“Ich will gerne nochmal unterstreichen, dass unsere [deutsch-amerikanischen] Beziehungen wichtiger sind als das schwierige Thema NSA.” – Thomas deMaizière, deutscher Innenminister
“I would like to underscore, once again, that our German-American relations are more important than the difficult issue of the NSA.” – Thomas deMaizière, German Interior Minister
“In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer.” – The Intercept
“How the NSA Plans to Infect ‘Millions’ of Computers with Malware.” – (Ryan Gallagher and Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, 2013/03/12)
Eine neue Studie von statista zeigt, dass seit den Snowden-Enthüllungen im vergangenen Sommer die Anzahl der Suchanfragen in der Suchmaschine DuckDuckGo deutlich angestiegen ist:
Hier ist die Infografik dazu:
Dianne Feinstein is outraged by the CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee because of a torture probe
Senator Dianne Feinstein of the Senate Intelligence Committee recently accused the CIA of intimidating Senate staff over investigations of CIA involvement in torture.
Her outrage about the alleged violations of privacy and unconstitutional spying on Senate staff is nonetheless a bit surprising. Mind you, throughout the revelations of the Snowden leaks about NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens, not to speak of everybody else on the planet, Feinstein has been one of the chief defenders of the NSA, never seeing anything wrong with the apparent blanket surveillance, or “full take,” as the spooks like to call it.
Here is a clip from progressive news show The Young Turks with a montage of Feinstein’s pro-NSA statements:
But now that the spying hits closer to home, this time by the CIA against the Senate Intelligence Committee, surveillance is all of a sudden an outrage.
Here is a clip from DemocracyNow!:
I smell hypocrisy.
“Dianne Feinstein’s CIA charge scrambles Senate.” (Burgess Everett and Manu Raju, POLITICO.com, 2014/03/11) http://ow.ly/uwOlD
The NSA created a “manhunt timeline” to get Julian Assange and destroy WikiLeaks and its supporters.
New revelations from The Intercept, the new publishing venture of Glenn Greenwald:
The NSA apparently planned a covert action campaign together with the British GCHQ to destroy Assange and the network of supporters around WikiLeaks.
As part of the effort, the GCHQ tracked in real-time any visitors to wikileaks.org, monitoring what they were searching for on the website.
The NSA also considered to designate WikiLeaks and other websites such as thepiratebay.org as “malicious foreign actors,” which would lift restrictions on spying on institutions and individuals inside the U.S that work with them. This might include international press agencies working in the U.S.
Watch an interview with Assange’s legal council Michael Ratner on DemocracyNow! here (it is the correct video, despite the image of Assange in the first frame):
In Ratner’s view, the persecution of whistleblowers and journalists parallels the U.S. government’s COINTELPRO program targeting radicals and “subversives” (such as Martin Luther King) between the late 1950s and the 1970s.
And here is Assange, from the same broadcast on DemocracyNow!:
International Protests Against Mass Surveillance
TODAY, February 11, 2014:
“International Community Unites to Protest Big Brother.” (Katitza Rodriguez, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2014/02/11)
“Protesters rally for ‘the day we fight back’ against mass surveillance.” (Adam Gabbatt, Guardian, 2014/02/11)
“The Day the Internet Didn’t Fight Back.” (Nicole Perlroth, NYTimes.com, 2014/02/11) – Major web sites did not participate. But I think the effort is still worth it.
The NSA Also Spied On German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder
New leaks reveal that the NSA not only spied on the current German Chancellor Angela Merkel but also on her predecessor Gerhard Schröder—mainly because of his opposition to the Bush administration’s plans to invade Iraq.
The premise of that war, as is now common knowledge, was deceptive propaganda using fabricated intelligence to prove that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had links to Al-Qaeda.
The infamous climax of this neoconservative beating of war drums was certainly Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation in front of the UN claiming that Saddam Hussein had at that moment weapons of mass destruction and links to Al-Qaeda.
