"They who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin 
| "All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
Snowden: public indifference is the real enemy
in the NSA affair
the NSA and FBI foil weak oversight
3. Fresh Leak on US Spying:
4. Belgacom Attack: Britain's
GCHQ Hacked Belgian
There again wasn't
much crisis material, but then it also is Sunday. And I do have four
items, that are each and all quite interesting, although they will not
make you happier.
Snowden: public indifference is the real enemy in the NSA affair
The first item is by John
Naughton in the Guardian, and is quite relevant, also in a wider
context, for which see my Crisis:
Why are so many so apathetic?:
This begins as follows:
One of the most
disturbing aspects of the public response to Edward Snowden's
revelations about the scale of governmental surveillance is how little
public disquiet there appears to be about it. A recent YouGov poll, for example, asked respondents whether the
British security services have too many or too few powers to carry out
surveillance on ordinary people. Forty-two per cent said that they
thought the balance was "about right" and a further 22% thought that
the security services did not have enough powers. In another question,
respondents were asked whether they thought Snowden's revelations
were a good or a bad thing; 43% thought they
were bad and only 35% thought they were good.
Yes, quite so as regards "how little public disquiet there appears to be". What one must think about the YouGov poll is rather unclear, for me, in that most
things about the poll and the pollster are totally unknown to me, but if
this a fair sample of "the British public", the outcome is rather
I'ĺl turn below to an
explanation, and here first quote the second paragraph:
Writing in these pages a
few weeks ago, Henry Porter expressed his own frustration at this public
complacency. "Today, apparently," he wrote, "we are at ease with a
system of near total intrusion that would have horrified every adult
Briton 25 years ago. Back then, western spies acknowledged the
importance of freedom by honouring the survivors of those networks;
now, they spy on their own people. We have changed, that is obvious,
and, to be honest, I wonder whether I, and others who care about privacy and freedom,
have been left behind by societies that accept surveillance as a part
of the sophisticated world we live in."
Yes, quite so, although the
last conclusion seems a bit too relativistic: If one is so stupid that
one tolerates or indeed welcomes mass state surveillance - and more
than 1 in 5, if the above poll can be relied on, plus 2 in 5 who
think the level of surveillance is currently more or less OK - of all
the aspect of one's life, and anything one does with one's computer,
then one belongs in a zoo, it would seem, rather than in a fully human
But OK... let me make a few
points about what seems to be the solid majority of the current British:
- Almost everyone is undereducated,
compared to how it was 40 and more years ago.
- Aĺmost everyone has seen
far more TV and far more advertisements, compared to how it was 40 and more years ago.
- Many believe the illusions
they were fed: that they are "independent consumers", who are "just as
good as anyone else", and whose rights are being maintained by their
governors and parliamentarians.
- Half of those
polled have an IQ of less than 100.
- Only a minority
of those polled really understand the questions they are asked,
for only a minority has some realistic understanding of the
computers and telephones they use, and what may be done with them.
Note please that I am
offering these points mostly in excuse, and not in criticism.
John Naughton also is
confused and baffled by the outcome of the poll, which he tended to
explain by "ignorance", rather like my last point, but then proceeds
with saying that, in his experience, something similar holds for those
who are not ignorant about computers and phones:
And yet the discovery
that in less than three decades our societies have achieved Orwellian
levels of surveillance provokes, at most, a wry smile or a resigned
shrug. And it is this level of passive acceptance that I find
I agree. Also, Naughton
gives an interesting reference to what he calls a
thoughtful paper and then concludes as follows:
(...) "sources cannot
know when they might be monitored, or how intercepted information might
be used against them". In which case, what happens to the freedom that
the NSA is supposedly defending?
The answer to that must be:
the only "freedom" the NSA is defending is their freedom to
track you and your data, whoever you are
- and see below, items 3 and 4
- and their freedom to do so effectively without inhibition or
restraint or oversight or control, and in full secrecy.
As I've said before: Being
ill for 35 years brought with it that I have no children, and I also am
meanwhile 63, so for me personally things are less dangerous. But if
you have children or if you are considerably younger, I suggest that
you may soon be in considerable danger, and especially when you are
fairly intelligent (or better) or simply like to think for yourself.
2. How the NSA and FBI foil weak oversight
Next, an article by Yochal
Benkler in the Guardian, that I should have seen earlier (but it is
from October 16):
This starts as follows, and
lists two basic and contradictory options:
Benkler proceeds to discuss
these alternatives, which I leave to you, in the course of which he
Over 20 congressional
bills aim to address the crisis of confidence in NSAsurveillance. With
Patriot Act author and Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner working
with Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy on a bipartisan proposal
to put the NSA's metadata program "out
of business", we face two fundamentally different paths on the
future of government surveillance.
