October 30, 2015
Crisis: Snowden & EU, Gates & Climate, Aamer Released, How Many Americans?
"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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Edward Snowden praises EU parliament vote against US

2. Bill Gates: ‘We Need an Energy Miracle’
3. Shaker Aamer released from Guantánamo Bay
Groups Ask Top US Spy: Just How Many Americans Swept
     Up in NSA Dragnet?


This is a Nederlog of Friday, October 30, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about Snowden and the EU parliament; item 2 is about Bill Gates, who believes in global warming, and tries to do something about it; item 3 is about the release - after a mere 14 years - of the Brit Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo; and item 4 is about an elementary question asked by 30 groups: How many Americans are
spied upon by the NSA? (I don't think this will be answered either, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be asked.)

1. Edward Snowden praises EU parliament vote against US extradition 

The first item today is by Tom McCarthy on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Edward Snowden on Thursday hailed as “extraordinary” and a “game-changer” a vote in the European parliament calling on member states to prevent his extradition to the US.

The parliament voted 285-281 to pass a largely symbolic measure, a resolution that called on European Union member states to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistleblower and international human rights defender”.

Well... it may have been "a largely symbolic measure", and indeed it probably was, but I agree with Edward Snowden that this is quite extra-ordinary (for European parliamentarians, to be sure) and it may be a game-changer (although
I think Snowden is more safe in Russia than in some West-European country, because of the CIA, mostly).

There is also this:

The European parliament is a directly elected legislature with members from all 28 EU member states. Its legislative authority is limited. The resolution amounted to a request that member states reject attempts by the US to arrest and prosecute Snowden.

“This is not a blow against the US government, but an open hand extended by friends,” Snowden tweeted. “It is a chance to move forward.”
I agree on the European parliament (that is, Europe is definitely not a democracy). Also, I mostly agree with Snowden, although there is also this:

The US government did not, however, seem to see it that way.

“Our position has not changed,” Ned Price, spokesperson for the National Security Council, said in a statement emailed to the Guardian. “Mr Snowden is accused of leaking classified information and faces felony charges here in the United States. As such, he should be returned to the US as soon as possible, where he will be accorded full due process.”

While the US has promised Snowden due process, it has charged him under the Espionage Act of 1917, which forbids the disclosure of state secrets and which would not allow Snowden to argue in his defense that his disclosures had a public benefit.

The second paragraph is mostly correct, but fails to mention that - therefore -
Mr Pryce, spokesperson for the National Security Council, simply lied. (Then again, the US government often lies and/or misleads and/or deceives.)

But this is a move for Snowden, though not a large one.

2. Bill Gates: ‘We Need an Energy Miracle’

The next item is by James Bennet on The Atlantic:

This starts as follows:

In his offices overlooking Lake Washington, just east of Seattle, Bill Gates grabbed a legal pad recently and began covering it in his left-handed scrawl. He scribbled arrows by each margin of the pad, both pointing inward. The arrow near the left margin, he said, represented how governments worldwide could stimulate ingenuity to combat climate change by dramatically increasing spending on research and development. “The push is the R&D,” he said, before indicating the arrow on the right. “The pull is the carbon tax.” Between the arrows he sketched boxes to represent areas, such as deployment of new technology, where, he argued, private investors should foot the bill. He has pledged to commit $2 billion himself.

I say. That is about 1/40th of his wealth: I hope he won't become poor. More seriously, this is a fairly long interview, and Gates should be commended for
believing in global warming, for caring about it, and for being interested to invest
considerable amounts of money in the search for alternative energy.

There is also this, for another commendable thing in Gates is that he is realistic about what the private sector can do:

Yes, the government will be some-what inept—but the private sector is in general inept. How many companies do venture capitalists invest in that go poorly? By far most of them. And it’s just that every once in a while a Google or a Microsoft comes out, and some medium-scale successes too, and so the overall return is there, and so people keep giving them money.

Even while Linux is free and a lot better and safer than Windows... but this is an aside. There is also this (and this is the last piece I will quote):

The only reason I’m optimistic about this problem is because of innovation. And innovation is a very uncertain process. For all I know, even if we don’t up the R&D, 10 years from now some guy will invent something and it’ll take care of this thing. I don’t think that’s very likely, but nobody has a predictor function of innovation—which is weird, because the whole modern economy and our lifestyles are an accumulation of innovations. So I want to tilt the odds in our favor by driving innovation at an unnaturally high pace, or more than its current business-as-usual course. I see that as the only thing.

