November 10, 2015
Crisis: MSF Battles On, TPP & Internet, Quasi Journalism, Judge Leon's Ruling
 "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

Prev- crisis -Next


Rejecting U.S. Claims, MSF Details Horrific Bombing of  
     Afghan Hospital & Demands War Crimes Probe

2. How the TPP Could Blow Up the Free Internet as We
     Know It
3. The Digital Dog Ate Our Civil-Liberties Homework:
     “It’s Just the Way It Is”

Snowden Celebrates 'Broadly Influential' Ruling
     Against NSA Dragnet


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, November 10, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 continues about the MSF, whose hospital in Kunduz was attacked by the US army, which led to a loss of at least 30 people killed; item 2 is about how the TPP (and the TTIP and the TiSA), and shows free internet soon may be over; item 3 is about an American quasi-investigative quasi-journalist (who may be the future of "journalism"); and item 4 is about a recent ruling by Judge Leon.

This is another more or less ordinary crisis log. Tomorrow will probably be a bit different, because then my site exists for 19 years (yes, it does). I don't yet know what I will do then, but I will probably write about the site and not about the crisis (but you never know).

1. Rejecting U.S. Claims, MSF Details Horrific Bombing of Afghan Hospital & Demands War Crimes Probe 

The first article today is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) continues to demand an independent war crimes probe of the U.S. bombing of its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, after releasing its own preliminary investigation. The U.S. airstrike on October 3 killed at least 30 people, including 13 staff members, 10 patients and seven unrecognizable victims yet to be identified. In a new report based on interviews with dozens of witnesses, MSF describes patients burning in their beds, medical staff who were decapitated and lost limbs, and staff members shot from the air while they fled the burning building. Doctors and other medical staff were shot while running to reach safety in a different part of the compound. MSF says it provided the GPS coordinates to U.S. and Afghan officials weeks before and that the strikes continued for half an hour after U.S. and Afghan authorities were told the hospital was being bombed.

I wrote about this before - last here (with links to earlier Nederlogs) and here - and this is a follow-up.

Also, my own guess is that MSF was in fact intentionally attacked because of this - and I stress this is a guess, in part because the US government and the US military decline an objective investigation:

AMY GOODMAN: U.S. officials have said they bombed the hospital in part because they thought it was under Taliban control. Doctors Without Borders General Director Christopher Stokes rejected that claim, saying there were no armed combatants on hospital grounds. Wounded combatants from both sides of the Afghan conflict were being treated inside.

CHRISTOPHER STOKES: Let me be clear: We were absolutely treating wounded combatants, and we were treating wounded combatants that were both government and opposition. And a patient is a patient. We don’t choose our patients. If they’re presented to hospital, they’ll be treated. And treating wounded combatants is not a crime. Being a doctor in a war zone cannot be punishable by airstrike.

Clearly - I'd say - Christopher Stokes is quite correct that a hospital must treat all.

But it seems to me that America's military currently believes that the only patients that a hospital should treat are civilians and/or sympathizers with the American military, and that everybody else can be treated as enemy, also if they are doctors of the MSF, and certainly if they are wounded Taliban.

In fact, that also seems an illegal position given UN rules, but America's military, who already fight with a professional army (rather than a drafted one [1]), that also "embed" - aka: muzzle - most of the journalists, seems to be enforcing it, and indeed seems helped by politicians from no less than 76 countries, who all seem to have dropped their allegiance to the integrity and courage of the MSF.

I am guessing in the previous two paragraphs, but then I am also trying to explain facts like this:

This hospital was a place that had been open for four years. In fact, that night even, it was the—probably the most well-lit structure in the entire city of Kunduz, which has about 300,000 people in it, because we were running generators that night. And so it was well lit, easily visible from the sky. And it was one of the most well-known facilities in the area.

That nevertheless was bombed by the Americans. There is also this:

AMY GOODMAN: Jason Cone, do you believe the U.S. military attack on the—your hospital, the MSF hospital in Kunduz, is a war crime?

JASON CONE: It’s going to be a war crime if it—you know, knowing that our hospital was a civilian structure. It should have never lost that status. We were always communicating its location. It’s a responsibility of the warring parties to be able to distinguish between civilian and military targets. From our perspective, they failed to do so. We were given no warning before the attack—that’s also a precondition. This isn’t about intent. There’s been a lot of discussion about whether or not this was a mistake. This is not necessarily the threshold that has to be crossed for this to constitute a grave breach of international humanitarian law. If the military fails to distinguish between military and civilian targets, as is in this case, from our standpoint, from everything we know, then they’re guilty of breaching IHL, humanitarian law. And that’s something that needs to be looked at and needs to be questioned by an international independent commission.

