Photo credit: Reuters

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Obama's Headache: Snowden and Greenwald

Dear Mr. President,
Reading the NYT and most other U.S. newspapers, you’d never know that the NSA ‘harvests’ half a billion phone calls a month in Germany or that they hacked into and bugged the offices of the European Union in Washington, Brussels and the UN. You’d only learn about the latest revelations of NSA spying if you read The Guardian or Der Spiegel or if you happened to notice a passing reference buried in an article on p. A8 of today’s Times (“Ecuador Leader Says Biden Called About Asylum Request”). Nor would you know that the U.S. military has blocked access to The Guardian so our troops won’t be bothered by the inconvenient truth of the Gestapo/Stasi State government they’re killing and dying for. Nor would they know that Pfc. Bradley Manning is about to begin the 5th week of his show trial by a military kangaroo court for releasing evidence of egregious war crimes committed by the U.S. military and egregious hypocrisy and abuse of power by the U.S. government. The muzzling of the American press is nearly complete, leakers and journalists intimidated and silenced, just a few renegades like Glen Greenwald left to mop up. But there’s still 1.4 million people with Top Secret clearances and more than 1,000 systems administrators like Edward Snowden who maintain the sprawling intelligence networks and it only takes a few Snowdens who have the moral courage to blow the whistle and expose the criminality of their government—liars like Clapper, Alexander and Brennan, and apparatchiks like Shawn Turner, your spokesman for National Intelligence, who said last week that “The internet metadata collection program…was discontinued in 2011…” a statement shown to be false by an NSA document dated December 31, 2012, congratulating itself for reaching a milestone: one trillion metadata records from emails and the internet, half of it collected in 2012, a year after the ‘discontinuance’. How do you expect anyone to believe your assurances that “nobody’s listening to your phone calls,” in the face of all this evidence to the contrary? And who besides the NSA snoops knew that Germany was right up there with China as an enemy? Or that terrorists were lurking in the offices of the EU? You won’t read it in the New York Times or hear it on NBC or CBS or ABC, but I can’t wait for the next revelation in The Guardian. And according to Glen Greenwald, they’ve just begun. I hope you have the large economy size bottle of aspirin handy, Mr. President. You’re going to need it.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Obama's War on Truth and Transparency

Dear Mr. President,
“The American people don’t have a Big Brother who is snooping into their business…I’m confident of that. But I want to make sure everybody is confident of that.” (NYT today, “After Leaks, Obama Leads Damage Control Effort” p. A11) Your words last week in Senegal responding to a question about efforts to bring Snowden back to the U.S. (where he can be silenced and punished for exposing the NSA’s massive and unconstitutional surveillance of its own citizens and those of other countries). Really, Mr. President, why should we believe you when you have broken every promise, twisted the law to suit your own purposes, voided the Constitution and waged an unrelenting war on transparency for 4½ years? Why should we believe Clapper who bald-faced lied to Congress and admitted it? Or Gen. Alexander, the NSA director who claimed there was no massive spying on American citizens when documents leaked by Snowden quote him wanting to know why we couldn’t monitor everyone all the time? Why should we believe any statement made by a U.S. official when we have been lied to constantly, from Bush’s Weapons of Mass Destruction to your assurances that no one’s listening to our conversations in spite of evidence to the contrary? Why should we believe the 79-page report released yesterday by the military claiming the death of Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif in Guantanamo prison on September 8, 2012 was a suicide when there are so many implausibilities and unanswered questions surrounding the circumstances of his death? (NYT today, “Suicide by Pills Is Cited in Death of Guantánamo Detainee” p. A14) Your statement on the Charlie Rose show that the FISA court is transparent and Deputy Attorney General James Cole’s astonishing statement that metadata of phone and internet records are “outside the scope of the 4th amendment’s protections” ( do not reassure We the People. What is clear is that we now live in a state close to the East Germans under the communist regime where the Stasi knows everything about everybody, where no one can resist the power of the state and where dissent is ruthlessly crushed. Thursday night, when asked what is the single most important thing to do to oppose the secrecy of government, Daniel Ellsberg thought for a long time before saying, “Honor the heroes: Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and all the others who put their lives on the line to expose the truth.” It’s a start.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Obama's War on Whistleblowers: Redefining Espionage

