24, 2013
Crisis: NSA*5, Obama's friends, Senate creating totalitarianism
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone.

Prev- crisis -Next

1. Various items: NSA stories around the world
2. NSA surveillance goes beyond Orwell's imagination – Alan

Close the N.S.A.’s Back Doors
4. Spilling the NSA's Secrets
5. Stephen Fry joins demand to end NSA and GCHQ mass

6. Obama’s Friends in Low Places
The Senate Is Busy Creating a Privileged 1st Amendment
     Club for 'Official' Journalists

8. Personal
About ME/CFS


Today I had (and have) 7 items in the crisis series, gathered before 12.00 in the morning. The first five of these are about the NSA, but if you want a reason for this you can consult item 2. Also, in item 8 I very briefly explain why I did not treat the latest signs of Dutch academic corruption.

1. Various items: NSA stories around the world

To start with, another item by Glenn Greenwald:

This starts as follows:

I'm still working at trying to get the next set of NSA stories published. That, combined with a rapidly approaching book deadline, will make non-NSA-article postings difficult for the next couple of weeks. Until then, here are a few items to note regarding a point I have often tried to make: namely, one of the most overlooked aspects of the NSA reporting in the US has been just how global of a story this has become:

After which follows eight numbered items, that you can check yourself, and that I forego mostly, because I have treated them. But I do want to copy two points, which I consider quite fair, and are quite relevant, when discussing the New York Times, the home of David Brooks:

The New York Times had a quite good editorial yesterday on the domestic dangers posed by the NSA's efforts to break internet encryption. The Editorial details numerous ways that we have learned that the NSA jeopardizes the privacy rights of Americans and the security of the internet, and calls for serious limits on the NSA's hacking powers. Are there really people who can read that and think to themselves: I sure do wish Edward Snowden had let us remain ignorant about all of this?

And again:

Yet now, as the Hill reports, those arguments used by the DOJ to prevent judicial rulings are being gutted by all of the revelations in the wake of Snowden-enabled reporting. The Hill article quotes the ACLU's Alex Abdo as follows:

"For years, the government has shielded its surveillance practices from judicial review through excessive secrecy. And now that that secrecy has been lifted to some degree, we now know precisely who is being surveilled in some of the dragnet policies of the NSA, and those people can now challenge those policies. . . . . No matter what you think of the lawfulness of these programs, I think everyone should think their legitimacy or illegitimacy is better debated in public and decided by a court."

Does anyone disagree with that? Is there anyone who thinks things were better pre-Snowden when the DOJ could successfully block legal challenges to the US government's spying activities by invoking secrecy and standing claims?

I would myself assume that David Brooks disagrees and would have wanted everyone to remain ignorant. But I have already in June concluded that Mr Brooks is not dumb, but is quite dishonest.

2. NSA surveillance goes beyond Orwell's imagination – Alan Rusbridger

Next, an article in the Guardian by Dominic Rushe, about the editor of the Guardian:
I start with noting this has the subtitle
Guardian editor says depth of NSA surveillance programs greatly exceed anything the 1984 author could have imagined.
And I think that is quite true, first because of the depthto which the NSA goes: it plunders everybody's information, and pretends there are at least three classes of people: The governors and NSA-staff; the rest of the Americans they plunder; and the rest of the world, that do not have any rights, and also are plundered. And second, because Orwell just did not think of computers, that indeed hardly existed when he was alive.

Here are the first three paragraphs:

The potential of the surveillance state goes way beyond anything in George Orwell's 1984, Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian's editor-in-chief, told an audience in New York on Monday.

Speaking in the wake of a series of revelations in the Guardian about the extent of the National Security Agency's surveillance operations, Rusbridger said: "Orwell could never have imagined anything as complete as this, this concept of scooping up everything all the time.

"This is something potentially astonishing about how life could be lived and the limitations on human freedom," he said.

And here is Rusbridger on a thema of - somewhat strangely: do many Americans really think they are "exceptional"? - international spying:

"All sorts of people around the world are questioning what America is doing," said Rusbridger. "The president keeps saying: well we don't spy on our people. [But] that's not much comfort if you are German."

