Archive for the ‘spying’ Tag

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Jon Stewart talking about Obama’s speech about the NSA “Hey, you know what would undermine all this reform talk? If these changes contained any glaring loopholes.”

Obama “The database can be queried only after a judicial finding, or in the case of a true emergency …It will terminate within a fixed time, unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy.”

Stewart “So, basically the rule is we will totally follow the rules, until such time that we determine we will no longer follow the rules. But don’t worry about it, you won’t hear about it, ’cause we’re going to do it in secret. You know what? I’m sorry. I’m being pessimistic. Are these safeguards perfect? Of course not, but at least the President is trying to earn back the trust of the American people by demonstrating the seriousness of purpose. So, how do we move these reforms forward?”

Obama “I’m open to working with Congress to insure that we build a broad consensus for how to move forward.”

Stewart “So, we’re never doing this.”—surveillance-state-history

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But, first, here’s my take: The revelations about the National Security Agency and its spying on foreign, even allied leaders, has been embarrassing for the Obama administration at a time when it hardly needs more bad news.

But is it more than an embarrassment? Should it raise alarms abroad and at home?

At first glance, this is a story that is less about ethics and more about power, the great power gap between the United States and other countries, even rich European ones.

The most illuminating response to the revelations came from Bernard Kouchner, formerly the foreign minister of France. He said in a radio interview, “Let’s be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else.”

Kouchner went on to add, “We don’t have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous.”

America spends tens of billions of dollars on intelligence collection. It’s hard to get the data to make good comparisons, but it’s safe to assume that Washington’s intelligence budget dwarfs that of other countries just as it does with defense spending.

It has seemed particularly strange that this rift should develop between the United States and its closest allies in Europe. But it was predictable and in fact, in a sense, predicted.

In 2002, the British diplomat Robert Cooper wrote an influential essay in which he argued that Europe had become a “postmodern” international system in which force was no longer a serious option.

Instead, economic interdependence and cooperation were the governing ideas of statecraft. And certainly when one looks at the European Union, this does seem to describe its reality. The prospect of war between France and Germany, which had gone to war three times between 1870 and 1950, seems utterly impossible.

But outside of Europe, the world is not post-modern. Cooper argues that the solution is “double standards.” Within Europe, one set of rules. Outside it, he recommends “rougher methods of an earlier era, force, preemptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary.”

“Among ourselves we keep the law, but when operating in the jungle, we must use the laws of the jungle,” he wrote.

This is what was violated by the NSA activities. Washington was playing by the laws of the jungle, but inside Europe’s “postmodern” system. Partly this is because the distinction is not easy to maintain. What if you’re looking for terrorists within Europe, that is, people who still play by the laws of the jungle or even worse?

You see, America as a global power is operating all over the world, trying to tackle some of the nastiest threats out there. Perhaps it doesn’t have the luxury to retreat to a garden and renounce nasty tactics.

If it did, it’s not likely that China, Russia, Iran, not to mention al Qaeda would follow suit. But precisely because Washington has to get its hands dirty, it should be smart about this.

You don’t stop terrorists in Europe by listening in on Angela Merkel’s cell phone. The rewards of spying on friendly heads of government are probably outweighed by the risks.

And most troubling, it’s not clear that many of these specific activities were clearly thought through and directed by the White House. Nor do they appear to have been vetted by Congress.

In the wake of 9/11, America got scared and dropped any sense of constraints on its intelligence activities. It is not an accident that the eavesdropping on Chancellor Merkel began in 2002.

But the fact that technology now allows the NSA to do anything doesn’t mean it should do everything. We need a better and clearer set of rules for intelligence activity. And we need confidence that these rules are being followed and observed.

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Jon Stewart:

“If it makes you feel any better, our government isn’t doing anything to you that they’re not doing to us,” Stewart said. “They’re spying on our studio, and I’m literally saying that into a camera that’s going to broadcast that. It seems kind of redundant.”

“Have you met us?” Stewart asked. “Meddling in your affairs for our national self-interest is kind of our thing. What part of, ‘Everything we’ve done since the Monroe Doctrine’ don’t you get?”

“Do I really have to justify myself to a country that invaded Poland because they thought Poland was looking at them funny?” Stewart demanded of Germany. “So get over it — or better yet, turn that frown upside down. Don’t think of us as an overly aggressive, paranoid superpower; think of us as what anyone’s looking for in a partner: a good listener. A great listener. The best listener in the history of the world.”

