This is another crisis file, that was written the day after Obama's
speech on the NSA. As I explain in the last item, I
am not disappointed, because I expected nothing and I received nothing,
though I am not pleased either, for in fact the spying goes on, nearly
without any change.
The following is a selection of six files that deal with the NSA or
Obama. I start with the first, about the NSA, because it is by a
Dutchman, whom I do
not know at all, and because it mentions a few things about the Dutch
agree with, and besides it is a competent article on the subject of its
title, which may be restated as "How the US collapsed into a
totalitarian state". (I also - in a footnote - deal
nonsense that goes by the name of "Godwin's law".)
The other five crisis files are takes by various persons of Obama's
NSA Invites Totalitarianism
To start with, an
article by Arjen Kamphuis on Consortium News:
This starts as follows:
As Kamphuis explains,
this is utter bullshit:
First, what would anyone care about what Feinstein feels, and besides,
the Supreme Court Decision she uses is from before the
internet, and before the PC, and anyway was and is abused.
After more than six
months of revelations about the global surveillance infrastructure
built by the U.S. government and its “allies” (i.e. smaller countries
that believe smiling-at-the-
crocodile-in-the-hope-he-eats-you-last is a good long-term strategy),
many people and politicians still tout the “I have nothing to hide”
attitude toward the most over-armed, hyper-intrusive super-power in
In a recent New Yorker
article, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, chair of the Senate
Intelligence Committee, was quoted as saying: “My phone numbers, I
assume, are collected like everybody else’s, but so what? It does not
bother me. By the Supreme Court decision in 1979, the data is not
personal data. There’s a Google Map that allows somebody to burgle my
house, it’s so clear and defined, and I can’t do anything about it.”
Next Kamphuis, who is Dutch but now lives in Germany, draws a paraellel
with the Dutch, as they were during WW II. I suppress most, but he says
Yes, indeed - and they
had provided "accurate
data on their Jewish identity and listed their addresses" because they were expressly
invited and exhorted to do so by the leaders of the Jewish Council,
who did so because the SS asked them to do so, who also recommended
them all to carry yellow David's stars "proudly", and who were called
Cohen and Asscher, and were the (great-)grandfathers of the present
day prominent Dutch Labour party politicians Lodewijk Asscher
(vice-president) and Rob Oudkerk (ex alderman of Amsterdam),
and perhaps of Job
Cohen (ex-mayor of Amsterdam), but he never replied to any of my
many letters or mails, after I had been gassed by a house owner who
collaborated with the drugsmafia.
For the vast majority of
Dutch people life went on pretty much as before. Resistance to the
occupation was almost non-existent and many Dutch were happy to work
for the government (the number of civil servants almost doubled during
the occupation) or in industries that boomed because of orders from the
It was not until 1942
that the enthusiastic data collection by the Dutch government turned
into a human catastrophe. Over 100,000 people – who thought they “had
nothing to hide” – had provided accurate data on their Jewish identity
and listed their addresses, enabling the most complete persecution of
Jewish people in any country during World War II (with the exception of
Poland where the Nazis had more time and fewer logistical challenges).
Of course, since almost none of the Dutch went into resistance, none
of these men active in WW II, who all did survive the
war, unlike the more than 100.000 fellow Jews they had
betrayed, were ever punished, and they did not even have to face any
court, which they owed at least in part to another Nazi-collaborator,
called Donner, who was the grandfather of the recent Dutch
Minister of Justice and present day politician Donner, who also
helped clean all his brethern
Nazi-collaborators who formed the Dutch Supreme Court.
But this was and is all typically Dutch, about which Kamphuis
(whom I do not know at all) has another bit of information:
Yes indeed  - and the non-Dutch reader
should also realize that the one real moral value nearly all
Dutchmen practice and follow is hypocrisy,
which e.g. caused almost all Dutch collaborators to claim to have been
"a member of the resistance" after the war, whereas in fact almost none
were, and the few who really were, such as my parents, were actively
The other problem was the
pro-authority attitude of most Dutch (even if that authority was a
brutal military occupation by a foreign army). The famous Dutch
“tolerance” often expressed itself as “I don’t care what you do as long
as you don’t bother me.” That included shoving fellow citizens into
cattle-cars on their way to death-camps.
