May 14, 2015
Crisis: Western Terrorist Governments, Freedom Act*2, Blairites, Hedges & Scheer
  "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


Greatest Threat to Free Speech Comes Not From
     Terrorism, But From Those Claiming to Fight it

2. USA Freedom Act Passes House, Codifying Bulk
     Collection For First Time, Critics Say

House rejects NSA collection of phone records with vote
     to reform spy agency

The return of the Blairites is the last thing Labour needs
Interview: Robert Scheer and Chris Hedges on the
     Military-Industrial-Intelligence Complex (Part 1)


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, May 14, 2015.

This is a crisis log.
There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is a fine article by Glenn Greenwald, who insists (correctly) that the secret services of the states are the greatest terrorists, and an extremely great danger: I agree, since I said so already in 2005 (and prove this); item 2 is a good article by Sam Sacks on the passing of the (so-called) "Freedom Act" by the House, which may be called: far too little, far too late; item 3 is the same news fact as presented on the Restylized Guardian (a lot worse); item 4 is a somewhat good article by Seumas Milne on The Guardian (but he likes Labour too much, in my opinion, though he is correctly offended by the Blairite Tories); and item 5 is the first from a seven part series in which Chris Hedges interviews Robert Scheer (which is a good idea).

1. Greatest Threat to Free Speech Comes Not From Terrorism, But From Those Claiming to Fight it

The first item today is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
  • Greatest Threat to Free Speech Comes Not From Terrorism, But From Those Claiming to Fight it
This starts as follows - and Glenn Greenwald's says what I have been argueing since October 29, 2005 (Dutch, but quite clear [1]):

We learned recently from Paris that the Western world is deeply and passionately committed to free expression and ready to march and fight against attempts to suppress it. That’s a really good thing, since there are all sorts of severe suppression efforts underway in the West — perpetrated not by The Terrorists but by the western politicians claiming to fight them.

One of the most alarming examples comes, not at all surprisingly, from the U.K. government, which is currently agitating for new counter-terrorism powers “including plans for extremism disruption orders designed to restrict those trying to radicalize young people.” Here are the powers which the British Freedom Fighters and Democracy Protectors are seeking:

They would include a ban on broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print. The bill will also contain plans for banning orders for extremist organisations which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places, but it will fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred.

It will also contain new powers to close premises including mosques where extremists seek to influence others. The powers of the Charity Commission to root out charities that misappropriate funds towards extremism and terrorism will also be strengthened.

I protested against these insane or quite (neo-)fascistic ideas and values yesterday - " to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print", "banning orders for extremist organisations", "powers to close premises (...) where extremists seek to influence others": what else are these insane or neo-fascist degeneracies to be called?! - so I am quite glad to see Glenn Greenwald agrees.

Indeed, Greenwald also says:

In essence, advocating any ideas or working for any political outcomes regarded by British politicians as “extremist” will not only be a crime, but can be physically banned in advance. Basking in his election victory, Prime Minister David Cameron unleashed this Orwellian decree to explain why new Thought Police powers are needed: “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.'” It’s not enough for British subjects merely to “obey the law”; they must refrain from believing in or expressing ideas which Her Majesty’s Government dislikes.

If all that sounds menacing, tyrannical and even fascist to you — and really, how could it not? “extremism disruption orders” — you should really watch this video of Tory Home Secretary Theresa May try to justify the bill in an interview on BBC this morning. When pressed on what “extremism” means – specifically, when something crosses the line from legitimate disagreement into criminal “extremism” – she evades the question completely, instead repeatedly invoking creepy slogans about the need to stop those who seek to “undermine Our British Values” and, instead, ensure “we are together as one society, One Nation” (I personally believe this was all more lyrical in its original German). Click here to watch the video and see the face of Western authoritarianism, advocating powers in the name of Freedom that are its very antithesis.

And yes, Cameron did sound "menacing, tyrannical and even fascist" to me (although I prefer: neo-fascist [2]).

