Dec 14, 2016

Crisis: Gag Orders, Michigan, No Russian Hacking, On Trump *2
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Google Publishes Eight Secret FBI Requests
2. Greg Palast: By Rejecting Recount, Is Michigan Covering
     Up 75,000 Ballots Never Counted?

3. William Binney, Ray McGovern and Other Intel Experts
     Call Russian Hacking Allegations ‘Baseless’

4. Trump’s Dark Cloud of Illegitimacy
The Cult of Trump

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, December 14, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Google's redacted publication of 8 (eight) FBI requests - out of hundreds of thousands they receive each year, all with gag orders that deny any right on any publi- cation (which is how the Gestapo and the KGB would have loved it); item 2 is about a plausible explanation of how Trump won the elections: By seeing to it that tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of mostly black votes were excluded from counting; item 3 is about a letter from VIPS - responsible former intelligence officials - that explains why there is no evidence for a Russian hacking of the American elections; item 4 is about an article of Robert Reich who complains about Trump's illegitimacy; and item 5 is about an article by a philosophy professor who considers Trump and his supporters.

-- Constant part, for the moment --
B. In case you visit my Dutch site: It keeps being horrible most days and was so on most days in November 2016. But on 2.xii and 3.xii it was correct. Since then it mostly wasn't (until and
including 10.xii).

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [0]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: This was so-so till 18.xi and was correct since then (most or all days).

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.

1. Google Publishes Eight Secret FBI Requests

The first item today is by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Google revealed in October it had been freed from a gag order preventing it from talking about a secret FBI request for customer data made in 2015.

The internet search company chose at the time not to publish the actual subpoena, but it is now releasing redacted versions of that letter and seven others, as well as correspondence with the FBI pertaining to their release.

I say. In fact, I wonder how long this will last under Trump, for this is one of the means with which he can do extremely much harm without anybody knowing it.

Indeed, here is the scale on which these secret FBI requests with secret gag orders have operated in the last 15 years without Trump as president:

While these letters are merely a handful out of several hundred thousand subpoenas major tech companies receive every year — the overwhelming majority of them still under seal — Google’s release gives some insight into the types of information being demanded by the FBI, and demonstrates Google’s record of fighting those demands in court.

National security letters are secret administrative subpoenas the FBI uses to force third parties — tech companies, telecoms, and banks — to hand over information about their customers as part of a government investigation. While the letters carry the weight of law, no judge signs off on them, and they always come with a gag order.

This means that the "major tech companies" each received "several hundred thousand subpoenas" each year (for a long time now, also), which means very probably over a million such requests + gag orders for most of the "major tech companies". Each year, also.

For me, it sounds very much a process like that used by the Gestapo or the KGB: In a real democracy, the law must operate publicly. In the United States, the law has been switched off and has allowed the police to do as they please and do so with gag orders that forbid anybody else from knowing this:

The use of national security letters comes with a long history of controversy and alleged abuse. Government watchdogs, technology executives, and civil libertarians have criticized their use as being overbroad, and impinging on First Amendment protected speech, while limiting people’s rights to seek redress. The Department of Justice inspector general issued several scathing reports over the years, reprimanding the FBI and suggesting reforms.

The FBI is now legally required to review the gag orders on the letters, either three years after the date they were sent, or at the conclusion of the relevant investigation. Still, the public has only seen a small handful of those letters in full.

As I said, these Gestapo/KGB practices of the FBI will continue and will very probably be much intensified under Trump.

And it is quite questionable whether anyone (outside the FBI) will know much about it, since by now many millions already have been forbidden to say anything whatsoever to anyone about their gag orders (except a lawyer, who also is gagged).

