Is the National Defense Authorization Act Unconstitutional?
posted by Keito
2012-08-12 11:46:37'The question being argued in federal court in Lower Manhattan yesterday boiled down to this: Is a law authorizing the indefinite military detention of American citizens with only the barest recourse to civil courts constitutional?
The lawsuit against the Obama administration was filed in January by seven journalists and activists, including Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Wolf, and Daniel Ellsberg. The suit challenges sections of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which authorize the armed forces to detain
"A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces."
The act would allow citizens to be detained in overseas military facilities like Guantanamo "until the end of hostilities."
The problem, the plaintiffs argue, is that this language is so vague as to possibly cover all kinds of activity protected by the First Amendment. What is "substantial support?" What are "associated forces?"
For Hedges, a journalist who has spent much of his career meeting and talking with groups and individuals considered terrorists by the U.S. government, the language was chilling.
In his complaint, Hedges argued that the law violated First Amendment protections of speech and association, constitutional guarantees for citizens' access to a civil court system, and Fifth-Amendment due process guarantees.
Judge Katherine Forrest agreed. In a 68-page May ruling, Forrest granted a preliminary injunction blocking the challenged provisions of the act.
"There is a strong public interest in protecting rights guaranteed by the First Amendment," Forrest wrote in granting the temporary injunction. "There is also a strong public interest in ensuring that due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment are protected by ensuring that ordinary citizens are able to understand the scope of conduct that could subject them to indefinite military detention."
But the temporary injunction of the law was just the first round in the case. Hedges and his fellow plaintiffs were asking the court for a permanent injunction. In a four-hour hearing yesterday, lawyers for the plaintiffs and for the government reargued their cases before Judge Forrest, who interrupted frequently with her own questions and opinions.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Torrance repeated his argument that the law signed by Obama on New Year's Eve doesn't actually do anything new, but rather reiterates powers already conferred by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed by Congress shortly after 9/11.
That argument didn't persuade Forrest, and she told him so. But it also posed further complications for the administration's case. If the challenged NDAA provisions really didn't change anything, why was the government ready to go to the mat to defend them? Perhaps more troubling, Torrance admitted that the government doesn't specify whether detainees are held under the NDAA provisions or under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Consequently, the government was continuing to detain people covered by the challenged provisions in spite of the court's injunction.
Carl Mayer, one of the plaintiff's attorneys, said later that he and his colleagues were considering bringing contempt of court charges over what he called an apparent disregard for the court injunction.
Torrance judge Forrest that for her court to overturn congressional legislation on national security matters would be to overstep the role of the judiciary, but Forrest wasn't so sure. She cited a passage by Alexander Hamilton inFederalist Papers Number 78, "which I'm quite enamored with:"
"Where the will of the legislature, declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of the people, declared in the Constitution, the judges ought to be governed by the latter rather than the former. They ought to regulate their decisions by the fundamental laws, rather than by those which are not fundamental."
Another of the administration's arguments is that the government hasn't so far used the law to detain journalists like Hedges, so fear that it might is unreasonable.
David Remes, one of the plaintiff's lawyers, said that wasn't the point. "The danger posed by the sword of Damocles is not that it falls, but that it can fall," he said.
Forrest also appeared unconvinced, noting that a national election could soon install a new administration with a new set of intentions and interpretations. She quoted Chief Justice John Roberts's ruling in a 2010 case: "The First Amendment protects against the government," Roberts wrote. "It does not leave us at the mercy of noblesse oblige. We would not uphold an unconstitutional statute merely because the government promised to use it reasonably."
Torrance said the law still allows room for judicial oversight, because people detained under the act can file habeas corpus petitions.
"How long does a petition take?" Forrest asked.
Torrance said he didn't have the numbers in front of him.
"Several years, right?" Forrest prompted.
Torrance allowed that might be true, but noted that in most habeas petitions in the post-9/11 era, courts have found the detention legitimate.
Forrest closed the hearing with a promise that she had not yet made her mind up, Hedges and his lawyers said her earlier ruling on the temporary injunction and her close questioning of Torrance gave them cause for optimism.
Perhaps sensing which way the wind is blowing with Judge Forrest, the Obama administration has already filed an appeal in higher court.'