The reasons are already in my article from October 29, 2005
. Here are the last two paragraphs of that article::

The principle that I am using is very easy to understand, very simple, and exists since centuries (...): The best and often the only defense against government terror is a maintained state of law, without a secret police, with habeas corpus, without imprisonment of anyone merely on suspicion, without a special class of "crimes against the state", without systematic spying, surveillance and destruction of the right to communicate without being spied on, with freedom of opinion, including the statement of opinions that are inconsistent with existing ideas or laws.

Because by far the greatest and most dangerous terrorist organizations were always the politce and the secret services of states. Always, during all of known history.

After ten years, and after Snowden's revelations, I think I saw this quite rightly, and the dangers are enormous, also because they are explicitly kept secret and classified, and because they are also difficult to understand even if they were not secret: Only a small minority knows how to program, for example.

And it may be well to list what has happened in these ten years:

The state of law has been deregulated; secret services are all powerful; habeas corpus has effectively ended; people are imprisoned merely on suspicion (and may be tortured); there is a special class of "crimes against the state"; there is systematic surveillance of everyone, with systematic spying on everything; one's rights not to have one's mails or letters read by the government have totally  disappeared; one has no freedom of opinion anymore (in England, under Cameron); and one can be locked up for stating anything the government does not like.

And why? Because the states, the politicians  and the governments have betrayed and sold out the great masses of the people, and have been bought by the very rich.

2. USA Freedom Act Passes House, Codifying Bulk Collection For First Time, Critics Say

The next item today is an article by Sam Sacks on The Intercept:
  • USA Freedom Act Passes House, Codifying Bulk Collection For First Time, Critics Say
This starts as follows:

After only one hour of floor debate, and no allowed amendments, the House of Representatives today passed legislation that seeks to address the NSA’s controversial surveillance of American communications. However, opponents believe it may give brand new authorization to the U.S. government to conduct domestic dragnets.

The USA Freedom Act was approved in a 338-88 vote, with approximately equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans voting against. The bill’s supporters say it will disallow bulk collection of domestic telephone metadata, in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has regularly ordered phone companies to turn over such data. The Obama administration claims such collection is authorized by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which is set to expire June 1. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently held that Section 215 does not provide such authorization.

Today’s legislation would prevent the government from issuing such orders for bulk collection and instead force it to rely on telephone companies to store all their metadata — some of which the government could then demand using a “specific selection term” related to foreign terrorism. Bill supporters maintain this would prevent indiscriminate collection.

Yes, but the last paragraph is mostly plain nonsense, and that is not due to the journalist writing the article. Here is the first reason the bill is mostly nonsensical:

However, the legislation may not end bulk surveillance and in fact could codify the ability of the government to conduct dragnet data collection.

“We’re taking something that was not permitted under regular section 215 … and now we’re creating a whole apparatus to provide for it,” Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said on Tuesday night during a House Rules Committee proceeding.

“The language does limit the amount of bulk collection, it doesn’t end bulk collection,” Rep. Amash said, arguing that the problematic “specific selection term” allows for “very large data collection, potentially in the hundreds of thousands of people, maybe even millions.”

In a statement posted to Facebook ahead of the vote, Rep. Amash said the legislation “falls woefully short of reining in the mass collection of Americans’ data, and it takes us a step in the wrong direction by specifically authorizing such collection in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.”

Quite so. Note this means legally that the new "law" is not a real law, but merely a false 'law', for the Constitution cannot be lawed out of existence, and any law that does get accepted must be consistent with the Constitution. (But I agree that Senators and House members may lie and posture a whole lot.)

Next, the other reason why I think this proposed bill is mostly nonsense is not treated in the article, and consists of two points:

First, the bill does give a lot of freedoms and status to the NSA. Second, the NSA collects the data it wants anyway, as it has been doing since 2001. (And the NSA spokespersons will lie and lie and lie, also under oath to Congress, but they may lie, and nothing will be done if they are proven to lie: they're too powerful, too secret, and too well covered by the government.)

