On the NSA Scandal: The Good, The Interesting, and The Ugly

I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around the depth of the NSA/Snowden scandal since the story broke, and I’ve been periodically horrified, surprised, and disappointed by the information that has been leaked and the discussion about it.

I’ll admit that, like many, I assumed the worst abuses of the program ended either after the early days of the “War on Terror” or following the Bush Administration. That was certainly naïve, it seems—a naivety that is perhaps shared by the Obama Administration.  When Obama administration officials talk about executive power to detain Americans without trial, without the intent of using such a program, it’s hard not to question their judgment and values.

These are some of the best insights I’ve read about the program and its use since the story broke a few weeks ago.

Daniel Ellsberg highlighted the danger of the extensive surveillance programs in realistic terms:

Obviously, the United States is not now a police state. But given the extent of this invasion of people’s privacy, we do have the full electronic and legislative infrastructure of such a state. If, for instance, there was now a war that led to a large-scale anti-war movement – like the one we had against the war in Vietnam – or, more likely, if we suffered one more attack on the scale of 9/11, I fear for our democracy. These powers are extremely dangerous….

But what is not legitimate is to use a secrecy system to hide programs that are blatantly unconstitutional in their breadth and potential abuse. Neither the president nor Congress as a whole may by themselves revoke the fourth amendment – and that’s why what Snowden has revealed so far was secret from the American people.

David Simon, creator of The Wire, and one of the most incisive writers you’ll ever read, suggests that critics on the Left have failed to show actual abuses and why he hasn’t joined their attacks on the program:

On the other hand, it’s no surprise that liberals and moderates are flailing about on this issue, some to one side, some to the other.  For some of the folks over The Nation, for example, anyone shirking the call to outrage here is a half-hearted, cringing Trotskyite.  And for those who evaluate every issue in terms of simple political equations, such reluctance is quickly assessed as apologia for Barack Obama, who, frankly, has civil liberties affronts to answer for other than this particular datapile.  Yes, there are all sorts of half-assed ad hominem reasons to explain why an ally wandered….thus far the folks who are outraged at the NSA for this particular affront are having a hard time making a case against the stated purposes of an actual program with actual goals.

Congress must share the blame for the program—and has the power to restrict its use, writes Joshua Foust:

So this latest outcry over expansive surveillance is really the culmination of over a decade of lawmaking. All three branches of government – the court order was approved by a FISA court – and both parties, in two administrations, have agreed consistently to enable and protect the practice….That is an important debate that should have happened publicly already – back in 2001, or 2008, or 2012….

But the place where this broad, legal surveillance can be reined in is Congress, since they passed the laws to begin with. Congress created this mess, and they should be the ones to clean it up.

The Atlantic’s Rebecca Rosen points out that some of the problem is the failure of Supreme Court jurisprudence on 4th Amendment issues to match evolving technological sophistication and complexity:

Just because technology makes something possible doesn’t mean government has to do it. Laws can constrain practice; in a healthy democratic system, society should be able to make judgment calls about what that practice looks like — which technologies are on the table and which are off. But the example of the Fourth Amendment demonstrates why this is so difficult: Legislators and judges have to make these decisions half-blind, without full knowledge about what possibilities they are foreclosing, and which they are inadvertently leaving open. It’s not clear what the best way to proceed would be, nor if any could be better; maybe the Court’s muddling approach to the Fourth Amendment will, in the end, provide it with the flexibility it needs to address surveillance-state creep.

Unsurprisingly, the David Brooks from the New York Times offered the worst defense of the program:

When you work for an institution, any institution, a company, a faculty, you don’t get to violate the rules of that institution and decide for your own self what you’re going to do in a unilateral way that no one else can reverse. And that’s exactly what he did. So he betrayed the trust of the institution. He betrayed what creates a government, which is being a civil servant, being a servant to a larger cause, and not going off on some unilateral thing because it makes you feel grandiose.”

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • At some point in a representative democracy with a somewhat adequate constitution, this behavior (in fact the whole of the NSA of 1947 and USAPATRIOT) would come up for review and be ruled unconstitutional. The 4th amendment is not vague, technology does not trump it. The laws would be long gone if we really were what we claim to be.

    Your attempt to interpret this in a partisan manner, doing your damnedest to find a way to hold Obama blameless, is a pointless sidetrack, in my view. If you look at the behavior of NSA and all of the other spook agencies, start to finish, it is easy to see that they have not been influenced by elections in the slightest. That ought to tell you all you need to know.