Overreaction and Overly Specific Reactions to Rare Risks
posted by Keito
2012-08-09 21:59:19"Horrific events, such as the massacre in Aurora, can be catalysts for social and political change. Sometimes it seems that they're the only catalyst; recall how drastically our policies toward terrorism changed after 9/11 despite how moribund they were before.
The problem is that fear can cloud our reasoning, causing us to overreact and to overly focus on the specifics. And the key is to steer our desire for change in that time of fear.
Our brains aren't very good at probability and risk analysis. We tend to exaggerate spectacular, strange and rare events, and downplay ordinary, familiar and common ones. We think rare risks are more common than they are. We fear them more than probability indicates we should.
There is a lot of psychological research that tries to explain this, but one of the key findings is this: People tend to base risk analysis more on stories than on data. Stories engage us at a much more visceral level, especially stories that are vivid, exciting or personally involving.
If a friend tells you about getting mugged in a foreign country, that story is more likely to affect how safe you feel traveling to that country than reading a page of abstract crime statistics will.
Novelty plus dread plus a good story equals overreaction.
And who are the major storytellers these days? Television and the Internet. So when news programs and sites endlessly repeat the story from Aurora, with interviews with those in the theater, interviews with the families and commentary by anyone who has a point to make, we start to think this is something to fear, rather than a rare event that almost never happens and isn't worth worrying about. In other words, reading five stories about the same event feels somewhat like five separate events, and that skews our perceptions.
We see the effects of this all the time.
It's strangers by whom we fear being murdered, kidnapped, raped and assaulted, when it's far more likely that any perpetrator of such offenses is a relative or a friend. We worry about airplane crashes and rampaging shooters instead of automobile crashes and domestic violence -- both of which are far more common and far, far more deadly.
Our greatest recent overreaction to a rare event was our response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I remember then-Attorney General John Ashcroft giving a speech in Minnesota -- where I live -- in 2003 in which he claimed that the fact there were no new terrorist attacks since 9/11 was proof that his policies were working. I remember thinking: "There were no terrorist attacks in the two years preceding 9/11, and you didn't have any policies. What does that prove?"
What it proves is that terrorist attacks are very rare, and perhaps our national response wasn't worth the enormous expense, loss of liberty, attacks on our Constitution and damage to our credibility on the world stage. Still, overreacting was the natural thing for us to do. Yes, it was security theater and not real security, but it made many of us feel safer.
The rarity of events such as the Aurora massacre doesn't mean we should ignore any lessons it might teach us. Because people overreact to rare events, they're useful catalysts for social introspection and policy change. The key here is to focus not on the details of the particular event but on the broader issues common to all similar events.
Installing metal detectors at movie theaters doesn't make sense -- there's no reason to think the next crazy gunman will choose a movie theater as his venue, and how effectively would a metal detector deter a lone gunman anyway? -- but understanding the reasons why the United States has so many gun deaths compared with other countries does. The particular motivations of alleged killer James Holmes aren't relevant -- the next gunman will have different motivations -- but the general state of mental health care in the United States is.
Even with this, the most important lesson of the Aurora massacre is how rare these events actually are. Our brains are primed to believe that movie theaters are more dangerous than they used to be, but they're not. The riskiest part of the evening is still the car ride to and from the movie theater, and even that's very safe.
But wear a seat belt all the same.
This essay previously appeared on CNN.com, and is an update to another essay.
EDITED TO ADD: I almost added that Holmes wouldn't have been stopped by a metal detector. He walked into the theater unarmed, left through a back door, which he propped open so he could return armed. And while there was talk about installing metal detectors in movie theaters, I have not heard of any theater actually doing so. But AMC movie theaters have announced a "no masks or costumes policy" as a security measure."
Man wakes up from decade long coma and figures he's living in an Orwellian dystopia... asks if he can be a Viking instead.
posted by Keito
2012-07-27 22:46:43War Tard rules again:
"Taking a look around at how scary the world is getting makes me wonder what it'd be like to wake up after a decade-long coma and take a fresh look at the surveillance society that's been coming down the pipe since the 9/11 attacks baptized the new century in crazy. Let's say it's 1999 again and you dropped some windowpane, watched The Matrix, felt like you just witnessed your autobiography and then jumped off the roof of your apartment to see if you are indeed "the one". Bad idea... seemed logical at the time. Anyway, next thing you know you wake up in a hospital bed and everyone around you looks like they stuck with the blue pill because they're wearing that ‘bad test result’ face as they tell you it's 2012 and you just skipped the whole terror decade.
