6, 2014
Crisis: Obama, Government spying, CIA * 2, 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

1. Obama knew CIA secretly monitored intelligence
     committee, senator claims

2. Governments are spying on our sexual lives. Will we
     tolerate it?

CIA Accused of Spying on Senate Panel Investigating

4. The Inverse of Oversight: CIA Spies On Congress
5. Personal
About ME/CFS


This is the crisis issue of Nederlog of March 6, 2014. It so happens that 3 out of 4 articles I review are about the same thing, but this is not a real shortcoming, if only because they each bring something else.

The one item that is not about the CIA spying on Congress is about the GCHQ spying on the sexual habits of completely innocent and naive users of webcams. It is a considerably better piece than another from the Guardian.

1. Obama knew CIA secretly monitored intelligence committee, senator claims

The first article is by Spencer Ackerman in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

A leading US senator has said that President Obama knew of an “unprecedented action” taken by the CIA against the Senate intelligence committee, which has apparently prompted an inspector general’s inquiry at Langley.

The subtle reference in a Tuesday letter from Senator Mark Udall to Obama, seeking to enlist the president’s help in declassifying a 6,300-page inquiry by the committee into torture carried out by CIA interrogators after 9/11, threatens to plunge the White House into a battle between the agency and its Senate overseers.

McClatchy and the New York Times reported Wednesday that the CIA had secretly monitored computers used by committee staffers preparing the inquiry report, which is said to be scathing not only about the brutality and ineffectiveness of the agency’s interrogation techniques but deception by the CIA to Congress and policymakers about it. The CIA sharply disputes the committee’s findings.

In fact, here is that MClatchy link in full, because it seems a good article, by Jonathan S. Landay, Ali Watkins and Marisa Taylor:

From the last dotted source:

In question now is whether any part of the committee’s report, which took some four years to compose and cost $40 million, will ever see the light of day.

The report details how the CIA misled the Bush administration and Congress about the use of interrogation techniques that many experts consider torture, according to public statements by committee members. It also shows, members have said, how the techniques didn’t provide the intelligence that led the CIA to the hideout in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed in a 2011 raid by Navy SEALs.

The committee determined earlier this year that the CIA monitored computers – in possible violation of an agreement against doing so – that the agency had provided to intelligence committee staff in a secure room at CIA headquarters that the agency insisted they use to review millions of pages of top-secret reports, cables and other documents, according to people with knowledge.

Now back to the first dotted source, which contains a lot more and ends thus:

Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat and ex officio member of the intelligence committee, said the alleged monitoring was potentially “extremely serious.”

“If, as alleged in the media, CIA accessed without permission or authority a computer network dedicated for use by a Senate committee, it would be an extremely serious matter. Such activity, if it occurred as alleged, would impede Congress’ ability to carry out its constitutional oversight responsibilities and could violate federal law,” Levin said in a statement on Wednesday.

Yes, indeed - but if James Clapper may lie to Congress, and Congress doesn't do anything against him, then why would Congress investigate the CIA's unauthorized usage of a computer network, even if it is to spy on members of Congress, as well?

I am asking it as the devil's advocate, but it has a serious point, namely - as item 4, below, also very clearly shows - that it would seem to me that Congress has let itself be sidelined by - completely unelected - governmental forces like the NSA and the CIA, which it should control but does not, and already for a long time as well, namely since 9/11/2001. Besides, when such an unelected governmental official provably lies to Congress, as James Clapper did, Congress lets it pass, as if generals who spy on everyone should be allowed to lie about that as well.

Next, there is also the question whether the report on torture by the CIA - or, if you like: "interrogation techniques that many experts regard as torture" - that cost 40 million ever will see the light of day, since those effectively running the country rather would not want that anyone reads it.

Anyway - more below, in items 3 and 4.

2. Governments are spying on our sexual lives. Will we tolerate it?

The next article is by Van Badham and appeared in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The Guardian recently published yet another disturbing revelation from files supplied by state-surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Co-ordinated by British intelligence service GCHQ as a partner of the Five Eyes alliance of spying nations (which include the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia), from 2008 until at least 2012 a surveillance programme named Optic Nerve has been screencapping and storing images of webcam chats from Yahoo’s servers. Snowden’s files reveal the images were harvested in bulk from millions of ordinary Yahoo users who were not suspected of wrongdoing, and were not intelligence targets. In a single six-month period, the agency siphoned webcam images from more than 1.8m global Yahoo user accounts.

