We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Adding the word ‘social’ as a prefix negates whatever follows…

British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday his government was likely to act to stop newspapers publishing what he called damaging leaks from former U.S. intelligence operative Edward Snowden unless they began to behave more responsibly.

“If they (newspapers) don’t demonstrate some social responsibility it will be very difficult for government to stand back and not to act,” Cameron told parliament, saying Britain’s Guardian newspaper had “gone on” to print damaging material after initially agreeing to destroy other sensitive data.

– from Reuters

So now it seems even the pretence that the likes of Cameron do not wish the UK to be a police state is felt unnecessary. I may dislike the Guardian for oh so many reasons but I hope they tell the state that they will indeed do the ‘responsible’ thing… which is to say they will continue to publish Snowden’s revelations. And for added kudos, they should invite Cameron to stick his ‘action’ somewhere dark and damp.

59 comments to Adding the word ‘social’ as a prefix negates whatever follows…

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    So you in Britain have the Red socialist party on one side, and the Blue socialist party on the other (socialist-light, thus socialite). Whatever happened to choice? Or is this what the electorate actually wants- socialist spam with everything?

  • Mr Ed

    I read in, I think, the Sunday Telegraph in the late 1980s, an article im which a rather sound commentator recounted how Enoch Powell deprecated the word ‘social’ as a weasel word, which completely negated the meaning of what it preceded, be it ‘security’ ‘justice’ etc.

    Now, the site apart, there is little protest about this little mustelid, except that it is not a cuddly badger, but rather the TB infecting it.

  • Paul Marks

    When Ian Duncan-Smith started using the term “Social Justice” (some years ago) I complained pointing out the totalitarian nature of this concept – and I was told that Captain Duncan-Smith was not an educated man – he did not know what the term really meant, he thought it meant being nice to poor people (or whatever). I stopped making a fuss – and I later greatly regretted my mistake in not continuing to actively complain.

    Mr David Cameron has a first class degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford – I might have all sorts of complaints about what they teach at Oxford in PPE, but they at least do teach that “Social Justice” and the traditional view of Justice are radically different and INCOMPATIBLE concepts.

    A man who puts “social” in front of words such as “justice” or “responsibility” are indeed acting as a “weasel” – sucking out the traditional meaning of the concept out (much as a weasel sucks the yoke out of an egg).

    I am NOT a great fan of Mr Snowden – friends of Mr Putin do not tend to be friends of mine and I do not believe that Mr Snowden was an innocent man who was shocked by what he found in the NSA (I believe that Mr Snowden went in as a contractor knowing what he would find – and for the purpose of getting the information so that he could expose the intelligence gathering operation). HOWEVER – if Mr Cameron thinks that newspapers are lacking in responsibility in cooperating with Mr Snowden then that is what he should say – there is no need for the weasel word “social”.

    And, by the way, as the Chinese and Russian intelligence services have the information that Mr Snowden went into the NSA to get (his denials ring hollow) it is utterly irrelevant whether newspapers publish it or not – after all the Russian and Chinese services will leak the information (to whoever they think it would cause the biggest problems if they knew) without any need for newspapers.

    Indeed, I would argue, that it is better to have the information all published on the front page of the newspapers now (rather than used when the Russian and Chinese intelligence services think it would do the most damage to do so).

  • Paul Marks

    As for the weasel word “Social” as in “Social Justice”, “Social Responsibility” the “Social Rule of Law” (that arch enemy of the Rule of Law) and so on.

    F.A. Hayek pointed out its nature in “The Mirage of Social Justice” – the second volume of his “Law, Legislation and Liberty”.

    However, the left (including the “libertarian” left) are ruthless and utterly dishonest.

    They point out that Hayek has some nice things to say about John Rawls – the arch supporter of Social Justice.

    What they do not point out that on the very same page of “The Mirage of Social Justice” that Hayek says nice thinks about John Rawls he (Hayek) says that he has not read “A Theory of Justice” – the main work of John Rawls.

    Our late friend Antony Flew did read this vile work – and showed (in such works as “Equality in Liberty and Justice”) that it was indeed a work of evil (of Social Justice) even though Rawls does not use the actual term.
    John Rawls was a revoltingly dishonest person – for example he gets round the charge that his theory of “Justice” (which really is injustice – the criminal robbing of people so that their income and wealth may be “distributed” to other people) is based upon ENVY by redefining what the word “envy” means.

    If one is going to redefine the word “justice” to mean robbery, why not redefine the word “envy” as well (so it is O.K. to act to defend-ones-self-esteem by robbing anyone who has more than one has), and why not redefine the word “up” to mean “down” and “down” to mean “up” – and redefine the word “wet” to mean “dry” and “dry” to mean “wet” – if one is an utterly dishonest person, all these redefinitions are fine.

