Celebrate what happened one year ago. It’s the birthday of a New America!

Summary:  Exactly one year ago Glenn Greenwald published the first of Snowden’s revelations. Two days later I forecast that our response to these momentous disclosures would be nothing. That our passivity would mark the birthday of the New America, and the death of the Second Republic (under the Constitution). Today I add this to the successful predictions page. It’s reposted below, as worth reading today as then (more so now, since we know so much more about the government’s activities than we did a year ag0)

As I said then: Our children are the victims. Powerful elites are the agents. We are the cause. This is now obvious to any who choose to see. 4 July 1776 was the birthday of the America-that-once-was, start of the successful revolution. 5 July 2913 was the birthday of the New America, start of the failed first reform movement!

Watching the little people

—– Reposted from 5 July 2013, birthday of our New America —–

This week we learned more about the extent of the National Security Agency’s surveillance. Do not see this as an event, but as a step in a process. Slowly we are broken to accept a harness designed by our ruling elites, administered by their agents in the government.  Slowly since WWII, more quickly since 9-11, the government has extended its supervision over us. Not to control our daily acts — as in 1984 (the 1% doesn’t care what the proles do after work) — but to limit our political activities. Limit our ability to run the Republic.

The changes come slowly. It’s not like a frog being boiled, because frogs are smart and jump out of the pot. More like bondage porn, where a sub slowly surrenders to domination by the will of another. We are surrendering responsibility, the burden of self-government.

We cannot admit the harsh truth, and so take comfort in lies, myths, and amnesia.

We hope this will save us from the shadowy threat of jihadists – who one day over a decade ago killed a fraction of those who die each year in traffic accidents, or suicide by guns, or from other causes we cannot bother to address because we spend so much on security (internal and external, formerly known as police and defense). We give up so much in fear of an organization which probably no longer exists in significant form, bequeathing their name to nationalistic movements who fight us because we go to their lands and fight them.

We yield to the government because we believe that they — and our ruling elites — are too strong. We let the democratic machinery of the Republic lie unused because we believe that resistance is futile.

In fact we yield because it is easier for us. More comfortable.

What about all the bold noise in the newspapers, on the internet?

Yes, we boldly write and speak.  As we boldly protested when we learned of the previous set of outrages. And the ones before that. As we will for the next one.  And the next one.

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Scoring the game so far: NSA is winning, we’re losing

Summary:  Eleven  weeks have passed since the first revelations by Snowden about the NSA’s surveillance programs. Let’s total up the results. Spoiler for the post: the NSA is winning, we’re losing. But there are some potentially significant effects in other nations.

Keyhole view

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What’s been the effect of the revelations by Snowden about the NSA’s surveillance programs, which has in turn sparked other revelations?

(1)  Column-miles of newsprint and countless hours of broadcast time spent discussing these matters. Entertainment for nerds and political junkies. Success for the news media!

(2)  Column miles of newsprint and countless hours of blather by the government’s courtiers mocking Snowden (e.g., Michael Cohen, Steven Metz) and justifying the government’s actions (e.g., Joshua Foust, Tim Stanley). Entertainment for nerds and political junkies. Success: careers boosted in DC!

(3)  Politicians giving bold speeches. Success: more exposure, name-recognition!

(4)  Effect on the NSA so far: nil. They continue to expand their reach; reforms are defeated or meaningless. In fact, defeating their opponents might make them bolder. This revelation of their strength only boosts their fearsome reputation among US citizens (and tells our foes little they did not already know or suspect).

  • Feds put heat on Web firms for master encryption keys“, CNET, 24 July 2013 — “Whether the FBI and NSA have the legal authority to obtain the master keys that companies use for Web encryption remains an open question, but it hasn’t stopped the US government from trying.”
  • Feds tell Web firms to turn over user account passwords“, CNET, 25 July 2013 — “Secret demands mark escalation in Internet surveillance by the federal government through gaining access to user passwords, which are typically stored in encrypted form.”
  • Pretend reforms: Who will be on the new Committee to review NSA programs? A former CIA Director, a former Homeland Security “Czar”, a White House official in the Clinton and Obama administrations, and an advocate of secret infiltration of citizen groups to increase citizens’ faith in government officials. Its a bad joke. Sources: ABC News and Marcy Wheeler.
  • Three Illusory “Investigations” of the NSA Spying Are Unable to Succeed“, Electronic Freedom Foundation (“Defending Your Rights in the Digital World”), 23 August 2013

(5)  But, there is possible serious damage to exports of US technology (there is a price paid for every win):

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“You’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more.”

