Signifying Nothing 123



The image was the thing.  Those serried American flags beneath their burnished and distinctly imperial eagles.  Obama’s speech on the NSA was devoid of meaningful content.  The threats against Snowden and the references to America’s right to spy on its potential enemies – which seemed to mean everybody – were obviously heartfelt.  The “restrictions” on the NSA were devoid of intent, mumbled and hedged around.  Actually you don’t have to analyse what he said.  The picture says it all.

Reading the acres of media comment devoted to this exercise in changing nothing, it does seem that the task I face in explaining things is easier than I expected.  Nobody seems actually to be fooled.  You have the fascistic tendency – a majority – arguing that Obama is right, and the lesson of 9/11 is that safety can only lie in massive government intrusion into all human interaction all of the time.  Then you have the libertarian tendency, like me, who believe that nobody should be targeted until they have actually done something wrong, and the idea of continual surveillance of entirely innocent people just in case someone somewhere is contemplating doing something they shouldn’t, is terrifying.  What we don’t have much of is people pretending that Obama is actually doing something to curtail the surveillance state.

When Obama failed to close Guantanamo, failed to act against torture and extraordinary rendition, and sanctioned the killing of thousands through drone strikes, for a long time I kept meeting Americans who claimed he was not a neo-con really, but rather playing a subtle game for liberalism to win in the long term.  I don’t know anybody who believes that now, and nobody seems to be arguing it today. Obama is now an open vicious neo-con.  The picture says it all.

Some of it was almost amusing.  Obama plainly said that America would not spy on allied leaders, but reserved the right to spy on every other person in any foreign country.  I found the idea that every German may be spied on except Angela Merkel distinctly amusing.  Less amusing is the idea that the secret courts which are supposed to be a check on the NSA – with their entirely pro-government judges – would be “improved” by the appointment of a secret advocate to argue the case for privacy, without the subjects of the cases having any contact with their advocate or even being aware the case is going on.

Secret Courts are an increasing feature of life in the dog days of western world power.  In the UK we have already for many years had the situation where people may face criminal trials without being allowed to see the intelligence based “evidence” against them – often gained from torture of third parties abroad – and are “represented” by government appointed cleared – i.e. pro-security service – lawyers who are not allowed to tell their clients what the evidence is against them.  We recently have the institution of entirely secret criminal courts in which the entire proceedings are closed.  As Julian Assange pointed out on CNN, even the carefully selected secret court in the USA has found against the NSA on a number of occasions.  Obama’s extraordinary claim that their had been no abuse by the NSA was a straightforward example of the “Big lie” technique.  Again, that picture explains it all.

The suggestion that data be held not by the NSA but by a third party which will be another government institution is risible.  If they insist it is held, I vote Glenn Greenwald holds it.  After a crime has been committed, I have no difficulty with the authorities approaching the communications providers for targeted information which helps the investigation.  The deliberate conflation of that idea with permanent mass surveillance is dishonest – and the constant references to 9/11 to justify any intrusion are chilling.

Actually, what worried me most about the speech was the thought that the 9/11 excuse must be wearing thin, and that we are only seven years away from starting to have voters who weren’t even born at the time.  All those who make an extremely fat living from the security state, or who benefit in other ways economically from the docility of a population quiescent through the manipulation of fear, will start shortly to have need of a new and more urgent bogeyman.  That really will start to make the world a more dangerous place – and the danger comes from those claiming to protect us.

Look at the picture.

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123 thoughts on “Signifying Nothing

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  • Herbie

    Res Diss

    These different strands as you term them, in mainstream media, don’t amount to much more than a choice between latte or americano from the same corporate entity.

    So far as democracy is concerned, I’m quite happy that issues of national importance be put to direct democratic vote. It’s elites who ensure that they rarely are.

    People are waking up to what’s being done in their name and that’s thanks to new forms of communication, so the idea that your views are mainstream is risible.

  • Resident Dissident


    And what exactly are my views since you are so keen to pass judgement on them?

  • doug scorgie

    All people or even organizations that hold power over others should be accountable to those they lord over; MPs, Peers, public servants; local councillors; judges, police etc.

