Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category

Very interesting interview (audio and transcript) with journalist James Risen

with one comment

Glenn Greenwald interviews James Risen at The Intercept:

Jim Risen, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for exposing the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program, has long been one of the nation’s most aggressive and adversarial investigative journalists. Over the past several years, he has received at least as much attention for being threatened with prison by the Obama Justice Department (ostensibly) for refusing to reveal the source of one of his stories, a persecution that, in reality, is almost certainly the vindictive by-product of the U.S. Government’s anger over his NSA reporting.

He has published a new book on the War on Terror entitled “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War.” There have been lots of critiques of the War on Terror on its own terms, but Risen’s is one of the first to offer large amounts of original reporting on what is almost certainly the most overlooked aspect of this war: the role corporate profiteering plays in ensuring its endless continuation, and how the beneficiaries use rank fear-mongering to sustain it.

risen

That alone makes the book very worth reading, but what independently interests me about Risen is how he seems to have become entirely radicalized by what he’s discovered in the last decade of reporting, as well as by the years-long battle he has had to wage with the U.S. Government to stay out of prison. He now so often eschews the modulated, safe, uncontroversial tones of the standard establishment reporter (such as when he called Obama “the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation” andsaid about the administration’s press freedom attacks: “Nice to see the US government is becoming more like the Iranian government”). He at times even channels radical thinkers, sounding almost Chomsky-esque when he delivered a multiple-tweet denunciation – taken from a speech he delivered at Colby College – of how establishment journalists cling to mandated orthodoxies out of fear, arguing:

It is difficult to recognize the limits a society places on accepted thought at the time it is doing it. When everyone accepts basic assumptions, there don’t seem to be constraints on ideas. That truth often only reveals itself in hindsight. Today, the basic prerequisite to being taken seriously in American politics is to accept the legitimacy of the new national security state. The new basic American assumption is that there really is a need for a global war on terror. Anyone who doesn’t accept that basic assumption is considered dangerous and maybe even a traitor. The crackdown on leaks by the Obama administration has been designed to suppress the truth about the war on terror. Stay on the interstate highway of conventional wisdom with your journalism, and you will have no problems. Try to get off and challenge basic assumptions, and you will face punishment.

I spent roughly 30 minutes talking to Risen about the book, what he’s endured in his legal case, attacks on press freedoms, and what is and is not new about the War on Terror’s corporate profiteering. The discussion can be heard on the player below, and a transcript is provided. As Risen put it: “I wrote ‘Pay Any Price’ as my answer to the government’s campaign against me.” . . .

Continue reading for the interview and transcript.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 November 2014 at 4:36 pm

Top Five Washington Assumptions on Mideast that Are not True

leave a comment »

Andrew Bacevich writes at Informed Comment:

“Iraq no longer exists.” My young friend M, sipping a cappuccino, is deadly serious. We are sitting in a scruffy restaurant across the street from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.  It’s been years since we’ve last seen each another. It may be years before our paths cross again. As if to drive his point home, M repeats himself: “Iraq just doesn’t exist.”

His is an opinion grounded in experience.  As an enlisted soldier, he completed two Iraq tours, serving as a member of a rifle company, before and during the famous Petraeus “surge.”  After separating from the Army, he went on to graduate school where he is now writing a dissertation on insurgencies.  Choosing the American war in Iraq as one of his cases, M has returned there to continue his research.  Indeed, he was heading back again that very evening.  As a researcher, his perch provides him with an excellent vantage point for taking stock of the ongoing crisis, now that the Islamic State, or IS, has made it impossible for Americans to sustain the pretense that the Iraq War ever ended.

Few in Washington would endorse M’s assertion, of course.  Inside the Beltway, policymakers, politicians, and pundits take Iraq’s existence for granted.  Many can even locate it on a map.  They also take for granted the proposition that it is incumbent upon the United States to preserve that existence.  To paraphrase Chris Hedges, for a certain group of Americans, Iraq is the cause that gives life meaning. For the military-industrial complex, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Considered from this perspective, the “Iraqi government” actually governs, the “Iraqi army” is a nationally representative fighting force, and the “Iraqi people” genuinely see themselves as constituting a community with a shared past and an imaginable future.

