January 14, 2014

Crisis: NSA & Metadata, NSA & Myths, NSA & fools, 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’s Preference for Metadata
2. You Can’t Opt Out: 10 NSA Myths Debunked
3. Only a FOOL Still Believes the NSA
4. Personal

About ME/CFS


This is
an ordinary brief crisis file with 3 items and a brief personal section.

But I first should say that I have earlier today uploaded a new version of yesterday's file, that came about after I added some 10 Kb to it, mostly in notes and links.

To clarify this: in fact, I do not think stories about myself are popular, but I did write all of the 500 MB website you find this on - some 500 average to fat Penguin books, if printed: Aristotle's Ethics, for example, is almostn 700 Kb) - by myself, that is to say, except for the classical philosophical texts that I quote and extensively and critically comment (see here), except for some medical reports on my disease (see here - and yes, I've still not updated this: I'm ill), and except for two bits my father wrote, and all was done while I was quite ill and got no help, and also I still have to beware the Dutch law, the Dutch politicians, and their eager helpmeets, the Dutch bureaucrats (most of who earn at least 8 to 10 times what I get).

But OK... I wrote about half of it, say (in fact I don't know, also because a not inconsiderable part of the site is html-formatting tags), including over 3000 daily columns you find indexed in Nederlog, and that is still more than anyone I know of (though the internet is large, and there is bound to be someone who wrote more than I did, in the same or less time).

Anyway - it seems some interest in me is justified, and there is some more text about me in the Personal bit below, though that too is not much.

Now to today's crisis items, that are all about the NSA.

1. NSA’s Preference for Metadata 

To start with, an article by Kirk Wiebe (<- Wikipedia: the link is to the article on William Binney, in which he is mentioned), who is one of the original whistleblowers on the NSA:
This starts as follows - and I quote the introduction:

The hidden ball in the debate over the NSA’s collection of phone and e-mail metadata (vs. tapping into actual conversations with a court order) is that the NSA actually prefers the metadata approach because it strips away privacy more efficiently, says ex-NSA analyst

And this is what meta-data can reveal about you (whoever you are, and whoever may be the secretive men and women who use it, for whatever government there may be, with whatever priorities and morality):
Metadata collection can answer all but one of the five “W’s” of journalism: the Who, What, Where and When. Given time, it can even respond to “Why” someone interfaces with digital information systems the way they do. It can do this because it is possible to discern patterns of behavior in metadata.
Which is to say: metadata can answer all questions about you, as also gets illustrated by examples Wiebe gives.

He also discusses the damage Snowden has done to the NSA, which he estimates as "minimal" - and he also warns against believing the standard claims (in part described as "stall tactic") and recommends being "skeptical" about anything the government says (in the context of discussing the NSA).

2. You Can’t Opt Out: 10 NSA Myths Debunked

Next, a fairly long article by Peter van Buren (<- Wikipedia), that originally appeared on tomdispatch, but that I found (without Tom Steinhardt's introduction, but with a link to it) on Truthdig:

Since this is a fairly long article, what I will do is list the myths: You can check out the link for the texts (note there are four pages on Truthdig) - and please also note that the 10 points are myths, according to Peter van Buren, who also shows why in his text, and the following is copied as given, including the links:

1) NSA surveillance is legal.
2) If I’ve done nothing wrong, I have nothing to hide. So why should I care about any of this?
3) But the media says the NSA only collects my “phone metadata,” so I’m safe.
4) Aren’t there are already checks and balances in our system to protect us against NSA overreach?
5) But I trust Obama (Bush, the next president) on this.
6) But don’t private companies like Facebook already have access to and share a lot of my personal data? So what’s wrong with the government having it, too?
7) All this surveillance is distasteful and maybe even illegal, but isn’t it necessary to keep us safe? Isn’t it for our own good? Haven’t times changed and shouldn’t we acknowledge that?
8) Terrorists are everywhere and dangerous.
9) We’ve stayed safe. Doesn’t that just prove all the government efforts have worked?
10) But doesn’t protecting America come first—before anything?

This is again an article you should read all of: He has good answers to each of these myths.

3. Only a FOOL Still Believes the NSA 

Next, an article by Washington's Blog, that seems quite relevant:

Most of this consists of points with links, so I only quote a brief piece of text from it - and the links are in the original:

Indeed, the NSA itself no longer claims that its mass spying program has stopped terror attacks or saved lives. Instead, intelligence spokesmen themselves now claim that mass spying is just an “insurance policy” to give “peace of mind”.

But given that mass surveillance by governments on their own people have always been used – for at least 500 years – to crush dissent, that the NSA has a long history of spying on Congress for political purposes, and that high-level NSA whistleblowers say that the NSA is using spying to blackmail politicians and social critics and to prosecute people the government dislikes, the question is whose peace of mind the programs preserve.

I only add that the NSA's claims - by Keith Alexander - have been whittled down from 53 to 1 to none.

4. Personal

As you may have noticed, this is not a large crisis file. There are three reasons: First, I am tired today. Second, there wasn't much material. And third, I am scaling down my attention to the crisis, not because it doesn't interest me (in fact, what I know about the NSA is extremely frightening - and I can program and have used computers daily for 27 years now), but because I got totally no support for it, from no one (so if you have mailed me since June, your mail has disappeared before it reached me, and I am truly sorry), because it does take a lot of time, and because the work is too journalistic for my tastes.

Also, the last reason is not a slight on good journalism, as in fact I mostly have reported and linked, but is a simple consequence of what I am, which is not a journalist, but an ill - scientific, realistic - philosopher, who has far less energy than nearly amyone, and who is mostly in some pain, and who gets no help of any kind except minimal dole (which I must suppose I only get because it cannot be denied to me, as were all the other things I asked for).

And I want to write about some other things than the crisis, also if this does not make my site more popular, which anyway never was a dominant concern.

Next, about my site: It really is almost 500 MB at the moment, of which I wrote at least half, although this also counts all html-tags, that must count for quite a few MB, and all image-files, though these are neither many nor large.

You should also consider that I wrote it since (late) 1996, which was when I first got a site, and internet, which is meanwhile almost 18 years ago, which means that on average I wrote something like 10 MB a year, at least, for my site(s).

That is at least 10 average Penguins, each year - and no, there is no publishing in bookform for me, until I get rid of the dole (and then I may be too old, or too ill, if I am still there, which I certainly do intend to be as long as I can take care of myself and have the money).

Finally, I wrote so much because I always wrote extremely easily, I am a very good and fast typist, and I can hardly do anything else. Indeed, if I could do considerably more, I would not be living in Holland, and I would almost certainly write a lot less, and what I would write would be more technical, for the most part, and less interesting for most of my readers. So there is your gain!

Anyway... this was merely a small reflection on my site.


[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 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)[2]

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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