NSA Spied on Americans for Over a Decade: Report
The first item today is an article by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
The National Security
Agency quietly released a heavily redacted
report late Wednesday night showing that its mass surveillance
program targeting U.S. citizens went on for more than 10 years.
The documents, which are made up of annual and quarterly reports filed
since 2001, were published to the President's Intelligence Oversight
Board in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by the
They note numerous instances in which U.S. citizens were erroneously
targeted for spying and information waspassed among servers that were
"not authorized" to hold it. Many of these cases were shown to be
"marked for purging," but it is unclear whether they were actually
Actually, this is
just one tiny bit of "heavily redacted" information on the many
illegal doings of the NSA, while it also seems at least a bit
questionable - to me, at least - whether many of the U.S. citizens who were
targeted were in fact targeted "erroneously".
In fact, there is
also this (and note the "much"):
And besides, there is
this on the private concerns of the - anonymous - governmental supermen
and superwomen who may delve into any computer, at least according to
the U.S. government (and note the "often"):
As exposed in NSA
whistleblower Edward Snowden's document leak in 2013, much of the
surveillance program consisted of unauthorized spying on American
In an interview
with the Guardian earlier this year, Snowden also revealed
that agents often used their surveillance powers for
use in their personal lives. The reports released Wednesday confirmed
that trend, noting one instance in which an analyst "searched her
spouse's telephone directory without his knowledge to obtain names and
telephone numbers for targeting." The analyst was apparently "advised
to cease her activities."
Similarly, as The Verge
NSA agents also apparently stalked their potential love interests so
often that the practice acquired its own inter-agency nickname: LOVEINT.
Then again, that may
be expected: If you assign a small number of people to read anybody's
e-mail and delve into anybody's computer, all in deep secret, all quite
anonymously, of course they also will use that to further their own
Here is a final
sum-up by the ACLU:
conducts sweeping surveillance under this authority—surveillance that
increasingly puts Americans’ data in the hands of the NSA,” Patrick C.
Toomey, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, said
in an e-mail to Bloomberg. "Despite that
fact, this spying is conducted almost entirely in secret and without
legislative or judicial oversight."
Yes, indeed - and
such things do not happen in any real democracy.
2. The CIA Didn't Just Torture, It Experimented
on Human Beings
The next item is an article by Lisa Hajjar, that seems
to have appeared originally in The Nation, but that I found on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
Human experimentation was
a core feature of the CIA's torture program. The experimental nature of
the interrogation and detention techniques is clearly evident in the
Senate Intelligence Committee's executive summary of its investigative
report, despite redactions (insisted upon by the CIA) to obfuscate the
locations of these laboratories of cruel science and the identities of
At the helm of this human
experimentation project were two psychologists hired by the CIA, James
Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. They designed interrogation and detention
protocols that they and others applied to people imprisoned in the
agency's secret "black sites."
Yes, indeed - and let me first delve into the past, for
the CIA has been doing this for many decades now: Here is a Wikipedia
article  on a real sadist (according to
Wikipedia: "a near mad-man")
who also was a psychiatrist who led the American Psychiatric
Association and who was the world's leading psychiatrist in the 1950ies:
Messrs Mitchell and Jessen belong to this tradition.
Here is some on their "expertise":
In its response to the
Senate report, the CIA justified its decision to hire the duo: "We
believe their expertise was so unique that we would have been derelict
had we not sought them out when it became clear that CIA would be
heading into the uncharted territory of the program." Mitchell and
Jessen's qualifications did not include interrogation experience,
specialized knowledge about Al Qaeda or relevant cultural or linguistic
knowledge. What they had was Air Force experience in studying the
effects of torture on American prisoners of war, as well as a curiosity
about whether theories of "learned helplessness" derived from
experiments on dogs might work on human enemies.
To implement those theories,
Mitchell and Jessen oversaw or personally engaged in techniques
intended to produce "debility, disorientation and dread."
And this links up again with the earlier practices of
1953, the CIA established the MK-ULTRA program, whose earliest phase
involved hypnosis, electroshock and hallucinogenic drugs. The program
evolved into experiments in psychological torture that adapted elements
of Soviet and Chinese models, including longtime standing, protracted
isolation, sleep deprivation and humiliation. Those lessons soon became
an applied "science" in the Cold War.
the Vietnam War, the CIA developed the Phoenix program, which combined
psychological torture with brutal interrogations, human experimentation
and extrajudicial executions. In 1963, the CIA produced a manual titled
"Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation" to guide agents in the art
of extracting information from "resistant" sources by combining
techniques to produce "debility, disorientation and dread." Like the
communists, the CIA largely eschewed tactics that violently target the
body in favor of those that target the mind by systematically attacking
all human senses in order to produce the desired state of compliance.