2. Greg Palast: By Rejecting Recount, Is Michigan Covering Up 75,000 Ballots Never Counted?

The second item is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:
Investigative reporter Greg Palast has just returned from Michigan, where he went to probe the state’s closely contested election. Trump won Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes out of nearly 4.8 million votes cast. Green Party presidential contender Dr. Jill Stein attempted to force Michigan to hold a recount, but a federal judge ordered Michigan’s Board of Elections to stop the state’s electoral recount. One big question remains: Why did 75,335 ballots go uncounted?
This article is reviewed mostly because I know there are many kinds of ways in which elections may be falsified - see also item 3 - and this is one of them:
GREG PALAST: Officially, Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes. But a record 75,335 votes were never counted. Most of these votes that went missing were in Detroit and Flint, Michigan, majority-black cities. How could this happen? Did the Russians do it? Nyet. You don’t need Russians to help the Michigan GOP. How exactly do you disappear 75,000 votes? They call them spoiled votes. How do you spoil votes? Not by leaving them out of the fridge. Most are lost because of the bubbles. Thousands of bubbles couldn’t be read by the optical scanning machines.
The machines in Michigan and Wisconsin can’t read these bubbles. But a much better machine, the human eyeball, can easily read what the voter intended.
That is: These voting machines were not manipulated "by the Russians" (which is very plausibly rejected in item 3) but by Americans. And the way to do it, at least in Michigan and Wisconsin, was not by falsifying the votes, but by effectively eliminating votes, to the tune of 75,335 votes that were not counted in Michigan, where Trump won by 10,704 votes (of the counted ones).

And here is Greg Palast on "the Russians" and on what really happened:
GREG PALAST: Well, you know, people are looking for Russians, but what we had is a real Jim Crow election. Trump, for example, in Michigan, won by less than 11,000 votes. It looks like we had about 55,000 voters, mostly minorities, removed by this racist system called Crosscheck. In addition, you had a stoppage—even before the courts ordered the complete stop of the vote in Michigan, you had the Republican state officials completely sabotage the recount. They said, in Detroit, where there were 75,335 supposedly blank ballots for president—75,000—they said you can’t count 59 percent of the precincts, where most of the votes were missing. There were 87 machines in Detroit that were—that didn’t function. They were supposed to count about a thousand ballots each. You’re talking about a massive blockade of the black vote in Detroit and Flint, enough votes, undoubtedly, to overturn that election.
In brief: (i) at least 75,000 votes were simply not counted, and (ii) when Jill Stein wanted to count all the votes this was denied by the courts, and was also (iii) "sabotaged" by the Republican state officials.

I think this is a plausible story, which is also backed up by the next item, that considers "the Russians" hacking the votes (for Trump):

3. William Binney, Ray McGovern and Other Intel Experts Call Russian Hacking Allegations ‘Baseless’

The third item is b
y Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

In a letter published on Consortium News regarding claims that Russia interfered in the recent U.S. elections, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity penned a powerful rebuke of the narrative being spread. Signed by retired intelligence officials William Binney, Mike Gravel, Larry Johnson, Ray McGovern, Elizabeth Murray and Kirk Wiebe, the memorandum offered a bold rethinking of the alleged “hack” because “given what we know of [the National Security Agency’s] existing capabilities, it beggars belief that NSA would be unable to identify anyone — Russian or not — attempting to interfere in a U.S. election by hacking.”

Note that all who signed the letter are former intelligence officials (and several leading ones, like Binney and McGovern), who simply but quite effectively point out that with the NSA's controlling everyone's computers in the USA, it is quite incredible that a hacking effort from outside the USA would not have been registered by the NSA.

There is this from the VIPS' letter - and "VIPS" abbreviates "Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity":

A New York Times report on Monday alluding to “overwhelming circumstantial evidence” leading the CIA to believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin “deployed computer hackers with the goal of tipping the election to Donald J. Trump” is, sadly, evidence-free. This is no surprise, because harder evidence of a technical nature points to an inside leak, not hacking—by Russians or anyone else.

