May 10, 2018

Crisis: Gina Haspel *2, Facebook´s Surveillance, Iran Nuclear Deal, Trump´s Caliphate


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 10, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, May 10, 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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from May 10, 2018
1. Gina Haspel Debate Spotlights America's Soul Sickness
2. This New Tool Helps You Turn Off Facebook’s Surveillance and Reclaim
     Some Privacy

3. Trump Pulls United States Out of Iran Nuclear Deal, Dramatically
     Escalating Threat of War with Iran

4. The Caliphate of Trump
5. Haspel Won't Say CIA 'Tortured' and Refuses to Say If Torture Is
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. Gina Haspel Debate Spotlights America's Soul Sickness

This article is by John Kiriakou on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Editor’s note: John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will hold hearings Wednesday to decide if Gina Haspel should be the next CIA director. The vote in committee and on the floor of the Senate is going to be close. And if Haspel wins, we will have the Democrats to thank for it.

You remember “Bloody Gina” Haspel. She’s already the CIA’s acting director and has had just about every high-level job in the building. She’s the godmother of the CIA’s immoral, unethical and illegal George W. Bush-era torture program. She was the chief of a secret prison, where she oversaw the implementation of the torture program and was personally responsible for directing the torture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing. Nashiri’s attorneys say the torture of their client was so severe that he has lost his mind and can no longer participate in his own defense.

I take it my readers know who are John Kiriakou and Gina Haspel, and if not you can read the links. And the last paragraph I quoted above is completely true to the best of my knowledge.

Here is more by Kiriakou:

I had personal experience with Haspel. She was my boss in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC). She worked directly for the notorious Jose Rodriguez, the creator of the torture program, who trusted his protégé and confidante to implement it.

I chose to go another direction. In May 2002, a senior CTC officer asked me if I wanted to be “trained in the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.” I declined. I’m sorry to say that I was the only one to decline out of 14 people approached. A few months later, the CIA began to torture Abu Zubaydah, the first high-value detainee.

I merely remark here that Kiriakou was the only one of 14 people from the CIA who were asked whether they wanted to be ¨trained in the use of enhanced interrogation techniques¨ who declined. (And I think this is evidence about the average human qualities of those who work for the CIA, but this is an aside.)

Here is more:
In December 2007, I decided to go public. I told ABC News that the CIA was torturing its prisoners, that torture was official U.S. government policy and that the torture had been personally approved by President Bush. Three years later, I was charged with five felonies coming out of that interview, including three counts of espionage. I later took a plea to a lesser charge and served 23 months in a federal prison. It was worth it.
Yes, and I entirely agree with Kiriakou that ¨the CIA was torturing its prisoners, that torture was official U.S. government policy and that the torture had been personally approved by President Bush¨.

Then again, it should not have come as a surprise (indeed also not given the fact that Kiriakou belonged to the 7% of members of the CIA who refused to torture people (at least of those who were asked) that it was Kiriakou who was prosecuted in the USA, and not Haspels or other torturers.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
The Trump administration wants you to forget the CIA’s sordid history of torture. It wants you to believe that the torture program was legal, that it was patriotic, that it was necessary to protect Americans—lies that were dispensed with before the Bush people even left office. The Trump administration wants you to believe that Haspel is the only perfect candidate for the job. And the Washington chattering class has jumped on the bandwagon.

Yes indeed: Quite so. So let me repeat: The torture program of the CIA was NOT legal, and strongly contravenes international laws; the torture program of the CIA was NOT patriotic but was sick sadism, implemented by people who seem to have been (or be) sadists; the torture program of the CIA was NOT necessary to protect American lives.

And if Gina Haspels gets to be director of the CIA, I will conclude that under Trump the CIA has degenerated to a group of eager sadists who love torturing and are protected by the president of the USA.

2. This New Tool Helps You Turn Off Facebook’s Surveillance and Reclaim Some Privacy

This article is by David Dayen on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

Typically, ad campaigns have the goal of getting people to do something. But the one launched today by the activist group Citizens Against Monopoly is instead intended to show how hard something is to do.

The campaign, called “I’m Not Your Product,” gives Facebook users a step-by-step guide to opting out of as much ad targeting and surveillance as possible. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress that users have “complete control” over advertising data, during two days of testimony related to the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which illicitly obtained information on 87 million Facebook users.