All of it.
Catching up on world history since 1999 would be like reading some dystopian future sci-fi novel by the likes of Orwell or Dick except you're reading The New York Times and it's news and all real. Just a quick scan of early 21st century history would have you longing for the '90s and the happy days of OJ trials and sex scandals in the Oval Office where the corporate spokesman in the suit messes up the intern's dress and not the entire direction of the new century.
The century got defined by 9/11 right from the start and the future was always going to suck if you were a fan of privacy and keeping your shit on the down low. For a coma victim nursing a migraine in 2012, the 9/11 attacks sure would look like some stunt ripped out of one of the shittier Bond movies complete with the perpetrator being an evil villain millionaire living in a cave lair. Sure, it'd sound like the dumbest cliché-ridden plot ever if you tried to sell it to Paramount, but the new reality has a habit of running with the absurd.
Bond villain lair or actual news story? They report, you sigh and take a bong hit.
Quite apart from the very bad idea of a land war in Afghanistan and the necessary resource grab in the Mesopotamian desert, the greatest legacy of the 9/11attacks for the United States will be the terrorism-industrial-complex that sprung up horribly like an erection at a nudist funeral. Just nine days after the attacks the largest merger in US government history occurred when 17 agencies from the Coast Guard to the cops merged into the colossal Ingsoc that is the Department of Homeland Security. 9/11 was seen as a "failure to communicate and connect the dots" on the part of everyone with a badge and a 9mm, so centralization and intelligence sharing in a single giant database was seen as the answer. That, and a few billion dollars to corporations and private contractors to design and run the software
To keep us safe.
US intelligence agencies have always relied on technology to invent their way out of a knowledge hole. Since WWII the NSA and CIA have excelled in the areas of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Imaging Intelligence (IMINT), which is your run of the mill but tech heavy wire-tapping, code-breaking and picture-taking of your "secret" new missile launch facility. From the U2 spy plane to the SR-71 Blackbird and on to satellites that can read your golf ball from space, IMINT has never been a problem for the skilled genius of US technology. The weak spot has always been Human Intelligence (HUMINT). That's a harder pitch for the US to swing at as it involves spies and agents and assets operating behind enemy lines speaking and acting like natives. The Israelis are the kings of this simply by the demographics of the Jewish diaspora. There are native Jews in many countries and if Mossad wants to know where a nuke scientist's mistress lives, fresh HUMINT is an encrypted email away. During the Cold War, the US relied on Israel for HUMINT in exchange for US SIGINT and IMINT. Post 9/11, mass surveillance is seen by the US as the way to make up for their HUMINT deficiencies, a weakness the US sees as leading directly to 9/11.
In the new sci-fi dystopia, the police state starts with the cop on patrol who is expected to "feed the system" with suspicious stuff that might flag someone as a terrorist. The problem is, Main Street USA isn't exactly a target-rich environment for towel-headed mullahs waving AKs and yelling "Allah Ackbar" every time the local 7/11 runs out of pita bread . In order to justify the billions being spent, the DHS must continually see 'enemies' everywhere. The enemy morphs into the citizenry itself, be it activist, protester or anyone with a beef against the prevailing narrative. The primary weapon of the average cop is the Suspicious Activity Report (SAR), which includes activities like taking pictures, reading maps, driving while looking out the window a lot; pretty much anything about you the average donut guzzler doesn't like. Cop cars are being equipped now with license plate scanners that not only read every infraction of every passing car but also relay this info along with GPS data to the centralized database; something that makes every unpaid parking ticket a shit brick offense.
In the sci-fi dystopia, everyone is a suspect.