The reason this is here is that Van Badham, who normally writes about the theatre for the Guardian, is genuinely shocked: 
The intrusion of the state’s prying eyes into this particular arena of human intimacy is yet another reason to express the greatest possible civic outrage against “dataveillance”, its agents and sponsors. The Yahoo spying not only compromises each individual whose “intimate parts of their body” that Snowden’s documents reveal have been examined, assessed and collated by government employees, but compromises that powerful and necessary role that privacy – particularly sexual privacy – plays in personal development and individual agency.
She also says, again quite rightly:
Five Eyes is, of course, perfectly metaphoric for the Panopticon – a prison designed by Jeremy Bentham on the principle that prisoners aware they were constantly under surveillance would eventually just presume surveillance and therefore automatically police themselves. Philosopher Michel Foucault employed the Panopticon in his book Discipline and Punish as an analogy of state power: and as we now must consider the potential oversight of the state as we reach for the webcam button to talk to our overseas boyfriends, Foucault’s explanation of “the function of discipline as an apparatus of power” is something that could and should be on our minds.
There is considerably more in the article, and I should add that it seems a lot better written than Ms Hyde's (see March 3) although the worries are the same, and indeed also are quite justified.

   CIA Accused of Spying on Senate Panel Investigating Torture 

The next article is by Lauren McCauley and is on Common Dreams:

This is also about what item 1 is about, but it is an interesting alternative view. It starts as follows:

In an ironic turn, the congressional authorities who have staunchly defended the National Security Agency's widespread spying operations are now crying foul after having been spied on by another branch of U.S. intelligence.

News reporting on Tuesday revealed that the Inspector General's office, the agency tasked with CIA oversight, has asked the Department of Justice to investigate claims that the spy agency monitored computers used by Senate aides preparing what is believed to be a "searing indictment" on the CIA's secret detention and interrogation program.

In what McClatchy news characterized as an "unprecedented breakdown in relations between the CIA and its congressional overseers," members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are saying the alleged CIA spying violates provisions of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Yes, indeed. Also, there is another point:

The Udall letter also calls for the President to "declassify as much as possible" of the 6,300-page report "for the American people."

The report remains classified nearly 15 months after the Senate panel completed the document and turned it over to the CIA for vetting.

"It is my belief that the declassification of the Committee Study is of paramount importance and that decisions about what should or should not be declassified regarding this issue should not be delegated to the CIA, but directly handled by the White House," Udall continued.

So the CIA is now vetting for 15 months a report that is supposed to detail its abuses and lies, and also the CIA used the computer networks of the Senate, all against agreements.

To me it seems the US Congress has been turned into an irrelevance: it passes hardly any more laws; most of its members are bought; and it cannot do the oversight it is supposed to do, because it gets misled by the services that it is supposed to oversee.

In case you question my last statement, look at the next item:

4.  The Inverse of Oversight: CIA Spies On Congress

Next, and last for today, an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:
This again is another view that was discussed in item 1 and item 3, which I am not really sorry for, since all brought something new. The new thing this article brings is that it shows quite clearly that members of Congress are basically lied to and misled by the governors they are supposed to control.

This is from the end:

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) famously responded to Attorney General Eric Holder’s contention that senators had been “fully briefed” on surveillance programs at a June 2013 Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing by saying: “‘Fully briefed’ doesn’t mean that we know what’s going on.”

Here is video of Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) describing the futility of getting information in intelligence briefings for members of Congress at the Cato Institute in October 2013: “You’ll find that it’s just a game of 20 questions,” he said. But “you don’t know what questions to ask…. You don’t have any idea what kind of things are going on.”

Part of what Amash (a Republican) says in the video (which is in Vimeo, which may explain that you cannot see it, if indeed that is the case):

You have to start just spitting out random questions. Does the government have a moon base? Does the government have a talking bear? Does the government have a cyborg army? If you don’t know what kind of things the government might have, you just have to guess and it becomes a totally ridiculous game of twenty questions. If you ask something in slightly the wrong way, they will tell you no. They’ll say No , we don’t do that. Or NO, that agency doesn’t do that. Maybe some other agency does it, but they’re not going to tell you that…. Or no, we can’t do that under this program, but we can do it under this program.. they don’t tell you that information… but you don’t know what the other programs are.

Which is to say: the unelected governors, the executives, simply lie to, deceive, refuse information, and mislead the members of Congress that are supposed to control them, who in general also have no idea of what is going on, because no one tells them anything, though many assure them they have been "fully briefed" (in so far as Mr Holder approves, and in the special senses he is used to give to words).

That is not a democracy, and it arose since 9/11.

5. Personal

I am still busy on various other things (than writing Nederlogs) that I have not finished yet.
[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)

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)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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