May 22, 2015
Crisis: War Crimes, NSA, Surveillance, Financial Crimes, Snowden, Scheer & Hedges - 3
  "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


 In the Same Week, the U.S. and U.K. Hide Their War
     Crimes by Invoking “National Security”

2. NSA Planned to Hijack Google App Store to Hack

3. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Government
     Surveillance (HBO)

4. Matt Taibbi: World’s Largest Banks Admit to Massive
     Global Financial Crimes, But Escape Jail (Again)
5. Here's the Best Stuff from Edward Snowden's Reddit "Ask
     Me Anything"

6. Scheer and Hedges: They Know Everything About You
     (Text 3/7)

This is a Nederlog of Friday, May 22, 2015.

This is a crisis log. This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about Glenn Greenwald's article about how war crimes are hidden these days in the U.S. and U.K.; item 2 is about how very far the - secret - NSA goes so as to be able to surveil everyone (in secret); item 3 is about an older video by John Oliver, repeated now because it is a good video and the surveillance may be decided very soon; item 4 is about an interview with Matt Taibbi on the very great quite unpunished crimes that these days are the source of incredible riches; item 5 is about an article that summarizes a recent Redddit session with Edward Snowden; and item 6 is a summary of part 3 (from 7) of the interview Chris Hedges had with Robert Scheer.

In the Same Week, the U.S. and U.K. Hide Their War Crimes by Invoking “National Security”  

The first item today is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
  • In the Same Week, the U.S. and U.K. Hide Their War Crimes by Invoking “National Security”
This is a good article by Glenn Greenwald that starts with some information about the late Colonel Ian Henderson, who seems to have proudly tortured for Great Britain for thirty years (!) in Bahrain, where he was known as "The Butcher of Bahrain".

I will skip that. If you are interested you can use the last link. I pick Glenn Greenwald's argument up (also: pressed as I am for space and time today) when it starts to get more general:

For years, human rights groups have fought to obtain old documents, particularly a 37-year-old diplomatic cable, relating to British responsibility for Henderson’s brutality in Bahrain. Ordinarily, documents more than 30 years old are disclosable, but the British government has fought every step of the way to conceal this cable.

But now, a governmental tribunal ruled largely in favor of the government and held that most of the diplomatic able shall remain  suppressed. The tribunal’s ruling was at least partially based on “secret evidence for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) from a senior diplomat, Edward Oakden, who argued that Britain’s defence interests in Bahrain were of paramount importance”; specifically, “Mr Oakden implied that the release of such information could jeopardise Britain’s new military base in the country.”

This is indeed contemptible: If the public and the courts are denied getting the information about past governments (in)actions, even more than 30 years after they happened, by the present government, then clearly the present government
is acting like a bunch of criminals who try to protect their reputations as 'good guys', thereby making it impossible for both the public and the courts to reach
good and properly informed decisions about what really happened.

Also, as Glenn Greenwald says:

This is exactly the same mentality driving the Obama administration’s years-long effort to suppress photographs showing torture of detainees by the U.S. In 2009, Obama said he would comply with a court ruling that ordered those torture photos disclosed, but weeks after his announcement, reversed himself. Adopting the argument made by a group run by Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney against disclosure of the photos, Obama insisted that to release the photos “would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in danger.”
Yes indeed. Apart from that: Not to release the photos also further inflames anti-American opinion, and indeed makes the whole American government look
like liars and cheats, who don't care for international law whenever this might oppose them.

And Glenn Greenwald correctly concludes:
No healthy democracy can possibly function where this warped mindset prevails: we are entitled to hide anything we do that makes us look bad because making us look bad harms “national security,” and we are the ones who make that decision without challenge. As the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer said:

To allow the government to suppress any image that might provoke someone, somewhere, to violence would be to give the government sweeping power to suppress evidence of its own agents’ misconduct. Giving the government that kind of censorial power would have implications far beyond this specific context.

But even more threatening than the menace to democracy is the propagandzied public this mentality guarantees.
Yes, for this means the American military can do mostly as they please without any accountability, for all their crimes are covered, denied, and classified, and even thirty years later remain hidden, essentially on the basis of the argument that knowing about their crimes would make it harder for the military to do mostly as they please.

Indeed, I conclude that the U.S.A. ceased to be a "
healthy democracy" with the presidency of Bush Jr. Presently it is, at best, a formal "democracy" where a majority of manipulated persons, who lack all manner of essential information to
base their own rational decisions on, simply because the government decides that the public has no right to know what the government does, elect their leaders, mostly based on plain lies or propaganda.

For more on this and related topics, see the interviews Chris Hedges made with Sheldon Wolin (<- Wikipedia). The first starts here, on October 21, 2014, and the following three are here, on October 29, 2014.

2. NSA Planned to Hijack Google App Store to Hack Smartphones

The next item today is an article by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept:
  • NSA Planned to Hijack Google App Store to Hack Smartphones
This starts as follows:

The National Security Agency and its closest allies planned to hijack data links to Google and Samsung app stores to infect smartphones with spyware, a top-secret document reveals.

