A stunning development on their own, the revelations of Edward Snowden should be hailed by folks who call for free exchange, right?
Freedom being a state of being which requires a domain of privacy to flourish, folks who institutionally support the notion should welcome information about the extent to which private information, thoughts, and exchanges are being secretly surveilled for the interests of the party doing the snooping?
Shouldn’t the German Marshall Fund, whose web homepage tells us is “dedicated to promoting better understanding and cooperation between North America and Europe,” relish the idea of exposing a secret advantage held by one participant in an exchange?
One would think so, right?
Well consider this declaration to Deutsche Welle by the fund’s Washington-based vice president, Stephen Szabo:
“It would be a disaster for American-German relations if Snowden came to Germany and publicly testified before the Bundestag.”
And then there’s Bertelsmann Foundation, self-described thusly:
In keeping with the longstanding social commitment of its founder, Reinhard Mohn, the Bertelsmann Stiftung [German for foundation — esnl] is dedicated to serving the common good. Our work is based on the conviction that competition and civic engagement are essential for social progress.
Executive Director Annette Heuser, who declares in a Spiegel commentary:
Europe is taking a risk by reacting to suspected NSA activities by calling for overhaul of the entire trans-Atlantic relationship. After a week of this, a change in rhetoric would be worthwhile.
Related to this second point are the calls to suspend negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TPP). US and European policymakers have already realized that it serves no one’s interest to tie alleged NSA activities to a potential US-EU free-trade pact.
Now factor in the headline on a recent German Marshall Fund blog post:
Can TTIP Be an “Economic NATO”?
And what is it, you may ask, with that NATO thing?
Maybe this excerpt from the fund’s website will add the necessary context:
In 1947, at a Harvard University commencement ceremony, U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall first announced plans to rebuild war-torn Europe. That speech (full text) led to the creation of the Marshall Plan, credited with putting Europe back on track to democracy and prosperity following the devastation caused by World War II. Twenty-five years later, German Chancellor Willy Brandt went to Harvard to announce (full speech) plans to create a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, through a gift of DM 150 million on behalf of the German people. “The memory of the past has become the mission of the future,” he said.
Today, as an independent American public policy and grantmaking institution, GMF continues to foster cooperation between the United States and Europe on the most pressing transatlantic issues, both inside and outside Europe’s changing borders. GMF also continues strengthen democratic institutions in the spirit of the Marshall Plan.
Now add this from the website of the George C. Marshall Foundation, another NGO dedicated to the late military and political leader:
As Western Europe was rebuilt, Europe was divided both economically and ideologically. When it became evident that the gap between Eastern and Western Europe would not be bridged and Western Europeans were fearing for their safety, Marshall was one of the leaders who established NATO, which would ensure the security of the West.
Marshall, like Barack Obama, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Oh, there’s another foundation in the general’s name, the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies:
The Marshall Center, dedicated in 1993, is a renowned international security and defense studies institute that promotes dialogue and understanding among the nations of North America, Europe and Eurasia. The Marshall Center is committed to carrying Marshall’s vision into the 21st century.
Supported bilaterally by the governments of the United States and Germany, the Marshall Center boasts an international faculty and staff with representatives from 10 partner nations.
In addition to supporting the European theater security cooperation strategies and objectives, the Marshall Center supports five South and Central Asian States: Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The Center also has a supporting relationship with Mongolia and Afghanistan.
Note the configuration of countries?
We leave the conclusions to you, gentle reader. But the origins of all the Marshall foundations lies in Cold War policies based on opposition.
Now what of the Bertelsmann Foundation?
Well, consider one simple fact. The foundation owns 77.4 percent of Bertelsmann AG, and makes money when Bertelsmann AG profits.
And what, pray tell, is Bertelsmann AG?
Well, just Google “Bertelsmann ‘intellectual property’” and you get more than 2.8 million hits.
