Archive for the 'Books' Category

Kissinger, Circular man

Friday, November 20th, 2015
Kissinger's Shadow: The Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman, Greg Grandin, 2015 Spengler Grandin spends some time examining the influence of Oswald Spengler on Kissinger's metaphysical beliefs:
Spengler wrote as if decline was inevitable, as if the cycle he described - in which each civilization experiences its spring, summer, autumn, winter - were as unavoidable as the spinning of the earth. Once societies pass their great creative stage and the logicians, rationalists, and bureaucrats arrive on the scene, there is no turning back. Having lost a sense of purpose, civilization lurch outward to find meaning. They get caught up in a series of disastrous wars, propelled forward to doom by history's cosmic beat, power for power's sake, blood for blood's. Imperialism is the inevitable product, Kissinger wrote summing up The Decline of the West's argument, an outward thrust to hide the inner void. Kissinger acceped Spengler's critique of past civilizations but rejects his determinism.
The lesson of the Korean War for Kissinger was that the threat of nuclear annihilation had rendered America powerless. Kissinger believed that Moscow had to be convinced that a major war with the United States which he called the only real deterring threat was a significant possibility. To make the threat credible Kissinger developed his mad man president notion which he deployed for both Nixon and Ford to demonstrate (with Cambodia as the victim) that the president was just crazy enough to launch such a major war. Reagan followed this example by invading tiny Granada after assuming office to establish his credentials as a legitimate mad man.
In order to "test" power - that is, in order to create one's consciousness of power - one needed to be willing to act. And the best way to produce that willingness was to act.."inaction" has to be avoided so as to show that action is possible. Only action could overcome the systemic "incentive for inaction". Only action could overcome the paralyzing fear (that is, nuclear escalation) that might result from such "action". Only through "action" - including small wars in marginal areas like Vietnam - could America become vital again, could it produce the awareness by which it understands its power, breaks the impasse caused by an over reliance on nuclear technology, instills cohesion among allies, and reminds an increasingly ossified foreign policy bureaucracy of the purpose of American power.
"Power" is history's starting and ending point, history's "manifestation" and its "exclusive objective". He had built his own perpetual motion machine; the purpose of American power was to create an awareness of American purpose. And since Kissinger held to an extremely plastic notion of reality, other concepts he was associated with, such as "interests", were also pulled into the whirlpool of his reasoning; we can't defend our interests until we know what our interests are and we can't know our interests are until we defend them.
I know, Let's Secretly Bomb Cambodia! kissinger nixon Into this crazy circular metaphysics, American foreign policy was sucked starting in 1969. With Obama's endless war in more than a hundred countries we see the evidence of the ever growing whirlpool. Interestingly Kissinger uses Obama's drone strikes as justification for his 1969-1973 secret bombing of Cambodia which was the start of this whirlpool and is the central theme of this book.
Vietnam, he said in 2010, was America's first experience with limits in foreign policy, and it was something painful to accept. This is a disingenuous interpretation... Rather, the critics that most rankled Kissinger were those - protesters, Congress and former Harvard colleagues like Thomas Schelling - who told him that there were limits to what he could do to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam..."I don't see how it is possible to conduct foreign policy when there's a systematic attempt to destroy both your threats and your incentives".
Kissinger didn't use his time in office to "instruct" citizens in political realism, as he had earlier define the responsibilities of statesmen. Rather, he helped adapt the imperial presidency to new times, based on an increasingly mobilized and polarized citizenry, more spectacular displays of power, more secrecy, and ever more widening justifications for ever more war.
Kissinger and Mao with much admired Zhou Enlai kissinger mao chou
With the autocratic Mao (Tse-tung) he could fantasize about what it would be like to conduct foreign policy and not be tormented by the press and Congress.
Mao and Kissinger shared a mutual appreciation of German metaphysics. Mao: Do you pay attention or not to one of the subjects of Hegel's philosophy, that is the unity of opposites? Kissinger: Very much. I was much influenced by Hegel in my philosophical thinking...Mao: If it were not for Hegel and Feuerbach, there would not be Marxism,
kissinger bomb cambodia bomb map
But, as Nixon and Kissinger themselves put it, they used foreign policy to "break the back" of domestic opponents and "destroy the confidence of the American people in the American establishment. They had mixed results with the former but succeeded stunningly, with the latter. By the end of Kissinger's tenure, all of the institutional pillars of society that previous administrations could rely on to uphold government legitimacy - the press, universities, the movie and music industries, churches, courts, and Congress - seemed to be pushing against it, creating that entrenched adversary culture that so worried conservative.
From the New Yorker in 1973:
There was the Kissinger who "established relations with China, improved our relations with Russia, and successfully completed the first phase of SALT - and for these achievements, most Americans are grateful."...But then there was the Kissinger, who with Nixon, "planned the undisclosed bombing of Cambodia...initiated the unauthorized wiretapping of members of Kissinger's staff and of newsmen in 1969...planned the invasion of Cambodia in 1970...planned the use of American air power to support the invasion of Laos in 1971...planned the mining and blockading of North Vietnamese harbors...planned the 'Christmas bombing' of North Vietnam - all this done in secrecy and without Congressional consent. While the President and the men of Watergate were, it now appears, undermining our democratic system of government in domestic affairs, the President and Henry Kissinger were undermining the system in foreign affairs.
In the years following the end of the Vietnam War, Kissinger, in one region after another, executed policies that helped doom his own grand strategy. Then, once he was out of office, he threw in with America's new militarists, who were intent on tearing down Détente...By 1980, he was with them, sanctioning their jump-starting of the Cold War and their drive to retake the Third World...In a way, Kissinger did to the larger Third World what he did to Cambodia: he institutionalized a self-fulfilling logic of intervention.
What is certain is that individually, each of Kissinger's Middle East initiatives - banking on deposits, inflating the shah, providing massive amounts of aid to security forces that tortured and terrorized citizens, pumping up the US defense industry with recycled petrodollars, which in turn spurred a Middle East arms race financed by high gas prices, emboldened Pakistan's intelligence service, nurturing embryonic Islamic fundamentalism, playing Iran and the Kurds off Iraq, and then Iraq and Iran off the Kurds and committing Washington to defending Israel's occupation of Arab lands - has been disastrous in the long run.
On a personal note: this blogger had a college friend who was a conscientious objector, a varsity wrestler, and a violinist with the University orchestra. He was assigned to teach English in Laos as his alternate service. In 1969-1970, he witnessed the B52's and bombings as he sat on his porch playing his violin. When things got too dangerous, he left Laos, stopping briefly to visit us in Honolulu where we first learned of the secret bombing. He was later convicted of draft avoidance and sent to prison in Walla Walla.

bourgeois rebellion

Thursday, August 20th, 2015
Millennium People, J.C. Ballard, 2003 J C Ballard ballard In this, the last novel of Ballard, a middle class enclave in London is lead by a psychopathic pediatrician into full scale rebellion. The pediatrician leader of the rebellion, Dr. Gould explains:
Cheap holidays, overpriced housing, educations that no longer buy security. Anyone earning less than £300,000 a year scarcely counts. You're just a prole in a three-button suit...And we don't like ourselves for it. People don't like themselves today. We're a rentier class left over from the last century. We tolerate everything, but we know that liberal values are designed to make us passive. We think we believe in God but we're terrified by the mysteries of life and death. We're deeply self-centered but can't cope with the idea of our finite selves. We believe in progress and the power of reason, but are haunted by the darker sides of human nature. We're obsessed with sex, but fear the sexual imagination and have to be protected by huge taboos. We believe in equality but hate the underclasses. We fear our bodies and, above all, we fear death. We're an accident of nature, but we think we're at the center of the universe. We're a few steps from oblivion, but we hope we're somehow immortal.
The main character, David is a psychologist obsessed with finding the people responsible for a bomb at Heathrow that killed his ex wife. He is led to Chelsea Marina where its residence are up in arms over parking meters installed in front of their houses, increased management fees, and other life threatening issues. He meets and starts sleeping with Kay the charismatic leader of the rebellion, meets Vera the government trained bomb maker, and meets Gould whose idea it is that random acts of vandalism and violence will do most to shake up the power establishment. Gould, the psychopath leads the rebellion into more and more extreme demonstrations while privately engaging in acts of deadly violence. Interesting in showing that the bourgeois class that is expected to be the stable anchor of society is capable to being the most volatile, capable of leading the revolution. And this was written years before the housing bubble burst, the financial system collapsed, and the political system went into rigor mortis. Fung-Lin posted Ballard's death and a remembrance.

