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Nederlog

February 17, 2015
Crisis: Libiya, NSA's latest, Obama's Secrets, Secret "Trade" Deals, No More Privacy
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "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
















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Sections
Introduction

1. Hailed as a Model for Successful Intervention, Libya
     Proves to be the Exact Opposite

2. Cyber-Security Firm: NSA-Linked Spyware Found in
     Hard Drives Worldwide

3. President Gollum’s ‘Precious’ Secrets
4. How Trade Deals Boost the Top 1% and Bust the Rest
5. Creepy, Calculating and Controlling: All the Ways Big
     Brother Is Watching You
 
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, February 17, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Libya (and by Glenn Greenwald); item 2 is about a new major threat in cyberspying;
item 3 is about president Obama's extremely many (governmental) secrets; item 4 is about Robert Reich on the - so-called - trade deals (that are completely secret and a major attack on the rights of hundreds of millions); and item 5 is about the nearly complete disappearance of any and all privacy (in the U.S.A., but also elsewhere).

1. Hailed as a Model for Successful Intervention, Libya Proves to be the Exact Opposite

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

When Saddam Hussein was captured in 2003 by U.S. forces, Iraq War advocates boastfully celebrated the event as proof that they were right and used it to mock war opponents (Joe Lieberman and John Kerry, for instance, gleefully exploited the event to demand that Howard Dean admit his war opposition was wrong). When Muammar Gaddafi was forced by NATO bombing in August 2011 to flee Tripoli, advocates of U.S. intervention played the same game (ThinkProgress gleefully exploited the occasion to try to shame those who objected to the illegality of Obama’s waging the war even after Congress voted against its authorization: as though Gadaffi’s fleeing could render legal Obama’s plainly illegal intervention).

Once Gadaffi was brutally killed by a mob, advocates of intervention threw a giddy party for themselves, celebrating their own rightness and righteousness and declaring Libya a model for future Western interventions. Upon Gadaffi’s fleeing, The New York Times, which editorially supported the war, published a front-page article declaring: “U.S. Tactics in Libya May be a Model for Other Efforts.” While acknowledging that “it would be premature to call the war in Libya a complete success for United States interests,” the paper noted that events had given “Obama’s senior advisers a chance to claim a key victory for an Obama doctrine for the Middle East that had been roundly criticized in recent months as leading from behind.”

But that was then... now Iraq is largely destroyed and partially in the hands of ISIS, while Libya is turning into one great lawless mess:
Since 2011, Libya has rapidly unraveled in much the way Iraq did following that invasion: swamped by militia rule, factional warfare, economic devastation, and complete lawlessness. And to their eternal shame, most self-proclaimed “humanitarians” who advocated the Libya intervention completely ignored the country once the fun parts — the war victory dances and mocking of war opponents — were over.
And this is the general model Glenn Greenwald sees (and I agree):
What we see here is what we’ve seen over and over: the West’s wars creating and empowering an endless supply of enemies, which in turn justify endless war by the West. It was the invasion of Iraq that ushered in “Al Qaeda in Iraq” and ultimately ISIS. It has been the brutal, civilian-slaughtering drone bombing of Yemen which spawned Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in that country. As Hillary Clinton herself acknowledged, the U.S. helped create Al Qaeda itself by arming, recruiting and funding foreign “Mujahideen” to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (“the people we are fighting today, we funded 20 years ago”). And now it is the NATO intervention in Libya which has laid the groundwork for further intervention.
There is considerably more in the article, that is all well worth reading, and that also gives background I skipped.

2. Cyber-Security Firm: NSA-Linked Spyware Found in Hard Drives Worldwide

The next item is an article by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

A top technology security firm announced on Monday that they have uncovered evidence that sophisticated spying software, likely linked to the National Security Agency, was implanted in the hard drives of personal computers across the globe.

Researchers with the Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab introduced their findings while presenting at the Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit in Cancun, Mexico, and also published an initial paper (pdf) Monday on what they consider "the most advanced threat actor" they’ve seen to date. 

Dubbed the Equation Group, the suite of surveillance platforms has been found in hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, and located in personal computers in 30 countries, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria, Kaspersky said.

The targets reportedly included government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists. Although the firm did not publicly name the source behind the spying campaign, they said the Equation Group "worm" was closely linked to Stuxnet, the cyberweapon the U.S. used to attack Iran's uranium enrichment facility beginning in late 2007.

