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Masterminds of spying against Merkel have to be brought to justice

In the previous texts about the global spying by the NSA, I was sort of neutral but times are changing.

Spiegel and Bild claim to have the testimony of an anonymous NSA official who claims that Angela Merkel's phone was not only eavesdropped between 2002 and 2013 but in 2010, Barack Obama explicitly requested the continuation of the program because "he didn't believe her". The U.S. embassy in Berlin – a building near the Brandenburger Gate – was used to collect the information.




I am confident that there hasn't been any evidence that Merkel has been involved in terrorist attacks etc. and spying on politicians who are not suspect at all is illegal according to the laws of civilized countries like those in the Western Europe. Spying on politicians who are publicly presented as best friends – and whom you kiss all the time – is deeply immoral, too.

Barack Obama – and others directly involved, perhaps going back to 2002 – should probably be captured and placed in a jail for a few years or decades. At least, we must praise Obama for consistency: he is only lying on days that end with a letter "Y". ;-)




It's sort of painful for the U.S. voters to have elected such a smiling beast pretending to be a friend and hurting everyone behind the scenes. It's equally painful for the Nobel Peace Prize committee to have awarded this individual with a Nobel Peace Prize. But it's their problem. None of these things should be enough to protect a criminal from a punishment he deserves. If Obama were placed in a German jail, his voters would probably look like clowns but that's OK because they *are* clowns. ;-)

In 2002, it was shortly after 9/11 and I can imagine that there was a "surge" whose justification boiled down to terrorism at the end. This is the only justification we're hearing these days, too. However, it's totally obvious that none of these justifications was legitimate as an excuse to keep on spying on Merkel in 2010.



Obama has looked moderate to me at many points in the past but it could have been just an illusion, an artifact of his carefully fabricated image. Now it seems that he has some characteristic totalitarian instincts of a person who isn't afraid of spying on the leader of Europe's most important country, who probably isn't afraid to kill inconvenient people, and even to introduce new taxes and mandatory health insurance. Obama's psychology is something we know from the godfathers of communism.

I personally think it is an extremely bad idea to promote this diplomatic conflict to a conflict between countries and continents. This has been just a defect of a few rotten apples. All sensible Europeans and Americans should agree that these procedures shouldn't be taking place in civilized countries, against leaders of peaceful democratic countries. Every sensible European and American should agree that nothing too bad has apparently happened, except for the loss of confidence in several leaders and officials, and that the confidence may be restored once changes are made that will nearly guarantee that those things won't be repeated.

There is no sufficiently rational reason to abolish the negotiations about the EU-US free trade pact. People in both continents should view this scandal as nothing else than a violation of the law by several people inside the Western civilization – a shared problem that almost everyone in the West would evaluate pretty much equally. The victim could have been the Texas governor rather than the German chancellor, too. The organizers of the spying could have been bosses of the SPD, too. We shouldn't think that the actual situation was qualitatively different just because Merkel isn't a U.S. citizen or because Obama isn't a German citizen.

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reader Dilaton said...

It's embarassing that our country, or maybe even Europe as a whole does not have the spine to restrain those bastards, sorry :-) !


I mean, what Obama or generally the US governement do in their own country, is not exactly our business. But in my opinion, Germany and Europa should feel obliged to defend the needs and privacy of their citizens (including polticians and our Angie) by showing the US for example an appropriate line they can not cross...


To me Obama first looked like a rather nice guy, but now his true colors (character and intentions) seem to get revealed ...


reader Luboš Motl said...

True, Dilaton! Europe is likely to show itself as a toothless continent again. If the opposite situation took place, the American reaction would probably be rather assertive.


It seems clear to me that the bosses who approved of the continuation of the program without a justifiable reason have violated the U.S. laws, too. A question is whether the Americans would agree that the law should be respected and culprits should be punished - or whether they will invent excuses and exceptions covered by nationalist sentiments. That could become pretty bad for the relations between the continents.


reader Eugene S said...

If you're talking about the dangerous terrorist who used the name "Angela Merkel", thanks to NSA she's been arrested and not a moment too soon, she was planning to blow herself up together with the world's leaders at the next G20 summit.


reader papertiger0 said...

"A question is whether the Americans would agree that the law should be respected and culprits should be punished - or whether they will invent excuses and exceptions covered by nationalist sentiments. "





The answer is burn them all. No excuse. No exception.


reader Amy Ridenour said...

