Getting to Know You

United States + ChinaThis week’s summit meeting between President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China is an important opportunity for leaders of world’s two largest economies to chart a smoother path and avoid the destructive conflicts that have historically afflicted relations between rising and established powers. Mr. Xi is still settling into his job as China’s political leader and is a relative newcomer on world stage compared to Mr. Obama, now in his second term. But he seems to well understand the stakes. He told one of Mr. Obama’s top aides last month that ties between the 2 countries stand at a “critical juncture” and it is time to explore “a new type of great power relationship.” The world is eager to hear just what he has in mind. The two presidents have agreed to an informal format for their talks in California on Friday and Saturday that affords far more time for serious discussion, at least six hours, than is usual for such encounters, which tend to be limited to a carefully scripted talking points. This makes sense because there is a great deal of ground to cover, not just broad political and economic issues but specific points of contention. One fundamental question of a great interest to Washington is how Mr. Xi intends to wield power. Tensions are inevitable between big economic and political competitors, and some in this country have been too eager to cast China as next great adversary. Still, Mr. Xi has displayed a disturbing nationalist inclination as well as a willingness to back the military in its increasingly dangerous attempts to assert primacy in the South China and East China Seas over Japan and others. With this mind, Mr. Obama’s task is to reassure Mr. Xi that his own efforts to refocus his foreign policy on Asia need not threaten Beijing. But he also needs to make clear China’s aggressive approach to maritime disputes is unacceptable. There is also the no less contentious and perhaps even more threatening matter of the cyberwarfare. Amid growing tensions over claims that the Chinese hackers are carrying out cyberattacks to steal American corporate and government secrets, 2 governments recently agreed to hold regular talks on setting cybersecurity standards. The meeting will be Obama’s chance to lay out the evidence behind these claims and to make the case why such intrusions, especially in the commercial sphere, are a serious threat to relations between the 2 countries. Enlisting Mr. Xi’s personal commitment to curb them would be a major step forward. Mr. Xi has signaled an interest in reforming China’s state-managed economy, which is expected to provoke an airing of complaints on both sides about restrictive trade policies. Mr. Obama should welcome the recent $4.7 billion offer by a Chinese company, Shuanghui International, to buy American pork producer, Smithfield Foods, as illustration of healthy free trade that benefits both countries. But he would be remiss if he did not also point out even as Chinese companies like Shuanghui expand overseas with relative ease, American and European companies face numerous obstacles in China. The agenda must also include North Korea. Beijing recently has played a constructive role in persuading North Korea to calm its threatening rhetoric and urging a resumption of talks over its nuclear program, but it has resisted joining United States and South Korea in figuring out how best to respond if North Korea implodes. The United States and China are each other’s greatest strategic challenges but they are invested in each other’s fate. This requires continuing efforts to confront common problems and to manage differences honestly and transparently, a task that can be eased by a successful meeting. (source: The Editorial Board – NYTimes – 05/06/2013)


Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional

47 Responses to Getting to Know You

  1. THE Obama administration has often stated its commitment to open government. So why is it keeping such tight wraps on the contents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the most significant international commercial agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995? The agreement, under negotiation since 2008, would set new rules for everything from food safety and financial markets to medicine prices and Internet freedom. It would include at least 12 of the countries bordering the Pacific and be open for more to join. President Obama has said he wants to sign it by October. Although Congress has exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade, so far the executive branch has managed to resist repeated requests by members of Congress to see the text of the draft agreement and has denied requests from members to attend negotiations as observers — reversing past practice. While the agreement could rewrite broad sections of nontrade policies affecting Americans’ daily lives, the administration also has rejected demands by outside groups that the nearly complete text be publicly released. Even the George W. Bush administration, hardly a paragon of transparency, published online the draft text of the last similarly sweeping agreement, called the Free Trade Area of the Americas, in 2001. There is one exception to this wall of secrecy: a group of some 600 trade “advisers,” dominated by representatives of big businesses, who enjoy privileged access to draft texts and negotiators. This covert approach is a major problem because the agreement is more than just a trade deal. Only 5 of its 29 chapters cover traditional trade matters, like tariffs or quotas. The others impose parameters on nontrade policies. Existing and future American laws must be altered to conform with these terms, or trade sanctions can be imposed against American exports (…..)

  2. The U.S. economy may have undergone a sea change in the past quarter-century — with workers’ incomes shrinking while major shareholders’ incomes soar — but the drive among our corporations and government for more free-trade agreements plows relentlessly ahead. The Obama administration, like those of Bill Clinton and both Presidents Bush, is seeking a trade deal, this one with Pacific Rim nations. What’s in the pact isn’t clear, as the administration has clamped a tight lid on the proceedings. What is clear, however, is that the era of free-trade deals has been one of growing economic inequality in the United States and the decoupling of U.S. corporate interests from those of the American people. These deals have done little to nothing to offset the job and income losses that U.S. workers have endured during this period. Most of these problematic deals were enacted under “fast track” rules that kept Congress from advancing the interests of U.S. workers once the deals were submitted to lawmakers. Under the procedures in effect at the time, Congress was not allowed to amend the North American Free Trade Agreement or the extension of permanent normalized trade relations to China; these deals required only a simple majority to pass the Senate, which was obliged to hold a vote within a few weeks of House passage. Fast-track rules expired, and bills to renew them were unsuccessful after Democrats gained control of Congress in 2006, but the Obama administration is widely expected to seek reinstatement before sending the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the Hill (…..) Should the administration ask Congress to restore fast-track authority, Republicans will face a fascinating conundrum. GOP legislators frequently, and falsely, accuse the president of usurping all manner of powers.

    If enacted, however, fast-track would be a genuine usurpation of powers, as the Constitution stipulates that Congress shall have the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations.” Despite the Founders’ pronouncement, U.S. big business — the GOP’s main funding source — has overwhelmingly preferred to vest that power in the president.

    A vote on fast track would force the GOP to choose between the fundamental interests of its funding base and its own irresistible impulse to thwart the president at every turn. Whatever their motivation, enough Republicans may join Democrats like Brown who want to open up trade negotiations to a wider range of interests than multinational corporations, to create a trade regime in which the American people actually matter.

  3. (…..) For Mr. Xi, a tough-minded party veteran whose no-nonsense style recalls Deng Xiaoping, it is a chance to set the tone for his most important diplomatic relationship at the start of what is expected to be a decade atop the Chinese power structure. “Their leadership was very open to this kind of encounter,” Mr. Donilon said. “They sense that this is an important moment in the relationship.” The choice of Sunnylands, about 120 miles southeast of Los Angeles, with its history as a place where Republican presidents and their Hollywood friends went to unwind, was calculated to give this diplomatic first date the best chance of succeeding. Even the estate’s Republican lineage may play a part, at least metaphorically. “Sunnylands is a West Coast monument to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan,” said Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross Director of the Center for U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society.

    “The last time the U.S.-China relationship broke through was Nixon and Kissinger.”