Arguably, each of these propositions once contained a modicum of truth.  But when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and, as then-Secretary of State Colin Powell predicted, broke the place, any merit they previously possessed quickly dissipated.  Years of effort by American occupiers intent on creating a new Iraq out of the ruins of the old produced little of value and next to nothing that has lasted.  Yet even today, in Washington the conviction persists that trying harder might somehow turn things around.  Certainly, that conviction informs the renewed U.S. military intervention prompted by the rise of IS.

So when David Ignatius, a well-informed and normally sober columnist for the Washington Post, reflects on what the United States must do to get Iraq War 3.0 right, he offers this “mental checklist”: in Baghdad, the U.S. should foster a “cleaner, less sectarian government”; to ensure security, we will have to “rebuild the military”; and to end internal factionalism, we’re going to have to find ways to “win Kurdish support” and “rebuild trust with Sunnis.”  Ignatius does not pretend that any of this will be easy.  He merely argues that it must be — and by implication can be — done.  Unlike my friend M, Ignatius clings to the fantasy that “Iraq” is or ought to be politically viable, militarily capable, and socially cohesive.  But surely this qualifies as wishful thinking.

The value of M’s insight — of, that is, otherwise intelligent people purporting to believe in things that don’t exist — can be applied well beyond American assumptions about Iraq.  A similar inclination to fanaticize permeates, and thereby warps, U.S. policies throughout much of the Greater Middle East.  Consider the following claims, each of which in Washington circles has attained quasi-canonical status.

* The presence of U.S. forces in the Islamic world contributes to regional stability and enhances American influence.

* The Persian Gulf constitutes a vital U.S. national security interest.

* Egypt and Saudi Arabia are valued and valuable American allies.

* The interests of the United States and Israel align.

* Terrorism poses an existential threat that the United States must defeat.

For decades now, the first four of these assertions have formed the foundation of U.S. policy in the Middle East. The events of 9/11 added the fifth, without in any way prompting a reconsideration of the first four. On each of these matters, no senior U.S. official (or anyone aspiring to a position of influence) will dare say otherwise, at least not on the record.

Yet subjected to even casual scrutiny, none of the five will stand up.  To take them at face value is the equivalent of believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy — or that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell really, really hope that the Obama administration and the upcoming Republican-controlled Congress can find grounds to cooperate.

Let’s examine all five, one at a time. . .

Continue reading. He effectively demolishes each of the claims as a pernicious pipe dream.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2014 at 3:06 pm

Public shaming is not going to work: they must fire the guy

leave a comment »

And fire him they should: note the emphasized passage below. Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

Last Friday, the Senate Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection, chaired by Sherrod Brown, effectively put William Dudley, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in stocks in the village square and engaged in a rather brilliant style of public shaming. With each well-formed question posed by the panel, Dudley’s jaded leadership of a hubristic regulator came into ever sharper focus.

There were a number of elephants in the room during the lengthy session that were only briefly touched upon but deserve greater scrutiny by the press. First, Congress knew that the New York Fed was a failed, crony regulator during the lead up to the financial collapse in 2008, but it granted it an even greater supervisory role under the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation in 2010. This Congress has also failed to engage in public shaming of President Obama for brazenly ignoring the Dodd-Frank’s statutory mandate that calls for him to appoint, subject to Senate confirmation, a Vice Chairman for Supervision at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, who could have shaped and monitored a more credible policing role for the New York Fed.

Senator Sherrod Brown Questions the New York Fed President During Senate Hearing , Novemer 21, 2014

Section 1108 of Dodd-Frank requires: “The Vice Chairman for Supervision shall develop policy recommendations for the Board regarding supervision and regulation of depository institution holding companies and other financial firms supervised by the Board, and shall oversee the supervision and regulation of such firms.” President Obama was required to nominate this individual once the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act became effective; that was July 21, 2010 – more than four years ago. The President has simply ignored this provision of the law – no doubt to the extreme satisfaction of Wall Street.

The final elephant is that as a result of giving a failed regulator enhanced power and failing to appoint a person to a leadership role in supervision, the U.S. Senate has effectively become Wall Street’s cop on the beat, doing the job the New York Fed’s cronyism prevents it from doing.

The last point was buttressed by the fact that simultaneous with this hearing, Senator Carl Levin’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations was holding its second day of hearings on how Wall Street, under the nose of the New York Fed, has massively and secretly gobbled up a huge swath of the nation’s physical commodities, like oil and aluminum, creating cost spikes for the consumer and industrial users while also placing huge trading bets on commodity prices.

