who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
| "All governments lie and
say should be believed."
tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
Snowden Explains How To Reclaim Your
2. Not So Securus
3. "A Very Big Mistake":
Joseph Stiglitz Slams Obama
4. Data-Grabbing ‘Stingrays’
Are Attacking Our Civil
5. American War in the 21st
Century: A Scam, a Swindle
and a Fraud
This is a Nederlog
of Friday, November 13, 2015.
This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links (and some
more links in item 1): Item 1 is about an interview
with Edward Snowden who explains what one can do to try to retain some
privacy on the internet; item 2 is about a major
breach in security with Securus, which turns out to have recorded very
many phone conversations of people imprisoned in the US, including
supposedly private - conversations with their lawyers; item 3 is about an interview with Joseph Stiglitz, who
insists - rather amazingly, in my eyes - that Obama doesn't understand
the TPP (which he very much supports): I can't believe Stiglitz; item 4 is about the very great use of Stingrays - that
steal data about your phone conversations, and may also download the
conversations - that is made by the American police; and item
5 is about an article by Tom Engelhardt that outlines how very
much American taxpayer money was wasted in
Iraq and Afghanistan.
Snowden Explains How To Reclaim Your Privacy
The first item today is by
Micah Lee on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
LAST MONTH, I met Edward
Snowden in a hotel in central Moscow, just blocks away from Red Square.
It was the first time we’d met in person; he
first emailed me nearly two years earlier, and we
eventually created an encrypted
channel to journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, to
whom Snowden would disclose overreaching mass surveillance by the
National Security Agency and its British equivalent, GCHQ.
first mailed Lee nearly three years ago, but OK. Here is some
more on the interview that makes up most of the text of the article:
He and I mutually agreed
that our interview would focus more on
nerdy computer talk and less on politics,
because we’re both nerds and not many of his
interviews get to be like that. I believe he wanted to use our
chats to promote cool projects and to
is a summary of the points covered (my summary) with some links
your phone calls and e-mails: Signal
your harddisk: encrypting
password manager: KeePassX
Non-persistent operating system: Tails
Use adblock software: Ghostery
There is a
lot more in the article, which is well done and
recommended. Here are a few bits selected from the rest:
This is mainly about how it
should be. I agree, but it is not - by far - as easy as it should
be, and one illustration is that Signal can be used on iOS and Android
(both of which I do not have, while GPG is rather a pain, in part
probably because of the e-mail service I have to use).
We should not live lives as if we are
We should armor ourselves
using systems we can rely on every day. This doesn’t need to be an
extraordinary lifestyle change. It doesn’t have to be something that is
disruptive. It should be invisible, it should be atmospheric, it should
be something that happens painlessly, effortlessly. This is why I like
apps like Signal, because they’re low friction. It doesn’t require you
to re-order your life. It doesn’t require you to change your method of
communications. You can use it right now to talk to your friends.
But OK - these are facts of life. Here is Snowden on Tor:
think Tor is the most important privacy-enhancing technology project
being used today. I use Tor personally all the time. We know it works
from at least one anecdotal
case that’s fairly familiar to most people at this point. That’s
not to say that Tor is bulletproof. What Tor does is it provides a
measure of security and allows you to disassociate your physical
I agree. Here is one
reason why privacy is important:
What we do need to
protect are the facts of our activities, our beliefs, and our lives
that could be used against us in manners that are contrary to our
Put otherwise: Because
it is now for the first time in human history that secret
services have secret access and secret knowledge on
absolutely everyone, that in nearly all cases
covers everything they do - write, say, store - with a
computer. This gives incredible power to the secret few, which no one
else has, and that will very probably be abused in every possible way,
years of history give any clue to how power may be abused.
Tell no one who doesn’t need
Here is what your computer does for you (which nothing ever did
for anyone at any time before 1995):
If you interact
with the internet … the typical methods of communication today betray
you silently, quietly, invisibly, at every click. At every page that
you land on, information is being stolen. It’s being collected,
intercepted, analyzed, and stored by governments, foreign and domestic,
and by companies. You can reduce this by taking a few key steps. Basic
things. If information is being collected about you, make sure it’s
being done in a voluntary way.
There is a lot more,
and this is a recommended article.
The second item today is by Jordan Smith and Micah Lee on The Intercept:
This starts as
CACHE of phone records obtained by The Intercept
reveals a major breach of security at Securus Technologies, a leading
provider of phone services inside the nation’s prisons and jails. The
materials — leaked via SecureDrop
by an anonymous hacker who believes that Securus is violating the
constitutional rights of inmates — comprise over 70
million records of phone calls, placed by prisoners to at
least 37 states, in addition to links to downloadable
recordings of the calls. The calls span a nearly two-and-a-half year
period, beginning in December 2011 and ending in the spring of 2014.