    Mr. Xi has on a number of occasions signaled his desire to break from normal protocol. At a meeting with Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, he also did without talking points, prompting Mr. Lew to set aside his own notes. Most significant, Mr. Xi, while vice president, spent about 20 hours with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in reciprocal visits. In those encounters, administration officials said, Mr. Xi expressed a keen interest in how China figured in American politics. Mr. Biden, for his part, emphasized that the militaries of the two countries needed to communicate better, particularly given that China’s growing military might is putting its warships and planes closer to American ones. The substantive nature of the meetings helped persuade the White House that it was worth putting Mr. Xi and Mr. Obama together sooner than the diplomatic calendar would have dictated. Mr. Xi, analysts in Beijing said, has two very different goals: to nurture trust, yet project self-confidence. He appears genuinely to want a stable and productive relationship, but there is also widespread wariness of American intentions, said Sun Zhe, director of the Center for U.S.-China Relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing. “China hopes that this visit will help to build personal ties and friendship between the two leaders so that conflicts in relations can be moderated,” Mr. Sun said in an interview. “But expectations cannot be too high; otherwise, they’ll be followed by frustration.” Tensions between the United States and China have flared over the Obama administration’s so-called strategic pivot to Asia, which some Chinese, particularly in the military, have viewed as an American plot to check China’s influence in its region (…..)

  4. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: From a Chinese standpoint, President Xi Jinping’s personal diplomacy approach makes sense. In the next ten years, the relation Beijing-Washington will get even closer (investment and trade) and more conflictive in the military, particularly in the Pacific where the US is moving advanced air and naval weapons systems. Personal relation between the American and Chinese leaders will be fundamental in defusing tensions and avoiding future military conflicts. The question is: Is time on the US or China side in this new century? in other words, how China is going to manage its (peaceful) rise and US its decline in the global economy. After all, in the group of BRICS, China is the only country capable of matching US economic and military power.

  5. In February 1972, Richard Nixon went to China and restored Sino-U.S. relations that had been broken for 23 years. During that visit, Nixon held a series of critical meetings with China’s premier, Zhou Enlai, and they discussed the broad strategic framework that would guide bilateral relations. President Obama’s meetings with President Xi Jinping this weekend have the potential to be a similarly historic summit — but with an important caveat. China has always played a weak hand brilliantly. When Mao Zedong and Zhou met with Nixon and Henry Kissinger, China was in the midst of economic, political and cultural chaos. Its per capita gross domestic product had fallen below that of Uganda and Sierra Leone. Yet Beijing negotiated as if from commanding heights. Today, it has tremendous assets — but it is not the world’s other superpower, and we should not treat it as such. The United States has been accused of having a confused, contradictory foreign policy, as each administration reverses its predecessor. This is often a mischaracterization, never more so than with China policy. Since Nixon and Kissinger opened the door, U.S. foreign policy toward China has been remarkably consistent over 40 years and eight presidents. Washington has sought to integrate China into the world, economically and politically. This policy has been good for the United States, good for the world and extremely good for China. But many of the forces that pushed the two countries together are waning. For the first two decades of relations, Washington had strategic reasons to align with Beijing and shift the balance of power against the Soviet Union. While China was in its early years of development, it desperately needed access to U.S. capital, technology and political assistance to expand its economy. Today, China is much stronger and is acting in ways — from cyberattacks to its policies in Africa — that are counter to U.S. interests and values. For its part, Washington must respond to the realities of Asia, where its historic allies are nervous about China’s rise.

    That’s why the meetings between Obama and Xi are important. Both countries need to take a clear-eyed look at the relationship and find a new path that could define a cooperative framework for the future, as Nixon and Zhou did in 1972. Both sides should seek to create a broad atmosphere of trust rather than to work through a “to-do” list. Some Americans want to see these meetings as a “G-2” alliance of sorts between the world’s largest economies. That would not serve U.S. interests nor those of broader global stability and integration (…..)

  6. (…..) China is the world’s second-largest economy and, because of its size, will one day become the largest. (On a per-capita basis, it is a middle-income country, and it might never surpass the United States in that regard.) But power is defined along many dimensions, and by most political, military, strategic and cultural measures, China is a great but not global power. For now, it lacks the intellectual ambition to set the global agenda. The scholar David Shambaugh, who has always been well-disposed toward China, put it this way in a recent book: “China is, in essence, a very narrow-minded, self-interested, realist state, seeking only to maximize its own national interests and power. It cares little for global governance and enforcing global standards of behavior (except its much-vaunted doctrine of noninterference in the internal affairs of countries). Its economic policies are mercantilist and its diplomacy is passive. China is also a lonely strategic power, with no allies and experiencing distrust and strained relationships with much of the world” (…..)

  7. A government-financed research institute in the Pearl River Delta here boasts an impressive range of specialties, from robotics to nanomedicine to magnetic resonance imaging. But not all the cutting edge developments may be the result of indigenous innovation, according to American prosecutors, who last month charged three Chinese scientists at the New York University School of Medicine with taking bribes to share research findings with their real employers: the Shenzhen institute and a separate Shanghai medical technology company. Though considerable attention has been focused on Chinese cyberespionage efforts, the institute is at the vanguard of a related push to bolster China’s competitiveness by acquiring overseas technology directly from Chinese scientists working in the United States and other developed countries, say American officials and analysts. Those scientists are heavily recruited to return to China or, in some instances, to share their knowledge while remaining overseas, according to the federal court case and a book released last month by three experts who do China research for the United States government. In advance of a summit meeting in California later this week between President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China, the two countries agreed to hold regular meetings on the issues of cybersecurity and commercial espionage. But there is no sign yet of what those discussions might accomplish. The authors of the new book, “Chinese Industrial Espionage,” say that technology transfer is an official policy at all levels of the Communist Party and the state. It often takes place in a legal gray area, since laws governing technology transfer can be vague or nonexistent. The authors warn that the United States and other nations need to acknowledge the extent of the Chinese campaign, which they say far exceeds those of other countries and threatens American competitiveness. They contend that the scale of China’s efforts to gather overseas technology is so immense that the National Counterintelligence Executive, a federal agency, has considered issuing separate annual reports each year: one for China and one for the rest of the world. “China is in a different league altogether, exceeding the international norm not just in scale, the number and variety of transfer venues, the moral agnosticism of its practitioners, and the degree of government support,” the authors, William C. Hannas, James Mulvenon and Anna B. Puglisi, said in written answers to questions. “It’s an entire mind-set.” China’s strategies range from setting up science parks for Chinese returnees to persuading foreign companies to open research centers in China, they said (…..)

  8. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Economic espionage has been common practice since the industrial revolution in the 18th century. The US has been the most active player in this game. China’s economy is undergoing a transition from a manufacturer of consumer goods to an innovator of high tech products and services. Stealing industrial secrets from US companies is irresistible and inevitable. The WTO and local tribunals play an important role in curbing commercialization of products derived from improper use of technology developed by US research centers. The dominant position of the US in R&D presents a paradox. The American business model is highly vulnerable to industrial espionage. Its main strength, bringing the best brains from all over the world, it is its main weakness. Research centers (including the military) are predominantly occupied by foreign nationals, particularly from India and China. It is impossible to monitor thousands and thousands of highly specialized foreign nationals working in highly sensitive projects of consumer goods and military use.