Gerhard Schröder used the German population’s opposition to George W. Bush’s war plans in his reelection campaign, some would argue, by exploiting dormant anti-American resentment. And at that point, Bush ordered the NSA to spy on Schröder.
There might be some truth to the notion that catering to anti-American resentment among a segment of Germans was part of Schröder’s campaigning success, especially if one looks at the loud style in which Schröder publicly opposed the Bushies’ war plans. But that is beside the point. In my opinion, Schröder was still right on the facts.
I would like to emphasize that an opposition to a war that cost, as we now know, over a decade later, up to 133,000 civilian lives alone, does not equal hostikity against America as an idea per se. I certainly do not see it that way.
A lust for war should never be the benchmark of alliances among democratic states.
Unfortunately, it is almost never those who drag their countries into wars who face any accountability. In the end, it is not them, who pay with their lives, but the working classes who disproportionately enter the armed forces, and civilians in foreign countries, who likely never had a say in choosing their rulers.
The assumption that the Bush administration and the NSA acted as forces for democracy here seems hard to believe.
“Bush und Schröder: Eine Männerfeindschaft.” (Handelsblatt, 05.02.2014)
“NSA hörte Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder ab.” (Stefan Kornelius und Hand Leyendecker, Süddeutsche.de, 04.02.2014)
Der Chaos Computer Club, die Internationale Liga für Menschenrechte, digitalcourage e.V. und weitere Personen haben Strafanzeige gegen die Bundesregierung wegen Untätigkeit nach der Veröffentlichung der Snowden-Leaks erstattet. via netzpolitik.org
Obama’s great NSA reform speech of 2014: Don’t Believe The Hype
Last Friday (January 17, 2014), Barack Obama gave a speech that was designed to appear as if he actually took into consideration the global outrage over the NSA’s mass surveillance practices.
Here is the full speech, from the Wall Street Journal’s YouTube channel:
A transcript from the Washington Post can be found here.
From my point of view, as a strong advocate for civil liberties, it was not at all satisfactory.
What did Obama actually say?
- He used to be skeptical of US surveillance programs, but now he generally he sees nothing wrong with them. The logic of the national security state prevails.
- He wants more control of the gathered information—inside the US. No blanket surveillance but warrants by a judge of the FISA court.
- Close allied leaders (such as Angela Merkel) are not to be spied on, except for “compelling national security purpose[s]”—whatever that means. But nonetheless the US will continue to spy on even allied governments.
- We, the U.S. government, are not going after you everyday foreigners, but we will still vacuum up all your data, just in case. – Note how Obama does not say anything about the exposed NSA programs in his speech.
- The FiSA court gets one voice for civil liberties.
- IT companies who are forced to hand over customer data to US intelligence will get temporary gag orders through National Security Letters instead of indefinite gag orders.
- The NSA will continue to weaken cryptographic standards on the Internet – Obama did not say a word about this important reform point proposed by a panel of experts.
There are many issues with Obama’s views on American surveillance, even if we assume that this speech actually reflects his genuine views.
First, Obama seems to have bought into the idea that the American surveillance bureaucracy is different from any other comparable institution in the history of the world. He sounds as if he believes that by the virtue of character of the people working for it, the NSA is free from all the deformities that have been known to exist in other times and places in similar settings.
He wants us to believe that American spooks are so exceptional that they can defy human nature. But the point of the revelations about the NSA’s mass surveillance is not that its employees are evil as individuals. The mere fact that the NSA as an institution has the structural potential for “turnkey totalitarianism,” as one commenter put it, is the alarming fact.
Second, the FISA court has been known to be a rubber stamp court. So far, the U.S. government has almost never been denied a request there.
Third, the term “national security” is so vague that almost anything can be connected to it and hence spying can be justified almost all of the time.
