is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about a confidential spy summit, also
attended by Apple and Google; item 2 is about the
failing of the USA Freedom Act in the American senate; item
3 is about an interview with Snowden in The Guardian; item 4 is about David Cameron leading
Great Britain towards totalitarian authoritarianism (for he wants to be
able to censor things before they get published); and item
5 is about a brief article plus a brief video by Robert Reich on
education in the U.S.
The present file got uploaded earlier than is normal for me.
Apple and Google Just Attended a Confidential Spy Summit in a Remote
item today is an article by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept:
18th-century mansion in England’s countryside last week, current and
former spy chiefs from seven countries faced off with
representatives from tech giants Apple and Google to discuss government
surveillance in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s leaks.
three-day conference, which took place behind closed doors and under
strict rules about confidentiality, was aimed at debating the line
between privacy and security.
extraordinary list of attendees were a host of current or former heads
from spy agencies such as the CIA and British electronic surveillance
agency Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. Other current
or former top spooks from Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Sweden
were also in attendance. Google, Apple, and telecommunications company
Vodafone sent some of their senior policy and legal staff to the
discussions. And a handful of academics and journalists were also
event program obtained by The Intercept, questions on the
agenda included: “Are we being misled by the term ‘mass surveillance’?”
“Is spying on allies/friends/potential adversaries inevitable if there
is a perceived national security interest?” “Who should authorize
intrusive intelligence operations such as interception?” “What should
be the nature of the security relationship between intelligence
agencies and private sector providers, especially when they may in any
case be cooperating against cyber threats in general?” And, “How much
should the press disclose about intelligence activity?”
I say. Here are my
answers to the questions in the last paragraph (and see immediately
above for the questions):
Yes, very much so, and with the help of the main media. No, it is not,
if only because every case is personal and should be checked by a realnon-secret judge. Only real non-secret judges. These
relations should be as distinct as between the staff of internet
companies and dockers or cleaning ladies. And the press should disclose
everything it can disclose.
And here is a judgment of Duncan Campbell, who is an investigative
journalist who visited the event:
“Perhaps to many
participants’ surprise, there was general agreement across broad
divides of opinion that Snowden – love him or hate him – had changed
the landscape; and that change towards transparency, or at least
‘translucency’ and providing more information about intelligence
activities affecting privacy, was both overdue and necessary.”
I say. And yes, Snowden
did, although I don't expect much from this meeting (as also witnessed
by a "change towards
transparency, or at least ‘translucency'" - which doesn't sound
hopeful). And also see item 3, below.
2.USA Freedom Act fails as senators reject bill to scrap NSA
item today is an article by Ben Jacobs, Sabrina Siddiqui and Spencer
Ackerman on The Guardian:
For the second time in
less than a year, US senators rejected a bill to abolish the National
Security Agency’s bulk collection of American phone records.
By a vote of 57-42, the
USA Freedom Act failed on Friday to reach the 60-vote threshold needed
to advance in the Senate after hours of procedural manoeuvering lasted
into the wee hours Saturday morning.
The result left the
Senate due to reconvene on May 31,just hours before
a wellspring of broad NSA and FBI domestic spying powers will expire
Architects of the USA
Freedom Act had hoped that the expiration at the end of May of the
Patriot Act authorities, known as Section 215, provided them sufficient
leverage to undo the defeat of 2014 and push their bill over
The bill was a compromise
to limit the scope of government surveillance. It traded the end of NSA
bulk surveillance for the retention through 2019 of Section 215, which
permits the collection of “business records” outside normal warrant and
subpoena channels – as well as a massive amount of US communications
metadata, according to a justice department report.
There is also this:
Republican whip John
Cornyn, a strident supporter of extending the Patriot Act, divided the
Senate into three groups on Friday.
As he put it, there are
those who want a “straight extension, those who like USA Freedom and
those who like nothing”.
Those who want a straight
extension of the Patriot Act are in a distinct minority and supporters
of the USA Freedom Act still cannot muster the necessary super majority
to advance the bill. The result means those who are more than happy to
simply let Section 215 expire on May 31 are in the driver’s seat.
I say. Well... this is a
less bad outcome than I feared, which was either the
"Freedom Act" (an awful name for a not at all good bill) and Mitch
proposal to keep spying in secret as much as the NSA can.
Snowden: NSA reform in the US is only the beginning
item is an article by Alan Rusbridger,, Janine Gibson and Ewen McAskill
on The Guardian:
Edward Snowden has hailed landmark shifts in
Congress and the US courts on NSA surveillance but cautioned that much
more needs to be done to restore the balance in favour of privacy.
He also warned this was
only the beginning of reform of the NSA, saying there are still many
bulk collection programmes which are “even more intrusive”, but
expressed hope that the Senate would act to curb the NSA, saying retention of the status quo is
In an hour-long interview
with the Guardian in Moscow, the NSA whistleblower said the moves by
the federal court and the House of Representatives marked the first
time since the 1970s there had been a reduction rather than expansion
in the powers of the surveillance agencies.
“In our modern era, that is
without precedent,” he said.
