Will Snowden Revelations About Spying on Foreign Governments Undermine the European and Pacific Trade Talks?

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Despite all the consternation in the US about Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent and intensity of snooping in the United States, it isn’t clear that the surveillance industry is even breaking a sweat. But the government and public uproar in Europe about US snooping on its supposed allies may change that pronto.

One indicator of concern about US reactions would be PR efforts directed at ordinary people. Even though the mainstream media has provided a lot of critical material (and death by a thousand unkind cuts of innuendo) on Snowden and Greenwald, comment sections show strong support and opinion polls continue to move in their favor. My reading is unscientific, but both here and looking at major US sites now and again, I see fewer signs of organized trolling than I have on other hot issues (for instance, anti-union trolling when Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker started union-busting or during critical financial regulation fights). I’d hazard that the NSA and its allies feel that they have both the Administration and much of Congress firmly behind them, and all they need to do is manage elite opinion enough so as to reduce the amount of ‘splaining their backers have to provide.

Nevertheless, American citizens might still benefit from the Snowden revelations. It’s possible that his disclosures will throw a wrench in the European, and perhaps also Pacific trade talks underway. Both are hazardous to middle-class economic and even physical health.

Despite their branding, these pending pacts are not much about trade (international trade is already substantially liberalized) but about increasing the power of multinational corporations, by weakening regulation and by strengthening intellectual property protections. From a recent post:

By way of background, the Administration is taking the unusual step of trying to negotiate two major trade deals in the same timeframe. Apparently Obama wants to make sure his corporate masters get as many goodies as possible before he leaves office. The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the US-European Union “Free Trade” Agreement are both inaccurately depicted as being helpful to ordinary Americans by virtue of liberalizing trade. Instead, the have perilous little to do with trade. They are both intended to make the world more lucrative for major corporations by weakening regulations and by strengthening intellectual property laws…

These “trade” deals are Trojan horses to erode or eliminate national regulations. Baker anticipates that these deals will include sections that would limit government regulation (including at the state and local level) on fracking and could revive much of the internet surveillance that reared its ugly head in the failed SOPA.

And this sort of erosion of the right to regulate will most assuredly extend to financial services. Dodd Frank? The Brown-Vitter bill that some see as a great new hope for tougher financial regulation? Public Citizen noted”>They are already unworkable under existing trade agreements. And the TPP would tilt the table even further in favor of financial firms….From Public Citizen:

The draft text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a NAFTA-style FTA under negotiation between the United States and 10 Pacific Rim countries, contains the same limits on financial regulation as the WTO, and more. In addition, these rules would be privately enforceable by foreign financial firms that could “sue” the U.S. government in foreign tribunals, which would be empowered to order payment of unlimted sums of U.S. taxpayer money if they saw our laws as undermining such firms’ “expected profits.” Also, even as the International Monetary Fund has officially shifted from opposition to qualified endorsement of capital controls, which are used to avoid destabilizing floods of speculative money into and out of countries, the TPP would ban the use of these important regulatory tools. Despite years of pressure from former House Financial Services Committee Chair Rep. Barney Frank to permit capital controls, the Obama administration is the strongest promoter of this ban in the TPP.

Back to the current post. If you think the discussion above must be an exaggeration, think again. On June 12, he Coalition of Services Industries and the Global Business Dialogue co-hosted a meeting on the Trade in Services Agreement showcasing Deputy USTR Michael Punke and including representatives of Verizon, UPS, and ACE Group. The meeting was on the record, and here are the key points from notes taken by a representative from Public Citizen:

· In the wake of revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency is indiscriminately spying on Verizon customers’ telephone records, a Verizon representative expressed hope that TISA can be used to “make sure that privacy rules do not undermine these seamless data flows” between TISA countries.

· An insurance industry representative expressed hope that TISA would be used to impose “disciplines” on the WTO’s (already-weak) “prudential exception” for financial services. He stated, “What we’re concerned about is a government saying that for prudential reasons we’re going to limit your business.”

· Michael Punke, Deputy USTR, stated that the next TISA negotiating round will take place next week. He also called GATS a “wonderful framework” for TISA, but one that “doesn’t[] go nearly far enough.” Punke made clear that everything, from financial services to immigration, is on the table for TISA negotiations.

To translate: Verizon hopes that TISA will be used to undermine EU privacy rules, which in theory stand in the way of “seamless data flows”. But as fresh revelations make clear, NSA already has its nose very deep in the European data tent.

As readers may know, Der Spiegel revealed late last week that the US has been spying on EU commissioners as well as monitoring up as many as 60 million phone calls a day in Germany. That’s created an uproar, since Germany has fresh memories of how the Stasi operated and it was targeted more intensively than other countries (well, the UK cooperates, so why does the NSA need to spy there? It can just ask).

The Guardian reports today on how the concern in Germany isn’t simply about spying on officials, which some in power dismissed as routine and expected, but the extent of surveillance of messages of ordinary citizens and business. Given that Germany has not been a source of terrorists targeting the US, the level of monitoring seems grossly disproportionate, unless other motives are at work, such as industrial espoinage. Both the immediate concern about violation of privacy rules and the fear of even uglier motives could derail the trade talks. From the Guardian:

The prospects for a new trade pact between the US and the European Union worth hundreds of billions have suffered a severe setback following allegations that Washington bugged key EU offices and intercepted phonecalls and emails from top officials…

Germany’s justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, called for an explanation from the US authorities. “If the media reports are true, it is reminiscent of the actions of enemies during the cold war,” she was quoted as saying in the German newspaper Bild. “It is beyond imagination that our friends in the US view Europeans as the enemy.”

France later also asked the US authorities for an explanation. France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said: “These acts, if confirmed, would be completely unacceptable.”…

Washington and Brussels are scheduled to open ambitious free trade talks next week following years of arduous preparation. Senior officials in Brussels are worried that the talks would be overshadowed by the latest disclosures of US spying on its closest allies.

The fact that France has sided with Germany in demanding an explanation ups the ante considerably. The former prime minister of Belgium and now leader of the liberal block in the European Parliament, the current head of the Parliament, and the foreign minister of Luxembourg have also joined the denunciations. The US is going to have to provide some sort of response, and Clapper-esque “least untrue” statements won’t cut it.

And the coming revelations are likely to produce rifts with the European side of these negotiations:

Meanwhile, it has emerged that at least six European member states have shared personal communications data with the NSA, according to declassified US intelligence reports and EU parliamentary documents.

The documents, seen by the Observer, show that – in addition to the UK – Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy have all had formal agreements to provide communications data to the US. They state that the EU countries have had “second and third party status” under decades-old signal intelligence (Sigint) agreements that compel them to hand over data which, in later years, experts believe, has come to include mobile phone and internet data.

Under the international intelligence agreements, nations are categorised by the US according to their trust level. The US is defined as ‘first party’ while the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand enjoy ‘second party’ trusted relationships. Countries such as Germany and France have ‘third party’, or less trusted, relationships.

In other words, if you don’t agree to be one of our best buddies, you get treated like an enemy.

Tonight’s Guardian disclosures give some insight into snooping on the other side of the Pacific:

US intelligence services are spying on the European Union mission in New York and its embassy in Washington, according to the latest top secret US National Security Agency documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

One document lists 38 embassies and missions, describing them as “targets”. It details an extraordinary range of spying methods used against each target, from bugs implanted in electronic communications gear to taps into cables to the collection of transmissions with specialised antennae.

Along with traditional ideological adversaries and sensitive Middle Eastern countries, the list of targets includes the EU missions and the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as a number of other American allies, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey. The list in the September 2010 document does not mention the UK, Germany or other western European states.

Japan, Mexico and South Korea are all important parties to the TPP. Mexico is unlikely to balk, but Japan has been pushing back against the US on a number of fronts and appears to be chafing badly in its traditional role of military protectorate of the US (it also had the eight largest army in the world in the 1980s, and I suspect it has moved up in the ranking since then). The nationalists in Japan could use this news to strengthen their hand.

One measure that the snooping victims may start taking is to change routing priorities and over time change network architecture so as to route lessInternet traffic through the US. That would be a poke in the eye and over time would enable countries to take some measures to secured their communications better. See this recently disclosed slide from the PRISM deck:

Screen shot 2013-07-01 at 2.01.21 AM

And in an extreme case, you could see a Sputnik-type reaction, where the countries that are particularly upset with US surveillance start aggressively funding building better math and tech capabilities to defend their companies and build more home-grown data and communications services. And remember, unlike the space race, where the objective was dominance, here the lower standard of a decent defense will do. Wired (hat tip Chuck L) has found a report that mere mortals using encryption have stymied wiretaps, so Germany and France could do a lot with existing technology to throw sand in the NSA’s surveillance machine if they were to get serious about it:

For the first time, encryption is thwarting government surveillance efforts through court-approved wiretaps, U.S. officials said today…

According to today’s report from the U.S. Administrative Office of the Courts:

Encryption was reported for 15 wiretaps in 2012 and for 7 wiretaps conducted during previous years. In four of these wiretaps, officials were unable to decipher the plain text of the messages. This is the first time that jurisdictions have reported that encryption prevented officials from obtaining the plain text of the communications since the AO began collecting encryption data in 2001

Those figures are just a blip on the screen in the office’s 2012 Wiretap Report, which said there were 3,395 authorized wiretaps from federal or state judges.

