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Nederlog

June 2, 2015
Crisis: Security State, Snowden, Greenwald, Patriot Act, Chris Hedges
  "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.
For the First Time Since 9/11, Congress Checks the
     Security State

2. Charges against Edward Snowden stand, despite
     telephone surveillance ban

3.
Glenn Greenwald: As Bulk NSA Spying Expires, Scare
     Tactics Can’t Stop "Sea Change" on Surveillance

4. Thank You, Edward Snowden: An End to General
     Warrants as So-Called Patriot Act Expires

5. 
VIDEO: Chris Hedges: ‘A Look at What It Takes to Rebel’

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, June 2, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about Dan Froomkin's (sensible) response to the present situation in Congress about the American surveillance state (<- good link to a long video); item 2 is about a non-surprising consequence for Edward Snowden: no change; item 3 is about an
interview with Glenn Greenwald on the present sutuation in Congress; item 4 is about Juan Cole's reaction (I am bit more subdued); and item 5 is about what seems to be a very fine recent video of a talk by Chris Hedges, that I will return to tomorrow.
1.  For the First Time Since 9/11, Congress Checks the Security State

The first item today is an article by Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Sunday night marked the first time that Congress has limited the executive branch’s surveillance authority since the terror attacks in 2001 set off a dystopian explosion in the government’s ability to spy on people inside and outside its borders.

But it was not so much a glorious moment of constitutional rebalancing for the legislative branch as it was parliamentary farce as usual. Faced with the long-planned expiration at midnight of three contentious provisions of the Patriot Act, the Republican-controlled Senate was simply unable to get it together and vote to renew the surveillance powers.

That failure to act was consequential. One of the three provisions had been used — improperly, it turns out — as legal justification for a National Security Agency program that collected phone records on millions of Americans without a warrant or any probable cause, along with other business records.

So as of today, for the first time in 14 years, you can make phone calls without the NSA hoovering up the records of who you called and for how long.

In fact, most of today's NL will be taken up by various considerations of yesterday's result that resulted in - as Froomkin says - the following: "the Republican-controlled Senate was simply unable to get it together and vote to renew the surveillance powers".

My own view is that (1) what was achieved was mostly the result of the work of Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and some others (notably:
the staff and editor of The Guardian), but (2) the NSA spying (and the Five Eyes spying etc.) will continue nearly unabated, and illegally if not legally (which is rather easy for the NSA, since most of its actions are shrouded in secrecy anyway).

I suppose my first conclusion will be agreed to by most (and yes, there were more - I know, but these are the most important). My second conclusion probably - judging by what I've read, which is around 40 websites a day for NL - will be a bit less widely agreed to, but those in doubt I refer to yesterday's long interview with William Binney.

Indeed, here is the link once more:
I strongly recommend this, even though it is over 2 1/2 hours of interview, because it is a very good interview with a quite interesting and quite smart man who worked in leading positions in the NSA for more than thirty years.

Back to the above linked article. Here is an explanation of Dan Froomkin as to how the present result (that I don't think will last long) was reached:

Its end was inevitable ever since milquetoast compromise reform legislation, called the USA Freedom Act, passed the House in an overwhelming bipartisan vote on May 13. That bill puts in place a replacement program that leaves phone records in the possession of the telecom companies until the NSA comes with a specific request. It also reauthorizes two other expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, one of which makes it easier to track suspects who frequently change phones; the other, which has never actually been used, allows the government to begin surveillance on individuals without asserting a connection to a specific terrorist group.

I doubt the present result was "inevitable", but OK. As to the only difference that gets listed, namely that phone records remain in the possession of the telephone companies and the NSA has to make specific requests to seem them:

That is the law, but the American laws have been circumvented and lied about by the NSA ever since 2001, and this legal technicality will not keep them from trying to get everything on anybody.

There is considerably more under the first dotted link above, which I will leave to your interests.

2. Charges against Edward Snowden stand, despite telephone surveillance ban
The next item today is by Dan Roberts on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The White House refused to reconsider its legal pursuit of Edward Snowden on Monday, while it sought to take credit for outlawing the bulk telephone surveillance programme he revealed.

Obama administration spokesman Josh Earnest rejected the argument that the imminent passage of legislation banning the practice meant it was time to take a fresh look at the charges against the former National Security Agency contractor.

“The fact is that Mr Snowden committed very serious crimes, and the US government and the Department of Justice believe that he should face them,” Earnest told the Guardian at the daily White House press briefing.

“That’s why we believe that Mr Snowden should return to the United States, where he will face due process and have the opportunity to make that case in a court of law.”
The quoted statements by Mr. Earnest are just contemptible lies - deceptive bullshit - that have been contradicted many times during the last nearly two years, by everyone who knows about spying, such as Binney, Drake, Greenwald, Poitras and Snowden himself, and also by many lawyers.