As an American who happens to like Merkel more than Obama, I read your post with interest. However, is it not the case that at that level (heads of govt), everyone is spying on everyone else? Also, under what law(s) would Obama be jailed? Domestic German law?


reader Kimmo Rouvari said...

I agree with lumo. There must be consequences for such an activity. But that would be a wonder par on Jesus walking on water, so ain't gonna happen.


On the other hand, I wonder how incompetent German intelligence agency is! I mean, it should be obvious and default assumption that somebody is trying to spy on country leaders (as well as the rest of the citizens). Maybe very close relationship between U.S. and German intelligence agencies explains the outcome ;-)


Positive outcome from this scandal is a new awareness of "spy games". New business opportunities for other countries (boost for non-U.S. cloud service providers, closed networks, encryption and security consultation business etc.).


Hint: You can always share secrets in a shower. But you better choose wisely your shower partner! :-D


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Amy, I really don't know whether everyone is listening the phone conversations of everyone else - Russia is probably doing so because Lavrov has "no problem" with the finding.


What seems clear to me is that both the U.S. and European countries' law has been violated and unlike other cases, the violations have been unmasked. That makes a difference.


The U.S. law may give certain people immunity. But sorry to say, such an immunity only holds on the U.S. territory, not globally. I think that someone who clearly violated the German law is a classic fugitive. So if Obama is loved, praised, and protected in the U.S., it's just fine with me but once he enters the European territory, he may be arrested for the crimes against the European law.


This surely sounds extreme, like a joke, but it's what the co-existence of the different laws seems to imply. An immunity in a country just can't give a person the status of a global God and a global immunity although some Americans surely think in this way about their country. Spitting on the European law would be a tremendously hostile act from the U.S. side.


reader Shannon said...

I hope that this scandal will give the kick that Europe needs to become a great power. We should have our own European NSA. Spying (and anti-spying) is a profession that has a great future.

I hope Europe will stop whining about it and take a real action i.e. punish Obama.


reader Peter F. said...

Given Nature's attenuation (or always existed limited supply) of 'anthropic altruism', it should be fairly obvious that mutual and efficient (or successful) military and industrial espionage may be beneficial since it would tend to serve the stemming of the build-up of some relevant (folk involving and affecting) forms or focuses of tension - tensions that will otherwise more surely tend to culminate in needlessly vast destructive (nasty) outcomes.


Still more Idealistically speculated (not quite realistically I'm afraid :<):
The positive outcomes of an omnipresent spying-game would be extra 'beneficial' (from my point of view) if some of the "spying-game players" were fundamentally philosophically fortified with Lubošianism modified (or only slightly mellowed in some respects) with an extensively applied approximately evolutionary psychology type of philosophical outlook on ourselves.


I would not mind if only thusly philosophically science-aligned (or specifically thus principled) partisans of international espionage&political tussles complemented their methods with 'surgically executed preemptive tactics' (euphemistically put thus).
One of the most publicized historical 'arguments' for why such tactics should not be sneezed at is, surely(!?), the political stupidity/lameness/lack of resolve that accompanied and was exemplified by Chamberlain's "peace in our time".


reader Shannon said...

...There must be some kind of technology that would double, triple (or to infinity) the telephone or computer lines with small changes in the data, so that the NSA can listen to all of them but will never know which one is the right one. Drown the fish! They want info? They'll get millions of them, all different. That will occupy them for a while.


reader TomVonk said...