Bertelsmann, in fact is a global media conglomerate. Here’s how Variety reports it’s holdings in a 30 August story noting the company’s 11 percent profit rise:
Bertelsmann owns Europe’s largest broadcaster RTL Group, music rights company BMG, book publisher Penguin Random House, magazine publisher Gruner+Jahr, and FremantleMedia, which produces and distributes shows like “X-Factor,” “Idol” and “Got Talent.”
Consider this from Llewellyn King of PBS’s White House Chronicle:
Supporters of the TTIP see it as against fortification against Asia; an opportunity to maybe gain back some footing in non-luxury goods, and a reassertion of Western values.
Yet the road ahead is rough.
The North American Free Trade Area was negotiated and signed by President George H.W. Bush and ratified by President Bill Clinton with Republican support, as the unions and their Democratic allies wanted nothing to do with it, although it is now regarded as a template not only for the TTIP but also for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would brings together the United States, Canada, Mexico and many Asian countries but excludes China.
Tyson Barker, director of European relations at the Bertelsmann Foundation, says that when both free-trade deals are concluded, the United States will be a fulcrum between the two.
Read the rest.
Ah, the scales begin fall away.
The NGO anti-Snowden outage turns out to be a case deep politics.
Both NGOs fear Snowden’s revelations will force other nations to think more deeply of just what they are giving up when they enter into massive trade treaties designed first and foremost to the maximization of corporate profits.
Bertelsmann aggressively battles to protect its copyrights, and copyrights, patents, and other forms of so-called intellectual property are at the heart of all major trade agreements, with Disney leading the charge.
Now who runs the corporate giant that is Bertelsmann?
The short answer: A guy born into the world of the reveling door.
From World of CEOs:
Dr Thomas Rabe was born on 6 August 1965 in Luxembourg. The son of a EU official, Thomas attended Ecole Européenne high school in Brussels before studying at the University of Cologne where he became a Doctor of Economics.
He began his career in 1989 at the Directorate General for Financial Institutions and Company Law of the European Commission in Brussels.
Read the rest.
And who does he answer to? Why the Bertelsmann Foundation, which holds most of the stock in the company he runs and depends on him for funding.
Now factor in that the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are taking place in secrecy, something Snowden has forced a lot of folks to think about.
From a 16 September post by Maira Sutton of the Electronic Frontier Foundation describing yet another trade agreement currently in neogtiation under the same conditions as the TTIP:
This week, trade delegates met in San Francisco to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement’s e-commerce chapter. It’s likely that this secret chapter carries provisions that whittle away at user data protections. But we weren’t able to say so at this meeting. Not only have they neglected to notify digital rights groups—including EFF, which is based in San Francisco—about the meeting, we could not even discover where it was taking place.
Delegates from TPP countries are right now holding these secretive “inter-sessional” meetings here and in other undisclosed cities around the world. Trade reps for specific issue areas are hammering out “unresolved” issues that are holding up the conclusion of the agreement, and doing so by becoming even more secretive and evasive than ever.
We only heard about a TPP meeting on intellectual property in Mexico City in September through the diplomatic rumor-mill, since the US Trade Rep is no longer bothering to announce the dates or locations of these closed-door side meetings. During this round in Mexico, countries that have been resistant to U.S. demands to sign onto highly restrictive copyright enforcement standards may ultimately be strong-armed into doing so.
Read the rest.
Now consider this from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, the creation of a Catholic order of ordained and lay social activists, describing a September TPP negotiating session:
Later in the program, eight of the nine current TPP country negotiators held a question and answer session with some stakeholders. While stakeholders asked specific questions, and for the most part, raised concerns about the TPP, the responses given were evasive and vague.
The Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment (IWG) was represented at the stakeholder meeting. A major IWG concern surfaced after learning of a leaked TPP investment chapter. A chapter of the agreement leaked earlier this year revealed a radical redefinition of foreign investor rights which would allow multinational corporations to sue governments for millions of dollars in compensation for environmental or public health safeguards by claiming that such protections constitute an infringement of their newfound “rights.” This would basically give foreign investors the power to target and undermine policies ranging from bans on toxins to natural resource protections; just as they have done under the similar investment provisions of the North American and Central American Free Trade agreements, NAFTA and CAFTA.