The article is good and deserves to be read in full,
though I do not agree with one of its conclusions: That it
would be better to avoid the term 'torture' and instead speak of 'human
My reasons are that what the CIA does is torture;
that torture, unlike 'human experimentation' is forbidden by
law, indeed both national and international laws; and that 'human experimentation' seems to be yet
another vague euphemism for torture. If it is torture, you should call
it torture, if only because torture is legally forbidden.
3. The Global Corporatocracy Is Just A Pen
Stroke Away From
The next item is an aricle by Don Quijones on Raging
starts as follows:
Quietly, subtly, almost
imperceptibly, the rules governing global trade and financial markets
are changing. It is not happening by accident, but by wilful design.
Despite the enormous impact it will have on all our lives, the public
is not being consulted on any aspects of the process. Most people are
not even aware it is happening.
The main driver of this
change are the bilateral and multilateral trade and investment treaties
being negotiated in complete secrecy and behind closed doors between
corporate lobbyists, free trade activists and our own elected
“representatives” (a term I use in the loosest possible sense,
especially given the context). The ultimate goal of these treaties is
to reconfigure the legal apparatus and superstructures that govern
national, regional and global trade and business – for the primary, if
not exclusive, benefit of the world’s largest multinational
is also this:
Right now, the
representatives of many of these firms are engaged in late-stage
negotiations with the U.S. and European political leaders that
would make it financially calamitous for a nation-state to take any
actions against the interest of corporations. If passed — and at this
rate, it almost certainly will be — it will be the biggest bilateral
trade deal in the history of mankind.
What’s up for grabs in
the innocuously named “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership”
(TTIP) is nothing short of the control and ownership of virtually every
economic sector and public service in both Europe and the U.S. – with
the exception, at the insistence of the U.S. government, of the
financial services industry. Unbeknownst to almost all Europeans,
the European Commission has shown a keen interest in opening up all
public services to foreign corporate ownership, from health care to
education, pensions to water provision.
And this about what it is
Based on the draft copy
recently released by Wikileaks, the treaty seeks to (among many other
The trade treaties are not
just about rewriting laws; they are also about enforcing them
- “Lock in” the
privatisations of services – even in cases where private service
delivery has failed – meaning governments can never return water,
energy, health, education or other services to public hands.
- Restrict a
government’s right to regulate stronger standards in the public’s
interest. For example, it will affect environmental regulations,
licensing of health facilities and laboratories, waste disposal
centres, power plants, school and university accreditation and
- Specifically limit the
ability of governments to regulate the financial services industry at
exactly the time when the global economy is still recovering from a
crisis caused by financial deregulation.
Finally, this is how it ends:
Say, for example, a newly
elected government decides — not unreasonably — that the involvement of
price-gouging U.S. firms in the nation’s health service is not such a
good idea after all. Each and every one of those U.S. firms will now be
able to launch expensive legal battles, potentially for billions of
pounds, in the name of foregone profits.
The case would not be
heard in a court of law, under the scrutiny of a judge and jury, but
rather in front of arbitration panels made up of three professional
arbitrators — one representing the company, one representing the
country and the other chosen by the first two to sit as president of
the panel. None of these arbitrators are trained judges; they are
private individuals often representing some of the biggest
international corporate law firms, mostly from the U.S. and Europe.
The secrecy of the
arbitration process is, in Malone’s words, “mind-blowing.” No citizen
of any affected country can demand leverage or accountability over the
proceedings. The arbitrators meet behind closed doors and do not even
need to inform the people of a country that their government has been
taken to arbitration.
As I warned in early
November 2013, the global corporatocracy is almost fully operational.
The intentions of those negotiating the multiple trade treaties are now
crystal clear: to place complete power and control over our economies
in the hands of the largest global corporations, many of which bear the
lion’s share of responsibility for the economic and environmental mess
we’re already in.
