This starts as
Two years after NSA
whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the vast reach of U.S. and U.K.
surveillance, the U.S. Congress rolled
back the most manifestly unconstitutional element: the bulk
collection of domestic phone data.
The U.K. government, on
Wednesday, chose to double down instead.
The newly unveiled text
of what critics are calling a proposed “Snooper’s
Charter” or “Hacker’s License” would explicitly authorize the bulk
collection of domestic data, require telecommunications companies to
store records of websites visited by every citizen for 12 months for
access by the government, approve the government’s right to hack into
and bug computers and phones, severely restrict the ability of citizens
to raise questions about secret surveillance warrants or evidence
obtainedaccepting through bulk surveillance presented in
court, and oblige companies to assist in bypassing encryption.
This means - in my eyes -
that the British government is doing its very best to become fascistic
(as I have been saying since October
29, 2005, though not explicitly about the English).
You may not like
the term - and indeed I don't, for I have been called "a dirty
fascist" for 12 years in the UvA, while not being one
at all, and while having very anti-fascistic parents, who were
communists since 40 years, while my father also was knighted, and
survived more than 3 years and 9 months of German concentration camps,
where my grandfather was murdered, so I know very well
what it is like to be scolded that way.
Also, I didn't do anything
to justify the appelation (other than saying Peirce was, in my opinion,
a greater philosopher than Marx, and that I was a believer in science
and truth, all of which were strongly rejected at the
University of Amsterdam between 1971 and 1995 (!)), quite unlike
Mrs May and her conservatives.
There are some new limits
in the bill. For example, if police wanted to use phone call
information to try and track down a journalist’s source, those efforts
would now have to be approved by a judicial commissioner. In fact, most
warrants would need approval by a judicial commissioner, after the U.K.
secretary of state signs off.
the bill, which May described as “world-leading” in its oversight
provisions, remains a concern for privacy advocates because of its
massive surveillance authorities and vague language and loopholes.
The "vague language and
loopholes" (which should be wholly absent from a serious bill)
show me that this is not a serious bill, but one
that intends to give the GCHQ as many freedoms as possible.
There is this:
First, the bill
explicitly authorizes bulk collection of domestic data, as long as it
is “foreign focused,” “necessary in the interests of national
security,” and approved by the secretary of state and the judicial
commissioner. If an agency wants to actually examine domestic data,
it has to get a targeted warrant — but massive amounts of data
will have already been seized at that point.
“Powers for bulk
interception that the government has long undertaken in secret have
finally been explicitly avowed, but the case for them remains
uncritically examined and evidentially weak,” wrote Privacy
International in its initial statement about the bill.
I am totally against any
"bulk collection of
domestic data" simply
because this gives the government far too much power. Also,
when this gets "legalized" it will be a fascist law - I am
sorry to say, and indeed the only historically justified alternative
is: communist law. But since Great Britain is certainly
not communist, I stick to the former. (Both are totalitarian;
both depended heavily
on their security apparatuses to stay in power.)
Then there is this:
Additionally, the bill
would authorize British intelligence agencies to access a year’s worth
of information about what websites British people visit without prior
court approval. May did acknowledge this was a new power, but insisted
it wasn’t all that intrusive, because a warrant would still be required
to access specific browsing history for every page on every website
visited, instead of just the homepage URL (...)
Sorry, but I am wholly
innocent of any terrorist plans or proposals, and I don't want
a completely secret highly paid governmental snooper checking
everything I do to see whether my behavior complies to his
government's desires. As to "the
warrants": (i) snooping is snooping, whether warranted or not, and (ii)
these "warrants" anyway are hardly worth the paper they are written on,
especially in combination with the following totalitarian
The government will also
create a new “regime” that will be granted authority to “interfere”
with “electronic equipment” — basically to hack into devices and insert
malware in order to covertly access information about the device or the
user during an investigation of “serious crimes.”
But what the government
considers "serious crimes" will - almost certainly - be left completely
undefined, and may be anything the government dislikes.
Here are two other utterly totalitarian
bits of sick and degenerate creepiness:
And companies, both
abroad and domestically, would be under new pressures to comply with
warrants issued by the U.K. government. For example, executives of
foreign technology firms served with interception warrants from
any “senior official” in the U.K., including local authorities, could
be jailed or fined for ignoring a warrant.
providers would be required to “remove any encryption applied” from
communications when requested.
This means that the
employees of Apple can be jailed (as Americans) because they
encrypt communications also in England, or for English mails. "Das
Ist Verboten!", cries the English government.
