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The next moves in the Spooks v. News cold war

"You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more."

The NSA has always had a problem with the open internet. Now a convergence of interests with large corporations is offering them the tools to destroy it.

Security relies on the keeping of secrets, and the keeping of secrets in a bureaucracy relies on compartmentalization: the left hand remaining unaware of the right hand's activities. Unfortunately, secrecy is inimical to understanding, and the whole purpose of an intelligence agency is to make sense of, and to provide an understanding of, the environment in which the subjects of its surveillance exist. The function of a newspaper or wire service is similar (once you get past "make money by selling advertising and providing readers with sufficiently interesting content that they look at the ads": and as long as they're pursuing traditional substantive news reporting, rather than merely extruding news-shaped prose, as with USA Today or the Daily Mail).

But newspapers have some advantages over the spooks right now. Their requirement for secrecy is strictly time-limited; once their exclusive scoop is on the front page or the top of the website, they don't need it any more. And newspapers aren't limited to physical premises and employees in a specific location or of a specific nationality ...

We've had a very interesting insight into this in the past week. First, Glen Greenwald's partner David Miranda was detained and questioned by the UKBA under Section 7 of the Terrorism Act while transiting Heathrow Airport. (Note: failure to answer questions under Section 7 is a criminal offense — there's no right to avoid self-incrimination under this law. It may well be in conflict with the Human Rights Act, but nobody has yet brought a case to court: one is pending.) Furthermore, all his personal electronics were confiscated. Miranda's partner is of course the key investigative journalist working on the Wikileaks dump for the New York Times and The Guardian. His questioning was irregular enough that journalists, human rights lawyers, Amnesty International, and various MPs (including the Labour Party's shadow home secretary) are all protesting it and the government's own anti-terrorism law watchdog is calling for an explanation.

Now there's a new revelation: The Guardian has come under immense pressure from the British government to destroy or return the Wikileaks data, to the point of having men in uniform turn up with a warrant to smash hard drives.

However, there's an equally important item buried in Alan Rusbridger's account of that day (above). Just as large multinational corporations can seek the country with the most friendly regime for tax purposes, so too can news agencies seek out the most permissive legal environment. (In the light of this item, it should come as no surprise to note that David Miranda is a Brazilian citizen and Glen Greenwald lives in Brazil much of the time. Brazil is not party to the UKUSA joint intelligence sharing treaty and has no dog in the wikileaks fight.)

The spooks are not stupid. There are two ways they can respond to this in a manner consistent with their current objectives. They can try to shut down the press — a distinct possibility within the UK, but still incredibly dangerous — or they can shut down the open internet, in order to stop the information leakage over that channel and, more ambitiously, to stop the public reading undesirable news.

I think they're going for the latter option, although I doubt they can make it stick. Let me walk you through the early stages of what I think is going to happen.

In the UK it's fairly obvious what the mechanism will be. Prime Minister David Cameron has thrown his weight behind mandatory opt-out porn filtering at an ISP level, to protect our children from a torrent of filth on the internet. (He's turned to Chinese corporation Huawei for the tool in question.) All new domestic ISP customer accounts in the UK will be filtered by default, unless the owner opts out. There's also the already-extant UK-wide child pornography filter operated by the Internet Watch Foundation, although its remit is limited to items that are probably illegal to possess ("probably" because that's a determination for a court of law to make). And an existing mechanism — the Official Secrets Act — makes it an offense to possess, distribute, or publish state secrets. Traditionally newspapers were warned off certain state secrets by a process known as a Defense Advisory Notice, warning that publication would result in prosecution. It doesn't take a huge leap of the imagination to foresee the creation of a law allowing for items subject to a DA-Notice to be filtered out of the internet via a national-level porn filter to protect the precious eyeballs of the citizenry from secrets that might trouble their little heads.

On the other hand, the UK may not have a First Amendment but it does have a strong tradition of press freedom, and there are signs that the government has already overreached itself. We'll know things are really going to hell in a handbasket when The Guardian moves its editorial offices to Brazil ...

The question of how one might censor the internet in the USA is a little less clear. The First Amendment allows no scope for DA notices and national internet filtering, after all. However:

The NSA's close relationship with the large corporations is now a matter of public record; Apple, Google, Facebook, and other major ISPs have all been implicated in the NSA's PRISM program. Non-compliant ISPs such as Lavabit and Silent Circle that emphasize customer privacy have been shut down by their owners, presumably after pressure to provide a non-selective trawl of customer email (Lavabit had previously provided individual customer emails in response to a court order, so this indicates a significant escalation in monitoring). The Feds are pissed — apparently shutting down your business rather than continuing it and silently snooping on your customers may be prosecuted as contempt of court. So where does that leave us?

Well, in the Anglophone internet we're currently seeing a quiet but increasingly desperate war for control of the web, partitioning it into vertical silos controlled by various interests. Facebook has a near-monopoly on search-for-people; if you want to find someone, the odds are high that Facebook has got them (especially true if they're nearly tech-illiterate; Facebook is AOL for the Web 2.0 era). Amazon.com has a near-monopoly on retail produce sales over the internet and is trying for a monopoly on books and magazines. (They're now bigger than WalMart.) EBay is where you go to buy second-hand stuff or personal items (I'd be surprised if they don't try to swallow Etsy and the other Maker auction sites soon). And Google is where you search for everything else. There are a couple of also-ran contenders — Apple and Microsoft — but they're not there yet, and anyway, from the NSA's perspective they're as easy to control as the current Big Four. (Microsoft's Skype has already been restructured to centralize it and make it NSA tap-friendly; I'd be astonished if Apple's iMessage isn't also compromised.)

If you can tap data from the major search engines, how hard is it to insert search results into their output?

Easy, it turns out. As easy as falling off a log. Google and Facebook are both advertising businesses. Twitter's trying to become one. Amazon and Ebay both rent space at the top of their search results to vendors who pay more money or offer more profits. Advertising is the keyword. All the NSA needs, in addition to the current information gathering capability, is the ability to inject spurious search results that submerge whatever nugget the user might be hunting for in a sea of irrelevant sewage. Imagine hunting for "Snowden" on Google and, instead of finding The New York Times or The Guardian's in-depth coverage, finding page after page of links to spam blogs.

Possibly the only thing protecting us from this contingency so far is that the first law of intelligence agencies is that information goes in, it never goes out. The idea of deliberately seeding the internet with disinformation is profoundly inimical to the usual methods and mission of an intelligence agency. (Organizations such as the KGB could do it only because the KGB wasn't a pure intelligence agency — it was a secret police force with intelligence gathering as part of its remit.)

If we see the NSA or other US government agencies getting into the disinformation business, then the end game has arrived: there really is a Deep State developing, and it's adopting the tactics of a secret police agency — not merely enforcing laws, or gathering information, but trying to influence the beliefs of the citizenry by systematically lying to them. (China's already there, with its national firewall and prior censorship of news media.) But I don't think we're there just yet.

382 Comments

1:

NOTE

To clarify that last paragraph: the difference between a true Deep State and a Military/Intelligence Industrial Complex is that the former is an anti-democratic state-within-a-state that permits limited democracy as a cover for its own policy-setting, while the latter is merely interested in keeping the pork barrels rolling out. A Deep State sets policies for all areas of state involvement, whereas the M/IIC only influences or sets policies for its own area of interest.

2:

I think you're being overly optimistic with your final paragraph; the UK government routinely shapes discourse (or at any rate attempts to) with lies and misinformation. Even leaving aside adventures in foreign policy, local social policy is largely based on false or openly distorted and misinterpreted data. The hordes of feckless poor infesting and impoverishing our nation are a deliberate construct of the state.

3:

Some speculation:
1. Let's assume that most nation-states without access to NSA intercepts are hard at work cultivating their own national service providers. Russian politicians recently denounced Gmail on privacy grounds. We could see cloud services split along nation-state lines in the near future as a direct result of PRISM & friends.

1. The US, the UK and most likely most everyone else tap fiber optic lines that enter their territory. Cyberwar paranoia in the US could motivate active intercepts on all lines in and out of the country, to guard against some implausible 'cyber-911' scenario. Mission creep would be inevitable, even assuming the best intentions. Many countries would follow our example, leading to an internet fragmented along national lines.

4:

When Octavian defeated Anthony to become the sole ruler of Rome (and its first Emperor, taking the name of Augustus) he kept all the forms of the now dead Republic. The Senate still debated. The Magistrates still stood for election. The Assemblies still voted. The Courts still judged cases. The Roman Constitution remained officially unchanged.

But the People of Rome now lived under a dictatorship and didn't even notice.

5:

As an added bonus to very real concerns about the spreading of misinformation in the U.S. - please remember that our VOA and other propaganda offices are now being allowed to operate in the states, per a recent change in policy.

Truth as a commodity, is in danger of being disappeared.

6:

I keen thinking that it is weird that countries that start with "United" seems particular prone to become totalitarian police-states:

United Soviet Socialist Republics

United Kingdom

United States of America

United Arab Emirates

I guess "United" implies size (for UAE: size of wealth) and size implies power ?

Anyway, my sympathies to the subjects of UK and USA.

... and now: Get of your ass and do something about it.

7:

I note that any nation with the words "People's Republic" in its name is neither.

... and now: Get of your ass and do something about it.

Why do you think I'm writing these long analytical think-pieces rather than working on a novel?

8:

You're doing more than your fair share Charlie, and it is much appreciated.

9:

My take on it is that you can't fight what you don't understand.

I'm a lousy fighter, but trying to understand things is what I do.

(Also, this is all grist for the mill of the current novel.)

10:

Further to this; did you know that the last oil was pumped from the North Sea in 1980? No, and neither did I, but this is what Whitehall claimed in 1973; that the North Sea would be dry by 1980.

11:

ISP's injecting content has been going on for a while http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/04/how-a-banner-ad-for-hs-ok/

I've only heard of it being done for advertising so far, but given the way UK ISPs have repeatedly had their hand forced by the government to add filtering and given that the government has explicitly said that ISPs are going to have to filter search results it seems that this technology is going to be used in exactly the way you describe.

SSL isn't going to stop it either, a state level actor can get all the trusted signing keys it wants.

12:

The seeding disninformation and counterdemocracy has already happened in the UK, specifically in Scotland. You just need to look at the antics the UK Government and the "Better Together" campaign have gotten up to over that. It is now at the point where anything on the BBC news website about Scottish politics and the future prospects of an independent Scotland is so riddled with disinformation to be virtually worthless as news.

I suppose because an independent Scotland threatens the existence of Trident and therefore the rUK's seat at the top table and of course removes a massive US tied-customer and US deniable foreign asset. However, the suppressive UK state is already here.

13:

Prediction. In much the same way as almost every blog posting about over-reach by the authorities acquires a comment troll or two pointing out that the Authorities would not be getting involved if the OP was behaving like a suitably respectable member of society, I think we're going to see a couple of articles in the Mail, Express, Sun or Times suggesting that David Miranda was actually smuggling information and it was a Good thing (in the Jerome Bixby sense) that he was picked up....

14:

"(Also, this is all grist for the mill of the current novel.)" : I think this is a bad case of reality going beyond fiction, will you be able to go further ?

15:

Akicif: The new voice of the Conservative Party, the BBC is already reporting that. The Tories played it smart this time, they know the trifecta of Wail, Sexpress, and Torygraph are their organs, but the oft derided as being "lefty paradise" of the BBC has been totally gutted and re-purposed as the new Daily Mail.

16:

Who needs a disinformation campaign when Google is already tailoring search parameters, and the majority of the population seems less concerned with global events than which celebrity looks terrible in a bikini this week? It's already running.

17:

It's starting to look like the only untraceable and unfiltered network might be the Dark Net...

Oh wait, maybe not.

http://gawker.com/dark-net-busted-wide-open-after-child-porn-arrest-1030239391

18:

@13 akicif

Your prediction was a bit late, the Telegraph have already run that article.
To be fair, he almost certainly was carrying information, but not "information that could potentially destroy the entire security apparatus of the Western world"*, just information that embarrasses the "security apparatus of the Western world".

After all, if being in a relationship with someone who embarrasses the government makes you a terrorist then...
well, that one writes it's self really.

* quote from linked article

19:

The BBC are, and always have been, an organ of the Establishment (not necessarily the same thing as the government, but there tends to be a fair bit of overlap). Nothing new here.

20:

Do what exactly? Non-violent protest isn't even worth the bloody bother anymore, they'll just ignore it; a million people marching through the streets of London all but begging Labour-In-Name-Only not to have anything to do with Iraq might as well have been a freak weather condition. And I can't very well get together with some like-minded friends and hand out a few kneecappings and arson attacks to the more detestable Tory MPs pour encourager les autres because I don't even know how to start soliciting that sort of thing without having the police coming round for a chat.

And yes, I realise that might be of questionable efcfectiveness as a tool of political protest, but it would make me feel better.

21:

"The NSA has always had a problem with the open internet."

Uh, no. The CIA, NSA, MI5 etc. are in the business of collecting and analysing information. It costs lots of money to do so (see NRO -- they're launching another billion-dollar spy satellite next week, a full-fat Delta4 Heavy launch massing over 20 tonnes to LEO) and quite a lot of risk in many cases -- governments treat hostile gathering of information as espionage and hand out sentences tougher than most murderers receive when they catch spies.

To the security services the open internet is a free funnel of information, self-collecting, digital (no need to sneak around with a Minox camera microfilming Ze Secret Plans during an embassy reception), easily stored and transported with no border controls, no suspicious eyes scrutinising fake passports, no need for a false moustache. Analysis becomes easier too, sorting on keywords, listening for trigger words in spoken voice communications etc. The only problem is there's SO much of it hence the explosion in staffing levels for analysts, data processing people etc. that has led in part to the Manning and Snowden affairs.

The current NSA brouhahah (remembering that 96% of the world's population has always been spied on by them, it's only the precious 4%, all US citizens who had thought themselves above the searching gaze of their obedient servants until recently) isn't because the NSA is collecting this information, it doesn't need to since Google and Verizon etc. are already doing it for them. The NSA is collating and analysing readily available databases of call records, internet traffic, emails etc. thanks to the "free" internet.

Back in 1929 Henry Lewis Stimson famously said "Gentlemen do not read each others mail." As secretary of state under Herbert Hoover, Stimson closed the Department of States code-breaking office, the so-called Black Chamber, in 1929. Now that their own ox is being gored many who laughed at the naivety of those earlier more innocent times suddenly find themselves on Stimson's side as it's been perfectly OK to do it to others but heaven forfend it should be done to them.

23:

Why should the USA bother to inject disinformation when they can get foreign governments to do that for them?

24:

My problem with that argument was why on earth was he carrying any information on him. Anyone who thinks for more than a couple of minutes would not be carrying anything important on their person.

I learnt that many years ago talking to a very junior MoD manager.

25:

@7:
... and now: Get of your ass and do something about it.
---
Any suggestions?

The government falls into the category of "highly distributed enemy." And, at least in the USA, candidate selection and policy making aren't even part of the government structure; they're part of the party NGOs, which are even more diffuse and require a lifetime of service (or huge amounts of cash) to influence.

26:

Last week, there was a report on the BBC website showing the Eurozone, in the last quarter, starting to come out of recession: positive growth through some countries are still negative.

On the same day, my local Tory MP retweeted a link from a Party account on how the Eurozone was so much worse than the British economy over the last year: just percentage change in GDP, the same measure the BBC was using.

So I tweeted a link to that BBC report, finishing with the question "Can the UK advantage last?" There was no need for lies, the last year has a different figure to the last quarter, which suggests there is something changing.

He threw some accusations back my way, about me not liking the good news, and Twitter-Blocked me.

I don't use this ID on Twitter, I've been careful not to name names or quote tweets. And I can think of a couple of ways which the NSA or GCHQ can connect the accounts.

What I see is an MP for a party of arrogance who is himself insecure. He's young, and something of a yes-man at heart. He has not, through education or experience, learned how to think.

Amd I think he is the sort of guy who would approve of real-name policies on the internet, without even realising that the world's namespace isn't big enough even for Twitter. He has no feel for what numbers mean.

(He might be a racist bastard: the name I used is realistic, rare, and still European.)

27:

David Miranda is just too bloody obvious a person to use as a courier.

He's so bloody obvious that it's no surprise that he got this attention. I hope he had plenty of innocent data: a well-filled Kindle, a Google Streetview equivalent in holiday snaps, an entirely legitimate preview of a movie, a few copies of Wikipedia in different languages, a Wycliffe Bible in the language of an obscure native tribe...

No, that last might look as though he was tweaking noses.

28:

Two points

1) Greenwald and Snowden had direct contact, this was not a wikileaks dump. While Greenwald has worked with wikileaks material before, this is a different set of reveals

2) the issue with feeding false returns is getting the companies to go along with it. Ads are one thing, pages of false returns is another. Proper use and placement of ads so that they don't distract from the primary business function is already a contested debate in the industry. This proposal would intentionally distract from the primary business. Companies would be more resistant to comply with that. If Google gives me spam instead of information, I go to duckduckgo.

29:

Once software can do reasonably accurate behavior modelling it would be easy enough for an agency with the right powers to shape and direct public discourse in a democratic society. They wouldn't even need the heavy handed methods they need now.

30:

Yup, I can go further. (Current novel: a Merchant Princes trilogy. Think in terms of the current dystopia with added threats from extradimensional superpowers ... no political subtexts here, no sir.)

31:

"News-shaped prose"!

Now there's a quality turn of phrase.

32:

My problem with that argument was why on earth was he carrying any information on him.

What makes you think he was?

I read the confiscation of his electronics as a punitive measure, not an actual search for information.

33:

USA Today is a perfect newspaper-shaped object. It is not, however, a newspaper.

34:

As aggray said, the data destroyed was direct from Snowden, though I suppose they might have been after the original Wikileaks cable dump as well.

If Miranda was carrying any data, which no one has said anything about, I would presume it would have been strongly encrypted. So as long as the NSA hasn't contaminated the PGP code base, that should be fine.

(Though I'd really love it if Miranda's trip were a Trojan horse operation. I wonder if everyone handling his devices will be smart enough to plug them into a fresh image on isolated hardware....)

I also think you're being a little optimistic about them not engaging in propaganda insertion on the internet. They're not being overt about it yet, and it's probably not being run out of the NSA. But I'd be shocked if some US and UK organizations don't have plants out there, or if 'company line' sites get a boost in some search engines.

35:

People are careless sometimes [0], and on Another List we've discussed extracting deep data from theoretically-overwritten hard drives. Miranda's personal data baggage might be clean now but it might have remnants of other stuff lurking in the corners. It might not be new information but knowing what the other person knows can be worth a lot in intelligence circles.

[0] The history of cryptography and codebreaking is littered with successful decryption of secret data because someone was careless in a minor manner, like always sending their coded messages with the same header or leaving low-value cleartext samples around. Much of the early success in decoding Enigma messages during WWII was due to such errors; the heavy computational hammers came later.

37:

Not sure about that. I think there's some damaging information out there and the UK is desperately trying to contain it - otherwise they wouldn't do the headless chicken routine they do.
BTW do we have confirmation that is was the US which told France / Portugal / Spain to block the Ecuadorian presidential plane? Could it have been the UK?

So what kind of information would make the UK security community (or some powerful suborganisation) really scared?

38:

(Though I'd really love it if Miranda's trip were a Trojan horse operation. I wonder if everyone handling his devices will be smart enough to plug them into a fresh image on isolated hardware....)

Standard practice in police IT forensics for the past decade or thereabouts has been to yank the cables and physically disconnect the drive/SSD, then remove said drive and make a bit-wise low-level copy onto your own hardware, two or three times, then work on the copy. Rules of Evidence are only part of the reason -- another issue is dodgy startup or shutdown scripts and other time bombs that the subject of the search may have installed.

But I'd be shocked if some US and UK organizations don't have plants out there

Everyone urgently needs to read The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod, on this very subject. Near future SF novel that explores, among other things, the implications of government disinformation on the internet. Not a happy-fun book, but very relevant.

39:

Rather than these US companies closing down in protest, why don't they simply move their operations to (say) Iceland? That would send a far tougher message.

40:

(a) Cost of bandwidth, financial and otherwise -- Iceland is in the middle of the Atlantic and not as well connected as you might think; if nothing else, packet latency is a problem.

(b) Number of people available to staff the server farms. You know how small Iceland is, as a nation, right? (Google alone would amount to about 30% of the adult working-age population!)

(c) It'd be really easy for a hostile government to cut an offshored search engine off at the routers where the big intercontinental cables hook into the national infrastructure.

(d) How are they going to do business? Remember, they're corporations and they need to earn money. The US government has their banks and PSPs by the short-and-curlies.

41:

I doubt those articles will do the government any good. I'd never have thought I'd recommend reading the comment fields in the Mail, but even the commenters there won't have it.

42:

I'm pretty sure that all countries have spy agencies that feed disinformation to the public. It might not be the NSA, but CIA, FBI, HLS or some other obscure organization do it for sure. And that Telegraph guy Dan Hodges (link @18) most likely also had some guidance from spooky spin doctors - when you check the rhetoric you can tell it's deliberate disinformation.

They wont feed spurious information into Google search results, though, that's not directed enough. Better get some bloggers on your pay roll or influence reporters with background talks.

43:

OK - Brazil, China, Russia etc In fact, anyone not subject to US jurisdiction. The only caveat might be not allowing its use by the native population of their hosts.

I would say that for somewhere like Iceland (or Finland?) this could be a huge business opportunity. Bandwidth is a chicken and egg problem ie they currently don't have it because they don't need it.

Also, in the case of Iceland, they have a certain amount of leverage given Keflavik. No reason why only NATO should be able to use it.

45:

Just like Fox News is a news-tinged cable channel?

46:

Would it be so good that Interested Parties would publish a political fable "The Excecution Channel" under the name Michael McCord just to muddy the waters and hamper word-of-mouth propagation of the original?

47:

I'm not sure that disinformation from the Deep State is really the worst we can expect from them. The consequences can be pretty damn bad (viz. the Iraqi WMD disinformation campaign of 2002), but executive overreach in the US has reached to direct attacks on political opponents (Watergate) and other inconvenient people (the bugging of Martin Luther King, and subsequent blackmail attempts) well within living memory.

There's been nothing that... direct seen yet in the Snowden Stash reporting. But there has been one odd hint, in the form of the supposed "typo" that swept in a "large number" of phone calls from the politically sensitive area of Washington D.C., in the election year of 2008. The NSA-internal auditors who reported on this believe, or claim to believe, or at any rate desperately want you to believe, that this was just a typo, and was really an attempt to "select" phone calls from Egypt (a legitimate foreign target). And it conceivably might have been, given that a bad "selector" in the NSA's machine can sweep up a large number of records very quickly. But in the context of everything else that's going on, I'm somewhat reluctant to take their word for it.

In the meantime, there are (at least for now) alternative curated news streams that provide a partial alternative to the major media. For instance, months before the ethnic conflict in Burma was in the British press (still very little in the US), there was an anonymous-affiliated twitter feed that was tweeting up a storm about it, which is how I learned of it. But those are, of course, also potentially subject to attack. The messy, messy legal situation of Barrett Brown (who solicited help analysing the HB Gary pilfered documents, and now faces a potential long jail sentence for distributing the credit card numbers that were there along with everything else) is a possible preview there.

(That twitter feed is @georgiebc, if anyone's curious; it comes with a blog and a book of anarchist-sounding political theory, though the author disclaims the label vigorously. The associated "real name" is Heather Marsh, but it used to be something else, and whoever's running it has claimed that both are pseudonyms. I take everything they post with a bit of salt, but I take it anyway...)

48:

Actually, the USSA already has a "Deep State" governmental group, aka the Republican Party, Right Wing (TeaBagger) faction therof. See their execution of a deeply repressive agenda in North Carolina and Texas.

It's not just pork that puts that large NSA center in Utah, home of a LOT of my country right or wrong LDS (Mormons to you) and source of reliable non-ethnic linguists. Even a good Episcopalian like myself is described as a "Gentile" by the LDS majority.

(Written without reading the other comments so far)

On other issues, would you feel better describing the UK Government as the big Gangsta's favorite Pit Bull, rather than a poodle? Although I understand the Poodle was a pretty good field dog until they started trying to "improve" the breed.

49:

For those int the UK, one small action would be to sign this petition calling for a public inquiry into Tempora:

http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/public-inquiry-into-the-implications-of-gchq-s-tempora-programme

The campaign website is here

Excellent article, by the way.

50:

There's a simple problem with the NSA et al. getting into the disinformation game: it's been tried before (in the 1950s and 1960s by the CIA, FBI et al) and efforts flailed around for perhaps 20 years. Aside from people developing better BS detectors (as in the late 1960s), it didn't accomplish what its proponents wanted it to, and when the details came out in the Church commission, everyone involved got burned badly. Many careers and programs ended in disgrace.

It's possible that, under the next president (Obama, like Kennedy, is too addicted to secrets for it to happen on his watch), we'll get Church commission 2.0, and the NSA will get hung out to dry the way the CIA was in the 1970s. The CIA has operated in this cycle since its inception (presidents forcing them to over-reach, Congress hanging them out to dry, retrenchment into a defensive crouch, and a new president forcing them to over-reach), and there's no reason to think that NSA or any of the others are immune.

Americans spying on Americans is not new. Hoover's FBI did it since the 1930s. The problem was that they could never legally use the information they obtained, because the got it illegally. Hoover used it for things like blackmail and extortion, but unless they could get the information to turn into something legal, it was unactionable. The FBI has routinely had legal and intelligence arms, and they rarely interacted with each other in the past, and still more rarely interacted on a positive basis.

The US is now trying to get around the legal barrier with National Security Letters and similar, but as Bruce Schneier has noted, it's good business practice for someone service provider, somewhere, to make a stand on protecting their customers' privacy as a service to their customers. Once that happens, I suspect that cooperation with spying will be much harder. This may especially happen if the Supreme Court decides that it is in its best interest to favor open and fair law over secret courts.

Interesting times ahead.

51:

Despite the argument that Amazon, Facebook, Google et al are becoming monopolies, this can change if enough people decide that privacy violations are unacceptable.

I don't see the injection of internet disinformation as being particularly important...yet. Government has been shaping public opinion through friendly media outlets since forever. Just look at the blatant media partisanship in the US over the NSA leaks and the NSA's responses.

Some of this seems rather like Sterling's 1989 book, "Islands in the Net". Rather than data havens, we may well see media havens that are out of reach.

52:

Actually, the USSA already has a "Deep State" governmental group, aka the Republican Party, Right Wing (TeaBagger) faction therof. See their execution of a deeply repressive agenda in North Carolina and Texas.

Nope. Not even close. (Although they'd like to think they were on the way to becoming one.)

Get back to me when they engineer the repeal of posse commitatus and the black helicopters start machine-gunning demonstrators in the Mall. That's when you know you've got a deep state.

The UK government has been trying desperately hard to be the Mini-Me to the USA's Dr Evil ever since the Suez Crisis. While the French government aspired to grow up to be Austin Powers -- or maybe Tintin.

53:

Egypt is an example of a deep state.

54:

Thinking about it, I've got a rather evil scenario for bring down the NSA:

The Rand Paul Commission in 2017 (or if we're lucky 2015).

I don't like Sen. Paul (no surprise, our politics are diametrically opposed on most issues), but he doesn't seem to be a friend of state spying. I can see him trying to bring the Republican party back by dismantling the secrecy state established by, erm, the Republicans about 15 years before.

Personally, I'm hoping we get. Rep. Henry Waxman heading that commission instead. I like him.

Another irony would be if we get Pres. Hillary Clinton reining in the NSA in 2017. Bill Clinton had no time for the CIA during his term, and given that the State Department often opposes activist spies, it's not much of a stretch to see Hillary putting their chains back on either. We'll see.

55:

Oh my – 48 comments in the 4 hrs since I last looked in here (less than that, actually) ….

One presumes the Grauniad carefully copied all the data on their about-to-be-smashed hard drives to another set of locations…. [ or I sincerely hope they did ]

Trying to shut down the press (in the UK) would be incredibly stupid – trying to shut sown the WWW (open internet) will be even more stupid.
How did some parts of the Arab Spring start? Because stupid regimes tried to close down the net!
There’s an even closer parallel, the 1830 revolution – Louis XVIII was an old reactionary, but not terminally stupid – he left well alone, mostly. But his brother Charles X WAS that stupid, started putting the screws on & finally blew it with very strict press controls & censorship. IF you look in the foreground of the famous painting of “Liberty Leading the People” by Delacroix, you’ll see one of the fallen figures is a printer ….
Like you, I don’t think it will stick – it’s how to get a revolution (very nasty & unpredictable) in one easy lesson. I do hope they really aren’t that dumb.
D-notices won’t work on sites whose servers are outside the UK, of course, & will the UK guvmint really try a Chinese-style censorship of the whole net? Or how to fuck your countries’ industrial/technical productivity in one easy step.

Spurious search results are going to get noticed really fast – followed by instant “WTF” from just-about everyone….
As you note, China is already there, so that’s the model to follow … but the moment anyone notices, the protests & shrieking & lying (even more of it, I mean) from gummints is going to get overwhelming.
Yes, a Deep State is as democratic as the DDR was, for instance. Got you.

dd20 @ 4
Oh, they noticed, all right. But none (or virtually none) dared to try to do anything about it. Musso did the same in 1920’s Italy, as opposed to the Nazis, who, certainly after July 1934, overthrew the main constitution & replaced/subsumed it with their own – personally loyal to Adolf.