In the meantime, the
clock continues to tick down. At any moment, a few quiet strokes of a
pen behind the tightly closed doors of a luxury conference room could
usher in a new age of corporate domination. With it will come a new
kind of dystopia, bearing an uncanny likeness to the inverted
totalitarianism foreseen by Sheldon Wolin.
I think this is the best
article I have read - so far - on the TTIP, and I strongly
recommend you read all of it. The only difference I have with it is
about "inverted totalitarianism": I do not think it is that - which
seems mostly to be about how the totalitarianism is sold to the
public: it is about financial and legal fascism.
4. Wllliam Hazlitt on Dr. Johnson
The last item is completely different, and is about my
strong likes for two English authors, namely Dr. Johnson
(<- Wikipedia) and William Hazlitt
I really like both of them, ever since
discovering and reading Dr. Johnson in the early 1970ies and Hazlitt in
the early 1980ies , and I have meanwhile read
most of what they published (in Hazlitt's case mostly through the
combined efforts of Everyman's Library
and the archive.org).
One problem I had is that Hazlitt, who was born some
six years before Dr. Johnson died, did not like Johnson's published
prose as much as I do (who was born 172 years after Hazlitt).
In part, Hazlitt was right: Dr. Johnson's written style
is formal and latinate, but I object less to that than
Hazlitt did, and also I have no reasons to find fault with Johnson in
order to defend the much less latinate and more common, though still
quite intricate and complex style that Hazlitt wrote.
In any case, I leaved yesterday through my copy of
Everyman's fine edition of Hazlitt's "Lectures on the English comic
writers" (that also contains 16 other essays of Hazlitt), that I bought
and read first in April 1983, and found this tribute to Johnson by
Hazlitt in Lecture V, "On the periodical essayists" (and I am only
quoting two parts, for there is a lot more there):
The most triumphant
record of the talents and character of Johnson is to be found in
Boswell's life of him. The man was superior to the author. When he
threw aside his pen, which he regarded as an incumbrance, he became not
only learned and thoughtful, but acute, witty, humorous, natural,
honest; hearty and determined, 'the king of good fellows and wale of
old men.' There are as many smart repartees, profound remarks, and keen
invectives to be found in Boswell's 'inventory of all he said,' as are
recorded of any celebrayed man. The life and dramatic play of his
conversation form a contrast to his written works. His natural powers
and undisguised opinions were called out in convivial intercourse. In
public, he practised with the foils on; in private, he unsheathed the
sword of controversy, and it was ' the Ebro's temper.' The eagerness of
opposition roused him from his natural sluggishness and acquired
timidity; he returned blow for blow and whether the trial were of
argument or wit, none of his rivals could boast much of the encounter.
Burke seems to have been the only person who had a chance with him: and
it is the unpardonable sin of Boswell's work, that he has purposely
omitted their combats strength and skill.
His good deeds were as many as his good sayings. His domestic habits,
his tenderness to servants, and readiness to oblige his friends ; the
quantity of strong tea that he drank to keep down sad thoughts;
his many labours reluctantly begun, and irresolutely laid aside ; his
honest acknowledgement of his own, and indulgence to the weaknesses of
others; his throwing himself back in the post-chaise with Boswell, and
saying, 'Now I think I am a good-humoured fellow,' though nobody
thought him so, and yet he was, his quitting the society of Garrick and
his actresses, and his reason for it; his dining with Wilkes, and his
kindness to Goldsmith; his sitting with the young ladies on his knee at
the Mitre, to give them good advice, in which situation, if not
explained, he might be taken for FalstafF; and last and noblest, his
carrying the unfortunate victim of disease and dissipation on his back
up through Fleet Street, (an act which realises the parable of the good
Samaritan) - all these, and innumerable others, endear him to the
reader, and must be remembered to his lasting honour. He had faults,
but they lie buried with him. He had his prejudices and his intolerant
feelings; but he suffered enough in the conflict of his own mind with
them. For if no man can be happy in the free exercise of his reason, no
wise man can be happy without it. His were not time-serving, heartless,
hypocritical prejudices; but deep, inwoven, not to be rooted out but
with life and hope, which he found from old habit necessary to his own
peace of mind, and thought so to the peace of mankind. I do not hate,
but love him for them.
I published this bit for three reasons: I like the
tribute; I like both Hazlitt and Johnson very much; and because of the
English, which is better and more complex than current English.
P.S. Dec 27, 2014: Linked note 1 in the text to the