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Nederlog

November 20, 2015
Crisis: Greenwald, Drone Operators, Trump, Kiriakou, Encryption
 "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. Glenn Greenwald on "Submissive" Media's Drumbeat for War
and "Despicable" Anti-Muslim Scapegoating

2. Former Drone Operators Say They Were “Horrified” By Cruelty
of Assassination Program

3. Donald Trump Won’t Rule Out Special ID Cards for Muslim Americans
4. How the Government Made Me a Dissident
5. Armed With Fear, Not Facts, Officials Go After Encryption in Wake
of Paris


Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Friday, November 20, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about a fine interview Amy Goodman had with Glenn Greenwald; item 2 is about an article by Murtaza Hussain about three former drone operators that is interesting; item 3 is about Trump who - as usual - is not clear, but who may propose special ID cards, special databases, or special badges for all Americans who are Muslims, with an added bit by TYT who tend to believe these are badges, and are not afraid to call these "Fascist Ideas" (in which they are right, though Trump is not clear); item 4 is about an article by John Kiriakou, which I use to make some fundamental points about the NSA, the government, mass surveillance and what I think about those who insist that they don't mind being surveilled; and item 5 is about how encryption is - once again - attacked by enthusiasts for absolute power of the US government.

1. Glenn Greenwald on "Submissive" Media's Drumbeat for War and "Despicable" Anti-Muslim Scapegoating

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

This starts as follows:
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, media coverage has seen familiar patterns: uncritically repeat government claims, defend expansive state power, and blame the Muslim community for the acts of a few. We discuss media fearmongering, anti-Muslim scapegoating, ISIL’s roots, and war profiteering with Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and co-founder of The Intercept. "Every time there’s a terrorist attack, Western leaders exploit that attack to do more wars," Greenwald says. "Which in turn means they transfer huge amounts of taxpayer money to these corporations that sell arms. And so investors are fully aware that the main people who are going to benefit from this escalation as a result of Paris are not the American people or the people of the West — and certainly not the people of Syria — it is essentially the military-industrial complex."
Yes, I quite agree - and for the military-industrial complex see the Wikipedia link.

Then again, there is a large difference between - about - the Sixties and the Seventies of the previous century and the present, since 2000 or before, and that difference is that the mainstream press and media ceased to be independent and free, and has turned into the willing propaganda apparatus of the politicians and the US  government.

This really is a large difference, and may itself be used as strong evidence that democracy in the USA is in serious danger, for a free press - even in the First Amendment [1] - has been widely deemed essential for a real democracy: Without a decent grasp of the real facts no voter can make up his or her mind rationally.

Clearly, Glenn Greenwald is also aware of this. There is more about this in the interview, which is good and recommended.

Here I select some other pieces, and the first is this:
GLENN GREENWALD: First of all, it’s absolutely remarkable that James Woolsey, of all people, is the person who has been plucked to be the authoritative figure on the Paris attacks by leading media outlets such as CNN and MSNBC news, when he is by far one of the most extremist and radical neoconservatives ever to be puked up by the intelligence world. He not only was one of the leading advocates of attacking Iraq, he was one of the leading proponents of all of the lies that led to that invasion, and has been calling for war and other sorts of really extremist policies, and disseminating lies to the American people for decades. And so, to hold him out as some sort of authority figure, some kind of like respected elder intelligence statesman, on these attacks is just exactly the sort of thing we’ve been talking about, which is the state of the American media. Not one person has challenged anything that he said.
Yes, indeed - and here is the Wikipedia file on Woolsey: R. James Woolsey, Jr. And note that Woolsey meanwhile is 74, and has no official standing, though he still is Senior Vice-President of Booz Allen Hamilton.

This is also Glenn Greenwald, in the context of discussing laying the blame for the events  of Paris on Edward Snowden (which is monumentally silly if not cruel, in my opinion):

And again, as far as who has blood on their hands, there’s zero evidence that the attackers used encryption or anything else that was revealed as a result of Edward Snowden, but there’s lots of evidence that the CIA utterly failed in their mission and that the U.S. government has done all sorts of things unwittingly to strengthen ISIS. And so, I think if you want to talk about who has blood on their hands, personally, I would look first to ISIS, the people who actually shot those people in the Paris streets.
Yes, of course. And there is this on the background of Isis:
And then, just to take a step further back, The Washington Post six months ago reported what most people who pay attention to this actually know, which is that what we call ISIS is really nothing more than a bunch of ex-Baathist military officials who were disempowered and alienated by the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent instability that it caused, and then the policies of the—the sectarian policies of Prime Minister Maliki in basically taking away all of the power of those ex-Baathists in favor of Shiite militias and Iran-aligned militias and the like. And so, essentially, what I think everybody at this point understands is that the reason there is such a thing as ISIS is because the U.S. invaded Iraq and caused massive instability, destroyed the entire society, destroyed all of the infrastructure, destroyed all order, and it was in that chaos that ISIS was able to emerge. So, again, if you’re looking for blame, beyond ISIS, the U.S. government is a really good place to look.  
There is a lot more in the interview, all of which is recommended.