Levin’s subcommittee, in place of the New York Fed, has also had to conduct exhaustive investigations into JPMorgan’s London Whale trading scandal, where the bank lost over $6.2 billion of depositors funds; HSBC’s money laundering; Credit Suisse’s tax evasion scam; and various other Wall Street abuses.

Senator Jeff Merkley touched on this aspect after Dudley had the audacity to imply in his opening remarks that the concept of “too big to jail” had been consigned to history “when Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas pleaded guilty to criminal charges.”

Senator Merkley asked Dudley how many names of the individuals who engaged in the tax evasion scam deployed by Credit Suisse were turned over to authorities. Dudley said he didn’t know. Merkley asked how many Americans who created those secret tax evasion accounts with Credit Suisse were prosecuted. Dudley said he didn’t know. Merkley asked how many of the hundreds of Credit Suisse employees that set up these sham accounts were indicted. Dudley said he didn’t know. Merkley said the answer to all of these questions was “none.”

Merkley went on to say that the Credit Suisse guilty plea to criminal charges came about not because of any advance information provided by the New York Fed or any investigation undertaken by the New York Fed, but because of the work of Senator Levin’s subcommittee.

Showing deep frustration, Senator Merkley said: “You’re the regulator; why did it take the U.S. Senate committee to find out those facts.” Dudley responded: “I don’t know the answer to that.” [The sonofabitch doesn’t know much, does he? Certainly nothing about his job. – LG]

Senator Elizabeth Warren drilled down to just how Dudley sees his role as a regulator. In an enlightening exchange, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2014 at 2:54 pm

More information on the Regin malware/spyware

leave a comment »

First, the British version of NSA, GCHQ, has made use of the malware, which again is a trail that leads to NSA as the author. Joseph Cox writes at Motherboard:

One of the most sophisticated pieces of malware ever seen has been discovered by researchers. Dubbed Regin, the tool has reportedly been spying on telecoms companies, governments, businesses, and individuals for at least the past six years, and appears to have been used by the UK’s intelligence services.

Security company Symantec announced the existence of Regin yesterday, and the researchers say it is a “​groundbreaking and almost peerless” piece of malware “whose structure displays a degree of technical competence rarely seen.”

The architecture is the hallmark of Regin: each stage of the malware is stored surreptitiously in the section that precedes it. These unload bit by bit, with five stages in total, culminating in an attacker being able to monitor nearly everything carried out on a target device.

In this regard, Symantec compared Regin to the infamous Stuxnet malware, which also had a multi-stage approach. Costin Raiu, director of the Global Research and Analysis Team at security firm Kaspersky Lab agreed with the comparison. “It’s a very good analogy,” he told me, but also pointed out some of the key differences. Kaspersky had also been working on researching the Regin malware, according to a blog post published after Symantec’s white paper, and provided some additional insights.

Stuxnet was designed to infiltrate and ultimately tamper with the Iranian nuclear programme. For this, it was given the power to self-replicate, move from one computer to another, and infect USB sticks, which would then be carried into the facility. From here, Stuxnet would attempt to override the centrifuges crucial to Iran’s nuclear enrichment plants.

Regin doesn’t do any of these things. It works as quietly as possible, granting attackers access to computer systems so they can monitor, not break them. “The main focus of Regin would be surveillance, while Stuxnet was designed for sabotage,” Raiu said. . .

Continue reading.

And The Intercept has an article:

Complex malware known as Regin is the suspected technology behind sophisticated cyberattacks conducted by U.S. and British intelligence agencies on the European Union and a Belgian telecommunications company, according to security industry sources and technical analysis conducted by The Intercept.

Regin was found on infected internal computer systems and email servers at Belgacom, a partly state-owned Belgian phone and internet provider, following reports last year that the company was targeted in a top-secret surveillance operation carried out by British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters, industry sources told The Intercept.

The malware, which steals data from infected systems and disguises itself as legitimate Microsoft software, has also been identified on the same European Union computer systems that were targeted for surveillance by the National Security Agency.

The hacking operations against Belgacom and the European Union were first revealed last year through documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The specific malware used in the attacks has never been disclosed, however.

