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."
1. Glenn Greenwald on
"Submissive" Media's Drumbeat for War
"Despicable" Anti-Muslim Scapegoating
2. Former Drone Operators Say They Were
“Horrified” By Cruelty
of Assassination Program
3. Donald Trump Won’t Rule
Out Special ID Cards for Muslim Americans
4. How the Government Made
Me a Dissident
5. Armed With Fear, Not Facts,
Officials Go After Encryption in Wake
This is a Nederlog
of Friday, November 20, 2015.
This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about a fine interview Amy Goodman had with
Glenn Greenwald; item 2 is about an article by
Murtaza Hussain about three former drone operators that is interesting;
item 3 is about Trump who - as usual - is
not clear, but who may propose special ID cards, special databases, or
special badges for all Americans who are Muslims,
with an added bit by TYT who tend to believe these are badges, and are
afraid to call these "Fascist Ideas" (in which they are right, though
Trump is not clear); item 4 is about an article by
John Kiriakou, which I use to make some fundamental points about the
NSA, the government, mass surveillance and what I think about those who
insist that they don't mind being surveilled; and item 5
is about how encryption is - once again - attacked by enthusiasts for
absolute power of the US government.
1. Glenn Greenwald
on "Submissive" Media's Drumbeat for War and
"Despicable" Anti-Muslim Scapegoating
The first item today
is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This starts as
In the aftermath
of the Paris attacks, media coverage has seen familiar patterns:
uncritically repeat government claims, defend expansive state power,
and blame the Muslim community for the acts of a few. We discuss media
fearmongering, anti-Muslim scapegoating, ISIL’s roots, and war
profiteering with Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
and co-founder of The Intercept. "Every time there’s a terrorist
attack, Western leaders exploit that attack to do more wars," Greenwald
says. "Which in turn means they transfer huge amounts of taxpayer money
to these corporations that sell arms. And so investors are fully aware
that the main people who are going to benefit from this escalation as a
result of Paris are not the American people or the people of the West —
and certainly not the people of Syria — it is essentially the
Yes, I quite agree - and
for the military-industrial
complex see the Wikipedia link.
Then again, there is a large difference between - about - the
Sixties and the Seventies of the previous century and the present,
since 2000 or before, and that difference is that the mainstream press
and media ceased to be independent and free, and has turned into the
willing propaganda apparatus of the politicians and the US
This really is a large difference, and may itself be used as strong
evidence that democracy in the USA is in serious danger, for a free
press - even in the First Amendment  - has
been widely deemed essential for a real democracy: Without
a decent grasp of the real facts no voter can make up his or
her mind rationally.
Clearly, Glenn Greenwald is also aware of this. There is more about
this in the interview, which is good and recommended.
Here I select some other pieces, and the first is this:
First of all, it’s absolutely remarkable that James Woolsey, of all
people, is the person who has been plucked to be the authoritative
figure on the Paris attacks by leading media outlets such as CNN and MSNBC news,
when he is by far one of the most extremist and radical
neoconservatives ever to be puked up by the intelligence world. He not
only was one of the leading advocates of attacking Iraq, he was one of
the leading proponents of all of the lies that led to that invasion,
and has been calling for war and other sorts of really extremist
policies, and disseminating lies to the American people for decades.
And so, to hold him out as some sort of authority figure, some kind of
like respected elder intelligence statesman, on these attacks is just
exactly the sort of thing we’ve been talking about, which is the state
of the American media. Not one person has challenged anything that he
Yes, indeed - and here
is the Wikipedia file on Woolsey: R. James Woolsey, Jr.
And note that Woolsey meanwhile is 74, and has no official standing,
though he still is Senior Vice-President of Booz Allen Hamilton.
This is also Glenn Greenwald, in the context of discussing laying the
blame for the events of Paris on Edward Snowden (which is
monumentally silly if not cruel, in my opinion):
And again, as far
as who has blood on their hands, there’s zero evidence that the
attackers used encryption or anything else that was revealed as a
result of Edward Snowden, but there’s lots of evidence that the CIA utterly failed in their mission and that the
U.S. government has done all sorts of things unwittingly to strengthen ISIS. And so, I think if you want to talk about
who has blood on their hands, personally, I would look first to ISIS, the people who actually shot those people in
the Paris streets.
Yes, of course. And
there is this on the background of Isis:
And then, just to
take a step further back, The Washington Post six months ago
reported what most people who pay attention to this actually know,
which is that what we call ISIS is really
nothing more than a bunch of ex-Baathist military officials who were
disempowered and alienated by the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the
subsequent instability that it caused, and then the policies of the—the
sectarian policies of Prime Minister Maliki in basically taking away
all of the power of those ex-Baathists in favor of Shiite militias and
Iran-aligned militias and the like. And so, essentially, what I think
everybody at this point understands is that the reason there is such a
thing as ISIS is because the U.S. invaded
Iraq and caused massive instability, destroyed the entire society,
destroyed all of the infrastructure, destroyed all order, and it was in
that chaos that ISIS was able to emerge. So, again, if you’re
looking for blame, beyond ISIS, the U.S. government is a really good place
There is a lot more in
the interview, all of which is recommended.