Dear Mr. President,
Last night Daniel Ellsberg spoke about whistle blowers, secrecy and the state of democracy in America. It was not encouraging. He talked about his own experience as a whistle blower in the ‘70s and the moral imperative he felt to reveal the truth and expose the lies of his government, the same moral imperative which drove Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning to do the same. In Ellsberg’s case, he understood that Nixon planned to slowly decrease the ground war in Vietnam to reduce American casualties while stepping up the air war which would continue the horrific toll on the Vietnamese. When he shared this with Sen. Charles Goodell (R-NY), one of the strongest anti-war voices in the Senate, Goodell replied, “What’s so bad about that? Our casualties decrease, the cost of the war decreases.” “But not the Vietnamese casualties,” Ellsberg said. “I hate to tell you this Dan,” Goodell responded, “but the American people don’t care about Vietnamese casualties.” Right there’s the key to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and your drone wars—the further away they are, the less people care. It’s the old “us” vs. “them” syndrome. As long as our casualties aren’t too high, it doesn’t matter how many of “them” we kill. Bradley Manning revealed war crimes by the military because he did not distinguish between “us” and “them.” Manning, Ellsberg said, believes we are all members of the human family and every life has value. For his sin of exposing the truth he was labeled traitor and has paid a terrible price. Snowden too, revealed the truth, the lies of his government and the flagrant disregard of law and the Constitution; like Ellsberg and Manning, he is also labeled a traitor and will pay a terrible price. Both Manning and Snowden are charged with espionage which the press points out you have invoked more than all other presidents combined. Ellsberg put this in perspective by telling of a recent meeting in the Oval office where someone had the temerity to suggest that your use of the Espionage Act to charge leakers would leave a bad legacy at which point you practically leaped out of your chair and said, “Leaking classified information is espionage.” Mr. President, what was leaked were the lies and abuses of the government, the crimes against its own citizens and against humanity. You protect criminals and punish the defenders of justice and morality but you cannot redefine espionage or truth or the Constitution. They will remain long after you are gone.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Obama: "Hypocrite of the Century"

Dear Mr. President,
Last week, Clare Daly, an Irish Member of Parliament, called you “the hypocrite of the century” and “a war criminal.” ( She noted that you told Irish school kids during your visit that you would be “the wind at their back” if they worked for peace but at the same time you wage wars and arm militants in Syria. She’s only an obscure MP in Ireland so her comments didn’t appear in the U.S. media. But with the Snowden affair, Julian Assange is back in the news and his comments did: “In a written statement on Saturday, Mr. Assange suggested that President Obama was the real ‘traitor’ for betraying the hopes of a generation of idealists represented by both Private Manning and Mr. Snowden….Mr. Assange added a warning to the government: ‘By trying to crush these young whistle-blowers with espionage charges, the U.S. government is taking on a generation, and that is a battle it is going to lose.’” (NY Times, “WikiLeaks Steps In As a Comrade in Arms”, June 24, p. A8) I would add that you betrayed not only the generation of Snowden and Manning, but all generations everywhere. In 2008 your called whistleblowers essential for democracy and you’ve waged an unprecedented war on them and the press. You vowed the most transparent administration in history and instead have the most opaque. You call for new Shield Laws “to protect journalists” but the legislation you propose makes “national security” an exception and innovative media sites—like WikiLeaks—that believe in transparency are specifically excluded in the definition of news organizations. (NY Times, “Even Before Case of NSA Leaker, Assange Remained on U.S. Radar”, June 25, p. A9) You’ve bureaucratized war and made it standard foreign policy, called cold-blooded murder “justice” and have no qualms about ordering extrajudicial assassinations, even of U.S. citizens, in spite of your vow to return to the rule of law. The baying of the wolves in Congress and your administration for Snowden’s head, his “damage to America’s security” reveals the final hypocrisy; that the true enemy of the State is not the terrorists—they already knew they were being spied on—but the citizenry of the U.S. and our allies. Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning betrayed only the corruption of an out-of-control enterprise; rather than traitors they are true heroes of democracy who should be honored. And you, Mr. President, can add another award to your resume: Hypocrite of the Century.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Obama Dreams While Snowden Flees