    To return to the truth.

    Justice is to each their own.

    Social Justice is the idea that justice is the “distribution” of income and wealth to the benefit of the “least favoured”.

    Social Justice confused (deliberately confuses) the great virtue of charity (of helping the poor) with CRIME AND PUNISHMENT – which is what justice is about.

    To not give aid to the poor is mean (it shows a lack of charity), but it is NOT a crime – the miser is NOT guilty of injustice (of taking what belongs to others).

    This is very basic stuff – there can be no honest confusion about it.

    And libertarianism is about standing for Justice AGAINST Social Justice.

    Indeed I think that anyone who calls themselves a libertarian yet turns out to be a Rawlsian – should be kicked up the arse, as a punishment for their intellectual fraud (pretending to be one thing, a libertarian, whilst actually being an enemy of that thing).

    “But that violates the nonaggression principle Paul” – they do not believe in the nonaggression principle (they openly say they do not believe in it) so there is no problem there.

    “But they are very good speakers Paul” – that makes the problem worse, not better.


    And I did not even mention that John Rawls was a raving nutcase who believed (amongst other things) that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity proved that socialism was correct.

  • AndrewWS

    “John Rawls was a raving nutcase who believed (amongst other things) that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity proved that socialism was correct.”

    A belief shared by a large number of Church of England clergy.

  • Paul Marks

    Andrew are you sure these people have actually heard of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity?

    Sounds a bit too much like religion for these parts of the Church of England.

  • I believe that Mr Snowden went in as a contractor knowing what he would find – and for the purpose of getting the information so that he could expose the intelligence gathering operation

    So what?

  • Paul Marks

    “So what?”

    Mr Snowden presents himself as an ordinary citizen shocked that the NSA was spying on people (“I am shocked, SHOCKED to find gambling going on in this casino”), if he was actually a person going in looking for the very things he was “shocked” to find – it presents the situation in a rather different light.

    Also his reaction to his “shocking discovery” is interesting.

    He could have contacted (for example) Senator Rand Paul – who already had a high public profile attacking spying on American citizens. Mr Snowden could have sent the information privately (without revealing his identity) – or he could have used the legal protection offered for Whistle Blowers (protection that covers sending the information to members of Congress with security clearance – rather than making it public to everyone).

    But Mr Snowden did not do that – not either of these things.

    Instead he went to China and then to Russia.

    How far back do his contacts with these services go?

    It is perfectly possible that there are no “goodies” in this situation.

    Mr Barack Obama has engaged in illegal spying on American citizens and spying on overseas allies (such as the German Chancellor) – the idea that junior staff at the NSA did this without the knowledge and approval of the Commander in Chief is absurd.

    However, Mr Snowden may not be a goodie either.

    All the actors in this situation may be baddies.

    The only good side is this……..

    The governments of the United States, China and Russia are NOT working in cooperation (as is often feared).

    They may have similar ideologies (indeed Mr Obama may be more of a Marxist than Mr Putin is – who is basically just a criminal thug).

    But they are NOT all working together – they see each other as rivals and try and do each other harm.

    This is good.

  • PeterT

    Snowden simply sought refuge where he could find it. I do not think he can be blamed for this. He has sacrificed much more to the cause of liberty than any of us are likely ever to.

    Whistle-blower protection? Please. Most whistle-blowers are lucky to find a job as street cleaners afterwards. From a private perspective whistle-blowing is usually a very bad idea.

    Also, what exactly is the problem with making the information public? The only way of making an impact is to move quickly and massively.

  • Sorry Paul but the notion that going to Rand Paul with his revelations would have protected him from spending the rest of his life in a US prison does not really line up with the facts. Likewise, do you assume that if all the data was turned over to Rand Paul, a US politician, that would prevent a US court from compelling Rand Paul to surrender said data?

    So why did Snowden go to Hong Kong? Well obviously he judged that he needed to go somewhere they would not just immediately hand him over to the USA, so it pretty much had to be somewhere that was either an enemy of the USA or at least deeply ambivalent about the USA (a list that grows by the year, it must be said).

    And when it was clear China was not a safe bet after all, he went to Russia. This second move was obviously not ‘Plan A’. But simply by staying at large and releasing a constant drip drip of revelations, he keeps the story on the front pages of the world, doing an immense service to the cause of liberty in the process… which he could not do by offering himself up for martyrdom after making a one off revelation. He would have already vanished down the memory hole by now, in effect throwing his life away for very little gain.

