Monday, June 24, 2013

Commentary on Snowden, Media, and the Endless War & Surveillance State.

Just a few articles on interest on Snowden, Media, and the Endless War & Surveillance State.

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) (CounterSpin062113.mp3) notes that some media are accurately challenging the administration's story of the value of mass surveillance, while many others are not. They show the value of Oregon Senator Ron Wyden's and New Mexico Senator Mark Udall's questioning of the statements made by NSA Director Keith Alexander.:

FAIR reports that on June 17, 2013, Obama told Charley Rose in an interview  that "the secret FSA surveillance process is transparent because it's reviewed by a secret court. 'It is transparent' said Obama, that's why we set up the FISA court.' "

Rose failed to point out that a process that transpires in total secrecy is actually opaque [not at all transparent]. 
Obama also reported without challenge from Rose that a story about how actual NSA surveillance has foiled a bomb plot targeting New York City subways, but as we told you last week (, AP revealed that that plot was stopped using information from a personal computer captured from British Intelligence [not intrusive NSA surveillance]. Despite the debunking, the subway plot story continues to be cited by media outlets  including CNN as if the AP story never happened. 
Days before Obama's appearance, when NSA director Keith Alexander told Congress that the programs had thwarted dozens of terrorist events, his remarks received wide coverage. 
A statement the next day contradicting Alexander, by Senate Intelligence Committee members Ron Wyden and Mark Udall got far less attention. That statement began, 'We have not yet seen any evidence showing that the NSA's dragnet collection of America's phone records have produced any uniquely valuable intelligence.' Despite that challenge by leading Senators, several outlets continued to repeat Alexander's claims as if Wyden's and Udall's statements didn't exist. But Alexander wasn't through. On June 18th, he claimed that the NSA programs had stopped a plot to bomb Wall Street, a claim that lasted just hours before the Christian Science Monitor pointed out that the case he was referring to did not include a bomb plot."  
 See also NSA Disruption of Stock Exchange Bomb Plot Disputed 

The Pursuit of Edward Snowden: Washington in a Rage, Striving to Run the WorldBy Norman SolomonJune 24, 2013 . . . .The state of surveillance and perpetual war are one and the same. The U.S. government’s rationale for pervasive snooping is the “war on terror,” the warfare state under whatever name.Too rarely mentioned is the combination of nonviolence and idealism that has been integral to the courageous whistleblowing by Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning. Right now, one is on a perilous journey across the globe in search of political asylum, while the other is locked up in a prison and confined to a military trial excluding the human dimensions of the case. At a time of Big Brother and endless war, Snowden and Manning have bravely insisted that a truly better world is possible. . . . .

Ralph Nader--June 20, 2013

Privacy is a sacred word to many Americans, as demonstrated by the recent uproar over the brazen invasion of it by the Patriot Act-enabled National Security Agency (NSA). The information about dragnet data-collecting of telephone and internet records leaked by Edward Snowden has opened the door to another pressing conversation—one about privatization, or corporatization of this governmental function.
In addition to potentially having access to the private electronic correspondence of American citizens, what does it mean that Mr. Snowden—a low-level contractor—had access to critical national security information not available to the general public? Author James Bamford, an expert on intelligence agencies, recently wrote: “The Snowden case demonstrates the potential risks involved when the nation turns its spying and eavesdropping over to companies with lax security and inadequate personnel policies. The risks increase exponentially when those same people must make critical decisions involving choices that may lead to war, cyber or otherwise.” . . . .
Given the value and importance of privacy to American ideals, it is disturbing how the terms “privatization” and “private sector” are deceptively used. Many Americans have been led to believe that corporations can and will do a better job handling certain vital tasks than the government can. Such is the ideology of privatization. But in practice, there is very little evidence to prove this notion. Instead, the term “privatization” has become a clever euphemism to draw attention away from a harsh truth. Public functions are being handed over to corporations in sweetheart deals while publicly owned assets such as minerals on public lands and research development breakthroughs are being given away at bargain basement prices.. . . .In short, corporatizing public functions does not work well for the public, consumers and taxpayers who are paying through the nose.
Some right-wing critics might view government providing essential public services as “socialism,” but as it now stands, we live in a nation increasingly comprised of corporate socialism. There is great value in having public assets and functions that are already owned by the people, to be performed for the public benefit, and not at high profit margins and prices for big corporations. By allowing corporate entities to assume control of such functions, it makes profiteering the central determinant in what, how, and why vital services are rendered
Just look at the price of medicines given to drug companies by taxpayer-funded government agencies that discovered them.



. . . . In fact, you should be worried, but not because most of you are likely to have your privacy violated and be publicly exposed. If you're an ordinary citizen who never does anything to attract any particular attention, you probably don't need to be concerned. Even if your Internet and phone records contain information you'd rather not be made public (an online flirtation, the time you emailed a friend to bring over some pot, or maybe some peculiar porn habits), there's safety in numbers, and you'll probably never be exposed. 
. . . . The real risk to our democracy is what this situation does to potential dissenters, whistle-blowers, investigative journalists, and anyone else who thinks that some aspect of government policy might be boneheaded, unethical, or maybe even illegal.  . . . .
Vigorous debate on key issues is essential to a healthy democracy, and it is essential that outsiders be able to scrutinize and challenge what public officials are up to. People who work for the federal, state, and local governments aren't privileged overlords to whom we owe obeisance; in a democracy, they are public servants who work for us. Right now, however, there are hundreds of thousands of public servants (including private contractors with fat government contracts) who are busy collecting information about every one of us. Citizens don't have similar resources to devote to watching what our elected and appointment officials are doing, so we must rely on journalists, academics, and other independent voices to ferret out wrongdoing, government malfeasance, corruption, or just plain honest mistakes. But if these independent voices are becoming more vulnerable to retribution than ever before -- and via completely legal means -- then more and more of those voices will be cowed into silence. And the inevitable result will be greater latitude for government officials, greater corruption, and a diminished capacity to identify and correct errors.
In short, the real reason you should be worried about these revelations of government surveillance is not that you're likely to be tracked, prosecuted, or exposed. You should be worried because it is another step in the process of making our vibrant, contentious, and most of all free-minded citizenry into a nation of sheep.

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