June 26, 2018

Crisis: Wiretapping, Surveillance, Militarizations, 4th of July, Detained Children, George Orwell


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from June 26, 2018
     B. One Extra Bit: The Political George Orwell

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, June 26, 2018.
1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from June 26, 2018:
1. The Wiretap Rooms
2. 'Most Important Surveillance Story You Will See for Years'
3. Donald Trump’s Space Force and the Dangerous Militarization of Outer

4. Trump’s Fourth of July
5. Detained Children Forced to Recite Pledge of Allegiance
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. The Wiretap Rooms

This article is by Ryan Gallagher and Henrik Moltke on The Intercept. It starts as follows and also is commented in the second item today, while what follows in this item is only from the beginning:
The secrets are hidden behind fortified walls in cities across the United States, inside towering, windowless skyscrapers and fortress-like concrete structures that were built to withstand earthquakes and even nuclear attack. Thousands of people pass by the buildings each day and rarely give them a second glance, because their function is not publicly known. They are an integral part of one of the world’s largest telecommunications networks – and they are also linked to a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program.

Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. In each of these cities, The Intercept has identified an AT&T facility containing networking equipment that transports large quantities of internet traffic across the United States and the world. A body of evidence – including classified NSA documents, public records, and interviews with several former AT&T employees – indicates that the buildings are central to an NSA spying initiative that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory.

I suppose quite so. In fact, I don´t know, but I am quite willing to believe The Intercept. Indeed, one reason is that I - probably - go a bit further than The Intercept.

I know how to program (on cards) since 1973; I had a best friend with an Apple II since 1979; I got my first personal computer - an Osborne: 8 bits with 45 Kb memory - in 1987, and my first PC in 1988; I got internet connection-with-a-telephone-modem in 1996 and then received for a few years a reasonable quantity of mail about my site, until 2007, when I changed to fast internet; and since 2007 I have hardly received any mail about my site (which had hundreds of thousands of visits every year till 2015, when that reporting also was killed) except - of all people - about Ludwig Wittgenstein.

And I do not think that is accidental: It is on purpose, and any mail that is not about a very abstruse philosopher gets filtered away by someone, for I don´t think you can have two sites
with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and receive only 10 mails or so, all but once about Ludwig Wittgenstein, in the last 11 years.

Also I have been commenting on this a lot, and my conclusion (which I first reached by myself in 2012) is that the internet = the intentionally designed instrument to introduce neofascism,  state terrorism, and nearly complete degeneracy of everyone who is not major millionaire and dares to question the policies of his state.

You probably do not believe that. Well, here is a bit from July 23, 2018:

Here is Article 12 from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948:

Article 12.

    • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
This right (and others) that are 70 years old this year has been systematically denied by the internet, by the so-called "security" - i.e. the anonymous spies - for any government, and by Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft etc. who all and systematically interfere with the "privacy, family, home" and "correspondence" of absolutely everyone with an internet computer.

Moreover, these systematic attacks on the privacies of everyone have been going on from when the internet started, which I take it was in 1995 (a little bit later than the actual start).

This means that - e.g. - the American Supreme Court has been walking FAR behind the facts for 23 years now.
[A]nd now the situation is in fact that everyone with an internet computer is completely open to anyone who has the money or the power to find out absolutely everything about him or her.

And I think that is the most frightening fact about our time:

That a few anonymous freaks can and do know absolutely everyone (in principle: the information is there, but it may not have been read by human eyes) in complete detail (including your private thoughts, notes, correspondence, values, ideas and pornography).

It is the most frightening fact because this means that absolutely everyone can be completely controlled, known, manipulated, deceived or - indeed - arrested by a few handfuls of the richest or the most powerful persons.

You may disagree (you always may, indeed) but I am sorry that I am not impressed by anyone who does not have my academic degrees, my intelligence, and my family (and all three are quite uncommon).

Also, I fear very much the above sketches the most likely future of everyone, for which reason I am extremely glad I have no children.

Back to the article. Here is more on AT&T:

The NSA considers AT&T to be one of its most trusted partners and has lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.” It is a collaboration that dates back decades. Little known, however, is that its scope is not restricted to AT&T’s customers. According to the NSA’s documents, it values AT&T not only because it “has access to information that transits the nation,” but also because it maintains unique relationships with other phone and internet providers. The NSA exploits these relationships for surveillance purposes, commandeering AT&T’s massive infrastructure and using it as a platform to covertly tap into communications processed by other companies.

