UPDATES as highlighted.
The military and spooky worlds love acronyms, and back during World War II, soldiers came up with three acronyms to describe the current state of affairs:
- First came SNAFU, or Situational Normal: All Fucked UP.
- Next came the lesser-known TARFU, or Things Are Really Fucked UP. [esnl first learned the term from the husband of our mother’s best friend back in our high school years. He flew a bomber on a famous raid on the oil fields of Ploesti, piloting a plane named Tarfu.]
- Finally there was FUBAR, Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition, another high school edition to our lexicon.
Well, things are fast moving from TARFU to FUBAR these days as the dirty little secret we’ve all known for some time — namely that our supposedly democratically government was capturing everything we say or do in the digital realm — becomes concrete reality.
Sure, we see it played out repeatedly in films of the Orwellian genre — the underrated Conspiracy Theory and Enemy of the State to name two — and on television in shows like the top-rated NCIS and Person of Interest.
But imagining and knowing are two different things.
We are all discovering that the folks in the tin foil hats were oddly right. Uncle Sam has his digital eyeballs and ears wired to everything they say and do on or in the presence of the media on which our very lives have become dependent.
Now we get to watch as the governments of the world pretend they didn’t know what they really did know. It’s a real entertainment of sorts.
But beneath it all runs one chilling awareness, the falling away of ignorance of the extent to which were are constantly surveilled by both state and corporation, to their profit, in the first instance in the form of power and prestige readily transferred into the corporate realm where profit reigns supreme and dictates all action.
We are now presented with the certain knowledge that the ravings of the paranoid were twisted prophecies of truth. This is certain to be reflected in our thoughts and communications, the embodied awareness of the Other over your shoulder, taking all that you do, all that you express. Hell, unless your battery is out of your phone or encased in a transmission-blocker, your phone can be transformed into a live audio feed of your life, with streaming video as well.
You know, deep inside. It becomes, in time, a given, a mechanism of self-censorship in which the censoring occurs outside the realm of awareness. Certain things just aren’t allowed, so they never even consciously occur.
The panopticon world becomes, simply, a given.
Which brings us to our first item, a video from RT:
Stop Watching Us: Largest privacy rally in US history hits DC
Crowds are flooding Capitol Hill in Washington DC, venting their fury against the NSA’s sweeping surveillance practices. The organisers say it’s the largest pro-privacy rally in US history.
USA TODAY headlines the story:
Anti-NSA rally attracts thousands to march in Washington
Thousands rallied against NSA’s domestic and international surveillance on Saturday by marching to the Capitol and calling for closer scrutiny of the agency as more details of its spying are leaked.
On a parallel note, from the Atlantic Wire:
No One Knows Why the NSA’s Website Was Down for 11 Hours
The National Security Agency’s website was down for several hours on Friday. But no one will confirm whether the outage was caused by a group of brash hackers attacking the website or if the hamster who normally keeps the place running simply stopped spinning on its wheel.
Another take from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:
NSA website down due to “internal error”
The National Security Agency’s website went down Friday, but the US spy service known for hacking into computer networks blamed the outage on a technical mistake and promised to resolve it soon.
Now on with the politics, first from the Toronto Globe and Mail:
Obama, Kerry attempt to halt international outrage over NSA spying
Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Rome and Paris to talk about Mideast peace, Syria and Iran but was confronted by outrage over the sweep and scope of U.S. snooping abroad.
Next, the GlobalPost covers an intention:
Germany, Brazil work on draft UN resolution to end excessive spying
The UN resolution would call for the expansion of international privacy rights to include the internet.
UPDATE: The latest development from RT:
Germany, Brazil enlist 19 more countries for anti-NSA UN resolution
Twenty-one countries, including US allies France and Mexico, have now joined talks to hammer out a UN resolution that would condemn “indiscriminate” and “extra-territorial” surveillance, and ensure “independent oversight” of electronic monitoring.
And BBC News has travel plans:
Top German spy chiefs to go to Washington for talks
Germany is to send its top intelligence chiefs to Washington to “push forward” an investigation into allegations the US spied on its leader Angela Merkel.
