Back in June of 2013 skilled documentarian Laura Poitras and two UK journalists met in Hong Kong for the first time together with Edward Snowden, US government spook turned whistleblower who was then employed by a major US military-industrial contractor. Their meetings unfolded over several days and resulted in public knowledge of arguably unconstitutional and ostensibly tyrannical US intelligence community policies first revealed in June of 2013 by UK's The Guardian newspaper and subsequently the US' Washington Post newspaper. The Guardian journalists involved were Glenn Greenwald and Ewen Macaskill. Last month Ms. Poitras' documentary film Citizenfour1 was released to theaters. It chronicles those meetings as well as a few related activities through mid 2014.
Ms. Poitras presents facts recorded on video in Hong Kong hotel rooms and from other reliable works.
There is little if any orchestrated innuendo indigenous to the film and audiences apparently are expected to
draw their own conclusions after viewing what actually transpired. Irrespective of one's opinion of Edward Snowden this is a must see film
for anyone interested in preserving citizens' protections under US constitutional law in what US intelligence officials expediently
tout as a very dangerous post 9/11 era. See it only with a strong constitution because watching ambitious US intelligence officials
lie to Congress with enthusiasm and without compunction could break your heart.
Locally the movie played today at the AMC theaters located in Destin Commons. If possible don't miss it.
1bad link replaced 12/23/2016.
11/24/2014 Stuttgarter Peace Prize:
Yesterday according to Germany's The Local Edward Snowden was awarded the Stuttgarter Peace Prize amid thanks "for opening 'a new perspective on secret service doings that are threatening our freedom and privacy'". With lessons of the Third Reich relatively fresh in mind, German citizens tend to be more astute stewards of freedom and liberty than their traditional western counterparts. Back in October for example The Local revealed an annual poll showing predominant German concern that "Foreign intelligence agencies and private companies collecting personal data online are the greatest threats to freedom in Germany". Nevertheless, roughly 18 months after Snowden's revelations, American legislators have not curtailed mass warrantless collection of citizens' data (worldwide) and show little interest in holding intelligence agencies accountable for zealous overreach. Many in Congress appear to want intelligence employees immune from Freedom of Information requests and/or prosecution irrespective of transgression. CISA, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014, likely will be back under consideration soon. Oppose it as best you can.
Everyone wants to think well of government agencies nevertheless history repeatedly shows known forms of government to be antisocial rather than social. Keep in mind that neither Julian Assange nor Edward Snowden have lied to the American people or to the rest of the world. Conversely American intelligence officials have been caught repeatedly lying to Congress and to the American people with impunity. In order to justify agency overreach, the ex-NSA director invited members of congress to a unique classified briefing claiming over 50 terrorist plots thwarted by mass surveillance of US citizens—a claim eventually shown to be bogus. Less than candid officials have not been so much as scolded while truthseekers are persecuted avidly. That in itself is a frightening trend which would make Hitler proud.
11/23/2014 CISA and Regin:
According to BBC Symantec "has discovered one of the most sophisticated pieces of malicious software ever seen". Reportedly "Researchers say the sophistication of the software indicates that it is a cyber-espionage tool developed by a nation state ". One strategist has said that "It looks like it comes from a Western organisation". Likely the hysterical US security state will use this information to its advantage in attempting to gain indisputable control of the Internet. It matters not that private industry, not government, uncovered the threat, or that government, not private industry, likely created the threat. Using less-than-candid arguments Governments everywhere are desperately trying to hijack Internet traffic and gain absolute control of currently unfettered information exchanges.
For several months CISA has been on the back legislative burner awaiting US election results. Now that Republicans control of both houses of the US Congress it is a safe bet that CISA, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014, will reappear in a form tailored to further erode America's privacy and grant additional powers to the overreaching and dysfunctional intelligence communities. Already the entire Bill of Rights has been abrogated or nullified by so-called anti-terrorism legislation yet this is more of the ill-advised same. Be forewarned—and oppose CISA in any form. Write your US senators.
11/21/2014 solution solicitations:
Whether right or wrong on any single issue1,
House Speaker John Boehner's attitude, style, and demeanor appear to make him a liability to both the nation and the Republican party. Arguably a more
astute Speaker is needed, someone attuned to big pictures and less prone to outbursts of childishness and vendetta. From all reports
major immigration contentions seem to be about power, process, and mechanism—with little public understanding of possible legislative outcomes or
reasonable immigration solutions.