There was no occupied
country where Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous poem
– “first they came for the Socialists…” – was more applicable than the
Then there is this:
Actually, I do not
believe that "comparisons
with the Nazi era are always problematic", and indeed I see no rational reason for that
either - except of course for the enormous hypocrisy
that moves most Dutchmen in nearly everything they do and don't do....
but then I am one of the very few who descends from a father and a grandfather who really
were in the resistance, and really were arrested in 1941, and
really were convicted by collaborating Dutch judges, who were never
punished, and were simply allowed to carry on as judges after the war,
to concentration camp imprisonment as "political terrorists", which my
grandfather did not survive.
Though comparisons with
the Nazi era are always problematic, aspects of that time and U.S.
society today are eerily similar. The United States seems under the de
facto control of a consortium of banksters and a
military-industrial-security complex, all feeding off each other and
feeding into a political/media system that controls the national agenda
and marginalizes people who dissent.
This structure has made
many citizens afraid of their own shadows and lacking the information
to ask meaningful questions even if they so desired. There are two
political parties, the minimum number to have at least the pretense of
a democracy, but – on issues relating to “national security” and the
“surveillance state” – the Republicans and Democrats offer little that
is significantly different, except at the fringes of the two parties.
But apart from that criticism, the rest is correct, as is the following:
Yes, indeed. Finally,
there is this:
Yet, the unpleasant
reality is that the U.S. government has built a turnkey infrastructure
for a level of totalitarian control that repressive leaders of past
eras could only dream about. The NSA’s metadata lets the government
chart a spider’s web of your associations with multiple “hops” to draw
in the networks of other people whom you have never met. The scheme
takes guilt-by-association to a whole new level.
The U.S. government also
reserves to itself the right to kill anyone, anywhere who supposedly
represents a “terrorist” threat to the United States – and to do so on
the say-so of some unaccountable and essentially anonymous intelligence
officials. The blood lust even
extends to whistleblowers like former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The only missing
element for a full-scale tyranny is a political excuse to flip the
switch and turn this machine to full-power. Perhaps the excuse could
come from another “terrorist attack” or from another financial meltdown
as the government seeks to control social unrest. Or a
thoroughly unscrupulous President might just rev it up to go after
his enemies. But the point is the equipment is now in place and
ready to go.
There is some more, but
this suffers from a reference to the crazy "Godwin's law", that I deal
with in a footnote. 
In any case, this is a decent article that explains fairly well how the
US has collapsed
into a totalitarian state, that only awaits "a political excuse to flip the switch".
2. Obama's NSA 'reforms' are little more
than a PR attempt to
mollify the public
Next, an article by Glenn
Greenwald, in the Guardian:
Let me first say this is the
first publication of Greenwald "on his own spot" - as I shall call it -
in the Guardian since October last year. I do not think it has anything
to do with my observation of January 16
that (and I quote myself
) "Glenn Greenwald publishes
and does not publish in the Guardian anymore" but I welcome it, as long as he has no other widely read
and easy to find spot.
This starts as
In response to political
scandal and public outrage, official Washington repeatedly uses the
same well-worn tactic. It is the one that has been hauled out over
decades in response to many of America's most significant political
scandals. Predictably, it is the same one that shaped President Obama's
speech to announce his proposals for "reforming" the National
Security Agency in the wake of seven months of intense worldwide
The crux of this tactic
is that US political leaders pretend to validate and even channel
public anger by acknowledging that there are "serious questions that
have been raised". They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these
problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions,
to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more
politically palatable with empty, cosmetic "reforms" so as to placate
public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even
more immune than before to serious challenge.
Yes, indeed. And
it is also true this is not just true of Obama, but of the great
majority of the US political leaders, though indeed it is rather more
sick from the mouth of the president, who got his job originally by
promising "change" and that "yes, we can", but who continued the
policies of his Republican predeces-
sor in nearly all respects.
