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Mon, 28 Nov 2022
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Vader

On whistleblowers and government threats of investigation

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© Michael Reynolds/EPA
James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, who called the Guardian's revelations 'reprehensible'.
No healthy democracy can endure when the most consequential acts of those in power remain secret and unaccountable

We followed Wednesday's story about the NSA's bulk telephone record-gathering with one yesterday about the agency's direct access to the servers of the world's largest internet companies. I don't have time at the moment to address all of the fallout because - to borrow someone else's phrase - I'm Looking Forward to future revelations that are coming (and coming shortly), not Looking Backward to ones that have already come.

But I do want to make two points. One is about whistleblowers, and the other is about threats of investigations emanating from Washington:

1) Ever since the Nixon administration broke into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychoanalyst's office, the tactic of the US government has been to attack and demonize whistleblowers as a means of distracting attention from their own exposed wrongdoing and destroying the credibility of the messenger so that everyone tunes out the message. That attempt will undoubtedly be made here.

I'll say more about all that shortly, but for now: as these whistleblowing acts becoming increasingly demonized ("reprehensible", declared Director of National Intelligence James Clapper yesterday), please just spend a moment considering the options available to someone with access to numerous Top Secret documents.

Eye 1

So much for hope and change! Obama civil-liberties record indistinguishable from Bush

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Phone Surveillance Cited as Latest Failure by President to Uphold Rights; Others Say Tactic Is Crucial in Fighting Terrorism

The disclosure of a broad government effort to collect phone records of millions of U.S. consumers has rekindled a debate about President Barack Obama's commitment to civil liberties, with some lawmakers and advocacy groups saying he has broken a campaign pledge to combat terrorism in ways that protect basic freedoms.

Mr. Obama's record on civil liberties was already drawing renewed scrutiny over reports that his administration has investigated journalists as part of criminal leak cases, his increased use of drones and other matters.

As a candidate in 2008, Mr. Obama took aim at then-President George W. Bush's assertion of certain executive powers in fighting terrorism. Once in the White House, he did away with some of the tools used by Mr. Bush's administration while keeping others intact.

In certain respects, the counterterrorism tactics of the two presidents seem indistinguishable, some civil-liberties advocates say.

Eye 1

Meet Google, the hungry beast

Meet Google. The noun that became a verb. The world's favourite search engine, and the company whose motto is "Don't be evil..."


Eye 1

Google to enlist NSA 'to help it ward off cyberattacks'

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The world's largest Internet search company and the world's most powerful electronic surveillance organization are teaming up in the name of cybersecurity.

Under an agreement that is still being finalized, the National Security Agency would help Google analyze a major corporate espionage attack that the firm said originated in China and targeted its computer networks, according to cybersecurity experts familiar with the matter. The objective is to better defend Google -- and its users -- from future attack.

Google and the NSA declined to comment on the partnership. But sources with knowledge of the arrangement, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the alliance is being designed to allow the two organizations to share critical information without violating Google's policies or laws that protect the privacy of Americans' online communications. The sources said the deal does not mean the NSA will be viewing users' searches or e-mail accounts or that Google will be sharing proprietary data.

Bad Guys

Cyberattacks: Washington is hyping the threat to justify regulating the Internet

cyberthreat
© unknown
Networks have been under attack -- and successfully handled by operators -- as long as they've been around. Be wary of calls for more government supervision of the Internet.

We marched into Baghdad on flimsy evidence and we might be about to make the same mistake in cyberspace.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a steady drumbeat of alarmist rhetoric about potential threats online. At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this month, chairman Carl Levin said that "cyberweapons and cyberattacks potentially can be devastating, approaching weapons of mass destruction in their effects."

The increased consternation began with the suspected Chinese breach of Google's servers earlier this year. Since then, press accounts, congressional pronouncements, and security industry talk have increasingly sown panic about an amorphous cyberthreat.

Horse

Conspiracy theorist-in-chief Alex Jones 'owns' BBC Sunday Politics show


The annual conference of the secretive Bilderberg Group is meeting near Watford, with some leading political and business leaders from the US and Europe.

American "shock jock" Alex Jones joined Times columnist David Aaronovitch to discuss it - and ended up disrupting the show in spectacular fashion.

Presenter Andrew Neil described him as "the worst person" that he had ever interviewed.

Comment: Wow. Just wow.

At least Aaronovitch, hardly a paragon of virtue himself, got in a half-decent point: why indeed is AJ not only still alive, his business is thriving and he's appearing on the BBC, Fox News and Piers Morgan's show with increasing and alarming regularity?