It's no surprise that most of the headline-making F.B.I. busts of terror plots in the US are perpetrated by a bunch of dumb fuck wannabe al-Qaedas who end up sleepwalking into an F.B.I.-produced trap, like stars in some twisted episode of MTV's Punk'd where the G-men supply fake explosives, blasting caps and a party van while co-opting some dip shit Bin Laden fan to drive into the middle of the sting. The mark gets zip ties instead of cameras and there's no explosion except for the thud of the perp's skull against the cell wall of a SuperMax as he trys to figure out why he trusted the 'knowledgeable chemical guy' at Home Depot who turned out to be a bomb tech narc. After you get showcased nabbed, it's a simple matter for the F.B.I. to go on Fox News and tell all their viewers how they are winning the war on a noun. Just recently, we learned the evil doers (still operating under the al-Qaeda franchise) are hiding their 'secret plans' for mayhem inside porn images which is the funniest thing I've heard since that idiot tried to blow up a plane with his boxer shorts.
What ever happened to the smart terrorists?
There are currently 72 DHS "fusion centers" planted all around the US collating and indexing every bit of HUMINT about everyone, trying to sniff out who might want to hijack a cruise ship, blow up a bridge or chuck a flaming shit bomb into an Olive Garden. There's been a ten-year building boom going on around Washington D.C. too as drab-looking four-story buildings sprout up like whack a moles. Beneath these nondescript Cold War commie-looking structures are up to ten subterranean floors of who knows what. Nobody knows how much they've cost – including the US government – because everything is a semi state/ corporate hybrid of melded privatization and black hole money pit contracts hidden under a rug of secrecy in the name of national security. The monitoring of information (SIGINT) between the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (ECHELON) is well known but the US seems to be hitting it out of the park when it comes to total communications monitoring of its population. This of course comes in the form of the recently reported super structure under construction in the Utah desert, the Stellar Wind server farm that will basically be 'downloading' the entire Internet every second and sniffing through yottabytes of our emails and faxes and cellphone GPS data searching for the bad guy with a plane ticket to New York and a pipe bomb up his hole.
In the sci-fi dystopia, everyone is a suspect.
And your privacy is the price of your security because what do you have to hide?
Sometimes paranoia is just a heightened state of awareness...man.
Sometimes you need to be a decade out of the loop to truly see the extent of what's gone down. History happens gradually and things only gain context when historians hammer events into a coherent narrative usually long after the fact. Meaning emerges further down the road. For instance, a Weimar Republic German in a similar coma in say 1926 who woke up a decade later would wonder why so many of his countrymen were buying into the crazy bullshit of the angry guy with the mustache. First it was a beer hall putsch followed by goose-stepping militarism and a power-grab later, the Reichstag burned down mysteriously and in no time the German Army were partying on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées thinking "this is awesome but possibly a bad move in the long run if shit doesn't play out well". The nature of history is that it unfolds gradually enough that nobody notices the emergent narrative because they're too busy living in it. By the time the story emerges in context, Army Group South is surrounded by Zhukov at Stalingrad and the Wehrmacht is screwed.
The one thing about the mass surveillance society we're building that would fry Orwell's brain is the nature of information in the Internet age. Sure most governments these days see 1984 as an operational tech manual but we're not just living in an age when just Big Brother is watching; we ourselves are watching each other with the intense fascination of zoo chimps fapping at the banana delivery man. The camera culture is so prevalent and everyone's face so buried in a cellphone that nobody knows what's going on in his or her immediate vicinity. Except of course when there's a car wreck and then everyone's phone is uploading footage to YouTube or, if it's really awesome and messy, LiveLeak.
Part of the sci-fi dystopia is the willingness of the population to be watched.
To be a minor celebrity in the ongoing movie of your own life.
I was voyeuring on some old school friends via Facebook the other day and came across this guy I remember from first grade who used to shit his pants in class just because it pissed off the teacher and made everyone laugh. I remember the teacher washing his underwear and me watching it steaming dry on the radiator as he waved his little cock at the teacher when she turned her back. It was pretty funny when you were seven. Yeah, I went to Catholic school. Anyway, according to Facebook that guy's a plumber now (shit makes sense) and just got a divorce from a wife who took the kids and left him for some douche bag. I know all this because he thought it would be cool to post all this on his Facebook wall and not keep his shit on the down low. It's a law enforcement wet dream. No need for gum shoe field agents anymore, just Google the perp and see where he hangs out and who his friends are.