The report said that 97% of the wiretaps were for portable devices, meaning cells, CrackBerries, and pagers.

While Snowden remains a defacto prisoner in the transit zone in Moscow, the more his document leaks keep dribbling out, the more and more the reputation of the US, and Obama Administration, sinks. The fact that Susan Rice felt compelled to issue a heated denial over the weekend to questions about damage Snowden’s revelations to Obama and US policy is compelling evidence the reverse is true. Her remarks are a howler:

Rice rejected suggestions that Snowden’s disclosures had made Obama a lame duck, damaged his political base and hurt US foreign policy, saying: “I think that’s bunk.”

“I don’t think the diplomatic consequences, at least as they are foreseeable now, are that significant,” she added.

“I think the United States of America is and will remain the most influential, powerful and important country in the world, the largest economy, and the largest military, [with] a network of alliances, values that are universally respected.”

If all the US really plans to fall back on might makes right, which is what Rice’s position amounts to, the Administration is even less well prepared to deal with international fallout than I had thought. The European demands for transparency means that more of the fallout will be handled in public forums than the US power brokers are accustomed to. The next few weeks could be very entertaining indeed.

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  1. Conscience of a Conservative

    Unfortunately it is a well known secret that even amongst allies there has always been spying. If there’s anything new here, maybe it’s that the spying no longer includes men and women in trench coats.

    1. Gerard Pierce

      Of course there has always been spying. That’s hardly the point. Most European people/politicians assumed that ordinary care of their information would limit the damage from this “normal” spying.

      The wakeup is is terms of the current technology, and the fact that the way it has been used by the NSA covers so many kinds of communications.

      There are also probably a number of politicians who have suddenly figured out that the NSA owns their butts – but so far hasn’t issued the orders it is clearly capable of issuing when the issue is important enough to the US government.

      It’s going to get real quiet out there when the “owned” realize that they are not in a position to either complain or to attempt to eliminate the spying.

      Then there will be an echo chamger among the “owned” about how essintial this kind of surveillance is to our protection in the GWOT.

      1. Duncan Hare

        There are also probably a number of politicians who have suddenly figured out that the NSA owns their butts – but so far hasn’t issued the orders it is clearly capable of issuing when the issue is important enough to the US government.

        What make you sure the NSA or the executive is not issung “requests” to politicians?

        Two names come to mind: Kunich and Schneiderman.

        Sudden changes in their circumstances.

        1. Synopticist

          And not only politicians though. People from all walks of life have suddenly got chill down their backs.

          Ever do anything online you wouldn’t feel totally comfortable your wife or mother or employer or your whole town knowing about?

          You really want to get involved in that protest group? You sure? It’s a feindishly scary situation I think, for many, many people.

          1. C

            Given that the NYPD and others have already been clear about defining groups such as Occupy and even noviolent ecological and anti-war groups as “Terrorists” I’d say that is more than a theoretical feature.

            In essence what this tells us is that planting spies or undermining groups via faked documents is not enough they will also be recording communications.

            As a side note regarding orders “when it matters” I’d note the HBGeary scandal in which U.S. companies (including the CIA Funded Palantir Technologies) planned to run PsyOps on Americans on behalf of the DOJ, Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce.


            In some respects the orders may already have been given.

        2. Gerard Pierce

          “What makes you sure the NSA or the executive is not issung “requests” to politicians? Two names come to mind: Kunich and Schneiderman. Sudden changes in their circumstances.”

          I’m actually pretty sure that “requests” are being issued. Obviously it can’t be proved, but when the government has this kind of power to blackmail our representatives, it seems unlikely that the power would NOT be used.

          Again, it’s just a suspicion, but I believe that that kind of power is used covertly whenever possible. When you blackmail someone too aggressively, there is always the chance that they will spit in your eye and dare you to do your worst.

          And I suspect that the most effective blackmail results in self-censorship by those who know their own guilt.

        3. Yves Smith Post author

          You are giving Schneiderman way too much credit. He didn’t need to be threatened. He was shown a cheap shiny trinket by Obama and lunged for it.

          I have reports from Schneiderman’s office that he dithered on filing cases, was way too cautious. He’d never been a prosecutor before and didn’t have the stomach for it. Selling out to Obama looked like a good way out of his problem, that he’d join a task force and so wouldn’t have to stick his neck solo out on litigation. But anyone with an operating brain cell could see the task force was a joke.

    2. from Mexico

      “It’s normal” is one of the classical, and most frequently used, exuses that abusers, and the abused, used to justify abuse.

      “Some women just don’t know that abuse is not an inevitable part of any relationship. They assume that some level of abuse is going on in the relationships of all of their girlfriends,” is how it is explained here http://madamenoire.com/138727/joy-pain-reasons-why-women-stay-in-abusive-relationships/3/#sthash.kooDxKPS.dpuf

      From Sanctuary for the Abused:

      Abusers will minimize, justify, deny, distort, lie about and blame others for their behavior to escape consequences, It is our responsibility to hold them accountable.


      1. rps

        ” it is a well known secret that even within families there has been child sexual abuse.”

        Let me fix that for ya,’ It is a well known open secret in families of child rape. Why is the language of child rape labelled as ‘child sexual abuse,’ and thus, linguistically ameliorated to ease the horrific, repugnant, physical and psychological violent [f]acts? Then to compound this brutality, the rapists who target children are designated as molesters or pedophiles. Thereby, removing the rapist degrees away from the physical and far reaching psychological crimes perpetrated against the powerless.

    3. from Mexico

      Conscience of a Conservative said:

      Unfortunately it is a well known secret that even amongst allies there has always been spying. If there’s anything new here, maybe it’s that the spying no longer includes men and women in trench coats.

      So here, let me fix that for you:

      Unfortunately it is a well known secret that even within families there has been child sexual abuse. If there’s anything new here, maybe it’s that the child sexual abuse no longer includes men who fit the dirty old man stereotype.

      Abusers don’t fit the sterotypes:

      Creepy, seamy, slimy, sordid. Pick your adjective. All fit the child molester. Pal, personable, courteous and nice. They don’t seem to fit. But therein lies the difficulty of protecting children from pedophiles. They do fit.


      1. Man I am Bored

        Most people express strong feelings of condemnation – almost instinctively when this topic comes up. Challenges to intrinsic beliefs, concepts of revenge and justice, and unsettling contradictions can challenge our idea of what have concluded is “wrong”. No one condones sexual violence against children, but what other violence do we allow?

        It is legal for a multi-billion dollar porn industry to sell the sex of 18 years old, at somewhat better than McDonalds wages, and, whether or not the law considers them children, they are in fact young. It’s been described as simulated rape to victimless, hugely profitable commerce.

        We allow financial predators to damage entire neighborhoods and communities, and the State has spent considerably more resources to combat exploitation and molestation, with penalties that no one seriously pretends are designed for rehabilitation. In the past, the public’s prurience has been used as a weapon against them. Homosexuals were considered mentally ill, deviancy that brought similar angry, retributive disdain.

        I wonder why sex hasn’t been mentioned when it comes to Snowden, that’s always a useful tool to soil or destroy reputations.

    4. diptherio

      So you expect that Germany, Israel, France, Denmark, Pakistan, etc. are all storing all of your communications data (thereby creating a de facto file on you), just like the NSA is doing? That’s just what everybody does and everybody knows about, eh?

      No, allies don’t spy on each other’s citizenry: the US does, and that is a big difference.

  2. Ken

    “Both are hazardous to middle-class economic and even physical health.”

    Could you explain this sentence?

    1. Leviathan

      I believe Yves is referring to the “race to the bottom” aspect of the trade agreements, as the trading partner with the worst safety record will set the bar for all the signatories. This means that food safety, for instance, will be lowered in the US to meet the current subpar standards of certain Southeast Asian, developing countries, rather than having their standards rise to meet ours. Similarly, Europeans’ well-known aversion to GMO food would be rendered moot if they sign off on the deal with us. They would simply have to buy and presumably plant Monsanto’s poison crops. Tough nougies Eurocitizens!

      In this way, the standards that have been painstakingly put in place in the west over many decades will be undone overnight if these pacts are allowed to go through. Snowden may just have saved us all from a nightmare scenario. We really owe that guy.

      1. Susan the other

        Well yes. If this is Snowden’s goal, I just became his biggest fan. He’s doing an excellent job.

  3. Sebastian

    “That’s created an uproar, since Germany has fresh memories of how the Stasi operated and it was targeted more intensively than other countries.”

    No. This is no German totalitarian trauma. It has created an uproar in the whole of Europe because allied European countries don’t appreciate having their internal political processes as well as their citizens and companies targeted by American bugging and hacking, conducted from common Nato facilities. FFS.

    The zombie argument that “everyone spies on everyone” is clearly that, a zombie argument, for it keeps popping up despite refutation after refutation.

    If you really believe European allies spy on US companies and citizens as well as the Congress, why have they never been caught?

    The only ally to have been caught red-handed spying on US soil is Israel. But they’re just amateurs, right?

