A PERSONAL EDITORIAL ON THE SNOWDEN AND LIKE REVELATIONS AND THE NATIONAL SECURITY-SURVEILLANCE STATEE
BY JIM CRAVEN/OMAHKOHKIAAIIPOOYII
Mr. Snowden’s revelations only the tip of a much bigger and looming iceberg.
For many of us who are published scholar-activists against imperialism, fascism and all other such oppressive “isms” that are often, in reality, so much like each other, these latest revelations of Mr. Snowden are nothing new nor are they particularly more disturbing than what we already know for sure without speculation. Most of us had read James Bamford’s “The Puzzle Palace: Inside the National Security Agency, America’s Most Secret Intelligence Organization”, a book that NSA actively sought to suppress, many years ago.
That book, which was once billed as having given out everything other than the combination to the NSA Director’s safe, told of the general scopes and depths of different angles of global surveillance and the capabilities NSA had developed and sought to develop. Years ago, CBS 60 Minutes did a piece on ECHELON on February 27, 2000 and how a Canadian CSIS analyst working for the U.S. Government (to circumvent U.S. laws on spying on U.S. citizens by U.S. citizens they use non-U.S. citizens and the U.S. Government returns the favors to other governments in the national surveillance state alliance: Canada; U.K.; Australia; New Zealand) spoke of an example such as a New Jersey housewife having an NSA file opened on her for months because she told her neighbor down the street that her son had “bombed” in school play. From the transcript:
KROFT: (Voiceover) The National Security Agency won’t talk about those successes or even confirm that a program called Echelon exists. But it’s believed the international terrorist Carlos the Jackal was captured with the assistance of Echelon, and that it helped identify two Libyans the US believes blew up Pan-Am Flight 103.
Is it possible for people like you and I, innocent civilians, to be targeted by Echelon?
Mr. FROST: Not only possible, not only probable, but factual. While I was at CSE, a classic example: A lady had been to a school play the night before, and her son was in the school play and she thought he did a–a lousy job. Next morning, she was talking on the telephone to her friend, and she said to her friend something like this, ‘Oh, Danny really bombed last night,’ just like that. The computer spit that conversation out. The analyst that was looking at it was not too sure about what the conversation w–was referring to, so erring on the side of caution, he listed that lady and her phone number in the database as a possible terrorist.
KROFT: This is not urban legend you’re talking about. This actually happened?
Mr. FROST: Factual. Absolutely fact. No legend here.
James Bamford then came out with another book on NSA “Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency” in 2002, “Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies” in 2004 and “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America” in 2008. We also have had numerous articles from James Bamford see the Wikipedia reference And there are so many other books and articles on NSA that can easily be sourced and linked I do not need to source and link them here.
I mention Bamford as he was a pioneer among journalists in this area; and a lot of the work after him has narrowed rather than broadened the scope and depth of his work. My point here is only to document that there has been pioneering and substantive work, including from previous whistle-blowers, fully available to the “Mainstream Media” [MSM] and indeed the literate citizenry for some time to get outraged about.
And some of the stuff in Bamford’s works is about outright criminality worse than the most severe critics of Snowden have alleged: treason and its cover-up; false flag operations and cover-ups of their blowbacks; e.g. the apparent “real reasons” for the Israeli attack on the U.S.S. Liberty and U.S.-Israeli cover-up of it. This is a story that still remains hidden that even Bamford was led away from with his account in “Body of Secrets” of an incriminating (for the Israelis) story,(the kind that looks so bad one does not dig even deeper–which is trade-craft for a cover story and diversion from an even deeper and nastier real story). SEE and SEE and SEE and SEE and SEE
Bamford presented the picture (from NSA documents to which he had access) about Israelis acting like Nazi Einsatzgruppen Squads and executing Egyptian POWs in the Sinai and, fearing their communications had been overheard by the NSA ship the USS Liberty, but they did not know that a NSA EC-121 aircraft had also overheard the same communications, they thought that if they sunk the USS Liberty and killed all the crew, a ship they knew was a U.S. NSA ship, they could bury the story.