    Also private; individuals and organizations that use their power (through wealth and “friends in high places”) to undermine the public interest. None of those above should be immune to public scrutiny; privacy has to take second place.

    MPs are supposed to hold those with powerful interests to account but they fail in their duty and sometimes, as with all the above, they are corrupt.

    It is not only the right of the media to hold the powerful to account, through investigative journalism and whistle-blowers, it is their duty. (Most of them fail on this). If this involves snooping on these individuals and organizations so be it, not for tittle tattle or gossip, but for uncovering serious misdeeds.

    On the other hand Joe and Jane public going about their day to day lives should be protected unless they are engaged in illegality.

    What the security services want is to gather personal data on everyone just in case someone becomes “a person of interest”. A person of interest could be a spy; a terrorist or a criminal but also of interest to the state is anyone who might try to change the status quo of the ruling elite.

    Those people could be MPs; political activists; union leaders or their members; republicans (anti-royals); protest campers or marchers or even the little old lady in my street who has just joined the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.

    The purpose of spying on these people is to gather personal data that could be used to restrict or undermine their activities or to gather information embarrassing to them that could be used for blackmail by the state.

    At my local PSC a couple of years ago a police officer infiltrated the meetings by joining using false ID and eventually he even became chair of the group. He was eventually sussed and he disappeared never to be seen again.

    So if we are not already a police/security state we are fast becoming one and this massive data collection is key to that.

    But we still get the idiotic claim from the government and the stupid amongst us that “if you haven’t done anything wrong you’ve nothing to fear.”

  • Herbie

    Res Diss

    “And what exactly are my views since you are so keen to pass judgement on them?”

    If you can’t remember what they are, I’d suggest you review your posting history.

    I’ve made a number of points above which directly challenge your recent claims. No surprise you’ve ignored them in favour of asking stupid questions about your own posting history.

  • Mary

    This is Abby Martin of RT’s Breaking the Set with Russell Tice, another NSA whistleblower.

    NSA Blackmailing Obama? | Interview with Whistleblower Russ Tice

    Published on 9 Jul 2013
    Abby Martin talks to Russell Tice, former intelligence analyst and original NSA whistleblower, about how the recent NSA scandal is only scratches the surface of a massive surveillance apparatus, citing specific targets the he saw spying orders for including former senators Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama.

  • wikispooks

    Echoing Phil 18 Jan 11:27am

    “If they insist it is held, I vote Glenn Greenwald holds it”

    Hmmm. Your faith in Mr Greenwald is touching but I fear misplaced – unless you would have him treat it like he is treating his current cache – selective revelation and lock the rest up tighter than the NSA – that is.

    Here are a few salutory articles, including Glenn’s mia-culpa and some good stuff from your colleague Sibel Edmonds. But perhaps the most thought-provvoking is “Saving Agent Snowden from his Handlers”

  • Resident Dissident

    “I’ve made a number of points above which directly challenge your recent claims.”

    No you haven’t – you have just come back with very tired rhetoric which actually adds nothing to the debate whatsoever.

  • Roderick Russell

    Re Craig’s comment – “Obama is now an open vicious neo-con. The picture says it all.”

    Indeed the situation is far worse than just the “surveillance” State that Mr. Snowden has so courageously reported on. We are on the road to being a totalitarian State. As you yourself wrote, we now have secret legal proceedings where the defendant has no real rights. We also have individuals being persecuted on occassion by these secret agencies to serve an illegal agenda that has nothing whatsoever to do with national security as I know only too well.

    Your comment “those who make an extremely fat living from the security state” also hits the nail on the head since there are those in the establishment, and in the intelligence/security apparatus, who profit greatly from the illegal actions of our covert security services.

    I don’t think Obama is truly a NeoCon at heart, rather I think that politicians are too scared of their own secret/security services to sort them out, as they believe that these covert agencies (who are a law unto themselves) can ruin their careers …… or worse.

    Politicians (and the main stream media) avoid this issue like the plague. These covert agencies operate outside the law, and most politicians know it – which is why they prefer to keep their heads in the sand like ostriches, and pretend that nothing is happening. Occasionally the press does report on these matters when they relate to foreign affairs and foreign intelligence services, but are usually too scared to tackle these growing issues at home.

