Because they can

by John Quiggin on August 19, 2013

For any ordinary organization, the detention of David Miranda by British security authorities, coming hot on the heels of a major NY Times article detailing the similar treatment routinely dished out to Laura Poitras and other critics of the US security establishment would seem like a major PR blunder.

But, in this case, it seems more like an upraised middle finger, one in a series designed to show that the security apparatus can do whatever it likes, and no one who matters will try to rein it in, let alone hold it accountable. After all, this is small beer compared to the Morales grounding last month. The security state had only to snap its fingers, and at least four allegedly independent states closed their airspace to a plane carrying the president of another. The European governments concerned were at least shamed into apologising[^1], but those in Washington who gave the orders remain unidentified (it’s not even clear that Obama signed off on this) unrepentant, and unchecked by the watchdogs of the US Press.

Perhaps this time they’ve gone one step too far. Even their defenders in the media are losing faith, as are many individual politicians. But the executive government remains unmoved, at least in the English-speaking world. Neither Obama nor Cameron nor any of their counterparts has taken any steps to rein in abuses of the extraordinary powers of the security state, let alone to reduce those powers. And, looking at the miraculous transformation of civil libertarians like Obama once they gain office, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they couldn’t do so even if they wanted to.

Rather, the apparatchiks of the security state do as they choose, because they can.

Against that, it’s hard to see what kind of power can protect the security apparatus now that it is operating, to some extent in the harsh light of day. In the Snowden matter alone, the security state has trashed relations with Russia, China, and most of Latin America, as well as gravely embarrassing its UK and EU client agencies, and yet they are further than ever from getting their man. And the best case they can come up with involves four men convicted of sending the grand total of $8,500 to al-Shabab in Somalia – is this really worth logging every phone call and email in the US, and tapping everything they can outside the US? At some point, surely this must become a political liability too costly to carry.

[^1]: Latin American governments protested against the violation of Ecuadorian Bolivian sovereignty. But the real violation of sovereignty was the humiliating exposure of the client status of France, Spain, Italy and Portugal.

{ 93 comments }

1

Rmj 08.19.13 at 11:39 am

In the Snowden matter alone, the security state has trashed relations with Russia, China, and most of Latin America, as well as gravely embarrassing its UK and EU client agencies, and yet they are further than ever from getting their man.

Sorry, assumes facts not in evidence. Relations with Russia were bad before Snowden got there. He didn’t start that.

They weren’t so great with the “Latin American” countries, either, at least not the ones outraged about the plane trip. Again, Snowden is an excuse, not a reason.

“Further than ever from getting their man”? I rather doubt it. Russia was going to give Snowden temporary asylum; I think everyone knew that (what they say and what they mean are two different things). But has Snowden been granted permanent asylum? Made a Russian citizen? That would put him far away from being returned to the U.S.

This is a long game.

I do think the real question is: does the NSA model of hoovering up every bit of data for analysis actually work? When is the analysis done? By whom? Generally what you are looking for is what you find; so what is the NSA looking for, and how does it hope to find it in the indiscriminate aggregation of data? Frankly, I’m more concerned with the false security this model of “intelligence” is producing.

2

Rmj 08.19.13 at 11:51 am

Rather, the apparatchiks of the security state do as they choose, because they can.

I’m not so sure about this, either.

Andrew F., in comments to the post immediately below, provides the language of the British statute. I’m no fan of such overly broad language, but it is the law of Britain. Are “appartchiks” running amok? Or are they following the law?

Ire should be aimed at the roots of the tree of evil, not the branches.

3

Ben 08.19.13 at 12:01 pm

“At some point, surely this must become a political liability too costly to carry.”

Good Christ let’s hope so. But it’s hard to be optimistic. (Is there any example of a state rolling back the basic infrastructure of its intelligence gathering programs after they’ve been running for a decade?)

And I think it’s more likely that if there is a political liability, it won’t be in the partisan sense (the one used in the post) but in the sense of the stability of the country itself being threatened by the security establishment’s metastasis, in that cancerous growth threatening the healthy functioning of the state. Through basically the mechanisms outlined in Aaron Bady’s great explication of Assange’s goals for Wikileaks.

4

Barry 08.19.13 at 12:05 pm

Rmj:

“I’m not so sure about this, either.

Andrew F., in comments to the post immediately below, provides the language of the British statute. I’m no fan of such overly broad language, but it is the law of Britain. Are “appartchiks” running amok? Or are they following the law?

Ire should be aimed at the roots of the tree of evil, not the branches.”

Are you actually naive enough to think that this statute was *inflicted* upon the poor apparatchniks?

5

Ed 08.19.13 at 12:17 pm

“Is there any example of a state rolling back the basic infrastructure of its intelligence gathering programs after they’ve been running for a decade?”

Well Stalin eventually purged Yezhov, but this maybe isn’t what you meant to ask.

6

Phil 08.19.13 at 12:31 pm

Andrew F., in comments to the post immediately below, provides the language of the British statute

Certainly not – the comment was mine. And the point of my comment (although I didn’t spell it out) was that the statute was designed to give free rein to the discretion of the security apparat. In terms of legal challenges, I’m afraid Miranda hasn’t got a chance: it’s perfectly reasonable to suspect him of being involved in collecting information which might be of use to someone planning one of the enormous range of activities potentially classifiable as ‘terrorism’. Nine hours? That’s just how long it took before they could be satisfied that he hadn’t been collecting anything dangerous and/or that his intentions were good – clearly they couldn’t reach that conclusion without asking him what he had been collecting and what his intentions were. This isn’t an abuse of the Terrorism Act 2000; this is the Act working as it’s meant to.

7

William Timberman 08.19.13 at 12:39 pm

Despite all the ultra-modern data warehouses in out-of-the-way-places, the game of calling all the little people cockroaches and stepping on them one-by-one is still labor intensive, and serious bureaucrats know very well how hard it is to find decent help these days. That’s how Edward Snowden got to be Edward Snowden after all. If they now fire all the Edward Snowdens, they’ll have to roll up their sleeves and do the scut work themselves, or alternatively, hire a bunch more meta-watchers, who may prove just as unreliable. I suppose they could cut another hole in the congressional purse and go full Skynet on us, but the results of that are likely to be even uglier than dodging rogue Arnold Schwarzeneggers in every hamlet in Iowa.

Enraged mobs may no longer be able to throw their files in the street and set fire to them, but I still don’t like their chances in the long run.

8

Jesús Couto Fandiño 08.19.13 at 12:51 pm

Of course is not an abuse of the Terrorism Act.

The Terrorism Act, itself, is the abuse.

9

William Timberman 08.19.13 at 12:54 pm

Phil @ 6

This isn’t an abuse of the Terrorism Act 2000; this is the Act working as it’s meant to.

But then again….

“If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is a ass- a idiot.

