The Servile State 115


I just watched a feature on BBC News about the call of Tim Berners Lee for a Bill of Rights to protect internet freedom, and astonishingly they managed not to mention NSA, GHCQ or government surveillance at any point.  They had an “expert” named Jenni Thomson who opined that “it is not as if anyone is looking over your shoulder all the time”, and went on to say the collection of data by facebook and google is the problem, and then was led by the BBC interviewer to the nice uncontroversial subject of education in schools for children on how to stay safe on the internet.

I had rather tended to think of the BBC’s rabid anti-independence propaganda in Scotland as an aberration, a legacy of the fact that so many in senior positions in public institutions throughout Scotland got there as Labour placemen.  Then a couple of months ago I was in Ghana watching coverage on BBC World TV and listening to BBC World Service radio, specifically relating to Egypt and the trial of President Morsi.  I suddenly noted that in all circumstances the BBC journalists and presenters were tangling themselves in knots not to refer to the military coup as a coup.  We had the “ousting”, “overthrow”, most often “removal from power following popular demonstrations”.   Occasionally BBC staff would mention it was a military “intervention”.  But they tied themselves up in knots not to say coup, even though that is precisely what happened and often was the most natural word.  Occasionally they would grind to a halt looking for an alternative.  I once heard “following the military ummm err ummm ouster of President Morsi.”

Now I understand the US government decided not to use the word “coup” because that would automatically bring in sanctions under existing legislation, so the Obama administration decided to pretend it was not a coup.  It is perhaps surprising there is no other get-out in the legislation for coups like the Egyptian military one achieved by the US and Israel, but that is a different question.  But that the BBC should follow so servilely this policy of distortion of truth ought to be shocking.

It seems few people care any longer.  There is actually rather more concern for liberty among the population at large in the US than in the UK.  Snowden’s revelations have brought almost no reaction against GCHQ’s actions in the UK, compared to some fairly strong outrage in the US.  Even the revelation here that 1.4 million people hade their webcam chats spied on by GCHQ, many of them involving sex, caused barely a ripple.  I am fairly confident that would have caused more concern in the US.  The notion of liberty appears to have been lost for now in the mental scheme of the citizenry of the UK.

There is now a great scandal in the States about the CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee as that committee compiled its report into torture and extraordinary rendition.  Even the dreadful warmonger and fanatical Zionist Dianne Feinstein is outraged by this.  Predictably, Senators are much more concerned about having their computers hacked than about people being dispatched all round the world for terrible torture on a massive scale.  The CIA’s actions have probably made it more likely that a report will eventually be published which gives more of the truth about extraordinary rendition and American torture, though I suspect that the Obama administration will make sure most of it remains buried.  There is however a chance that more will be admitted, and particularly that there will be revelations of the collusion of other governments, including our own.

In the UK, this precise matter continues to be hushed up, and there seems very little concern about that.  The Gibson Inquiry was to establish the truth, and it was simply cancelled.  Our politicians even went so far as to institute secret courts, precisely so the guilt of Blair, Straw and a host of senior spies and civil servants over torture could be kept hidden.  It will be ironic if the truth comes out through revelations by US senators outraged at being spied upon.

 

 

 


115 thoughts on “The Servile State

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  • KingofWelshNoir

    “It is still my humble opinion that the average man in the street has more to fear from the likes of facebook and google than he has from the security services.”

    What if you are an average person but one day fate selects you to do something distinctly non-average such as exposing the criminality of powerful and dangerous people? Perhaps revealing their collusion in the rendition and torture of innocent people. Whom do you have most to fear from then? Facebook or the Security Services?

    Clue: Facebook doesn’t have any prisons.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    “What if you are an average person but one day fate selects you to do something distinctly non-average such as exposing the criminality of powerful and dangerous people?”
    ____________________

    Or planning to plant a deadly object in an Underground train?

  • fred

    “What if you are an average person but one day fate selects you to do something distinctly non-average such as exposing the criminality of powerful and dangerous people? Perhaps revealing their collusion in the rendition and torture of innocent people. Whom do you have most to fear from then? Facebook or the Security Services?”

    Then you would certainly cease to be a normal person.

    “Clue: Facebook doesn’t have any prisons.”

    Someone in America was sent to prison because google sent his ex an invite to join google+ from his gmail account. There was a court order he must not contact her.

  • Jives

    Habbabkuk,

    There’s many degrees of moral cowardice.

    Id hardly look for logic either when you’re dealing with such a bitter institutional power struggle.

  • Jives

    I still find it weird that so many make a distinction between Facebook,Google etc and the security services as though they are somehow seperate entities.

  • Shetland

    Still wondering whether someone might have a clue where I can get hold of the Scotland Act 1978 online. Weird that it’s not at the usual places.