    Rice said: “I don’t think the diplomatic consequences, at least as they are foreseeable now, are that significant.”

    I wonder if American diplomats in Europe would agree. I imagine they’re having their busiest monday in years.

    “I think the United States of America is and will remain the most influential, powerful and important country in the world, the largest economy, and the largest military, [with] a network of alliances, values that are universally respected.”

    This is starting to sound more and more like the mantra of self-delusion and denial. America’s fascist turn is no longer lost on the world, not even on its staunchest ‘allies’.

    The network of alliances is unraveling fast since the US is proving day after day it doesn’t believe in its ‘universally respected values’.

    On the upside, the world is awakening to the fact that it needs to be multipolar in order to counter power hungry, out of control US elites and to guarantee freedom for citizens and the likes of Edward Snowden.

    1. from Mexico

      Sebastian says:

      America’s fascist turn is no longer lost on the world, not even on its staunchest ‘allies’.

      I don’t believe that foreigners, however, are the target audience for the lying. The American people are.

      This is another Pentagon Papers moment. As Hannah Arendt observed in “Lying in Politics,” what the Pentagon Papers revealed was “the extravagant lengths to which the commitment to nontruthfulness in politics went on at the highest level of government,” and “the concomitant extent to which lying was permitted to proliferate throughout the ranks of all government services.” As she goes on to explian:

      That concealment, falsehood, and the role of the deliberate lie became the chief issues of the Pentagon papers, rather than illusion, error, miscalculation, and the like, is mainly due to the strange fact that the mistaken decisions and lying statements consistently violated the astoundingly accurate factual reports of the intelligence community, at least as recorded in the Bantam edition. The crucial point here is not merely that the policy of lying was hardly ever aimed at the enemy (this is one of the reasons why the papers dod not reveal any military secrets that could fall under the Espionage Act), but was destined chiefly, if not exclusively, for domestic consumption, for propaganda at home.

      1. Sebastian

        I agree. The first and foremost victims America’s fascist turn, at least among populations of developed nations, are the American people themselves.

        Since their government and economy are the focal point of so much (relative) power and influence, they are the premier target for all the lies, deceit, media and market manipulations and information intrusion required to maintain control.

        Dollar hegemony has turned them into the world’s feeding pig. Laissez-(nous-)faire policies have eroded middle class jobs. Unchecked power politics and imperialism have sullied their once remarkable standing in the world. Financialization and corporatism have subverted their democratic process into an ugly farce.

        The American people are sure paying the price for being citizens of “the most influential, powerful and important country in the world, the largest economy, and the largest military.”

        I just wonder how long the joys of national narcissism will make up for it. But I know people can remain ignorant longer than I can stay sane.

        1. from Mexico

          Sebastian says:

          The first and foremost victims America’s fascist turn, at least among populations of developed nations, are the American people themselves.

          Absolutely. This is what the Rev. Martin Luther King finally came to realize, perhaps late in his lfe, but nevertheless his life experiences inexhorably drove him to this conclusion:

          There is…a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed that there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the Poverty Program. There were experiments, hopes, and new beginnings. Then came the build-up in Vietnam. And I watched the program broken as if it was some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money, like some demonic, destructive suction tube.


        2. HotFlash

          people can remain ignorant longer than I can stay sane.

          Excellent! I am so stealing that.

            1. charles sereno

              Tell me I’m wrong when I detect some pique in your reply. I noticed the same quote as Hot Flash did. Instead of just adding “+1000,” I tried to add my 2 bits. Hot Flash and I were both taken by it. I can’t believe you’re offended.

              1. Sebastian

                Pique? Yes, a lot of pique, and anger and bitter sarcasm. Towards this lunatic US surveillance state, that is.

                I’m glad my words amused you.

    2. fajensen

      . It has created an uproar in the whole of Europe because allied European countries don’t appreciate having their internal political processes …
      The bigger issue is that the very same European politicians think it is perfectly OK to allow – and even aid – a foreign power spying on their own citizens.

      The politicians are really offended because is is disclosed that they are treated like the plebian population by the US while they thought they were Special People of Importance.

      The US is not on our side and it turns out that our richly rewarded represeantatives are not on our side either. So – we would not cross the road to pee on them if they catch fire.

    3. from Mexico

      Sebastian said:

      This is starting to sound more and more like the mantra of self-delusion and denial.

      I think Michael Parenti would vehemently disagree. The people at the helm of the US criminal state are not deluded or in denial. They know exaclty what they are doing. As Parenti explains here:

      And then there were a whole crop of liberal publications… And the charge was to criticize the empire, but never criticize it in the way it was really happening. Criticize the empire because the people who are building this empire, the people who own most of the world, the people who destroyed whole countries and walked away fabulously rich, the people who developed new means of undermining any kind of independence anywhere in the world, these people were stupid. They’re not as smart as those of us stuck away at various universities who are writing these little books, like Chalmers Johnson.

      And so we got critical analyses of American policy, but the criticism was always about how confused our policymakers were. The liberal critics are never happier than when they can rock back on their heels and say: “How consused these leaders are.”…

      And I did a little gathering of the adjectives they used from these various books I mention… Their critiques of US empire characterize US interventionist polices as, quote…”reckless, misguided, inept, bumbling, insensitive, overreaching, self-deceptive, deluded, driven by false assumptions, and presuming a mandate from God.” This policy “was laden with tragic mistakes, and imperial hubris”… They saw this as “a mindless proclivity embedded in the American psyche or culture.”

      Well, I want to argue, and I did argue in this book, and I think I showed it, that empire is not something that is done just because people are overambitious or misguided or inept, or they don’t have your guidance…because you’re so much smarter than all those guys are… It’s imperialism. The empire does imperialism. That’s the process of empire… There are real material interests at stake. There are fortunes to be made many times over. Behind Colonel Blimp there stood the East India Company and the Bank of England. Behind Teddy Roosevelt and the US Marines there stood the United Fruit Company and Wall Street. The intervention is intended to enrich the investors and keep the world safe for their system, for their system of investment, for their system of expropriation, their system of trade, their system of misusing labor and the like.


      1. from Mexico

        More from Michael Parenti on this subject here:

        So, I can say to you that school teachers are concerned about their salaries and they’re organizing and they’re threatening a strike and they’re pressuring. I can say to you that farmers are doing this and looking for subsidies and facing certain policies. But the minute I say to you that the very people at the top, the plutocracy, the very rich and powerful, the ones who own most of America, they are consciously pursuing power and wealth, someone will come along and say: “What do you have, a conspiracy theory?” Or they’ll say you’re cynical and paranoid. They’re view is that stuff just happens. Things just happen due to unintended consequences or our leaders are just stupid, and they’re jerks, or they’re confused and they don’t know any better… People who operate in this world operate with intent. There’s no such thing as imperialism without imperialists. There’s no such thing as capitalism without capitalists. There’s no such thing as rulers who are somnambulant who walk around in their sleep.


      2. diptherio

        The delusion belongs to that American people, of course, not necessarily to “our” leaders. It is soooo bizarre to me that otherwise rational, modern people can talk about “American Exceptional-ism” with a straight face.

        How do we think that sounds to anyone who is not an American? When we say “Amercian Exceptional-ism,” 95% of the Earth’s population hears, ” Hey, [your Nation here], you ain’t shit! We’re the best! We’re special!”

        If a person went around acting like this, we’d all recognize him/her for a d-bag immediately, yet we do it as a nation and think it’s somehow OK. The imperialist elite in this country must continue to keep the majority of Americans believing that we are somehow special, otherwise their imperialist policies might loose political support.

        I maintain some degree of hope that someday, maybe someday soon, the American electorate will wake up to the fact that only a$$holes think they’re better than everyone else and that no one likes a cop (so why would we want to be the ‘World’s Policeman’?). Until then, we can look forward to hearing more gems of linguistic excrement like this one from our respected leaders.

        In the future we’ll look back on this like the Germans look back on all that ‘master race’ BS.

        1. from Mexico

          Yep. Keeping rank and file Americans deluded is an inegral part of the scam. Michael Parenti had something to say about that too:

          The costs of empire are borne also by the people of the metropolitan nation, of the home nation… Now there is a lot of literature saying the empire is in decline… I don’t see that… I see the republic going into decline. I see the republic being starved for this empire. I see $400 billion a year for the empire is now more like $800 or $900 billion per year with Bush helping and then Obama…

          In Indonesia the rich Indonesians did very well with the American intervention… That’s why the major unit of analysis is not nation-states. It’s class, what class is being served by whom… Like when I said the Germans went into Africa, or the Italians went into Africa, it wasn’t Germans and Italians, it was the ruling interests of these countries that went into plunder…

          Now the common people get swept up into it because obviously no ruling class rules nakedly. It pumps up an ideology and the ordinary Cockney Brit will say “This is our empire. Britannia rules the waves,“ and they sing the song as if they owned a piece of it instead of it was exploiting them. That’s called false consciousness. That’s called when you’re saluting the guys who are sticking it to you, and that’s what they are doing right now.


        2. Lambert Strether

          Shorter: Are the elites stupid and/or evil? It’s the eternal question.

