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Nederlog


  March
12, 2014
Crisis: Berners-Lee, Feinstein, Machon, Geeks, Nader
   "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
Sections
Introduction

1. An online Magna Carta: Berners-Lee calls for bill of rights
     for web

2. Feinstein accuses CIA of 'intimidating' Senate staff over
     torture report

3. 
The West’s ‘War on Democracy’
4. Snowden Told Me the NSA Set Fire to the Web. Silicon
     Valley Needs to Put It Out

5. 
UNSTOPPABLE
About ME/CFS

Introduction:

This is the Nederlog of March 12.

It is about the
crisis and has five items, but the second has several dotted links, because it is about Diane Feinstein's inconsistent rage that the Senate is being spied upon by the CIA. This amuses and puzzles me, and it may be important, though this depends on further developments.

Also, the present Nederlog is uploaded considerably earlier than is usual for me.

1. An online Magna Carta: Berners-Lee calls for bill of rights for web

The first article is by Jemima Kiss in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The inventor of the world wide web believes an online "Magna Carta" is needed to protect and enshrine the independence of the medium he created and the rights of its users worldwide.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee told the Guardian the web had come under increasing attack from governments and corporate influence and that new rules were needed to protect the "open, neutral" system.

Speaking exactly 25 years after he wrote the first draft of the first proposal for what would become the world wide web, the computer scientist said: "We need a global constitution – a bill of rights."

I'll come to this in a moment, but first want to quote something he said that I agree much more with:
"Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what's happening at the back door, we can't have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture. It's not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it."
With this last quote I more or less agree, although I do not think it is up to "us", mere users of the net (anonymous as "we" often are, also scolding a lot): Things just don't work that way.

However, I much doubt the former set of quotations spell out an idea that will work, for three reasons (and there are more):

First, there is no power that will maintain such a Magna Carta. Second, we have one: The Declaration of Human Rights. Third, the world comprises the internet, much rather than that the internet comprises the world. (Also, it's a bit late, 25 years after creating the internet.)

Let me explain.

First: An important part of the power of the internet is that it is really international, which means - in practice - that nobody really keeps the laws, also because there aren't any, in many ways. In fact, this also is what permits the NSA and the GCHQ to do their spying, though that is also related to the fact that personal data are unencrypted on the internet, and to extreme stretching of the laws that do apply.

Second: There are large chunks of state laws that do apply (though these too run far behind the facts), and also some international law, namely the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Again, the main difficulty is that the internet is international and there is no one who is paid to oversee and to maintain the laws on the internet.

Third: It really is a mistake to think that the internet comprises the world, when it clearly is the other way around. Part of that mistake is to accept the
extreme stretching of the laws, such as the GCHQ and the NSA do, when they collect one's private mail. It doesn't matter who transports private data: private data should remain private, and should not be collected, except on probable cause, and with a public judge's approval. (The same as applies to letters, sent in ordinary mail: Clearly everyone can steam open the envelopes, but this is a crime. The same goes for e-mail: it should be read only by those to who it is directed, and not by some anonymous extra-ordinarily powerful state spies, except on a probable cause and overseen by an objective public judge.)

So... while I also am not against an online Magna Carta, I do not expect much from it, certainly not in the brief run, if only because there is no one paid to maintain and apply it, and I also do not see anyone who could.

2. Feinstein accuses CIA of 'intimidating' Senate staff over torture report

The next article is by Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman, and is in the Guardian:
This starts as follows, and is pretty ironic:

The chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, on Tuesday accused the Central Intelligence Agency of a catalogue of cover-ups, intimidation and smears aimed at investigators probing its role in an “un-American and brutal” programme of post-9/11 detention and interrogation.

In a bombshell statement on the floor of the US Senate, Feinstein, normally an administration loyalist, accused the CIA of potentially violating the US constitution and of criminal activity in its attempts to obstruct her committee’s investigations into the agency’s use of torture. She described the crisis as a “defining moment” for political oversight of the US intelligence service.