10

Phil 08.19.13 at 2:06 pm

It’s fundamental to the rule of law that the law binds government officials in just the same way that it does every other citizen. There are many ways of working round the inconveniences this can cause, and one of them is to draft laws in such a way that they effectively say “in situation X, $citizen shall obey $official without question”. It doesn’t much matter that the law formally binds officials when the substance of the law is that it doesn’t.

11

Ronan(rf) 08.19.13 at 2:16 pm

For anybody interested Juliana Ochs book Security and Suspicion is quite good (an ethnography of how Israeli – rather than Palestinians – live and deal with, shape, internalise etc security practices in Israel) I know the comparison isnt perfect however….
Also I wonder has there been anything written on how democracies shape eachothers security practices (domestically, rather than counterterroism which Ive seen stuff on) ? At the ground level, at the elite level, through social networks or through policy or whatever..

12

Salem 08.19.13 at 2:34 pm

It’s fundamental to the rule of law that the law binds government officials in just the same way that it does every other citizen.

Maybe, but my understanding is that the rule of law is only the rule of law when you don’t like how the government is flouting it. Otherwise it’s a silly technical quibble about the appropriate use of discretionary authority.

See e.g. employer mandate waiver.

13

Mao Cheng Ji 08.19.13 at 2:49 pm

Things evolve (or deteriorate, if you prefer) until they come to a crisis, and then things change. Hopefully. The Church committee or some such is needed, to avoid the collapse. But it does need a crisis.

14

Glen Tomkins 08.19.13 at 2:51 pm

Bear baiting

“Against that, it’s hard to see what kind of power can protect the security apparatus now that it is operating, to some extent in the harsh light of day. In the Snowden matter alone, the security state has trashed relations with Russia, China, and most of Latin America, as well as gravely embarrassing its UK and EU client agencies, and yet they are further than ever from getting their man.”

Trashing relations with foreign powers is the whole point of the exercise, and not at all a drawback. The security state is tolerated only because it poses as the best, and at least one necessary, means of keeping us safe from foreign powers. No foreign threat — no need for the security state.

Of course you can go a long way just by pretending that imaginary threats exist. But it is helpful to have some relationship of your demonology to the real world, so from time to time you do have to do things in the real world to poke and prod actual foreign powers into real world actions that your virtual reality apparatus can spin into threat and danger. You have to get the bear to rear and roar every now and again if you are to convince the audience that it needs restraining.

15

straigtwood 08.19.13 at 3:02 pm

The nation states are embarking on a vicious rear guard action to protect their monopolies of violence against an emerging world society grounded on consensual law and social norms fostered by the Internet. They are going to lose, but many good people will suffer abuse and imprisonment before the nation states are reduced to quaint local administrative regions.

There will be one charter of universal human rights. There will be one law of global environmental protection. There will be a single peaceful human community freed from the scourge of endless warfare. This will be the political legacy of the Internet, and the nation-state governments cannot stop it.

16

Lee A. Arnold 08.19.13 at 4:08 pm

The Church committee was basically ignored (except for media p.r. purposes) and its recommendations reversed by the time of the Reagan Administration, IIRC.

17

roger gathman 08.19.13 at 5:34 pm

There was a model that long pre-existed the anti-terrorist laws. It was called the war on drugs. Notice that it swept millions of mostly black or Hispanic people into prison in the US, and has caused basically civil war situations in Latin America – in Columbia and Mexico. Notice how it experimented with the expansion of the informer apparatus, the seizure of property incentives for the cops, and cruel and unusual punishment on a mass scale – in conjunction, of course, with privatizing the penal system. Notice, too, that the elites – mostly white and prosperous – that were either complicit with incubating this monster or indifferent to it are now confronting its expansion into their sphere. Given the blatantly irrational prima facie justification for the war on drugs – that it was the state securing the healthy bodies of its citizens – in contrast with its real effects, one would supposed that it would have been folded up by 1980. But it flourishes. So I think Quiggin is right to find these recent incidences symptoms not of the waning of the security apparatus’s system, but of its increase.

18

roger gathman 08.19.13 at 5:58 pm

PS – the abuses of both sides of the security system are coming into focus for some journalists. Too late, I think. See this story in the New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/08/swat-team-nation.html#entry-more

19

nick s 08.19.13 at 6:00 pm

in this case, it seems more like an upraised middle finger, one in a series designed to show that the security apparatus can do whatever it likes

A cynic might think that it was the equivalent of trolling by Greenwald and his partner to see if they could trigger a typically British half-arsed, ham-handed, response. (The security state when working full-arsed has little qualms about re-routing people mid-flight to alternative destinations.) If so, mission accomplished.

20

mud man 08.19.13 at 6:54 pm

Is there any example of a state rolling back the basic infrastructure of its intelligence gathering programs after they’ve been running for a decade?

East Germany.

WT @7, the example also demonstrates that the labor-intensity problem can be solved, at least until the whole thing goes into the shitter.

21

Cian 08.19.13 at 7:12 pm

#19 A cynic might think that it was the equivalent of trolling by Greenwald and his partner to see if they could trigger a typically British half-arsed, ham-handed, response.

What was the equivalent of trolling?

22

Maria 08.19.13 at 7:32 pm

Apparently traveling through heathrow is now considered trolling by the ‘ he was asking for it’ brigade.

23

novakant 08.19.13 at 8:15 pm

East Germany

Only by ceasing to exist …

24

nick s 08.19.13 at 8:15 pm

To be clear: this shows that Schedule 7 powers are now completely unanchored from the definitions in the Terrorism Act 2000 and unfit for purpose — they might as well be invoked on the pretense of establishing whether someone is a visitor from Alpha Centauri. “Trust our discretion” is no longer operative.

If you are wrapped up in an ongoing confrontation with the security state — Miranda’s travel was paid by the Guardian, and he met Laura Poitras in Berlin — then isn’t it fair to assume John’s principle that “the apparatchiks of the security state do as they choose, because they can”? You can be outraged by the overreach while recognising that playing dirty is what it does.

25

Sean Matthews 08.19.13 at 8:18 pm

Actually, this _is_ rapidly turning into a major PR blunder. Whoever approved this (utterly stupid) idea is surely currently contemplating the scale of the international reaction that has gathered already inside the first 24 hours, and having second thoughts.

26

William Timberman 08.19.13 at 9:24 pm

mud man @ 20

You call putting half the population in the internal security forces a solution to the problem of labor intensive snooping? Maybe we should watch Das Leben der Anderen again. Not just the letter-opening-factory scene, but the God, I didn’t ever expect HIM to be an informer scene. Somehow the STASI solution doesn’t seem to be much of one at all. And yes, duration does count, after all. Forty years may be hell on any given oppressed individual, it’s not anywhere near the longevity record for an oppressive state apparatus.

