June 23, 2015
Crisis: Intercept*3, GCHQ illegal, Scheer&Jay, TPP implies dictatorship, Reich
  "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


1. Intercept + Spy Agency's Secret Plans to Foster Online
     "Conformity" and "Obedience" Exposed

2. GCHQ's surveillance of two human rights groups ruled
     illegal by tribunal

3. VIDEO: Robert Scheer: Plundering Our Freedom With
     Abandon (Part 4 of 10)

Why the TPP Agenda Is Straight out of Alice in


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday June 23, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. It also is a bit abnormal since I found eight items that I want to write about, but also I do not have lots of time today, so I decided to collapse
the first four under item 1 since these all are about spying and also refer to each other. If I would have had more time, I would have paid considerably more attention to the files in item 1, but as is I did the best I could.

So here is the summary of today's Nederlog: Item 1 starts with an article by Jon Queally on the GCHQ's trodding (secretly) on English domestic law, followed by
three articles on various aspects of spying on the Intercept; item 2 is about an
English court that said some surveillance done by the GCHQ is illegal (but which
is far too lenient on the "right" of the GCHQ to steal e-mails from everyone); item 3 is about Scheer&Jay's series of interviews; item 4 is an excellent article
by Ellen Brown on the enormous dangers of the TPP (and TTIP and TiSA) to everyone who is not a millionaire; and item 5 is a fine article + video by Robert Reich, who stresses that his - good and feasible - economical ideas also require
that big money gets out of politics.

Before going into today's crisis blog, here is an update about "
On The Crisis: Chalmers Johnson on Our 'Managed Democracy'" of the day before yesterday: I removed two paragraphs that I doubled while copying.
1. Intercept + Spy Agency's Secret Plans to Foster Online "Conformity" and "Obedience" Exposed

The first item today is an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams, which is also used as the entry point for three articles on The Intercept:
  • Spy Agency's Secret Plans to Foster Online "Conformity" and "Obedience" Exposed

This starts with this summary:

Internal memo from secretive British spy unit exposes how GCHQ and NSA used human psychological research to create sophisticated online propaganda tools

As I also said, there are today no less than three articles on The Intercept about the spying that the US and British Sestapos [1] now do, that also will be presented in this section (mostly because I have today less time than usually).

But to start with, here is the beginning of Jon Queally's article:

With never-before-seen documents accompanied by new reporting on Monday, The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman are offering a more in-depth look than ever into how a secretive unit of the UK's GCHQ surveillance agency used a host of psychological methods and online subterfuge in order to manipulate the behavior of individuals and groups through the internet and other digital forms of communication.

According to the reporting, the latest documents, which were leaked to journalists by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden,

demonstrate how the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), a unit of the signals intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), is involved in efforts against political groups it considers “extremist,” Islamist activity in schools, the drug trade, online fraud, and financial scams.

Though its existence was secret until last year, JTRIG quickly developed a distinctive profile in the public understanding, after documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the unit had engaged in “dirty tricks” like deploying sexual “honey traps” designed to discredit targets, launching denial-of-service attacks to shut down internet chat rooms, pushing veiled propaganda onto social networks, and generally warping discourse online.

Among the most troubling revelations is a 42-page internal JTRIG memo that describes in detail how the elite unit developed, maintained, and apparently sought to expand its "scientific and psychological research into how human thinking and behavior can be influenced" in order to increase its ability to "manipulate public opinion" via online tools like email, social media, video, discussion forums, and other platforms.

First, the first link in the above quote links to an article that also is listed below, while here is a copy of one page of the JTRIG memo mentioned in the last link in the above quote:

This is what the anonymous secret agents of the state's secret police force may now do and indeed do do, while there protectors bleat that "they are not doing aything illegal - trust us" (I suppose because these secret state policemen "merely" "discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter, delay or disrupt" anyone and any thing and any site they dislike, all in the deepest secret:)


There is more in the article, that also links to the next article that is by Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman on The Intercept:

  • Controversial GCHQ Unit Engaged in Domestic Law Enforcement, Online Propaganda, Psychology Research

This starts as follows:

The spy unit responsible for some of the United Kingdom’s most controversial tactics of surveillance, online propaganda and deceit focuses extensively on traditional law enforcement and domestic activities — even though officials typically justify its activities by emphasizing foreign intelligence and counterterrorism operations.