There is rather a lot
more - all justified - on the tactic that I skip, to turn to the
And now we have the
spectacle of President Obama reciting paeans to the values of
individual privacy and the pressing need for NSA safeguards.
"Individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress," he gushed
with an impressively straight face. "One thing I'm certain of, this
debate will make us stronger," he pronounced, while still seeking to
imprison for decades the whistleblower who enabled that debate. The
bottom line, he said, is this: "I believe we need a new approach."
But those pretty
rhetorical flourishes were accompanied by a series of plainly cosmetic "reforms".
By design, those proposals will do little more than maintain rigidly in
place the very bulk surveillance systems that have sparked such
controversy and anger.
Yes, quite so. And
there is this
radical essence of the NSA – a system of suspicion-less spying aimed at
hundreds of millions of people in the US and around the world – will
fully endure even if all of Obama's proposals are adopted. That's
because Obama never hid the real purpose of this process. It is, he and
his officials repeatedly acknowledged, "to restore public confidence"
in the NSA. In other words, the goal isn't to truly reform the agency;
it is deceive people into believing it has been so that they no longer
fear it or are angry about it.
Again, yes. I do
think you ought to read all of this yourself.
3. Obama Backs NSA, Fails to Demand End to
Next, a brief article by
Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
This has a fitting
epigraph, under a picture, that I do not reproduce:
“What I did not do is
stop these programs wholesale, not only because I felt that they made
us more secure, but also because nothing in that initial review, and
nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our intelligence
community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil
liberties of their fellow citizens,” Obama said Friday morning.
This means that
either Obama is a plain liar - "nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our
intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier
about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens" - or Glenn Greenwald, and many
others, including me, are plain liars. (I merely observe that I do not
get paid, at all.)
The first paragraph
President Obama outlined
what he called “concrete and substantial reforms” of global and
domestic U.S. government surveillance Friday, but did not address such
key issues as the NSA’s sabotage and undermining of global encryption
Yes, but also he was
lying when he said he was making “concrete and substantial reforms”: All he
did was proposing a handful of quite irrelevant cosmetic "reforms".
This can be illustrated
with another blatant lie:
Obama began the speech by
saying that metadata—information generated about an
individual’s use of technology, such as place and time of call—is not
data, which refers to the content of a message or activity. That
statement contradicts a comment made Tuesday by former CIA acting
director Michael Morell: “There is not in my mind a sharp distinction
between metadata and content.”
Morell is right - and
besides, if these metadata would not inform, the NSA would not want
them. Since they want them, they inform them - as indeed is clear to
anyone who knows what they are, which includes the lying US president.
Anyway, the rest of the
article is mostly summary or quotation from the Guardian and indeed
from the next item:
4. Obama presents NSA reforms with plan to
end government storage of call data
Next, an article by Spencer
Ackerman and Dan Roberts in the Guardian:
This starts as
US president Barack Obama
forcefully defended the embattled National Security Agency on Friday in
a speech that outlined a
series of surveillance reforms but stopped well short of demanding
an end to the bulk collection of American phone data.
In his widely anticipated
address at the Justice Department on the future course of US
surveillance policy, Obama said the government should no longer hold
databases of every call record made in the United States, citing the
“potential for abuse”.
But Obama did not say
what should replace the databases and made it clear the intelligence
agencies should still be able to access call records information in
some unspecified way, signalling a new round in the battle
between privacy advocates and the NSA’s allies.
I do not think his
performance was "forceful": it was a cosmetic "reform", that made one
thing very clear: Obama wants to spy on all his
presumably also wants his successors, whoever they may be, to
spy on all their citizens, and indeed also on the rest of the
As to the plan "to
end government storare of call data": That already has been realized in
Holland, and only means that the phone and internet companies must do
the storing, instead of the secret service. C'est tout.
The next paragraph
again calls Obama's performance "forceful":
Mounting a forceful
defence of the NSA, Obama said: “They’re not abusing authorities in
order to listen to your private phone calls, or read your emails.” He
did not mention that judges on the secret surveillance court have found
NSA has repeatedly and “systematically” overstepped its bounds.
