Later On

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

Archive for August 23rd, 2013

Man! This is getting surreal — NSA division

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Things continue in the weird direction. This article at Atlantic Wire by Philip Bump provides evidence. And we learn that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, like James Clapper, will flat-out lie—and then get caught in the lie and try to squirm out. Revelations are hell for liars.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2013 at 1:55 pm

Obama will continue to love NSA

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Philip Bump at the Atlantic Wire:

“All these safeguards, checks, audits, oversight” of the NSA’s surveillance programs “worked,” President Obama told CNN Friday morning. He’d like you to agree — but isn’t doing what he could to make that happen.

When the president at a press conference earlier this month announced his proposal for reforms and review of NSA surveillance, it suggested an administration willing to conduct some reflection. This week, though, has given some reason to think that the reflection might be more like the emperor asking people what they think of his new duds. The NSA’s informational website is a Tumblr page,ICOnTheRecord. The Director of National Intelligence’s release of key rulings from the court that governs the surveillance programs neglected to mention that it was largely spurred by a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Then there’s that review panel, which Obama described like this at the press conference.

[W]e’re forming a high level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies. We need new thinking for a new era. …

So I’m tasking this independent group to step back and review our capabilities, particularly our surveillance technologies, and they’ll consider how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse in terms of how these surveillance technologies are used, ask how surveillance impacts our foreign policy, particularly in an age when more and more information is becoming public.

“Outside.” “New thinking.” “Independent group.” Yes, the proposal came under fire when the president at first directed Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to house it within his department. But the administration clarified: the “panel members are being selected by the White House.”

The Washington Post has now confirmed with an administration official the composition of the panel the president selected. It is:

  • Former Bush National Security Council member Richard Clarke
  • CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell
  • Former Obama administration staffer Cass Sunstein
  • Former Obama and Clinton administration staffer Peter Swire

Which is a bit of like Vito Corleone asking for a review of his behavior from a panel consisting of Tom Hagen, Kay, and Don Barzini. Seventy-five percent of the panel is technically “outside” the administration, but it otherwise seems a bit antithetical to what was promised. . .

Continue reading.

“Antithetical to what was promised”: that pretty much sums up the Obama Administration in a single phrase.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2013 at 10:39 am

History will pardon Manning even if Obama doesn’t

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And he won’t: Obama makes almost no use of the Presidential power for clemency. His direction has been to use other presidential powers: assassination, imprisonment, vindictive persecutions of whistleblowers. John Cassidy writes at the New Yorker:

Sometimes things that are fully expected still have the capacity to shock. That’s certainly the case with the news that the former Army private Bradley Manning has been sentenced to thirty-five years in military prison for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks. My colleague Amy Davidson, who has been writing about the Manning story since the beginning, has a post on the verdict, which contains more details. I’ll confine myself to three points:

1. Make no mistake, the sentence is draconian.

Judge Denise Lind, an Army colonel, didn’t give Manning the full sixty years in prison that the prosecution wanted, but the whistle-blower still faces the same sort of prison term handed out to murderers and gangsters. Assuming he follows the rules, he will be eligible for parole after eight years (a third of the sentence minus three and a half years, for time served). Even if he is released then, he will have been in prison for well over a decade.

Military justice is meant to be harsh: it’s designed to maintain discipline on and off the battlefield. But this isn’t a case of a solider deserting his post or handing secrets over to the enemy. The government’s attempts to show that Manning’s leaks aided Al Qaeda were almost laughable, although nothing about this case is amusing. As Amy notes in her post, the stated intent of the Pentagon was to frighten other would-be leakers. “There is value in deterrence, Your Honor,” one of the military prosecutors told Lind. “This court must send a message to any soldier contemplating stealing classified information.”

But was it just a matter of deterrence? From the beginning, the Pentagon has treated Manning extremely harshly, holding him in solitary confinement for almost a year and then accusing him of aiding the enemy—a charge that carries the death penalty. (Thankfully, Lind found Manning not guilty on this count.) It certainly looked like an instance of powerful institutions and powerful people punishing a lowly private for revealing things that they would rather have kept hidden.