2. Former Drone Operators Say They Were “Horrified” By Cruelty of Assassination Program

The second item today is by Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

U.S. DRONE OPERATORS are inflicting heavy civilian casualties and have developed an institutional culture callous to the death of children and other innocents, four former operators said at a press briefing today in New York.

The killings, part of the Obama administration’s targeted assassination program, are aiding terrorist recruitment and thus undermining the program’s goal of eliminating such fighters, the veterans added. Drone operators refer to children as “fun-size terrorists” and liken killing them to “cutting the grass before it grows too long,” said one of the operators, Michael Haas, a former senior airman in the Air Force. Haas also described widespread drug and alcohol abuse, further stating that some operators had flown missions while impaired.

In addition to Haas, the operators are former Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Bryant along with former senior airmen Cian Westmoreland and Stephen Lewis. The men have conducted kill missions in many of the major theaters of the post-9/11 war on terror, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We have seen the abuse firsthand,” said Bryant, “and we are horrified.”

This is interesting, and these former drone operators ought to be thanked, for they will not be thanked by the US government.

These men also have this on how effective their actions were, in hindsight:

At the press conference, Bryant said the killing of civilians by drone is exacerbating the problem of terrorism. “We kill four and create 10 [militants],” Bryant said. “If you kill someone’s father, uncle or brother who had nothing to do with anything, their families are going to want revenge.”

The Obama administration has gone to great lengths to keep details of the drone program secret, but in their statements today the former operators opened up about the culture that has developed among those responsible for carrying it out. Haas said operators become acculturated to denying the humanity of the people on their targeting screens. “There was a much more detached outlook about who these people were we were monitoring,” he said. “Shooting was something to be lauded and something we should strive for.”

There is more in the article, that is recommended.

3. Donald Trump Won’t Rule Out Special ID Cards for Muslim Americans

The third item today is by Zaid Jihani on Truthdig (originally on AlterNet):
This is a brief article that contains the following:
Trump discussed his plans for responding to terrorism by targeting America’s 3 million Muslim Americans.

“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,” said Trump. “And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”

Yahoo News asked if this meant requiring Muslim Americans to register with the government and carry special identification.

“We’re going to have to — we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” he replied. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”

As usual, it is difficult to say what Trump is really talking about or suggesting.

For one thing, he may be suggesting that American Muslims will get an M stamped in their passports, like the Jews were in Nazi Germany. For another thing, he may be suggesting that all American Muslims get registered in a governmental database, which will make it possible to lock all of them up, as happened to the American Japanese during WW II. For a third thing, he even may be suggesting -
"We’re going to have to do things that we never did before" - that all Muslims have to wear a badge on their clothes, like the Jews were forced to do in every country the Nazis had conquered.

I really don't know. Here is what The Young Turks make of it: This takes 9 m 20 s. And here is a picture from the show, which is the first time I saw this explicitly and with large letters in the American (somewhat alternative) media:



I like this, not because I am a fascist (I am an anti-fascist, with better credentials than most), but because this is one possible explanation; because in terms of this definition
fascism is: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
-- American Heritage Dictionary
the USA has grown a lot more fascistic since Bush Jr.: The state and the business leadership, especially the rich bankers, have merged; the USA does have a "belligerent nationalism"; and while there is not - yet? - a dictatorship of the extreme right, there are quite a few very rightist groups active in the USA, and also considerable parts of the media are much more rightist than they were ever before.

4.
How the Government Made Me a Dissident

The fourth item today is by John Kiriakou (<-Wikipedia) on Truthdig (originally on OtherWorlds):
This starts as follows:

I sometimes say the government turned me into a dissident — after I spent 14 years at the CIA and two more at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

I only say it half-jokingly. While I’m proud of winning this year’s PEN Center’s First Amendment award, I never intended to make a career out of being at odds with the government.

Sometimes, though — like when I spent two years in prison for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program — it’s felt like the government’s gone out of its way to be at odds with me.

And it’s clear that our government demonizes people who disagree with the official line. Things got bad for anyone who disagrees with the official line right after 9/11.

I think this is true, although I also think that people are personally responsible for their personal decisions. Then again, I suppose John Kiriakou agrees with me.

He also says:

When the government hired me in 1988, it was widely understood that if the National Security Agency intercepted the communications of an American citizen — even accidentally — heads would roll. Congress had to be informed, an investigation would be launched, and the intercept had to be purged from the system.

