20, 2013
Crisis: Snowden and indifference, NSA+FBI, NSA+Mexico, GCHQ+Belgacom
  "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.

  1. Edward Snowden: public indifference is the real enemy
       in the NSA affair

  2. How the NSA and FBI foil weak oversight
  3. Fresh Leak on US Spying: NSA Accessed Mexican
       President's Email

  4. Belgacom Attack: Britain's GCHQ Hacked Belgian
       Telecoms Firm
About ME/CFS


There again wasn't very 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.

1. Edward 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 horrible.

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 society.

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 really scary.

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:

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.

Benkler proceeds to discuss these alternatives, which I leave to you, in the course of which he notes:
Mass surveillance 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:
  • Mass surveillance divides the people in a mass of the surveilled and a very small minority of governors + surveyors: it is fundamentally undemocratic and unfree.
  • 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."
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 then says:
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 Americans.
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 follows:
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 Mexican President's Email 

Next, the first of two articles in the English edition of Der Spiegel, by Jens Glüsing, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark:
This starts as follows (their bolding):
The NSA 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:

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.

4. Belgacom Attack: Britain's GCHQ Hacked Belgian Telecoms Firm

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 since 2010.


[1] 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 Greenwald:
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. 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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