Cryptic Mirror @ 12
Bollocks
Scotland will be as poor, or poorer then Eire in 1924 if they are stupid enough top vote the vile puritan nanny the Wee Eck into power.
What we want, all of us, including the English, is “Devo-Max” – which may happen, but only AFTER Sliemond has been seen off.

Ben Thompson @ 24
Probably duplicates of information sent by other means, or even fake, really innocent stuff – which he can demand back, in court, to embarrass the spooks. That’s what I’d do, anyway. Yes, ATT @ 27, precisely!
Charlie @ 32
However, he can, quite legitimately, ask for HIS PROPERTY back, once they have analysed it, or made copies (it’s digital material, after all) - & make a very loud noise & stink if they refuse.

Hteromeles @ 49
Nice, but ain’t going to happen.
Why not – because the rethuglican/TeaParty deep state will win in 2016 – they are already vigorously gerrymandering & selecting-out unwanted voters, by carefully filtering the electoral register-equivalent etc …

alex tolley @ 50
I like your mention of Sterling’s novel a lot better than Charlie’s one of Ken Macleod ….

56:

Oh, they noticed and knew. But not unlike us, they rather traded security (end of the endless civil wars) for freedom. Also, not unlike for us, things didn't really change for most people, before it was an oligarchy of a few dozen families and some trappings of democracy (in which the votes of the rich, noble and powerful counted thousand times more than those of the poor who even got to vote), then it was an oligarchy of a few dozen families with one person making the final decisions.

57:

Yes, Egypt is clearly in a Deep State situation. Turkey used to be, but since Ergenekon was rolled up it's much less so.

58:

You clearly know nothing about Scotland, and if you really have the power to see into the future that you imply (Scotland 'will be', will it?), I suggest you get down to the local bookmaker and make some money on the horses instead of venting your spleen here.

59:

Greg: One presumes the Grauniad carefully copied all the data on their about-to-be-smashed hard drives to another set of locations ...

There is much mirth on Twitter today, where Louise Mensch tweeted "Edward Snowden stole it and thanks to our first rate security police at LHR, our security forces have it back. Well done to the police."

To which another twitterite responded, "I dropped my laptop and destroyed the complete works of Shakespeare. History will never forgive me."

In other news, this week wikileaks released a 400Gb encrypted "insurance file", and Utah woman deletes the Internet by accident.

60:

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE:

This is not the Scottish Independence thread you were looking for. Please take it elsewhere.

(Meanwhile, where is Jaroslav Hašek when we need him?)

61:

More from the Jaroslav Hašek dimension:

Guantanamo authorities block Solzhenitsyn's 'Gulag Archipelago'

"The legal team for Shaker Aamer, a British resident who has been detained in Guantanamo without charge or trial for 11 years, attempted to deliver a copy of The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn during a recent visit.

"However, Mr Aamer has now told his lawyers that he never received the book.

"The move by prison authorities follows reports that they banned the works of John Grisham in July this year ..."

62:

I'm with Nojay#21 on this one. The NSA actually likes an unencrypted, uncensored internet, provided they can spy on it without being detected. They've usually opposed any sort of mandatory encryption law on internet traffic because it would reduce their ability to dip into this information. An internet with more government censorship tools and disinformation might be one in which passing secrets is more difficult, but it's also one in which people are more suspicious about what they say on the web, particularly the type of people that they're ostensibly targeting.

Meanwhile, our government tends to be incompetent at propaganda - rather odd when you consider how good we are at commercial advertising. Remember that embarrassing failure of a television network aimed at Arab audiences that Bush started? And the search engines would likely put up much more of a public fight against a government push to meddle with search results, since it directly threatens their credibility with users in a way that merely turning over information does not.

63:

update ..
Just looked at "Torygraph" on-line, with two writers dutifully parrotting the guvmint line ....
The outcry from regular readers about - "excuse us, but aren't we supposed to be infavour of LESS guvmint?" and - "What about actual liberty - aren't we supposed to favour that?! is deafening.
Most amusing.

Actually, Charlie, Schweik is NOT the model we want - given what happened not only 1914-18 in Bohemia, but also later - right up until 1989, in fact.
As I mentioned elsewhere, I used to know-by-sight a fellow worker for this multinational - he'd been in Theresienstat AND the gulag - yes, he was a Czech (And still alive, I think)

[P.S. At risk of annoying Charlie - I have a young friend, a Welshman, currently doing a classics/history MA/PhD at Edinburgh - he keeps me well-informed re Scotland - as does Charlie, incidentally. Ahem. End of. ]

64:

I think an argument can be made that the Arab Spring started as riots over food prices. If true, there's plenty more where that came from.

65:

Heteromeles @ 49
Nice, but ain’t going to happen. Why not – because the rethuglican/TeaParty deep state will win in 2016 – they are already vigorously gerrymandering & selecting-out unwanted voters, by carefully filtering the electoral register-equivalent etc

That's their goal. Whether they'll get there or not is another story. A lot of US political movements make the most noise and stink right before they implode. They're a bit like the titan arum in this regard.

It's worth noting that Rick Perry (Texas governor and former Presidential candidate) is being probed by the Texas attorneys general for corruption (I think he's not alone, but I haven't been paying close attention). Also, the big story on Tea Partyers seems to be them standing around moaning about what happened to their movement. In other news, the Koch brothers are 73 and 77 respectively, and there aren't a lot of young rich dudes funding the far right wing right now. The Tea Party has to win big in 2014, or they're going to fade away, due to lack of interest from younger (and female, and non-white) voters, and due to fights over the estates of their soon-to-be-deceased sponsors.

At the very worst, they might get Eric Cantor to be Speaker of the House in 2014 (it looks like Boehner's on his way out), at which point, they become so obviously stupid that they lose hugely in 2016, which is when the Democrats are likely to do better (since they do better on the national stage).

I'm also wondering what's going to happen when we continue to have monster fires and floods in Red States. These natural disasters are hugely expensive, and when you couple them with a dysfunctional congress and that idiotic sequester, this will likely make more moderate republicans (aka independents) push back, hard, against the extreme white wing. Oops, I actually meant to say right wing, but that typo is just too cool to delete. Anyway, there are some disasters that are just too big for individual states to handle (and note that the Reddest States tend to be among the poorest), and we're getting more of those disasters every year. Firefighters on all levels are already warning that they can't afford to fight all fires or protect all rural homes, and sooner or later, people are going to start screaming for more federal help and a bigger government.

So far as the NSA goes, it's also worth noting that Keith Alexander is going to retire in 2014 after nine years at NSA, so we may actually be seeing his swan song right now. US spy agencies seem to go through massive restructurings when the boss changes, especially if he leaves in disgrace. It may well be that, unless we're in the middle of an extended cyberwar in 2014, whoever comes after Alexander will create a new power base by cleaning up the increasingly public mess that Alexander's created. The NSA went through something very similar in the 1990s.

So no, I don't necessarily see a Deep Red State takeover of the US in 2014 or 2016. I'm not going to be lazy about opposing it, but I don't think that a linear projection of increasing horror from here on out is accurate, either. There's more than a bit of a cycle going on here.

66:

jbhelfrich said:
I also think you're being a little optimistic about them not engaging in propaganda insertion on the internet. They're not being overt about it yet, and it's probably not being run out of the NSA. But I'd be shocked if some US and UK organizations don't have plants out there, or if 'company line' sites get a boost in some search engines.

Geven that astroturfing has a long history, I think that "a little optimistic" is a gross understatement.

67:

The closest thing to a Deep State in the USA is probably what some (often unsavory) people refer to as "ZOG". The manner in which Zionist interests manipulate American politics, and seems immune to party changes or public opinion, is surely similar to what you're calling a Deep State.

68:

@66 "The manner in which Zionist interests manipulate American politics"

You mean by having nuclear weapons and threathening to use them if USA doesn't jump at their every command ?

That's not a zionist thing, that's an Israeli, Pakistani, Indian, and soon to be North Korean and Iranian thing.

It's also totally without relevance to the current topic...

69:

The canonical Deep State is of course Pakistan, where the phrase was coined to refer to the ISI's running of some fraction of everything.

70:

Just a though I had reading about the suicide of Groklaw:

People normally leave the Internet in disgust when the are harassed by Internet trolls or Internet assholes. The assholes are bred by mixing a normal human being (with lots of good and bits of flaws -- slightly temperamental, some odd fixation, things you normally overlook) with the pseudo-anonymity and the distantiation of the Internet. It's a well-known phenomenon and the comics are too numerous for me to try and provide links.

Well, Groklaw quitting because of the NSA makes it clear: your friendly local police is to the NSA what that nice uncle of yours is to Goatse. All thanks to the Internet! :)

71:

I don't think it's irrelevant at all. Have several wars, including the "War on Terror", not been largely manufactured by the elements I'm talking about, and been a driving force behind the imposition of the police state measures under discussion here?

72:

You don't need massive violence to have a "deep state". A "deep state" allows massive violence without much public comment, but it doesn't require it.

OTOH, given the psychoses that seem to affect almost all people who get power without effective oversight, it (the massive violence) is probably inevitable. But it comes AFTER you already have a deep state. Before that happens you can expect scapegoating, but that's been going on all along, and a slow escalation is hard to notice.

Of course, the real thing is that "deep state" doesn't have a sharp boundary. There's no discontinuity between "authoritarian state" and "deep state". I'm not even sure the slope of a measurable trend changes abruptly. Most boundaries in the universe are a reflection of human thought processes and perceptions. If you look closely enough, even your skin doesn't have a sharp boundary, and that's the kind of thing that boundaries were designed to describe. When you get a bit of a distance from the boundary, there's a big difference between "deep state" and "other authoritarian state". The US is currently in a mixed state, with some of the characteristics of a "deep state", some of the characteristics of an "other authoritarian state", and even some of the characteristics of "anarchy". It's been swinging more towards the authoritarian end of the spectrum ever since the frontier closed, and there were cycles of authoritarianism even before then. (See, e.g., the "Alien and Sedition Acts" passed very shortly after the constitution was adopted.) It's still vaguely possible that we will pull back from the brink. Of the intelligence apparatus, only the CIA is clearly beyond the reach of legislative control (they have established independent funding as a drug, and probably arms, runner). But with a determined president and a friendly legislature even they could be brought under control again. Now as to the chances of that happening...

73:

Thanks for plugging The Execution Channel, Charlie.

What I'm mulling over at the moment is how SF and the wider geek world got the internet so wrong: we thought we were throwing open a door, and all the time we were forging new bars for a global cage.

'Information wants to be free' - hah!

74:

@70: "Have several wars, including the "War on Terror", not been largely manufactured by the elements I'm talking about"

No.

They are "market making opportunities" for $BigCorps.

The true holders of power today are the big transnational corporations who answer to no court, and can afford whatever politicians they need, in whatever country they care for.

The fact that the main propaganda channels are also controlled by such big transnational corporations makes the job of manipulating the smoking remains of the democratic ideal to their own purposes so much easier.

"A democracy, if you can keep it!" He warned. We couldn't.

75:

Regarding the idea that the government is attempting to co-opt the Internet. There was an RFP put out on fedbizopps a few years ago, a US Air Force RFP, asking for contractors to do "personna management" on the Internet. The RFP indicated that the task was to make up fake Internet people, have them blog and comment on blogs, to create a perception that there was public debate and support for specific government programs. The RFP was only posted for a few days, until the Internet was buzzing with the news. Then it was taken down and the procurement posted as cancelled.

Having read some blogs and comments that sound like they were responses to this RFP, I can only assume it was revived as a classified project.

76:

Hmmm. Speaking of boundaries, I think you've got to distinguish clearly between the CIA and the goons they've employed.

The CIA can be reined in itself. That's not hard, because it doesn't do it's original job, which was to provide intelligence to the President. It's inarguably incompetent at that--remember their failure to predict the collapse of Communism, the Arab Spring, and Bill Clinton turning to CNN to find out what was happening in Rwanda?--but it can be competent at other things that some presidents dream up, such as assassinations, strong-arm tactics, theft, and so forth.

Then there's the toxic waste the CIA leaves behind. There's always this 10 percent problem with paramilitary and guerrilla activities. Ninety percent of the people trained by the CIA (or the OSS, KGB, etc) forget about it when they get a chance to lead a normal life. After all, how many ex-OSS agents turned terrorist in the 1950s US?

The problem's the other 10% (or possibly 1%), the drug-runners, hitmen, mobsters, arms' merchants, guerrillas, mercenaries, and specialist criminals who are very good at their jobs, and who were downsized when some black ops or other was cancelled. Where do they go? Well, if they're the Zetas or those warlords in the old Golden Triangle, they go into things like drug smuggling. If they're the Northern Alliance, they go into opium production, and if they're Al Qaeda...you get the picture.

The point here is that there's a difference between the CIA and the problems it leaves behind. The CIA has this romantic notion of themselves as the President's special agents, not accountable to Congress, and I don't see them shedding that image any time soon. It's their essential counterweight to the crap they deal with, however crazy this might sound to outsiders.

However, in terms of the misery the CIA causes, they're up there with the oil companies in terms of the damage they cause to the world, both directly (as in Area 51. Talk about a toxic cesspit) and indirectly through empowering people that most societies would imprison.

77:

The UK establishment may be better suited to disinformation than the US is, for scale reasons. The US government is (well, was, when I last saw it) big on "siloing" classified information so that one enemy spy doesn't get everything. The problem is that one silo's disinformation campaign can easily become another silo's hot new scoop, and the problem gets worse the more silos you have.

The US seems to have several industrial complexes but not a deep state (yet). If the financial complex and the military complex somehow united, that would be a deep state, but for now I think the cultures are too dissimilar.

Brett@61: It's not that the US government is bad at propaganda, it's that advertising has desensitized the US public to propaganda.

78:

I don't disagree. It seems to me that what we really have is a global Deep State, which is an extension of the Western military-industrial complex to much of the world. The ideology of this Deep State is flexible on social issues, but ruthless in defending corporate power. One might call this global Deep State the "New World Order", as some of our puppet politicians occasionally do. The designated enemies of this New Order are a ragtag assortment of militant Muslims, Christians, Marxists, anarchists, nationalists, racialists and other undesirables. At this point, the NWO seems to have basically won, if for no other reason than their enemies are all busy fighting each other.

79:

The French tried to have a little room to wiggle, but this has been an increasingly expensive posture to maintain (Unlike the British one, the French nuclear arsenal is real, not something the Americans let them hold for a while after making sure the safety is on). Furthermore, this posture has been decried, and was not very compatible with those of France's European partners (Germany is still occupied, and the UK is Airstrip One).

When Mitterrand came to power, he has to give token of goodwill to Reagan to convince the US that he was not some sort of Commist about to destabilise the Western block by switching alliances with the Soviet Union (and possibly corrupt the children's precious bodily fluids).

Then came Chirac, who put on a brave face during the build-up to the aggression against Iraq, but was actually in cahoots with the Five Eyes -- check "Alliance Base", the secret spying centre in the Invalides where Allied spying agencies exchanged information "as one single agency", working in French and presumably contaminating European intelligence with US crap information extracted under torture. At some point France proposed a "five-eye-style" intelligence arrangement on a permanent basis, but that was refused by the US (in diplomatic telegrammes, it comes off as "the US refuse a no-spying deal with France"; charming).

Of course, Sarkozy was and still is unashamedly pro-American and quite servile to powerful private interests often aligned with those of the US. Hollande does not seem to be very energetic in changing that course -- the Bolivian aircraft disgrace was particularly illuminating in this respect.

So, essentially, you are safe to consider French pretences at independence as basically over if they were even ever serious, and assume France to be a locally-administrated province of the US Empire.

PS: By the way, Le Monde ran a very interesting story on DGSE Internet spying (France does not have a dedicated signal intelligence agency, so it falls on the shoulders of the foreign intelligence agency to deliver on this respect, apparently even on French territory). After admissions that the taps were "not illegal, but a-legal" (are you not relieved?), the matter disappeared from the news headlines without making so much as a wave. As often, what the USA do and it's disgusting, France does and it's hush-hush -- the USA devastated Viet-Nam under simultaneous harsh domestic criticism, while France conducted the Algerian War without mainstream press criticism for decades.


80:

The reason for the "United" things going bad so fast is pretty simple. Like most polities they are far too large and not homogenius enough. The idea that bigger is better is just wrong IMO and humanity would be better served by city states with limited trade than global empires

Empires can work as in the in the days of Rome for example, but compared to now that Empire didn't do that much beyond infrastruture and some civic religion stuff. it was no where near as encompassing as the current set up and the patterns of lif ein say some rural village in Gaul was less effected than day to day life in France.

These days though the speed of communications vastly increases the normal stresses of Imperial society, something thats partially reflected (along with a host of other factors) in the sustained low fertility rates, A happy species reproduces. An unhappy and stressed one will not.

81:

Not very likely, anyone as connected as the Clintons has long been co-opted in the group think. Not by some conspiracy exactly but by the way education is delivered , promotions are handed out and political machines work


If Paul gets any real power he will be too. If he can't be. he won't get power. And yes it plausible he could win an election or even the Presidency, unlikley given the number of his views that are bothersome to voters but if he did., there is little chnace he'd be able to get much done

It started to get that way I'd guess since after the civil war or so, espcially since Wilson. There have been slight fluctuations (Roosevelt and Johnson mostly) but on the whole, its been a political machine from sea to shining sea.

82:

I think it's much the same as any innovation. The innovators move in and do their crazy thing for a while. In this case information wants to be free, and for a little while it is. Then various groups move in and try to monetise (pr0n we're looking at you first, then other industries) and then the politicians try to move in and regulate and somewhere in there government agencies move in and with various degrees of heavy-handness do things.

According to a report I heard The Guardian physically smashed hard drives as required under supervision from GCHQ. They told the people watching this was pointless as the data was already backed up abroad. Assuming the bod from GCHQ had several brain cells to rub together (and they're usually smart cookies so it's a fair assumption) they must have known this, but (shades of another thread) someone elsewhere in a hierarchy doesn't understand it and daft decisions are made. Similarly, UK courts ban Pirate Bay by specific IP addresses. That works so well for 10 minutes.

The same report went on to say, pretty much in response to Section 7, journalists are reverting to the technology of 30 years ago. It's all about electronic data. They can't touch a notepad in the paper sense. Meet face-to-face, take shorthand notes, and the current anti-terror legislation (if upheld in its current form, which will be interesting in and of itself) will be powerless to obtain the information. Who says the law's an ass?

83:

Err, Google? Google is part of the system.

Silicon Valley and the others like Google aren't a band of plucky rebels these days, if they ever were.

They aremore like one of those staid old companies that sells leg irons and pepper spray to government agencies Not necessarily bad but an integral part of the system for good or ill.

84:

You do know the Right sees the Left as doing the same thing with a Marxist influenced "Deep State" moled into entertainment and education.

I've even heard the same terms used.

85:

We can agree to disagree. It's worth reviewing why Bill Clinton didn't like the CIA. Part of it came from their spectacular failure to warn the President that communism was imploding. Then came Rwanda (IIRC. It's in Weiner's Legacy of Ashes). Clinton was getting better, faster intelligence from CNN than he was from the CIA, and he left the spooks flapping in the wind not out of ideology, but out of disgust.

Now, Hillary Clinton, at the State Department, had her own intelligence service. Never heard of them? That's the interesting part. They have the same roots as the CIA in the OSS, but when the OSS was dismantled in 1945, State creamed off a lot of their best HUMINT analysts. Unlike the CIA (which got the paramilitary boys who didn't go to the Pentagon), we haven't heard a lot of noise about the State Department's intelligence wing screwing up. To me, this indicates that, like the NRO, they aren't screwing up.

This is the interesting part about the US Intelligence community. We routinely hear about the CIA, and the NSA seems to be going into drama queen mode as well. Military Intelligence is that legendary oxymoron (cough WMDs, cough, Grenada, cough) but they're the biggest player. Some of their people (e.g. Gray Fox) seem effective at this point, but that can always change rapidly (e.g. Gray Fox 15 years ago).

Then there are the agencies sitting invisible in plain sight: the State Department and the FBI. The FBI is the US primary counterintelligence wing, and they've been in the criminal and military intelligence game since Hoover's early days. They're currently deployed near the front lines in the Middle East as well as in the US. Occasionally they do screw up, as in the Whitey Bolger case, but generally, they seem to be the ones advocating classical interrogation techniques over torture. State Department spooks are...? Who knows?

But getting back to the Clintons, I don't think they're mired in group think. They love politics too much for that, and they've seen an inside we can only speculate about, as at the State Department.

What I do suspect is that Hillary Clinton's probably in the early stages of what Al Gore describes in his current book (The Future). He says, "I am a recovering politician and the chances of a relapse have been diminishing for long enough to increase my confidence that I will not succumb to that temptation again." If Hillary runs, it will either be because she fell off the wagon, or, more likely, because the rest of the field is so incompetent that she feels she has to run to keep things from getting worse. So far as I can tell, duty does matter to her. Personally, I'm hoping more competent younger politicians step up to shoulder the burden, but I'm not holding my breath.

86:

Wait, that Louise Mensch wasn't being sarcastic?!

(I have no idea who this person was. I assumed she was being sarcastic until I saw the your twitter comment. wtf?)

87:

I've been wondering that myself for a while now, since I noticed that the stories seemed to be awfully positive, and the reality somewhat different, more Execution CHannel than the Star Fraction.

There's several reasons I can think of.
1) Authors were writing stories people would want to read, and few people want to read 1984 type stories over and over again, a positive ending is much more fun.
2) the actual requirement for infrastructure and the associated choke points in both software and hardware was misunderstood/ ignored/ not known about, meaning that the capabilities of governments and corporations to deal with things was underestimated.
3) the propaganda machine is more powerful than people think
4) people in general in real life are less like the ones you find in books
5) the atomising and isolating effect of the internet was not fully realised, not sure why.


I note that in the UK, charges are now being made against other NI people, some quite high up, for the phone hacking. It's all a good stick to beat 'irresponsible' journalists with
and ensure that they don't go after anyone important.

I note also the suggestion that the guardian move their editorial offices to Brazil - judging by what I've read in Private Eye, they might just do that, and pay most of the staff much less because of it.

88:

Charlie @ 51
"Mini-Me"
Actually, I think the analogy is different (& scarier) Is Britain playing the part of Austri-Hungary to the USSA's Prussianised Zweiten Reich, with France bieng Italy - and having the nerve to change sides (as Italy did in 1915 ) ... IF so not nice for us!

heteromeles @ 64
I sure hope you are correct!

Anonemouse @ 68
And ain’t that scary!

Simon @ 79
and the patterns of life in say some rural village in Gaul was less affected than day to day life in France.
Sure about that?
Wasn’t there some village on the Brittany coast that caused no end of trouble?

89:

This causes me to de-lurk. :-)

Actually, Charlie, Schweik is NOT the model we want - given what happened not only 1914-18 in Bohemia, but also later - right up until 1989, in fact.

I grew up in Czechoslovakia and beg to differ. Schweik is a model of survival and he served Czechs pretty well. Speaking as a former moderate optimist, as things are going, we all may yet find ourselves in need of his skills.

90:

There's a problem with any attempt to insert false results into search engines.

There's a huge, well-funded, massively international industry devoted to very carefully analysing, parsing and researching exactly what causes search results to rise and fall across the major search engines: the Search Engine Optimisation industry.

Just today Moz.com published a big pile of research which, whilst slightly questionable, appears to indicate that Google+ has more influence on the search results than one might expect - and the Powers That Be at Google were sufficiently concerned about this that Matt Cutts, their head of webspam, responded personally.

And because of the nature of the industry, there are highly incentivised, extremely expert SEO researchers in almost every country on the planet. Sure, the US government might be able to lean on Moz.com, Ian Lurie, and similar people - but all that means is that the proof of government tampering would filter out from BlackHatWorld via a bunch of Malaysian 20-somethings who have figured out how to use the Secret Government Backdoor to get all their pages about penis enhancement to rank too...

91:

I can tell you why nobody early on thought about number 5, it's because the internet made communication and connectedness *much, much easier* for it's early users. Many of them didn't have the greatest social skills and/or weren't located near many like-minded people. And there were still quite a few toll-gates to communication, if you weren't exactly rolling in money. Even as late as 1997, the combination of being a poor college student and having a girlfriend 90 miles away meant that we could talk on the phone for between 12 and 20 cents a minute (depending on the time of day) or we could exchange 8 emails over the course of the evening for free. We generally chose the emails.

The internet *may* (I'm not sure I buy it entirely) have increased atomization and isolation for the median user in 2013, but for many of us who were online early (1987, in my case), the internet was the greatest boon to social interaction since the local pub, if not the village well.

92:

re the Deep State thing; worth mentioning BBC Documentary(s)
The Century Of The Self
which takes on some of these issues; fascinating and tantalising..

93:

States Department spooks are the diplomats. That is part of the job.

Problem is, normally, you do that politely: you interview people, you listen to them, you read newspapers and statistics. The US State Department orders its diplomats to record passwords and credit card numbers and take biometric information on their foreign and UN counterparts. That is not something you normally do in polite company.

94:

Well, actually, no. The titled diplomats aren't, for the most part, spooks. Often those are businessmen or political allies of the current President. There is a Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the State Department (this is a link to their official website), and "INR's primary mission is to harness intelligence to serve U.S. diplomacy. Drawing on all-source intelligence, INR provides value-added independent analysis of events to U.S. State Department policymakers; ensures that intelligence activities support foreign policy and national security purposes; and serves as the focal point in the State Department for ensuring policy review of sensitive counterintelligence and law enforcement activities around the world."

Makes you wonder what that all means...

95:

Silicon Valley and the others like Google aren't a band of plucky rebels these days, if they ever were.

Silicon Valley has been deeply intertwined with the military since its inception. The reason that Fairchild Semiconductor (the original chip maker) located there was because that's where most of the customers were --- and they were almost all defense contractors and subcontractors. That culture had formed around Stanford, largely due to a Stanford professor named Fred Terman, who was a key figure in World War II radar work, and a mentor to such early entrepreneurs as Hewlett and Packard (of, well, you know).

The best reference I know of on this stuff is an excellent series of blog posts actually called The Secret History of Silicon Valley, by a veteran of both the military and the industry (as an executive of several hardware companies), now teaching in B-schools, with the too-good-for-fiction name Steve Blank. It is what it says on the tin.

And having read all that, you might be wondering how on earth Silicon Valley ever got the hippy-dippy reputation. The answer to that is in an odd collision between the tech world and the hippie counterculture that was also in the Bay Area in the late '60s and early '70s; the best reference on that is "What the Dormouse Said", by John Markoff. But regardless of that, the shadow of the military has always loomed large over the area. It's just that a whole lot of people, each for their own reasons, got very, very good at not seeing it.

96:

Actually and usually no indeed. But in the recent past (2003), the USA have actually tasked diplomats with field intelligence gathering. Which was a gross breach of protocol and did not go unnoticed when it was leaked in 2010 by Wikileaks. I agree that it shouldn't be like this, which is indeed the reason why it caused a muffled and very polite uproar amongst other diplomats.

If I had to venture a translation, I would describe de INR's status as "Uses both legal and illegal sources of information; lessens the dependence of US diplomats on CIA delirium/propaganda; occasionally interferes with CIA missions that would obviously go tits up; and go-to people if you are a cop or a spook who wants to talk to somebody in the State Department".

97:
A happy species reproduces. An unhappy and stressed one will not.

Bullshit.

r-selection doesn't really correlate with a long, happy life.

98:

Sean, meet Louise Mensch. Proof that however dumb your politicians are, someone else has politicians who are even worse.

Thankfully she decided to quit politics and fuck off to New York, where I wish her the best of luck in the wonderful world of publishing.

99:

The SEO business might notice a bias in the search system, but they're also the gatekeepers. A government-scale organisation can afford a lot of SEO out of petty cash.

Do you need hidden back-doors in the system, or do you just need to know more about how the system works than the people you want to smother?

100:

I can think of another Village which is likely to get crowded. What do you do with incompetent spies who know too much?

101:

On a related theme, there is more than usual public outcry and effort to defeat the GCSB law in New Zealand at the moment. Have a look at Twitter #GCSB for a sample, and polls indicating 75% national concern.

102:

zochoka @ 100
Ah, you mean Portmeirion?
So convenient for both the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways?

Good pottery too - I have a teapot from them!

h4nd @ 101
Got a useful link for that reference?
Totally meaningless, here!

103:

I assume you've heard about Australia's equivalent: Stephanie Banister.
I propose Palin-Bachmann Disease, with Quayle-Akin Disease for the men, for any politician who makes astoundingly ignorant statements. Of course you can use the names of any appropriate local politicians.

104:

Tell them to write their memoirs, of course. It worked for le Carre, because most of them can't resist embroidering the truth. Actually, yes, I know it's a lot more complicated and vetted and stuff. Still, a lot of incompetent spies have made themselves out to be heroes until they were outed. Jasper Maskelyne comes to mind, to pick a safe, historic example.

105:

Hmm I think time will tell on the Greenwald story, but there are several threads that are unraveling on their side of the story.

1st he said Miranda was just his husband and not a journalist, except it turns out he often acts as his assistant and the Guardian paid for his flights.

He said his partner was denied a Lawyer, but it turns out that he was offered a lawyer but he declined because he did not trust the authorities.

