July 11, 201
Crisis: Greece, APA Torturers, GCHQ, Emails, WW II
  "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. Greek MPs back new austerity plan as nation faces day of
US torture doctors could face charges after report alleges
     post-9/11 'collusion'

3. Human rights groups call for inquiry into why GCHQ spied
     on Amnesty

It’s Not Just the NSA—the IRS Is Reading Your Emails Too
5. The World At War

This is a Nederlog of Saturday July 11, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items: Item 1 is about Greece (but the decision seems to fall tomorrow); item 2 is about the eager and very well-paid torture doctors who also are American psychologists and their American professional association, that now is in trouble; item 3 is about Amnesty International's calling for an inquiry after it turned out that the GCHQ does spy on them; item 4 is about a proposed change in American law that seeks to end the warrantless
surveilance of all emails; and item 5 is not a crisis item but is my short report
on The World At War, which is a long series - 23-24 hours in all - about WW II.

This is considerably shorter than yesterday,
but this does represent what I found today: Not much.

1.  Greek MPs back new austerity plan as nation faces day of judgment

The first article today is by Ian Traynor on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Greece is facing its day of judgment as eurozone countries decide whether to open negotiations on a third multi-billion euro bailout for the insolvent country in five years – or whether it is to be cut loose and plunged into financial collapse.

A weekend of what is billed as “last-chance” summitry is to decide Greece’s fate after the government of Alexis Tsipras caved in to creditors’ demands for further austerity measures in return for the promise of limited debt relief. With the support of France, he tabled 13 pages of economic and tax reform pledges as the basis for talks on a new bailout worth more than €53bn (£38bn) over three years.

In the early hours of Saturday morning the Greek parliament voted to back Tsipras’s proposals. Despite a rebellion by some of his own MPs, Tsipras was given the backing of 250 out of 300 MPs to negotiate this weekend.

Tsipras said the vote gave him a “strong mandate to complete the negotiations to reach an economically viable and socially fair agreement”.

I say. For one thing, I do not think the agreement that Tsipras is now aiming for is "economically viable and socially fair", since it seems to me socially unfair, and to favor the - foreign - banks rather than the Greek people.

Then again, I have seen most possible positions the last months, including strong advice by some major - American - economists to exit the European Union.

There is considerably more in the article, and we will probably know tomorrow whether the Greeks fixed a deal, or whether the European Union wants the leftist
Tsiprias government first out before they try to make a deal.

2. US torture doctors could face charges after report alleges post-9/11 'collusion'

The next article today is by Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

The largest association of psychologists in the United States is on the brink of a crisis, the Guardian has learned, after an independent review revealed that medical professionals lied and covered up their extensive involvement in post-9/11 torture. The revelation, puncturing years of denials, has already led to at least one leadership firing and creates the potential for loss of licenses and even prosecutions.

For more than a decade, the American Psychological Association (APA) has maintained that a strict code of ethics prohibits its more than 130,000 members to aid in the torture of detainees while simultaneously permitting involvement in military and intelligence interrogations. The group has rejected media reporting on psychologists’ complicity in torture; suppressed internal dissent from anti-torture doctors; cleared members of wrongdoing; and portrayed itself as a consistent ally against abuse.

Now, a voluminous independent review conducted by a former assistant US attorney, David Hoffman, undermines the APA’s denials in full – and vindicates the dissenters.

Sources with knowledge of the report and its consequences, who requested anonymity to discuss the findings before public release, expected a wave of firings and resignations across the leadership of an organization that Hoffman finds used its extensive institutional links to the CIA and US military to facilitate abusive interrogations.

From my own point of view (a Dutch psychologist's, in terms of degrees) this is high time: You cannot protect a number of obvious torturers, who also earned tens of millions of dollars for torturing, on the ground that they are professional psychologists.

But the APA (which is not the same as the American Psychiatric Association, which has some 100,000 members less, but also goes by "APA") did protect the guilty, and now seem to be in trouble, and rightly so, from my point of view.

There is also this:

Evidence in the Hoffman report, sources believe, may merit referral to the FBI over potential criminal wrongdoing by the APA involvement in torture. The findings could reopen something human rights groups have urged for years: the potential for prosecutions of people involved in torture. The definition of “collusion” adopted by Hoffman is said to be similar to language used in the federal racketeering statute known as Rico.

If so, however, it would not be American military or intelligence interrogators themselves under investigation, nor the senior officials who devised torture policy in the Bush administration, but the psychologists who enabled them.

I don't believe that "the psychologists" "enabled" the "American military or intelligence interrogators" or "the senior officials", for clearly the American military etc. wanted (in part) to torture Muslim prisoners, although they
strongly preferred to call it "enhanced interrogation techniques" (which they
liked to abbreviate again as "EIT").

And in any case, one has to start somewhere, and if they first start with psychologists (which is easier than the military) I don't mind.

There is also this:

In 2002 – the critical year for the Bush administration’s embrace of torture – the APA amended its longstanding ethics rules to permit psychologists to follow a “governing legal authority” in the event of a conflict between an order and the APA ethics code.

Without the change, Risen wrote in his 2014 book Pay Any Price, it was likely that psychologists would have “taken the view that they were prevented by their own professional standards from involvement” in interrogations, making it “far more difficult for the Justice Department to craft opinions that provided the legal approvals needed for the CIA to go ahead with the interrogation tactics”.

Indeed - and the 2002 decision was very wrong, for it amounted to the theses that the government is right when there is a conflict between what the government wants and what the APA had lied down in its ethics code, which effectively means that American psychologists ceased having their own ethics,
for this was now, since 2002, subject to the government much rather than to
the psychologists' professional organization or indeed to the individual consciences of psychologists.