  • Ex Pat


    On the one hand, Whistleblowing heroes who acted on their oaths to defend the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, with a US Republic of laws.

    On the other, a fascist US Empire, with every kind of vice and crime from illegal war to murder, torture-to-death, genocide and the wholesale theft of the treasury. With the US Republic overthrown, the Constitution torn up and a teleprompter-reading muppet president. (ER, Puppet? Ed.)


    The lives of Whistleblowing heroes – ready for anything! With the US Empire’s reptilian-brained Queen (ER, A hidden Rarl Kove reference?? Ed.) played by a crocodile.

    It all ends well for the Whistleblowing battlers. For the croc, not so much, he is, ER, stuffed – literally – and it couldn’t happen to a nicer US Empire Nazi, you may think. ; )

    Go Ed ! –

    Rarl Kove stuffed ? ‘Natural justice’ ? –


    Skippy, the, ER, Bush Kangaroo ?? –

    After Scipio Africanus – Skippy / Bush – Puppet A or Puppet B ?? Somebody – turn the teleprompter off. Let’s see him mumble his way out of that one! – ; )


    Anyone old enough to watch I, Claudius in 1976 will have a very clear view of ‘Skippy’ Obama and his puppet presidency of the falling US Empire.

    “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.” Fascist Wome on the Potomac – the movie – with Derek Jacobi as a better man than the pusillanimous prez.

    – I, Claudius –

  • Richard

    Yes, the picture certainly does paint a thousand words, doesn’t it. I can’t help wondering what sort of image Julius Caesar or the Mughal emperors projected back in the day.

    We are occasionally told that those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear. Well, I don’t suppose that too many people reading this blog buy that tripe, but for my part I have plenty to hide; my whole life, actually. I am a private person – not a criminal – who enjoys privacy as a life-style choice which reflects my introvert nature. If I am suspected of a crime (don’t laugh, the politicians and police have very little interest in pursuing classical crime as most people would understand it) I expect the police to have to show just cause to an authority who has my interests at heart (please, stop sniggering) and get a warrant before they start trawling through my house, mail and phone calls. What kind of person would object to that? It is, after all, the world I grew up in – or at least I imagined I did: perhaps I was more naïve than I thought!

    It’s good to see this blog up and running again, by the way.

  • Mary

    There was an item on the TV the other day about Suffolk police being kitted out with cameras installed on the front of their jackets. Ostensibly to make a record if something controversial happens but who knows. A vox pop was included. Middle aged people mostly thought it was an invasion of privacy. A young woman however saw nothing wrong and came out with that phrase – If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about. See how the brainwashing is working.

  • Tony0pmoc

    “will start shortly to have need of a new and more urgent bogeyman.”

    Careful there Craig. We wouldn’t want you to suffer from an attack of 9/11 Truthiness.


  • Mary

    Further invasion of our privacy is being planned. This time, it’s the sale of information contained in our medical records.

    NHS patient data to be made available for sale to drug and insurance companies
    Privacy experts warn there will be no way for public to work out who has their medical records or how they are using it
    Randeep Ramesh, social affairs editor
    Guardian, Sunday 19 January 2014

    NHS branding
    If an application is approved then firms will have to pay to extract NHS patient information, which will be scrubbed of some personal identifiers Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

    Drug and insurance companies will from later this year be able to buy information on patients including mental health conditions and diseases such as cancer, as well as smoking and drinking habits, once a single English database of medical data has been created.

    Harvested from GP and hospital records, medical data covering the entire population will be uploaded to the repository controlled by a new arms-length NHS information centre, starting in March. Never before has the entire medical history of the nation been digitalised and stored in one place.

    Advocates say that sharing data will make medical advances easier and ultimately save lives because it will allow researchers to investigate drug side effects or the performance of hospital surgical units by tracking the impact on patients.

    But privacy experts warn there will be no way for the public to work out who has their medical records or to what use their data will be put. The extracted information will contain NHS numbers, date of birth, postcode, ethnicity and gender.

