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Nederlog

November 5, 2015
Crisis: UK Turns Right, Privacy, Jenkins On May, Obama, CIA Ethics-Free
"They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
 
  -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone

   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton
















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Sections
Introduction

1.
U.K. Government Proposes More, Not Less, Electronic
     Snooping

2. The Intercept’s Reader Privacy
3. The surveillance bill is as big a threat to state security as
     to individual liberty
   
4.
How Obama Continued Bush's National Security State
5. The CIA Is an Ethics-Free Zone


Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, November 5, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about
Theresa May's sick and sickening proposal of a new British bill, that will bring
England a lot closer to fascism (British style, not Germanic); item 2 is about
how The Intercept takes care of its readers' privacy; item 3 is about Simon Jenkin's response in The Guardian to Theresa May's horrible bill; item 4 is about
how Obama mostly continued Bush's policies (but I don't have much respect for
the journalist who investigated it); and item 5 is about John Kiriakou's conclusion
that the CIA is ethics-free, with which I partially agree.

1. U.K. Government Proposes More, Not Less, Electronic Snooping 

The first item today is by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Two years after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the vast reach of U.S. and U.K. surveillance, the U.S. Congress rolled back the most manifestly unconstitutional element: the bulk collection of domestic phone data.

The U.K. government, on Wednesday, chose to double down instead.

The newly unveiled text of what critics are calling a proposed “Snooper’s Charter” or “Hacker’s License” would explicitly authorize the bulk collection of domestic data, require telecommunications companies to store records of websites visited by every citizen for 12 months for access by the government, approve the government’s right to hack into and bug computers and phones, severely restrict the ability of citizens to raise questions about secret surveillance warrants or evidence obtainedaccepting through bulk surveillance presented in court, and oblige companies to assist in bypassing encryption.

This means - in my eyes - that the British government is doing its very best to become fascistic (as I have been saying since October 29, 2005, though not explicitly about the English).

You may not like the term - and indeed I don't, for I have been called "a dirty fascist" for 12 years in the UvA, while not being one at all, and while having very anti-fascistic parents, who were communists since 40 years, while my father also was knighted, and survived more than 3 years and 9 months of German concentration camps, where my grandfather was murdered, so I know very well what it is like to be scolded that way.

Also, I didn't do anything to justify the appelation (other than saying Peirce was, in my opinion, a greater philosopher than Marx, and that I was a believer in science and truth, all of which were strongly rejected at the University of Amsterdam between 1971 and 1995 (!)), quite unlike Mrs May and her conservatives.

For consider:

There are some new limits in the bill. For example, if police wanted to use phone call information to try and track down a journalist’s source, those efforts would now have to be approved by a judicial commissioner. In fact, most warrants would need approval by a judicial commissioner, after the U.K. secretary of state signs off.

But overall, the bill, which May described as “world-leading” in its oversight provisions, remains a concern for privacy advocates because of its massive surveillance authorities and vague language and loopholes.

The "vague language and loopholes" (which should be wholly absent from a serious bill) show me that this is not a serious bill, but one that intends to give the GCHQ as many freedoms as possible.

There is this:

First, the bill explicitly authorizes bulk collection of domestic data, as long as it is “foreign focused,” “necessary in the interests of national security,” and approved by the secretary of state and the judicial commissioner. If an agency wants to actually examine domestic data, it has to get a targeted warrant — but massive amounts of data will have already been seized at that point.

“Powers for bulk interception that the government has long undertaken in secret have finally been explicitly avowed, but the case for them remains uncritically examined and evidentially weak,” wrote Privacy International in its initial statement about the bill.

I am totally against any "bulk collection of domestic data" simply because this gives the government far too much power. Also, when this gets "legalized" it will be a fascist law - I am sorry to say, and indeed the only historically justified alternative is: communist law. But since Great Britain is certainly not communist, I stick to the former. (Both are totalitarian; both depended heavily
on their security apparatuses to stay in power.)

Then there is this:

Additionally, the bill would authorize British intelligence agencies to access a year’s worth of information about what websites British people visit without prior court approval. May did acknowledge this was a new power, but insisted it wasn’t all that intrusive, because a warrant would still be required to access specific browsing history for every page on every website visited, instead of just the homepage URL (...)

Sorry, but I am wholly innocent of any terrorist plans or proposals, and I don't want a completely secret highly paid governmental snooper checking everything I do to see whether my behavior complies to his government's desires. As to "the
warrants": (i) snooping is snooping, whether warranted or not, and (ii) these "warrants" anyway are hardly worth the paper they are written on, especially in combination with the following totalitarian "laws":

The government will also create a new “regime” that will be granted authority to “interfere” with “electronic equipment” — basically to hack into devices and insert malware in order to covertly access information about the device or the user during an investigation of “serious crimes.”

