Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tommy Freedom's New World Ordure

Thomas Friedman, favorite columnist of President Barack Obama, dutifully took up the White House megaphone today and blared out even more bombastic bloviation than is customary for him.

Here is just one portion of the crime against journalism that the New York Times saw fit to print:
Considering the breadth of reforms that President Obama is now proposing to prevent privacy abuses in intelligence gathering, in the wake of Snowden’s disclosures, Snowden deserves a chance to make a second impression — that he truly is a whistle-blower, not a traitor. The fact is, he dumped his data and fled to countries that are hostile to us and to the very principles he espoused. To make a second impression, Snowden would need to come home, make his case and face his accusers. It would mean risking a lengthy jail term, but also trusting the fair-mindedness of the American people, who, I believe, will not allow an authentic whistle-blower to be unfairly punished.
My reply:
Either I clicked on one of those parody sites by mistake, or Thomas Friedman has taken to tongue-in-cheek satire.
Because only from what Frank Rich calls the "stench of the Potomac" could such drivel flow. The funniest part of this piece is that "the American people" have any say over whether a whistleblower is fairly treated. Just take a look at Bradley Manning if you want to know how whistleblowers are not only punished, but tortured through pre-trial solitary confinement and forced nudity. Never mind that this brave young men who exposed war crimes as well as embarrassing the corporate-controlled government is facing life in prison. Take a look at John Kiriakou, imprisoned for blowing the whistle on CIA torture, while the actual architects of torture still roam the earth, protected under the Obama regime -- which has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined.
Snowden did not "dump" his data and flee. He gave his files to reputable journalists so they could use their own judgment over what to release to the public.
Obama, meanwhile, is not proposing any NSA reforms. He is merely appointing a "task force" headed by the very same bureaucrat (James Clapper) who lied to Congress about the government spying on its own citizens. Clapper's job is to figure out more clever ways to make us capitulate to the iron fist of the surveillance-industrial complex, thus ensuring the continuous flow of taxpayer cash to Booz Allen & Friends.
Mind you, I wrote my comment last night, before I was informed that Clapper is not actually "heading" the task force, but simply orchestrating it. My bad. At least I was among the million or so other people who'd so totally misinterpreted his actual role (see previous post.) 

I imagine that Friedman must have read yesterday's truly excellent Times magazine piece by Peter Maass, and was attempting damage control at the behest of the White House. The corporate press is finally paying attention to the old news that award-winning journalist Laura Poitras, who partnered with Glenn Greenwald in breaking the NSA domestic spying scandal, has herself long been targeted by the USG. And the coordinated government-media effort to denigrate them, as well as Snowden, is losing steam by the day.

Public opinion has escaped, and is running amok.


James F Traynor said...

Yes, the Maas article was very, very good. And scary - as if many of us were not scared already. It is an elegant example of expository writing.

James F Traynor said...

And Friedman. The man is even more pitiful than Brooks - a difficult level to achieve, but he has achieved it.

Will said...

So happy for Laura Poitras. Must be enormously satisfying to deliver one thunderous kick after another to the groin of the bully surveillance state after all the shit she's been through. Should've at least let her use the crayons, boys. ;)

Zee said...

Laura Poitras has paid a high price in order to deliver those “thunderous kick[s] the groin of the bully surveillance state,” and it's far from certain that it won't even get worse.

From the Maass article,

“She [Poitras] is also assessing her legal vulnerability. Poitras and Greenwald are not facing any charges, at least not yet. They do not plan to stay away from America forever, but they have no immediate plans to return. One member of Congress has already likened what they’ve done to a form of treason, and they are well aware of the Obama administration’s unprecedented pursuit of not just leakers but of journalists who receive the leaks.”

“ [Poitras] is concerned about their physical safety. She is also, of course, worried about surveillance. 'Geolocation is the thing,' she said. 'I want to keep as much off the grid as I can. I’m not going to make it easy for them. If they want to follow me, they are going to have to do that. I am not going to ping into any G.P.S. My location matters to me. It matters to me in a new way that I didn’t feel before.'”

“ The deepest paradox, of course, is that their effort to understand and expose government surveillance may have condemned them to a lifetime of it.

'Our lives will never be the same,' Poitras said. 'I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to live someplace and feel like I have my privacy. That might be just completely gone.'”

I doubt that they will ever “go home,” or that they will ever be able to feel safe and secure again.

The article was informative for me also with regard to William Binney, a NSA whistleblower. I was unaware that Binney and his family were subject to the following, terrifying experience:

“William Binney, a former top N.S.A. official who publicly accused the agency of illegal surveillance, was at home one morning in 2007 when F.B.I. agents burst in and aimed their weapons at his wife, his son and himself. Binney was, at the moment the agent entered his bathroom and pointed a gun at his head, naked in the shower. His computers, disks and personal records were confiscated and have not yet been returned. Binney has not been charged with any crime.”

Were I either Poitras or Greenwald, I would be planning on a very long stay abroad.

Zee said...

This cartoon seems particularly à propos today, August 14, 2013:

As is this article:

“Edward Snowden has put words in President Obama's mouth. Words like transparency, reform, openness, and debate.

This is not necessarily cause for celebration or condemnation. It is, however, a fact. That the White House refuses to acknowledge this is testament to the policy-altering effect of Snowden's leaks of classified documents about the National Security Agency's wide-ranging Internet and phone surveillance programs.