27

politicalfootball 08.19.13 at 9:29 pm

A cynic might think that it was the equivalent of trolling by Greenwald and his partner

One is reminded of the actions in Selma of that famous troll, Martin Luther King Jr.

28

mud man 08.19.13 at 9:30 pm

William, you miss my point, which is that it is possible to get very deep indeed into this security state thing. We ain’t nearly there yet. Yes, I am a crypto-anarchist hippie subsistence farmer wannabe.

Only by ceasing to exist …</i

… there you go …

29

Sandwichman 08.19.13 at 9:40 pm

“A cynic might think that it was the equivalent of trolling by Greenwald and his partner to see if they could trigger a typically British half-arsed, ham-handed, response.”

Doesn’t need a cynic to wonder if perhaps Greenwald was ‘testing’ the authorities. Consider the New York Times profile of Laura Poitras and her experience at airports. To have this happen at Heathrow, of all places, is hardly a surprise. If this was indeed designed as a sting operation to reveal the modus operandi of the ham-handed police state, it worked. The story behind the story is the ongoing intimidation and harassment of Laura Poitras.

30

William Timberman 08.19.13 at 9:52 pm

mud man @ 28

Okay, we ain’t nearly there yet. Agreed. On the other hand, the further we go, the more sand we suck into the gears. Where I’m standing being America and all, our betters still think of the large scale deployment of technology as a solution to the messy labor problem, while ignoring its other, darker implications. Maybe not all control freaks are stupid, but they have at least one disadvantage that’s just as debilitating in the long run: they’re stark raving mad.

31

common reader 08.19.13 at 10:02 pm

Was no one else amused by the idea of the NSA “hoovering” up data, in #1? J. Edgar wrote the book these guys are reading.

32

Collin Street 08.19.13 at 10:12 pm

Maybe not all control freaks are stupid, but they have at least one disadvantage that’s just as debilitating in the long run: they’re stark raving mad.

Autism, I tell you. The fetishistic collection of data as a substitute for understanding is pretty distinctive, and the dislike of things-that-blend-two-categories also.

[I’m not going to diagnose because I don’t have the qualifications, but, seriously, if you’ve spent much time in communities with large rates of autism-spectrum conditions, Tony Abbott presents a pretty distinctive collection of personality and behaviour ticks.]

33

nick s 08.19.13 at 10:32 pm

Whoever approved this (utterly stupid) idea is surely currently contemplating the scale of the international reaction that has gathered already inside the first 24 hours, and having second thoughts.

The Americans are blaming the British, the Home Office is blaming Inspector Knacker, and Inspector Knacker is claiming operational privilege.

Let’s sketch out the edges of possibility here:

* Greenwald, Miranda and the Guardian are sufficiently naive to believe that passengers in the Heathrow transit lounge are not in a border zone where civil rights go out of the window;

* G/M/G are sufficiently canny to believe that sending Miranda through Heathrow with a stack of encrypted cat videos would lead to an extended conversation with Border Plod, and thus an international incident.

Since Rusbridger is now discussing “nice newspaper you got here” phonecalls he received from HMG, and describing how GCHQ oversaw the destruction of hard drives in the Graun’s basement, I think we can edge away from the naivety side of the scale.

34

Omega Centauri 08.19.13 at 10:50 pm

No its not stark raving madness, its OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). And a lot of the public has it as well, thats why we haven’t been able to get the political autoimmune system to do its job. Politicians keep playing to the obsessives in the grandstand.

35

Chaz 08.19.13 at 11:06 pm

Your footnote says Ecuador, should be Bolivia.

36

Phil 08.19.13 at 11:18 pm

this shows that Schedule 7 powers are now completely unanchored from the definitions in the Terrorism Act 2000 and unfit for purpose

The trouble is, the Terrorism Act 2000 was designed to facilitate the flexible, discretionary implementation of powers defined as broadly as possible – the same problem runs through the entire Act.

37

Bloix 08.20.13 at 1:40 am

Reminds me of the Black Act of 1723. It was 100 years before it was repealed.

38

Ken_L 08.20.13 at 3:37 am

The security forces of the US and its allies have been locking up people they don’t like indefinitely without trial since 2002, and openly affirm they continue to do it more or less forever. They routinely and openly kill people whom they decide are security risks, including citizens of their own countries. Neither issue has been of any political importance, because the programs enjoy widespread bipartisan support. It is extremely unlikely that ordinary people will get excited about some gay bloke being delayed by 9 hours at an airport.

39

JW Mason 08.20.13 at 4:11 am

Is there any example of a state rolling back the basic infrastructure of its intelligence gathering programs after they’ve been running for a decade?

Wouldn’t an obvious case be the US post Watergate? There were all kinds of restrictions on the executive that persisted well into the Reagan administration. It’s kind of amazing, from the perspective of 2013, that something like the Boland Amendment was actually passed and enforced. Somebody must have written a good history of how that all happened.

Another interesting case would be the US after the Civil War. I don’t know what kind of intelligence operations the Union had exactly (there must have been something) but it’s really remarkable how this huge army and in fact almost the entire federal bureaucracy was dismantled in just a few years.

40

js. 08.20.13 at 4:28 am

nick s @33, etc:

So what? Say, Rusbridger, Poitras, Greenwald, Miranda, et al, wrote the whole damn script. Assume they wrote the dialogue that would later be mouthed by various Home Sec’s, Press Sec’s, etc. How would any of this take one tiny solitary bit away from the insanely broad discretionary power awarded to the govt., whether by the UK terrorism Act of 2000, or by the Patriot Act in the US (in any of its versions), or by any other similar act. That power-grab is the issue; the rest is a bit of a distraction.

41

Belle Waring 08.20.13 at 5:14 am

I agree, it seems unlikely that a world unmoved by the plight of an innocent teenaged boy getting locked up in Guantanamo indefinitely without charges will suddenly give a shit about Glenn Greenwald’s partner being hassled for 9 hours. I will say this, however–I heard about it on the TV in the waiting room this morning at my doctor’s office here in Singapore. Most unusual. They wouldn’t say he was Greenwald’s partner though. But, then, that’s maybe fair, I think he works as a reporter as well.

42

nick s 08.20.13 at 5:28 am

How would any of this take one tiny solitary bit away from the insanely broad discretionary power awarded to the govt.

You seem to be misconstruing my opinion of the Terrorism Act 2000.

I don’t believe that Rusbridger, in particular, is a fool. It’s been three years since the first publication of the Manning/Wikileaks documents, and we can assume he’s faced the pointy end of the security state during that time. But I also don’t believe he’d be willing to put Miranda through the wringer to make a point.

Last month, the UK government released its (delayed) response to a consultation on Schedule 7, shortly after David Anderson QC’s independent report outlining a number of issues with Schedule 7 powers that Parliament ought to consider.

There are amendments currently under parliamentary consideration. Parliament returns (briefly) from recess in a fortnight.

