May 24, 2016

Crisis: Snowden, Crane & Hertsgaard, US Medicare, Middle East Refugees
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Vindication for Edward Snowden From a New Player in
     NSA Whistleblowing Saga
2. Exclusive: Source Reveals How Pentagon Ruined
     Whistleblower's Life and Set Stage for Snowden's Leaks

3. Establishment Democrats Fight to Defeat
     Medicare-for-All Ballot Measure in Colorado

4. Inside the West's Cynical Plan to Keep Refugees out of
     Europe by Trapping Them in Libya


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, May 24, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about a major vindication of both Edward Snowden and Thomas Drake; item 2 has more about this and has interviews with the latest whistleblower and a journalist who used his evidence (this is too long to excerpt properly, but is recommended); item 3 is about medicare in the U.S.: it seems that most politicians choose for the pharmaceutical riches rather than patients' interests in decent health care (which more or less exists everywhere in the West, except in the Exceptional USA); while item 4 is a fine article about the horrible situation of refugees from the Middle East, who are not treated as if they are human beings with human rights and a legitimate refugee status by all the leading politicians and military in both Europe (that refuses to take care of them) and the USA (which has been screwing over the Middle East for 15 years now).

Also, while this is a fairly brief NL, all items in it are recommended. This also appears earlier than is normal.

1. Vindication for Edward Snowden From a New Player in NSA Whistleblowing Saga

The first item is by Jenna McLaughlin and Dan Froomkin on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

The Guardian published a stunning new chapter in the saga of NSA whistleblowers on Sunday, revealing a new key player: John Crane, a former assistant inspector general at the Pentagon who was responsible for protecting whistleblowers, then forced to become one himself when the process failed.

An article by Mark Hertsgaard, adapted from his new book, Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden, describes how former NSA official Thomas Drake went through proper channels in his attempt to expose civil-liberties violations at the NSA — and was punished for it. The article vindicates open-government activists who have long argued that whistleblower protections aren’t sufficient in the national security realm.

This is just a summary that provides some backgrounds. Here is some more on
Thomas Drake (<- Wikipedia) and John Crane  (<- Wikipedia):

Drake initially took his concerns about wasteful, illegal, and unconstitutional actions by the NSA to high-ranking NSA officials, then to appropriate staff and members of Congress. When that didn’t work, he signed onto a whistleblower complaint to the Pentagon inspector general made by some recently retired NSA staffers. But because he was still working at the NSA, he asked the office to keep his participation anonymous.

Now, Hertsgaard writes that Crane alleges that his former colleagues in the inspector general’s office “revealed Drake’s identity to the Justice Department; then they withheld (and perhaps destroyed) evidence after Drake was indicted; finally, they lied about all this to a federal judge.”

Note that the three acts described in the last paragraph are all - at least - misdemeanors. Also, this shows the US government did not work to implement its laws, but to protect governmental criminals or at least the "civil-liberties violations at the NSA".

Finally, here is a bit about John Crane:

Crane brings unprecedented evidence from inside the system that ostensibly protects whistleblowers that the system isn’t working. And defenders of the system can’t accuse him of having an outside agenda. Crane has never taken a position for or against the NSA’s programs, or made contact with Drake during the investigation.

There is considerably more in the article, that is recommended.

2. Exclusive: Source Reveals How Pentagon Ruined Whistleblower's Life and Set Stage for Snowden's Leaks

The second item is b
y Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This is a long and fine interview with John Crane (see item 1), that is too long to properly excerpt. Here are four bits, all of which provide backgrounds.

The first is from the introduction:
John Crane worked 25 years for the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, which helps federal employees expose abuse. He now says whistleblowers have little choice but to go outside the system, and is speaking out about what happened to NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, who revealed the existence of a widespread illegal program of domestic surveillance. Crane describes how in December 2010 Drake’s lawyers filed a complaint with the inspector general alleging he had been punished in retaliation for his whistleblowing, and that the crimes Drake was later charged with were "based in part, or entirely," on information he provided to the Pentagon inspector general. Mark Hertsgaard recounts Crane’s story in his new book, "Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden," and shows how Drake’s persecution sent an unmistakable message to Edward Snowden: Raising concerns within the system meant he would be targeted next.
This sketches the backgrounds. Note that John Crane did work for the Department of Defense for a long time, and that he defends both Thomas Drake (<- Wikipedia)'s position and Edward Snowden's (<-Wikipedia) position that was based on Thomas Drake's case:

There was no decent way to work "
within the system" and be heard by the public (whose rights are royally screwed by the NSA).