Well I consider all this as a non event.
Already more than 2000 years ago, the Roman leaders were trying to spy on Carthago leaders (especially Hannibal) in order to be able to anticipate events that would be otherwise ... non anticipated :)
After all spying is all about to secretely obtain information that is not freely and legally available.
So like Lavrov I have no problems with the "findings" either because they seem to be absolutely trivial and what this implicitely means is that even if spying is formally illegal, everybody is doing it so that the "illegality" is just a posture.
.
Of course the argument "one doesn't spy on friends" is ridiculous. One spies especially on friends and not only because it is easier but mostly because it is your friend who is most likely to f... your wife (or your husband).
To that I add an insider knowledge of how security is managed in large multinational companies and states are not very different in that respect.
Every important person detaining classified information is obliged to use encrypted communication devices (phones, mails etc) . Particularly sensitive matter never goes over the electronic communication media.
Only a naive person could think that Merkel would discuss some important matters on her private non encrypted phone.
So the only thing the NSA would have learned was that she was going to have Bratwurst for dinner.
While this is doubtlessly illegal, it is not very important nor very interesting ;)
Of course encrypted communication is also listened to but the probability to crack the code is 0 for all practical purposes.
.
So finally the only difference between the NSA, the Mossad, the KGB and the rest of the world is that the former have a huge technical and organisational superiority which just makes them more efficient than the rest of the world.
Sorry to break it to you guys, but it is not only the NSA that is randomly listening and potentially analysing your calls and your mails, the Russians and soon surely the Chinese (when they start sending satellites) are doing so too.
And what really amuses me is that the politicians who scream today loudly about how inacceptable all this is, are of course aware that not only were such activities going on for centuries but that they are doing the same thing too.
Only on a smaller scale because they have smaller ressources.
.
Does somebody seriously believe that Merkel doesn't know to whom the BND listens and what the people are saying ?
In the 80ies the French president Mitterrand went even sofar as to install a special bunker in the Elysée palace which was dedicated to spying on specific people designed by Mitterrand himself. If he could have done so technically, he would have listened surely to Reagan too. Perhaps he actually did ;)


reader cynholt said...

The big problem for the European leaders (Merkel, Hollande, Rajoy, etc.)
is that they are all responsible to the dominant corporate investors in
their countries. With a big part of the NSA spying aimed at financially
favoring big US corporations over their European competitors, there
must be a very deep grumbling to the politicians by these. While they
wouldn't give a damn about the political spying, the financial/business
spying does affect their profits. So my guess is that Merkel et al. are being heavily
pressured by the EU de facto powers to put an end to this sort of spying.


reader cynholt said...

It's laughable to suggest that this is only about intelligence to combat
terrorism; we all know that the majority of this is being done under
that excuse, to gather blackmail information on politicians around the
world, and to gain an upper hand in economics and global trade and
business.



This is economic warfare and political espionage between "allies"
under the guise of anti-terror efforts, and thousands of people
predicted all of this long before it came to light.



You give a government an inch and they snatch a mile. America cannot
be trusted - neither can any of its co-conspirators in an alliance
known as "Five Eyes" (see link below), especially the British
government.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UKUSA_Agreement


reader cynholt said...

Imagine how the people who live in the former East Germany feel. The
Fall of the Berlin Wall was a joke. Just another American smoke and
mirrors game meant to deceive. They just replaced one Stasi with another
and didn't know it. All the euphoria and the false hopes America
promised about freedom and Democracy after the Fall of the Berlin Wall
has in insight proven to be a sham.


reader Ann said...

Obama denies knowing about the Merkel spying, which most surely is a lie. He is a micro-manager and control freak of his administration. The head of IRS visited the WH more than 100 times, a highly unusual situation, unprecedented in other administrations, yet Obama also claims he knew nothing of the IRS targeting of conservative groups. He thinks the American voting public are idiots with the attention-span of parakeets. Are we?


reader anna v said...

Yes, you are quite correct in this assessment.


In any case, with the technology available, the huge improvements in gigabyte storage, there is not problem for whoever has the technology to record everything that is going on electronically , be they phones or internet. Then one just needs programs to pick up the data of interest.


If code is in use then it becomes a matter of who can break it, and maybe that can also be done, given enough resources.



People with secrets should be aware and not talk shop on open highways.


reader cynholt said...

This is one immediate problem when we elect sociopaths to office. They
simply don't give a damn because they're sociopaths. Bush or Obama
would spy on ANYONE if directed to do so by corporate Washington.

A
'real leader' would not only apologize to all of their allies for
spying on them, but would dismantle this evil apparatus called the "NSA,"
which is nothing more than a corporate tool to advance their agendas.
Instead, we are left with a data collection branch dedicated to selling
everyone's personal info to the highest bidder.

Germany should pull out of NATO and encourage others to do so. This would be a proper response.


reader Eugene S said...

If the German government plays their cards right, they may be able to gain inclusion in the Masters of the Universe club (a.k.a. Five Eyes, Anglosphere).


They have a good case, for the Americans are embarrassed and must make amends, while the Germans have historically been more loyal allies than the French. The Brits would be agreeable, I think, but the French will jealously try to prevent it from happening.