    • You have terribly low reading comprehension skills, Mark.

      What I actually posted was an acknowledgement that I assumed Obama would be better on these issues than Bush had been, but that I have been disappointed by his actions.

      You see, some people are not so dazzled by their personal brilliance that they are incapable of recognizing a mistake. Or a shift in their views.

      Your doctrinaire, absolutist worldview doesn’t permit that kind of introspection. That’s kind of sad.

      • Ditto, then. I said that elections do not influence policies, said that for years. This is not proof, only strong evidence as the practices were put into play under one titular head, and intensified under another.

        Your view, that Obama “disappointed” you, as far as you have ever ventured from partisanship, still holds that “Obama” has any influence on policy. I’ve got a fresh quiver of arrows now on that matter. You’ve got very little.

        I await now your next post lauding some Democrat or lampooning some Republican.. Let’s see how far you’ve come. My “absolutist” view is that politics is not useful as practiced, and won’t be until we have more than one money party masquerading as two. But I can always be undone by new evidence. Reading your blog, it’s easy to see that your basic premises are written in stone.

        • So let me get this straight…..

          Because a Democratic president did not end a program that many Democrats (but not a majority of Americans) disagree with, politicians have no impact?

          There are several reasons this is poor evidence. First, it is quite possible that when informed of this program and its purposes, Obama made a decision that it was worth keeping. The NSA needn’t blackmail him or bribe him or whatever you’re convinced they do – rather, they merely need to say ‘We believe this to be necessary for the security of the US’. and I bet a majority of newly-elected presidents would voluntarily acquiesce to the greater knowledge and experience of that agency.

          Secondly, there is some indication that Americans have no completely rejected this kind of surveillance. I think they should, but so far they haven’t. I imagine if polls were finding 70 to 80 percent of Americans opposed to this kind of surveillance, if everyone on the intelligence committees lost their next election, I bet you’d see a change. So far, there is little indication that this will happen.

          However and as a third fact, I do think that certain politicians, and yeah I’m thinking of Jon Tester, have behaved quite well – openly calling into question the government’s story that Snowden is a danger to the US and that this spying would have been fine if only we hadn’t found out about it. That makes it hard to believe that the NSA really controls them like you seem to believe.

          Finally, even if the US security apparatus is untouchable by politicians, that still doesn’t validate your opinion that no politician is worth voting for. The existence of a ‘deep state’ of some kind – unofficial organization and groups that control important aspects of governance without being themselves official parts of the government, is well documented worldwide. The most open about it is probably Turkey, and you yourself has pointed out that ours generally dates back to post WWII. However, you’ll note that in fact a great deal has changed in America even while our national security apparatus is essentially unaffected. j. Edgar and others may have tracked and spied on MLK (and done worse to the Black Panthers), but they couldn’t stop the Civil Rights movement from achieving legislative success. On the flipside, we have seen elected leaders like Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich wreak havoc with our economics, our budget, and our general societal well being – not electing such individuals remains important even if it has little bearing on the NSA.

        • Rather than sinking in, this always reflects back on me: But I’ll assert one more time:

          There is no wisdom to be mined in public opinion. Read Lippmann, Bernays, Ellul, Russell, Roper – men who figured this out long ago. It’s not a condemnation, but rather well explained by all. A clueless, guileless public places an enormous burden on elected people to act in good faith, but when they are under the stress imposed by money and the deep state, they cannot. Most, like Obama, know this going in, and so are low-value people who are, basically, paid to act. Strip away all of Obama’s words and follow his actions, and you have Bush with a brain.

          You are a contradiction to the power of reason when you state that despite the pressure of money and the deep state, that Obama has good intentions. Worse yet, you heap praise on Tester for merely stating intentions and casting a meaningless vote. It could be real, could be mere diddling. Given the means of his reelection as a minority senator, I would bet on the latter. He’s certainly no leader of any progressive cause, no inspiration, no cause for joy.

          Any poll will tell you that voters have no clue what committees their senators and reps serve on. The polls we call “elections” merely reflect, overwhelmingly, the candidate who has access to the largest amount of cash.

          There is unrest in Turkey, as “Obama” is applying the Brzezinski tact – rather than attack a country directly, get an ally to do it, killing two birds with one stone, destroying two rather than just one country. Bombings on the Turkey/Syria border are obviously intended to draw Turkey into Syria in an overt manner, so far unsuccessful. But it is unclear to me, having been taken in by other supposed spontaneous uprisings, whether the Turkish resistance, while genuine, is not inspired by American and NATO agitprop and provocateurs.