I think that is also quite correct. Here is some about what the present article is about:

Much has previously been reported about the NSA’s surveillance programs. But few details have been disclosed about the physical infrastructure that enables the spying. Last year, The Intercept highlighted a likely NSA facility in New York City’s Lower Manhattan. Now, we are revealing for the first time a series of other buildings across the U.S. that appear to serve a similar function, as critical parts of one of the world’s most powerful electronic eavesdropping systems, hidden in plain sight.

“It’s eye-opening and ominous the extent to which this is happening right here on American soil,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “It puts a face on surveillance that we could never think of before in terms of actual buildings and actual facilities in our own cities, in our own backyards.”

There are hundreds of AT&T-owned properties scattered across the U.S. The eight identified by The Intercept serve a specific function, processing AT&T customers’ data and also carrying large quantities of data from other internet providers. They are known as “backbone” and “peering” facilities.

Actually, Goitein seems a little bit confused, for there was some information about where and how the NSA+AT&T tapped the internet: See Mark Klein (that is - still: I do not know how long - on the ever worsening Wikipedia).

Here is the last bit that I quote from this quite interesting article (still from its beginning):

AT&T currently boasts 19,500 “points of presence” in 149 countries where internet traffic is exchanged. But only eight of the company’s facilities in the U.S. offer direct access to its “common backbone” – key data routes that carry vast amounts of emails, internet chats, social media updates, and internet browsing sessions. These eight locations are among the most important in AT&T’s global network. They are also highly valued by the NSA, documents indicate.

The data exchange between AT&T and other networks initially takes place outside AT&T’s control, sources said, at third-party data centers that are owned and operated by companies such as California’s Equinix. But the data is then routed – in whole or in part – through the eight AT&T buildings, where the NSA taps into it. By monitoring what it calls the “peering circuits” at the eight sites, the spy agency can collect “not only AT&T’s data, they get all the data that’s interchanged between AT&T’s network and other companies,” according to Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician who worked with the company for 22 years. It is an efficient point to conduct internet surveillance, Klein said, “because the peering links, by the nature of the connections, are liable to carry everybody’s traffic at one point or another during the day, or the week, or the year.”

There is a lot more in the article, that is strongly recommended. And here follows one comment on it:

2. 'Most Important Surveillance Story You Will See for Years'

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows and can be seen as an important comment on the previous item:
"The most important surveillance story you will see for years just went online, revealing how AT&T became the internet's biggest enemy, secretly collaborating against its customers and partners to destroy your privacy."

That was how whistleblower and privacy advocate Edward Snowden reacted to the publication of an explosive story by The Intercept on Monday, which reveals for the first time how "fortress-like" AT&T buildings located in eight major American cities have played a central role in a massive National Security Agency (NSA) spying program "that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory."
I think Edward Snowden is quite right, and I also infer from what he is saying that he does not seem to expect any more important whistleblowers from the NSA.

I remark on this second point because I - who had very courageous parents and grandparents, who were some of the very few who went into the Dutch real resistance (in which 99% of all Dutchmen claimed to have cooperated immediately after WW II: they were lying) - concluded immediately when I learned about him that he is an extra-ordinary person. I think I am and was quite right, and you can check yourself what I wrote in 2013.

Here is more on the role of AT&T:

"It's eye-opening and ominous the extent to which this is happening right here on American soil," Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told The Intercept in an interview. "It puts a face on surveillance that we could never think of before in terms of actual buildings and actual facilities in our own cities, in our own backyards."

The Intercept's detailed report—based on a large body of evidence that includes public records, classified NSA documents, and interviews with former AT&T employees—shows how the telecom giant has willingly helped the NSA collect the data of its own customers and those of other companies, thanks to its "unique relationships with other phone and internet providers."

Yes indeed. Here is some more:

"The eight locations are featured on a top-secret NSA map, which depicts U.S. facilities that the agency relies upon for one of its largest surveillance programs, code-named FAIRVIEW," Gallagher and Moltke write. "AT&T is the only company involved in FAIRVIEW, which was first established in 1985, according to NSA documents, and involves tapping into international telecommunications cables, routers, and switches."