2. Much of the wrongdoing that Manning exposed hasn’t been dealt with nearly as harshly as he has.

Amid all the discussion of the rights and wrongs of whistle-blowing and WikiLeaks, it’s easy to forget what exactly Manning revealed. In an article last month calling for him to be pardoned, the New Republics John Judis provided a useful reminder of some of the incidents captured in the battleground reports that Manning released:

American troops killing civilians, including women and children, and then calling in an airstrike to destroy evidence; the video of an American Apache helicopter gunship shooting civilians, including two Reuters reporters; American military authorities failing to investigate reports of torture and murder by Iraqi police; and a “black unit” in Afghanistan tasked to perform extrajudicial assassinations of Taliban sympathizers that killed as many as 373 civilians.

What has happened to those responsible for these acts? In most cases, not much. For example, no charges have been brought against the U.S. military personnel who were in the Apache helicopter when it opened fire in Baghdad, in July, 2007—an incident that my colleague Raffi Khatchadourian wrote about at length in his 2010 article onJulian Assange and WikiLeaks. “When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system,” the A.C.L.U.’s Ben Wizner said in a statement. Could anybody disagree with that?

3. Even if President Obama doesn’t pardon Manning, history will. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2013 at 10:35 am

Wildfires are getting worse. Why is Congress so unprepared?

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An interesting thing happens to those who deny reality: they are crushed. Reality always wins over the long haul. Brad Plumer has a sobering example in his article on Wonkblog:

Plenty of experts think Western wildfires will keep getting worse in the years ahead, thanks to both global warming and a steady uptick in the number of Americans who live in fire-prone areas. Yet the federal government seems unprepared for this fact.

“For the second straight year,” my colleague Darryl Fears reports, “the federal government has run through its budget for fighting wildfires amid a grueling, deadly season and will be forced to move $600 million from other funds, some of which help prevent fires.” Note that this has happened even though the 2013 wildfire season has actually been one of the least severe this decade (so far).

There are a lot of budgetary ins and outs to this story — and you should really read Fears’s full piece — but you can see the basic dynamic in this chart below. Wildfires have become steadily more widespread since 1985, which drives up the cost of suppression:


Yet Congress hasn’t adjusted to these trends. “Over seven years starting in 2002, the Agriculture Department, which runs the Forest Service, was forced to transfer $2.2 billion from other accounts to fight wildfires when the budget came up short, according to records provided by the Forest Service,” Fears reports. “Congress, which sets the budget, at times reimbursed only a fraction of those funds.”

Then, in 2011, Congress pulled $200 million from a firefighting fund after a relatively mild fire season. That was followed by the second-worst wildfire year on record. This year, meanwhile, the sequester cut an additional $115 million from wildfire funds. And those cuts have added up.

There are a couple of major reasons why wildfires, particularly out West, have been getting bigger and more destructive over time. Climate change has heated up and dried out the region, making forests more flammable. Modern logging practices and fire-suppression techniques over the past century have also made forests more susceptible to truly gigantic blazes.But another key reason is that the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2013 at 10:34 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Manning Is Guilty and So Is the Army That Sent Him Overseas

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Interesting report by Brian Van Reet in The Daily Beast:

Manning is not a whistleblower motivated by either ideology or principle. Nor, despite the claims of some, is he a poster child for transgender rights being persecuted for his gender or sexual orientation. Analyses that have focused on Manning’s personal conflicts over his sexuality and the limitations it placed on his ability to serve miss the point as much as those that have declared him a free-speech martyr. He did not deliberately and methodically set out to expose a discrete government program that he had come to believe was unconstitutional. He was not sentenced for his gender preferences or how he chose to dress. He was a troubled kid looking to make a mark who simply spilled every secret he knew, the equivalent of screaming as loud as he could in the hope that all that noise would bring some attention.

After he leaked the documents, Manning did not flee to Hong Kong or Russia. He failed to plan that far into the future and so he will not avoid the worst consequences of his actions. Perhaps he was too unsophisticated to predict them. Perhaps he got in over his head.

The real question is: how did Manning wind up with access to classified documents and national-security secrets? The answer is, he did not get there alone.

Over the past decade the Defense Department made a series of conscious decisions to lower the bar for entry into the military and to accept candidates whom it had once deemed unfit for duty. In order to sustain wars on multiple fronts, fought without a draft, the standards for enlistment and service overseas dropped conspicuously, and in some cases, as with Manning, even those who could not meet the new, lowered standards were waved through.