So my own reading of the law is mostly that it is a success for the NSA:

They can still do as they please (or let the British GCHQ do the American phone tapping); the telephone companies have to store the data rather than the secret services themselves (so you may expect your cell phone rentals will go up, if you are American); and the Fourth Amendment is raped.

House rejects NSA collection of phone records with vote to reform spy agency

The next item is an article by Dan Roberts, Sabrina Siddiqui and Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian:
  • House rejects NSA collection of phone records with vote to reform spy agency
Indeed this is the same news as reported in The Intercept in item 2, but this time in the Renewed Restyled Improved Guardian [3]:

Congressmen voted overwhelmingly to ban the mass collection of American phone records on Wednesday, as the House of Representatives piled up pressure to reform the most domestically contentious National Security Agency program revealed by Edward Snowden.

Two years after the former NSA contractor first revealed the controversial “bulk collection” program in the Guardian, the 338-88 vote in favour of the USA Freedom Act marks the second time the House has voted for an alternative system restricting government agencies to more targeted surveillance.

But this time, reformers are growing more confident of also convincing the Senate to back the legislation after strong support in recent days from the White House, intelligence agency leaders and a US federal appeals court – even as major civil libertarian groups have decried the bill as insufficient reform.

See what happened? The Senate is now consisting of "reformers", whereas  "major civilian libertarian groups" are sidelined to the more nutty wings of "extremists" (who are - of course! - potential "terrorists").

“With the passage of this bill, the House will have done its part to enact historic and sweeping reforms,” said John Conyers of Michigan, the leading Democrat behind the bill.

“Today we have a rare opportunity to restore a measure of restraint to surveillance programmes that have simply gone too far.”

Yet several major civil libertarian groups, including the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, abandoned support for a bill they consider an insufficient reform.

Privacy advocates were emboldened last week by a federal appeals court’s rejection of the NSA’s bulk domestic phone records collection. They prefer a flat expiration of Section 215, a broad Patriot Act provision authorizing vast law enforcement powers to acquire business records, which will happen on 1 June absent explicit congressional revival. They note that the vast majority of bulk NSA surveillance, especially outside the United States, will be left untouched by the USA Freedom Act.

I have noted the "Yet", but yes: they were quite right. Anyway - you can read all of the article by clicking on the last link, but you shouldn't forget, if you do, also
to read all of item 2.

The return of the Blairites is the last thing Labour needs

The next item is an article by Seumas Milne on The Guardian:
  • The return of the Blairites is the last thing Labour needs
This starts as follows:

We can’t say we weren’t warned. David Cameron has lost no time since the election in turning his government sharply to the right. Under the banner of “blue collar Conservatism”, the Thatcherites and neocons have been let off the leash.

New strike ballot voting thresholds of 40% will make most industrial action illegal – this from a government backed by less than 25% of the electorate. New restrictions on freedom of speech are being lined up in the name of British values. After a pre-election austerity pause, prepare for the most savage benefit and spending cuts yet – and what one Tory minister has promised will be a “flood of privatisation”.

Yes, indeed. But there are more dangers than from the Tories:

But the Tories are not the only ones out to shift politics to the right. The Blairites have seized on Labour’s defeat to launch a bid to take back control of the party. More than two decades after Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson created New Labour, they are demanding a return to its 1990s embrace of corporate power and a mythical “centre ground”.

An orchestrated parade of former party luminaries grown fat on privatised directorships has denounced Ed Miliband’s modest departures from the New Labour script, echoed by his brother, David, and a clutch of hopeful Blairite candidates for the leadership. Aspiration and middle England had been abandoned in favour of the poor, they claim, while the “wealth creators” – by which they mean its owners – have been abused and threatened with spiteful taxes.

Again: Yes, indeed - and here I see that "aspiration" Owen Jones was so concerned about: it is total crap.

