nsa super-spying: a dangling conversation

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(by anthony freda)

Good morning, all.  It’s Terror Tuesday again, and may all the drones sent by our leader to assassinate anyone, anywhere…blow up in the sky, and their bits float harmlessly to the earth…

By ‘dangling’, I partially mean that the conversation is largely kept quite limited to two basic sides of the discussion; I’ll come to the second meaning a bit later.

On one side you have the shrill DiFi (9/11!!!)/Mike Rogers/Ruppersberger demagogues in support of the program, plus Generals Clapper, Alexander and their buddies still maintaining that it’s foiled 55+ terrorist plots.  The claim was shredded by Patrick Leahy’s close questioning of Deputy Director Inglis at a recent hearing; one possible neutralized threat remained as possibly having been aided by the programs mass communications collection and storage.  One, and that one was a stretch.

On the other side, we have Senators Udall and Wyden, and Reps. Amash, et.al. all doing good work as far as it goes.  Yes, they have provided ample opportunities for the Purveyors of Panopticon to hang themselves with lies…and more lies, but the liars are still at their jobs, and as is said about those other  ‘terrorist leaders’, ‘dispatch the number one, and there’s always another to take his place’.  Glenzilla recently steered us to this fine statute that calls Clapper’s lies to Congress criminal and prosecutable, for what that’s worth.

Listening to the two-minute speeches before the House voted on the Amash Amendment to defund the NSA’s mass data collection was frustrating in that almost all of the Members who were urging ‘yes’ votes signaled that the program needed to be reformed, made more transparent, etc., but those ‘fixes’ wouldn’t compromise the program’s usefulness in keeping us safe.  Goddess forbid that they might be accused of being ‘soft on terrorism’.  Even the good Ron Wyden often mentions NSA reforms as being ‘not compromising to national security’.  (You can read William Boardman on the subject and some pertinent quotes here.)

He accepts the framing, as do even almost all those Congress-critters who object to the massive bulk collection (by the numbers) and storage of our communications as being related to ‘Our National Security’, and speak of ‘reforming’ different sections of the FISA rules, or even the Patriot Act.  Rep. Rush Holt may be the sole exception, as far as I’ve heard, but his voice is essentially a whisper.

But seriously, who of those with any power or clout is asking the core questions: ‘Do we need to be overseen by a Security/Police State at all? Can democracy withstand massive citizen surveillance underpinned by secret rules, secret courts, and secret programs covered by the sixteen different intelligence gathering agencies under the aegis of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI)? Should it all be shut down, and let law enforcement do its job the old-fashioned way?  Should the Patriot Act be rescinded, and the FISA court and other secretive institutions be dissolved?

The conversation needs to include those broader questions, plus increased testaments to the fact that the program is not only unnecessary, but that it wasn’t designed to do what it is still purported to do by those in the Security Industrial Complex.

Consider how little attention the Reuters revelations concerning the use of NSA- intercepted communication funneled to the DEA Special Operations Division (SOD-off) (and likely many other law enforcement agencies) to make busts (criminal, not ‘terrorist-related’), and creating ‘parallel constructions’ of evidence to hide the original tips from defendants, judges, and defense attorneys.  Bruce Dixon correctly wonders where the Liberal outrage is.  Is it absent because the DEA busts are largely about keeping the Industrial Prison Complex full of the expendable underclass, and especially minorities?  It’s a very plausible conclusion, as are the conclusions that the NSA is likely closely entwined with the FBI’s monitoring and arrests of dissidents; we need to know how closely.

Also largely absent from the discussion is one we’ve asked here, and Bruce Schneier addressed in his August 7 piece, Restoring Trust in Government and the Internet’.  Essentially, he says that since the heads of the NSA and the communications corporations have all lied and kept huge secrets from the American public, how will we ever be able to trust any of them tell us?  He notes very well that democracy can only flourish if voters (I’d say ‘citizens’) know what’s being done in their names.

We can hope that Justin Amash’s recent revelations that he and the other freshman House class were never shown Section 215 by their Intelligence Committee members before the vote on his amendment may get some traction as well, and that the German Intelligence Agency, the BND, has is being accused of channeling information to help pinpoint drone assassination targets to the NSA, will, as well.  (Some of the quotes in the piece are hilarious; do read the piece if you have time.)

Which brings me to the larger meaning of ‘a dangling NSA conversation’, and that is the ‘dangling alone’, with an almost total lack of an overall contextual view of a ‘security/police state surveillance and militarization run wild’ as a key feature of an imperial power rotting, and attempting to prop itself up in panic.  As joss would have it, the brilliant Norman Pollack has provided a nearly perfect vehicle for the broader discussion.

In his non-hyperbolic, but focused way, he begins the piece with the death of one child killed in Yemen this week and works backward until she rises again and the end of the piece in a gut-wrenching form (I’ll allow you to read it first-hand), and along with the drone/s that killed her, standing as emblematic of all the depraved machinations  that have become so endemic  in this dying capitalist empire.  He calls not yet fully fascist, but well on the road, as the State and Business are now entirely interpenetrated as a ‘a monopoly/capital state’ in which financialized and militarized entities feature largely, and both actual and de facto policy come out of that unholy alliance.  Pollack is very dubious of the reported ‘chatter from AQAP operatives’ narrative that led to the closing of so many embassies, but notes that by now it’s tough to believe anything they tell us.