With no great expansion in the size of the military to accompany these fights, we have plugged the holes with civilian contractors, like Snowden, and with obviously unfit soldiers, like Bradley Manning. We have imprisoned lower-enlisted men and women for their very real crimes, while allowing our presidential, congressional, and military leadership to act with relative impunity. Now we reap the rewards.

What Kind of Soldier Was Bradley Manning?

When I was in the army, soldiers used to talk about, “dirtbags,” “shitbirds,” and “shammers.” We applied these cruel labels to the kids who, for whatever reason, just couldn’t hack it. Some of the “shitbirds” had legitimate personality disorders, and others seemed damaged in different ways—they were just off—too idiosyncratic for soldiering, or maybe too sensitive. The “dirtbags” lied to you when they didn’t have to. You couldn’t trust them not to go into your wall locker and steal your stuff. They were the borderline or actual criminals. Then, finally, there were the “shammers,” the troops who actively tried to get out of duty by citing injuries or hardships, real or imagined.

How did Manning wind up with access to classified documents and national-security secrets? Not on his own.
All of these people had their reasons for enlisting in the first place. They sought money, an escape, an adventure, a way to serve their country, or a way to prove something to someone by joining the army and going to war. For whatever reason they had enlisted, once they got to basic training, they stuck out miserably. To say they were bullied would be accurate but would miss something about the character of the army, an institution in which tough-guy power relations are the norm—even tacitly encouraged—and do not form a remarkable exception.

By some accounts, the trouble started early for Pfc. Manning. One of his fellow basic trainees described him this way: “He wasn’t a soldier—there wasn’t anything about him that was a soldier. He has this idea that he was going in and that he was going to be pushing papers and he was gonna be some super- smart computer guy and that he was gonna be important, that he was gonna matter to someone and he was gonna matter to something. And he got there and realized that he didn’t matter and that none of that was going to happen.”

The soldier who made this statement met Manning in a discharge unit at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where they both awaited an exit from the army. For unclear reasons, Manning’s drill sergeants had deemed him unfit for duty. Under the authority of his unit commander, they had removed him from his regular training platoon. Manning waited in the discharge unit for a resolution to his case. Meanwhile, rumors circulated that he was gay. The soldier who knew him back then had this to say about it: . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2013 at 10:18 am

Posted in Military

How the FBI Spied and Lied So Conspiracy Theorists Would Sound Crazy

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Another extcerpt from Jesse Walker’s book The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory:

The special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Diego office had a plan. An antidraft activist in the area was convinced that the Bureau was watching him—he kept telling people that his phone was tapped, his home bugged, his every move observed. With “a small push in the right direction,” the agent believed, the activist would start exhibiting “obvious paranoid tendencies,” and that would “completely neutralize him in his several leadership capacities.”

So let’s make a big show of spying on the man, the investigator suggested. Maybe we could build a spooky-looking mechanism from a bicycle part and an old transistor radio, then drop it off near his front steps one night. “In the event he displayed the contraption to anyone,” the officer argued, “its crude construction would ultimately neutralize any allegation that it originated or is being utilized by the FBI.” And if the target tried to tell people it was a bugging device, they’d ridicule him.

Headquarters wasn’t convinced. The problem wasn’t that the plan was unethical, unconstitutional, or absurd. It was that the activist might not be important enough to be “a suitable target for counter-intelligence action.” The agent was told to investigate the fellow further, then “resubmit your request if his importance to the New Left movement warrants such attention.” In other words, the Bureau should spend more time spying on the man before it tried to convince the man he was being spied on.

It was November 1968, and that was just one of hundreds of operations against domestic dissidents that FBI agents were proposing, and frequently carrying out, as a part of COINTELPRO, a program to disrupt and neutralize political movements that the Bureau deemed subversive. When it was launched in 1956, COINTELPRO had been aimed at the remnants of the Communist Party and at the groups the party had allegedly infiltrated. Gradually the program’s targets had expanded. COINTELPRO–Communist Party USA was joined by COINTELPRO–Socialist Workers Party, then COINTELPRO–White Hate Groups, then COINTELPRO– Black Nationalist/Hate Groups, then COINTELPRO–New Left.