          On sunny days I tend to with stupid, but I think it’s more realistic to go with evil (heaps of corpses aside) for two reasons:

          1. Evil propagates, as stupid does not. That is, it’s much ore likely that the evil will draw others into their own evil than that the stupid will induce those around them to be stupid. Note that the liberal types From Mexico cites are essentiallly voting for “stupid.” See Jeffrey Sachs on “morally pathological environment, and cue discussion on why our social hiearchies sort sociopaths to the top, and how to mitigate this.

          2. Exploitation (I read somewhere recently, but cannot recall the source) intrinsically involves witting harm by the exploiter to the exploited, as for example wage labor, but also in many (most?) forms of rental extraction. It is impossible, for example, that the people who were forging signatures onto mortgage documents at the rate of hundreds an hour did not know that they were doing harm (helping the bankters exploit their captives) but they got sucked into the process (see point 1). Now cue discussion of the Stanford Prison and Milgram experiments, which some uber higher-up in our society seems to have treated as set of technical manuals.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I think compassion breeds competence. Malice breeds incompetence or is effectively indistinguishable. Compassionate people want good results, and either learn competence or look for the competent. The incompetent/malicious can’t or don’t care. The rise of TBTF* and the stress unfunded mandates has put on states has reduced the ability to see how people outside the correct career path can do. No one really wants to be exposed as incompetent or malicious which leads to yes men. Eventually, everyone is a yes man because everyone else left or is burnt out in all sectors.

            *Media, finance, defense, even unions, you name it.

    4. from Mexico

      Sebastian says:

      On the upside, the world is awakening to the fact that it needs to be multipolar in order to counter power hungry, out of control US elites and to guarantee freedom for citizens and the likes of Edward Snowden.


      Let’s take South America, for instance. If we can burrow beneath all the sound and fury, beneath all the moral one-upmanship between China and the United States, between the moral and intellectual competition between Marxism and capitalism, it boils down to a simple, pragmatic reality: it is better to have both China and the US competing for your vast natural resources and for your markets than to be under the monopoly capitalism enforced by the imperial jackboot of the United States.

      1. diptherio

        Let’s hope it turns out to be more multi-polar than just US vs. China. We don’t need another rehash of the Cold War (though our “intelligence” agencies seem to be trying to provoke one).

    5. Banger

      I actually agree with some of what Rice says. Really the U.S. power is very robust and this notion that has been going on since Vietnam that the U.S. has lost its way etc. is, I believe, nonsense. Power, as Mao said comes out of the barrel of a gun and the U.S. has more guns than anyone else and the U.S. security services (covert and overt) are firmly in place and firmly loyal to the power-elite. Unless you are prepared to say that these services are likely rebel I don’t see how U.S. hegemony can be challenged anytime soon. Where is the U.S. weak? Maybe the U.S. isn’t so popular but who cares? How does that make a big difference?

      The notion that somehow people will revolt against is just wrong. What is happening is Americans are becoming more cynical about their government and their institutions which gives us, at last, a possibility of reform in the long-term, maybe, it the oligarchs allow it. If they don’t they’ll just create some threatening “enemy” and most people will rally ’round the flag as per usual–maybe a less than after 9/11 but it doesn’t take much. As for the rest of the world–they are largely subject to the fact the U.S. military controls the trade routes and the ME oil fields–end of story.

  4. Malmo

    I watched George Stephanopoulos go after Julian Assange with abandon yesterday on This Week. It literally made me ill. The MSM has pretty much turned the Snowden story into a manhunt story, while completely ignorning his revelations on government law breaking. The corporate media has clearly shown itself to be a significant arm of the security state. Worthless and disgusting.

  5. Jackson Bane

    I saw John McCain flawlessly pronounce apparatchik.

    “Given that Germany has not been a source of terrorists targeting the US, the level of monitoring seems grossly disproportionate”

    So you’re implying all the spyin’ is for terrorists? I don’t recall the USA being a source of terrorists targeting the US. No, we need to be a bit more creative about why we are being spied upon. I’d use surveilliance to pass, say, something like TPP.

  6. Swedish Lex

    If there is anything that will make Europeans furious is to hear US leaders saying “all countries do this”. Totally stupid response when caught with fingers in honey jar.

    1. Germany is going to elections in September. Neither candidate can now appear as soft on the US/Stasi. Schröder succesfully built an election campaign on turning against the US/W Bush/Iraq. The way for German politicans to score points now is to attack Obama. Merkel looks foolish for having received Obama in Berlin recently. She must be kind of miffed.
    2. The Germans love rules and laws. Trust them to initiate all kinds of legislative processes against the US.
    3. The EU Institutions, and the European Parliament in particular, will love to block new US-EU initiatives and may attempt to roll back existing one. Helping the US in the “war on terror” equals helping the Americans to spy on us, their supposed friends and allies.
    4. The French will now spy more than ever, knowing that if they are caught by the Americans, they will only have to say “hey we are allies and we spy on each other like crazy, like you do”. The French people now expects the French secret service to respond in kind.
    5. Obama will now be considered to be a character out of the novel 1984. He visited Mandela’s prison cell in South Africa. Europeans probably think he should have stayed there.

    1. Synopticist

      This will particularly excite the Germans, not only because it reminds them of their cold war weakness and lack of independence, but it also plays into their national “we’re the virtuous ones, while everyone else cheats” narrative.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Bashing the U.S. is going to become the past time of politicians the world over, not just the complaints of ignorant Americans who expect to be worshiped for not being bombed, outside of Pearl, during World War II. When Bush was in charge, the pressure to become anti-U.S. wasn’t there because most non-Americans outside maybe UK encountered likely Democratic-voters. People accepted the blue state-red state paradigm, but Obama has demonstrated blue state-red state is about team jerseys and favorite bands.

        Merkel isn’t going to go down without a fight, and she will make the U.S. the new Greece over the next two months. The Social Dems aren’t going to let her grab that mantle.

    2. Souvarine

      “The French people now expects the French secret service to respond in kind.”

      Frankly, I don’t think we expect anything from our secret services (really amateurish by the way), nor from our politicians (really amateurish too).
      French people have other concerns in mind, like seing their economy falling apart.

      1. Swedish Lex

        Not French but living in France, is must disagree. French secret service is most probably less bad than those of most other countries (Rainbow Warrior and a few other mistakes aside).

        The whole operation in Mali (intelligence, special forces, army, air force) was a great success. One of the things that the French actually can do well, with limited resources. The Americans would have spent 1000% of the same resources and would have achieved 10% of the results.

        French politicians are however an incompetent lot, although they sound terribly smart.

        Imagine if French secret service had bugged the White House, Congress and was filtering a few billion private communications every month. Frogs get caught but respond “listen guys, it’s cool, really, everyone is doing it, so just chill out”. I doubt that Joe Sixpack would feel entirely satisfied with that explanation.

        Bottom line, the US leadership is taking the Europeans for total fools, again. Cannot blaim them, really, but this time it is really a bit too far.

        1. Souvarine

          Well, maybe “handmade” would be a more appropriate word. I just mean we’ve got nothing like NSA or CIA.

          Anyway, french army wouldn’t have been able to intervene in Mali without american’s assistance concerning air transport and intelligence. United States can intervene anywhere without anyone’s help.

          And with cuts spending to come, french army probably won’t be able to make such an intervention in a few years.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            “United States can intervene anywhere without anyone’s help.”

            This isn’t true and hasn’t been true since Bush (1) and/or Clinton cut the size of the refueling and support fleet. Without friendly ports and transportation hubs, the U.S. has a more limited ability to deploy forces than it may have had in the past.

            Reducing the carriers to supply ships isn’t exactly economical from any stand point. The Boston man hunt was shut down because Homeland Security had no way to keep a large scale group of men in the field for even a relatively isolated region. The U.S. military has the same problems. It still needs ports.

            1. Bas

              So you people really don’t see that the US military and intelligence capabilities and apparatii have grown to truly monstruous proportions?

              They have morphed into a brutal self-sustaining force that purposefully breeds enemies, then assumes new powers to defeat them which in turn creates new and more sophisticated enemies that require even more devolved power to defeat.

              America is in some paranoid, autistic-sociopathic arms race with itself, and that justifies any actions, even against allies. I’ve never seen America so ugly, and I’m disappointed to find so many Americans on message boards everywhere defending this despicable behavior by their successive governments.

              Stockholm Syndrome? From the European point of view, the US is becoming a larger threat to our freedom, democracy and rule of law than China and Russia combined.

  7. rob

    I would guess that snowdens releases won’t “hurt” the trade negotiations.In the sense that it may hurt the american delegations bargaining position.It will hurt their ability to pretend they are acting in whatever way they are acting.The europeans will probably demand more concessions,and will more likely get them.My guess is these corporate negotiators/sociopaths, will take this in stride too,and try to use it as a “wedge”,tactic.
    The basic premise being that these people at these events are really just about money and power.The wronged parties will only seek to use the revelation to get more “money and power”.
    These people are at their corporatist orgy.This is just an unplanned penetration… but hey, that doesn’t mean they go home….they just roll with it.They all expect discretion, come what may.Nothing is going to stop them now from fucking everyone they can.

  8. rob

    I would also say that the difference between what politicians say, and negotiators do is like a person with bi-polar disorder.Or really split personalities.