But what the government considers "serious crimes" will - almost certainly - be left completely undefined, and may be anything the government dislikes.

Here are two other utterly totalitarian bits of sick and degenerate creepiness:

And companies, both abroad and domestically, would be under new pressures to comply with warrants issued by the U.K. government. For example, executives of foreign technology firms served with interception warrants from any “senior official” in the U.K., including local authorities, could be jailed or fined for ignoring a warrant.

And communications providers would be required to “remove any encryption applied” from communications when requested.

This means that the employees of Apple can be jailed (as Americans) because they encrypt communications also in England, or for English mails. "Das Ist Verboten!", cries the English government.

And here is the most totalitarian, most fascistic bit of these new "laws":

Under the new law, it would be illegal for anyone even to ask questions in court about whether or not evidence was obtained through bulk surveillance, or to talk to anyone about a surveillance warrant received — much like U.S. policy on national security letters issued to companies by intelligence agencies.

Amnesty International, the human rights group that learned it was being spied on by GCHQ this summer, wrote that the bill’s “wider powers” would “take U.K. closer to becoming a surveillance state.”

Clearly, Amnesty better clears out of Great Britain: They would be absolutely forbidden even to ask questions (!!) about whether they are spied upon, and
they would also be absolutely forbidden to talk to anyone, or publish it.

I'm sorry, but these are fascist totalitarian laws, that rapidly will make Great Britain a fascist and totalitarian state, on a Tory Conservative model - and I am very sorry to say this, but this is what I really think:

Magna Charta is utterly dead in England, and was killed by Cameron, Osborne and May (with help from Blair and Brown), and very willingly as well, because it stood between them and absolute power for themselves and their party. (And see also item 3.)

2. The Intercept’s Reader Privacy

The next item is by Ryan Tate and Betsy Reed on The Intercept:

This is a completely different article compared to the previous one. It is about the readers' privacy on The Intercept. I review it because I look daily at The Intercept, and because I like the new rules, which also show how this should and can be done by any company that treats its readers as responsible adults rather than as potential terrorists.

First, there is this, by way of introduction:

EARLIER THIS YEAR, The Intercept got a new visual identity, the first step in a multi-phase redesign. Later this month, we’ll be making an important change that’s invisible to our readers, adding a new analytics system to help us better understand how our stories spread and how they can be promoted to a larger audience. We thought it was important to describe this system — and its privacy implications and safeguards — to you in a transparent fashion.

Next, this is a brief description of the problem:

The biggest challenge we faced in adopting a new audience measurement system was preserving reader privacy; modern analytics tools virtually always come from outside vendors who become intimate third parties in the relationship between publishers and readers. It was important to us to try and rebalance this relationship in favor of the reader. 

And this is a brief description of how they solved it:
Together with Parse.ly, we’ve arrived at a system whereby readers of The Intercept will not directly ping Parse.ly. Instead, they will continue to send web requests to our own servers, which will, in turn, forward some of those requests on to Parse.ly, after stripping out readers’ internet protocol, or IP, addresses. Parse.ly will use these requests to track our readers via random unique identifiers that we generate. It will not be possible for Parse.ly to correlate readers’ visits to The Intercept with their visits to other Parse.ly-enabled sites.
There is more in the article - that also includes that readers may switch on "Do Not Track" - but I think this is sufficient to illustrate that it is still possible to
search one's readers without dissolving their privacy.

3. The surveillance bill is as big a threat to state security as to individual liberty

The next article is by Simon Jenkins on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The surveillance bill has had a rough passage so far. Today the spooks were under pressure from left and right. Libertarians, nerds and the big computer firms were up in arms. The sceptred isle was up against the Spectred isle. So MI6 sent for Bond.

The past week has seen the most bizarre spinning. The BBC and the Times suddenly “managed to secure” exclusive stories about the wonderful world of secret intelligence, shamelessly pegged to the premiere of the film. The Times offered a gushing prospectus of work inside GCHQ. The BBC’s Frank Gardner sat, obsequious, in a darkened room and asked faceless voices what it was like being “the real James Bond”. It was like a spoof promotion video for the Stasi.

I say - and yes, looking at some BBC person "interviewing" "faceless voices" that pretended to be James Bond (a synthetic superhero from fiction) must have looked like "a spoof promotion video for the Stasi", or indeed its English counter-
part, the GCHQ.

There is this:

Secret security can only build its legitimacy on trust. Britons have granted their security establishment that trust for the past half century, despite it being sometimes betrayed in return. Burgess and Maclean, Philby and Spycatcher, Iraq and Snowden revealed a secret service unable to police or account for its errors. When under pressure, it merely pressed the “feel very afraid” button and scared public and politicians to do its will.

Today’s bill seeks to “widen the access of police and security services” to personal electronic data. The intention is odd since, as Snowden revealed, they have enjoyed such access for years.
I have two reservations.