The White Hate Groups effort was a watershed. The previous COINTELPROs had been designed with the Enemy Outside in mind: The Bureau’s target might have nothing to do with Soviet subversion, but the idea that it might be linked to Soviet subversion was always in play. But even J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s famously anti-Communist director, found it difficult to argue that the Reds controlled the Klan. Once the White Hate Groups program began in 1964, the sociologist David Cunningham has noted, many more groups could “be thought of as ‘subversive’ and therefore suitable targets for counterintelligence programs. No longer did a subversive group have to be controlled by or intimately tied to a hostile foreign power.” Because the Bureau was aiming its fire at the radical Right, powerful liberals were happy to sign off on the program, setting a precedent that made it easier later for the Bureau to target the antiwar movement and the Black Panthers.

Under COINTELPRO, FBI agents infiltrated political groups and spread rumors that loyal members were the real infiltrators. They tried to get targets fired from their jobs, and they tried to break up the targets’ marriages. They published deliberately inflammatory literature in the names of the organizations they wanted to discredit, and they drove wedges between groups that might otherwise be allied. In Baltimore, the FBI’s operatives in the Black Panther Party were instructed to denounce Students for a Democratic Society as “a cowardly, honky group” who wanted to exploit the Panthers by giving them all the violent, dangerous “dirty work.” The operation was apparently successful: In August 1969, just five months after the initial instructions went out, the Baltimore FBI reported that the local Panther branch had ordered its members not to associate with SDS members or attend any SDS events.

Sometimes the Bureau’s efforts were simply strange. Late in 1968, the FBI’s Philadelphia office pondered how it might react to the counterculture’s rising interest in the occult. “Some leaders of the New Left, its followers, the Hippies and the Yippies, wear beads and amulets,” an agent observed. “New Left youth involved in anti-Vietnam activity have adopted the Greek letter ‘Omega’ as their symbol. Self-proclaimed yogis have established a following in the New Left movement.” Under those “conditions,” he argued, it might be effective if “a few select top-echelon leaders of the New Left be subjected to harassment by a series of anonymous messages with a mystical connotation.”

As examples of such messages, the agent enclosed two sketches: a beetle, with the caption “Beware! The Siberian Beetle”; and a toad, with the caption “Beware! The Asiatic Toad.” The recipient, he explained, would be

“left to make his own interpretation as to the significance of the symbol and the message and as to the identity of the sender. The symbol utilized does not have to have any real significance but must be subject to interpretation as having a mystical, sinister meaning.

If all of COINTELPRO had resembled the Siberian beetle plan, it would be a minor part of history: unconstitutional but clueless and ultimately harmless, the product of the same blundering Bureau that felt the need to file a report on the Monkees. (The Los Angeles field office claimed that a concert by the band had included left-wing “subliminal messages.”) But the FBI’s activities were often darkerand more dangerous. When the Senate investigated COINTELPRO, the chief of the Bureau’s Racial Intelligence Section claimed that “no one was killed” after the FBI falsely tagged him or her as a snitch. Someone asked if this had been a matter of planning or just sheer luck. “Oh, it just happened that way, I’m sure,” the officer replied.9

This is where the study of conspiracy theories becomes a hall of mirrors. The feds didn’t just infiltrate and disrupt dissident groups; they made sure the groups knew that they were being infiltrated and disrupted, so activists would suspect one another of being police agents. In effect, COINTELPRO functioned as a conspiracy to defeat subversive conspiracies by convincing the alleged subversives that they were being conspired against.

While all that was going on, the CIA was engaged in its own program of domestic political surveillance. . .

Continue reading. The CIA is forbidden by law from any operations in the US, but the CIA has never had any respect for the law that I can tell—certainly they break the law with alarming frequency.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2013 at 10:07 am

Posted in Government, Law

A weird “solution”

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The problem with the polygraph is that it is unreliable: they don’t work, to put it mildly. That is why courts do not allow polygraph results as evidence. But the more conservative parts of the government—and the more authoritarian—do love to administer polygraph tests to employees and potential employees because they then can ask all sorts of personal and embarrassing questions that, truthfully, are none of their business. So the government wants to keep using these useless machines. Of course, since the polygraph doesn’t work all that well, people can learn to beat them, and some people now offer such instruction as a business.

