February 22, 2018

Crisis: Trump´s War (?), Spying On Millions, US Elections, Nunes´ Opinions, Bombing Syria


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 22, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, February 22, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from February 22, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. GOP Senator Says Trump Is Ready to Start War With North Korea
2. These Spy Sunglasses Help Cops Pick a Face From a Crowd of Thousands
3. America’s Election Meddling Would Indeed Justify Other Countries
     Retaliating In Kind

4. Nunes: FBI and DOJ Perps Could Be Put on Trial
5. Trump Sets Deadly Precedent by Hiding Rationale for Bombing Syria
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. GOP Senator Says Trump Is Ready to Start War With North Korea

This article is by Jon Schwartz on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

It didn’t get much notice, but Sen. Jim Risch made extremely alarming remarks on Sunday at the Munich Security Conference, in which he said President Donald Trump is prepared to start a “very, very brief” war with North Korea that would be “one of the worst catastrophic events in the history of our civilization.” Trump would go to these extraordinary lengths, the Idaho Republican said, in order to prevent the government of Kim Jong-un from developing the capacity to deliver a nuclear warhead to the U.S. via an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Kim claimed in his 2018 New Year’s address that North Korea can already strike all of the U.S. with nuclear weapons. While U.S. intelligence does not believe this is currently true, CIA Director Mike Pompeo stated recently that North Korea may be able to hit at least some of the U.S. mainland in a “handful of months.”

I say - and I have two remarks on this.

The first remark is that - legally speaking, at least - Trump cannot start a war by himself: Wars are started by Congress. That is, if the American laws are obeyed. Then again ever since Bush Jr. started several wars, American laws seem not to be laws but options that may be sidestepped by executives as if the laws never were agreed to, even though they are. For more, see item 3.

The second remark starts with my observation that if you believe Kim or Pompeo, you must be a saint. I don´t believe either, but then Pompeo´s statement does make a point: It sets a limit for Trump´s decision to start his personal - therefore: illegal, but then who cares? - war with North Korea ¨in a “handful of months.”

Here is the other bit I quote from Schwartz´s article:

If Risch is correct, Trump is willing to cause “mass casualties the likes of which the planet has never seen” in a conflict with North Korea, rather than rely on principles of deterrence that have prevented nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia and the U.S. and China for many decades. Risch’s claims are congruent with Trump’s own statements, including that North Korea will face “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it threatens the United States.

Well... North Korea has 25 million inhabitants, South-Korea has 51 million inhabitants, and both countries are bordering each other. I think all 76 million Koreans are threatened - which most Koreans seem to agree to, seeing how they cooperated during the Winter Olympics - although I
have no idea how many will be killed if Trump starts throwing nuclear bombs.

In any case, I think the statement that ´If Risch is correct, Trump is willing to cause “mass casualties the likes of which the planet has never seen”´ is quite correct (but it is an if- statement). And this is a recommended article, in which there is considerably more.

2. These Spy Sunglasses Help Cops Pick a Face From a Crowd of Thousands

This article is by Kali Holloway on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

An Orwellian new tech gadget is helping China expand its already massive surveillance state, and it may only be a matter of time until other countries take an interest in the device. Police in central China are the early adopters of sunglasses outfitted with face-recognition technology that can pick a suspect out of a crowd. The Wall Street Journal reports that Beijing manufacturer LLVision Technology Corp. has said in early tests, “the device has been able to identify individuals in a database of 10,000 suspects in as little as 100 milliseconds.”

That means in the very near future, it may be nearly impossible to get lost in a crowd.

Yes, indeed. And this also shows how extremely powerful a very small government can be if it knows everything its population thinks and values, which is the case thanks to internet, and if it can pick out anyone from anywhere by tools like the above.

Incidentally, it is not just spy glasses: if this works with glasses, every (moving) camera can do the same, which means that in China, at least, almost everyone is fully known to the government´s anonymous spies, and almost everyone can be recognized in all places where there are cameras, at least in principle.

Here is some more on the glasses:

Here’s how it works: Wearers of the smart sunglasses scan a large group of people while the glasses collect biometric information from the faces in the group. Cameras mounted on the glasses run captured images through an offline database of faces to determine a perfect match. For years, Chinese officials have been collecting biometric information including eye scans, blood types and even “voice pattern” samples from citizens in various provinces. Human Rights Watch reported last year that China's law enforcement databases "have more than one billion faces and 40 million people’s DNA samples.” With such a vast collection of data, results from pilot runs of the glasses have already yielded results.