Note that new information has come out on the real reasons for the Israeli attack that remain mostly hidden and/or marginalized and demonized still today real reason that even Bamford missed at the time. The newist information was that it was a false flag operation designed to use unmarked Mirage aircraft like those also used by Egyptians, to draw the U.S. and tactical nuclear weapons-cover at the time into the war. This is precisely what almost happened. See the attached videos on the treachery of elements of the U.S. Government in all of this as well.
EISENHOWER ON THE MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX:
Weapons of Mass: Destruction, Distraction, Diversion, Dumbing
And imagine what scholars and activists concerned with the powers and implications of the National-Security-Surveillance State face when one considers that NSA only recently declassified a 200-plus-year-old book on codes ? Or the “Pentagon Papers” only recently declassified after release 40 years ago.
Indeed the powers-that-be have many ways to tie up Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for years and routinely do so. And every once in a while a genuine whistle-blower shows up, along with the periodic “poison pills” [e.g. sensational sources or documents that the intelligence community plants to kill stories with grabbing, dramatic and revealing sources that trigger immediate responses and damages, but, that then implode within a certain time frame, and with them the whole story]. This then starts a new scramble for the latest tid-bits from what is only a story to those who have never been in this “psyops-story-loop” over the years. And we typically hear all these voices like Louie the Vichy-French cop in Cassablanca so shocked there is “actual gambling going on in Cassablanca”; often incensed only that they were not let in on the secrets to give their approvals that those who did not seek their approval should have known would have been pro forma if only they had been asked.
What is “National” or any kind of real “Security” if That System Which is Being “Secured” or “Protected” is the Real Threat to the Nation and its real security–and even a threat to Global Security?
Indeed the first issue of “National Security” is definitions: What do we mean by the “Nation” and what do we mean by “Security”? In any nation that is a class society, the interests of the dominant class are most often defined as the interests of the “whole nation”; just as the definitions of “security” are often the definitions of the dominant class–security of private property; security of elite privilege and gated communities etc. Bertolt Brecht summed-up this mentality of smug entitlement and hubris of imperialism and the likes of what is often called “American Culture” so nicely and succinctly in this poem:
“Who who take the meat from the table,
Those for whom the taxes are destined,
Those who eat their fill, speak to the hungry,
of wonderful times to come.
Those who lead the country into the abyss,
call ruling too difficult,
for ordinary folk.”
We are taught in bourgeois culture at an early age to think of “national security” in narrow and essentially militaristic terms. But even in militaristic terms, take for example, the latest “Transformation Doctrine” [aiming at an increasingly privatized, agile, sophisticated, high-tech, rapid, flexible and lethal U.S. military force structure]. This requires, more than ever, a high-quality educational system, along with incentives and reasons to enlist and remain in the military, to deliver the skilled operators needed and with the relevant skills and capabilities as and when needed.
But we know from the history of warfare globally as well as that of the U.S., that militarism, along with reckless and criminal uses of military, para-military and mercenary forces, more often than not, even with high-tech and detached weapons and “Special Ops” forces, along with their uses and effects on innocents, have undermined rather than enhanced “National Security”–no matter who’s definition. Never mind the critics of NSA, CIA or those who left in bitterness, just take the accounts of former intelligence officers who are still true believers, and still you find overwhelming evidence of treachery, turf-protecting and in-fights, all sorts of “collateral damage” and blowbacks that were predicted and ignored; even in their accounts of their supposed successes.
NATIONAL SECURITY IS A MULTI-DIMENSIONAL CREATURE
Public support for the military and its adventures, on the basis of correct information and representations [earned credibility] by government to the public and oversight by other branches of government, ultimately is a matter of national security.
Military forces properly staffed and without gang-bangers, neo-Nazis, thieves, sociopaths and psychopaths, drug users, marginal test scores and outright criminals, the kind that do not obey illegal orders and commit atrocities is a matter of national security. SEE THIS STORY
A system that delivers equal justice and proper case-law precedents–and that is perceived to be doing so by the broad masses–is a matter of national security.
