January 17, 2014

Crisis: Rusbridger, NSA * 2, Obama & NSA * 4, Special Ops, US Judges, Obama's claims

   "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  

Alan Rusbridger: Westminster is hoping Snowden
     revelations go away

2. NSA collects millions of text messages daily in
     'untargeted' global sweep

3. Will Obama’s Speech Mention That the NSA Collects
     Billions of Text Messages?

4. NSA: six out of 10 Americans want reform of data    
     collection, says poll

5. The Special Ops Surge In 134 Countries
6. US Judges Square Off over NSA Spying
7. Critics Ready "Failing" Grade for Obama's NSA Reforms
8. Obama's NSA Reforms Are Going to Tick Off Everyone
9. Four Questionable Claims Obama Has Made on NSA

About ME/CFS


This is another crisis file, with nine items, that also are all about the crisis. Also, there was an earlier file today, in Dutch, which is the next part of my autobiography, that deals with 1975, that I spent in Dovre.

And I should think I am a bit better now, seeing how much I write, than I have been the last 1 1/2 years, though I am not yet back to April of 2012, that was quite good, and was just before I developed a sudden and serious case of keratoconjunctivitis sicca. That is not over yet, but it is significantly less (though I still need an adjusted computer, and still need to drip my eyes, and this may remain so).

Anyway...on to the nine items:

1. Alan Rusbridger: Westminster is hoping Snowden revelations go away

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

Britain's political class has been closing its eyes and hoping the revelations from Edward Snowden go away rather than tackle important issues over mass surveillance that have provoked such heated debate in America, the editor in chief of the Guardian has said.

Alan Rusbridger accused Westminster of "complacency" about the revelations from Snowden, which have been published in the Guardian over the past six months.

Speaking to the BBC hours before the US president, Barack Obama, was due to give details about reforms to the US spy headquarters, the National Security Agency (NSA), Rusbridger said: "I think one of the problems is that both of the main political parties feel compromised about this. Labour is not keen to get involved because a lot of this stuff was done on their watch."

Yes. There also two other factors: First, Labour certainly changed a lot under Tony Blair, and was mostly destroyed by him: there are now few genuine Labour leftists, and most Labour politicians are mostly exchangeable with most Conservative politicians, that is, apart from the tendency each party has to have all members toe the party line. Second, there are few politicians - many of whom are in their sixties or seventies - who really understand what is going on (that is, unless most think ordinary folks are expandable second classs items anyway).

Then again, Rusbridger certainly is aware of the second factor:

Interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Rusbridger said the oversight mechanisms that were supposed to review the work of Britain's intelligence agencies had proved to be "laughable". He said the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, even with the extra money it had received recently, was not up to the job. "I just don't think they have the technical expertise or the resources," he said.

Rusbridger added: "What is unprecedented in the last 15 years is the advance of technology. It is completely different from anything that has existed in humankind before."

There is considerably more in the interview.

2. NSA collects millions of text messages daily in 'untargeted' global sweep

Next, a rather long and thorough article by James Ball, in the Guardian:

This starts as follows, with my bolding added:

The National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents.

The untargeted collection and storage of SMS messages – including their contacts – is revealed in a joint investigation between the Guardian and the UK’s Channel 4 News based on material provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The documents also reveal the UK spy agency GCHQ has made use of the NSA database to search the metadata of “untargeted and unwarranted” communications belonging to people in the UK.

The NSA program, codenamed Dishfire, collects “pretty much everything it can”, according to GCHQ documents, rather than merely storing the communications of existing surveillance targets.

Note first that this strongly supports my contention that the NSA and GCHQ, and also most of the other secret services, collect all the data they can get in order to prepare and create a police state, where all opposition to any government can be stopped, and almost no one is willing or capable of thinking an original thought - and if you think this is exagerrated, you simply know very little about human history, and are far to trusting of "our leaders". (And you should read item 6.)

Indeed, the above quotation continues thus:

The NSA has made extensive use of its vast text message database to extract information on people’s travel plans, contact books, financial transactions and more – including of individuals under no suspicion of illegal activity.

Clearly, (1) if hundreds of millions of messages a day are collected, hardly any of these messages is by any terrorist, felon, or criminal, so (2) why would the NSA want "to extract information on people’s travel plans, contact books, financial transactions and more", if (3) it is not out for total control of everyone?!