Today, the NSA has an enormous facility in Utah big enough to save copies of every email, text message, and phone conversation made by every American for the next 500 years. You can bet they intend to.

The first paragraph sketches a very fundamental difference of what the NSA did: It was then supposed not to track communications of American citizens. Presently, it is precisley the other way around: The NSA is supposed to track every communication of every American, and also every communication of everybody else.

Why? Ostensibly, because the government promises to stop terrorism that way - although it is clear that there are hardly any NSA successes in that endeavor, while it should be clear that no government is capable of protecting all or most of more than 300 million Americans, although it is capable of protecting most of the government's own members.

The second paragraph says what I think since 2005 - and that was long before knowing about the NSA's storage capacity in Utah, long before knowing about Edward Snowden, and long before knowing all the things I know now about surveillance and spying, mostly thanks to Snowden.

I also think something else, with which Kiriakou may disagree (I don't know):

It seems to me, also since 2005, that the main point of giving the NSA, at least in their practice, the right to gather all the data they could gather on anyone, was not to find terrorists, but to prepare information on absolutely everyone so that the US government could decide what to do with its critics (of which there are many, of many kinds and many backgrounds). The end was power - absolute power, based on knowing everything about anyone - from the very beginning.

You may disagree, but that is what I think, and I also insist that this hypothesis accounts well for the known fact that the NSA was remarkably ineffective in finding terrorists, but remarkably effective in hoovering up all information they
could get on anyone.

Here is the last part of Kiriakou that I will quote:

Still, people sometimes ask me why they should care if the authorities read their email or listen to their phone calls. “I have nothing to hide,” they say, “so why should I worry about it?”

This question sends chills up my spine.

As anybody who’s worked in the intelligence community will tell you, the government can learn a lot more about you than you realize.

I think the best answer to “I have nothing to hidem so why should I worry about it?” is that - looking at Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union - only those who are firmly convinced that they are born creepy cowardly collaborators with any power would give that answer, where it only because absolutely no one knows what the next government will hold good and true.

Everybody else knows that a secret service that knows more about any person than the persons themselves know about their past is a mortal danger for any opponent of the government, and also for any doubter of the government (as Stalin showed).

5.
Armed With Fear, Not Facts, Officials Go After Encryption in Wake of Paris

The fifth item today is by Sarah Lazare on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Despite no available evidence that terror suspects used encryption to plan the Paris attacks, U.S. intelligence officials and lawmakers are seizing on the massacre to demand access to protected communications—in what critics warn is a blatant attempt to exploit fear in order to expand state surveillance.

Speaking at a cybersecurity conference in New York on Wednesday, FBI director James Comey argued that it is critical for government officials to have the power to read encrypted messages. Encryption has long been embraced by civil liberties advocates as a method for protecting internet and smartphone messages from spying and censorship—and ultimately safeguarding human rights.

Well, Comey is a liar. What he really wants is in [2]: Absolute power over absolutely everyone, which he hopes to get by himself and the secret services knowing everything there is to know about everyone else.

Then there is this:

Comey is one voice in a crescendo that also includes U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). "Silicon Valley has to look at its products because if you create a product that allows evil monsters to communicate in this way, to behead children, to strike innocents—whether it's at a game in a stadium, in a small restaurant in Paris, take down an airliner—that's a big problem," the top Senate Intelligence Committee Democrat told MSNBC on Monday.

I am sorry, but she is either insane or hysterically lying, for precisely the same argument - or even stronger - holds for not letting Muslims learn to read, for if they can read they can deal with computers, and dealing with computers allows them to blow up everyone, which they will do since they are all evil monsters.
(Yes, I know that is crazy. Does Mrs Feinstein?)

And there is also this, by a former cop (<- Wikipedia) for 15 years:

Meanwhile, some media outlets are featuring voices openly calling for the total suspension of privacy rights and civil liberties while advocating that Muslim-Americans should be aggressively monitored and surveyed. As Fox News contributor Bo Dietl declared on Monday: "Let's stop worrying about people's rights."
O yes, yes, yes! Let's start concentration camps in which we can lock up everyone who is to the left of Mr Dietl! And hit the shit out of them! Let's start torturing them to our hearts content! Let's destroy the Constitution and pretend there never was any Bill of Rights! Let's ...

... well, there is a lot more one can do, also without any fear for any legal punishments, if we "
stop worrying about people's rights".

I hope Mr Dietl voiced an opinion that is rare, even on Fox.

---------------------------------------------
Note

[1] This is the First Amendment (<-Wikipedia):
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
[2] These are the very prescient words of Senator Frank Church, on August 17, 1975 (!!):
In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.
If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.
I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.

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