RSSCategory: Orwellian

The Heroism of Chelsea Manning

May 20, 2017 | By | Reply More

Now the that Chelsea Manning has finally been released from U.S. custody, Glenn Greenwald takes this opportunity to recount her heroism:

Though Manning was largely scorned and rejected in most mainstream Washington circles, she did everything one wants a whistleblower to do: tried to ensure that the public learns of concealed corruption and criminality, with the intent of fostering debate and empowering the citizenry with knowledge that should never have been concealed from them. And she did it all knowing that she was risking prison to do so, but followed the dictates of her conscience rather than her self-interest.

BUT AS COURAGEOUS as that original whistleblowing was, Manning’s heroism has only multiplied since then, become more multifaceted and consequential. As a result, she has inspired countless people around the world. At this point, one could almost say that her 2010 leaking to WikiLeaks has faded into the background when assessing her true impact as a human being. Her bravery and sense of conviction wasn’t a one-time outburst: It was the sustained basis for her last seven years of imprisonment that she somehow filled with purpose, dignity, and inspiration.

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On interfering with elections

April 25, 2017 | By | Reply More

The U.S. has accused Russia of interfering with the recent U.S. Presidential election. That accusation needs to be viewed in context:

The U.S. has a long history of attempting to influence presidential elections in other countries – it’s done so as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000, according to a database amassed by political scientist Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University.

That number doesn’t include military coups and regime change efforts following the election of candidates the U.S. didn’t like, notably those in Iran, Guatemala and Chile. Nor does it include general assistance with the electoral process, such as election monitoring.

This  information is from a detailed article in the LA Times, with many specifics. For instance, the U.S. tried to interfere with the election of the Russian leader in 1996. According to the same article, Russia attempted to interfere with “36 foreign elections from the end of World War II to the turn of the century.”

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On Reverse-Engineering a Soldier’s Death to Justify More of the Same

March 3, 2017 | By | Reply More

From Glenn Greenwald, of The Intercept:

While there is certainly truth in the claim that Trump’s use of the suffering of soldiers and their families is politically opportunistic, even exploitative, this tactic is hardly one Trump pioneered. In fact, it is completely standard for U.S. presidents. Though Trump’s attackers did not mention it, Obama often included tales of the sacrifice, death, and suffering of soliders in his political speeches — including when he devoted four highly emotional minutes in his 2014 State of the Union address to narrating the story of, and paying emotional tribute to, Sgt. Cory Remsburg, who was severely wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

George W. Bush also hauled soldiers wounded in his wars before cameras during his speeches, such as his 2007 State of the Union address, where he paid tribute to Sgt. Tommy Rieman, wounded in Iraq.

There are reasons presidents routinely use the suffering and deaths of U.S soldiers and their families as political props. The way in which these emotions are exploited powerfully highlights important aspects of war propaganda generally, and specifically how the endless, 15-year-old war on terror is sustained.

. . .

By dramatizing the deaths of Americans while disappearing the country’s victims, this technique ensures that Americans perpetually regard themselves as victims of horrific, savage, tragic violence but never the perpetrators of it. That, in turn, is what keeps Americans supporting endless war: These savages keep killing us, so we have no choice but to fight them.

Greenwald points out that our natural sympathy for family members of brave dead soldiers is consciously reverse engineered at events such as President Trump’s recent speech, such that the heroism of the soldier appears to make the war a worthy war and the President a worthy President.

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Electronic Frontier Foundation Priorities for 2017

January 26, 2017 | By | Reply More

I’ve followed and supported the work of Electronic Frontier Foundation, and will continue to do so with even more energy in coming months and years in light of recent political events. To be fair, my position would not be much different even had Hillary Clinton been elected. The attacks on digital freedoms seem to be a defect of both Democrats and Republicans, as reflected in this recent statement by EFF:

But as EFF has learned in the course of defending our fundamental rights over four American presidencies, our civil liberties need an independent defense force. Free speech and the rights to privacy, transparency, and innovation won’t survive on their own—we’re here to ensure that government is held accountable and in check.