Note also this is a long piece, with a lot of information. Here is some more that strongly suggests what I just said is true - and again I added the boldings:

On average, each day the NSA was able to extract:

• More than 5 million missed-call alerts, for use in contact-chaining analysis (working out someone’s social network from who they contact and when)

• Details of 1.6 million border crossings a day, from network roaming alerts

• More than 110,000 names, from electronic business cards, which also included the ability to extract and save images.

• Over 800,000 financial transactions, either through text-to-text payments or linking credit cards to phone users

The agency was also able to extract geolocation data from more than 76,000 text messages a day, including from “requests by people for route info” and “setting up meetings”.

Note also that none of this would be known without Edward Snowden (that more or less explains the extreme anger about him in the leaders of the NSA).

There is a lot more in the article, which you can read for yourself. I want to add one more thing, in summary:

All officials from the GCHQ and from the Conservative Party insist that they have nothing to say about the GCHQ, except that it is all totally legal what they do, but they have no evidence whatsoever, "because of privacy".

In brief, just like Obama: "Trust us!".

3. Will Obama’s Speech Mention That the NSA Collects Billions of Text Messages?

Next, an article in the Earth To The Ground section on Truthdig:

This is a good question (that I much doubt will be mentioned, if only because the implication is either hundreds of millions of Americans are terrorists, or else Obama does the best he can to institute a police state - and see item 6), and the article starts thus:

The National Security Agency has been collecting nearly 200 million text messages a day, according to a report in the Guardian. They use the text messages to extract all kinds of data including location, contact networks and credit card information according to leaked top-secret documents by whistleblower Edward Snowden. This collection has also been used by British spy agency GCHQ to search the metadata of people in the U.K. even if they are “untargeted and unwarranted.”  According to the report, GCHQ’s program, codenamed Dishfire, collects “pretty much everything it can.” This is in stark opposition of previous claims that collections were limited to communications of surveillance targets. According to this Guardian report, the NSA has used the information to extract precise and wide sweeping information of individuals who are under no suspicion of illegal activity.

The rest contains a point-by-point sum-up and a link to the article in item 2.

4.  NSA: six out of 10 Americans want reform of data collection, says poll

Next, an article by Spencer Ackerman in the Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Fears are growing among civil libertarians that Barack Obama will allow the National Security Agency to retain its bulk databases of US phone call information, despite new polling that indicates substantial public appetite for restricting the spy agency’s powers. 

A poll by the Anzalone Liszt Grove Research firm, released Thursday, finds 59% of Americans oppose keeping the NSA’s widespread collection of data unchanged. Twenty-six percent of respondents “strongly” oppose keeping NSA current surveillance in place. 

A majority of respondents, 57%, say they have “not much” confidence in the government’s ability to prevent abuse of the NSA’s troves of US phone records. Similarly, 58% doubt that the government can keep the data safe from hackers.

I agree with the fears the quotation starts with, but am somewhat pleasantly surprised by the numbers of the poll, that are considerably better - from my point of view - than earlier polls.

There is also this, that goes beyond Obama's speech of today (that probably is going on as I type this, and that I will not turn to until tomorrow, at the soonest):

But congressional critics are already gearing up for a fight to end the bulk collection legislatively, preparing to fight a president who had yet to clearly indicate which side of the argument he would pick. 

“The ball is in Congress’s court. In order to fix the NSA, rein in abuse and restore trust in the intelligence community we need a legislative solution,” Representative James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, told the Guardian.

There is rather a lot more that you can check out, but I do want to quote the ending:

Amash [an opponent, who almost succeeded some months ago - MM] said he hoped Obama “will work with us constructively,” but signaled that a legislative battle may be the ultimate resolution of the post-Snowden debate after Obama makes his speech on Friday at the Justice Department.

"Congress must protect Americans' privacy regardless of what the President does,” Amash said.

Yes. Though whether it will? But yes, this is the best chance of stopping the NSA, simply because this will be done, if it will be done, by law. But there is a chance for this, because both Republicans and Democrats are opposed to the NSA, and rightly so.

5. The Special Ops Surge In 134 Countries

Next, an article by Nick Turse, that originated on TomDispatch:

This starts as follows:

They operate in the green glow of night vision in Southwest Asia and stalk through the jungles of South America.  They snatch men from their homes in the Maghreb and shoot it out with heavily armed militants in the Horn of Africa.  They feel the salty spray while skimming over the tops of waves from the turquoise Caribbean to the deep blue Pacific.  They conduct missions in the oppressive heat of Middle Eastern deserts and the deep freeze of Scandinavia.  All over the planet, the Obama administration is waging a secret war whose full extent has never been fully revealed—until now.

