1. The NSA secrets
2. An extra-ordinary man:
3. Now what?
I believe I have paid back most of the harm my walk of
but sleeping remains quite
difficult for me. By now I am convinced it is mostly the supplements I
am taking, but then these also do help with my ME-problems, and that is
part of the difficulty for me: To find the right dose. I certainly have
not done so right now, and it also is quite difficult to do.
Anyway. This Nederlog is mostly about an extra-ordinary man: Edward
Snowden. I've just heard of him, and for you probably the same
holds, for he is the leaker of the NSA-secrets.
The NSA secrets
Yesterday I wrote - among other things - the following:
findings about the doings of the United States' National
Security Agency, seem to me to be very threatening,
because they clearly seem to bring the political climate several steps
closer to a kind of Stalinism,
albeit with quite a few twists, if only because (i) nearly everything
and more that Stalin's NKVD wanted to know now is known to the
NSA, at least in principle, and (ii) if there is one thing certain
about politics and governments, then it is that powers that exist will
be (ab)used politically, with a (rough) proportion that is proportional
to the powers, while (iii) ordinary men are the tools, the victims and
the victimizers of history, but are not its designers.
Clearly, I still think so, and
I also think it is very important.
All I am saying is
that if powers exist,
then they will be abused, especially by governments, and the more
likely so, the greater these powers are - and these powers of the NSA are
the greatest power anyone has ever had about any civil population:
Almost everything there is to be known about one, now is known to those who govern you, if you are a citizen
of the US, and
indeed quite possibly also if not.
Besides... as to the last bit of this quotation, here is a little from an
interview Glenn Greenwald made with Edward Snowden and meanwhile
Q: What about the
administration's protests about hacking by China?
A: "We hack everyone
everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others.
But we are in almost every country in the world. We are not at war with
Q: Is it possible
to put security in place to protect against state surveillance?
A: "You are not even
aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is
horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network,
I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever
protections you put in place."
In more general terms, in Glenn
Greenwald's words of last Wednesay:
2. An extra-ordinary man: Edward Snowden
The way things are
supposed to work is that we're supposed to know virtually everything
about what they do: that's why they're called public servants. They're supposed to know virtually
nothing about what we do: that's why we're called private individuals.
This dynamic - the
hallmark of a healthy and free society - has been radically reversed.
Now, they know everything about what we do, and are constantly building
systems to know more. Meanwhile, we know less and less about what they
do, as they build walls of secrecy behind which they function. That's
the imbalance that needs to come to an end. No democracy can be healthy
and functional if the most consequential acts of those who wield
political power are completely unknown to those to whom they are
supposed to be accountable.
Edward Snowden, who at 29 is
half my age, thinks the same, as indeed I do. Since Snowden worked for
the NSA, he also
could do something about it, and he decided to tell Glenn
Greenwald about the enormous, so far secret, powers of the NSA, and
Greenwald told the world last week, through The Guardian.
Here is a consecutive part of an interview on Glenn
Greenwald's part of The Guardian:
He described how he once viewed the internet as "the most
important invention in all of human history". As an adolescent, he
spent days at a time "speaking to people with all sorts of views that I
would never have encountered on my own".
But he believed that the value of the internet, along with
basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance.
"I don't see myself as a hero," he said, "because what I'm doing is
self-interested: I don't want to live in a world where there's no
privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and
Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA's surveillance
net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time
before he chose to act. "What they're doing" poses "an existential
threat to democracy", he said.
A matter of principle
As strong as those beliefs are, there still remains the
question: why did he do it? Giving up his freedom and a privileged
lifestyle? "There are more important things than money. If I were
motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of
countries and gotten very rich."
I think this bit holds the
most important points, and if you want to read or indeed see more,
you'll have to visit Greenwald's
part of The Guardian.
I'll remark some things on each paragraph.
First paragraph. Yes, indeed - it is the most
important invention, and it is so because it gives so very many more
points of view than one could know without it, and gives so very much
that has been thought, in such an accessible, clear and fast way.
And we also see The Problem Of The Internet: It connects everyone and
everything - without real safeties, without real regulations,
and without there being any way in which one's rights are
Second paragraph. I agree with his basic motive: "I don't want to live in a world where there's
no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and
Indeed, I think that is his basic motive. But I think he is an
extra-ordinary man because most men do not think that way.
In fact, that is my reason to tout Conquest's
Terror": He is in a minority of those who care, and in a very
small minority of those who care, who can act, and who will act.
Third paragraph. Again I agree with his motive, with
my addition, being over twice as old, that most do not feel
like that, and that of those who do, few would do as he did. Also, I
should remark that it is less "democracy" that is at danger, for this
is a very vague term, as are the United
States Constitution and its Amendments,
in this case especially the Fourth
Amendment - which is this: 
right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,
supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place
to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
What Snowden is doing, it
seems to me, is to warn the world it is very close to the
danger of being totally taken over by a very small
group of men who will control everyone, because they control
all computers. And he is quite right.
Amendment to the US Constitution
Fourth paragraph. Yes, quite so. It is quite important
he says so, now that he still is free. The Bradley Manning case - among
other things - shows that the law is one of the things that has mostly ceased
to work in the US, at least for whoever disagrees with the government.
Also, although I think Bradley Manning has been sorely abused and ought
to be freed and thanked, I do not think he will be freed. I also think
he has not been as abused as much as Stalin let abuse his victims,
though indeed his treatment was and is a great shame, and was and is
But in a waterboarding country, who knows what will be done to Snowden,
and who knows what he may be made to say once he is in the hands of the
NSA, or any of the other US governmental agencies.
I do not know, and I wish him very well, but I do not have many
illusions - and besides, these days it may not be abuse that
makes people say what their governors want them to say, as pills
they have to take.
In any case: The NSA-secrets are, in part, in the open now, and Edward
Snowden also is right it is now up to others than himself.
3. Now what?
Actually, I do not
know. Clearly, most of this is wholly unprecedented, and it also was
not foreseen by the US government that the secret - or parts of it -
would be out.
Some parts are easy to foresee, though:
One important problem will be
how the media - what's left of them - will deal with this, and here I
am not optimistic, in part because most do not really realize the size
of the dangers they are running; in part because the dangers will be
massively downplayed and denied; and in part because most media will
much rather look some other way.
- There will be a
lot of doubletalk by the US government - but these are totally
unreliable, from top to bottom; quite incredible; and in fact, in terms
of their own laws, also quite illegal.
- The points of the
doubletalk will be mainly to downplay the importance, and the
facilities, and to keep things secret.
- Edward Snowden
will probably be arrested, and after that it is anybody's guess what
will happen to him.
What helps is that some of the media are aware of a good part of the
risks, and these are media both to the left and to the right, but what
does not help is that the dangers to freedom come from the US
government, and the powers these already have are enormous, and are
But mostly I just don't know - except that I am not optimistic.
Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, that the governors do not
rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the
if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my
More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn
It is more proper
that law should govern than any one of the
citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the
supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to
be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
(And I note the whole file I
from is quite pertinent.)
ME/CFS (that I prefer
to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search
is a disease I have since 1.1.1979: