January 10, 2014

Crisis: NSA, Wyden, Ellsberg, EU on spying, Chomsky, TPP, Personal

   "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.
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next  

NSA and GCHQ activities appear illegal, says EU
     parliamentary inquiry

2. Ron Wyden: the future of NSA programs is being
     determined now

3. On Secrecy, Oaths, and Edward Snowden
4. As NSA Slammed, EU Panel Wants to Hear Directly from

5. Chomsky: How Can We Escape the Curse of Economic

6. After 20 Years of NAFTA Poverty, Lawmakers Move to
     Fast-Track TPP

7. Personal

About ME/CFS


This is another crisis file. It is Friday today, and I found six or seven items, that follow below. Unless there is major crisis news, there will be no crisis Nederlogs in the weekend, which will allow me to write on other things, and also have some more time for myself. (See Personal.)

Also, the present text is uploaded earlier than normal.

1. NSA and GCHQ activities appear illegal, says EU parliamentary inquiry

To start with, an article by Nick Hopkins and David Traynor in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Mass surveillance programmes used by the US and Britain to spy on people in Europe have been condemned in the "strongest possible terms" by the first parliamentary inquiry into the disclosures, which has demanded an end to the vast, systematic and indiscriminate collection of personal data by intelligence agencies.

The inquiry by the European parliament's civil liberties committee says the activities of America's National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart, GCHQ, appear to be illegal and that their operations have "profoundly shaken" the trust between countries that considered themselves allies.

Yes, indeed - which should also answer the British Tories, although in fact this is quite unlikely: These mostly follow Goering's Principle, which is: "scare the common folks enough and they'll allow anything".

Also, before getting overly enthusiastic, I should note this:
The draft, still to be voted on by the chamber, has no legal force and does not compel further action, but adds to the growing body of criticism and outrage at the perceived intelligence abuses.
So basically it is, at best, advisory. All one can rejoice about is that it is fairly strong - for which reason I think "perceived" is too careful: They - the NSA, the GCHQ etc. - are spies; they have no legal clearance; they break the existing laws. (And you can't trust the government, certainly not without independent evidence.)

In any case:
The report says western intelligence agencies have been involved in spying on "an unprecedented scale and in an indiscriminate and non-suspicion-based manner". It is "very doubtful" that the collection of so much information is only guided by the fight against terrorism, the draft says, questioning the "legality, necessity and proportionality of the programmes".
Yes, I quite agree. And as to the quite correct "It is "very doubtful" that the collection of so much information is only guided by the fight against terrorism": It seems obvious to me that the spying is part and parcel of a much larger project, that is being put into practice at least since 9/11, which is to redesign the Western democracies as authoritarian states that are governed by the big corporations, and work for the rich few, and against the rest of the people, that can be controlled indefinitely by spying on all their communications and all their phone-calls.

And there is this:

The report also:

• Calls on the US authorities and EU states to prohibit blanket mass surveillance activities and bulk processing of personal data.

• Deplores the way intelligence agencies "have declined to co-operate with the inquiry the European parliament has been conducting on behalf of citizens".

• Insists mass surveillance has potentially severe effects on the freedom of the press, as well as a significant potential for abuse of information gathered against political opponents.

• Demands that the UK, Germany, France, Sweden and the Netherlands revise laws governing the activities of intelligence services to ensure they are in line with the European convention on human rights.

• Calls on the US to revise its own laws to bring them into line with international law, so they "recognise the privacy and other rights of EU citizens".

This seems to me all to be correct - but as I said before, the report is at best advisory. Also, there is a lot I could say on these points that I will not say, except that the Netherlands will not do anything with the present government, for that serves the NSA and the GCHQ and themselves much rather than the population.

2.  Ron Wyden: the future of NSA programs is being determined now

Next, an article by Spencer Ackerman in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Privacy advocates pressed Barack Obama to end the bulk collection of Americans’ communications data at a series of meetings at the White House on Thursday, seizing their final chance to convince him of the need for meaningful reform of sweeping surveillance practices.

A key US senator left one meeting at the White House with the impression that President Obama has yet to decide on specific reforms. “The debate is clearly fluid,” senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a longtime critic of bulk surveillance, told the Guardian after the meeting. “My sense is the president, and the administration, is wrestling with these issues,” Wyden said.

I may be mistaken, and indeed would gladly be so, but it seems to me that the main thing Obama and his administration are "wrestling with" is the terms in which they will continue the spying.

There is rather a lot more in the article, but the best seems to be by Jim Sensenbrenner:

“All three branches of government have said the NSA has gone too far,” Sensenbrenner said in a post-meeting statement.

Even President Obama’s hand-picked panel agrees that bulk collection by the NSA has come at a high cost to privacy without improving national security. This problem cannot be solved by presidential fiat. Congress needs to pass the USA Freedom Act, a bipartisan legislative solution closely aligned with the suggestions by the president’s panel. Enacting this bill would protect Americans’ civil liberties while keeping intact the tools necessary to protect our nation.

I agree, but I am not optimistic.

3.  On Secrecy, Oaths, and Edward Snowden 

Next, a brief piece by Daniel Ellsberg on Common Dreams:
He is concerned with the following:
contrary to the frequent assertions in the last week (including by Fred Kaplan) that Snowden is particularly reprehensible because he "broke his OATH of secrecy," neither Snowden nor anyone else broke such a secrecy "oath."
I will come in a moment to the oath Snowden did take, but I first say that I have read the piece by Kaplan, and concluded from that he probably is a bought pundit and certainly does not have to say anything interesting.

Here is Ellsberg on the oath Snowden did swear. First, on what he did break - which was not an oath:
Such an oath doesn't exist (look up "oath" on the web). Rather he—and I—broke an agreement (known as Standard Form 312) which was a condition of employment.  It provides for civil or administrative penalties (e.g., losing a clearance or a job) for disclosing classified information: serious enough to keep nearly everyone quiet about...anything classified, no matter how illegal or dangerous.
Second on the oath Snowden did swore to:

The reason this matters is that Snowden, as he said to Gellman and as I've repeatedly said, did take a real "oath," just one oath, the same oath that every official in the government and every Congressperson takes as an oath of office. He and they "swore" ("or affirmed") "to support and defend the Constitution of the U.S., against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

They did not swear to support and defend or obey the President, or to keep secrets.  But to support and defend, among other elements of the Constitution, the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments in the Bill of Rights, and Article I, section 8, on war powers. That's the oath that, as Snowden correctly said to Gellman, he upheld (as I would say I eventually did) and that Clapper and Alexander broke (along with most members of Congress).

Quite so!

4. As NSA Slammed, EU Panel Wants to Hear Directly from Snowden

Next, an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:
This has the same subject as item 1, and I only quote the first two paragraphs:
A draft investigative report presented to the European Parliament legislative committee charged with investigating the scope and scale of surveillance by the US National Security Agency and the British GCHQ states that the activities of the controversial spy agencies were "illegal" and have "profoundly shaken" the trust between nations on both sides of the Atlantic.

The preliminary version, obtained by the Guardian, shows that the final report by the Justice and Civil Liberties Committee will not likely be friendly towards the U.S. and U.K. governments and the findings seem to further bolster the idea that the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was justified in being troubled by the nature of the various surveillance programs he leaked to journalists.
For more, you can check the last link.

Chomsky: How Can We Escape the Curse of Economic Exploitation?

an article by Noam Chomsky that I found on Alternet:
This starts as follows:  
Humans are social beings, and the kind of creature that a person becomes depends crucially on the social, cultural and institutional circumstances of his life.

We are therefore led to inquire into the social arrangements that are conducive to people's rights and welfare, and to fulfilling their just aspirations - in brief, the common good.

For perspective I'd like to invoke what seem to me virtual truisms. They relate to an interesting category of ethical principles: those that are not only universal, in that they are virtually always professed, but also doubly universal, in that at the same time they are almost universally rejected in practice.

These range from very general principles, such as the truism that we should apply to ourselves the same standards we do to others (if not harsher ones), to more specific doctrines, such as a dedication to promoting democracy and human rights, which is proclaimed almost universally, even by the worst monsters - though the actual record is grim, across the spectrum.

Yes, indeed: It is quite true that many norms, indeed the most popular ones, are both universally professed and also universally rejected, in practice, and especially by the politicians who use the norms to get elected, and then use their being elected to act against the norms - as happened e.g. to Obama (quite intentionally, it seems to me).

Next, as to the question in the title of the article, Chomsky believes this:

Rocker was outlining an anarchist tradition culminating in anarcho-syndicalism - in European terms, a variety of "libertarian socialism."

This brand of socialism, he held, doesn't depict "a fixed, self-enclosed social system" with a definite answer to all the multifarious questions and problems of human life, but rather a trend in human development that strives to attain Enlightenment ideals.

So understood, anarchism is part of a broader range of libertarian socialist thought and action that includes the practical achievements of revolutionary Spain in 1936; reaches further to worker-owned enterprises spreading today in the American rust belt, in northern Mexico, in Egypt, and many other countries, most extensively in the Basque country in Spain; and encompasses the many cooperative movements around the world and a good part of feminist and civil and human rights initiatives.

This is true enough, but it is also true that there are many anarchisms, and that none of them has ever succeeded in being popular amongst more than a small part of the population in any country.

And this certainly is a problem, especially in times of democracy: If there is a sensible program and plan, that mostly can be seen to be a sensible program and plan only by the
intelligent, it will almost certainly not be practiced. [2]

Chomsky also says:

For Rocker, "the problem that is set for our time is that of freeing man from the curse of economic exploitation and political and social enslavement."

It should be noted that the American brand of libertarianism differs sharply from the libertarian tradition, accepting and indeed advocating the subordination of working people to the masters of the economy, and the subjection of everyone to the restrictive discipline and destructive features of markets.

Yes, the "libertarianism" that is preached by Ayn Rand and her followers is totally misnamed: A better name is "egoism" - which indeed accords with Rand.

There is considerably more in the article, and much that I agree with, but it does not answer the question in the title, except in extremely general terms - which may be correct, and certainly are more sensible than the dominant political tendencies, but which simply will not be practiced, were it only because only the intelligent few are convinced, while the less intelligent many are propagandized into opposing the plans that would save them.

6. After 20 Years of NAFTA Poverty, Lawmakers Move to Fast-Track TPP

Next and final in today's crisis reporting, an article by the Common Dreams staff, on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
On the heals of NAFTA's "20 years of regret" anniversary, U.S. lawmakers are aggressively pushing legislation to fast-track what has been called NAFTA on steroids: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Three powerful lawmakers —House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) — announced legislation (pdf) Thursday that would allow the Obama administration to fast-track approval of this behemoth trade deal.

Known as "trade promotion authority," the legislation would allow the Obama administration to dodge deliberation and amendments from Congress.

Which is also another reason to believe Obama is quite other than he presents himself: He is supporting fascist legislation, for this is what it evidently is. You may doubt this, but the article continues as follows:

Public Citizen summarizes:

Whether or not the president obtains the listed negotiating objectives, the bill would empower the president to sign a trade pact before Congress votes on it with a guarantee that the executive branch can write legislation to implement the pact and alter wide swaths of existing U.S. law and obtain both House and Senate votes within 90 days. That legislation is not subject to markup and amendment in committee, all amendments are forbidden during floor votes and a maximum of 20 hours of debate is permitted in the House and Senate.

As to my adjective "fascist":

“For nearly four years, the U.S. Trade Representative and TPP negotiators have purposely restricted participation and information, keeping members of Congress and citizen groups, unions, environmental and consumer organizations in the dark," said Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen. "There has been no opportunity for public interest groups to meaningfully participate in the negotiations, and under fast track authority, there will be no opportunity for our elected representatives to amend the deal and make it better for Americans."

Said Charles Chamberlain, Executive Director, Democracy for America, "The Trans-Pacific Partnership would be an unmitigated disaster for everything from the environment to internet freedom and working families."

But hey! This has all been engineered, mostly in total secrecy, by those excellent men Barack Obama, Joe Biden and John Kerry! You should Trust Them! They mean so very well!

In any case, here is a bit about the TPP, that is copied from Washington's Blog:

This is basically "a protest song", but there also is given this Background.

7. Personal

The people who - still - read Nederlog regularly but deplore my taking so much time and effort to write about the NSA may rejoice because in the weekend I will probably not write about the crisis.

My reasons are that anyway there tends to be less crisis materials in weekends; that my writing about the crisis has not moved anyone to write me (so, if you have, I am very sorry that your mail did not reach me, which I think is more and more probable); that I have quite a few other things I may write about; and that I also need some time to do other things I have to do.


[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.)

[2] I am not a democrat, because I think it nonsense to have the majority of  the less intelligent be manipulated into voting for the masters that exploit them  or to pronounce on things they cannot rationally judge. See my democracy plan and bureaucracy plan, although it seems quite certain these need a revolution to be practised.

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 Komarof

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)

       home - index - summaries - mail