And the delusional euro mandarins who view this crisis in trust as an opportunity to pursue their plans of EU as a global player to rival the U.S. and China will also try their damnedest to maintain an iron grip and prevent a German "defection".


reader BlueScreenOfDeath said...

"Are we?"


Given that you - the American voting public - voted for him A SECOND TIME...


reader cynholt said...

Like all of our politicians, Obama is merely a tool. The question is
who is he working for? Who really calls the shots? Who's behind the
curtain? I think most people on this website know the answer to that
question. They rule the world by controlling money, credit, and debt,
and by controlling the flow of information through the press and
intelligence gathering agencies like the NSA.


reader Kimmo Rouvari said...

You mean crab people? :-)


reader BlueScreenOfDeath said...

"We should have our own European NSA"


Do you seriously believe that such doesn't already exist, or that at any rate most European countries possess one, GCHQ in the UK, the BND in Germany and the DGSE in France for example?


And further, that they don't fully co-operate with each other and the NSA on most substantive issues?


This is a storm in a teacup, everyone spies on everyone else, always has and always will. In fact, it has all the odour of a somewhat putrid red herring.


reader Rehbock said...

I take exception to your insulting my avatar.
:-)
The so far known facts are that the Bush administration directed these taps in 2002. They were continued and probably more serious still continuing under Obama.
The voters must blamed for ignorance and stupidity. That is not a crime and cannot be prosecuted. The leaders who ordered this committed a crime and those who allowed it to continue also are criminals. But these crimes will not be prosecuted.
Obama made clear when he took office that he was going to let Bush off the hook. I knew that was because he too would be sitting in a cell in the Hague otherwise after his term..
Yes our leaders are sociopaths. Who else could end up elected. My avatar knows not to trust too quickly but that is because he knows that humans are predators and he is prey. politicians are predators that need votes so to prey. Voters simply don't always have enough sense to know they are the prey.


reader HelianUnbound said...

Towards the end of the latest orgy of anti-Americanism in Germany, German commenters made lame attempts to rationalize it as "all about Bush." I had to smile a few days ago when I visited the "Der Spiegel" website and found that all the top eleven articles were rants against the US/NSA/Obama. It's not quite as bad as the days towards the end of the Clinton and the beginning of the Bush administrations when it was hard to find any German news at SPON because of all the furious, hatemongering articles about the evils of Amerika. They do still like to throw out some red meat to the Amerika haters occassionally, though. It's always good for the bottom line. In fact, the NSA did the Germans a huge favor. They like nothing better than to work themselves into a self-righteous lather. If it's any consolation about the results of the recent Czech elections, at least there was no sign of Henleins's children.


reader Eugene S said...

Shhh, mustn't talk about THEM. If you really want to know more, here is video of THE MAN, but please burn this link after reading, I don't want THEM coming after me.


reader cynholt said...

Everyone at the national D and R level is thoroughly vetted to make
sure they will carry out the policies of the 1%, each artfully packaged
to appeal to a different demographic. It has been this way for decades,
although the marketing has become more sophisticated as the looting has
become more shameless.




So we have to become more sophisticated too and not be fooled by the
packaging. Look at the funders, the record and stick with that.
Reality, the lack of jobs, the deterioration of public services, the
privatization of the commons, the endless nameless wars with no credible
cause or goal, help illustrate what is going on. Fighting those
battles is far more productive in my opinion than getting all excited
about yet another fake president. The best we can hope for, I think, are popular
movements and a wiser voter in enough numbers to challenge the lock
currently on the electoral process.


reader Ann said...

Your avatar is very cute - I should not be dissing these birds. :-)


reader Shannon said...

BlueScreen, European countries have their own NSA but they don't cooperate with each other the way they should. They spy on each other instead and haggle their information. You are naïve.


reader Gene Day said...

I have to take strong issue with this post. It would be irresponsible if any government failed to gather any information of possible use in formulating policy. The idea that an administration should not spy on its friends is absurd. We may have too much bureaucracy and too many entrenched interests involved in this (I think we do.) but to call it illegal is ridiculous. What one does with that information is the only real issue. There are no crimes without victims and potential misuse of covertly obtained information is not reason to stop the practice. Any use of covertly-obtained information is, naturally, subject to the laws of the land where that use occurs.