Panic! Ruin! Woe! The unreliable polygraph will now be viewed as unreliable, and that must not be allowed. For if that happened, people might suggest that the whole thing should be thrown out.  Marisa Taylor and Cleve R. Wootson Jr, report at McClatchy on the mess:

Federal agents have launched a criminal investigation of instructors who claim they can teach job applicants how to pass lie detector tests as part of the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on security violators and leakers.

The criminal inquiry, which hasn’t been acknowledged publicly, is aimed at discouraging criminals and spies from infiltrating the U.S. government by using the polygraph-beating techniques, which are said to include controlled breathing, muscle tensing, tongue biting and mental arithmetic.

So far, authorities have targeted at least two instructors, one of whom has pleaded guilty to federal charges, several people familiar with the investigation told McClatchy. Investigators confiscated business records from the two men, which included the names of as many as 5,000 people who’d sought polygraph-beating advice. U.S. agencies have determined that at least 20 of them applied for government and federal contracting jobs, and at least half of that group was hired, including by the National Security Agency.

By attempting to prosecute the instructors, federal officials are adopting a controversial legal stance that sharing such information should be treated as a crime and isn’t protected under the First Amendment in some circumstances.

“Nothing like this has been done before,” John Schwartz, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official, said of the legal approach in a June speech to a professional polygraphers’ conference in Charlotte, N.C., that a McClatchy reporter attended. “Most certainly our nation’s security will be enhanced.”

“There are a lot of bad people out there. . . . This will help us remove some of those pests from society,” he added.

The undercover stings are being cited as the latest examples of the Obama administration’s emphasis on rooting out “insider threats,” a catchall phrase meant to describe employees who might become spies, leak to the news media, commit crimes or become corrupted in some way.

The federal government previously treated such instructors only as nuisances, partly because the polygraph-beating techniques are unproven. Instructors have openly advertised and discussed their techniques online, in books and on national television. As many as 30 people or businesses across the country claim in Web advertisements that they can teach someone how to beat a polygraph test, according to U.S. government estimates.

In the last year, authorities have launched stings targeting Doug Williams, a former Oklahoma City police polygrapher, and Chad Dixon, an Indiana man who’s said to have been inspired by Williams’ book on the techniques, people who are familiar with the investigation told McClatchy. Dixon has pleaded guilty to federal charges of obstructing an agency proceeding and wire fraud. Prosecutors have indicated that they plan to ask a federal judge to sentence Dixon to two years in prison. Williams declined to comment other than to say he’s done nothing wrong.

While legal experts agree that authorities could pursue the prosecution, some accused the government of overreaching in the name of national security.

The federal government polygraphs about 70,000 people a year for security clearances and jobs, but most courts won’t allow polygraph results to be submitted as evidence, citing the machines’ unreliability. Scientists question whether polygraphers can identify liars by interpreting measurements of blood pressure, sweat activity and respiration. Researchers say the polygraph-beating techniques can’t be detected with certainty, either.

Citing the scientific skepticism, one attorney compared the prosecution of polygraph instructors to indicting someone for practicing voodoo.

“If someone stabs a voodoo doll in the heart with a pin and the victim they intended to kill drops dead of a heart attack, are they guilty of murder?” asked Gene Iredale, a California attorney who often represents federal defendants. “What if the person who dropped dead believed in voodoo?

“These are the types of questions that are generally debated in law school, not inside a courtroom. The real question should be: Does the federal government want to use its resources to pursue this kind of case? I would argue it does not.”

In his speech in June, Customs official Schwartz acknowledged that teaching the techniques _ known in polygraph circles as “countermeasures” _ isn’t always illegal and might be protected under the First Amendment in some situations.

“I’m teaching about countermeasures right now. The polygraph schools are supposed to be teaching about countermeasures,” he said. “So teaching about countermeasures in and of itself certainly is not only not illegal, it’s protected. You have a right to free speech in this country.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2013 at 9:57 am

Why Is Obama Caving on Tobacco?

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Generally speaking, Obama seems to fold when facing tough decisions: conflict avoidance, perhaps, or simple lack of courage. The tobacco caving seems totally optional. Of course, he is indeed a smoker, so maybe he supports smoking. Michael Bloomberg (NYC mayor) writes in the NY Times:

LAST year I endorsed President Obama for re-election largely because of his commitment to putting science and public health before politics. But now the Obama administration appears to be on the verge of bowing to pressure from a powerful special-interest group, the tobacco industry, in a move that would be a colossal public health mistake and potentially contribute to the deaths of tens of millions of people around the world.