500 Years of Global Capitalism in Latin America

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015
Open Veins of Latin America, Eduardo Galeano, 1973, 1997 galeano This is Galeano's widely read "non specialist" history of Latin American imperial capitalist exploitation. The book outlines the more than 500 years of exploitation and theft of irreplaceable resources from Latin America by handfuls of global capitalists and their captive developed European and US governments. Galeano describes a continuous repeating pattern of mono-cultures (if you include mineral and carbon deposits), the local and temporary enrichment and empowerment of a few parasitic actors who soon disappear from the scene, and the long term enrichment of global foreign capitalists who successfully steal the wealth generated by the exploitation. The mono-cultures include gold, silver, diamonds, sugar, cacau (chocolate), coffee, rubber, bananas, lumber, oil and gas and numerous other mineral including iron, copper, nickel, manganese, and now rare earths needed for modern electronics. Spain and Portugal were granted exclusive rights to the Americas by the Pope after the Columbus (who thought he had arrived in Japan) voyage of 1492. The early focus on gold and silver benefited Spain and Portugal only to the extent that the wealth was used to create parasitic aristocracies in both countries and financed the vast expansion of catholic religious orders who parasitically used their power and influence to acquire vast underutilized landholdings in Latin America and the subjugation of the local populations. The Spanish monarchy used the proceeds indirectly by borrowing from bankers at outrageous terms to finance a long series of religious wars against the Moors and protestants. The Spanish armada and other foolish regressions were financed in this way with the silver going to the bankers. Virtually none of the gold and silver proceeds remained in the imperial counties and less was used to promote industrialization and modernization. These benefits went elsewhere in Europe, primarily to England, Holland, and Germany. Galeano argues that the European industrial revolution would not have happened at all were it not for the exploitation of Latin America, Africa, India, and elsewhere. Modern industrial capitalism was built on the foundation of the theft of foreign natural resources and on the slave labor needed to extract and export it. Lest you think this is ancient history, the stories of rubber, bananas, and oil happened in the 20th Century. Oil extracted from Venezuela alone exceeds the total value of all the gold and silver extracted from all of Latin America and continues today. Bolivar Dreamt of a free, unified Latin America bolivar Spain and Portugal were overthrown in Latin America in the early 19th Century but England and the US were already dominant economic and capitalist influences in the region. They and other local forces assured the Balkanization of Latin America into numerous smaller entities where governments could be influenced or overthrown more easily. Galeano talks of the time when English and American ambassadors had more power in Latin America than the local president - military dictator. In fact, often the president/dictator was hand picked by the foreign capitalist powers. And if the local leader didn't follow orders, he could easily be deposed until a compliant occupier of office could be installed. And all this trouble to assure the continued exploitation - theft of the natural resources important at the time. For more than 500 years this pattern assured that Latin America would never develop a sustaining economy, industrialize, or improve the lives of the exploited. An essential, perhaps most important element of the resource exploitation was cheap labor. Latin America imported far more African slave labor than North America. This labor was supplemented by massive use of indentured servitude where local and indigenous populations were forced into labor as the only means of survival. A byproduct of mono-culture is that all available arable land is dedicated to the growth of the crop of the moment. The concentration of land ownership by the church and few landowners meant that all lands not growing the crop of the moment was left idle. Food crops were simply not grown and local populations were left with a choice between indentured servitude and starvation. Land was simply not made available for growing food and the food needed to sustain the capitalist mono-culture had to be imported from abroad at high prices. These practices assured a steady stream of cheap labor for hundreds of years. Mono-culture for export exhibits all the problems of capitalism with bubbles and busts. During the good times, the handful of controlling owners amass huge fortunes which they used to build mansions and impressive towns with opera houses and numerous massive churches. All products consumed in these towns were imported including food, clothing, furniture, etc. When the bubble burst due to exhaustion of the resource or due to a plummeting in price of the commodity these towns turned overnight into ghost towns. These towns today are maintained as tourist attractions and exist throughout Latin America as reminders of capitalist excess and instability. The wealth generated by the enterprises were simply wasted. Mono culture is one of the fastest ways to ruin the productive land. The richest land is always used for growth of the product and the same product is grown year after year. Erosion and exhaustion of the land is the inevitable result of mono-culture. Latin America now stands last in the world in terms of the use of modern agricultural science and technology. Centuries of misuse and ignorance leaves Latin America with vastly degraded land resources. This on top of export of extractive industry leaves Latin America in bad condition. What explains the very different experiences of the North American colonies and Latin America? Galeano writes:
The Northern colonies sent no gold, silver, or sugar to England, while their consumption needs produced an excess of imports which had somehow to be checked. Trade across the ocean was light; hence development of local manufactures was indispensable for survival. England paid such scant attention to these colonies in the eighteenth century that they were able to introduce the latest metropolitan techniques into their factories, turning restrictive colonial pacts into scraps of paper. This was far from true of the Latin American colonies, which delivered their air, water, and salt to ascendant European capitalism and, in return, received a largess of the finest and costliest luxury goods to pamper their ruling classes. The only expanding activities in Latin America were those oriented toward export, and so it continued in succeeding centuries: the economic and political interests of the mining and landlord bourgeoisie never coincided with the need for internal economic development, and businessmen were linked less with the New World than with foreign markets for the metals and foodstuffs they wanted to sell and with foreign sources of the manufactured articles they wanted to buy.
The sole exception to this bleak Latin American picture was Paraguay that successfully developed its own manufacture and technical workforce able to sustain it. Paraguay was such a threat to European colonial capitalism that three English banks, Bank of London, Baring Brothers, and the Rothschild bank financed a war for Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. These loans at extravagant interest rates were used to fund a five year war against Paraguay that ended at the same time as the American Civil War. Large portions of Paraguay were given to Argentina and Brazil and Paraguay never recovered economically. Neither did Brazil, Uruguay, or Argentina ever recover from the crippling cost of these English loans. peron vargas cardenas Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina emerged as the dominant Latin countries after the destruction of Paraguay. For a brief moment each country had a nationalist and broadly popular government; Lazaro Cardenas in Mexico from 1934-1940, Getullo Vargas in Brazil from 1930-1945 and 1951-1954, and Juan Domingo Peron in Argentina from 1946-1955. Cardenas nationalized oil production and instituted the most far reaching agrarian reform in Latin American history. He retired because of Presidential term limits. The manufacturing bourgeoisie of Brazil closed ranks on Vargas and he killed himself in 1945. Peron didn't go far enough in his efforts to nationalize industry and was swept aside by the rural and manufacturing elites. The US experience was very instructive. The northern states used protectionist policies to protect its infant industrial development while the southern states used slave labor and free trade policies to prosper. The south exported 80% of its cotton production and never attempted to develop its own mills. The sharp contrast led to the Civil War and Galeano says "The Twentieth Century won this Nineteenth Century war." By the end of Nineteenth Century the US was the world's leading industrial power. The center of the capitalist world was starting to move. After WWII the US adopted Britain's policies of free trade and free competition for everyone else. Galeano says: "the disease was never confused with the remedy." At the time of WWI US private investment was less than a fifth of total investment in Latin America. By 1970 the private investment of the US had reached three-quarters of total Latin investment. The IMF, World Bank, and giant vertically integrated US oil and manufacturing firms pioneered Satellite capitalism where big US firms own and operate plants in Latin America using low cost local labor. They devised schemes to invest as little as 12% of the needed cost of investment with local partners and long term debt making up the rest of the development cost. Only 11 cents out of every exported product dollar remains in the host country and the majority of that is used to service the debt.
Slave ships no longer ply the ocean. Today the slavers operate from the ministries of labor. African wages, European prices. What are the Latin American coups d'etat but successive episodes in a war of pillage? The dictators hardly grasp their scepters before they invite foreign concerns to exploit the local, cheap, and abundant labor force, the unlimited credit, the tax exemptions, and the natural resources that await them on a silver tray.
In these lands, we are not experiencing the primitive infancy of capitalism but its vicious senility. Underdevelopment isn't a stage of development but its consequence. Latin America's underdevelopment arises from external development, and continues to feed it. A system made impotent by its function of international servitude, and moribund since birth, has feet of clay.
This is an excellent companion volume to Samir Amin's Capitalism in the Age of Globalization focusing on the experience of Latin America. Fung-Lin blogged at the time of Eduardo Galeano's death.