The Regin malware, whose existence was first reported by the security firm Symantec on Sunday, is among the most sophisticated ever discovered by researchers. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2014 at 2:23 pm

The question is: Will Sen. Udall (D-CO) step up and read the report of the Senate investigation into the record

leave a comment »

We have a lot of craven politicians, but I suspect no more a higher percentage than in the general population—except that craven politicians can think up more excuses for not acting. But time is running out for Sen. Udall: will he step up to the task, or turn tail and head home?

Read this for context: the argument between the White House and the Senators on whether the American public should be informed about what their government is doing. (The White House thinks not, and is doing everything in its power to hide the facts.)

Obama really is a piece of work. It’s too bad he’ll probably never realize the extent to which he has let the country down.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 November 2014 at 6:02 pm

The GOP has at least completed its Benghazi investigation: Nothing there

leave a comment »

As Kevin Drum notes, the GOP Congressional committee that investigated Benghazi for two years released its report late on a Friday afternoon—the traditional time for releasing bad news—because, apparently, in their view the report was bad news: no wrong-doing of any sort; no conspiracy; no hiding of terrible secrets. I wonder if Lara Logan will note this.

Kevin Drum:

For two years, ever since Mitt Romney screwed up his response to the Benghazi attacks in order to score campaign points, Republicans have been on an endless search for a grand conspiracy theory that explains how it all happened. Intelligence was ignored because it would have been inconvenient to the White House to acknowledge it. Hillary Clinton’s State Department bungled the response to the initial protests in Cairo. Both State and CIA bungled the military response to the attacks themselves. Even so, rescue was still possible, but it was derailed by a stand down order—possibly from President Obama himself. The talking points after the attack were deliberately twisted for political reasons. Dissenters who tried to tell us what really happened were harshly punished.

Is any of this true? The House Select Intelligence Committee—controlled by Republicans—has been investigating the Benghazi attacks in minute detail for two years. Today, with the midterm elections safely past, they issued their findings. Their exoneration of the White House was sweeping and nearly absolute. So sweeping that I want to quote directly from the report’s summary, rather than paraphrasing it. Here it is:

  • The Committee first concludes that the CIA ensured sufficient security for CIA facilities in Benghazi….Appropriate U.S. personnel made reasonable tactical decisions that night, and the Committee found no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support….
  • Second, the Committee finds that there was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks. In the months prior, the IC provided intelligence about previous attacks and the increased threat environment in Benghazi, but the IC did not have specific, tactical warning of the September 11 attacks.
  • Third, the Committee finds that a mixed group of individuals, including those affiliated with Al Qa’ida, participated in the attacks….
  • Fourth, the Committee concludes that after the attacks, the early intelligence assessments and the Administration’s initial public narrative on the causes and motivations for the attacks were not fully accurate….There was no protest.The CIA only changed its initial assessment about a protest on September 24, 2012, when closed caption television footage became available on September 18, 2012 (two days after Ambassador Susan Rice spoke)….
  • Fifth, . . .

Continue reading.

And William Douglas of McClatchy has a report as well:

The Obama administration didn’t issue ‘stand down’ orders to security forces at the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya or knowingly give erroneous details about the incident to the public, a quietly-released report by the House Intelligence Committee concluded Friday.

The two-year investigation by the bipartisan panel shoots down a series of conspiracy theories and cover-up claims. It’s the fourth congressional committee to reach similar conclusions.

‘The report has endeavored to make the facts and conclusions within this report widely and publicly available so that the American public can separate the actual facts from the swirl of rumors and unsupported allegations,’ the report stated in its findings.

It debunks talk that the administration ordered CIA and security forces at the compound to ‘stand down’ during that attacks that led to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others. . .

Continue reading.

UPDATE: And ThinkProgress has a good report on the findings of the committee:

Two years ago, Republicans in the House of Representatives commissioned a House Intelligence Committee investigation into the 2012 attack on an American consulate in Benghazi. While failures of security were acknowledged by the administration, the investigation was one of many formed with the intent to prove some conspiracy theories about the incident, including a supposed high-ranking order for the CIA tostand down in the midst of the attack.

But the latest report, released Friday, does little to back up Republicans’ suspicion of negligence, and it finds no intelligence failure on the part of the CIA.