Alex Jones: The Pied Piper of Extremism Who Brands "Truth-Seeking" as Mental Illness


USA

What our presidents tell our students

Obama
© n/a
In this season of college graduations, let us pause to remember the stirring words of America's beloved scholar, George W. Bush, speaking in Florida in 2007 at the commencement exercises of Miami Dade College: "In Havana and other Cuban cities, there are people just like you who are attending school, and dreaming of a better life. Unfortunately those dreams are stifled by a cruel dictatorship that denies all freedom in the name of a dark and discredited ideology." 1

How I wish I had been in the audience. I would have stood up and shouted: "In Cuba all education is completely free. But most of the young people sitting here today will be chained to a large, crippling debt for much of the rest of their life!"

As the security guards came for me I'd yell: "And no one in Cuba is forced to join the military to qualify for college financial aid, like Bradley Manning was forced!"

Arrow Up

The Russians are coming... Hooray!

Thanks Russia
© n/a
Wouldn't it be fun if we could somehow revive an average American citizen who had been frozen in a cryogenic capsule from, say, the 1950s? Then, on revival, we allow this presumably open-minded person to sample international news developments that have occurred over the intervening decades since the time he was put into deep-frozen sleep; and, more especially, recent international developments.

We may hazard a guess that the salient impression that this time-traveler would perceive is the stark role-reversal in geopolitics between his native United States of America and that of his country's supposed arch-enemy - Russia. While, the latter, of course, is no longer known as the Soviet Union and has adopted aspects of the capitalist economy, nevertheless Moscow still remains in many ways the primary centre of global rivalry to Washington.

However, what our awakened experimental subject would find shocking and disorientating is that the «evil empire» epithet that was so prevalently propounded against Russia during the Cold War era has now in fact become more fitting as a description for the foreign policy conduct of Washington.

Cowboy Hat

U.S. press blames George W. Bush for Obama's unprecedented eavesdropping

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BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Have you seen the big news according to the mainstream press? What do you think the big news is in the mainstream press? No, it's not Verizon. This Verizon story, which we're gonna get into, by the way, folks, sit tight. I can't do it all in the opening monologue. This Verizon story -- and I don't think it's just Verizon. I think that's just what we know. But it's broken by the UK Guardian. The American media hasn't broken a single Obama scandal. The American media hasn't taken the lead on any of the four major Obama scandals. They're just playing follow the leader.

Glenn Greenwald is the guy who wrote the story for the UK Guardian, and he got a leak from somewhere in the Justice Department. Somebody in the government had to leak it to him and they probably leaked it to others in the Drive-By Media in this country who are not interested. And, in fact, I wasn't gonna get into this now, but since Snerdley brought it up, our old buddy, Ron Fournier, the former bureau chief of the AP and White House correspondent, now works at the National Journal.

We have in the Obama administration -- there's nobody even close to the violation of privacy and civil liberties, nobody even close. They can talk about Bush here, but nobody compares to what Obama's done. In fact, folks, as you know, I read the tech blogs. And I don't mean to beat you over the head with that, but we have new people tuning into this program each and every day. I'm sorry if some of this is repetitive or redundant, but it's quite necessary. And in all these tech blogs, they just love Obama.

They have bought the myth. They drink the Kool-Aid that Obama's the greatest civil libertarian, that Obama's into privacy, that Obama's just the greatest liberal that's ever been -- and they can't believe this. They just can't believe that Obama would do this! They hated Bush for doing this! They can't believe that Obama did this. I don't expect this to change anything, but our buddy Ron Fournier has this Verizon story with the NSA monitoring.

Snakes in Suits

Analysis: Obama's agenda scorched in firestorm

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© Chuck Burton, AP
President Obama speaks to students, teachers, and guests at Mooresville Middle School in Mooresville, N.C., on June 6.
President Obama, meet the second-term curse.

Revelations that the U.S. government has been collecting a massive database of telephone usage by millions of Americans - citizens not suspected of any wrongdoing - created a firestorm Thursday that would be damaging for any administration. But it is is especially problematic for Obama because it stokes controversies he already was struggling to contain and reinforces criticism that has dogged him from the start.

Republicans have long depicted Obama as an advocate of a big, dangerous and overreaching government, back to the federal bailout of the auto industry he undertook during the financial crisis that greeted his first inauguration. That has been their fundamental philosophical objection to his signature Affordable Care Act, now just months away from implementation of its major provisions.

In recent weeks, it has fueled outrage over the targeting by the Internal Revenue Service of conservative Tea Party groups seeking non-profit status, and over the use of secret subpoenas and search warrants against the Associated Press and Fox News in Justice Department investigations of news leaks.