The US almost certainly has more than one million people employed in such covert activities and that huge expenditure should be questioned continuously. This massive expenditure is authorized and funded by Congress, not the President. In executing the wishes of Congress the President is subject to the laws of the land, just like everyone else. Of course the President can accumulate an unhealthy and dangerous amount of power. That’s why we have an absolute two-term limit. In three years and three months Obama will be gone, no matter what happens.


It should also should be noted that, as the world’s number one source of secret information, we continuously share it with our friends, to their benefit. They are all safer because of these activities.


Most of the complaints about this are just political posturing, much like Pakistan’s complaints about our drone strikes. With advanced jet fighters Pakistan could easily down most of our drones, which are sitting ducks, but they have not even tried to shoot at a single one. They want the drones and our friends want the information that we, and only we, can supply.


This, and all administrations, must be held responsible for what they do but the simple act of gathering of information, covert and otherwise, has been a standard practice of every government since the Roman Empire and, doubtless, long before that.


reader Shannon said...

You are probably right in what you say Gene but the fact is that the US has been caught first, denounced by Snowden. It is the one who gets caught first that is in trouble. Hopefully Europe will find a good bargain with the US so we can forget about it ;-).


reader Rehbock said...

No. The issue is not whether governments are responsible at home or obeying the law in our country. It is whether they violate the law of another sovereign.
If it is illegal in Germany for one to do this to a German then this is a violation of German law. That is th same reason practicing to destroy America by becoming a terrorist or even helping a terrorist is probably not an issue and even considered essential to security for some countries but is illegal here. Bush crossed the line and Obama preferred to.move even further across it.


reader Eugene S said...

Gene, that's all very well, but your comment refers back to a time when most spying was done by human operatives (human intelligence or HUMINT). That age of cloak-and-dagger spying went the way of the dinosaur. With so much of our life being digital, and with the technology available to you if you have a multi-billion monthly dollar budget, the game has changed. It's all about SIGINT, and we all, Americans or not, are presumed guilty until proven innocent.


Why should we trust the NSA? We already know that NSA operatives have abused tools for private purposes (spying on wives and girlfriends), I don't trust them to never harm me. It's the blanket, "full-take", all-encompassing nature of information gathering that's creeping many of us out. We don't want it. We want it to be dialed back by an order of magnitude (at least) and we want much better transparency and oversight.


reader papertiger0 said...

This is mostly from the wikipedia, with my comments interspersed in brackets [ example ].

The predecessor of the National Security Agency was the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA), created on May 20, 1949. This organization was originally established within the U.S. Department of Defense under the command of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

[developed under, by and for President Truman, with no Congressional oversite]

The AFSA was to direct Department of Defense communications and electronic intelligence activities, except those of U.S. military intelligence units.
AFSA failed to achieve a centralized communications intelligence mechanism, and failed to coordinate with civilian agencies that shared its interests (the Department of State, CIA, and FBI).

[During the Truman sell out of China to the Maoists. The plan was to develop an easily compromised information flow to allow the communists to keep track of what MacArthur was doing in Korea. Sounds incredible but it's true. For the first year of the Korean War, McArthur's military plans were "leaked" to the Chicoms. It was only when the military stopped informing Washington of it's moves (failure of the AFSA) that the Korean conflict started to turn out in our favor.]

In December 1951, President Harry S. Truman ordered a study to correct AFSA's failures. Six months later, the four members finished and issued the Brownell Report, which criticized AFSA, strengthened it and resulted in its redesignation as the National Security Agency. The agency was formally established by Truman in a memorandum of October 24, 1952, that revised National Security Council Intelligence Directive (NSCID) 9. Truman's memo was later declassified.

[the NSA is the result of a series of Truman presidential directives, one of which was his assertion and creation of the concept that the president has the power to issue directives with the force of law - a power that is specifically assigned to congress by the constitution. ]



My overview is the NSA was created to "fix" the bungled AFSA, which itself was created to sell out American interests and military plans to the communists in exchange for their aquiessence to the United Nations treaty.


The whole thing is a long standing crime against the Republic perpetrated by communist sympathizers temporarily occupying the White House.


reader Dilaton said...

Yes, looking at your avatar always makes me happy for some reasons :-)

It looks at me very friendly, seems to be bright and widely awake, brave and cheerful because of the colors.