As I said, since there are about 1.4 billion Chinese, and since the Chinese government spies have more than a billion faces, most Chinese now can be recognized, in principle.

Here is a similar argument about the USA:

Without crossing the line from healthy concern to paranoia, it’s worth wondering if this new surveillance advancement could end up being used to keep a watchful eye on American citizens. There are already more than 35 million surveillance cameras across the U.S., and the use of facial recognition technology has been steadily expanding. In 2016, a study by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology found that roughly half of Americans have their pictures in law enforcement facial recognition networks.

In brief, what the Chinese government´s spies can do, the American government´s spies can do, although indeed there are - for now, at least - considerably fewer surveillance cameras while also ¨a mere half¨ of the American population can currently be recognized. And this is a recommended article.

3. America’s Election Meddling Would Indeed Justify Other Countries Retaliating In Kind

This article is by Caitlin Johnstone on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
There is still no clear proof that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 U.S. election in any meaningful way. Which is weird, because Russia and every other country on earth would be perfectly justified in doing so.

Like every single hotly publicized Russiagate “bombshell” that has broken since this nonsense began, Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian social media trolls was paraded around as proof of something hugely significant (an “act of war” in this case), but on closer examination turns out to be empty.

The always excellent Moon of Alabama recently made a solid argument that has also been advanced by Russiagate skeptics like TYT’s Michael Tracey and Max Blumenthal of The Real News, pointing out that there is in fact no evidence that the troll farming operation was an attempt to manipulate the U.S. election, nor indeed that it had any ties to the Russian government at all, nor indeed that it was anything other than a crafty Russian civilian’s money making scheme.
I mostly agree with this, for the very simple reason that I have not seen - since the end of 2016! - any decent evidence that ¨the Russian government interfered with the 2016 U.S. election¨. That is: it may exist, but I have not seen it, nor have people I trust (among whom are some quite important former members of the CIA and the NSA).

The above quotation gives some reasons and some links, but I should add that I disagree with Johnstone about her statement that ¨
Russia and every other country on earth would be perfectly justified¨ in trying to manipulate the American elections. But more on this below.

Here is some more on - the lack of - evidence:

James Corbett of The Corbett Report has a great video about how absolutely bizarre it is that public dialogue is ignoring the fact that these trolls overwhelmingly used mainstream media like the Washington Post in their shares instead of outlets like RT and Infowars. As a scheme to acquire followers, it makes perfect sense. As a scheme to subvert America, it’s nonsensical.

Perhaps. I agree with Johnstome that Corbett has interesting ideas, but I admit that I have not seen many, for the simple reason that I normally think videos are too slow and tend to be poorer in information than written stuff, which I also can read a lot faster than viewing videos. (And I want to do more things on a day than just write a Nederlog.)

Then there is this:

If it’s okay for the CIA to continuously interfere in the elections of other countries up to and including modern times, it is okay for other countries to interfere in theirs. Only in the most warped American supremacist reality tunnel is that not abundantly obvious.

Every country on earth is absolutely entitled to interfere in America’s elections. America is responsible for the overwhelming majority of election interferences around the world in modern times, including an interference in Russia’s elections in the nineties that was so brazen they made a Hollywood movie about it, so clearly an environment has been created wherein the United States has declared that this acceptable.

I disagree with this, and not because I am an ¨American supremacist¨. Johnstone has repeated her argument three times, but her ¨okay¨s and her ¨justified¨s are not legal okays nor legal justifications, but seem to be of a personal kind: What one feels, seeing that the Americans (also) interfere in the elections of other nations, and notably in Russia.

And I disagree because interference in the elections of other nations is illegal, while if the spies are ¨justified¨ to do something simply because other spies are ¨justified¨ (by other governments) to do it, all legality and all laws cease to apply, and spies anywhere can do what they please simply because they want to.

This is from Johnstone´s ending:

If Americans don’t like election meddling, they need to demand that their government stops doing it. As long as it remains the very worst offender in that department, the U.S. is entitled to nothing other than the entire world meddling in its elections.

Well... I agree with the first statement, and I disagree with the second statement.