A Cry for a new Socialiam

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015
Capitalism in the Age of Globalization, Samir Amin, 2014 (originally published in 1997) amin Samir Amin is a French-Egyptian Marxian economist. He lives in Dakar, Senegal. Amin's primary focus in this work is this challenge:
The first (capitalism) wishes to fix evolution, more or less submitting it to the perspective of the unilateral action of capital. Socialism on the other hand permits one to see why this capitalist globalization remains truncated, generating, reproducing, and deepening global polarization step by step. The historical limit of capitalism is found exactly here: the polarized world that it creates is and will be more and more inhuman and explosive. Challenged by this enormity, socialism has a duty to propose an alternative vision of globalization, the means of achieving it in the true sense of the word and giving it a human and truly universalistic character. This is, in my opinion, the challenge.
socialism capitalism Rejection of capitalism by turning to ethnicity and religious fundamentalism actually have become integrated into this brutal globalization and are made use of by it. They cannot be the answer to apocalyptic capitalism. Capitalism today is sustained by the existence of five monopolies enumerated by Amin: 1. Technological Monopoly. This monopoly is sustained by huge state expenditures especially through military spending. 2. Financial Control of worldwide financial markets. With deregulation and the liberalization of rules governing finance, finance has become capital's most global component. Past empires like the British maintained financial control through trade surpluses. The US attempts to maintain its dominance and the dollar as the global currency despite massive trade deficits. As a result, today's financial system is extraordinarily fragile. 3. Monopolistic access to the planet's natural resources. The reckless environmental dangers of this monopolistic exploitation are dangerous and increasingly obvious. 4. Media and Communications monopolies. These lead to a uniformity of culture and provide effective means for political exploitation. These monopolies are a primary source of the erosion of democratic practices. 5. Monopolies over weapons of mass destruction. The US monopoly of 1945 was held in check through the cold war but today the US again has an unacceptable monopoly that cannot be held in check through international democratic controls. APTOPIX Bangladesh Building Collapse Bangladesh Factory Collapse Amin's central focus is the evolving social contract between Capital and Labor. The early 20th Century saw the spread of Fordism by which Amin not only refers to mass industrial production but to the rise of labor organization and negotiated social contracts between capital and labor. The name is perhaps unfortunate given Henry Ford's antipathy toward union organizing. By the end of WWII and up til about 1970, organized labor proved able to hold their own in upholding dignified social contracts with capital. Today, with capital able to physically relocate for tax and labor advantage, the social contracts enabling workers to enjoy a decent middle class living have evaporated to be replaced by a capital induced permanent state of unemployment or "surplus labor" as capital economists prefer to refer to it. Global capital uses subcontracting at the periphery to limit liability (from collapsing factories, indentured labor, environmental damage, etc.). Amin is not a numbers guy (in sharp contrast with French economist Piketty) but he does point out that modern finance is able to move capital around the globe at about 30 times the volume of trade. This has to exaggerate short term opportunism and instability as capital lurches from crisis to crisis. Amin prefers to refer to the global economy as having a center and a periphery. This replaces the nomenclature of first, second, third, and forth worlds. As the global economy moves away from its center, the level of surplus labor increases until virtually the entire population is included in this category. This state of economic affairs makes modern capitalism inherently unstable lurching from crisis to crisis. Modern capital managers are trained in crisis management and little else. Capital has no long term objectives, vision, or dreams. It blindly lurches along putting out fires as best it can. disasters Amin equally decries the damage capital is doing to our environment seemingly without constraint or cost. The environmental damage, like "surplus labor" only intensifies as one moves from the center toward the periphery. The US is the absolute center of destructive capitalism. There is potential for a second East Asian center of China, Japan, and the tigers. India is another potential regional center. The European EC has had some success in integrating markets and allowing some mobility of labor but capitalism intentionally created the EC with very weak central political structures including a weak central bank. The result is becoming a German dominated EC. Germany's current project is the "Latin Americanization" of Eastern Europe under German control. Already the Czech Republic has become a German protectorate. The EC must strengthen central democratic institutions if it is not to fall apart or become totally dominated by Germany. Amin spends some time examining the failed example of the Bandung Project, the loose coalition of 29 non aligned nations (neither aligned with the US nor the Soviet Union). Formed at the Bandung Conference in 1955, this coalition represented more than half the world's population. A major objective of imperialism and colonization as controlled from the center was the Balkanization of Africa and the Middle East. Britain had the same objective in India but largely failed, only able to carve out the two Pakistans as they left India. This Balkanization makes it much more difficult to build regional solutions, whether in Eastern Europe, Africa, or the Middle East. All this leaves only the US-Canada as a continental region with the potential to do something about breaking up the five monopolies of capitalism. Amin speculates that the IMF, the World Bank, and the GATT-WTO could potentially be reformed to serve to correct some of the extreme problems of global capital but today they serve the interests of global capital at the center and promote neoliberal objectives. Unless they are reformed they will continue to contribute and exaggerate the global economic crises and not abate those crises. Amin decries the absence today to a towering intelligentsia like that of the enlightenment able to have a profound impact on thinking about new forms of social contract between capital and labor. Amin finds the academic apologists of capital with their non empirical talk of the magic and invisible markets risible and dangerous. Amin admires Marx's analysis of the problem but finds Marx fell far short of suggesting organizational and political solutions to the problem. He refers to the Soviet revolutionary experience as "Sovietism" and the Chinese revolutionary experience as "Maoism". He refuses to call either Communism. He believes there has to be a regional political organizational solution to the problem of capital and control over its five monopolies. Amin admits he doesn't have the answer.

