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."
1. New Zealand Used NSA System
to Target Officials,
2. The Most Dangerous Woman
Coming Death, and Afterlife, of the NSA Spying Law
Money Landed in Al Qaeda's Hands: Report
5. Scott Horton: How to Rein
in a Secretive Shadow
Government Is Our National
This is a Nederlog of Monday,
March 16, 2015.
This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: item 1 is about the victims of New Zealand's secret
spying, namely officials from "befriended nations"; item
2 is about Chris Hedges on "the most dangerous women in America"; item 3 is about the very probable continuation of
spying from July 1 onwards, when section 215 of the Patriot Act stops; item 4 is about the loads and loads of money that the
CIA has spend on Afghanistanl; and item 5 is a good
interview with Scott Horton.
Zealand Used NSA System to Target Officials, Anti-Corruption Campaigner
item is an article by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
More specifically, a
number of "the closest
aides and confidants of
the prime minister" of the Solomon Islands are listed, by name, and it
eavesdropping agency used an Internet mass surveillance system to
target government officials and an anti-corruption campaigner on a
neighboring Pacific island, according to a top-secret document.
Analysts from Government
Communications Security Bureau, or GCSB, programmed the Internet spy
to intercept documents authored by the closest aides and confidants of
the prime minister on the tiny Solomon Islands. The agency also entered
keywords into the system so that it would intercept documents
containing references to the Solomons’ leading anti-corruption
activist, who is known for publishing government leaks on his website.
XKEYSCORE is run by the
National Security Agency, and is used to analyze billions of emails,
Internet browsing sessions and online chats that are collected from
some 150 different locations worldwide. GCSB has gained access to
XKEYSCORE because New Zealand is a member of the Five Eyes surveillance
alliance alongside the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and
None of the
individuals named on the list appear to have any association with
There is considerably more in
article, that does support the notion that the
Most of the targets, in
fact, had a prominent role in the Solomon Islands government. Their
roles around the time of January 2013 suggest GCSB was interested in
collecting information sent among the prime minister’s inner circle.
New Zealand government spies to get the sort of information it wants
(or that one of the governments in the Five Eyes want), and not at
all because of "terrorism". (As I have said from 2005 onwards,
Most Dangerous Woman in America
item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
Kshama Sawant, the
socialist on the City Council, is up for re-election this year. Since
joining the council in January of 2014 she has helped push through a
gradual raising of the minimum wage to $15 an hour in Seattle. She has
expanded funding for social services and blocked, along with housing
advocates, an attempt by the Seattle Housing Authority to allow a rent
increase of up to 400 percent. She has successfully lobbied for city
money to support tent encampments and is fighting for an excise tax on
millionaires. And for this she has become the bête noire of the
Establishment, especially the Democratic Party.
The corporate powers,
from Seattle’s mayor to the Chamber of Commerce and the area’s
Democratic Party, are determined she be defeated, and these local
corporate elites have the national elites behind them. This will be one
of the most important elections in the country this year. It will pit a
socialist, who refuses all corporate donations—not that she would get
many—and who has fearlessly championed the rights of workingmen and
workingwomen, rights that are being eviscerated by the corporate
machine. The elites cannot let the Sawants of the world proliferate.
Corporate power is throwing everything at its disposal—including
sponsorship of a rival woman candidate of color—into this election in
the city’s 3rd District.
I say. First, here is
a link to Kshama Sawant
on Wikipedia, from which I learned - and I knew she exists and was
elected as a socialist in Seattle's City Council but little else - that
(quoted without note numbers):
Kshama Sawant is a member
of the Socialist Alternative party, the United States section of the
British-based Trotskyist international organization the Committee for a
Workers' International (CWI). She has referred to herself as a Marxist.
Sawant has stated that she does not advocate for any system like the
"bureaucratic dictatorship" of the former Soviet
Union, but for democratic socialism meaning "the
society being run democratically in the interest of all working people
on the planet, all children - everybody who has needs, and all that
being done in an environmentally sustainable manner."