4. Nunes: FBI and DOJ Perps Could Be Put on Trial

This article is by Ray McGovern on Washington´s Blog. It starts as follows:
Throwing down the gauntlet on alleged abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by the Department of Justice and the FBI, House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) stated that there could be legal consequences for officials who may have misled the FISA court. “If they need to be put on trial, we will put them on trial,” he said. “The reason Congress exists is to oversee these agencies that we created.”
Ahem... Congress exists because the USA is supposed to be a democracy - ¨government of the people, for the people, by the people¨. Remember? But then again, this is Nunes, who seems to be a liar anyway, and McGovern is correct about what Nunes said.

Here is more, with some background information:

The stakes are very high. Current and former senior officials — and not only from DOJ and FBI, but from other agencies like the CIA and NSA, whom documents and testimony show were involved in providing faulty information to justify a FISA warrant to monitor former Trump campaign official Carter Page — may suddenly find themselves in considerable legal jeopardy. Like, felony territory.

This was not supposed to happen. Mrs. Clinton was a shoo-in, remember? Back when the FISA surveillance warrant of Page was obtained, just weeks before the November 2016 election, there seemed to be no need to hide tracks, because, even if these extracurricular activities were discovered, the perps would have looked forward to award certificates rather than legal problems under a Trump presidency.

Thus, the knives will be coming out.
That is, according to McGovern the background of the faulty information that was provided to make the FISA monitor Carter Page is that (i) Hillary Clinton was widely supposed to win the 2016 presidential elections, and (ii) as president, she would have excused the perpetrators, who also would not have been legally prosecuted (as they are now by Trump´s government).

I do not know whether this is correct, but it does sound quite plausible. Here is the ending of the article:

Not since Watergate has there been so high a degree of political tension here in Washington but the stakes for our Republic are even higher this time. Assuming abuse of FISA court procedures is documented and those responsible for playing fast and loose with the required justification for legal warrants are not held to account, the division of powers enshrined in the Constitution will be in peril.

A denouement of some kind can be expected in the coming months. Stay tuned.

Well.. I agree with McGovern that ¨the division of powers enshrined in the Constitution¨ are ¨in peril¨, but then I think they are in peril at least since Bush Jr. was president of the USA. But this is a recommended article.
5. Trump Sets Deadly Precedent by Hiding Rationale for Bombing Syria

This article is by Marjorie Cohn on Truthout. It starts as follows:

Pressure is mounting as the Trump administration continues to refuse to reveal its legal justification for bombing Syria in April 2017, despite increased scrutiny from Democratic senators and a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Minnesota) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on February 8, 2018, requesting a copy of the State Department memo containing the Trump administration's legal justification for the US attack against Syria on April 6, 2017, when it bombed the Shayrat military airbase with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
In his letter, Kaine expressed concern that the administration persists in refusing to reveal its legal rationale for the bombing. "The fact that there is a lengthy memo with a more detailed legal justification that has not been shared with Congress, or the American public, is unacceptable," Kaine wrote.

Yet, in spite of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Protect Democracy on May 22, 2017, Trump refuses to release the memo. The administration claims it is classified. But, as Protect Democracy discovered during the litigation, the classified portion can be easily redacted.

Yes indeed. And besides, what is ¨classified¨ often gets classified (or so it seems to me) because secrecy protects the government executives rather than for any other reason. Also, there is the wider question whether the USA is justified in warring on Syria:

In response to an April 2017 inquiry by Kaine and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), the administration said the 2017 missile strike in Syria was not based on the 2001 or 2002 authorizations for use of military force (AUMF), which related to Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively. Rather, the administration has cited the president's authority as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive under Article II of the Constitution "to defend important U.S. national interests."

But Article II does not give the president the power to mount a military attack in this instance. Article II states, "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States." Article I, however, says only Congress has the power to declare war. Taken together, Articles I and II mean that the president commands the armed forces once Congress has authorized war.

In fact, Trump's attack on Syria violated both US and international law.

Precisely. Moreover, Trump´s military attack...

... violated the United Nations Charter, a treaty the United States has ratified, making it part of US law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which says treaties shall be the supreme law of the land.

Article 2(4) of the Charter says that states "shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."

The Charter only allows a military attack on another country when conducted in self-defense after an armed attack or if the Security Council has authorized it. Neither occurred in this case.

Syria had not attacked the United States or any other country before Trump directed the missile strike.

Again precisely. Then again, this is not the first time this happens. And this is a recommended article.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

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