Dear Mr. President,
The horse has bolted! Snowden in Moscow, headed to Equador, no extradition and relative safety. So much for our “good partners” in Hong Kong—the unintended consequences of spying and hacking allies and enemies alike with arrogance and disdain. So much for the divine right of the all mighty and all powerful Security State. And so much for your claims of transparency and civil liberties. I keep wondering if you really believe the lies and obfuscations you mouth in public, if you’ve come to believe your own stories of justice and truth, of legality and law, if you don’t sometimes have qualms about the distance between what you say and what you do. There’s a story in Dreams From My Father, chapter 3, where you father is coming back to Hawaii to visit and you tell your Punahou school chums about how he is a prince of his tribe in Kenya and your grandfather is the king and “…a part of me really began to believe the story but another part of me knew what I was telling them was a lie…” You described that conflict in yourself so vividly, something I think we can all relate to and I wonder if you feel that same conflict now as President or if it no longer bothers you to lie and dissemble, to slide around truth and justice. In the introduction to the 2004 2nd edition of Dreams From My Father, you wrote this: “I know, I have seen the desperation and disorder of the powerless…how narrow the path is…between humiliation and untrammeled fury, how easily they slip into violence and despair. I know that the response of the powerful to this disorder—alternating as it does between dull complacency and, when the disorder spills out of its proscribed confines, a steady, unthinking application of force, of longer prison sentences and more sophisticated military hardware—is inadequate to the task. I know that the hardening of lines, the embrace of fundamentalism and tribe, dooms us all.” These words written by you in 2004 are nothing less than astonishing when compared to your actions as president. I have pondered for days since reading that passage, how a man who can write those words with such wisdom and insight can order the assassination of perceived enemies without a qualm, can ignore the Constitution and the laws of the land with the arrogance and hubris of a demigod or tyrant, can persecute those who would protect freedom and democracy and bask in the temporary glow false power. Who are you, Mr. President? What happened to the man who wrote those words?

Friday, June 21, 2013

PRISM and The Divine Right of Kings

Dear Mr. President,
Your assurances that the NSA snooping is no big deal and essential for “national security” rings as hollow as your 2008 campaign promises. Your statement on the Charlie Rose show about the FISA court being “transparent” shows how out of touch with reality you are—today’s revelation about how the FISA court warrants authorized by rubber-stamp judges are not specific but broad and general with few restriction show that the FISA court is nothing more than a thin mask for the abuse of power by our government. Snowden’s leaks show the scope of NSA spying, the big brotherism of the U.S. government, the hypocrisy and lies of our leaders, but what upset me most this morning was a line buried in a short article (“Obama to Pick Bush-Era Justice Dept. Official to Lead F.B.I.”, p. A15) in today’s NY Times: “…the F.B.I. has been transforming into a domestic intelligence agency bent on detecting plots and preventing terrorist attacks rather than just solving crimes.” Even the Untouchables have been corrupted to serve the Secret State. The greatest threats to national security, it turns out, is not the Taliban or Al Qaeda or “militants” in the mountains of Waziristan or Yemen, but NSA snoops, CIA assassins and the FBI, for they operate under a cloak of secrecy and secrecy is the antithesis of freedom and democracy. This week’s New Yorker, has an insightful article on the history of secrecy (mystery) and spying versus transparency (publicity) and privacy (“The Prism” by Jill Lepore), which traces the evolution of these terms from the inscrutability of God to the mystery and divine right of kings to the concept of an open and democratic republic based on transparency where there are no secrets of state, no secret deals and no secret laws made by leaders, a fundamental tenet of democracy. The U.S., Lepore points out, was founded as a “republic whose politics would be open to scrutiny, its mysteries of state discabineted. The Constitution was meant to mark the end of an age of political mystery.” But you, Mr. Nobel-Peace-Prize Winner, are leading us back to the dark days of mystery surrounding the king and his court “…where people are too ignorant to judge their rulers,” where “Secrecy is but another word for fear” and where “…cloaking a secret in mystery is a very good way to hide the exercise of power.” We are fast returning to that age of the divine right of kings where fear and secrecy rule the land and democracy and freedom are quaint anachronisms.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Why We the People No Longer Trust Obama