A citizenry that thinks and acts “holistically” rather than on the basis of narrow, selfish and parochial single-interests is a matter of national security.
Universal access to affordable and high quality health care, shelter, clothing, food and recreation is a matter of national security.
Policies and practices consistent with “Environmental Sustainability” are a matter of national security.
Realistic and effective standards, pedagogy and curricula in education and universal accessibility to quality education are a matter of national security.
Government and key institutions being free from the intrigues of malignant narcissists, megalomaniacs, maniac ideologues, psychopaths and sociopaths are a matter of national security.
Stable and shared economic growth and development is a matter of national security.
Children who are wanted, loved, nurtured and protected from abuse are a matter of national security.
A Government and its branches not controlled by elites and their money-influence-power triad [and that is perceived to be so], is a matter of national security.
Reducing inequalities in access to information, government, media, education, legal representation, medical care and other essentials of life is a matter of national security.
A culture that uplifts the masses instead of dragging them down into cults of despair, narcissism, ultra-individualism and selfishness along with fatalistic nihilism, is a matter of national security.
A system free of divisive racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination is a matter of national security.
Redress of the effects of historical legacies of racism, genocide, slavery, discrimination and inherited inequalities that compromise free,fair and lawful competition and cooperation are a matter of national security.
Hiring and promotion on the basis of merit and credentials, rather than nepotism, cronyism, political patronage and the like, is a matter of national security.
High-quality science that addresses the real and critical problems of the nation and world is a matter of national security.
A news media that addresses real issues substantively, without fear of favor, rather than being “Access Whores” and “Lap Dogs” of the powerful is a matter of national security.
Foreign and other policies free of rank hypocrisy and that recognize and respect the very same laws and principles that the nation demands of other nations be respected for itself [Credibility] is a matter of national security.
A system that allows Freedom FROM as well as OF Religion is a matter of national security.
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ADD TO THIS LESS THAN COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF MULTI-DIMENSIONAL ISSUES THAT MAKE UP “NATIONAL SECURITY”:
NATIONAL SECURITY DEFINED BY WHOM AND IN WHOSE INTERESTS?
So part of the question of national security is do we have the kind of system, ostensibly representing the “nation”, that is even worth being “secure”–or that any sane person would want to be “secure” from radical transformation and/or elimination?
What does “national security” or even “mainstream” mean in the context of a system say like that of Nazi Germany? Does it not mean that to be “Nazi-like” is to be “mainstream”? Is that the kind of system any rational person would want to see and make “secure” even under the banner of “national security”?
So the first problem is who really defines and speaks for “The Nation” and who defines “Security” in a society based on deep class divisions and asymmetries in power and influence over government and the media? All sorts of crimes have been and are being committed under the banner of “National Security”.
BEN FRANKLIN’S AXIOM ON LIBERTY VS SECURITY OR “SAFETY”: They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
There is ALSO the issue not only of the supposed “trade-off” between security and liberty, or between security and privacy, but how, by whom and under what banners are those “trade-offs” defined, measured, worked out and balanced? What kinds of checks and balances exist to monitor the shifting definitions and metrics of “trade-offs” and “balances” between liberty or privacy versus “security”–personal or national?
In this area I have many worries about what many Americans will do, who they would sell-out, what Faustian deals they would do for their own notions of “personal safety” and that of their loved ones. We have all seen examples from public life or even “colleagues” at work we thought were that–“colleagues” or even friends–sell-out, become management snitches and toadies, even for small favors, often fearing unemployment and being largely unemployable if discovered as the frauds and poseurs they proved themselves to be.
Indeed the Nazis actually did not have at all a large ratio of Gestapo Agents to the Population and most of their tips were from the public snitching on each other for some payback or for some personal advantage. According to an internal document of CIA on detainees at GITMO, over 75% were people detained had nothing to do with terrorism and were picked up or snitched on for reward money, or as payback for a family feud or to get rid of a business rival. The same phenomenon happened with respect to the infamous Phoenix Assassination Program in Vietnam.