    So if blowing open the secrets of the most globally extensive panopticon state in human history does not qualify Snowden as “one of the good guys” then I think, Paul, you have impossibly high standards.

  • John K


    I think it is clear by now that gaining a First in PPE and being an intellectually lazy and unthinking person are by no means mutually exclusive, a fact embodied in the pink pudgy form of our Prime Minister.

    As to Putin, although he is indeed a criminal thug, he is no mere criminal thug. Surely his political philosophy, even if he would deny it, is fascism?

  • GoneWithTheWind

    The same news outlets that eagerly print everything Snowden stole from the NSA would go to court if you or I plagiarized their stuff. How do they think this is right? Would they accept stolen/copied CD’s of some singers work or forgeries of some artist’s paintings? Where exactly do their principles start and their dishonesty end? Glenn Greenwald and his partner and all of the media who printed this are co-conspirators in a theft and extortion. I wish them death and destruction.

  • Laird

    Paul, Snowden is indeed one of the “good guys”, and if he did indeed go to work at the NSA with the specific intent of finding and publicizing its criminality that makes him an even better guy.

  • Paul Marks

    Perry – Congressmen and Senators have certain protections (although not unlimited ones).

    As for Mr Snowden – he could have sent the information (to Rand Paul) without giving away who he was.

    By handing over the information to the New York Times and Guardian he might as well have told every terrorist group on the planet – told them what methods the NSA uses.

    And then going off to the People’s Republic of China and then Putin’s Russia.

    Sorry but neither of these places are known for respecting civil liberties.

    Mr Snowden might as well have said.

    “I was disgusted by the actions of Mr Moran in Chicago – so I went to Mr Capone with details of the operations of Mr Moran”.

    Some “good guy”.

    Certainly this undermines Mr Obama – and for that I humbly thank Mr Snowden.

    But it would be hypocritical of me to hide that if Mr Snowden had done this (leaked active operations to the world) in the “old days” (back in the 1980s) I would have had no objections to this “good guy” being sent to his eternal reward. I doubt that would be legal either Laird – do you think that mattered to anyone?

    No doubt there are some people in the NSA (and in the CIA) who hate Mr Obama’s guts – but they would still not be wildly pleased with Mr Snowden either.

    After all he worked with these people – pretended to be their friend, and then betrayed them.

    “But none of them will get killed”.

    I have heard that one before – it often does not turn out that way.

    If it were just Mr Obama’s life on the line I would not give a toss – but it is not.

    It never is.

    If you do not want to be part of the game – do not join it.

    If you have a problem with a specific operation – then you report the matter to people with the correct security clearance (on the House or Senate committees). You will NOT be killed if you do that – although you may find yourself a toilet attendant (or car park attendant) for the rest of your life (there is a price to be paid – even if you keep to the rules).

    You do NOT leak to the world.

    Not even to show that Mr Obama is no good.

    That is not sufficient justification.

    There is a loyalty to the organisation – to the men and women you work with.

    Yes I know I should love Mr Snowden – if the Governorship in Virginia is held next week (unlikely) it will be partly because Mr Snowden has made people feel so disgusted with Mr Obama that they do not turn out to vote Democrat.

    But I can not help thinking “what if Reagan was President and Snowden had leaked operations to the world – what would you have felt then Paul?”

    The people in the game now are fully justified to feel exactly the same way that I would have.

    Besides, to end on a practical note, I do not even think this is going to work.

    The voters could not care less about this sort of stuff (they say they do – but they do not), the Dem will win in Virginia next week regardless.

    The 4th Amendment has not been a dead letter since Obama came to power – it has been a dead letter since about 1933.

    Yes it was Franklin Roosevelt who first ordered warrantless wiretaps in peace time (J. Edgar Hoover actually resisted at first) – and used the IRS to investigate (and hit) political foes, and on and on.

    This is what governments do.

    If I though for a moment that Mr Snowden was going to change that ……..

    But he is not going to change it – and he always knew that he was not going to change it.

    This is just the Russians and the Chinese making the Americans look stupid. And Mr Snowden has done a good job for them (even if was not formally working for them).

    Sadly – nothing more.

    If I am wrong – I will admit that I am wrong.

    If the Dem loses next week (because people wish to send Mr Obama a message) I will be pleased – but also astonished.

    And if Mr Obama is impeached for using the Forth Amendment as toilet paper (“Forth Amendment” has been the standard brand of toilet paper in Washington D.C. since at least 1933) – I will be even more pleased (and even more astonished).

    But it is not going to happen.

  • Paul Marks

    John – you may be right about Mr Putin.

    But I think you are wrong about a first class degree in PPE.