Although the president’s signature domestic issue has been health-care reform, his legacy on public health will be severely tarnished — at a terrible cost to the poor in the developing world — unless his administration reverses course on this issue.

Today in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, representatives from the United States and 11 other nations begin the latest round of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multinational trade agreement. The pact is intended to lower tariffs and other barriers to commerce, a vitally important economic goal. But if it is achieved at the expense of people’s health, the United States and countries around the world will be worse off for it.

The early drafts of the agreement included a “safe harbor” provision protecting nations that have adopted regulations on tobacco — like package warnings and advertising and marketing restrictions — because of “the unique status of tobacco products from a health and regulatory perspective.” This provision would have prevented the tobacco industry from interfering with governments’ sovereign right to protect public health through tobacco control laws.

Countries (and cities) that have adopted such regulations have had great success reducing smoking rates and saving lives. In New York City, where we have adopted some of the most comprehensive tobacco policies in the world, the smoking rate among adults has fallen by nearly one-third, and among high school students it has been cut in half. This progress helped to increase average life expectancy: in 2010, it was 80.9 years in the city, more than two years longer than in the country as a whole.

This week, however, the Obama administration bowed to pressure from the tobacco industry and dumped the safe harbor provision from the trade compact. The tobacco industry was joined by other business interest groups that were fearful that the safe harbor provision would lead to other products’ being singled out in future trade accords.

So instead of the safe harbor, the Obama administration is now calling for a clause requiring that before a government can challenge another’s tobacco regulation under the treaty, their health authorities must “discuss the measure.” The administration will also try to ensure that a general exception for matters to protect human life or health (typical in trade agreements) applies specifically to tobacco regulation.

But these are weak half-measures at best that will not protect American law — and the laws of other countries — from being usurped by the tobacco industry, which is increasingly using trade and investment agreements to challenge domestic tobacco control measures.

If the Obama administration’s policy reversal is allowed to stand, not only will cigarettes be cheaper for the 800 million people in the countries affected by the trade pact, but multinational tobacco corporations will be able to challenge those governments — including America’s — for implementing lifesaving public health policies. This would not only put our tobacco-control regulations in peril, but also create a chilling effect that would prevent further action, which is desperately needed. . .

Continue reading.

We certainly could have had a worse president than Obama, but I must same Obama is extremely disappointing in his performance and decisions: giving free rein to Wall Street, ramping up the security state with authoritarian measures, ignoring the law regarding torture and war crimes, and so on. I imagine his grade as president will be C+.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2013 at 9:46 am

How the NSA spied on Americans before the Internet

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Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2013 at 9:35 am

Posted in NSA

ESPN Reportedly Caved to NFL Pressure on the Concussion Story

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The NFL apparently doesn’t want serious brain injury to dampen profits. Read the story.  Efforts to avoid reality always seem to be counterproductive. The conclusion to the story:

The good news for PBS is that the controversy makes their film (which airs in October) a must-watch, raising even more awareness of the problem of football concussions. It also drives home one of the key themes of Frontline‘s story: That the NFL in monstrous corporation (“a multibillion-dollar commercial juggernaut”) that allows profit to trump all concerns about safety and ethics. Maybe now, they’ll say the same thing about ESPN.

UPDATE: The report in the NY Times is especially good. I suppose it’s okay for young men to get crippled so long as sports fans are entertained and massive companies make massive profits.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2013 at 9:34 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Snowden: UK government now leaking documents about itself

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The latest leak, published in The Independent, is apparently from the UK government itself—a kind of false flag operation: leaking damaging information, then blaming Snowden. I doubt that it will work: those following the story will know quickly. Glenn Greenwald writes in the Guardian:

The Independent this morning published an article – which it repeatedly claims comes from “documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden” – disclosing that “Britain runs a secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies.” This is the first time the Independent has published any revelations purportedly from the NSA documents, and it’s the type of disclosure which journalists working directly with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have thus far avoided.

