who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
Online Polls and Other Ways British Spies Seek to
Control the Internet
2. GCHQ data collection
3. What is Drip and how,
precisely, will it help the
government ruin your life?
4. Are spies flouting the 'Wilson doctrine'
and bugging MPs?
5. GCHQ has tools to
manipulate online information, leaked
6. Hunting American Spooks:
Germany Prepares Further
7. John Oliver Puts His Finger on
the Reason Income
Inequality Is So Prevalent in
This is the Nederlog of
15. It is an ordinary crisis log.
There are seven items, of which especially the first is good (but not
1. Hacking Online Polls and Other Ways British Spies Seek to
Control the Internet
item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
I should start with
noting that the present GCHQ keeps doing its things in secret because
it is a spy agency, but that in fact it has gone far beyond
spying: They spy much less than they collect information, and they
collect information to find opponents, who may be anybody who is not very
enthusiastically pro the present government, and to upset their doings
by interference, deception, and destruction.
The secretive British spy
agency GCHQ has developed covert tools to seed the internet with false
information, including the ability to manipulate the results of online
polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, “amplif[y]”
sanctioned messages on YouTube, and censor video content judged to be
“extremist.” The capabilities, detailed in documents provided by NSA
whistleblower Edward Snowden, even include an old standby for
pre-adolescent prank callers everywhere: A way to connect two
unsuspecting phone users together in a call.
The tools were created by
GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), and constitute
some of the most startling methods of propaganda and internet deception
contained within the Snowden archive. Previously disclosed documents
have detailed JTRIG’s use of “fake victim blog posts,” “false flag
operations,” “honey traps” and psychological manipulation to
target online activists, monitor visitors
to WikiLeaks, and spy
on YouTube and Facebook users.
That is, the present GCHQ is very much more an agency
of (cyber-)war, than it is collecting information in a
secret way, that is handed over to the government that then decides
what is to be done.
This also gets a lot clearer from a long list of tools, that you can
check out for yourself in this "must read" piece, about which Glenn
The “tools” have
been assigned boastful code names. They include invasive methods for
online surveillance, as well as some of the very techniques that the
U.S. and U.K. have harshly prosecuted young online activists for
employing, including “distributed denial of service” attacks and “call
bombing.” But they also describe previously unknown tactics for
manipulating and distorting online political discourse and
disseminating state propaganda, as well as the apparent ability to
actively monitor Skype users in real-time—raising further questions
extent of Microsoft’s cooperation with spy agencies or potential
vulnerabilities in its Skype’s encryption.
There is also this, that
clearly shows the real motive of both Cameron and the GCHQ:
Several GCHQ memos
last fall by The Guardian revealed that the agency was
eager to keep its activities secret not to protect national security,
but because “our main concern is that references to agency practices
(ie, the scale of interception and deletion) could lead to damaging
public debate which might lead to legal challenges against the current
They are keeping it secret because they know very well that
what they do is quite illegal, and because they also know the public
would not like it at all, if they knew what was really going
on, much of which is directed against considerable sections of the
public, namely against whoever opposes the government for whatever
Finally, as to "government control", there is this:
Chris Huhne, a
former cabinet minister and member of the national security council
until 2012, insisted
that ministers were in “utter ignorance” about even the largest
GCHQ spying program, known as Tempora—not to mention “their
extraordinary capability to hoover up and store personal emails, voice
contact, social networking activity and even internet searches.”
In fact, also given the fact
that the GCHQ collects everything from anybody, it seems more likely to
me that the GCHQ governs the British government much rather than that
the British government, of which most members are completely ignorant,
governs the GCHQ.
Anyway - this is
a "must read" document: Use the first dotted link.
data collection safeguards inadequate, tribunal told
item is an article by Owen Bowcott on The Guardian:
This starts as
Mass interception of
online communications by intelligence agencies is necessary – even if
only one person is being targeted, lawyers for the government have told
a tribunal hearing complaints about surveillance.
arguments were disclosed as lawyers for Liberty and otherright
organisations told the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT) safeguards
surrounding GCHQ's collection online
data are inadequate and do not conform to the law.