    The negotiators are in the process of doing “business as usual….as usual.
    Politicians will make political hay over this… as usual.

    The reason for disinformation is to beguile the voting population.The general populations of All countries, believe these fairy tales.They believe THEIR politicians, while knowing everyone elses politicians are liars…

    Gotta say, Snowden is doing damn GOOD!

    1. diptherio

      Not in my experience. In Nepal, so far as I can tell, everyone seems to assume that all the political leaders are lying every time they open their mouths. The politicians make jokes about their own corruption and the press corps laugh and the people shrug their shoulders. There is plenty of political activism (both within and outside political parties), but everyone seems hyper-skeptical about anything the top party brass say, even from their own party. Anyone who has been in government for any length of time is assumed to be corrupted, even if they went in legit…FWIW

  9. EconCCX

    Given that Germany has not been a source of terrorists targeting the US, the level of monitoring seems grossly disproportionate…

    How about Atta, al-Shehhi and the Hamburg Cell? Would they not be sufficient to make Germany a “pilot project?”

    1. Glendora the Corpulent

      Go back to the end of World War II and you’ll see the CIA putting former Nazi scientists to work for the “other side.” We’ll never know exactly what happened, but it’s understood violent coercion is a tool that remains in use, even as these same states claim to persue actions to counter or prevent terror.

    2. Glendora the Corpulent

      Go back to the end of World War II and you’ll see the CIA putting former Nazi scientists to work for the “other side.” We’ll never know exactly what happened, but it’s understood violent coercion is a tool that remains in use, even as these same states claim to persue actions to counter or prevent terror.

  10. Dino Reno

    Will be interesting to see if Europe remains our little bitch after these already well-known spying efforts have been made public. The institution held in the highest regard by the U.S. public is the military and by way of that anything that advances the military’s efforts like spying. With this kind of backing, there will be no backing down by the U.S. on these spying charges in Europe. If they don’t like the peep hole we made in the girls shower too f-ing bad. Don’t they realize we are only doing this for their own good?

  11. Brooklin Bridge

    Naturally, the corporate elite are very interested in maintaining both programs. One to extract rent from the herd and t’other to monitor it. Boarders, for them, are like hedges of yore, they they keep the local herds where the grazing will put on the most fat and they help keep the political winds from taking too much top soil.

  12. ohmyheck

    Francois Hollande seems to think so…

    French President Francois Hollande told the United States on Monday to immediately cease spying on European institutions…

    “There can be no negotiations or transactions in all areas until we have obtained these guarantees, for France but also for all of the European Union, for all partners of the United States,” Hollande told journalists.”


    1. EmilianoZ

      It looks like the 2 main political parties in France, parti socialiste and UMP (Sarkozy party), are trying to downplay the new spying revelations.

      Only the marginal parties, FN (far-right), the green party and Melenchon (left of parti socialiste) are clamoring for Snowden to be given sanctuary in France.


      I don’t expect much from Francois Hollande. He seems to belong to that new race of bland spineless bureaucrats not very dissimilar from Obama. It is obvious that France doesn’t lead Europe anymore. They just look to Germany now.

    2. charles sereno

      I can only feign a French response in “Americanese.”

      “Should these reports be verifiable, and should the policies therein be consequential, and should…ahem, other conditions apply, we will demand a prompt reply and, just to clarify our position, we will not hide our outrage…(return to beginning of loop above)”

  13. polarbear4

    “Nevertheless, American citizens might still benefit from the Snowden revelations. It’s possible that his disclosures will throw a wrench in the European, and perhaps also Pacific trade talks underway.”

    Oh, how I fervently pray this is so!

    C’mon, all you foreign countries, don’t be bullied by the USA into signing onto the pact that will harm your citizens and everyone in the world.

  14. Thor's Hammer

    Taking the longer view, its just possible that the Snowden revelations could signal a Minsky moment in the domination of world communications buy the US.

    There is no technical or financial reason why the information flow of the internet has to go through servers controlled by Google and Faceplant. Perhaps the end result will be an Alternet based in Germany and a Asianet based in Hong Kong with firewalls in place at the borders?

    German and European public opinion is one thing, but the aspect of US spy activity that will really shake things up is the degree to which NSA data collection feeds US corporate entities with information that puts them at an advantage over their European competitors. Spying on the rabble— the elites could care less. Front running their business decisions is cause for burning at the stake.

    If you think that information collected by the Government doesn’t have economic value, think back to the front running of airline puts prior to 911. Somebody had advance knowledge of the timing of the attacks on the World Trade center. And it wasn’t the Bin Laden family—-.

    It is but a matter of time until the US Dollar loses it’s place as the world’s reserve currency. The Chinese,Indians, Iranians, Venezuelans, Russians, and some elements in the EU are actively working to build the foundations of a new currency to replace it. With the pivotal role that the internet plays in international commerce, it would not be surprising that many would like to move control of the internet information flow out of the US sphere as well.

    The US will look very different when they cannot simply print dollars to fund their imperial military and keep the imported oil flowing in to fuel the SUV fleet. And it is going to be rather difficult to replace that imported oil with fracked shale given that new shale wells are 50% exhausted in their first year and that only one in ten will still be operating after a decade.

    ps: Regarding encryption, I thought it was hilarious that CIA Director Petraeus and Broadwell tried to hide their little fuckfest by setting up an alternate internet address–something not even a mentally retarded eleven year old would rely upon, instead of using widely available encryption software like TOR that their own intelligence services had developed.

  15. digi_owl

    Not going to affect the talks what so ever, as the politicians on both sides are bought by the “special” interests that are really writing the agreement. An agreement that will inevitably increase said interest’s privileges while stripping them of any responsibilities when the inevitable shit hits the fan.

    1. from Mexico


      The deus absconditus or divine puppeteer at work on both sides of the Atlantic is one and the same.

  16. charles sereno

    There’s always room for humor, for example, the proverbial “bridge to nowhere.” Now here comes Japan (also rumored to have been such a bridge builder). Yves says — “[Japan] also had the eighth largest army in the world in the 1980s, and I suspect it has moved up in the ranking since then.” An Army for…(something funny)? Oh yeah, maybe invade an islet? Try wait. Put down a rebellion in Okinawa? OK, not that good. But I’m happy to be in this group of not always brilliant commentators.

  17. HS

    The question Americans need to be asking themselves is: Why is Snowden getting the standard US media circus, while other stories have simply been suppressed in the MSM? For example, the US government has gone to extremes to successfully keep the damning revelations of Sibel Edmonds out of the media. Another prime example, is Karen Hudes, the former World Bank attorney.
    The fact that Snowden only confirmed that which had already been leaked by previous whistleblowers, should give pause to anybody who has paid attention. It’s fairly clear that Snowden is another manufactured PR campaign selling the security state as the new normal, not terribly unlike the Boston circus. If you’ve ever figured out why retail stores install numerous decoy surveillance cameras, you’ve got the idea.

    1. washunate

      Certainly that’s possible. We have to be aware enough to know that we have no idea to what extent those we encounter in life have hidden motives.

      But your premise is flawed in a fundamental way. This story isn’t driven by the US corporate media. It’s driven by alternative and foreign media. Snowden wanted to leak to WaPo; the Establishment didn’t want to touch this story.

      Plus, Greenwald has specifically been a thorn in the side of the DC Dems, and Snowden revealed interesting details that add color to the general tone of what we know that most likely wouldn’t have been released purposefully.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I’ve looked at Huldes. I can tell you why she’s not getting attention. She does NOT clearly or convincingly present what was wrong with what she saw at the World Bank (I only heard one allegation and she so rushed her presentation of it that it was difficult to understand, it sounded like a big misrepresentation to investors in bond offering documents).

      She instead spends her media time ranting (and I do mean ranting, her tone is not good) about a paper (ie, nothing new, nothing based on personal knowledge) which because I had better things to do, I didn’t get around to debunking (the paper is a classic example of garbage in, garbage out analysis. The mathematics they did was fine, but they COMPLETELY misunderstood and misrepresented the underlying data).

      So shorter on Huldes: she doesn’t present the goods (she might have them but you can’t tell based on how she’s approached the media) and what she does present seriously undermines her credibility. I have yet to hear any “damning revelations” from her, just near-hystrioinic assertions.

      I’ve been tempted to write about her but have held off because I was pretty sure I’d get “how do you dare attack a whistleblower” reactions, but whistleblowers like her do not help the cause.

      1. charles sereno

        Thanks Yves. Somebody’s gotta do it (don’t look at me, I’m a wimp) with escapees from the plantation. EG, Mark Ames re Snowden, or Doug Valentine re Ellsberg. Shit! What’ve I done! I’m toast.

      2. Banger

        As someone who knew Karen when I worked at the WB in the 90s I was fascinated with your view of her so I looked at her interview with Abby Martin on RT and it certainly was vintage Karen. I can tell you that when I knew her she was intellectually very sharp and quick witted and also somewhat eccentric and abrupt as can be seen in the interview–but that isn’t unusual in that institution. From what little I can tell from her statements she has been, so far, somewhat incoherent about just what she’s getting at. But I doubt she would just make sh!t up and have a completely wrong idea about what went on with WB finances which I’ve always thought was a murky area.