Next, this sketches some more backgrounds and introduces
John Crane  (<- Wikipedia):

AMY GOODMAN: Today, a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive: A former senior Pentagon official speaks out for the first time about how his superiors broke the law to punish a key National Security Agency whistleblower. By now, everyone knows how Edward Snowden revealed the government spying on hundreds of millions of people around the world. But if you want to know why Snowden did it, and the way he did it, you need to know the story of John Crane, who worked 25 years for the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office, which helps federal employees expose abuse and corruption. He now says whistleblowers have little choice but to go outside the system.

Crane is coming forward to speak about what happened to NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, who revealed the existence of a widespread illegal program of domestic surveillance. Drake’s house was raided by the FBI in 2007. He was charged in 2010 under the Espionage Act. In 2011, he pled guilty to a minor misdemeanor of unauthorized use of a government computer. He did not serve jail time.

And here is John Crane explaining what is - in his opinion - wrong with the
way the US government (mis)treats whistleblowers:

AMY GOODMAN: So, John Crane, talk about why you are coming out publicly for the first time.

JOHN CRANE: I’m coming out publicly for the first time because what Edward Snowden did is it was the largest, most massive classified leak in this country’s history. And so we have two separate issues here, that one is we, I think, need to make sure that there won’t be any more massive disclosures like that, but we can only assure that, should we have a whistleblower protection system in place that will make sure, one, whistleblowers have the confidence to step forward without having their own individual identities compromised, and when they step forward, that they’re not subject to multiyear retaliation.

Incidentally: I think this is what John Crane wants, but my own guess is that
both ends are quite unlikely.

Here are my reasons: I think the NSA has been so fundamentally illegal since 15 years (at least) that someone who tells the approximate truth about it will be a traitor according to the criminals who head the NSA (which indeed also is consistent from their point of view), while I think it is a pipedream to believe here will be decent protections for whistle-blowers who work in a fundamentally criminal and illegal service like the NSA.

Then again, I do not know how likely it is that there are more people like Edward Snowden who do currently work for the NSA, nor do I know how likely it is - if they are there - that they are willing to endanger themselves, having seen
what Snowden had to go through. [1]

Finally, here is journalist Mark Hertsgaard (who sounds very differently here when compared to the report he and three journalists from Spiegel International wrote that I reviewed yesterday):

MARK HERTSGAARD: Well, because, as you said at the top of the show, everybody knows what Snowden did at this point, but to really understand it, what Snowden did and why he did it the way he did it—he did it, you need to know the stories of two other men. And one is Thomas Drake, as you said, and the other is the third man. And that third man is Mr. John Crane. And I called him that partly because I needed to keep his identity confidential myself, until we broke the story here today in New York on Democracy Now!, but also in The Guardian and Der Spiegel newspapers. And I chose to work with The Guardian and Der Spiegel because they broke the original Snowden stories, and they understood just how significant Crane’s revelations are, because when you see everything that John Crane tells us about how the whistleblower protection system inside the Pentagon is broken, only results in a whistleblower having his life ruined, as we saw with Tom Drake, you see that really Edward Snowden had no other choice but to go public.

As I said, there is a whole lot more in the interview, which is recommended reading.

3. Establishment Democrats Fight to Defeat Medicare-for-All Ballot Measure in Colorado

The third item is
by Nika Knight on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

Highlighting the divisions in the Democratic party this election, Colorado’s ballot measure for a universal, single-payer healthcare plan is facing unexpected resistance from the very same party that has been calling for such a healthcare plan since the 1990s.

“There is a disconnect between the powers that be and the people,” said state senator Irene Aguilar, a former doctor and the chief architect of the statewide ‘Medicare-for-all,’ called ColoradoCare, in an interview with the Guardian. “The powers that be are incrementalists. There hasn’t been a courage of conviction to try and deal with [healthcare coverage].”

If it passes, ColoradoCare would make Colorado the first state in the nation with universal healthcare.

Incidentally: "universal healthcare" is what nearly all Western nations - somehow [2] - have. Only the USA is "Exceptional" enough not to have it,
and to cost a lot more than in most other Western countries.

Here are three positions on healthcare in the US: The public's; Sanders' and Hillary Clinton's:

Most Americans support replacing Obamacare with a single-payer system, and Bernie Sanders has made his support for universal healthcare a central pillar of his presidential campaign. His rival Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, continues to support the least popular position of maintaining the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with only incremental and modest changes.

It seems to me that the reason Hillary Clinton is so strongly for the ACA because she has been bought:

Moreover, Clinton herself “has received $13.2m in donations from the health sector over the years, according to nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. This well-funded industry is also the chief financial backer of the effort to destroy ColoradoCare,” notes the Guardian.

“There is huge money from the [health insurance] industry involved in financing not only the campaign against ColoradoCare, but also in financing the politicians who decide on health care legislation,” Owen Perkins, communications director for ColoradoCareYes, a group advocating for the ballot measure, told the Guardian.