Quite so - or English, French, Belgian or Dutch: Your computer is being milked by Keith Alexander's supermen and superwomen, and the president of the United States tells you that you should not worry, and "trust" him! (Besides, he is also lying to his own people about his own people.)

And he also said:

Rusbridger said the world of spying had changed incomparably in the last 15 years. "The ability of these big agencies, on an international basis, to keep entire populations under some form of surveillance, and their ability to use engineering and algorithms to erect a system of monitoring and surveillance, is astonishing," he said.

He said that as the NSA revelations had gone on, the "integrity of the internet" had been questioned. "These are big, big issues about balancing various rights in society. About how business is done. And about how safe individuals are, living their digital lives."

Yes, quite so - and by the way: There does not seem to be any real consciousness in the U.S. government that this does involve "big issues about balancing various rights in society": All they know is the logic of power - they can take it, they took it, and ordinary people should shut up as they see their privacy totally disappear. (For that's what it comes down to, in principle.)

3. Close the N.S.A.’s Back Doors

Next, an article in the New York Times, that meanwhile seems to have been limited to those who pay for it:

In any case, here is the main bit:

The back doors also strip away the expectations of privacy that individuals, businesses and governments have in ordinary communications. If back doors are built into systems by the N.S.A., who is to say that other countries’ spy agencies — or hackers, pirates and terrorists — won’t discover and exploit them?

The government can get a warrant and break into the communications or data of any individual or company suspected of breaking the law. But crippling everyone’s ability to use encryption is going too far, just as the N.S.A. has exceeded its boundaries in collecting everyone’s phone records rather than limiting its focus to actual suspects.

Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, has introduced a bill, that would, among other provisions. bar the government from requiring software makers to insert built-in ways to bypass encryption. It deserves full Congressional support.

To which I am willing to say: Quite so.

4. Spilling the NSA's Secrets

Next, here is Allen Rusbridger again, this time being interviewed on Democacy Now!:
This is an interesting interview, but most of the material covered, I have already covered in Nederlog. I select one point, that I did not treat:
Well, to begin with, we needed some help from Snowden to point us to what he thought was important. This is not a world that is easily — these are not documents in which the stories sit up and show themselves. This is a complex world. A lot is written in acronyms, if not in actually code, and so we had to be guided to, initially, to some of the stories that Snowden felt were most newsworthy.
That is: Much of the material does need redacting, and is not fit to be published as is, at least not in the general press. This I am quite willing to accept.

5. Stephen Fry joins demand to end NSA and GCHQ mass surveillance

Next, another item in the Guardian, this time by Nick Hopkins:
This starts with a picture of Fry, under which there is the following text, that is quite accurate, by my lights:
“Privacy and freedom from state intrusion are important for everyone. You can’t just scream ‘terrorism’ and use it as an excuse for Orwellian snooping,” says British actor Stephen Fry
Quite so, and this is just as it has been played by Obama and the NSA, indeed even to the extent of criminalizing journalists.

In any case, he and some other British people have joined a group that was started by the Index on Censorship. On this, the article says:

The Guardian recently revealed how GCHQ and the NSA have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect their privacy.

Index will announce that 40 free speech groups have also joined the campaign, including Amnesty International, Liberty, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Russian PEN Centre. Free speech organisations from Canada, Bahrain, Malaysia, Poland and Finland have also signed the petition.

Kirsty Hughes, chief executive of Index on Censorship, said: "Snooping and surveillance on this scale is not only an invasion of privacy, it also undermines the basis of democracy and free speech." Mass surveillance was a tool used by authoritarian countries and should not be tolerated, she said.

Quite so. Besides, Kirsty Hughes seems to have understood something else:

Index believes the public have yet to grasp the implications of what had been revealed. "They don't feel an immediate threat, they don't think that someone is watching them as they are writing their emails," said Hughes.

"Somehow the implications have not been appreciated. But if you told people 'we are going to put a policeman at the end of every street and we are going to put listening devices in your home' then that would cause obvious alarm."