Bourgeois culture is one of malignant narcissism, selfishness, ultra-individualism, rat-race competition, predatory calculation and single-issue myopia. The type of person who makes a “good customer” and generates expanding markets and profits and market power is the kind that is impulsive, self-absorbed, materialistic, acquisitive, debt-fueled and obsessed with fads and “keeping up with the Jonses”, is not the kind one wants in a military unit in combat or even as a say son-in-law.
That is one of the central contradictions of capitalism: that the type of person needed in a military unit or on the shop floor of a factory [cooperative, able to sacrifice, able to delay gratification, sacrifices for the collective, holistic thinker] is not the type of person that makes a good “Homo Oeconomicus” that fuels the growth of markets, profits and market power–the core imperatives of all capitalist entities.
MEANS AND ENDS versus MEANS SHAPE AND INFLUENCE ENDS–AND VICE VERSA
Next there is the issue of possible limits on means no matter the asserted goals or ends pursued using those means. We have all sorts of examples where supposed “extreme crises” and “strategic imperatives” were used not only as pretexts for war, but also used to justify means and military actions that actually compromised rather than enhanced progress toward and attaining the purported goals or objectives of the means being employed. We know that shifting “doctrines” of war fighting, along with the usual “Fog of War”, low morale among troops, along with atrocities against civilians in the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars for example, wound up as the best sources for the recruiting of anti-U.S. insurgents that later produced the losses and retreats by U.S. forces that were and are evident in these past and present wars. This also applies with other battle-spaces and U.S. covert [JSOC] operations in over 75 countries in the world, with a presence in over 130 nations and over 1000 military bases.
High-tech weapons launched from the air by drones [to hide the true costs in “blood and treasure” of war] no matter how “smart” and “accurate”, cannot ever win “hearts and minds” on the ground; they can only recruit more not less insurgents and typically do so; see the case of the drone assassinations of Anwar Awlawki and his son two Abdulrahman weeks later.
Means and ends are not separable as each influences the other. The notion “the ends justify the means” is an empty cliche; one must specify the ends and why certain means are the only possible means to given ends or goals. Yes, some ends justify some means and are best pursued by certain means over others. But there are some means and actions that can never be justified on any grounds–in pursuit of any purported worthy goals or ends. Genocide is an example; no ends, no goals, no “strategic imperatives” can justify genocide or indeed any of the like ends and means for which Nazis were hanged at Nuremberg.
Further, often means employed are a tip-off of real goals and intentions. Anyone remember Rumsfeld’s notes right after 9-11?
. . . at 2:40 p.m., the notes quote Rumsfeld as saying he wanted “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H.” – meaning Saddam Hussein – “at same time. Not only UBL” – the initials used to identify Osama bin Laden . . . “Go massive,” the notes quote him as saying. “Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”
To quote further:
“To those of us who were questioning the Bush administration’s push to invade Iraq, this article was nothing short of mind-blowing. The last part of the notes was the kicker. What did Rumsfeld mean when he asked his aides to “[s]weep it all up,” looking for “[t]hings related and not,” unless he was encouraging them to cherry-pick for anything that could be used to link the attacks to Iraq? In ten words, Donald Rumsfeld had confirmed our very worst fears about the Bush administration’s reckless approach to Iraq. Looking at the article, it is obvious that CBS knew that the last few sentences were the key part of the quotation. Printed in bold letters, under a menacing photo of Rumsfeld, were the lines: “Go massive . . . Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” “
Right now, Obama seeks and justifies, as did Bush before him, “Total Information Awareness” and the gathering of all electronic and digital signals globally. This is even as they still have many hundreds of thousands of hours of still-untranslated conversations and documents of alleged terrorists in various languages. This signals that this present global vacuuming of all data from friends and foes alike, is for future purposes and capabilities to be developed from the data being gathered. And the argument for developing these capabilities and data bases they cannot at present fully use is simply the supposed GWOT (Global War on Terrorism) and this is what they think they need “TO KEEP US SAFE”.