The surveillance project was launched by a joint electronic eavesdropping unit called the Network Tradecraft Advancement Team, which includes spies from each of the countries in the “Five Eyes” alliance — the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.

The top-secret document, obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, was published Wednesday by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept. The document outlines a series of tactics that the NSA and its counterparts in the Five Eyes were working on during workshops held in Australia and Canada between November 2011 and February 2012.

The main purpose of the workshops was to find new ways to exploit smartphone technology for surveillance.
There is considerably more under the last dotted link.

3. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Government Surveillance (HBO)

The next item is not an article but a video, and also one that is a few months old.
I repeat it today because the U.S. Senate will decide on these matters before June 1, and this is a good video:
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Government Surveillance (HBO)

I saw this briefly after it was published and liked it.

Note that the first half consists of John Oliver's explanations, and the second half consists of an interview wit Edward Snowden. (And see item 6 and item 7.)

4. Matt Taibbi: World’s Largest Banks Admit to Massive Global Financial Crimes, But Escape Jail (Again) 

The next item is another article by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, who interviewed Matt Taibbi, originally on Democracy Now!:
  • Matt Taibbi: World’s Largest Banks Admit to Massive Global Financial Crimes, But Escape Jail (Again)
This starts on Alternet with the following introduction:
In an interview with Democracy Now!, Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi spoke about the recent news surrounding the five major banks – Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS – who pled guilty to rigging the price of foreign currencies and interest rates. Their fines amount up to more than $5 billion. “They were monkeying around with the prices of every currency on Earth,” Taibbi told Amy Goodman. “So, if you can imagine that anybody who has money, which basically includes anybody who’s breathing on the planet, all of those people were affected by this activity. So if you have dollars in your pocket, they were monkeying around with the prices of dollars versus euros, so you might have had more or less money fractionally, depending on all of this manipulation, every single day.”
This is a good interview, that shows the big banks are these days (and at least since 2007) acting as very big criminals, simply because no one regulates them,
which happens in part because they mostly deregulated themselves, from Clinton's government onwards, and in part because no one in the American and other governments is willing to act against them as they should.

Here is one more Taibbi quote, who explains why the banks pleaded guilty in this case:

MATT TAIBBI: Well, I think part of it is because they had this very graphic online record of these people chatting and admitting to essentially a criminal conspiracy in writing. That’s one of the things that’s really interesting about this entire era of financial crime, is that you have so much of this very graphic, detailed documentary evidence just lying around. The problem is the government has either been too overwhelmed or too disinclined to go and get it and do anything with it. In this case, you have people openly calling themselves the cartel or the mafia, and then openly talking about monkeying around or manipulating, you know, the price of this or that.
This is a good interview.

5. Here's the Best Stuff from Edward Snowden's Reddit "Ask Me Anything"

The next item is an article by AJ Vicens on Mother Jones:
  • Here's the Best Stuff from Edward Snowden's Reddit "Ask Me Anything"
This starts as follows:

In the midst of the Congressional debate about mass surveillance and a Senate filibuster of a vote on the Patriot Act, it might be easy to forget how we got here. Arguably, none of would be happening if not for Edward Snowden, the erstwhile National Security Agency contractor who rocked the world when he leaked a trove of documents exposing the US government's spying and surveillance operations.

Snowden took questions on Reddit during an AMA ("Ask Me Anything") on Thursday. The whole thing is worth a read, but here are some highlights:

As you will be able to see if you click the last link, this is a service because the replies have been sifted from a long Reddit discussion (that I did not have the patience or the time to read).

Here are two bits. First, about the American public's (seeming) apathy:

On the American public's apparent apathy about the NSA snooping revelations:

Jameel probably has a better answer, but we know from very recent, non-partisan polling that Americans (and everyone else around the world) care tremendously about mass surveillance.

The more central question, from my perspective, is "why don't lawmakers seem to care?" After all, the entire reason they are in office in our system is to represent our views. The recent Princeton Study on politicians' responsiveness to the policy preferences of different sections of society gives some indication of where things might be going wrong:

Out of all groups expressing a policy preference within society, the views of the public at large are given the very least weight, whereas those of economic elites (think bankers, lobbyists, and the people on the Board of Directors at defense contracting companies) exercise more than ten times as much influence on what laws get passed -- and what laws don't.

OK - but this means that the government isn't democratic and doesn't take its population serious, indeed neither in what it thinks, nor in maintaining its rights.

Second, on why people should care:

Some might say "I don't care if they violate my privacy; I've got nothing to hide." Help them understand that they are misunderstanding the fundamental nature of human rights. Nobody needs to justify why they "need" a right: the burden of justification falls on the one seeking to infringe upon the right. But even if they did, you can't give away the rights of others because they're not useful to you. More simply, the majority cannot vote away the natural rights of the minority.