(Darkness, Darkness.)

What he sees is a new Cold War, not with Russia, but with China, which was what Obomba’s ‘pivot’ had indicated, and must be far more key to him than the current one with Russia that some note clearly since Edward Snowden was given temporary asylum there, the Prez cancelling their ‘summit’ and all.  But he sees the move to contain China as another useful tool to keep Americans fearful and dutiful to all authoritarian impulses of the current regime.

He writes that the ‘political-economic-military Elites’, in their jamming desire for global hegemony have tried to hide their true motives, but nonetheless are exhibiting a ruthless form of desensitization of the effects that they are wreaking on the world, and domestically, as well.

Desensitization above has as its complement depersonalization below, elites’ knowledge—to which they have not been incidental participants in creating—that opposition, even when it comes to the commission of war crimes, is and will continue to be token, given the apathy of the American people as a result of structural-cultural pressures toward false consciousness, assisted on an intangible but still psychologically intimidating level, by the possession of vast military power and resources, the more out of sight the better in telegraphing the message of unreserved strength awaiting potential use if needed.  A silent Damoclean sword hangs above America, reminding citizens of their essential powerlessness (the message’s corollary) and giving further meaning to depersonalization as, personal dependence of the individual sinks in, an invitation to purge oneself in the splash of patriotism and, with that, the further invitation to identify actively with all things military, including habits to be incorporated into civilian life: marching lockstep to a single drummer’s beat—POTUS, with supporting cast three deep.  The existence of the mushroom cloud for scenic background doesn’t hurt either.

As he reports on a Yemeni man at the drone assassination site being interviewed by the BBC on August 6, he quotes some of what the man said about Al Qaeda, adding:

Then, in a remark, wise beyond measure, that speaks volumes about why the terror, why the threats, why the hostility toward America, why the perception of evil, this man says: “The drones don’t differentiate between people.  They just kill.”

But we can easily see that the context of the security state/police state militarization are much like the drones: ‘they don’t differentiate between people’, or at least won’t eventually.  We are all potential targets.  The Elites, from the IMF to the DHS and many other acronym agencies know that unrest is looming large in the future: from food and water scarcity, from climate change disasters of many stripes, from the next meltdown of the financial sector, and from the burgeoning knowledge and effects of wealth inequality and austerity-driven social safety net cuts.

This fuller context is key, and I would hope that one day the good members of the Congress and Senate will speak to it, and enlarge ‘the conversation’ immeasurably.  If they don’t, we need to, imo, and quickly; the window of opportunity is closing fast.

The summer recess will be interesting, as we wonder how many more NSA revelations will come, and which other whistleblowers may come forward with documentable evidence if security state evil doings.  Above all, try not to be afraid; it’s the government that is afraid of its citizens, and especially since they know what unlimited power we have united, not divided, if we choose to exercise it.

I’ll be in and out; it’s bread day, and I have some other chores to take care of as well.)

(cross-posted at My.fdl.com)

7 responses to “nsa super-spying: a dangling conversation

  1. For me, wendye, your apt terminology of ‘dangling NSA conversation’ brings home the point I was trying to make with the last comment from me at FDL, the focus of the Pollack essay – so I see shadowed the dangling child, the human focus that is more than the abstract of privacy or rights. And I am reminded that the horrific memory galvanizing folk in the Civil Rights struggle was the bombing of the church and those little girls inside – how much better it would be for us in these dark days to take to heart one impactful recognition of so many innocents we are ignoring at our peril, and have since the dark beginnings in Iraq stretching back before we even noticed when we thought we were done with the maiming of children forever.

    And the NSA is part of this dangling and it isn’t just ‘well I haven’t done anything wrong’ – oh yes, I have; I haven’t stopped this slaughter.

    Well said, wendye.

  2. how cool you saw the yellowed, dying child dangling, as well, as another image included in ‘the dangling conversation. for me, i reckon i saw rather ‘dangling’ as twisting untethered, unrelated to the larger context we and pollack see, and what mine eyes saw was that she was at least held tightly in her father’s caring, mourning, grieving arms. hanging, hanging, ever more limply as her blood drained away.

    but i do agree that it’s the *personal stories* that are always the most important ones, and pollack knew that well, didn’t he? i hadn’t wanted to give away the ending, and i do hope more folks read it after your recommendation (and arrg: my redoing the link).

    i’m struggling this morning with my depression over the first gulf war evils our military inflicted on even the armed combatants. i won’t bring the link that corroborated some end-of-the-war reportage that no one wanted to believe. is it better to be enraged or drown rather self-indulgently in grief and depression? how much of the reactions are even down to us?

    middle road, maybe. back and forth. nanci griffith. and a very happy birthday to you, juliania. leo; fire sign. ;-