        Something certainly happened to her on the job for her to be “ranting” about this matter. There’s surprisingly little on the web about her that clarifies anything so I’m looking forward to your evaluation and or debunking of what she said. I can certainly tell you this–I knew of several people in the legal department who felt corruption was very deep there and they had very specific projects and countries in mind.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Interesting that you know her.

          Look at the RT interview again. As I recall, what she said is:

          1. Something amiss with a bond deal

          2. I think a separate allegation re the Philippines, but couldn’t tell if part of 1 and if not part of 1, no substantive explanation at all

          3. There are other WB whistleblowers

          4. [this was MOST of her air time] Based on the bad Plos One paper, all the banks are one bank and control tons of companies. She mentions interlocking directorships which BTW is not in the paper. So most of what she talks about is based on research (ie it is not whistleblowing) and it’s wrong.

    3. Banger

      Well, there certainly is a lot of speculation about Snowden and even Wikileaks as being “limited hangouts” and that may be the case. The point is that unless you have carefully vetted the sources it’s hard to tell. Certainly the intelligence community does these things regularly. They see the media landscape as a battlefield and journalists as pieces to manipulate. My own sense is that Snowden is authentic but I’ll not vouch for that–I just think that’s the most likely explanation. But what I will say is that we can all be sure that the mainstream media has gotten it wrong–they are utterly hopeless as sources for anything other than sports scores.

      As for Sibel Edmonds we are talking about information that is much more dangerous and threatening to the security services. Much of what she is lifting up is the cooperation between organized crime, foreign intel services and the FBI/CIA and the 9/11 operation which must be repressed at all costs. Snowden’s revelations are mild and only add a few details to what all of us who follow this stuff assumed to be true.

  18. washunate

    Good read. I am hoping the international blowback is one of the best components since we are so impotent domestically at restraining our psychopaths.

    One quibble on this parenthetical:

    “international trade is already substantially liberalized”

    I know the intent here, but I think it’s actually wrong in substance. One of the major problems in our world is how difficult the movement of people and goods and ideas and capital and so forth still remains despite broad technological development and reduction in trade barriers.

    What we have is sort of faux trade liberalization, where trade is allowed in things that don’t really threaten the elites, but in anything that really matters, you discover just how unliberalized global borders remain.

  19. allcoppedout

    In actor-network theory we say ‘four words, four lies’. The reference is to an old joke about the USSR. The hyphen in actor-network theory is a ‘word’. I happen to share Mexico’s feelings on the creeps running this rock – a meaningful, but not directly meaningful statement, as the evidence is not directly of Mexico’s feelings, just my interpretation at our electronic distance. I suspect I would regard him as a good person; yet in today’s paranoid condition he could be an undercover cop or spook. So might I etc.
    If we could trust government to the extent we can trust the drawn on two dimensions geometry we are taught in schools (or Newtonian equations until near the speed of light), our fears on surveillance by government could be put aside. Most of us have messed about with right-angled triangles and the rest directly. Even though such stuff is eventually “wrong” it is approximate enough for most of our practice.

    I was taught my school maths as though it was the word of god. It was a shuddering experience when I discovered (long after scientific practice with more complex math) personally there were triangles in which the angles did not add up to 180). I still think my teachers were all very decent people with good intent towards me.

    I question why we are so concerned with the intentions of government people. This is not because I want to defend them as benign or generally helpful like my teachers. What I have in mind is complex. A simple example would be to consider Tony Blair’s excuse for the Iraq War. He tells us he was a decent bloke with good intentions who weighed-up the information he had, did the right thing and has made his peace with god. I actually hope this is all a lie. Otherwise, an uncounted million or so dead and so on, is the only result a decent, well-intentioned bloke could muster.

    Our secrets are not safe with them in my view. Yet there is no simple analysis we could trust (as in simple maths and physics) to give us this answer. We can distrust our secret services, military, police, rich and politicians. Yet what use has it ever been at showtime? We lose as soon as they call us rotten, jealous malcontents impugning their integrity. Game over. We are impugning the integrity of James Bond, the cast of NCIS, our brave soldiers and magnificent statesmen. In strategic terms they force us to fight on their prepared ground if we question integrity.

    Snowden seems something of a prepared patsy to me. He and Manning have done very little that would bother most of us. They may even be decent, honest folk. The Establishment has never been much concerned with who it puts on public punishment exhibitions before us. Anyone will do to maintain the terror or Foucault’s disciplinary society. They have both received far more punishment than any “crime” involved would deserve – and the message to us all is shut up and put up.

    The problem with ascribing good or bad intent is that it is as useless as a witchcraft trial. We can write endless novels – yet even then gate-keeping leaves us with James Bond, Spooks, NCIS and even Person of Interest. I could teach three years of business and toss one Habermas paper at my students saying ‘if this guy is right I’ve been lying to you’.

    I think the situation is so bad that anything we write in opposition to the Establish is addressed to the future. We are already too scared to do what should be done and are bearing witness. In Three Days of the Condor (1975 Redford so good looking I hate him even now) there is no one to trust, everyone gets killed and them he walks into the New York Times to get the truth out – but the film hints ‘don’t hold your breath’). Snowden and Manning carry no such devastating truth, but ‘our’ films have gone Zero Dark Thirty and are made in an industry of tax-thieving, money-laundering and well-intentioned heroes young enough to ‘credibly’ have stunning (and now often ‘kick-ass’) women take off their clothes around them and who trust their god-like driving skills.

    The problem with doubting integrity is that an fool can do it (actually, a few fools can’t). Indeed, in Freud’s (1936) paranoid-schizoid versus depressive positions, most demonise the other far too quickly as default. What we need is a better heuristic (geometry) of secrecy in the depressive position. My own “fantasy” is “they” are changing our biology. The notion of biology here is very different for those few who know about the ‘arms’ race in evolution’, to those who think I might mean “they” are Dr No and his mates.
    Have a look at what happens to wild life and domestic herds when there is a predator about. We are running so scared we can’t spot they have turned democracy into “chemical pack castration”.

  20. Diana Barahona

    There are no multinationals. A multinational corporation has a headquarters in just one country and operations in other countries. The global ruling class comes out of the structures of production, trade and sales of the transnational corporations, with headquarters in three or more countries, interlocking boards of directors, etc. National capital and capitalists are a fiction maintained by the politicians put in power by the transnational corporations. They maintain the fiction of the “national” to fool the workers into thinking that they are ruling in the “national” interest, not in the interest of a bunch of supranational megacorporations that don’t have a stake in the welfare of any single nation or its people. It is a fiction designed to maintain the legitimacy of governments that don’t represent the people.

  21. Kurt Sperry

    Given the thousands of people who it is widely surmised had access to the same facts Snowden did, would it be it a reasonable assumption to expect that any state (or even non-state today) with a viable spy/intelligence capability and the requisite curiosity already knew most of all of the little made public?

    Secrecy only works when information can be very, very compartmentalized and it appears that isn’t being done at all in the NSA. At least not the stuff Snowden had access to.

    My working assumption, and the NSA’s as well I’d expect, is that the Russians–and the French and the Chinese etc.–likely had bought whatever information Snowden possesses prior to the whole thing going public. This whole thing, in the way secrecy usually is, is all about perception management and almost nothing to do with protecting information beyond its power to embarrass, incriminate “good guys” or be politically inconvenient.

  22. Dana

    The outrage expressed by European leaders over Snowden’s “leaks” is total bluff, serving to control popular response.

    European countries have had invasive surveillance programs during and ever since WWII.

    In fact, prior to the imposition of the European Treaty, the naissant European entity engaged in an agreement with the FBI, in 1997, to participate in the creation of a shared global surveillance program.


    What could be greater than to think that Snowden’s “revelations” might put into question the transatlantic and transpacific “treaties”?, but unfortunately, if you look closely, all of the European media noise is a load of bluff and puff.

    1. Bas

      Americans proclaiming that Europeans already knew or should have known about this international mass surveillance by an out of control security apparatus of a nation (including most of its politicians, media and public) that appears more paranoid and sociopathic with each passing day – you are wrong and will soon find out just how deeply.

      Europeans, and Germans in particular, sincerely (yes, sincerely – do you people even have a use for that word anymore?) value their privacy, and the right of innocent citizens to be free of any government’s surveillance within the safety of their own homes.

      Sorry for the rant, but I’m really sick of smug yanks telling us Europeans we shouldn’t ‘moan’ about their appalling behavior.

      Multipolar world, if need be with regimes as distasteful as China, Russia and the US: please bring it on. It can’t get much worse than this.

  23. TC

    Evidently, coming flight from the euro into the trans-Atlantic’s insolvent dollar-pound core needs the way paved for diverting attention from London and New York, that blame otherwise might be focused on the fruits of moles Anglo-American moneybags have animated in key institutions of government, this for the sake of further facilitating destruction of the authority of the sovereign nation state, a project ongoing more or less unabated since at least August 15, 1971. However, rather than shoot the flea-riddled dog called Uncle Sam, better a flea bath in the way of demand the Federal Reserve be nationalized as effective antidote to the deep state’s devious machinations, the likes of which Snowden OBVIOUSLY is part.