Documents published today by The Intercept demonstrate how the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), a unit of the signals intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), is involved in efforts against political groups it considers “extremist,” Islamist activity in schools, the drug trade, online fraud and financial scams.

Though its existence was secret until last year, JTRIG quickly developed a distinctive profile in the public understanding, after documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the unit had engaged in “dirty tricks” like deploying sexual “honey traps” designed to discredit targets, launching denial-of-service attacks to shut down Internet chat rooms, pushing veiled propaganda onto social networks and generally warping discourse online.

In fact, this is a rather amazing (and very worrying) article, that I strongly recommend you to read all of. Here is one other bit quoted from it, that shows
what the English Secret State Police now does, in England:

JTRIG’s domestic and law enforcement operations are made clear. The report states that the controversial unit “currently collaborates with other agencies” including the Metropolitan police, Security Service (MI5), Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), Border Agency, Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and National Public Order and Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). The document highlights that key JTRIG objectives include “providing intelligence for judicial outcomes”; monitoring “domestic extremist groups such as the English Defence League by conducting online HUMINT”; “denying, deterring or dissuading” criminals and “hacktivists”; and “deterring, disrupting or degrading online consumerism of stolen data or child porn.”

But there is more on the Intercept. Here is an article by Andrew Fishman and Glenn Greenwald:

  • Spies Hacked Computers Thanks to Sweeping Secret Warrants, Aggressively Stretching U.K. Law

This starts as follows:

British spies have received government permission to intensively study software programs for ways to infiltrate and take control of computers. The GCHQ spy agency was vulnerable to legal action for the hacking efforts, known as “reverse engineering,” since such activity could have violated copyright law. But GCHQ sought and obtained a legally questionable warrant from the Foreign Secretary in an attempt to immunize itself from legal liability.

GCHQ’s reverse engineering targeted a wide range of popular software products for compromise, including online bulletin board systems, commercial encryption software and anti-virus programs. Reverse engineering “is essential in order to be able to exploit such software and prevent detection of our activities,” the electronic spy agency said in a warrant renewal application.

This is another very good article that I strongly recommend you read all of. Here is one more bit from it:

Particularly important to GCHQ was the ability to hack anti-virus programs, an offensive operation that would typically come after using reverse engineering to discover vulnerabilities. Interfering with such programs would allow the opportunity to breach a computer’s defenses in order to exploit the computer without detection. GCHQ cited as a particular target Kaspersky Labs, a prominent Moscow-based maker of anti-virus software that claims more than 270,000 corporate clients. (For details on the targeting of Kaspersky, see this accompanying piece by Andrew Fishman and Morgan Marquis-Boire.)

Indeed the last link is to the next article, which I turn to after saying that the last article is rather long and very well worth reading.

Here is the last article from The Intercept, this time by Andrew Fishman and Morgan Marquis-Boire:

  • Popular Security Software Came Under Relentless NSA and GCHQ Attack

This starts as follows:

The National Security Agency and its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, have worked to subvert anti-virus and other security software in order to track users and infiltrate networks, according to documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The spy agencies have reverse engineered software products, sometimes under questionable legal authority, and monitored web and email traffic in order to discreetly thwart anti-virus software and obtain intelligence from companies about security software and users of such software. One security software maker repeatedly singled out in the documents is Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab, which has a holding registered in the U.K., claims more than 270,000 corporate clients, and says it protects more than 400 million people with its products.

British spies aimed to thwart Kaspersky software in part through a technique known as software reverse engineering, or SRE, according to a top-secret warrant renewal request. The NSA has also studied Kaspersky Lab’s software for weaknesses, obtaining sensitive customer information by monitoring communications between the software and Kaspersky servers, according to a draft top-secret report. The U.S. spy agency also appears to have examined emails inbound to security software companies flagging new viruses and vulnerabilities.

This is also an article that I strongly recommend that you read all of. Here is one more bit of it:

Anti-virus software is an ideal target for a would-be attacker, according to Joxean Koret, a researcher with Coseinc, a Singapore-based information security consultancy. “If you write an exploit for an anti-virus product you’re likely going to get the highest privileges (root, system or even kernel) with just one shot,” Koret told The Intercept in an email. “Anti-virus products, with only a few exceptions, are years behind security-conscious client-side applications like browsers or document readers. It means that Acrobat Reader, Microsoft Word or Google Chrome are harder to exploit than 90 percent of the anti-virus products out there.”