Reuters has the agenda:
Merkel to seek ‘no spy deal’ within EU as well as with U.S.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants the European Union’s 28 member states to reach a “no spy deal” similar to an agreement France and Germany seek with the United State following allegations Washington tapped her mobile phone.
The take from Stephff at China Daily:
Don’t bug my phone
UPDATE: The latest bombshell, via BBC News:
US bugged Merkel’s phone from 2002 until 2013, report claims
The US has been spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone since 2002, according to a report in Der Spiegel magazine.
The German publication claims to have seen secret documents from the National Security Agency which show Mrs Merkel’s number on a list dating from 2002 – before she became chancellor.
Her number was still on a surveillance list in 2013.
Reuters again, with another agenda:
Germany wants a German Internet as spying scandal rankles
As a diplomatic row rages between the United States and Europe over spying accusations, state-backed Deutsche Telekom wants German communications companies to cooperate to shield local internet traffic from foreign intelligence services.
But Deutsche Welle poses a complication:
‘We can’t defend ourselves against the NSA’
When faced with the capacities of the NSA, counterintelligence can be difficult, says secret service expert Erich Schmidt-Eenboom in an interview with DW
A candidate and former Wal-Mart board member is heard from. Via The Hill:
Hillary Clinton urges ‘comprehensive discussion’ about NSA surveillance
Hillary Clinton says the U.S. government needs to have a ‘comprehensive discussion’ about the scope of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program.
And the head of the culprits in question declares war on the First Amendment [see yesterday’s video], via The Guardian:
As Europe erupts over US spying, NSA chief says government must stop media
With General Alexander calling for NSA reporting to be halted, US and UK credibility as guardians of press freedom is crushed
The Christian Science Monitor poses a question:
Germans wonder why it took Merkel so long to get angry over NSA spying
German Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to tamp down anger over NSA spying this summer, only lashing out this week, when phone tapping allegations reached her own calls.
Deutsche Welle notes an anomaly:
NSA spying: From minor to major scandal
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s tapped mobile phone has brought about quite the change in the German government. Formerly appeased politicians, who earlier had accepted US excuses for NSA spying, are suddenly outraged.
From the European Union Times, discord from across a semi-militarized border:
Mexico orders probe into US spying on its top officials
Mexican interior minister has ordered a major probe into reports of US electronic spying on its current President Enrique Pena Nieto as well as his predecessor Felipe Calderon.
thinkSPAIN covers the sublime musings of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy:
Rajoy digs deeper into spying scandal but ‘does not believe’ Spain is affected
Relations break down between Europe and USA over alleged espionage
While the Wall Street Journal notes a possibly portentous development:
U.S. Tells Suspect for First Time It Used NSA Surveillance Program in Criminal Case
Authorities Say the Man Sought to Travel to Syria
An ominous pronouncement from former CIA Deputy Director and Acting Director Michael Morrell by way of the Economic Times:
Snowden’s leaks most serious in US history: ex-CIA official
Leaks from Edward Snowden have helped America’s adversaries and represent most serious breach of classified information in US history.
From The Guardian across the pond, another interesting development, focusing on Orwellian efforts by Washington’s trans-Atlantic inamorata:
Leaked memos reveal GCHQ efforts to keep mass surveillance secret
Exclusive: Edward Snowden papers show UK spy agency fears legal challenge if scale of surveillance is made public
The Independent covers the fallback effort:
David Cameron defends Britain’s spy services as anger mounts in Europe over US and UK state surveillance
PM accuses US whistle-blower Edward Snowden and newspapers which publish his leaks of putting people’s lives at risk
But Cameron’s attack was worse than The Independent’s headline indicated. Leave it to the Daily Mail to emphasize the homophobic content of the PM’s rant against The Guardian and Glenn Greenwald, who is gay. It’s almost as though Job Stewart was writing his lines:
Lah-dih-dah and airy-fairy: Cameron’s swipe at the Guardian as he defends intelligence services over eavesdropping claims
Diplomatic row over allegations U.S. spied on world leaders escalates
Prime Minister indicates his phone was not tapped by America
But Germany and France have called for urgent talks with Obama
Cameron takes swipe at Guardian and Snowden for leaking spy secrets
BBC News notes an exception:
David Cameron’s phone ‘not monitored’ by US
David Cameron’s communications “have not, are not and will not” be monitored by the US, the White House has said.