Summary: We have moved to the steep downward part of the “S”-shaped slippery slope. Sharks bump their prey repeatedly, testing for a reaction. Once they confirm weakness, the attack begins. Similarly our elites have repeatedly tested us, probing the extent of our passivity. Now that they’re confirmed our weakness, they move more boldly. Strong efforts to seize and drastically punish whistleblowers. Revelations about the NSA’s surveilance programs is met by even bolder actions by the NSA. Today we post yet another call to action. Soon a New America will be born, and reform will become far more difficult.

Fascism Warning Poster

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There are few responses to this suitable for a free people. It’s a red line. It’s a fork in the road — one way for peons, another for free people. Probably rough road ahead on both branches of the road.

You’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more.”

— Telephone call from an official at Whitehall to Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian. Later they went to The Guardian’s offices and smashed computers holding information from Snowden. “We can call off the Black Helicopters” joked one of the GCHQ agents. From The Guardian.

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The following is from Washington’s Blog, 19 August 2013 — Reposted under their site’s syndication policy.

Preface

German pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) initially supported Hitler. But he later opposed him, and was imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp for years. Niemöller learned the hard way that keep your head down doesn’t keep one out of trouble … in the long run, it increases the danger to all of us.

Niemöller wrote a brilliant poem – “First They Came” – about the manner in which Germans allowed Nazi abuses by failing to protest the abuse of “others” … first gypsies, gays, communists, and Jews, then Catholics … and eventually everyone. This is my modern interpretation of Niemöller’s poem.

A poem for our time

First they tortured a U.S. citizen and gang member
I remained silent; I wasn’t a criminal.

Then they tortured a U.S. citizen, whistleblower and navy veteran
I remained silent; I wasn’t a whistleblower.

Then they locked up an attorney for representing accused criminals …
I remained silent; I wasn’t a defense attorney.

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The government strikes again, but finds yet another American willing to fight. Applause is not enough!

Summary:  As the Second Republic fades away, the Constitution abandoned, the government grows more powerful and bolder. As we see in its latest strike against Edward Snowden. But this time something strange happened. They came up against yet another American. A real American, willing to fight for the Republic against the government even at great personal cost. Don’t treat this as a spectator sport, with yourself as a consumer of news. Write your representatives. If you can, support the organizations on the front lines.

Lavabit

“Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis, Chapter 12 (1959)

Contents

  1. The Empire strikes at Lavabit
  2. About Lavabit
  3. About National Security Letters
  4. Updates
  5. What was the Liberty Tree?
  6. For More Information

(1)  The Empire strikes at Lavabit

Lavabit was founded circa 2004 by Dallas programmers to provide (from their Features page) “a priceless level of security, particularly for customers that use e-mail to exchange sensitive information.”  They claim to have 350 thousand clients, reportedly one was Edward Snowden. Lavabit appears to have been served with a National Security Letter by the US government. Unlike the big telecom companies, however, Lavabit took the high road.  The Founders cheer!  Their home page now reads:

My Fellow Users,

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

Sincerely,
Ladar Levison, Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.

Lavabit deserves our support!

(2)  About Lavabit

From Wired:

LIberty Tree
Let’s watch while they cut it down!

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Will a wave of leakers undercut America’s national security?

Summary: Will hordes of Americans working for security services become leakers, undercutting the government’s wall of secrecy and endangering national security? Many national security experts worry about this. Before we attempt an answer, let’s examine why people become leakers — and who becomes leakers.

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Why aren't there more leakers?
Why aren’t there more whistleblowers?

Why become a leaker?

Two of the most prominent recent leakers are of Generation X: Bradley Manning (born 1987) and Edward Snowden (born 1983). They grew up hearing stories about the civil disobedience of the 1960s and 1970s. That turned out well for many of the perps.

  • Angela Davis became a Professor at UC Santa Clara
  • Bill Ayers became Professor of Education at U-IL Chicago.
  • Abbie Hoffman and Daniel Ellsberg became famous
  • Mark Felt (aka Deep Throat) had a successful career in the FBI (eventually busted for violating civil rights)

To many people growing up with these stories, they are heroes. And they (many of them) escaped with few ill consequences. But these Generation X misunderstand this history. These deeds were done by Boomers against the Greatest Generation. In famous trials, such as the Chicago Seven (18 February 1970), juries of the Greatest Generation showed them mercy and understanding.