The investigative report is authored on the right by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and the left by Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD). Rogers previewed the report during a Fox News this September when he smacked down one of the leading right-wing theories, that the State Department issued a stand-down order before the attack. “It was the commander on the ground making the decision,” Rogers explained at the time. “I think it took 23 minutes before they all, including that commander, by the way, got in a car and went over and rescued those individuals.”

The report also disproves other conspiracy theories about that tragic night, including . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 November 2014 at 10:10 am

Excellent review of Citizenfour in the NY Review of Books

leave a comment »

What Snowden has revealed is crucial to our understanding: he shows how the currents of the country are shaped and channeled by the underwater rocks, as it were, of the security apparatus, and reveals those forces to us. David Bromwich writes in the NY Review of Books:

Citizenfour
a film directed by Laura Poitras

At some point in the chase that led the documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras from America to Berlin and finally to the hotel room in Hong Kong where she would meet the whistle-blower who identified himself as “Citizenfour,” her unnamed informant sent this warning: “I will likely immediately be implicated. This must not deter you.”

What did he offer in return for the risk he hoped she would take? The answer was compelling. He knew things that the American public ought to know. The director of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, had “lied to Congress, which I can prove.” Alexander denied under oath that the NSA had ever engaged in the mass surveillance of Americans that was then going forward under the codenames PRISMand XKeyscore. Citizenfour could also demonstrate that General James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, came no closer than General Alexander to telling the truth. When asked, under oath, by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon whether the NSAcollects data on “millions or hundreds of millions of Americans,” Clapper had answered: “Not wittingly.”

Clapper’s statement was false in every possible sense of the words “not” and “wittingly.” [And yet Obama leaves him in office, while doing everything a president can to stifle the Senate’s report on the US program of kidnapping and torture—either Obama is in the grip of the security apparatus, or he is a part of it. His constant appointment of Wall Street insiders to regulatory agencies is a clue: this is not the president we were promised. – LG] The agency was indeed collecting data, it was doing so in accordance with a plan, and the director had ordered no halt to the mass collection. The extraction of private information about Americans without our consent seems to have troubled Edward Snowden far back in his employment by the NSA. But there were other things that gave him pause: the astonishing license for ad hoc spying, for example, that was granted to those NSA data workers who had been awarded the relevant “authorities”—a bureaucratic synonym for permissions. “We could watch drone videos [of the private doings of families in Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan] from desktops.” This, Snowden has said, was one of those things “that really hardened me.

Citizenfour, a documentary about the rise of mass, suspicionless surveillance and about the dissidents who have worked to expose it, naturally centers on Snowden; and most of the film concentrates on eight days in Hong Kong, during which Poitras filmed while the Guardian reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill introduced themselves, conducted searching interviews and conversations with Snowden, and came to know something of his character. The focus on a single person is consistent with the design of all three of the extraordinary films in the trilogy that Poitras has devoted to the war on terror.

The first, My Country, My Country (2006), covered a short stretch in the life of an Iraqi doctor, Riyadh al-Adhadh, during the American occupation of Baghdad. In the months before the election of January 2005, al-Adhadh was beset by a family in bad straits and by patients whose physical and emotional state had suffered terribly in the war. He resolved at that exigent moment to help his country by standing as a candidate for the assembly. When his Sunni party withdrew from participation, he was left disappointed and uncertain, his commitment invalidated by the very people he hoped to serve.

The Oath (2010) offered a portrait of Abu Jandal, a taxi driver in Yemen, initially famous only by association as the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden’s driver Salim Ahmed Hamdan. It was Hamdan who suffered five years of imprisonment in Guantánamo before being tried on charges of conspiracy and “material support” of al-Qaeda. A deeply religious man, he was cleared by a military tribunal of the charge of conspiracy and transferred to Yemen, where he secluded himself and maintained an ascetic silence. (On October 16, 2012, the D.C. Circuit Court threw out Hamdan’s conviction on the remaining count, “material support” for terrorism, on the ground that it violated the constitutional ban on ex post facto prosecutions: the acts for which he was charged and convicted were not yet crimes when he performed them.)

As if between the lines of the film, it emerges that Abu Jandal himself—charismatic, masculine, a hero to the intellectual Muslim radicals who seek him out, yet touchingly gentle in the work of raising his five-year-old son—had been closer to bin Laden than the relative who was sent to Guantánamo. And even that is not the end: the protagonist is not what he seems at second glance any more than at first. He was once a committed jihadist, yet he was also full of doubts and capable of acting on his doubts. The film leaves him, as the earlier film had left the Iraqi doctor, uncertain and in suspense.

