24, 2013
Crisis: leaks, top web firms, NSA, Merkel * 2
  "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. It's the spies, not the leaks, that threaten our security
  2. Top web firms urge more transparency over UK
       requests for user data

  3. NSA Disinformation: There's No Evidence That Massive
       Data Collection Thwarts Terror Attacks

  4. Are You Spying On Me? Amid Accusations, Germany's
       Merkel Calls Obama for Answers

  5. Merkel's Phone: Spying Suspicions Put Obama in a Tight
About ME/CFS


There are today again five crisis pieces. The first may be the most interesting, but there are also two on German Chancellor Merkel's having been spied upon by the NSA - or not, but it would seem this has happened in the past, precisely because Obama and two of his spokesmen declined to deny this, and they have listened to the conversations of the Brazilian and Mexican presidents.

1.  It's the spies, not the leaks, that threaten our security

The first item today is from by Seumas Milne, in the Guardian:

This is, as the title also says, in fact about the lies, deceptions and secrecies of the NSA and GCHQ, and it is quite radical, though I also quite agree. I skip the beginning, that summarizes stuff my regular readers will know, and start with

In reality, national security is a catchphrase so elastic as to be meaningless. As MI5 helpfully explains, government policy is "not to define the term, in order to retain the flexibility ... to adapt to changing circumstances" – in other words, political expediency.

If it simply meant protecting citizens from bombs on buses and trains, of course, most people would sign up for that. But as the Snowden leaks have moved from capability to content, it's been driven home that much of what NSA and GCHQ (virtually one organisation) are up to has nothing to do with terrorism or security at all, but, as might be expected, the exercise of naked state power to gain political and economic advantage.

Yes, quite so. As I have been saying, indeed already in 2005, in Dutch, "terrorism" is a deception, and not what all this spying is or was ever about - except indeed state terrorism, on its own people, which it enables, maintains and fuels.

The governments want to know what you - each of you, and any of you - is up to; who you are connected with; and what may be expected from you. And if you may be an opponent, of any kind whatsoever, it wants to know, so that it can "take care" of you, since this is so very much cheaper than doing anything about whatever you oppose (rightly or wrongly).

That is what this is about - they never cared to protect ordinary people from terrorism, and indeed ordinary people have an extremely small chance to be bothered by real terrorists.

Also, the interests of the secret services is much like it always was - except that the governments now have very much more possibilities to spy on you than any government ever had, and they are using their powers to the hilt, just as they want total secrecy to do so, at least until they can start taking out the opposition, of almost any kind, flavor and inspiration.

There is considerably more, but I only quote the last paragraph:

It's a democratic necessity that the Snowden leaks are used to bring some genuine accountability to the NSA-GCHQ machine and its lawless industrial-scale espionage. But to frame the controversy as a trade-off between security and privacy misses the wider picture. The main western intelligence agencies are instruments of global dominance, whose role in the rest of the world has a direct impact on their own citizens. It's not the revelations that threaten our security, but the agencies and their political masters themselves.

Yes, I agree.

2.  Top web firms urge more transparency over UK requests for user data

Next, an article by Rowena Mason, also in the Guardian:
This starts as follows, and is quite interesting:

Britain needs to have a full public debate about the scale of internetsurveillance to give confidence that state powers are not being abused, the world's five biggest internet companies have told MPs.

In a joint memo, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and Twitter have called for the UK government to allow greater transparency about requests for them to hand over data on their users.

Their evidence to the home affairs select committee comes after the Guardian's revelations about the scale of mass surveillance by the security services in the US and UK based on leaked documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

I would have formulated it differently, I guess, but it is at the very least interesting news that there is a joint memo by Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and Twitter, and that it advocates "greater transparency".

There is considerably more in the article, but this also is just a first step, although indeed in the good direction.

3.  NSA Disinformation: There's No Evidence That Massive Data Collection Thwarts Terror Attacks

Next, an article by Justin Elliott and Theodoric Meyer, that I found on AlterNet, but is originally from Pro Publica:
This starts as follows:

Two weeks after Edward Snowden’s first revelations about sweeping government surveillance, President Obama shot back. “We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information not just in the United States, but, in some cases, threats here in Germany,” Obama said during a visit to Berlin in June. “So lives have been saved.”

In the months since, intelligence officials, media outlets, and members of Congress from both parties all repeated versions of the claim that NSA surveillance has stopped more than 50 terrorist attacks. The figure has become a key talking point in the debate around the spying programs.

“Fifty-four times this and the other program stopped and thwarted terrorist attacks both here and in Europe — saving real lives,” Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said on the House floor in July, referring to programs authorized by a pair of post-9/11 laws. “This isn’t a game. This is real.”