In the New York Times he does admit that the thumb drives confiscated did contain files provided to them by Mr Snowden.

Now Mr Snowden says he says 'England is going to regret this' and he is going to focus on spying within the UK etc, whether that is all bluster he said to CNN in the heat of the moment we shall see. But he does pose a threat to the State, unless you think there should be no defence secrets or any spying in the World.

106:

There's an old and possibly apocryphal story that addresses this point. Supposedly, in a biology department of a major US university, someone went into the bathroom and wrote the following on a bathroom stall:

"Oh Lord, why are we born only to suffer and die?"

Underneath was written:

"Because those who suffered and died left behind more offspring than those who did not."

107:

I'm curious: has anyone else here worked with INR (formerly BIR) products?

I have. So has Carloshasanax. It is entirely innocuous: essentially the same kind of thing that the CRS does, plus direct interviews and (sometimes) access to classified information from elsewhere in the bureaucracy.

You really don't need to translate the website. It means exactly what it says. Want information on investment disputes with foreign governments? Ask the INR. Need to know about land distribution in a foreign province? Ask the INR. Wondering about what it is that the Syrian government is importing? Ask the INR. Need to know the major players in the Argentine opposition? Ask the INR.

Anyway, for a fun review of INR's most important historical effort, read this: http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB121/.

I don't know what exactly you're referring to Cahth3iK. Could you clarify? From my experience, the problem with Wikileaks is that it revealed the content of confidential discussions; not that it showed U.S. diplomats breaking protocol by gathering information. Which means that I'm misunderstanding you. Could you clarify?

108:

Charlie writes:
"If we see the NSA or other US government agencies getting into the disinformation business, then the end game has arrived: there really is a Deep State developing, and it's adopting the tactics of a secret police agency ...... But I don't think we're there just yet."

Goodness me, Charlie! We're there. It's just that their disinformation methods are still pretty primitive. It's disinformation when we've got our Intelligence director having been proved to have lied to Congress under oath by Snowden's PowerPoint revelations. Isn't it disinformation when most of the MSM talking heads seem to be taking their talking points from "unnamed sources"? The thing about Washington is that it's terribly insular and it's behind the cultural curve in so many ways. The old pre-Internet push method of news spin to Newspapers and Cable News is still the preferred MO of disinformation by law enforcement agencies, the DoD, and the intelligence apparat. I suspect it's because many of the senior members of the Executive Branch were middle-aged before the Internet blossomed in the 90s and 00s. They understand that the Internet is a threat, but they don't understand why it's really a threat -- the threat they don't understand is that the Internet is decentralized. When younger Directors of Intelligence are appointed, and they will be, we'll see more focus on the weak links of the Internet -- viz. trust.


109:

I was referring to this sort of things. You seem to understand quite right but simply be too astonished to register what happened. I can't fault you for that (also, it's not from 2003, as I erroneously wrote, but from 2009).

Original cable available courtesy of Wikileaks.

110:

In my previous message, I apparently goofed a link to the relevant Wikipedia Article, "Spying on United Nations leaders by United States diplomats".

111:

Nothing of what you say makes Mirandi a terrorist threat, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Now Mr Snowden says he says 'England is going to regret this' and he is going to focus on spying within the UK etc, whether that is all bluster he said to CNN in the heat of the moment we shall see. But he does pose a threat to the State, unless you think there should be no defence secrets or any spying in the World.

You mean Greenwald, not Snowden.

Yes, there are secrets to be kept. For instance, nuclear launch procedures are rightly kept secret. Or the identity of Valerie Plame. On the other hand, the existence and general nature of the nuclear systems or of the CIA is not, and should not be secret. That open knowledge is essential to a working democracy.

The secret we see spilled here are not specific operational detail, the sort that is useful to enemy spies (if communicated secretly to them). The secrets we see spilled are at best very general information that arguably should be known to the public in the first place; and at worse, reveal gross breaches of the law.

Increasingly, the "secrets" for which wistleblowers are pursued are either "open secrets", the sort of things that everybody knows in general lines, that are convenient for the government to keep blurry, and that get leaked on a regular basis without repression by agents of the state; or simpy, things that embarrass the government. Repressing the publication of open secrets is dangerous because it is a slippery slope to arbitrary prosecution, when everybody is technically in breach of the law and it is applied selectively when convenient. Repressing the publication of embarrassing information made secret to cover it up is the highway to China, making it essentially illegal to express informed and relevant criticism of the government.

112:

We narrowly dodged the "anti-pr0n filter" bullet (or at least, we dodged it being implemented openly - I've no doubt ASIO and ASIS are pushing for covert implementations in future) here in Australia. Or at least, we dodged the bullet of a web-only filter covering all traffic on ports 80 and 8080, transmitted via HTTP being implemented on Australian web feeds from the ISP level. Mostly because the ISPs bitched non-stop about it, because, as they rightly pointed out, it would slow down web traffic, and they'd get blamed.

I place no bets on whether a similar filter won't get implemented by stealth over all traffic on the new, shiny National Broadband Network, no matter which party wins government on September 7th (and thus, no matter whether we get the ALP's Fibre to the Premises version, or the Liberal's Fibre to the Node - aka NBN on the cheap... no, really, that's their major selling point: it's cheaper). Like the USA, we've had a real shifting of Overton windows here, such that the ALP (ostensibly our left-wing "workers" party) now occupies territory which is to the right of where several famous Liberal Prime Ministers positioned themselves (and the Liberals are being pushed ever-rightward to the point where said famous Liberal PMs are busy disowning the party entirely).

CrypticMirror@15: Blame nice, benevolent Uncle Rupert for that one. He's seen what worked well in Australia (where his view pretty much dominates the mainstream media - he owns 70% of the newspapers, and "our" ABC basically got so thoroughly ideologically corrected during the Howard years they pretty much parrot what the Oz is saying these days) and suggested it might work just as well in the UK. What do you know, we've managed to teach our colonial forebears something after all... *deeply cynical sigh*

113:

I think you mean Greenwald, not Snowden. And there's a difference between focusing attention on the activities of the intelligence/counter-terrorism agencies in the UK and revealing every secret held.

For example: Revealing GCHQ holds every IM, email, online shopping transaction, skype call etc. made with a UK terminus for a week regardless of the law, warrants and the like with evidence - if they do such a thing - which I believe is illegal, is a legitimate public interest story. Publishing the name, address and phone number of everyone that works for GCHQ is not.

This is one of the places where Charlie's "News-shaped prose" phrase comes to bear. A good news editor and a decent lawyer (if that's not an oxymoron) will support a journalist in developing, investigating and publishing the first if there's enough to support it. They will equally smack down someone trying to publish the second. And while I'm on the side of Miranda in this case, I'd be on the side of the police when the crash through the door of whoever leaked the names of the GCHQ employees and arrested them.

114:

There's been some odd thinking about the Snowden affair. A tendency to make claims about what he knows, which make assumptions about what he had access to, and which maybe depend on the NSA being stupid.

Somebody on the payroll/human-resources side might have identity details for the NSA employee who works from an office at Google, but just who are the secret police who are going to come storming into Google to arrest him?

Does the NSA have any covert/clandestine agents, and is it really plausible that their identity details are not specially protected?

What has been revealed so far is information on the same level as saying "Amazon ships more than just books".

If the Snowden data is so dreadful (and I can see how the NSA wants to see what it is) it suggests that the internal management of security is badly flawed. The NSA are scared that Snowden got access to stuff he should not have been able to.

That would matter to them even if all the schemes reported were perfectly legal.

115:

Rational Plan @ 105 (& others)
UPDATE
The BBC Radio4 programme “Today” had a brief interview with Miranda &, just after the 07.00 news bulletin, fascinatingly one
with Duncan Campbell (!) who had similar experiences, way back when.
His comments ( PLEASE, if you can, use “listen again” on this one …) were to the effect that this happens about once every 10-15 years or so, & it’s GCHQ – he specifically blamed “Cheltenham” for their paranoid obsessions & hyper-sensitivity. At the same time, he said, yes, there really are nasty terrorists out there & we need both HUMINT & ELINT to combat them, but that the reactions of GCHQ & the sensitivities of the politicos who appear to believe that they are in charge are ridiculous & unnecessary.
Later, in the same programme (about 08.15 ?) Malcolm Rifkind [ No title, because a title implies honour ] came on to “defend” the guvmin’t position.
I don’t think he actually straight-out lied, but the amount of bluff, bully, bluster & total bullshit spouted was highly impressive – or would be if one did not recognise the signs, that is.

And no, DEAD WRONG. He does not “pose a threat” except to people who have been caught acting illegally & who are spying on their own people, because they can, not because they need to or should.
It is the illegality & hypocrisy & over-reactions that are the give-away(s)
As cahth3iK also says in # 111, so there!
Ditto El @ 113.
This, in fact is the distinction that Rifkind did not make, very carefully – in fact he was trying to do the exact opposite, the slime.
Particularly: or simply, things that embarrass the government.
Now THAT will certainly get you 20 years jail – embarrassing those in power, & we mustn’t do that, must we?

116:

... unless you think there should be no defence secrets or any spying in the World.

Actually, I do think that. It's an excellent synopsis of a lot of what's wrong with us that we take this kind of shit not merely for granted but as being necessary. A good goal to aim for would be the total abolition of violence and coercion at all levels, by every human being, period. (Optional: an exception for voluntary participants in some sports.) Do you have a problem with that?

117:

> A good goal to aim for would be the total abolition of violence and coercion at all levels, by every human being, period.

I'm not sure that's right actually. If there were no punishment for crimes, I think we would live in an entirely different social dynamic than we do, one in which the decision to commit a crime is not a major decision. I think society is only possible because of coercion.

Of course, this will all depend on how you construct the removal of coercion and violence.

118:

And I see that that Louise Mensch has waded in - Mad Mel next, perhaps?

119:

For my sins, it's a part of the public record that I worked on ADCNET - Australian Diplomatic Communications Network - many, many years ago.

This carries data from embassies that is fed to analysts, then summarised, pasteurised, bowdlerised and homogenised and kicked up the food chain - sideways too. Some data highly sensitive about organised crime, war crimes, who's sleeping with who (or what) some data actually dangerous, some harmless but embarrassing.

Like the exact circumstances in which a former Prime Minister lost his trousers. Those messages made nice test data, as they were both a) classified up the Wazoo and burn-before-reading and b) if they escaped, would do no harm.

And having signed the Official Secrets Act, and also having a strong sense of ethics, that's about all I can say about it.

Mr Stross - keep up the good work. It's needed.

One silver lining - monolithic organisations with TLAs for names (TLA - three letter acronym) are composed of individuals, with varying degrees of competence, and varying degrees of morality.

Finding good help who will stay stumm over the more egregious illegalities that violate their oaths of loyalty - be it to the Crown, the Constitution or whatever - is hard. Those who will stay silent tend to be incompetent chumbalones or backstabbing sociopaths who don't play nice with others of their ilk. They're self-limiting, a pan-demonium.

The Laundry series is almost a training manual, as is the film "Our Man in Havana". I have no idea how that one ever got released.

We may not have saved the world from Nameless Horrors From Beyond - but at least one politically well-connected pedophile ring outside Australia was suppressed. A few massacres and at least one minor war prevented or at least, postponed. Time will tell there.

It's not just our failures that get .. silenced. Not reported on.

As for me - I haven't bothered using an anonymous monicker or encrypted e-mail since the 90's. It would only have given a false sense of security. A secret isn't secure if more than one person knows it. Don't write a comment (like this one), or an e-mail, unless you could live with it being plastered on the front page of national newspapers.

120:

@114: "Does the NSA have any covert/clandestine agents?"

That is a *very* interesting question, and the answer depends a lot what meaning you use for the words "does", "have", "any" and "agents".

Strictly, legally speaking, NSA does not have any agents at all.

And it is specifically illegal for them to plant a salaried agent in a US corporation, only FBI has permission for that.

That still leaves some pretty big gaps.

They can use "associates" abroad, and I have met a number of telco people who clearly knew a lot more about SIGINT than they would ever need for their dayjob.

There are also suprisingly many people who "consult to NSA" on intermittent or continous basis, not just in academia.

I think the sane conclusion is that NSA seems to know how to get value for money, even if they don't always do that.

121:

+5 for Nojay!

122:

Check your data: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Air_Station_Keflavik
I'll quote the opening paragraph:
United States Naval Air Station Keflavik (NASKEF) is a former U.S. Navy base at Keflavík International Airport, Iceland. It is located on the Reykjanes peninsula on the south-west portion of the island. NASKEF was closed on 8 September 2006 and its facilities taken over by the Icelandic Defence Agency which maintained it as its primary base until January 1, 2011 when it was abolished.

NATO has only had a periodic presence on Iceland since 2006; absent a Soviet threat, there's been no need. The US is still obligated by treaty to defend Iceland (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/ice001.asp), but no longer maintains permanent forces there.

123:

Sadly, they're closer to Inspector Clouseau than either of those.

124:

Charlie, if you want to look at a place where the state is not merely deleting things, but also, through payment of fifty-centers on comments threads, actively inserting information, look at the PRC.

And yes, traffic analysis of the block list is indeed a very helpful way to see what its priorities are:
http://blockedonweibo.tumblr.com/

And the Revolt of the Nerds certainly isn't happening there, but neither is it looking impossible:
http://bloodandtreasure.typepad.com/blood_treasure/2012/05/what-does-the-technical-cadre-think.html

125:

"though I suppose they might have been after the original Wikileaks cable dump as well."
The original dump has long leaked in its entirety, unencrypted.

Google z.gpg and "AcollectionOfDiplomaticHistorySince_1966_ToThePresentDay#".

126:

And +5 for aebrain.

127:

I will limit myself to one overall comment on this thread: the view looks VERY different on the inside.

128:

Hello? Has it occurred to you that the worst crimes, almost by definition, involve violence and coercion?

129:

I wasn't using "agent" in a particular legal sense. And I don't think the hypothetical person at Google needs to be paid by the NSA, but it could be somebody with a suitable security clearance for whom they have a phone number and a pre-arranged authentication code.

Are there NSA-assigned staff at Menwith Hill, for instance?

130:
... unless you think there should be no defence secrets or any spying in the World.

Actually, I do think that. It's an excellent synopsis of a lot of what's wrong with us that we take this kind of shit not merely for granted but as being necessary.


I wonder just how much this is because most of us keep some secrets. Some things aren't necessarily secrets so much as just not really talked about possibly.

Most people who comment on this blog know I'm not a Christian, but I wonder how many know what I answer if I'm pressed on 'what religion are you?' in a reasonably friendly setting? I can't remember if I've ever answered and I might well have, it's the kind of diversion that crops up after all. (I'm not going to here and now, it's a diversion to the main thread to illustrate a point.)

In this day and age as adults in the UK we're mostly able to be open about our sexuality. However, there's been precisely 1 elite level professional rugby player, very much towards the end of his career, who's come out. That's implausibly few. There's 1 elite level official (that's stretching plausibility, but just about within the bounds of possibility). I think it's worse in football. I'm assured by a friend who is teaching in secondary school despite policies in place to say you're not allowed to persecute on the basis of sexuality, college is the first place you really stand a chance of being out and not bullied, universities are generally pretty good about it. Schools will stand up for you, but you will get bullied too. Adult professional sportsmen seem to feel the need to keep it a secret. Just how the public would react would be interesting. Professional sportswomen being lesbian hasn't been a problem for ages - Martina Navratilova was out and proud in my youth. She was probably the first publicly out lesbian I knew of.

The point I'm trying to make is that because we have secrets, people we know have secrets, we're probably happy to accept that the state has secrets too. And we like gossip and knowing other people's secrets - maybe not each and every one of us, but enough of us do. So we accept that states will too, so spies are OK. It's not entirely rational of course, states aren't people. But people aren't entirely rational either.

131:

Charlie @ 116
On optimistic & desireable outcome to be aimed for, indeed.
In the meantime, what do individuals, larger grouping, nations actually DO about various sociopaths, [ pace your comment # 128 ] be they thieves, murderers, kiddy-fiddlers or the larger monsters, like J V Djugvlashii, Bokassa, Gaddaffi & the religious leaders, various, who want to “lead” people back into darkness & horror.
What must be done? How to stop these people, without coercion?

Dave P @ 127
The view is different, because you’re wearing BLINKERS!

132:

Of course the view looks very different on the inside ...!

You're surrounded by chatter. Lots of it. Most of it -- the vast majority -- is junk; it's the equivalent of old-timers grumbling in the pub about what's wrong with the world and what it would take to put it to rights, starting with a short sharp shock and a couple of bullets in the heads of the folks responsible for fucking everything up. The trouble is, once in a while it's not idle pub chit-chat; it's hot-heads getting themselves worked up into a fine fighting fury and preparing to go forth and do battle.

The trouble is, telling the two apart is a nightmare, even before we get into sociocultural and linguistic issues, nuance, irony, and sarcasm. (Does anyone have an algorithm for assigning the probability that an inflammatory statement is made with ironic or sarcastic intent? In a foreign language? Possibly using street slang that hasn't made it into the official dictionaries yet, or poetic allusions? Or pop-culture references to someone else's pop culture?)

Add secrecy -- compartmentalization into vertical silos to prevent assets being compromised by one rogue element -- and it becomes much, much harder to ask for a sanity check on one's suspicions; you're alone in the dark with a mass of threatening rhetoric and signifiers to assign weight to, and there's nobody to give you a second opinion (without lots of paperwork and, effectively, an admission that you're not competent to do the job on your own -- which threatens your status and standing within the organization).

So you end up jumping at shadows, menaced by spectres, and acutely aware that if you stop doing your job the entire world will come crashing down.

(This syndrome afflicts cops, too: I got an earful of it back in the 80s when the shop I was running was staked out for an armed robbery by the flying squad. Twice over. They were convinced that Halifax was a sea of villainy populated entirely by psychopathic serial killers and armed robbers, and that only they, the few, the proud, the thin blue line, stood between law-abiding citizens such as myself and total anarchy and bloody chaos. I hadn't the heart to tell them that my shop was one of an entire chain of pharmacies that was owned by probably the richest junkie in West Yorkshire.)

Thing is, it's not true. Words are far easier than deeds. Analysis in terms of capabilities is a snare and a delusion because it compels you to think the worst of everybody. In reality, most people just aren't that bad. Most people just want to get along. (The armed robbery the cops in Halifax were anticipating? It was a pair of junkies with an MO involving a motorcycle, an unloaded shotgun, and a few pairs of cheap handcuffs. Scary but not actually violent. The armed police were more of a danger to the public, frankly: they were frustrated at not having caught the raiders, and psyched up for a siege and a shoot-out ...)

Final point: the total online surveillance state that's being built is self-defeating. As people become more aware of it, the real bad guys will adapt their tactics to avoid channels that may be monitored. Not using the internet or phones will hamper them, but it'll cripple the Five Eyes that depend on their red-rimmed unblinking gaze that covers that realm. The people who will be worst affected are the innocent general public: people like Pamela Jones. And we're all the poorer for it.

133:

I've heard an interesting couple of talks from folks involved in tor (the Onion Router) about the battle between two spook agencies. to basically came out of the ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence). They do HUMINT with people on-the-ground and they have been using Internet-based communications for their assets for as long as that's been feasible. However, as their rep said, they had the problem that even if the contents was encrypted, the very fact that their operative was sending data to an IP address that could be linked to the US government was risky for the operative. When they came up with the idea for tor, they couldn't just keep it to themselves, because that defeats the purpose - if only they are running tor nodes, then any tor traffic reveals that it's the ONI. So, basically they released tor to the community and continue to support it technically, in order to have the ordinary users help to hide their operatives. Apparently the NSA are really unhappy with the ONI over tor.

134:

So what kind of information would make the UK security community (or some powerful suborganisation) really scared?

How tax payers money are being wasted would be a good bet!

135:

Absofrakkinglutely not!

OK, I'll lay my goods on the table. I am a former intelligence officer. The short version: USAF active duty 1980-1988; USAF active Reserve 1988-2001, retired as O-4 (Major). DOD Civil Service 1990-present, as intelligence officer 1990-1994.

Post 1: Governments are made up of people. The majority of people involved in defense and intelligence are not significantly different in intellect, education and morality than those that post on this blog. What is different than the tenor of most of the comments here is that, shockingly, we ARE morally invested in what we do and are able to tell right from wrong, AND we have, at least in the United States, the mechanisms and the culture to not blindly accept bad/stupid/unlawful orders. This system is not perfect; as an example, Oliver North should have refused his role in Iran-Contra as a matter of principle.

This happens more often than you might think. We had an Air Force lieutenant colonel in my office for a while who had blown the whistle on misconduct by a general officer in his chain of command. He was moved to our office from his prior job to protect him while the matter was investigated. The general was charged, convicted, and the lieutenant colonel has moved on to another assignment of his choosing, all without the press being involved, by the way.

We take our ethics seriously. I say that with a straight face, despite the snickers I imagine from you out there. We don't blindly accept the corporate line. We are mad as hell at the way elements in the US Congress seem to be attacking the ability of the US government to function. We believe in the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

"I [name] do solemny swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God."

You may think it corny, naive or simplistic, but good men and women have died or staked their lives and livelihoods on those words, as I have, and do so today.

136:

Nope. I knew about that. It's not related to INR.

I am surprised that you think it's inappropriate. Why do you think it's inappropriate? I can kinda sorta see it with the passwords, but not really. Seriously, why is this request even bothersome, let alone shocking?

137:

Post 2: Intelligence.
Intelligence is a directed activity by which an organization obtains information vital to its operation in a sometimes hostile environment.

Intelligence is usually subdivided by its input source: Human sources (HUMINT); Imagery (IMINT); signals (SIGINT); electronic emissions (ELINT); measurement and signatures (MASINT). The difference between SIGINT and ELINT is that SIGINT analyzes the content of signals; ELINT characterizes the form of a signal (frequency, wavelength, polarization, pulse repetition frequency, etc.).

Direction: Intelligence collection is targeted -
@96: The misunderstanding here is that collection REQUIREMENTS are promulgated across the intelligence community to make sure we don't try to collect the same information twice, not to tell everyone who receives the message to collect the information. Once the requirements are promulgated, they are then TASKED to an appropriate collector. You read the alleged first message, not the second. The amount of information available globally far surpasses the ability of any organization to gather and analyze; we MUST prioritize or the noise will drown the signal. For the same reason, Western intelligence agencies don't give a flip if citizen A cheats on their spouse or thinks all their politicians date sheep. They DO care if those citizens are plotting to bomb a subway or fly an airplane into a building.

NSA. I'm going to tread carefully here to not discuss abilities or priorities. NSA is geek central; the idea that NSA has "agents" is a farcical as saying the London Symphony Orchestra has "agents". NSA nearly cried and hid in the corner when the WWW exploded in the 1990s; who could possibly track that much information. PRISM is most likely (I have no direct knowledge) an attempt to get some handle on the googlebytes of data that fly around the globe, to try to find the megabytes of intelligence information.

138:

Post 3: Intelligence vs. Counterintelligence vs. Law Enforcement: Intelligence is our attempt to understand what others are doing, can do, or plan to do. Counterintelligence is keeping others from gathering intelligence on us. Law enforcement is apprehending and punishing criminals. There have been, at various times, big walls between these activities. My experience is in intelligence, and a tiny bit of law enforcement. These are fundamentally differing mindsets.

We've attempted to at least see over some of these walls in the aftermath of 9/11. Success has been limited.

Intelligence in the US is a collaborative, distributed activity. There are 17 different entities in the US government gathering intelligence
http://www.dni.gov/index.php
in varying disciplines and for varying missions. The Director of National Intelligence attempts to coordinate these activities and oversees national intelligence requirements. This function was formerly the Director of Central Intelligence, who was also Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, but was separated post-9/11. The DNI's influence is limited in that each agency still is budgeted, staffed, and directed by its respective federal agency. The major sources of foreign intelligence are the CIA, NSA, DIA and INR.

Counterintelligence is also a distributed function. Domestically, the FBI is the lead agency; internationally, the CIA. The military services also have counterintelligence functions. The nature of counterintelligence is more open to conspiracy theory than intelligence; see James Jesus Angleton. Some notable traitors have also been from the CI side; see Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen.

Law enforcement is concerned with detecting, apprehending and prosecuting crimes and criminals. This is a VERY different mindset from intelligence and counterintelligence. Police divide humanity into three groups: cops, criminals, and citizens. Citizens are who crimes happen to. Law enforcement is more about punishment than prevention; you can't arrest someone for what they were THINKING about doing, unless you live in the Minority Report universe.

139:

One of the defectors from the '80s Soviet biowarfare program reportedly had a very simple, straightforward procedure for aerosolizing viruses. So yes, I do see the need for some things to stay secret.

His name is Ken Alibek and his book is called _Biohazard_. It's significantly more frightening than anything Lovecraft ever wrote.

140:

Dave P, it's clear from (say) the actions of the JAG staff over Guantanamo that many employees of the US government are indeed moral and upstanding people willing to speak truth to power. Trouble is, the black prison network still exists, doesn't it? And we all got systematically lied to in 2003.

You wrote "This system is not perfect; as an example, Oliver North should have refused his role in Iran-Contra as a matter of principle."

North ran the Executive's foreign policy by _breaking the law_. And he got away with it. Like me, you're working for the baddies, Dave. Clearly, that doesn't mean that you're personally a baddie. I work for the baddies also, and I'm not personally a baddie. But 95% of the people in an organisation can be as moral as you like, and the organisation can still do evil, humanity-wrecking things.

141:

Post 4: Manning and Snowden. Low level, minimally trained kids with too much access and delusions of grandeur. This thread has some relevance - http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2013/08/snowden-leaks-the-real-take-ho.html . Neither of these little punks should have been allowed anywhere near classified material; they have neither the experience or training to decide what should or should not be classified. Both VOLUNTEERED for their positions; Snowden claims to have done so in order to get access to classified information, which to my way of thinking makes him the greater criminal due to premeditation.

The US government has procedures and channels to challenge classifications, but neither of these two had any intention of doing so. Instead, they fed their egos by imagining themselves heroes. REAL heroes stand and fight to fix the system, regardless of the cost.

142:

Then it's up to us to stop them whenever we can. No system is perfect - it takes people of courage and commitment expose wrongdoing when they find it. But that DOESN'T mean sneaking files to Wikileaks and running off to Hong Kong; it means standing up and saying "that's wrong - stop!".

143:

I disagree that I'm working for the baddies. There is no "them", just us. We each have a responsibility to uphold the law

144:

I personally think Oliver North should have been court-martialed by the Marine Corps for failure to live up to his oath of office.

I'm not saying that there isn't malign influence; I'm saying that people of conscience can and must oppose it when they see it.

145:

#141 Para 1 - This makes me wonder; should people who want access to cl@$$ified materials be given such access? I've no issues with giving access to people who need but don't want it.

#142 - It also means trusting that when you say "that's wrong - stop!", the PTB will actually do so, and then pursue those who ordered the unlawful activity rather than persecuting you.

146:

Re: #141 Para 1: We can blame Manning and Snowden in part in the US government's frantic attempts to answer criticism of our failure to "connect the dots" (stupid phrase) before 9/11 and prevent a future attack by vastly enlarging the US intelligence community, an error that our current budget situation should now help to correct.

Re: #142: Yes, it does. Would you rather that no one of conviction serve in government?

147:

/screedmode off:

There are upwards of seven billion humans on Earth today. To support ourselves, we organize into groups. Rather than bewailing the shortcomings of those groups, why not discuss how to improve them?

148:

Further re #141 Para 1 et seq - It's just a thought; I actually know very few people who genuinely want access to these materials, and most of the few who do are too inclined to think "this is waaaay kewel" or "where's the conspiracy at?" to be trustworthy IMO.

Re #142 - I've no issue with people of conviction serving; the issue comes when they are led by people who lack integrity (see your own cited case study).

149:

Actually, I'll be pedantic: INR will be responsible for disseminating any information gathered. They are not, however, the gathering agency.

The fuss disappeared without a trace, simply because the cable is entirely innocuous. If diplomats can get passwords, they will.

One of the reasons that the NSA revelations are getting less traction than they should is that proponents like to confound stuff that should not bother the public (like this cable) with stuff that most definitely should.

150:

Yes, I know. The point is, they could rent it out to other interested parties. The Chinese, for example, have taken an interest in having an Icelandic presence. There is also a free trade treaty between China and Iceland.

151:

A good argument as to why, if AGI is possible, it's going to come from some org like the NSA and be steeped in paranoia and the search for enemies.

152:

The United States, Russia and China have the CAPABILITY to drop a nuclear device on your head, but they don't very likely INTEND to.

Confusion of capability and intent is very common. Perhaps the NSA has the capability to read all your emails or see who you phoned. Do they have the intent, unless you're connected to an existing threat? No.

I was totally underwhelmed by the initial Snowden "revelations". NSA would be failing its mission if it didn't develop those capabilities - seriously, was anyone here surprised?

153:

Let 'em. Although I doubt any Icelanders would work for Chinese wages.

154:

"So what kind of information would make the UK security community (or some powerful suborganisation) really scared?"

The kind of information I saw in a documentary on biowarfare that was broadcast years ago on BBC TV. Not so much what the talking head was saying, but a brief old black and white film of some preparations at Porton Down. When I saw what was going on in that brief segment my jaw dropped.

Tellingly, I have seen that documentary on YouTube and that scene is missing. It's 100% pure terrorist gold.