          • Actually, you are again the first to bring up Obama’s intentions. Indeed, your narrative – a deep state in charge of the NSA absolutely beyond the reach of the chief executive – allows for much more innocence of intention on Obama’s part than the very real possibility that he was fully aware of this program and allowed it to continue.

            As to Tester, dismissing this is electioneering is rather dull, Mark. If what he’s doing is for the sake of being elected, why is he doing it when a) it hurts the man who is ostensibly in charge of his party, b) he has five years to be re-elected, c) it is according to you against the will of the deep state in charge of elections and d) his counterpart in the House, who is much closer to an election and opposed to the president ostensibly in charge, is largely quiet? It is almost certain that if Rehberg were in Tester’s chair, he’d be behaving exactly like Daines, he’d be calling Snowden a traitor to national security, calling Obama weak for letting him go, and otherwise buttressing the official narrative. It just burns you up that someone we in Montana worked to elect is actually taking actions far different than the Republican he opposed. Time will tell if it’s enough, but the challenge to the official narrative is an important start, making it easier for ‘mainstream’ Americans to do the same.

            As to Turkey, I was mostly mentioning them because they have a pretty open ‘deep state’ – their army and intelligence services – but nonetheless you see a huge effect elections have on their society and even, it seems, on foreign policy. The current protests, however, are generally working AGAINST US interests in Syria, as they tend to be leaning against Sunni populism in Turkey – and a more secular Turkey is if anything less likely to intervene in Syria like its more religious Sunni compatriots.

          • You’re full of absolutes. The executive branch has power, but it is not the most powerful force in DC, not even in government. If it were, when its occupant was murdered in ’63, the crime would have been investigated the the perps chased, caught and punished. Imagine a power than can kill a sitting president and get away with it. Of course, murder is extreme, but if a force is that powerful, the other tools at its disposal must be as effective.

            So his “intent” might be interesting reading someday, to some. Not me.

            I did not say “electioneering.” . What I think Tester is doing, what most Democrats are forced to do between election cycles – is diddling the base. I merely noted that he hadn’t actually done anything on the NSA matter, unless you think it’s all about lopsided votes. But he doesn’t have to do anything to satisfy you! He only needs to say something, toss out something, and you jump like pups at the teet.

            As far as I can tell, there was no meaningful difference between Tester and Rehberg. Each gave it their best shot, each lied as lying must be done, Tester had better operatives. When Tester won, Rehberg doffed his cap. I doubt there’d be any difference between Gillan and Daines – Rep Gillan might actually vote differently than him on issues, but here is the key: It would not change the outcome! Voting records don’t mean anything if the votes don’t change the outcome. Do you see how it works?

            You apparently think that politics is all about the surface phenomena. That’s where we butt heads. Believe nothing of what you see and little of what you hear. It is my view that you know very little of actual politics, and quite a bit of what you have been taught throughout your life that politics is. They are irreconcilable.

            The manipulations around Turkey – pardon me if I misunderstood you to understand that it is Turkey’s deep state, and not the US and NATO that is playing the region. Turkey, like any faux democracy (more real than ours, I admit), has to manage public opinion, and under pressure from NATO and the US, I do not know if the uprising is simply protests that got out of hand, genuine dissatisfaction with Erdogan’s ministry, or whether it is fueled underneath by US and NATO black ops. They do that stuff, you know, playing factions against one another. It’s a big black hole as far as I am concerned, – sources I trust say that Assad has essentially won the conflict, that the terrorists and death squads are reeling in defeat as of now, which is forcing Obama’s hand. As I say, I do not know what is true there, or in most matters. I am only a skeptic about most things, and it works pretty well.

            • ” Voting records don’t mean anything if the votes don’t change the outcome. Do you see how it works?”

              In terms of evaluating differences between individuals, this is demonstrably false, as is most of Tomato’s nonsense. Whether it is the Fallacy of the Wasted Vote or a thought experiment in which Tomato himself was elected to office, there are a dozen ways this argument fails.

              Notice though, Tokarski brings nothing but conjecture as always. Oh yeah, and “sources he trusts”. Here in the real world evidence matters. When Tomatarski attempts to enter the real world plane, he embarrasses himself with demonstrably absurd claims about energy beams, blood drying on pavement, and actors. (Notice how all of these have never left the world of mere assertion, as do most of his arguments).

              NATO Black Ops? Please. NATO doesn’t exist. Prove me wrong with “sources I trust”.