But this is the kind of argument of a smug and entitled psychopath or sociopath will make: These are MY goals or objectives or just what I want done; and that, that alone, MY needs or perceived interests, are all that are needed [both necessary and sufficient conditions] to justify to myself or anyone else, what means are fully justified in the pursuit of those interests and objectives [e.g. what is necessary and most expedient in my own view is justified by MY goals and interests and what is necessary and expedient to their realization] and thus what I want and need to be done. It is all very tautological: Interests and objectives are both the basis of selecting means to those ends; means that become “justified” by their utility and expedience relative to the ends, goals and interests being served and pursued [no matter the effects of both the means and ends on others, or the rights of others, or even being in accordance with the same laws invoked for one’s own protection or own professed values.
And then we have the case of IBM and the Nazi Holocaust is a perfect example of how seemingly innocuous registrations, census, their own version of “Total Information Awareness” coupled with the card sorting/reading machines and computers of IBM, significantly enhanced the capabilities of the Nazis to identify, register, round-up, account for, transport, intern and ultimately exterminate Jews and other targeted groups by the Nazis. No technologies are ever free of potential corrupt uses in the hands of corrupt forces that control them.
THE PETRAEUS-BROADWELL CASE
A case study of the Petraeus scandal
TRUST IS EARNED NOT COMMANDED:
Even if one were to trust a Congress that has a lower approval rating than some serial killers, and an Executive Branch with approval ratings that are sinking with more of their rank hypocrisy and duplicity being exposed, and a Judiciary composed largely of politicians and political hacks in flowing black robes and other costumes, there is still the problem of future regimes, perhaps nakedly fascist rather than proto-fascist like this one appears to be, having those capabilities and information being developed to work with. Imagine a Hitler with the present and evolving capabilities of NSA and CIA and the other 15 intelligence agencies. Yet many of those involved in the present accelerated changes since 9-11 have demonstrated some of the same proclivities as well as methods as Hitler and his Nazis have used.
CAPABILITIES IN THE HANDS OF ALL-VOLUNTEER MILITARY AND INCREASING USE OF NON-TRANSPARENT AND UNACCOUNTABLE MERCENARIES
There is also again the problem is these capabilities in the hands of an “All-Volunteer Military”, privatized (unaccountable and non-transparent) mercenaries and the Doctrine of “Transformation” of the U.S. military force structures, doctrines and deployments and all that that implies.
The political as well as military elites do not want a return to the draft if it can be possibly avoided. They do not even want to call up the Reserves although they have had to at unprecedented levels in order to avoid the draft this time. Why? It is obvious. To go to war over any potentially protracted time period, some kind of public support is necessary to get the money, troops and political room to conduct war. To get that support of a public from an “I-want-it-all-and-I-want-it-now” culture and system, the powers-that-be need to hide the potential as well as actual true costs and scopes/depths of war (in blood and treasure) while hyping the purported benefits in terms of national security and the like.
After Vietnam, the first television and near-real-time war, attempts to hide the true costs of war, and the “Manufacture of Consent” have been priorities for the military and government and increasingly covert and sophisticated. After first trying to isolate journalists, the thinking evolved to thinking that perhaps embedded journalists with the military, beholden on the troops for protection and special access, would not likely write incriminating or embarrassing things about those to whom they rely on for their safety. And those formerly of the military or other agencies of government embedded in the news and entertainment media, are would be beholden on the news organizations for their jobs as well as to their former employers in government who clear their former employees as “trustworthy” for the media.
Recently and suspiciously-deceased journalist Michael Hastings wrote extensively and persuasively about the global battlefield of special operations as well as the military using Psyops capabilities on U.S.Senators to influence their votes on military issues. Indeed there is not only the “military-industrial complex”, but there are many such complexes and “iron triangles”, “revolving doors” and “cross-embedding” like that of Congress-Military-Defense Contractors Complex; Military-Media-Congress; University-Intelligence-Defense Contractors; Media-Industry-Finance; Telecom-Intelligence-Military; Corporate-Intelligence-Media; Congress-Think Tank-Military-Intelligence; etc They would all be directing and utilizing these capabilities being developed.