155:

How likely do you think is it that Snowden is sitting on that kind of information?
And if, why would the Brits be concerned he'd publish it?

156:

Dave P @ 135
Then HOW & WHY are the NSA breaking US law & their constitution by spying on US citizens – which is apparently why Snowden blew the whistle.
Riddle me that?
… see also Charlie @ 132
& @ 137 intelligence collection is targeted apparently at everybody insde the USSA, as well as all them nasty furriners.
I think thou dost protest too much.
“NSA doesn’t have agents” – then who the fuck IS doing this then?
And breaking US law whilst they are at it?
& @ 138
you can't arrest someone for what they were THINKING about doing, unless you live in the Minority Report universe. Not even for conspiracy ??
& @ 141
So you are, effectively denying that agents/employees of the USSA guvmint broke the law by spying, without authorisation or warrant or cause on US citizens, and that Snowden is making it all up?
Or what are you saying?
& @ 142 & when you get walked all over by your superiors & told to “obey orders & shut up” ? Then what?

YOU may trust your government, but the rest of us don't - & with good reason - see the whole discussion.

157:

It is *very* unlikely he would have such information.
What is likely is that he has information on who exactly has been spied on, and why, and maybe some surprising info on how.
As for the British interest, it has been both amateurish and possibly illegal.

158:

DaveP, thanks for sharing your position with us. Still, even if the vast majority of the members act ethically, the system can still be unethical. Either by working on rules that make their members suppress their ethical qualms, or by keeping their members in the dark about its unethical operations, or by allowing unethical elements to run their own agenda with the system (eg. O. North).

I very much doubt that Snowden was in a position that allowed him any other effective way to stop the things he saw. You say that you were totally underwhelmed by the initial Snowden "revelations" and NSA would be failing its mission if it didn't develop those capabilities. If that's how most members of the intelligence community think about it, there's no way Snowden could have stopped it from within. (I'm not saying he or others will succeed from outside. Only time will tell.)

159:

"What I'm mulling over at the moment is how SF and the wider geek world got the internet so wrong: we thought we were throwing open a door, and all the time we were forging new bars for a global cage."

About 25 years ago I commented that we were getting not so much the global village as the global gossipy small town. To which I can now add, "with a corrupt sheriff and a bunch of crazy old men with guns." There were other people who foresaw the emergence of structures of power in the internet.

I also foresaw that the early anarchy would not last, and that sooner or later we were going to be paying for it, and that it was important to organize; I was nearly laughed off Usenet in the 1980s for saying it.

That said, even with the awful surveillance state that has emerged, even with cyber-bullying as a routine activity, the new technology has so far been far more of a force for liberation than state power.

160:

"Prediction. In much the same way as almost every blog posting about over-reach by the authorities acquires a comment troll or two pointing out that the Authorities would not be getting involved if the OP was behaving like a suitably respectable member of society, I think we're going to see a couple of articles in the Mail, Express, Sun or Times suggesting that David Miranda was actually smuggling information and it was a Good thing (in the Jerome Bixby sense) that he was picked up...."

If you saw the US MSM reactions to Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald, you'd know that the US government, at least, has a vast number of trolls working for the media.

They went apeshit over illegal leaks not authorized by the government, no matter how many (quietly authorized) illegal leaks they themselves have published.

161:

"I'm not sure that disinformation from the Deep State is really the worst we can expect from them. The consequences can be pretty damn bad (viz. the Iraqi WMD disinformation campaign of 2002), but executive overreach in the US has reached to direct attacks on political opponents (Watergate) and other inconvenient people (the bugging of Martin Luther King, and subsequent blackmail attempts) well within living memory."

It's been pointed out on this very blog that pure information operations can be far, far nastier in a world which leans more heavily on pure information.

And they could be done quite automatically, and quite deniably.

162:

"The US is now trying to get around the legal barrier with National Security Letters and similar, but as Bruce Schneier has noted, it's good business practice for someone service provider, somewhere, to make a stand on protecting their customers' privacy as a service to their customers."


1) That was the same argument used against discriminatory companies (racial, sexual, sexual orientation, religion). It's wrong, once one actually thinks about it.

2) It's not good business at all, if the government crushes one like a bug. We're seeing that now.

163:

"I'm also wondering what's going to happen when we continue to have monster fires and floods in Red States. These natural disasters are hugely expensive, and when you couple them with a dysfunctional congress and that idiotic sequester, this will likely make more moderate republicans (aka independents) push back, hard, against the extreme white wing. "

At the risk of derailing this into domestic US politics, I don't think so - so far, the elites get the government handouts they want (overall).

This probably applies to the Tories in the UK as well - when austerity means 'austerity for you; bailouts for us', then the elites are happy. Starve the peasants and stuff the lords. And half of the peasants will happily starve lest a lord not be stuffed.

164:

Not even for conspiracy?

IANAL but the virtual tome of all knowledge says no. Thought crime is only in fiction still. Conspiracy requires at minimum an agreement between at least two people to commit a criminal act. In many places it also requires an active step so it's gone beyond "two blokes chatting in the pub, however seditious" into actually doing something.

I'm pretty sure in the UK we're allowed to discuss the revolutionary overthrow of parliament to replace it with a better system without being arrested. That's a discussion of a criminal act. It might attract some attention mind. It probably gets more interesting in terms of the legal situation if we start discussing specifics of times (places is more limited for obvious reasons). Scouting out Westminster Palace is almost certainly enough to tip that into an arrest. You didn't have a visit planned for tomorrow did you? Sorry!

I'm sure someone will try to make thinking bad thoughts a crime sometime and there's starting to experimental evidence that suggests you can predict decisions before the person is consciously aware of them if they're hooked up the right sort of equipment, but we're still a long, long way away from reading your thoughts and being able to read thoughts and prosecute for them. Actions speak though.

165:

I've said before that what we're seeing nowadays is the rise of the power of the individual as in, the common man (As opposed to kings, generals and the rich), to affect society at large as each individual has increasing access to communications, knowledge and energy.

While this may be possibly good such as the cases of Snowden or Manning, the same principle leads to Breiving's Utoya massacre. Or Charlie's nuclear armed Idi Amin fanboy from Iron Sunrise...

The lesson to take home from the 90s early internet idealism isn't so much the specific websites or technologies or protocols but how flexible and versatile these new structures can be. The way the owner of Lavabit pulled the plug, for instance, I don't think they expected that. Or Anonymous, a movement composed of people who only share a handful of memes. It doesn't get much more intangible than that.

166:

"Do you need hidden back-doors in the system, or do you just need to know more about how the system works than the people you want to smother?"

Or do you need only a certain level of information about the system, a bag of cash to bribe people, and some known and some secret sticks to threaten them?

167:

Dave P: but how when your own leaders are corrupt, all the way to the top?

Seriously, if we had anything like an honest government, at any level, we would be engaging climate change, we would be reforming the global financial system, and we would be working towards global peace. Instead...well, you know.

One of the problems I have with talking about this as a problem of a "deep state" is that these policies are in fact fairly popular. It is easy to blame heads of state like Bush II and Obama, or high ministers like Cameron or Merkel, and all of these people are participants, but the fact of the matter is that many elected officials are on-board with the program. In the United States, Senators Wyden and Udall hinted at the scope of NSA surveillance but, despite immunity from prosecution, were not willing to actually blow the whistle.

So, what is to be done? If the loyal and honorable all act as you do, they will go to their graves betrayed by their leaders, who will remain in power.

168:

The view looks very different on the inside, because you spend all day thinking about terrorism, and looking for terrorists, and in the company of people who do likewise. Everyone you meet has a vested interest in believing that terrorism is a serious threat and a really big deal. From outside the bubble, it seems fairly obvious that terrorism is an extremely marginal phenomenon. As a statistical risk, terrorism is down there with lightning strikes and escaped zoo animals, and nowhere near as big as salmonella at the salad bar.

169:

"Dave P, it's clear from (say) the actions of the JAG staff over Guantanamo that many employees of the US government are indeed moral and upstanding people willing to speak truth to power. Trouble is, the black prison network still exists, doesn't it? And we all got systematically lied to in 2003."

And it's equally clear that the moral people generally got run over/move aside and didn't determine policy, or even steer it to noticeable effect.

And (sorry, Charlie, for overstepping my bounds) Dave P, posts #2 and #3 were rather unnecessary, unless you think that we are reallly f*cking ignorant; perhaps posting links to the Wikipidia article 'Intelligence_101' would have been more appropriate.

170:

Point of note: the USA loses more people every six weeks to road traffic accidents than died on 9/11.

But we don't see a total war on RTAs, do we?

171:

"The US government has procedures and channels to challenge classifications, but neither of these two had any intention of doing so. Instead, they fed their egos by imagining themselves heroes. REAL heroes stand and fight to fix the system, regardless of the cost."

Please spare us the 'work within the system' blather.

If you have a good argument, then please make it.

172:

"The United States, Russia and China have the CAPABILITY to drop a nuclear device on your head, but they don't very likely INTEND to.

Confusion of capability and intent is very common. Perhaps the NSA has the capability to read all your emails or see who you phoned. Do they have the intent, unless you're connected to an existing threat? No."

Please go read the history of US police and domestic intelligence operations. Yes, they have the intent.

173:

Hi

Cross posted this on David Malone's Debt Generation site which is asking some hard questions about power and money. Hope you don't mind. Not security related but some very good stuff on economics, control and lying.

http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/
Thanks,
Helen

174:

Please spare us the disparaging language.

Also, a reminder to please read moderation policy FAQ, in particular the section on libel and how it may be applied.

175:

Nope. I knew about that. It's not related to INR.

I never said it was related to INR. Quite the opposite, in fact, I said that the diplomats were used to gather intelligence.

I am surprised that you think it's inappropriate. Why do you think it's inappropriate?

Diplomacy is not a zero-sum game, let alone a zero-sum game were the biggest player is cheating. You can't seriously negotiate with people of bad faith, and this sort of incident gives the impression that US diplomats are required to treat everybody as a cold-war enemy. It's not healthy, and not a good working atmosphere.

It is also a violation of the UN statuses.

176:

The short version: USAF active duty 1980-1988; USAF active Reserve 1988-2001, retired as O-4 (Major). DOD Civil Service 1990-present, as intelligence officer 1990-1994.

... What is different than the tenor of most of the comments here is that, shockingly, we ARE morally invested in what we do and are able to tell right from wrong, AND we have, at least in the United States, the mechanisms and the culture to not blindly accept bad/stupid/unlawful orders.

Organizations can change, and big ones are never the same all the way through to begin with. Even treating all this as gospel for the time in which you were actively involved in intelligence, it did end almost twenty years ago. Thomas Drake served more recently, and recounts that in the years since, when he was still serving in NSA, the culture of that organization changed drastically, particularly with regard to respect for constitutional limits, and not in a good way. That's part of what he tried to blow the whistle about --- at great personal cost, and to less effect than Snowden has had already.

(Before I'd ever heard of Drake, I'd heard similar tales from someone else who just chose to retire quietly when it got too uncomfortable, but Drake's the guy who went on record; the other had not, and I'll respect that.)

177:

Another way to put it is that villages are characterised by the fact that are so small that every knows everybody. Add to that a couple of nasty elders who have nothing else to do than watch the others from their window, and you have a panopticon.

Cities, on the other hand, are characterised by the fact that you cannot know eveybody. Crime becomes possible, and in order not to get completely mad, you have to develop social codes of politeness and discretion. It is no accident that the terms "urban" and "urbane" share their etymology.

So, yes, the Internet is a global village.

178:

Thinking it over, some people got it right. The cyberpunks and cyberpunks got pretty close and libertarians like Vernor Vinge. I even remember a 1969 Ted White YA novel that dealt with corporate feudalism and universal telecomm surveillance.

What I think is interesting is how many positive results we have had--I don't think anyone foresaw those. We don't live in cyber-utopia, but so far it also isn't cyber-prison, despite all efforts.

179:

We'll see. I agree about not derailing the discussion. Similarly, I'd for fire politics, I'd take a look at what's playing right now on the LA Times and NPR on the subject. Basically, the firefighters and environmentalists disagree on some things, but we all agree that firefighting is seriously broken, and the politicians are starting to listen seriously. As for disaster relief, we're having another bad fire season and we haven't even seen whether we're going to have a bad hurricane season or not. It's worth looking at how Gov. Christie's popularity increased when he told the Tea Party to sod off while he dealt with Hurriance Sandy's aftermath last year. I suspect that's going to be the escape tactic for Republicans in general when they want to abandon the far right wing in search of more votes.

Anyway, let's get back to talking about spy stuff. Reasonable minds may disagree on this.

180:

The breaking of the hard drives (and smashing of other parts of the computer) is the second time I see the tactic used against newspapers.

The first was when the Israeli secret police (Shabak) destroyed the computer (not just the hard drive) of Haaretz investigative reporter Uri Blau in 2009, because he had reported military activities illegal even in Israel.

Blau had been given a trove of documents from conscripted soldier Anat Kamm, who copied them out on a thumb drive; we know this because the Shabak figured out who revealed the information by apprehending Blau's computer. Blau escaped to the UK, and returned after an agreement with the Shabak that he would not be prosecuted on condition that they get to destroy his computer (not just the hard drive, the computer).
They prosecuted him anyhow (never trust a secret police), with the charges being unauthorized possession of classified material and he did a few months of community service.

Kamm was sentenced to seven years in prison for her whistleblowing. Her case was notable not only for the extreme sentence (just about unheard of, for a Jewish woman; Israeli courts treat men and non-Jews differently) but because she was arrested and her arrest was put under a global gag order, and then a second order gag order was put on the first - it was illegal to report even that there was someone arrested. This was complicated because Kamm was working as a journalist, and her column on Israeli media was quite popular.

The story of her detention incommunicado (and of Blau's equally gag and rather sudden disappearance to the UK) was broken by a US-based blog (Tikun Olam), which had probably been tipped off by one of the hundreds of journalists who were upset by the criminalization of journalism.

So what do we have hear? A leaker in the military steals documentation of crimes that lead to civilian deaths (and in this case, violate decisions of the supreme court); the leaker is charged with the full force of the law; the reporter has the tools of his trade smashed (the *computer*, not just the hard drive - in other words, violence against a symbolic object being used to intimidate a journalist and scare all others).

Now, Israel is a military/police state. Most of the effects are felt by the 20% or so citizens who are not Jews, or by Jews who stray from the permitted boundaries of thought, and of course, the Palestinians in the territories Israel occupied in '67. But their sig-int unit (8200) collects all computer, phone, etc. data from there (and apparently from the occupied Palestinian territories and from neighboring states), and one assumes that every bit is monitored.

I am concerned that Israel's playbook is being copied. It was not one I appreciated while living there, and I'm irritated at feeling like I'm under the same sort of occupation regime in the U.S.

181:

@145 This makes me wonder; should people who want access to cl@$$ified materials be given such access?

I'm a programmer. With my skill set, if I could get a top secret security clearance, I would be making about $150k/year. Everything I write is dull and boring, and with the TS, it would still be dull and boring and I'd be able to save more money and retire younger so I could do interesting things (this is probably impossible because I am a dull and boring person).

182:

@116:
A good goal to aim for would be the total abolition of violence and coercion at all levels, by every human being, period.
---
You go first.

183:

Problem with this is the old Iterated Prisoners' Dilemma, which basically works because each side has the ability to retaliate. A lot of highly effective symbioses work because of the potential for retaliation: if things get screwed up, they still have the ability to start killing the partner. Losing that ability is an invitation to parasitism.

That said, there's a lot to be said for living in a state-based society. Even with our horrible wars, we're probably 10 times less likely to die from violence than we would if we lived in tribes (on average, data from Jared Diamond's latest book). While I agree that zero violence and zero coercion are a good goal, I think the best we can do is progress towards that goal, rather than accept it as realistic in this life.

Just to enrage the atheists (mostly because this has nothing to do with worshipping a god), I should point out that Pure Land Buddhism works looks towards a world without violence and coercion (at least in the lay version. The Dharma version is a bit more realistic). After you read about that, google Ikko Ikki to see what happens when a group advocating such things becomes a political force. There's something about unforeseen political consequences which might be relevant to the posts here.

Ultimately, the TL;DR version is what TRX said: you go first.

184:

As I said...

"Finding good help who will stay stumm over the more egregious illegalities that violate their oaths of loyalty - be it to the Crown, the Constitution or whatever - is hard."

There are a lot of Dave P's out there. People who won't violate their oaths, no matter what. They - and I hope I can say we - greatly outnumber the Oliver Norths.

We're supposed to be the "check and balance" internal to the system to make sure it doesn't degenerate. By and large, with comparatively few exceptions, in the past this has worked. But not always, and there is always the temptation to say "desperate times require desperate measures". There are areas of grey.

The general was charged, convicted, and the lieutenant colonel has moved on to another assignment of his choosing, all without the press being involved, by the way.
That's the way the system is supposed to work. That's the way it does work - usually. That's the way we have to believe the system works in order to continue being part of it.

But some of Manning's revelations have shown that it's not working now. There have been enough people who have turned a blind eye so things have been covered up. This is deeply concerning. We have to stop the rot.

This can't be done by restricting powers. I'm convinced they're needed. I won't go into details, I can't (see Crimes Act, Official Secrets). We may need more oversight, we may need more training/indoctrination on basic ethics before joining, common decency and humanity. But we need something.

185:
I wonder just how much this is because most of us keep some secrets. Some things aren't necessarily secrets so much as just not really talked about possibly.
There is that.

I'm Intersex. Born with a body neither wholly male nor female. I have the 3-beta-hydroxysteroid-dehydrogenase deficient (3BHSD) form of Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH).

CAH in general masculinises girls. So much so some are boys, despite the 46,XX chromosomes.

The 3BHSD form differs - that can masculinise or feminise, the hormones get really screwed up. Usually the effects all happen in the womb (46,XX baby boys, 46,XY baby girls) but sometimes continue late in life. Then you can get the same kind of "natural sex change" found in 5ARD or 17BHSD syndromes. This can either induce or cure Gender Dysphoria, depending on the person's neuro-anatomy developed in the womb.

I don't publicise my unusual life history (diagnosed as an Intersex male in 1985, re-diagnosed as an Intersex female in 2005). I don't keep it a great secret either, I know too much to bother trying. Too many eye-witnesses to the change in 2005 too.

I only mention it here to illustrate that there are all sorts of people you meet every day, walking down the street, or in comments threads, where you have no clue just how far from the usual they are. They - we - like it that way. Standing out can be hazardous.

186:

cdodgson wrote:

Organizations can change, and big ones are never the same all the way through to begin with. Even treating all this as gospel for the time in which you were actively involved in intelligence, it did end almost twenty years ago. Thomas Drake served more recently, and recounts that in the years since, when he was still serving in NSA, the culture of that organization changed drastically, particularly with regard to respect for constitutional limits, and not in a good way.
We all know the crap that went down in the 60's. The ethical cultural change we were part of was a reaction to that. It doesn't take a great stretch of the imagination to think that post 9/11 the pendulum might have swung the other way again.

Discard ideas of what we'd like the situation to be, what we believe it to be. That is, or was, our job, remember? To be as objective as human frailty allows? To look at capabilities rather than just intentions?

Examine the signs and portents. Even if the probability is low, threat is so high IMHO that we need contingency plans, and to examine the issue further.

Try to be the "Intel analyst from Mars" looking at the issue from the outside.

Low level, minimally trained kids with too much access and delusions of grandeur.... Neither of these little punks should have been allowed anywhere near classified material; they have neither the experience or training to decide what should or should not be classified.
Concur. Stating the obvious. However, we need to look at a system so overloaded now that "low level, minimally trained kids" get handed the keys to the kingdom. It means that people who have no moral compass will be involved, and permeate the whole environment.
The US government has procedures and channels to challenge classifications
It used to. I'm not at all sure such channels are reliable now. Some of the low-reliability stuff that's leaked regarding (say) cover up of rape in the US military suggests, strongly suggests, they're not.

I'm more into tech than analysis. Safety-critical systems, be they aerospace, special weapons, medical devices.. and I may be letting my own biases colour my judgement. The words to live by in my area are not "Are you being Paranoid"? but "Are you being Paranoid enough"?

187:
The US government has procedures and channels to challenge classifications

It used to. I'm not at all sure such channels are reliable now. Some of the low-reliability stuff that's leaked regarding (say) cover up of rape in the US military suggests, strongly suggests, they're not.

There's more direct, concrete evidence that the procedures meant to safeguard the rights of people both inside and outside the system have run off the rails. Two examples:

First off, the recently declassified (yesterday, in fact) FISC ruling that ruled some NSA activity out of bounds --- and, in the process, claims more than once that the court had been mislead about the scope and nature of NSA's data collection activities.

Second, once again, the case of Thomas Drake, an NSA vet of many years who'd tried to report overcollection within the system, of exactly the sort that the FISA court later ruled out of bounds. It did not go well for him. Not only was his career ended, but he found himself subject to a bogus and punitive prosecution that could have put him in jail for decades. (The prosecutors dropped almost all of the charges days before trial.) And of course, the overbroad surveillance continued.

(Drake isn't the only such case; William Binney is another disappointed NSA whistleblower, in his case of 30 years' service, though his legal travails, while costly, stopped short of indictment. And that's just looking at NSA in particular, ignoring such ugliness elsewhere as "enhanced interrogation" techniques for which the US, in living memory, executed Japanese officers as war criminals. No one has gotten into legal trouble for doing this stuff --- but John Kiriakou, a decorated CIA officer and former chief of counterterrorist activities in Pakistan is now in jail for talking about it. His letters from jail make interesting reading.)

I'm not aware if Snowden has referred directly to these cases in his interviews, but he's almost certainly aware of them --- and given the consequences for both the whistleblowers (severe) and for the programs he was trying to blow the whistle on (none), well ... it's not surprising that he didn't have much faith in the official procedures and channels for reporting abuse.

188:

Low level, minimally trained kids with too much access and delusions of grandeur.

Accusations of "self-rightousness", "delusions of grandeur", "megalomania" and the like are cheap and uninformative. Whether or not people like Assange, Manning or Snowden think highly of themselves, they are obviously highly courageous and have a tremendous effect on the world of today. Much much more than, say, some royalty kid in a helicopter.

Furthermore, an anonymous whistleblower would probable be accused of being a coward. Tails I win, Heads you lose.

Finally, I am struck and frankly slightly suspicious of the uniformity of the comments that go in this direction. Either there is a very limited corpus of arguments that one can build based on the pro-US-government framing of the issue, or there are talking points that are being distilled in the public debate somehow and have the effect of making a large number of people walking the line, a relatively narrow line at that.

What was it that was being said about the government covertly injecting information on the Internet a la Chinese, again?


The US government has procedures and channels to challenge...

Oh, yes, like, everybody.

Like the freaking Third Reich had. If you were a Waffen SS enlisted out of idealism and unhappy about what you saw, you could challenge you assignment and get posted in the East to live your dream of fighting Bolshevism. The SS officers who committed atrocities at Oradour-sur-Glane were found out of line and would have been tried had they not been killed in combat shortly afterwards. Does that make the Third Reich a paragon of military ethics?

Incidentally, the Collateral Murder video shows a helicopter firing on a clearly unarmed civilian who'd stopped his van to help wounded people. They are literally firing on ambulances.

The US Army later denied any knowledge in the death of the journalists killed in the incident, which is implausible. All people killed were counted as "insurgents", which is implausible and reminiscent of body counts in Viet-Nam. It failed to prosecute the crew of the helicopter for the reckless fire on the journalists, the deliberate murder of the rescuer, the endangerment of the lives of the children in the van, and the unnecessarily reckless firing on a building in a later segment of the video, that cause further preventable civilian deaths.

The cover-up and lack of disciplinary action indicates that the behaviour of the helicopter crew was in line with the policies of the US military, or at the very least of the chain of command of that crew. It is thus the unchallenged policy of at least part of the US military to fire on civilians, on ambulances, and to completely disregard civilian collateral damage. Mated with the casual manner in which they identify their targets, this amounts to a very poor standard of ethics. Other soldiers watching this video as a funny clip is an indication that a very pernicious state of mind permeates a large proportion of the US military.

Finally, the fact that this video remained in military computers without triggering legal action against the helicopter crew indicates that the normal procedures of internal review are at the very least dysfunctional.


189:

Errrmmm... one clarification, on "No one has gotten into legal trouble for doing this stuff" above: to the best of my knowledge, no one from the intelligence community has gotten in trouble for participating in the enhanced interrogation program. There have, of course, been convictions in other cases of prisoner abuse, like the poor grunts who served time for setting up the Grand Guignol scenes out of Abu Ghraib. (The officers involved got off much more lightly. Funny, that.)

Clearly, I'm writing a bit too late here...

190:

sebrain@ 184
People who won't violate their oaths, no matter what.
Yes, a very serious problem …
JRRT was all to aware of this one – the sons of Feanor swore a dreadful oath & it doomed them & Middle-Earth (Silmarillion)
Another [ Godwin alert ] example was the personal oath to Adolf, sworn by all members of the Reich’s armed forces after Hindenberg’s death … which stalled or prevented many attempts to get rid of the Austrian corporal, until it was far too late.
It comes to a problem of “True Loyalty(TM)” does it not?
Are you loyal to the ideal, or are you loyal to the forms?
What do you do if you consider that your country’s guvmint has gopne bonkers, & is breaking all the (not necessarily written-down) “rules”.
What is to be done?

[ & @ 185 “Tall poppies”, huh? ]

191:

Re: Dave P @ 135 - The NSA's contention is that they are NOT breaking the law; they were conducting Congressionally authorized operations per established oversight procedures.
Re: & @ 137 intelligence collection is targeted - specifics please, and see my comments on intel vs. CI vs. law enforcement
Re: & @ 138
you can't arrest someone for what they were THINKING about doing, unless you live in the Minority Report universe. Not even for conspiracy ??
& @ 141 - see my first response; also, I think Snowden INTENTIONALLY infiltrated the NSA on his own behalf, found things that seemed to agree with his preconceptions, and misinterpreted and embellished them - and then proceeded to find a useful journalist and made escape plans; hardly heroic.
Re: & @ 142 & when you get walked all over by your superiors & told to “obey orders & shut up” ? Then what? Then I go to the IG; I go to my bosses' bosses boss, then I resign.

My point of view is based on 33 years of service to the American people, of seeing the daily work that thousands like me perform faithfully every day; of never having seen first hand the alleged abuses you talk about.

Your point of view is that of an outside observer fed information from a press whose goal is to keep your attention long enough for you to read the ads that come with their reports - if it bleeds, it leads. I will also add that I have in my family, friends and acquaintances reporters, lawyers and rainbow-flag-waving self proclaimed drag queens, so don't assume too much on my biases.

192:

Dave P, and maybe others.

I'd be guessing about the time scales, but I reckon that ten years is enough time for cultural shifts. The values of the intelligence culture may have shifted.

There is evidence of corruption in parts of that community, including the WMD stories about Iraq. Not all the reports may be of actual crimes, but it is remarkable that so few cases reach trial.

I don't know how the environment which Manning or Snowden worked in compared with the past, but I don't think it crazy that a contractor might develop a feeling that, even if the mechanisms exist to report wrong-doing, nobody will listen to him.

We don't know enough. But we know people are telling lies. The NSA is telling lies. The politicians are telling lies.

What is the rational action in a world of liars?

193:

DOD and the intelligence community look at a LOT more than terrorists. And ask one of the families of the 2,977 victims of 9/11 or 52 victims of 7/7; shall we ignore this threat and instead chase escaped zoo animals? Guns kill FAR less people in the US than autos, as Charlie mentions elsewhere; is gun control unimportant (and yes, I'm for gun control, too).

194:

This will most likely be my final post in this thread.

I have attempted to give an alternative view of the events we're discussing; to remind participants that government is not a black box, but a big messy bunch of people with mostly good intentions.

I don't ascribe to the view that there are star chambers and secret societies that rule Western civilization; nor to the idea that organizations are inherently evil (there's that word again) or immune to the laws of the nation. Here's a saying of mine you can quote, if you wish: Never assign to conspiracy what can be explained by stupidity.

There's a cozy couch of groupthink here; I've tried to challenge some of your assumptions. If you don't agree or believe, fine. I'll keep on doing my duty.

And if you really believed you were living in the view of the Deep State's panopticon, you wouldn't be posting here, would you?

195:

Never assign to conspiracy what can be explained by stupidity.

The only conspiracy theories I'm inclined to lend much credence to are conspiracies after the fact -- cover-ups and under-rug-sweeping is much easier to coordinate than nefarious evil genius plans.

There's a cozy couch of groupthink here; I've tried to challenge some of your assumptions.

What you might want to consider is that the groupthink you see is an emergent consensus from a large chunk of the public. If the public -- who the intel community theoretically indirectly serves -- take such a negative view of the intel community, then something's gone badly wrong somewhere.

And if you really believed you were living in the view of the Deep State's panopticon, you wouldn't be posting here, would you?

I can't speak for the commenters who've been giving your assumptions a hard time, but if I thought there was a well-formed Deep State, I like to think that I'd be speaking out against it a lot more loudly.

196:

Dave P @ 191
I don’t ready any adverts, at all, if I can help it.
And if the system you served is so perfect, how come Binney & Drake, referred to up-thread, went so pear-shaped, with the guilty going free?
No, I agree (& also with Duncan Campbell ) that, yes, there are reall terrorists out there, & they need stopping.
However, filtering everyone’s mails & surveilling everyone isn’t merely illegal it is also stupid & counterproductive.
Or, can’t you see that?