The report continues:

In 2003, the NSA launched new internet mass surveillance methods, which were pioneered under the FAIRVIEW program. The methods were used by the agency to collect—within a few months—some 400 billion records about people's internet communications and activity, the New York Times previously reported. FAIRVIEW was also forwarding more than one million emails every day to a "keyword selection system" at the NSA's Fort Meade headquarters.

So... AT&T has been systematically spying on everyone since 1985; the NSA started collecting absolutely everything it could get in 2003 (at the latest), and collected in the first few months already 400 billion private records (that ought to have been completely forbidden: see above) and ever since then the hundreds of billions of private records have been streaming into the NSA´s computers ever since.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

Fight for the Future (FFTF), an open internet advocacy group, reacted with alarm to The Intercept's reporting on Monday, writing on Twitter, "AT&T has bent over backwards to help the U.S. government spy on essentially all internet traffic."

"Giant telecom companies aren't just "anti-consumer," they're actively helping authoritarian governments and pushing for policies that endanger free expression," FFTF concluded.

Yes, except that I am a little bit further in my own conclusions: see above. That is: Neofascism is approaching as fast as the NSA and AT&T can bring it closer. And neofascism will end in an absolute authoritarianism in which there will be two kinds of people: (i) those in the NSA, the government, and the very rich, who will be fully human, and (ii) the rest, that is disposable at will by the former, and who will only be human enough to work (and may well be slaves).

I am a pessimist? Read George Orwell, and see below.

3. Donald Trump’s Space Force and the Dangerous Militarization of Outer Space

This article is by - it seems - Gbenga Oduntan on AlterNet and originally on The Conversation. It starts as follows:

In a recent speech, President Donald Trump announced a new policy for the American space programme. It is time, he argued, for America to create a “Space Force”. As ever, the policy announcement was full of glittering ideas but short on detail, largely unspecific and even inaccurate. What we do know is that this would be a new and separate military command, “equal” to the American Airforce. But like much of Trumpian vision, superlative expressions shroud reality and do great injustice to the serious issues at stake.

We should all be concerned by the prospect of the nuclearisation and militarisation of outer space. It is crucial for world, and perhaps even intergalactic, peace that the legality of his plans are subject to the fiercest domestic and international scrutiny. At the moment it is unclear how they could possible fit in with existing international legal frameworks.

Yes indeed - and to the extent of my legal comprehension (which is not very large, but which exists to some extent for the Netherlands and the USA) I´d say this Trumpian ¨plan¨ does contradict ¨existing international legal frameworks¨ on many points.

Here is some more:

And America is not alone in the quest for a military presence in space. All modern armies rely on space-based applications, such as satellites, and jostle for military advantages in space. Although, military uses of technologies in space may be more useful for domestic conflicts where large swathes of territory fall under terrorist control, such as the Sambisa forest in northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram operates.

China and Russia have space militarisation programmes of their own, much of which take place out of sight. Recently, China attracted suspicion by shooting down one of its own satellites.

But certain aspects of Trump’s recent policy announcement should raise serious alarm. Trump said: “It is not enough to have American presence in space we must have American dominance.” This deviates dangerously from the historical and legal norm. To ensure America’s security interests is one thing. To dominate outer space is another.
Yes indeed. Here is some more, that outlines that Trump´s ¨dominance¨ is very probably quite illegal - unless he succeeds in destroying the laws (which is quite possible):
The moon and other celestial bodies, according to the 1967 UN Space Treaty, must be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies including asteroids is forbidden. The UN demands that the exploration and use of outer space should be carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all countries.

There is a complete ban on placing nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction in outer space or around the atmosphere of the earth. Other leading space treaties ban the placement of alternative weapons of mass destruction in space. But there is a loophole in that they do not specifically prevent placement of other types of weapons in space.

And besides there is a lot of space, and there is in fact very little effective control. Here is the ending of this article:

We should try our utmost to make sure the future carries on this tradition. The cooperation of humankind in space exploration, which exists in every aspect of space science, space law, space economics and policy must not be sacrificed because of Trump’s dangerous ideas.

Yes indeed. And this is a recommended article.
4. Trump’s Fourth of July

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

On this coming Fourth of July, it’s worth pondering the true meaning of American patriotism – as opposed to the malignant, distorted view of it propounded by Donald J. Trump.

For Trump, the central challenge of American patriotism is to secure our borders. “Without borders, there can be no nation,” he says.