Drone Operators Say They Were “Horrified” By Cruelty of Assassination
The second item today is by Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept:
This starts as
U.S. DRONE OPERATORS are inflicting heavy civilian
casualties and have developed an institutional culture callous to the
death of children and other innocents, four former operators said
at a press briefing today in New York.
The killings, part of the Obama administration’s targeted
assassination program, are aiding terrorist recruitment and thus
undermining the program’s goal of eliminating such fighters, the
veterans added. Drone operators refer to children as “fun-size
terrorists” and liken killing them to “cutting the grass before it
grows too long,” said one of the operators, Michael Haas, a former
senior airman in the Air Force. Haas also described widespread drug and
alcohol abuse, further stating that some operators had flown
missions while impaired.
In addition to
Haas, the operators are former Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon
Bryant along with former senior airmen Cian Westmoreland and
Stephen Lewis. The men have conducted kill missions in many of the
major theaters of the post-9/11 war on terror, including Iraq,
Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We have seen
the abuse firsthand,” said Bryant, “and we are horrified.”
interesting, and these former drone operators ought to be thanked, for
they will not be thanked by the US government.
These men also
have this on how effective their actions were, in hindsight:
At the press conference,
Bryant said the killing of civilians by drone is exacerbating the
problem of terrorism. “We kill four and create 10 [militants],”
Bryant said. “If you kill someone’s father, uncle or brother
who had nothing to do with anything, their families are going
to want revenge.”
The Obama administration
has gone to great lengths to keep details of the drone program secret,
but in their statements today the former operators opened up about
the culture that has developed among those responsible
for carrying it out. Haas said operators become acculturated to denying
the humanity of the people on their targeting screens. “There was
a much more detached outlook about who these people were we were
monitoring,” he said. “Shooting was something to be lauded and
something we should strive for.”
There is more in the
article, that is recommended.
Trump Won’t Rule Out Special ID Cards for Muslim Americans
The third item
is by Zaid Jihani on Truthdig (originally on AlterNet):
This is a brief article that
contains the following:
his plans for responding to terrorism by targeting America’s 3 million
As usual, it is
difficult to say what Trump is really talking about or suggesting.
“We’re going to have to
do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be
upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security
is going to rule,” said Trump. “And certain things will be done that we
never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and
learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain
things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”
Yahoo News asked if this
meant requiring Muslim Americans to register with the government and
carry special identification.
“We’re going to have to —
we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” he
replied. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to
have to look very, very carefully.”
For one thing, he may be suggesting that American Muslims will
get an M stamped in their passports, like the Jews were in Nazi
Germany. For another thing, he may be suggesting that all
American Muslims get registered in a governmental database, which will
make it possible to lock all of them up, as happened to the
American Japanese during WW II. For a third thing, he even may
be suggesting - "We’re
going to have to do things that we never did before" - that all Muslims
have to wear a badge on their clothes, like the Jews were forced to do
in every country the Nazis had conquered.
I really don't
know. Here is what The Young Turks make of it:
This takes 9 m 20 s. And
here is a picture from the show, which is the first time I saw this
explicitly and with large letters in the American (somewhat
I like this, not because I am a fascist (I am an anti-fascist, with better credentials than most), but
because this is one possible explanation; because in terms of
"A system of government that exercises a
dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of
state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
the USA has grown a lot
more fascistic since Bush Jr.: The state and the business leadership,
especially the rich bankers, have merged; the USA does
have a "belligerent
nationalism"; and while
there is not - yet? - a dictatorship of the extreme right,
there are quite a few very rightist groups active in the USA, and also
considerable parts of the media are much more rightist than they were ever
-- American Heritage
4. How the
Government Made Me a Dissident
The fourth item today
is by John
Kiriakou (<-Wikipedia) on Truthdig (originally on OtherWorlds):
This starts as follows:
I sometimes say the
government turned me into a dissident — after I spent 14 years at the
CIA and two more at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
I only say it
half-jokingly. While I’m proud of winning this year’s PEN Center’s First Amendment award, I never
intended to make a career out of being at odds with the government.
Sometimes, though — like
when I spent two years in prison for blowing the whistle on the
CIA’s torture program — it’s felt like the government’s gone out of its
way to be at odds with me.
And it’s clear that our
government demonizes people who disagree with the official line. Things
got bad for anyone who disagrees with the official line
right after 9/11.
I think this is true,
although I also think that people are personally responsible for their
personal decisions. Then again, I suppose John Kiriakou agrees with me.
He also says:
When the government hired
me in 1988, it was widely understood that if the National Security
Agency intercepted the communications of an American citizen — even
accidentally — heads would roll. Congress had to be informed, an
investigation would be launched, and the intercept had to be purged
from the system.
Today, the NSA has an
enormous facility in Utah big enough to save copies of every email,
text message, and phone conversation made by every American for the
next 500 years. You can bet they intend to.