“Global Privacy Leaders React to Obama’s NSA Reform Proposals.” (Katitza Rodriguez, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2014/01/17)
“Obama bans spying on leaders of U.S. allies, scales back NSA program.” (Steve Holland, Mark Hosenball and Jeff Mason, Reuters, 2014/01/17)
“Sicherheitsexperte: “Jeder Überwachungsapparat kann leicht missbraucht werden”. (Patrick Beuth, ZEIT ONLINE, 15.01.2014) – Ein Interview mit dem Google-Softwareingenieur Morgan Marquis-Boire über das Missbrauchspotenzial staatlicher Überwachungsapparate.
“Obamas NSA-Vorschläge – Viele Worte, ein wenig Reform.” (Johannes Kuhn, Süddeutsche, 17.01.2014)
“ZDF-Interview zur NSA: Wie Obama die Maßstäbe verschiebt.” (Johannes Kuhn, Süddeutsche, 19.01.2014).
The NSA tries to secure most surveillance powers before Obama makes a statement about the future of American surveillance
As the Guardian reports, the Obama White House wants to (or at least pretends that it does) reform the NSA’s surveillance apparatus.
Obama recently met with privacy advocates, among them the ACLU, to discuss American mass surveillance.
Guess who is launching a charm offensive targeted at the American public against limiting the scope of mass surveillance in any substantial manner.
If you do not let us spy on all of you at all times, then the terrorists win
The NSA recently argued in an interview on NPR that if they do not continue indiscriminate mass surveillance, then, loosely paraphrased, the terrorists win.
Speaking about the surveillance of the phone records of all Americans (non-Americans are fair game anyway for the NSA), outgoing NSA deputy director John C. Inglis said that one money transfer from San Diego to militant islamists al-Shabaab in Somalia had been prevented. Note that he talked about a money transfer that might have financed that group’s activities, but not a specific terrorist attack.
Let that sink in for a while. To prevent one unspecific terrorism-related activity, the private communication of all Americans (not to mention everybody else on the planet) has to be destroyed, according to the NSA. I think that the price Americans and other citizens of the world have to pay for this illusion of security is too high.
Freedom and absolute security are mutually exclusive
It is a truism that in a free society, there can never be one hundred percent security against all risks of life, including terrorism. Attempting to watch and predict every individual’s next move at all times inescapably leads towards an authoritarian dystopia.
It would be a shame if the country whose national imagination prides itself to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave” would end up as ‘democratic’ as the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was.
One Stasi was enough. Please America, stop this madness.
NSA phone surveillance case may head towards the Supreme Court
This is going to be interesting. After a federal judge’s ruling last week that declared bulk phone metadata collection by the NSA illegal, another federal judge has now come to the opposite conclusion—that it is in fact legal.
With these conflicting rulings, the case may head to the US Supreme Court in the near future.
The ACLU had filed a lawsuit against the NSA’s phone metadata surveillance program recently.
“Geheimdienste: US-Bundesrichter erklärt NSA-Telefonüberwachung für legal.” (Zeit Online, 27.12.2013)
Gesammelte Jahresrückblicke 2013
Auch 2013 ist das Jahr gefühlt wie im Flug vergangen und man fragt sich, wo es eigentlich geblieben ist. Der Jahreswechsel ist ja traditionell eine Zeit des In-sich-Gehens und Rekapitulierens. Aber es ist geradezu unmöglich, sich alleine an alles Bedeutende zu erinnern. Glücklicherweise helfen einem viele nette Menschen und Medien mit ihren Jahresrückblicken.
Ich präsentiere an dieser Stelle eine rein subjektive, natürlich unvollständige Auswahl, die ich für interessant halte. In den nächsten Wochen kommen bestimmt noch ein paar Links dazu.
DRadio WIssen Online Talk “Rückblick 2013 – Alte und neue Trends.” – “Daniel Fiene und Herr Pähler blicken auf den Online Talk 2013 zurück.”
LNP088 “Schamoffensive.” – Linus Neumann und Tim Pritlove berichten über netzpolitische Themen Anfang Dezember 2013.