Well... this sounds a
little bit like me, of 46 or more years back, to be
sure, in the sense that I considered myself back then a Marxist (with
Marxist parents and Marxist grandparents: I do have a somewhat
special background) and did consider the Soviet Union a dictatorship.
But I also guess this is about the extent of the similarity, and I have
not been a Marxist since 1970, and have also never
been a Trotskyist.
I will say a little more on socialists below. First, I turn to a few
Sawant said, notably about genuine reform in the United States:
She knows that there will
be no genuine reforms, let alone systemic change, without the building
of radical mass movements and a viable third party.
Sawant said it is incumbent upon socialists and the entire U.S. left to
swiftly begin the task of building working-class political campaigns
independent of the Democratic Party in order to create the space for a
viable national party. Efforts to reform the Democratic Party, whose
leaders are in the service of the corporate oligarchy, amount to
pouring energy into “a black hole,” she said.
Yes, I agree, though
probably not for Kshama
There is, at present, only one
big party in the United States, indeed not precisely in terms of political
rhetorics, for the talk is still much opposed, but rather
precisely in terms of funding and supported plans,
which are generally, for both parties, those approved by
Goldman Sachs (whose former directors are everywhere in government,
that is, until they return as directors to Goldman Sachs).
It may be that the last
paragraph is a bit of an overstatement, but by and large it seems
correct to me - and mind that I explicitly conceded that the
political rhetorics still are much opposed. But then I
regard most of that as lying
that seems mostly directed at motivating the dumber supporters of
either party rather than convincing anybody else.
Also - unlike Kshama Sawant - I don't have much interest in
political campaign", and in fact expect more from a new party
for the middle class.
In fact - turning back to
the last of the last item of three days
ago in Nederlog - it seems to me a new party that is committed
against the powers of the finance industry; against the mass
surveillance of the secret services; and against the common
lies and misrepresentation of the mass media, might stand a good
chance - and without (necessarily) supporting marxism or socialism. 
She is also stated to
believe the following:
Sawant believes that
because of the presidency of Barack Obama—who has served corporate
power, expanded imperial wars, carried out a massive assault on civil
liberties and failed to address the needs of the mounting numbers who
are unemployed or underemployed—many people, especially young people,
are hungry for political alternatives to “the two big business parties.”
I agree on Obama, but
also would like to suggest that his lies, dishonesties and
intransparencies may well have the opposite effect, namely keeping
people away from politics.
Finally, here are a
few brief thoughts on socialism, marxism, leftism and "the most
dangerous woman in America".
I do not believe Kshama Sawant is "the most dangerous woman in America", but it is a
decent journalistic title if only because she does support socialism, marxism, and leftism, and
these are widely regarded and/or painted as somehow morally wrong in
In fact, that is
There is nothing wrong with socialism, marxism or leftism that is not also
similarly wrong with non-socialism, non-marxism and non-leftism (and I
am neither a socialist nor a marxist), except that leftists, marxists
and socialists - if not politicians making a career - tend to be more
interested and more honest in defending the poor.
Coming Death, and Afterlife, of the NSA Spying Law
item is an article by Thor Benson on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
And the last statement is
clarified by Thor Benson in the rest of the article. I will leave that
mostly to your interests, but quote some more.
2013, the world was introduced to Edward Snowden, who showed us
that the United States and many other countries have been engaged in
dragnet surveillance of their own citizens. In June of this year,
almost exactly two years later, Section 215 of the Patriot Act—which Snowden
revealed has been used by the National Security Agency and other
intelligence agencies to justify the practice—is set to expire.
Unfortunately, that is not
going to mean the end of dragnet surveillance.
First, there is this:
And I also notice that with
the present Congress it is not at all certain Section 215 will
But yes, so far anything could be collected and probably was,
indeed especially from people who are not known as "terrorists"
but simply as
opponents from the government (I suspect).