“The role that big money, big medicine plays in funding campaigns and influencing political votes is certainly a good reason to take [healthcare] out of the insurance industry and politicians and put it in the hands of the people,” Perkins added.

I completely agree with Perkins, though I add that this will not happen in the present situation, which simply has been designed by healthcare professionals,
pharmaceutical corporations, and politicians so that each of these three groups profit a lot, at the costs of the patients who are the public.

This is again a recommended article.
4. Inside the West's Cynical Plan to Keep Refugees out of Europe by Trapping Them in Libya

The fourt
h item is by Sarah Lazare on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

Western countries’ callous response to the greatest crisis of human displacement since World War II has reached new heights with the latest push to fashion—and arm—a Libyan state in part so that it can help trap refugees in that country and prevent them from reaching European shores.

European heads of state have already unleashed a brutal crackdown on people fleeing war and poverty, including through the EU’s “Operation Sophia” military force in the Mediterranean, which was established last May to prevent refugees stranded in Libya from journeying to the continent in search of sanctuary.

Yes, indeed: This is how it seems to me as well.

Put otherwise, it seems that the politicians and military who rule the USA attack the people in the Middle East and drive them out of their homes and their countries, while the politicians and military who rule Europe do everything they can to keep the refugees in some very poorly designed camps in the Middle East.

That is what it seems to boil down to, at least to me, and "human rights" or even the status as a legitimate refugee do not apply anymore to people born in the Middle East.

Here is some more on the inhumanity of the degenerates who organized and named "Operation Sophia" (meaning: wisdom):

In other words, politicians and the figures behind Operation Sophia argue that intercepting and destroying refugee boats in international waters is not, in fact, preventing displaced people from attempting the voyage. In order to offshore the Libyan crisis from Europe, they insist, refugees must be prevented from leaving that country’s waters, and that requires an effective state.

So while ordinary people in the Middle East might think they have human rights and the status of legitimate refugees, the politicians and military who also are responsible for blowing up the Middle East now act as if people from the Middle East (if non-governmental and non-military, to be sure) are to be treated as if they are hardly human.

Here is some evidence that this is the real policy (behind all humanitarian propaganda political liars are so good at, verbally):

(...) all of the available evidence suggests that the plan is aimed at preventing displaced people from journeying across the Mediterranean.

This amounts to trapping refugees in dire conditions in Libya, which has no domestic refugee laws or asylum procedures. In an international briefing published last May, Amnesty International outlined the abuses that refugees stranded in Libya are forced to endure, from rape to torture to slave labor:

Torture and other ill-treatment in immigration detention centers have remained widespread. In many cases, migrants and refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea have been subjected to prolonged beatings in such facilities following their interception and arrest by the Libyan coastguard or militias acting on their own initiative in the absence of strong state institutions. Women held in these facilities, which lack female guards, are vulnerable to sexual violence and harassment.

Here is the ending of the article, that again seems justified to me:
To keep the refugee crisis away from Europe’s shores, western states are willing to funnel arms into a war-torn country to shore up a government whose stablity is suspect at best. Behind the potentially catastrophic gambit lies a plan to trap survivors of violence and poverty in deplorable conditions. If those refugees manage to escape from the conflict zone, they will be met not by humanitarian relief, but by hostile military patrols. Beyond the walls of Fortress Europe, a vast, aquatic graveyard may soon expand.
There is considerably more in the article, which again is recommended.


[1] This is motivated by the fact that for something like one or two years after Edward Snowden manifested himself, there were quite a few articles proudly announcing there would be more whistleblowers.

My reason to doubt these certainties (which the last year have mostly disappeared) is that I come from an extra-ordinary family, with both parents in the resistance against the Nazis in WW II, and with a father and a grandfather being arrested for resisting the Nazis in the early summer of 1941, and convicted to concentration camp imprisonment, that killed my grandfather.

And having that background I know that very few did dare to do what my parents and grandparents dared to do (there were six times more Dutchmen in
the SS than in the resistance; there were over 100.000 Jews - 1% of the Dutch population then - who were arrested in Holland and murdered in German camps; but immediately after the war it seemed as if "there had been 7 million leaders of the resistance" (as Piet de Jong, prime minister of Holland in the 1960ies testified).

I think I was quite right, although this doesn't please me. (There are few real
heroes, though many fake ones, especially if Dutch.)

[2] This remark - "somehow" - is motivated by the fact that health care in Europe is also not what many Americans claim it is:

It is not free, it is not paid by the taxes, and it has been lately (after being sold by the local politicians to private corporations) made something like nine times more expensive (while being considerably worse) than I paid in the 1990ies.

In brief: It used to be good and quite payable the first 50 years of my life; since then it has been much worsened through the consistent efforts of many Dutch politicians (who I suspect are being paid in secret).

Then again, even this lousy system is a lot better than the US system.

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