Living in the Surveillance State

Friday, April 24th, 2015
Data and Goliath, The hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World, Bruce Schneier, 2015 Schneier is a world class expert in cryptography and internet security. He is one of the first people contacted by Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian to help analyze the Edward Snowden papers. Schneider credits Snowden with informing us of the extent of NSA surveillance today. backdoor Schneider's first book Applied Cryptography, was published in 1993. The US military and government had fought a twenty year battle to prevent use of strong encryption, except by the military, ending with a plan to allow encryption only if government back doors were placed in the technology. The market decreed that such technology was unsellable and Schneider thought by 1990 the battle to control encryption had been won. Snowden revealed that the government had simply gone underground, secretly inserting hardware and software into systems to give themselves the desired encryption back doors. The NSA maintains a small army of cyber hackers who look for vulnerabilities in existing systems. Once found, they may create software hacks to exploit the vulnerability, or they may simply stockpile the vulnerability for future use. Occasionally they may even tell the developers about the problem so the hole can be fixed but this is rare. cisco beacon One Snowden disclosure has the NSA intercepting Cisco communications equipment shipments to modify the hardware before forwarding the equipment to its destination. The Watergate break ins pale by comparison with a government acting completely out of control. Again, after Snowden, the market is speaking, and Schneier puts the three year estimated cost in lost US business because of the Snowden revelations at $180 Billion. So where are the major fixes by Congress and the administration to reign in the illegal and unconstitutional abuses? Nowhere. A part of the problem is that US corporations are equally guilty of illegally collecting and mining private data on its users. So a lot of pressure that corporations should be applying to the government to reign its surveillance in can backfire and constrain the corporation's own surveillance. This they strongly oppose. The corporations are as guilty of secrecy as the government so the actual data collected, the length of retention, where the data is kept, the uses made of the data (data mining), the sale of the data, etc. are all kept secret from the user. Without sanctions and enforcement user data will never be safe. Schneier is an optimist and believes that we can find solutions to this massively invasive surveillance but its hard to see even from this book. Schneier gives a few hints about protecting yourself from surveillance but admits that, other than encrypting your communications, little can be done. The internet and cell phones won't work unless location and meta data are clear (not encrypted) and Schneier goes to great length to show how meta data can reveal even more useful detail to government and corporate spies than the content of communications. Meta data can be automatically analyzed by computer and networks of communication easily constructed. Latanya Sweeney, a computer science professor, conducted a study in 1990 using census data, and found that zip code, birth date, and sex could be combined to uniquely identify 87% of the United States population. Meta data mining can be used by government to study protest groups and by business to exploit connections with highly targeted marketing and product placement. Neither government nor the corporations are likely to give this ability up without a major fight. Schneier mentions DuckDuckGo a search engine that does not track users. Tor is an anonymous web browser. Wicker offers encrypted messaging. Ello is a social network that does not track users. Snowden used encryption and secure messaging when communicating with Greenwald and Poitrus. Coming under particular scrutiny here are Google and Facebook, both because of their dominant market positions and because of their aggressive exploitation of user data to generate revenue. This reader was an early user of Google when they first were available on the web. The searches for obscure information needed for a software developer were vastly superior to other search engines like Yahoo so this reader has stuck with them. But as advertising hits have become more pervasive and since most of these hits don't actually retrieve pages, this reader is now in the market for an alternative search engine and is trying DuckDuckGo. creepy One of Schneier's scariest observations is that we seem very adaptable, we get used to the obvious use of our private information by corporations for their own exploitation. We conclude quickly that that is just the way things are and we like the modern technology and the capabilities it gives us. We don't see the dangers of government and corporate surveillance. He gives some attention to the "creepy threshold", the point at which the user senses that the internet services seem to be drawing inferences about us that we never anticipated. Beyond this threshold, users are likely to object. Schneier points out that mass surveillance is not effective as a means of uncovering either crime or acts of terror. Traditional investigative police work would be far more effective but the governments seem determined to spend their resources on non productive mass surveillance. Fixing privacy protection is made more difficult by the global nature of the internet. The user's data can be stored and mined anywhere in the world. Each country has its own privacy rules and levels of enforcement. There could be engineered technical solutions created by the Internet governing bodies but deploying them would encounter enormous resistance from governments and corporations. Schneier calls for a new magna carta to reaffirm that the legitimacy of rulers (whether political or corporate) comes from the subjects. He points to the 2009 Madrid Privacy Declaration as
...the most robust articulation of privacy rights in the modern age.

Diary from Hell

Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Guantanamo Diary, Mohamedou Ould SLahi, Edited by Larry Siems, 2015 gtmo cover An ant's eye view of the US rendition and torture program by a "high-value" (number one actually) detainee who still resides in GTMO. The only work of comparable depth and insight are the writings of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn about the Soviet Gulags. How far the US has fallen. Most detainees were captured or handed over to the US for pitiful bounties in Afghanistan and Pakistan and tortured and even killed at Bagram Force Air Base in Afghanistan Many were then rendered to GTMO. Taxi to the Dark Side documents the torture death of an Afghan taxi driver at US hands. Slahi's story is quite different. As a young man, Slahi decided to join the Mujahdeen fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He was trained at an al Qaeda camp and joined the fighting briefly in 1992. This was the time that the Mujahdeen were supported and trained by the US in their fight against the Soviet occupiers. Slahi returned to Germany where he was studying for an engineering degree. A cousin of Slahi is Mahfouz Ould al-Walid who was spiritual adviser to Osama bin Laden prior to the 9/11 attacks. Both Slahi and al-Walid severed their ties to al Qaeda. After completing his degree, Slahi worked for a small privately held German company. When Germany would no longer issue Slahi a visa, he moved to Canada for work. In Germany, Slahi attended the same Mosque as the 9/11 hijackers, and in Canada, he attended the same Mosque as the Millennium Bomber who planned to blow up LAX. One military officer briefly associated with the Slahi interrogation at GTMO called him a Forest Gump character, always present on the periphery of any significant terror activity. The US asked a Canadian intelligence officer to investigate and interview Slahi and he so frightened Slahi that Slahi decided it was time to return home to Mauritania in January 2000. He was detained in Senegal at US request and questioned about the Millennium Bomb plot. He was cleared but the US had him rendered to Mauritania for further questioning. Mauritania cleared him and he finally returned home Feb. 18, 2000. On Sept. 29, 2001 the US had Slahi detained and questioned for two weeks while the FBI questioned him further about the Millennium Bomb plot. He was released but asked to come in for further questions on Nov. 20, 2001. He drove his own car to the station from which the US rendered him to Amman Jordan. He has been in US custody since. Slahi grew up in Mauritania, a former French colony, so learned both Arabic and French at an early age. He has an ear for language and has traveled extensively. He can immediately identify the origin of any Arabic speaker which allowed him instantly to know he had been rendered to Jordan. Later at GTMO he was able to identify visiting torturers ("interrogators") as being from Egypt or from Jordan. While studying in Germany, he quickly picked up German and became fluent. A computer he was carrying home was the one he used in Germany and while working for the private German company. The FBI seized it and had its contents translated from German to English. The resulting "English" was then translated into Arabic for the Jordanian "interrogators". The resulting consecutive bad translations resulted in complete gibberish, nonsensical rubbish. Slahi found the incompetence amusing. He learned English at GMTO and constantly questioned willing guards about grammar and vocabulary. He says most guards used incorrect grammar and swore a lot, so learning correct English was a challenge. He persisted and started writing this diary in English in 2005. Slahi also is gifted with a remarkable memory. He memorized the entire Koran at an early age, and when his personal Koran was taken from him at GTMO, he kept his mind sharp be repeatedly reciting the entire Koran to himself line by line over and over again. This memory extends to events, voices, and faces and he would be able to recall in great detail his experiences and the people involved at each step of his detention and interrogation. If there ever were a war crimes investigation his remarkable memory would contain a wealth of information, an ant's view of the whole process. Slahi thinks he was rendered to Jordan because the US was squeamish about torture immediately after 9/11. They quickly got over the squeamishness and found plenty of US sadists to perform their own torture. Slahi was rendered next to Bagram in Afghanistan and from there was rendered to GTMO. In each case, his captors tried to conceal his location but he always knew immediately where he was because of accents and other clues. He at first welcomed being brought to the US because he assumed the US would have to follow the law and he would have legal rights. He quickly learned how wrong this assumption was. He was further shocked to learn that the US considered him high-value detainee number one. On the US use of Arabs for torturing detainees:
I felt ashamed that my people were being used for this horrible job by a government that claims to be the leader of the democratic free world, a government that preaches against dictatorship and "fights" for human rights and sends its children to die for that purpose: What a joke this government makes of its own people!
rumsfeld Slahi's torture at GTMO in 2002-2003 was personally approved by Donald Rumsfeld. It is well known that torture does not produce reliable intelligence. But at some point, torture victims will do and say anything to get the pain to stop. This moment arrived for Slahi when his prays had failed him and he knew he would either lose his mind or his life or both if the torture continued. So he made up a confession. His interrogators were also under enormous pressure to produce something for their superiors and so a kind of bargain was struck. Slahi puts this bargain beautifully:
If you're ready to buy, I am selling.
Slahi confesses that he came to Canada with a plan to blow up the CN Tower in Toronto. Slahi had never even heard of this tower. The Interrogators were delighted and his conditions immediately improved. Interrogators told Slahi he had given them 85% and they needed the remaining 15%. This involved an incident in Germany when a 9/11 hijacker asked Slahi how to travel from Germany to Chechnya and Slahi told him he would look like a Mujahdeen if he traveled through any former Soviet state so he should travel through Afghanistan where he would fit right in. Interrogators wanted Slahi to confess to being a central al Qaeda recruiter for the 9/11 plot and for the Millennium bomb plot. The dates made no sense and Slahi knew such a confession would unravel. Instead he accused another guy in a Florida jail of being a drug smuggler. Slahi while making these "confessions" simultaneously is telling the interrogators they are not true. The interrogators are confused and suggest Slahi take a polygraph test. Slahi's entire seven page description of this test is redacted. We gather the result were to convince the interrogators that he did not lie in the confession.
So you have interrogators who are prepared, schooled, trained, and pitted to meet their worst enemies. And you have detainees who typically were captured and turned over to US forces without any proper judicial process. After that, they experience heavy mistreatment and found themselves incarcerated in another hemisphere, in GTMO Bay, by a country that claims to safeguard human rights all over the world -- but a country that many Muslims suspect is conspiring to wipe the Islamic religion off the face of the earth.
In 2005 Slahi wrote this diary and a petition for habeas corpus. In 2008 the US Supreme Court ruled that detainees have a right to challenge their detention through habeas corpus. In 2010 a judge granted Slahi's habeas corpus petition and ordered his release. The government appealed and the case is still pending. gtmo This book is heavily redacted throughout in one of the clearest possible examples of the misuse of classification sited in Lords of Secrecy that classification should never be used to cover up illegality, war crimes, or war criminals. There is no other reason than to protect the identity of war criminals and their crimes than the redactions in this book. It took the government all these years to clear the diary, first written in 2005 for publication. This is shameful and inexcusable.