And, yes, there’s a huge amount of stupidity about …

197:

"That's the way the system is supposed to work. That's the way it does work - usually. That's the way we have to believe the system works in order to continue being part of it."

Considering the amount of information on abuses of all sort which becomes public, even against pressure to keep quiet, I've stopped assuming that the system gennerally works, in these respects.

198:

Well, I've talked to a French light infantry career officer. I'd never seen abuse of prisoners during his service in Algeria in the early 60s. He disliked Henri Alleg and Michel Rocard very much.

It changes nothing to the fact that the Army in which he served had practiced torture and murder on a vast scale, and that Alleg and Rocard were right.

I am willing to take into account that in the 30 last years, the values of the US military forces might have deteriorated significantly -- with what was going on at the School of the Americas it's a bit of a stretch, but let's assume. But if you are indeed in the loop as you say, even if you read the news, what you are saying is either denial, or a modern rendering of I was not a Nazi Polka.


199:

"Oh, them, they haven't been briefed yet."--Henry Kissenger, after getting more security clearances.

"Your point of view is that of an outside observer fed information from a press whose goal is to keep your attention long enough for you to read the ads that come with their reports - if it bleeds, it leads."

Secret knowledge can blind you to the simple facts on the face of things. And it can lead to a false sense of power--a control illusion. If the NSA knows so much, and our leaders are so well briefed, why do we get such uninformed policies?

"Over a longer period of time — not too long, but a matter of two or three years — you'll eventually become aware of the limitations of this information. There is a great deal that it doesn't tell you, it's often inaccurate, and it can lead you astray just as much as the New York Times can. But that takes a while to learn."--Daniel Ellsberg to Henry Kissenger

Croak!

200:

There really isn't cozy groupthink on this blog in general. Read some of the older threads if you don't believe me. We're a fractious, bickering, disagreeable bunch.

The distinguishing feature is we're generally old and mature enough to keep it relatively polite. I'm not saying it doesn't get heated, but it remains a discussion about the issues, rarely devolving to ad hominem attacks. (It does, but it's rare and it's heavily moderated.) It *usually* stays close to the topic too. Less well than the lack of ad hominem attacks, but not too far off and major hijacks are moderated out.

But we cross continents, certainly the UK political spectrum and a fair bit of the US political spectrum I think. (Not sure about other countries, we're a bit light on numbers and I'm too unfamiliar to tell really, although we definitely have commentators from Australia, New Zealand and other places.) We cover a pretty diverse range of scientific and engineering backgrounds for sure, and I suspect there's a fair about of humanities out there too. We skew quite male, but there's a fair number women including me that speak out quite a lot. We wouldn't make a 1,000 people for an opinion poll, not even a geek-culture opinion poll, we're not that representative, but sorry, I agree with Charlie - you see it as groupthink. I see it as a really startling wide-spread consensus.

It won't happen of course, but the people you're seeing here saying similar and supportive things of each other - I'm as shocked as if you saw Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin standing on the same platform supporting the same side in a debate.

201:

Never assign to conspiracy what can be explained by stupidity.

Yes, but also: "Things should be made as simple as possible, but nor more" (Einstein).

There are conspiracies in the US administration. Read the Torture Memos for an example.

202:

I'm aware of the victims of 9-11 and 7-7, but the response has been disproportionate to the threat and is causing bigger problems than it solves. So yes, I would prefer most of the DHS go chase zoo animals or something.

203:

That's replacing evil with evil. The DHS should go freeing zoo animals! ;-)

204:

so you came here with an appeal to authority which, when no one bought it caused you to flounce off in the huff leaving a little ad hominem attack behind.

It is no wonder people were unimpressed. I have personally found this is a boringly familiar mode of discourse used by military people. Of course it is a result of them living their lives under a command structure but it does seem to cause them culture shock when the rest of society refuses to go along with it.

205:

Um, Dave P, given the number of times we know the system has protected those who did (and do) wrong, if the system worked "most of the time", you'd be able to point to thousands (probably tens of thousands) of cases where guilty parties had been stopped and sentenced. Yet you don't seem able to.

Even if we ignore the torture, the diplomatic spying, and everything else that's been brought up so far, what about the famous "double tap" drone attacks, which repeatedly get reauthorised once the fuss has died down? Deliberate attacks on first responder medics are a war crime (and if you're not officially at war, I think you'll find they're filed under "crimes against humanity"). Everyone from the guy pulling the trigger upwards is (or should be) indictable for it, and everyone who knew it was happening and didn't protest/take action to prevent it is complicit.

206:

Actually, that reminds me: there's a chunk in John Hackett's novel "the third world war" where he uses the (fictional) example of Russian soldiers shooting at US field ambulances to show how evil the commies are. The Americans in the book are appalled that anyone could possibly be so blind to right and wrong....

(Not that Hackett's book is a good guide to anything much except Hackett's own delusions - which were shared by at least some others, but how widely is open to question.)

207:

Hi Dave,

For me the issue is very simple; the need to stop terror versus the damage to our constitution. If you pay any attention at all to the numbers, you'll notice that domestically in the US we average about 165 deaths by terror each year over the last 20 years. This includes 9/11 and the Oklahoma City Bombings.

As a public health problem that's nothing. We lose more than 400,000 each year to heart disease, and similar numbers to the effects of diabetes and cancer.

We lose 70-90,000 each year to iatrogenic diseases (diseases that someone picked up while they were in the hospital.) If you want to deploy surveillance to save Americans, cameras and computers to make sure that doctors and nurses wash their hands between patients is probably the best investment you can make.

We lose 40-50,000 each year due to car accidents, 30,000 each year due to gun violence, and 7,600 people every year because they took the wrong kind of over the counter pain reliever.

Going purely by the numbers, terrorism shouldn't even be on the federal government's radar. There are probably a thousand things more likely to kill someone than terror.

Of course, we can't go purely by the numbers. A significent number of terror deaths are caused by foreigners with radical ideologies that are pretty ugly regardless of whether they're considered from the left or the right. The Americans who engage in terror also have some very ugly ideas which we don't want to encourage. We don't want people to think they can settle political issues with violence. 9/11 caused a minor recession. (George Bush's statement that Americans should "just go shopping" wasn't entirely dumb; it was just poorly phrased.) So considered as a whole Terrorism is, in fact a real problem for the federal government. But it's not a big problem. It's a minor problem.

But is the problem big enough for me to give my constitutional rights? Look at the evidence! I don't give up my constitutional rights to make sure I don't die of a heart attack. I don't give up my constitutional rights so I don't die of diabetes... and that brings us, essentially, to the idea of fraud, performed by the Justice Department and the intelligence agencies, against the people of America, to cause us to believe that the problem is bad enough that we should give up our constitutional rights.

The simple fact is this. Terrorism is not a big enough problem for anyone to give up their rights. It's not a big enough problem to justify waterboarding, stress positions, or detention without trial. It's not a big enough problem to require Verizon to give up their phone metadata, or allow the NSA to spy on everyone in Washington DC, or allow the NSA access to Google, Yahoo, or anyone else without a specific warrant that relates to a specific person. To me, the TLAs are collectively wiping their ass with the constitution, and you're telling me that everything is OK because you're an honorable guy?

I don't buy it bud. Not for a second.

208:

Paraphrasing someone whose name I've forgotten, I think we're all just a little upset about the attitude that torture is a minor indiscretion but telling people about it is a war crime.

209:

One other bit of larger context that's worth paying attention to: as more and more legal protections get shunted aside to deal with terrorism, the definition of what constitutes terrorism seems to get wider and wider. In my own neck of the woods, the local prosecutor brags about securing a 17-year sentence for Tarek Mehanna, whose main terrorist act was translating and publishing a document (which he said that he disagreed with). And nonviolent protest movements such as Occupy have been repeatedly investigated by Federal Law Enforcement as terror threats, for no obvious reason. This comes very, very close to painting traditional political activism as a legitimate intelligence target. It may be over the line, and we'd have no way of knowing.

The NSA's own reports would not necessarily count that as abuse, if they were aware of it. Quoth Barton Gellman, the Washington Post reporter who's been working this story:

The President, like a lot of people who work for him, has a very narrow definition of two key words ... One is “abuse”... The only kind of abuse that exists would be if, say, an NSA employee were to stalk his ex-wife or spy on movie stars or something of that nature. If they are performing the mission that the NSA wants them to perform, and nevertheless overstep their legal authority, make unauthorized interceptions or searches or retentions or sharing of secret information, that is not abuse, that’s a mistake.
210:

Yeah, and in the UK, the people who criticise the detention of David Miranda should "think about what they are condoning".

Are you not entertained?

211:

Dare I point out that this has been standard operating procedure for the US for about a century?

From the teens through the early 30s, it was anarchism, and the founding crime was (AFAIK) the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, blamed for starting WWI. Yes, there's a lot of bosh in there, isn't there? Anyway, J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI got their start chasing anarchists, which is bad news for those of us who hate the TSA. Chasing organized crime came later.

From the late 20s to 1941, the bogeyman du jour was communists. Except for Hoover, the intelligence community cooperated with the communists from 1942 to 1945, to focus on rooting out fascists and interning Japanese (this later was based on the pervasive spying that did, indeed, occur on the west coast prior to Pearl Harbor. It involved perhaps 0.01 percent of the Japanese population, but when white guys can't read Japanese, hey, even a church bulletin looks suspicious. Who knows what those Zen congregations are plotting?). J. Edgar never stopped hating communists, which is probably the biggest reason the OSS died in 1945 (Donovan worked with communists both here and abroad to defeat Germany, and Hoover nuked the postwar OSS).

Between 1945 and 1988, communism was the Big Bad. Under Clinton, with the Cold War over, AFAIK there was a massive crisis of identity among the Intelligence services. I suspect that most of their surviving middle brass sang hallelujahs when 9/11 came along and there was a new bogeyman: terror.

Terrorists have a great advantage as The Enemy of The State, because they're so nebulous that they can never be defeated. Rational people have pointed out since 9/11 that terrorists are not the existential threat that, well, climate change is, but since they're the essence of fear itself, they make a great opponent. Really, this is straight out of the standard Christian political playbook, which is to portray oneself and one's minions as agents of God, operating against the shadowy, infinitely deceptive forces of Satan, and as is the norm in these cases, it's mostly self aggrandizing BS meant to keep people in power, rather than a serious effort to defeat said enemy.

This is not to say that intelligent, ethical people can't work for intelligence agencies. The problem isn't the day-to-day ethics, it's pulling back far enough to question whether their very jobs are ethical, and walking away from them if they are not.

The sad thing is, few in our intelligence-industrial complex openly question whether the US even needs an enemy to justify our existence in opposition to it. Do we?

212:

Actually I'm kind of surprised. It's nice to see someone with a significant public voice calling bullshit on a politician trying to paint anyone daring to speak against their position as an evil moron with that most insidious of tools, the false dichotomy.

213:

I think that the Conservatives have grossly overplayed their hand on this one, so I am not so surprised that some LibDems react. But with the depressing news this week, it is indeed comforting to see somebody standing against May. (Good gosh, what am I condoning there?)

214:

The founding crime for anarchism was the assassination of President McKinley.

215:

"Um, Dave P, given the number of times we know the system has protected those who did (and do) wrong, if the system worked "most of the time", you'd be able to point to thousands (probably tens of thousands) of cases where guilty parties had been stopped and sentenced. Yet you don't seem able to."

This. Even if 90% of the time it was some classified thing, that would still leave hundreds of cases.

216:

"Paraphrasing someone whose name I've forgotten, I think we're all just a little upset about the attitude that torture is a minor indiscretion but telling people about it is a war crime."

This, as well. Even before Bradley Manning, there will have been more person-years of prison time handed out for *revealing deliberate torture* than for the torture itself. And if we knock out the Abu Grhaib lower-ranking grunts (who were really punished for being dumb enough to take pictures of their crimes), that denominator probably goes to zero.

217:

And, of course, if 'upholding the constitution' was a simple thing, then there'd be a clear cut decision on what to do in response to students or ex-students taking military grade automatic weapons into school and shooting students and teachers.

There clearly is a constitutional case for 'not restricting the right to bear arms.' There is equally a clear case for protecting children in school while government employees are acting in loco parentis. There is, it appears, no rational middle ground.

Or for a more militarily pertinent one, I'm pretty sure if it wasn't the USA flying armed drones to attack, amongst other things, border guards of countries they're not at war with while they're actually in the countries they're from there would be a strong outcry for 'unprovoked acts of terrorism and war' from the State Department. Where are the service personnel leaping up to protest the illegal orders they are being given? Did the Nuremberg trials teach the soldiers of the world nothing?

218:

ahh, but you see,
its only a war crime if your side loses.

219:

Terrorists have a great advantage as The Enemy of The State, because they're so nebulous that they can never be defeated.

They do. But, as I should have remembered, we've also seen areas where NSA surveillance routinely bleeds into straight law enforcement without anyone even bothering to ritually invoke the bogeyman du jour.

Specifically, the Drug Enforcement Agency has a Special Operations Directorate which gets "tips" from the NSA on a regular and routine basis. One of the recent leaks was a training document covering how they handle these tips. Of course, since they can't acknowledge the real source of their information (it's secret!), they need to systematically lie to the courts about the actual history of their investigations, by faking up a "parallel construction" of the case history in which they got lucky breaks from coincidental traffic stops, and the like. The training manual covers that, too.

Amazing that there's enough of this stuff that there can be offices set up to deal with it, when they're not supposed to be looking at domestic activity in the first place! (And of course, activists should have complete confidence that the all-seeing eye would never be looking at them...)

220:

that's a very USanian perspective you've got there

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_of_the_deed#Timeline_of_historical_actions

as thought McKinley was the first Head of State to be offed by an self-styled anarchist

221:

The real issue is the gun industry in America. Were people not buying assault rifles, many companies would go out of existence. Their simple problem is that they make very good guns that last a long time with proper care. Even if the hunting community were stable in population, they saturated with guns long ago. I don't think making cheap guns is an alternative (cheap guns do bad things like, oh, explode on use), so they've had to make a new market and defend it fiercely with the NRA.

I'd suggest there's a two-step way out of the guns dichotomy, not that it's any more feasible. Right now, the assault weapons market is based on the fantasy that people need them to survive some unspecified future crisis,* most of which have to do with the US government becoming the Evil Empire and/or collapsing. One might argue that the way forward is:
--Work hard on making a trustworthy government
--Once the government is more trustworthy (and note that this will likely take generations, not years), then start restricting guns under the rubric of cutting down on accidents among gun hobbyists' offspring.

Yes, I know this isn't currently workable, but the sticking point is the part about making a more trustworthy government, rather than firearms.

*Yes, I know that the real point about assault weapons is that they are a blast to shoot. I've done it. I get it. Assault rifle owners would do themselves a tremendous favor if they followed the Tokugawa samurai model and reinvented their apocalyptic paranoia in more spiritual terms--you know, embrace the peaceful warrior idea, shoot for the spiritual discipline and character-building that perfecting a skill brings, rather than bragging about rocking and rolling, learn to hunt well enough to donate deer and rabbit meat to church food banks rather than bragging about the modz to your gunz, that sort of thing. And yes, I know there are a minority of shooters out there who actually have done this for decades. We need more of them.

222:

And the FBI reports there were approx 15,980 murders in the USA in 2001. Who needs terrorists?

223:

@191:
I think Snowden INTENTIONALLY infiltrated the NSA on his own behalf, found things that seemed to agree with his preconceptions, and misinterpreted and embellished them - and then proceeded to find a useful journalist and made escape plans;
---
Taking his stash to the media was, at best, naive. Turning the media spotlight on them will cause them to do what any over government agency does - deny, destroy evidence, and hide similar activities. Congress isn't going to spank the NSA because of a couple of news stories; we've probably already seen the extent of censure they're likely to apply. As long as the government considers itself to be operating a "police action" and fighting "the war on terror", NSA's operations are simply too valuable to disrupt. At least, that's what its apologists will claim.

There are half a dozen different committees charged with overseeing the operations of the NSA; military, Presidential, and Congressional. Some simple web searching returns the names of the members, which could have been evaluated and approached with information that the NSA was exceeding its authority. Assuming the oversight committees weren't deliberately turning blind eyes to the activities, something might have been done. Now anything to do with it is political poison, other than some grandstanding for publicity.

224:

Easier course: leave the guns were they are and if people want to buy them and polish them all day long, let them enjoy.

And fiercely regulate ammunition.

In Switzerland, a good proportion of people have top-notch assault rifles at home, as part of the mandatory military service (some elders even have battle rifles that they got to keep after their discharge. They are mean individual light machine guns). Ammunition is strictly regulated and there have been few incidents, even in the last years when the most unhinged could have been tempted to copy-cat our American friends. Of course there is also a matter of culture (there isn't a culture of paranoia against the federal state in Switzerland -- much less one that would accidentally look more and more justified), but still you can have a population almost saturated with weapons of war and keep things quite manageable.


225:

You seem to think in a strictly USAyan mindset. As a furriner, I am quite happy that Snowden communicated his information to the Guardian. I know that my government was aware and possibly complicit, but now I can talk about what I'd been suspecting for years outside of specialised company without sounding like a fruitcake.

And I am very happy to see US officials openly stating that fundamental rights in the US are for the sole benefit of US citizens. We, Europeans, define fundamental rights for all human beings based on their nature; not only is the US mentality alien to us, but we expected that the USA shared our views. Since we are supposedly allied with the master race, it's useful to know what exactly that means and where everybody is standing.

226:

Anarchism is an old and long-lived set of political movements, and it's not at all difficult to fit current US Libertarianism into that set, though it's an edge case.

The label can be pretty clearly attributed to Proudhon, who was active at the same time as Marx and Engels. Some of the features of The Communist Manifesto are compatible with anarchism, but that work was amended in later editions.

Anyway, I am not sure that the propaganda of the deed is as much a threat to society as might be such things as the Ludlow Massacre. There's room for arguments about that conflict, but at the end of the day the majority of the dead were the wives and children of the striking miners.

There's something I find repugnant in that, and it's just one instance in a long history of a cavalier disregard for non-combatants on the part of the USA. The modern drone strikes are part of a pattern of barbarity that can be traced back to the earliest days of white settlement.

227:

The fact that the likes of Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, David Shayler and Peter Wright are the kind people hired by the security services, and given top security clearances, tells you why 9/11 & 7/7 weren't false flag operations, and why Lee Rigby was decapitated on a London street in broad daylight.

The organisations that employed them have institutional competence and sanity shortfall.

If he'd been to Cambridge rather than playing in goal for Northampton Town, David Icke would be head of MI5 by now.

228:

"They do. But, as I should have remembered, we've also seen areas where NSA surveillance routinely bleeds into straight law enforcement without anyone even bothering to ritually invoke the bogeyman du jour."
[continues on to describe the DEA's operations]

And note that this is probably not that old, and only came to light because the DEA was incompetent enough not to do a verbal briefing - this is 'wink, wink, nudge, nudge' stuff.

The FBI is presumably more competent, and could easily set up liaisons with state polices departments to provide pre-laundered info (whose true source the state police and prosecutors wouldn't know).

229:

"There are half a dozen different committees charged with overseeing the operations of the NSA; military, Presidential, and Congressional. Some simple web searching returns the names of the members, which could have been evaluated and approached with information that the NSA was exceeding its authority. Assuming the oversight committees weren't deliberately turning blind eyes to the activities, something might have been done. Now anything to do with it is political poison, other than some grandstanding for publicity."

Heck, half of the reporters commenting on this in the US MSM don't like Snowden (he illegally leaks *against* the desires of the higher ups) and would have turned him in. The people in the government who have the power to even try something rarely got there by being the guys would would try something.

A highly likely result would be that the contact alerts the FBI, who put Snowden under surveillance to the point where they think that they've found where he stashed the info, and then grab it and him.

230:

I think something that has been missed in this conversation is that the spooks here look like they think they are right. Not merely happening to be in the right, but really, blazingly right. As if people should listen because they have destroyed some hard disks, and then do what they are supposed to do.

231:

TRX, as I noted above in detail (comment 187), we already know what happens when an NSA insider blows the whistle on illegal activity (subsequently ruled as such by the FISA court, when they belatedly became aware of it). Thomas Drake tried to use every channel available to report that abuse. He got fired, and was subjected to a bogus prosecution which nearly bankrupted him. And the activity kept right on going. And Snowden was almost certainly aware of this.

So, ritual genuflection in the direction of "proper channels" is not convincing.

As for misinterpreting documents: We have a FISA court ruling saying flatly that NSA had misled them on multiple occasions. We have a DEA document that gives procedures for using NSA "tips" in routine criminal matters, which also describes an institutionalized practice of lying to the courts about that. We have a lot of other stuff, but if there isn't some other specific document you'd prefer, we can start with those two. Do you feel that the commentary on these documents from, say, the press and the ACLU materially misinterprets them? If so, how?

(It occurs to me, by the way, that I've chosen two documents that apparently did not come from Snowden's stash. The FISA ruling came from an EFF FOIA request; the DEA report is from Reuters, and apparently sources unnamed DEA agents involved with the program. But Snowden's interpretations of the documents aren't relevant anyway; he's not talking. The reporters are, as are law professors, staff attorneys at EFF, EPIC, the ACLU, and so forth, and of course former NSA insiders like Drake and William Binney. So, what are they getting wrong?)

232:

@206:
Actually, that reminds me: there's a chunk in John Hackett's novel "the third world war" where he uses the (fictional) example of Russian soldiers shooting at US field ambulances to show how evil the commies are.
---
Victor Suvorov brings that up in one of his books. According to him, Soviet soldiers weren't told that ambulances were anything special, therefore they were just as valid a targer as any other enemy vehicle.

Note that there's a huge amount of debate on how truthful/accurate Suvorav's books are, down to the level of "moustache scissors at two paces."

233:

NSA would be failing its mission if it didn't develop those capabilities - seriously, was anyone here surprised?

I wasn't surprised, but I am disappointed that you see nothing wrong with the NSA's actions. This suggests that, contrary to what some other commenters have said, intelligence culture was dangerously broken long before 9/11.

REAL heroes stand and fight to fix the system, regardless of the cost.

Costs like, say, a 35-year prison sentence?

234:

https://www.nsfwcorp.com/scribble/5689/c46f352c7c8fa5132e5067a3d1536dfb0af9a7e2/

Here's a possibly interesting piece by a former Defense Minister, Tom Watson

"They'll Be Laughing in Moscow and Beijing."

...The conclusion must be, as Greenwald speculates, that we were just roughing up his boyfriend in order to psyche him out. I am no Carrie Mathieson but I think the wrong case officer is in charge of this investigation if they think this will shut Greenwald up. He thrives on this stuff. The UK intelligence services have created a global audience for the spectacle of him beating them with a big stick of indignant rebuke.

And they have horrified people across Westminster who know the "inside". As a former defence minister I have authorised special forces to conduct hostage rescues, covert military entry to foil terrorist plots, as well as approved nuclear submarines to travel to places you do not want to know. So I think I can assess an ill-conceived plan when I see one. And this was a howler....

The full article is behind a paywall but the site allows subscribers to knock temporary holes in it, that link ought to last for 60 hours more, and I can reopen it later if anyone wants. nsfwcorp is well worth the subscription.

And here's another article I've unlocked

https://www.nsfwcorp.com/scribble/5695/21b0614d90426ff6c998756c53bf1c9aed1821ed/

Saying Boo To A Ghost: It's No Secret Why Congress Fears Crossing The NSA

235:

Whitworth makes a good point, and if it doesn't scare the hell out of you, then you haven't thought it through.

236:

And if you really believed you were living in the view of the Deep State's panopticon, you wouldn't be posting here, would you?

This is a classic false dichotomy; the fact that we aren't in the most oppressive possible regime does not imply that our political institutions are working well. We're somewhere between heaven and hell, as usual, but the temperature seems to be rising.

237:

I'll let this tangent go after this, but...

Assault rifles have a very specific definition, and it does not include things like semi auto AR 15's. Actual assault rifles are very, very rare. Assault weapon is a lot more nebulous term, but basically means any gun that looks military, regardless of capability.

But the thing is, rifles of anyt stripe make for a fairly small percentage of firearm injuries - that's 70 - 80% handguns, with shotguns second and rifles in a fairly distant third.

So any talk of "assault weapons" in gun violence is ignoring the actual part of the problem that's causing most of the problems. And in contrast to what E said and most believe, I'm not aware of a school shooting that too place with an actual automatic weapons - their use in any crime is really, really rare because automatic weapons are really, really rare.

238:

I think something that has been missed in this conversation is that the spooks here look like they think they are right. Not merely happening to be in the right, but really, blazingly right. As if people should listen because they have destroyed some hard disks, and then do what they are supposed to do.

Two things come to mind. The first is Daniel Ellsberg's famous warning to, of all people, Henry Kissinger (when Ellsberg was still a deeply respected insider, and Kissinger still an up-and-comer) about the seductiveness of classified information --- and how having it, and having to continually deceive everyone around you about it, can lead you to think of them all as simpletons or natural dupes. In the end, this can lead to an instinctive disregard of any information that comes from outside the charmed circle --- even though, in many cases, the inside stuff is flaky, and what comes from outside offers vital perspective. (I'm paraphrasing, but that's the gist of it.)

On the flip side, though, for people at lower levels than Ellsberg and Kissinger, even being inside doesn't give you a complete view. If you're a mid-level staffer in a heavily compartmentalized intelligence organization, and the compartmentalization is working, you aren't necessarily supposed to know what the folks down the hall are doing. And suppose you want to believe --- that you have to believe, to keep going --- that what you're doing is part of an effort that's consistent with national ideals. Never having been inside, I'm not sure what could give a person that assurance other than the kind of faith in the integrity of the institution as a whole, of the sort that they're expressing here. (And other places.)

239:

Glad to abandon it. I was using assault weapon in the inaccurate sense that civilians and the US media use. Otherwise I agree with your points.

240:

nestor @ 234
Thank you for those nsfwcorp links.
Everyone - if you pull them up, you can copy them across to a plaintext version on your own machines (some sites won't let you do this) - fascinating stuff.

However, the real killer comment comes from the second link, as part of an interview.
Here it is: [ Sirota is the Journo, Grayson a congresscritter ]
SIROTA: One of the things in the vote on NSA surveillance that happened in the House that I was concerned about was you had meetings with high level NSA officials in the House (for the NSA) to try to pressure lawmakers to vote on the side of the NSA. Congressman Grayson, was there any perception by you that your colleagues may be a little bit nervous about voting against the NSA out of J Edgard Hoover-ish kind of fears that the NSA not only has data and information on all of us but also has a lot of information on a lot of all of you and your colleagues in the Congress?
GRAYSON: It's possible - one of my colleagues asked the NSA point blank will you give me a copy of my own record and the NSA said no, we won't. They didn't say no we don't have one. They said no we won't. So that's possible.

Which means that the NSA is in the exact same position as the Stasi in the old, evil, unlamented DDR.
Nice!

Later, there is a reference to the NSA head, one Keith Alexander, often called "Emperor Alexander" - here's why:
Never before has anyone in America’s intelligence sphere come close to his degree of power, the number of people under his command, the expanse of his rule, the length of his reign, or the depth of his secrecy...Inside the government, the general is regarded with a mixture of respect and fear, not unlike J. Edgar Hoover, another security figure whose tenure spanned multiple presidencies.
“We jokingly referred to him as Emperor Alexander—with good cause, because whatever Keith wants, Keith gets,”

Remind you of anyone?
No, not J. Edgar Hoover - Lavrenti Beria.

Even nicer!

241:
It comes to a problem of “True Loyalty(TM)” does it not? Are you loyal to the ideal, or are you loyal to the forms? What do you do if you consider that your country’s guvmint has gopne bonkers, & is breaking all the (not necessarily written-down) “rules”. What is to be done?
1) Try official channels first. 2) If that doesn't work - go public and prepare yourself to face a long prison term.

Chelsea Manning didn't do 1). She deserves prison for that. I'm told she'll likely be paroled after 7 years. Normally I'd say that's about right, even lenient, but the 3 years of psych torture before trial should reduce that further and result in courts-martial for those responsible for that. It hasn't. (Expletive deleted)

Another case where the system that's supposed to prevent that kind of thing failed.

She should never have been given that access anyway.

242:
Finally, I am struck and frankly slightly suspicious of the uniformity of the comments that go in this direction. Either there is a very limited corpus of arguments that one can build based on the pro-US-government framing of the issue, or there are talking points that are being distilled in the public debate somehow and have the effect of making a large number of people walking the line, a relatively narrow line at that.

What was it that was being said about the government covertly injecting information on the Internet a la Chinese, again?

Some suspicion is warranted. Don't blame you.

My blog has been active since July 2003.
http://aebrain.blogspot.com.au/2003_07_01_archive.html

If I'm a figment created by the Govt for nefarious purposes... they have done a truly professional job, subverting pretty much the whole net, and having done so ten years ago.


243:

Are you not entertained?

On for values of "entertained" where it's vaguely equal to "scared of the views of the speaker (TM)".

245:

On the subject of proportionality, I'd merely like to note that the typical court martial sentence for rape and aggravated sexual assault in the US military seems to be 4-5 years. Manning's sentence seems to be closest in length to someone who repeatedly rapes a minor and/or produces child pornography.