But excluding foreigners has never been a dominant part of American patriotism. For most of its existence America has been relatively open to people from the rest of the world, especially those fleeing tyranny and violence.

America’s core struggle has been one of inclusion, not exclusion. We have strived to extend equal citizenship to Native Americans, African Americans, women, and LGBTQs.

Yes indeed. Here is more:

Trump’s patriotism centers on symbolic displays of loyalty like standing for the national anthem and waving the American flag.

But such displays haven’t been at the center of American patriotism, either. Historically, American patriotism has meant taking a fair share of the burdens of keeping the nation going.

This includes volunteering time and energy to improving the community and country. It has meant paying taxes in full rather than lobbying for lower taxes, seeking tax loopholes, or squirreling away money abroad.

It also means refraining from making political contributions that corrupt our politics, and blowing the whistle on abuses of power even at the risk of losing one’s job.

Yes, although one may well ask what is the proportion of decent and honest persons among - for example - the members of the Senate and of Congress: I must say that I fear that is a small minority.

Here is more, in fact about the contrast between true patriots and Donald Trump:

True patriots don’t inundate government with industry lobbyists, attack the freedom of the press, criticize judges who disagree with them, or fill the airwaves with lies. They don’t direct employers to fire employees who exercise their freedom of speech.

True patriots don’t court foreign dictators, and don’t excuse tyranny by denigrating America.
True patriots don’t fuel racist, religious or ethnic divisions. They aren’t homophobic or sexist. To the contrary, true patriots seek to confirm and strengthen and celebrate the “we” in “we the people of the United States.”

I agree, but I am not optimistic. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Our national identity has been our shared ideals.

If we are losing our national identity it is because we are losing those ideals: a commitment to the rule of law, to our democratic institutions, to truth, to tolerance of our differences, to equal political rights and equal opportunity, to participating in our civic life and making necessary sacrifices for these ideals we hold in common.

We must share these ideals if we are to have a functioning society. Without them, there is no America.

Trump is doing everything he can to destroy these ideals.

In fact, while I believe Trump is both a madman (I am a psychologist) and a neofascist (I am a philosopher - and check my links if you did not!) I think there is something far more threatening to democracy and fair government and that is the fact that the NSA and most other secret services have been downloading everything they could get from anyone (as have been Facebook, Google and more) in order to know how much they conform to the governments´ standards, and have been doing so from 1985 or 2003 onwards.

But for more see item 1. And this is a recommended article.

5. Detained Children Forced to Recite Pledge of Allegiance

This article is by Julia Conley on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

While tearing children away from parents under a policy designed to keep asylum seekers from entering U.S. society, the Trump administration is forcing those same children to pledge their allegiance to the country that is actively trying to expel them.

We make the children recite a pledge of allegiance to the country that took them from their parents. This is calculated sadism.
— matt blaze
Yes indeed, quite so: This is calculated sadism (of a very sick and ugly kind as well). Here is some more:

President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week stating that families would be detained together under his "zero tolerance" immigration policy, but thousands of children remain separated from their parents.

The Washington Post on Monday detailed the conditions in which many of those children are living, in detention centers like Casa Padre in Brownsville, Texas, describing "a converted Walmart where each morning they are required to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, in English, to the country that holds them apart from their parents."

A facility employee told the Post, "We tell them, 'It's out of respect.'"

No, you do this because you are sick sadists, who treat these children and their parents as if they are sub-humans and you are super-humans.

Here is a sum-up from the ending of this article:

Let me make sure I have this straight: babies and children who have done nothing wrong are being ripped away from their parents, locked in cages, and being forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in front of murals of Donald Trump, but the biggest crisis of today is "civility"?

— Evan Greer

Yes, I agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

B. One Extra Bit

This is an extra bit in the crisis series. I did so before a few times. This time it is about
This article is by David N. Smith on Jacobin Magazin: It starts with the following introduction (and ¨today¨= June 25):
George Orwell was born 115 years ago today. He is often remembered as a paragon of lucidity and truth-telling. But he was also deeply serious about socialist politics.
I had forgotten that (and tend not to memorize dates of birth, except for the year). But today it is the next day, and I consider Orwell to be one of the best and most interesting writers of the 20th Century, and indeed also one of the most intelligent, for Orwell was very intelligent (and won a scholarship to Eton because of his brilliance).

And this is the start of the article, which is quite good:

George Orwell was serious about politics.