I accept that is
progress, and indeed that progress is mostly due to Snowden (helped by
Greenwald and a part of the press that does not belong to the
main media, such as Common Dreams and Truthdig).
But he added it was
important to remember that bulk collection of phone records represented
only one of the surveillance programmes.
“This is only the bare
beginning of reform. There are still many bulk collection programmes
out there that affect other things – such as financial records, such as
travel records – that are even more intrusive. What it says is that bad
laws are not forever and if we work together, we can change them.”
Yes, indeed. There is also
Almost two years on from
the first of his disclosures about surveillance, Snowden has defied
critics in the intelligence agencies who predicted he would end up
largely forgotten and miserable in exile in Russia. Instead, he has
emerged as an icon for the privacy movement, able to communicate
through the internet with campaigners in the US and elsewhere round the
He has also established a
life for himself in Russia, along with his girlfriend Lindsay Mills. He
seemed relatively relaxed and in good humour, though with no
expectation that his exile in Russia will end any time soon.
I have already quoted the
following bit, but quote it again, because I am one of a small
minority of real intellectuals from a very poor
Responding to one
of the commonest lines deployed by his critics, he said: “People who
say they don’t care about privacy because they have got nothing to hide
have not thought too deeply about these issues. What they are really
saying is I do not care about this right. When you say I don’t care
about the right to privacy because I have nothing to hide, that is no
different than saying I don’t care about freedom of speech because I
have nothing to say or freedom of the press because I have nothing to
Here is my comment from
yesterday to this:
I also insist that,
unfortunately, the majority doesn't have much to say. And one of the major
problems is that the opinions of the great
majority of mostly not properly educated "democratic" conformists
may deny the rights of the minority of intelligent persons to
think for themselves, indeed because the majority sees no need
for independence, individualism, knowledge
And I am sorry if you disagree, but this is one of the things I have
learned during 65 years, in which I had a good education by poor
parents, and never got as rich as a minimal income, and have been
widely discriminated in Holland for not being like everyone else.
There is also this:
comments made by the British prime minister, David Cameron, about
proposed measures to clamp down on extremism as being “an extraordinary
departure from the traditional operation of liberal societies”.
Yes, quite so: It is another
English move towards authoritarianism
Now the government explicitly undertakes to dictate
what the people should think, and what the people should
know and should not know.
And there is this about Snowden himself:
“When I think about the
future, I think about the fact that there is still so much to be done.
You know my work is not finished. In fact, I would argue that it has
He appears uncomfortable
with his status as an icon. While he was impressed with such things as
the artists in New York who erected a statue of him in a Brooklyn park, he
said: “It is also a little concerning because it should not be about
me, it should not be about elevating any individual because it is about
us. We should be thinking about how we enshrine our rights in a statue,
As I have indicated
before, it is nice that Edward Snowden doesn't insist on his
importance, but I do think he is an
extra-ordinary human being (simply because to my knowledge he is
the only former NSA-employee to do as he did), and I
don't mind he gets praised. Also, he is right "that there is still so much to be done".
There is more in the article.
4. David Cameron backs plans for Ofcom to
block 'extremist messages' on TV
The next item
is an article by Rowena Mason and Alan Travis on The Guardian:
This starts as follows - and is about David Cameron's
attempts to install state censorship in Great Britain:
David Cameron has backed plans to give Ofcom
stronger powers to prevent the broadcast of “extremist messages”
despite concerns from one of his own cabinet ministers that this could
amount to state censorship.
The prime minister
appeared to support Theresa May, the home secretary, after the
Guardian revealed a split in the cabinet over her counter-extremism
Sajid Javid, who was then
culture secretary and is now business secretary, wrote to May before
the election saying the plan would move Ofcom from a regulator “into the role of a censor” and involve “a
fundamental shift in the way UK broadcasting is regulated” from
post-transmission to pre-transmission monitoring.
Well, Sajid Javid had
that precisely right, and it is a very major change not only in
Great Britain but in Western Europe.
There is considerably more in the article, but for the moment I am
mostly concerned with the questions whether this is yet another
terrorist pretext to extend the powers of the government over the
governed (I think: yes), and whether this will be picked up by other
European countries (I fear: yes, especially if it has been
But we shall see.
to Save the Economy #5: How to Reinvent Education
The final item
today is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
Senator Bernie Sanders is
making waves with a big idea to reinvent education: Making public
colleges and universities tuition-free.
I couldn’t agree more.
Higher education isn’t just a personal investment. It’s a public good
that pays off in a more competitive workforce and better-informed and
engaged citizens. Every year, we spend nearly $100 billion on corporate
welfare, and more than $500 billion on defense spending. Surely
ensuring the next generation can compete in the global economy is at
least as important as subsidies for big business and military
adventures around the globe.
Yes, indeed. There is also
In fact, I think
we can and must go further — not just making public higher
education tuition-free, but reinventing education in America as we
know it. (That’s the subject of this latest video in my partnership
with MoveOn, “The Big Picture: Ten Ideas to Save the
Economy.” Please take a moment to watch now.)
And here is the video:
I like the video, but the
basic problem is that while the ideas are good, they also are not, as
things are politically right now, what senators and congressmen feel
inclined to vote for.