First, an ordinary somewhat intelligent citizen cannot rationally "trust" a "secret security service", for the simple reason that it is secret, and will refuse almost all rational requests for evidence.

I agree that it seems most Brits did not have much objections to the GCHQ, but (i) this is also related to the fact that they were secret, and (ii) their powers were much less than 1% of what they are now, when everyone's full data can be plundered by the GCHQ without any defense (except encryption), and indeed also without any admittance that they were doing so, for a long time as well.

Second, I do not think that the government's and the GCHQ's desire
to “widen the access of police and security services” to personal electronic data is "odd": I think that was their aim from the very beginning, in 2001.

It also doesn't have anything to do with "terrorism", however defined, except as the pretext - Be Very Afraid! Be Very Afraid! - for the government to learn  everything about anyone, simply because this would allow them to sort absolutely everyone out, in time.

You may think otherwise, but please remember that the government - a very small group of people, and a not much larger group if the police and the military is added - is totally incapable of protecting the vast majority of 60 million Englishmen, but is quite capable of sorting out the 1% - 5% of its inhabitants that will or may go on to protest.

Then there is this:

Individuals in a free society have a right to assume their privacy means something, and that government and the law will protect them against “unwarranted surveillance” by third parties, including the state. Confidentiality in human relations is integral to personal freedom.

This is mainly about intentions and feelings, much rather than real policies.

First, clearly British citizens have that right, ever since 1948, when this was
pronounced quite clearly as article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But second, that right has been almost totally annihilated by "the European Convention of Human Rights" (that inserted all the loopholes any government wants to spy on its citizens and everyone else: see here). And
third, the government, ever since Tony Blair headed it, will clearly not protect any British citizens against surveillance: on the contrary, it will indulge in it,
in secret, as much as it can, and it will also rewrite and reinterpret laws so
that it can continue to do so. And why? Because this will give the government enormously more powers, that will enable it to control every Brit.

Then there is this:

Do we really want the police, not just spies, to amass information on every citizen’s browser record? The fell cry of the dictator, that “the innocent have nothing to fear”, is already being heard by government apologists. It has no place in a liberal democracy.

Simon Jenkins doesn't want any anonymous and secret oversight of his person and his family by secret agents of the government, and I do not want this either,
but it may very well be - Be Very Afraid! Be Very Afraid! - that the government
meanwhile has succeeded in making us a fairly small minority (and I am not British).

Here is the last bit by Simon Jenkins:

This is not just an updating of surveillance but a major peacetime extension of state power over individuals. The bulk harvesting of data and the compulsory breaching of corporate encryption should require some great national emergency, and the most stern oversight. Neither applies today. In addition, what is proposed is likely to prove as much a threat to state security as to personal liberty. When the state turns hacker, everyone does.

This is a draft bill. Battle royal should be joined over its amendment.

He is right, but I am afraid the British need a radical change of government before anything will happen about the GCHQ. And by that time, it may well be
too late, simply because most who want a radical change of government will
be too afraid of the government or the GCHQ to speak up, knowing that if they
do they will be removed from society without anybody knowing it or having the right to discuss it.

4. How Obama Continued Bush's National Security State

The next article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:
With just over a year left in office, President Obama is running out of time to fulfill his longstanding promise to close the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay. The imprisonment of foreigners at Guantánamo is one of several Bush-era policies that continue under Obama’s presidency. While Obama has shut down the CIA’s secret prisons and banned the harshest of Bush’s torture methods, many others—the drone war, presidential secrecy, jailing whistleblowers and mass surveillance—either continue or have even grown. The story of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism legacy is told in the new book, "Power Wars: Inside Obama’s Post-9/11 Presidency," by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Charlie Savage.
I should say that I have - for a long time, also - totally given up hope that Obama will ever close Guantánamo, and I should also say that I believe Obama
mostly continued Bush's policies. I grant he also did it with a few changes, and
with a much better command of English, and a lot more charm, but that is about
what "Change! Change! Yes We Can!
Yes We Can!" meant in practice: A more articulate, more clever, more charming president, who mostly followed Bush.