Since September 11, 2001, U.S. Special Operations forces have grown in every conceivable way, from their numbers to their budget.  Most telling, however, has been the exponential rise in special ops deployments globally.  This presence—now, in nearly 70% of the world’s nations—provides new evidence of the size and scope of a secret war being waged from Latin America to the backlands of Afghanistan, from training missions with African allies to information operations launched in cyberspace. 

In the waning days of the Bush presidency, Special Operations forces were reportedly deployed in about 60 countries around the world.  By 2010, that number had swelled to 75, according to Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post.  In 2011, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told TomDispatch that the total would reach 120.  Today, that figure has risen higher still.

There is a lot more, which you can read by yourself - and you should not forget to ask yourself: Is president Obama really a progressive, who really wanted "Change!", which he assured everyone "Yes, we can!"?!

6.  US Judges Square Off over NSA Spying

Next, an article by Marjorie Cohn, who is a professor of law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law - on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

Edward Snowden, who worked for the National Security Agency (NSA), revealed a secret order of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), that requires Verizon to produce on an “ongoing daily basis … all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

The government has admitted it collects metadata for all of our telephone communications, but says the data collected does not include the content of the calls. In response to lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the program, two federal judges issued dueling opinions about whether it violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

After this, she fairly carefully analyses the opinions of judges Leon (mostly anti NSA) and Pauley (mostly pro NSA), which I leave to you. But I do want to quote the ending, because it seems to me both valid and interesting from a US profesor of law:

In my view, Leon’s decision is the better-reasoned opinion.

This Fourth Amendment issue is headed to the Court of Appeals. From there, it will likely go the Supreme Court. The high court checked and balanced President George W. Bush when he overstepped his legal authority by establishing military commissions that violated due process, and attempted to deny constitutional habeas corpus to Guantanamo detainees.

It remains to be seen whether the court will likewise refuse to cower before President Barack Obama’s claim of unfettered executive authority to conduct dragnet surveillance. If the court allows the NSA to continue its metadata collection, we will reside in what can only be characterized as a police state.

Yes, indeed.

7. Critics Ready "Failing" Grade for Obama's NSA Reforms

Next, an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Ahead of a speech announcing his ideas for reforming the National Security Agency and its mass surveillance programs exposed over the last eight months, worries are pitched that President Obama will not go nearly far enough in his proposals to rein in the agency.

There is rather a lot more, that you can check out yourself, but I do want to include the scorecard, about which it is said, among other things:

As part of their effort to hold Obama accountable and articulate their critique of NSA overreach, the online privacy and digital rights groups Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a "NSA Reform Scorecard" that presents a list of "common-sense fixes that the President could—and should—announce" during Friday's briefing.

According to EFF's Cindy Cohn and Rainey Reitman, many of the measures contained in the 'scorecard' are similar to those "proposed by the president’s own Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, which produced a report with 46 recommendations for Obama in December.

Here it is:

My guess? No on all, but I would love to be mistaken.

8. Obama's NSA Reforms Are Going to Tick Off Everyone

Next, an article by Dana Liebelson, on Mother Jones, that is concerned with the same theme as the previous item:

She takes the somewhat different road that explains that whatever Obama does, he will be opposed by some, and lists some of these, in various cases.

This is true, and it is also true that in an earlier article she concluded, correctly in my view, that (and I give the title and the link):

9. Four Questionable Claims Obama Has Made on NSA Surveillance

Finally for today, an article by Kara Brandeisky on ProPublica:

This starts as follows:

Today President Obama plans to announce some reportedly limited reforms to National Security Agency surveillance programs.

Since the first disclosures based on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Obama has offered his own defenses of the programs. But not all of the president’s claims have stood up to scrutiny. Here are some of the misleading assertions he has made.

I quite agree, and think it is a good idea that someone gives a resume. So I will continue with quoting the "mistakes" Obama has made, but will not quote the text. Here they are:

1. There have been no abuses.
2. At least 50 terrorist threats have been averted.
3. The NSA does not do any domestic spying.
4. Snowden failed to take advantage of whistleblower protections.

Note that Kara Bradeisky gives the details, chapter and verse, of what Obama really said, and explains clearly why these things are not so.

This was it for today, which is again 50 Kb of text. More tomorrow, when I hope to have read or heard Obama's speech.



[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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