And here is the most totalitarian,
most fascistic bit of these new "laws":
Under the new law, it
would be illegal
for anyone even to ask questions in court about whether or not evidence
was obtained through bulk surveillance, or to talk to anyone about a
surveillance warrant received — much like U.S. policy on national
security letters issued to companies by intelligence agencies.
the human rights group that learned it was being spied on by GCHQ this
that the bill’s “wider powers” would “take U.K. closer to becoming a
Clearly, Amnesty better
clears out of Great Britain: They would be absolutely forbidden
even to ask questions (!!) about whether they are spied
they would also be absolutely forbidden to talk to anyone,
or publish it.
I'm sorry, but these are
fascist totalitarian laws, that rapidly will make Great Britain a
fascist and totalitarian state, on a Tory Conservative model - and I am
very sorry to say this, but this is what I really
Magna Charta is utterly
dead in England, and was killed by Cameron, Osborne and May (with help
from Blair and Brown), and very willingly as well, because it
stood between them and absolute power for
themselves and their party. (And see also item 3.)
Intercept’s Reader Privacy
next item is by Ryan Tate and Betsy Reed on The Intercept:
This is a completely
different article compared to the previous one. It is about the
readers' privacy on The Intercept. I review it because I look daily at
The Intercept, and because I like the new rules, which also
show how this should and can be done by any company
that treats its readers as responsible adults rather than as potential
First, there is this,
by way of introduction:
YEAR, The Intercept got
a new visual identity, the first step in a multi-phase
redesign. Later this month, we’ll be making an important change
that’s invisible to our readers, adding a new analytics system to help
us better understand how our stories spread and how they can be
promoted to a larger audience. We thought it was important to describe
this system — and its privacy implications and safeguards — to you in a
Next, this is a brief
description of the problem:
And this is a brief
description of how they solved it:
The biggest challenge we
faced in adopting a new audience
measurement system was preserving reader privacy; modern analytics
tools virtually always come from outside vendors who become intimate
third parties in the relationship between publishers and readers. It
was important to us to try and rebalance this relationship in favor of
with Parse.ly, we’ve arrived at a system whereby readers of The
Intercept will not directly ping Parse.ly. Instead, they will
continue to send web requests to our own servers, which will, in turn,
forward some of those requests on to Parse.ly, after stripping out
readers’ internet protocol, or IP, addresses. Parse.ly will use these
requests to track our readers via random unique identifiers that we
generate. It will not be possible for Parse.ly to correlate readers’
visits to The Intercept with their visits to other
There is more in the article -
that also includes that readers may switch on "Do Not Track" - but I
think this is sufficient to illustrate that it is still
search one's readers without dissolving their privacy.
3. The surveillance bill is as big a threat to state security
as to individual liberty
next article is by Simon Jenkins on The Guardian:
This starts as
bill has had a rough passage so far. Today the spooks were under pressure from left and right.
Libertarians, nerds and the big computer firms were up in arms. The
sceptred isle was up against the Spectred isle. So MI6 sent for Bond.
The past week has seen
the most bizarre spinning. The BBC and the Times suddenly “managed to
secure” exclusive stories about the wonderful world of secret
intelligence, shamelessly pegged to the premiere of the film. The Times
offered a gushing prospectus of work inside GCHQ. The BBC’s Frank Gardner sat, obsequious,
in a darkened room and asked faceless voices what it was like being
“the real James Bond”. It was like a spoof promotion video for the
I say - and yes, looking at
some BBC person "interviewing" "faceless voices" that pretended to be
James Bond (a synthetic superhero from fiction) must have
looked like "a spoof promotion
video for the
Stasi", or indeed its English
part, the GCHQ.
There is this:
I have two reservations.
Secret security can only
build its legitimacy on trust. Britons have granted their security
establishment that trust for the past half century, despite it being
sometimes betrayed in return. Burgess and Maclean, Philby and Spycatcher, Iraq and Snowden revealed a secret service unable to
police or account for its errors. When under pressure, it merely
pressed the “feel very afraid” button and scared public and politicians
to do its will.
Today’s bill seeks to “widen
the access of police and security services” to personal electronic
data. The intention is odd since, as Snowden revealed, they have
enjoyed such access for years.
First, an ordinary somewhat intelligent citizen cannot
rationally "trust" a "secret security service", for the simple reason
that it is secret, and will refuse almost all rational requests
I agree that it seems most Brits did not have much objections
to the GCHQ, but (i) this is also related to the fact that they were
secret, and (ii) their powers were much less than 1% of what
they are now, when everyone's full data can be plundered by the
GCHQ without any defense (except encryption), and indeed also
without any admittance that they were doing so, for a long time as well.