The first paragraph
sketches a very fundamental difference of what the NSA did: It
was then supposed not to track communications of
American citizens. Presently, it is precisley the other way
around: The NSA is supposed to track every communication of every
American, and also every communication of everybody else.
because the government promises to stop terrorism that way - although
it is clear that there are hardly any NSA successes in that endeavor,
while it should be clear that no government is capable of
protecting all or most of more than 300 million Americans, although it is
protecting most of the government's own members.
The second paragraph
says what I think since 2005 - and
that was long before knowing about the NSA's storage capacity
in Utah, long before knowing about Edward Snowden, and long
before knowing all the things I know now about surveillance and spying,
mostly thanks to Snowden.
I also think something else, with which Kiriakou may disagree (I don't
It seems to me, also since 2005, that the main point of
giving the NSA, at least in their practice, the right to gather all
the data they could gather on anyone, was not to find
terrorists, but to prepare information on absolutely everyone
so that the US government could decide what to do with its critics (of
which there are many, of many kinds and many backgrounds). The end was power - absolute
power, based on knowing everything about anyone - from the
You may disagree, but
that is what I think, and I also insist that this hypothesis accounts
well for the known fact that the NSA was remarkably ineffective
in finding terrorists, but remarkably effective in hoovering up
all information they
could get on anyone.
Here is the last part
of Kiriakou that I will quote:
Still, people sometimes
ask me why they should care if the authorities read their email or
listen to their phone calls. “I have nothing to hide,” they say, “so
why should I worry about it?”
This question sends
chills up my spine.
As anybody who’s worked in
the intelligence community will tell you, the government can learn a lot
more about you than you realize.
I think the best
answer to “I have nothing
to hidem so why should I worry about it?” is that - looking at Nazi
Germany and the Soviet Union - only those who are firmly convinced
that they are born creepy cowardly collaborators with any
power would give that answer, where it only because absolutely no one
knows what the next government will hold good and true.
Everybody else knows that a
secret service that knows more about any person than the persons
themselves know about their past is a mortal danger for any opponent of
the government, and also for any doubter of the government (as Stalin
fifth item today
is by Sarah Lazare on Common Dreams:
5. Armed With Fear, Not Facts, Officials Go
After Encryption in Wake of Paris
This starts as follows:
Despite no available
evidence that terror suspects used encryption to plan the Paris
attacks, U.S. intelligence officials and lawmakers are seizing on the
massacre to demand access to protected communications—in what critics
warn is a blatant attempt to exploit fear in order to expand state
Speaking at a
cybersecurity conference in New York on Wednesday, FBI director James
Comey argued that it is critical for government officials to have the
power to read encrypted messages. Encryption has long been embraced by civil liberties advocates as
a method for protecting internet and smartphone messages from spying
and censorship—and ultimately safeguarding
Well, Comey is a
liar. What he really wants is in : Absolute
power over absolutely everyone, which he hopes to get by
himself and the secret services knowing everything there is to
know about everyone else.
Then there is this:
Comey is one voice in a
crescendo that also includes U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
"Silicon Valley has to look at its products because if you create a
product that allows evil monsters to communicate in this way, to behead
children, to strike innocents—whether it's at a game in a stadium, in a
small restaurant in Paris, take down an airliner—that's a big problem,"
the top Senate Intelligence Committee Democrat told MSNBC on
sorry, but she is either insane or hysterically lying, for precisely
the same argument - or even stronger - holds for not letting Muslims
learn to read, for if they can read they can deal with
computers, and dealing with computers allows them to blow up everyone,
which they will do since they are all evil monsters.
(Yes, I know that is crazy. Does Mrs Feinstein?)
there is also this, by a
former cop (<- Wikipedia) for 15 years:
media outlets are featuring voices openly calling for the total
suspension of privacy rights and civil liberties while advocating that
Muslim-Americans should be aggressively monitored and surveyed. As Fox
News contributor Bo Dietl declared
on Monday: "Let's stop worrying about people's rights."
O yes, yes, yes! Let's
start concentration camps in which we can lock up everyone who is to
the left of Mr Dietl! And hit the shit out of them! Let's start
torturing them to our hearts content! Let's destroy the Constitution
and pretend there never was any Bill of Rights! Let's ...
... well, there is a lot more one can do, also without any
fear for any legal punishments, if we "stop worrying about people's rights".
I hope Mr Dietl voiced an opinion that is rare, even on Fox.
 This is the First Amendment
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the
press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to
petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
 These are the very
prescient words of Senator Frank Church, on August 17, 1975 (!!):
In the need to
develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United
States government has perfected a technological capability that enables
us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is
necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at
enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that
capability at any time could be turned around on the American people,
and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to
monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't
matter. There would be no place to hide.
If this government ever
became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the
technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the
government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be
no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine
together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it
was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the
capability of this technology.
I don't want to see this
country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to
make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency
and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law
and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss.
That is the abyss from which there is no return.