Archive for the ‘Homeland Security’ 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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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.

What Were They Thinking?

June 12, 2013

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Edward Snowden

To me, the most astonishing thing about the most recent scandal plaguing the government is that the Obama Administration actually believed that it could keep such an immense operation a secret. I remember that when I would argue with 9/11 conspiracy theorists, one of the points I would make was that the conspiracy they were describing would have involved so many participants that it would have been impossible to keep it a secret. (This argument is even more powerful when applied to the “moon landing was a hoax” conspiracy theory.) It now appears that those supposedly hard-nosed realists who control our national security apparatus are every bit as naïve as those 9/11 Truthers. A sobering revelation.

If Edward Snowden hadn’t spilled the beans about this, somebody else would have eventually done so. It was only a matter of time. This hasn’t prevented the punditocracy from vilifying Snowden, calling him, among other things, a “narcissist”, as if these people weren’t obvious narcissists themselves. It shows you how much the War on Terror has corrupted our society that many of our journalists don’t even pretend to care about civil liberties and government transparency any more.

One must also question the intelligence of the corporate executives who went along with this insane scheme. At least one person has pointed out that this scandal threatens the future of the whole U.S. Internet industry. I guess maybe these guys aren’t so smart after all.

It’s always good to see the one percent make fools out of themselves.

Big Brother

June 7, 2013

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The recent revelations about massive government spying on the American people should come as no surprise. Indeed, they merely confirm what many of us have suspected for quite some time now. It’s worth noting here that all this obsessive information gathering did not prevent the Boston Marathon bombings from happening. The reason for this should be obvious: no terrorist with half a brain is going to discuss his plans over a cell phone or over the Internet. Even the Tsarnaev brothers, who weren’t exactly the brightest bulbs, knew better than that.

So, how concerned should we be about this? As long as you aren’t doing anything illegal, you shouldn’t be too concerned. The government, however, keeps expanding the boundaries of what is illegal. (In New York state, for example, it is now a felony to annoy a police officer. During the time I lived in New York, I got the impression that the cops there were a bit touchy. I imagine it can’t be that hard to annoy them.)

The Internet is a useful organizing tool, but it clearly has its limits and it should be used with caution. Those who have argued that the Internet is the solution to all the Left’s problems should reconsider their position. It’s clear that the Left can’t rely solely upon the Internet.

Homeland Security and the Politics of Helplessness

May 22, 2013

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A new report from the Center for Media and Democracy documents how this nation’s anti-terrorism police collaborated with businesses to attack the Occupy movement of 2011 to 2012. Alternet reports:

    The report specifically looks at the activities of “fusion centers,” or law enforcement entities created after 9/11 that transform local police forces into counter-terror units in partnership with federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security. The fusion centers devoted a lot of time–to the point of “obsession,” the report notes–to monitoring the Occupy movement, particularly for any “threats” to public safety or health and to whether there were “extremists” involved in the movement.

Those of us who worried that the Department of Homeland Security created after the 9/11 attacks would be used to suppress political dissent have seen our worst fears realized. The government and corporations did everything they could to crush a non-violent movement that spoke people’s anger at the greed of the banks and of Wall Street. The result has the near stifling of any resistance to the corporate agenda.

In such an atmosphere, it is no surprise that people turn to conspiracy theories to explain their problems. Conspiracy theories are the opiate of the politically defeated. Greg Palast’s good buddy Alex Jones – who last month claimed that the Boston Marathon bombings were a “false flag operation” – has suggested that the recent tornado in Oklahoma was the work of a government-owned weather machine. According to Media Matters:

    Following a long tangent, Jones returned to the caller’s subject. While he explained that “natural tornadoes” do exist and that he’s not sure if a government “weather weapon” was involved in the Oklahoma disaster, Jones warned nonetheless that the government “can create and steer groups of tornadoes.”

    According to Jones, this possibility hinges on whether people spotted helicopters and small aircraft “in and around the clouds, spraying and doing things.” He added, “if you saw that, you better bet your bottom dollar they did this, but who knows if they did. You know, that’s the thing, we don’t know.”

The price that we pay for having let Bush and Obama create a police state is a long descent into national infantilism.