43

Zamfir 08.20.13 at 5:41 am

Reporters traveling through Heathrow on a business trip are a lot closer to hone than teenage boys from Afghanistan. So this stuff resonates with people (at least, western people) like Guantanamo never quite achieved.

44

lupita 08.20.13 at 6:35 am

Since Rusbridger is now discussing “nice newspaper you got here” phonecalls he received from HMG, and describing how GCHQ oversaw the destruction of hard drives in the Graun’s basement, I think we can edge away from the naivety side of the scale.

But why did he take a month to reveal this incident and, now that he did, why did he not disclose the names of the bureaucrats who called him? Suffering in silence only empowers the bully so, why not harass Miranda, too? Murdoch also harassed everybody from Cameron on down and everybody just took it quietly.

On the other hand, we have Assange, Snowden, Greenwald, Poitras, Manning, plus all the Mexican journalists who are being murdered because they report on the war on drugs. I hope Rusbridger thinks of them and reveals some names.

45

Phil 08.20.13 at 9:31 am

This letter from the Graun makes an important point.

David Miranda’s detention was an extreme case of a large-scale harassment, especially of Muslims and political activists monitored by MI5. Although rarely held for nine hours, many detainees have been asked questions about their political associations, religious beliefs or mundane details in MI5’s files. Tom Watson MP expressed doubt that Miranda is “a terrorist suspect” but the political problem is the opposite: anyone detained under such powers becomes (or already was) a “terror suspect” by definition. Parliament shamefully legislated a broad statutory definition of terrorism and authorised powers well designed for politically motivated harassment. Increasingly, we are all terror suspects. How will we stop this large-scale injustice?
Les Levidow
Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (Campacc)

46

js. 08.20.13 at 4:41 pm

You seem to be misconstruing my opinion of the Terrorism Act 2000.

I’m guessing that your opinion of the Act is not unlike mine (let’s say: not too hot on it), but frankly, I’m having trouble seeing what point you’re trying to make.

I agree Rusbridger is no fool, and I agree too that he probably wouldn’t set up Miranda, etc. I’m still failing to see, though, why whether this was naïvete or whether it was a deliberate provocation or where exactly between the two it would fall—why is any of this relevant at all?

47

nick s 08.20.13 at 5:19 pm

why is any of this relevant at all?

As Phil suggests, this one case has generated more publicity on Schedule 7 than 15,000 south Asians who’ve received the Sched 7 treatment over the past year. (David Anderson’s report ums and ahs about whether south Asians are disproportionately profiled.)

If this branch of journalism now resembles the work of the security services, with encrypted documents and face-to-face meetings and GCHQ threatening to superglue up all your USB ports, then routing Miranda through a UK border zone seems bizarre. Other flights to Brazil are available.

My point is that I don’t understand the motivations on either side of this specific incident — given that they’re in an ongoing standoff — but I do know that it’s going to focus attention on the powers available to Border Plod and the legal latitude they have in enforcing them.

48

Shelley 08.20.13 at 6:16 pm

If the NSA and the TSA can do whatever they like to high-profile figures, then what safety is there for the rest of us?

49

JW Mason 08.20.13 at 6:32 pm

I don’t understand the motivations on either side of this specific incident

Afaict, Miranda’s motivation was that he wanted to travel from Berlin to Brazil, so he booked a flight that happened to go through a major international hub. What part is hard to understand?

50

William Timberman 08.20.13 at 6:49 pm

Shelly @ 48

None. If you seriously intend your opinions and interests to have effects in the world; that is, if you intend to engage in genuinely adversarial politics, you can expect sooner or later to draw the attention of powerful interests, not least of which will be the government itself. Since the U.S. Government has already announced to the world that it will stop at nothing, up to and including hellfire missiles, to preserve the national security state’s cosa nostra and its adepts from being inconvenienced, the threat to all who oppose them will henceforth be directly proportional to the success of their opposition.

And to be blunt about it, I’m not talking about that grotesque comedy of manners which the NYT, the sabbath gasbags, and the elected officials of all western countries call politics; I’m talking about the real thing. If the NSA, the TSA, and all the rest of the security state alphabet soup decides to characterize such politics as war, and no one else in the government objects, then war is what we’ll have — metaphorical when it suits them, real when they feel they have no other choice. Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, et al. now understand this. So, to their apparently great surprise, do Bradley Manning, and Alan Rusbridger. The rest of us should take careful note, and adjust our expectations accordingly.

51

Mike from Ottawa 08.20.13 at 7:51 pm

I used to travel between Canada and Switzerland for business and generally went through Heathrow – primarily because I could more easily get flights direct from there to my destination in Canada – I hate transfers when I’m already close to home. However, if I have to go again, I’ll be looking for a new route. I never minded the Heathrow security since, afterall, I didn’t want a nutter on board the plane who’d be trying to bring it down and the way I look if security doesn’t check my knapsack they’re not doing their jobs. But this stuff with Miranda is a whole other order of business.

I don’t fancy losing my highly infrequent custom will hurt Heathrow, but I wonder if this sort of thing won’t tell in the end.

52

lupita 08.20.13 at 7:52 pm

I don’t understand the motivations on either side

The only reason for Western governments to persecute Western whistleblowers, detain the loved ones Western journalists, and destroy the hard drives of Western media is to protect a global communications system centered on Western companies, institutions, and territory. So far, the control of global communications by Western powers was either tolerated or encouraged. Snowden’s revelations have already diminished that acceptance, tolerance, and in the case of many Westeners, pride. More revelations will diminish them even more and encourage de-centralization.

As to Snowden’s, Poiras’, Greenwald’s, and the Guardian’s motivations for revealing the inner workings of the Western communications apparatus, their discourse so far has been centered on fear of fascism in their own countries and on individual freedoms and rights.

In order to understand motivation, it must first be recognized that there are not two sides, but three:
1) non-Western governments and peoples,
2) Western governments, and
3) Western peoples which include Western whistleblowers and journalists.

1 and 2 are on opposite sides of the Western hegemony issue. 1 and 3 are on the same side of the global surveillance state issue (it must be dismantled) but for different reasons, the former in opposition to Western hegemony and the latter on grounds of individual freedoms and rights. 2 and 3 avoid mentioning Western hegemony.

53

nick s 08.20.13 at 8:27 pm

Afaict, Miranda’s motivation was that he wanted to travel from Berlin to Brazil, so he booked a flight that happened to go through a major international hub.

Your understanding perhaps fails you. The Guardian booked his flight, and the Guardian was paying for that flight so that he could function as a go-between. That would the be same Guardian that, one month prior, had been taking angle grinders to hard drives and smashing up laptops under the supervision of a couple of GCHQ employees.

When you are 1 degree of separation (arguably less) from an ongoing confrontation with a particular country’s security apparatus, why expose yourself to that country’s broadest legal powers to detain/question/confiscate?