Technological progress does not wait for politicians to catch up, and new tools can quickly be misused by aggressive governments. The next four years will be characterized by rapid developments in the fields of artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, virtual and augmented reality, connected homes, and smart cities. We welcome innovation, but we also expect to see an explosion of surveillance technologies designed to take advantage of our connected world to spy on all of us and our devices, all the time. That data will be used not only to target individuals but to project and manipulate social behavior. What will our digital rights look like during these uncertain and evolving times? Will our current rights remain intact when the baton is passed on once again?

What follows in this EFF article is an excellent articulation of priorities and strategies for preserving digital rights of all Americans.

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Suspect CIA

December 16, 2016 | By | 2 Replies More

Why is the US media so hyped up to believe the CIA claims that Russia hacked the US presidential election? Reverse engineering the situation reveals that this belief can be used for various political purposes, even in the absence of credible evidence. It’s par for the course these days. This article in The Nation reminds us to be extremely suspect of CIA “information.”

In 1977, Carl Bernstein published an exposé of a CIA program known as Operation Mockingbird, a covert program involving, according to Bernstein, “more than 400 American journalists who in the past 25 years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency.” Bernstein found that in “many instances” CIA documents revealed that “journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.”

Fast-forward to December 2016, and one can see that there isn’t much need for a covert government program these days. The recent raft of unverified, anonymously sourced and circumstantial stories alleging that the Russian government interfered in the US presidential election with the aim of electing Republican Donald J. Trump shows that today too much of the media is all too happy to do overtly what the CIA had it once paid it to do covertly: regurgitate the claims of the spy agency and attack the credibility of those who question it.

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Should Edward Snowden be pardoned?

September 15, 2016 | By | Reply More

Many viewpoints here, in this excellent article at the UK Guardian.

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Rampant NSA recording of phone calls, not simply metadata

July 14, 2014 | By | Reply More

William Binney, one of the highest-level whistleblowers to ever emerge from the NSA:

“At least 80% of fibre-optic cables globally go via the US”, Binney said. “This is no accident and allows the US to view all communication coming in. At least 80% of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US. The NSA lies about what it stores.”

This is an excerpt from the U.K. Guardian.

I’m still waiting to hear outrage from so-called liberal democrats. All I hear is murmurred “concern” and an unwillingness to speak out. In short, the Dems and the Repubs are aligned on this issue, and this really disappoints me.

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Map to NSA programs by Propublica

July 10, 2014 | By | Reply More

Per ProPublica,

This is a plot of the NSA programs revealed in the past year according to whether they are bulk or targeted, and whether the targets of surveillance are foreign or domestic. Most of the programs fall squarely into the agency’s stated mission of foreign surveillance, but some – particularly those that are both domestic and broad-sweeping – are more controversial.

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The Fourth Amendment should be top secret

March 18, 2014 | By | Reply More

Here’s a well written article by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. Of course, it’s tongue in cheek.

But listen to the serious argument by an attorney who represented Homeland Security, and a response by Freedom of Press Foundation:

“You can’t debate our intelligence capabilities and how to control them in the public without disclosing all of the things that you’re discussing to the very people you’re trying to gather intelligence about,” he said. “Your targets are listening to the debates.” In fact, he continued, they’re listening particularly closely. For that reason, publicly debating intelligence techniques, targets and limits is foolish. As soon as targets figure out the limits of what authorities can touch, they’ll change their tactics accordingly. In his view, limits should be set in secret. A class of overseers with security clearances can make the necessary judgment calls.

Trevor Timm, co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, attempted to defend normal democratic debate. “What separates us from countries like Russia and China is that we can have these types of debates with an informed public that are completely aware of what types of surveillance are available to governments and what the legal standards are,” he argued. “We’re not specifically debating who the NSA is going to spy on, but whole surveillance regimes. If we didn’t debate that in this country, the Fourth Amendment would be classified. But it’s not.”

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