There is a whole lot more under the last dotted link. It is fairly chatty, I must say, and not everything is credible, but the world's richest man believes in global warming, is concerned about it, and wants to do something about it, also financially.

3.  Shaker Aamer released from Guantánamo Bay

The next article is by Richard Norton-Taylor, Ed Pilkington and Ian Cobain on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Shaker Aamer has been released after 14 years of incarceration at Guantánamo Bay, where he was beaten by his American military jailers but never tried for any offence, the UK’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, has confirmed.

“The Americans announced some weeks ago that they were going to release Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo and I can confirm that he is on his way back to the UK now and he will arrive in Britain later today,” he said.

I say. A mere 14 years in prison, without any real accusation or any trial, and now free (it seems)! In fact, it seems he was freed because he is British, and even David Cameron asked Barack Obama to release him (back in January of 2015).

There is also this (and I recommend the second paragraph):

While it is unclear where Aamer will be taken on arrival, he has told his lawyers that he wants first to be given a thorough medical examination, and then wishes to see his wife. He has said that he wants to discuss his children with his wife before meeting them.

He may be questioned by anti-terrorism police or MI5 officers, but given that ministers – including the prime minister, David Cameron – had campaigned for his release, he is unlikely to need to spend his first night back on British soil in a police cell.

I say, again! Real British leniency: he may not spend his first night in a British police cell! Amazing how liberal the British police are!

There is also this:

Cori Crider, Aamer’s US lawyer and strategic director at Reprieve, said: “We are, of course, delighted that Shaker is on his way back to his home and his family here in the UK. It is long, long past time. Shaker now needs to see a doctor, and then get to spend time alone with his family as soon as possible.”

Judging by the descriptions given by Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, which has been acting for Aamer over the years, and visited him more than 30 times, he will need prolonged treatment. He has been on hunger strike and held in solitary confinement.

Yes, I suppose that is a fair estimate.

4. Groups Ask Top US Spy: Just How Many Americans Swept Up in NSA Dragnet? 

The next article is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

In an effort to discern how many Americans are being swept up in NSA surveillance under a law that authorizes the agency to target foreigners overseas, a coalition of more than 30 privacy and civil liberties groups on Thursday demanded that U.S. spy chief James Clapper determine and publicly disclose such information.

In a letter (pdf) addressed to Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Clapper, groups including the ACLU, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the Sunlight Foundation request "certain basic information about how Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) affects Americans and other U.S. residents."

The law known as Section 702—which will expire in 2017 unless it is reauthorized—allows the NSA to collect the phone calls and e-mails of anyone reasonably believed to be a foreigner overseas, as long as acquiring "foreign intelligence" is a significant purpose of the surveillance.

I note that this is a very reasonable request, although I must say I think it will (again) not be answered, or indeed if it is answered, there will not be any way
to check whether the answer is true (which in the case of Mr. James Clapper -
who lied to Congress - is a serious consideration).

There is this about the NSA and the FBI:

(...) the NSA "refuses to provide even an estimate of how many Americans' communications are picked up and handed over to the FBI," said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center's Liberty and National Security Program. "And the FBI won’t reveal how many times it searches this data, without a warrant or any judicial oversight, for information about American citizens."

Note that this is precisely how the NSA and the FBI want it: They can research anyone for anything, and will know absolutely everything the NSA could find about those they research, but no one except them is supposed to know it, and no one but the person researched may ever know it - for the person may disappear, or be served legal papers that forbid him or her to discuss anything with anyone except for one lawyer, who also may not say anything.

These are the powers the KGB had. But the Senate wants them to have these powers, it seems, in considerable majority.

Finally, there is this:

"It does not serve Americans' privacy to keep them in the dark about how often the NSA scoops up their phone calls and e-mails," said Goitein. "The law requires the NSA to minimize collection of Americans information, and the NSA's mission statement includes protection of privacy and civil liberties. How can the NSA claim to be protecting Americans' privacy if it has no idea how much data about Americans it's collecting?"

I suppose Mr. Clapper's "reply" will be along the lines that (1) he cannot say how much the NSA gathered, because he didn't read them, while (2) he also cannot say how many he and others did read, because that is secret information.

But I am willing to be surprised (though I very probably will not be).


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