Even though it is not a what we understand to be a Rehbock in Germany (those are cute too) ... :-D

https://naturfotografen-forum.de/data/media/22/MS_20090731_6633_rd_rd::Marco_Sch%C3%BCtte_rehwild_rehbock_reh_bock.jpg


reader cynholt said...

The rule of law is dead, Gene. It was on life support for many years, but it
died the day Dear Leader and his regime took control. Now, Dear Leader
only enforces the laws that further his political objectives, and
ignores the laws that impede his political objectives. If he can't get
Congress (specifically the Republican controlled House) to cooperate, he
just issues an executive order to bypass the law.


reader Honza said...

I would not take this all that seriously. When governments spy on the common citizenry, they always say: "Do not worry, if you do not do anything illegal, you will be fine." Now I am sure that Angela Merkel is not doing anything illegal. So she has no reason to worry as well, I hope. ;-)

But in all fairness, given the number of kisses between Merkal and Obama (just the once we know about - the public once) it could be a sign of regular jealousy. ;-)


reader Dave said...

Excessive spying by a government on one's own citizens is anti-freedom and should be a crime. Spying on foreign governments is normal and, given the threat posed by terrorism, a smart thing to do.

The only interesting question is the appropriateness of spying by the US government on regular foreign citizens in their own countries. Given that a number of European citizens have embraced terrorism, some level of monitoring may be appropriate. Ideally, it should be done in cooperation with the governments in question, but that kind of cooperation is probably not always easy to come by and in the meantime one has to prevent acts of terror, both in the US and in Europe. So, it may be best that the politicians do their posturing for the public and the press and then let things go back to normal.


reader scooby said...

"Most of the complaints about this are just political posturing, much like Pakistan's complaints about out drone strikes. With advanced jet fighters Pakistan could easily down most of our drones, which are sitting ducks, but they have not even tried to shoot at a single one".

Is it possible that they prefer to complain politely about it first, as grown ups do (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/23/us-usa-pakistan-drones-idUSBRE99M19D20131023) ? Why you shoot first in the US?

"They want the drones..."
There are few things more reassuring than having a few predator drones buzzing over your head day and night, ready to obliterate 68 year old grandmothers (http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2013/10/22/human_rights_watch_and_amnesty_international_issue_blistering_reports_on.html) with a hellfire missile strike in the garden next door.

"and our friends want the information that we, and only we, can supply."
Who are these friends, with whom you share the content of the German chancellor communications?


reader Gene Day said...

Do you really believe that technology has changed the basic principles involved in covert operations? I would argue with that. (Note that I prefer “covert operations” to “spying”, which is a loaded term.)

I don’t trust the NSA any more than you do, Eugene S, but that’s not the point. And, as I suggested, the current level of our covert operations is greater than I would like to see. This is a direct result of 9/11, which had an immense and enduring emotional impact on the American psyche. I do think an order of magnitude reduction would be excessive. I would like to see these budgets reduced by around 60- 65 percent, which would take them beck to the level before 9/11.

It is not arguable whether or not we need covert operations. In their absence we would be much more vulnerable to those who want to kill us (and our friends). Covert operations are secret by definition so public transparency is out of the question. Secrecy does, as you suggest, breed all kinds of malfeasance and incompetence; I’ve seen a huge amount of it during my career in industry. Oversight is up to the congressional committees charged with that responsibility and to the executive branch of government. These people are answerable to the voters; that’s how democracy works.


reader Gene Day said...

Isn’t this patently obvious, Rehbock?


reader Gene Day said...

Incompetence does have its consequences, doesn’t it?. It is simply appalling to me that a jerk like Snowden was granted a security clearance.
Don’t worry, Shannon, we will always remain friends. The ties between France and the US are very, very deep. This will all blow over.


reader Gene Day said...

C’mon, Ann. Obama is not nearly as much a control freak as Bill Clinton and a whole bunch of others.


reader Eugene S said...

Gene, as the saying goes, quantity takes on a quality all of its own. The dragnet being trawled by NSA daily through the Internet is unprecedented.

This is not a left-right issue. Critics as diverse as Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds (conservative-libertarian) and cybersecurity maven Bruce Schneier (east coast liberal) agree that a threshold has been crossed and the three-letter spy agencies are currently out of control and need to be reined in.

Public transparency is essential for that. The whistleblower Edward Snowden has performed a valuable public service, at the cost to him of losing his citizenship. Without him, we would not know about the depth of the problem. Congressional and judicial oversight evidently were not enough. Lawmakers were prevented from speaking to the public about what they knew, the secret special court rubber-stamped nearly every request.