  9. When American analysts hunting terrorists sought new ways to comb through the troves of phone records, e-mails and other data piling up as digital communications exploded over the past decade, they turned to Silicon Valley computer experts who had developed complex equations to thwart Russian mobsters intent on credit card fraud. The partnership between the intelligence community and Palantir Technologies, a Palo Alto, Calif., company founded by a group of inventors from PayPal, is just one of many that the National Security Agency and other agencies have forged as they have rushed to unlock the secrets of “Big Data.” Today, a revolution in software technology that allows for the highly automated and instantaneous analysis of enormous volumes of digital information has transformed the N.S.A., turning it into the virtual landlord of the digital assets of Americans and foreigners alike. The new technology has, for the first time, given America’s spies the ability to track the activities and movements of people almost anywhere in the world without actually watching them or listening to their conversations. New disclosures that the N.S.A. has secretly acquired the phone records of millions of Americans and access to e-mails, videos and other data of foreigners from nine United States Internet companies have provided a rare glimpse into the growing reach of the nation’s largest spy agency. They have also alarmed the government: on Saturday night, Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the director of national intelligence, said that “a crimes report has been filed by the N.S.A.” With little public debate, the N.S.A. has been undergoing rapid expansion in order to exploit the mountains of new data being created each day. The government has poured billions of dollars into the agency over the last decade, building a one-million-square-foot fortress in the mountains of Utah, apparently to store huge volumes of personal data indefinitely. It created intercept stations across the country, according to former industry and intelligence officials, and helped build one of the world’s fastest computers to crack the codes that protect information. While once the flow of data across the Internet appeared too overwhelming for N.S.A. to keep up with, the recent revelations suggest that the agency’s capabilities are now far greater than most outsiders believed. “Five years ago, I would have said they don’t have the capability to monitor a significant amount of Internet traffic,” said Herbert S. Lin, an expert in computer science and telecommunications at the National Research Council. Now, he said, it appears “that they are getting close to that goal.” On Saturday, it became clear how close: Another N.S.A. document, again cited by The Guardian, showed a “global heat map” that appeared to represent how much data the N.S.A. sweeps up around the world. It showed that in March 2013 there were 97 billion pieces of data collected from networks worldwide; about 14 percent of it was in Iran, much was from Pakistan and about 3 percent came from inside the United States, though some of that might have been foreign data traffic routed through American-based servers (…..)

  10. (NYT GOLDEN PICK) Professor Uziel Nogueira says: In the new (uncharted) world of the Obama war on terror doctrine, the government always act preemptively. This new ‘leak’ on mega cyberdata collection is not a real leak, really. The advanced system for cyber espionage is already in place and operating fully. There is nothing common citizens can do about it. It is here to stay. Obama said government is not listening telephone calls, something of the past. The powerful algorithm programs can trace anyone’s cyber print in the cyber space. Here is how the system works. Someone does something the US government considers a threat or an act of terror against national security. In a matter of hours, ALL people which had contact with the so called terrorist or terrorists are caught and interrogated as suspects of being part of a conspiracy. This explains the aftermath of Boston bombing and the killing of a young man being interrogated by the FBI. If you want to know the future in the US, look back to Latin America. During military dictatorships in the region, thousands of innocent people were tortured and killed by the State. Their only mistake was to be associated with someone considered a terrorist. Is this the (sad) future for the most prosperous democracy and free people in the world?

  11. Ed: That’s not the future for our nation. However, I keeping seeing videos and stories from Brazil and other Latin American countries showing extrajudicial executions in the street, going unsolved. That’s your future, not ours.

  12. cp dukes: The only reason “its here to stay” is because the public accepts it and tolerates the Congresspeople who support it. We may pretend that there is some legal basis for these programs but it boils down to “because we said so.” I don’t accept it.

  13. Listen Tome: In 2011 in Yemen the prominent journalist Abdulelah Shaye was jailed as a terrorist for having interview Anwar al-Awlaki…the US citizen who was later killed by a US drone. Shaye’s real crime was that he had angered the US by reporting on a Tomahawk missile and cluster bombing in 2009 that mistakenly killed 21 children and 14 women in Yemen. That is how guilt by association is used to punish whistle blowers, political enemies and guilt by association. This is why the Obama spying program is so dangerous and we cannot trust the politicians to not abuse it. Does anyone really believe that someone like Dick Cheney or a future President would not use it to go after someone on his enemies list? Can we even trust Obama? It was the pressure from his administration that had Shaye jailed.

  14. E.T. Bass: Yes. And this has just made the case for resisting Obama’s attempt for national registration of gun owners. The mass-shooters are WELL-KNOWN — they are mentally disturbed persons often known to neighbors; yet nothing is done. It also asks the very hard question — given all the proven incompetence of late, how safe to you feel that your medical records are handled by the IRS and Obama? If that medical record could get you “laid-off?”

  15. (…..) The Guardian revealed that the US National Security Agency has cracked open our online lives, that it can rifle through your emails, listen to your calls on Skype, watching “your ideas form as you type”, as a US intelligence officer put it – apparently in cahoots with the corporate titans of the web. This disgraces all involved, but it damages the head of the US government most. Barack Obama always had much in common with the Apple and Facebook crowd. Like them, he held out the promise of modernity – a slick, cool contrast to their creaky, throwback rivals. (Obama was rarely without BlackBerry and iPod; McCain and Romney came from the age of the manual typewriter.) But, like those early internet giants, he promised more than just an open-necked, hipper style. He would be better too. Google’s informal motto is Don’t be Evil. Obama’s was Hope. Perhaps people lost their innocence about Google and Facebook long ago, realising that, just because their founders were kids in jeans, they were no less red-toothed than any other capitalist behemoth. But now the president’s reputation will suffer the same treatment. This Prism will dim the halo that once adorned him. For he has authorised not merely the continuation of a programme of state surveillance that he once opposed, but has actively expanded it. That officers who serve him could brag in a 41-page presentation – one, incidentally, laced with David Brent-style grandiosity, starting with the naffness of the Prism logo – of their ability to collect data “directly from the servers” of the likes of Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo, will be a lasting stain on his record. In this, he is George W Obama. There is a mirthless chuckle to be had from a president repeatedly slammed as a “liberal” whose legacy will be marred by a series of gravely illiberal acts (…..)

    That leaves us with a choice. Either we try to stuff this genie back in the bottle and return to the privacy habits of old. Unlikely. Or we demand companies stand firm when pressed by governments to disclose our data. Not easy. Or we demand lawmakers change the rules, restraining the executive branch’s limitless appetite for information on us. It’s hard to be optimistic, for technology has made the pickings available too rich, too tempting, for the spies to resist. And, strangest of all, it is us who made this possible – by becoming informants on ourselves.