    1. allcoppedout

      I agree TC. It’s possible to believe our SIS would have missed the Soviet moles if they’d kept their KGB uniforms on. Why we can’t spot just how captured our politicians are by rich interests amazes me. Snowden is hardly telling us that, say, Blair was a US plant (his wife in the novel and film ‘Ghost’)and how much easier this was to do than turning the Cambridge spies etc.

  24. Brooklin Bridge

    It looks like Snowden is in limbo at the Moscow airport. Obama is apparently easing up on the public rhetoric and doubling down on the back-channel threats to prevent anyone from giving him safe passage or safe haven.


    Many of the comments on the HuffPo article are just awful. Real lynch-em mentality. I have to wonder how many of those are paid trolls. Perhaps it’s an outlier based upon the observations at the beginning of this post, “…comment sections show strong support [for Snowden and Greenwald] and opinion polls continue to move in their favor.”, but I have noticed that trend (traitor judgment) becoming more prevalent in recent HuffPo articles on the subject.

    Obama privately tightening the noose on Snowden while publicly making speeches about how everyone should emulate Nelson Mandela. He is ruthless, utterly cold blooded. It was Rahm Emanuel who was learning at the feet of the master and not the other way around.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      A friend has done a pretty systematic analysis which he intends to post. I told him the Obot sites were leaning less strongly in favor of Snowden. But even the NYT has been running 2:1 or more in favor of Snowden. I haven’t followed HuffPo, so maybe it’s become, with MSNBC, one of the last bastions. I note that Daily Kos has been pretty consistently been running pro-Snowden pieces.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Mostly, HuffPo’s comments has been inconsistent. Multiple threads with pro Snowden comments prevailing and then suddenly the “hang-em” crowd surges. My observations are hardly methodical, more gag reflex, but it does seem the anti-Snowden comments have been increasing of late and have taking on a particularly obnoxious .bent. Once I get over the gag-reflex at the hang-em crowd, it’s the inconsistency that has me puzzled. Though totally un-methodical, I have at least distinguished HuffPo’s articles and separated out others simply linked to by HuffPo.

        It’s particularly good to hear about your friend’s study.

        1. Synopticist

          Yes, I’d love to read that study. I’ve been reading threads about intervention in Syria, and you get the same surges of heavily pro-intervention posters amongst the more frequent anti crowd.

          There ought to be mathematical tools that can prove online organised trolling by now by now, measuring sampling and frequency and phrase repetition for example.

      2. Banger

        This is a subject that interests me in part because of the “born yesteraday” attitudes of most bloggers. I can tell you for a fact, since I observed it directly, that major public relations firms on K Street and elsewhere hire young college grads to blog for clients and political parties–usually on the right but also on the “left.”

        Obviously, logic dictates that powerful forces like to make their influence felt (duh!) and they are going to do whatever it takes to win propaganda wars.

    2. from Mexico

      @ Brooklin Bridge

      I followed the stories on the Bradley Manning Pride SF affair very closely.

      The comments ran heavily against Manning. But they didn’t pass the smell test. Even on the LGBT forums, many anti-Manning comments appealed to anti-gay stereotypes. I was thinking: “What? No gay person would ever write this stuff. This sounds like something James Dobson or Paul Cameron would write.” They were cookie-cutter to the extreme, repeating the same old hackneyed talking points ad nauseam, in typical neocon style with their version of truth presented as self-evident and beyond dispute. But then when it came to producing actual warm bodies at the public meeting in San Francisco to make their case, the anti-Manning brigade could marshal a total of only three speakers, as opposed to over 100 who came out to support Manning.

      The whole thing reeked of astro-turfing. I think that Manning has much more support from within the LGBT population than what the engineers of consent are trying to lead us believe.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Thanks from Mexico, that is encouraging – that the stereotyped bile would be manufactured.

        I think the same phenomenon may be happening on HuffPo with the Snowden articles, only the effort seems inconsistent as I mention above.

      2. washunate

        Yeah, the SF Pride incident was a great case study because it controlled for all the factors that the DC Dems like to blame (Republicans, religion, flyover country, etc.)

  25. The Rage

    lol, like Europe isn’t spying, along with the rest of the world. I am still trying to understand how they are ‘revelations’?

    Everybody spies. The Czar spied. So did Castro.

  26. Hugh

    As kleptocracy progresses, the lies, deceptions, and distractions of its class war become less and less able to cover up the scale of its looting and the damage which this looting causes.

    More is needed. So foreign threats are manufactured and exploited to justify militarizing the police, reducing and eliminating civil liberties, and greatly increasing surveillance. These are the foundations for the construction of a surveillance state. Initially, the focus of this nascent state is outward on foreign enemies, but this is mostly a screen. The ultimate purpose of a surveillance state is control of the domestic population. As its power increases so does it scope and intrusiveness. Friend or enemy like guilt or innocence is irrelevant. In a surveillance state, everyone is a target. It is just that at different stages of its development, some targets are easier to acquire than others. This explains why foreign elites and 99%s are both targeted. They are targeted because they can be. Even if it is discovered that “friendly” foreign elites and 99%s are being surveilled, this still poses little risk to the existence of the surveilling programs themselves. The domestic population can always be told that they are not, even though this is increasingly untrue and that the surveillance of them is the goal of the kleptocratic state.

    As for surveillance of friendly kleptocratic elites in other countries, it is important to understand that kleptocrats have no problem working against each other and looting each other. They do all the time. It is just cumulatively and as a class, kleptocrats’ primary target is the rest of us.

  27. ScottS

    “I think the United States of America is and will remain the most influential, powerful and important country in the world, the largest economy, and the largest military, [with] a network of alliances, values that are universally respected.”

    The lady doth protest to much.

    Maybe Iraq is hiring a replacement for Baghdad Bob. Susan should get her resume ready. I don’t think the Benghazi blowback is finished yet.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Whoa! There was an article floating around the internets checking on Bagdhad Bob’s claims, and the guy was 100% accurate. Tariz Aziz was off, but Bagdhad Bob should start a psychic hotline.

  28. Brooklin Bridge

    I don’t know if this affects anyone else, but ever since NC moved sites, I have been plagued by my CPU going off at 100% whenever I visit. It doesn’t spike, it remains at 100% for as long as I remain and so even scrolling becomes very difficult (you move the scroll bar and half a minute later the screen responds). I have an old laptop running XP and an old version of Firefox and perhaps I’m encountering a version problem. The same thing happens to me when I visit Jonathan Turley’s blog, but that has been going on for a long time.

    1. EmilianoZ

      I have problems too. I mentioned the cloudflare thingy a few days ago. I still have the error message. And the posting of comments looks erratic to me. It seems to update by waves.

    2. ChrisPacific

      This used to happen to me on a lot of sites, including NC (before the site move). Disabling the Shockwave Flash add-on fixed it for me. I think it has something to do with the rich media ads embedded in some sites.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      You are having this problem because you haven’t upgraded your browsers and aren’t running the latest version of Flash. If you had, none of this would impact your CPU.

    4. Brooklin Bridge

      I updated Firefox and it has indeed helped. I will update the Flash Player as well.

      Thanks for the suggestions. Hope this helps others who may (as I do) hate updates. Sorry to take up bandwidth on this.

  29. allcoppedout

    I’m afraid I come to the comments first as a rule and missed Yves’ points. It seems clear our leaderships care very little about full employment and reasonable equality. They are all captured by free market drivel and comparative advantage homilies from the 17th century. In cricket one can produce a very flat, level pitch that gives one side a massive advantage (suitable for spin rather than seam bowling). My own county team (Lancashire) seems to have all the attributes for success in a competitive advantage diamond, yet is rarely a top team – we blame the weather in Manchester. The ‘answer’ is a roof at Old Trafford. Of course, the 17 other counties would not agree. I doubt our national leaders’ talk on trade is more sophisticated than a bunch of worthies organising county cricket.
    Would anyone at a US/EU trade meeting think the Americans don’t spy on the rest of us, or need telling by a geek like Snowden? As an American agent, I would see a situation with EU leaders bringing up Snowden’s “revelations” a great pay-off for my plan to draw them away from real non-competitive US practices. Amazon looks set to get $600 million from the CIA for ‘cloud services’ and a German documentary has revealed chronic abuse of workers in a former East German ‘Butlins’. Years ago the US would accuse us of subsidies to Airbus and we would speak of military research ‘subsidies’ to Boeing. Plus ca change …

    I agree with Mexico that “American fascism” is a threat to us all – but who are these American fascists? Their academics can be more bolshie than anywhere else. I take a smack in the mouth from anyone in here who thought I was accusing them. It’s much more likely we all end up cheating and defending corners, than that the US is the sole bad guy. This said, in the big, tough team, you always try to sucker the more skillful opposition into an ‘arm wrestle’. The US is the biggest, toughest team.
    The mistake is to believe or accept any of our interests are in play in these arm wrestles. The real hidden government Frank Soddy predicted is never at these meetings, assured the democratic agenda is never formulated. In a world so transparent Snowden has nowhere to run, we can’t even follow a dollar from our pocket through QE to a bankster’s 20th ‘home’ via contractual “repo squeezes” on a productive business not responsible for the financial crash.