A better system would keep us informed, in broad outline, of the extent of data collection so that whistleblowing won't be necessary. I don't need to know what specific targets are on the list for surveillance, but I do want to know that certain red lines won't be crossed. In addition to not siphoning all the data from Internet traffic and treating everyone as a potential terrorist, this includes not spying on heads of allied governments. It was a stupid idea anyway. What could one possibly learn from tapping Merkel's cell phone that could not be learned from open sources and in-country analysts? Nothing, that's what. A huge downside with no potential gain.

I think some good can come from this. It may be time to move beyond the too-limited circle of the Anglosphere to include reliable NATO allies like Germany and the Netherlands in the innermost circle that currently consists of the "Five Eyes". Over time, more and more NATO partners should be added.

Some thought should also be given to dropping the too politically-correct approach of "mistrust everybody, even our own people". It's the same with the burly TSA agents groping one's private parts at the airport. Why should one have to endure these indignities, why aren't groups of people much more likely to produce terrorists marked out for more scrutiny instead?

Accordingly, I'd like to see more recognition of where the threats come from and a greater focus on addressing these threats.

A decade on, all the questions in Donald Rumsfeld's famous memo remain just as pressing:

With respect to global terrorism, the record since Septermber 11th seems to be:
We are having mixed results with Al Qaida (...) Have we fashioned the right mix of rewards, amnesty, protection and confidence in the US?
(...) Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental? My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves (...) Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us? (...) The US is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan, but we are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions. (...) How do we stop those who are financing the radical madrassa schools? Is our current situation such that "the harder we work, the behinder we get"?


reader Gordon said...

Other than rather trite rhetoric, I don't think

that there is much inside Obama--character, guts, intellect, decisiveness---all seem to be missing in action. Goldman Sachs has its tentacles deep inside his administration (and Bush's and Clinton's before it). Rolling Stone blogger, Matt Taibbi wrote: " The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."

This is a 2009 article he wrote about it:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-great-american-bubble-machine-20100405
--the first of a series of increasingly disturbing essays.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Dave, I think that this vastly different attitude of yours to domestic and foreign spying is ultimately indefensible and illogical.


Germans are people, too (and Angela Merkel has the right for privacy of her secrets, sexual deviations etc.) - so even though some strict American nationalists could be OK with spying on any German citizen, it doesn't mean that everyone will be fine with that. Such spying is viewed as hostility and it has consequences.

Moreover, if you declare spying on foreigners to be OK, one may spy on his own citizens, too. A U.S. agent may simply guarantee that the German intelligence will spy on the U.S. citizen that Obama wants to spy on, and then it is enough for the U.S. spies to spy on the German spies who spy on the U.S. citizen, and you get the data out of it, anyway.


My general point is that you are imagining the border between countries as something impenetrable and qualitatively separating totally different worlds but it just ain't so. There are many links between citizens of different countries that are much tighter than links between citizens of the same country. Completely different rules for relationships (such as spying) that go across the border just can't work well.


reader Ann said...

In what sense was Clinton a control freak? He seemed like a big risk taker with his romantic indisgressions. He and Obama are both endless campaigners. Obama does not permit photos of himself smoking a cigarette - that is micromanagment of personal 'brand'. Again, I find it extremely hard to believe that Obama didn't know about the spying on Merkel, the targeting by the IRS, the nature of the Be ghazi attack at the outset.


reader Eugene S said...

New smartphone?


reader BlueScreenOfDeath said...

"They spy on each other instead"


They spy on each other anyway, even those in the same country.


The CIA spy on the NSA and vice versa, for example.


In both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany more spooks were employed spying on the other spooks - this even took place between different departments of the same agency - than were engaged in spying on the enemy. This is a matter of historical record as you would be aware if you could be bothered to read the literature.



It's not me that's naive it's you for believing that everyday logic and reason can be applied to the topsy-turvy looking-glass world of spooks, and you are uninformed also.


reader Dave said...

I am not a "strict nationalist", but governments do have the responsibility of trying to prevent terrorist acts against their citizens.