  16. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a defender of the phone and Internet surveillance programs that have come into public view in recent days, said on Sunday that she would consider holding hearings about them. “I’m open to doing a hearing every month, if that’s necessary,” she said on the ABC program “This Week.” But, she added, “Here’s the rub: the instances where this has produced good — has disrupted plots, prevented terrorist attacks, is all classified, that’s what’s so hard about this.” Ms. Feinstein’s remarks came two days after President Obama commented on news reports, based on leaked government documents, that revealed details about the surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency. The president said he welcomed a debate over the right balance between security and privacy. Other lawmakers who appeared on the Sunday talk shows were largely supportive of the surveillance programs, often outspokenly so. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said he was not bothered by the surveillance. He said on the CNN program “State of the Union” that the threat of terrorism was growing steadily amid turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, but that further Congressional and executive review of the programs was “entirely appropriate.” But Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, for years a vocal critic of the government’s electronic surveillance programs, said he was not convinced that a program to collect huge amounts of information about Americans’ phone calls had led to the foiling of any terrorism plots. He also called for a renewed debate over the Patriot Act, which authorizes much of the data collection (…..)

  17. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Domestic surveillance became inevitable after 9/11. It was followed by the Bush-Obama war on terror doctrine + Patriot Act. As long as these two legal instruments are vigent, the government will continue to expand its capacity to monitor US citizens activities in the cyber space. Hearings in the Congress will not yield any result in restraint government actions.

  18. (…..) In fact, say researchers in the field of data analysis, the metadata, or the information about such things as where a message came from and when it was sent, is frequently more valuable to security officials than the content of the messages. It provides dense and useful information to agencies increasingly swamped by the global computing onslaught. A study published in Nature last March demonstrated that just four data points about the location and time of a mobile phone call made it possible to identify the sender 95 percent of the time. Using just two randomly chosen points, it was possible to identify half of users. Such information can come not just from phone companies, but also from smartphone applications or Wi-Fi hot spots. Metadata is also useful because national security is now dealing with a deluge of information. Researchers at IDC have determined that the amount of global digital information, like e-mail, Twitter posts and digital photos, has risen from about 500 billion gigabytes in 2008 to almost four trillion gigabytes this year. By 2015, they estimate, there will be eight trillion gigabytes of material to go through, much of it from fast-growing countries with young populations, like China and Indonesia. Unlike e-mails written in different languages or with personal touches, metadata about who sent and received a message, when it was sent and from where, always looks the same. Besides cutting down on the absolute amount of traffic to examine, metadata makes it easy to organize information and search for patterns, establishing social networks from individuals. For some communications, metadata matters more than content. “A call to a suicide hot line, Alcoholics Anonymous, or a gay sex chat room at 2 a.m. are all more sensitive” than the actual message, said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. “You can text political donations. The metadata shows your political leanings, the content just shows the amount you gave. Calling a cell tower away from my house in the middle of the night indicates I’m not sleeping at home.” “Metadata is the least protected form of communications information, and that is a shame,” he said. “You just have to say it’s important to an ongoing investigation” (…..)

  19. Professor Uziel Nogueira says:

    “Besides cutting down on the absolute amount of traffic to examine, metadata makes it easy to organize information and search for PATTERNS, establishing SOCIAL NETWORKS from INDIVIDUALS”. That is crux of the matter. If a person or persons are considered a threat to national security, their cyber print allow identification of anyone related to them. This means innocent people being detained and harshly interrogated simply for being in contact with an individual or group designated as national threat. Metadata is not to prevent acts of terrorism. It is a tool to control anyone considered an enemy or threat to the State.

  20. (…..) In 1975, Senator Frank Church spoke of the National Security Agency in these terms: “I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.” The dangerous prospect of which he warned was that America’s intelligence gathering capability – which is today beyond any comparison with what existed in his pre-digital era – “at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left.” That has now happened. That is what Snowden has exposed, with official, secret documents. The NSA, FBI and CIA have, with the new digital technology, surveillance powers over our own citizens that the Stasi – the secret police in the former “democratic republic” of East Germany – could scarcely have dreamed of. Snowden reveals that the so-called intelligence community has become the United Stasi of America. So we have fallen into Senator Church’s abyss. The questions now are whether he was right or wrong that there is no return from it, and whether that means that effective democracy will become impossible. A week ago, I would have found it hard to argue with pessimistic answers to those conclusions. But with Edward Snowden having put his life on the line to get this information out, quite possibly inspiring others with similar knowledge, conscience and patriotism to show comparable civil courage – in the public, in Congress, in the executive branch itself – I see the unexpected possibility of a way up and out of the abyss. Pressure by an informed public on Congress to form a select committee to investigate the revelations by Snowden and, I hope, others to come might lead us to bring NSA and the rest of the intelligence community under real supervision and restraint and restore the protections of the bill of rights. Snowden did what he did because he recognised the NSA’s surveillance programs for what they are: dangerous, unconstitutional activity. This wholesale invasion of Americans’ and foreign citizens’ privacy does not contribute to our security; it puts in danger the very liberties we’re trying to protect.

  21. “The west is moving towards China in its quest for mass surveillance,” reads a headline in The Observer, a Sunday publication and the sister newspaper of The Guardian, which has published a string of articles about classified National Security Agency surveillance programs, transfixing readers around the world. Is America becoming more like China, a country that has long subjected its citizens to surveillance? The revelations came in a week when President Barack Obama met with Xi Jinping in California — and cybersecurity was a major point of discussion, with the U.S. saying China has been stealing secrets. “It is striking how the west and China are moving incrementally towards each other, especially in the practice of mass surveillance,” wrote Henry Porter, a journalist and novelist and the London editor of Vanity Fair magazine, in the commentary in The Observer. “But unlike the Chinese, for the moment at least, we have the option to oppose what’s happening,” he concluded (…..) Chatter on China’s Weibo, its virtual “town square,” is slowly gathering (today is a public holiday) — though so far it still seems muted, perhaps a sign of how sensitive this question is. There was this, posted by Wang Yao, who identified himself as the editor of the Shenzhen News Net: because of the revelations, should Peng Liyuan, the wife of China’s leader, Xi Jinping, stop using an iPhone? The background: on a recent trip to Mexico, Ms. Peng was pilloried by many Chinese netizens for apparently using an iPhone, a foreign brand that has been criticized by Chinese state media in the past for alleged poor treatment of Chinese customers. Might that iPhone actually be a national security risk now, Mr. Wang asked? “China’s First Lady may want to change the phone she uses,” he wrote. “Peng’s photographs, and any information sent via Apple, can all be read by America’s spy agency the NSA. The leaked documents showed that the NSA has gotten hold of an untold number of Google and Apple customers’ records,” he wrote.

    Writing on, a business information and opinion Web site, a person called Liushui fei sha wrote: “I’d heard before that there were some politically persecuted Chinese who sought asylum in America, now it turns out a politically persecuted American has come to a Chinese special administrative zone for asylum. Sometimes you really don’t know whether to laugh or cry over mankind” (…..)

  22. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Civil liberties and freedom are the main casualties of the post 9/11 US. However, the US is far from becoming China unless another major terrorist event takes place. For example, during my trip to Beijing in November of last year, I could not get electronic access to the NYT. The reason was censorship due to the XVIII Meeting of the CCPC taking place at that time. So far, the US government has not created firewalls to impede access to foreign sources of information via internet. The NSA only monitors traffic and contacts generated by each computer using US based servers. The Obama administration is not listening to conversations or reading the content of each e-mail. US government surveillance of American and foreign citizens is done discreetly and not intrusively as in China.