1broken Yahoo News link replaced 02/11/2017, broken Salon link removed 6/5/2017.
11/17/2014 Vaclav Havel & principled foreign policy:
According to an 11/14/2014 Wall Street Journal opinion piece "Europe must step outside of its post-Cold War shadow and...become more active in promoting development, preventing conflicts and stimulating prosperity". Unstated is that in time the US will be forced to do the same, necessitating abandonment of warfare as a favored instrument of ill-conceived solution.
Vaclav Havel's achievements are central to the WSJ piece and it reminds one that his writings characteristically are eloquent, humane, and thought-provoking—attributes implicit here: "Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing"—written decades ago yet arguably descriptive even of contemporary America.
Commendably Vaclav Havel was a democratically elected president of Czechoslovakia (1989 to 1993),
and subsequently the first president of the Czech Republic (1993 to 2003).
Compare Havel's above quote (from his Power of the Powerless essay)
to more widely-known quotes of three recent POTUS': "I never had sex with that woman", "I'm
the decider", and "That's the good thing about being president, I can do whatever I want".
Apparently Europeans really do have a far better sense of history and better-than-rudimentary grasp of leadership concepts.
Even today their modern security states are not yet as hysterical as that in the US.
***edited 8:55CST 11/17
11/14/2014 Alexander unrestrained:
Recently ex-NSA-director Keith Alexander has been under less-than-enthusiastic scrutiny for possible conflicts of interest related to his investment dealings while overseeing ill-advised expansion of the hysterical security state. According to Mic.com "A government ethics officer reviewed the investments and found no conflict of interest, but the process wasn't publicly documented". Probably the official blessings of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper played heavily in that review. Specifically according to Vice News Clapper concluded Alexander's actions to be "unrelated to his prospective duties and no conflicts appear to exist". Unfortunately Clapper's word must always be questioned.
Nevertheless way back in June reasonable questions were raised by Florida's 9th US district congressman, Alan Grayson, about a related topic, the possible commercialization of classified information by Alexander. A month later Alexander was claiming nine patent applications necessary for his "anti-hacker technique" which he purportedly developed in just several short months after leaving government employment—all without drawing on things learned while heading-up NSA. In any case keep in mind that these assertions emanate from an individual who beguiled the world with bogus public claims of over 50 terrorist plots thwarted by NSA's mass surveillance when in fact none ultimately proved to be of reasonable substance.
Fortunately for him, Alexander's tales and endeavors still are blessed by his former boss, a high-level government official who like Alexander seems to lie in public with impunity. Characteristically both Clapper and Alexander appear to believe that bamboozling American taxpayers is "in the interests of national security" as long as the hysterical security state is unscathed—arguably a favored contemporary official policy.
11/12/2014 veterans daylight:
Yesterday was Veterans Day—traditionally a day for endorsing unbridled horse manure in print. Fortunately there are media exceptions. Here is one from a former US Army Ranger.
11/10/2014 Senator Rand Paul on Middle East policy:
Don't miss Senator Rand Paul's comments about US Middle East policy. Roughly 14 years of US military action have complicated and exacerbated Middle East quandaries because there are no military solutions to Middle East problems. As Senator Paul suggests "we must take a fresh look at U.S. policy in the Middle East and consider a new approach".
11/08/2014 Snowden in Moscow:
If you missed Wired magazine's 22.09 issue here's a chance to start catching up. The fabulous cover photo shows Edward Snowden fondly snuggling up to Old Glory nonetheless it's the issue's content that trumps all. Don't miss James Bamford's article "The most wanted man in the world", a detailed and reasonably objective account of mid-2014 meetings and interviews with Snowden in Moscow. Irrespective of how one judges Snowden, every American might gleen something useful from this work.
11/07/2014 cherishing freedom, opposing CISA:
If you cherish freedom you'll be concerned about this story. A "joint operation between 16 European countries and the US" resulted in aggregate law enforcement shutting down around 400 web sites "believed to be selling illegal items including drugs and weapons". If the keywords "believed to be" could be replaced with "convicted of" the web site owners might have enjoyed something once known as due process. Activity of these roughly 400 web sites has been declared "criminal" without a single recorded conviction. With only 17 arrests it seems entirely likely that more than a few sites were fingered erroneously or emotionally—precisely why the US would be wise to shun military purview of anything remotely related to Internet use. Toward that end oppose CISA (Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act) when it rears its post-election ugly head again.