Here is more from the letter, that explains why the New York Times in fact had no evidence, and why the NSA must have known whether such a Russian hack took place:

In what follows, we draw on decades of senior-level experience—with emphasis on cyber-intelligence and security—to cut through uninformed, largely partisan fog. Far from hiding behind anonymity, we are proud to speak out with the hope of gaining an audience appropriate to what we merit—given our long labors in government and other areas of technology. And corny though it may sound these days, our ethos as intelligence professionals remains, simply, to tell it like it is—without fear or favor.

We have gone through the various claims about hacking. For us, it is child’s play to dismiss them. The email disclosures in question are the result of a leak, not a hack. Here’s the difference between leaking and hacking:

Leak: When someone physically takes data out of an organization and gives it to some other person or organization, as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning did.

Hack: When someone in a remote location electronically penetrates operating systems, firewalls or any other cyber-protection system and then extracts data.

All signs point to leaking, not hacking. If hacking were involved, the National Security Agency would know it—and know both sender and recipient.

Yes, indeed. And in the previous item Greg Palast explained the nature of the leak: Many votes that were made, simply were not registered as being made, it seems in part "because the voting machines had trouble reading them" (but in fact it seems because they were black votes, that were probably in large majority pro Democrats).

In fact, the same applies to Hillary Clinton's private mail server:

In other words, any data that is passed from the servers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) or of Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC)—or any other server in the U.S.—is collected by the NSA.  These data transfers carry destination addresses in what are called packets, which enable the transfer to be traced and followed through the network.

I think this is a very plausible explanation.

4. Trump’s Dark Cloud of Illegitimacy

The fourth item is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows - and apart from the first sentence, I only copy the bold parts. There is is some more text (though not much) for each of them, which you can read by clicking the last dotted link:

A dark cloud of illegitimacy hangs over the pending presidency of Donald Trump. Consider:

1. The CIA has concluded that Russia intervened in the
     election in order to help Trump become president.

2. Trump has close business ties to Russian oligarchs,
     friends of Putin, who have financed his projects
3. Several of Trump’s key campaign aides have close ties
     to Putin
4. During the campaign, Trump said he admired Putin,
     questioned whether the U.S. should continue to support
     NATO, and argued that Putin was justified in moving
     into Crimea.

5. Trump has picked for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson,
     CEO of ExxonMobil, who is also close to Putin

6. Trump was defeated in the actual voting by a
     startling—and still growing—2,676,670 votes

I mostly agree with the points, but the first one is a conclusion without any evidence, that also is contradicted by the previous item, while the other items
are circumstantial evidence.

Here is Reich's ending of his article:

The dark cloud of illegitimacy continues to grow darker.

Before the Electors submit their ballots for president next week, Trump must release his tax returns and the CIA must make public its report on Russia’s intervention in the U.S. elections in support of Trump.

I do not think either will happen. I think the CIA has no real evidence (see item 3 for good reasons); I do not think Trump will release his tax returns; and I will
be much amazed if the Electoral College stops Trump becoming president.

But I agree Trump's government will be a probable disaster for the USA (as I have known it since the 1950ies) and indeed probably also for the rest of the world.

5. The Cult of Trump

The fifth and last item today is by David Dillard-Wright on AlterNet:

This is from the beginning - and David Dillard-Wright happens to be a professor of philosophy of whom I have never heard [1]:

The Trump regime seems so far like it will promote an uglier and more aggressive version of the standard Republican policies: deregulation, privatization and tax cuts for the wealthy. We can expect to see over the coming years the continued decline of the middle class, a shrinking social safety net, an acceleration of environmental catastrophe, unchecked corporate malfeasance, expanding federal deficits, and a deepening of the surveillance state. There will most likely be diversionary tactics in the form of more warfare abroad and the concomitant curtailing of civil liberties at home.