  23. (…..) This newfound interest in openness is a little hard to take seriously, not only because of the hypocrisy involved but because neither official seems to want to do more than talk about being open. If the president wants to have a meaningful discussion, he can order his intelligence directors to explain to the public precisely how the National Security Agency’s widespread collection of domestic telephone data works. Since there’s not much point in camouflaging the program anymore, it’s time for the public to get answers to some basic questions. Are the calls and texts of ordinary Americans mined for patterns that might put innocent people under suspicion? Why is data from every phone call collected, and not just those made by people whom the government suspects of terrorist activity? How long is the data kept, and can it be used for routine police investigations? Why was a private contractor like Edward Snowden allowed to have access to it? So far, no one at the White House seems interested in a substantive public debate (…..) Senator Feinstein has held several closed-door briefings for lawmakers. If she wants to hold hearings that are useful to the public, she should focus on the laws that fostered the growth of domestic spying, and the testimony should not consist of blithe assurances that the government can be trusted. The public needs explanations of how an overreaching intelligence community pushed that trust to the brink.

  24. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: During my last trip back from Washington DC my piece of luggage was open (and the locker destroyed) by Homeland security people. The only item of interest for them was a Canadian’s tourist guide I bought in DC. By coincidence, I’ve been accessing web sites for my next trip to Canada this coming July. Is it coincidence? Am I being paranoid about NSA checking my computer in Brazil ?

  25. (…..) In the coming debate, someone should explain why a mid-level computer guy working for a private contractor had access to so many of the NSA’s most closely held secrets. Someone should explain why the intelligence court is evidently so compliant. Someone should explain — perhaps in French, German and Spanish — why our allies’ e-mails are fair game for the agency’s prying eyes. But here’s the big issue: The NSA, it now seems clear, is assembling an unimaginably vast trove of communications data, and the bigger it gets, the more useful it is in enabling analysts to make predictions. It’s one thing if the NSA looks for patterns in the data that suggest a nascent overseas terrorist group or an imminent attack. It’s another thing altogether if the agency observes, say, patterns that suggest the birth of the next tea party or Occupy Wall Street movement. Is that paranoia? Then reassure me. Let’s talk about the big picture and decide, as citizens, whether we are comfortable with the direction our intelligence agencies are heading.

    And let’s remember that it was Snowden, not our elected officials, who opened this vital conversation.

  26. (…..) Tracking whom Americans are calling, for how long they speak, and from where, can reveal deeply personal information about an individual. Using such data, the government can discover intimate details about a person’s lifestyle and beliefs — political leanings and associations, medical issues, sexual orientation, habits of religious worship, and even marital infidelities. Daniel Solove, a professor at George Washington University Law School and a privacy expert, likens this program to a Seurat painting. A single dot may seem like no big deal, but many together create a nuanced portrait. The effect is to undermine constitutional principles of personal privacy and freedom from constant government monitoring. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, challenging the program’s constitutionality, and it was right to do so. The government’s capacity to build extensive, secret digital dossiers on such a mass scale is totally at odds with the vision and intention of the nation’s framers who crafted the Fourth Amendment precisely to outlaw indiscriminate searches that cast a wide net to see what can be caught. It also attacks First Amendment values of free speech and association. In a democracy, people are entitled to know what techniques are being used by the government to spy on them, how the records are being held and for how long, who will have access to them, and the safeguards in place to prevent abuse. Only then can they evaluate official claims that the correct balance between fighting terrorism and preserving individual liberty has been struck, and decide if they are willing to accept diminished privacy and liberty. If Americans have been slow to recognize the dangerous overreach of the N.S.A.’s phone surveillance, it is largely because they have scant information to judge the government’s conduct. Even if most Americans trust President Obama not to abuse their personal data, no one knows who will occupy the White House or lead intelligence operations in the future. The government’s capacity to assemble, keep and share information on its citizens has grown exponentially since the days when J. Edgar Hoover, as director of the F.B.I., collected files on political leaders and activists to enhance his own power and chill dissent. Protections against different abuses in this digital age of genuine terrorist threats need to catch up.

  27. Kurt: To which the answer is to control and restrict the manner in which this information can be used and accessed. And to continue to insist that actual wiretapping and/or reading of email contents be under court order only. And to make sure the process is continually monitored for abuse by both Congress and the courts. But then again, Google, for instance, already reads every email sent through it, parsing it for marketing purposes. Phone companies have always had access to this data as well. What assurances do we have that they will not use that data inappropriately? Our lives are increasingly being conducted on-line and, while not written specifically into the Constitution, the overall effect of the Bill of Rights is clear that individuals have legitimate areas of conduct which should be free from governmental coercion and control. So we should always be skeptical of intrusions upon that. But government also has a responsibility to keep us safe. And when all investigation takes place after a horrific crime has taken place will not bring our murdered dead back to us. There is a balance. And, while I can see the potential for abuse within it, I do not believe the programs in question have been used inappropriately, and should not be discontinued on speculation. We should look closely to make sure appropriate and effective checks and balances are in place but otherwise we should not get paranoiac about it. This is how modern life is going to be.

  28. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: “But then again, Google, for instance, already reads every email sent through it, parsing it for marketing purposes. Phone companies have always had access to this data as well. What assurances do we have that they will not use that data inappropriately?” Here is the difference between Google and the US government, Kurt. Google and private companies are not empowered to come to your house, arrest and submit you and family to harsh interrogation because, in a distant past, you’ve exchanged email with an individual suspect of being a terrorist. PRISM is not about avoiding terrorist acts. It is about population control and state power. If the American people do not understand this concept, democracy is in danger.

  29. jaczar: “This is how modern life is going to be.” I hope not! The fact there is not real oversight and court control over this gathering of information on all of us is evidence of misuse and abuse. If my call @ 10pm is to a pizza parlor, the government knows my intention. If I call an escort service @ midnight, they also know my intentions. And on and on. You needn’t listen to my words to gather personal information. I object!

  30. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: The 2016 political impact of domestic/international internet espionage is just one minor aspect of the whole affair. There is one angle that media will be talking about soon. That is, the (adverse) financial impact of government espionage on the bottomline of major US internet corporations such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Skype, etc. The long term financial impact can be substantial. US based transnational companies have a dominant position in cyberspace because they are the main servers and hub for worldwide internet traffic. Today, most of the world communication is done by servers located in US mainland. TRUST of keeping information of individuals, corporations and government secure is at the core of US servers worldwide business model. Once trust is broken, the system stop operating efficiently and is replaced by another one. US based cyber corporations operate very much like big banks of Wall Street did before the financial meltdown of 2009. In the aftermath of this affair, millions of internet users inside and outside the US will be asking a simple question. Should I trust a US based internet provider with my personal information? or should I seek a provider located in a safe place, Switzerland for example, that I can trust? Who knows? perhaps the future of internet servers will be in secret locations far away from Big Brother.

  31. anon: No chance. Facebook and pals are juggernauts; network effects (especially for Facebook) simply will not let that happen. If Diaspora didn’t get off the ground, then most people can’t possibly have the sort of motivations that would be necessary for this scenario to happen.