One, pursued by the
intelligence establishment, wants to normalize and perpetuate its
dragnet surveillance program with as minimal cosmetic adjustments as
necessary to mollify a concerned public. The other challenges the very
concept that dragnet surveillance can be a stable part of a privacy-respecting
system of limited government.
represents a commitment to near-universal all-seeing gaze, so as to
assess and respond to threats that can arise anywhere, at any time.
Privacy as a check on government power represents a constitutional
judgment that a limited government must have limited power to
inspect our daily lives, and that an omniscient government is too
powerful for mere rules to restrain.
Yes, and this can be
strengthened, by at least three points:
Next, Benkler gives an interesting history of the abuses of
the NSA and of the US government - "After 11 September 2001, and until 2004, the President's
Surveillance Programs (PSP) simply operated outside the law" etc. - that I leave to your interests, and
- Mass surveillance
divides the people in a mass of the surveilled and a very small
minority of governors + surveyors: it is fundamentally undemocratic
- As to privacy:
The right rule is that the government must be transparent,
public and open, with a few exceptions that relate to security, and the
public must have privacy, for the government should be there to
facilitate the interests of the people, instead of the other way around.
- As I.F. Stone said: "All governments lie and nothing they
say should be believed."
The NSA continues
to evade oversight. This time, it relies on the kind of jurisdictional
arbitrage familiar to so many lawless sites the world over: because its
technical collection points are physically outside the US, it does not
require authorization from either Congress or the Fisa court, even
though the dragnet inevitably captures large amounts of data from
Indeed - and it may also be
safely assumed that the GCHQ does the American spying, and the NSA the
English spying, and then they exchange data, and smile contentedly:
they have exactly what they want, "without breaking the law".
Benkler also rightly says "Rules
alone cannot hold back the millions of potential abuses of an
omniscient state" and concludes
As long as
government is allowed to collect all internet data, the perceived
exigency will drive honest civil servants to reach more broadly and
deeply into our networked lives. Bringing an end to mass government
surveillance needs to be a central pillar of returning to the
principles we have put in jeopardy in the early 21st century.
I quite agree.
3. Fresh Leak on US Spying: NSA Accessed
Next, the first of two articles in the English edition of
Der Spiegel, by Jens Glüsing, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and
This starts as follows (their
has been systematically eavesdropping on the Mexican government for
years. It hacked into the president's public email account and gained
deep insight into policymaking and the political system. The news is
likely to hurt ties between the US and Mexico.
This is a fairly long and
well-documented article, including four photos. I leave this to you,
and only quote its ending:
4. Belgacom Attack: Britain's GCHQ Hacked
Belgian Telecoms Firm
So far, Mexico has
reacted more moderately -- although the fact that the NSA infiltrated
even the presidential computer network wasn't known until now.
Commenting after TV Globo first revealed the NSA's surveillance of text
messages, Peņa Nieto stated that Obama had promised him to investigate
the accusations and to punish those responsible, if it was found that
misdeeds had taken place.
In response to an inquiry
from SPIEGEL concerning the latest revelations, Mexico's Foreign
Ministry replied with an email condemning any form of espionage on
Mexican citizens, saying such surveillance violates international law.
"That is all the government has to say on the matter," stated a
spokesperson for Peņa Nieto.
Presumably, that email
could be read at the NSA's Texas location at the same time.
Finally, the second of the two Der Spiegel articles (published on paper
on September 23):
This is a shorter article,
but it has four photos, of which three are of classified documents, and
it starts as follows (their bolding):
A cyber attack on
Belgacom raised considerable attention last week. Documents leaked by
Edward Snowden and seen by SPIEGEL indicate that Britain's GCHQ
intelligence agency was responsible for the attack.
Documents from the
archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden indicate that Britain's GCHQ
intelligence service was behind a cyber attack against Belgacom, a
partly state-owned Belgian telecoms company. A "top secret" Government
Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) presentation seen by SPIEGEL
indicate that the goal of project, conducted under the codename
"Operation Socialist," was "to enable better exploitation of Belgacom"
and to improve understanding of the provider's infrastructure.
The presentation is
undated, but another document indicates that access has been possible
 Here it is necessary to insist, with
Aristotle, thay 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
It is more proper
that law should govern than any of the citizens: upon the same
principle, if it is advantageous to place supreme power in some
particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and
the servant of 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 machine) which is a disease that I have since 1.1.