  3. for posterity, i’m including some relevant links to this discussion; having them here will make it easier to find them again.

    http://roarmag.org/2013/08/manning-snowden-assange-whistleblowers/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/08/09/the-origins-of-the-neoliberal-war-on-the-poor/

    Iraqi soldiers buried alive
    http://havacuppahemlock1.blogspot.com/2013/06/12000-iraqi-soldiers-buried-alive-by.html

    http://gizmodo.com/things-the-authrotieis-say-to-mislead-you-about-nsa-sur-1146397168

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/08/1/breach_or_debate_congress_snowden_prism%20?print=yes&hidecomments=yes&page=full

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2013/06/senate_intelligence_hints_at_prism_can_members_of_congress_be_tried_for.html

    http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/congress-secrecy-8880?page=1

    http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/congress-secrecy-8880

    http://www.mikegravel.us/content/leaking-democracy

    http://blogs.fas.org/secrecy/2011/01/paul_classified/

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsa-broke-privacy-rules-thousands-of-times-per-year-audit-finds/2013/08/15/3310e554-05ca-11e3-a07f-49ddc7417125_story.html

    http://www.theage.com.au/world/snowden-not-interrogated-by-russians-assange-20130816-2s1iq.html
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/q-a-senator-ron-wyden-on-nsa-surveillance-and-government-transparency-20130815

    ‘The Biggest Math Organization in the World Has a Simple Arithmetic Problem’

    http://www.emptywheel.net/2013/08/16/the-biggest-math-organization-in-the-world-has-a-simple-arithmetic-problem/

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/court-ability-to-police-us-spying-program-limited/2013/08/15/4a8c8c44-05cd-11e3-a07f-49ddc7417125_story.html

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/12/germany-phone-data-nsa-drone

    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/08/first-step-nsa-transparency-come-clean-about-access-fiber-optic-cables-telecom

    http://www.social-europe.eu/2010/04/sustainability-will-not-be-delivered-without-equality/

    http://www.lawfareblog.com/2013/08/the-presidents-surveillance-reform-initiatives-a-section-by-section-analysis/

    Obama’s directive didn’t cover snowden

    http://pages.citebite.com/n1w9a6i4n5gmo

    edmonds on b. fein

    http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2011/08/30/the-greatest-plot-against-the-ron-paul-camp-to-date/

  4. Wow, wendye – bravo to you – your computer must be smoking! I was just following the Bruce Fein stories this morning, and though it might seem slightly off topic, I will take the opportunity here to highly recommend a post and comments by Yves Smith:

    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/08/a-disturbance-in-the-force.html

    Also up top in links at the same site today:

    http://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/a-song-of-flood-and-fire-one-million-square-kilometers-of-burning-siberia-doused-by-immense-deluge/

    I previously have thought this site to be too finance minded to pay a lot of attention to. These days I’m finding it right on point. That’s a positive sign I think. The comments are really worth it, even when the article title doesn’t grab me.

  5. bruce has a dark history, which fact epoch calyso brought up on the version at my.fdl. (I found the same info at the sibel edomonds link above.) of course bill moyers still loves him, lol. and at least snowden set the world straight, saying neither bruce, wife mattie, or his pa have any knowledge or directives over his situation.

    i’d read the post, thought it pretty good, but there were too many comments for the time i had. best commenters at any site i know about; i clip and save some now and again.

    as to ‘computer burnin’ up’: yeppers, it got slammed with attacks twice yesterday, and i can’t find ways to fix some of the damage (or even the damage caused by windows updates, lol. i must have spent six hours trying to fix stuff; still can’t play videos, arrrggh.

    yes, yves has broadened her interest areas, and has many new guest bloggers, some are even good. ;-) but she seems to understand now that
    finance is very inter-related to so many other sectors in harm, and may even be closer to abjuring *any kind* of capitalism, not just crony capitalism. i assume you know that she uses a pseudonym, and used to work for goldman sachs? (actually susan weber, iirc.)

  6. Yves got slammed too, so you are in good company, great I should say. Yes on the pseudo, though I don’t know all of course – her coverage of the mortgage reshuffles was stellar, in the heart of the actual goings on, and I have seen her a while back on tv briefly. It heartens me that you, she and many others are keeping track of matters so selflessly – wishing health to your computer in big gobs of calm waters…steady as she goes…mine seems to like to take a holiday every lightninglot that sails through here.

    So long as it is greening and not too much mud, we’ll take that.

  7. did she? hope she got hers sorted out, but i reckon she can buy some help, lol. me, not so much. yeah, i get a kick of her on teevee interviews; ratigan used to have her, rt, maybe a couple others. her prim, blonde french twist…loli look forwarded to reading your expanded consciousness piece. i got off on a toot thinking that i might need to do a part I preface to a revolution one, just to explain what sort of connections among people are needed to care for *the next person’s* pain, indignity, and depraved injustices. wish i could remember more about ‘the road less traveled’ sort of love in action. ah, well, so much to write about, including recent news of our very own valley major eco-disaster by…a gold miner/smelter.

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