The scale of that
surveillance has become so great that the NSA has been known to collect
and content from conversations between ordinary people who are not
even being targeted, including content that is sexual in nature,
religious, political or related to mental health.
Built into Section 215 is
a clause that says the provision will “sunset,” or expire, June 1,
unless Congress reauthorizes it. However, there are a few significant
ways that intrusive surveillance will probably continue even if the
clause does sunset.
And here is some from Senator Wyden:
“I’m going to work hard
to end back-door searches under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act, which intelligence agencies are using to read
Americans’ private communications without a warrant,” Sen. Ron Wyden,
D-Ore., a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told
Truthdig. He also said “ending dragnet collection under Section 215 of
the Patriot Act is definitely a big priority.”
One important reason to
consider reforming 215, he said, is that foreign countries look to the
U.S. as an example: Whatever kind of surveillance we find acceptable
will probably be replicated elsewhere.
Yes, indeed. In fact,
it is quite odd - in my eyes - that politicians in Europe and Asia
"follow the lead" of the U.S. but I agree they very often do, also if
this is quite unreasonable. What is the reason for this?
I can think of at
least three distinct reasons: first, most politicians are neither
original nor deep thinkers; second, it seems rather likely many
European politicians are being massaged with propaganda from -
especially - the Republicans (which first struck me at least ten years
ago, when I noticed that Dutch - so-called - "liberal" and "christian
democrat" politicians sounded and acted just as if they were
Republicans, including trickery); and thirdly it is a fact the U.S. is
a very large country with a lot of power.
There is also this:
simply knowing the government might be reading every word they ever
express is creating a chilling
effect among writers and American citizens in general, causing them
to censor their own freedom of expression out of fear or caution,
according to a report by PEN International, a literary and human rights
organization. If the Patriot Act and other laws allowing intelligence
agencies to intercept and share anything they want are not reformed,
that effect may only get chillier.
I remind the reader
that indeed this has happened to a considerable proportion of
the PEN's membership: writers do not like to be spied upon by
secret services, and are also so much afraid of the eventual
consequences that they rather censor themselves (which is most
unfortunate, because we need ideas and values, but given all the
secrecy is quite
In any case, the
spying is going to continue, although it will be quite interesting to
see under what formal conditions.
Money Landed in Al Qaeda's Hands: Report
item is an article by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
I say. In fact, as the
article makes clear, Hamid
Karzai seems to have been supported by monthly CIA payments during most
of his career.
About $1 million of the
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's money, given to a secret Afghan
government fund in 2010, ended up in al Qaeda's possession after it was
used to pay part of a ransom for a diplomat kidnapped by the terror
group, the New York Times reported
As a previous Times
revealed in 2013, the CIA provided monthly cash
deliveries to support then-President Hamid Karzai's relatives and aides
and to solicit influence over domestic politics—but just as often, it
"fueled corruption and empowered warlords."
The CIA regularly bankrolled that coffer with monthly cash deliveries
to the presidential palace in Kabul, as it has done for more than a
decade. Along with another $4 million total provided by several other
countries, the Afghan government paid off a $5 million ransom demanded
by al Qaeda in exchange for freeing Afghan general consul Abdul Khaliq
Farahi, kidnapped in Pakistan in 2008.
Horton: How to Rein in a Secretive
Shadow Government Is Our National Security Crisis
The last item
today is an article by Mark Karlin on Truthout:
This starts as follows,
and is an interview with journalist and lawyer Scott Horton, who
recently published "Lords of Secrecy":
Interesting, and I agree.
Also, this is a worthwile interview that I recommend you to read all
of. Here are some bits (always Scott Horton speaking).
Mark Karlin: Many
book dedications are to relatives or friends of the author. You
dedicate your book to Andrei Sakharov. Why so?