Democracy Under Seige

Saturday, February 28th, 2015
Lords of Secrecy; The National Security Elite and America's Stealth Warfare, Scott Horton, 2015 Horton opens with a brief description of the bizarre events surrounding the Feinstein Senate Intelligence Committee's attempt to launch an in-depth study of the CIA role in interrogation and imprisonment. The CIA, under Leon Panetta reacted with a series of delaying and evasive maneuvers starting with insisting that the committee staffers travel to Langley and do their research on specially prepared by CIA stand alone computers. The CIA then accused the staffers of "stealing" classified material by removing them from the premises. The CIA and Panetta chose to treat their regulators as adversaries to be fought and opposed. Horton then proceeds with a short selected history of democracy. He says that too often Greek scholars have focused on Aristotle and Plato instead of looking at the remarkable effort of the Athenians to form a democratic government with public debate and consensus decision making. He says that it is precisely in the area of decisions regarding war and peace that debate and consensus building is most crucial. He credits Athens with effective governance using principles of public debate and consensus decision making. He moves on to Max Weber and Georg Simmel who focus on the role of secrecy in creating the conditions for authoritarian governance. He also spends time praising Danial Patrick Moynihan, a trained sociologist and politician who chaired the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy who produced a study in 1997 that concluded:
    Secrecy is a form of Government Regulation
    Secrecy Keeps Information Away from Decision Makers
    Secrecy Thwarts Accountability
    Secrecy Undermines Democracy
Hayden's Swollen Head hayden Alexander Recruits Hackers alexander Body Snatched Leon Panetta panetta Lying John Brennan brennan Horton laments Congress's abrogation of the sole authority to declare war since WWII, the inability of Congress to regulate the CIA and NSA security arms, and the tendency of the courts to accept national security and secrecy deference to deny due process of law to citizens. He notes the record number of whistle blower prosecutions under Obama but largely blames a reorganization of the justice department under W which created a special division to deal with national security cases. In effect this division has become the client of the Lords of Secrecy that run the CIA and NSA. Who are the Lords of Secrecy? Michael Hayden and Keith Alexander of the NSA and Leon Panetta and John Brennan of the CIA. Trying to be objective, Horton finds three areas where secrecy is warranted and consistent with democratic governance.
    First, he says secrecy is needed to keep weapons research and medical research that could be weaponized secret.
    Second, he says that signals intelligence such as breaking the German and Japanese codes in WWII must be kept secret so our enemies don't learn that their communications are being decoded and monitored.
    Third, the identity of covert operatives and foreign informants must be kept secret.
Horten next gives a list of things that should never be secret or classified.
    First, Opinions of the Justice Departments Office of Legal Counsel, which are being used as "get out of jail" cards for administrative officials who can claim to be relying of the opinions as to the legality of their actions and decisions. The public and other branches of government must have full access to these opinions. Most will not stand up to public scrutiny.
    Second, Material already in the public domain should never be classified. This includes material that entered the public domain via whistle blowers or other leakers. Attempts to put the genie back into the bottle cannot have standing in courts.
    Third, secrets should all have a known "shelf life" and it should not be possible for later administrations to change the time limits for disclosure.
    Forth, basic scientific research should never be classified. This is a fundamental principal of science and assures maximum progress and disciple in the scientific process.
    Fifth, classification should never be used to cover mistakes or incompetence or lying to Congress or the public.
    Sixth, classification should never be used to cover illegal actions and their perpetrators. Like NSA mass surveillance of American citizens communications.
Citizenfour Fighting the Lords of Secrecy snowden citizenfour Horton concludes with lavish praise for the whistleblowers, particularly Edward Snowden, without which the public would remain in the dark about the actions of their government. America's experience shows Weber's faith in parliamentary inquiries ability to hold down the forces of secrecy too optimistic.
The cache of secrets, and particularly the vast and unwieldy store of intercepted communications, is growing into a modern Tower of Babel, already essentially unmanageable and overshadowing all the institutions of American democracy. Like the Tower of Babel or yore, it is a monument to the unseemly thirst for power of those who built it and to their indifference to the core values of their own society.

