June 10, 2013
Crisis: On Edward Snowden
Prev- crisis -Next

1.  The NSA secrets
2.  An extra-ordinary man: Edward Snowden
3.  Now what?
About ME/CFS


I believe I have paid back most of the harm my walk of over six weeks ago, but  sleeping remains quite difficult for me. By now I am convinced it is mostly the supplements I am taking, but then these also do help with my ME-problems, and that is part of the difficulty for me: To find the right dose. I certainly have not done so right now, and it also is quite difficult to do.

Anyway. This Nederlog is mostly about an extra-ordinary man: Edward Snowden. I've just heard of him, and for you probably the same holds, for he is the leaker of the NSA-secrets.

1. The NSA secrets

Yesterday I wrote - among other things - the following:
The recent findings about the doings of the United States' National Security Agency, seem to me to be very threatening, because they clearly seem to bring the political climate several steps closer to a kind of Stalinism, albeit with quite a few twists, if only because (i) nearly everything and more that Stalin's NKVD wanted to know now is known to the NSA, at least in principle, and (ii) if there is one thing certain about politics and governments, then it is that powers that exist will be (ab)used politically, with a (rough) proportion that is proportional to the powers, while (iii) ordinary men are the tools, the victims and the victimizers of history, but are not its designers.

All I am saying is that if powers exist, then they will be abused, especially by governments, and the more likely so, the greater these powers are - and these powers of the NSA are the greatest power anyone has ever had about any civil population: Almost everything there is to be known about one, now is known to those who govern you, if you are a citizen of the US, and indeed quite possibly also if not.
Clearly, I still think so, and I also think it is very important.

Besides... as to the last bit of this quotation, here is a little from an interview Glenn Greenwald made with Edward Snowden and meanwhile published:

Q: What about the Obama administration's protests about hacking by China?

A: "We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world. We are not at war with these countries."

Q: Is it possible to put security in place to protect against state surveillance?

A: "You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place."

In more general terms, in Glenn Greenwald's words of last Wednesay:

The way things are supposed to work is that we're supposed to know virtually everything about what they do: that's why they're called public servants. They're supposed to know virtually nothing about what we do: that's why we're called private individuals.

This dynamic - the hallmark of a healthy and free society - has been radically reversed. Now, they know everything about what we do, and are constantly building systems to know more. Meanwhile, we know less and less about what they do, as they build walls of secrecy behind which they function. That's the imbalance that needs to come to an end. No democracy can be healthy and functional if the most consequential acts of those who wield political power are completely unknown to those to whom they are supposed to be accountable.

2. An extra-ordinary man: Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden, who at 29 is less than half my age, thinks the same, as indeed I do. Since Snowden worked for the NSA, he also could do something about it, and he decided to tell Glenn Greenwald about the enormous, so far secret, powers of the NSA, and Greenwald told the world last week, through The Guardian.

Here is a consecutive part of an interview on Glenn Greenwald's part of The Guardian:

He described how he once viewed the internet as "the most important invention in all of human history". As an adolescent, he spent days at a time "speaking to people with all sorts of views that I would never have encountered on my own".

But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. "I don't see myself as a hero," he said, "because what I'm doing is self-interested: I don't want to live in a world where there's no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity."

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA's surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. "What they're doing" poses "an existential threat to democracy", he said.

A matter of principle

As strong as those beliefs are, there still remains the question: why did he do it? Giving up his freedom and a privileged lifestyle? "There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich."

I think this bit holds the most important points, and if you want to read or indeed see more, you'll have to visit Greenwald's part of The Guardian.

I'll remark some things on each paragraph.

First paragraph. Yes, indeed - it is the most important invention, and it is so because it gives so very many more points of view than one could know without it, and gives so very much that has been thought, in such an accessible, clear and fast way.

And we also see The Problem Of The Internet: It connects everyone and everything - without real safeties, without
real regulations, and without there being any way in which one's rights are maintained.

Second paragraph. I agree with his basic motive: "
I don't want to live in a world where there's no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity."

Indeed, I think that is his basic motive. But I think he is an extra-ordinary man because most men do not think that way.

In fact, that is my reason to tout
Conquest's "The Great Terror": He is in a minority of those who care, and in a very small minority of those who care, who can act, and who will act.

Third paragraph. Again I agree with his motive, with my addition, being over twice as old, that most do not feel like that, and that of those who do, few would do as he did. Also, I should remark that it is less "democracy" that is at danger, for this is a very vague term, as are the United States Constitution and its Amendments, in this case especially the Fourth Amendment - which is this: [1]
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
-- Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution
What Snowden is doing, it seems to me, is to warn the world it is very close to the danger of being totally taken over by a very small group of men who will control everyone, because they control all computers. And he is quite right.

Fourth paragraph. Yes, quite so. It is quite important he says so, now that he still is free. The Bradley Manning case - among other things - shows that the law is one of the things that has mostly ceased to work in the US, at least for whoever disagrees with the government.

Also, although I think Bradley Manning has been sorely abused and ought to be freed and thanked, I do not think he will be freed. I also think he has not been as abused as much as Stalin let abuse his victims, though indeed his treatment was and is a great shame, and was and is quite illegal.

But in a waterboarding country, who knows what will be done to Snowden, and who knows what he may be made to say once he is in the hands of the NSA, or any of the other US governmental agencies.

I do not know, and I wish him very well, but I do not have many illusions - and besides, these days it may not be abuse that makes people say what their governors want them to say, as pills they have to take.

In any case: The NSA-secrets are, in part, in the open now, and Edward Snowden also is right it is now up to others than himself.

Now what?

Actually, I do not know. Clearly, most of this is wholly unprecedented, and it also was not foreseen by the US government that the secret - or parts of it - would be out.

Some parts are easy to foresee, though:
  • There will be a lot of doubletalk by the US government - but these are totally unreliable, from top to bottom; quite incredible; and in fact, in terms of their own laws, also quite illegal.
  • The points of the doubletalk will be mainly to downplay the importance, and the facilities, and to keep things secret.
  • Edward Snowden will probably be arrested, and after that it is anybody's guess what will happen to him.
One important problem will be how the media - what's left of them - will deal with this, and here I am not optimistic, in part because most do not really realize the size of the dangers they are running; in part because the dangers will be massively downplayed and denied; and in part because most media will much rather look some other way.

What helps is that some of the media are aware of a good part of the risks, and these are media both to the left and to the right, but what does not help is that the dangers to freedom come from the US government, and the powers these already have are enormous, and are very dangerous.

But mostly I just don't know - except that I am not optimistic.

[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, that the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

       home - index - summaries - mail