But even if they could, help them think for a moment about what they're saying. Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say.

A free press benefits more than just those who read the paper.

Yes, indeed - but while I agree with Snowden's
Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say.
I also insist that, unfortunately, the majority doesn't have much to say. And
one of the major problems is that the opinions of the great majority of mostly
not properly educated "democratic" conformists may deny the rights of the minority of intelligent persons to think for themselves, indeed because the
majority see no need for independence, individualism, knowledge or intelligence.

6. Scheer and Hedges: They Know Everything About You (Text 3/7)

This continues an item that was started yesterday:

This is the record (made by The Real News (<- Wikipedia), which does bring the real news, unlike the mass media these days) of the third of seven videos that recorded the interview by Chris Hedges
(<- Wikipedia) interview of Robert Scheer (<- Wikipedia), who recently published a book on surveillance and spying, “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies are Destroying Democracy”. And this item was made by Kasia Anderson on Truthdig:
  • Scheer and Hedges: They Know Everything About You (3/7)
As I said yesterday: Part 1 of the interview is here, on May 14, 2015, and part 2 was linked yesterday. I strongly recommend that you watch these interviews: they are by two of the most knowledgeable and accomplished U.S. journalists, and the interviews are very well done.

Here are some bits of the third interview, also listed above. This starts with Hedges (slightly edited here: click the last dotted link for all):
HEDGES: (...) So let’s begin a little bit with the nature of totalitarianism. I would certainly argue that when government has the capacity to watch you 24 hours a day, then you can’t use the word liberty. That’s the relationship between a master and a slave. It doesn’t matter whether they use this power at the moment. They are certainly using it against people—Muslims, Occupy dissidents, environmental activists, and others. But they have that capacity now to use it against all of us should they decide to use it.

The storage of all of our personal information, this is the classic, or even the core definition of a totalitarian system, where you have the ability, should you decide to criminalize an entire group of people—we spoke about that in part two—as Hannah Arendt mentioned, to instantly sweep them up.
I don’t share your optimism. I think that we’re already there. I think that at a moment of crisis, whether that’s environmental, whether that’s financial, whether that’s an act of catastrophic domestic terrorism such as 9/11, these people are totally ready to go.
I agree with Chris Hedges here: I think that the American governmental system now is at least totalitarian in outline, for they have the information, the police,
and the secret courts to implement anything they want, and I can see no reasons
why they would not try to stop all radical criticism of the American government in case of - for one example - a second 9/11.

It hasn't happened yet, but that is about the only vaguely optimistic thing I can say. I also agree with this, also by Hedges:
HEDGES: Let me just throw in there, Bob, I mean, they also recognized the importance of the press, the Fourth Estate, as a vital counterweight. And through the security and surveillance apparatus, we have no mechanism anymore to investigate the centers of power. We cannot shine a light into the centers of power.
The reason is that most of the free press ceased to function, for various reasons, that include a lack of money since the money once spend on their advertisements now is spend on the internet, and a lack of political will because the more radical journalists and editors have been dismissed.

Here is a point of Scheer's that I have a comment on:
SCHEER: (...) And they understood or anticipated exactly what happened in Germany. You mentioned Hannah Arendt, who is famous for having talked about the banality of evil. (...)
My point is thay Arendt (whom I do not like much, basically because I have read several of her books, and I did not like them much) was quite right in speaking about "the banality of evil", in the sense of: it was in Hitler's Germany a very common place thing to do and desire evil, as defined by Christendom or as defined by previous German governments. (I also think Arendt was mostly mistaken in her judgements of Eichmann, who was not at all as ordinary as he pretended to be, but this is an aside.)

And here is Robert Scheer's reason to be (somewhat) optimistic:
SCHEER: (...) So then you asked me before, how can I dare be optimistic? And the reason I’m optimistic is that, one, I think people throughout the world have embraced the notion of freedom and individual sovereignty and that there is pushback from so-called ordinary people.   (...)
I disagree with Scheer about this, but I also know that (1) optimism and pessimism are individual attitudes that tend to have little to do with evidence (that may be mistaken and nearly always is quite partial) and that (2) it does help one's democratic case if one argues this will help many and is desired by many.

There is also this exchange:

SCHEER: Well, first of all, let me disagree. And, actually, you should have Binney, and we’ll talk to him. But I think his position is a little different than—as I’ve indicated to you, I listened to him for the last four days. There’s two things. First of all, what they’re doing is not efficient if the goal is to stop terrorism or—.

HEDGES: It’s not the goal.

I agree again with Hedges: Terrorism and the war on terrorism were and are only pretexts or deceptions to install state terrorism in the West. That is indeed also how I saw it in 2005, and I have found no reason to revise my opinions at all. (And in fact - click the last dotted link - Scheer also agrees with Hedges.)

Anyway - this was my summary of part three of this interview. More to follow.


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