Archive for May, 2014

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State
By Glenn Greenwald
Signal/McClelland & Stewart
259 pp; $29.95
Review by Jeet Heer

A patriotic martyr in the eyes of some, a traitor in the view of others, Edward Snowden is undeniably and admirably jaunty in the face of extreme danger. Last May, Snowden, then a 29-year-old contractor on leave from the National Security Agency (NSA), met with journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill in Hong Kong, where he gave them a world-changing scoop: supported by thousands of documents downloaded from his employer, Snowden revealed that the NSA has been engaged in a massive global campaign of cybernetic espionage, a far-reaching invasion of privacy that involved intercepting billions of communication events (including phone calls, email exchanges, and Skype conversations) every single day.
Snowden’s blockbuster story implicated not just the United States government, but also many close allies such as Canada and the United Kingdom as well as some of the largest corporations in the world, including Apple, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Facebook.
“I call bottom bunk at Gitmo,” Snowden quipped as Greenwald and his fellow journalists starting writing up startling disclosure. As it happens, Snowden has so far been able to evade jail time for his epic security breach, finding protection first in Hong Kong and now in Moscow where, in Greenwald’s words, the former NSA employee safely resides “under the shield of political asylum.” The fact that Snowden has received a measure of protection from the anti-democratic governments of China and Russia has made him vulnerable to both sober criticism and scurrilous nationalist innuendo. Snowden’s claims to be working on behalf of democracy rang hollow, some argued, since he’s made himself a ward of Vladimir Putin. The New York Times went so far to suggest, on the basis of no actual evidence, that China had “drained” Snowden’s laptops before he left Hong Kong.
Both Snowden and the journalists who broke the story, led by Greenwald, have been hammered by media pundits. Snowden was repeatedly described as “narcissistic” (on CBS News and the Washington Post among other outlets) as well as a “loser” (by Politico). Greenwald meanwhile was dismissed as either an amateur in over his head (a blogger rather than a journalist) or an outlaw (according to self-described civil libertarian Alan Dershowitz, Greenwald’s reporting “doesn’t border on criminality — it’s right in the heartland of criminality.”)
Because of the vast dust-storm of accusations generated by Snowden’s revelations, Glenn Greenwald’s No Place to Hide is not a dispassionate rehearsal of the facts of the case. Rather, Greenwald’s book is a spiky and largely convincing polemic making a few essential points: that Snowden is a legitimate whistleblower rather than a turncoat; that the NSA is out of control and aiming at “the complete elimination of electronic privacy worldwide”; that NSA electronic eavesdropping is motivated not by anti-terrorism but by a desire to shore up America’s economic hegemony; that Greenwald and his colleague are practising legitimate journalism while mainstream publications like The New York Times have been far too timid in criticizing government misconduct.
A seasoned litigator before he found his vocation as a muckraker, Greenwald makes a compelling case but not an airtight one. Like many lawyers, he tends to indulge in overkill, offering so many different arguments that he occasionally shades into contradiction. Thus he criticizes the NSA for routinely sharing “its vast trove of data with other agencies” such as the CIA and FBI. But he later approvingly quotes Lawrence Wright’s argument that the 9/11 terrorist attacks could have been prevented if the FBI had received “cooperation with other federal agencies.” If we accept, as Greenwald seems to do, Wright’s argument that lack of inter-agency co-operation had dire consequences, then the NSA’s willingness to share data with other agencies has some merit.
Greenwald tends to paint the world in black and white terms, making little allowances for historical complexity, including the convolutions of his own past. Thus he criticizes Senator Dianne Feinstein for “her vehement support for the war in Iraq.” Yet we know from Greenwald’s How Would a Patriot Act? (2006) that he himself approved of the Iraq War in 2003.
Vincent Yu/APIn this June 10, 2013, file photo The Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald speaks to reporters at his hotel in Hong Kong.
Despite the problems with Greenwald’s lawyer-type arguments, No Place to Hide is an indispensable book for anyone who cares about the future of privacy, not just in the United States but throughout the world. As Greenwald notes, Canada is completely integrated into NSA espionage since it is one of the “Five Eyes” (the core English speaking countries that work in unison on electronic spying, which also includes the United States, Britain, New Zealand and Australia). Working with the NSA, the Communications Services Establishment Canada (CSEC) spied on trading partners such as Brazil. Explosive exposés like this are thick in Greenwald’s book and solidify his reputation as one of the premier investigative journalists of our time.
Even the most placid and phlegmatic person can become paranoid after reading Greenwald’s book. Shortly after I sent an email to a National Post editor agreeing to review the book, I received an odd Facebook message from a young woman I didn’t know, who seemed to be a teenager in Britain, saying she liked my profile photo and wanted to be my friend. As some Snowden documents reveal, the British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is fond of using “honey pots” (sexually compromising email encounters) to entrap potential critics. My mysterious and nubile Facebook pal was probably just normal Internet spam, but there is a slim possibility she is also a GCHQ honey pot.
The vitriolic exchanges between Greenwald and his fellow journalists are rich in mutual disdain but not very enlightening. To Greenwald, journalists who work for the mainstream media are courtiers serving the powerful. Those mainstream mavens in turn see Greenwald as an activist who doesn’t follow the rules of objectivity.
One way to sidestep this unproductive debate is to realize that journalism comes in different stripes, but all reporters are prisoners of their sources. Political journalists often have a status quo bias because those in power are the ones who provide information. Conversely, muckrakers in the tradition of Ida B. Wells, I.F. Stone or Seymour Hersh have more freedom to attack vested interests because they get their information from other sources, often ordinary people or whistleblowers.
Edward Snowden isn’t just a source for Greenwald: The two men forged a personal link because of a shared sense of mission and world view. As Greenwald notes about the working relationship he had with Snowden and Poitras, “with each passing day, the hours and hours the three of us spent together created a tighter bond. The awkwardness and tension of our initial meeting had quickly transformed into a relationship of collaboration, trust, and common purpose.”
Those who argue that Greenwald lacks objectivity because of his loyalty to Snowden don’t understand how journalism works. Reporting necessarily involves forging relationships based on trust. The power of this book is that it makes a persuasive case for why Greenwald came to trust Edward Snowden.