But Citizens Against Monopoly discovered that Facebook makes it difficult to exert that sort of control. The steps for opting out of ad targeting are almost endless: visiting 11 different areas of Facebook’s user preferences section, clearing out three different caches of personal interests, disallowing four different types of ads, and limiting seven different actions on the site to friends only. And even all of that doesn’t completely turn off ads.

Well.... hello you two billion dumb fucks who trust(ed) Mark Zuckerberg! And no, I am not calling you anything that the sick and degenerate but - therefore? - popular head of Facebook did not call you long before. And in fact I agree with him, although he will now probably call his  dumb fucks, at least in public (and since he is now making $70 billions from exploiting his dumb fucks), something else.

In private, I guess his estimate of the two billion dumb fucks who trusted them has not changed one whit, and that is also why any Facebook user who does not want to be snowed under by ¨helpful advertisements¨ (?!) has to go to 11 different areas, clear out 3 different caches, must disallow 4 different types of ads, and limit 7 different actions ¨
on the site to friends only¨.

These are ¨a mere:" 25 different things Facebook users must do to limit advertisements (i.e. carefully contrived lies to consumers). And if they have done that ¨
even all of that doesn’t completely turn off ads¨. (And that is because the keeper of 2 billion dumb fucks wants to earn $550,000 an hour, and does.)

Here is some more:
“We wanted to create a how-to guide to be helpful, and then as we were working through it, we thought, ‘This is so frustrating,’” said Sarah Miller, director of Citizens Against Monopoly. “We think people will have the same experience seeing how intentionally hard this is.”

The likely reason for the friction around opting out is obvious: Facebook thrives off mass data collection, essentially renting people’s private information out to advertisers. The more users opt out, the less profitable Facebook Inc. becomes — a financial incentive that is at odds with the social network’s self-presentation as a safe, private, customizable space.
Yes indeed. And here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
In addition to their how-to guide, which will be promoted through display ads across the web, including on Facebook, the website
includes a petition to Zuckerberg asking him to distill Facebook’s various opt-out steps down to a single click. Since making it easy for users to opt out of ad targeting would be at odds with Facebook’s business model, there’s little expectation that Facebook will comply with this request. The real goal is to display the futility of self-regulation for Facebook’s surveillance machine.

“We want to show that these platforms are operating in bad faith, so we can reform and restructure them to make them safe for democracy,” said Matt Stoller, a fellow with the Open Markets Institute, the umbrella organization for Citizens Against Monopoly.

I completely agree that Facebook is ¨operating in bad faith¨ (for that makes Mark Zuckerberg $550,000 an hour) but I think that the aim of reforming and restructuring Facebook is far too large: I think a surveillance site like Facebook must be destroyed and forbidden because they are stealing the privacies, the mails and most that they can get from their - usually extremely naive - users.

In exchange for offering them advertisements (explicit lies that serve to mislead). Anyway... this is a recommended article.

3. Trump Pulls United States Out of Iran Nuclear Deal, Dramatically Escalating Threat of War with Iran

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
European nations are scrambling to save the landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, one day after President Trump announced he would pull the United States out of the deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran. The 2015 agreement was worked out by the United States, five other world powers and Iran. Former President Obama described Trump’s decision to withdraw as a serious mistake and warned it could lead to another war in the Middle East. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded by saying Iran would continue to abide by the agreement and would not renew its nuclear program for now. For more, we speak with Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council. His most recent book is titled “Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy.” We also speak with Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink. Her latest book is titled “Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” She is also the author of “Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection.”
In fact, I usually copy the introductions to the interviews on Democracy Now! that I review, simply because they are good introductions, and because I never quote all of the text of an article I review.

And it is the same here, and there is much more in the article than I will quote. Here is the first bit I do quote:

TRITA PARSI: I think we need to stop underestimating Trump. People didn’t think that he was going to win the elections; he did. People didn’t think that he would pull out of Paris; he did. People didn’t think that he would dismantle many of these other agreements that he’s been talking about, and he has done that. And now he’s also walked out of the Iran deal. He imposed the Muslim ban. All of the things that he said that he would do, he has done. And as a result, we should be very careful not to underestimate the risk of war now, mindful of the warlike language that Trump now has begun to use, with John Bolton standing right behind him.

