March 29, 2015
Crisis: FBI vs encryption, Elizabeth Warren's fine speech , TTIP, Just three?
  "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. The FBI used to recommend encryption. Now they want
     to ban it

2. Elizabeth Warren Strikes Back as Citigroup Tries to
     Blackmail the Democratic Party

3. Marriage Made in Corporatist Heaven Slams into

4. Just three?


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, March 29, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about the fact that the FBI now opposes encryption (which is sick and immoral); item 2
is a fine article with an excellent video about Elizabeth Warren (and you should
see the video); item 3 is a fine article on the chances of the TTIP (that - very
happily - are diminishing); and item 4 is a brief reflection on the fact that today
I found a mere three good items about the crisis.

1. The FBI used to recommend encryption. Now they want to ban it

The first item is an article by Trevor Timm on The Guardian:

This has the following subtitle:

For years, the agency recommended phone encryption as a defense against criminals. Now, that information has been scrubbed from public view

It starts as follows:
The FBI wants to make us all less safe. At least that’s the implication from FBI director Jim Comey’s push to ban unbreakable encryption and deliberately weaken everyone’s security. And it’s past time that the White House makes its position clear once and for all.

Comey was back before Congress this week - this time in front of the House Appropriations Committee - imploring Congressmen to pass a law that would force tech companies to create a backdoor in any phone or communications tool that uses encryption.

He also revealed the Obama administration may be crafting such a law right now. “One of the things that the administration is working on right now is what would a legislative response look like that would allow us … with court process to get access to that evidence”, he said.

The whole controversy stems from Apple’s decision to encrypt iPhones by default - so that only the user can unlock a phone with a pin or password and even Apple itself does not have the key. It was a huge step forward for security, and given that the US government considers cybersecurity attacks a more dire threat than terrorism, you’d think they’d be encouraging everyone to use more encryption. But Comey essentially argued to Congress that because encryption sometimes makes FBI investigations harder, it should be outlawed.

Here are the reasons why encryption is very important for maintaining your privacy, and why the FBI now seems to think it is most important that you do
not encrypt:

If you want to understand why encryption is important for protecting your data, look no further than the FBI’s own website. Well, at least you could until last week. For years, the FBI recommended people enable encryption on their phone to protect themselves against criminals, but at some point prior to Comey’s testimony, the FBI scrubbed that information from public view. (On 27 March the FBI told the National Journal that the security tips were not intentionally deleted, but “were because of the agency’s ongoing website redesign.”)

In other words, as security expert Jonathan Zdziarski remarked, the FBI “has weakened their recommended standards [and] best practices to intentionally leave you vulnerable to security breaches.” Computer science professor Matt Blaze put it another way: “Basically, the FBI is saying that they think you’re more likely to commit a crime than need to protect yourself against crime.”

Precisely - which is completely absurd and very totalitarian: Because a tiny percentage of the American population may plan something illegal the - mostly completly anonymous - moral degenerates [1] of the FBI insist on reading everything that is private that anyone may put on line using a computer or cellphone.

Besides, as is also pointed out in the article, it is not as if the FBI cannot get a lot of information - they also should not get - if they can't break the encryption: They have all the metadata anyway.

Finally, about something I quoted already:
Comey was back before Congress this week - this time in front of the House Appropriations Committee - imploring Congressmen to pass a law that would force tech companies to create a backdoor in any phone or communications tool that uses encryption.

He also revealed the Obama administration may be crafting such a law right now.

According to Trevor Timm this suggests a contradiction in White House policies, because so far the White House has supported strong encryption. He may well be right, as indeed I have found that Obama generally says what he thinks will please his audience, and does what most pleases the banks and/or the government.

And I wonder: Why do these moral degenerates not propose that the only persons who may function as the bosses of internet providers are to be the heads of the NSA, CIA or FBI? So that you know that anything you say or write using a computer and a cellphone is first submitted for approval to some moral degenerate of these secret services?! (Without any encryption, of course.)

2. Elizabeth Warren Strikes Back as Citigroup Tries to Blackmail the Democratic Party

The next item is an article by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism:

This starts as follows:

An unusually move by a thin-skinned too big to fail bank, Citigroup, to slap down the finance-skeptic faction of the Democratic party appears to be backfiring.