              Kennedy assassinated? Phhh. Kennedy never existed, and was actually a World War 2 vet who failed in Hollywood and was hired by the dark forces of America. You don’t think they controlled the media in’63? C’mon, a little self-awareness goes a long way.

              How ridiculous for you to think there is a war in Syria, and that Assad actually has power. Sources I trust say that he is actually a bio mechanical cyborg created and controlled by the Macdonald’s Corporation. Once they’ve cleared the land of these so called rebels, they are going to control the weather, and turn Syria into a rainforest. Ya know, with that same technology Judy Wood said the Govt used on 9/11 to move a storm.

              I read about it on this guy’s blog


              • “demonstrably false…” how easy it would be to analyze the worth of a politician based on surface phenomena if that were all it took. Before analyzing a vote, consider that most votes are known in advance, so that diddling is possible. Consider that most issues where failure is a certainty don’t make it to the floor, and others are presented for a vote knowing failure is certain, only to paint a public perception. In those issues where politicians are cornered and must vote to secure passage or failure, as with Kucinich and ACA, Baucus on environmental issues, they fold like dime store greeting cards.

                “Notice though, Tokarski brings nothing but conjecture…” I’ve got hard evidence on all, of course, and no proof, as there is never enough evidence for proof so that we have to rely on our own judgment. But I don’t think you’ve availed yourself of enough evidence yet to be attacking me in this manner. The “trusted sources” that I am talking about Syria are writers at Voltaire Network, a French blog run by Thierry Meyssan and featuring many voices. In the end, since our exposure is limited by our inability to see everything, we have to trust someone, right? I find non-America sources more worthy. But I can be diddled, like everyone. Eternal vigilance …

                NATO black ops and all of that, I think you are reflecting there the common view called “We-good-they-bad.” It’s usually the result of exposure to America education and American news and entertainment. Hard to tell with you which is more dominant in your outlook, but then all three are equivalent.

                I get your disdain and contempt … it’s an unbreachable barrier. You are a little more well-read than the typical American, as is PW, and so are saddled in kind of a safe and protected harbor of American exceptionalism and hubris. You’ve got pat explanations for all phenomena, supplied by others and mistaken for your own original thoughts. If you leave that safe harbor, other people who are like you will attack you, and you’ll be subject to ridicule. Can you stand some ridicule? Can you? Can you?

                I get it all the time. Evaluating sources who attack me, you’re better than most, but the hostility and anger do tend to block your reasoning ability. My apparent condescension might upset you here, so don’t get upset. I am more like you than anyone you know.

                • It’s not anger Tokarski, but rather a frustration with the internal incoherence in your methods of attaining knowledge.I could lay out the criteria I value in sources, and none would have anything to do with American Exceptionalism or American media. Rejecting or accepting evidence based on either would be fallacious.

                  You are right in one respect. We all have to trust someone. If I were to unpack it all, my approach is Bayesian, which is why given certain premises, we would expect certain outcomes. Given yours, none seem to attain.

                  It is you who have blogged a series on how easily we are fooled. Gigantic PSYOPS have been orchestrated
                  by hyper-rational dark forces, coloring all that the typical American would view as evidence with purposeful lies and falsehoods directed at controlling our minds. But hey, you have a website you trust. It would be unreasonable to think THAT source isn’t pure. Hundreds of millions have been fooled by CGI, weather-controlling energy beams, and actors covered in fake blood. But YOU”VE got a website. Like I said-internally incoherent.

                  Politics aren’t my thing. I am a cartographer. But I do read your blog regularly, and one needn’t be well-read to see that your stories don’t check out. If you were to lay out your epistemic philosophy when it comes to attaining knowledge about politics, it would be nearly identical to a Young Earch Creationist’s Epistemology when it comes to attaining knowledge about Science. All we’d have to do is change the subjects in each sentence. We’ve all been brainwashed, the evidence is right in front of you, any one with power can’t be trusted-especially Americans, academics are in on it, and on and on.
                  What ever feeds your pre-ordained conclusions.

                • NamelessRange, Mark and I all work on different models for understanding the world; I suppose everyone does. One effective way of evaluating models is to judge their predictive power. Thing is, Mark’s predictions are almost always wrong. We are not involved in a Libyan quagmire, we have not invaded Syria, we have not nuked Iran. Mark can sound logical in any given moment, because his theories are so circular they can incorporate basically any past event into some conspiracy. But the expectations for the future that are required to make them coherent are almost never correct; therefore, reading Mark over the long run gives a true impression of how out of touch he actually is.

