May 23, 2015
Crisis: Spy Summit, Freedom Act, Snowden, Cameron, Good Education
  "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


Apple and Google Just Attended a Confidential Spy
     Summit in a Remote English Mansion

2. USA Freedom Act fails as senators reject bill to scrap NSA
     bulk collection

3. Edward Snowden: NSA reform in the US is only the

4. David Cameron backs plans for Ofcom to block 'extremist
     messages' on TV
5. Ten Ideas to Save the Economy #5: How to Reinvent

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, May 23, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about a confidential spy summit, also attended by Apple and Google; item 2 is about the failing of the USA Freedom Act in the American senate; item 3 is about an interview with Snowden in The Guardian; item 4 is about David Cameron leading
Great Britain towards totalitarian authoritarianism (for he wants to be able to censor things before they get published); and item 5 is about a brief article plus a brief video by Robert Reich on education in the U.S.

The present file got uploaded earlier than is normal for me.

1. Apple and Google Just Attended a Confidential Spy Summit in a Remote English Mansion   

The first item today is an article by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept:
  • Apple and Google Just Attended a Confidential Spy Summit in a Remote English Mansion
This starts as follows:

At an 18th-century mansion in England’s countryside last week, current and former spy chiefs from seven countries faced off with representatives from tech giants Apple and Google to discuss government surveillance in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s leaks.

The three-day conference, which took place behind closed doors and under strict rules about confidentiality, was aimed at debating the line between privacy and security.

Among an extraordinary list of attendees were a host of current or former heads from spy agencies such as the CIA and British electronic surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. Other current or former top spooks from Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Sweden were also in attendance. Google, Apple, and telecommunications company Vodafone sent some of their senior policy and legal staff to the discussions. And a handful of academics and journalists were also present.

According to an event program obtained by The Intercept, questions on the agenda included: “Are we being misled by the term ‘mass surveillance’?” “Is spying on allies/friends/potential adversaries inevitable if there is a perceived national security interest?” “Who should authorize intrusive intelligence operations such as interception?” “What should be the nature of the security relationship between intelligence agencies and private sector providers, especially when they may in any case be cooperating against cyber threats in general?” And, “How much should the press disclose about intelligence activity?”

I say. Here are my answers to the questions in the last paragraph (and see immediately above for the questions):

Yes, very much so, and with the help of the main media. No, it is not, if only because every case is personal and should be checked by a real non-secret judge. Only real non-secret judges. These relations should be as distinct as between the staff of internet companies and dockers or cleaning ladies. And the press should disclose everything it can disclose.

And here is a judgment of Duncan Campbell, who is an investigative journalist who visited the event:
“Perhaps to many participants’ surprise, there was general agreement across broad divides of opinion that Snowden – love him or hate him – had changed the landscape; and that change towards transparency, or at least ‘translucency’ and providing more information about intelligence activities affecting privacy, was both overdue and necessary.”
I say. And yes, Snowden did, although I don't expect much from this meeting (as also witnessed by a "change towards transparency, or at least ‘translucency'" - which doesn't sound hopeful). And also see item 3, below.

USA Freedom Act fails as senators reject bill to scrap NSA bulk collection

The next item today is an article by Ben Jacobs, Sabrina Siddiqui and Spencer Ackerman on The Guardian:

  • USA Freedom Act fails as senators reject bill to scrap NSA bulk collection
This starts as follows:

For the second time in less than a year, US senators rejected a bill to abolish the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of American phone records.

By a vote of 57-42, the USA Freedom Act failed on Friday to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to advance in the Senate after hours of procedural manoeuvering lasted into the wee hours Saturday morning.

The result left the Senate due to reconvene on May 31, just hours before a wellspring of broad NSA and FBI domestic spying powers will expire at midnight.

Architects of the USA Freedom Act had hoped that the expiration at the end of May of the Patriot Act authorities, known as Section 215, provided them sufficient leverage to undo the defeat of 2014 and push their bill over the line.

The bill was a compromise to limit the scope of government surveillance. It traded the end of NSA bulk surveillance for the retention through 2019 of Section 215, which permits the collection of “business records” outside normal warrant and subpoena channels – as well as a massive amount of US communications metadata, according to a justice department report.

There is also this:

Republican whip John Cornyn, a strident supporter of extending the Patriot Act, divided the Senate into three groups on Friday.

As he put it, there are those who want a “straight extension, those who like USA Freedom and those who like nothing”.

Those who want a straight extension of the Patriot Act are in a distinct minority and supporters of the USA Freedom Act still cannot muster the necessary super majority to advance the bill. The result means those who are more than happy to simply let Section 215 expire on May 31 are in the driver’s seat.

I say. Well... this is a less bad outcome than I feared, which was either the "Freedom Act" (an awful name for a not at all good bill) and Mitch McConnell's
proposal to keep spying in secret as much as the NSA can.

Edward Snowden: NSA reform in the US is only the beginning

The next item is an article by Alan Rusbridger,, Janine Gibson and Ewen McAskill on The Guardian:
  • Edward Snowden: NSA reform in the US is only the beginning

This starts as follows:

Edward Snowden has hailed landmark shifts in Congress and the US courts on NSA surveillance but cautioned that much more needs to be done to restore the balance in favour of privacy.

He also warned this was only the beginning of reform of the NSA, saying there are still many bulk collection programmes which are “even more intrusive”, but expressed hope that the Senate would act to curb the NSA, saying retention of the status quo is untenable.