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Fareed Zakaria “But, first, here’s my take. “One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly and with a willingness to accept the penalty.” That was Martin Luther King Jr.’s definition of civil disobedience. It does not appear to be Edward Snowden’s.

He has tried by every method possible to escape any judgment or punishment for his actions. Snowden’s been compared to Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.

But Ellsberg did not hop on a plane to Hong Kong or Moscow once he had unloaded his cache of documents. He stood trial and faced the possibility of more than 100 years in prison before the court dismissed the case against him because of the prosecution’s mistakes and abuses of justice.

Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru spent years in prison in India for defying colonial British colonial rule in their native land. So, while Snowden is no hero, his revelations have focused attention on a brave new world of total information.

We are living with the consequences of two powerful, interrelated trends these days. The first is digital life. Your life today has a digital signature. Where you eat, shop and travel; whom you call, e- mail and text; every website, cafe and museum you have ever visited is all stored in the great digital cloud. And you can’t delete anything, ever.

The second is Big Data. Americans were probably most shocked by the revelation that the U.S. government is collecting massive quantities of their digital signatures, billions of phone calls and e- mails and Internet searches. The feds aren’t monitoring every last one, but they could easily and that is the essence of the age of Big Data.

In their excellent book, “Big Data”, Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger and Kenneth Cukier write about the police in Richmond, Virginia. They track criminal incidents against a variety of events: corporate paydays, sports events, concerts, gun shows and dozens of other possible triggers.

The computer, then, identifies patterns. For example, two weeks after a gun show there is always a jump in violent crime. Now, multiply this example by thousands and you understand what the NSA computers are doing.

They don’t use samples anymore, but rather the entire data set. And they don’t try to construct algorithms or logic trees to predict an event they just look through the data for correlations.

As Mayer-Schoenberger and Cukier point out, if the computers can make predictions based on data analysis, should we prevent bad actions by arresting people before they act? Remember the movie “Minority Report?”

But it’s not just fiction. The NSA program Prism aims to identify suspicious patterns to allow the government to prevent terrorism, that is to act before an attack takes place.

A research project at the Department of Homeland Security that tried to predict terrorist behavior based on people’s vital signs, physiological patterns, was 70 percent accurate, according to the authors.

As far as we know, the U.S. government has broken no laws with all of this surveillance. It has followed all established procedures. Congress approved this program, though it did so in secret, writing laws that aren’t public.

Shouldn’t we know more about the actual checks and balances for this kind of surveillance?

The larger question Big Data raises though is this, should any government be permitted to use computer analysis, even if highly accurate, to observe, inform, quarantine or even arrest people simply because they are likely to do something bad?

That seems like a scenario from a horrifying sci-fi thriller. Yet here we are, very close to a real-world version.”

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) drew boos and heckling from members of the crowd at a progressive conference on Saturday while defending President Barack Obama’s administration and the recently-discovered surveillance policies by the National Security Agency (NSA).

About 47 minutes into Pelosi’s speech at Netroots in San Jose, California, a growing commotion can be heard coming from the audience. While moderator and MSNBC contributor Zerlina Maxwell urged the audience to submit questions online instead of shouting, Pelosi continued, saying, “I think it’s really important to subject all of this to the transparent and harshest scrutiny, to say, ‘We want a balance between privacy and security.’”

At that point, a man identified by Politico as 57-year-old Marc Perkel can be heard shouting, “It’s not a balance. It’s not constitutional! No more secret laws!”

Perkel was ejected from the room by security, while other audience members shouted for him to be left alone. Shortly thereafter, loud boos can be heard coming from the audience after she said former NSA contractor Edward Snowden ” did violate the law” in releasing details about NSA programs like PRISM. The government charged Snowden with crimes related to the Espionage Act on Friday.

“I know that some of you attribute heroic status to that action,” she said of Snowden’s leaks to the Guardian and the Washington Post. “But, again, you don’t have the responsibility for the security of the United States. Those of us who do have to strike a different balance.”

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John Oliver speaking about the NSA spying “And, we’ve essentially got nothing to hold the government back, stronger than a rubber stamp court.”

Barack Obama June 7 2013 “There are a whole range of safeguards involved….Congress is continually briefed on how these are conducted.”

Oliver “Oh, that’s lovely.  So now, instead of being spied on by the executive branch, it turns out that we’re being spied on by all the branches.  I think you’re misunderstanding the perceived problem here, mister President.  No one is saying that you broke any laws.  We’re just saying, it’s a little bit weird that you didn’t have to.”



Posted June 11, 2013 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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