Strange Bedfellows

Thursday, February 12th, 2015
Unstoppable; The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State, Ralph Nader, 2014 nader nader safe This book advocates an idea that single purpose coalitions of leaders from the left and from the right can attack the major problems facing the nation including actions to: 1. Require that the Department of Defense budget be audited annually, and disclose all government budgets. Security destroys accountability. 2. Establish rigorous procedures to evaluate the claims of businesses looking for a government handout, which would end most corporate welfare and bailouts. 3. Promote efficiency in government contracting and government spending. 4. Adjust the minimum wage to inflation. 5. Introduce specific forms of taxation reform as well and push to regain uncollected taxes. 6. Break up "Too Big to Fail" banks. 7. Expand contributions to charity, using them to increase jobs and drawing on available "dead money". 8. Allow taxpayers the standing to sue, especially immunized governments and corporations. 9. Further direct democracy - initiative, referendum, and recall, for starters. 10. Push community self reliance. 11. Clear away the obstacles to a competitive electoral process. 12. Defend and extend civil liberties. 13. Enhance civil skills and experience for students. 14. End unconstitutional wars and enforce Article 1, section 8, of the Constitution, which includes the exclusive congressional authority to declare war. 15. Revise trade agreements to protect US sovereignty, and resume full congressional deliberations, ending fast track. 16. Protect children from commercialism and its physical and mental exploitation and harm. 17. End corporate personhood. 18. Control more of the commons that we already own. 19. Get tough on corporate crime, providing penalties and enforcement budgets. 20. Ramp up investor power by strengthening investor-protection laws and by creating a penny brigade to pay an investor watchdog agency. 21. Oppose the patenting of life forms, including human genes. 22. End the ineffective war on drugs. 23. Push for environmentalism. 24. Reform health care. 25. Create convergent institutions. Nader's first example that change is possible is the coalition of conservatives and environmentalist that joined together in 1982 to defeat the Clinch River Breeder Reactor in Tennessee. Nader's other examples to demonstrate that such coalitions are possible and work mostly come from the 70's (Richard Nixon) EPA and OSHA. Nader also studied the 19th century populist movement of agrarians who opposed sharecropping and created cooperative to get leverage over agricultural suppliers and the railroads. smith mises hayek He talks briefly about the trust busting efforts of Teddy Roosevelt and highlights conservatives who were instrumental in getting New Deal legislation during the great depression. Nader believes that modern conservatism has been highjacked by the neoconservatives and the corporatists. He shows that original conservative philosophy from Adam Smith, through von Mises, through Hayek, have been misunderstood and/or misinterpreted by modern conservatives. Nader's central argument is that the 25 issues all have wide popular support as well as support of powerful individuals from the liberal and conservative political leadership who could form single issue coalitions to attack an individual problem. gatesbuffet He believes before this can start with the attention and organization required to overcome corporate and entrenched governmental interests, specially funded convergence organizations must be created. With this in mind, Nader has written an open letter to the 114 billionaires who signed the Gates-Buffet pledge to give away half their wealth to "good causes" during their lifetime. Nader thinks modest funding in the tens of millions could bootstrap this effort.

High Price of Investigative Journalism

Saturday, December 13th, 2014
Pay Any Price; Greed, Power, and Endless War, James Risen, 2014 Risen gives an eloquent rational for writing this book:
In 2009, when the new Obama administration continued the government's legal campaign against me, I realized, in a very personal way, that the war on terror had become a bipartisan enterprise. America was now locked into an endless war and unintended consequences were spreading. And so my answer -- both to the government's long campaign against me and to this endless war -- is this new book, Pay Any Price. Pay Any Price is my answer to how best to challenge the government's draconian efforts to crack down on aggressive investigative reporting and suppress the truth in the name of endless war. My answer is to keep writing, because I believe that if journalists ever stop uncovering abuses of power, and ever stop publishing stories about those abuses, we will lose our democracy.
Paul Bremer, Mastermind of Chaos bremer The book itself seems to have been written or at least published backward with the vaguest and weirdest stuff put first. In 2003 and 2004 $20 Billion in $100 bills was air lifted by military transport to Iraq. Serial numbers were not recorded and there was virtually no supervision or safeguards. Most of the money simply disappeared. Risen reports of one shipment of $1.6 Billion sent to a branch of the Iraq Central Bank in northern Iraq and stacked on the floor of the bank - not in a vault. The money vanished. When $1.6 Billion was reported found in a bunker in Lebanon, the US government couldn't even be bothered to investigate under either W or Obama. Overall the US spent $63 Billion on the reconstruction of Iraq, most of it going to US contractors. Many is not most of the contracts were never completed and some were never even started. Risen then turns to fraudsters of the war on terror, featuring Dennis Montgomery who used phantom-ware to decode secret Al Quaeda messages hidden in Al Jazerra broadcasts. His reports caused the grounding of international flights and a serious discussion of shooting down commercial airliners. When he approached the French government, their experts quickly exposed the hoax. The US government, having been duped, buried the incident under a mountain of top secret documents. Flying Blues Brothers blues brothers He features the Blue's brothers who bought an unmanned aircraft subsidiary, General Atomics, for $50 million and now have a privately held near monopoly on US war drones. warlung electrocution He turns to to KBR the former subsidiary of Halliburton (Dick Cheney CEO), the military's largest contractor. KBR built substandard housing for US troops using indentured third world untrained labor and with poor or nonexistent supervision and inspections. The result were showers that electrocuted soldiers. One mother persisted in finding out how her son died and then sued KBR. She won on appeal and the case has been appealed by KBR to the supreme court. Risen calls this section Too Big to Fail but it is really Too Big to Jail as with the banks who can't even get prosecuted for massive drug money laundering activity. The shower electrocutions pail in comparison to the damage caused by KBR's practice of burning trash (several hundreds of tons per day) in open pits using jet fuel. KBR burned anything including computers, batteries, and other electronics. This has led to the discovery of "war lung injury" this war's equivalent of Agent Orange in Vietnam and Gulf War syndrome from exposure to uranium shells in the first Gulf war. Returning soldiers were found with titanium and unusual bio masses in their lungs as a result of exposure to the burning pits. The VA and DOD have gone to great lengths to cover up the problem and have failed to survey returning soldiers, provide diagnosis and care, or even to acknowledge a problem. One VA researcher Stephen Coughlin uncovered some suppressed studies and went to Congress with his findings. He was forced to resign under enormous pressure. One DOD official, Charles Smith, stood up to KBR when auditors pointed out a $1 Billion overcharge. He proposed opening bidding to other contractors. Smith was sidelined and soon retired. taxi mitchell Risen talks about the prison torture and abuse scandals and the "few bad apples" campaign by the government to scapegoat low level guards. When one prosecution failed, the government abandoned its efforts at scapegoating but the whole prison guard experience ruined many lives. Risen focuses on the the role of psychologists and the APA who gave cover to the torture program. The APA used the old NAZI argument that if the activity was legal (according to W administration legal justifications) it must be ethical. The DOD and VA are the largest employers of psychologists and their careers and livelihoods depend on giving the government what it wants. The legal rational is based on the military use of the techniques in training, particularly the SERE navy training. Risen shows what nonsense the use of torture is by presenting the navy SERE's own PowerPoint presentation:
Why is torture the worst interrogation method? Produces unreliable information Negative world opinion Subject to war crimes trials Used as a tool for compliance
Brennan Defends Torture Dec 12, 2014 brennan Yesterday, CIA director Brennan once again asserted that actionable intelligence was gained from the use of torture and it shouldn't be banned outright. Utter nonsense as Diane Feinstein rebutted him point by point. Obama refuses to pursue war crimes prosecutions. Haskell Free Library and Opera House Canadian Border Line haskell library Risen turns to the cost of the endless war on ordinary American citizens. Most obvious are airports that today resemble high security prisons that visitors must transit if they want to fly. He features two small towns on the border, one in Vermont and one in Quebec that built an opera house spanning the border. The house, with its painted black line is the main tourist attraction of the towns. For generations residents have freely traveled back and forth across the border to shop and visit. Most residents didn't even own passports since few travel abroad. All this changed after 9/11 when abusive homeland security outsiders started arriving in town. They build a fence and closed off all roads but one which is heavily guarded. Residents now require expensive passports and must endure abusive officials as they cross. When the local pharmacist was arrested for walking two blocks to pick up a pizza in Canada public outrage forced the reassignment of the homeland security official in charge. The draconian treatment eased but the fence and closed streets remain and passports are now required. Diane Roark dianeroark.widea Risen turns to the story closest to him, NSA warrant less surveillance and gives the best account yet of all the insiders who attempted to blow the whistle on the illegal activity. The efforts cost each of them their jobs and the government has ruined many lives. Featured here is the little known story of Diane Roark, a staffer for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Her personal battle with NSA Director Michael Hayden dates from 2000 prior to 9/11 and the war on terror. It starts when NSA's Bill Binney discovers that a part of the program he had worked on was being misused with the built in protections against spying on Americans removed. When his internal efforts to stop the activity failed, Binney reached out the Roark who immediately recognized the illegality of the collections. Roark quickly discovered her contacts inside the NSA and the house had been secretly informed of the program and none were objecting. When Roark contacted the Chief Judge of the FISA court Coleen Kollar Kotelly, Kotelly not only did not respond but she notified the Justice Department to inform them Roark was asking questions. Roark was forced to resign but this was not enough for Hayden who insisted on meeting Roark in person. Roark took notes and these are a summary: General Michael Hayden Repeatedly Lies to Congress michaelhayden
I (Roark) pushed hard and repeatedly about why he had dropped the protections (for American Citizens). He avoided answering until finally he said again that they didn't need them because they had the power.
Wyden Silenced by Classified Disclosures wyden Roark was stunned by this answer. The rest of the conversation was equally shocking. Hayden believed that seeking authorization would shed unwanted light on the program. That "It is now among us." I.E. the program is permanent and expanding. He told her he believed he would prevail if the program came before the supreme court and that he was considering leaking it to select Congress members to assure their silence. Among those silenced appears to be Oregon Senator Ron Wyden. Hayden was telling Roark all this to warn her to drop her efforts to oppose the program. Still, Roark took a chance and wrote a letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist via hand delivery from Rehnquist's daughter. Rehnquist never responded. The FBI sent a phalanx of officers to Roark's Oregon home to seize all her files, computers, etc. Her lawyer advised her to ask for the affidavit in support of the search warrant and the FBI responded it was under seal and she couldn't see it. That same day the FBI raided the homes of three other NSA whistle blowers. A few months later they raided the home of NSA whistle blower Thomas Drake. This time the supporting affidavit was later discovered to indicate the FBI was looking for evidence that Drake was the source of the leaks to reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau. The NYT repeatedly killed the NSA story for two years from 2004 til 2006 when they published it just weeks before the release of Risen's book State of War. So much for the newspaper of record. Risen comments that he fully understands why Edward Snowden felt compelled to leave the country before blowing the whistle on the NSA given the devastating personal experience of all previous NSA whistle blowers. In 2005 Risen reported on a botched harebrained CIA plan to give nuclear weapons blueprints to Iran. The government is still after Risen to reveal his source for this story and Risen faces jail time if he refuses to cooperate. The only way to go to jail in this country today is to be poor or to be an investigative reporter. Pretty sad.