I quite agree, but I would not be amazed - seeing that 76 countries failed to protect the MSF and its brave doctors - if such an "international independent commission" can not be gathered, or if it is gathered it will basically repeat what the American military say.

That would be a great shame, but it would also not at all be the first or last pack of lies about the Afghan war.

2. How the TPP Could Blow Up the Free Internet as We Know It

The next article is by Evan Greer on AlterNet, and originally on The Guardian, that forbids copying because it is a very liberal paper [2]:
This starts as follows:
After years of secrecy, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement has finally been released to the public. The shadowy process and overreaching scope of the deal have sparked an international outcry; it’s been roundly condemned as an attack on worker’s rights, the environment, public health, small businesses and startups. But perhaps the biggest concern is over the impact that it will have on the internet.
Yes. This continues as follows:

TPP is a legally binding pact negotiated between 12 countries, including the United States. Industry lobbyists and government bureaucrats huddled for months in closed-door meetings to draft and debate the deal while journalists, human rights advocates and tech experts were locked out. It can’t accurately be called a “trade deal”. Its 30 chapters and 6,194 pages cover a dizzying range of policy questions that have nothing to do with tariffs, imports or exports. 

The final version of TPP confirms advocates’ worst fears. Thanks to, among other things, its dramatic expansion of copyright enforcement, the agreement poses a grave threat to our basic right to access information and express ourselves on the web, and could easily be abused to criminalize common online activities and enforce widespread internet censorship.

Yes, indeed.

I must say that my own approach towards the TPP (to which I am not subject as a European) and the TTIP (to which I will be subject if it is introduced) is one of complete refusal:

I never even voted for any politician since 1971; I think the vast majority of all politicians that I have seen the last 45 years (!) are and have been lying careerists; I think no law should be proposed that is secret - but these "laws" are all secret till the last moment, so that nobody except their makers can decently reflect on them; they all seem the build-up to instituting corporate fascism on a world-wide basis; they are the most degenerate bunch of (proposed) sadistic, fascistic corporate plunder I have ever seen or heard about, and I want absolutely none of it.

Then again, I am quite aware that this is personal; that I have no children; and that meanwhile I am 65 and have been ill the last 37 years, so for me having and writing these opinions is rather different from if I were - say - 50, with 3 sons, and 5 grandchildren, whom I all want to live and thrive, also if the governmental climate is getting much more authoritarian (as it is).

Here is more about the TPP:

Many of the scariest scenes in the TPP script take place in the intellectual property chapter. This section exports the most draconian aspects of the United States’ broken copyright system and forces them onto the rest of the world, without requiring “fair use” provisions that are necessary to protect free speech.

One provision demands that TPP member countries enforce copyright terms 70 years after the death of the creator. This will keep an immeasurable amount of information, art and creativity locked away from the public domain for decades longer than necessary, and allow for governments and corporations to abuse copyright laws and censor content at will, since so much of what’s online will be subject to copyright for decades.

Here are two examples of how incredibly much this will cost: Bertrand Russell died in 1970. To quote anything of what he wrote since 1895, say, I would have to wait till I (who was born nearly 80 years after him) am 90 in 2040. Likewise, Henry Miller died in 1980. To quote anything he wrote, I would have to wait till I turn 100 in 2050. In both cases, most that these men wrote that is still relevant, was written in the first half of the 20th Century. None of it is quotable by the TPP rules till after I am very probably dead.

To put the same point otherwise: This will murder the texts of almost any writer, and these will get murdered because they are not quotable for something like 100 years, in order to give those who print them maximum profits. For normally a text must get picked up while the writer is still alive, or at most 25 years dead.

Finally, there is this on the implications of the TPP for the internet:

In the shadow of a well-documented media blackout, so much of the discussion, criticism and organizing around TPP has happened over the web. It’s terrifying to think that this agreement, if ratified, will not only trample our rights, but could also fundamentally break the most powerful tool we have to raise awareness about the urgent issues of our time, expose the secrets of the corrupt and powerful, and amplify the voices of the millions struggling for a better world.

I quite agree - and in fact I also understand my communist parents a little better, for they possessed for a long time - around ten years, I think - a stencil machine, with which they multiplied papers (after typing them unto a stencil) that went mostly to people who had, like them, been in the Dutch resistance.