I’m not quibbling about the abuse of power. I’m genuinely curious why the Guardian, wrapped up in a situation where fair play goes out of the window, didn’t route Miranda through Frankfurt or Amsterdam or Paris.

54

Phil 08.20.13 at 9:07 pm

Just realised – hat-tip to David Green – that I’ve been reading the legislation all wrong. Section 40 (1) of the Terrorism Act, which defines a ‘terrorist’ for the purposes of the Act, has two sub-sections. 40 (1) (a) says that a terrorist is anyone who has committed a number of specified offences – some of them defined so broadly that Glenn Greenwald could certainly be accused of them, if not Miranda himself. Section 40 (1) (b) says that a terrorist is (also) anyone who is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, which in turn is defined in section 1. The section 1 definition of terrorism is broad – it would cover, for example, threatening to bring down a Web site, as long as there was a political motivation – but it’s not broad enough to encompass collecting information, however highly classified.

I’d made the hasty assumption that section 7 entitles the authorities to question anyone in transit who they suspected of falling into either of these categories. But it quite specifically doesn’t:

An examining officer may question a person … for the purpose of determining whether he appears to be a person falling within section 40(1)(b).

Nothing about 40(1)(a). For Miranda’s detention to be lawful, the authorities would have to have a genuine suspicion that he was someone who was or had been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

David Green raises the additional point that the detention appears to have been notified to the US authorities ahead of time, or perhaps as it was happening. This is significant, because it tells us that the UK authorities knew who they were detaining. So we’re left with three possibilities:

a) the police were genuinely concerned that Miranda might be involved in terrorism, as well as or alongside his contribution to Greenwald’s work
b) the police regard Miranda’s & Greenwald’s activities as actually amounting to the preparation or instigation of terrorist acts
c) the police knew what they were doing and who they were doing it to, and Miranda’s detention was unlawful

The defiant silence of the Home Office about what actually happened and why suggests, among other things, that nobody is too keen to make a case for either a) or b).

55

Phil 08.20.13 at 9:08 pm

D’oh – Schedule 7, not section 7.

56

Bruce Wilder 08.20.13 at 9:22 pm

Phil, you keep saying “suspicion” and I don’t see where (prior) “suspicion” is a requirement. Anyone can be detained and questioned, their papers and possessions seized for a time, and inspected; they have no right to silence, or protection against self-incrimination, and a very circumscribed right to counsel.

nick s, the Guardian appears to be gobsmacked that the security services would use their powers for simple intimidation. It is a typical liberal blindspot; I have friends, who cannot understand why the police would ever beat up peaceful protesters, when the police have been beating protesters up since time immemorial.

57

Brendan Perrine 08.20.13 at 9:44 pm

Isn’t this supposed to terrorize people that want an end to security state into not saying anything and strike fear. So who is the terrorist now? Although these terrorists are counted as employed.

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Meredith 08.20.13 at 10:03 pm

It all reminds me of “stop and frisk.” People who are not likely ever to be stopped or frisked (or those who might be liable to such treatment but who reassure themselves that they would never be caught up to anything illegal) overlook the larger effect of intimidation on all of us, in the long run. The big chill.

59

Phil 08.20.13 at 10:34 pm

Phil, you keep saying “suspicion” and I don’t see where (prior) “suspicion” is a requirement.

It depends what you mean by suspicion. Certainly prior suspicion isn’t required. Schedule 7 specifically states that the police don’t need to have any grounds for suspecting that the person being questioned may be a terrorist – they can decide to detain somebody for questioning on the spur of the moment, and don’t need to account for that decision.

The suspicion I’m talking about is relevant when the questioning starts. The only grounds allowed for questioning under schedule 7 is “for the purpose of determining whether he appears to be a person falling within section 40(1)(b)”, i.e. whether he (or she) “is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”. In other words, schedule 7 says that you can question someone to find out whether they’re a terrorist or not. You can carry on questioning them for up to nine hours, and you can search them and confiscate anything they’re carrying that looks like it might be relevant – but you can only question them in the first place in order to find out whether they’re a terrorist or not.

So if, as Fred walks by, you have no suspicion that Fred is a terrorist, you literally have no right to stop Fred for questioning. And if, hearing that David Miranda is changing planes at Heathrow, you know who David Miranda is and consequently know perfectly well that he is not a terrorist…

60

Tim Wilkinson 08.21.13 at 12:39 am

The defiant silence of the Home Office about what actually happened and why suggests, among other things, that nobody is too keen to make a case for either a) or b).

Someone should, er, Mirandise them, UK style: it may harm your defence if you fail to mention when questioned something which you later rely on…

61

Bruce Wilder 08.21.13 at 1:05 am

Phil: “. . . they can decide to detain somebody for questioning on the spur of the moment, and don’t need to account for that decision.”
Phil: “So if, as Fred walks by, you have no suspicion that Fred is a terrorist, you literally have no right to stop Fred for questioning.”

To me, those are logically contradictory statements.

Of course, using that legal authority to harass someone is morally wrong, but that’s equivalent to saying that the statute is morally wrong, which, imho, it is. It is the statute of an authoritarian police state.

62

Tim Wilkinson 08.21.13 at 1:09 am

Actually they have already committed themselves to option (b) I think (so far as they can be said to have committed themselves to anything – backtracking is always possible). Theresa May has explained that ““If it is believed that somebody has in their possession highly sensitive stolen information which could help terrorists, which could lead to a loss of lives, then it is right that the police act and that is what the law enables them to do.” ( http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/david-miranda-heathrow-detention-theresa-2189955 )

They don’t seem, as far as we can make out, to have concluded that DM was indeed a terrorist as defined in 40(1)(b), but maybe they did – after all, that’s not actually an offence itself, so perhaps they decided he was a terrorist, but had to let him go anyway.

BTW, Bruce has pre-empted this a bit, but if, as Fred walks by, you have no suspicion that Fred is a terrorist, you literally have no right to stop Fred for questioning isn’t quite right – it could for example be a random stop (tho clearly not in DM’s case). Technically and sticking only to the narrow legal issue, the choice of who to question could be made on any basis, including harassment, but such an ulterior motive would of course tend to cast doubt (if any more doubt were needed) on the genuineness of the nine-hour-long supposed attempt to determine if DM appeared to be a 40(1)(b)-ist.

63

Dr. Hilarius 08.21.13 at 1:32 am

It strikes me as naive to think that a government would feel constrained actually to adhere to the letter of a terrorism law. Apart from bad PR, what recourse does someone have if they were detained unlawfully? I doubt any apology would be forthcoming.