                • Well, you did force me to a Google. Up to now I have assumed you are an academic, as you place such high value on your reasoning ability even as you seem to understand hardly anything.

                  Here are your accusations in order of sting-words:

                  1.” Internal incoherence: ” You don’t pay any attention to American media and cannot be swayed by anything other than stone-cold logic, evidence, and reasoning. At the same time, you accept the official explanations of everything from JFK to 9/11 to Boston. You’re a pure reflection of American media. Seems you have quite a case of IC.

                  2. Sources: I name one I use and like. I am 63, having been reading books and using the Internet for decades. I read magazines, listen to lectures, watch documentaries. I listen to American news media and watch American media. I named one today that I’ve come to rely on regarding Syria, but they write on a host of topics and have been for decades. Meyssan is quite good, in my view, internally consistent and well informed.

                  3. “How easily we are fooled. ” Simply true. There is such a thing as willing suspension of disbelief, but when we see something labeled as News, we believe it to be true. I see this in you.

                  4. “Gigantic PSYOPS:” You’re being a bit melodramatic. If you could shed your ego for a moment, I would explain to you how the American public is, in Nixon’s words, like children. We have to be fed tales of the stork to understand reproduction, horrible enemies who want to destroy us to justify aggression, the Easter Bunny to celebrate spring, and be scared in our beds to justify a surveillance state. Are you scared, NR? Be honest now. Are you scared or certain enemies who want to destroy us? Because that’s all PSYOP is – working on your psyche to control your attitudes and behavior.

                  5. : “…all that the typical American would view as evidence …” If it is on TV news, it is true. You believe in Boston because it was on TV and is therefore true. My not believing so must be some fantastical psychotic dream, because what you saw was on TV news, and is therefore true. Are we on the same page now?

                  6. “Hundreds of millions have been fooled by CGI ” Appears to be so. I would not have thought so until I delved into it. But it goes back to this: If it is on TV news, no matter how fantastical, people believe it. I don’t think a jet aircraft can be absorbed by a building and leave no trace, nor does Newton, but it was on TV news, and so it is true. Right NR? Right? Jet aircraft goes in window (on TV news), Newton goes out window. Right?

                  7. ” weather-controlling energy beams” beyond my pay grade. Evidence merely suggests that the events of 9/11 coincided with a hurricane, but no one I’ve read is willing to speculate on that coincidence other than the oddity of the under-reporting of the hurricane to those it would0 have affected. Get is straight. They are two events, 0/11 and the hurricane, that happened at precisely the same time, but that does not mean causation.

                  8. “actors covered in fake blood.” – easily seen, but it was on TV news, so you believe them to be real. Right?

                  9: “[My] stories don’t check out.” Do go on!!! Which ones. Specifics please. And since you read the blog, there would be the place. Not here.

                  10; “If [I] were to lay out your epistemic philosophy when it comes to attaining knowledge about politics… blah blah ” ah geez – I have to answer this as if I take you as seriously as you take yourself, but I’ll answer it: We are GIVEN no knowledge about politics. We have to SEEK it. We have to analyze it, weigh it, search for hidden motives and agendas, pair it with other information, resolve apparent contradictions, sift it, revisit it, and change our views over time as this process dictates. I did not choose to be a “truther.” Who would. I do not like ridicule from the likes of you. But I go where my e-fricking-pistemic ventures take me. It has been so since 1988.

                  I am imperfect, subject to emotional conclusions and conformation bias, but try to be better than that and course-correct as time flies by.

                  11: “any one with power can’t be trusted-especially Americans.” Too general to be useful or worth addressing.

                  12. ” academics are in on it …” academics are like anyone who needs approval of power to survive – they hone their views to please power. Once they attain tenure, it’s a different story.

                  And on and on.

              • Don’t be afraid to be suspicious. You are not paranoid. You’re just sentient and alert. Don’t stumble around in frustration at never knowing things for certain. Trust your instincts. Certainty is not afforded people of intelligence. Only fools are satisfied by pat answers.

  • There’s a way to test your hypothesis on voting records, Mark, but it’s not easy. in 2014 we’ll get a chance to replace the House and a third of the Senate. If the NSA becomes a voting issue (in this regard, Snowden’s timing was not ideal), and we can elect a solid majority on the record in favor of overruling the PATRIOT ACT, then when it comes down to a vote we’ll see who reneges. Two years, replace them again.

