December 2, 2015
Crisis: Life in the Electronic Concentration Camp
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This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, December 2, 2015.

This is a crisis file.

It also is a crisis file "new style" that will rely less on following the news and more on explaining the backgrounds of the news. This file consists of two items with one dotted link: Item 1 is about a fine article by John Rutherford, who explains that so far the NSA has everything it wanted, and who is - quite rightly - fearful of the consequences to anyone who does not publicly (and convincingly)  sing the praises of the American government, while item 2 is a repeat from yesterday about the Settings addition.

1. Life in the Electronic Concentration Camp: The Surveillance State Is Alive and Well

This first item is by John Rutherford on

This starts as follows (and is very well worth reading in full):

“Big Brother in the form of an increasingly powerful government and in an increasingly powerful private sector will pile the records high with reasons why privacy should give way to national security, to law and order [...] and the like.” ― William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice

Bottle up the champagne, pack away the noisemakers, and toss out the party hats.

There is no cause for celebration.

We have secured no major victories against tyranny.

We have achieved no great feat in pushing back against government overreach.

For all intents and purposes, the National Security Agency has supposedly ceased its bulk collection of metadata from Americans’ phone calls, but read the fine print: nothing is going to change.

I think this is fundamentally correct, though one might differ in opinion about the language that is used.

Here is part of the explanation, and again I think this is fundamentally correct, though I would phrase it differently:

The USA Freedom Act, which claimed to put an end to the National Security Agency’s controversial collection of metadata from Americans’ phone calls, was just a placebo pill intended to make us feel better and let the politicians take credit for reforming mass surveillance.

In other words, it was a sham, a sleight-of-hand political gag pulled on a gullible public desperate to believe that we still live in a constitutional republic rather than a down-and-out, out-of-control, corporate-controlled, economically impoverished, corrupt, warring, militarized banana republic.

You cannot restrain the NSA. The beast has outgrown its chains.

You cannot reform the NSA. A government that lies, cheats, steals, sidesteps the law, and then absolves itself of wrongdoing does not voluntarily alter its behavior.

You cannot put an end to the NSA’s “technotyranny.” Presidents, politicians, and court rulings have come and gone over the course of the NSA’s 60-year history, but none of them have managed to shut down the government’s secret surveillance of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages, transactions, communications and activities.

Yes. Specifically, I agree with this, which is correct as stated:

"A government that lies, cheats, steals, sidesteps the law, and then absolves itself of wrongdoing does not voluntarily alter its behavior."

And the American government indeed "
lies, cheats, steals, sidesteps the law, and then absolves itself of wrongdoing", and it can do so in considerable part because most members of the Senate and of Congress approve or at least do not disapprove of the lies, thefts and sidesteppings of the law.

As to the NSA: It does exist 60 years, but "
the government’s secret surveillance of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages, transactions, communications and activities" mostly dates back to 9/11 and afterward, when mass surveillance was introduced, even though this was in explicit contradiction with the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. [1]

There is one party that was hugely complicit in helping the NSA but that is not mentioned here: The great majority of the American politicians in the Senate and the House. I think these people should have been added, especially in view of this:

Indeed, the government has become an expert in finding ways to sidestep niggling, inconvenient laws aimed at ensuring accountability, bringing about government transparency and protecting citizen privacy.

It has mastered the art of stealth maneuvers and end-runs around the Constitution.

It knows all too well how to hide its nefarious, covert, clandestine activities behind the classified language of national security and terrorism. And when that doesn’t suffice, it obfuscates, complicates, stymies or just plain bamboozles the public into remaining in the dark.

Yes, but this is true mostly because the majorities in the Senate and in Congress allow these illegal activities of the government. I do not know why, but one obvious answer is corruption; another - less likely in my opinion, for these professional politicians - is fear of terrorists.

More than a year before politicians attempted to patch up our mortally wounded privacy rights with the legislative bandaid fix that is the USA Freedom Act, researchers at Harvard and Boston University documented secret loopholes that allow the government to bypass Fourth Amendment protections to conduct massive domestic surveillance on U.S. citizens.

It’s extraordinary rendition all over again, only this time it’s surveillance instead of torture being outsourced.

In much the same way that the government moved its torture programs overseas in order to bypass legal prohibitions against doing so on American soil, it is doing the same thing for its surveillance programs. By shifting its data storage, collection and surveillance activities outside of the country, the government is able to bypass constitutional protections against unwarranted searches of Americans’ emails, documents, social networking data, and other cloud-stored data.

Heck, the government doesn’t even need to move all of its programs overseas. It just has to push the data over the border in order to “[circumvent] constitutional and statutory safeguards seeking to protect the privacy of Americans.”

Credit for this particular brainchild goes to the Obama administration, which issued Executive Order 12333 authorizing the collection of Americans’ data from surveillance conducted on foreign soil.

You are adviced to read the last link (Executive Order 12333): it is indeed a tricky bit of legal bullshit, for now the surveillance is still practised, but part of the data are not anymore in the USA. (The reasoning seems to be this: The American government can be as illegal as it pleases, if the data it is illegal with are not on American soil.)

Here is the outcome as phrased by John Rutherford:

No wonder the NSA appeared so unfazed about being forced to shut down its much-publicized metadata program. It had already figured out a way to accomplish the same results (illegally spying on Americans’ communications) without being shackled by the legislative or judicial branches of the government.

Mind you, this metadata collection now being carried out overseas is just a small piece of the surveillance pie. The government and its corporate partners have a veritable arsenal of surveillance programs that will continue to operate largely in secret, carrying out warrantless mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages and the like, beyond the scrutiny of most of Congress and the taxpayers who are forced to fund its multi-billion dollar secret black ops budget.