Well... if "Mass interception of online communications by
intelligence agencies is necessary" (I don't care for what, and the very honest "lawyers"
don't say so either), then Great Britain has turned into a fascist or a
soviet-socialist state: "mass interception of online communications" is
fascistic, anti-democratic and illegal, as it is completely
incompatible with a real democracy and a free and open society.
The lawyers outline
something that may seem plausible (but do not mention the very
many freedoms the GCHQ takes, for which see item 1)
but is simply incompatible with freedom, democracy and privacy, as
indeed Matthew Ryder QC said:
But Matthew Ryder QC, for
Liberty and other human rights groups, told the tribunal: "Our
challenge is against the legal framework which we say is inadequate and
not in accordance with the law.
"Tempora is a UK alleged
government programme [which] involves the collection of vast amounts of
information flowing through fibre-optic cables ... It may be that [the
government has] crossed a Rubicon and decided that [mass]
data-gathering exercises are something [it] should try out – but you
can't have it under the existing regime."
Precisely. There is
also raised another interesting question:
A written submission to
the tribunal from Privacy International asks whether it is right "that
the government can issue a general warrant for the universal search,
seizure and sophisticated automatic analysis of communications and
their sharing with foreign governments.
"[The case] is also about
the government's ability to obtain virtually all communications of UK
residents from the intelligence services of other states without
requiring any warrant at all and subject only to a general power to act
'in the interests of national security'."
Yes, indeed - and
that seems to be widely practised since 2007: The various secret
services of the "Five Eyes" spy on the population of other
countries than themselves, and then exchange the results with
the secret service of the country - and thus "no harm is done", is the
pretense, for "they didn't spy on their own populations".
There was also this:
The chairman of the
tribunal, Mr Justice Burton, asked lawyers for the government whether
intelligence-sharing with the United States – where information was
intercepted overseas by foreign agencies – complied with the right to
privacy and family life under article 8 of the European convention on
James Eadie QC, for the
government, said he believed the process was compliant with the
convention but sought time for further clarification.
Article 8, quoted from Wikipedia:
Article 8 – Right to
respect for private and family life
1. Everyone has the right
to respect for his private and family life, his home and his
2. There shall be no
interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right
except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a
democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety
or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of
disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the
protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
I note that this has "in accordance with the law" and "a democratic society", while it
does not even mention mass surveillance (which indeed was impossible at
the time the article was adopted) - which must be completely illegal in
view of the need for "the
protection of the rights and freedoms of others" and "the law" and "a
democratic society". That is: Governments may spy, but only
on probable cause, as the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution has
And what governments
presently do - or at least their secret services do, in secret - which
is getting all the information they can get from anyone
- is completely incompatible with a democratic state of law, in which
the ordinary citizen is not to be spied upon, also for no reason
whatsoever, except for a given probable cause. For that is
freedom, whereas mass surveillance is subservience of the masses to the
secret services of the government.
There will be more of this later, for the hearings last a week.
3. What is Drip and how, precisely, will it
help the government ruin your life?
item is an article by Charlie Brooker on The Guardian:
I start with quoting the
The Data Retention and
Investigatory Powers bill is the most tedious outrage ever, right down
to the dreary acronym. But oh, the horrors it will bring …
In fact, Charlie Brooker
seems very angry, and indeed he has - in my opinion - every right tob
be so. His article starts as follows:
David Cameron cares about
your safety. It's all he ever thinks about. It's his passion. He's
passionate about it. Every time David Cameron thinks about how safe
he'd like to keep you, passion overcomes him and he has to have a lie
down. With his eyes shut. A bit like he's having a nap and doesn't care
about your safety at all.