“Netzpolitischer Wochenrückblick KW51.” (netzpolitik.org, 20.12.2013) – Themen: Der Hauptausschuss für Internet und digitale Agenda, die neue Bundesauftragte für Datenschutz und Informationsfreiheit: Andrea Vosshoff (CDU) [man könnte auch sagen: gegen Datenschutz], das Urteil des Das US-Bundesgericht für den District of Columbia zur NSA-Überwachung, der neue Geheimdienst-Staatssekretär im Bundeskanzleramt Klaus-Dieter Fritsche (CSU).
NSFW079 “Die grüne Elke.” – Holger Klein und Tim Pritlove lassen das Jahr Revue passieren und reisen zusätzlich dreißig Jahre in der Zeit zurück—ins Jahr 1983.
Economist “The World in 2013.“
TIME magazine nominates Edward Snowden as runner-up to the ‘Person Of The Year’ 2013.
It is an obvious choice. Time magazine nominated NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as one of the candidates for their person of the year 2013. The winner is Pope Francis, the “people’s pope.” Other runner-ups include LGBT activist Edith Windsor, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and GOP Senator Ted Cruz. It is generally a list based on significance, not on sympathy.
TIME magazine calls Snowden the “dark prophet” and the “doomsayer of the information age.”
Being rather skeptical about Pope Francis’s capability to convince the Christian god to intervene on our behalf against the intelligence services (and while at it, why not pray to make terrorism disappear from the earth altogether), I personally would have given the ‘person of the year’ award to Snowden. But perhaps such a choice would have been to controversial for Time magazine.
Independent of what one may think about particular disclosures by Snowden through outlets of investigative journalism, his leaks have arguably been the second defining moment of the information age after the invention of the World Wide Web in the 1990s. Snowden has shown us that even democratic states are working to crush the cyber-libertarian utopia of the early Internet, using our communication infrastructure against us to establish a soft totalitarianism by surveillance.
In the grand scheme of things, we as citizens of the world must be thankful for having at least a discussion about mass surveillance, one that we would not be having at all if the intelligence services that supposedly are there to protect our democracies had had their way.
The NSA goes on CBS’s ’60 Minutes’ to defend its actions
Last weekend, NSA officials went on CBS’s 60 Minutes program to defend their mass surveillance activities and, as one might expect, put up their own ‘reality distortion field.’
The short version of the NSA’s spin goes like this: We don’t do mass surveillance, especially not on Americans, we don’t intend to break any laws, and don’t worry about us collecting ‘just’ metadata.
The task of critical journalism to control the government’s actions was not exactly helped by the ’60 Minutes’ feature. This was mostly due to the fact that host John Miller, who has been moving through the revolving door between journalism and government work throughout his career—which he did disclose—, did not present any opposing views. Miller has been working as a spokesperson for the NYPD, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and the FBI. One might see the potential for a conflict of interest here.
The Guardian has compiled a list of claims made by NSA officials on the show and commented on them on their website.
If you have been following the coverage of the NSA leaks for the last half year, it is absolutely obvious that these claims are as “least untruthful” as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in March 2013.
Just some documents contradicting the NSA’s claims
Just have a look at the NSA’s “SIGINT Strategy 2012-2016″ paper in the New York Times.
Or read about the recently revealed Co-Traveller program which is exactly about the worldwide collection of mobile phone metadata in order to determine patterns of social relationships.
Above all, the whole point of the recently revealed ‘full take’ approach in the NSA’s signals intelligence seems to be to store everything in the hope that all that data can later be combed through with the help of computer algorithms, if needed.
Read, hear, and see more:
[Podcast] Unfilter 79: “CBS: The NSA Network.” (Jupiter Broadcasting, 2013/12/18) – “60 Minutes attempts the boldest white wash of the facts and lies surrounding the NSA spying yet.” – Links to more articles can be found in the shownotes.