I think this is an extremely dangerous situation, much more dangerous than we had in 2011 and 2012, because even though the United States was inching closer to a war with Iran back then and Iran was moving forward with its nuclear program, back then there was still a diplomatic option that had not been exhausted, and there was political will on both sides to pursue that diplomatic option. Trump has eliminated all diplomatic options, and he clearly doesn’t have any political will to pursue diplomacy. So, as we are now back into a situation in which we’re inching closer to a war, we’re in a worse situation because we don’t see any exit ramps.

I agree with the second paragraph, but not with the first, that starts with ¨I think we need to stop underestimating Trump¨. My reasons are that this is followed three times by ¨People didn´t think¨,  which Parsi argues, quite correctly also, were in each of the three cases quite mistaken.

And my own inference from that (even while granting that ¨People didn´t think¨ is very vague) is that not only should Trump be reconsidered, but ¨People¨ as well or more, for ¨People¨ (who ¨didn´t think¨) did - nevertheless - approve of much that Trump did.

Then again, I agree with Parsi that ¨we should be very careful not to underestimate the risk of war now¨.

Here is some more by Medea Benjamin:

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, you said it, Amy. President Trump is allying with a very narrow—very, very narrow sliver of countries. And that is basically Israel and Saudi Arabia. He is talking about Iran as the spreader of terrorism in the Middle East. But look at who has been the basis of the—ISIS and al-Qaeda: has been Saudi Arabia, not Iran. You look at who has been meddling in the internal affairs in the Middle East. First of all, it’s the U.S. The U.S. has no business to be in the Middle East, but we have been, since the time of the invasion of Iraq, destroying country after country.

And you look at the issue of who has nuclear weapons. I think it’s important just to say the incredible hypocrisy, first, of the United States, that has thousands of nuclear weapons, as does Russia, but then, of Netanyahu being the one to, quote, “expose” Iran, when Israel has lied about its nuclear weapons program. Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons.

Well... I agree more or less with Benjamin, but not completely. There is considerably more in the article, which is recommended.

4. The Caliphate of Trump

This article is by Tom Engelhardt on Truthdig and originally on TomDisPatch. This is from near the beginning:

We here in the United States are, of course, eternally shocked by their  extremism, their willingness to kill the innocent without compunction, particularly in the case of Islamist groups, from the 9/11 attacks to ISIS’s more recent slaughters.

However, one thing is, almost by definition, obvious. We are not a nation of extreme acts or extreme killers. Quite the opposite. Yes, we make mistakes. Yes, we sometimes kill. Yes, we sometimes even kill the innocent, however mistakenly. Yes, we are also exceptionalindispensable, and great (again), as so many politicians and presidents have been telling us for so many years now. And yes, you might even say that in one area we are extreme — in the value we put on American lives, especially military ones. The only thing this country and its leaders are not is extremist in the sense of an al-Qaeda or an ISIS, an Assad regime or a South Sudanese one. That goes without saying, which is why no one here ever thinks to say it.

This is - I think - an ironic introduction. I will pass it without comment but one: I do not think it is true that ¨We¨ - that is: the inhabitants of the USA - ¨ are not a nation of extreme acts or extreme killers. Quite the opposite.¨

My reason is fairly simple and is related to the American laws about guns: Far more Americans are killed, by Americans, than Europeans are killed by Europeans. And while I do not know whether this fact proves that the USA is or is not ¨a nation of extreme acts or extreme killers¨ it surely is quite different from Europe in that respect.

Here is more by Engelhardt:

Keep in mind as well that, between December 29, 2001, when U.S. B-52 and B-1B bombers killed more than 100 revelers at a wedding in a village in eastern Afghanistan, and December 2013 when a CIA drone took out a… yep… Yemeni wedding party, U.S. air power wiped out all or parts of at least eight weddings, including brides, grooms, and even musicians, killing and wounding hundreds of participants in three countries (and only apologizing in a single case). The troops of present Secretary of Defense James Mattis, when he was commanding the 1st Marine Division in Iraq in 2004, were responsible for one of those slaughters. It took place in Western Iraq and was the incident in which those musicians died, as reportedly did 14 children. When asked about it at the time, Mattis responded: “How many people go to the middle of the desert… to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?” And that response was no more callous or extreme than the New York Daily News’s front-page headline, so many years later, for that U.S. drone strike in Yemen: “Bride and Boom!”