(source (PDF).)

246:

... or there are talking points that are being distilled in the public debate somehow ...

It's Fox News. It's hardly secret, but a lot of conservative types have it on in the background all damn day.

247:

As the person that mentioned assaulted weapons first, mea culpa. I'm not a gun bunny in any way shape or form. I repeated the definition I heard and read in the media.

The bigger point I was making still stands despite technical arguments about the semantics of the weapon type I think though.

248:

To join in the pile-on of Dave P somewhat, two points:

a) Fusion centres, which as far as I can tell allow access to intelligence to, and gather intelligence from, whoever can justify joining the program.
b) If intelligence, counterintelligence, and law enforcement are such separate concerns, why are the NSA tipping off the DEA?

249:

Espionage is treated as a major crime by every nation on the basis that spying damages the lives of millions of citizens. Spies caught on a battlefield or in a war situation can and will be executed on the spot, during a Cold War situation they pull down very long sentences when captured and brought to trial.

Johnathan Pollard got life for passing on American secrets to an allied nation and he may be released after serving 30 years due to sentencing rules at the time of his conviction although it is entirely possible his release under parole may be prevented for national security reasons. What Manning did was more random but probably more damaging in the long run to American interests given the sheer quantity of information released.

250:

That's not actually unreasonable from a purely pragmatic point of view. Things that will cause the actual structure of the organization to fall apart will probably tend to be prioritized over other things.

You can't really have an army that has people disobeying orders and talking to the enemy. You can, quite sadly, have one that's full of rapists.

Note: Before anyone goes off, I'm not saying the US Army is full of rapists, or that rape shouldn't be prosecuted more harshly than treason etc.

251:

Treason?

Manning blew the whistle on war crimes. If that's treason, your nation has misplaced its ethical foundation.

252:

Espionage is treated as a major crime by every nation on the basis that spying damages the lives of millions of citizens. Spies caught on a battlefield or in a war situation can and will be executed on the spot, during a Cold War situation they pull down very long sentences when captured and brought to trial.

That only shows how outdated the system is.

First of all, espionage is only treated as a crime if it's done against a country; I'm unaware that any nation punishes espionage against other countries.

Second, Chelsea Manning wasn't even convicted of "Helping the enemy", so I very much doubt that her actions damaged the lives of millions of American citizens.

Third, if you punish people for reporting crimes, it's morally the same as if you condone these crimes.


253:

Nojay @ 249
BUT
Was what Manning did "espionage" - at all?
No, it wasn't.
According to the US official sources, well over 10 000 people (I've heard/seen claims of over 100 000) had access to what Manning made public.
It's just that we, the proles, the (Inside the USA) fucking VOTERS were "not allowed to know" - mainly, if not entirely because it "affected national security" but becaue it embarassed the real government (Emperoer ALexander) & made public some of the really nasty & thoroughly illegal things they were & are doing.
This is not treason or espionage, it is patriotism.
As those Germans who fought against Adolf were patriots.

I just hope, really hope that the US will have its course changed, before it drags its population (& ours) down into a repeat darkness.

254:

Sure, because we were discussing how Anarchism became the boogeyman-du-jour in the U.S. A U.S. perspective seems entirely appropriate to that discussion.

255:

What you might want to consider is that the groupthink you see is an emergent consensus from a large chunk of the public. If the public -- who the intel community theoretically indirectly serves -- take such a negative view of the intel community, then something's gone badly wrong somewhere.

I have to admit, I'm a bit disappointed by how some posters responded to Dave's posts... and I agree with his position. I'm biased; I was a reservist for over twenty years, and I have a birth certificate that says "Intelligence Corps" under father's job. Unfortunately, very few actually know the breadth of what the intelligence community gets up to. I suspect that the majority of it is very mundane and boring, and screamingly obvious...

"Emergent consensus" is a tricky thing. The bulk of posters here appear to be taking an understandably skeptical and suspicious view of the intelligence community, but Dave's post @194 is a rather neat summary of my position. While I agree with you about post-facto cover-up of "something went wrong" (either incompetence, or bad luck), cockup is still much more likely than any planned conspiracy by cat-stroking masterminds.

It doesn't help, perhaps, that your introduction used some loaded language; by claiming that (I quote) "...There are two ways they can respond to this in a manner consistent with their current objectives. They can try to shut down the press — a distinct possibility within the UK, but still incredibly dangerous — or they can shut down the open internet..."

Really? That's not just a little bit of hyperbole? How about they just say "fair enough", or give a good career-ending slap to the moron who thought using Schedule 7 on a journalist wasn't just a bit inappropriate?

The UK intelligence "community" as you put it, is smaller in number than the average County Council. It's a few thousand civil servants who aren't paid that well, trying to make sense of the world.

Yes, overclassification appears a problem, as is the whole "we could tell you but then we'd have to..." self-aggrandising view of some. But then, I suspect that the attitudes involved are shaped by the people that said community comes into contact with.

Here's a question - how many people posting here know a police officer as a friend? Have you noted how their idealism/realism/cynicism levels changed over the years? I know several; it's because day in, day out, the people they meet in the course of their working day are the sociopaths, the liars, the self-deluding, the thugs, the bullies, the thieves. I was talking to a friend last week about her year working in the custody suite of her station; downright depressing.

I suspect that the "spooks' view" of the world is equally affected - with the difference that the real players are lethal as well as malicious. If the communications traffic you monitor is full of young men passing beheading videos among each other, with added paeans of praise to martyrdom, then it's hard to distinguish between an inadequate moron trying to impress his friends, and the useful idiot that might make a recruitment target for the real bad people (who we know to exist). If the messages that they intercept between genuine terrorist cells are plans for mass-murder, then it's hard to distinguish between barely-competent muppets trying to excuse failure and resource-constrained but determined and capable "true believers".

The current crop of senior UK intelligence types spent their formative years coping with people who genuinely believed it acceptable to murder, destroy, and maim to get what they wanted, because they were right and the majority were sheep - fortunately, the carrot of "here's a nice job as a member of the Stormont Assembly" combined with the stick of "if you kill people you will end up locked away or on a slab" appeared to do the trick. It still took thirty years to curb the violence, and with education and hard work it might calm down to a sensible level in another century or two.

Yes, we are all infinitely more likely to die from booze, cars, or smoking than to die from terrorism - and that's why the police are far more numerous than the Security Service or the Intelligence Service. The police, prisons, courts, and probation services get loads more money spent on them than the intelligence community - and so it should be. Meanwhile, the physical threat to our nation is shrinking, and as a result so are our armed forces.

If there really was going to be a UK "Deep State", who's going to fund it and people it? If it's "all the fault of big business", who's going to carry it out?

PS It's interesting that the current government opposed the previous government's stand on ID cards and 90-day detentions without trial. Hardly the act of the deep state, although even a month without trial is too long in my eyes.

PPS On the "decreasing violence" side, given that my father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather were servicemen, and I was a never-deployed reservist, it's reassuring to think that my sons may be the first in five generations not to serve in the Armed Forces.

256:

While I don't disagree, I have a simple (simplistic) take on the current prosecutions.

There's an old saw in Washington that it's not the crime that gets you, it's the cover-up. My take on this is that a bunch of people are trying desperately to maintain the cover-up at all costs. Unfortunately for a leftist like me, this pretty obviously includes the Obama administration, although I think the majority of pro cover-up repression comes from the state security apparatus cobbled together under the Bush administration. If that's the case, there will perhaps (hopefully) be a wave of indictments when their successors take over and want to assemble their own power structures on the rubble left behind.

Anyway, it would be nice if, as a parting gesture, Obama pardons Snwoden, Manning, and Cheney of all their crimes, as originally proposed at http://crookedtimber.org/2013/07/30/manning-and-cheney/.

257:

The question for the "Manning committed treason" mob is this:

Who has served more time in prison, so far: Bradley Manning, or William Calley?

258:

Not that Hackett's book is a good guide to anything much except Hackett's own delusions - which were shared by at least some others, but how widely is open to question

Calling them "delusions" is interesting. This was a very intelligent and thoughtful officer, and the fact that his method for triggering the debate is still talked about thirty years later, would seem to indicate that he succeeded in his aim. Your comment appears to be 20/20 hindsight, because the past sixty years of peace in Western Europe are a historical anomaly.

I don't know how aware you are of the USSR's force posture at the time; but in the 1970s, they were deadly serious. The Soviet Generals had spent their childhood within a paranoid dictatorship, and their twenties watching friends and families die fighting a different aggressive dictatorship. A reunited Germany was a very definite "red line", and sitting half a million troops there was a good way of making sure the Germans didn't make a third attempt on Moscow. Over twenty million deaths makes for a lot of bitterness and suspicion...

The year after he wrote the book, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. In the decade before, they'd rolled out the tanks to put down the Czechs. The decade before that, the Hungarians. Five years after the book was written, Andropov was convinced ABLE ARCHER was the start of the war.

So I ask again; why do you call them "delusions"?

259:
Really? That's not just a little bit of hyperbole? How about they just say "fair enough", or give a good career-ending slap to the moron who thought using Schedule 7 on a journalist wasn't just a bit inappropriate?

Or they could open a terrorism investigation.

The current UK government opposed 90-day detention but is pushing hard for content filtering the web. And it's not just porn they're after. They're not rolling back the authoritarianism, they're just pointing it elsewhere.

260:

The UK intelligence community may be, as you say, fairly small. The American Department of Homeland Security has an annual budget of about $60 billion, 240,000 employees, and killer robot drones. There's a difference of almost two orders of magnitude in personnel, complexity, and worrisome potential before we even look at the Defense Department, which is about five times bigger than the DHS.

261:

Correction: At 3 million personnel and at least $550 billion (estimates vary), DoD is more like 9-10 times the size of DHS.

262:


And, of Course, The THING is that the larger these Organisations become the more they tend towards schisms ...give Me That Old Time Religion! And so forth...wherein various departments will fight like rabid ferrets trapped in a sack for ... MONEY! Prestige! And Prospects for personal promotion... AND, the Important Thing, The REALLY Important Thing is that each “Department " will be convinced to its very bureaucratic Soul that IT alone holds The TRUTH of ..Insert The TRUTH of your choice... the UTTER Necessity of Warding off the EVIL of the, the ...EVIL doers of your choice -Insert Here! -and AND ...the EVIL Doers in ...insert Rival Agency of Choice...are all that prevents it from being...


I want TO be A HERO!!! ....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iovcnjuf2WU

263:


Just in case this has been missed...


NSA paid millions to cover Prism compliance costs for tech companies

• Top-secret files show first evidence of financial relationship
• Prism companies include Google and Yahoo, says NSA
• Costs were incurred after 2011 Fisa court ruling


http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/23/nsa-prism-costs-tech-companies-paid

Gosh! Who would have thought it, eh? Mind you it’s probably in the order of Billions rather than those pitiful millions...oh and, a swift search from the remenents of my memory gave me this...

"Missing Iraq money may have been stolen, auditors say
U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion, sent by the planeload in cash and intended for Iraq's reconstruction after the start of the war.
June 13, 2011|By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times .... Reporting from Washington — After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the George W. Bush administration flooded the conquered country with so much cash to pay for reconstruction and other projects in the first year that a new unit of measurement was born.

Pentagon officials determined that one giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills. They sent an initial full planeload of cash, followed by 20 other flights to Iraq by May 2004 in a $12-billion haul that U.S. officials believe to be the biggest international cash airlift of all time.

This month, the Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defence officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash — enough to run the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Chicago Public Schools for a year, among many other things. .. "

I gather that it has since been claimed that a lot of this “Fallen down the back of the Couch" money has since been Found?? But if there's anything that a covert ops agency needs it is Lots of Off the Balance sheet money of the ‘Iran-Contra' affair kind. Not that there is anything about the Missing Money that is in the least bit suspicious...And anyone who says that it is probably a Commie Fellow Traveller and what right thinking person would take any heed of them?

264:

Well, they certainly are here in the U.K. When they can spare the time from attacking The Welfare State, aka ' Welfare Scroungers ' there's been a determined push towards Faith Schools by our present ToryLib government...


http://www.secularism.org.uk/faith-schools.html


And Why Not indeed! Vile Preverts Who are corrupting our Vital Bodily Fluids, and so forth ...or as a Right Thinking, and Morally Pure Person put it...

"London teacher: ‘Why shouldn’t faith schools criticise gays?’... The former music journalist is currently Head of Sociology at the JFS Sixth Form Centre in Harrow, Middlesex, and teaches Government & Politics and Sociology."

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/08/22/london-teacher-why-shouldnt-faith-schools-criticise-gays/

265:

Sorry if this sounds a bit cynical, but I think we should consider the fact that Calley massacred Viet-Namese, while Manning annoyed Americans.

The US mentality thinks highly of the Constitution and its fundamental rights, but these concern only US citizens. As opposed to the French Revolution, the US Revolution was not an liberating endeavour of universal reach: it was white bourgeois shrugging their obligations to their masters and setting out to build a continental empire (at least). [1]

In theory at least, Americans are entitled to dreaming the American Dream (tm); in the last few decades, the US populace has become prey to its own ruling class. But foreigners have endured that for centuries. Certain foreigners have the good fortune of living in countries where it is in the interest of the USA to have a right-wing democracy, so things are relatively bearable in the UK, France, Italy, Germany etc. [2] But if you are a neighbour of the USA, you are not a free country thanks to them, but in spite of them. Lincoln and Kennedy might be the faces that the USA show to their own citizens [3], but the foreign face of the USA is Pinochet.

So, to close the circle: to the US Geist and to the US military in particular, massacring Viet-Namese or Iraqis is morally equivalent to squashing bugs. The penalties inflicted to Calley and Manning punish the harm done to the standing of the establishment in public opinion, not criminal behaviour. Calley, like Graner and is accomplices, revealed only the damage their own crimes, which are easy to sweep under the carpet as freak incidents dues to a few "bad apples" rather than to systemic problems. Being criminals themselves, they elicit no sympathy and are easy to dismiss: who takes the complains of Graner seriously when he states that he was set up by CIA agents?

Manning did more damage because she lives in an era of fast and global communication, because she revealed both the war crimes and their cover-up in one go, and because she is a Christic figure.

[1] Not that the French Revolution was spotless: it failed to implement the 1789 Declaration of Human Rights and abolition of slavery in the colonies, and things got really nasty when slaves revolted in Haiti. Colonialism went on until the 1960s and there are post-colonial tricks to maintain dominance on former colonies. But the French built school in Algerian villages, they did not rely only on the 90/9/1 rule.

[2] Free within certain boundaries. These countries are not supposed to develop serious alternatives to right-wing parties, and there are always GLADIO units to keep a good grasp on things or go Olaf Palme on you.

[3] With hints of Nixon occasionally

266:

Not that anyone will appreciate my self sacrifice but I'm going to have more that my usual difficulty in getting to sleep tonight on account of the Shrek version of "I need a Hero " echoing through my skull.


You don't deserve me!

267:

I no longer have a copy to go searching through, so I can only offer two reports in my support:

a) Hackett's book was described to me in pretty much those terms (and Hackett himself as something along the lines of "great self-publicist with crazy ideas") by army officers who were serving on the relevant NATO/BAoR planning staffs at the time it was published

b) He holds it as obvious that the French would immediately drop out of (and deliberately make life difficult for) NATO when the Russians invaded Germany. This is (IIRC) explained in the book by a broadcast from Moscow asserting that while all the capitalist pigs will be destroyed, the French would all be left alone if they didn't fight. Given how insane the French government would have to be to believe that, I found it hard to accept that anyone thought they could.

There were other things that struck me as equally implausible at the time, but I read it some years ago and (as mentioned above) no longer have a copy, so they escape me.

268:

The bulk of posters here appear to be taking an understandably skeptical and suspicious view of the intelligence community, but Dave's post @194 is a rather neat summary of my position.

Part of the problem with Dave's posts is that (there and elsewhere) he didn't really seem to be taking any position at all on the immediate topic at hand here --- which is, first and foremost, Snowden's revelations and the subsequent fallout. It's nice to say that everyone he knew in the intelligence community twenty years ago was a very nice person, but that doesn't really address these specific events, and deriding Snowden himself as a "minimally trained ... little punk" for disagreeing with his view hardly does better.

(Incidentally, Snowden's intelligence career was a few years longer than what Dave was claiming for himself, and included service in agencies and postings. It's interesting that people who want to define him by one of his former job titles seem to always choose "sysadmin" and not, say, "CIA agent stationed under diplomatic cover in Switzerland"...)

269:

Cath (spelling worng) 3il @ 265
Not nearly cynical enough.
The US revolution was to preserve slaveholders’ “rights” after the Mansfield decision ….
Oops!

270:

OGH may not be the biggest fan of libetrarians, but some of us are fans of his. This post just got "Quote of the Day", over at Samizdata: http://www.samizdata.net/2013/08/samizdata-quote-of-the-day-332/

Full disclosure: I earlier referenced Troutwaxer's comment at 207 over there, but that was not necessarily the impetus for the above (the editors there move in mysterious ways). While Charlie is not mentioned as often as, say, Ludwig von Mises, his words garner more approbation than most UK politicians (with the possible exception of Steve Baker or Nigel Farrage). There's also an element of puzzlement, from time to time, mostly to do with collectivism...

271:

"libetrarians" - it is possible to type in slurred! Who knew?

272:

I am certain that you are of good faith.

But I can't help chuckling when you mention year 2003 is a comment intended to nuance to notion of State-sponsored propaganda in Western countries.

273:

Starting from the Enlightenment, there were series of political experiments to reform and modernise Society. These experiments are founded on concepts of Liberty and Equality, and epitomised in the American Revolution and in the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The American Revolution was essentially a cry of Liberty! from slave-trading bourgeois -- liberty of enslaving those they saw as sub-humans, and of exploiting their peers. The Russian revolution was a cry of Equality! -- Gulag for everybody.

There have been attempts to mix Liberty and Equality in one bundle, leading to the French Revolution (starts well, then goes pear-shaped and swings widely between Robespierre's Equality to the proto-fascist Bonaparte's Liberty -- Empire nobility and slavery). Fascism, Liberty for the few with the appearance of a militarised equality. Nazism, with equality amongst the Master Race and Liberty amongst "races".

Liberty is often a code-word for "Go, multiply and enslave". From my perspective, Libertarians are attempting to fix the problems of the US society by adding gasoline to the fire.

Your problem is that that your State is too powerful, it's that it uses its powers disproportionately for the benefit of the slave-owners. Being left alone with the slave-owners is not going to help you out of your misery. The best moment in US history was the glimpse of hope in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War which gave us the Marshal Plan and the UN. We should study that and find ways to recreate it. The failure to recreate such a moment of History after 1989 is a shame that has led us right where we are now.

274:

As I recall, Hackett's plot point was the opposite; that the French (who in the 1970s were outside of the NATO military structure, and not part of the defence plan for West Germany) would join in on the Allied side, on the basis that it's better to fight Russians in Germany than in France. I think he also had the Swedes joining in with NATO.

The basic sequence of events (less the nuking of Birmingham and Minsk) was reused by Tom Clancy in "Red Storm Rising", as it's always nice to see recycling in action. At least Harold Coyle stated up-front that "Team Yankee" was set in the Hackett universe.

275:

From the French military equipment and doctrine of the time, it is very clear where they stood on the issue. To give you a few pointers, there was an emphasis on amphibious armoured warfare, because this is was you need to sweep through the plains and rivers of Germany (the VAB and VBL armoured vehicles have cute little propellers at the rear) -- much like the Soviets themselves (look at the BTR and BMP vehicles, they also have water jets). Another clue is nuclear systems like Pluton and Hades.

It is fashionable in the USA to see French people as genetic Quislings (a stereotype that comes up mostly when France dares make little displays of defiance against a much stronger super-power -- just, it's the USA, and that is not tolerable). In fact, post-war French politics have been shaped by the memory of De Gaulle's role during the War, including some distrust against the USA due to relations between the Free French and Roosevelt's administration (and the fact that the USA recognised the Vichy Regime, saw France as an enemi country, and wanted to litterally occupy it after the Allied invasion -- I hesitate to use the term "Liberation" given the circumstances). This distrust was compounded by the stance of the USA during the Suez crisis.

From there, France saw itself in an invasion corridor for the USSR, with nominally an alliance with the USA, but good reasons to think that its good allies would leave it twisting in the wind if push came to shove. Not an entirely unreasonable theory since that is precisely what had happened in the First World War and in the Second World War.

Therefore, French strategic thinking was built around the notion that it had to be unconstrained by US interests, and be a mean enough little puppy to disgust the USSR. In particular, the French did not want to be ordered to fall back by US Generals in the framework of NATO; and they especially wanted free reign on the use of nuclear weapons. Hence the doctrine of French first strike (a bit like Samson's option for the Israelis --except France faced actual existential enemies rather than its own fantasies), with the "pre-strategic weapons / strategic weapons" escalation scheme (the French do not use small nukes as "tactical weapons" to gain an advantage on the battlefield; they'd blow up a Soviet armoured division in Germany as a way to convey the message that the next shot would anihilate Moscow).

TL;DR: the French were outside of NATO not to have an option to "cheese-eating surrender", but to maintain a credible threat that they'd incinerate Soviet population centres on their own even if the USA chickened out.

276:

http://thestringer.com.au/google-and-the-nsa-whos-holding-the-shit-bag-now/

Assange writes about google's active participation in CIA-like regime change operations.

Fred Burton, Stratfor’s Vice President for Intelligence and a former senior State Department official, describes Google as follows:

“Google is getting WH [White House] and State Dept support and air cover. In reality they are doing things the CIA cannot do…[Cohen] is going to get himself kidnapped or killed. Might be the best thing to happen to expose Google’s covert role in foaming up-risings, to be blunt. The US Gov’t can then disavow knowledge and Google is left holding the shit-bag”

277:

Nestor @ 278
Why am I not suprised?
And how does this square with Google's "Do no evil" stance?
Unless, of course, they had their arms twisted, painfully, STASI-style. [ See references to Keith Alexander, up-thread ]

There are times, & now is one of them, where an understanding & knowledge of the classical Arts comes in handy.
There is an opera, always in the repertoire, that is re-interpreted for each age, so universal is it's message - the only one that composer wrote - that's right: FIDELIO.
I have been a (non-singing) prisoner in the most recent production here, where the interpretation was Greek Colonels/Pinochet, with the chief baddie (Pizzaro) plotting to overthrow the legit state, with obvious (gun-running) help from outside ....
He is brought down, at the last moment, by the combination of a mysterious message to "the minister" (& you never find out who sent it - probably, Rocco, the jailor) & desperate moves by the false-named title-beare of the work ("Fidelio") whio is, in fact Leonora, the unjustly imprisoned Florestan's wife.
It's a very close-run thing, too.

What combination can bring Alexander & his secret state down?

278:

"Treason?

Manning blew the whistle on war crimes. If that's treason, your nation has misplaced its ethical foundation."

Somebody pointed put that even not counting Manning, there has been more prison time done for revealing torture than for torturing.

I would say that the USA has badly misplaced its ethical foundation, but fear that it's probably reverting more than anything else.

279:

Russian (Soviet) Cold War plans and Sir John Hackett

Several really knowledgeable posts above, one of the more interesting aspects of the debate is the way people with little real knowledge of the facts seem to believe they "know" the truth.

It happens that I DO know a lot more about these issues than most people, the first is the refusal of otherwise rational and intelligent people to understand that there was a whole society controlled by a group who believed in a Malevolent Ideology (Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist thought, pick your label, usually refereed to as Communism or the Eastern Bloc for convenience) which was a threat to the entire "Western Way of Life" (Democracy and all that).

Having worked in the (US) V Corps HQ (Frankfurt) in 1978-89 and various other exercise and training environments through the 1980's.....

Among other things, every major exercise (V Corps) we had "Representatives of an (unidentified) Friendly Foreign Power" present as "observers." Or something. Funny enough, they all spoke French and wore strange (to me) uniforms (Kepis Featured, with plenty of Gold Braid) that I have always assumed were French. But I suppose it made their Government happy to pretend they were outside the NATO command structure.

And by "Exercise" I include the "Command Post Exercise" (CPX) cycle, ten (?) or so (Total) a year, much cheaper to deploy the Staff, etc (300-400 personnel?) somewhere for a week than the "Field" exercises when you have all those Tanks etc rolling around the countryside.

At some point in the 1980's, in addition to doing a significant number of (Official) war games/exercises, I matured into a good enough Soviet Specialist to be aware that they had a parallel and much deeper (intellectual) level of "Operations Research" than we did. Really, I met at least one US OR specialist who studied the Soviet (Open Source) literature.

To skip a couple of steps, with the end of the Cold War, they (accidently?) left a copy of their basic War Plan (Schliefen plan for the 80's?) in a Polish Barracks, which was subsequently published in the Journal of Soviet Military Studies.

Nuke everything in sight, then get (the Soviet) Troops moving out of the Kasernes.

(Straight across the North German Plain, there is a variety of supporting evidence in their Force Structure and Training that this really was "The Plan")

OK, what I thought was important was, I knew from (US) Games and Exercises, that a Soviet conventional Offensive was a Dubious Proposition;

Presumably their exercises showed the same thing.

In Soviet Experience/Political/Military Theory, there is no substitute for Victory.

It's Not Much of a Plan, But.....

My question was, why did no one ever suggest I connect the dots? Did anyone ever? (Which should come our from behind the Green Door in another twenty or thirty years).

Now, about those Muslim Fundamentalists...

280:

While I do agree with this and the preceding comments, I guess the issue is that the crimes being tried are really "following orders and being caught to the point being 'over-zealous' to the point where we have to be seen to smack your wrist" compared to "blowing the whistle and severely embarrassing those in power."

IANAL but my feeling is that it should be war crimes trials for the top of the tree, but as someone pointed out, they're only war crimes when you lose the war. Milosevic was being tried for war crimes before his heart attack, Hussein was tried and found guilty. Both lost wars. Even though the USA hasn't clearly won the war on terror, some would argue can't win the war on terror, it certainly hasn't lost it by any meaningful measure either. POTUS will not be standing trial for war crimes any time soon.

It does make me wonder though - people in Petraeus' position in the wider sense (men in middle age in positions of authority) certainly have extra-marital affairs, so it's plausible. But you'd have thought a life-long CIA staffer would have learnt how to avoid temptation of all kinds, particularly if he's ambitious enough to aim to for the top, and got the right skills to make it. Did he actually take a stand perhaps - one of these ethical people Dave P tries to assure really are there in the intelligence community.

281:

I think you missed out a key piece of context: which is that the Soviet leadership were mostly Russian.

Q: What is key to the Russian experience?

A: Lack of natural land borders against invasion. If it's not the Vikings, it's the Mongols, or the Germans, or the French. Someone is always invading them. Law of nature or something. Culminating in the horrors of the First World War/Russian Civil War and then the Great Patriotic War, which killed tens of millions and starved many more.

Leaving aside ideology entirely, any leaders of that empire had paranoia bred in the bone, of necessity and of folklore absorbed at their mother's breast. And anyone who lived through WW2 would have a horror of invasion even before the threat of US nukes pointed at them.

If anything, the miracle is the relative lack of Russian paranoia today. Note that word: relative. Yes, Putin's defensive and paranoid. And not without good reason: NATO and the EU effectively took over the Warsaw Pact and when large chunks of the former Russian Empire seceded they took over those as well -- the Baltic states and other bits of the Near Abroad. (On the other hand, the fact that we came through 1989-1999 without invading Mother Russia probably eased a lot of immediate fears; in the long term that's an invaluable gain.)

But anyway: the Soviets knew NATO equipment and doctrine was superior, and feared it. And nukes were the great equalizer. I don't believe their post-Stalin posture was primarily offensive -- but they were paranoid and terrified of a western invasion (with good reason), and the best response to an invasion is a counter-attack, preparations for which looks virtually indistinguishable from those for a pre-emptive attack. And as for the west, we had good reason to be paranoid and terrified of an invasion from the east, so ...

282:

Only golden braids? No silver?

283:

Petraeus was a soldier, head of special operations, not a spy.

Avoiding an affair with someone who can embarrass you is part of fundamental spycraft, because honey traps are a basic part of espionage. Honey traps are where the opposition uses sex to get people to betray their country.

I absolutely agree with Petraeus stepping down. He may have been a great soldier (or not), but someone who's so clueless about spy culture that they fail the equivalent of spycraft 101 has no business running an espionage outfit. To his credit, I think he realized this very quickly, and got the heck out before he could cause real damage.

284:

While agreeing with most of this comment and in particular with its core, I would slightly nuance the "NATO equipment and doctrine was superior": NATO estimations of Soviet equipment quality came from the evaluation of items exported to Egypt, Viet-Nam and other proxy players; these were export versions, considerably neutered compared to the real things.

In the field of submarine nuclear engineering, the Soviet have capabilities far beyond those of Western submarines -- ranging from accelerating to full speed in 5 minutes (compared to ~30 minutes for US submarines) to irradiating their crew and leaking God knows what.

I heard that the crash of a Sukhoi-30 at Le Bourget in 1999 had impressed observers because the pilots could leave their doomed aircraft thanks to vector thrusting ejection seat, where conventional seats would have hurled them to the ground. I'd like to confirm whether it is true that this technology was very new, though.

Anyway, I heard from metallurgy researchers that a good deal of their activities in the 90s was simply to translate Russian papers and reproduce their state of the art.