There is considerably more in the article, with which I mostly agree, except that I don't believe in Labour, and I also believe a Blairite "Labour" is even worse than the Tories, for the Blairite Labour Party pushes Tory principles, that only serve the rich, but present them as if they would serve the poor.

5. Interview: Robert Scheer and Chris Hedges on the Military-Industrial-Intelligence Complex (Part 1)

The next item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig (and note this is the first of a seven part series):
  • Interview: Robert Scheer and Chris Hedges on the Military-Industrial-Intelligence Complex (Part 1)
This starts as follows (and the whole idea of this interview is excellent):

In the first part of a wide-ranging, seven-part discussion about Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer’s new book, “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies are Destroying Democracy,” Scheer says the U.S. government and private industry have teamed up to turn the Internet into a massive machine for simultaneously selling to and spying on Americans.

Scheer tells Hedges that NSA whistleblower Edward “Snowden provided this incredibly invaluable educational service to say there is no private sector, that the private and the government are merged.”

Scheer continues: “[T]he main reason [the Internet] expanded is because it’s a great source of profit, not for those who produce content,” but “for the aggregators. Why? Google, you know, Facebook, so forth. Because they get this data, they get your private data, and they can do the targeted advertising. … you have this heat-seeking missile of targeted advertising.

“OK. That was acceptable to most of the world’s consumers as long as they thought it was totally in the private sector. Yeah, it’s nice to know what restaurant is near me and it’s good to know what shoes are being sold. That even seems like a bargain. But when you mix that, all that data, and you say, as Edward Snowden revealed, that that’s all available to the government, whether Google wants it or not—we could argue about the degree of complicity, but there’s no question after Snowden that there are no barriers to the government grabbing that data. They go under the ocean and cut into fiber optic cable and scoop it all up. They set up dummy cell stations and listening posts all over the world. They go through the backdoor channel, Google. They implement, so we now know, SIM cards that are in everything, every phone, everything, that we have had billions of SIM cards phonied up, and so they’re in people’s phones. And so even when the phone is off, it becomes a mechanism for spying on you in your bedroom, in your most intimate meetings. If you want to talk to people about maybe joining Occupy or joining the Tea Party, they can spy on your meeting. So what we’ve had is actually a subversion of this very exciting technology which could bring people together and communicate and turns it into a spying mechanism.”

This is also an adequate summary, so I leave it here, except that I recommend you see the video (by the Real News) or read all of the text. You can find both
by clicking on the last dotted link.


[1] I know I have been promising a translation of this article for a rather long time (it cannot be done by Google) and there still is none. I am sorry, but I am ill, have other concerns, and indeed translated over half of it, which I cannot find anymore. Anyway - I'll try again, but yes: the Dutch is quite clear.

[2] I know I used "fascist" or "corporate fascist" on December 25, 2012 (which is a bit clearer here, on January 31, 2014) simply because this seemed the most adequate to me. These days I prefer "neo-fascist", because indeed it is old in its being the result of the merger of the big corporations and the governments (which has happened all over the West), where the governments simply do what the big multi-national corporations tell them to do, but it is new in being far more powerful than previous fascism was, what with the government's secret services now knowing absolutely everything about absolutely everyone (and rapidly growing dictatorial, as does Cameron's new government).

[3] It is now three months ago since the horrible changes of The Guardian, that are - very briefly - documented here.

To the best of my knowledge, there are no discussions of any kind about it; the site is still an awfully looking extremely difficult to work piece of textual shit; all photographs and all videos published by the Guardian are extremely ugly extremely UNsharp "pictures"; and every article you download comes with half as much Javascript code.

My own guess is that The Guardian is going to be like The Times in five years: It has been taken over by its IT-staff because the leading journalists never really learned about computers and about programming.

Also, I'd be very glad to be mistaken, but I have seen something similar  happening in Holland to the NRC-Handelsblad, and that is currently not worth 1/10th of what it was worth from 1970-2010 (when I read it daily: I ceased doing so by the end of 2010, and did very well). It was a good paper during the 40 years I've read it.

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