  32. An effort to extradite Edward Snowden may create an unusual and thought-provoking spectacle of an American dissident asking Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, to protect him from political prosecution in the United States.

    A strategist considering the question of whether Hong Kong authorities should extradite Snowden might answer no, they should just deport him. Deportation of a foreign national back to his home country can be a faster alternative to formal extradition. In contrast, extradition law gives Snowden the opportunity to spark further controversy, by claiming that he is being extradited for a political offense. The “political offense” exception, frequently found in extradition treaties, protects people who feel they are accused of crimes of a purely political nature. The centuries-old rationale is to protect freedom fighters, dissidents and revolutionaries. It is also helpful in allowing nations to play a neutral role in political struggles. Today the scope of the political offense exception to extradition has narrowed and is murky because of concerns over national security and terrorism. The former prosecutor in me thinks of deportation as a way to avoid extradition. But I hope that Snowden’s case proceeds to a request for extradition from the United States, and that Hong Kong takes on the political offense question in deciding whether to extradite. The symbolism of the United States requesting a dissident from Hong Kong should spark useful deliberation – in the United States as well as abroad. Is Snowden a hero seeking refuge or a criminal who violated his duties as an employee and a citizen? Does he face potential punishment because he threatened the nation’s security and safety or because he created great political embarrassment? Hong Kong is a fascinating jurisdiction to decide the political offense question because it is at a crossroads of contrasting cultural views on the proper balance among security, state control and freedom. Ultimately, U.S. prosecutors would be wise to consider striking a deal with Snowden, exposing him to lesser penalties, as an incentive to returning to America. And hopefully this resolution will occur after we have had a robust national and international debate about what constitutes a political offense today – and whether we should have mercy for people who think they are whistle-blowing for freedom.

  33. Professor Uziel Nogueira says:

    One of the best pieces of thought provoking by Ms. Fan. She raises an fascinating (political) question. That is, the Justice Department arguing with Hong Kong authorities for the return of a US citizen dissident asking protection from politically motivated persecution at home. At the end of the day, US and world public opinion can decide whether or not the US is becoming more authoritarian like China as many critics have been arguing lately.

  34. The director of the National Security Agency told Congress on Wednesday that “dozens” of terrorism threats had been halted by the agency’s huge database of the logs of nearly every domestic phone call made by Americans, while a senator briefed on the program disclosed that the telephone records are destroyed after five years. The director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, who heads both the N.S.A. and United States Cyber Command, which runs the military’s offensive and defensive use of cyberweapons, told skeptical members of the Senate Appropriations Committee that his agency was doing exactly what Congress authorized after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. General Alexander said he welcomed debate over the legal justification for the program because “what we’re doing to protect American citizens here is the right thing.” He said the agency “takes great pride in protecting this nation and our civil liberties and privacy” under the oversight of Congress and the courts. “We aren’t trying to hide it,” he said. “We’re trying to protect America. So we need your help in doing that. This isn’t something that’s just N.S.A. or the administration doing it on its own. This is what our nation expects our government to do for us.” But in his spirited exchanges with committee members, notably Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, General Alexander said he was seeking to declassify many details about the program now that they have been leaked by Edward J. Snowden, a former N.S.A. contractor who came forward to say he was the source of documents about the phone log program and other classified matters. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was the first to disclose that the records are eventually destroyed. She said that she planned to hold a classified hearing on Thursday on the program. But at the Wednesday hearing, where testimony about the government’s planned $13 billion spending on cybersecurity was largely swept aside for a discussion of the surveillance program, Ms. Feinstein also revealed that investigators had used the database for purposes beyond countering terrorism, suggesting it might have also been employed in slowing Iran’s nuclear program. Analysts can look at the domestic calling data only if there is a reason to suspect it is “actually related to Al Qaeda or to Iran,” she said, adding: “The vast majority of the records in the database are never accessed and are deleted after a period of five years. To look at or use the content of a call, a court warrant must be obtained” (…..)

  35. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: The White House is playing defense, however they are behind the curve. The damage done to a highly secret cyber espionage program has already been done. By this time, we should infer that information held by Mr. Snowden in Hong Kong has been compromised with foreign intelligence services. The only game in town is to convince public opinion that PRISM is not about control and state power but a defense against terrorism. Regardless of how the US deals with the PRISM affair, one outcome is certain. The dominant position held by US based internet providers will be greatly eroded. Advanced technological countries such as China, EU and Russia will be developing their own secure server network from now on.

    PRISM will be remembered as an espionage case turned into a huge financial disaster for US businesses. Similarly to Wall Street, US internet providers have lost credibility with millions of customers, particularly profitable ones such as governments and foreign corporations.

  36. Top European officials are demanding more information about the controversial US Internet surveillance program known as Prism. But new information has revealed that the EU weakened privacy regulations in early 2012 following intense US lobbying (…..) Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert added that Prism would definitely be on the agenda when US President Barack Obama visits Berlin next week. Obama is likewise almost certain to be grilled by journalists in the German capital at a joint press conference he plans to hold with Merkel. In addition, the mass-circulation tabloid Bild Zeitung reported on Thursday that the German Interior Ministry has sent a list of questions to the US Embassy demanding to know whether German citizens were spied on as part of the Prism program and whether data from German companies headquartered in Germany was accessed. Reding was opposed to the Commission scrapping the data protection measure in early 2012 and has made data protection a focus of her term in office. This week, she too has demanded more information on the program from Washington. According to a Wednesday report from Reuters, the justice commissioner sent a letter to US Attorney General Holder in which she writes: “I would request that you provide me with explanations and clarifications on the Prism program, other US programs involving data collection and search, and laws under which such programs may be authorized.”

    Ironically, it is the EU’s discarded data protection measure — and the resulting Prism scandal — that could now hinder negotiations over the trans-Atlantic trade agreement. With formal talks sent to kick off next month, the EU is considering adding data protection to the list of talking points. European companies are concerned that without adequate protection measures, technologies such as cloud computing — because most of the servers are in the US — will not take off in Europe out of concern that Washington will have easy access to that information. “The storage of the data in the foreign servers and related uncertainty constitutes a real impediment,” an unnamed Commission official told Reuters.

  37. One of the most startling revelations of the past week – since the “Guardian” and the “Washington Post” began publishing in-depth articles about secret surveillance programs run by the NSA – has been the degree to which private companies are intertwined with, and supportive of, the data-mining nets cast out by intelligence services. It’s often tempting to separate one intrusive practice from another and argue, for example, that social network providers are more justified in collecting private data because of the voluntary consent of their users to the terms of use, or that government agencies can harvest vast troves of data as long as their work helps to protect us from whatever threat scores high on the alarm-o-meter that day. Rarely is the question asked how the interplay of different forces undermines our informational integrity, how politics and economics intersect. One of the most important consequences of the NSA leak is that it’s now possible to ask those questions without descending into conspiracy theories. There’s plenty of hard evidence. Last Thursday, Ron Fournier, editor of the “National Journal,” summed up the NSA revelations with the following words: This decade “will be remembered for an unprecedented erosion of civil liberties and a disregard for transparency. On the war against a tactic — terrorism — and its insidious fallout, the United States could have skipped the 2008 election. It made little difference.” What Fournier didn’t add was the extent to which the erosion of civil liberties is rooted not only in Washington but also on the other side of the country, in Silicon Valley. The view that privacy discussions can be neatly separated into “threats from public authorities” and “threats from private companies” is quickly becoming less persuasive. One of the documents leaked to the Guardian is a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation that gives new intelligence operatives a detailed overview of a program called “PRISM” – complete with a code name straight out of a John le Carré novel and a logo that could just as easily have adorned a wall on the “V for Vendetta” movie set – that details the extent to which the NSA can access information from the servers of private communications and social network companies, and the degree to which these companies are aware of the government’s surveillance activities and forced to act as facilitators. Since 2007, when the Bush administration ended warrantless wiretapping after public uproar, companies have gradually been asked to comply with the NSA’s request for continued access to stored and live communications. (For a detailed description of how PRISM requests are executed in practice, see this “Washington Post” article) (…..)–3/7014-the-erosion-of-privacy

