August 05, 2013
Here We Go Again With the Orange Alerts

I have to admit to a good deal of scepticism about the embassy closures and travel warnings issued by the Obama administration recently. Is Obama becoming Bush in yet another aspect?

Amie Stepanovich, a lawyer with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said: “The NSA’s choice to publish these threats at this time perpetuates a culture of fear and unquestioning deference to surveillance in the United States."”

News of the fresh terror alert came as Congress looked increasingly likely to pursue fresh attempts to limit the NSA’s domestic powers when it returns in September.

“The NSA takes in threat information every day. You have to ask, why now? What makes this information different?” added Stepanovich.

In addition to the timing, there’s the vague nature of governmental pronouncements on the subject which sound like PR. The State Department, for example, said:

This is not an indication of a new threat stream, merely an indication of our commitment to exercise caution and take appropriate steps to protect our employees including local employees and visitors to our facilities.

It indicated that the US continues “to work closely with other nations on the threat from international terrorism”, a shout-out particularly to those in the UK and Germany, where the US needs to mend fences after the Snowden revelations.

Then there’s the eagerness with which the strongest defenders of the surveillance state leapt to the I-told-you-so’s. See, they all told us, spying on you incessantly really might keep you safe from some threat we can’t tell you about! As usual, no evidence is offered or indeed available on request. Again we’re asked to trust those who have verifiably violated that trust continuously over the last several years. What’s that famous George Bush line, fool me once?

The relatively sober Richard Norton-Taylor at The Guardian wrote a column today that received the title “Embassy closures earn little respect for a US that’s lost the benefit of the doubt: We might be forgiven for thinking embassy closures provoked by terrorist threats were all very convenient for the NSA”.

The US and UK securocracies have not been able to distinguish between the invasion of privacy and a legitimate need to protect the public from terrorist threats. Until they do so, they will sacrifice the “benefit of the doubt” approach, the public’s trust, that they will need to depend on in future.



Posted by Chuck Dupree at August 05, 2013 01:47 PM
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I was thinking the same thing!

Posted by: Heather on August 5, 2013 7:42 PM

What a coincidence! There is such a contradictory set of circumstances. On the one hand, the surveillance state has protected us from OMG TERROR! but on the other hand, the terrorists are, despite Snowden's "treason," still chattering away! Cognitive dissonance or simple insanity? I call bullshit! As we can see, these people have no shame and the media is simply a megaphone.

Posted by: Albaz on August 6, 2013 1:57 AM

I'm more worried about our tech sector. Admittedly Microsoft cooperated too wilingly, a company with their money should have fought back and fought hard, but the impetus to make money often over rules common sense. What European or Asian country will want to buy Microsoft products now. I don't blame Snowden though, he was just the messenger. When you have over a million people with top security clearances, you are a fool if you think something like this spying can be kept secret. Benjamin Franklin famously said "Two can keep a secret if one is dead". Truer words were never spoken. So I blame Hayden and tghe others who thought they could keep something this big under wrapps forever.

I won't be surprised if the Europeans, especially the Germans, who are extremely sensitive to spying won't try to start their own tech industry starting with CPU's and moving all the way to hard drives, solid state drives, and other technologies that are more hacker proof. And the Germans have recognized how software patents stop innovation. Every 6 months the Ubuntu peopple come out with a better product than the last and Window seems no better than it was ten years ago.

We need to tuck our tails between our legs, admit our mistakes, and reach some kind of treaty agreement. But let's face one thing. There will always be state sponsored spying. You can go back further than Rome and find evidence of it. But we are going to have to agree to some ethical limitations on it or otherwise I believe we will totally lose our technology edge. And that will be one costly mistake.

I also predict Snowden and Manning will be out of hot water in a few years unless we go completely fascist (Despite Sinclair Lewis's book that was titled that it couldn't happen here). I read parts of that book a few weeks ago and it's amazing how much has come true.

If we don't radically chage course, we will lose our tech edge. And that will be more costly than Iraq in terms of how it affects the economy.

I doubt anyone will listen to me but we really should make nice and make agreements. Otherwise our tech industry will be gone in 20 years or less. In the words of the famous Julius B. "Bubba" Ness, I may be wrong, but I'm never in doubt. Not about this issue at all.

Posted by: noseyparkerunit on August 6, 2013 3:00 AM

Chuck, you're always checking out the latest search engine, try this new search engine which I found by reading a transcript from a speech on privacy by Werner Koch. By now you've probably heard my grandfather's story and how he lost his family (my lost family) to the Stasi and that's one of the reason's I'm passionate about our arguably totalitarian state and what it is doing these days. Transcript is here:

Link to new search engine Yacy is here:

I'm in between Linux versions, I haven't found one that satisifies me yet, so I'm surfing without any drive of any kind of drive attached to my computer by using Parted Magic. Incidentally, parted magic is really quite good and is largely a one man operation. If you could put in a plug for Patrick Verner, the developer, he's in need of more funding and I gave a small amount to try to help. Take a look at it, try it out by running it in memory (shorewall firewall resides in memory as do all the programs and it has two disk copying programs, the best disk eraser on the market (which uses built in clean up software built into the bios of your hard drive, which I i did not before now know existed but which will zero out your hard drive with all 0's in a fraction of the time it takes something like Darkik's boot and nuke). IN all well over 100 super fantastic programs you can largely get elsewhere but are packaged in one fantastic small program that will run in the memory of your computer.

To surf with it you just turn on the firewall, download Java and Flash and the Linux antivirus if you plan to leave it on for a while, and then surf to your heart's content. When you shut off the computer, everything is gone, poof, no record of anything on your machine is left. Not a good long term solution if you want to store things not on a cloud, but it works and works well. Plug it if you can, or plug funding it, it's a great alternative OS and does things no other OS does if you need them.


Posted by: noseyparkerunit on August 9, 2013 11:54 AM
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