“’60 Minutes’: NSA Good, Snowden Bad.” (Sara Morrison, The Wire, 2013/12/15)
“’60 Minutes’ NSA Report Gets Blasted.” (Brett Logiurato, Business Insider, 2013/12/16)
“’60 Minutes’ Trashed For NSA Piece.” (Jack Mirkinson, Huffington Post, 2013/12/16)
The progressive talk show The Young Turks reporting on the ’60 Minutes’ feature: “’60 Minutes’ Blasted For NSA Piece”
Der Hauptausschuss: Das GroKodil, die NSA und postdemokratische Zustände in Deutschland
Im Dezember 2013 beriet sich in Berlin die große Koalition aus CDU/CSU und SPD über ihr zukünftiges Regierungsprogramm. Weil sich die Verhandlungen zäh wie Kaugummi in die Länge zogen, auch wegen der Mitgliederbefragung innerhalb der SPD, fand das Ganze nun auf Vorschlag der Unionsfraktion in einem sogenannten Hauptausschuss statt.
Am Parlament vorbei entscheiden
Die Besonderheit dabei: Fachpolitiker*innen aus dem Parlament wurden nicht miteinbezogen, stattdessen tagten Vertreter*innen der Ministerien. Vorbild dafür ist der hessische Landtag, der in seiner Landesverfassung einen solchen “Super-Ausschuss” für Übergangszeiten von Parlamenten vorsieht.
Das GroKodil steckt den Kopf in den Sand
Das kann man an sich schon für einen Skandal halten, aber es kommt noch besser. Wie Lisa Caspari in der ZEIT berichtet, lies sich die SPD auffällig schnell von dem Vorschlag der Unionsfraktion überzeugen, und zwar aus folgendem Grund:
[E]s [gab] da einen unliebsamen Antrag der Grünen und der Linken zum Gebaren von Angela Merkels CDU in der NSA-Affäre. Aus atmosphärischen Gründen wollten die Sozialdemokraten im Bundestag nicht mitstimmen [meine Hervorhebung].
Im Klartext: Nur weil man dem zukünftigen Koalitionspartner nicht vor den Karren fahren will, begräbt man mal eben den größten Überwachungsskandal in der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik, ach was, der Weltgeschichte, als wäre nichts gewesen.
Damit delegitimiert sich für mich die SPD endgültig als legitime Kraft im Kampf für Bürger*innenrechte in Deutschland. Diese rückgratlose Form der Anbiederung an den Status Quo merkelschen Durchregierens ist einfach nicht mehr zu ertragen.
Kein Ermittlungsverfahren gegen die NSA
Passend dazu: Der Generalbundesanwalt sieht von einem Ermittlungsverfahren gegen die NSA ab, weil er diplomatische Verwerfungen mit den USA befürchtet. Wie die ZEIT berichtet, äußerte sich Harald Range im November 2013 in einem Interview mit dem Deutschlandfunk folgendermaßen:
Mir ist bewusst, dass schon die Einleitung eines Ermittlungsverfahrens im politisch-diplomatischen Bereich eine ganz schwerwiegende Nachricht sein könnte [meine Hervorhebung].
Als ob nicht die “ganz schwerwiegende Nachricht” des Jahres 2013 in der anlasslosen Totalüberwachung aller Bürger*innen durch die NSA (und verbündete Geheimdienste) bestünde, sondern in der Tatsache, dass sie durch Edward Snowden bekannt wurde und man sich hierzulande in irgendeiner Form dagegen wehren wollen könnte.
In Anbetracht der offensichtlichen Verstrickungen der deutschen Geheimdienste mit der NSA kann und sollte dies meiner Meinung nach einerseits auf keinen Fall als nationales, antiamerikanisches Projekt betrieben werden, sondern als transnationale Solidarität unter Bürger*innen gegen die Aushöhlung der Demokratie durch die Geheimdienste.
Andererseits kann realistisch gesehen, wenn überhaupt, nur auf staatlicher Ebene, oder eher noch auf europäischer Ebene politisch etwas erreicht werden, um dem außer Kontrolle geratenen Überwachungswahn etwas entgegenzusetzen.