  38. Even as tech companies were given permission to publish some data on national security requests for users’ data, Google said the authorization did not go far enough. Facebook and Microsoft on Friday night published data that for the first time included national security requests authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which are broad surveillance orders that prohibit recipients from acknowledging their existence. The companies, led by Google, had publicly pressed the government to let them publish the data since Tuesday, in an attempt to quell anxiety among consumers after revelations of the government’s secret Internet surveillance program. The government gave the companies permission to publish the numbers only if they were grouped with all other government requests, including those from state and local governments and for criminal cases, making it difficult to glean any information about the national security requests. Google already publishes a report that separates requests by country and type, including search warrants, subpoenas and national security letters. The report does not include FISA requests. On Friday, the company issued a statement saying that publishing data that combines criminal and national security requests would be even less transparent than the data it currently publishes, and that it would continue to push the government for permission to publish the number and scope of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requests that it receives. “Lumping the two categories together would be a step back for users,” the statement said. “Our request to the government is clear: to be able to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, separately.” Google and other tech companies have said they want to disclose the information in part to correct impressions about their participation in government surveillance. While some have pushed back on the requests, they are forced to comply with lawful orders yet are unable to talk about them. Twitter, which also publishes a transparency report but does not include national security requests because of government orders, issued a statement in support of Google. “We agree with @Google: It’s important to be able to publish numbers of national security requests — including FISA disclosures — separately,” Benjamin Lee, Twitter’s legal director, wrote on Twitter. Facebook had never published data on government requests for users’ data until Friday because it had said the information was meaningless if it did not include national security requests. On Friday, Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s general counsel, said in a statement that the company was still trying to get permission from the government to publish more details. John Frank, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, wrote in a blog post, “We continue to believe that what we are permitted to publish continues to fall short of what is needed to help the community understand and debate these issues.”

  39. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: US internet providers are in big (financial) trouble because of PRISM. They have lost trust from their main customers, including foreign governments, big corporations and individuals requiring data and communication protection. Take for example Airbus involved in a fierce competition with Boeing. The european executives must be revising their cyber vulnerability in case of data and communication is done via a US provider. PRISM is just a contratempo with small segment of the American public. The cyber espionage program, however, is a HUGE problem for the financial bottom line and business model of US internet providers.

  40. If there is one thing we can take away from the news of recent weeks it is this: the modern American surveillance state is not really the stuff of paranoid fantasies; it has arrived. The revelations about the National Security Agency’s PRISM data collection program have raised awareness — and understandably, concern and fears — among American and those abroad, about the reach and power of secret intelligence gatherers operating behind the facades of government and business. But those revelations, captivating as they are, have been partial —they primarily focus on one government agency and on the surveillance end of intelligence work, purportedly done in the interest of national security. What has received less attention is the fact that most intelligence work today is not carried out by government agencies but by private intelligence firms and that much of that work involves another common aspect of intelligence work: deception. That is, it is involved not just with the concealment of reality, but with the manufacture of it. The realm of secrecy and deception among shadowy yet powerful forces may sound like the province of investigative reporters, thriller novelists and Hollywood moviemakers — and it is — but it is also a matter for philosophers. More accurately, understanding deception and and how it can be exposed has been a principle project of philosophy for the last 2500 years. And it is a place where the work of journalists, philosophers and other truth-seekers can meet. In one of the most referenced allegories in the Western intellectual tradition, Plato describes a group of individuals shackled inside a cave with a fire behind them. They are able to see only shadows cast upon a wall by the people walking behind them. They mistake shadows for reality. To see things as they truly are, they need to be unshackled and make their way outside the cave. Reporting on the world as it truly is outside the cave is one of the foundational duties of philosophers. In a more contemporary sense, we should also think of the efforts to operate in total secrecy and engage in the creation of false impressions and realities as a problem area in epistemology — the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of knowledge. And philosophers interested in optimizing our knowledge should consider such surveillance and deception not just fodder for the next “Matrix” movie, but as real sort of epistemic warfare (…..)

  41. (…..) On May 28 Jeremy Hammond pled guilty to the Stratfor hack, noting that even if he could successfully defend himself against the charges he was facing, the Department of Justice promised him that he would face the same charges in eight different districts and he would be shipped to all of them in turn. He would become a defendant for life. He had no choice but to plea to a deal in which he may be sentenced to 10 years in prison. But even as he made the plea he issued a statement, saying “I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors. I did what I believe is right.” (In a video interview conducted by Glenn Greenwald with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong this week, Snowden expressed a similar ethical stance regarding his actions.) Given the scope and content of what Hammond’s hacks exposed, his supporters agree that what he did was right. In their view, the private intelligence industry is effectively engaged in Psyops against American public., engaging in “planned operations to convey selected information to [us] to influence [our] emotions, motives, objective reasoning and, ultimately, [our] behavior”? Or as the philosopher might put it, they are engaged in epistemic warfare. The Greek word deployed by Plato in “The Cave” — aletheia — is typically translated as truth, but is more aptly translated as “disclosure” or “uncovering” — literally, “the state of not being hidden.” Martin Heidegger, in an essay on the allegory of the cave, suggested that the process of uncovering was actually a precondition for having truth. It would then follow that the goal of the truth-seeker is to help people in this disclosure — it is to defeat the illusory representations that prevent us from seeing the world the way it is. There is no propositional truth to be had until this first task is complete. This is the key to understanding why hackers like Jeremy Hammond are held in such high regard by their supporters. They aren’t just fellow activists or fellow hackers — they are defending us from epistemic attack. Their actions help lift the hood that is periodically pulled over our eyes to blind us from the truth.

  42. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: The use of deception and surveillance by private companies in the cyberspace is not the problem. Wall Street has been doing that for decades. The only difference is the new medium (cyberspace) in which deception takes place. The problem is state cyber espionage aimed at population control and power. I am not afraid of travel companies sending sales people to harass me at home. However, I’m very much afraid of having the man in black coming to my house, detaining and interrogating me and my family because an exchange of emails I had with someone considered a terrorist by the Brazilian state.