I say - and note that Stuxnet was very probably developed by the NSA. Before going on: I note that the "initial paper (pdf)", by Kaspersky Lab, is quite interesting (if you are somewhat knowledgeable about computing). From this I quote the following:
GrayFish includes a highly sophisticated bootkit, which is more complex than any we’ve seen before. This suggests developers of the highest caliber are behind its creation.

When the computer starts, GrayFish hijacks the OS loading mechanisms by injecting its code into the boot record. This allows it to control the launching of Windows at each stage. In fact, after infection, the computer is not run by itself more: it is GrayFish that runs it step by step, making the necessary changes on the fly.

After GrayFish starts Windows, it launches a multi-stage mechanism (four to five stages) of decryption to achieve code execution within the Windows environment. It then runs the functional modules that are stored inside the Windows registry. Each stage decodes and executes the next, and the entire platform will only start after successful execution of all levels. If an error happens during launch, the entire GrayFish platform self-destructs.
Neat, isn't it? (And installed on "government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists.")

Here is one other bit from that report (and I am on Linux, though indeed also I would not expect to be wanted by these particular spy programs):

All the malware we have collected so far is designed to work on Microsoft’s Windows operating system. However, there are signs that non-Windows malware does exist. For instance, one of the sinkholed C&C domains is currently receiving connections from a large pool of victims in China that appear to be Mac OS X
computers (based on the user-agent).
Here is one more bit from the article (quoted from Wired):
The new platforms, which appear to have been developed in succession with each one surpassing the previous in sophistication, can give the attackers complete and persistent control of infected systems for years, allowing them to siphon data and monitor activities while using complex encryption schemes and other sophisticated methods to avoid detection. The platforms also include an innovative module, the likes of which Kaspersky has never seen before, that re-flashes or reprograms a hard drive’s firmware with malicious code to turn the computer into a slave of the attackers.
That seems to be the future: every computer controlled by programs like this, that even reprogram hard drives themselves, and that insert secret codes into that, and that in turn are controlled by secret spies protected by secret courts with secret judgments, that work for the NSA, the GCHQ etc.

Also see the next item:

3.
President Gollum’s ‘Precious’ Secrets

The next item is an article by Robert Parry on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows:

President Barack Obama promised a “transparent” administration, reviving democracy by letting Americans see into the inner workings of their government as much as possible, an implicit criticism of the excessive secrecy of his predecessor, George W. Bush. But instead Obama’s presidency has been one of the most opaque and deceptive in modern history.

Not only has Obama continued to wrap the carry-over anti-terrorism wars in maximum secrecy but he has taken unprecedented steps to shut down leaks by prosecuting whistleblowers who talk to the press. And, he has left standing his administration’s misleading rushes to judgment on key issues after U.S. intelligence analysts have refined or reversed the first impressions.

Yes, indeed. Here are some more specifics:

According to a memorandum instructing Executive Branch department heads, Obama wrote: “My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”

Instead, Obama has clamped down more than ever on openness and transparency, including the prosecution of more government whistleblowers than all the previous presidents combined and sitting on U.S. intelligence reports that would change how Americans understand major international crises.

There is a considerable amount more and - having seen for 6 years now that Obama says one thing and does another - I like the name "Gollum" for him, that also gets explained in the article.

And again see the next item:

4. How Trade Deals Boost the Top 1% and Bust the Rest 

The next item is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:

Suppose that by enacting a particular law we’d increase the U.S.Gross Domestic Product. But almost all that growth would go to the richest 1percent. 


The rest of us could buy some products cheaper than before. But those gains would be offset by losses of jobs and wages.

This is pretty much what “free trade” has brought us over the last two decades.

I used to believe in trade agreements. That was before the wages of most Americans stagnated and a relative few at the top captured just about all the economic gains.

Not only that:

(1) The recent trade agreements, that will change the lives and incomes and the rights of hundreds of millions of persons are "agreed" in total secrecy, and kept far and unreadable to the public whose rights and incomes they steal, and even to the U.S. Congress, while

(2) these secret "trade agreements" are not so much about "trade" as they are about stealing the rights of hundreds of millions of ordinary people and the rights of their governments to object against all manner of profitable financial
speculations: Governments may even be put on - secret trials, by secret courts, that also know no appeals - for trying to protect the interests of their own people, and can be - in secret - convicted if any of their measures hurt the profits of some multi-national corporation...

