15, 2014
Crisis: Greenwald, GCHQ*2, DRIP, MPs bugged, Germany, Oliver
  "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

 Hacking Online Polls and Other Ways British Spies Seek to
     Control the Internet

2. GCHQ data collection safeguards inadequate, tribunal
3. What is Drip and how, precisely, will it help the
     government ruin your life?
Are spies flouting the 'Wilson doctrine' and bugging MPs?
5. GCHQ has tools to manipulate online information, leaked
     documents show

6. Hunting American Spooks: Germany Prepares Further
     Spying Clampdown

7. John Oliver Puts His Finger on the Reason Income
     Inequality Is So Prevalent in the U.S.

About ME/CFS


This is the Nederlog of July 15. It is an ordinary crisis log.

There are seven items, of which especially the first is good (but not heartening).

1. Hacking Online Polls and Other Ways British Spies Seek to Control the Internet

The first item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

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.

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.
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 Greenwald says:
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 about the 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 published 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 regime.”
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 reasons.

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.

2. GCHQ data collection safeguards inadequate, tribunal told 

The next item is an article by Owen Bowcott on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

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.

The government's 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 human rights.

James Eadie QC, for the government, said he believed the process was compliant with the convention but sought time for further clarification.

Here is 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 correspondence.

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 it.

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?

The next item is an article by Charlie Brooker on The Guardian:

I start with quoting the subtitle:

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 the table.

Actually, David 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 writings.

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.

4. Are spies flouting the 'Wilson doctrine' and bugging MPs?

The next item is an article by Ian Cobain on The Guardian:

This is about
(..) a 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:

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 Snowden.

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.

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.

There is a whole lot more in the article, but the news content stands above.

5. GCHQ has tools to manipulate online information, leaked documents show 

The next item is an article by James Ball on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

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.

Otherwise, the article is a fairly brief recapitulation of item 1, above.

6. Hunting American Spooks: Germany Prepares Further Spying Clampdown

The next 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 Insecurity". Also, as often, this is translated from the original German.

This is from the beginning:
Last Thursday, [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 fed up.
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 quite illegal.

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 allies.
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 NSA document.
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 what with).

And in fact - if the ten journalists are right, which I tend to believe they are - there are considerable changes, in Germany at least:

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.

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 lot more in the article, but it mostly concerns specific German things.

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 Truthdig:
The article starts as follows:

“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: optimism.

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.

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.


[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
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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