In fact, I think stencil machines (the term is English) are not being made anymore in Europe, but something like this may be necessary again, given that on any computer and any cell phone the goverment has or may have its totally anonymous spies, who see to it that you keep behaving just as the government wants, who  always know where you are (via your cellphone) and know absolutely everything you know and think, and who all are completely free to Deny, Disrupt, Degrade or Deceive you (and this is from your - very kind, very loving - quite anonymous governmental overseers at the GCHQ):

3. The Digital Dog Ate Our Civil-Liberties Homework: “It’s Just the Way It Is”

The next article for today is by Norman Solomon on Common Dreams:

This is here basically because it confirms an intuition I had earlier, when reviewing Charlie Savage, who was interviewed by Amy Goodman. That intuition and a small part of the interview it was based on is here.

And here is Norman Solomon's response:

Of all the excuses ladled out for the Obama administration's shredding of the Fourth Amendment while assaulting press freedom and prosecuting “national security” whistleblowers, none is more pernicious than the claim that technology is responsible.

At first glance, the explanation might seem to make sense. After all, the capacities of digital tech have become truly awesome. It’s easy to finger “technology” as the driver of government policies, as if the president at the wheel has little choice but to follow the technological routes that have opened up for Big Brother.

Actually not, it seems to me: Technology is never anything but possible choices, and the only ones who make these choices are always individual human beings. The fact that you can make something never implies that you must make it, but I agree this is - perhaps - difficult to see for relativists or postmodernists:

Now comes New York Times reporter Charlie Savage, telling listeners and viewers of a Democracy Now interview that the surveillance state is largely a matter of technology: “It’s just the way it is in the 21st century.”

That’s a great way to depoliticize a crucial subject—downplaying the major dynamics of the political economy, anti-democratic power and top-down choices—letting leaders off the hook, as if sophistication calls for understanding that government is to be regulated by high-tech forces rather than the other way around.

Yes, precisely. And there is this:

When Amy Goodman asked Savage about the Obama administration’s record-high prosecutions of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, he summed up this way:

“Because of technology, it’s impossible to hide who’s in contact with whom anymore, and cases are viable to investigate now that weren’t before. That’s not something Obama did or Bush did. It’s just the way it is in the 21st century, and investigative journalism is still grappling with the implications of that.”

I'd say - "because of technology" - he is just a fraud who poses as if he is an "investigative journalist", but who in fact merely wants the reputation to make money for himself.

Then again, while I much dislike his fundamentally dishonest type, I must admit that I have met considerably more men like him - I think - than I have met honest men, so he may be the future of quasi-investigative quasi-journalism.

4. Snowden Celebrates 'Broadly Influential' Ruling Against NSA Dragnet 

As the last article of today, here is Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

Mostly, this is in fact about Judge Richard Leon, who made a fine ruling in the end of 2013:

Reiterating his prior ruling which found the U.S. government's surveillance of civilians' telephone records to be unconstitutional—"Orwellian," even—a federal judge on Monday ordered the National Security Agency to halt its bulk collection program.

"This court simply cannot, and will not, allow the government to trump the Constitution merely because it suits the exigencies of the moment," Judge Richard Leon wrote in his 43-page decision in the case Klayman v. Obama.

Though the ruling comes just 20 days before the NSA program is set to expire under orders set forth in the USA Freedom Act, civil liberties advocates were quick to celebrate the decision as a victory that may potentially have broad implications for the U.S. government's lesser-known surveillance operations.

Note that Judge Leon - very correctly, I think - explicitly said that the American Constitution, that comprises the so-called Bill of Rights, that include the Fourth Amendment, definitely trumps any American government's decisions, in which he also is quite right.

to refresh your memory, here is the Fourth Amendment, that was supposed to be silenced by a few notes from some lawyers acting for Bush Jr:
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
I also agree with Leon that the wilful breaking of this (also on an incredibly large scale) was and is Orwellian.

There is also this (and considerably more, including two tweets by Edward Snowden), about which I am a bit more skeptical:

Though the order is technically limited to the plaintiffs, David Greene, senior staff attorney and civil liberties director with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), said it is likely to impact other pending cases against government surveillance. "Leon’s opinion and his refutation of the government’s arguments, which are almost identical to the government's arguments in other mass surveillance cases, should be broadly influential in ongoing and future challenges to the NSA's suspicionless spying," Greene wrote.

That is, I agree with Greene about what Judge Leon's "should" mean (emphasis added by me) but I have seen so many governmental lies and liars that I am a bit more doubtful than Greene is, though I hope he is right.
P.S. Nov 14, 2015: Reformatted.

[1] This was a considerable mistake in my opinion, but I will not argue this here and now, except by saying that wars are a lot more difficult if the sons and daughters of Senators and Congressmen may get drafted.

[2] You are right if you infer that I no longer think so
, but this again is a theme I will not argue here and now (but probably will, soon).

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