  • Jives

    Habbabkuk 6.38pm,

    Now thats a really weak point straight out of the Minstry Of Fear handbook Page 1.

    Craig,in a recent post,outlined how infinitessimally small the chances of a terrorist related death are yet we are still daily bombarded by hysterical media and politicians as though we are all imminently doomed by a terrorist event.

    Utter bollocks it all is.

  • guano

    Craig

    Please can you investigate who posted a comment under my name about Baroness Amos, mid ‘Stating the Obvious’. You may be aware of other sock-puppeting I have not had time to view in the last few days. Thanks.

  • guano

    One of the charges against Mr Mursi is that he spied on innocent citizens, checking for Islamic misdemeanors that the state had previously not been interested in. Popular revulsion against Islamic thought-crime was just as important as incompetence in the coup.

    I have plenty of evidence that Islamic thought-crime is selectively used against UK Muslims. One thing the UK powers that be are very keen not to happen is that the logic, decency and humanity of Islam become recognised by the majority in the UK.

    People of Muslim extraction will continue in that faith, but those of us who are blessed with the light of Islam after recognising its correspondence with Jewish and Christian scriptures, present a conundrum to the status quo. If we can join the dots, others might also see the joins.

  • guano

    Thanks (mods) Vieurobs for annotating the sock-puppet comments posted in my name on the Stating the Obvious’ thread.
    I am afraid that this piece of sock-puppetry was an example of someone trying to get me into trouble. Normal bullying by the thought-crime brigades. They don’t like it up ’em, do they?

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella!

    Jives

    “Now thats a really weak point straight out of the Minstry Of Fear handbook Page 1.”
    ___________________

    I’m not conversant with that handbook : ) but my point certainly wasn’t intended to spread fear.

    “Craig,in a recent post,outlined how infinitessimally small the chances of a terrorist related death are yet we are still daily bombarded by hysterical media and politicians as though we are all imminently doomed by a terrorist event”

    And of course he was right, statistically seen, but I don’t think you can deny the existence of the phenomenon/threat. Surely that is shown by the fact of the London bombings. Many terminal phenomena are extremely small – eg, death by airplane crash – but that doesn’t mean that preventive measures should not be in place; reacting only after the terminal event doesn’t help the victims very much, does it. The question of proportionality is key to this discussion, I think.

  • Phil

    As usual, hitting the spot. In this case, several sensitive spots. And, supported or extended by the many good comments (about 40, when I wrote this).

    As for your opening comments on the BBC [a] missing the point re Internet freedom (and surveillance) and [b] its use of PC language: I was proud to work for the BBC (in Wales) for much of the 22-year period I spent there. I can attest to huge and continued discussion – and argument- about precise use of language in programmes. It all changed when the BBC was invaded by ‘efficiency suits’ who kew nothing about broadcasting, nor the subtle use of the English and Welsh languages to convey an intended, direct meaning to viewers/listeners. It seems, sadly, the BBC has never really recovered, as you have amply demonstrated in condemning its continuing coverage of the Scottish referendum.

    Shifting perspective, it’s difficult to disagree with your (final paragraph) conclusion. Again, sadly –no, not a sadly, but angrily.

  • Ruth

    I think people in the UK bottle things up, they wait. The comments on articles about NSA/Snowden in the Guardian and Independent come in fast and furious and invariably show absolute disgust. It may well be that, failing MI5 manipulation, UKIP will be the winner in next year’s elections

  • Jives

    Habbabkuk 8.15pm,

    “The question of proportionality is key to this discussion, I think.”

    Correct.

    I’m sure,Habbabkuk,a certain number of people die each year from bee stings or eating peanuts yet it hardly drives a 12 year plus concerted media/military/political response costing trillions-and millions of human lives-such as we have all witnessed in the largely bogus War On Terror,Inc this last hysterical decade or so.

    So yes,some proportionality and less shrill scaremongering would be very welcome.

  • dictator tripos

    Who needs media? You can get the big picture from the Human Rights Committee: how the US measures up against the minimal civil standards of the civilized world, http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx

    Brennan’s just-war bullshit will not fly. There will be no one holding still for Clapper’s lies. No one wants to hear lip service to the US toilet-paper constitution. This is the supreme law of the land, the law that Brennan can’t revoke. No media arse-kissing.

    US disgrace goes live on http://www.treatybodywebcast.org/
    Thursday, March 13th, at 3PM in Geneva (10AM EDT, 7AM PDT)
    Friday, March 14th, at 10AM in Geneva (5AM EDT, 2AM PDT)

    Privacy rights are included, of course,
    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/03/how-un-human-rights-committee-should-apply-international-law-nsa-spying
    but we also get to see how the US complies with the law on torture, disappearance, repression, and other state predation.