Dear Mr. President,
An editorial in today NY Times (“Details on Spying, Not More Assurances”) is about your “reassurance offensive” in the wake of the NSA surveillance scandal. Monday night you were on the Charlie Rose show: “His promises lacked specificity and some of his descriptions of domestic spying work verged on the misleading… Asked whether the process should be more transparent, Mr. Obama responded with this astonishing statement: ‘It is transparent, that’s why we set up the FISA court.’ ” As the editorial points out, it may be transparent to you but not the public—everything about the FISA court is top secret. Either you’re so cocooned in your delusional world of secrecy that you actually believe this or you’re a blatant liar, neither of which is reassuring. Your credibility is shot, Mr. President, and so is the credibility of your administration. Clapper openly lies to Congress and nothing happens. General Keith Alexander (NSA) and Sean Joyce (FBI) give examples of terrorist plots foiled by the NSA surveillance program and those examples prove nothing (today’s Times, p. A18). The NYC subway plot has been proved over and over to have been the result of Scotland Yard police work, not NSA surveillance. And Joyce had the audacity to claim that a plot to blow up the NY Stock Exchange was foiled due to NSA data, yet no defendants were ever charged with that plot. When Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) asked Gen. Alexander why the FBI couldn’t just get the information they needed through the normal process, he said he “was open to doing it that way,” and when Rep. Jim Hines (D-CT) asked how many attacks were actually stopped by the NSA database, Joyce replied that it was “an almost impossible question…” Right. Meanwhile, in a Senate hearing, Mueller admitted that the FBI has used drones for surveillance in the U.S.; even Feinstein was alarmed at that revelation. And in another article on page 1 of the Times, the FBI’s internal investigation process, over the past 20 years and 150 shootings, has never found an FBI agent to have wrongfully shot anyone in spite of the fact that the FBI paid one victim $1.3 million. Do you wonder why We the People no longer trust you or the government? Do you wonder why foreigners no longer trust you? Easy answer, Mr. President: lack of transparency and abuse of power. Secret spying, secret hacking, secret laws, secret wars, secret deals, all lead to loss of faith, loss of hope, loss of belief. Your words are as hollow as your soul.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Karzai's Slush Fund Drains Philadelphia School Budget

Dear Mr. President,
Kill List Tuesday again. Also the day when we officially turn over security responsibility for all of Afghanistan to the Afghans—from now on, they operate without American air support, medevac helicopters and partnered combat units (today’s NYT, p. A6, “Afghan Forces Struggle as U.S. Weans Them Off Support”). The article describes the toll on 2 Afghan soldiers grievously wounded in a battle with the Taliban; one lost both legs and an arm, the other both legs and an eye. No medevacs for them. “Tough love” the military calls it. Tough luck is more accurate. The annual attrition rate in the Afghan army due to low re-enlistment, desertion and casualties was 33% last year; they no longer report that figure since it’s “bad for morale.” Right next to that article is another, “Top Senator On Panel Blocks Aid to Afghanistan,” which reports that Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) is refusing to release $75 million to help organize elections in Afghanistan until he’s assured that “the bags of cash being delivered to Mr. Karzai by the CIA [are] not fueling the corruption that pervades the Afghan government.” Corker says he’s written 4 letters to you and received no response. A spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, however, says the White House has been “in close touch with Senator Corker’s staff since he first demanded an explanation in early May…and they look forward to continuing to work with him…” Regardless of who’s telling the truth, the CIA is still delivering bags of cash to Karzai to pay off “warlords, politicians, lawmakers and other powerful Afghans…some of whom have ties to the Taliban… [or] are involved in opium trafficking,” Meanwhile, in yesterday’s Times, a front page article reports on the dire plight of Philadelphia schools which had to cut “19% of the school-based work force, including all 127 assistant principals, 646 teachers and more than 1,200 aides.” Next year there will be no money for books, paper, school nurses, counselors, librarians, sports or bands. Our priorities are seriously screwed up, Mr. President. The CIA delivers bags of cash to Karzai to pay off Afghan drug lords and war lords while we starve our school budgets so kids don’t have books? What is wrong with this picture? And how ironic that just an hour ago, I received an email from the White House listing all the great things your administration has done and is doing to promote higher education. The truth is, billions for war, nothing for education. We are destroying our own future.