And the Christian Science Monitor gets all Realpolitik:
Why would US spy on friends? Because it can, and it makes sense, experts say.
The scandal suggests US technological capabilities have outstripped prudent policy, but even friendly countries have divergent interests and ‘it’s really a polite fiction’ they don’t spy on each other.
While the McClatchy Washington Bureau notes context:
World’s anger at Obama policies goes beyond Europe and the NSA
The Guardian covers posterior encasement:
US defends drone strikes as ‘necessary and just’ in face of UN criticism
Brazil, China and Venezuela sharply critical of ‘illegal’ program but US says it has taken steps to introduce new guidelines
And Xinhua throws a ringer:
Chinese drone training in line with international law, practice
China said that the training and flight of its military aircraft, including drones, over relevant areas of the East China Sea are in line with international law and practice.
Deutsche Welle covers potential legal spooky blowback:
Guantanamo lawyers push for declassification of CIA ‘torture’ program
The lawyers of five men being charged over the September 11, 2011, attacks are appealing to President Obama to declassify details of the CIA’s secret interrogation programs. They say evidence of torture is being hidden.
Japan’s currently creating its own version of the U.S. Espionage Act and Britain’s Official Secrets Act, and the Asahi Shimbun covers someone who’s worried:
INTERVIEW/ Takichi Nishiyama: Secrets protection law will silence government critics
Takichi Nishiyama, a former investigative journalist, warns that the state secrets protection bill approved by the Abe Cabinet on Oct. 25 will pave the way for “a secretive state that stifles criticism.”
More from the Mainichi:
Protests rise against government secret protection bill
A freelance journalist who reported on problems at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant after sneaking his way in is among those protesting a bill that could make such undercover reporting activities illegal.
The Japan Daily Press notes the bottom line, at least for folks such as ourselves:
State secrets act feared to have ‘chilling effect on journalism’ in Japan
Once passed, information will be classified according to its gravity of effect on national security. But it also follows that anyone leaking and trying to obtain the information will be indicted, raising fears of suppression of press freedom and the right to freedom of information.
The Independent covers a thoroughly chilled journalist:
Chinese journalist ‘confesses’ to defamation on state TV
Imprisoned Chen Yongzhou admits filing unverified articles defaming a state-owned business and accepting bribes amid fears he was coerced
More from People’s Daily:
Detained reporter apologizes for releasing untrue stories
Chen Yongzhou, a journalist with the New Express based in the southern city of Guangzhou, said to police that he had continuously released a series of unverified and false reports against the giant engineering company Zoomlion at the request of others.
Another chilled journalist George Dragsdahl, who wrote on global security issues, sued historian Bent Jensen for libel and lost because, a court ruled, he was what Jensen said he was. From the Copenhagen Post:
Historian cleared of libel for branding journalist a KGB agent
High court rules spying accusation was justified
From MIT Technology Review, oops:
Anonymity Network Tor Needs a Tune-up to Protect Users from Surveillance
Fixes are planned for Internet anonymity tool Tor after researchers showed that national intelligence agencies could plausibly unmask users.
And if you’re curious what non-state actors are tracking you online, ZDNet has the answer:
Want to know who’s spying on you online? There’s an app for that
Summary: Mozilla has released a tool that will allow users of the Firefox browser to know which companies are tracking them online.
For our last ponder this from the Daily Dot:
Fifth-grader pleads guilty for role in Anonymous attack
The 12-year-old aided Anonymous in its efforts to bring numerous government sites to a standstill during major Quebec student protests in May of 2012