    Once live, organisations such as university research departments – but also insurers and drug companies – will be able apply to the new Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) to gain access to the database, called


  • Tony0pmoc


    The solution to this problem is to not go and see your doctor, except for the death certificate.

    In a detailed survey of hundreds of over 95 years olds (they were Ashkenazi’s Jews actually – but that is irrelevant)…they were asked about their smoking, drinking, eating and lifestyles..Why exactly are you still alive…???

    They said, we don’t go and see the doctor, and we do not take their drugs.


  • Daniel Rich

    Q: Why Americans must see ‘When I Saw You’. Why “must” rather than “should” – you do appear to have somewhat of a problem in distinguishing between the two.

    R: Trying to score a few cheap points without actually reading contributions makes you look rather foolish if not plain idiotic [darn, so judgmental!]

    Why Americans must see ‘When I Saw You’ – Philip Weiss on January 18, 2014 @

    The courtesy of no altering another man’s headline. Duh!

    Q: Herbie – And what exactly are my views since you are so keen to pass judgement on them?

    R: A classic case of projection.

    CM: “Sharon is a war criminal.”

    RD/RO: “You cannot say anything bad about the dead, but if you do want to, don’t, be silent.’

    You gotta be ff-ing kidding me [you don’t, I know, you kid yourself].


    A few links [for those of you who do appreciate their privacy being kept private]:

    Tor Browser: search @

    You and your browser: @

    Peerblock: @

    Dianne Feinstein thinks 1st Amendment [and Bill of Rights] is nothing but a ‘special privilege’: @

    If this is how ‘justice’ works today, I don’t want to be part of it @

    This is how congress deals with the 1st Amendment @

    Yeah, the Apartheid’s vessel is sinking, so keep rowing.

  • Brendan

    Welcome back to Craig. Don’t retire.

    I personally have begun to think that Obama is plain scared. Either of revelations which he’d prefer remained secret, or of getting the Kennedy treatment – indeed perhaps both. His defence of the NSA started with outright lies. He actually said it was just meta-data, and denied the larger problem. This was simply a blatant lie, which I note he hasn’t been called on. However, he has gone much further, and defended the entire principle. So, he seems to be arguing both that there is no larger problem, but also that the larger problem, if it exists, isn’t a problem at all, and is just a case of keeping the US safe. Classic double-speak.

    And yes, he is a vicious neocon. I think perhaps he always was, much like Bliar, which is a terrible shame. It’s also a sad reflection of the hollowed out US political process, which appears to be a corrupt farce from election cycle through election cycle. That Obama, of all candidates, is supposed to be a liberal is just amusing; he may sometimes speak liberal, but that trick has gotten old.

    I note, in passing, that his speech was praised in the Guardian leader article. I almost laughed.

  • ESLO

    Daniel Rich @11.28pm

    I don’t think you are fully appreciating RD’s point. I very much doubt that he is wishing to curb your freedom of speech he is just suggesting that there is a better time and place to talk about the dead than when they have just died – he uses “should” and similar wording, this is not meant as a command or an instruction. If he wanted to use such wording then he would say “must” or “cannot” (as you have incorrectly placed in his mouth in your last posting). By all means say whatever you want – that is what freedom of speech is about – but just appreciate that others are free to criticise what you say and seek to use the English language with rather more subtlety than yourself.

  • nevermind

    Obama wrecking online futures as Lord Rennard, is he a secret UKIP clone? is setting about tearing the lib dems apart ala Rumpelstiltzken.

    Today is Lib Dem demise day, when Lord rennard single handedly makes a twit out of a party of bendy straws. Single handedly he will write off the mainstay female membership of the Lib Dems and fel good about himself, sit down on that red leather and think of his next conquest.

    We shall see how many of them dare to resign over his gross and sexist misconduct.

  • Mary

    This just came in on a Google alert which I had forgotten setting up when we were wondering how Craig was.