Greenwald almost blows the biggest story of his life

Sunday, November 9th, 2014
No Place to Hide; Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, Glenn Greenwald, 2014 This book seems to be a collection of five articles. For this reader, Part One, Ten Days in Hong Kong, is the most interesting. On Dec 1 2012 (The first published article, featuring the FISA Verizon order appeared in the Guardian on June 5,2013, more than five months later.) Glenn Greenwald (GG) receives an email from "Cincinnatus" saying he has important documents to share but GG must first install PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption on his computer. GG ignores the email. Three days later he receives another email from C asking him to confirm he received the first email. GG immediately says he got it and later that day he receives an email with detailed instructions for installing the encryption program. GG does nothing for seven weeks. He thinks encryption would be useful for his work so he emails C on Jan 28, 2013 saying he will get someone to help him install the encryption. GG still does nothing and C steps up his efforts, producing a ten minute video "PGP for Journalists" on how to install the program. GG does nothing. PGP Public Key Encryption public-key-encryption-example On April 18, GG flew to New York to give some talks. On landing GG receives an email from Laura Poitras (LP) the documentary filmmaker saying she needs to meet him in person the next time he is in New York. GG had written an article detailing all the times Poitras was detained at US airports and her equipment seized. After the article the harassment at the airports stopped. GG arranged to meet LP at a restaurant in Yonkers. She changed tables several times at the restaurant and told GG to remove the batteries from his cellphone. She then showed GG a couple of emails she received asking LP to work with GG. GG thinks the sender is real but they do nothing and GG returns to Brazil. On May 11 GG receives an email from a technical expert he and LP had worked with in the past asking GG if he is ready to install the PGP encryption. He responded yes and was told to expect a Fedex package in Rio de Janeiro. The package was held in customs for a week enhancing the paranoia. The day after the package finally arrives, GG receives an email from LP saying they need urgently to talk but only via OTR chat. GG figures the source must have sent LP some documents. LP is far less a technophobe than GG so must have installed PGP. GG had used OTR in the past and now managed to install it and sign up for an account. LP tells GG they need to go to Hong Kong immediately to meet the source. GG thinks the source has to be guy in his late fifties with a thirty year career with the NSA living somewhere along the Washington beltway. Hong Kong makes no sense. The source was getting upset with LP and GG delays and was discussing involving the Washington Post. That finally got GG into gear. The source agreed to chat over OTR and GG assured him he was committed to the story but he still can't make sense of Hong Kong. LP had shared some PRISM material with the Washington Post and they responded with an army of lawyers and foot dragging, greatly worrying the source. GG asked to see some documents before he came to Hong Kong and the source patiently walked him keystroke at a time through the PGP installation process. GG was embarrassed by his lack of proficiency but the source assured him he had lots of free time then. Once installed, the source sent GG about 25 documents, the tip of the iceberg. The documents convinced GG that he needed to go to Hong Kong immediately and that He would need major institutional support to get this material out. GG had been working at the Guardian for only nine months but had little contact with their editorial staff. GG immediately Skyped Janine Gibson British editor in chief of the US edition in New York gushing about the material. Gibson told GG to get off Skype immediately. GG flew to New York and agreed to meet LP in New York. GG arrived in NY May 31. GG and LP book a non stop flight from New York to Hong Kong but then Gibson drops that the Guardian insists on involving long time Guardian journalist Ewen MacAskill who will fly with them to Hong Kong. LP is furious and GG doesn't know their minder MacAskill. LP was afraid a third person might freak the source but GG understood that the Guardian wanted a long time company man on the scene. LP relents but only if MacAskill stays away from the source until she and GG are ready to introduce him. Snowden Journalists MacAskill, Greenwald, and Poitras MacAskill Greenwald and Poitras LP insists that GG buy a new air gapped (never connected to the Internet) laptop before they leave. As they drive to the airport LP gives GG a tutorial on secure computer systems and hands him a thumb drive (with the full collection of documents). For the 16 hours of the flight GG can't stop reading. He is amazed by the level of organization and pre thought put into the document archive. He immediately locates the FISA Verizon order that all domestic phone metadata records must be handed to the NSA. We now enter the realm so well captured in the 1997 Norwegian movie Insomnia where the crime detective sent north of the Arctic Circle to the land of midnight sun finds he can't sleep. GG doesn't sleep for the next 10 days. When he is about to collapse, he pops a pill and drops off for a couple hours and is then back at work. Part of this is because constant communication with New York Guardian staff is necessary but mostly that he is too excited after chasing the NSA story for years, proof of the whole horrible reality and scope of their surveillance activities has fallen in his lap. Snowden's Hideaway MIRA mira room GG wants to meet the source immediately but LP thinks that would look suspicious so they wait til tomorrow. The source gives LP elaborate spy trade-craft instructions of how and where to meet. GG is expecting a hideaway but instead they go to a Kowloon five star hotel. They are instructed to find a meeting room with an alligator (not real) on the floor where at a precise time they are to wait for exactly 2 minutes. If the source doesn't appear they are to leave making sure they are not being tailed. Twenty minutes later they are to return to the alligator for exactly 2 more minutes. If the source does arrive they will recognize him carrying a Rubiks cube (GG laughs). GG is expecting an older very senior Washington bureaucrat and is shocked when a young kid (Snowden was 29 but looks younger in a tee shirt jeans and nerd glasses) shows up carrying a Rubiks cube. GG thinks this kid can't possibly have had access to all those top secret documents. But they are now committed so follow Snowden to his room. GG was once a practicing lawyer and treats the first meeting with Snowden as a legal deposition where the lawyer tries to trip up a witness forced to answer all questions. Snowden is calm, articulate, very organized and thoughtful and GG can't find any holes in his amazing story. GG can't contain his excitement. LP films the deposition. They plan the first release of articles and the time when Snowden wants to reveal himself as the whistle-blower. NSA-Verizon-Surveillance The first article will be the FISA Verizon order and the Guardian plans to tell the government ahead of publication as has become standard practice. Gibson calls the government the morning of planned publication and then total silence. At 3PM an army of White