But the Gen X goes up against hanging juries of the Boomers, who show neither mercy or understanding — but only deference to the government, no matter how outlandish the lies. Bradley Manning was abused in jail for two years before his court martial, and can expect a long sentence. Boomer President Obama has dusted off the Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute leakers, who he fiercely prosecutes.

Considering the trend, the increasing efforts to locate and severely punish leakers, the romance associated with this form of civil disobedience will soon wear off. Only the bravest will risk it.

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America’s courtiers rush to defend the government – from us

Summary: Those paying attention to Snowden’s revelations have learned much about our government (although we’re told he told us nothing new). Those reading the government’s defenders learned much as well. Not just that Snowden’s revelations did immense damage, but also that we stand alone when resisting the government. Our best and brightest are on the other side.

Know Your Place

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An astonishingly weak defense of government surveillance: “Is Obama presiding over a national security state gone rogue?“, Michael Cohen, Guardian, 21 June 2013 — “Frankly, I don’t see evidence of huge abuse of US liberties. But I do see our foreign policy distorted by a counter-terror obsession.” Excerpts:

In that sense, we have to take the government’s word for it. And that is especially problematic when you consider the FISA court decisions authorizing this snooping are secret and the congressional intelligence committees tasked with conducting oversight tend to be toothless.

But assumptions of bad faith and violations of privacy by the US government are just that … assumptions. When President Obama says that the NSA is not violating privacy rights because it would be against the law, we can’t simply disregard such statements as self-serving.

True courtiers like Cohen insist that government officials be given the benefit of the doubt, believed no matter how many times government officials have lied to us during the past 60 years. No matter how improbable their stories. Samuel Adams or Patrick Henry would shake their heads in contempt.

Cohen also marshals logic in his defense of the government:

“Now, while one can argue that Snowden’s actions do not involve personal sacrifice, whether they are heroic is a much higher bar to cross.”

Weak logic. As if the value of the information Snowden revealed depends on such trivialities. Heroism is ultimately determined by history. Here’s a better try at logic:

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The Empire Strikes Back: The Demonization of Snowden Begins

Summary: Marcus Ranum, our in-house cyber-expert, looks at the next stage of the government’s defense against the revelations of NSA surveillance. Like the surveillance itself, they rely on non-governmental agents to get the job done.

I’m sure we’re all shocked to see attempts to downplay the significance of the PRISM story.

What’s that you say? You’re not? Well, me either.

That was why I rushed together my article about finely slicing the word salad of “direct access” to servers, etc. It’s useful to try to clarify in advance the lies you are about to be told – it makes them more clear.

The attacks on Greenwald’s scoop tend to break into four categories:

  1. Traitor! Traitor! USA USA USA!
  2. It’s not new; we already knew all that.
  3. It’s not possible, it’s not feasible (reasons given)
  4. That’s not true! (no reasons given)

The people taking the second line of reasoning above either haven’t done their research or are deliberately ignoring the rich history of leaks about this kind of stuff dating back years. Past leaks about the surveillance state show not only the desire to massively tap data, but the resources spent doing so, and the technological capabilities. It is the latter that give the lie to responses such as farcical stories about thumb drives and FTP. Oh, we can be sure that thumb drives and FTP have occasionally been used, but that’s probably to collect information that can’t be gotten indirectly.

People who claim that Greenwald has it wrong are ignoring the rather obvious fact that the “Boundless Informant” slides show 97 billion records of data being injected into the system daily. That’s a lot of thumb-drives worth! They also are ignoring that Greenwald says there are more disclosures to come; my suspicion is that Greenwald has a couple bombs left up his sleeve and he’s waiting for the surveillance state to strongly stake out a position before he pulls the carpet out from under them.

Articles such as Rick Perlstein’s article in The Nation (“Glenn Greenwald’s Epic Botch?“) – title complete with face-saving question mark – show a lack of understanding of history. If Perlstein’s “no expert”, as he says, he should probably invest a day or two studying, rather than an hour or two writing. I find it amazing that any journalist would take a corporate spokesperson’s words at face value when they’re responding to a crisis, without researching the back-story. Was he born yesterday?

Room 641a

Previous whistle-blowers such as Mark Klein, who revealed the existence of Room 641A, have already described systems that align perfectly with what Snowden has revealed. For that matter, Duncan Campbell was documenting ECHELON back in the 80s.

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