Indeed, there is this (and this is Charley Savage talking):

In fact, very quickly, it became clear that there was going to be a lot more continuity with the counterterrorism policies that Obama had inherited from George W. Bush than the expectations created by his campaign rhetoric. I think by February of '09, I was over at the White House talking to Obama's new White House counsel about why that was. And so, for the last few years I’ve been chronicling all this and continuing to go to Guantánamo and think about executive power issues. And then, of course, with the Edward Snowden leaks, we saw how much the surveillance state that Obama had inherited had remained intact.
Yes, that is more or less correct. Then there is this (again Savage talking):
So Obama comes into the Situation Room to receive a briefing on all these surveillance programs and, you know, the program that’s keeping records of all Americans’ domestic phone calls and emails, that we don’t know about until after the Snowden leaks. But he finds out about it at this briefing. And the sort of permanent security state—the FBI and the NSACIA and the intelligence community—want to tell the new president, "Here’s what you’ve inherited." and the

And they brief him on all this stuff, and they also explain how George W. Bush had sort of put it in unilaterally, by fiat—"I’m the commander-in-chief. The law doesn’t matter. We’re going to do this"—after 9/11. But also, over time, it had become—it had been secretly put on a stronger legal basis. The intelligence court had begun issuing orders for it. They come up with this PATRIOT Act theory about why maybe it was authorized, counterintuitively, by statute. And so, their argument was: It’s OK now, because the legal basis for it is OK. And over and over, we see the pattern in the Obama administration of "What was the problem with Bush? Is it the problem that these programs are inherently bad, or is the problem that Bush was putting them in place in a way that violated statutes?"

But at the end there is this, which caused me not even to look at the second
program on Democracy Now! on Savage:

AMY GOODMAN: But did you expect Obama to do better, since he had attacked Bush so much on these issues?

CHARLIE SAVAGE: Well, I don’t want to say better or worse—that’s not my role. I’m just trying to explain why did this happen, this amazingly surprising turn of events.

If that is not your "role", you must be a second Wolf Blitzer. I'm sorry, but if you cannot even pronounce on that simple question, you are out by my lights.

5. The CIA Is an Ethics-Free Zone

The final article today is by John Kiriakou (<- Wikipedia) on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

I joined the CIA in January 1990.

The CIA was vastly different back then from the agency that emerged in the days after the 9/11 attacks. And it was a far cry from the flawed and confused organization it is today.

One reason for those flaws — and for the convulsions the agency has experienced over the past decade and a half — is its utter lack of ethics in intelligence operations.

Hm. I more or less like Kiriakou because he had the guts to protest against the torturing of prisoners, also as a member of the CIA, but this doesn't mean I have to believe his stories about the CIA as gospel.

Then again, he probably is right that the CIA of 1990 is rather different from the CIA in  2005 or 2015, and I don't think so because of his stories, but mostly because of stories by Ray McGovern (<- Wikipedia) and colleagues, that appear
regularly on Consortium News.

As to ethics, there is this (and I will return to it after this quotation):

It’s no secret that the CIA has gone through periods where violating U.S. law and basic ethics were standard operating procedure. During the Cold War, the agency assassinated foreign leaders, toppled governments, spied on American citizens, and conducted operations with no legal authority to do so. That’s an historical fact.

I liked to think that things had changed by the time I worked there. CIA officers, I believed, were taught about legal limits to their operations — they learned what was and wasn’t permitted by law.

I was wrong.

Well... in 1990 the Cold War still went on, although it is true it was nearly finished, and I also think it is true that Kiriakou was wrong.

And I think he was wrong about ethics, but this requires some explanation.

First, I distinguish - as a philosopher and a logician - between ethics, which
is concerned with questions like how one should live, what a good society is
like, and what are good and bad, and morals, which is concerned with the
considerably more specific questions of what one's social groups are like,
why one should follow their instructions, education and codes, and what are
right and wrong.

You may not agree to this distinction, but I think it is real and important, among other things because it allows me to say that the CIA was and is quite moral, without being ethical:

One was OK, as a member of the CIA, as long as one was morally faithful to the - spoken and unspoken - rules of that group, and one was not OK if not, but the CIA and its members were not (for the most part) in any way concerned with the wider questions of what a good society is, how one should live, or what are good and bad, indeed because it was taken for granted what the answer was like: "A-me-ri-ca Is Ex-Cep-Tio-Nal!"

Here is Kiriakou's lesson:

Last December, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued its report on the CIA torture program, which detailed gruesome and systemic human rights violations by agency employees. The CIA hadn’t only tried to cover up its actions — it actually spied on the Senate’s investigators, too.

The report concluded that these brutal tactics weren’t even useful for gathering intelligence. But that’s not the issue. The issue is that something about the CIA’s culture, its collective mindset, allowed it to make a crime against humanity into policy. It’s become an ethics-free zone.

Officers of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and other U.S. intelligence agencies are told to penetrate terrorist cells and prevent attacks against Americans. They’re pressured to “go do it” or suffer the consequences. But no one’s able or willing to tell them the rules.

That’s what’s wrong with the CIA today. And that’s where the moral and ethical rebuilding of the organization should begin.

Put otherwise: One of the things that is wrong with the current CIA (for there are more things wrong with it) is that it has no ethical policy, and reduces everything
to mere loyalty to the group of established CIA-members plus faith in the American government.

I think that - in my formulation - is probably correct, but as I said: There also is considerably more wrong with the CIA (which I also say while accepting that there must be something like it).

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