A Summers’ mirror

Writing of President Barack Obama’s recent climb-downs on an attack on Syria and on a nomination of Lawrence Summers, Perry Bacon, Jr., writes that “Obama seems to have decided he is not ‘the decider,’ the term George W. Bush used in articulating his role as president.” Though Bacon disagrees with Obama’s initial decisions on both Syria and the Summers nomination, this is a largely fawning piece. “Some have suggested these moves point to a weakened president, lacking the ability to sway members of Congress or the American public to support him or the boldness and gumption to simply charge ahead anyway.” Bacon argues that Obama listens and “at times is ready to toss aside his opinions, and that should be applauded.”[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Perry Bacon, Jr., “Barack Obama: Not ‘the decider,’ but a president who listens,” Grio, September 16, 2013, http://thegrio.com/2013/09/16/barack-obama-not-the-decider-but-a-president-who-listens/

Imperialism has its costs

Note, November 26, 2013: This entry has been updated with a parenthetical note in line at the end of the second paragaph. This has disrupted footnote numbering.

“The agencies insist that the ability to defeat encryption is vital to their core missions of counter-terrorism and foreign intelligence gathering,” reports a Guardian story breaking the latest National Security Agency domestic spying revelations. “But security experts accused them of attacking the internet itself and the privacy of all users.”[1]

I run my own servers and it is inconceivable that I have been alone in watching the NSA revelations emerge without some sense of foreboding and a very large question: Which of the technologies I routinely rely upon is secure? That question has now been answered. A New York Times graphic makes clear that nearly every encryption technology I use has been compromised.[2] Even some technologies I use that aren’t specifically listed are implicated. (Update, November 26, 2013: Further revelations have offered both a more nuanced understanding of the the NSA’s decryption capabilities and an even more damning view of three-letter agencies’ ambitions.[fn]David Benfell, “N.S.A. scandal timeline,” November 7, 2013, https://parts-unknown.org/wp/2013/11/07/peeping-obama-prospects-for-a-movement-to-restore-the-right-of-privacy/[/fn] My own security situation is better than I thought at the time I originally wrote this post and I am taking steps to improve it further.)

Read more

  1. [1]James Ball, Julian Borger and Glenn Greenwald, “US and UK spy agencies defeat privacy and security on the internet,” Guardian, September 5, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/05/nsa-gchq-encryption-codes-security
  2. [2]New York Times, “Unlocking Private Communications,” September 5, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/09/05/us/unlocking-private-communications.html

The horse has left the barn

I’ve already noted that the U.S. elite seem to have gone over the edge, that they now rule by coercion rather than through legitimacy.[1] The U.S. and U.K. governments’ reactions in the cases of Julian Assange,[2] Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning,[3] and Edward Snowden[4] have displayed not measured policy making but rather a furious and hysterical effort to dominate that has, in all probability, repeatedly violated international norms and laws as well as human rights, civil liberties, and notions of basic human decency.[5] Further, in granting immunity to the Bush administration for crimes it has embraced and extended,[6] the Obama administration removes any doubt about its expectation that, as Jonathan Turley wrote of administration policy on Syria, “[t]he world must obey our commands and we are not to be mocked.”[7] Long imperious, the United States can no longer be considered a participant—perhaps first among equals—on the world stage but rather an extremely dangerous rogue superpower, a bully armed with a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons[8] and the world’s most expensive—by far—military,[9] determined to get its way.

Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Big brother wants you to be afraid,” August 19, 2013, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=5806
  2. [2]Juan Cole, “Ayatollah Cameron Threatens to invade Ecuador Embassy re: Assange (or, Whitewashing Iran for the US National Security State),” Informed Comment, August 16, 2013, Ayatollah Cameron Threatens to invade Ecuador Embassy re: Assange (or, Whitewashing Iran for the US National Security State); Philip Dorling, “Revealed: US plans to charge Assange,” Sydney Morning Herald, February 29, 2012, http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/revealed-us-plans-to-charge-assange-20120228-1u14o.html; Philip Dorling, “US senator calls to prosecute Assange,” Sydney Morning Herald, July 2, 2012, http://www.smh.com.au/national/us-senator-calls-to-prosecute-assange-20120701-21b3n.html; Philip Dorling, “US calls Assange ‘enemy of state’,” Sydney Morning Herald, September 27, 2012, http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/us-calls-assange-enemy-of-state-20120927-26m7s.html; Tony Eastley, “Pilger says the US wants Assange,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, October 8, 2012, http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2012/s3421114.htm; Rosa Prince, “FCO ‘risks breaching international law’ over Assange embassy crisis,” Telegraph, August 16, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/wikileaks/9479250/FCO-risks-breaching-international-law-over-Assange-embassy-crisis.html; Kim Sengupta, “Assange could face espionage trial in US,” Independent, December 8, 2010, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/assange-could-face-espionage-trial-in-us-2154107.html
  3. [3]Jacob Chamberlain, “Manning’s Right to a Speedy Trial Not Violated After 1,000 Days, Judge Rules,” Common Dreams, February 26, 2013, https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/02/26-7; MercoPress, “Wikileaks suspect suffered “cruel and degrading” treatment, says UN rapporteur on torture,” March 5, 2012, http://en.mercopress.com/2012/03/05/wikileaks-suspect-suffered-cruel-and-degrading-treatment-says-un-rapporteur-on-torture; Kevin Gosztola, “Defense Motion Details Horrific Conditions Bradley Manning Was Subjected to at Quantico,” Firedoglake, August 10, 2012, http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2012/08/10/defense-motion-details-horrific-conditions-bradley-manning-was-subjected-to-at-quantico/; Ed Pilkington, “Bradley Manning’s treatment was cruel and inhuman, UN torture chief rules,” Guardian, March 12, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/12/bradley-manning-cruel-inhuman-treatment-un; Ed Pilkington, “Bradley Manning lawyer alleges slow trial is ‘an absolute mockery’ of rights,” Guardian, September 27, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/27/bradley-manning-lawyers-absolute-mockery; Ed Pilkington, “Bradley Manning judge rules length of soldier’s detention ‘reasonable’,” Guardian, February 26, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/feb/26/bradley-manning-trial-rejects-dismiss-charges; Ed Pilkington, “Bradley Manning WikiLeaks trial ‘dangerous’ for civil liberties – experts,” Guardian, June 2, 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/03/bradley-manning-wikileaks-trial-aiding-enemy; Daniel Politi, “Judge: Bradley Manning Detention Conditions Were ‘Excessive’,” Slate, January 8, 2013, http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2013/01/08/bradley_manning_detention_conditions_excessive_says_judge.html
  4. [4]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Mercosur ‘to recall’ envoys over Bolivia Snowden plane row,” July 12, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-23297581; Jamil Dakwar and Chandra Bhatnagar, “U.S. Actions in Snowden Case Threaten Right to Seek Asylum,” American Civil Liberties Union, July 11, 2013, http://www.aclu.org/blog/human-rights-national-security/us-actions-snowden-case-threaten-right-seek-asylum; Doug Stanglin, “Ecuador nixes U.S. trade pact, ‘blackmail’ over Snowden,” USA Today, June 27, 2013, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/06/27/ecuador-nsa-edward-snowden-asylum-andean-trade-pact-tariff-renounces/2463465/; Trevor Timm, “Snowden cannot receive a fair trial here,” Salon, August 15, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/08/15/snowden_cannot_receive_a_fair_trial_here/; Shaun Walker and Heather Saul, “Edward Snowden saga: Bolivia accuses Europe of ‘kidnapping’ Bolivian president in forcing Evo Morales’ plane to land in Vienna,” Independent, July 3, 2013, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/edward-snowden-saga-bolivia-accuses-europe-of-kidnapping-bolivian-president-in-forcing-evo-morales-plane-to-land-in-vienna-8682610.html; Fred Weir, “Putin acknowledges Snowden is ‘trapped’ in Russia,” Christian Science Monitor, July 15, 2013, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2013/0715/Putin-acknowledges-Snowden-is-trapped-in-Russia-video
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Moral Bankruptcy,” July 4, 2013, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=5628; David Benfell, “Time to leave the Airport,” July 10, 2013, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=5683
  6. [6]Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s justice department grants final immunity to Bush’s CIA torturers,” Guardian, August 31, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/31/obama-justice-department-immunity-bush-cia-torturer
  7. [7]Jonathan Turley, “What If We Gave A War And No One Came? English Parliament Rejects Move To War,” August 30, 2013, http://jonathanturley.org/2013/08/30/what-if-we-gave-a-war-and-no-one-came-english-parliament-rejects-move-to-war/
  8. [8]Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, “Global nuclear weapons inventories, 1945–2010,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 66, no. 4 (2010): 77-83, doi: 10.2968/066004008, http://bos.sagepub.com/content/66/4/77.full
  9. [9]Chris Hellman and Mattea Kramer, “War Pay: The Nearly $1 Trillion National Security Budget,” TomDispatch, May 22, 2012, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175545/tomgram%3A_hellman_and_kramer%2C_how_much_does_washington_spend_on_; Aaron B. O’Connell, “The Permanent Militarization of America,” New York Times, November 4, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/05/opinion/the-permanent-militarization-of-america.html