In the East Room on Friday, Obama said he always wanted what he is now awkwardly juggling—a national debate on counterterrorism surveillance. This is demonstrably false. Obama did not want this debate, and he has been forced into numerous linguistic contortions in avoiding it. He did not want a debate that forced him to embrace a review panel to examine his administration's countersurveillance practices and to call for a privacy and civil-liberties advocate before the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that approves surveillance warrants. On Friday, Obama sought to limit the ferocity of the debate by asserting his role as calm, constitutional arbiter of executive power and reform. "I believe that there are steps we can take to give the American people additional confidence that there are additional safeguards against abuse," he said.

Obama authorized more surveillance than President George W. Bush in part because technology and threat matrices convinced him it was necessary. For two months since Snowden's leaks, Obama has been hesitant to engage in debate and call for reforms, in part because he was waiting for the Justice Department and intelligence community to cough up information explaining what the NSA was doing and its legal authority. Obama released much of that on Friday. It was a defensive move designed to prove he hasn't abused powers and that the surveillance has defined and defensible limits. That assertion was undercut by additional—there is that word again—reporting about the NSA's previously unknown authority to cull data about Americans in the general neighborhood, electronically speaking, of suspected terrorist communications. All of this has raised, despite Obama's reassurances, concern about the real-time hollowing out of Fourth Amendment protections.
(My bold emphasis.)

Karen, per this article, I'm starting to dare to hope that, as you say, “Public opinion has escaped, and is running amok.”

But then, I've dared to hope before, and have been sadly reminded of the old bumper sticker,

"Since I gave up all hope, I feel much better."

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@Zee (and @all):

Yeah, great Dilbert cartoon, was going to reference it, but you did it first. However, with no date on your dilbert link, that only references the latest cartoon, so tomorrow it will point to a different one than it does today.

For specificity, here is the permalink:

The previous day's one is also very good, but its scope extends beyond government surveillance, to corporate management stupidity:

Some other recent Arizona matters relating to government abuse of power, and money:

Border Patrol abuse of deadly force:

As (I think) I previously brought up at Sardonicky, the border patrol shooting that involved the agent shooting his victim (in Mexico) through the fence was particularly unjustified because the agent was right next to the fence when he fired. Any thrown rocks would have had a ballistic trajectory that, in clearing that fence, would have landed far from it. So the B.P. agent close to the fence, on the U.S. side, could not have been in any danger when he fired through it. The other shooting was also unjustified, as the victim wasn't the one throwing the rocks, but simply "in the line of fire between the rock-throwing male and the agent" --- when shot four times. When did the victim being in the line of fire become an acceptable excuse for killing someone? And I think that the victim being shot four times implies either that he was directly targeted, or is evidence of at least criminal negligence on the part of the agent.

Border Patrol abuse of taxpayer dollars:

ste-vo said...

Thank you Zee, I just ordered the bumpersticker.

Pearl said...

Zee: Add this to your bumper stickers. being in French people will be impressed and you can translate it although they may not get it.. Stick
around for it coming soon.

"Apres moi le deluge"

(After me comes the flood) From Marie Antoinette and various kings, etc.
who saw the handwriting on the wall.

Zee said...


These “cross-border” shootings stink to high heaven, as does the Department of Justice's refusal to prosecute—at the very least—Border Patrol agents who recklessly killed people who “merely” happened to “be in the way!”

While I acknowledge that a thrown, brick-sized rock can be deadly to a Border Patrol agent at close quarters, it most certainly is NOT when the intended “target” is on the other side of a border fence!

What fascinates me most about the shooting of people who “merely” happened to be in the line of fire between the rock-throwers and the agents is the apparent complete lack of guilt or shame on the part of the agents themselves, or their employer, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

At the very least, I would be very ashamed of my bad aim and lousy training, and would resign on the spot!

How does one live with one's self when one needlessly took a shot—or four!—that didn't even hit the intended rock-thrower?

Shrug one's shoulders, say “My bad,” and get on with one's career? I don't think so.

Fred, I absolutely agree with you that this represents criminal negligence on the part of the agent. He should be prosecuted for that, and I wish his surviving family good luck in pursuing their civil claim.

Regarding the U.S. Customs and Border Protection spending $600K per new dwelling in an area where the average home sells for less than $100K in order to “lure” new agents into the area? For a paltry total of 13M simoleans?

Well, what's new about government waste, fraud and abuse?

More money and power we give the Feds, the more money we can expect to be wasted.

annenigma said...

The only way we're ever going to get critical coverage from the New York Times about the unconstitutional abuses of power of this government is if we vote for and elect a Republican President. Then they'll be all over it like flies on sh*t.

annenigma said...

Watch developments in Egypt carefully because it could be coming to a theater near you/us.

This piece in Der Spiegel talks about the Egyptian elite, but if you substitute American names, groups, and institutions, you'll get the picture. The most frightening sentence to me was this:

"My greatest fear seems to have come true," the activist says. "The Egyptians no longer see the authorities as their opponents. The enemy is now those Egyptians with other views."

Jay - Ottawa said...

Chiming in with Der Spiegel, Chris Hedges goes out of his way (i.e., not waiting till next Monday for his weekly Jerimiad) to say that what happened on the streets of Cairo two days ago is an indicator of things to come elsewhere around the globe. Spoiler alert: Gross disparity contributes to hopelessness, and hopelessness leads to violence.

James F Traynor said...

Hedges is far more right than wrong. In the Middle East Islam has truly been Marx's opiate of the people, the only place for them to turn to in the face of hopeless oppression and poverty. And it has morphed under the leadership of fanatics and opportunists into a form of ferocious fundamentalism that threatens political stability in the region. The same thing happened in the former Yugoslavia but under Milosevic leading the Christian Serbs in a crusade against muslims. And the Serbs weren't suffering from either poverty or oppression, except in their imagination.