Monday, June 17, 2013

“All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

Dear Mr. President,
The masthead of the NYT says “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” Apparently, the news on Afghanistan, where we still have 66,000 troops killing and being killed, Guantanamo, where they’ve thought up new ways to brutalize prisoners and the Bradley Manning show trial isn’t fit to print since there’s not a word on any of them for days. The front page did have an account of Erdogan’s crackdown on protests at Taksim Square; it sounds much like the NYPD and Oakland PD crackdown on the Occupy protests in 2011, although Erdogan also took direct aim at the foreign press, medics who treat protesters and businesses—including luxury hotels in the area—who shelter them. Then the story on p. A7 about the latest revelation that the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand tapped the phones and computers of G20 participants in 2009. So much for friends and allies; everyone’s now an enemy or a potential enemy. The Times article is curious though; nothing about the crimes committed by the government and all about Snowden’s “shocking” breach of security, Clapper’s letter to Congress assuring them that “dozens” of terrorist plots have been thwarted by the NSA surveillance systems and Cheney’s latest proclamation that Snowden is a “criminal and a traitor.” I guess it’s not fit to print that Cheney should be hauled before the ICC for war crimes or that Clapper should be charged with contempt of Congress for lying. But in typical topsy-turvy Obamajustice, they go free while the Injustice Department trumps up charges to get Snowden in their clutches and silence him permanently, maybe even a cell in Guantanamo where the latest twist in cruelty is a change from using soft plastic feeding tubes for force-feeding hunger-strikers to stiff blue and green plastic tubes with  metal inserts that cause internal bleeding along with a new regime of loud noise and banging cell doors all night to prevent prisoners from sleeping, all designed to break the hunger strike. You may think force-feeding is humanitarian, that suppressing whistle-blowers is necessary for national security and that drone strikes protect the U.S., but I call them all crimes against humanity. Steve Coll, in his current New Yorker article on press leaks, says, “press leaks offend [your aides’] aesthetics of power.” I think that applies to you too, Mr. President. So does this: “…the self-evident truth that secrecy and concentrated power are inherently corrupting.” And it’s only going to get worse.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Just Following Orders at Guantanamo

Dear Mr. President,
An article published on the New England Journal of Medicine’s website Wednesday urges Navy doctors at Guantanamo to mutiny and stop force-feeding hunger strikers, calling it “aggressive assault.” In response, Navy Captain Robert Durand said, “People follow lawful orders. It’s Department of Defense policy to preserve life through lawful means.” (Miami Herald, “Doctors of hunger-strike detainees urged to mutiny”, June 13, 2013) Military policy is to preserve life? Really? “Just following orders” is the standard response of all those complicit in torture, murder and brutality. That excuse didn’t work for the Nazis at Nuremburg and it is no more valid now than it was then. 104 prisoners in the American Gulag of Guantanamo are now officially classified hunger strikers; 43 are force-fed. This doesn’t include 14 CIA prisoners in the top-secret Camp 7—Capt. Durand is “forbidden” to include them in the count. Are they too, on a hunger strike? Force-fed? A mutiny by Guantanamo doctors would be, at the very least, moral and ethical. “Just following orders” was an inadequate defense at Nuremburg; the orders being followed were ruled unlawful. Force-feeding at Guantanamo has been ruled torture and condemned by the World Medical Association, the UN, the AMA and medical groups around the world. You are on the wrong side of history, Mr. President, the wrong side of ethics, the wrong side of morality, the wrong side of humanity. You embraced not only Bush the Lesser’s Global War of Terror but the lawlessness of his neocon administration and their dream of Empire. You have taken suppression of whistle-blowers to new extremes, the lack of transparency to levels unimagined a decade ago, and made war acceptable foreign policy. Meanwhile, the harpies in Congress spread fear and ignorance, support your murderous wars of aggression, and willingly implement a police state where everyone is watched and no one is free, where inequality is accepted as normal and doublethink is perceived as logical truth. You have betrayed not only We the People, but millions around the world who believed your promises of Hope, Change and the restoration of justice. Four and a half years later we have a world more unjust, more violent and more unequal, a world rampant with fear and hatred, a world of Kill Lists, targeted assassinations and indefinite detention, a world of rich and poor and no in-between. Welcome to Obama’s world where even starving for justice is no longer allowed.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Inquisition and the Wizard

Dear Mr. President,
The war crimes tribunal for the Guantanamo prisoner [Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri] charged in the attack on the USS Cole is going into a closed session dealing with a subject so secret even the defendant can’t hear it.” (SF Chronicle, June 14, p. A2) For reasons of "national security," Col. James Pohl ruled yesterday. The Inquisition has returned and 14th century religious law now rules American jurisprudence in the 21st century. It’s not only in Guantanamo; it’s also in the Ft. Meade trial of Bradley Manning where he is not permitted to testify to his motives, where witnesses who knew and supervised him will not be permitted to testify on his behalf and where a witness for the prosecution—a member of Seal Team 6—will remain hidden and unidentified. Kangaroo courts and Show Trials have replaced the rule of law and the Constitution in Obama’s Amerika, a land where secrecy reigns and injustice prevails, where freedom of speech is becoming an anachronism, the security state knows everything about everybody and there is “nothing to fear if you’ve done nothing wrong,” one of the most chilling phrases from George Orwell’s 1984. Also yesterday, the Supreme Court “issued a regulation barring most demonstrations in front of the courthouse” (NY Times, p. A14) and Senator Feinstein’s reaction to the revelations of all-encompassing spying by the NSA is to tighten security even more so low level contractors like Edward Snowden and military analysts like Bradley Manning can’t download classified information from the government’s massive databases onto flash drives and share that information with reporters and WikiLeakers. (But with 1.3 million people having Top Secret clearance, it’s hard to tighten security and still share information among the sprawling intelligence/military network.) It’s a dystopian vision of Obama’s Amerika, but it’s the one our Nobel Peace Prize winning Democratic president brought into being. You have embraced every policy Bush and his neocons created, and continued, expanded and morphed them in ways the neocons never dreamed. You are not Bush Lite but Bush Heavy. You are not the lesser evil but the more effective evil. You are not, as so many argue, a helpless prisoner of a Republican Congress, for your own party is complicit in your endless wars against man and the planet. You are the wizard behind the curtain, the issuer of proclamations, a sideshow for the rich while the evil you do goes on behind closed doors and out of sight.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nazi Germany, Nazi America

Dear Mr. President,
Following WW II the spectacle of the Nuremberg trials convinced us that some monstrous evil had turned the German people into a nation of mindless goose-stepping Nazis who condoned injustice and bigotry, violence and murder, who could not distinguish right from wrong, good from evil. How could people be like this? we wondered in our smug satisfaction of knowing we had saved the world from tyranny. How could the Germans let Hitler come to power? How could they allow the extermination of Jews? How could they be so evil? Hannah Arendt gave what happened in Germany, a name: “the banality of evil.” Going about your daily business and not speaking out, doing nothing to oppose the evil your government does. Those who did speak out, who openly opposed what was happening were severely punished—beatings, imprisonment, or death. It took a disastrous defeat in war and a new generation to purge Germany’s national sense of shame. We were so smug, so secure in our superiority and sense of exceptionalism. Then came 9/11 and Bush divided the world neatly into good and evil: we’re good, they’re evil; you’re either with us or with them; they hate us for our freedom—and most people went along. Cheney warned that we might have to go to the dark side and we did—renditions, torture, sometimes death—but our government told us it was necessary to protect us. Guantanamo was opened to house illegal combatants and prevent future attacks and that was accepted too. Warrantless wiretapping followed, then all-encompassing surveillance of everywhere, indefinite detention, secret laws, Kill Lists, targeted assassinations, drone attacks far from any battlefield and a war of terror without end on perceived enemies. We now live in a state of siege, a state of fear where our government operates in secrecy, openly lies to Congress and anyone who would dare expose the truth is severely punished. Among others, Bradley Manning and now, Eric Snowden. In spite of the revelations exposed by these men, there is no public outcry, no mass protests. Senators and representatives rage against the traitors, support the liars, and don’t care about injustice and the loss of freedom. Only a few stand up against the abuse of power but they are shouted down and ignored. The rest go about their business and are complicit in criminality by the state. The technology has changed, the names have changed, but the evil is the same today as it was then. The banality of evil. Welcome to Nazi America.

Monday, June 10, 2013

You Can't Make This Stuff Up: Snowden and the NSA

Dear Mr. President,
You can’t make this stuff up. The pundits tell us that the leaker of the NSA’s surveillance program must be a high level intelligence official but it turns out to be Edward Snowden, a 29-year old computer security contractor for the NSA, an employee of Booz Allen, which markets itself as “the premier protector of America’s classified computer infrastructure.” Snowden, like Bradley Manning before him, was a young idealist with unlimited access to secret information who believed in the Constitution and the need for transparency in a democracy, the power elite’s worst nightmare. Snowden, early on, felt an obligation to help free people from oppression and in 2003 signed up for the Army Special Forces training so he could go to Iraq but quickly became disillusioned: “Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone.” (Today’s NYT, p. A13) He broke his leg during a training accident, was discharged and went to work as a computer tech with access to first, the CIA’s secrets and then the NSA’s. He watched you advance policies he thought you would rein in and, like Manning, revealed information showing the abuses of government. Both Manning and Snowden are bright and articulate and the contrast to our sclerotic politicians could not be more striking. In today’s Times, McCain blathers about how the threat of terrorism is growing steadily and we need this surveillance. Excuse me, Senator, but this sounds like an admission that we lost the Global War on Terror. Then there’s Feinstein, whose descent into senility and doublethunk is frightening. She’d be willing to hold hearings on the importance of the surveillance program every month, she says, but the information is classified and can’t be made public. Then she gives examples of how the information was used to foil two plots—Mumbai and the NYC subway. As the Times points out, however, the Mumbai attack was not foiled: more than 160 people were killed and in a separate article, Rep. Mark Udall claims the NY subway plot was foiled not by the NSA, but by British police who tipped us off. Clapper, the guy who flat out lied to Sen. Wyden, said the leaks had caused “huge grave damage, Rep. Mike Rogers continued to deny the scale and scope of the surveillance and both he and Feinstein want Snowden prosecuted. You, on the other hand, project an image of restraint and welcome the debate. Ha! If you had a shred of decency, you’d give Mr. Snowden your Nobel Peace Prize.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Boundless Informant, Boundless Lies

Dear Mr. President,
First it’s the AP phone logs, then the Fox reporter phone logs, then the Verizon phone logs, then PRISM, then that secret directive for defensive and offensive cyberwarfare and now it’s Boundless Informant. What it all shows is that none of our leaders, least of all you, are to be trusted. First the snooping is “limited,” then it isn’t, the data “critical for national security” but it isn’t, it’s “saved lives in foiling terrorist plots”—that turns out not to be true either. “We don’t know how many people are being monitored. Don’t have the capability,” the NSA director tells Congress. A lie. Senator Wyden asks James Clapper, director of national intelligence: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” “No sir,” Clapper responds. Another lie. Now you tell the American people that congressional oversight is our best guarantee that we’re not being spied on? You think anyone believes that? There is no congressional oversight. The NSA lies to Congress—bald-faced lies—and those who actually want to rein in the runaway surveillance state of America have their hands tied by the likes of Feinstein in the Senate and Rogers in the House. I bet you’d like to get Glenn Greenwald in the same cell with Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, call in a drone strike and make all 3 of them disappear. And then there’s that leaker-at-large, the one who’s causing all the mischief, the one who believes the Constitution is still in effect. Where’s Seal Team 6 when you need them? So how’s that summit with China’s President Xi going, Mr. President? Did he bring along a copy of the Heat Map from Boundless Informant that shows a lot of spying on China? Directive 20 that’s an all-hands-on-deck to map out cyberwar? Or did the two of you compare notes, chuckle over all the uproar and agree to keep in touch? What gets me is, in addition to all the lies and obfuscations, the trampling of privacy and 4th Amendment, and all the scare tactics, is that we’re trying to solve the wrong problems. The problem isn’t terrorists in Waziristan and Helmand or al Qaeda franchises in Africa that keep popping up like Taco Bells. That problem’s pretty easy to solve. We stop killing them, they stop killing us. Of course the hard part is seeing them as humans and treating them with respect. Then we tackle the real problems: hunger, health, global warming. Call off the wars, stop snooping and start acting like a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Obama Through the Lens of PRISM