285:

Don't forget the Americans, British and French had already invaded the Soviet Union once before back in the Twenties to support the White Russian counter-revolutionary forces of the old regime. A few years after that in the early Thirties the Japanese tried to chew off a chunk of Siberia and were fought to a draw. There was the Finnish war and then WWII after which the West surrounded the SU and planted millions of troops on their borders with their tank engines running in preparation for yet another invasion while building a massive short-range nuclear strike capability somewhat like the missiles the Soviets planned to put into Cuba in 1961.

You're not being paranoid if they ARE out to get you.

286:

About a quarter of my fellow Americans seem to have this same paranoid mindset, in geography where it makes much less sense.

I've heard grown men tell me that the Chinese were massing in Mexico for an invasion, as if we wouldn't notice millions of Chinese soldiers being shipped across the Pacific and hanging out near the border. It makes no sense, and even if it happened it would fail because we keep a sizeable fraction of the world's tanks at Ft. Hood, TX for exactly that sort of eventuality, but some people believe it.

287:

Jay
But the reason you can't see the millions of Chinese in Mexico is that they are being smuggled across in the unmarked secret black UN helicopters that are going to establish the new world commonist order, aren't they?

[ Yes, folks, I'm given to understand there are people who, erm, err, "thik" like that! ]
Meanwhile Emepror Anderson (back to the thread) is ignoring teir constitution, establishing a STASI-state, making sure whistleblowers get jailed - & what's happening?
De nada.

If you aren't really worried about that combination, you should be.

288:

I can't remember the name of the movie, but it got a remake a few years ago. Some rather small and distant country successfully invades the USA, and the story follows a bunch of teenagers through the travails of the transition from small-town teenagers into hard-bitten resistance fighters.

Put in those terms, I wonder if it was a remake of some European film about the Second World War.

And i probably flatter the quality of the story.

But it never made sense in terms of the logistics. I vaguely recall paratroopers from Cuba and a location that looked, from the landscape, close to Canada.

Thing is, ration strength reported by the German Army Group B in March 1944 (Rommel in northern France) was about 1.6 million, compared to a total French population of about 42 million. That wasn't the whole country, and they were preparing to resist a major external attack, but scale France up to the USA and the numbers go crazy.

Operation Overlord used 12,000 aircraft and 7000 vessels of assorted size to land around 160,000 troops.

Operation Torch shipped three US divisions across the Atlantic in 100 ships, and landed them in Morocco.

Such movies just don't add up. Nobody has the resources, troops or transport, to occupy a significant fraction of the USA.

289:

Such movies just don't add up. Nobody has the resources, troops or transport, to occupy a significant fraction of the USA.

Heh. The USA accounts for a bit over 50% of the entire planetary military budget and has the world's most effective armed forces overall -- not the biggest in terms of sheer numbers of conscript boots, but the most effective.

And the US military couldn't effectively occupy the USA against the wishes of its population. Not with an occupier:occupied ratio of 1:30 needed to maintain martial law'n'order.

If you could ship the entire PLA across from China they'd have the bodies -- but the logistics of supporting a force of around 10,000,000 troops at a distance of 6000 nautical miles from home (or more) are impossible. Never mind the details of how to run an occupation without generating even more resistance -- it's harder than it looks, as the US army discovered in Iraq ("they'll welcome us with flowers").

290:

AIUI the inferiority of Soviet doctrine may have been exaggerated: link 1, link 2.

291:

In Abraham Lincoln's Lyceum Address in 1838, he said:

"All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years."

Even more true now than it was 175 years ago.

292:

Of course to some extent this accounts for why, at least since the white settlers and their armies invaded, the continental US just hasn't been invaded by military force.

But there have been various hawkish politicians elected over the years. Some of them must have been elected on "Defend the motherland" type slates.

I wonder how much of that contributes to the strength of things like the National Guard - which seems like a crazy investment of money once you consider the difficulty of actually mounting an invasion of the mainland US.

But, alongside that, how much does it contribute to the willingness of the CIA, NSA and others to bend the rules and operate significantly outside not only the law in terms of torture, reading the emails of citizens and non-suspects and the like, but well outside their remit, such as mounting campaigns inside the US, feeding illegally obtained intelligence to law-enforcement and the like. "Senator X on the oversight committee is bullish about CIA supporting the DEA, lets risk that operation." Senators are often reelected several times I believe. 20 years of knowing you're likely to get away with and it's less a 'risky operation' and much more an SOP.

293:

That's the classical "command cycle": Observe, Decide, Act; repeat.

If your opponent takes 20 minutes for each stage and you take 15 minutes, it's as if you had a free additional hour of action every three hour.

294:

"I wonder how much of that contributes to the strength of things like the National Guard - which seems like a crazy investment of money once you consider the difficulty of actually mounting an invasion of the mainland US. "

The primary mission of the National Guards for most of their history was shooting strikers and union organizers.

295:

@ 288 - 291
WRONG
It has been done ... as you should all remember.
At least half of the then dis-United Staes was successfully invaded, by U S Ggant, W T Sherman & G G Farragut, 1861-65
The Eleven Secessionist states were not only defeated, but occupied.
Or was that a special case?

296:

Not externally invaded. No overseas supply lines.

If Canada was a bit more hospitable and you could sneak a LOT of soldiers in, it would be a good staging post. Nice big land borders. Short supply chains if you establish good bases north of the border. Short journeys to hit many key targets (Californians and Texans may disagree). But lots of crappy weather and it's pretty hard to muster the troops without them standing out like a sore thumb when so much of the population is so close to the border with the US.

Civil wars are *always* special cases Greg. You know that.

297:

Heh.

Lincoln's speech continued:

"At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide."

Lincoln was a smart cookie-- even 23 years before the ACW started, he and others were able to see that Something Bad was on the horizon.

298:

We've covered Mexico and Canada, but what about a huge French military build up on St. Pierre and Miquelon?

(Admittedly this would be a greater threat to Canada.)

299:

Those two articles are consistent with my wargaming experience.

The standard Russian tactical style, at the usual wargaming level, is very much in the pattern that got called blitzkrieg, and if you want to field a tank regiment in a wargame you can't be subtle and still have time to sleep.

But the second article is right about what the games usually don't show you. I once pasted the command and control system of the "Striker" rules onto a more conventional game. Some features, such as the time forced for changes of orders, suits the Russian style. Two companies attack, side by side, and the third company follows the more successful. You're not wasting time changing orders for the engaged companies, as commander you are dealing with that third company.

The thing is, both sides tactics could work if you put in the effort. The whole thing was distorted by the eye-in-sky viewpoint of the wargamer, but what I saw was often a rather linear pattern of thinking that owed more to Wellington than to Patton or Guderian. The club I gamed with was less heavily into the rather artificial points-balanced gaming that was supposed to give both sides an equal chance, but the constraints of table-space were often a limit.

They did organise big battles sometimes: multiple tables and commanders and fog of war (at one point Napoleon was reported as being on three different battlefields at the same time).

And some things ring very true. You win not by defeating the enemy machines, but by defeating the enemy's minds. Whether it's on a real battlefield, or pushing toys on a table, you win by attacking the mind of the commander.

You win by something as simple as "Up, Guards, and at 'em!" at the right time.

Wars can be won in the strangest places. And the same places can wreck a peace. The Arab-Israeli wars have maybe been won in the ovens of Auschwitz. As a cultural symbol for defeat, it is a powerful motive. But what does it do to the chances of peace with your enemies?

300:

Movie is "Red dawn" , the first directed by John Milius and the remake by Dan Bradley. In the remake the invasion is done by North Korea !

From http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/red-dawn-2012 :

If you're wondering how North Korea (population 25 million) can raise enough invaders to attack the Unites States (population 315 million), it may help to understand that the original screenplay for this remake named the invaders as Chinese. After principal photography was completed on this film three years ago and its studio (MGM) went belly-up, the enemy identity was changed to North Korea by reshooting several scenes, redubbing lots of dialogue and using digital adjustment to change the looks of flags, uniforms and insignia on trucks and tanks. Did this involve a change in ideology in Hollywood? Not really. A marketing genius figured out that China is one of the biggest markets for American movie exports, and North Korea generates unimpressive box-office bucks for Yank product, as the trade papers like to word it.

301:

Got to browsing that wargaming website, and came across a page of cyber-warfare games, and posters

Oh, and I was watching some of last year's Olympic Opening Ceremony: does anyone else think Kenneth Branagh as Isembard Kingdom Brunel looked enough like Lincoln to confuse the American audience? But top-hats and beards were so commonplace in those days.

302:

Well, the United States DID get a beating from Canada in 1812.

303:

The idea of an invasion of the USA pops up in quite a few books.

They have the same logistic problem.

The one with the German paratroops calling on Oak Ridge has a lot more wrong with it than just the existence of a transport aircraft which could fly such a mission.

304:
the enemy identity was changed to North Korea by reshooting several scenes

Had they had a bit more testicular fortitude it's possible the movie might've done well in China. Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault is allegedly quite popular with the Japanese...

305:

Good Grief!! That brings back memories.

Way back in the 1960s the English Secondary Modern School that I did attend...can't say that I learned very much beyond my junior schools curriculum -which ended at age 11 with the 11 plus exam at which time we were sorted into our appropriate social class - but then, in retrospect, it was just a holding pen whose occupants were due to be squirted into the British Labouring Classes at age 15, and serve them/us right too. But, anyway, we did at least learn of Kings And Queens of England and of the History of The British Empire which did include General Wolfe and the Impossible to forget...

“ Battle of the Plains of Abraham “...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Plains_of_Abraham
Which WE won and thus became Top Nation just as “ 1066 and all that “ does recount

Or, as I would rather say, If Death is Necessary and Expedient at least do it with Style and then get painters who are reasonably competent to lie about the subject.

306:

" Civil wars are *always* special cases Greg. You know that. "

I'm not about to anticipate Gregs response but I would like to mention that it is worth while remembering that, whilst our American Cousins are ever so proud of and influences by their Civil War/War Between The States of a little while ago, we in the U.K do tend towards the unspoken conviction that Civil War is the natural state of “ Civil “ society that happens in fits and spurt between bouts of ‘Peace ‘ and that each spurt can last as long as a hundred or so years as the ruling class of the time do sort out the Divine Right Of Kings/Land Owning Gentry and so forth. After a couple of thousand years these tribal conflicts do tend to be regarded as something that the ruling class do to pass the time.

Never fear US of Americans .. you will get used to it in time. I reckon that you are overdue for your next 'Civil ' war.

307:

It's possible to see the two World Wars, in their overall political effects within the UK, being a sort of civil war. It was a political debate by means of war, it just wasn't a civil war.

I think I might be dead before that sort of scenario happens again, but the memory is fading. My grandfather and father were both inclined to say rude things about governments which started wars. I'm aware enough of the history to say the same. And there was the Cold War. But relatively small, professional, armed forces limit the effect of the war on the voters even if short, victorious, wars seem thin on the ground.

308:

IIRC
It was though impossible,at the time, for either side to "win" (by total defeat & occupation of the other side) the US civil war, by many observers, because of the areas & populations ivolved ....
They were wrong, but it took a lot of effort, to say the least.

309:

Wikipedia suggests that the US invaded Canada not the other way around. And that whoever started it, it can't really be counted a success...

OTOH if I was to try and write a modern day thriller about an invasion of the USA I might postulate sneaking trained agents into Canada and the USA.
Those in the US to act like troops behind enemy lines and perhaps infiltrate all those convenient troop bases with the national guard to get some arms and armour.
Those in Canada to mix logistics and an armed force to strike South and establish beach-heads.
If necessary, and I think it probably would be, I'd look too the following:
Distribute troops around the world to land at multiple airports as close to simultaneously as possible, spread out and pick up guns etc. locally as well.
If you need that level of intricacy, you're probably messed up, but you might as well go for shipping bodies and heavier equipment in containers too.

Still not really convinced it would work. You've got a lot of space and a lot of bodies to try and control. But at least you could strike fast and reduce the warning if you could pull off the co-ordination without getting caught and get the logistics running without insane supply lines at first. But you'd probably need something like PRC to have the warm bodies to pull it off.

It's so not my genre - and I don't see why anyone would invade, but there you go. I'd probably have a plucky maverick agent, Jack Bauer type, catch wind of it, and get ignored. He'd manage to stop some of them - a couple of planes landing in LA - and then have to watch the USA crash and burn around his ears while knowing if only they'd listened to him they could have stopped it all!

310:

Wikipedia suggests that the US invaded Canada not the other way around. And that whoever started it, it can't really be counted a success...

From a Canadian perspective, beating the invasion back counts as a success. Occupying Maine and collecting enough customs revenue to start a university was also pretty sweet. And of course, we got to burn the Presidential Mansion (hence the need for the white paint afterwards)…

http://www.last.fm/music/Three+Dead+Trolls+in+a+Baggie/_/The+War+of+1812

311:

"...we in the U.K do tend towards the unspoken conviction that Civil War is the natural state of “ Civil “ society that happens in fits and spurt between bouts of ‘Peace ‘ and that each spurt can last as long as a hundred or so years..."

Wow! I know that as an American historical ignorance is my birthright, but still I'm amazed that the British civil wars or the 1700's and 1800's never made it into US history books.

312:

The Eleven Secessionist states were not only defeated, but occupied. Or was that a special case?

Civil wars are indeed a special case, because both sides are already present in force. It's the logistics of getting a substantial army from somewhere else to the continental US that make invasion impractical, especially in the face of certain and substantial opposition.

313:

To my surprise, you may not be pessimistic enough.
In the U.S., there are three broad areas: officially, NSA and the CIA have foreign purview, and are prohibited from domestic activity; the FBI is the traditional internal national force; and private industry is not restricted by the Bill of Rights.
They are merging. NSA has been working with the FBI for some time. "The government" has been buying information on the open market it's technically forbidden to gather for itself. One of the unexamined critical corners in the current mess is how much resistance the Big Guys put up when the NSA demanded a universal back door. After 9/11, when it all started, one of the biggies really dug in its heels. Coincidentally, the former CEO is in prison and the company no longer exists . . .

And as for not stooping to active sabotage, I really would have thought you knew better. There is very little you can fantasize about Cointelpro that's beyond the facts. I'm an old Chicagoan. I remember the murder of Fred Hampton.

314:

Speaking (as we were) about government-initiated propaganda efforts concerning intelligence... Obama's announced the members of his commission of outside experts to review NSA activities, and one of them is Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, who has, in recent years, been an explicit advocate of covert government propaganda. (Being blind to irony as such people can be, one of his motivations for advocating that the government secretly hire influential voices to manipulate public discourse behind the scenes is to stop the spread of conspiracy theories --- because it's bad for society at large when people think that influential forces are manipulating public discourse behind the scenes. You need a trained legal mind to come up with this stuff. I couldn't do it.)

Harvard Law (Obama's alma mater) actually has a highly-regarded group of specialists in issues relating to law, the internet, and social issues --- the Berkman Center. None of whom will be distracted from their important work by serving on this commission. They do have Sunstein.

315:

I can think of three in the 18th century, though I'm a bit fuzzy on the third. I heard almost nothing about it until I got hooked on Aubrey/Maturin.

I've seen a handbook for the Yeomanry—militia cavalry—which sets out a recognisable counter-insurgency role, amongst all the uses of light cavalry for recce, and that was published about 1830

Ireland seemed to be racing headlong into civil war in 1914, and that led to the Easter Rising of 1916, Partition, and a civil war in the newly independent part of Ireland.

And it isn't outright crazy to consider the American Revolution as an essentially English Civil War.

Some of this stuff was taught in school in my day; a lot wasn't. We got a lot about electoral reform in the 19th Century, but sod all about the Chartists. A docker's strike got mentioned, but not Glasgow in 1919. A spectre was haunting Europe, and we are a part of Europe.

316:

Wow! I know that as an American historical ignorance is my birthright, but still I'm amazed that the British civil wars or the 1700's and 1800's never made it into US history books.

That's okay, the US Rebellion^WWar of Independence somehow fell through the cracks and never made it into the history syllabus when I was at school (in the UK). Ditto the Slaveowner's Treasonous Rebellion. In fact, the USA sort of just appeared out of nowhere when it was needed to join in the first world war on the side of the good guys (albeit somewhat late).

School history syllabi: not terribly useful ...

317:

Jay @ 312
One, therefore needs to remember the words of Philip of Macedon, who claimed that he didn't really, usually, need an army to take a city.
All he needed was one harmless-looking old man, with a donkey, loaded down with gold, inside the gates ....

zochoka @ 315
Talk about a grossly simplified version!
Remember, with Ireland, there are at least THREE "sides" involved, always, & sometimes more.
By 1914, the Brit main guvmint was ready to militarily suppress the "protestant" extremists behind the Curragh mutiny, to preserve the larger union, with Irish Home Rule - which, remember had passed parliament. Autrian assasinations etc stopped the clock on that.
Then, the unbelievably equally-stupid extremists on the "catholic side" took German Imperial money & arms (in 1916!) ... after which it all went rapidly down the pan.
The Brits, needless to say, got blamed by everybody else, even though it wasn't their fault.
Except, please note, a fresh, new mistake, made in 1919-21 by said Brtis - an experiance so bad, that we have never repeated it. We used a "militia" [ The Black-&-Tans" ] who committed all the usual atrocities that militias, as opposed to proper regular, TRAINED troops, who are much less liable to that sort of thing.
What a disaster.
{ Ditto the "southern" Irish extra, internal civil war, 1922-4. I always thought that Micheal Collins' death & the survival of De Valera was another total cock-up & waste. ]

OF COURSE the "American Revolution" was part of the British cili wars - as was the Slaveowners Treasonous etc.
After the Mansfield decision, it was only a matter of time, before slave-trading, then slave-owning was going to crash & burn inside British dominions, & Washington & his rich slaveowning friend couldn't have that, could they?
So, when Lord North's guvmint offered them an excuse (because they were stupid), the about-to-become-US slaveowners' grabbed the chance.
Fast-forward to 1861 for a repeat run.

Charlie - yes, well - tend to agree with your last sentence.
Forunately, for my "O" level history we studied 1815-1914 intensively, with a view back to 1603-1688-1789-1815 as introduction.
My big gap is how it all went so horribly pear-shaped 1919-39.

318:

Very roughly, the second quarter of the 19th century saw a huge change in logistics: the railways.

Up until then, armies either marched, or moved by ship. By 1850 the technology was solid enough, and some areas had a railway network dense enough, that things had changed for a war within a land mass.

Ships and ports were still important (they still are) but they're of little use in the Fulda Gap.

In the third quarter of that century, Armies discovered railways, and by the end of the century there was clear military involvement in the building of railways, in India and Siberia and across the Sudan. Many of the military needs coincided with commercial needs, but maybe the high-speed rail network of modern Europe is the first that might not have a military element to the design.

319:
School history syllabi: not terribly useful ...
And while horribly off topic - if you think they're bad now…
320:

Schools are over-rated but it doesn't stop everyone with an ax(e) to grind wanting to piddle in the syllabi while declaiming that everything is going to hell in a handbasket now.

A typical school year has 900 hours of teaching or thereabouts, with time off for holidays and the big revision pushes on the runup to exams. History maybe gets 60 to 90 hours of that time, depending and with a functional teaching span of ten years or so (age seven to seventeen) that means a maximum of 900 hours of classroom bums-on-seats teaching of everything that's ever happened to humans on this planet aka history.

What's taught in those 900 hours and how it should be interpreted is a bone to be fought over, not something that can be logically structured in an emotionally neutral manner because it's people creating the syllabus. Local history is more important than things that happened far away to people we don't care about, even if our own direct ancestors were were involved (British Empire, see). Recent history is more important than the events millenia past, but really recent history can't be formatted into a syllabus because it's not finished yet.

The one thing that's certain is that lots of folks will decry the lack of their special focus in the syllabus because.

321:

"By 1914, the Brit main guvmint was ready to militarily suppress the "protestant" extremists behind the Curragh mutiny, to preserve the larger union, with Irish Home Rule - which, remember had passed parliament."

Hello Greg! I'm afraid this is one of those 'citation needed' moments. I have never, in my life, heard of any serious plans by the London government to suppress the Loyalist militias in the north, nor am I aware of the Curragh mutineers ever being disciplined for their statement that they would disobey any such orders.

As for your implicit suggestion that all would have been well on the smaller island had certain 'mistakes' been avoided - well, when you see a pattern of such mistakes stretching back several centuries, the suspicion arises that these mistakes are inherent in the political relationship between the two islands as it existed before 1922, or as it exists now, between the larger island and the northern portion of the smaller isle.

322:

Which supports my theory that school history syllabi provide the same function to democracies that genealogies provide for hereditary monarchies: backing for the claim why they have the right to be in power.

323:

It's not just democracies. Discussing certain areas of history with Chinese friends has given me the distinct impression that their historical education has been rather eccentric.

324:

Very true, but the odds of the continental US being invaded by railroad are rather slim, unless there's some trans-Pacific Chunnel I've never heard about.

325:

A couple of decades ago my ex-Israeli students were surprised to learn that the Nazis killed non-Jews in the camps, and that non-Jews helped Jews escape. Wasn't what they'd learned in school.

326:

DJPoK @ 321
Yes, well ... I was always told that the Curragh people were going to be suppressed - quite a few (senior) officers were on the point of resigning their commissions ... and then the business from Sarajevo intervened & everyone had something else to worry about.
I never said all would have been well, but I do think it would have been a lot less bad, shall we say.
Problem: "the brits" tended to back the "prods" (even when the latter were wrong) - a mistake that was repeated (!) about 6 months after the recent troubles started, 1969-70 - very un-clever. They tended to do this because of an historical, well-justified fear of the RC church & it's attitudes & programmes in the past. Recent history in "the South" has shown that the RC church was & is, indeed as bad as was painted by its' opponents. Unfortunately, as is the way of such things, one ended up with two opposing camps, fun-house mirrors of each other, so nice.
And people wonder why I'm an atheist(!)
Remember that Wellesley/Wellington, no "liberal" by any stretch of the imagination had to fight a duel, back in the 1820's against the english prod ultras, in order to get "catholic emancipation" through parliament.

Links for more information (& it seems I had my time-line skewed) Here and here, too
Both of which show that it was an even more complicated tangle than even I thought.

327:

Many years ago I saw an old B-Movie in which the Red Chinese use laser drills to tunnel their way to the USA, in order to do just that.

328:

Greg, if the London government was taking the threat from the UVF seriously, why was that organisation allowed to import thousands of rifles through Larne, without any effective response from the authorities?

"The Irish Volunteers themselves would import a boat-load of arms in the Howth gun-running of July 1914. The Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), aided by troops of the 2nd King's Own Scottish Borderers, tried—unsuccessfully—to confiscate the weapons.[15][18] On their return to their barracks in Dublin, some troops baited[18] by a hostile crowd, killed three people and wounded 38.[18] The contrast between the inactivity of the police and military in Larne and the heavy-handed response in Dublin further convinced nationalists of official bias in favour of the UVF.[15] The whole episode saw Ireland draw closer to the brink of civil war.[3] The Howth rifles were used in the 1916 Dublin Easter Rising."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larne_gun-running

(on the wider issues at play then and now, I think an Irish revolution of some kind was an historic inevitably - that doesn't necessarily mean that the particular kind of Irish revolution we got in this timeline was inevitable, though).

329:

That's why it had to be a Civil War, and why the battles were so big.

Austerlitz involved 157,000 troops and was fought over one day. Gettysburg was a bigger battle and was fought for longer, and didn't even end the war.

The logistics of getting an Army across the Atlantic hadn't changed since the War of 1812, when an army of 11,000 British was thought unstoppable.

Even with the population, could pre-railway logistics have supported the multiple huge armies of the ACW? Austerlitz was the Big Army of France against Austria and Russia. There were garrisons across Europe but there wasn't the equivalent of Grant's Army of the Tennessee. Napoleon had crossed the Rhine with 200,000 men, but he could only put about a third of them on the battlefield, near Brno.

And don't forget the benefits of the electric telegraph.

330:

Problem: "the brits" tended to back the "prods" (even when the latter were wrong) - a mistake that was repeated (!) about 6 months after the recent troubles started, 1969-70 - very un-clever. They tended to do this because of an historical, well-justified fear of the RC church & it's attitudes & programmes in the past.

Nope. As for "well-justified fear", look up the Kincora Boys' Home, and a Unionist group called Tara - abuse and fanaticism weren't limited to any one side.

The "Westminster Government" tended to back the "Stormont Government" - because it was the Government, regardless of how gerrymandered its mandate, or the legitimacy of NICRA. The hatred of the RC church came mostly from the fanatics who were outside the Government; the Ian Paisleys of this world (the same one who in 1988 shouted that the Pope was the Antichrist, while a Member of the European Parliament, and was ejected from the chamber) were organising counter-protests against NICRA, and forming the Ulster Protestant Volunteers to campaign against civil-rights reforms.

The troops were initially deployed as a "Military Aid to the Civil Power" - trying to stop the Protestant mobs from attacking Catholic housing areas. Hence the photos from 1969 of soldiers being welcomed on the Falls Road.

Don't expect sanity from Northern Ireland - the first policeman to be killed in the troubles (Victor Arbuckle) was a Protestant, killed by a Protestant, during a protest about the disarming of a largely Protestant police force. Until the mid-1990s, the biggest gun battle in Northern Ireland had been between the British Army and the UVF.

It all started to go horribly wrong because the Army was being tasked by the Northern Ireland government, and receiving its intelligence from the RUC. It went horribly wrong after Bloody Sunday (which everyone remembers) and the "Rape of the Falls" (which hardly anyone does). The IRA was fracturing, and its angry young men (the Provisional Wing) gained some local support and community credibility as a result.

The response of the UK Government was to dissolve Stormont, and govern directly from Westminster - but too late. The response of the British Army was to invest heavily in training, and its own intelligence-gathering abilities - but too late. At its peak, there were 20,000 deployed regular soldiers, 14,000 Police, and 6,000 members of the UDR. Northern Ireland residents could be stopped by patrols and asked to prove their identity; the police were routinely armed; there was a large data-gathering effort on ordinary citizens. There were surveillance towers throughout the border area, and permanent observation posts in the cities. If you wanted to go into the city centre, you might well be searched at a checkpoint. You went through body search and baggage X-ray just to get into the airport, and you weren't allowed hand baggage on aircraft. For a brief period in the early 1970s, there was even detention without trial.

Put simply, it was the nearest thing that the UK has seen to a Police State, and yet the UK Government gave it up as soon as it could. The towers and OPs are gone, the Army has left the streets, the intelligence systems are shrunk, the checkpoints mostly removed. Anyone who wants to claim that the current government is somehow on a route to totalitarian oppression has a limited understanding of recent history...

331:

But anyway: the Soviets knew NATO equipment and doctrine was superior, and feared it.

I'd suggest they worried about the equipment, but not the doctrine. One joke about DESERT STORM goes along the lines:
American General to Russian General:
"So what do you think of your tactics now?"
- "We think you used them very well..."

Soviet doctrine was driven by the terrain of Eastern Europe - largely flat, rolling country side with few dominating hills and largely shallow-banked, wide, slow rivers. Tanks and APCs can be seen a long way off. Because of this, they made their vehicles as small and fast as possible, and emphasised massive fire support and smoke to cover the fastest possible approach from "we're in range of the enemy position now" to "we're fighting through the enemy position now". Speed, deception, and infiltration were prized - they relied on quick and efficient battle drills, much as the British army of late 1918. Their doctrine was perfect for a mass-conscript army, fighting over steppes and deserts.

NATO genuinely feared the Soviet equipment, at least until the mid/late 1980s. They had a massive superiority in numbers. The Soviets brought out the T-64 (with a 125mm smoothbore gun) at a time when most western tanks were still using 105mm guns. The Soviets developed reactive armour, to the extent that in the mid-1990s when the Americans tried out their M1 tank against a real T-80 with Kontakt-5 ERA, they found that the T-80 was essentially immune over the frontal arc (i.e. the crew's ears will ring, but they will survive a hit and may be able to fight afterwards). Soviet anti-tank weapons have displayed an ability to penetrate American M-1A1 and Israeli Merkava tanks in the last few years (Iraq and Lebanon).

So; don't knock Soviet doctrine or equipment. It was fantastic at what it was designed for. The fact that it's not well suited for a professional army, or an army that fights across irregular terrain, may be true - but it is also irrelevant :)

332:

Apropos to some comments and opinions above, I think one of the great tricks pulled by the powers-that-be was convincing people that if you choose to go against the state, you're only worth listening to if you stick around to receive whatever retaliatory action the state chooses to hit you with.

It's nonsensical. It is part of making someone's objection based on principle into an examination of the person, which is exactly what the state needs; when you've made it about the person, you can assassinate their character every day and you don't have to address the actual principles.

333:

>>>A couple of decades ago my ex-Israeli students were surprised to learn that the Nazis killed non-Jews in the camps, and that non-Jews helped Jews escape. Wasn't what they'd learned in school.

Oh, stop bullshiting. Do you think they hide they Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations when they bring students on a trip to Yad Vashem?

334:

Oh, stop bullshiting.

I'm repeating what they told me. Keep a civil tongue in your head.