There is considerably more in the article, which is good.

3. Human rights groups call for inquiry into why GCHQ spied on Amnesty

The next article today is by Owen Bowcott on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:
Three leading human rights organisations have called on the prime minister to launch an inquiry into why the intelligence services spied illegally on Amnesty International.

The revelation that GCHQ has been monitoring its communications came in a revised judgment this month from the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the body responsible for handling complaints about state surveillance.

In fact, it seems this only became public knowledge because the GCHQ had made a mistake, but I would assume that the GCHQ surveils everything Amnesty International does, and has been doing so for a long time now.

There is also this:

In a letter published in the Guardian, Kate Allen, Amnesty’s UK director, Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, and Gus Hosein, the executive director of Privacy International, ask David Cameron to intervene.

“Ever since whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the existence and scale of the US and UK mass surveillance programmes two years ago, campaign groups across the world have been worried that we ourselves might be being spied on,” the letter says.

“We now know definitively that Amnesty International and the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa were. That is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.”

Yes, indeed. And there is this: 

Allen, Amnesty UK’s director, said: “It’s absolutely shocking that Amnesty International’s private correspondence was deemed fair game for UK spooks, who have clearly lost all sense of what is proportionate or appropriate.

“A key measure of a free society is how it treats its charities and NGOs. Snooping on charities is a practice straight out of the KGB handbook. If Amnesty International is being spied on, then is anyone safe?”

My answer to the last question: Clearly, the only ones who are "safe" in Great Britain are the members of the British government and from the GCHQ - and these also are probably surveilled, but they will not have to fear being legally challenged by an English court for what some snoop found in their emails.

There is considerably more in the article.

4. It’s Not Just the NSA—the IRS Is Reading Your Emails Too

The next article today is by Thor Benson on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Because of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)—passed in 1986, long before electronic communications became prevalent in the United States—email content is easily accessible to many civil and law enforcement agencies as soon as it is at least 180 days old.

Fortunately, politicians on both sides of the aisle are now backing the movement to change the outdated law.

The Email Privacy Act, which is up for a vote in the House of Representatives, would remove the expiration date on privacy.

“The federal government is using an arcane 1986 law to conduct warrantless searches of the personal email accounts and other digital communication of the American people,” Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., co-sponsor of the legislation, said in February. “The last time Congress updated our email privacy laws, we were two years removed from the release of the first Macintosh computer. It’s time Congress modernized these outdated statutes to ensure that the rights protected by the Fourth Amendment extend to Americans’ email correspondence and digital storage.”

I would argue myself that "the rights protected by the Fourth Amendment" do "extend to Americans’ email correspondence and digital storage”, and very clearly so.

Also, while it may be possible that the "arcane 1986 law" was instituted at a time there was e-mail (of a kind), it also was instituted when very few had a personal computer.

There is also this:

“There’s a simple reason why the Email Privacy Act is the most sponsored bill in Congress,” Gabe Rottman of the American Civil Liberties Union told Truthdig. “Americans overwhelmingly believe email should be protected by a warrant, just like a phone call or snail-mail letter.”

According to Rottman, who is a legislative counsel and policy adviser at the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, “this bill would make that modest but essential change, and bring our email privacy laws into the age of broadband and cloud computing.”

Without such a change in the ECPA, however, agencies like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the IRS and others can simply obtain data stored in the cloud by sending a company like Google a subpoena demanding access to that data when it is 180 days old or older. Users might not even realize their privacy had been breached, because the government can deal directly with the email service providers.
Again, I'd first say that emails and phone calls are "protected by a warrant"
and indeed by the Fourth Amendment, and that if the government denies this
it simply lies.

Then again, the American government does a lot of lying, and I also do not expect that the present bill, if it turns into law, will "
bring our email privacy
laws into the age of broadband and cloud computing”, and that simply because
(i) neither has the - very clear - Fourth Amendment, and because (ii) the NSA
very probably will find a way around it, e.g. by insisting on their own reading
of the law (where they may read "black" as "white", and pretend that is fair).

And I am for the Email Privacy Act, but I do not expect that this bill, if it were accepted, will stop the NSA getting everything they want to get.

5. The World At War

The last item of today is not a crisis item and not an article, but is a 26 part series called
The above is a link to part 1 of the series. I wrote about it before (on July 5) and I now have seen the whole series, which took between 23 and 24 hours, and that is without breaks to check things out on the Wikipedia, which were fairly frequent in my case.

I have explained why I am interested in it, which is in part because my parents and grandparents were heavily involved in it, on the side of the resistance, and more than the vast majority of Dutchmen, and in part because I like to know history, and having seen it all, I can say now that this is the best of four long series about WW II that I partially or wholly saw, and that the main reason seems to be that it was considerably less officalese than the other series.

This doesn't mean I liked everything.

First, the parts each have their own writers and producers (although some parts had the same writers, and the whole series was overseen by Jeremy Isaacs), and some are notably weaker than others.

Second, I liked part 18, that is about Holland during WW II, the least - and I do not think that is just because I am Dutch and know more about Holland than other countries: You don't want a professor who wasn't in Holland during the war, plus two Nazi-collaborators, apparenty invited by that professor, as the main interviewees, but that is what one got, in this part.

But in general terms, this was an interesting series, that also mostly kept me interested, though I know the story fairly well from the books I've read. And this
also is different from the other series I saw.

So in case you want to know more about World War II, viewing this series may help, although I should add that it will help a lot if one first has read some books that outline the same history, for I still think that the best way to get to know history is through books rather than films.

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