In the same way, we are left without a finished story at the end of Citizenfour. Snowden departs Hong Kong for Moscow, under the protection of human rights lawyers, hoping to fly from there to a Latin American country that will offer him refuge (probably Ecuador). But as we now know and the film reminds us, the US State Department revoked his passport and Snowden in Moscow is still in limbo. Though the film, in a kind of denouement, shows him reunited with his American girlfriend, visited by a political ally, Glenn Greenwald, and encouraged to hear that another whistle-blower has cropped up and disclosed the exorbitant scale of the American “watch list,” it is hard to know where his story will end.

Citizenfour gives a setting for Snowden’s action through its portrait of several other vivid personalities. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

Snowden is often called a “fanatic” or a “zealot,” a “techie” or a “geek,” by persons who want to cut him down to size. Usually these people have not listened to him beyond snippets lasting a few seconds on network news. But the chance to listen has been there for many months, in two short videos by Poitras on the website of The Guardian, and more recently in a full-length interview by the NBC anchorman Brian Williams. The temper and penetration of mind that one can discern in these interviews scarcely matches the description of fanatic or zealot, techie or geek.

An incidental strength of Citizenfour is that it will make such casual slanders harder to repeat. Nevertheless, they are likely to be repeated or anyway muttered in semiprivate by otherwise judicious persons who want to go on with their business head-down and not be bothered. It must be added that our past politics give no help in arriving at an apt description of Snowden and his action. The reason is that the world in which he worked is new. Perhaps one should think of him as a conscientious objector to the war on privacy—a respectful dissident who, having observed the repressive treatment endured by William Binney, Thomas Drake, and other recent whistle-blowers, does not recognize the constitutional right of the government to put him in prison indefinitely and bring him to trial for treason. His action constitutes a reproach to the many good citizens who have learned what is happening and done nothing about it. That, too, is surely a cause of the resentment that has a hard time finding the appropriate adjectives for Snowden.

“The right of privacy,” wrote the great scholar of constitutional law Herbert Packer inThe Limits of the Criminal Sanction (1968),

as implied by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, cannot be forced to give way to the asserted exigencies of law enforcement. The use of electronic surveillance constitutes just the kind of indiscriminate general search that helped to bring on the American Revolution and that the framers of the Constitution were alert to guard against. In the name of necessity this grant of power would permit an unscrupulous policeman or prosecutor to pry into the private lives of people almost at will. Knowledge that this was so would certainly inhibit the free expression of thoughts and feelings that makes life in our society worth living.

Packer’s understanding of the internalized character of free expression is close to Snowden’s language about the freedom of the Internet before it was watched. But as the film illustrates in detail, Snowden does not in fact oppose police work or the arrest of people dangerous to the country. The trouble, he says, is that the NSA has overseen the almost immeasurable expansion of “a system whose reach is unlimited but whose safeguards are not.” At the same time, Snowden goes further than many who call themselves libertarians. He believes that the American government has no more right to spy on private individuals in other countries than it does to spy on citizens of the United States.

Later still:

In watching her films, one is always aware of the impact of the large institution on the person, but the person stands at the center of the portrayal. And in her trilogy about the war on terror, that institution is the state, the state, and the state: American power, with its long reach, its credulous belief in its own good intentions, its quenchless thirst for control, its devotion to expertise and system, and its heavy consequent burden of incompetence.

Definitely read this review. Its concluding paragraph:

The strangest revelation of Citizenfour may therefore be this: Snowden, in his hotel room with his journalistic confidants Greenwald and Poitras and MacAskill, affords a picture of a free man. It shows in his posture, and in a sense of humor touched by self-irony. He is not haunted by any fretful concern with what comes next. He is sure he has done something he chose, and sure that someone had to do it. He acted in obedience to a principle; and it was right that the actor should disappear in the action. Citizenfour, by simply using the real-life actor as a way to consider the nature of freedom, honors the premise that moved Snowden to take his unique and drastic step. “The final value of action,” wrote Emerson, “is, that it is a resource.” It is up to other Americans now, the uncertain end of Citizenfour says, to rouse ourselves and find the value of Snowden’s action as a resource.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 November 2014 at 4:35 pm

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,327 other followers

%d bloggers like this: