12 08 2013

What Charlie Pierce said:

Over on CBS, former Toussaint L’Ouverture embed Bob Schieffer talked a lot of NSA with a lot of people whose careers depended on the surveillance state, but managed to keep his show blessedly free of fringe congresscritters. But General Michael Hayden admitted that he got a little a’skeer’ed a couple of weeks ago when democracy threatened to break out in the House over the NSA programs.

GENERAL MICHAEL HAYDEN: You’re referring to the vote, on a twelve-vote margin a couple of weeks back. Bob, that wasn’t— that wasn’t regular order. That wasn’t thoughtful procedure. Let me be a little critical here, all right. That looked a lot like mob action. I mean people acting out of emotion with a false sense of urgency, and with a great deal of misinformation.

I’m not great fan of the House Of Representatives as it is presently constituted. There’s far too much Gohmertian nonsense for my taste, but when a career spook starts talking about a perfectly legitimate legislative process as a “mob action,” I find that I have better things to be nervous about than Steve King.

And need I point out the General Fear-Mongerer had no problem with “emotion” and “a great deal of misinformation” in the passage of the PATRIOT Act, nor with “a false sense of urgency” in the run-up to the Iraq War?

Rat bastard in a uniform.

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Nothing to hide, believe what I say

8 08 2013

What a shocker: “protester” is an undercover cop.

This should surprise exactly no one.

Police forces-have a long and dishonorable history of infiltration of and provocation among organized protest groups—never mind the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly. Those tasked to “protect and serve” forget that protesters, too, deserve protection and service.

Anyway, given that long history of surveillance and disruption, the best course for any protest organization is to be open and public as possible: hide nothing, publicize everything.

There may be bits that it makes sense to keep under wraps for tactical reasons—the location of a pop-up protest, for example, might be texted to members at the last minute—and those involved in present-day sanctuary movements of whatever sort have good reason for discretion, but on the whole, if the purpose is to raise public consciousness, change public opinion, or call for new/different laws, then the best bet is to embrace one’s status as a public entity and throw everything into the open.

Will this prevent police surveillance? Almost certainly not. But it will both eliminate the need to waste any time worrying about who among the crowd might be a cop and inoculate the group against claims of criminality.

(Of course, there are protesters who embrace criminality as the best/only way to undermine/overthrow the whole shebang, so, yeah, secrecy might be the best bet for them. It will also, in combination with the criminality which requires it, curb their effectiveness in under-/over- mining/throwing.)

This, for example, is the wrong attitude to take:

[United Students Against Sweatshop protester] Shishido Strain says his run-ins with Rizzi have already made him wary of strangers who want to get involved in fights for workers’ rights.

“I have personally become much more cautious with people who express support for us at actions and others who express an interest in joining our actions, if I do not know them already,” he says.

I  get why Strain is concerned, but if your group has any sway whatsoever, it’d be so much easier simply to assume cops are present, and move on. Don’t let ’em distract you, don’t let ’em limit your efforts to reach out.

Open subversion: it’s the better way.

~~~

None of this is to say that cops shouldn’t be sued each and every time they infringe upon the Constitutional rights of protesters. You can be open without being a sap.





Hit me with your best shot

24 06 2013

Quick hit:

I think the reason most Americans don’t seem to care about the massive secret agency info-suck is the same reason most Americans don’t seem to care about the massive numbers of us imprisoned for long periods of time in inhumane conditions.

Actually, two, related reasons. One, we don’t think “we” are at any risk of having info used against us/imprisonment and thus don’t feel any sympathy for or solidarity with “them”, who are justly targeted.

Two, we punish legislators who are “soft on crime/terrorism”, not those who are harsh—again, because those legislators are protecting “us” against “them”.

At its worst, this kind of thinking means that any questions of responses to crime/terrorism opens the question-er to intimations that she might not be one of “us”, not to be trusted, and, perhaps, should come under the same type of treatment as “them”.

Damned effective at keeping “us” in line.





Whisper to a scream

6 06 2013

Why aren’t I screaming?

After all, one guy points his camera at the windows of a nearby building and I rant about privacy and presumption; Google wants to equip people with awkward glass and I grouch about techno-coercion; and surveillance drones? Oy, don’t get me started.

So you’d think the revelations of NSA scooping up basic phone information on everyone as well as everything that’s posted online, would cause my ears to blow clean off of my head.

Except, nope.

Not because I don’t think it’s a big deal—I think it’s a very big deal—but because this is all completely unfuckingsurprising.

This isn’t about Obama or Bush, but about a dynamic of presidential politics wherein the executive will grab as much power as he can, especially when the Congress orders him to do so. Some constitutional scholars have speculated that the Obama administration’s actions are unconstitutional, but it’s not at all clear that a Supreme Court which thinks swiping some DNA from every arrested person is okey-dokey by the Fourth Amendment is going to push back against both the president and Congress on NATIONALSECURITY!!!! matters.

Will Congress do anything? Ha. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) might now be ‘extremely troubled’ by revelations over the extent of data-hoovering, but just what the fuck did an author of the execrable PATRIOT Act think would happen when said Act howled ‘AAAARRGGHH! SAAAAVE US!’ to the president.

And We the People? We want to be safe and secure, so if we have to take off our shoes at airports or belts before entering federal buildings or open our bags before getting on trains, then that’s what we’ll do. Oh, sure, we might grumble, but will we press our representatives and our senators to chop back the national security apparatus or reign in the president? We will not.

In fact, if, say, two young men happen to set off two bombs at a city celebration we’ll wonder where was the FBI and the CIA and the Dept of Homeland Security and what more can be done to keep this from ever happening again.

This is overstatement, of course: many of us will say, Hey, this couldn’t have been prevented, there are limits as to what can or should be done. But this shrug (or stoicism, if you prefer) won’t go much further than our living rooms, and those motivated to take their security-skepticism to the halls of Congress might meet a few sympathetic legislators, but not enough to change anything.

Maybe the courts will manage to rouse themselves from the stupor induced by NATIONALSECURITY!!! hypnosis and remember that the Constitution also has something to say about liberty and due process and, oh yes, ‘the right of the people to be secure in their own person‘—but I ain’t counting on it.

This, then, is why I’m not screaming: It would be a waste of perfectly good breath.

~~~

h/t for Joshua Foust link: James Fallows





If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

6 03 2013

Do you become more or less of a crank the more real your anxieties become?

I’ve joked that I’m a privacy crank (even as I realize the, ah, complexities of worrying over privacy on a public blog), but I’ve felt pretty confident that I’d be able to balance my antipathy to any kind of tracking with desire to participate in a full social life. I accept cookies in order to access certain websites, but periodically clear my cache and browser history; I have a cell phone which I can use to text and *gasp* talk, but which doesn’t have a GPS. I search on Google, but not while I’m signed in to my job-related Google account (which, outside of work, I never use).

And I live and work and ride the trains of and walk around New York City, which has CCTV mounted in train stations and on the sidewalk. I don’t like the surveillance cameras, but as a small and plain person, I doubt very much that I’m camera-candy.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

But it seems as if the chances of being both social and private are dissolving in the corrosive effects of a culture which wants only to “share” and technologies which enable such sharing. As Mark Hurst points out, while one could try to minimize the omni-info maw of social media, a technology like Google glasses sucks you in—whether you want to be so sucked or not:

Remember when people were kind of creeped out by that car Google drove around to take pictures of your house? Most people got over it, because they got a nice StreetView feature in Google Maps as a result.

Google Glass is like one camera car for each of the thousands, possibly millions, of people who will wear the device – every single day, everywhere they go – on sidewalks, into restaurants, up elevators, around your office, into your home. From now on, starting today, anywhere you go within range of a Google Glass device, everything you do could be recorded and uploaded to Google’s cloud, and stored there for the rest of your life. You won’t know if you’re being recorded or not; and even if you do, you’ll have no way to stop it.

And that, my friends, is the experience that Google Glass creates. That is the experience we should be thinking about. The most important Google Glass experience is not the user experience – it’s the experience of everyone else. The experience of being a citizen, in public, is about to change. [emph in the original]

Y’know those illegal cell-signal blockers? Would they work on something like this? If not, someone is working on countering this, right? Right?

Because, at some point, if you can’t legally opt out of this surveillance without opting out of society, those of us who want to be around other people without being subject to their tracking techs might want to consider, mmm, other ways to remain free social beings.

. . . . Yeah, I really am a crank, aren’t I?