, the media, or anyone else. He is not by nature given to self-examination, and often it was Shelley who underlined the emotional ramifications of what he said.

Peter hadn’t seen his son for two years at the time of the Sandy Hook killings, and, even with hindsight, he doesn’t think that the catastrophe could have been predicted. But he constantly thinks about what he could have done differently and wishes he had pushed harder to see Adam. “Any variation on what I did and how my relationship was had to be good, because no outcome could be worse,” he said. Another time, he said, “You can’t get any more evil,” and added, “How much do I beat up on myself about the fact that he’s my son? A lot.”

Depending on whom you ask, there were twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight victims in Newtown. It’s twenty-six if you count only those who were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School; twenty-seven if you include Nancy Lanza; twenty-eight if you judge Adam’s suicide a loss. There are twenty-six stars on the local firehouse roof. On the anniversary of the shootings, President Obama referred to “six dedicated school workers and twenty beautiful children” who had been killed, and the governor of Connecticut asked churches to ring their bells twenty-six times. Some churches in Newtown had previously commemorated the victims by ringing twenty-eight times, but a popular narrative had taken hold in which Nancy—a gun enthusiast who had taught Adam to shoot—was an accessory to the crime, rather than its victim. Emily Miller, an editor at the Washington Times, wrote, “We can’t blame lax gun-control laws, access to mental health treatment, prescription drugs or video games for Lanza’s terrible killing spree. We can point to a mother who should have been more aware of how sick her son had become and forced treatment.”

Inadequate gun control and poor mental-health care are problems that invariably define the debate after atrocities such as the one at Newtown. But, important as those issues are, our impulse to grasp for reasons comes, arguably, from a more basic need—to make sense of what seems senseless. When the Connecticut state’s attorney issued a report, in December, CNN announced, “Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza took motive to his grave.” A Times headline ran “chilling look at newtown killer, but no‘why.’ ” Yet no “motive” can mitigate the horror of a bloodbath involving children. Had we found out—which we did not—that Adam had schizophrenia, or had been a pedophile or a victim of childhood abuse, we still wouldn’t know why he acted as he did.

Interview subjects usually have a story they want to tell, but Peter Lanza came to these conversations as much to ask questions as to answer them. It’s strange to live in a state of sustained incomprehension about what has become the most important fact about you. “I want people to be afraid of the fact that this could happen to them,” he said. It took six months after the shootings for a sense of reality to settle on Peter. “But it’s real,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be understood to be real.”

Adam Lanza was never typical. Born in 1992, he didn’t speak until he was three, and he always understood many more words than he could muster. He showed such hypersensitivity to physical touch that tags had to be removed from his clothing. In preschool and at Sandy Hook, where he was a pupil till the beginning of sixth grade, he sometimes smelled things that weren’t there and washed his hands excessively. A doctor diagnosed sensory-integration disorder, and Adam underwent speech therapy and occupational therapy in kindergarten and first grade. Teachers were told to watch for seizures.

Still, photos show him looking cheerful. “Adam loved Sandy Hook school,” Peter said. “He stated, as he was growing older, how much he had liked being a little kid.” Adam’s brother, Ryan, four years older and now a tax accountant in New York, used to joke about how close Peter and Adam were. They’d spend hours playing at two Lego tables in the basement, making up stories for the little towns they built. Adam even invented his own board games. “Always thinking differently,” Peter said. “Just a normal little weird kid.”

Even in an age when a child’s every irregularity is attributed to a syndrome, the idea of a “normal weird kid” seems reasonable enough, but there were early signs that Adam had significant problems. He struggled with basic emotions, and received coaching from Nancy, who became a stay-at-home mother after Adam was born. When he had to show feelings in a school play, Nancy wrote to a friend, “Adam has taken it very seriously, even practicing facial expressions in the mirror!” According to the state’s attorney’s report, when Adam was in fifth grade he said that he “did not think highly of himself and believed that everyone else in the world deserved more than he did.” That year, Adam and another boy wrote a story called “The Big Book of Granny,” in which an old woman with a gun in her cane kills wantonly. In the third chapter, Granny and her son want to taxidermy a boy for their mantelpiece. In another chapter, a character called Dora the Berserker says, “I like hurting people. . . . Especially children.” Adam tried to sell copies of the book at school and got in trouble. A couple of years later, according to the state’s attorney’s report, a teacher noted “disturbing” violence in his writing and described him as “intelligent but not normal, with anti-social issues.”