The draft when it has been employed, always had means for the rich and connected to avoid military service. During the Civil War, elites like Carnegie escaped the draft for $300 paying someone poor to take their place. In Vietnam, over 80% of those who “served”, were from working class and/or national minorities. Some people when they lose their children to war handle the cognitive dissonance by justifying wars and thus the “sacrifice” of their child; but sometimes, perhaps more often than not, they eventually come to question the wars in which they lost their children and those who started them under false pretexts, lies and cherry picked intelligence. The evidence is the erratic nature and levels of poll results over time from high to low levels of support for various wars as their true costs in blood and treasure become more evident and mounting.
But then how to get recruits to volunteer when military service appears so unattractive to the majority of the population? Less than 1% of the U.S. population has had any military experience which is why so many of the people are so profuse in their “Support Our Troops” sycophancy: As Dr. Samuel Johnson put it: “Every man thinks less of himself for not having been a soldier.” And how to get the kind of people who will obey illegal orders when demanded? How to get people to do some “enhanced interrogation” in places like GITMO or to let loose some missles from drones against American citizens who have not even been formally charged with crimes let alone been indicted and tried? When I was in boot camp in the U.S. Army no one ever told me that UCMJ demanded that I not obey illegal orders nor did they ever define what an illegal order looked like.
So what we see more and more according to several sources, is a U.S. military that has more than one kind of “DADT” (Don’t ask, don’t tell”) “Doctrine” operating: DADT with respect to neo-Nazis, gang-bangers, former drug users, those with criminal records that would have been prohibitive previously, along with some who are obese, low test scores and out of shape. As recruitment targets are increasingly not being met, standards are relaxed during various periods while deployments and duration of deployments per deployed troop increases to the breaking point. This has led to unprecedented suicide and divorce rates in the military.
When I was in the U.S. Army, 1963-66 at a time when homophobia was much more open and lethal than today, I knew Gays who outed themselves as well as non-Gays who played at being Gay in order to avoid being sent to Vietnam. In some cases it was just not wanting to go to combat and in other cases it was a conscious choice not to be directly involved (all Vietnam-Era veterans were at least indirectly involved and subject to being sent to Vietnam hence Vietnam-Era as a special category) in an illegal and barbaric war. Yet today, we find some of the LGBT activists that define “liberation” as having an “equal opportunity” to become an oppressor [e.g. at at time when many in the world see the U.S. as the “Number One” source of state-sponsored terrorism, they are defining and seeking “mainstreaming” and “legitimacy” as tools of U.S. imperialism and terrorism while some “feminists” are defining “liberation” as having an “equal opportunity” to be in combat with the men even in illegal wars, and earn the medals that are required for promotion to the level of general along with the guys]. Some of these folks will be gathering and using this Total Information Awareness in the future.
It is an axiom of law that unequal treatment before or under The Law erodes any confidence in or effectiveness of the law and thus The Law and Rule of Law itself. This applies whether municipal, state, federal or international law. No constitution can continue and be sustained if there is inequality in its coverage and application. All those who break the law have some kind of pretext, excuse or supposed “exigency” that justifies their breaking the very same laws they invoke for their own protection and that of their nation or loved ones. There are no “special people” just as there are no “special nations” not subject to the very same laws and principles they return to invoke when their interests change.
The Good News is that most of these megalomaniacs and control freaks ordering up all these data and data-gathering/analysis capabilities will never be able to utilize even a small portion of what they are collecting. The labor like the Labor of Sisyphus but they are dangerous and must be exposed. And it is the whistle-blowers like Snowden and so many others that are also “embedded” in government and some of them do know what an illegal order looks like and will not follow but will revolt.
“In the contradiction lies the hope.” also Bertolt Brecht.