  43. When the United Arab Emirates wanted to create its own version of the National Security Agency, it turned to Booz Allen Hamilton to replicate the world’s largest and most powerful spy agency in the sands of Abu Dhabi. It was a natural choice: The chief architect of Booz Allen’s cyberstrategy is Mike McConnell, who once led the N.S.A. and pushed the United States into a new era of big data espionage. It was Mr. McConnell who won the blessing of the American intelligence agencies to bolster the Persian Gulf sheikdom, which helps track the Iranians. “They are teaching everything,” one Arab official familiar with the effort said. “Data mining, Web surveillance, all sorts of digital intelligence collection.” Yet as Booz Allen profits handsomely from its worldwide expansion, Mr. McConnell and other executives of the government contractor — which sells itself as the gold standard in protecting classified computer systems and boasts that half its 25,000 employees have Top Secret clearances — have a lot of questions to answer. Among the questions: Why did Booz Allen assign a 29-year-old with scant experience to a sensitive N.S.A. site in Hawaii, where he was left loosely supervised as he downloaded highly classified documents about the government’s monitoring of Internet and telephone communications, apparently loading them onto a portable memory stick barred by the agency? The results could be disastrous for a company that until a week ago had one of the best business plans in Washington, with more than half its $5.8 billion in annual revenue coming from the military and the intelligence agencies. Last week, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, whom Mr. McConnell regularly briefed when he was in government, suggested for the first time that companies like Booz Allen should lose their broad access to the most sensitive intelligence secrets. “We will certainly have legislation which will limit or prevent contractors from handling highly classified and technical data,” said Ms. Feinstein, a California Democrat. Senior White House officials said they agreed. Yet cutting contractors out of classified work is a lot harder in practice than in theory. Booz Allen is one of many companies that make up the digital spine of the intelligence world, designing the software and hardware systems on which the N.S.A. and other military and intelligence agencies depend. Mr. McConnell speaks often about the need for the private sector to jolt the government out of its attachment to existing systems, noting, for example, that the Air Force fought the concept of drones for years. Removing contractors from the classified world would be a wrenching change: Of the 1.4 million people with Top Secret clearances, more than a third are private contractors. (The background checks for those clearances are usually done by other contractors) (…..)

  44. sdkeller: Why is the media, our governments and the citizens that approve of this program refusing to talk about the real dangers of a program like this? This system is being managed and maintained by for-profit corporations and staffed by hundreds of thousands if not millions of employees with TS clearances. All it takes is for one of them to be disgruntled, get themselves in financial trouble, open themselves up to being blackmailed, or worse yet working as a double agent. We also know that these companies are revolving doors between the private sector and the government. So what’s to stop the private sector (ie. Big Oil, the MIC or bankers) from getting their own spies inside one of the many companies managing this system? I can think of numerous ways a system like this can be exploited for profit and other nefarious means. Our politicians’ private lives can be exploited and then blackmailed to vote for something they normally wouldn’t. The mega-banks could easily use a system like this to manipulate currency or foreign markets. Our multinationals could use this system to keep an eye on emerging technologies being worked on by small companies, and then patent and suppress that technology to keep it from hitting the market securing their dominance in a market. This system will also be a huge target from hackers around the world as well, which could then be used against our own country; politically, militarily, and economically. This is gigantic disaster waiting to happen.

  45. (NYT GOLDEN PICK) Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Excellent comments, sdkeller. The old organizational model of public versus private has changed in the US, impulsed greatly by the 9/11 event. Washington has been transferring traditional public attributions to the private sector. The US government became a big franchise operator like McDonalds. For example, US military forces can no longer engage in overseas operations without a huge army of private contractors to support combat operations. The NSA scandal reveals that even state secrets are now handled by private companies. In this new age of civilian contractors, state secrets have now a different meaning. No wonder a 29 years old, school dropout but computer geek revealing the most damaging cyber espionage operation in history. This new public-private model will certainly yield more surprises in the near future.

  46. (…..) In a 2008 book, The Way We’ll Be, US pollster John Zogby categorised this age cohort as First Globals. Tracking everything from views on gay marriage to propensity to travel, he described young Americans aged 18-29 as “the most outward-looking and accepting generation in American history”. Unfazed by social diversity at home, they held more open attitudes towards the rest of the world. They were far more likely to travel abroad than others, have friends or family overseas, and to be aware of international politics. “[They] might not be more able than other age cohorts to point to Darfur on a map,” argued Zogby, “but they at least know there is a Darfur, and they care what’s happening there.” The perpetual war and accompanying “anti-terror” security structure after 9/11 is all this generation has ever known. And it has had a profound impact on shaping their views on US foreign policy. In 2007, 63% (significantly higher than any other age group) disagreed with the statement “I support my country, right or wrong”. In 2004, 86% thought “an imperialist power that acts on its own regardless of what the rest of the world thinks” was improper or somewhat improper, while just 3% thought the opposite. On the latter question, Zogby wrote: “No other group we studied, not Democrats nor self-described progressives, not readers of the New York Times, had a greater spread between the two extremes.” It is in this context that the defiance and determination of these young people must be understood. One could make too much of their age as a unifying factor. Since these leaks demand proficiency with new technology, those involved are bound to be younger. And older people, with families, careers and pensions, are less likely to do things they know will put them in jail or force them to flee. Moreover, for all the similarities between them, there are significant differences. Snowden contributed money to Republican libertarian Ron Paul’s campaign; Hammond describes himself as an “anarchist-communist”. Yet, while each acted separately from the other, their unrepentant justifications read as though they were unconsciously working in concert. “I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors,” wrote Hammond (…..)

  47. (…..) What, exactly, is the purpose of the National Security Agency? Security, as its name might suggest? No matter in what system or to what purpose: A monitored human being is not a free human being. And every state that systematically contravenes human rights, even in the alleged service of security, is acting criminally. Those who believed that drone attacks in Pakistan or the camp at Guantanamo were merely regrettable events at the end of the world should stop to reflect. Those who still believed that the torture at Abu Ghraib or that the waterboarding in CIA prisons had nothing to do with them, are now changing their views. Those who thought that we are on the good side and that it is others who are stomping all over human rights are now opening their eyes. A regime is ruling in the United States today that acts in totalitarian ways when it comes to its claim to total control. Soft totalitarianism is still totalitarianism. We’re currently in the midst of a European crisis. But this unexpected flare-up of American imperialism serves as a reminder of the necessity for Europe. Does anyone seriously believe that Obama will ensure the chancellor and her interior minister that the American authorities will respect the rights of German citizens in the future? Only Europe can break the American fantasy of omnipotence. One option would be for Europe to build its own system of networks to prevent American surveillance. Journalist Frank Schirrmacher of the respected Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper recommended that over the weekend. “It would require subsidies and a vision as big as the moon landing,” he argues. A simpler approach would be to just force American firms to respect European laws. The European Commission has the ability to do that. The draft for a new data privacy directive has already been presented. It just has to be implemented. Once that happens, American secret services might still be able to walk all over European law, but if US Internet giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook want to continue making money off of a half-billion Europeans, then they will have to abide by our laws. Under the new law, companies caught passing on data in ways not permitted are forced to pay fines. You can be sure that these companies would in turn apply pressure to their own government. The proposal envisions setting that fine at 2 percent of a company’s worldwide revenues. That’s a lot of money — and also a language that America understands.


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