That might seem obvious, given the pervasively political valence of “Orwellian” discourse and the politically charged touchstones of Orwell’s famous novels, the Bolshevik revolution in Animal Farm and totalitarian thought control in Nineteen Eighty-Four. But the degree to which Orwell was steeped in the crosscurrents of radical politics has been routinely underestimated. So much has been said about Orwell’s legendarily plain speech and his free-thinking worldview that he now figures, for many, as an icon of non-doctrinaire and even anti-doctrinaire thought.

George Orwell, whose most celebrated novel features a thirty-page tract by a fiery Trotsky-like ideologue on “the theory and practice of oligarchical collectivism,” is often treated as a quixotic naïf whose socialism was moral rather than theoretical, intuitive rather than intellectual. The truth is more complex.

Orwell was an iconoclast, but within the socialist tradition, not outside it. His satires of ideological excesses rang true because he knew those excesses intimately — ideologically, culturally, and theoretically.

Yes, I agree. And since I have read almost everything Orwell has written (that is in part contained in his Collected Journalism, Essays and Letters that were edited by his second wife, and that are quite important) and I am a philosopher and psychologist of 68 (academically), who first read Orwell when he was 18, I can add that anyone who classifies Orwell as ¨a quixotic naïf whose socialism was moral rather than theoretical, intuitive rather than intellectual¨ either is a liar or a major ignorant, if he or she is not (also) quite stupid.

Here is some more:

Orwell never romanticized left groups, even those he favored, like the Independent Labour Party in Britain or the militia of Spain’s Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification, with which he fought in the Spanish civil war. But he admired dissent, and he knew that building an oppositional force, however small, is an achievement. “I have never seen him so enthusiastic,” Arthur Koestler later reminisced, as when they decided to work together to found a human rights organization in 1946.

When groups he opposed but respected were victimized, he rallied to their defense, both privately and publicly. During the war he was sharply critical of anarchist war resisters, but when Scotland Yard raided their press in 1944, Orwell published a stinging criticism in the socialist Tribune.

Yes indeed, again. And in fact here is a personal memory about Orwell:

My parents were both members of the Dutch Communist Party for 45 years each. They were quite intelligent, but not well educated. I stopped being a communist (and a Marxist) when I was 20 (and I was the only one with my background who did) and one part of my reasons was Orwell.

More precisely, I had heard about Orwell since I was 16 or so, and what I had heard - in the communist environment I grew up in - was that he was ¨a traitor¨ (and a liar and dishonest),
but since I was persistent I also soon heard, from virtually everybody who told me the above that
¨Of course, I have never read any of the books of this traitor¨.

I thought that was quite strange, and decided to look for a book of Orwell myself (in Dutch: my  English was not very good when I was 16 or 17), and eventually found one, namely a Dutch translation of ¨Homage to Catalonia¨. What I discovered was a man who could really write, and who could really think, indeed in both respects much better than any of his critics.

And that set me on the course which led me quickly away from communism and Marxism (although I am a philosophical anarchist since 1971, where the ¨philosophical¨ is meant to stress that I then had concluded - correctly I think, though not pleasantly - that the vast majority of men who are alive do not have the intelligence to develop rational ideas themselves).

Back to the article:

This is not how Orwell is ordinarily understood. His publishers, and his critics, capitalized on his early death to promote the stereotype of the steadfastly anti-intellectual prophet, whose dystopian fables sprang from either good common sense or pitiable idiosyncrasy.

Neither stereotype is helpful. Orwell wrote lucidly, and he scorned casuistic hair-splitting, but he was far from naïve or anti-intellectual. Even in his tubercular final years, as his energy flagged and he labored to finish Nineteen Eighty-Four, he read prolifically.

In fact, Orwell was one of the most intelligent Englishmen of his own time, and a far better essayist than almost anyone.

Here is the ending of this article:

Fortunately, Orwell’s vast readership takes him much more seriously. And those among his readers who dig deeply — reading his lesser-known essays and reviews as well as his prophetic novels — soon learn that his fiction was rooted in a familiarity with real-world politics that was no less expert for being unpretentious. In these days of disinformation, political clarity and integrity are rare and precious.

Orwell was, and remains, a paragon of lucidity, truth-telling, and genuine insight. May he find an even wider audience.

Yes indeed, I quite agree. And this is a strongly recommended article.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
       home - index - summaries - mail