Tuesday, 17 December 2013

#SurveillanceState: They're Hoping You're Not Paying Attention

The Obama Adminstration is trying to spin the story of the #SurveillanceState, in the hope, as Scott Shackford says at 'Hit and Run,’ they can persuade the populace the problem is due to poor “messaging,” not due to any actual legitimate concerns about the state’s indiscriminate high-tech spying.

The latest assault on reason was “a 20-minute blowjob [that 60 Minutes] correspondent John Miller performed Sunday evening on Gen. Keith Alexander and other National Security Agency leaders…”

"Your campaign has the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?"For those who missed it …[the U.S.] 60 Minutes ran not one, but two full segments about the NSA’s data collection and Edward Snowden scandals, told entirely from the NSA’s perspective and with absolutely no critical voices.
    Some lowlights:

  • The poor “We are not reading your e-mails/listening to your phone calls” straw man is set on fire yet again. The guy is just ash by now. The explanation of the “metadata” the NSA collects is purposefully vague, giving viewers the very false impression that the only information the NSA gets is just literal phone numbers and call durations.
  • Miller brings up the Foreign Information Surveillance Court rulings indicating that the NSA has in the past overstepped its boundaries and collected data it shouldn’t collect. Gen. Alexander deflects the question by stating that these were mistakes and were not “willful.” No mention is made of other privacy violations by NSA agents that were indeed willful.
  • NSA officials seem to believe that they have stopped China from destroying the world’s computers with a virus, thereby preventing widespread economic chaos. While the Chinese government and military are no doubt engaging in all sorts of cyber-espionage, there’s no explanation as to why exactly China — a leading exporter — of all countries would try to destroy the world’s economy.
  • Edward Snowden is dismissed as some sort of weirdo. NSA’s investigation of him after the fact determined that he cheated (via hacking) to pass the test to get his contractor position, which you’d think was something that should mark him as an up-and-comer, given the agency. He also covered up his computer at home so his girlfriend couldn’t see what he was working on, which everybody on camera seems to think is crazypants and not something a person whose job involves looking at classified data might do.
  • At the outset Miller discloses that he used to work for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA. Disclosing past relationships is good, but recognizing when such relationships absolutely ruin the possibility of your objectivity and therefore stepping back, is even better. But then, would 60 Minuteshave gotten this scoop without Miller? It was the NSA who approached 60 Minutes to do this story, not the other way around. Miller is also rumored to be leaving the network soon to go work for the NYPD.

The 60 Minutes reports can be viewed here. The entire charade smacks yet again of the administration thinking that all of its problems are due to poor “messaging,” not due to any actual legitimate concerns by the populace. More criticism of the segments may be found here and here.

This was not a one-off TV appearance. It is part of a concerted propaganda effort to dissuade the populace from demanding the spooks be shackled.  Jeffrey Tucker at ‘Laissez Faire Today’ explains:

Six months ago, whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed to you and the rest of the country just how far down the NSA rabbit hole goes. He pulled back the curtain on all the shady surveillance programs the government has in place for its own citizens. Half a year ago, one guy forced the people in D.C. to acknowledge they have a spying problem.
And now the White House thinks that six months is the right amount of time before they sweep everything under the rug.
Let us explain.
When the country realized that practically everything done on the Internet was recorded and stored on government databases, the White House came forward and tried to make amends. The president said he was shocked things were this bad. He even saw a silver lining in the whole debacle.
He actually "welcomes debate" when it comes to striking the right balance between your privacy and national security.
In fact, the White House set up a review panel to go over the NSA programs already in place and find ways to ensure Americans' privacy and rights are respected. Finally, we have a third party that's willing to curtail government overreach and respect the rights of citizens.
At least, you probably hoped that would be the case.
In a leaked report delivered to the government yesterday, the review panel recommended only modest changes in the way the agency does its business.
Like we said, it's been months since Edward Snowden spilled the beans. Now they're hoping you don't care as much and they can sneak these "reforms" through without much fanfare.
Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Institute, had this to say about the report:

        "The review group was searching for ways to make the most modest pivot necessary to continue business
    as usual. ... [the report] does nothing to alter the lack of trust the global populace has for what the U.S. is
    doing, and nothing to restore our reputation as an ethical Internet steward."

In other words, it does just enough so those in charge can say they did something, but not enough to actually do anything meaningful.
    Either the president really has no ability to change the policy and procedures of the spy agencies under his command or he really supports them but is trying to preserve his public image. Regardless, you're screwed in the end.
Meinrath said it best when asked about the modest proposed changes:

        "I think what [the administration is] going to find is when the initial dust settles from this attempt to spin the
    story is that people are going to be quick to realize this is not meaningful reform, this is not a bold new direction,
    and it is not going to do much to rein in a surveillance regime run amok."

Maybe that will keep this story in the headlines for another six months.


  1. Breaking news: "U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon found that the program appears to violate the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. He also said the Justice Department had failed to demonstrate that collecting the information had helped to head off terrorist attacks."


    I'm hoping that this sort of thing will make it impossible to sweep it under the carpet.

  2. The 60 minutes program is here:


  3. An idea who's time is getting nearer??....

    'Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness'


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