March 8, 2015
Crisis: New Zealand, CIA, Politics, Internet, Spying
  "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

Prev- crisis -Next


1. Documents Shine Light on Shadowy New Zealand
     Surveillance Base

2. We’re All Spies Now: CIA Director Announces Major

3. Politics was once about beliefs and society. Now it’s a
     worship of money

Robert Scheer: Liberation and Enslavement in the Same

NSA Global Spy Stations Revealed: 'Sniff It All, Collect It
     All, Know It All, Process It All, Exploit It All'


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, March 8, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is on another finding from Snowden's materials, and is about New Zealand's secret service; item 2 is on some - pretty dark - fundamental changes in the CIA; item 3 is a silly article in The Guardian (that I selected because of its title); item 4 is a fine piece by Robert Scheer; and item 5 is a good piece on the same subject as item 1, but with some other information.

Also, this got uploaded a bit earlier than is normal, because it is fine weather in Amsterdam, and I probably will go out in the afternoon. And I uploaded yesterday
parts I and II of Hume's "Treatise" with my notes.

1. Documents Shine Light on Shadowy New Zealand Surveillance Base

The first item today is an article by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Near the heartland of New Zealand’s renowned wine country, there is a place that visitors are not allowed to go. The peculiar large white domes that protrude from the earth in the Waihopai Valley are surrounded by razor wire and shrouded in secrecy.

But now, newly revealed documents from the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden shine a light on what is behind the security perimeter. The buildings there are crammed with sophisticated NSA spying technology, used by New Zealand to sweep up text messages, emails, phone calls, and other communications in bulk across the Asia-Pacific.

The documents, revealed Saturday by the Sunday Star-Times in collaboration with The Intercept, show how closely New Zealand has worked with the NSA to maintain surveillance coverage of the region. The files also offer an unprecedented insight into the Waihopai base, exposing how it’s been integrated into a global eavesdropping network.

Incidentally, the Sunday Star-Times is from New Zealand, and their report (click the link) has some more details and graphics than this Intercept's report.

Here is a bit on what the New Zealand spies spy on - which is in fact everything they can somehow get:
The Snowden documents show that Waihopai relies heavily on NSA technology to conduct electronic eavesdropping. The NSA tools and systems at the base include LATENTTHREAT, which breaks the intercepted satellite signals down into individual communications; LEGALREPTILE, which collects text message and call metadata, showing who is contacting whom and when; SEMITONE, which monitors fax and voice messages; FALLOWHAUNT, which targets communications sent over small “VSAT” satellites; JUGGERNAUT, which processes intercepted calls from mobile phone networks (including voice, fax, data and text messages); LOPERS and SURFBOARD, both used to snoop on phone calls; and XKEYSCORE, a system used to gather intercepted Internet data, such as emails and details about people’s online browsing habits.
There is also this, on the legalities, which may be abbreviated as: The people don't want it, but their elected politicians love it, and refuse to say anything.
Following the story, the Tongan prime minister said the spying was “a breach of trust,” the New Zealand Labour party leader Andrew Little called the spying a “mass invasion of privacy,” and the Greens filed a legal complaint against the surveillance, which the party’s co-leader Russel Norman said amounted to “crimes under New Zealand law against entire countries.”

New Zealand’s prime minister John Key insisted that the revelations were wrong, but then refused to explain why, telling a press conference he had “no intention of telling you about how we do things.”
Ah, well: We steal all your data, including your personal and your porn pictures, but we are not going to admit or explain anything:

We are as gods, you are like our slaves, and we know everything about you, while you know nothing about us, not even who we are. And we anonymous spies think this is how things ought to be.

There is more in the article, and also in item 5 below.

2. We’re All Spies Now: CIA Director Announces Major Restructuring

The next item is an article by Ryan Devereaux on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

The director of the CIA announced this week a major overhaul of the agency’s organizational structure ending the traditional separation between spies and analysts, while also creating a new division to handle cyberwarfare.

Director John Brennan officially announced the restructure to agency employees on Friday. Thousands of spies and CIA analysts will be reassigned to new posts, marking one of the most significant changes to the agency’s core structure in its 67-year history.

There is more there by Brennan, which I will not quote because it doesn't say anything, but which gets ended by this overall statement:

The reorganization will allow the CIA to “cover the entire universe, regionally and functionally,” Brennan told reporters in a briefing earlier in the week.