Meanwhile, Peter and Nancy’s marriage was starting to unravel. Peter’s own father had been relatively disengaged from his wife and buried himself in work, and Peter didn’t have a strong model for family life. “I’d work ridiculous hours during the week and Nancy would take care of the kids,” he told me. “Then, on the weekends, she’d do errands and I’d spend time with the kids.” Peter frequently took the boys on weekend hiking trips. In 2001, Peter and Nancy separated. Adam was nine; when a psychiatrist later asked him about it, he said that his parents were as irritating to each other as they were to him.

Peter recalled, “The funny part is that the separation didn’t really change things for the kids very much.” He moved to Stamford, nearly an hour from Newtown, but still saw the boys every weekend. When Adam entered middle school, he proudly took Peter to see it. “And talk about talkative: man, that kid, you couldn’t shut him up!” Peter said. In the years that followed, they would talk about politics. Adam was a fan of Ron Paul, and liked to argue economic theory. He became fascinated with guns and with the Second World War, and showed an interest in joining the military. But he never talked about mass murder, and he wasn’t violent at school. He seldom revealed his emotions, but had a sharp sense of humor. When Peter took him to see Bill Cosby live, Adam laughed for an hour straight. He loved reruns of “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Get Smart,” which he would watch with his dad. One Christmas, Adam told his parents that he wanted to use his savings to buy toys for needy children, and Peter took him shopping for them.

O artigo completo está aqui.

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: uma viagem com Barack Obama

Desde que tomou posse como presidente dos Estados Unidos, poucos jornalistas tiveram acesso directo a Barack Obama. O editor da The New Yorker, David Remnick, foi um deles. Acompanhou o presidente norte-americano no Air Force One, entrevistou-o na Casa Branca e ainda teve uma conversa telefónica quando o artigo estava a fechar. O resultado é um longo perfil cujos bastidores podem ser lidos no blogue da revista, aqui.

Foto:  Pari Dukovic

Foto: Pari Dukovic

GOING THE DISTANCE

On and off the road with Barack Obama.

BY 

On the Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving, Barack Obama sat in the office cabin of Air Force One wearing a look of heavy-lidded annoyance. The Affordable Care Act, his signature domestic achievement and, for all its limitations, the most ambitious social legislation since the Great Society, half a century ago, was in jeopardy. His approval rating was down to forty per cent—lower than George W. Bush’s in December of 2005, when Bush admitted that the decision to invade Iraq had been based on intelligence that “turned out to be wrong.” Also, Obama said thickly, “I’ve got a fat lip.”

That morning, while playing basketball at F.B.I. headquarters, Obama went up for a rebound and came down empty-handed; he got, instead, the sort of humbling reserved for middle-aged men who stubbornly refuse the transition to the elliptical machine and Gentle Healing Yoga. This had happened before. In 2010, after taking a self-described “shellacking” in the midterm elections, Obama caught an elbow in the mouth while playing ball at Fort McNair. He wound up with a dozen stitches. The culprit then was one Reynaldo Decerega, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Decerega wasn’t invited to play again, though Obama sent him a photograph inscribed “For Rey, the only guy that ever hit the President and didn’t get arrested. Barack.”

This time, the injury was slighter and no assailant was named—“I think it was the ball,” Obama said—but the President needed little assistance in divining the metaphor in this latest insult to his person. The pundits were declaring 2013 the worst year of his Presidency. The Republicans had been sniping at Obamacare since its passage, nearly four years earlier, and HealthCare.gov, a Web site that was undertested and overmatched, was a gift to them. There were other beribboned boxes under the tree: Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency; the failure to get anything passed on gun control or immigration reform; the unseemly waffling over whether the Egyptian coup was a coup; the solidifying wisdom in Washington that the President was “disengaged,” allergic to the forensic and seductive arts of political persuasion. The congressional Republicans quashed nearly all legislation as a matter of principle and shut down the government for sixteen days, before relenting out of sheer tactical confusion and embarrassment—and yet it was the President’s miseries that dominated the year-end summations.

Obama worried his lip with his tongue and the tip of his index finger. He sighed, slumping in his chair. The night before, Iran had agreed to freeze its nuclear program for six months. A final pact, if one could be arrived at, would end the prospect of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities and the hell that could follow: terror attacks, proxy battles, regional war—take your pick. An agreement could even help normalize relations between the United States and Iran for the first time since the Islamic Revolution, in 1979. Obama put the odds of a final accord at less than even, but, still, how was this not good news?