President Obama considers this one of the most urgent things for him left to do in his last two years:

To push through the secret trade agreements that will deny nations and hundreds of millions of their inhabitants the right to protect the rights of their populations against being bled by multinational corporations.

Here is Robert Reich again:

The fact is, trade agreements are no longer really about trade. Worldwide tariffs are already low. Big American corporations no longer make many products in the United States for export abroad. 

The biggest things big American corporations sell overseas are ideas, designs, franchises, brands, engineering solutions, instructions, and software.

(...)

In fact, today’s “trade agreements” should really be called “global corporate agreements” because they’re mostly about protecting the assets and profits of these global corporations rather than increasing American jobs and wages. The deals don’t even guard against currency manipulation by other nations.
And this is Reich on the - enormous - difference between old-style trade agreements, and new-style secret corporate scheme for more profits that are behind the new "trade agreements":

The old-style trade agreements of the 1960s and 1970s increased worldwide demand for products made by American workers, and thereby helped push up American wages.

The new-style global corporate agreements mainly enhance corporate and financial profits, and push down wages. 

That’s why big corporations and Wall Street are so enthusiastic about the upcoming Trans Pacific Partnership – the giant deal among countries responsible for 40 percent of the global economy.

That deal would give giant corporations even more patent protection overseas. It would also guard their overseas profits.

And it would allow them to challenge any nation’s health, safety, and environmental laws that stand in the way of their profits – including our own.

There is considerably more in the article, that is good and deserves reading all of.

5. Creepy, Calculating and Controlling: All the Ways Big Brother Is Watching You

The next and last item today is an article by Washington's Blog on his site:
This starts as follows:

By John Whitehead, constitutional and human rights attorney, and founder of the Rutherford Institute.

“You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”—George Orwell, 1984

None of us are perfect. All of us bend the rules occasionally. Even before the age of overcriminalization, when the most upstanding citizen could be counted on to break at least three laws a day without knowing it, most of us have knowingly flouted the law from time to time.

Indeed, there was a time when most Americans thought nothing of driving a few miles over the speed limit, pausing (rather than coming to a full stop) at a red light when making a right-hand turn if no one was around, jaywalking across the street, and letting their kid play hookie from school once in a while. Of course, that was before the era of speed cameras that ticket you for going even a mile over the posted limit, red light cameras that fine you for making safe “rolling stop” right-hand turns on red, surveillance cameras equipped with facial recognition software mounted on street corners, and school truancy laws that fine parents for “unexcused” absences.

It continues thus:

My, how times have changed.

Today, there’s little room for indiscretions, imperfections, or acts of independence—especially not when the government can listen in on your phone calls, monitor your driving habits, track your movements, scrutinize your purchases and peer through the walls of your home. That’s because technology—specifically the technology employed by the government against the American citizenry—has upped the stakes dramatically so that there’s little we do that is not known by the government.

In such an environment, you’re either a paragon of virtue, or you’re a criminal.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, we’re all criminals. This is the creepy, calculating yet diabolical genius of the American police state: the very technology we hailed as revolutionary and liberating has become our prison, jailer, probation officer, Big Brother and Father Knows Best all rolled into one.

Consider that on any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. As I point out in my book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, this doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

And there is this:

However, privacy is so much more than what you do or say behind locked doors. It is a way of living one’s life firm in the belief that you are the master of your life, and barring any immediate danger to another person (which is far different from the carefully crafted threats to national security the government uses to justify its actions), it’s no one’s business what you read, what you say, where you go, whom you spend your time with, and how you spend your money.

Unfortunately, privacy as we once knew it is dead.

We now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers. This is the fact-is-stranger-than-fiction lesson that is being pounded into us on a daily basis.

This is a really good article that deserves full reading - and yes, I agree with the thesis of the writer that he and I live in the times of the emerging American police state - and may go beyond him in holding that the only known real escape from the corporate rulers is that their economy completely collapses, which indeed may happen, but will also be awful, though not as awful as hundreds or more years under dominance of a few exceedingly rich men whose eager slaves know every one of your thoughts, because they can spy on you via their "internet of things" 24 hours of every day, and whose secret services and secret courts can disappear anyone with non-adjusted thoughts, without most knowing it, and soon also without anyone daring to publicly care.

I sure hope I am mistaken, but that is the world I see unfold.
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