Further details on the mandates of the mission centers were hard to come by — the CIA declined to provide additional briefing materials beyond the director’s prepared statements.

And there is again more, which you can read by clicking the last dotted link, but basically it all seems murky to me.

3. Politics was once about beliefs and society. Now it’s a worship of money 

The next item is an article by Armando Iannucci on The Guardian:

This struck me as an easy relativistic piece about fashions of talking rather than about science, analysis, or indeed society. Here is the best bit:

Culpability is something big business doesn’t recognise. Nor is it something political leaders want to pursue. It has no market value. Banks fail, financial centres crash, Swiss branches help evasion, but no one is arrested or put in any kind of dock. Monoliths such as Vodafone come to gentlemen’s agreements with HMRC over reduced payments in back tax. Meanwhile, vans circulate telling foreigners to go home, posters go up telling us to snitch on benefit scroungers and letters are put through people’s doors warning them to get worried about their spare bedroom.

But dare to express a single doubt over the supreme rationale of having the business community running the whole show, and you’re derided as an economic nincompoop, unfit for office. We can launch inquiries into the police, the war and the press, but it’s the stuff of fantasy to imagine we’d ever launch a full-blown investigation into why our business community lives under permanent impunity. That’s because this belief that, fundamentally, we should all be like businesses, has expanded exponentially. It is political life itself. There’s nothing left. It’s taken on the status of an unshatterable truth: if we are to have any credibility, business is what we must do.

There’s no phrase more guaranteed to get a politician jumpy and defensive than: “This is bad for business.”
Here are a few of the many remarks I might have made:
  • The reason "Culpability is something big business doesn’t recognise" is in the end the decision of Eric Holder and the American DoJ that managers are not to be prosecuted - but I hear nothing about that in this article.
  • To say that if you "express a single doubt over the supreme rationale of having the business community running the whole show" then "you’re derided as an economic nincompoop" is to tacitly accept the economic bullshit, lies and deceptions from the GOP and Wall Street.
  • To claim - four times in a row - that "we should all be like businesses" is to write the bullshit of Paul Ryan and the GOP: Who other than complete idiots believe that crap?
But OK - to me this reads like very bad journalism, but it may well be the standard of comment that Wolfgang Blau (who thoroughly destroyed The Guardian's fine website, without any discussion also) loves to see.

4. Robert Scheer: Liberation and Enslavement in the Same Tool

The next item is an article by Robert Scheer on Salon:
This is a long and good excerpt from Scheer's recent  "They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy".

This is well worth reading all of, but I will give some quotations, with some comments:
(...) we are clearly losing the continuing battle between individual freedom and collective conformity that has marked the history of human society. The right to be left alone—to think, to experiment, to contemplate—has been essential to the development of individual personality. The private space, protected from the intimidating observation of others, is the sacred ground where self-discovery occurs, and to the degree that external forces intrude, whether of the state, church, or marketplace, the sense of self will wither.

The information revolution that has been properly celebrated for irrevocably destroying the parochial restraints of language, society, and religion, while exposing much of the world’s population to a boundless world of universally shared information, is at the same time stripping both passive and active participants of their privacy in ways most don’t comprehend.

This is mostly correct, although I don't believe that "the sense of self will wither": I believe it will change, indeed in harmful ways, for anybody who has ideas or values that are not quite normal and clearly admitted (here and now) will - try to - not express these anymore: There will be selves, simply because anyone and everyone is tied to his or her own body, but most of these will also soon know that they are very secondrate citizens, who have no real choice but to obey their political masters - or else risk being disappeared (with a secret court order that also forbids discussing their disappearance [1]).

Next, I think Robert Scheer articulates an important insight when he says that "most don’t comprehend" what is happening on and with their computers. It sounds strange and stupid to me, but it still seems to be the case that at most 1 to 2% of the people who use computers learn to program them - which means that 99 to 98% has little idea of why and how they work, except for some very general information.

Next, there is this on the incredible capacities for spying and making a police state:

Do I exaggerate? Don’t take my word for it; let the toolmakers tell you. In a burst of public honesty, Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen wrote in April 2013: “Despite the expense, everything a regime would need to build an incredibly intimidating digital police state—including software that facilitates data mining and real-time monitoring of citizens—is commercially available right now. . . . It’s the digital analog to arms sales.”

Yes, indeed - but one major problem is that most users of computers really do not understand the technology they so fondly use, and indeed also normally do not know much about politics (<- link to a survey of books you ought to have read, if you are "politically interested", but very probably have not).