Orwell's mind would be blown.
Except the cop investigating you or the prospective
employer checking to see if you're an asshole.
Next up to the party: Police Department unmanned aerial drones circling 24hrs a day over every city. Now that's pure sci-fi. It's also handy if you can control the narrative too. That hasn't been a problem so far. The thing with wars these days is that the corporate oligarchy are getting really fucking good at bullshitting. The technology of bullshit is now so ubiquitous that the mass media totality of Internet, TV, cellphones and 24hr news cycles make it easy to beam a consensus reality into the ether of our brave new world. We are all feeder antennae jacking into a whitewash of total information where everything is up for debate. There's no need to hide anything anymore because anything could be true because you read it on the Internet.
Case in point: Libya. All the interventionist narrative needed was a bad guy (Gaddafi); some oil, a possible Euro refugee crisis and some media story about Gaddafi firing back at the guys trying to overthrow him. Basically, he pulled a Kent State with attack choppers; nothing the US wouldn't have done if OWS protesters brought something a little harder-hitting to the party than sleeping bags and a bong and started wrecking some Bentleys. NATO precision bombed Gaddafi's armor and the country got handed over to a rag tag bunch of rebels willing to write favorable oil deals with sleazy Western oil corps. All this went down live on TV without a single sign-waving long hair on a street anywhere. That's when you know you've got serious media penetration and total control of the narrative.
Holy shit! What a time to be alive, right?
That old Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times," sure applies today.
I've often wondered what it'd be like to live in other eras. Personally, I've always fancied a stint as a Viking, you know, sailing around with your mates in a bad ass longship, raping and pillaging in a consequence-free environment but I was born too late for this and missed out on all that awesome Valhalla action. And it looks like I was born too soon to hyperdrive around the galaxy on seed ships discovering strange new worlds and... and raping and pillaging them in a consequence-free environment. Christ, if we humans ever advance to the level of a space-faring species the galaxy is screwed. It'll never happen though because we upright apes will self destruct before we get that far. The technological adolescence hurdle of "fission before fusion" is like a universal failsafe to keep the riff-raff out of the star gate club. Any civ must prove they can live 100 years with nukes and not red button each other back to the Stone Age before they gain access to free energy and 'warp drive'. Right now, we ain't gonna be passing that test.
Let's face it, we just might be the scary bad guys in our own dystopian sci-fi novel that leaves us all wondering...
Who wrote this book?
Everyone is suspect."
Osama Bin Laden: Requiem for a NeoCon Dream.
posted by Keito
2012-07-27 22:47:03Gotta love War Tard:
"Osama Bin Laden is finally dead.
I wasn't really impressed to tell you the truth. Sure, it was some kind of cultural rite of passage when I first heard the news but all the people screaming "USA! USA!" in the bar where I happened to be at the time got me thinking. Was some guy on dialysis in Pakistan really America's worst enemy? For me, since 9/11, America has always been America's own worst enemy. Bin Laden was the Orwellian 'Emmanuel Goldstein' that provided a nation a bogeyman that the corporate oligarchy could rally the plebs around and point to and say - 'that is your enemy, that is the architect of your fear, focus your Twin Tower anger there'. All the fun stuff that made the newly dawned 21st century shit you can trace back to that moment. 'Orange terror alerts', 'anthrax letters', Nigerian 'yellow cake' were all part of a general uncertainty that ramped up the fear. The Madrid and London bombings mid decade heightened the sense that there was an existential enemy of Western civilization out there and ready to blow us up if our vigilance ever slipped. The 21st century took a sudden nosedive just as it dawned. The new century was not going to be the idyllic postmodern 'war free zone' the brochure promised a new century could be just because the Cold War had ended.
That's not to say that Bin Laden and al-Qaeda weren't a threat. Neither is it to say 9/11 wouldn't have happened without him. But his support for that attack was at best spiritual and certainly not material. That he was clearly an enemy of the United States is true. But the big guy on the playground always spawns haters. I mean, that's basic schoolyard logic. It was America's overblown reaction, or premeditated reaction if you consider the Iraq WMD debacle, that set the tone for the 21st century. Bin Laden helped out with that. He embraced the media attention. 9/11 made him a 'terrorist celebrity' and he seemed eager to play the role of international villain. In a world where you can be whirled into fame on some shitty reality show, he embraced the ultimate show. He accepted worldwide fame and found himself the figurehead of a terrorist franchise called al-Qaeda. That he can be linked to the suicide speedboat attack on the USS Cole in 2000 and the African embassy bombings in 1998 seems clear but arbitrary. Those attacks were small fry in the grand scheme of things and before 9/11 were minor inconveniences on the back of a superpower, like mosquito bites at a garden party.
Bin Laden was the rogue son of a royal family of Saudi oil providers that have for decades had successive US administrations sucking at the tit of Middle East energy dependence. The wayward son of royalty thing always hinted at something a little more sinister. But the flow of spice always kept the media at bay and the hard questions were never asked. His involvement with the CIA during Soviet Afghanistan in the 1980s is certainly interesting. He was once a 'US man' when Stinger missile launchers were being dished out to the Mujahadeen to bring down Russian Hinds in that Soviet wasteland the US are knee deep in now. But a SEAL bullet in the eye has a tendency to end awkward questions. And a burial at sea cancels debate. A little too neat for me and somewhat unconvincing outside Western media.
I think the famed military-industrial-complex learned their lesson when they dug Saddam Hussein out of his hole in Tikrit, dressed him up in a suit and put him on trial in an Iraqi court with the world media present. The question of who provided Hussein with the chemical weapons he used against the Kurds, a crime he was ostensibly on trial for, became ancillary and somehow immaterial to the issue at hand and the question was duly struck down by the 'judge'. That was when the trial was revealed to me as a farce. It was pretty funny really. It made me think of that old Judge Roy Bean quote from the Wild West. "First we'll give him a fair trial, then we'll hang him!" And they sure did.
The people who run this world weren't going to make the same mistake again.
Osama Bin Laden needed to die. And properly this time.
In one sense, he had served his purpose and outlived his usefulness in the West's post Cold War need for a new bogeyman after the Soviet Union went belly up. As the ice melted, there was no longer a need for an astronomical military budget and America's war economy was faced with collapse. The corporate oligarchy scrambled for a new enemy but there were no other superpowers left on the block. So the enemy became fear itself and the American people, with a nominal say in how their taxes get spent (that is if you subscribe to the theory that the US is a functioning democracy) became the fertile ground for NeoCon bullshit. Clinton in the 90s was passed off as a blowjob addict while the real power players behind the scenes planned and waited for their time to grab the last untapped oil field in the Middle East.
But they still needed a patsy.
Saddam Hussein fit the 'evil dictator' profile and got caught up in the post 9/11 tumult. Over 60% of Americans thought he had something to do with 9/11 at the time of the invasion. Thank's corporate media!
The timing of Bin Laden's death turns out to be quite fortuitous. The war in Afghanistan is a clusterfuck and everyone knows it cannot be won; whatever winning was ever meant to mean in the graveyard of empires. Even the hardcore zealots that run the military industrial complex know this now and they need an exit strategy that involves calling the figurative and military desert they created 'victory'. General Pyrrhus' old line is as relevant as ever it seems.
Of course, the exit strategy cannot involve negotiating with "terrorists". Even the numbskulls that watch Fox News know that much. But an opportunity has arisen from Bin Laden's death. The arch Bond villain is gone and now things get suddenly a whole lot easier for those who could have stemmed the bleeding a long time ago. Negotiations with the Taliban now become possible and not just for the US but also for Mohammad Omar, leader of the largest Taliban faction, who can now break his ties with al-Qaeda without losing the support of his own followers. After all, he only promised Bin Laden protection and not the entirety of al-Qaeda.