Reuters reported on Friday that Citigroup was making clear its displeasure with the way Elizabeth Warren had been calling to its overly-cozy relationship with the Administration by threatening to withhold its customary bribe, um, donation to the Democratic party:

Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren’s call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Representatives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, have met to discuss ways to urge Democrats, including Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, to soften their party’s tone toward Wall Street, sources familiar with the discussions said this week.

The story noted that the amount at issue was only $15,000 per bank, so this scheme is more a warning shot that a serious move, particularly since it is aimed at the Senate, and thus pointedly steers clear of the Big Finance stalwarts, the Clintons. But if you widen the frame a bit, there is more at stake here than you might think.
Yes, indeed - and one of the good things Yves Smith did was to link in
Elizabeth Warren's speech, which is here, and very well worth viewing,
for this is excellent (and lasts 9 m 43 s but you will not be bored):

There is a considerable amount more, but the video is really good and should be seen.

3. Marriage Made in Corporatist Heaven Slams into Resistance  

The next item is an article by Don Quijones on Wolf Street:

This starts as follows:

After eight rounds of secret negotiations, Washington and Brussels are still struggling to breathe life into the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). According to current European Union President, Latvia, the chances of the agreement being signed by the year-end target are growing perilously slim.

The potentially game-changing trade deal is aimed at radically reconfiguring the legal and regulatory superstructures of the world’s two largest markets, the United States and the European Union – for the almost exclusive benefit of the world’s biggest multinational corporations.

However, resistance continues to mount on both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.S. Wikileaks’ perfectly timed exposé of the investment chapter of TTIP’s sister treaty, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), could derail White House efforts to gain fast track approval to bulldoze the treaty through Congress. This time, even the mainstream media seems to be paying an interest, with the New York Times in particular publishing a broadly critical report.

On the other side of the Atlantic, things seem to be going from bad to worse — at least for the treaty’s supporters.

For more on this, click the last dotted link. There is also this:

The report [in the New York Times - MM] also warned that the case had yet to be made for the highly controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), a provision that elevates individual foreign corporations and investors to equal (or arguably superior) status with a sovereign nation’s government. If signed, it would allow companies to skirt domestic courts and directly “sue” signatory governments for compensation in foreign extrajudicial tribunals.

As I reported in “The Global Corporatocracy is Just a Pen Stroke Away From Completion,” the ISDS provision is what gives the new generation of trade treaties such as TTIP their sharp claws and canine teeth. If allowed to take universal effect, the system will impose above our governments a rigid framework of international corporate law designed to exclusively protect the interests of corporations, relieving them of all financial risk and social and environmental responsibility.

Yes, precisely.

There is a considerable amount more under the last dotted link, which gives both a good explanation of the ISDS, and gives evidence that the TTIP now seems to be opposed by leading European politicians, of which the main one is Germany's vice-president and minister of economy Sigwart Gabriel:

“We won’t accept any pressure for further liberalization, or privatization. We won’t lower any social, environment or consumer protection standards,” says German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel. “And we will not – I am completely sure of this – see any privatization of arbitration.”

But as I implied: This is a good article that deserves full reading.

4. Just three?

The last item for today is a brief reflection on the fact that today there are just three crisis items.

First, in the last 1 3/4 years that I have been writing mostly about the crisis (in this Nederlog) it has happened before that there was nothing or very little to be found, though not very often.

But yes, I did search through the around 40 websites I check every day for the crisis series, and while I found some other pieces that might have qualified for
inclusion here, either I did not think them good enough or I thought they repeated information I did include before.

Second, it is a Sunday and that may be part of the reason there isn't much (for most papers and weeklies still work considerably less on Sundays, which is all rihjt with me).

But OK - I am still around, and will write more tomorrow, when I also expect there will be more crisis items.


P.S. Mar 30, 2015: I added the link - again - in the third item, that disappeared for some unaccountable reason.


[1] O yes! And I did originally consider using a stronger term, but yes: I cannot think of anyone who is supposed to read my mails or those of almost anyone else as being other than a secret anonymous moral degenerate.

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