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William Timberman 08.21.13 at 1:48 am

Dr. Hilarius @ 63

In the U.S., the Queen of Hearts makes the laws:

Queen of Hearts: Now then, are you ready for your sentence?
Alice: But there has to be a verdict first.
Queen of Hearts: Sentence first! Verdict afterwards.
Alice: But that just isn’t the way.
Queen of Hearts: [shouting] All ways are…!
Alice: …your ways, your Majesty.

65

lupita 08.21.13 at 2:07 am

Theresa May has explained that ““If it is believed that somebody has in their possession highly sensitive stolen information which could help terrorists

Snowden has highly sensitive stolen information that he has passed on. All that is needed is for the heads of Western governments to believe that it could help terrorists. And they do! They have all said so.

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Bruce Wilder 08.21.13 at 2:13 am

If it is believed . . .

And, we have no right to know who, exactly, believes it. That can be a secret, too!

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Tony Lynch 08.21.13 at 4:16 am

On the Alice theme: As Glenn Greenwald has repeatedly pointed out, the whole area here is polluted by the fact that “terrorism” is given a meaning Humpty Dumpty style – where Humpty Dumpty has the people and procedures to make it mean thus and so. The linguistic idealism of power – and yet some here want to go on as if this were not so.

68

JW Mason 08.21.13 at 4:19 am

The Guardian booked his flight, and the Guardian was paying for that flight so that he could function as a go-between. That would the be same Guardian that, one month prior, had been taking angle grinders to hard drives and smashing up laptops under the supervision of a couple of GCHQ employees.

I’m still confused. What do you mean, go-between? Was he engaged in some illegal activity? Is traveling to an event for an organization some of whose employees have engaged in laptop-smashing illegal? What’s the general principle here?

If I find myself flying through Heathrow, what do I need to do to have a reasonable expectation of not being detained? Not have my flight paid for by The Guardian, ok. In a democracy, newspapers can’t fly people to events, of course, I get that. But what if it’s some other organization, how do I know if I’m associating with enemies of the state? Is there a list I can check?

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Watson Ladd 08.21.13 at 4:58 am

Lupita, maybe you don’t realize this site is named after a quote by Immanual Kant. There is one moral universe, and one tree from which to hang Goebbels and Saddam from. Ethiopia is far worse than the NSA: they kill people who write emails to the wrong people.

So let me get this straight: Detaining people at borders, something which in the US can be done for any reason for anyone, is a massive violation of rights today, and it wasn’t in 1800 when the customs officials began getting this power. So what changed?

JW Mason: Carrying secrets relating to intelligence methods? We already know something interesting about TEMPEST emissions from fax machines from the Snowden files, and I don’t think anyone knows what else might be there.

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John Quiggin 08.21.13 at 7:47 am

Watson, no more on this thread please. And, unless you have something other than trolling to contribute, nothing more on any of my posts.

Also, no replies to Watson, please.

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John Quiggin 08.21.13 at 8:01 am

Greenwald has said he will travel to the US if his work requires it, and has declined offers of Brazilian diplomatic protection. Similarly, Miranda (or the Guardian on his behalf) chose to take the most convenient flight home. In both cases, they are aware that acting as if they are dealing with democratic governments exposes them to (greater) risk of police state attacks.

This isn’t trolling, it’s refusal to be intimidated.

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reason 08.21.13 at 8:33 am

John Quiggin @71
Isn’t there a subplot here. Greenwald wants to be provocative, hopefully to improve US civil liberties laws. But the US has a completely disfunctional legislature. So long as that is the case, he is wasting his time – even if Obama became convinced that the legislation was poorly drafted and open to abuse – he couldn’t do anything about it.

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SusanC 08.21.13 at 8:57 am

As to Snowden’s, Poiras’, Greenwald’s, and the Guardian’s motivations for revealing the inner workings of the Western communications apparatus, their discourse so far has been centered on fear of fascism in their own countries and on individual freedoms and rights.

I think this is broadly right, although “fascism” is possibly not quite the right -ism word for the failure of democracy that they’re worried about happening. It’s distinctively different from Italy under Mussolini, Nazi Germany, or (to choose a more contemporary comparision) Egypt right now. The emerging British/American form of a military conspiracy to take over the country seems to more take the form of military agencies lying to congress about what they’re up (e.g. James Clapper lying to congress) rather than the military overtly deposing the president (cf. Mohamed Morsi). In the UK/US case, there’s also a definite element of the president/prime minister colluding with the miltary agencies, and it is the voters they’re trying to keep in the dark.

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Phil 08.21.13 at 8:59 am

Bruce: Phil: “. . . they can decide to detain somebody for questioning on the spur of the moment, and don’t need to account for that decision.”
Phil: “So if, as Fred walks by, you have no suspicion that Fred is a terrorist, you literally have no right to stop Fred for questioning.”

To me, those are logically contradictory statements.

I should have added, the Fred example is logically empty – if you can stop Fred anyhow, all you need to legitimate the stop is your own retrospective account of your mental state at that moment. Where “no suspicion” does kick in is when schedule 7 is used to stop a known individual, like Miranda. At the moment when he walked by, they already knew who he was – and they already knew he wasn’t a person falling within 40 (1) (b). Therefore the entire stop was unlawful.

Theresa May has explained that ““If it is believed that somebody has in their possession highly sensitive stolen information which could help terrorists, which could lead to a loss of lives, then it is right that the police act and that is what the law enables them to do.”

But she’s describing the provisions of 40 (1) (a), specifically referring to the s57 and s58 offences. Schedule 7 doesn’t have anything to do with possession of information which could help terrorists, stolen or otherwise. (Although (thanks to Tim on the other thread) we know why she stressed ‘stolen’ – in the current state of the law, the source of the information annuls any ‘reasonable excuse’ defence to a charge under section 57 or 58. Nasty.) The law does not enable the police to do what they did – they simply read the references to 40 (1) (b) in Schedule 7 as including 40 (1) (a).

Dr Hilarius: It strikes me as naive to think that a government would feel constrained actually to adhere to the letter of a terrorism law.

And yet they do: even in this case, Miranda was held for no more than the nine hours stipulated in Schedule 7 and he’s been promised his possessions will be returned within the stipulated seven days. They do push the law to its limits, and people do shout about it and push back. “Don’t read 40(1) (a) into Schedule 7!” may not sound like much of a rallying cry, but pushing back on points like that is one way that laws get changed – and laws changing is one way that the world changes.

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Tim Wilkinson 08.21.13 at 10:04 am

Dr. Hilarius – not only is there little recourse beyond bad PR; I think this was actually a PR exercise itself, which is likely to succeed so far as its target audience is concerned. Possible aims (besides the obvious harassment involved and the general utility of creating a distraction from any other issues that might arise in the next week) being to establish an association with terrorism – doesn’t matter much that this is done tenuously, implausibly etc. – and, for those involved who might be interested in the outcome of the next general election, to do some muscle flexing for the Great British public, a large section of which is, for various reasons, very happy to pile on against some outsider when there’s a bit of authoritarian following to be done – especially when the Pavlovian response is triggered by the codeword ‘Terrorism’ – and has no interest in nor even much understanding of the rule of law.

The authorities might welcome a legal challenge, as not only will this kick the matter into the long grass and mean they can avoid further detailed comment, but it will also give them (with the assistance of most of the media) more reason to denounce obstructionist judges, politically correct Labourites, the EU/Human Rights/Health ‘N’ Safety axis, the Graun, etc etc. Compare the endless ranting and concomitant headlines about how absolutely vital and urgent it was to deport Abu Qatada, aka the most-watched man in Britain, and how difficult this was being made just because, inter alia, he didn’t seem to have actually committed any crimes.

It doesn’t hurt that DM is A Gay (cue much use of the term ‘boyfriend’ rather than ‘partner’) and that no-one can now be incurious or ignorant about Mrs Greenwald’s lesbicious practices, either. And, as the middle aged male middle Englanders of the Daily mail online comments section will already be speculating, that Miranda has the same nationality as the notorious terrorist De Menezes, the initial stories about whom (running away, bulky jacket, wires hanging out, cokehead etc.) are still widely accepted as true.

I note too that the two statements (from May and, I think, an unnamed official), about how Miranda et al are helping terrorists etc., include the keyword ‘stolen’ – also much-used by the Andrew F character on the other (‘Trust Us’) thread. This is of course irrelevant to the legal issue, as well as inaccurate; but that’s not really the point of these announcements.

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Tim Wilkinson 08.21.13 at 10:40 am

I hadn’t seen Phil’s comment – and I think someone may well have made the error, though not necessarily a very serious one from an opinion-dynamics POV, of reading section 40(1)(a) into Schedule 7 – but I’d expect that so far as any further detailed legal argument is deemed expedient, the angle will be that the info could have been such as to “create a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public”, per Terrorism Act S. 1(2)(d).

S1(1)(b), “designed to influence the government”, and (c), “for the purpose of advancing a political…or ideological cause”, could be argued – there’s no requirement that the creating of this oh-so-serious risk to the public has to be connected in any particular way with the political goal or the influening the government.

But I don’t think they will feel the need to go into any of that – they’ll say th decision was made by the police, the questioning was done for the purpose specified in the Act, end of story. After all, no-one’s mind is likely to be changed by detailed argument about how exactly S40(1)(b) might apply to DM.

There’s also the aspect of implausible deniability – if you’re engaged in intimidation, you don’t want your denials of involvement (or in this case unlawful action) to be convincing, at least to the target of your implied threats. David Kelly’s probable suiciding, and the Mavi Mamara executions are, respectively, possible and probable examples of this general phenomenon that spring to mind (more extreme ones, obviously, just to head off any derision based on selective analogy-blindness).

PS – http://www.friatider.se/swedish-ministry-of-foreign-affairs-explains-why-assange-is-not-questioned-in-london-you-do-not-dictate-the-terms-if-you-are-a-suspect-get-it reports a Swedish jurist pointing out – for those who hadn’t already got the message – that the reasons provided by prosecutors for not questioning Assange in the UK were invalid. I of course don’t really buy the non-expert speculation that this was merely attributable to the arrogance of one random prosecutor, mind you.

77

hix 08.21.13 at 12:54 pm

Client state? Only in part of the elites minds. Which is enough to get the same kind of behaviour as if there were a real dependency. The second force that keeps up this US servitude behaviour is that it is a nice excuse to do what the far right within those countries likes to do anyway.

78

Phil 08.21.13 at 3:32 pm

I’d expect that so far as any further detailed legal argument is deemed expedient, the angle will be that the info could have been such as to “create a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public”, per Terrorism Act S. 1(2)(d).

I’d like to see them try that – it would be incredibly stretched.

But I don’t think they will feel the need to go into any of that – they’ll say th decision was made by the police, the questioning was done for the purpose specified in the Act, end of story. After all, no-one’s mind is likely to be changed by detailed argument about how exactly S40(1)(b) might apply to DM.

That is all they’re saying, except that they’re explicitly linking it to the information Miranda may or may not have been carrying, which comes under s40(1)(a) and not (b). And people do care about this stuff. Lord Falconer, not noted for being a paladin of citizens’ rights, has come out and said that “neither the letter nor the spirit” of Schedule 7 covers the detention of Miranda.

There’s also the aspect of implausible deniability – if you’re engaged in intimidation, you don’t want your denials of involvement (or in this case unlawful action) to be convincing, at least to the target of your implied threats.

True, but the “look what we can get away with” angle usually works by reference to what they actually do, not the laws that get trampled in doing it.

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nick s 08.21.13 at 4:51 pm

What’s the general principle here?

That if you piss off powerful state actors, then you should assume they will play dirty and use their powers whenever they have the chance.

With respect to JQ, if the Greenwald, Poitras, Miranda and the Guardian were truly “acting as if they are dealing with democratic governments” they wouldn’t be engaged in the kind of infosec that involves putting phone batteries in refrigerators and communicating through face-to-face meetings. They are acting like people who have gazed into the dark core of the security state.

80

Cian 08.21.13 at 6:02 pm

to do some muscle flexing for the Great British public, a large section of which is, for various reasons, very happy to pile on against some outsider when there’s a bit of authoritarian following to be done – especially when the Pavlovian response is triggered by the codeword ‘Terrorism’ – and has no interest in nor even much understanding of the rule of law.

This isn’t actually true. The Menzies affair demonstrated that. Despite all their lies and cover ups (and the cover provided by the press), the majority of the public didn’t buy it. Whatever the intents (and given the level of competence of this government, intents probably don’t matter that much, as they don’t seem to affect outcomes significantly), given the US government and a significant part of the legal establishment are backing away from this suggests that it was indeed an epic blunder.

As for the behaviour of the Guardian. Rusbridger is clearly no fool, especially on these matters. This is hardly the first time he’s been in this position, and he seems to relish these kinds of confrontation. However, even if you are not surprised by a government overreaching and acting illegally – if you want to change, or prevent that type of behaviour its in your interests to act as outraged as possible. Because you know what – this behaviour is outrageous, and while knowing cynicism may make you feel good, it also does a great job of normalizing this kind of thing.

81

Phil 08.21.13 at 7:15 pm

What Cian said, last graf especially. Call me naive – you won’t be the first – but I think “OMG the government isn’t obeying its own laws!” has more chance of putting a spoke in the wheels than “government does what it likes, what else is new”.

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mathmos 08.21.13 at 7:56 pm

+ 1 about “knowing cynicism”

It’s frankly baffling the number of people more concerned with declaring ownership of an issue with “told you so” declarations, than they are with the given issue having maximum impact. If I had to guess, I’d say that kind of attitude is ventilated in the population by media figureheads for whom shock and surprise depend entirely on the latest official statement.