Yes. All I say to this paragraph is that Mattis seems sick to me, as does the Daily News.

Next, in the following quotation an important part of Engelhardt´s argument starts that I cannot adequately summarize in this brief review. It starts as follows:

Now, for a moment, let’s consider the possible extremism of Washington in a more organized way. Here, then, is my six-category rundown of what I would call American extremity on a global scale:

Garrisoning the globe: The U.S. has an estimated 800 or so military bases or garrisons, ranging from the size of American small towns to tiny outposts, across the planet. They exist almost everywhere — Europe, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America
The United States, as I said, has at least 800 of them, a number that puts in the shade the global garrisons of any other great power in history, and to go with them, more than 450,000 military personnel stationed outside its borders.

I think all of that is quite true (and there is more than I quoted). Here is some more on the second category of Engelhardt´s ¨six-category rundown of what [Engelhardt] would call American extremity on a global scale¨:
Funding the military: The U.S. puts approximately a trillion dollars annually in taxpayer funds into its military, its 17 intelligence agencies, and what’s now called “homeland security.” Its national security budget is larger than those of the next eight countries combined and still rising yeary (..)
Yes indeed. And in fact, there are four more categories, all with considerable texts, that I here only mention:
Fighting wars: (..)
Destroying cities:  (..)
Displacing people: (..)
Arming the planet (and its own citizens as well): (..)
In fact, all of the above is very well worth reading, but too long for reviewing in Nederlog. The article ends as follows:
Think of this perhaps as a new kind of death cult, which means that Donald Trump might be considered the superpower version of an Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. As with all such things, this particular cult did not come from nowhere, but from a land of growing extremity, a country that now, it seems, may be willing to preside over not just cities in ruin but a planet in ruin, too. Doesn’t that seem just a little extreme to you?
Yes indeed: It does ¨seem just a little extreme¨ to me, and this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Haspel Won't Say CIA 'Tortured' and Refuses to Say If Torture Is 'Immoral'

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

After presenting herself as "a typical middle-class American" who was brought up with a strong "moral compass" in her opening remarks before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, Gina Haspel—President Donald Trump's pick to head the CIA—would not admit that the agency has ever tortured nor would she say that she believes torture is immoral.

Asked repeatedly by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to provide a "yes or no" answer to whether the CIA's torture techniques used in the aftermath of 9/11 were immoral, Haspel repeatedly dodged and at one point strongly endorsed the tactics she reportedly oversaw as an a CIA official, saying the agency "did extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country."

Haspel went on to say that while she doesn't believe "torture works" as Trump has suggested, she does think the CIA's "program" elicited "valuable information" from detainees.

I say, and I do so not because of Jake Johnson but because of the sadist and liar Gina Haspel. And I will not disentangle the last two paragraphs I just quoted, but only the first:

Haspels is NOT
"a typical middle-class American": These work neither for the CIA nor do they have a record of torturing; it is conceivably possible that she was raised ¨with a strong "moral compass"¨ but if she was that moral compass (that is totally unspecified) did not eradicate her sadism; she ¨would not admit that the agency has ever tortured¨, while she has been torturing for years to the best of my knowledge (but indeed she called it ¨extraordinary interrogation¨); and while she refuses to ¨say that she believes torture is immoral¨ almost all of the lawyers of nearly all of the countries that did forbid torture would (or did) say that they believe that torture is immoral.

In brief, my own psychologist´s diagnosis of her is that she is a sadist who wants to continue her sadism as leader of the CIA (and who doesn´t even agree with international laws she must have some knowledge of).

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

Responding to Senate hearing on Twitter, The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill denounced Haspel's answers to even the most mild and poorly framed questions raised by lawmakers.

"Even through the most mainstream bullshit prism of Senate politics, Haspel's answers were a disgrace," Scahill wrote. "Any Democrat that votes to confirm Haspel should never be allowed to live it down."

After the two-and-a-half hour hearing was finally brought to a close, Scahill concluded, "My god, that was horrid."

I did neither see nor hear it, but I think I do agree (given from what I have read about her hearing) with Scahill that "My god, that was horrid."

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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