And as I said: All of the last three files are quite good, quite important, and would have gotten a more extensive treatment if I had had more time today.

2GCHQ's surveillance of two human rights groups ruled illegal by tribunal

The next item today is by Owen Bowcott on The Guardian:

  • GCHQ's surveillance of two human rights groups ruled illegal by tribunal

This starts as follows:

GCHQ’s covert surveillance of two international human rights groups was illegal, the judicial tribunal responsible for handling complaints against the intelligence services has ruled.

The UK government monitoring agency retained emails for longer than it should have and violated its own internal procedures, according to a judgment by the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT). But it ruled that the initial interception was lawful in both cases.

The IPT upheld complaints by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and the South African non-profit Legal Resources Centre that their communications had been illegally retained and examined. The tribunal made “no determination” on claims brought other NGOs – including Amnesty International, Liberty and Privacy International – implying that either their emails and phone calls were not intercepted or that they were intercepted but by legal means.

The IPT ruling said: “[We are] concerned that steps should be taken to ensure that neither of the breaches of procedure referred to in this determination occurs again. For the avoidance of doubt, the tribunal makes it clear that it will be making a closed report to the prime minister.”

It is the first time that a court has revealed that British intelligence agencies have spied on foreign human rights groups.

Incidentally, I totally reject the IPT's position that these kinds of e-mails (of valid and long standing human rights groups like Amnesty) are "rightly intercepted", as indeed lawyers speaking for these organizations do:

James Welch, legal director for Liberty, said: “Last year it was revealed that GCHQ were eavesdropping on sacrosanct lawyer-client conversations. Now we learn they’ve been spying on human rights groups. What kind of signal are British authorities sending to despotic regimes and those who risk their lives to challenge them all over the world? Who is being casual with human life now?”

Yes, indeed. There is a lot more in the article, that is recommended.

3. VIDEO: Robert Scheer: Plundering Our Freedom With Abandon (Part 4 of 10)

The next item today is the fourth installment - of 10 - of a long interview that Paul Jay of The Real News network made with Robert Scheer of Truthdig, that
also contains information about Robert Scheer's life, background and youth.

I like this and followed the previous interviews. The previous one is here, and this is the next one, that was posted by Jenna Berbeo on Truthdig:
  • VIDEO: Robert Scheer: Plundering Our Freedom With Abandon (Part 4 of 10)
I skip the intros to the persons in the interview, since they are the same as before, and jump right in, although I will not quote much, because this part 4 is about the Sixties and Ramparts, that eventually came to be edited by Robert Scheer, who says this:

PROF. ROBERT SCHEER, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Well, I wasn’t there for the founding, but it was started by a guy named Ed Keating, who was a convert to Catholicism. His wife was Catholic. Brought in a guy named Warren Hinckle, who had gone to the Catholic University in San Francisco. And these people were very much influenced by Pope John [incompr.] social conscience. The Catholic Church had changed. The farmworkers, which—Caesar Chavez was born of Catholic background. A lot of the farmworkers, the Latino immigrants, were Catholic. And the Church was under a lot of pressure to play a more progressive role and tend to the needy, the flock. And Ramparts came out of that. It started as a Catholic literary quarterly.

JAY: What year?

SCHEER: And that I don’t know. I guess 1960 or something.
Indeed Catholicism in the 1950ies and early 60ies was quite conservative:

JAY: Give a bit of the context of the period, because the 1950s was still very much the footprint of McCarthyism and House Un-American Activities Committee.

SCHEER: Yeah, and McCarthyism was consistent with the Catholic Church of that day. The Catholic Church had adopted the Cold War. Cardinal Spellman in New York, McIntyre in Los Angeles, they were very politically conservative, strongly into the Cold War, get—communism is godless. And McCarthy himself was very much a product of that kind of thinking.

And the Vietnam War had a lot to do with it. Ngo Dinh Diem had been living in a Catholic seminary, Maryknoll seminary in New Jersey, somewhere around there. He was in exile. Catholics made up about 10 percent of the Vietnamese population.

Nonetheless, our CIA, our government, decided Ngo Dinh Diem could be the George Washington of his country.
That last bit - Ngo Dinh Diem (<- Wikipedia) as a George Washington of Vietnam was of course pure propaganda coupled with totally irrealistic lunacy.