Her unprecedented public assault on the CIA represented an intensification of the row between the committee and the agency over a still-secret report on the torture of terrorist suspects after 9/11.

Incidentally: That report is over 6000 pages; took four years of producing; costs 40 million dollars, and now has been vetted for 15 months by the institution it criticizes, the CIA.

And what is so ironic about it is that Senator Feinstein has been very, very much in favor of spying on ordinary Americans because, she says, "of the bombs", "the big bombs", "the very big bombs", and "the malevolence". (I quoted her.)

I do not know much about Senator Feinstein, who seems to be quite serious about this, as can be seen from the following quotation:

Feinstein said the two investigations, launched at the behest of the CIA, amounted to an attempt at “intimidation”. She revealed that CIA officials had also been reported to the Department of Justice for alleged violations of the fourth amendment and laws preventing them from domestic spying.

“This is a defining moment for the oversight role of our intelligence committee ... and whether we can be thwarted by those we oversee,” said Feinstein in a special address on the floor of the the US Senate.

“There is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime... this is plainly an attempt to intimidate these staff and I am not taking it lightly.”

So I looked elsewhere, and here are three items that tell more about this.

First, there is a video by The Young Turks. This takes 8 minutes and 40 seconds, but it is a good video, that is mostly concerned with her inconsistencies, that are also clearly shown:

This also contains parts of Feinstein's earlier attempts to justify the NSA, and of her latest attempt to blame the CIA for spying on the Senate.

Second, here is an article by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:
Head of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday accused the CIA of interfering with the committee's investigation into the agency's Bush-era torture program, including conducting an unauthorized "search" of the committee's computers and removing documents, in an effort to thwart a potentially "searing indictment" of the interrogation program.

In a statement given on the Senate floor, the democratic senator said she had "grave concerns" that the CIA's search "may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution" as well as "the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance."

She also said the CIA was attempting "to intimidate this staff—and I am not taking it lightly."

This also is mostly concerned with Feinstein's inconsistencies - that she allows the spying on 300 millions of Americans (because "there are very big bombs") but objects to being spied upon herself.

Third, here is an article by David Corn on Mother Jones:

This takes a somewhat different point of view in a fairly long article from which I will only quote the last paragraph:
What Feinstein didn't say—but it's surely implied—is that without effective monitoring, secret government cannot be justified in a democracy. This is indeed a defining moment. It's a big deal for President Barack Obama, who, as is often noted in these situations, once upon a time taught constitutional law. Feinstein has ripped open a scab to reveal a deep wound that has been festering for decades. The president needs to respond in a way that demonstrates he is serious about making the system work and restoring faith in the oversight of the intelligence establishment. This is more than a spies-versus-pols DC turf battle. It is a constitutional crisis.
I do not know, but it may be.

3. The West’s ‘War on Democracy’ 

Next, an article by Annie Machon, who at one point, in the previous century, was working for the English secret service MI5, on Consortium News:

In fact, this is a consideration on the basis of pastor Martin Niemöller's words, that I cite from Wikipedia (in one version: there are several):

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Trade Unionist

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

And indeed pastor Martin Niemöller was arrested in 1937 and was committed to the concentration camp, which he survived. Note that part of this quotation is that it was known that the communists, socialists, trade unionists, Jews and the incurably ill were put in concentrarion camps or killed: people just didn't care if it happened to others who were not of their own group.

So that is Annie Machon's theme:

Some readers will be well aware of my horror at the global rape of basic human rights in the West’s “war on terror” since 9/11: the kidnappings, the torture, the CIA presidentially-approved weekly assassination lists, the drone bombings, the illegal wars….

All these measures have indeed targeted and terrorized the Muslim community around the world. In the UK I have heard many stories of British Muslims wary of attending a family event such as a wedding of their cousins in Pakistan or wherever, in case they get snatched, tortured or drone bombed.