Mehr lesen und hören:
[Podcast] Logbuch:Netzpolitik, Folge 87: “Kusselkopf.” (28.11.2013) – Linus Neumann und Tim Pritlove betreiben unter anderem “präemptive[s] Kopfschütteln über die anstehende Große Koalition”.
[Podcast] Logbuch:Netzpolitik, Folge 84: “Zielpersonenspezifische Ausleitung.” – Linus Neumann und Tim Pritlove beschäftigen sich unter anderem mit dem netzpolitischen Horrorkatalog der Großen Koalition (mehr Überwachung der Bürger*innen an allen Ecken).
Anmerkung: Logbuch:Netzpolitik ist meiner Meinung nach generell ein sehr empfehlenswerter Podcast in Sachen Netzpolitik. Ich habe hier nur mal zwei Folgen herausgegriffen, die sich verstärkt mit der GroKo beschäftigen.
NSA Leaks: Are there really hundreds of millions of terrorist telephones? (spoiler alert: probably not.)
As the Washington Post reports, documents from Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks reveal that the NSA is collecting 5 billion telephone records daily and uses a suite of tools known as Co-Traveller to track the location and social relationships of “foreign targets.”
The NSA is said to track “at least hundreds of millions of devices [emphasis mine]” and can identify a person’s travels, both present and past, anywhere on the planet.
Notable quote from the end of the article:
“The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.”
That is perhaps because this revelation, like so many about the NSA’S activities since the summer of 2013, are utterly embarrassing for the White House.
Hundreds of millions of foreign terrorists?
So can there be hundreds of millions of (foreign) terrorists? Of course not. On the face of it, that idea is patently absurd. Even if you shrink the number of individuals by assuming that each of the alleged terrorists uses several cell phones. Vastly greater than the number of actual terrorists could ever be are the following groups: radicals, dissenters, third party politicians, or—that is where the money is—(foreign) business leaders.
If, however, the definition of terrorist is widened so far that it becomes to mean “anyone who dares to disagree with anything the (U.S.) government does,” then that would be the antithesis to liberal democracy—it is a characteristic of a totalitarian concept of statehood.
The real threat to liberty is the national security state
The out-of-control national security establishment of the U.S., and by extension that of other states, such as the UK and Germany, and the narrative of the preventive national security state itself, are the real threat to civil liberties in the U.S. and abroad.
As serious a problem and as ghastly as terrorist attacks are, the scope of their detrimental effects on democracy could never dream to be as big as those caused by our own governments’ reactions to them.
Permanent war and liberty cannot coexist
We must recognize that the ugly head of authoritarianism is rising among us, using the phantom of terrorism to scare us into giving up our liberties. As a “War against Terrorism” can by definition never end, because terrorism is a tactic, not a specific enemy, the logical conclusion of such an endless state of emergency must be the permanent destruction of civil liberties.
Do we really want to live in such a world? I certainly do not. If there is no reform of the intelligence services to achieve a balance between the legitimate goal of preventing terrorism and the rights of the individual not to be put under surveillance without reasonable suspicion, like in East Germany during the GDR, then we all lose our freedom.
“Snowden documents show NSA gathering 5bn cell phone records daily.” (Paul Lewis, Guardian, 2013/12/05)
[Podcast] Logbuch:Netzpolitik, Folge 88: “Schamoffensive.” (10.12.2013) – Linus Neumann und Tim Pritlove beschäftigen sich unter anderem mit der Ausspähung von Mobiltelefonen durch die NSA.
The NSA , the CIA, and the GCHQ spy on computer games
As ProPublica reports, the American NSA and CIA, and the British GCHQ, or more specifically, private contractors working for them, have run programs looking for the communications of terrorists and criminals in Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPG) such as World of Warcraft or Second Life. This new revelation comes from recently released leaks from Edward Snowden.
No terrorists found
But despite high costs paid to these private contractors, no case of terrorist activity has been discovered.