Nearly $365 million has already been awarded to foreign corporations under NAFTA and CAFTA, to be paid by taxpayers, while over $13 billion remains pending in such investor-state cases. Eleven member organizations of the IWG stated in a letter to the USTR: “[I]t is our common conviction that if we are to respect the integrity of God’s creation, then the natural world, with all its richness and diversity, must not be sacrificed to shortsighted profit motivations. Unfortunately, the investor-state provisions under negotiation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership undermine the very principles of human dignity and respect for the integrity of God’s creation…”
Read the rest.
Here’s a very clear explanation of the treaty’s impact from Democracy Now!, featuring Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch:
“A Corporate Trojan Horse”: Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact, Would Rewrite Swath of U.S. Laws
From the transcript:
[O]ne of the most important things to understand is it’s not really mainly about trade. I guess the way to think about it is as a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade. The other 24 chapters either handcuff our domestic governments, limiting food safety, environmental standards, financial regulation, energy and climate policy, or establishing new powers for corporations.
For instance, there are the same investor privileges that promote job offshoring to lower-wage countries. There is a ban on Buy Local procurement, so that corporations have a right to do sourcing, basically taking our tax dollars, and instead of investing them in our local economy, sending them offshore. There are new rights to, for instance, have freedom to enter other countries and take natural resources, a right for mining, a right for oil, gas, without approval.
And then there’s a whole set of very worrisome issues relating to Internet freedom. Through sort of the backdoor of the copyright chapter of TPP is a whole chunk of SOPA, the Stop Online Privacy Act, that activism around the country successfully derailed a year ago. Think about all the things that would be really hard to get into effect as a corporation in public, a lot of them rejected here and in the other 11 countries, and that is what’s bundled in to the TPP. And every country would be required to change its laws domestically to meet these rules. The binding provision is, each country shall ensure the conformity of domestic laws, regulations and procedures.
Now, the only reason I know that level of detail is because a few texts have leaked, and I have been following the negotiations and grilling negotiators from other countries to try and find between the lines what the hell is going on; otherwise, totally secret.
Now is it clear why those two NGOs are pushing the TPP and its secret negotiations while branding Edward Snowden as, at best, a malcontent and an agitator?
More from the transcript:
And it was only after a big, great fuss was kicked up by a lot of members—150 of them wrote last year—that finally members of Congress, upon request for the particular chapter, can have a government administration official bring them a chapter. Their staff is thrown out of the room. They can’t take detailed notes. They’re not supposed to talk about what they saw. And they can, without staff to help them figure out what the technical language is, look at a chapter. This is in contrast to, say, even what the Bush administration did. The last time we had one of these mega-NAFTA expansion attempts was the Free Trade Area of the Americas. And in that instance, in 2001, that whole draft text was released to the public by the U.S. government on the official government websites. So, this is extraordinary secrecy, and members of Congress aren’t supposed to tell anyone what they’ve read. So, for instance, you know, Alan Grayson, who was one of the guys who helped to get the text released, Alan Grayson said, “I can tell you it’s very bad for the future of America. I just can’t tell you why.” That’s obscene.
This would rewrite wide swaths of our laws. And again, it’s mainly not about trade. So, if we have this agreement in effect, for instance, it would be a big push for fracking. Now you would say, “Why fracking?” Because it doesn’t allow us to have bans on liquid natural gas exports. Or, if this were in effect, we couldn’t ensure the safety of the food we feed our families. We have to import, for instance, fish and shrimp that we know, from the limited inspection that’s done, is extremely dangerous from certain kinds of growing ponds that are contaminated, etc., in some of the TPP countries. Or, for instance, some of the financial reforms where the banksters were finally regulated would be rolled back. All of this, and it would be privately enforceable by certain foreign corporations.
We are being sold down the river, and it is only thanks to peopls like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald, and a few courageous publishers, broadcasters, and online activists that we have begun to gain a clear idea of the massive machine that is tearing apart the very fabric of society and carving up the commons built up by generations of those who came before us.
Just who are the real criminals?