Andrei Sakharov was one of the most important and underappreciated
thinkers of the last century. He also saw the problem I am writing
about - the threat that secrecy presents to human happiness and
progress - with exceptional clarity and had innovative ideas about how
to cope with it. Sakharov recognized that the Soviet Union rested on a
colossal false premise - it was not so much socialism (though Sakharov
was certainly a critic of socialism) as it was the obsession with
secrecy, which obstructed the search for truth, avoided the exposure of
mistakes, and led to the rise of powerful bureaucratic elites who were
at once incompetent and prone to violence.
Here he is on the differences between the present era and the Vietnam
The single most
important difference is the American public’s level of engagement with
such issues of war and peace. In the Vietnam War era, Americans had a
range of different opinions about the nation’s war effort, but those
opinions were passionately held and dominated the nation’s political
agenda over a long period of time. Today, national security issues
create a vague sense of fear, but Americans are generally not seriously
engaged with questions about our military engagements around the globe.
I’m convinced that secrecy is the main reason why. Our national
security elites do not welcome popular engagement, they see it as a
nuisance. Covert warfare has become their default preference.
I agree on secrecy, but
more is involved, viz. at least the following two large
Nixon undid the draft, which guaranteed that any young man had
a chance to be drafted, and replaced it by "a voluntary army" (that
tends to have less intelligent, less educated common soldiers, who also
protest less). Second, the press is quite different these days,
and far less free, less liberal, and less well paid (by
advertisements, I mean).
There is this about why governments love secrecy:
increasingly a dual state in which, to a rising degree, decisions about
foreign policy matters that used to be taken in the political arena are
now taken by key figures in the national security bureaucracy. They
love secrecy precisely because it empowers them.
Yes, indeed, and that is
the main reason: "They
love secrecy precisely because it empowers them." And this is also why secrecy and democracy
are incompatible, and can be made compatible only by
subjecting all secrecy
to democracy (while it is now the other way around: the CIA controls
Congress rather than Congress the CIA, as it should
There is this on the main threat to American democracy:
I am persuaded
that the core national security crisis of our time is not the threat
provided by al-Qaeda or ISIS, which, drawing on America’s historical
experience, are relatively weak, poorly armed and incompetent enemies -
rather it is reining in the encroachment of our own national security
bureaucracy and ensuring that it serves the country.
Yes, indeed - and at the
moment it doesn't serve the country but only the government and the
rich, and the government mostly serve the rich anyway.
Finally, there is this on real democracy and secrecy:
Real democracy, as
that concept was understood from antiquity, meant a process in which
all citizens contributed their own knowledge and experience about an
issue to a collective dialogue from which critical decisions about the
issues that shaped their future could be taken. As I show in my book,
this was always particularly the case for vital decisions about
national security - decisions about war and peace. No society can
really be called a democracy unless the citizens have a say in this
Yes, indeed. And as I said:
This is a good interview that deserves full reading.
Secrecy is a dangerous
narcotic for democracy. When people don’t know about issues, they don’t
have an opportunity to develop interest in them, inform themselves, and
form opinions about what the state should do. This is how secrecy, in a
national security setting, can directly negate democracy. We shouldn’t
be outraged about claims of secrecy per se, but we should be skeptical
of them. Most major claims of secrecy in the last 15 years have turned
out to be bogus.
I have said repeatedly, I am neither a marxist nor a socialist, but I
also do not think I am much prejudiced against ordinary
marxists or socialists, that is, those who are not political leaders or
foremen. (My parents and grand-
parents were intelligent marxists, and I did not quarrel with them
either, for one thing.)
I think they are mistaken, and indeed mostly about the strong totalitarian
tendencies that motivate very many (left, right and center),
especially if given a political chance, and also about the enormous ignorance about
most things relevant to politics, philosophy and economics that move
And as to economics: I am not at all against revising a lot of the
current economic practices, motives and tendencies (and indeed that will
happen this century, in some way). But I
am convinced that (i) all
major changes are very difficult and (ii) all major changes must be
argued on moral grounds, and not as if economics or
politics are hard
sciences, for they are not.