That leads to the obvious question: who is the source for this disclosure? Snowden this morning said he wants it to be clear that he was not the source for the Independent, stating:

I have never spoken with, worked with, or provided any journalistic materials to the Independent. The journalists I have worked with have, at my request, been judicious and careful in ensuring that the only things disclosed are what the public should know but that does not place any person in danger. People at all levels of society up to and including the President of the United States have recognized the contribution of these careful disclosures to a necessary public debate, and we are proud of this record.

“It appears that the UK government is now seeking to create an appearance that the Guardian and Washington Post’s disclosures are harmful, and they are doing so by intentionally leaking harmful information to The Independent and attributing it to others. The UK government should explain the reasoning behind this decision to disclose information that, were it released by a private citizen, they would argue is a criminal act.”

In other words: right as there is a major scandal over the UK’s abusive and lawless exploitation of its Terrorism Act – with public opinion against the use of the Terrorism law to detain David Miranda – and right as the UK government is trying to tell a court that there are serious dangers to the public safety from these documents, there suddenly appears exactly the type of disclosure the UK government wants but that has never happened before. That is why Snowden is making clear: despite the Independent’s attempt to make it appears that it is so, he is not their source for that disclosure. Who, then, is?

The US government itself has constantly used this tactic: aggressively targeting those who disclose embarrassing or incriminating information about the government in the name of protecting the sanctity of classified information, while simultaneously leaking classified information prolifically when doing so advances their political interests.

One other matter about the Independent article: it strongly suggests that there is some agreement in place to restrict the Guardian’s ongoing reporting about the NSA documents. Speaking for myself, let me make one thing clear: I’m not aware of, nor subject to, any agreement that imposes any limitations of any kind on the reporting that I am doing on these documents. I would never agree to any such limitations. As I’ve made repeatedly clear, bullying tactics of the kind we saw this week will not deter my reporting or the reporting of those I’m working with in any way. I’m working hard on numerous new and significant NSA stories and intend to publish them the moment they are ready.

Related question

For those in the media and elsewhere arguing that the possession and transport of classified information is a crime: does that mean you believe that not only Daniel Ellsberg committed a felony, but also the New York Times reporters and editors did when they received, possessed, copied, transported and published the thousands of pages of top-secret documents known as the Pentagon Papers?

Do you also believe the Washington Post committed felonies when receiving and then publishing top secret information that the Bush administration was maintaining a network for CIA black sites around the world, or when the New York Times revealed in 2005 the top secret program whereby the NSA had created a warrantlesss eavesdropping program aimed at US citizens?

Or is this some newly created standard of criminality that applies only to our NSA reporting? Do media figures who are advocating that possessing or transmitting classified information is a crime really not comprehend the precedent they are setting for investigative journalism?


The Independent’s Oliver Wright just tweeted the following:

“For the record: The Independent was not leaked or ‘duped’ into publishing today’s front page story by the Government.”

Leaving aside the fact that the Independent article quotes an anonymous “senior Whitehall source”, nobody said they were “duped” into publishing anything. The question is: who provided them this document or the information in it? It clearly did not come from Snowden or any of the journalists with whom he has directly worked. The Independent provided no source information whatsoever for their rather significant disclosure of top secret information. Did they see any such documents, and if so, who, generally, provided it to them? I don’t mean, obviously, that they should identify their specific source, but at least some information about their basis for these claims, given how significant they are, would be warranted. One would think that they would not have published something like this without either seeing the documents or getting confirmation from someone who has: the class of people who qualify is very small, and includes, most prominently and obviously, the UK government itself.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2013 at 9:12 am

Minitatur Wunderland

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Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2013 at 9:03 am

Posted in Techie toys, Video

Vetiver again

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SOTD 23 Aug 2013

Once more a Vetiver shave. Cyril R. Salter’s French Vetiver is a wonderful shaving cream with an excellent vetiver fragrance—or, as some would have it, a strong vetiver stench. Not everyone likes the earthy goodness of vetiver.

My Mühle silverfiber synthetic did a fine job, and I enjoyed abundant, fragrant lather. The Feather AS-D1 with a Feather blade was supremely comfortable and delivered an effortless BBS result. A good splash of Guerlain Vetiver EDT and I’m ready to start the weekend early.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2013 at 9:02 am

Posted in Shaving

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