    How likely is this? Admittedly not very – the NSA will not get the attention it deserves. But the point is that for any issue Americans really care about enough to make a voting issue, the charade you describe cannot continue indefinitely. Quite probably, Americans just won’t give enough of a damn to make the change – but for that we are to blame, not the NSA or ‘deep state’.

    • I doubt that Snowden is really unemployed now. I don’t care about the outcomes of elections, as the only organized force behind candidates is money. We still don’t know what has gone on in Libya, but I do know their legitimate government as overthrown, their leader murdered in public, their self-beneficial infrastructure programs halted, their oil sales returned to the petrodollar, and that Obama led from behind.

      I did not understand that Obama was a prodigy of Zbig, nor that Zbig was at such odds with the neocons, wanting to spend otehr lives to achieve our goals – Turks to bring down Syria, for inacnatce.

      • “their legitimate government as overthrown”

        I never cease to be amazed, Mark, at how you claim to be clear-eyed and capable of seeing through all the smoke and mirrors, but you keep hanging your hat on ‘legitimacy’ and ‘sovereignty’ as though there were real, concrete things, or even useful ideals.

        And if in 2008 we traded W for Brzezinski, well then hot damn that’s about the best election we’ve ever had. Brzezinski, after all, knew precisely what he was doing, and whoever is running the show for the US in Syria is doing the same. A collapse of the Assad government is not in our best interests – we have absolutely no idea who will take his place (and whoever it is will be so stained by the ensuing bloodbath it’ll be hard to publicly support them). That’s probably why we haven’t intervened more directly, even in the fact of immense foreign involvement in Syria. We need a negotiated settlement, wherein we can decide which rebel groups we recognize, and the way to do that is of course to keep Assad from achieving decisive victory without giving the rebels enough aid to topple the regime. Which, it seems, is what we’ve been doing. I can’t imagine the previous administration exhibiting this level of restraint – elections matter.

        As to the future – the funny thing is, I knew we wouldn’t be invading Libya, or Syria, or nuking Iran. How did I know? Because those things don’t make a lick of sense, if you’ve studied foreign policy. I know it is your opinion that education is by and large worthless in understanding the workings of the world, but it’s certainly helped me stay one step ahead in the predictions game.

        • I could go back to 2008, a supposed watershed, and ask you about the future and you would have been clueless. You would not have known that under Obama the Iraq war would follow its course as planned by the Bushies, that the new regime would do everything it could have to continue the occupation, only to be thwarted by massive demonstrations and forced to back down. You did not know they would keep Gitmo open, ramp up surveillance, dispense in total with habeas and the 4th, bring in old wine in new bottles fromWall Street, attack Libya, attack Syria, keep the old Defense Sec in his job, keep the Bush tax cuts in place, cut over a trillion from Medicare, go after Social Security via death by a thousand cuts.

          But now you know the future and that elections matter. Good grief! One prerequisite for particpation in our indoctrinal system on a high level (as opposed to the superficial level that is used on 90%) is the firm belief that you’re too well informed to be conned. You are an active participant in your own brainwashing! You’ve internalized and justified every lie, every betrayal. That’s the job of the intellectual.

          I cannot help you on Syria as you are merely delving in surface phenomena. As with everything in a country where news is not reported, you have to look for evidence, sort and weigh, and you are not doing it. There are no “rebel” groups. There are terrorists and death squads. Syria is under attack from without. Right after the Iraq invasion Rumsfeld waved his sword at Syria. Assad is far better a leader than any the US would back, well enough liked by his own people, but importantly, a serious man with smarts and surrounded by real talent, and aided by the Russians, experts in countering US lies and aggression.

          Syria is Israel’s northern flank. it must be removed before Iran can be attacked. Arms have been pumped in, terrorists from Libya and Qatar and Kosovo, chemical weapons used by your “rebels” to trip your Obama’s fake “red line.” But it has not succeeded. The Russians, who actually do play chess, are working quietly and legally to preserve the legitimate government, and it has confounded the aggressors.

          Here’s what I have learned by not trusting American news: On June 15th the death squads and terrorists suffered an enormous defeat at Qusayr near the Lebanon border, a Stalingrad-like defeat. It caused a bit of panic in DC, forcing the Obama people to ramp things up, using the red line ploy which caused the rest of the world to laugh outloud. The Syrian army is effectively mopping up at this point, but it ain’t over as the aggressors are moving in news arms. The Russians have already moved on these matters.

