Archive for the ‘Edward Snowden’ Category

The Lives of Others

October 14, 2013

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The East German Stasi were cavemen compared to the NSA. Their low-tech and labor-intensive bugging of individuals’ apartments seems crude and childish compared to the NSA’s wholesale monitoring of the Internet. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s 2006 film, The Lives of Others is an un-nostalgic trip back to those more primitive days of government spying.

Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is a Stasi agent who has been assigned to spy on Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) a highly regarded East German playwright whom the Culture Minister, Minister Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme), suspects of having disloyal thoughts. The Stasi plant listening devices in the apartment that Dreyman shares with Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck). Wiesler proceeds to listen in on their private conversations. At the beginning of the film, Hempf tells Wiesler that “people don’t change”. (This is about as un-Marxist a statement as one could possibly make.) Yet as Wiesler learns about the tender relationship between Georg and Christa-Maria and about Georg’s grief over the suicide of a friend who was blacklisted by the government, he begins to change. He ends up falsifying his records to conceal the fact that Georg is planning to smuggle a document out of the country.

The Lives of Others is an understated film that creates suspense through the emotional states of the characters. It is also a film that affirms the possibility of human redemption. I consider it one of the best films of the last decade.

The film critic, Carrie Rickey, has claimed that The Lives of Others influenced Edward Snowden, but I have not been able to find any statements by Snowden that confirm this. In a way, though, this film does bear a similarity to the Snowden case, in that it depicts a government spy who comes to realize the wrongness of what he is doing.

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A Reply to Noam Chomsky: America’s Imperial Power Is Not in Decline

August 4, 2013

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Aletnet has posted an article by Noam Chomsky entitled America’s Imperial Power Is Showing Real Signs of Decline. Chomsky cites as proof of his claim the fact that the Organization of American States (O.A.S.) has passed a resolution condemning the countries that refused to allow Evo Morales’s plane to enter their airspace last month. However, I doubt that this resolution will have any concrete results. What is of greater significance is the incident that led to this resolution in the first place. The U.S. apparently pressured four countries – France, Italy, Portugal and Spain – into denying passage through their airspace to the President of Bolivia, in the belief that Edward Snowden might be on his plane. In doing so, these countries not only violated international law, they insulted the leader of a resource-rich nation. So, the U.S. got four governments to act against their own best interests. That’s a pretty impressive display of political power, if you ask me.

Chomsky argues that the U.S. no longer wields as much influence over Latin America as it once did. This is true, but a major reason for this is that since the 9/11 attacks, U.S. foreign policy has shifted its focus to the Middle East and southern Asia. The U.S. now wields greater power in that region of the world than ever before. The U.S. carries out drone attacks in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen with impunity. The U.S. now has military bases set up throughout the region. The Arab Spring was a setback, but the U.S. has since been able to reassert its influence in the countries involved.

Empires don’t always get what they want. When the British empire was at its height, the British suffered a military defeat in Afghanistan. A resolution passed by Latin American countries is no proof that the U.S. empire is in decline. Neither is Putin’s refusal to extradite Snowden.

Chomsky wants to believe the U.S. is in decline when it really isn’t.

Israel Shamir, Again

July 21, 2013

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On July 17, CounterPunch posted an article by Israel Shamir entitled Snowden in Moscow. In it, Shamir writes:

    Snowden was not seeking limelight, quite the opposite! He wished to stop the crimes being committed by No Such Agency in the name of American people, no more, no less. He hoped to become a new Deep Throat, whose identity would never be revealed. His first profound revelations were made by correspondence; he flew to Hong Kong as he was familiar with the place, spoke fluent Chinese, and planned to return home to Hawaii. It appears that the Guardian Newspaper pushed him into revealing his identity.

Shamir cites no sources for this. It should be clear that his claim implicates Glenn Greenwald, since Greenwald was the Guardian‘s contact with Snowden.

Shamir’s article has caused something of a row, as reported in an article in Popular Resistance. The article includes an exchange of e-mails between Kit Flynn, Greenwald, and Shamir, in which Greenwald flatly denies Shamir’s claim. (He also calls Shamir “an idiot”.) In one of the e-mails, Shamir makes the following revealing comment: “As probably you are aware, I am not a friend of the Guardian, a newspaper that smeared me in many possible ways.”

In its July 19-21 issue, CounterPunch posted Shamir’s reply to the Popular Resistance aricle, entitled Snowden in London: A Postscript. In it, Shamir writes:

    Naturally Greenwald (whom I never even mentioned) did not make decisions for Snowden, as far as I know. As for responsibility – yes, I do think that the Guardian was responsible for providing Snowden with a safe route. Remember, Hong Kong was a preferred (by Brits) jurisdiction to arrange for rendition, as Counterpunch reported.

    Journalism is a rough game, but it is still a human occupation. You can’t take a guy, goad him into spilling the beans, and drop him at the gate of police station. Even if he was ready to tell all he knew: still one is responsible for his safety.

    Apparently we have different ideas of responsibility. My idea: “one should protect the source; help the man to reach safety, and only then to release info.” Their idea: “publish and let the guy fry. It is his choice. We are just publishing.”

    I am being guided by compassion to the defector (for Snowden is a defector from the Power to the People side), PopRes and GG are guided by cold-nosed wish to get the stuff and dump the guy.

Isn’t this cute? Shamir starts out by denying that he ever accused Greenwald of pushing Snowden, and he then proceeds to imply that that is just what Greenwald did. (Note that Shamir doesn’t acknowledge that Greenwald has put himself at risk by reporting Snowden’s revelations.)

Shamir then gives us this high-minded sentiment:

    This is the bottom line, and we could reach it without so much of abuse and vehemence. We have different ideas of responsibility. Let us remain – each one – with these ideas. I have no wish to argue these points again.

Don’t you just hate this guy?

M.I.A Knew about N.S.A. Spying Three Years Before News Media Did

June 23, 2013

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In 2010, the British pop singer, M.I.A., released a song called “The Message”, which contains the line: “Your headphones connected to your iPhone / Your iPhone’s connected to the Internet / The Internet’s connected to the Google / The Google’s connected to the Government.” Which is an accurate description of what’s been going on.

The Justice Department has just announced its plans to charge Edward Snowden with espionage. It seems that the government and its supporters in the news media are outraged that an N.S.A. employee dared to tell the American people what any intelligent person could have guessed.