Second, I do not think that the government's and the GCHQ's
desire to “widen
the access of police and security services” to personal electronic
data is "odd": I think that was their aim from the very beginning,
It also doesn't have anything to do with "terrorism", however defined,
except as the pretext - Be Very Afraid! Be Very Afraid! - for
the government to learn everything about anyone,
simply because this would allow them to sort absolutely
everyone out, in time.
You may think otherwise, but please remember that the government - a very
small group of people, and a not much larger group if the police and
the military is added - is totally incapable of protecting the
vast majority of 60 million Englishmen, but is quite capable of
sorting out the 1% - 5% of its inhabitants that will or may go on to
Then there is this:
Individuals in a free
society have a right to assume their privacy means something, and that
government and the law will protect them against “unwarranted
surveillance” by third parties, including the state. Confidentiality in
human relations is integral to personal freedom.
This is mainly about
intentions and feelings, much rather than real policies.
First, clearly British
citizens have that right, ever since 1948, when this was
pronounced quite clearly as article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But second, that right has been almost totally annihilated by
"the European Convention of Human Rights" (that inserted all
the loopholes any government wants to spy on its citizens and everyone
else: see here). And
third, the government, ever since Tony Blair headed it, will clearly not
protect any British citizens against surveillance: on the contrary, it
will indulge in it,
in secret, as much as it can, and it will also rewrite and reinterpret
that it can continue to do so. And why? Because this will give
the government enormously more powers, that will enable it to
control every Brit.
Then there is this:
Do we really want the
police, not just spies, to amass information on every citizen’s browser
record? The fell cry of the dictator, that “the innocent have nothing
to fear”, is already being heard by government apologists. It has no
place in a liberal democracy.
Simon Jenkins doesn't
want any anonymous and secret oversight of his person and his family by
secret agents of the government, and I do not want this either,
but it may very well be - Be Very Afraid! Be Very Afraid! - that the
meanwhile has succeeded in making us a fairly small minority
(and I am not British).
Here is the last bit by Simon Jenkins:
This is not just an
updating of surveillance but a major peacetime extension of state power
over individuals. The bulk harvesting of data and the compulsory
breaching of corporate encryption should require some great national
emergency, and the most stern oversight. Neither applies today. In
addition, what is proposed is likely to prove as much a threat to state
security as to personal liberty. When the state turns hacker, everyone
This is a draft bill.
Battle royal should be joined over its amendment.
He is right, but I am
afraid the British need a radical change of government before
anything will happen about the GCHQ. And by that time, it may well be
too late, simply because most who want a
radical change of government will
be too afraid of the government or the GCHQ to speak up,
knowing that if they
do they will be removed from society without anybody knowing it
or having the right to discuss it.
How Obama Continued Bush's National Security State
next article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:
With just over a
year left in office, President Obama is running out of time to fulfill
his longstanding promise to close the U.S. military prison at
Guantánamo Bay. The imprisonment of foreigners at Guantánamo is one of
several Bush-era policies that continue under Obama’s presidency. While
Obama has shut down the CIA’s secret prisons and banned the harshest of
Bush’s torture methods, many others—the drone war, presidential
secrecy, jailing whistleblowers and mass surveillance—either continue
or have even grown. The story of the Obama administration’s
counterterrorism legacy is told in the new book, "Power Wars: Inside
Obama’s Post-9/11 Presidency," by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times
correspondent Charlie Savage.
I should say that I have - for
a long time, also - totally given up hope that Obama will ever
close Guantánamo, and I should also say that I believe Obama
mostly continued Bush's policies. I grant he also did it with a
few changes, and
with a much better command of English, and a lot more
charm, but that is about
what "Change! Change! Yes We Can! Yes
We Can!" meant in practice: A
more articulate, more clever, more charming president, who mostly
Indeed, there is this (and this is Charley Savage talking):
In fact, very
quickly, it became clear that there was going to be a lot more
continuity with the counterterrorism policies that Obama had inherited
from George W. Bush than the expectations created by his campaign
rhetoric. I think by February of '09, I was over at the White House
talking to Obama's new White House counsel about why that was. And so,
for the last few years I’ve been chronicling all this and continuing to
go to Guantánamo and think about executive power issues. And then, of
course, with the Edward Snowden leaks, we saw how much the surveillance
state that Obama had inherited had remained intact.
Yes, that is more or
less correct. Then there is this (again Savage talking):
So Obama comes
into the Situation Room to receive a briefing on all these surveillance
programs and, you know, the program that’s keeping records of all
Americans’ domestic phone calls and emails, that we don’t know about
until after the Snowden leaks. But he finds out about it at this
briefing. And the sort of permanent security state—the FBI and the NSACIA and the intelligence community—want to tell
the new president, "Here’s what you’ve inherited."