Dear Mr. President,
Turns out your snoops at the NSA/CIA/FBI complex know everything about everybody—not only every phone call made but the PRISM program collects every online photo, Facebook comment, Google query, bank transaction, Skype connection, Yahoo email… The disgruntled intelligence official who leaked all this about the phone logs and PRISM didn’t perform an act of whistle-blowing so much as an act of self-immolation, knowing it won’t take long to figure out who provided the information. Either he or she is already on a plane to Ecuador or, false identity papers in hand, visiting a plastic surgeon. What irony that you’re on your way to press Xi about China’s hacking and spying. I call that poetic justice. You got testy about all this coming out, calling it hype and decrying the leak. “If people don't trust Congress and the judiciary then I think we are going to have some problems here.” (today’s Guardian). I hope so. Not only don’t people trust Congress and the judiciary but they don’t trust you either, Mr. President. For 4½ years you’ve broken promise after promise, continued and expanded your predecessor’s policies that you railed against in 2008 to get elected, promoted wars of aggression, suppressed information, ignored laws domestic and foreign, violated the Constitution, ordered assassination of perceived enemies… why should we trust you? And why should we trust the rubber stamp FISA court which operates in secret and approved every request made in 2011 and from its creation in 1978 through the end of 2004, granted 18,761 warrants and rejected 5? And why should we trust Congress who long ago abandoned We the People in favor of the 1%? Even the staid NY Times called Senator Feinstein’s defense of the secret snooping absurd—“…the authorities need this information in case someone might become a terrorist in the future,” she said. Then she added that she didn’t actually know how the data collected was used. (Time to step down, Senator Feinstein.) I thought one of the most interesting quotes in the multiple stories on the secret spying programs was in a story on page A17 of today’s Times: “‘You have a president who’s basically arguing against himself,’ said James Jay Carafano, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. ‘It’s almost Shakespearean. In the speech, he’s saying we’re going to stop doing this stuff, it’s bad. But then he keeps doing it.’” I see more Machiavelli than Shakespeare but it’s definitely a Shakespearian tragedy for the world.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sliding Down the Slippery Slope of Tyrrany

Dear Mr. President,
It’s no surprise that the NSA collects massive amounts of data on Americans. The secret spying on AP and Fox reporters are the tip of the iceberg. Today we learn Verizon turns over phone logs, tomorrow it’ll be AT&T and all the others. According to Senator Love-Them-Drones Feinstein, this is nothing new; it’s been in place for the past 7 years. I think you’re counting on the Facebook generation’s indifferent to this latest invasion of privacy. After all, Facebookers put all kinds of personal stuff out there for people to see. “No problem,” they say. Until it is. I suppose we’ll learn that not only are phone logs collected on business users but also residential users and that, oh, by the way, so are the conversations. After all, there’s that new billion dollar million square foot data center in Utah ready to collect and sift everything we do and say in their search for terrorists at home and abroad. It’s clear that the NSA snoops regard everyone—Islamists, Christians, Afghans, Americans, Uzbeks—as a threat to national security. That’s the way it works sliding down the slippery slope of tyranny. Today I watched John D. McHugh’s short film, “Afghanistan: Drawdown” ( It follows a company of U.S. soldiers and their Afghan counterparts on patrol in Kandahar province. McHugh filmed there in 2006 and returned to see how well-prepared the Afghans are to take over when we leave at the end of 2014. Anyone watching the film can see that the tens of billions we spent recruiting, equipping and training the Afghans to fight off the Taliban when we leave was a total waste of money. They’d see that the Taliban is still strong, that Afghanistan is as much a disaster as was Iraq, and that when (if) we leave, the fighting will continue, the bloodshed and misery will continue and the Taliban will take control. As for Al Qaeda, they too, won. The fall of the Twin Towers was just the beginning. Look at America pre-9/11 and today. We live in a National Security state where we’re searched and spied on, where speech is no longer free and our rights no longer taken for granted, where the bulk of our budget is spent on war and social services and the social safety net is diminishing. We live in a state of fear bordering on tyranny where the president makes secret laws and secret deals and decides who will live and who will die. Welcome to the new world order. Welcome to Obamaworld.