  • Ben

    OT; http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/12/world/asia/malaysia-airlines-plane/

    “I think the size of the pieces … everything we’ve heard… gives good cause to believe that we’ve now (refocused) the area,” former Federal Aviation Administration official Michael Goldfarb told CNN. “And that’s a huge relief to everybody … I think it’s a high chance that they’re going to confirm that these (are) pieces of the wreckage.”

  • Clark

    Habbabkuk, 6:38pm and 8:15pm; you argue in favour of surveillance of the entire population, the complete elimination of privacy. Your first pro-surveillance argument seems deliberately misleading:

    “…reacting only after the terminal event doesn’t help the victims very much, does it.”

    Traditional policing and intelligence was never “only after the terminal event”, as you certainly ought to know. A simple examination of 9/11 reveals that all the information necessary to prevent that atrocity had already been discovered by traditional policing and intelligence methods, but the authorities failed to act upon it:

    http://inplaceoffear.blogspot.com/2008/11/9-11-warnings-ignored-timeline-summer.html

    http://inplaceoffear.blogspot.com/2008/11/they-didnt-even-try-to-keep-americans.html

    Please explain to me (and yes, I’m requesting an answer) how irrelevant information on two hundred and fifty million innocent people would have done anything other than muddy the water further?

    “The question of proportionality is key to this discussion, I think.”

    Proportionality! Monitoring the communication of the entire population as a supposed precaution against the smallest minority of criminals; how can you regard this as rational? It has to be the least cost effective way of detecting terrorist plots, an utterly scatter-gun approach. Can you offer me any evidence that mass surveillance has prevented any such crime? Even in theory you cannot, as the entire programme is secret! So let us turn to someone who will inform the electorate and taxpayers such that they can make an informed choice; Edward Snowden’s testimony to the European Parliament:

    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/03/10/snow-m10.html

    Snowden refutes claims by US spy chiefs who “once claimed that 54 terrorist attacks had been stopped by mass surveillance.” He notes that such claims have never been verified, adding that even the “White House’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, determined that the mass surveillance program investigated was not only ineffective — they found it had never stopped even a single imminent terrorist attack — but that it had no basis in law.”

    The “greatest success the program had ever produced was discovering a taxi driver in the United States transferring $8,500 dollars to Somalia in 2007,” writes Snowden.

    While the whole population was under surveillance, this did not prevent the Boston Marathon bombers from carrying out their operation. Snowden wrote, “Despite the Russians specifically warning us about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the FBI couldn’t do more than a cursory investigation — although they did plenty of worthless computer-based searching — and failed to discover the plot. 264 people were injured, and 3 died. The resources that could have paid for a real investigation had been spent on monitoring the call records of everyone in America.” [my emphasis]

    Habbabkuk, if I remember correctly, you have claimed to be, along with Resident Dissident and ELSO, one of the few true supporters of democracy who frequents this comments section. Please answer these questions as well: since when has surveillance of the entire population been considered any part of democracy? And have the electorates of the UK and the US been given a democratic choice about becoming the subjects of their governments’ surveillance?

  • Clark

    KingofWelshNoir, 12 Mar, 6:06 pm; you have made the most important point here; comprehensive surveillance is oppression.

    The Upper Limit on Surveillance in a Democracy

    If whistleblowers don’t dare reveal crimes and lies, we lose the last shred of effective control over our government and institutions. That’s why surveillance that enables the state to find out who has talked with a reporter is too much surveillance—too much for democracy to endure.

    https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/surveillance-vs-democracy.html

  • Mary

    ‘Take arms firms out of the Big Bang Fair
    The Guardian, Wednesday 12 March 2014 21.00 GMT

    BAE Systems and EADS in talks about merger
    Big Bang Fair sponsor BAE Systems’ stand at another event, the Farnborough International Airshow in 2012. Photograph: BAE Systems (photo)

    As engineers, health professionals, educationists and others who believe in the power of science and engineering as a force for good, we are writing to condemn the continued sponsorship of today’s Big Bang Fair by BAE Systems and other arms companies such as Thales, Selex ES, Doosan, Rolls-Royce and Airbus. It might seem like a joke: the UK’s largest youth science and engineering education event, named the Big Bang Fair, is sponsored by companies who make very big bangs indeed. Except the arms trade isn’t funny. All of these companies have a track record of supplying countries with appalling human rights records. Doosan is involved in cluster bomb manufacture.

    The casual and unquestioned way these companies are allowed public relations space at educational events reflects a serious problem at the heart of modern British science. We need programmes which offer young people unbiased spaces to learn about science and engineering as it is currently constituted – including environmental and human rights concerns – and what it could look like.

    If the government is serious in its support of science and engineering – not just a few choice companies associated with them – it must invest more fully in education so the Big Bang Fair 2015 need not be reliant on sponsorship which so narrows its scope. We were pleased to learn that several (though not all) of the fossil fuel companies associated with previous fairs have disappeared from the list of sponsors.