Right now he's so
committed to keeping you safe, he's rushing something called the Drip
bill through the House of Commons. Drip stands for Data Retention and
Investigatory Powers and critics are calling it yet another erosion of
civil liberties and … see, I've lost you because it's just so bloody
boring. Maybe it's just me, but whenever I hear about some fresh
internet privacy outrage my brain
enters screensaver mode and displays that looped news footage of
mumblin' Edward Snowden and I automatically nod off only to be awoken
shortly afterwards by the sound of my forehead colliding sharply with
Cameron is a hypocritical millionaire who wants all the
information he can get about anybody, especially in England,
because that will give absolute power to him - "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power
corrupts absolutely. Great men
are almost always bad men." Lord
Acton - and to his
cronies, and to their follow up, and he is willing to state any lies
and do any deceptions to keep
being fully informed (in principle, and stored on GCHQ computers for
when it comes in handy) about everyone's doings, sayings and
But maybe Charlie
Brooker thinks he cannot say so, for example because he then risks
being disappeared in a few years, to spend his remaining days (if any)
in some sort of Guantánamo, of course without ever seeing a judge or a
lawyer. I don't know, but I do not think this is impossible.
In any case, he wrote
an angry piece, that may wake up a few, but which does not contain
enough real information to further quote.
flouting the 'Wilson doctrine' and bugging MPs?
item is an article
by Ian Cobain on The Guardian:
This is about
little-known convention of Westminster politics called the Wilson doctrine, which is said to
guarantee that the phones of MPs and members of the Lords will never be
bugged by the UK's intelligence agencies, that their letters will not
be opened, and that their emails will be completely off limits.
But it starts with a
tale about a minister of Thatcher, Alan Clarke, which I found rather
pointless, though I admit I am not British and haven't lived or been
there since 1983.
In any case, this is the real point of the article:
I think these
parliamentarians are entirely right in starting court proceedings, and
I fear they are probably right that they have been spied upon by either
the NSA or the GCHQ or one of the others of the Five Eyes secret
services. Then again, what with all the secrecy that encircles the
GCHQ, it may not be easy to prove this in a legal way.
Today, however, there are
fresh concerns at Westminster, as politicians question whether the
doctrine is routinely being undermined by the modern mass interception
practices that were revealed by the NSA whistleblower Edward
Two Green party
parliamentarians – Caroline
Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb –
have embarked upon court proceedings asserting that the doctrine has
force in law, and alleging that their legal rights have been breached.
There is a whole lot more in the article, but the news content stands
has tools to manipulate online information, leaked documents show
item is an article by James Ball on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Otherwise, the article is a
fairly brief recapitulation of item 1, above.
The UK intelligence
agency GCHQ has developed
sophisticated tools to manipulate online polls, spam targets with SMS
messages, track people by impersonating spammers and monitor social
media postings, according to newly-published documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The documents – which were published on First Look Media with accompanying
analysis from Glenn Greenwald – disclose a range of GCHQ "effects"
programs aimed at tracking targets, spreading information, and
manipulating online debates and statistics.
The disclosure comes the
day before the UK parliament is due to begin up to three days' debate
on emergency legislation governing British surveillance
capabilities. With cross-party support the bill is expected to be voted
through this week.
American Spooks: Germany Prepares Further Spying Clampdown
item is a long article by ten journalists (!) from Spiegel On Line:
I have not mentioned the
names of the journalists - they are at the end of the article, on page
2 - simply because there are too many. But it is a fairly interesting
article in two pages, that also have names, each: The first
internet-page is called "Germany Prepares Further Spying Clampdown" and the second "A Palpable Sense of
as often, this is translated from the original German.
This is from the beginning:
[the German government] took the unprecedented step of asking the
senior CIA representative in Berlin, known as the chief of station, to
leave Germany. Some 13 months after the beginning of the NSA scandal,
it was the Germans' brusquest response yet to the Americans' blatant
spying activities in their country. In taking this step, Chancellor
Angela Merkel was sending the message that her views on the matter are
now more in line with those of German President Joachim Gauck: She is
Also, there is this:
It remains an open
question whether the step will be enough and if it will make a lasting
impression on the Americans. Further curiosities from the mysterious
world of espionage have already come to light, with new rumors
circulating almost daily in Berlin's government district.
I think it is pretty
certain the step will not be enough, and I think so for two
reasons: First, the United States is very secretive about its
spying agencies, and indeed has much to hide, that probably would hurt
it a lot if it became known, and second, the spying agencies are
putting together the knowledge that will give absolute power to
the government, albeit quite illegally.