    I spied on Soviet tanks once. I’m old. I remember all these surveillance arguments like that cold German winter was yesterday. They haven’t changed, despite the technology. In broad brush, Habermas’s (1970) ‘technology is the ideology’ said it all. Our lack of surveillance of the powerful means our discussions are led by the tiny few and as relevant to our plight as old Russian conversations on wine, women and song.

    1. Kurt Sperry

      Quick correction:

      It seems clear our leaderships care very little about full employment and reasonable equality

      This is mistaken, they care very, very, very much indeed about “full employment and reasonable equality”. They have dedicated their lives to fighting them both.

  30. Banger

    I don’t believe the Snowden revelations will have much to do with the trade negotiations. The stakes are the same and the dynamics are the same. People have been steadily moving towards a cynical view of governments particularly in the U.S. and will be very skeptical of these new agreements. However, the mind-control regime is in full flower at this time and the agreements will probably become law with some “compromises” and “reforms” with great cosmetic appeals. But I just don’t see that the Showden affair will have much to do with it.

    As for Euro countries moaning about spying–I’m almost certain they knew all about it and are posturing their asses off to milk the incident and I’m sure they are all “shocked” by the revelation and so on and so on. At the end of the day, however, the Eurozone will roll over and spread their legs at night and every night for the Empire that Euro leaders have bought into 100% as far as I can tell for pragmatic reasons–the U.S. guarantees trade routes, it controls ME oil, more or less, and keeps order, more or less in the world–what’s not to like?

  31. Matt

    The TPP is the constitutional end run around Congress and the Judicial. Laws will be passed by signing treaties instead of through Congress.

  32. Emma

    The EU may bag a few extra sweeties, but after all is said and done, despite all the information that Snowden has revealed, things will remain relatively unchanged, and everyone will walk away from the talks happily deluded in one way or another.
    The internet is becoming an increasingly dangerous zone and there are growing numbers of cross-border criminal networks, not just terrorists, all plotting and creating havoc via cyberspace. There is a legitimate security requirement for governments to track this dark underbelly of the internet and so international “strategic cooperation” will override any consideration for the “ordinary people” of the world.

    1. Hugh

      What legitimacy? Whose security? So what requirement? The NSA spying programs are unconstitutional on their face and drive a stake into the 4th Amendment. As outlined in my previous comment, they are not for our security but that of the rich and elites. And they are not targeted at some putative “dark belly”. They are aimed at us.

      1. Emma

        Agreed and I already alluded to this yesterday in a comment under the Links section.
        However, my real concern is that our society is already entirely dependent on a functioning computer system and network to run everything from our power, to our water, to our air traffic control, to our traffic lights, and so on. So what happens when that system is hacked and disabled via cyberspace and a foreign nation is not even the culprit?

  33. Demetrius Skortou

    Naked Cap,

    I recently sent an e-mail (attached below & Telegraph article)about these mysterious spy planes, (to the Londonist Newspaper), that have been circuling around our estate (Tabard Gardens, London SE1) for at least 10 years now.

    Although, the Telegraph report only mentions just 3 of these spy planes that they claim are being used by the London Met police. If that is the case ,then the Met police are breaking the Civil Avitaions rules & regulations.

    Even the police have to have all their aircraft clearly marked with the words POLICE & serial markings, ie, letters & numbers!

    E-Mail To LONDONIST Newspaper

    I was reading an article (Why do Heathrow’s Planes, Fly Over Central London?), written in the Londonists web site, by Andy Thornley, (Jan 24th 2012).

    Maybe I can set the record straight about these planes?

    These aircraft are obviously the same unmarked aircraft, that have been circling around our estate which I have been complaining/writing about for 10 years now. (see both my e-mails & the 2011 Telegraph article attached below).

    These commercial passenger type unmarked aircraft/helicopters, are actually being used as spy planes.

    Inside these unmarked aircraft, there are “Mission Packs”, surveillance equipment that are being used to pry into peoples mobile & home telephone conversations and as well as view what an individual is looking at on the Internet!

    It’s clever, that the intelligence services are using airplanes, that are seemingly going into Heathrow Airport. Their not!!

    For 18 hours every day, 365 days a year, these mysterious unmarked aircraft, begin their flights at about 6:30am until late at night, at, 11:00pm. That’s the equivalent of flying from London to Tokyo………..non stop, 365 days a year!!

    I have checked with both the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) & the National Air Traffic System (NATS). According to both, there should not be any unmarked aircraft flying around our estate or other parts of London.

    None of these aircraft are actually registered with the CAA or the NATS. Therefore, these unmarked aircraft are being used by the military, who, are not required by any laws, rules or regulations to have any markings on them in the first place!

    All these aircraft have, are bogus flags on their tailfins. It seems to me that who ever thought up this camouflage idea, has taken this idea from magicians, a bit of miss direction, has been applied here. Because, this is the first thing that the eye sees, when people look up and see that these aircraft have a flag on their tailfins, they take no more notice of it, because they believe they are just looking at commercial planes, going into land at Heathrow. However, it seems not to occur to anyone, that if they looked a bit more carefully, they would notice, that there are no company logos nor serial markings on any of them!

    Don’t take my word for it. Do your own checking and you will realise that you and all the other people I have been telling about these planes, have incorrectly mistaken these aircraft as ordinary passenger aircraft.

    The unnecessary levels of noise & pollution these low flying planes have been giving off has obviously been authorised, by someone within this government.

    Has any extra money been changing hands, to allow these low flying morons to fly around parts of London, waking up residents, early hours of the mornings, every day?

    Why is this happening. Why does it have to continue to happen?

    Perhaps, for the first time in at least 10 years, your newspaper may be able to get to the bottom of this mystery, once and for all, so we (Londoners) may be able to get some decent sleep, instead, of constantly, being woken up by these unnecessary flights by these unmarked aircraft.

    If you do happen to see these aircraft again, one of them, has a blue underbelly and a bogus British Flag on its tail fin!

    To my knowledge, there has never been any legitimate aircraft flying over our air space & into Heathrow Airport!

    If any aircraft has no proper registered markings on them, then they are not commercial passenger aircraft……..period!!!!

    Yours Sincerely,

    Demetrius Skortou


    The Metropolitan Police has secret spy planes capable of eavesdropping on mobile phone calls from the sky. The existence of the fleet of planes – each costing at least £3 million to purchase and hundreds of thousands more to operate – has never been publicly disclosed.

    The police have being using the planes since at least 1997. The disclosure of the spending, which is not detailed in official accounts, comes as the police face 20 per cent cuts in their budget, creating fears that hundreds of support staff will lose their jobs and the number of officers reduced. Despite the cuts the Met’s secret fixed wing aircraft fleet is still flying regular sorties over London from a base at Farnborough airfield, in Hampshire.

    The planes have apparently been fitted with secret surveillance equipment capable of intercepting mobile phone calls or eavesdropping on conversations. They are understood to be similar to surveillance planes available to MI5 which have been used in anti-terrorism operations and were used to help West Midlands Police track suspects connected to a plot to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier.

    One of the planes is a Cessna F04, which can carry up to 14 passengers or be fitted with specially integrated patrol mission packs. We have been asked not to disclose full details of the aircraft on security grounds. The twin engine craft are operated separately from the Met’s Air Support Unit which has three helicopters and flies hundreds of hours a month in support of police operations around the capital at a cost of £3 million a year.

    Last week a Metropolitan Police spokesman refused to discuss its use of the fixed wing aircraft but insisted it has gone through a “full” procurement process. However members of the Metropolitan Police Authority, which scrutinises the force’s spending said they had never been told of the existence of the aircraft. According to Civil Aviation Authority records, the aircraft is registered to a firm called Nor Leasing.

    There is no trace of the firm on any other official record and its business address registered with the CAA is actually a branch of Mail Boxes Etc, which offers a virtual office services and mail forwarding, in Surbiton, south-west London. Another Cessna was also previously registered to Nor Leasing at the same address and at another service address in Kensington, west London. In 1997 one of the original individuals listed as “trading as” Nor Leasing was John Carnt who at the time was a senior Metropolitan Police detective.

    Superintendent Carnt was the then head of the Serious and Economic Crime Group, which was set up to combat major fraud, money laundering and art and antiques thefts. The pattern of hidden spending is believed to have been established by Tony Williams, a former assistant finance director at Scotland Yard, who established a secret web of companies for use in specialist undercover operations. But Mr Williams also used the same techniques to steal millions of pounds from the force to set himself up as a bogus Scottish “laird”. Williams was accused of stealing more than £4 million from Scotland Yard. He was jailed for seven years in 1995.

    Metropolitan Police Authority member James Cleverly last night said he was totally unaware that the Met had any fixed wing aircraft.

    Mr Cleverly, who also sits on the authority’s counter terrorism and protective services committee, which examines the force’s covert work, said: “This is not something that I have been made aware of or have had the opportunity to scrutinise. “In the light of the tight financial situation we are facing and the cuts being imposed on the police service it is imperative that we examine any assets that could be construed as a ‘luxury’.

    “I would expect full disclosure of details of this to the MPA to enable us to examine whether it represents good value for money for the police service.”

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