There is a whole
lot more, but the above gives the essence: Conversations between people
who are accused or convicted and their lawyers are no longer secret in
Particularly notable within the vast trove
of phone records are what appear to be at least 14,000 recorded
conversations between inmates and attorneys, a strong indication
that at least some of
the recordings are likely confidential and privileged legal
communications — calls that never should have been recorded in the
first place. The recording of legally protected attorney-client
communications — and the storage of those recordings — potentially
offends constitutional protections, including the right to effective
assistance of counsel and of access to the courts.
This is another recommended article, both for the message in the
previous paragraph, and because it shows that (1) anything that
passes through a computer can be used to track the computer's user
(apart from steps one might take to prevent this, as outlined in item 1) and (2) it is very probable that both
the secret services of many governments and the secret services
that are in fact used by Google, Microsoft, Facebook etc. etc. (very
many more) try to track, trace and store anything anyone does with a
computer or a cellphone, simply because this can be done, and the
commercial companies make money doing it.
3. "A Very Big Mistake": Joseph Stiglitz
Slams Obama for
Pushing the TPP
The third item today is by Amy
Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows,
and the two reasons this is here is that it is about the TPP and that I
find it very difficult to believe Joseph Stiglitz's quaint
belief that the president of the USA (a former professor of law) does not
know what he is doing when he plugs the TPP.
The article starts as follows:
debates the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we speak to Nobel Prize-winning
economist Joseph Stiglitz about the trade deal. "The irony is that the
president came out and said, 'This is about who makes the trade
rules—China or the United States?'" Stiglitz said. "But I think the big
issue is, this is about who makes the rules of trade—the American
people, our democratic process, or the corporations? And who they’re
made for, which is, for the corporations or for all of us?"
Yes, but I find it very
odd to see that Joseph Stiglitz seems to accuse the president of the
USA of incompetence, for he does accuse him of the fact that he does
not know what the TPP is, while he very actively supported it.
But first there is this on the American middle class:
Yeah, so, in a
sense, what you see both in the Republican and Democratic Party is a
sense that something is wrong. You know, America was the first
middle-class society. We’re about to become the first society that
ceases to be a middle-class society. The basic requirements of being a
member of the middle class—the ability to send your kids to school, a
secure retirement—all those things are being put in jeopardy.
I agree that the
American middle class is disappearing (as is quite clear from a
superficial glance at the income inequalities in the USA). But I don't
think the politicians of the Republican and Democratic Party can be
relied upon or trusted (for one thing, many of them are millionaires;
for another, they talk very much more with lobbyists than with voters).
Here is some more on the TPP:
STIGLITZ: (...) TPP, I think, is a very big mistake. On the other—
GOODMAN: It means
corporations control trade, as opposed to democratic societies and
Exactly, and particularly as we move away from lowering tariffs, which
is what the old trade deals—these are about regulations. And yes,
regulations maybe have—so many regulations have to be harmonized, they
have to be changed. But you can’t leave that up to corporations.
What amazes me
is that somebody who won the Nobel Prize in economics cannot convince
himself that a secret treaty (as it was, till very briefly ago) that evidently
is designed by the lawyers of the big multi-national corporations
to make the multi-national corporations as rich and as powerful as
they can be, can present this as a mistake.
But Stiglitz does (or at least: he says he does):
GOODMAN: You don’t think
President Obama understands that?
Really now? How incompetent
does he think Obama is? And how very dishonest does he think a
president is who strongly supports what he doesn't understand?
According to the 4th living economist, and one of 100 most powerful
persons in the world (in 2011, according to Time magazine)?
Here is a final exchange, that also is a bit odd:
STIGLITZ: (...) I mean,
our basic idea is that over the past 35 years we’ve rewritten the rules
in ways that have weakened labor power, increased the financial sector
power. There’s been a rebalancing of the power in the wrong way. And
GOODMAN: What happened
35 years ago? Reagan?
Stiglitz is right it
started in 1979/1980, when Thatcher and Reagan were elected in Great
Britain and the USA, and he is also right that there have been 35
years of "weakened
labor power, [and] increased (...) financial sector
Reagan, but he was part of a zeitgeist, because you see it in Europe
going on at the same time. And let me just say, TPP
is another example of rewriting the rules in the wrong way. It’s a
continuation of that trend that began back in around 1980 that has
increased the imbalance and made things more difficult. (...) But
realize that we rewrote the rules in ways that destroyed the kind of
balance of power that we had.
But - according to Stiglitz - the president of the United States
doesn't understand this. (?!)
Besides, he also says that "we
rewrote the rules in ways that destroyed the kind of
balance of power that we had". No, definitely not: I wasn't
asked anything, and hardly any American was asked anything either.
It was all done by the very few, who also were very rich;
it was mostly done in secret or with minimal publicity; and it
was all done to make the rich and the powerful even richer and much
Also, I think all of this is rather easy to get (also apart
from one's values and preferences) for anybody who studied the papers
the last years.
So no, I cannot convince myself that Stiglitz is honest when excuses
Obama - it seems to me - for being incompetent (he doesn't understand)
and dishonesty (he nevertheless strongly supported what he doesn't
I think Obama is dishonest, but he quite well understands what
he is dishonest about, and whom he is dishonest for: The big
multi-national corporations and banks that are going to profit (and
have profited) from all the deregulations
that were introduced since Reagan.
4. Data-Grabbing ‘Stingrays’ Are Attacking Our Civil
The fourth item today is by
Thor Benson on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
report by the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that Michigan
police have been using portable cellphone tracking devices—so-called
Stingrays and Kingfish among them—to investigate crimes since 2006.
These devices are designed to imitate cell phone towers in order to
gather metadata from cellphones in their vicinity. Police departments
claimed to have purchased the equipment as a counterterrorism measure,
but in fact it has been used for 128 “run-of-the-mill” investigations
in Michigan, including burglaries and robberies.
One reason this is
concerning is that police agencies have been required
to sign contracts with Harris Corp., the company that makes the
devices, saying they will not reveal they are using them. The devices
are being used by police departments across the country, as well as
Note that there are
at least 57 state agencies and a dozen federal agencies who use these
devices that simply steal most or all private data from cell
There is considerably more in
the article, that ends as follows (in case you were somewhat less
worried when you read they gather metadata):
“We [now] have a much
better handle on the incredible magnitude of use and proliferation of
this technology,” Nathan Wessler, staff attorney with the ACLU’s
Project on Speech, Privacy, and Technology, told Truthdig. “We now know
of 57 state and local agencies and more than a dozen federal agencies
that have bought these devices, and surely there are many more that
have bought them or are borrowing them,” he said.
According to a
report on the
website Wired, Stingray can
actually record conversations, rather than just picking up metadata.
“I sort of suspect what
we’re learning about now is from two or three generations ago,”
Abuse of new technology
clearly is putting defense lawyers and defendants at a disadvantage,
one that is both unfair and contrary to the law of the land. Advances
in science and technology need to correlate with the continuing
protection of civil liberties, and perhaps the only way that will
happen is one court case at a time.
Also, you need to consider item 2: The conversations between lawyers and their
clients, that are supposed to be private, were recorded and
downloaded (at least) many thousands of times.
5. American War in
the 21st Century: A Scam, a Swindle and a Fraud
The fifth and last item today is
by Tom Engelhardt on Truthdig (and originally on TomDispatch):
This starts as follows:
But that is just the
beginning. Here is some more, including how the Marshall Plan (of the
1950ies) compares with the money invested in - just - Afghanistan:
Let’s begin with the $12
billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills, Iraqi oil money held in the
U.S. The Bush administration began flying it into Baghdad on
C-130s soon after U.S. troops entered that city in April 2003.
Essentially dumped into the void that had once been the Iraqi state, at
to $1.6 billion of it was stolen and ended up years later in a
mysterious bunker in Lebanon. And that’s just what happened as
the starting gun went off.
It’s never ended. In
2011, the final report of the congressionally mandated Commission on
Wartime Contracting estimated
that somewhere between $31 billion and $60 billion taxpayer dollars had
been lost to fraud and waste in the American “reconstruction” of Iraq
Washington had gone
to war like a drunk on a bender, while the domestic infrastructure began to fray.
billion by 2014, the American reconstruction program in Afghanistan
was already, in today’s dollars, larger than the Marshall Plan (which
helped put all of devastated Western Europe back on its feet after
World War II) and still the country was a shambles. In Iraq, a mere $60
billion was squandered on the failed rebuilding of the
country. Keep in mind that none of this takes into account the staggering
billions spent by the Pentagon in both countries to build strings
of bases, ranging in size from American
towns (with all the amenities of home) to tiny outposts.
There would be 505
of them in Iraq and at
least 550 in Afghanistan. Most were, in the end, abandoned,
dismantled, or sometimes simply looted.
There is also this:
program to train thousands of carefully vetted “moderate” Syrian
rebels, equip them, arm them, and put them in the field to fight the
Islamic State. Congress ponied up $500 million for it, $384
million of which was spent before that project was shut
down as an abject failure. By then, less than 200
American-backed rebels had been trained and even less put into the
field in Syria—and they were almost instantly kidnapped
or they simply handed
over their equipment to the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.
At one point, according to the congressional testimony of the top
American commander in the Middle East, only four
or five American-produced rebels were left “in the field.”
The cost-per-rebel sent into Syria, by the way, is now estimated at
approximately $2 million.
And that was just a
brief selection from 3 rather amazing pages, that are recommended
reading, and especially if you disagree with the title.
14, 2015: Reformatted.