3. Glenn Greenwald: As Bulk NSA Spying Expires, Scare Tactics Can’t Stop "Sea Change" on Surveillance

The next item is an article by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows (after a brief introduction) with a quote of Rand Paul:

SEN. RAND PAUL: Let us be clear: We are here tonight because the president continues to conduct an illegal program. We are not collecting the information of spies. We are not collecting the information of terrorists. We are collecting all American citizens’ records all of the time. This is what we fought the revolution over.

Now, people say, "Well, they’re not looking at it. They’re not listening to it." It’s the tip of the iceberg, what we’re talking about here. And realize that they were dishonest about the program until we caught them. They kept saying over and over again, "We’re not doing this. We’re not collecting your records." And they were. The head of the intelligence agency lied to the American people, and he still works here. We should be upset. We should be marching in the streets and saying he’s got to go.

That is true, but it also shows, albeit indirectly: (1) what awful liars the present U.S. government harbours, protects, and lauds, especially if one considers that all of the above has been done since 9/11/2001 (and indeed was planned - see Binney - before that) and (2) that the present and past Senate and House were not capable (and in part: not willing) to curb the very many very illegal activities that the three American goverments since 9/11 undertook.

Amy Goodman asked Glenn Greenwald, and here is part of his reply:

GLENN GREENWALD: I think the greatest significance of the most recent event is more symbolic than anything else, but it’s still actually quite significant.
(...)
The fact that we’re now having this very contentious debate, where the PATRIOT Act actually has lapsed, at least for a few days, and that we’re going to have some kind of change in the law that we’re calling reform underscores how significantly public opinion has changed and the climate of the country has changed, the views of the tech community have changed, when it comes to how much surveillance we’re willing to allow our government to engage in against us in the name of terrorism. I think that’s really the greatest significance, is the sea change that this represents.

OK - that seems a fair conclusion, though it should also be said that while "the climate of the country has changed" including "the views of the tech community", which was mainly due to Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and some others, certainly initially, part of the reasons this result is "more symbolic than anything else" is that the climates in the Senate and the House have changed much less.

Here is another bit by Glenn Greenwald, about the cognitive dissonance in the Democratic Party:

And so, I think it’s really exciting to see the breakdown of the standard partisan divisions, and it leaves Democrats, in particular, with a lot of cognitive dissonance, because during the Bush years they were trained to think of the PATRIOT Act as this evil thing that Dick Cheney did, and they were trained to think that it was terrible if you stand up and say, "If you oppose our policies, you’re helping the terrorists," and now you have the leader of the Democratic Party, President Obama, and the leaders of the Democratic Party in the Congress leading the way demanding the renewal of the PATRIOT Act and sounding exactly like Dick Cheney. And you have a tea party Republican, Rand Paul, being the nominal leader of the effort to undo the PATRIOT Act.

I agree this is mildly funny, but I don't think this is "really exciting".

The reason I don't think this is "really exciting" is that I lost my faith in the American Senate and the House:

If you are willing to be abused by the cheaters and frauds of a government you ought to control but don't, and if you swallow their evident lies for the most part willingly as if they are important truths, and you do these for nearly 15 years, in spite of all the evidence put forward by Snowden and others, you are at best an irrelevancy to the real government, that knowingly broke the laws millions of times during the same years.

What has happened over the past 15 years in the U.S. is that the government and the big corporations, and especially the banks and their managers, have taken almost all powers in their own hands, and have successfully denied almost all control on their very many illegal activities to anyone, including the Senate and the House.

Finally, here is Glenn Greenwald on a statement by CIA director Brennan:

GLENN GREENWALD: First of all, it’s, I mean, truly hilarious to listen to the director of the CIA accuse other people of having ideological causes in the policies that they support, but even more amazing is the fact that he’s sitting there telling the American public something that he knows to be completely false, which is that these tools have been critical in keeping the country safe.
(...)
These programs have had no role in stopping terrorism at all. And if anything, it’s because the government is collecting information on everybody that it’s incapable of knowing when somebody is plotting an attack like the one at the Boston Marathon.

I suppose that looking on Brennan statements as "truly hilarious" is one way of keeping your sanity, but personally I get mostly disgusted.

4. Thank You, Edward Snowden: An End to General Warrants as So-Called Patriot Act Expires

The next item is an article by Juan Cole on Truthdig, but originally on Cole's website:

This starts as follows:

The US government behemoth dedicated to spying on us all in contravention of the Constitution will likely be only slightly inconvenienced by the expiration of the misnamed “PATRIOT Act”, forced by Sen. Rand Paul late Sunday night.  But at least a few baby steps back toward democracy will be taken as a result.