Given that some of the planning of the 9/11 terrorist activities may have taken place in a German mosque, the US government has a legitimate interest in monitoring similar possibilities at the present time. Perhaps it can be done quite effectively in cooperation with German authorities in accordance with the German law, but if not, it does raise the question of how to prevent terrorist acts.


reader Luboš Motl said...

I can't believe someone would use this sort of arguing. With this power of the terrorist justification, you could "justify" the gulags and extermination camps for millions of Jews, too.


A government may care about the safety of its citizens but once it de facto accuses the leader of the most powerful European country - whose citizens are probably more civilized than the average Americans - to be involved in terrorism herself, you should understand it has consequences. To say the least, I think that those who support this behavior are fascists. But it may have worse consequences than just some people's thinking about others that they are fascists.


When Obama spies on Merkel's phone, it does *not* imply that terrorism can't be fought in collaboration with Germany using legitimate tools, a striking contrast with your suggestion. Much more likely, it implies that Obama thinks that he's allowed to do everything and anything and many Americans think the same.


reader Shannon said...

So you actually agree that they "don't fully cooperate". And my point is that it might take this scandal to eventually have them cooperate with each other ;-)


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Shannon, I am sort of surprised by these assertions of yours.


An EU-controlled intelligence agency, an EU KGB if you wish, is one of the first things I am terrified by. The EU apparatchiks are fortunately impotent enough to achieve anything of the sort - I believe - but if they did achieve such a thing, it would represent a huge new threat for the freedom on the continent.


Also, I don't understand why everyone should "fully cooperate". It sounds like straight communist utopia to me. Different nations and different people shouldn't and won't "fully cooperate" because they legitimately have different interests, sometimes contradict the interests of others. The nearly tautological fact that there can't be a full cooperation between everyone doesn't give anyone the justification to illegally attack the privacy of another person.


We've had 40+ years of forced cooperation of everyone with everyone else and I will fight with all weapons available to me against such revived not-so-new experiments, OK?


reader Shannon said...

Dear Lubos, I'm not OK with what you've just said. First please stop pointing at my face suspecting me of being some communist. I'm a liberal 100%, and a French patriot.
Each countries in Europe cannot protect themselves against the powerful NSA. I believe that a European NSA (which doesn't exist) would provide a powerful protection for each European countries. Even if Brussels collapses one day and Europe becomes a Europe of Nations -with intelligent economic frontiers which I would much prefer-, countries still need to collaborate for security.
Let me also say that if the technology is there that gives the power to spy easily then it is not by asking to stop using it that they'll do it. Sanctions must apply for sure and, like for NATO, why don't the US and Europe find common grounds, they are friends, they can, and I am sure they will, find a way to cooperate.
Sans rancune.


reader Luboš Motl said...

OK, sorry for that, Shannon, but you should try to understand that other Europeans would still prefer the influence of this NSA over the influence of a similar EU-wide institution that isn't democratically accountable in any way and that is being controlled e.g. by some behind-the-scene French muscles.


It's implicit in your proclamatinos that the Europeans should try to build something like a united opposition to the U.S., something that is apparently a part of "common sense" in France. Sorry, i disagree with all of this. I like France but I feel we are and should be closer to the U.S.


reader Shannon said...

Dear Lubos, you have a pre-conceived idea of French "common sense". What about the American common sense ? What do they want ? What do they understand of Europe ?... French do like the Americans, they only want to protect their economy, their companies, from being constantly bought by big American companies. What's wrong with that ? We only want to preserve our identity, our country, our values, our jobs etc. Yes we probably want to show our muscles and that's the way capitalism work: competition. And yes Lubos, I would much prefer to have a "united opposition" against the US but would rather call it "united collaboration" so that controls would be done both ways. What do you want yourself? The American to control the whole of Europe ? They already do it but they 've been caught spying on our political leaders, our companies etc... maybe it's time for the NSA to be controlled by Europe too.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Shannon, concerning your question, Americans understand something and misunderstand other things.


I only defended the "military" proximity and alliance of countries of our region with the U.S., not "our" unlimited submission to Washington D.C.


Your second question: What's wrong with the French protectionism? Protectionism is always wrong, whether it's French or belongs to a different nation, because it makes the market less efficient and because it hurts the trans-national relationships at the same moment. This would be enough for quite some lecture.


Well, we may respect the French decision to impose protectionism all over the economy but I still find it essential for you to understand and respect that majorities in other nations may find this attitude of yours counterproductive and/or despicable.