There is also this:

Then we have the ongoing “war on whistleblowers” that I have discussed extensively. This affects every sector of society in every country, but most seriously affects whistleblowers emerging from central government, the military and the intelligence agencies. They are the ones most likely to witness the most heinous crimes, and they are the ones automatically criminalized by secrecy laws.

This is most apparent in the UK, where the Official Secrets Act (1989) specifically criminalizes whistleblowing, and in the USA, where President Barack Obama has invoked the 1917 Espionage Act against whistleblowers more times than all other presidents combined over the last century. If that is not a “war on whistleblowers,” I don’t know what is.

And she ends as follows

Journalists, who always somewhat complacently thought they had special protections in Western countries, are being increasingly targeted when trying to report on issues such as privacy, surveillance, whistleblower disclosures and wars.

Only a few are being targeted now, but I hope these cases will be enough to wake the rest up, while there is still the chance for them to take action … before there is nobody left to speak up for us.

Yes, indeed. In case you worry, there is my Crisis:  Why are so many so apathetic? of January 2, 2013, that ends as follows (in part): Because of:

Bad education, stupefying media, and especially 50 years of TV, natural languages poisoned by figures of speech, fallacies and rhetoric as practised in public relations and advertisements , and the relativization of all values, of all knowledge, and of all aspirations to what the democratic masses, as manipulated by propaganda in the media, (are supposed to) approve.

That was the summary. Here is a final bit of Burke that is relevant:

Never despair; but if you do, work on in despair.

I am not despairing, but I am also not content with the apathy I see.


4.  Snowden Told Me the NSA Set Fire to the Web. Silicon Valley Needs to Put It Out 

Next, an article by Christopher Soghoian on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows, by a self-described computer geek, who also works for the ACLU:
“You are the firefighters,” National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden told a tech savvy audience here yesterday, during my conversation with him at the SXSW festival. “The people in Austin are the ones who can protect our rights through technical standards.”

Ed’s comments were a call to arms for the tech community to protect its users from indiscriminate mass surveillance by the NSA and the insecurity it creates. Despite the talk from Washington DC regarding cybersecurity threats – and you’ll hear more of it today during a confirmation hearing for the would-be next head of the NSA – it is now clear that the NSA’s mass surveillance efforts are not meant for good. Whether it’s systematically undermining global encryption standards, hacking communications companies’ servers and data links or exploiting so-called zero-day vulnerabilities, the nation’s cyberspies are focused on attacking online privacy and weakening the security of systems that we all trust.

There is rather a lot more.

5. UNSTOPPABLE

Finally, an article by Ralph Nader, from his site, that is in fact - it seems - an advertisement for a recent book of his:

I do not like extensive capitalization, but I quote it as it is given. Also, I like Nader (without agreeing with him on everything), so I quote a bit from what may be on the back of "UNSTOPPABLE" (since it is about Nader and his book rather than by him):

We are at one of the most pivotal moments in our country’s political history: Americans are more disillusioned with their political leaders than ever before and large majorities of citizens tell pollsters that big corporations have too much political power. The ever-tightening influence of big business on the mainstream media, elections and our local, state, and federal governments, have caused many Americans to believe they have no political voice.

Yet, Ralph Nader—named by Time and Life magazines as one of the most influential Americans of the twentieth century—has an impassioned and game-changing message for American citizens: You are not powerless.

In UNSTOPPABLE, Nader persuasively demonstrates that there is an emerging Left-Right alliance which has the power to dismantle the corporate-government tyranny. Large segments from the progressive, conservative, and libertarian political camps already find themselves aligned in opposition to the destruction of civil liberties, the bloated and economically draining corporate welfare state, the relentless perpetuation of America’s wars, sovereignty-shredding free trade agreements, and the unpunished crimes of Wall Street against Main Street.

I hope he is right.
---------------------------------
Notes
[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, that 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 one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the 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 Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
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[2]
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



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