Again I point out that I foresaw something like this in 2005 (without knowing anything about mass surveillance) and that I also already then said that terrorism was a mere pretext: The American government wants to know all it can about anyone, and the only rational reason I could then see for that desire is that they want to control everyone in virtually anything. I still think so, and this also has been the ideal of most spies and of most secret service men (and of quite a few politicians through the ages): total control that is almost totally missed by those it controls.

And there is more:

Having already transformed local police into extensions of the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are preparing to turn the nation’s police officers into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone Stingray devices and so much more.

Add in the fusion centers, city-wide surveillance networks, data clouds conveniently hosted overseas by Amazon and Microsoft, drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras, and biometric databases, and you’ve got the makings of a world in which “privacy” is reserved exclusively for government agencies.

Yes, precisely: In the present USA "“privacy” is reserved exclusively for government agencies", though I again remark this was possible only through the consent of the majority of elected politicians.

And there also is "the corporate sector", which also sees this as the way to propagandize everyone, which again is best possible if one knows everything about the persons one wants to propagandize (with advertisements and more):

And of course that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine. Indeed, Facebook, Amazon and Google are among the government’s closest competitors when it comes to carrying out surveillance on Americans, monitoring the content of your emails, tracking your purchases and exploiting your social media posts.

“Few consumers understand what data are being shared, with whom, or how the information is being used,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Most Americans emit a stream of personal digital exhaust — what they search for, what they buy, who they communicate with, where they are — that is captured and exploited in a largely unregulated fashion.”

I have two remarks on this, and both are important.

First, not only are Facebook, Amazon and Google "competitors": They also are mostly quite willing partners in the US governments criminal and illegal schemes [2] to know everything about anyone (without almost anyone knowing what is known about him or her, and without knowing who knows or has access to everything known about him or her, and without knowing almost any legal consequences he or she may face based on this secret knowledge held by secret persons in secret services that are defended by secret courts that can order anyone not even to speak about the court orders they may receive).

Second, two reasons all these data can be stolen from almost everyone is that few consumers understand their computers properly, while almost everyone very much likes to use these apparatuses that so few - a couple of percents, I estimate - really understand.

There is also this:

We’re being surveilled right down to our genes, thanks to a potent combination of hardware, software and data collection that scans our biometrics—our faces, irises, voices, genetics, even our gait—runs them through computer programs that can break the data down into unique “identifiers,” and then offers them up to the government and its corporate allies for their respective uses.

All of those internet-connected gadgets we just have to have (Forbes refers to them as “(data) pipelines to our intimate bodily processes”)—the smart watches that can monitor our blood pressure and the smart phones that let us pay for purchases with our fingerprints and iris scans—are setting us up for a brave new world where there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Yes, I think that by now almost anyone who opposes the American government can be sure that he or she has "nowhere to run and nowhere to hide", especially if he or she lives in the USA.

The state's own terrorists aka its secret services have taken over and know everything. And they are using it for themselves and their government, and are using it to impose total control on almost everyone who is not of the government or is not a billionair.

One reason why this concerns me is the ending of this article, which is as follows:

In an age of too many laws, too many prisons, too many government spies, and too many corporations eager to make a fast buck at the expense of the American taxpayer, there is no safe place and no watertight alibi. We are all guilty of some transgression or other, and eventually, we will all be made to suffer the same consequences in the electronic concentration camp that surrounds us.

The reason is that my grandfather was murdered in a German concentration camp, and my father survived more than 3 years and 9 months of German concentration camps, to which they had been convicted by Dutch collaborating judges in 1941, who much disapproved of their resistance against the Nazis that had occupied Holland in 1940.

And yes, I agree that the spying networks that the state's own terrorists have woven are much like an electronic concentration camp. They will even be more like it when well-known people start disappearing in unaccountable ways. [3]

As I said above, this article is well worth reading in full.

2. On the Settings addition to the opening of the site

The second item is a repeat from yesterday:

There is a small but important addition to the opening of the site:

There is now a small file called Settings (on the left, in the middle) that
specifies what are the preferences for displaying my site well (in Firefox or Seamonkey). (Basically: Verdana 13 points in the Firefox Preferences menu.)

In case the site does not display well one quite probable cause is the settings of your browser, and this may avoid some problems. The choices in settings are fairly standard, except for the background colors, that relate to the years of my eye problems, that started in 2012, and still continue, though they are considerably less than they were. And you do not need to set the background color to my preference.

If you are using Firefox or Seamonkey, the above settings (which are very easy to do - and undo - via Edit:Preferences) should make my site work quite well. In case you are using other browsers, it still will probably help, but I don't have other browsers, so there you are on your own.

[1] Here is the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution (which now is illegally avoided by legal bullshit and lies):

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
-- Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution

The American governments, at least since Bush Jr., all wanted and want the American people to be insecure in their persons, insecure in their houses, insecure in their papers, and insecure in their effects because it tries to know everything it can about anyone, without any judicial reason, in order to control and propagandize them as well as possible.

[2] No matter what bullshit and baloney Bush Jr and Obama or their lawyers practised in the name of the Constitution, it was and is all illegal on any plausible reading of the Fourth Amendment and other amendments.

[3] I do not know about less well-known people. That is: I do not know that they have been disappearing unaccountably, but I do know about some who got court orders that forbade them to speak with anyone except one lawyer about the fact that they had received court orders. These practices also have nothing to do with any real democracy, and are out and out authoritarian.

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