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Propaganda is a wonderful thing. It is amazing how subtle semantics can distort reality. Here’s an article from Pravda, reporting on recent developments in eastern Ukraine. Notice the synonyms in use: self-defense forces instead of anarchist terrorists; punitive operation against the civilians instead of defending territorial integrity of our sovereign nation. As a child of parents who fled the dual scourges of nazism and communism it is easy for me to read between the lines. But for others, especially those who only receive the biased and false drivel spewed by Pravda and other Russian controlled media, it is understandable how they could perceive the actions of the Ukrainian government as an aggressor’s violation of their so-called ethnic rights. And how the placement of 40,000 Russian troops by the border is an effort to stem violations against Russian citizens vs a brutal and obvious attempt to intimidate a lesser armed and peaceful neighbor as as precursor to annexation of more territory.

Ukraine sends 20 tanks and 30 APCs to break resistance in Slavyansk
07.05.2014 | Source:

Ukraine sends 20 tanks and 30 APCs to break resistance in Slavyansk.

Combat actions in the town of Slavyansk in the south-east of Ukraine continued at night of May 6. At nightfall, the Ukrainian troops launched an attack on the positions of self-defense forces. Two powerful explosions were heard on the outskirts of the city. It was also said that Kiev had sent Grad rocket launchers to the site of the operation.

New units of Ukrainian forces arrived near Slavyansk for the punitive operation against the civilians, who do not agree to live under illegitimate Kiev authorities. In particular, 20 tanks and 30 armored vehicles of various modifications were delivered to Lozovaya railway station. The column moved in the direction of Slavyansk and stopped 20 kilometers from the city.

Prior to that, the Ukrainian military tried to take the village of Semyonovka, a suburb of Slavyansk. Bloody battles continued in the village for two days.

Currently the situation in Slavyansk is quiet. There is no shooting, but self-defense fighters prepare for a possible aggravation of the situation. They do not leave their positions and are ready to fight, should the Ukrainian military start the operation to storm the town.

Civilians still remain blocked in Slavyansk. They could not leave the town as a humanitarian corridor had not been provided for them. Self-defense fighters still control the town. Nothing has been reported about victims of most recent actions.

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