And I grant these are my guesses, but there is good evidence for them
(see the crisis
index). Also, the main reason that the US government very probably will
not open up - except possibly in secret, and between spying agencies,
and up to a point only - is that they know that what they are doing is
There is a lot more on two Germans who are suspected of spying for the
US, that I will leave to your interests. This is from page 2:
The case of the
CIA informant at the BND shows that Washington apparently still doesn't
consider the massive technical efforts it undertakes to spy on the
entire globe to be sufficient. It helps to explain why the numerous US
intelligence agencies still manage human sources, just as they did in
the bad old days, even in the nerve centers of Washington's close
Actually, I am not
amazed: The NSA does want to know everything, and besides it
also wants to implement things, that may go far beyond spying, as
explained in item 1, and for that one often needs
human contacts and allies.
Also from page 2, and in concordance with the above "it undertakes to spy on the entire globe":
Even the biggest
appeasers in Berlin must realize by now that the Americans are dead
serious when it comes to their desire to know "everything," to quote an
I hope so, for I
think that is quite correct, though I also agree that this wish, and
the many activities related to it, that amount to influencing politics
and political fugures in all possible legal and illegal ways, are not
anymore spying: They are political interference (and
maybe other kinds of interference as well: after all, the NSA
knows everything, and so presumably also knows whom to blackmail, and
And in fact - if the ten journalists are right, which I tend to believe
they are - there are considerable changes, in Germany at least:
I say. It seems to me
quite justified, as is the switching over to crypto-phones some have
already done, and it is quite different from what the Dutch do (which
is mostly nothing at all, in so far as politicians are concerned).
There is a palpable sense
of insecurity in Berlin's government district these days. Even
lawmakers with many years of experience have become suspicious of the
US Embassy, as well as the embassies of France, Great Britain and
Russia. They are all merely a stone's throw from the offices and
conference rooms where German politicians sometimes meet. Some now view
the highly secured foreign embassies as little more than surveillance
antennas surrounded by buildings.
Many lawmakers involved
with the intelligence services and their supervision have stopped
discussing sensitive information on the phone or sending unencrypted
emails, and they have taken to meeting in person, in public places, for
confidential conversations. If they even take their mobile phones
along, they sometimes use them to play loud lounge music, hoping to
confuse unwelcome listeners.
There is a lot more in the article, but it mostly concerns specific
7. John Oliver Puts His Finger on the Reason
Income Inequality Is So Prevalent in the U.S.
Finally, a brief article
with a fairly long video (14 m 10 s), by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on
The article starts as
I saw the video (and the
other one on the same page as well: I know a lot more about
president Harding) and indeed it contains evidence that "class warfare"
is brought up by many of the conservative media, also
in a way that is meant to ridicule it, but I do not quite see why
this would hinder Obama, or at least: if he wanted to do
something serious against the rising tide of inequality in the US.
“Just because politicians
can’t talk about it,” the “Last Week Tonight” host starts on one of his
characteristic rants, “doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.” John Oliver explains
how whenever the term “income inequality” comes up, politicians (namely
Barack Obama) are accused of class warfare, which is extremely
detrimental to addressing what the president himself referred to as
“the defining challenge of our time.”
But why is it so
difficult for us to understand that policies need to be enacted to
protect the nation against the widening wealth gap rather than
fomenting it with further tax cuts for the 1 percent? According to the
comedian, it’s both the best and worst quality Americans have:
But I suppose he doesn't, really, and I agree this might be quite
difficult, though it also might make his party invincible in the next
elections if he succeeded. In any case, I found the video interesting, although it didn't tell me much news.
And one reason for listing it here is that it well illustrates that real
political information in the US these days tends to come from comedians
- John Oliver, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher - rather than
from the real news.
While I welcome that the comedians do it, it also is a real pity, and
quite dangerous, that the normal media do not relay the real political
news anymore: They offer light amusement, and biased information on a
few selected topics. You can select your bias - right, middle, or
"left" - but that is all: the information you get will be incomplete,
partial, and biased.
 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
if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my
More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn
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
from is quite pertinent.)
(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: