Mike Morris offers us a timely proposal at his website, Funmentionables. The article, complete with Mike’s brand of Bible quoting humor, ends ominously with a declaration that there are two Americas. Here’s his opening which, in his hallowed tradition, he supports with Bible chapter and verse:
On January 28, 2014, Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY-11) issued a direct verbal threat to a reporter inside the Capitol building by saying “I’ll break you in half” and “throw you off this f—ing balcony,” which was a direct violation of D.C. law (District of Columbia Official Code, Division IV, Title 22, Subtitle I, Chapter 4, § 22-407): “Whoever is convicted in the District of threats to do bodily harm shall be fined not more than $ 500 or imprisoned not more than 6 months . . .”
Rep. Grimm was never arrested for his actions, and Congress has taken no punitive action against him. By its inaction, the US Congress is essentially condoning a Congressperson’s right to threaten to kill average Americans, though conversely, when average Americans threaten the life of a public official, they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. In keeping with this double standard and to codify for all time this special status, I propose the following:
Expressing support for designation of January 28, annually, as “Throw a Reporter “Off This F—ing Balcony” Day”.
Chris Hedges explains that U.S. citizens now live in a “dual state”:
We live in what the German political scientist Ernst Fraenkel called “the dual state.” Totalitarian states are always dual states. In the dual state civil liberties are abolished in the name of national security. The political sphere becomes a vacuum “as far as the law is concerned,” Fraenkel wrote. There is no legal check on power. Official bodies operate with impunity outside the law. In the dual state the government can convict citizens on secret evidence in secret courts. It can strip citizens of due process and detain, torture or assassinate them, serving as judge, jury and executioner. It rules according to its own arbitrary whims and prerogatives. The outward forms of democratic participation—voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation—are hollow, political stagecraft. Fraenkel called those who wield this unchecked power over the citizenry “the prerogative state.” The masses in a totalitarian structure live in what Fraenkel termed “the normative state.” The normative state, he said, is defenseless against the abuses of the prerogative state. Citizens are subjected to draconian laws and regulations, as well as arbitrary searches and arrests. The police and internal security are omnipotent. The internal workings of power are secret. Free expression and opposition political activity are pushed to the fringes of society or shut down. Those who challenge the abuses of power by the prerogative state, those who, like Snowden, expose the crimes carried out by government, are made into criminals. Totalitarian states always invert the moral order. It is the wicked who rule. It is the just who are damned.
The fact that we feel free does not mean that we are free:
Societies that once had democratic traditions, or periods when openness was possible, are often seduced into totalitarian systems because those who rule continue to pay outward fealty to the ideals, practices and forms of the old systems. This was true when the Emperor Augustus dismantled the Roman Republic. It was true when Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized control of the autonomous soviets and ruthlessly centralized power. It was true following the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazi fascism. Thomas Paine described despotic government as a fungus growing out of a corrupt civil society. And this is what has happened to us. No one who lives under constant surveillance, who is subject to detention anywhere at any time, whose conversations, messages, meetings, proclivities and habits are recorded, stored and analyzed, can be described as free. The relationship between the U.S. government and the U.S. citizen is now one of master and slave. Yet the prerogative state assures us that our rights are sacred, that it abides by the will of the people and the consent of the governed.
StopWatching.us is a coalition of more than 100 public advocacy organizations and companies from across the political spectrum. Join the movement at https://rally.stopwatching.us. This video harnesses the voices of celebrities, activists, legal experts, and other prominent figures in speaking out against mass surveillance by the NSA. Please share widely to help us spread the message that we will not stand for the dragnet surveillance of our communications.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is a nonprofit civil liberties law and advocacy center that has been fighting the NSA’s unconstitutional spying for years. Learn more at https://eff.org.
Glenn Greenwald recently left The Guardian to begin a new journalistic enterprise, which has now launched. The mission statement of The Intercept is as follows:
The Intercept, a publication of First Look Media, was created by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill. It has a two-fold mission: one short-term, the other long-term.
Our short-term mission is to provide a platform to report on the documents previously provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Although we are still building our infrastructure and larger vision, we are launching now because we believe we have a vital obligation to this ongoing and evolving story, to these documents, and to the public.
Our NSA coverage will be comprehensive, innovative and multi-faceted. We have a team of experienced editors and journalists devoted to the story. We will use all forms of digital media for our reporting. In addition, we will publish primary source documents on which our reporting is based. We will also invite outside experts with area knowledge to contribute to our reporting, and provide a platform for commentary and reader engagement.
Our long-term mission is to produce fearless, adversarial journalism across a wide range of issues. The editorial independence of our journalists will be guaranteed. They will be encouraged to pursue their passions, cultivate a unique voice, and publish stories without regard to whom they might anger or alienate. We believe the prime value of journalism is its power to impose transparency, and thus accountability, on the most powerful governmental and corporate bodies, and our journalists will be provided the full resources and support required to do this.
While our initial focus will be the critical work surrounding the NSA story, we are excited by the opportunity to grow with our readers into the broader and more comprehensive news outlet that the The Intercept will become.
Fascinating interview of Edward Snowden by German Television Channel NDR.
As reported by Jay Syrmopoulos, this interview of Edward Snowden was largely ignored by the U.S. corporate media.
President Obama kicked off a meek and week NSA reform effort. The EFF has described what real reform would involve. [Reposted with creative commons permission by the EFF):
1. Stop mass surveillance of digital communications and communication records.
It doesn’t matter what legal authority is being cited—whether it’s the Patriot Act, the FISA Amendments Act, or an executive order—the government should not be sweeping up massive amounts of information by and about innocent people first, then sorting out whether any of its targets are included later. The NSA has disingenuously argued that simply acquiring this data isn’t actually “collecting” and that no privacy violation can take place unless the information it stores is actually seen by a human or comes up through an automated searches of what it has collected. That’s nonsense. The government’s current practices of global dragnet surveillance constitute general warrants that violate the First and Fourth Amendments, and fly in the face of accepted international human rights laws. Obama needs to direct the NSA to engage only in targeted surveillance and stop its programs of mass surveillance, something he can do with a simple executive order.
2. Protect the privacy rights of foreigners.
The NSA’s surveillance is based upon the presumption that foreigners are fair game, whether their information is collected inside the US or outside the US. But non-suspect foreigners shouldn’t have their communications surveilled any more than non-suspect Americans. The review group recommended limited protections for non-US persons and while that is a good start, the president should do more to ensure that actual suspicion is required before either targeted or untargeted surveillance of non-US persons.
3. Don’t turn communications companies into the new Big Brother: no data retention mandate.
Obama’s review group recommended ending the NSA’s telephone records program, which we strongly agree with, but then indicated that a reasonable substitute would be to force American communications companies to store the data themselves and make it available to the government. The group ultimately recommended a data retention mandate if companies won’t comply voluntarily. But companies shouldn’t be pressed into becoming the NSA’s agents by keeping more data than they need or keeping it longer than they need to. To the contrary, companies should be working on ways to store less user data for less time—decreasing the risks from data breaches and intrusions like the one that just happened to Target. Data retention heads in the wrong direction for our security regardless of whether the government or private parties store the information.
4. National Security Letters need prior judicial review and should never be accompanied by a perpetual gag order.
One recommendation of the review group we heartily endorse is reining in National Security Letters. The FBI uses these letters to demand user data from communications service providers with no judicial review. Providers are forbidden from talking about receiving NSLs, which means the letters also serve as perpetual gag orders. EFF was successful in convincing a federal judge to strike down these NSLs last year. The case is on appeal but Obama can remedy the situation more quickly by instructing the FBI not to issue NSLs without prior judicial review, and to limit its use of gag orders.
5. Stop undermining Internet security, weakening encryption, and infiltrating companies.
Recent revelations show that the NSA is undermining Internet encryption, making us all less secure when we use technology. These practices include weakening standards, attacking technology companies, and preventing security holes from being fixed. As the president’s review group recognized, this has serious consequences for any industry that relies on digital security—finance, medicine, transportation, and countless others, along with anyone in the world who relies on safe, private communication. Obama should follow the recommendations of his review group and immediately stop the NSA’s efforts to undermine or weaken the security of our technologies.
The articles have been coming at a steady clip, and it’s difficult to keep track of all of the revelations. But this article by Jodi Avergan lists the access that the NSA has to our private lives, many of these with links.
To be a modern journalist means that one understands and cryptography tools. This is the modern price to pay in order to do any investigative journalism, and Greenwald made it clear that training up on these tools is a significant investment of time and energy. This is one of the themes of this talk by Glenn Greenwald, who indicates that all serious journalists now embrace tools such as TOR browser, PGP and OTR.
[Note the minute markings are from an audio recording that is no longer available – I’ve substituted a video of Greenwald’s talk that more recently became available].
He also indicates:
The NSA, the President and Congress will only pretend to reform the NSA. (6 min mark). There will not be “meaningful reform.”
It is “possible” that some courts might asserts some meaningful oversight. Other countries will put pressure on the U.S., and some large
Crytography tools such as TOR browser, PGP and OTR will be more often employed, and the battle for privacy will be fought on a technological battlefield. That’s why Keith Alexander dresses up in a “cool” way trying to recruit young hackers at hacker conferences. (8 min)
The power to further the power of the government to spy lies with programmers who develop internet/computer tools. (11 min).
Gives great credit to Laura Poitras (13 min) and Edward Snowden (14 min) for allowing him to do his job. He speaks of Snowden in terms of courage, bravery and inspiration. But all of them have been inspired by others, notably Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning). Also inspiring much of this work was Daniel Ellsberg (16 min). The organization that “pioneered the template” was Wikileaks, including Sarah Harrison, who rescued Edward Snowden from Hong Kong. (17 min). Barrett Brown and Aaron Swartz.
It is a long growing list of whistle blowers and transparency activists who are being disproportionately intimidated and punished, and this demonstrates how sick the system is. (Min 20). When these people have seen government abuses, it emboldens them to step forward to do what was right, and this is a sign of “serious activism.”
The U.S. government is completely committed to one outcome: putting Edward Snowden in a small cage, incommunicado. (23 min). The U.S. cannot allow Snowden to live any sort of decent life, because that might inspire others who might also be tempted to act against government abuses.
There are people who are willing to stand by and allow people of good conscience get crushed by corrupt governments. This includes many politicians who express indignation for spying on their own country, but fail to take steps to protect whistle-blowers who have exposed this wrong-doing. (min 26). The U.S. will make many of these countries (Germany and Brazil, for example), pay a price, but they should pay that price. Edward Snowden certainly paid that price.
Greenwald knew that the some of his biggest adversaries would be the so-called news media, who constitute the most loyal and devoted servants of governments who are abusing the privacy of their citizens. (min 28). He decided that he would need to be “very disruptive” of the status quo regarding the media. These leaks did not occur with the assistance of the media, but despite the media. (min 29). Greenwald recounts a BBC interview from last month where he commented that government officials routinely lie. The interviewer interrupted Greenwald and was incredulous that U.S. and British officials were routinely making false statements. (30 min). This is common behavior for “media stars,” who consider it immoral to seriously question government officials. This, despite clear proof that James Clapper lied to Congress. Keith Alexander clearly lied that the NSA couldn’t give numbers involving the number of those affected by the NSA program, “Boundless Informant.” Many reports have now shown that the NSA is commonly spying on private corporations. (32 min). This is “serial lying,” yet the media acts scandalized when you suggest that they have an adversarial role. (34). There are “very brave” journalists out there who heaped criticism upon those whistle-blowers who the U.S. government has scandalized and marginalized. (35 min). They argue that these whistle-blowers have “broke the law and should now pay the penalty.” But when the NSA lies to Congress, as James Clapper has done, you hear only silence. (35 min).
The media has decided that its job is to serve the government. That is why Greenwald is part of a new journalistic enterprise, which takes on a clear adversarial role.
There is one over-arching point to all of the recent revelations: The goal of the NSA and its five-eyes partners is to eliminate privacy globally, to ensure that there cannot be any human communications that evade their surveillance net. They want to be sure that all forms of communication by telephone or internet are “collected, monitored, stored and analyzed by that agency, and by their allies. This is a ubiquitous surveillance state. You don’t need hyperbole to make that point.” All of this has been proven with the documents released by Edward Snowden. “The NSA and the GCHQ are being driven crazy by the idea that you can go on an airplane and use certain cell phone devices and internet services and be away from their prying eyes for a few hours at a time.” (min 39). They aren’t targeting particular people; rather they are targeting everyone, at all times.
This goal collides with the need to express dissent without fear. (40 min). “A surveillance state by its necessity, by its very existence, breathes conformity. because whenever people know that they are always susceptible to being watched, even though they are not always being watched, the choices that they make are far more constrained, far more limited than when they could act in the private realm. The “elimination of privacy” is at the top of the list for the NSA.
Is there anyone out there still defending the NSA and criticizing Edward Snowden? The NSA is thoroughly corrupt. Why the fuck do they think that law abiding citizens put locks on our doors and carefully employ passwords when we use our devices on the internet? This is arrogant and illegal activity–just because their big budget has allowed them to invade our privacy ubiquitously doesn’t make it legal. Hundreds or thousands of NSA operatives should be escorted out in handcuffs, starting with those at the top. Consider today’s report by Der Spiegel–it is a detailed article filled with red flags:
Sometimes it appears that the [NSA’s] spies are just as reliant on conventional methods of reconnaissance as their predecessors.
Take, for example, when they intercept shipping deliveries. If a target person, agency or company orders a new computer or related accessories, for example, TAO can divert the shipping delivery to its own secret workshops. The NSA calls this method interdiction. At these so-called “load stations,” agents carefully open the package in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install hardware components that can provide backdoor access for the intelligence agencies. All subsequent steps can then be conducted from the comfort of a remote computer.
These minor disruptions in the parcel shipping business rank among the “most productive operations” conducted by the NSA hackers, one top secret document relates in enthusiastic terms. This method, the presentation continues, allows TAO to obtain access to networks “around the world.”