I think that is quite true: Most people understand very little of the computer they use, and at most 1 in a 100 can program.

So - it seems to me - one must tell people it is much worse than "
a policeman at the end of every street" and "listening devices in your home": Whatever you use your computer for, in principle is known to the NSA, whatever it is about, indeed with the one exception: The computer needs to be connected to the internet.

The article also mentions Casper Bowen, a former Microsoft employee, who wrote a report for the European Union:

The report notes "there are no privacy rights for non-Americans under Prism and related programmes" and says the US probably places "no limitations on exploiting or intruding a non-US person's privacy."

Bowden concludes "EU institutions have the right and duty to examine this emergence of cyber mass-surveillance and how it affects the fundamental rights of the EU citizen abroad and at home."

Quite so. 

Obama’s Friends in Low Places

Next, I shift from the NSA towards president Obama, who has cultivated friendships with the richest and most powerful people in the United States (while writing fake booklets such as "The Audacity of Hope"):

Here is a bit from it, from the start:

That Barack Obama is such a kidder. No matter how awkward the moment, he’s got just the right quip to purchase some wiggle room. Remember when his old Chicago banking buddy Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, first ran into that bit of trouble over his bank’s “London Whale” derivative scam? That scheme has already lost $6 billion with close to another $1 billion piled on by the SEC in fines last week after JPMorgan admitted it broke the law.

Well of course, being Obama, when the scandal first broke last year, the president picked a women’s daytime talk show, ABC’s “The View,” to deal with the scams of his leading Wall Street backer. “JPMorgan is one of the best-managed banks there is,” he told the “View” audience. “Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we got, and they still lost $2 billion and counting.” 

Yes, counting; that $2 billion is now likely to end up around $16 billion given the future legal fees and possible payouts allotted to countering the myriad lawsuits connected with this admission of illegal activity. That’s aside from the mortgage fraud, Libor rate rigging and energy manipulation cases still confronting the beleaguered bank.
He is "one of the smartest bankers we got", who meanwhile lost at least $16 billion dollars, clearly to be paid by others. But the president loves him, and therefore he must be good.

The Senate Is Busy Creating a Privileged 1st Amendment Club for 'Official' Journalists

Finally, an article on AlterNet by Carey Shenkman:
Here are the first two paragraphs:

On September 12, 2013, the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee narrowly defined who the law should consider to be a journalist, by  amending the proposed Free Flow of Information Act (“FFIA”). The FFIA is a “shield law” that protects journalists from having to reveal their confidential sources when confronted with court subpoenas. The amendment changed the language of the bill from protecting the activity of journalism to protecting the  profession. Journalists are now limited to those employed by, recently employed by, or substantially contributing to media organizations for certain minimum durations.

This maneuver skirts the substantial investigative role served by independent journalists, bloggers, and nontraditional media, who are left unprotected by the statute. It also expressly excludes whistleblower organizations. By not extending protection to a vital segment of investigative newsgatherers, the amended FFIA falls short of providing real benefits. More fundamentally, the distinctions created by the bill reinforce a privileged club for journalists. In essence, the government is licensing the press, and treading down a path that  courts have for decades cautioned “present[s] practical and conceptual difficulties of a high order.”

This is part of the reason why I do not trust the American Senate: They are actively protecting - what I, for my part, think are obviously - sadists like Brooks and Toobin, while making it easy to imprison Greenwald and Poitras, and they clearly know that as well.

The rest is also well worth reading. The general points are that (1) there is no good definition of "journalist", and there never has been one, and that (2) in a free and open society everybody has and should have the right to speak and write as he pleases, and that (3) nobody should be forced to reveal his sources.

8. Personal

I do not treat Mart Bax nor the six Groninger intellectuals who claimed to have been tortured for two years - I quote from their open letter: "
the two years of torture the Board of the Faculty practiced on our body and soul": Really now?! - because it disgusts me too much, and what I write about it will not make any difference.
[1] 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 government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
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 quote from is quite pertinent.)

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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