But there's no evidence that the oft-cited figure is accurate.

Quite so: it was and is all propaganda and "public relations" prose, that is lies, deception, and misinformation, that indeed was and is possible because of the extreme secrecy in which the NSA and the GCHQ are allowed to operate by their governments.

There is quite a bit more, that I leave to you: my own position on what the spying is really for I gave above: It does not serve to counter terrorism from others, though this also is covered by it; it does serve to enable governments to terrorize their own populations, and that is what is is mainly about.

If indeed it was about terrorists, the whole spying would be much more specific; would not take up each and anyone's phone conversations, meta data, and internet activities, and indeed might have succeeded in scoring a few successes, that now did not occur, because everyone got surveilled, which is the central point of the whole process: Control the population, so as to be able to weed out any opposition (except perhaps from Congressmen and Senators: see the next two items).
4. Are You Spying On Me? Amid Accusations, Germany's Merkel Calls Obama for Answers

Next, the first of two (out of many more) articles on Angela Merkel's being spied upon by the NSA (or the GCHQ). This is by John Queally on Common Dreams:
I note, to start with, the subtitle (bolding in the original):

White House says surveillance is 'not' currently underway, but refuses to say whether or not it has spied on German leader in the past

This starts as follows:

Did the U.S. National Security Agency spy on the phone or email communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel?

According to government sources in Germany, there was enough speculation that Merkel herself phoned President Obama on Wednesday demanding a clarification about the accusations.

As the Guardian reports:

The German government claims to have obtained information suggesting that the United States may have monitored the mobile phone of Angela Merkel. The chancellor called Barack Obama to demand an immediate clarification, it said.

"We swiftly sent a request to our American partners asking for an immediate and comprehensive clarification," Steffen Seibert, a German government spokesman, said in a statement on Wednesday.

And indeed there is an American reaction, both by Obama and his spokesperson, and I quote the latter, who is Caitlin Hayden, the White House's National Security Council spokesman:
"The United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel. Beyond that, I'm not in a position to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity."
This poses several questions. First, can you trust them? I'd say you cannot, also not if you are Germany's Chancellor: both the Mexican and the Brazilian presidents' conversations have been listened to, in secret. Second, this spokesperson clearly does not say Chancellor Merkel has not been spied upon. Third, the spokesperson does not say that anybody else Chancellor Merkel has spoken to - as may be clear from her socalled metadata - have not been spied upon. Fourth, the spokesperson pretends Chancellor Merkel's complaints are neither serious nor of concern: she said she is not going "to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity", as if the Chancellor is just a mere nobody with some silly complaint.

Merkel's Phone: Spying Suspicions Put Obama in a Tight Spot

Finally, here is an article in the English on line edition of the German Der Spiegel, by Sebastian Fischer:
I skip various things, and immediately come to one of my above points:
There is really no reason for reassurance if one listens closely to what Obama's spokesman Carney said. Again: "The President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel." That statement is made in the present and future tenses. But what about the past? Has Merkel's phone been under surveillance in the past, or not? When asked by SPIEGEL, a spokeswoman of the US National Security Council would not say if Obama's assurance that the chancellor is not being monitored also applied to the past. This point also was being emphasized in political circles in Berlin Wednesday night.
Quite so - and I would say that the refusal to answer questions about listening to Chancellor Merkel's conversations in the past, is a strong sign this has happened.

There is also this:
Obama is increasingly putting the credibility of the US on the line, even with the country's allies -- all the while calling for America to go back to using its "soft power." The repeated line from the US government that all intelligence services employ similar methods is hardly believable any longer. One thing has become clear: Not all intelligence services have the same capabilities as those of the United States.
Yes, although the last point can and should be formulated much stronger: All other intelligence services very probably, at this moment and in the past, lack "the same capabilities as those of the United States".

This does not mean they would not want to have them, nor does it mean they would not use them as freely as the United States has done. It means only that, so far, they very probably lacked the money to set up such a system, and also they may lack the expertise to do so.

Finally, one more thing: Personally, I do not much mind that the German chancellor's phone calls may have been known for several years to Keith Alexander and James Clapper, or indeed to Barack Obama. That is, I think it should not happen, but having read the above it seems more probable than not that it has.

But what I am personally concerned with is the spying on every one, and this concern hardly grows less, if at all, if I were to learn that heads of states are excepted (if you can believe Alexander, Clapper and Obama).

For me, the Fourth Amendment applies: All persons should have privacy, except if there is a specific complaint against them, that merits spying on them,  for a limited time, and that spying is controlled by a judge, who also can, in principle, be heard, instead of being one of many, in a secret court, with secret decisions.

That is, with my bolding added:
The 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.
-- Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution

[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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