335:

gravelbelly & DJPoK
Are either of you aware of the only (AFAIK) British-Irish man to win the VC in WWII?
He was a submariner, from the wrong end of Belfast & ... a catholic.
The RC ultras derided him for joining the war, when a lot of catholics, everywhere, liked that nice Mr Hitler, because he was agianst the competing religion of communism. The prods despised him (because he was RC) & loathed the fact that HE had won the VC.
In the end, it got so bad, that about 1947 he'd had enough & moved, with his family to Liverpool .. where, again IIRC he lived as happily ever after as could be expected.
Sickening, the whole thing, I'm afraid.

As to the comments on the "troubles" well, I'm glad I went there before it all kicked off & got a view of the total insanity that was in charge, on both sides, both official & on the streets. And started me asking questions, which is why a Londoner like me is so (comparitively) well-informed on the subject.
I have briefly visted Dublin since then, 3 years or so back - & what a change.
The power of the church is totally broken (except in the doily (Dail) & I'm given to understand, that even in the N, there is a growing demand for non-sectarian education.

336:

James Magennis VC, a Royal Navy diver was given his medal for sinking the Japanese cruiser Takao in the Johor Strait

Although the public of Northern Ireland collected £3,600 in appreciation of his heroism, so he wasn't exactly hated by both communities. The council refused to give him the freedom of the city. The only official recognition was a small photograph tucked away in the robing room of the council chamber.

You can find instances of small-minded idiocy in all towns concerning their war heroes. That this case has a sectarian feature is the only unusual thing about it.

Brendan Finucane, who shot down thirty-two enemy aircraft, was promoted to Wing Commander and killed in action all before the age of 22, came from Dublin too.

Many Irish Catholics have been willing to serve in the British armed forces.

Indeed that's where a lot of IRA members got their basic training - they didn't join the UDR, obviously!

337:

Petraeus' extra-marital adventures have had one truly useful side effect; they've given us an objective scale for biographer's bias.

338:

Aaand somehow I respond to utterly the wrong comment; that was supposed to be a reply to heteromeles' comment here.

339:

OGH:
"Treason?

Manning blew the whistle on war crimes. If that's treason, your nation has misplaced its ethical foundation."

In point of fact, no. Manning did not disclose any US combat misbehavior that had not been previously disclosed. He released the "Collateral Murder" Apache helicopter video of the incident in which several reporters in Bagdhad were mistaken for insurgents during the middle of an ongoing street battle, and killed. Acknowledgement of the incident, the Apache having been responsible, and US government admission of responsibility had all predated the video. The US Army stated that it had killed the journalists the day after it happened.

The first journalist killed was pointing a large long lens camera at US troops in and among a group of insurgents who had weapons including rocket launchers, and the camera was misidentified as another rocket launcher. The second was initially wounded, and then killed when unaffiliated civilians tried to evacuate him in a van (the civilians were also killed). This was misinterpreted as an attempt by insurgents to evacuate their wounded, not realizing it was uninvolved civilians trying to evacuate a wounded civilian.

Manning believed it was a war crime; Assange thought it was a war crime. None of the detailed reports, nor the video, actually show a war crime. They show a truly horrible accident in the middle of combat.

Manning was grossly offended by it, but that does not mean he had good judgement as to what makes a war crime. I believe he sincerely believed it at the time he leaked, however (and may well still).

340:

The towers and OPs are gone, the Army has left the streets, the intelligence systems are shrunk, the checkpoints mostly removed. Anyone who wants to claim that the current government is somehow on a route to totalitarian oppression has a limited understanding of recent history...

I'd like to be able to agree with you, but history doesn't repeat exactly.

More to the point, you don't need OPs and monitoring towers if 90% of the population, without even knowing it, carry position-tracking bugs that can report their location to within 300 metres (2G cells) or to within maybe 300 centimetres (smartphones with differential GPS and wifi hotspot databases) or be turned into remote bugging devices if necessary (Android rootkits are well known, and I'm certain Apple would comply with a lawful court order to install an appropriate backdoor on a specified handset). Add in CCTV everywhere, increasingly streaming to data centres over the net rather than to VHS tapes. Add in the fact that GPU-based massively parallelized face recognition means we can reasonably reliably pick out individuals in those video streams. Add in traffic analysis of all communications more sophisticated than a quiet chat in a noisy pub, and vastly improved abilities to analyse social graphs and make deductions about contacts ...

The current government isn't applying the iron jackboot yet, but it has a terrifyingly well-developed monitoring capability that would make the application of said boot extremely easy, should the decision to go down that road be taken.

341:

I've been looking at the video.

1: I see no clear sign of anyone being armed

2: While not an international conflict, US forces are still bound by the 1st Convention 0f 1949, and the firing on persons evacuating wounded would appear to be a breach of Article 3. There is special protection associated with the assorted symbols that include the red cross, but that is not necessary to be protected.

3: Article 15 requires all parties to collect and evacuate casualties.

4: The two additional protocols of 1977 add a great deal to the rules applied to non-international conflicts.

5: While the video doesn't clearly show weapons, it is clear enough to show that wounded persons are being evacuated. If there was enough detail to justify the first attack, there was enough to show a war crime in the attack on the casualty evacuation.

I'm not 100% certain the first claims of armed men were wrong, but it's really at the limits of what the video clip was showing. You're seeing the targets limbs, and some are clearly not carrying anything. Some might be carrying something, and once or twice, by their arm movements, it's suggestive of a gun.

But evacuating casualties? That is so obvious. I can't be sure from the video whether a white blob on a van window is a child or some decorative sticker. But I can see the man being carried on some stretcher-like thing.

Frankly, on that video I can see why you and Manning could have interpreted some things differently. But some things are so damnably obvious that your blanket denial of war crimes prompts me to question the va;ue of your intepretation.

342:

Charlie @ 340
But - you've forgotten something.
Only a very, very tiny minority - something like less than 200 people, on either of the two (out of at least 4 ) "sides" involved actually want to go back to an armed conflict. I would guess something like 120 so-called republicans & about 80 so-called loyalists actually want to go back down that road.
And the guvmint knows this, & so does Martin McGunness.
But, it doesn't take many determined troublemakers, especially when employment is in the dumps, to stir up something.

343:

The current government isn't applying the iron jackboot yet, but it has a terrifyingly well-developed monitoring capability that would make the application of said boot extremely easy, should the decision to go down that road be taken.

Easier, perhaps. But never easy - I'm thinking "Little Brother" here (I'm about to hand it to firstborn to read).

You can have the surveillance, you can have the traffic analysis, you can have the social graphs. But who's going to do the legwork? And where's the consent going to come from?

The British Army's inability to keep the lid on Basra was largely down to a lack of manpower. Even after twenty years of social graphing, deep penetration of terrorist cells, and Security Forces that had majority support and manpower levels of 1:50; the IRA and UVF were still able to mount attacks in Northern Ireland.

The UK has about 250,000 policemen. You could empty every ship in the Navy, every airbase in the RAF, every barracks in the Army, and mobilise every Reservist - and put them all out on the streets to apply that jackboot. You'd end up with a force ratio of 1:150, at best. That also assumes that every single sworn constable, soldier, sailor, and airman chooses to support said actions - remembering that the Uniformed Forces swear their oath to the Crown, not the Prime Minister.

The repression of the UK by its own state is IMHO impractical. That's not to say the state can't act like an idiot, and push beyond the boundaries of acceptable - but there's a big difference between acting wrongly against a few individuals, and acting wrongly against the whole population. The question for any wannabe jackboot politician is "how do you apply a jackboot to the designated undesirable few, without then having to apply it to everyone"? Because escalation means failure.

We can be wary of those who want the power to detain and arrest and question; but I would suggest that we don't need to worry about it until we see a rapid increase in the state's headcount - i.e. "volunteer forces" or "militia" type organisations. The second that happens, the alarm bells start ringing hard.

344:

we don't need to worry about it until we see a rapid increase in the state's headcount - i.e. "volunteer forces" or "militia" type organisations.

You're absolutely correct that such a headcount rise would be a clear sign of impending repression.

But I'm not sure it's a necessary step. If you've got control over the mass media and national-level internet filtering, you can control the information environment. By controlling the information environment you can attempt to convince specific persons of interest who might act as nuclei for popular resistance that they're isolated and the public at large don't share their views.

And you can attack dissidents directly, via the internet. Think in terms of a denial-of-service attack on their credit cards and bank accounts -- after all, any time they buy something online they're sending their CC number over an SSL connection to which you have the private keys (disclosure order under RIPA(2000) served on all major retailers and ISPs), right? Or persistently losing their Road Excise Duty renewal, so that their car is flagged up as untaxed and if they try to drive anywhere ANPR checkpoints will identify them and confiscate the vehicle. Or their train ticket reservations get lost -- they think they've got a seat, but they don't. Oh, and silent phone calls every 1-4 hours, day and night, routed from abroad so that the usual phone regulators can't do anything.

You could make life so uncomfortable for the few tens of thousands of people your graph analysis suggests might act up that most of them will be too busy trying to hold their personal life together with both hands to pay attention. And for those that do, you have some quiet men in black suggest to them that the petty harassment could be extended to everyone they know, all their family members, if they don't shut up. Nothing violent, nothing ugly, just enough to make day-to-day life impossible.

345:

I suspect that Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Richard Nixon and their followers would do this to their political opponents without a second thought. Having eliminated the possibility of graceful, lawful political change, it's likely that most of the populace would find themselves increasingly alienated from the government. Eventually we might get a late-Soviet situation, where pretty much nobody supports the government but change comes catastrophically instead of smoothly.

346:

>>>You could make life so uncomfortable for the few tens of thousands of people your graph analysis suggests might act up that most of them will be too busy trying to hold their personal life together with both hands to pay attention.

You'd need a _complete_ control over the internet for that, to prevent those tens of thousands of active people, who talk to each other over all kinds of media, from realizing that something fishy is going on.

But if you have a complete control over the internet already, do you really need to do anything else?

347:

You'd need a _complete_ control over the internet for that, to prevent those tens of thousands of active people, who talk to each other over all kinds of media, from realizing that something fishy is going on.

See also Dear Leader And Teacher Prime Minister Cameron's proposal for mandatory internet filtering in the UK, "to protect the children". Thin. End. Of. Wedge.

But if you have a complete control over the internet already, do you really need to do anything else?

Yes. You need to stop them setting up ad hoc networks off-net, or off-public-net (e.g. via darknets). Harassing and distracting dissidents serves two purposes in a Soviet-style system: it makes the more timid malcontents keep their heads down, and it stops the brave ones from organizing effective opposition.

348:
it makes the more timid malcontents keep their heads down

Not just the timid ones - anyone disabled can be easily silenced this way. Filling in one of their 40-page forms can occupy several days as it is, depending on your problems, and if they get delayed, and forwarded to the wrong office, and sent back by second-class post because they're not sure whether that letter is an "l" or a "t", and mislaid, and subjected to fraud enquiry, and buried in soft peat for three months before being recycled as firelighters, someone with disabilities serious enough to prevent them working is going to spend all their time fighting the system just in order to live. They won't have the energy for anything else. Admittedly, thanks to Blair and Cameron, we're getting pretty close to that condition as a default for people on benefits anyway....

349:

But I'm not sure it's a necessary step. If you've got control over the mass media and national-level internet filtering, you can control the information environment.

Nope, you still need the legworkers. It's the other-way-around from the XKCD "rubber hose crypto" example.

http://www.xkcd.com/538/

You can filter all the internet information you like, but you're not going to shut up all of the TV and print journalists (foreign, not just domestic), all of the non-wired communications forms - samizdat too. You're going to have to suppress every MP, the parliamentary record, and their parliamentary privilege, in Westminster, Stormont, Cardiff, Holyrood, and Brussels. You're going to have to get the consent and approval of all of the senior police officers who are required to "enforce" your gentle hints to undesirables, and to arrest/control the product of the journalists who will turn up to cover any protests. There is no totalitarian control without the threat of force. Who provides that credible threat in your scenario?

You're going to have to set up a less-controlled C4I network for the security forces, and then worry that they will stay "on-side" once they realise the difference between controlled and less-controlled content.

The Great Firewall of China is certainly porous, and hasn't suppressed dissent - and that's a one-party state with a mass-conscript army. Affected governments completely failed to suppress the news and content around Arab Spring. Short of North Korea, it just isn't going to happen.

I don't believe that there is any grand dream for "more control" on the part of UK Govt. What's more plausible is a haphazard desire for "better intelligence" or "less embarrassment" - fewer riots by thieving opportunists, less publicity for embarrassing bigots.

Like I said, I'll worry when one of the political parties starts parading its forces and holding "uniformed" rallies (i.e. Jobbik) or organising Rentamob (i.e. flying pickets). If the unlikely happens, it won't be subtle; and history suggests that for every BNP there will be a Searchlight, for every Blackshirt a Battle of Cable Street.

350:

By controlling the information environment you can attempt to convince specific persons of interest who might act as nuclei for popular resistance that they're isolated and the public at large don't share their views.

A shorter counter-example springs to mind; has that ever worked before? Has CIRA or RIRA stopped their violence even though they know that the vast majority disagree, even within the Republican movement?

On the side of the angels, there are plenty of people willing to stand up, and keep standing up, regardless of how bad the situation. The White Rose springs to mind.

351:

Apropos to some comments and opinions above, I think one of the great tricks pulled by the powers-that-be was convincing people that if you choose to go against the state, you're only worth listening to if you stick around to receive whatever retaliatory action the state chooses to hit you with.

Regardless of whether one agrees with the principle or not it's not a trick pulled by the powers that be. An early (the earliest ?) example of the principle is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crito .

352:

You'd need a _complete_ control over the internet for that, to prevent those tens of thousands of active people, who talk to each other over all kinds of media, from realizing that something fishy is going on.

But you don't want to prevent them from knowing that something "fishy" is going on. On the contrary you want them to know and that either they stop being dissidents or that "fishy" stuff will continue happening to them. An example is the harassment of suspected communist sympathisers during the McCarthy era. They knew they were being harassed and why and it was part of the point of the harassment.

353:

Oh yes , for another example one David Miranda comes to mind ;-)

354:

The White Rose springs to mind.

Everything Second World War always springs to mind. The Second World War is war that everybody would have liked to fight in:


  • The baddies are easy to hate
  • we already know the end (so in a story set in 1934, a dedicated Nazi will be hated for the Holocaust)
  • it's been romanticised, with lots of sweet spots to be at: the British spirit in the Blitz, the Resistance, the Warsaw Ghetto, the paratroopers in the Normandy landings, etc.

A good deal of the problems we have now within wannabe dissidents is that they want to be in the Resistance, and they will skew their worldview to fit this scheme.

Problem is, well, we're not in a WWII war film. The period has changed, and so the technology; there are no nice British and Americans and Russians to save us from evil Germans and Japanese -- everybody is a little bit evil -- not necessarly in the same way; it's difficult to foresee whether worrying signs are really that worrying, and whether they will lead to a Holocaust or simply wither away; we tend to forget that sometimes your society goes to shit and morphes into an repressive authoritarian nightmare for good -- no Liberation within four or five years; and finally, things like the French Resistance were fun (for some value of fun...) because the British, Americans, Canadians, Poles, etc. were coming -- if the NSA really is paving the way for a US-dominated authoritarian empire over the whole West, who is going to save us from these jokers? (yeah, they'll save us themselves by rotting away, but that takes centuries and can be painful).

The only value I see in the WWII analogy is as an answer to the "Snowden fleeing in Putin's Russia, urk urk urk" non-argument: during the Second World War, there were Allies fighting against the Nazis on the side of the Soviet; that did not make Stalin a good person and few harboured illusions on this respect, but they were dedicated to fight one evil and the Russians offered them a base of operation. It is exactly as legitimate to fight the NSA from Putin's Russia as it is to denounce Putin's self-serving homophobia from the paranoid, torturing, Human-Rights-trashing USA.

355:

" Acknowledgement of the incident, the Apache having been responsible, and US government admission of responsibility had all predated the video. The US Army stated that it had killed the journalists the day after it happened."

Yes. And the Vogons posted that demolitions notice well in advance of the date. Bloody apathetic species, I tell you.

356:

The Great Firewall of China is certainly porous, and hasn't suppressed dissent - and that's a one-party state with a mass-conscript army. Affected governments completely failed to suppress the news and content around Arab Spring. Short of North Korea, it just isn't going to happen.

The purpose of the Great Firewall isn't to eliminate dissidents completely; it's to isolate them, and to prevent them from spreading their views or coordinating any collective action. It's not perfect, but it works well enough that, for example, most young Chinese know only the official line about what westerners call the Tian-an-men square massacre, if they know anything at all. Chinese who can talk about it generally refer to it by the date, 6/4. Chinese stuck behind the Great Firewall can't refer to it at all, at least on line: anything that the dissidents take up as a reference to it: "May 35th", "Black Shirt" (a suggested protest sign), even "rubber duck" (from a photoshopped version of the tank image well-known in the west) all get instantly squelched by the Great Firewall.

This is a system a lot more capable than anything available to the governments that fell in the Arab spring, and powerful enough to scrub major events right out of history in the minds of most of the populace (making those who remember sound like cranks).

If isolated dissidents still exist, but they are denied widespread influence, the system works. It works a lot better than fans of democracy would like.

357:

CHarlie/gravelbelly @ 343/4
Militia?
Like the Black-&-Tans (see above) - very unlikely. If only because it was such a disaster, last time around. I think that mistake was well-learned. Also, Herr Majesty's forces do NOT like "defence in aid of the civil power" - in fact they push their limits of service, by publicly warning against it, upon occasion.
The internet-attacks you suggest are certainly feasible - but most of them can be circimvented & it would not be long before someone noticed - & then the shit would really be in the fan.
Drop off the net - then they can't be traced via it ...
You are correct in one thing ... Camoron is turning into another Blair ... euuuuw.

Chris J @ 348
Yes, well - SEEN THIS Disguisting, isn't it?

gravelbelly @ 349
Yes. The cost alone would probably crash the system, never mind the growing revolt.

cdodgson @ 356
BUT
In China, they now have a less repressive state than previously - like the state during the "cultural revolution" for instance.
So, for the Chinese guvmint, it's easy.
Going the other way is a lot less easy, especially once people are used to modern comms. [ See also, France, 1830. ]
I think all the current Chinese guvmint is doing is buyin themselves some time. No more than that. How much time - is another question.

358:

I read Hackett's Third World War way back when, but I hadn't heard about Coyle's opus. My local library has a copy, so I checked it out.

Eegh. I got a couple of chapters in before I gave up. No characterization to speak of, lots of simple, leaden dialogue. Oh well.

359:

"Problem: "the brits" tended to back the "prods" (even when the latter were wrong) - a mistake that was repeated (!) about 6 months after the recent troubles started, 1969-70 - very un-clever. They tended to do this because of an historical, well-justified fear of the RC church & it's attitudes & programmes in the past. Recent history in "the South" has shown that the RC church was & is, indeed as bad as was painted by its' opponents. Unfortunately, as is the way of such things, one ended up with two opposing camps, fun-house mirrors of each other, so nice."

You might want to ask somebody who knows UK history *how and why* those protestants got there. Supporting them was English policy from back when those guys were in Scotland.

360:

You might want to ask somebody who knows UK history *how and why* those protestants got there. Supporting them was English policy from back when those guys were in Scotland.

Going back even further, you might want to ask how those folks' ancestors ended up in Scotland, and where they came from.

Not to cast aspersions or anything, but the history of that part of the world is so insanely gnarly that it rivals that of the chunk of the eastern Med around Jerusalem for complexity (and bitter religious/sectarian feuding).

361:

Going back even further, you might want to ask how those folks' ancestors ended up in Scotland, and where they came from.

Good luck, for some folks. An American schoolkid is lucky if the existence of Scotland is mentioned before the 19th century. Parts of the British Isles outside England, or England outside London, or Londoners who aren't famous for something, get remarkably little coverage.

If anything happened in Britain between the American Revolution and the Irish Potato Famine, American kids have to find out about it on their own.

362:

You've asked for it, dececcio & Charlie ...
The Scots ( Originally Irish, but, by now, Scotch.) were at this time inhabiting Ireland, having driven the Irish (Picts) out of Scotland; while the Picts (originally Scots) were now Irish (living in brackets) & vice versa it is important to keep these distinctions in mind.

So there.

As for s-s @ 361
You have stated the whole essence of the problem with your phrase: "Irish Potato Famine" ... as if Ireland 1847-8 were starving (which it was) & everything else in the garden was lovely.
Both 1847 & 1848 were bad harvest years, cold late springs & wet summers. There was great food-shortage, starvtion & death right across the whole of Europe.
It will/should be noted that 1848 was "The year of revolutions" - provosional governments were set up in (at least) ...
France, Italian states, Prussia, Saxony, Hungary, Austria, Bohemia etc ....
The only two countries that didn't starve, but still had steep food price rises, & considerable hardship were - England & Belgium - which, at the time, had the most developed & productive agriculture on the planet
What stuffed Ireland was the dependance on the potato for the bottom of society [NOTE], a gross overpopulation to start with & finally, some admin screw-ups by the (Brit) administration, that allowed food exports from Ireland to continue, rather than diverting it locally.
Of course, all the other circumstances were & are conveniently ignored, & the whole thing blamed on the evil Brits.
Errr .....

NOTE: And, of course, the arrival of Phytophora infestans Potato blight - which is still a menace - I lost about a third of my spuds & 2/3 of my tomatoes to blight last year ....
Mainly because I didn't get out with the fungicide fast/often enough, oops.

363:

If anything happened in Britain between the American Revolution and the Irish Potato Famine, American kids have to find out about it on their own.

Bzzt!

The Ulster Scots arrived in Ireland before the Mayflower set sail. Only a couple of centuries before the US War of Independence.

Although the lowland Scots population they hailed from were descended from Gaelic colonists from Ireland. (They adopted Presbyterianism during the reformation, when in Scotland; presumably their settler ancestors were Catholic -- or pagan -- before that.)

The take-away here is that (a) the history underlying the Protestant/Catholic/ethnic issues in that part of the world goes back a lot longer than most people realize, and (b) the invasion traffic went in both directions. So simplistic attempts to deduce right and wrong based on "who started that fight" are doomed to failure.

364:

There is the interesting example of the Scots Monastery in Regensburg.

Founded in 1070 by the Scotti missionaries, then from Ireland.

Reassigned by a Papal Bull in 1577 to monks from lowland Scotland, possibly due to the name, even though they were not of the tradition that had founded it.

365:

"The Scots ( Originally Irish, but, by now, Scotch.) were at this time inhabiting Ireland, having driven the Irish (Picts) out of Scotland; while the Picts (originally Scots) were now Irish (living in brackets) & vice versa it is important to keep these distinctions in mind."

Well that's complete mince.
FOr starters, there has been commerce, travel etc across the Irish sea for thousands of years. Secondly, the native populations of IReland, Scotland and England, before the romans, were fairly similar genetically speaking, apart from some incomers through trade and marriage and maybe a bit of fighting.
THirdly, the scots moved to western Scotland, but again, it wasn't a matter of populations en masse, it was more like a related elite moving in and taking over the elite of the other area, and eventually they subsumed Pictland as well.
Fourthly, the Picts didn't move to Ireland, they were well over on the east.
Fifthly, The lowlanders by the 16/17th centuries were mixtures of celt, saxon, norman and whoever else had passed that way; a bit different from the northern Irisn who hadn't so much saxon but variable amounts of viking. THey certainly weren't as closely related as the Highlanders and Irish were. THis extended even to styles of dress, with the leine etc worn in Ireland and the highlands.
Sixthly, this 'racial' stuff is irrelevant. What matters is that the British government moved lots of people from the borders to norther ireland precisely to assert and stabilise its imperial control of Ireland. If they'd had more people they would have planted them on more of Eire.
Precisely how much support was given over the next 300 years to protestants in Norther Ireland I don't know, but it seems likely that certain reflexes were in place.

366:

Well that's complete mince.

It looks like that didn't so much go over your head as achieve Low Earth Orbit. But that's OK, it's a reference to a book from 80 years ago, and while Brits of my generation are going to pick up even on a relatively short quote like that, it would be silly to expect everyone everywhere to know it.

367:

AND nobody seems to have realised where my quote came from, and that that is a terrible shame, what a waste of a good joke oh dearie, dearie me, this is very sad.
RESET - Bellighman has spotted it - get the man a beer!

368:

Shit, is 1066 and all that 80 years old? I thought it was younger than that. I've not read it, don't even have a copy, too many other books to read. I think I'm a generation younger than you too.

369:

"This book was originally published October 16th 1930" according to the copyright page.

(And Greg - I think you can assume that lots of people identified the quote; we just didn't feel any need to comment on it, because we knew where it came from.)

370:

It's a parody and, like some of the very best parodies[1], it's long outlived what it originally parodied. That comparative lack of present relevance means it has to stand somewhat on its own virtues and while they aren't lacking by any means, they aren't its original forté.

[1]Lewis Carroll did a lot of parodies in Alice in Wonderland, many of which are remembered while the originals are forgotten.

371:

American kids' history classes naturally focus on American history. They usually start with maybe a week from Rome to the 18th century for context, then it's on to the Revolution. English history is usually only considered where it materially impacts American history (the Revolution, 1812, and the World Wars).

372:

Blame it on the quote failing to mention stuff like A Bad Thing, A Strong King, or why WilliamAnMary was orange.

373:

That... seems slightly bizarre. Not focusing on American history, but the idea of starting human history in Rome and covering from there to "and then George Washington!" in a week is odd.

Also, American history starts at the Revolution? Is there no discussion of Native history?

374:

Also, American history starts at the Revolution? Is there no discussion of Native history?

Of course not; American history starts when Christopher Columbus discovers The IndiesAmerica. Then we're on to Jamestown and the Pilgrims, with a quick stop at the First Thanksgiving (hey, look, Indians). Only then do we get to the Revolution (and if you've noticed we just skipped forward 150 years, you're paying more attention than most schoolchildren). The Revolution is heavy on various causes, half-legendary moments like Paul Revere's ride, and a bunch of battles. Don't expect to hear anything about why England might be distracted or about history happening in Europe at the time; that'll be covered separately, if you're lucky.

Several weeks later, after the class takes its death march through the Civil War (like the Revolution, but with only one cause and lots and lots of battles), then we get to the old western era; here are some Indians again. Don't expect to see them again.

History ends at the last chapter of the book, after WWII and if you're lucky after the Cold War ended. If the school is in a southern region you'll hear about Spaniards; if it's in the north, not so much.

As a slightly more serious historical note, I was surprised a while back to see a mention of the Lewis & Clark Expedition here; I'm well aware of it (I live near the site of Fort Clatsop), but it's not something I'd expect anyone in Britain to know about.

375:

[the Lewis & Clark Expedition is] not something I'd expect anyone in Britain to know about.

Although it's not something I know much about, and while I'd be unsurprised at a randomly-picked Brit not knowing about it, it's not that obscure.

US history diffuses across the Atlantic.

376:

Charlie, I think your initial comment may have missed something important about the MIC, and that is the MIC is an enforcer component of the deep state. As the mostly corporate deep state is pushing for "globalization", a word for trans-national corporation hegemony over the world, the MIC is enlisted to bring reluctant nations to heel. That's what the US push to war in Syria is ultimately about, Iran is the ultimate goal for US hegemony over the entire ME, and Syria is a step to control of Iran. Corporate interests ARE the deep state by and large, and ultimately their goal is to bring China and
Russia under US corporate hegemony which is on the agenda, as witnessed in PNAC's plan for a new American Century. Perhaps a decade or more to meet that goal, but that's what it is.

377:

You're missing out: "1066 and all that" is hysterically funny. Even though I was subjected to the JMB 'O' level history syllabus in the late 1970s/early 1980s, it rang true -- that style of history teaching didn't go out of style before 1980, and as I understand it Michael Gove really really wants to resurrect it.

378:

For "sausage" read "hostage"
For "Pheasant" read "peasant", throughout ....
From memory .....

379:

American High School History standards are not quite that bad, although I am not totally qualified to judge being outside the system and having a degree in the field. (Pull my String and hear my rant about the Nazi Glorification aspect of ALL Anglo-Saxon popular treatment of WW II, Da, Tovarich?).

So I tend to notice and be aware of details that are entirely overlooked. And I'm OLD, I need to write a blog entry about how much higher quality historical information was available to me forty years ago (gah) than today, was just looking at an old Ballantine War book (original cover price, 1971, $1, ebay swag, $.99), publication date 1971. There simply is nothing like that out in the marketplace for a bright middle or high school student to stumble on.

And it has become a political issue, including Standards on how Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrinch are IMPORTANT, significant figures who started WONDERFUL changes to our society. (Not, but that is merely my personal opinion). Oh, and FDR caused the Great Depression.

Er, maybe we really are in trouble, since the above is a sample of what is taught by Charter Schools (Free Enterprise) and Christian Home Schoolers.

At least they mostly know Nazi's were evil, except when they had Tiger Tanks, which are Kewl. Government is Evil by definition, but The Corporation is merely an expression of the Free Market.

We are in trouble.

380:

Indeed - several of the American reviews purported for humorous effect to be confused by all the Lincolns....

381:

I just discovered Charles Stross today, via an article of his subtitled "Kids of Tomorrow" that was reprinted in The Japan News. Wow. It was AMAZING. I found I had goosebumps at least three times before I put the piece down. So insightful and thoughts so wonderfully put. I'm going to look for Mr. Stross's books right away. Glad to have found you, Charlie!!!

382:

Reprinted in the Chicago Tribune, too....

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