Then there is this:

The freedom to be left alone, simple though it may sound, embodies the most basic of human rights. If the individual cannot find sanctuary in his home and person, he is easy prey for avenging governments, rapacious mobs, and exploitive robbers. Some call it the right to privacy, which puts the emphasis on seclusion for personal activity, but the framers of the Constitution used the stronger concept of security, as in creating a strong barrier to the intrusions of outside power. That’s why the Constitution’s protection of individual space in the wording of the Fourth Amendment stresses physical security, but its intent, certainly as interpreted by the courts, is broader: to form a cocoon of safety around the individual, which over the years we have come to associate with the word privacy.

Yes, quite so - but it also requires mentioning the spies, and the governments and large corporations who pay them:

You have no guarantee of any kind that the chiefs of government and of large corporations are who they say they are, and are not deceiving you (you very probably never met them, and only know a few of their public sayings, most of which you cannot really check); you have no guarantee of any kind that they are your equals in any useful sense (intellectually, morally, personally) - all you ought to know is that these are very rich, very powerful persons who these days can get all information on you, while you cannot get any information on them - who, based on their secret spying you don't know about, may anonym- ously sign secret orders to arrest you, which no one may discuss in public.

And there is this:

The Constitution’s Fourth Amendment guarantee of the sovereignty of the individual—“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated”—was being treated as an irrelevant relic of a bygone civilization.

Which was - and still is, nearly 14 years later! - a great shame and a great scandal: You cannot trust your elected representatives to - even! - respect Constitutional Rights.

In fact, this happened in 2001:

The boldest justification for unfettered government intrusion in our privacy came back in October 2001, when, without hearings or even serious discussion, Congress rushed to pass “an Act to deter terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes.” With less consideration than two months of fleeting thought in an atmosphere of panic could provide, two centuries of constitutional law had been swept aside with only sixty-six dissenting votes in the House and one in the Senate. President Bush signed the measure into law on October 26, 2001. Laws regarding wiretapping, searches of homes, examination of mail, the right to due process, and even freedom from arbitrary and secret arrest were suddenly neutered.
Precisely - it was a coup d'état, and it was based on hysteria, minimal information and many lies and deceptions from the govenment.

Anyway - there is a lot more under the last dotted link, and I recommend you read all of it.

5. NSA Global Spy Stations Revealed: 'Sniff It All, Collect It All, Know It All, Process It All, Exploit It All'

The last item today is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This is another take on the material in item 1. It starts as follows:

A new batch of Snowden documents offer an unprecedented look into the close relationship of the surveillance agencies of the so-called "Five Eyes" nations and how a close look at a secretive base in New Zealand reveals new details about a global network of listening stations are operating to fulfill the NSA mantra on communications data which says, "Sniff it all, collect it all, know it all, process it all and exploit it all."

Reported on Saturday by The Intercept in the U.S. and the Sunday Star-Times in New Zealand, the documents offer a detailed look at the "alien-like" station located in Waihopai Valley and reveals who and what kind of information the station targets, its inner workings, and how its operations link to an international network of spy facilities run by the other so-called "Five Eyes"—comprised of the intelligence agencies of the U.S., U.K., Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

This is a good article, that I recommend you read all of. Here is the bit that also got quoted in the title. It is from the Sunday Star-Times:

All or nearly all the major surveillance systems at the Waihopai base are US-supplied and could be found identically at the other stations. All the phone calls and Internet communications they intercept and sort at the base then go into NSA databases.

The only difference between this and an NSA base on New Zealand soil is that it is New Zealanders who arrive each day to maintain the NSA surveillance systems.

Sniff it all, collect it all, know it all, process it all and exploit it all - the jocular spyspeak slogans are a perfect summary of a truly global surveillance system.

The Five Eyes alliance is a global digital vacuum cleaner which can scoop up prodigious amounts of information - far more than the human mind can really comprehend.

For more, click the last dotted link.


P.S. Mar 9, 2015: Repaired two links.


[1] I do not know whether this has happened, but it may happen. Also, I do not know how many persons have been prosecuted by a secret court that also threatens them long imprisonment if they even discuss the secret court's orders,
but these have happened.

For me, all of this is thoroughly unconstitutional and deeply criminal and immoral - completely regardless of "the laws" Bush Jr. signed: there are criminal and immoral laws - but I indeed am not a citizen of the U.S.

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