The answer had arrived with breakfast. The Saudis, the Israelis, and the Republican leadership made their opposition known on the Sunday-morning shows and through diplomatic channels. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, called the agreement a “historic mistake.” Even a putative ally like New York Senator Chuck Schumer could go on “Meet the Press” and, fearing no retribution from the White House, hint that he might help bollix up the deal. Obama hadn’t tuned in. “I don’t watch Sunday-morning shows,” he said. “That’s been a well-established rule.” Instead, he went out to play ball.

Usually, Obama spends Sundays with his family. Now he was headed for a three-day fund-raising trip to Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, rattling the cup in one preposterous mansion after another. The prospect was dispiriting. Obama had already run his last race, and the chances that the Democratic Party will win back the House of Representatives in the 2014 midterm elections are slight. The Democrats could, in fact, lose the Senate.

For an important trip abroad, Air Force One is crowded with advisers, military aides, Secret Service people, support staff, the press pool. This trip was smaller, and I was along for the ride, sitting in a guest cabin with a couple of aides and a staffer who was tasked with keeping watch over a dark suit bag with a tag reading “The President.”

Obama spent his flight time in the private quarters in the nose of the plane, in his office compartment, or in a conference room. At one point on the trip from Andrews Air Force Base to Seattle, I was invited up front for a conversation. Obama was sitting at his desk watching the Miami Dolphins–Carolina Panthers game. Slender as a switch, he wore a white shirt and dark slacks; a flight jacket was slung over his high-backed leather chair. As we talked, mainly about the Middle East, his eyes wandered to the game. Reports of multiple concussions and retired players with early-onset dementia had been in the news all year, and so, before I left, I asked if he didn’t feel at all ambivalent about following the sport. He didn’t.

“I would not let my son play pro football,” he conceded. “But, I mean, you wrote a lot about boxing, right? We’re sort of in the same realm.”

The Miami defense was taking on a Keystone Kops quality, and Obama, who had lost hope on a Bears contest, was starting to lose interest in the Dolphins. “At this point, there’s a little bit of caveat emptor,” he went on. “These guys, they know what they’re doing. They know what they’re buying into. It is no longer a secret. It’s sort of the feeling I have about smokers, you know?”

Obama chewed furtively on a piece of Nicorette. His carriage and the cadence of his conversation are usually so measured that I was thrown by the lingering habit, the trace of indiscipline. “I’m not a purist,” he said.”

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As manifestações no Brasil pela objectiva do João Pina

No início desta semana o João Pina chegou a São Paulo para fotografar os protestos que desde então se espalharam a outras cidades brasileiras. Algumas fotos dele foram agora publicadas no blogue Photo Booth da revista The New Yorker.

@João Pina

@João Pina

Das cartas em papel ao correio electrónico seguro

Em tempos, a comunicação dos leitores com um órgão de comunicação social fazia-se por carta. As publicações divulgavam uma morada para onde todos podiam escrever. Chegavam cartas com protestos, elogios, insultos, sugestões e, esporadicamente, notícias para serem investigadas. Mais raramente ainda apareciam documentos confidenciais. A evolução tecnológica reduziu gradualmente a quantidade de correio que chega às redacções. Primeiro foi o telefone. Depois o email. É verdade que ainda hoje continuam a aparecer denúncias anónimas, escritas à máquina, sem assinatura, nem remetente, numa tentativa de proteger a identidade de quem envia essas missivas. Mas a progressiva desmaterialização de documentos reduziu o seu número.

Actualmente, os grandes órgãos de comunicação social estão a dar um novo passo para este contacto indispensável entre jornalistas e cidadãos interessados: a criação de caixas de correio totalmente seguras. A revista The New Yorker foi uma das últimas a criar um sistema para a entrega de documentos. Chamou-lhe StrongBox e foi desenvolvido por Aaron Swartz, o génio informático que se suicidou em Janeiro, e Kevin Poulsen. É um sistema aparentemente simples: torna impossível identificar o endereço IP de quem envia informação. Nem na própria revista conhecerão o remetente. Mais tarde ou mais cedo, as publicações portuguesas terão de se adaptar a esta realidade. É assim que funciona.

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