House, NSA and other officials call Gibson back. They want to meet in about a week to explain why the Guardian shouldn't run the story, Gibson says they have until she hangs up to convince the Guardian. The government tries bullying and threats. They don't work. Their reasons are totally lame and Gibson decides to publish. London and the lawyers agree. At 5:40 May 5, 2013 the story goes live. GG spends the rest of the day and night on the phone with interviews, then starts the next cycle for the PRISM story where nine internet providers are giving the NSA all their data. Печать The same cycle between the Guardian and government repeats but this time someone in government give lap dog Washington Post a heads up and they rush to post the story they have been holding without publication. GG reads the Post story and realizes they haven't even asked the internet services for comment. The Guardian story which goes live 10 minutes after the Post's includes denials from all nine providers that they were cooperating with the government. GG figures the providers and NSA can fight out their denials in public. GG suddenly remembers Cincinnatus and sends an email to thank him for suggesting the PGP program. Snowden immediately emails back you are welcome. GG has never connected Cincinnatus to Snowden. Several more articles follow. Finally the time arrives to announce the identity of the leaker who the NSA has been unable to identify. LP wants to include a video of Snowden but can't use the disjointed GG deposition. LP writes down a list of 20 questions and asks MacAskil, who everyone has come to trust, to read the questions while she films. The result is the 12 minute video we have all seen introducing us to Edward Snowden for the first time. About the time of this release a Guardian lawyer is sent to Hong Kong who asks what is being done to protect Snowden once his identity is released. GG and LP and even Snowden seem to have given this little thought. As the last story began breaking an acquaintance of GG's, who lives in Hong Kong, called GG pointing out that everyone would now be looking for Snowden in Hong Kong and asking if they didn't need some qualified Hong Kong lawyers. He suggested two human rights specialists with good contacts in the Hong Kong government. The Guardian lawyer quickly vetted them via the Internet and decided they were good choices. GG agrees to meet and the friend tells him they are already in the Hotel lobby. When GG opens his door a swarm of reporters are waiting. They follow him into the elevator and GG finds still more reporters waiting in the lobby. He decides to give a short impromptu interview and within 15 minutes most reporter have left to file their stories. GG was finally able to locate his friend and the lawyers. They suggested the lawyers accompany Snowden to a UN mission and from there to a safe house. But how to get Snowden out of his five star Hotel? Snowden is now ahead of them with a prepared disguise and he makes his way safely to an exit where the lawyers are waiting. So that is how the biggest story of GG's life got told. Also featuring is GGs Brazilian partner David Miranda who comes across as a wise, intuitive advisor without whom GG would be even more indecisive. It is Miranda that first concludes the source is for real. He advises GG to pressure the Guardian so the story gets out there. Later, he becomes a story himself when LP and GG decide to use him to courier Snowden material from Berlin, where LP lives to Rio de Janiero where GG lives. It never occurs to either that Miranda is in danger as he transits the London airport. Miranda is stopped, his possessions seized and he is threatened and bullied for nine full hours under a British terror provision. Under pressure from the Guardian and Brazilian diplomats, Miranda was released to continue his journey after the full nine hours allowed under this dangerous law. Miranda arrived in Brazil a returning hero, but very frightened. Presumably the British government (or the US) has the thumb drive he was carrying but GG doesn't say. Snowden prepared thumb drives for both LP and GG with all documents. He also prepared a separate thumb drive for the Guardian containing the documents pertaining to the British GCHQ activities. British authorities later descended on Guardian London offices demanding all Snowden documents. The Guardian refused but agreed to let the GCHQ supervise and observe the destruction of all computers at the Guardian. Before this happened, the GCHQ materials were forwarded to the New York Times where they must be sitting in limbo. Snowden encrypted the documents and assured GG and LP that neither China nor Russia would have the capability to break the encryption. This reader assumes the US could break the encryption but only if they dedicated some super computers for several years to the effort. Even if the Miranda carried thumb drive is in either British or US hands, it is unlikely any attempt will be made to decrypt the material. It is likely that the NSA is still unaware of the full extent of the documents in the archive unless all are now located in the new Intercept archive. One of the big lessons learned by GG in this adventure is the absolute necessity for investigative journalists to use encrypted communications. Their work will be impossible in the future without these tools. GG further advises all activists and any lawyer engaged with litigation against the government to encrypt all their communications. He uses the example of David Petraeus to illustrate how easy it is to destroy a career if unencrypted emails fall into the wrong hands. nsa-yes-we-scan nsa cartoon Part two "Collect it All" highlights documents emphasizing the worldwide and universal scope of NSA ambitions. Part three makes a strong case for the harm that Surveillance causes in a democracy. His strongest point comes in his conclusion. The public sector operates in total darkness and secrecy and privacy while the private sector is subjected to total surveillance of their activities with no place to hide. Somehow our system has become completely inverted. Snowden had expected Obama to reign in the illegal abuses and held off his release until it was clear things were worse than before. obama whistleblowers Part Four is a discussion of the forth estate much of which (the corporate media) have become mere tools of the corporate state. GG was shocked that media personalities were at the forefront of attacks suggesting GG be prosecuted for his reporting. This is new. News organizations used to come immediately and strongly to the defense of journalists under Government attack. They no longer do this. The Obama administration has felt free to conduct open warfare against whistle blowers and their reporters who are trying to do investigative reporting as guaranteed in the Constitution. The Guardian's own lawyers suggested GG should avoid returning to the US and repeatedly failed to get assurances from the US government that GG would not be arrested and prosecuted should he return. David Gregory shocks Glenn Greenwald gregory arrest greenwald David Gregory Calls for Greenwald to be Arrested for Snowden Reporting Live on Meet the Press. Seymour Hersh (who broke the My Lai massacre and Abu Ghraib prison abuses stories) suggests that journalism would be greatly improved if about 900 corporate media types were to lose their jobs. LP has now released her new documentary Citizenfour in a theatrical release. It will doubtless receive Academy Award nominations.