This is, of course, assuming that al-Qaeda ever really existed outside of international media and the Pentagon. Sure they existed as a brand and got shitloads of free advertising (I'm still smiling sardonically at the image they released the other day of Bin Laden watching himself on Al-Jazeera remote control in hand... how meta) but al-Qaeda never had any true structure or physical shape; being more like some kind of terrorist McDonalds franchise but without any restaurants or drive thrus. True, ideas run the world today on our media driven dystopian sci fi planet and that is the genius of the corporate oligarchy who run things now. The enemies they create, existential in nature, are without physical shape or location. That's why I always found the idea of al-Qaeda a little too expedient. Non existent in men or material, their power came tailor made for a superpower to wage an ideological turf war, a battle of ideas against the collective mind of its own people. Easy when a few corportions own all the TV channels. Out of the natural rage that followed 9/11, the authorities said the enemy were in Afghanistan and Iraq. And that was good enough for a 'democracy' and a gullible citizenry to wage war.
It was a winning idea from the start.
That the 'war on terror' is really a war against the citizens of Western nations by their own governments is certainly an interesting idea. One wonders if it is an idea meant to die with Bin Laden's death. Certainly China never seemed to care about this 'war' beyond the cover it provided when killing a few protesting monks in Tibet. They soon got with the global program and called their enemy 'terrorists' when they saw how effective it could be. A new way of handling the media had emerged. Throw the word 'terrorist' at people you don't like and buy legitamacy. Torture even got a new name, a subtle redefinition and 'enhanced interrogation' was allowed to slide except for token grumbles from the 'far left'.
The new 21st century paradigm was clear. Fear itself was the enemy and it struck from desert sands where the oil happened to be. Roosevelt warned a shaky nation after Pearl of the real enemy but things have shifted in ways Orwell or Huxley of even Eisenhower's sign off speech couldn't have imagined. There are no nation states anymore and there are no clashes of cultural ideas because we, no matter what country we happen to be in, are subject to the same forces, commodity prices, oil prices, stock market upticks, wayward bankers... a brave new world of international elites and globalized commerce.
The new paradigm became the promotion of fear itself as a motive force by world governments, something that would sicken Roosevelt but how could he have known the global dystopia that would ensue after America sold its manufacturing base to transnational elites in the decades after WWII? The rise of global communications and corporate power centers united oligarchys across the world and made fools of those who believed in the quaint 20th century idea of nation states. "Good wars" between cultural ideologies like WWII won't exist in the 21st century because we're all bound together through mutual dependencies. Total war as Clauswitz defined it has become unprofitable and obsolete as part of this brave new world. In a post nuclear world, regional war is unthinkable and unprofitable. It's easier to pick up squares on the global chessboard and make quiet moves where you can pick up territorys on the cheap. Economic hitmen are key.
9/11 was a turning point in the post modern land grab.
Bin Laden's rag-tag rebel alliance were elevated to celebrity status after the attack. Three thousand people died which is peanuts really when you place it in world military history. 70,000 were flash fried at Hiroshima, the Russians bled 30 million in WWII and even in US history, 23,000 casualties were notched up in a day on American soil at Antietam. Has modern society made us so soft to human suffering? Did we ever think we could escape the history? Apparently so in the public imagination because that imagination was easily hijacked by those who told us who the enemy was after the towers fell. The enemy were towel heads in a foreign desert where the oil is.
That's probably going to be Bin Laden's legacy in military history, showing that superpowers are not invincible, that empires are never monolithic and set in stone but are malleable and have soft underbellies. Bin Laden showed that civilians in empires, as TE Lawrence described the British in 1915, are "fat" and softened to the 'good life' and therefore easily swayed to a cause against an external enemy when their leaders say 'they did it'. Hell, Göring of all people said it best in this exchange at the Nuremburg trials:
Göring: Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.
Interviewer: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.
Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
It's easy for me to say now but I was never scared of al-Qaeda. That I never even took them seriously. But I do admire the Brits on that front. After the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005, I liked the fact that the next day the British were back on the Tube and buses with an attitude of fuck you. But that's true of a lot of people in many countries... they're smarter than their own governments. Somehow that didn't translate so well in the USA. A corn farmer in rural Iowa, an oil engineer in Texas, all were convinced by corporate spokesman Bush when he went on TV and announced the danger from a shadowy group of international 'terrorists' who wanted to kill them.
Let's face it, terrorism worked.
According to Wikipedia, the goals of al-Qaeda were as follows.
-Provoke the United States into invading a Muslim country.
-Incite local resistance to occupying forces.
-Expand the conflict to neighboring countries, and engage the U.S. in a long war of attrition.
-Convert Al-Qaeda into an ideology and set of operating principles that can be loosely franchised in other countries without requiring direct command and control, and via these franchises incite attacks against countries allied with the U.S. until they withdraw from the conflict, as happened with the 2004 Madrid train bombings, but which did not have the same effect with the 2005 London bombings
-The U.S. economy will finally collapse under the strain of too many engagements in too many places, similarly to the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Arab regimes supported by the U.S. will collapse, and a Wahhabi Caliphate will be installed across the region.
Four out of five ain't bad for a terrorist franchise. With the collapse of Egypt to "democracy" and all not perfect in the Wahhabi Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it looks like the west is running out pet of dictators on payroll. Number five on that list sure has the potential to backfire horribly for the US and for al-Qaeda and give the two biggest and strategic Sunni Arab countries something they haven't tasted since before the oil age; self determination. That kind of thing makes the corporate and royal families on all sides shit bricks.
Whoever is responsible for unleashing the "War on Terror", it doesn't seem to matter anymore. Surely the mission has been accomplished in Western nations and in the US. They have become a voluntary surveillance society beyond INGSOC's dreams. The US has the stake in Iraq's oil it wanted on the global chessboard but neither it nor Bin Laden could have bargained for the fall of Middle East power structures and the for-hire Western employed dictators that were toppled by Arab youth.
It seems the result of this war was equally unpredictable on the Arab side. Bin Laden could never have imagined himself obsolete, but a new wave of protest suggests that he is, in Tunisia, in Egypt, Yemen and Syria, perhaps even in Saudi Arabia, the jewel in the crown of Western oil policy. The Arab youth of today want a piece of the action they see on Facebook and Twitter. To them, that's freedom. And maybe it is. At least in comparison to the Wahhabi 'Muslim paradise' Bin Laden was selling. It certainly is a better deal. 21st century Arab kids don't want his brand of international pariah speaking for them. Perhaps he really was just an old man with a TV remote control in his hand hoping for a glimpse of himself in the 'reality show' the world has become.
For Bin Laden, growing old and unnecessary was far more painful then the headshot."
Microsoft Makes Skype Easier To Monitor
posted by Keito
2012-07-27 19:51:49"New surveillance laws being proposed in countries from the United States to Australia would force makers of online chat software to build in backdoors for wiretapping. For years, the popular video chat service Skype has resisted taking part in online surveillance—but that may have changed. And if it has, Skype’s not telling.
Historically, Skype has been a major barrier to law enforcement agencies. Using strong encryption and complex peer-to-peer network connections, Skype was considered by most to be virtually impossible to intercept. Police forces in Germany complained in 2007 that they couldn’t spy on Skype calls and even hired a company to develop covert Trojans to record suspects’ chats. At around the same time, Skype happily went on record saying that it could not conduct wiretaps because of its “peer-to-peer architecture and encryption techniques.”
Recently, however, hackers alleged that Skype made a change to its architecture this spring that could possibly make it easier to enable “lawful interception” of calls. Skype rejected the charge in a comment issued to the website Extremetech, saying the restructure was an upgrade and had nothing to do with surveillance. But when I repeatedly questioned the company on Wednesday whether it could currently facilitate wiretap requests, a clear answer was not forthcoming. Citing “company policy,” Skype PR man Chaim Haas wouldn’t confirm or deny, telling me only that the chat service “co-operates with law enforcement agencies as much as is legally and technically possible.”
As reported on Slashdot: "Skype has gone under a number of updates and upgrades since it was bought by Microsoft last year, mostly in a bid to improve reliability. But according to a report by the Washington Post, Skype has also changed its system to make chat transcripts, as well as users' addresses and credit card numbers, more easily shared with authorities."
'Hacker groups and privacy experts have been speculating for months that Skype had changed its architecture to make it easier for governments to monitor, and many blamed Microsoft, which has an elaborate operation for complying with legal government requests in countries around the world.
“The issue is, to what extent are our communications being purpose-built to make surveillance easy?” said Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility, a digital privacy group. “When you make it easy to do, law enforcement is going to want to use it more and more. If you build it, they will come.’’'