Instead, he counselled strongly against any steps that would undermine
US national security. “We cannot unilaterally disarm our
intelligence agencies,” he said.
Perhaps it is
satirical, that "forceful"? In any case, as Ackerman also makes clear,
the president lied, and lied grossly and knowingly.
There is a lot more,
but I only quote this:
This is true, and one of
my reasons not to call his speech "forceful", but it is also
leaves room for civil organizations and Congress to try to stop the
NSA, now that the president is clearly unwilling.
Much of the substance of
Obama’s proposals remain undefined.
5. Obama's NSA
Reforms More Transparent Than Expected—But Expectations Were Really Low
Next, an article by Dana
Liebelson on Mother Jones:
This starts as follows:
On Friday, President
Obama released his plan to reform the NSA's
sweeping surveillance program. Obama offered much praise for the
NSA, and he's not ending the agency's controversial bulk
collection program, which scoops up information about Americans'
telephone calls. But he is making substantial changes to how the
program currently runs, indicating that he may be more willing
to risk the ire of the intelligence community for the sake
of transparency reforms, than he's been in the past. Many
oversight questions, though, are still being left to the
intelligence community, and the reforms Obama announced on Friday
only address a sliver of the surveillance issues raised by the
Snowden leaks. Most notably, the president did not address many of
the internet-related revelations produced by the Snowden documents. But
he tried to offer some real reform to civil libertarians (though hardly
meeting the demands for widespread changes) while providing much
support to the intelligence community, which will not likely cheer the
reforms the president is implementing.
I see no reason to
consider his "changes" "substantial", in part because they are not, in
part because he simply continues the NSA, and in part because he choose
not to discuss most issues at all.
Anyway - the rest of
the piece is an exposition of the "changes" Obama did propose, and
(implicitly) supports my notion that these were not "substantial".
6. Obama's Nonreform Reforms
Finally in today's crisis
series, an article by David Auerbach on Slate:
This starts as
President Barack Obama called for mild reform of the National
Security Agency’s phone records collection program. In the words of
Rep. Justin Amash, “the
government will continue to search those [phone] records without a
just a little less vigorously.” The phone records program, which is
based on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, is only one of many that have
been revealed over the last six months; it does not include the NSA’s hacking
into email accounts en masse, collecting
millions of text messages daily, or paying
off encryption companies to put back doors into their algorithms.
So Obama’s speech only touched on a fraction of the concerns at hand.
Yes, indeed - and I
note Auerbach is the only one of those listed today about which
he "is a software engineer", which surely helps. (I
can program quite well in several languages, in fact since 1972, which
makes it a lot clearer what the dangers are, but I must suppose this
holds of less than 1 in 50 at most, even now.)
any case, he discusses six relevant questions Obama did not address,
that I leave to you, and ends thus:
Sen. Ron Wyden, one of
the few congressional voices to express real
concern over the NSA programs, was unimpressed by Obama’s speech. “We
must all remember that the very act of bulk collection of private data
undermines Americans’ constitutional rights,” Wyden
That was the charge that Obama should have answered on Friday, but our
president, who was once a scholar of constitutional law, barely spoke
to it. Instead, he begged off with some cosmetic changes and turned a
blind eye to the abuses of the very same agency that spied
on Martin Luther King. Remember that: History will not be kind.
I do not know what spying on Martin Luther King has to do with it, and
the judgment of history does not interest me (for it does not exist, as
long as there are opposing parties, who may publish), but I agree with
was president Obama. Since I did not expect anything, and since I also
did not receive anything of clear value, I am not at all disappointed,
but I am not pleased either.
main two reasons I am not pleased are that Obama could have
stopped it if he had wanted to, which he should have if
knows any law, and that he did not, which means that he is
definitely on the wrong side, as indeed he has been most of the time,
by my lights.
then that was all in the charts and foreseen.
I have said several times since the beginning of December (or earlier),
I want to do less on the crisis series, mainly because it is too
journalistic for me, and too much work, for I do read all of the
articles I mention, and read considerably more, and that takes a lot of
that I also may spend differently.
I do not know what I can and will do, also because I am still
improving, albeit slowly, though it is a safe guess there will be fewer