The whole scenario sounds as if it were lifted straight out of an episode of “Twenty-Four” or “Sleeper Cell.” It seems like an interesting idea, even though I doubt (based on pure speculation) that terrorist masterminds would communicate over insecure (read unencrypted) channels such as a game chat.
Slaying orks for national security?
It might also just be a brilliant excuse to play WoW at work for highly-paid security contractors. Who knows. But apparently, private security firms have long been lobbying the intelligence agencies for contracts in this line of work by playing up the threat from terrorism in video games.
A personal note on MMORPGing versus studying
I personally have never really gotten into MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, most of all because when these games became hugely popular, I was in the middle of my university studies. I suspected that if I committed my time to these obviously addictive games, this might seriously sabotage my academic education. So I decided to forgo the WoW phenomenon for the time being. Now I know that not only did that ‘abstinence’ probably save me a lot of juvenile, sexually-laden verbal insults, but also some spies listening to my (boring) chatter.
Read, hear, and see more:
[Podcast] Unfilter 78 “NSA Wargames.” (Jupiter Broadcasting, 2013/12/12) – “[T]he latest [NSA leaks] detail the infiltration of online gaming communities to conduct massive surveillance of gamers.” Plus speculations by a famous FBI officer about Snowden being a double agent for Russia.
“Spies’ Dragnet Reaches a Playing Field of Elves and Trolls.” (Mark Mazzetti and Justin Elliott, New York Times, 2013/12/10)
“Spooks of Warcraft: how the NSA infiltrated gamespace.” (Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing, 2013/12/09)
“World of Spycraft: NSA and CIA Spied in Online Games.” (Justin Elliott and Mark Mazetti, ProPublica, 2013/12/10)
“Xbox Live among game services targeted by US and UK spy agencies.” (James Ball, Guardian, 2013/12/10)
“Geheimdienste: Sie hassen unsere Freiheit.” (Sascha Lobo, SPIEGEL ONLINE, 10.12.2013) – Interessanter Punkt von Sascha Lobo: Der Satz “Sie hassen unsere Freiheit” aus einer Rede von George W. Bush nach dem 11. September 2001 trifft nicht nur auf islamistische Terroristen zu, sondern auch ganz besonders auf die totalitären Überwachungspläne der Geheimdienste.
“World of Spycraft: NSA hunts Terrorists in MMORPGs.” (Nerdcore, 09.12.2013)
UK Parliament questions Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger’s patriotism in anti-terrorism hearing
On December 3, 2013 the Guardian’s editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger had to testify before the House of Commons of the British Parliament in a hearing on anti-terrorism.
One of the rather stunning questions asked by Chair Keith Vaz was whether Rusbridger “love[d] this country [the UK].”
We live in a democracy and most of the people working on this story are British people who have families in this country, who love this country. I’m slightly surprised to be asked the question but yes, we are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy, the nature of a free press and the fact that one can in this country discuss and report these things [emphasis mine].
With us or against us – the excluded middle
Behind the questioning of Rusbridger’s “patriotism” because he, as a journalist, does not agree with the government’s national security narrative, lies the logical fallacy of the excluded middle. Either you agree with total surveillance of the world’s citizens in the name of national security or the terrorists win.
The possibility that there might be excesses in the surveillance architectures of the so-called Global War on Terrorism (there are!) , that much of what is being done in this area has probably more to do with gaining illegitimate advantages through economic espionage, or that there might be approaches that actually help fighting terrorism without eroding civil liberties does not occur in this line of thinking.
An uninformed citizenry cannot correct its government
The elephant in the room is this: Had it not been for Snowden, we the people of the world would never have known about the extent of surveillance against innocent citizens. Democracies rely on an adversarial press to keep the government in check.
Since the summer of 2013, the Guardian has been releasing articles based on the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden, exposing the indiscriminate mass surveillance by the American NSA, the British GCHQ, and other intelligence agencies of the world’s citizens.