Yes, I agree: I expect similar things. Here is Dillard-Wright on Trump's supporters:

His followers view him as a sort of prophet of American triumphalism. The stadium becomes the evangelical circus tent of renewal and transformation: a purgation of America through ecstatic trampling of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. The cult of personality around Trump and his family goes a long way towards explaining his popularity. His followers support him through a maneuver of sympathetic magic: by supporting this bombastic billionaire (a euphemistic phrase, but words fail the sheer scope of his ego), they hope to imbibe some of his Midas touch.

I don't know, for I don't live in the USA. I have seen some of some videos of Trump's campaigning, which I agree (it seems) seems attractive only to the extremely stupid and the wholly ignorant, but then I know that there are far more stupid or ignorant people than intelligent knowledgeable ones, and especially so in The Land of Exceptionalism.

But I have one bit of criticism: Trump may be a "bombastic billionaire" (the "may be" is there because Trump refused to disclose his finances) but there are better terms than "bombastic", and one is that he is a megalomaniac and the other its current psychiatrese equivalent, that he is a grandiose narcissist. And I think either term very well describes him (and I do have an excellent M.A. in psychology).

Here is more:

The disturbing part about the religious narrative now interacting with American politics is that the next logical phase in the evangelical story is one of an end-times cosmic battle. The Dear Leader/Savior Figure must now battle the Forces of Darkness, which, in this case, means that Trump must defeat liberal democracy or die trying. (...) But Trump will have something these other cult leaders did not have: access to the full resources, both public and covert, of the United States Government.

Again I do not know about "the religious narrative", but Dillard-Wright is quite right about Trump's presidency - and the extreme dangers these imply for everybody.

Here is more on the USA that Dillard-Wright expects:

American oligarchy will become more and more like Russian kleptocracy. Constitutional niceties will be eroded. Dissidents will be jailed or slandered. Vast sums of money will disappear. And yet the pageantry of democracy will remain intact. Trump will still give speeches from the White House rose garden and the oval office. Those who wish to pretend that nothing is amiss will be given adequate materials, photo ops to supply their fantasies.

I agree with Dillard-Wrigth's expectations, but wonder about democracy. Two reasons are that this depends much on the cooperation of the media, who by now may have realized that Trump's supporters are a minority (but who may continue to lie to the public), and also because Trump seems inclined to look upon his presidency much like he looked on his campaign (which will soon be considerably less popular, but that's only my guess).

But I don't know. Here is Dillard-Wright's ending:

It is not time to “give Trump a chance” or “wait and see what happens.” We should assume that Trump plans to deport millions of people, move backward on climate change, roll back the rights of women, harass ethnic and religious minorities, restrict the rights of a free press, and, well, do the things that he promised to do on the apparently ongoing campaign trail. His agenda threatens democracy as we know it, and resisting Trump and his cronies in the white nationalist Republican Party is a humanitarian duty. Remaining silent will only worsen the situation: we must speak loudly and speak now.

Again I mostly agree, except that my expectation is that Trump will simply try to destroy democracy, and will try do so by new laws, which he probably will succeed in getting accepted because the Republicans now control everything in the USA.

But we will soon find out, and meanwhile this is a recommended article.

[0] Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all"(really: the KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone).

[1] As I have explained several times, I am first and foremost a philosopher who has an excellent B.A. in it but who was denied - I think as the only Dutchman since 1945 - the right of taking an M.A. in philosophy briefly before taking it, because I was not a Marxist; I was pro science; I was pro truth; and I had spoken the truth (in public, as an invited speaker) about those who were paid lots of money to teach me and others philosophy at the University of Amsterdam: They were incompetent lazy fools only interested in money and status.

When you say a thing like that in Amsterdam, you then get excluded from the right of taking your M.A. and indeed also excluded from the right of getting any answer to your many mails and letters.

That is why I took an - excellent - M.A. in psychology, though I still am more interested in philosophy.

As to
David Dillard-Wright: The fact that I have not heard of him makes it pretty certain that he is not a somewhat widely known philosopher in the USA,
but is not a criticism.

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