          Obama is under intense pressure to attack, and the NSA “leak” is part of a demonstration of the power to undermine him by the deep state. He is worried that he might be assassinated or that there might be a coup (Biden’s removal would be necessary beforehand, in my view). He’s kind of worthless, basically a narcissist, but at this point is behaving well.

          This endeth the lesson. if you want to kmow more of what lie beneath the tip of the iceberg, I suggest you get away from American news, scrap your American education, stop worrying about American elections, and learn a thing or two about how the world really works. your arrogance is your undoing.

          • There’s your words again, Mark – ‘legal’, ‘legitimate’, and my personal favorite, ‘terrorist’. Like lizard, you enjoy labeling anyone who uses violence in ways that further US foreign policy a ‘terrorist’, as if it’s impossible that someone could oppose an US ‘enemy’ (Assad, like Gaddafi, was on the way to being an American partner, if not friend). words language is how you view the world; yours have closed your mind.

            After all, when Gaddafi was bringing in foreign fighters from throughout the Sahel, they were somehow ‘legitimate’, in your eyes. But should foreigners enter Syria, they are surely terrorists and death squads.

            Your act is largely transparent at this point – you have precisely zero predictive power and your bias is showing more than usual. Ignoring all evidence to the contrary, you see state sovereignty and balance-of-power politics as the keys a more humane world. This blinds you to any atrocities, illegalities, or other crimes committed by anyone not aligned with the US.

            • I changed the names of the “rebels” and “insurgents” in Syria to “terrorists” and “death squads” for precisely the reason that our media calls them what they do – to highlight the point that in our indoctrination system we label people depending on whether they work for or against Wall Street/corporate interests.

              Qaddafi was of no more concern to us than Abdullah Bin Saud until he went rogue – tried to shake down some oil companies. He was running a massive underground water development system, now ended, to make farmland out of the desert. He was to be awarded a humanitarian prize by the UN Human Rights Commission prior to his murder, and has received numerous other awards during his enrapture, But the US propaganda system is capable of giving any dog a bad name so they can beat him.

              Oh wait! You’re not going to know any of this because you’ve not been told! It hasn’t been on TV! My bad.

              Similarly, the Syrian “uprising” is understood everywhere but here to be foreign aggression, openly sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Qatar and with arms funneled from god knows who, surely the US, France wants her colony back, the US is playing geopolitics with Russia (and soling). As we never miss an opportunity to sell arms, I think it safe to say that American arms have been funneled in since 2010. Moon Over Alabama, another good source on this, reports that insurgents are being paid $1,300 a month, and an additional $1,000 if they are in actual operations. Best damned pay for “rebels” since the Nicaraguan Contras!

              In the meantime, Syria appears to be in the mop-up stage. It is going to take a huge new injection of arms and soldiers to make it go again, and that means major new US involvement on some level, which is why the pressure on Obama via the NSA leak.

              Assad … better than 100% of the dictators we do support. I CANNOT BELIEVE how you fall in line on this shit! You know everything you are supposed to know, nothing you are not. You’re a model citizen.

    • [Hit return by accident]… Turks to bring down Syria, for instance. Views ave to be adjusted and we operate with imperfect knowledge and are always behidn the eight ball. Anyway, how can one know the future when random events interfere and we are not privy to state planning?

      “Deep State” Can’t help you here, but it would help you to understand that public opinion is not useful to anyone in power. Maybe that will demystify it a bit for you – we are fed fairy tales because we can’t handle the truth.

      Who is to blame? You are. I read what you write. You have it all wrong.

  • When it comes to our newfound public awareness regarding the NSA “scandal”, I think we need to to be very concerned. It is somewhat cold but true that humans are statistical. We can be predicted with great accuracy. Many of us use our phones for nearly everything. A large database on you or I, with information containing, who, when, how long and where at what time, could be plugged into an algorithim that would predict our lives and behavior with great accuracy. Which in turn, could be used for very invasive and/or tyrannical purposes. It doesn’t matter what the Government claims to be doing with this
    information. That fact that such a database exists is too great a risk, and opens us up to an increased probability
    of consequenses bordering on existential catastrophy. Who knows what is possible when such information is
    coupled with new technologies that likely will come to bear in our lifetimes, such as nanotech or
    exponential AI.

    We need to come to terms with the fact that we are OK with an increased probability that Americans will die due to our valuing privacy. It’s a defensible position. americans die because we value thrift, hence tge reason the interstate speed limits aren’t 20 mph. It’s a question of thresholds we are willing to accept, and we shouldn’t just sacrifice everything or many things, in the name of, “But it will save people’s lives”.