Outrage is performative norm-reinforcement ; those actively working against it are by definition in the business of normalizing something. For instance it is now normal to talk about torture and assassination as policy on sunday shows.

83

lupita 08.21.13 at 10:06 pm

Gangs and fraternities have initiation rites in which the candidates for membership demonstrate their loyalty, conviction and courage by performing tests that consist of deviant activities. Maybe by abusing Manning, Assange, Snowden, Evo Morales, Laura Poitras, and David Miranda, countries are trying to bond and form a gang. Initiation rites are also useful to establish who is in and who is out.

84

lupita 08.21.13 at 10:42 pm

The US has a new colony, it is virtual space. Those countries that support US supremacy in information technologies have been persecuting the whistle blowers and journalists who are exposing the global surveillance apparatus in order to gain the respect and admiration of the cyber-overlord.

Stomping on hard drives serves no better purpose than swallowing goldfish, so the abuse of human rights we have been witnessing can only be explained as some sort of hazing activity.

85

lupita 08.21.13 at 11:43 pm

I am on a roll. Compare the countries that supported the US’s military invasion of Iraq by sending troops to those that show their support of the US’s cyber-invasion of the world through agreements with the NSA and the abuse of Snowden and anybody connected or suspected of being connected to him.

1. The Five Eyes countries – US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. All except Canada sent troops to Iraq.
2. The Evo Morales incident – Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. All except France sent troops.
3. Aided Snowden – China, Russia, and South American countries. None sent troops.

My point is that colonizing Iraq by military invasion and colonizing virtual space by cyber-invasion are just two aspects of US supremacy which has its followers and its detractors.

86

Sasha Clarkson 08.22.13 at 8:56 am

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be the master, that’s all”

This case reminds me of Livesidge v Anderson, the famous “Humpty-Dumpty” case from WWII. Eventually the judgement was reversed, but since then governments have deliberately drafted legislation with much looser, catch-all, wording.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liversidge_v_Anderson#Dissent

PS, as a chemistry graduate I carry round information “which may be of use to a terrorist” in my internal hard-drive – my brain. Let’s be grateful that Asimov’s fictional ‘psychic probe’ hasn’t been invented – yet!

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roy belmont 08.22.13 at 8:38 pm

lupita- “US supremacy” is acccurate superficially, at least it seems that the countries listed are going along with American intent. But what’s that mean now? The current administration isn’t observably different from the previous, and neither really represent the American people, who are confused and nervous but not actively demanding anything like what’s happening. So what do they represent? Or who? What’s driving all this? Whose vision, whose goals?

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lupita 08.22.13 at 11:11 pm

I think it all becomes clearer, at least for me, if you focus on a specific region of the world and see how the different pieces of the puzzle fit together. Let’s take Central America.

1. The Iraq war. Only four Latin American countries sent troops to Iraq, three of which were Central American – El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The fourth was Dominican Republic.
2. Military. The US has military bases in El Salvador (1), Honduras (3), Costa Rica (2), and Panama (12).
3. NSA. It has data collection centers in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama.

When we add this to a history of invasions, occupations, and coups, I think nobody can doubt that the goal is one of regional domination to support US political power (UN votes), military power (troops for Iraq and military bases), financial power (tax havens), and cyber-power (spy centers). Plus bananas.

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Tim Wilkinson 08.22.13 at 11:14 pm

Cian, Phil (,mathmos?) – balls. I’m not trying to show of my knowledge or my cynicism (in the proper, Demosthenic sense). And no aspect of this makes me feel good. Nothing I’ve said normalises anything – I thought my tone pretty clearly expressed outrage. Not that long agfo I was arguing against Rich P that pointing out breaches of law and failures of the rule of law is a perfectly good strategy at least as a starting point for getting people to acknowledge corruption, which does of course go deeper, for instance in the creation of the laws themselves, and in the supra-legal, political, structures of the kind that e.g. lupita is talking about. And I’m a pretty consistent and vehement propoenent – and exponent – of maximum outrage.

My own comments were addressing some of those deeper corruptions, which can perfectly well be done in tandem with addressing the more superficial but easier-to-identify corruption of unlawful action. In fact in this case I don’t think the violation-of-positive-law aspect is going to be especially fruitful, since the laws themselves are so widely drawn – no-one needs to argue that DM was in breach of subsection (b) – only that there was some line of ‘questioning’ relating to it that an overcautious plod pursued, not solely as a pretext for harrassment. That is (very roughly) all the actual law requires. those who are satisfied with that won’t be embarrassed by any official finding of unlawfulness; while all the rest of us aren’t satisfied that this was anything but harassment, just because a ridiculously overbroad law is (barely) capable of providing nominal cover.

We need full spectrum outrage, including calling out the authoritarian followers and trying to expose the deeply contemptuous attitude of the authorities for the rest of us. Since I think (obviously) think my analysis is accurate, I think it is one more thing to get outraged about, expose and denounce.

Again, this doesn’t preclude pointing out actual ground level failures of the rule of law, but it also mustn’t be diverted into disputation of, ultimately finessable, legal points. The whole premise of the GWOT and all the rest of it needs to be angrily opposed, and the kind of thing that Falconer (now in opposition) is willing to make mildly disparaging remarks about is most certainly not the summum malum in this situation (as the comments from Yvette Cooper illustrate: Cooper said public support for the schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act could be undermined if there is a perception it is not being used for the right purposes. “Any suggestion that terror powers are being misused must be investigated and clarified urgently,” she said. “The public support for these powers must not be endangered by a perception of misuse.” ( http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/19/david-miranda-detention-labour-glen-greenwald ).

And Cian – I’d be genuinely interested in what makes you think my comment about current public perceptions of the De Menezes murder are so wide of the mark.

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Tim Wilkinson 08.22.13 at 11:31 pm

If you want to see the legal issue being pounced on by a naked apologist and treated as settling the matter, you need look no further than the latest from CT’s resident securo-bot, Andrew F.

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Tim Wilkinson 08.23.13 at 5:29 pm

BTW since no-one else has queried or corrected it, I can’t any longer resist pointing out, just out of pride and for posterity, that I’m aware of the slightly embarassingly pretentiousness-deflating brain-fart of referring to Demosthenes instead of Diogenes.

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BG 08.23.13 at 11:34 pm

The batons crashing on the heads of the OWS people really brought this home to me. The Anglo liberal democracies aren’t as liberal as we like to think and really never have been. We have rulers.

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rdb 08.25.13 at 2:09 pm

Wikipedia on Scott Parkin’s deportation from Australia in 2005 (for which he was billed AUD11700).
Schneier on Security 2008 U.S. Government Policy for Seizing Laptops at Borders
Amazing. The U.S. government has published its policy: they can take your laptop anywhere they want, for as long as they want, and share the information with anyone they want:

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