Here is one more bit about Ramparts (<- Wikipedia) (that was quite well known in the second half of the Sixties
(<- Wikipedia), and went broke in 1975):

SCHEER: Well, what we were able—well, it wasn’t just my work. There was a guy named Don Duncan who had been a very much decorated master sergeant in Vietnam and had all these medals, and then he wrote a piece for us, “I Quit” and why he didn’t re-up. And so there were a lot of heroic, wonderful people who wrote for—Sy Hersh wrote for Ramparts. There were a lot of people.

What you’re getting to, I think, is that the mass media were so set in the Cold War, Ozzie and Harriet world of America as totally virtuous and the little suburban communities and so forth, and another story started to appear. You know, we had the civil rights movement being energized. We had an antiwar movement develop because we had a draft, and so it wasn’t just, you know, like now you make video war: let’s go send a drone and kill somebody, but you don’t have to go. Here, we were going to have to go.(...) But still, you were eligible for the draft, so there was an immediacy to it. It wasn’t a war game. And so we found a big audience on college campuses.
Incidentally: the draft was abolished in the U.S. by president Nixon (which made going to war a whole lot easier: no intellectuals would be drafted anymore).

There is a lot more in the interview, which I found interesting, but it is mostly
about the 1960ies, of which I have a lively recall, but which may be well before
most of my readers were born, so I leave it here, although I do mention that some of the editors of Ramparts later set up Truthdig and Mother Jones, that both still exist, and are quite good (in my opinion, of course).

4. Why the TPP Agenda Is Straight out of Alice in Wonderland

The next item today is an article by Ellen Brown (<- Wikipedia) that I found on AlterNet but that first appeared on Ellen Brown's weblog Web Of Debt:
  • Why the TPP Agenda Is Straight out of Alice in Wonderland
This starts as follows (after a quotation from "Alice in Wonderland") - and this is an excellent article that I strongly recommend you read all of:

Fast-track authority is being sought in the Senate this week for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), along with the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) and any other such trade agreements coming down the pike in the next six years. The terms of the TPP and the TiSA are so secret that drafts of the negotiations are to remain classified for four years or five years, respectively, after the deals have been passed into law. How can laws be enforced against people and governments who are not allowed to know what was negotiated?

The TPP, TiSA and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (or TTIP, which covers Europe) will collectively encompass three-fourths of the world’s GDP; and they ultimately seek to encompass nearly 90 percent of GDP. Despite this enormous global impact, fast-track authority would allow the President to sign the deals before their terms have been made public, and send implementing legislation to Congress that cannot be amended or filibustered and is not subject to the constitutional requirement of a two-thirds treaty vote.

Yes, indeed:
"How can laws be enforced against people and governments who are not allowed to know what was negotiated?"
The answer is that those furthering these "laws" almost nobody is allowed to know, while they will strongly influence the chances of everyone, are being furthered by moral degenerates, who know these "laws" would never be accepted if they were given the full and fair hearing they should have.

And in fact:
While the deals are being negotiated, lawmakers can see their terms only under the strictest secrecy, and they can be subjected to criminal prosecution for revealing those terms. What we know of them comes only through WikiLeaks. The agreements are being treated as if they were a matter of grave national security, yet they are not about troop movements or military strategy. Something else is obviously going on.
Here is text by Jon Rappoport, titled “What Law Says the Text of the TPP Must Remain Secret?”:

It seems like a case of mass hypnosis. . . .

Members of Congress are scuttling around like weasels, claiming they can’t disclose what’s in this far-reaching, 12-nation trade treaty.

They can go into a sealed room and read a draft, but they can’t copy pages, and they can’t tell the public what they just read.

Why not?

If there is a US law forbidding disclosure, name the law.

Can you recall anything in the Constitution that establishes secret treaties?

Is there a prior treaty that states the text of all treaties can be hidden from the people?

I think these "laws" again are secret laws - that is to say:

A secret "law" that will strongly influence the lives of billions of persons, and is so secret that it will remain secret for four of five years after it has been adopted, is manipulated through the American Congress, where very few have read parts of it, by a secret "law" that forbids members of Congress (!!!) if they read it to take notes or to discuss what they have read with anybody else.