      • Not a justificaton but rather a critique. Tyranny occurs on a continuum. Hence the reference to thresholds.

        But sure. Ill refer to things that actually exist, you keep at it with the imaginary technology and ad hoc bullshit.

        Fiction has its role.

        • All right, international man of mystery, tell me: If the NSA has been doing this openly since USAPATRIOT, if we all are able to know it even though we don’t because nobody told us on TV, if Joe Nacchio sits in jail for refusing to go along, and if it is all technically legal (though unconstitutional in a democratic state), then WTF is the big deal about this supposed leak?

          Tyranny occurs an a continuum? Threshholds? Are you sure, are you absolutely sure, that you are not an academic? After all, you just used a complex-sounding sentence, that lends the impression that your understanding is levels above us, to express a meaningless idea.

          • Mark, you’re picking an argument with someone who essentially agrees with you. The ‘leak’ didn’t expose anything congress didn’t already know about. The point is, they knew about it and authorized it and people us (you included) have been trying to say for years that they shouldn’t have. But the fix is really simple – get rid of the people who authorized it, demand that it be reversed. Perhaps the NSA will carry on doing the same things, only illegally, but they’ll at least have to expend some effort to cover it up not just from us, but from Congress.

            • So you’re suggesting then … what? Another election? Yeah, that’ll fix it, just like 2008 did. As Douglass said, “power concedes nothing without a demand.” Our elections, wherein we merely switch players from the same team, hardly demand anything except willing suspension of disbelief.

      • Jack – send in the storm troopers. Rescue me from the academics. I’m being overwhelmed by high-falutin’ nothingness!

        • Its just one man “Mark” talkin under a couple of names here.

          He just miffed that democrats don’t take crackpots like him seriously….. Neither for that matter, do informed Independents, or moderate republicans.

  • Russ Baker is a journalist who set out to write a book about the Bush family and stumbled on information he hadn’t anticipated. He did something rare in this American life – he changed his world view based on evidence. He runs WhoWhatWhy and I’ve followed his work there and given small financial support there for several years. He’s done a good job on Libya and Syria, and like a few others sees the game clearly. The question is, why is the US and company attacking Syria? Here’s several factors easily seen outside US pmainstream journalism:

    New bases. The US planned on heavy troop presence in Iraq to oversee the oil fields, and did not anticipate being booted out as they were in 2011. Syria offers a location to remedy that defeat.

    Syrian is a “pan-Arabist” country, that is, seeks alliances with other Arab countries to chart an independent path away from the Wall Street/London financial axis. This is also known as “Nasserism,” considered a scourge.

    To get rid of a country that is working with China and Russia, or geopolitics.

    To get rid of a northern threat to Israel and one of Iran’s few allies. (Note that Syria and Iran have not threatened anyone, not invaded anyone in hundreds of years while the US has attacked 50 countries, toppled 37 governments, just since the end of WWII. )

    Syrian cooperation with Venezuela and Cuba, including a joint effort with the former to build a refinery in Syria – all this must stop.

    Like Iraq and Libya before they were attacked, Syria is moving away from dependency on the petrodollar.

    That’s fairly thorough, in my view – a good synopsis of real policy reasons for invasion and unleashing terrorists and death squads on a country. Baker also notes that if the subject of human rights were to be broached in a US national security meeting, the person doing so would not be laughed at. He or she would be escorted from the room by armed guards.

    None of this would have changed under a Romney or McCain presidency because, frankly, the office of president is a figurehead, a distraction for Americans while real business goes on elsewhere. I’m writing about this at the blog today or tomorrow, but since it is germain to this discussion put it here first.

    • Mark, you should probably stop living in the 70’s. I know our conversation here is over, but I have to point out, for your sake, that the sort of Pan-Arabism expressed by Egypt and Syria is no longer relevant for discussion. Indeed, in the current conflict, the balance of Arab opinion is against Assad – Hamas, Qatar, Tunisia, Libya – and while Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been less active, these two critical Arab countries have expressed no solidarity with Syria. No, far from it, Assad’s closest allies are non-Arab – Iran, Russia, China – with the exception of Hezbollah, and they are hardly ‘pan-Arab’ The rest I’ll not argue with, but this much is ascertainable fact.

  • Also forgot – huge gas field under Iran and even over into Qatar and a planned pipeline, that the US will not allow, to make its way to Eurpean markets. Qatar is a US client state, so that its support of terrorists and death squads is known as support of “rebel factions.”

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