Read, see, and hear more:
[Audio and article] “Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger appears before MPs – live coverage.” (Paul Owen, Guardian, 2013/12/03) – Summary of the hearing and an audio recording can be found here.
“Highlights from Guardian editor’s Parliament hearing.” (Kristen Hare, Poynter.org, 2013/12/03) – Many more questions to and answers from Alan Rusbridger.
“MPs question Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger’s patriotism over Edward Snowden leaks.” (Ian Burrell, The Independent, 2013/12/03)
The progressive talk show The Young Turks reports on the hearing here:
NSA Spies On Pornography Consumption To Discredit Islamists
According to a report by the Huffington Post, the Snowden leaks reveal that the NSA attempts to gather data about the pornography consumption habits of radical Islamists. This information is then used as kompromat in order to discredit these actors inside their respective communities.
According to the article, this is seen as a rather benign way of derailing radicalization efforts.
Still, it makes one wonder whether Islamic extremists are the only target of this strategy. My guess is that it is not. I speculate that the whole point of the NSA’s mass surveillance is to gather compromising materials on everybody, just in case.
And the article mentions a historical precedent in this regard, coming from another intelligence agency: the FBI, especially under J. Edgar Hoover. It is noteworthy that by no means were only actual threats to society at the receiving end of this kind of surveillance, but also legitimate emancipatory projects, such as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
While the NSA’s blanket mass surveillance is a scandal in itself, the potential for repressive action against legitimate democratic forces in society should alert everybody.
While I do not have the slightest bit of sympathy for the religious radicalizers that are discussed in the leaked document, the trajectory of a panoptic state that potentially knows every intimate detail of its citizens’ private lives is undeniably anti-democratic in spirit.
“Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit ‘Radicalizers’.” (Adriana Usero and Ryan J. Reilly, Huffington Post, 2013/11/26)
Obama returns to Berlin in the midst of NSA surveillance scandal
“It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won’t be used [. . .] This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect the people’s privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place.” – Wolfgang Schmidt, former Stasi lieutenant colonel 1
In the midst of the NSA surveillance scandal, President Barack Obama returned to Berlin for a second visit. But this time, the enthusiasm among the German public at large was much lower than when he first visited the capital of Germany as presidential candidate in 2008. Back then, the term ‘Obamania’ described Germans’ overwhelming support for Barack Obama.
Apart from the revelations about the extent of the American intelligence services’ surveillance of the Internet, the continuation of other practices of the Bush administration’s ‘Global War On Terrorism’ is worrying to many of Obama’s former German fans.
On Wednesday, June 19, Obama held a speech in Berlin at the Pariser Platz, the location of the Brandenburg Gate.
Here it is (from CNN):
Perhaps the most notable item within in a speech full of nice-sounding generalities was the offer towards Russia to reduce some of each country’s nuclear arsenal.
“Memories of Stasi color Germans’ view of U.S. surveillance programs.” (Matthew Schofield, McClatchy, 2013/06/26) – “It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won’t be used [. . .] This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect the people’s privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place.” – Wolfgang Schmidt, former Stasi lieutenant colonel
“Obama loses German hearts and minds ahead of Berlin visit.” (Marc Young, The Ticket, Yahoo! News, 2013/06/18)
“Obama in Berlin: Wenn ein Präsident träumt.” (Andreas Öhler, Zeit Online, 19.06.2013) – Barack Obama hat in seiner Berlin-Rede 2013 bewusst den Bombast seiner Vorgänger weggelassen.
“Obama zu Besuch in Berlin: Der entzauberte Präsident.” (Matthias Kolb, Süddeutsche.de, 18.06.2013)
“Obama in Berlin – Scharfschützen, Taucher, verplombte Gullis.” (Süddeutsche.de, 18.06.2013)
- “Memories of Stasi color Germans’ view of U.S. surveillance programs.” (Matthew Schofield, McClatchy, 2013/06/26) ↩