There is also this, by Ellen Brown and John Rappoport:

To Congressmen who say they cannot reveal what is in a treaty that will adversely affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people, Rappoport says:

Wrong. You’re lying. You can reveal secret text. In fact, it’s your duty. Otherwise, you’re guilty of cooperating in a RICO criminal conspiracy.

A Corporate Coup d’État

Here is why this is a genuine Corporate Coup d’État:

What is going on was predicted by David Korten in his 1995 blockbuster, When Corporations Rule The World. Catherine Austin Fitts calls it a “corporate coup d’état.”

This corporate coup includes the privatization and offshoring of the judicial function delegated to the US court system in the Constitution, through Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions that strengthen existing ISDS  procedures.

What are "ISDS procedures"? These (with boldings added by me):

As explained in The Economist, ISDS gives foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever the government passes a law to do things that hurt corporate profits — such things as discouraging smoking, protecting the environment or preventing a nuclear catastrophe. Arbitrators are paid $600-700 an hour, giving them little incentive to dismiss cases. The secretive nature of the arbitration process and the lack of any requirement to consider precedent give wide scope for creative judgments – the sort of arbitrary edicts satirized by Lewis Carroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

To date, the highest ISDS award has been for $2.3 billion to Occidental Oil Company against the government of Ecuador over its termination of an oil-concession contract, although the termination was apparently legal. Under the TPP, however, even larger and more unpredictable judgments can be anticipated, since the sort of “investment” it protects includes not just “the commitment of capital or other resources” but “the expectation of gain or profit.” That means the rights of corporations extend not merely to their factories and other “capital” but to the profits they expect to receive. Just the threat of a massive damage award for impairing “expected corporate profits” could be enough to discourage prospective legislation by lawmakers.

This is why you can forget decent government, decent laws, protection of the public, a continuance of many human rights etc. etc. once the TTP, TTIP and TiSA are in place: All standards, all norms, all values, all national laws will be out"lawed" by the one principle the TTP, TTIP and TiSA embrace, defend and lie down as "law" on the billions of persons subjected to them: The expectations of profits of the multi-national corporations.

Here is Ellen Brown's conclusion:

It seems that the TPP, TTIP and TiSA are not about the sort of “free trade” that would free local businesses to sell abroad. They are about freeing international corporations from the government regulation necessary to protect the economy, the people, and the environment. They are about preserving privatized monopolies and preventing competition from the public sector. And they are about moving litigation offshore into private arbitrary tribunals – the sort of tribunal that might have lost Alice her head, if she had not awakened from her bizarre dream.
I quite agree, and this is a very important article everyone should read.


The last item today is an article by Robert Reich on his site. Indeed, this started as "10 ideas to save the economy", but now is expanded to 12 (and the 11th is here):


Yes, indeed! For while I have kept track of Robert Reicfh's ideas to save the economy, in large part because I like them and because I know they are all
economically quite possible [2], the problem is with politics, and to alleviate
these problems, indeed big money must be removed from buying, corrupting
and manipulating both the American government and the elected American politicians

This starts as follows:

Over the past two months, the videos I’ve done with have detailed several ways to make the economy work for the many, not the few: raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making public higher education free, busting up the big banks, expanding Social Security, making polluters pay, raising the estate tax, strengthening unions, ending corporate welfare, helping families succeed economically, and letting all Americans buy into Medicare.

But none of these is possible if we don’t get big money out of politics. 

In fact, nothing we need to do as a nation is possible unless we limit the political power of the moneyed interests. 

So we made one more video – the one accompanying this post – and it’s incredibly important you share this one, too.

Yes, quite so! Here is the video, that is excellent, and will take less than 3 m of your time:


As Robert Reich says at the end of the article (bolding added):

The fundamental rule for an economy that works for everyone is a democracy that works, period.

Yes, indeed. [2]

[1] This unpacks as "Secret State Police".

[2] This also means two further points: (1) I am not convinced by any - socialist, anarchist, marxist, environmentalist - argument that the only possible
cure for most of the many ills mankind is plagued with is a
socialist, anarchist, marxist, or environmentalist revolution, which I am not because I know that almost all revolutions fail, while if they don't fail they tend to have quite different outcomes than those desired by the people who started them (see e.g. the Soviet Union) and (2) I also do know rather a lot more about politics, economics and philosophy than most - which does not mean I am right,
but which does mean that my judgments tend to be rather well informed by
real knowledge (rather than by wishful thinking, to which everyone is prone).
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