11/07/2014 deception and accountability:
It's no surprise that FBI
Director James Comey endorses unbridled deception when it serves official ends.
American officialdom is almost never held accountable for inexcusable actions.
liars head-up intelligence organizations fingering suspects for drone assassination,.
and prosecutors withhold evidence with
Contemporary law enforcement inneptitude** is seldom punished and
military purview is granted over civilian affairs as
legislators incessantly abrogate constitutional protections*.
Common sense and official accountability seem things of the past yet a Republican controlled Congress is not likely to change any of this.
*dead link 06/23/2015 (http://www.lawfareblog.com/2014/11/obama-declares-intent-to-seek-an-isis-aumf-will-the-2001-aumf-be-amended-along-the-way/)
**dead link 02/11/2017 (http://commondreams.org/further/2014/10/08/no-charges-baby-burning-butt-stupid-cops-because-hey-mistakes-happen)
11/06/2014 America's homeless:
According to the Telegraph, helping your fellow man in America is dangerous business. Many Americans wrongly attribute destitution to individual indolence yet are gifting the worldwide unprepared with surprise destitution via a tax-supported kick-ass killing machine. "Christian butchers" is what Mark Twain called now-fashionably-known-as "heroes" following the Battle of Bud Dajo. Choosing between terms like butcher or hero typically is a matter of compunction or access to fact. Some things never change.
11/04/2014 discontented voters:
Pundits recognize America's discontent on this election day. Why don't US officials? It's not about the other political party, it's about official dysfunction. The most important agenda before Congress is restoration of constitutional protections for US citizens—not even being discussed. Repeal of AUMF, PATRIOT, and the detention provisions of NDAA 2012 are the single most important issues Congress can address in order to preserve and ensure the longevity of traditional American values. De-militarizing the nation seems impossible because as Chalmers Johnson stated in the prologue to his 2007 title Nemesis: "Unfortunately, our political system may no longer be capable of saving the United States as we know it, since it is hard to imagine any president or Congress standing up to the powerful vested interests of the Pentagon, the secret intelligence agencies, and the military-industrial complex."***broken AP link replaced 12/14
11/02/2014 no news is good news:
to recordings obtained by AP,** it appears that St Louis County Police and the FAA conspired to keep news media from
grabbing aerial photos in and around Ferguson in August, thereby precluding media seeing an "unvarnished view of one of the most serious
episodes of civil violence in recent memory." The AP article also says that "The recordings...show the FAA still approved and modified the
flight restriction after the FAA was aware that its main intent was to keep the media away."
Be forewarned, the land of the free isn't quite.
**broken AP link replaced 11/18/2014 - a second broken link replaced 05/03/2016
11/01/2014 madmen still in control:
It has been almost 17 months since Edward Snowden well-served his country by revealing intelligence gathering techniques twice-adjudicated and always-arguably unconstitutional, however no significant changes have been made to disgraceful government methodologies. Nowadays the "intelligence" communities are claiming overreach shelter under a top secret Reagan-era Executive Order 12333 which certainly must be added to any ill-advised-legislation nullification list. Corrective inaction makes POTUS appear to support the insanity and paranoia inside national security circles. To refresh your recall reread this excellent year-old op-ed by law professor Yochai Benkler entitled Time to tame the NSA behemoth trampling our rights.
Also it seems ludicrous to embrace confirmed liars into "intelligence" organizations that decide which suspects to snuff-out with drones. Perhaps even worse is the current Director of the FBI apparently believing he is at war with the general public. Last week James Comey defended the use of military equipment by law enforcement—without addressing the core issue of law enforcement accountability—and militarily stated that "Our paramount wish as leaders of law enforcement is that our people come home after each tour"—whatever happened to "protect and serve"? Do you really want to put the general public in grave danger as long as law enforcement is unharmed? Proper use of military equipment requires constant specialized training which law enforcement is not equipped to provide. Like Chalmers Johnson stated in the prologue to his 2007 title Nemesis: "Unfortunately, our political system may no longer be capable of saving the United States as we know it, since it is hard to imagine any president or Congress standing up to the powerful vested interests of the Pentagon, the secret intelligence agencies, and the military-industrial complex."
11/01/2014 restoring constitutional protections:
The most important agenda before Congress is restoration of constitutional protections for US citizens. Repeal of AUMF, PATRIOT, and the detention provisions of NDAA 2012 are the single most important issues that Congress can address in order to preserve and ensure the longevity of traditional American values.