The act hasn’t primarily been used for terrorism cases but for drug busts, which is to say, it is an enforcement mechanism for the liquor and pharmaceutical corporations that fear organic recreational drugs.

I suppose this is a fair summary, and the second paragraph states something I wasn't aware of. (Click the last link if you want to know some more.)

There is also this:

The bulk collection of information on whom millions of Americans call, how long they talk, and where they are when they’re doing it, and the storage of that information on government servers, will cease.  Mind you, the government never got a warrant for any of this invasion of privacy.  And a recent Federal court ruling found that anyway the Patriot Act didn’t authorize the degree of intrusive dragnets in which the government has been engaged. In essence, the executive claimed for itself a general warrant to go through our papers. The fourth amendment was crafted to make general warrants illegal.  Even British courts under the monarchy in the 18th century pushed back against the crown’s assertion of a right to snoop into someone’s papers with no probable cause and no specific warrant.  George W. Bush and Barack Obama claimed a power that even King George III did not have, and Americans kicked King George III off this continent for being too nosy and too grabby.

I agree with most of that, but I am rather doubtful about the beginning i.e.

The bulk collection of information on whom millions of Americans call, how long they talk, and where they are when they’re doing it, and the storage of that information on government servers, will cease.

For while this accords to the letter of the law, it also presumes that the secret and secretive NSA, that has been breaking very many laws quite consciously for 15 years now in order to get all the information they did get on every American (1) will suddenly stick to the letter of the law or (2) will not have the means to get the information from the phone companies that they have been milking now for nearly 14 years now.

You may believe this, but I don't. (
See Binney.)

5. VIDEO: Chris Hedges: ‘A Look at What It Takes to Rebel’

The last item today is not an article but is a recent video of a talk by Chris Hedges:
This comes with the following brief introduction:
At The Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, N.Y., last week, Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges spoke for over an hour about how his new book, “Wages of Rebellion,” differs from his previous works.
I have to admit that I found this only late yesterday evening and that, while I like the title because I am the third (and last) generation of rebels, I have not yet seen much of it.

Then again, I did see the first six minutes of it, in which Chris Hedges manages to mention the following topics:
  • Dwight Macdonald : As Chris Hedges said, he was a very fine writer with an excellent mind, and one of the main inspirators of Noam Chomsky. He is also one of the writers I did read some fine essays by, but who has been very hard to find anything by in Amsterdam the last thirty years or more (for I know of him since forty years at least).
  • Chris Hedges says about Macdonald: "He was not a party person, and neither am I" - which also is another reason, that I forgot to mention, why I left the Communist Party when I was 20, with both my parents members of that party for 30 or more years then. As I saw it then I see it now: I am simply too much of an intelligent individualist to be told what I should think and how I should act by any party - and I also know this is true only of a small intelligent and well-read minority. [1]
  • Here is Chris Hedges on where we are at present: "We stand now on the cusp of a very frightening corporate totalitarianism which has garnered for itself tools of control that no other totalitarian state has ever amassed".
    Yes, indeed.
  • Chris Hedges also mentioned Paul Robeson: I knew of him since the 1950ies, because my parents had some records of him, and he had a very beautiful deep bass.
  • This is Chris Hedges on what he doesn't have: "I don't have a TV, I don't tweet, I don't have Facebook page, I don't have a webpage". Almost the same holds for me: I do have a webpage (of 500 MB), but otherwise it is the same (and I don't vote since 1971).
  • Hedges also is one who very much likes to read, as I do, and he mentioned Edward Gibbon's "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", which he didn't finish. I did, in 2004, and liked it a great lot (it is one of the best books or series of books I know), though I admit being defeated by it when I was 25.
  • Finally, still within six minutes, Chris Hedges mentioned Sheldon Wolin
    and the series of interviews he did with him, that I agree are quite important and are reviewed by me starting here, while the last series of these 8 interviews has been reviewed here.
In brief: While I have not yet seen most of this, I think that someone who can come up in the first six minutes of his talk with the above list of topics can be safely recommended.

And I will say more about this tomorrow, also because I do have definite opinions about "the wages of rebellion".

Also, I may open tomorrow with the reviews I did in 2014 of the eight interviews Hedges had with Wolin, were it only because I have them; can collect and publish them with a proper title; because I think they are quite important and well done; and also because Sheldon Wolin has not had the attention he deserves.
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Notes

[1] Mind that this is not true of the large majority, which consists of people who are best defined as followers: They follow someone or some party, and mostly think as these indviduals or institutions tell them to think, and they also like that. (This is one of the reasons why I tend to be pessimistic: There are too few independent individuals who think for themselves - but I agree optimism and pessimism are mainly character-based than fact-based).
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