In an hour-long interview with the Guardian in Moscow, the NSA whistleblower said the moves by the federal court and the House of Representatives marked the first time since the 1970s there had been a reduction rather than expansion in the powers of the surveillance agencies.

“In our modern era, that is without precedent,” he said.

I accept that is progress, and indeed that progress is mostly due to Snowden (helped by Greenwald and a part of the press that does not belong to the main media, such as Common Dreams and Truthdig).

But he added it was important to remember that bulk collection of phone records represented only one of the surveillance programmes.

“This is only the bare beginning of reform. There are still many bulk collection programmes out there that affect other things – such as financial records, such as travel records – that are even more intrusive. What it says is that bad laws are not forever and if we work together, we can change them.”

Yes, indeed. There is also this:

Almost two years on from the first of his disclosures about surveillance, Snowden has defied critics in the intelligence agencies who predicted he would end up largely forgotten and miserable in exile in Russia. Instead, he has emerged as an icon for the privacy movement, able to communicate through the internet with campaigners in the US and elsewhere round the world.

He has also established a life for himself in Russia, along with his girlfriend Lindsay Mills. He seemed relatively relaxed and in good humour, though with no expectation that his exile in Russia will end any time soon.

I have already quoted the following bit, but quote it again, because I am one of a small minority of real intellectuals from a very poor background:

Responding to one of the commonest lines deployed by his critics, he said: “People who say they don’t care about privacy because they have got nothing to hide have not thought too deeply about these issues. What they are really saying is I do not care about this right. When you say I don’t care about the right to privacy because I have nothing to hide, that is no different than saying I don’t care about freedom of speech because I have nothing to say or freedom of the press because I have nothing to write.”
Here is my comment from yesterday to this:

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 sees no need for independence, individualism, knowledge or intelligence.

And I am sorry if you disagree, but this is one of the things I have learned during 65 years, in which I had a good education by poor parents, and never got as rich as a minimal income, and have been widely discriminated in Holland for not being like everyone else.

There is also this:
He described comments made by the British prime minister, David Cameron, about proposed measures to clamp down on extremism as being “an extraordinary departure from the traditional operation of liberal societies”.
Yes, quite so: It is another English move towards authoritarianism and totalitarianism. Now the government explicitly undertakes to dictate what the people should think, and what the people should know and should not know.

And there is this about Snowden himself:

“When I think about the future, I think about the fact that there is still so much to be done. You know my work is not finished. In fact, I would argue that it has only begun.”

He appears uncomfortable with his status as an icon. While he was impressed with such things as the artists in New York who erected a statue of him in a Brooklyn park, he said: “It is also a little concerning because it should not be about me, it should not be about elevating any individual because it is about us. We should be thinking about how we enshrine our rights in a statue, not people.”

As I have indicated before, it is nice that Edward Snowden doesn't insist on his importance, but I do think he is an extra-ordinary human being (simply because to my knowledge he is the only former NSA-employee to do as he did), and I don't mind he gets praised. Also, he is right "that there is still so much to be done".

There is more in the article.

4. David Cameron backs plans for Ofcom to block 'extremist messages' on TV

The next item is an article by Rowena Mason and Alan Travis on The Guardian:
  • David Cameron backs plans for Ofcom to block 'extremist messages' on TV

This starts as follows - and is about David Cameron's attempts to install state censorship in Great Britain:

David Cameron has backed plans to give Ofcom stronger powers to prevent the broadcast of “extremist messages” despite concerns from one of his own cabinet ministers that this could amount to state censorship.

The prime minister appeared to support Theresa May, the home secretary, after the Guardian revealed a split in the cabinet over her counter-extremism measures.

Sajid Javid, who was then culture secretary and is now business secretary, wrote to May before the election saying the plan would move Ofcom from a regulator “into the role of a censor” and involve “a fundamental shift in the way UK broadcasting is regulated” from post-transmission to pre-transmission monitoring.

Well, Sajid Javid had that precisely right, and it is a very major change not only in Great Britain but in Western Europe.

There is considerably more in the article, but for the moment I am mostly concerned with the questions whether this is yet another terrorist pretext to extend the powers of the government over the governed (I think: yes), and whether this will be picked up by other European countries (I fear: yes, especially if it has been introduced).

But we shall see.

Ten Ideas to Save the Economy #5: How to Reinvent Education

The final item today is an article by Robert Reich on his site:
  • Ten Ideas to Save the Economy #5: How to Reinvent Education
This starts as follows:

Senator Bernie Sanders is making waves with a big idea to reinvent education: Making public colleges and universities tuition-free.

I couldn’t agree more. Higher education isn’t just a personal investment. It’s a public good that pays off in a more competitive workforce and better-informed and engaged citizens. Every year, we spend nearly $100 billion on corporate welfare, and more than $500 billion on defense spending. Surely ensuring the next generation can compete in the global economy is at least as important as subsidies for big business and military adventures around the globe.
Yes, indeed. There is also this:
In fact, I think we can and must go further — not just making public higher education tuition-free, but reinventing education in America as we know it. (That’s the subject of this latest video in my partnership with MoveOn, “The Big Picture: Ten Ideas to Save the Economy.” Please take a moment to watch now.)
And here is the video:

I like the video, but the basic problem is that while the ideas are good, they also are not, as things are politically right now, what senators and congressmen feel inclined to vote for.


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