And they brief him on all
this stuff, and they also explain how George W. Bush had sort of put it
in unilaterally, by fiat—"I’m the commander-in-chief. The law doesn’t
matter. We’re going to do this"—after 9/11. But also, over time, it had
become—it had been secretly put on a stronger legal basis. The
intelligence court had begun issuing orders for it. They come up with
this PATRIOT Act theory about why maybe it
was authorized, counterintuitively, by statute. And so, their argument
was: It’s OK now, because the legal basis for it is OK. And over and
over, we see the pattern in the Obama administration of "What was the
problem with Bush? Is it the problem that these programs are inherently
bad, or is the problem that Bush was putting them in place in a way
that violated statutes?"
But at the end there is
this, which caused me not even to look at the second
program on Democracy Now! on Savage:
If that is not
your "role", you must be a second Wolf Blitzer. I'm sorry, but if you
cannot even pronounce on that simple question, you are out by
GOODMAN: But did you
expect Obama to do better, since he had attacked Bush so much on these
SAVAGE: Well, I don’t
want to say better or worse—that’s not my role. I’m just trying to
explain why did this happen, this amazingly surprising turn of events.
5. The CIA Is an Ethics-Free Zone
article today is by John Kiriakou
(<- Wikipedia) on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
I joined the CIA in
The CIA was vastly
different back then from the agency that emerged in the days after the
9/11 attacks. And it was a far cry from the flawed and confused
organization it is today.
One reason for those
flaws — and for the convulsions the agency has experienced over the
past decade and a half — is its utter lack of ethics in intelligence
Hm. I more or less like
Kiriakou because he had the guts to protest against the torturing of
prisoners, also as a member of the CIA, but this doesn't mean I have
to believe his stories about the CIA as gospel.
Then again, he probably is
right that the CIA of 1990 is rather different from the CIA in
2005 or 2015, and I don't think so because of his stories, but
mostly because of stories by Ray McGovern
(<- Wikipedia) and colleagues, that appear
regularly on Consortium News.
As to ethics, there is this
(and I will return to it after this quotation):
It’s no secret that the
CIA has gone through periods where violating U.S. law and basic ethics
were standard operating procedure. During the Cold War, the agency
assassinated foreign leaders, toppled governments, spied on American
citizens, and conducted operations with no legal authority to do so.
That’s an historical fact.
I liked to think that
things had changed by the time I worked there. CIA officers, I
believed, were taught about legal limits to their operations — they
learned what was and wasn’t permitted by law.
I was wrong.
Well... in 1990 the Cold
War still went on, although it is true it was nearly finished, and I
also think it is true that Kiriakou was wrong.
And I think he was wrong
about ethics, but this requires some explanation.
First, I distinguish - as a
philosopher and a logician - between ethics, which
is concerned with questions like how one should live, what a good
like, and what are good and bad, and morals, which is
concerned with the
considerably more specific questions of what one's social groups
why one should follow their instructions, education and codes, and what
right and wrong.
You may not agree to this
distinction, but I think it is real and important, among other things
because it allows me to say that the CIA was and is quite moral,
without being ethical:
One was OK, as a member of
the CIA, as long as one was morally faithful to the - spoken and
unspoken - rules of that group, and one was not OK if not, but
the CIA and its members were not (for the most part) in any way
concerned with the wider questions of what a good society is, how one
should live, or what are good and bad, indeed because it was
taken for granted what the answer was like: "A-me-ri-ca Is
Here is Kiriakou's lesson:
Last December, the Senate
Select Committee on Intelligence issued its report on the CIA torture
program, which detailed gruesome and systemic human rights violations
by agency employees. The CIA hadn’t only tried to cover up its actions
— it actually spied on the Senate’s investigators, too.
The report concluded that
these brutal tactics weren’t even useful for gathering intelligence.
But that’s not the issue. The issue is that something about the CIA’s
culture, its collective mindset, allowed it to make a crime against
humanity into policy. It’s become an ethics-free zone.
Officers of the CIA, FBI,
NSA, and other U.S. intelligence agencies are told to penetrate
terrorist cells and prevent attacks against Americans. They’re
pressured to “go do it” or suffer the consequences. But no one’s able
or willing to tell them the rules.
That’s what’s wrong with
the CIA today. And that’s where the moral and ethical rebuilding of the
organization should begin.
Put otherwise: One of the
things that is wrong with the current CIA (for there are more things
wrong with it) is that it has no ethical policy, and reduces everything
to mere loyalty to the group of established CIA-members plus faith in
the American government.
I think that - in my
formulation - is probably correct, but as I said: There also is considerably
more wrong with the CIA (which I also say while accepting that
there must be something like it).