    20 January 2014, 06:22

    The Iraq invasion fatally damaged the UNSC – Craig Murray

    Download audio file

    The speech on intelligence reform and NSA spying by US president Barack Obama was one in which nothing was said but which was designed to create a strong psychological impact with its visuals. Former United Kingdom Ambassador and rendition death whistleblower Craig Murray stated: “it was like Hitler at a Nuremberg Rally. I have never seen so many national flags of one country behind a single speaker. It was a kind of an exercise in extreme nationalism, rather than an intellectual speech.” Mr. Murray stated that Obama merely continued the US insistence that they have the right to spy on everybody.

    With regard to the US expansion of the Magnitsky List Mr. Murray said the creation of the list reveals the mindset in the United States that still regards Russia as an enemy. The US continues to demonize Russia but does nothing against countries like Bahrain which shoots people dead for demonstrating, tortures women and children, gasses people and imprisons doctors and nurses. The Magnitsky List is a peculiar piece of exceptionalism which reveals a scary Cold War mentality from a country that does nothing to address far worse human rights abuses taking place around the world.

    Interview follows

  • ESLO

    Craig Murray stated: “it was like Hitler at a Nuremberg Rally. ………….

    Ridiculous comparison IMHO

  • Mary

    January 20, 2014

    Obama’s Lukewarm Recipe
    Taming the NSA?


    President Barack Obama offered it as a small olive to a public he had been lecturing for months. Ever since the disclosures by Edward Snowden of massive surveillance programs, the White House has had to play a form of political catch-up, its capacious tail dragging along in the process. Suggestions have been made about reforming aspects of the National Security Agency, most notably on its bulk collecting facility.

    The theme in these deliberations has been uncomplicated. Activities on the part of the NSA and the Foreign Intelligence Service Court (FISC) have been regarded, in the main, as necessary and noble ventures. They are legal. They are needed. The Obama administration’s August white paper was a true whitewashing of the bulk surveillance program. Congress endorsed it. It had been reviewed by the FISC. According to former NSA director Michael Hayden, it was created and reviewed by all three branches of government (New Yorker, Jan 17). Those questioning it might well be suffering mild bouts of paranoia.


  • nevermind

    Foreign relations between the US and Germany might take a little vacation in the freezer over all this spying on ‘friends’, the outfall which will be felt at GCHQ.

    The lesson to the NSA is loud and clear, ‘if you spy on people and its coming out in a technically sophisticated world, then you will guarantee that your foreign relations will suffer irreparable timely damage, period.’

  • Mary

    Shame on the Court of Appeal
    20 January 2014

    US embarrassment “trumps British justice” in drone victim’s case

    Noor Khan and Kareem Khan Photo

    The Court of Appeal in London has today ruled that the case brought against the UK Government by a Pakistani victim of a drone strike cannot proceed as it might result in the “condemnation of the US by a court of this country.”

    Noor Khan (28) lost his father, a local elder, to a 2011 drone strike on a local council meeting in North Waziristan, which had gathered to resolve a chromite mining dispute. After evidence emerged that the British intelligence agency, GCHQ, was supporting the CIA’s drone strikes in Pakistan, Mr Khan brought a judicial review in the British courts against the UK Government.

    However, the Court of Appeal today ruled that, despite Mr Khan’s arguments being “persuasive,” they accepted the British Government’s claims that the case should not proceed as “a finding by our court that the notional UK operator of a drone bomb which caused a death was guilty of murder would inevitably be understood…by the US as a condemnation of the US.”

    The court also noted that it was “not clear that the defence of combat immunity would be available to a UK national” tried for “murder by drone strike.” The comment came in response to arguments put forward by Mr Khan’s lawyers that the programme of strikes in Pakistan is illegal and that UK involvement could lead to UK officials facing murder charges


  • Mary

    I have not heard anything about Michelle Obama’s 50th birthday. On the other hand, the New Zealanders have been subjected to news of the celebrations.

    Good Morning Madam Mao by Morrissey Breen

    I liked this description of the Clintons at the bash.

    ‘The celebration included Samuel L Jackson, Magic Johnson, Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder, John Legend, and a gruesome-looking couple who might well have come straight off the set of a vampire movie. A closer look revealed that the two were not a part of some zombie-themed stunt, but were in fact the Clintons.’

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