    Big Bang 2014 is a slightly less dystopian vision of engineering than it has been in the past. Let’s drop the arms trade and do something truly inspirational in the future.’

    ~~~

    Heartening to see the many signatories to this letter.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/12/arms-firms-big-bang-fair

  • Mary

    There are three uses of the word ‘militant’ in this BBC report on the rocket attacks from Gaza and the Israeli reprisals. Last night in a previous report, there were seven such uses. The word is always used to describe Palestinians. The IDF have ‘soldiers’.

    Israeli planes hit Gaza in response to rocket strikes
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-26555742

    There was no mention in the news broadcasts last night of the fact that Israel killed three people in Gaza earlier in the week in air strikes.

    Nor any mention of this killing of a 38 year old Jordanian judge by the IDF at the Allenby bridge on Monday.

    Jordan: IDF lying about Allenby incident, dead judge did not try to seize soldier’s gun
    http://www.albawaba.com/news/israel-jordan-560516

    And Cameron talks of two states.

  • Ba'al Zevul (Quantum Sense)

    “I don’t think you can deny the existence of the phenomenon/threat. Surely that is shown by the fact of the London bombings.” (Hab)

    Which were not picked up, let alone prevented, by surveillance. The reason being there was nothing to distinguish these lads from anyone walking past the numerous CCTV cameras en route without bombs. In any imaginable case, there is far too much irrelevant data on a CCTV record to be of any use before the event, and CCTV can only be useful in identifying perpetrators long after the victims have died. Scrub CCTV, then. It’s not for our protection, and as far as suicide bombers are concerned, it’s pretty pointless when it comes to bringing them to justice. Humint failed completely to flag up the bombers: and any self-respecting terrorist must surely know how not to leave a humint footprint by now. The rationale seems to be that as “our” quarry behaves exactly like any other citizen, all citizens are now suspects. Twisted logic. And bang goes our liberal democracy. Terrorists 1, democrats 0.

  • Ba'al Zevul (Quantum Sense)

    “There was no mention in the news broadcasts last night of the fact that Israel killed three people in Gaza earlier in the week in air strikes.”

    There was this morning. However,I recall no mention of the earlier attacks when they actually happened. Perhaps last week’s celebrity [insert name here] was getting an award for being fairly well known?

  • Mary

    A PS – the reality for the Palestinian people.

    10 March. Origin – Palestine Monitoring Group.

    Israeli Army shoots dead Palestinian bus passenger
    West Bank villager shot dead by Israeli Army
    Israeli Navy opens fire on Palestinian fishing boats
    Gaza incursion: shelling and live fire as Israeli Army destroys crops
    Israeli Army home invasion and occupation – beating – hospitalisation
    Occupation settlers annex Palestinian farmland and uproot olive trees
    Zionist fanatics annex Palestinian farmland and bulldoze crops
    Israeli Army destroys part of West Bank village public park
    Israeli soldiers abduct 4 Palestinian minors aged 16 to 17
    Night peace disruption and/or home invasions in 14 towns and villages

    4 attacks – 22 raids including home invasions
    1 beaten – 2 dead – 4 injured
    4 acts of agricultural/economic sabotage
    11 taken prisoner – 10 detained – 108 restrictions of movement

  • Bena

    One reason for the silence in Britain is that the main opposition party, Labour, was as involved in creating the surveillance state as the current government is in continuing it.

    Things become political issues when they are taken up by political parties.

  • Mary

    How about Grieve going to the Supreme Court on this decision? Rather too much doffing of the forelock Dominic I would say.

    Prince Charles letters: attorney general acted unlawfully, say senior judges
    Ruling in the court of appeal backs Guardian campaign to have letters to ministers released under freedom of information law

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/mar/12/attorney-general-unlawful-prince-charles-letters

    Yet he saw no injustice in Dr David Kelly having had no inquest when an appeal was made to him in the High Court in December 2011.

    ~~~

    Meanwhile the ugly royal camp followers were at Cheltenham yesterday in their ugly hats and ugly clothes put on their backs by us, the serf taxpayers.

    Camilla likes the colour of money by the look on her face as she counts her winnings. Hard to tell the horses from the humans.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2579184/Royals-wrap-races-Zara-Phillips-Princess-Anne-Camilla-flutter-Cheltenham-Ladies-Day.html

    Horrible in close up.
    https://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/03/12/article-2578985-1C3A0BF900000578-913_964x581.jpg

    Some of the other riff raff.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2578985/Its-Ladies-Day-Girls-pearls-fillies-fur-centre-stage-sun-comes-day-two-Cheltenham-Festival.html

    Only three horses have been killed so far. So that’s alright then.
    http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/mar/12/two-horses-die-cheltenham-festival-our-conor

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