    Oxford is not that bad.

    There is no way that someone could get a First Class PPE in that time period (Mr Cameron is my age) and not know that “Social Justice” is the arch doctrine of the left, and the arch enemy of conservatives (not just libertarians).

    Captain Ian Duncan-Smith may not know – but Mr Cameron does know.

    Which makes Mr Cameron worse – a lot worse.

  • Eric

    “John Rawls was a raving nutcase who believed (amongst other things) that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity proved that socialism was correct.”

    A belief shared by a large number of Church of England clergy.

    I find that kind of surprising, actually. Well, I don’t find it surprising they would be in full-throated support of socialism. I am surprised they actually believe in any sort of Christian doctrine.

  • Paul, as I said, in order to avoid being up in jail, he needed to go somewhere that dislikes the USA. So that means somewhere like Russia or China. It invalidates nothing whatsoever about what he did… not one iota. If he gave all the information to Rand Paul, and then Rand Paul was threatened with personal and political ruin, are you really so certain he would not have buckled? I don’t know, you don’t know and Edward Snowden does not know the answer to that.

    Moreover once the information was leaked, do you seriously think the NSA would not move heaven and earth to figure out who did it? Yes, he has made the Americans look stupid and pleased the Chinese and Russians. Big deal. This amounts to not a hill of beans compared to forcing the story out into the open.

    You seems to be criticising him for doing what he had to do to break the story and keep it in the public eye in spite of tremendous efforts to bury it. Given your robust views on privacy and liberty, I find that rather odd.

  • Mr Ed


    If your computer had been used* to attack, say, the Pentagon, and the FBI wished to extradite you to the USA, and you faced say, a 30 year sentence, whether or not you were innocent, would you not consider it expedient to seek refuge in, say, Hong Kong or some juisdiction with no extradition treaty with the USA, particularly if you were in the UK where a prima facie case need not be made out before extradition?

    * whether by you or a remote Botnet.

  • Jordan

    And then going off to the People’s Republic of China and then Putin’s Russia.

    Sorry but neither of these places are known for respecting civil liberties.

    Where he went is irrelevant, since he ran merely to escape the U.S. government, not to hand the information over to foreign governments. The information was given only to journalists.

    If you have a problem with a specific operation – then you report the matter to people with the correct security clearance (on the House or Senate committees). You will NOT be killed if you do that – although you may find yourself a toilet attendant (or car park attendant) for the rest of your life (there is a price to be paid – even if you keep to the rules).

    Ask William Binney how well that works.

    There is a loyalty to the organisation – to the men and women you work with.

    My loyalty is to the Constitution. That makes the NSA my enemy. And the U.S. government is a far greater threat to my life and liberty than Russia or China.

  • Paul Marks


    Yes bugging people is illegal.

    So is killing them.

    That was done also – it has always been done, and still is (in fact more than ever before).

    Laird makes the point that bugging people is illegal – so is killing them, and I do not remember anyone saying “well we were going to kill so-and-so but I have just remembered it is not legal – so we had better not do it then”.

    If I would have objected to having operations blown in the Old Days how can I celebrate about it now?

    That would indeed be odd.

    And Mr Snowden has achieved nothing.

    Mr Obama will not be impeached and the Dem candidate for Governor of Virginia will win next week.

    On the other hand some people in the intelligence community (and people outside it)are likely to get killed (eventually). Now that methods of information gathering have been blown – targets will change their behaviour.

    Not the ordinary people that Mr Snowden claimed to be protecting (they will be spied upon just the same), but other targets.

    As I have said – if I am proved wrong I will admit that I am wrong.

    Say I buy you a bottle of something nice when Mr Obama is impeached for using the Forth Amendment as toilet paper?

    Not going to happen.

    Some low level people will be hung out to dry – betrayed.

    And everything will carry on.

    Remember the line(even from his political foes) is that Mr Obama “should have known” X,Y,Z.

    “Should have known? He ORDERED it. In the vague way (nothing on paper – nods and winks, but IRON nods and winks) Presidents (and Prime Ministers) always do.

    The orders always come from the top – low level people do not do these things off the their own bat.

    The fact that people are talking about “the NSA” not “President Obama” shows that nothing has been achieved by this action.

  • And Mr Snowden has achieved nothing (…) The fact that people are talking about “the NSA” not “President Obama” shows that nothing has been achieved by this action.

    Then you completely and utterly do not understand the significance of what Snowden did. This is not about Obama or the Democratic Party or an election in Virginia, not even obliquely. It is about changing the whole way people understand the reality of states in the Internet Age.

  • If I would have objected to having operations blown in the Old Days how can I celebrate about it now?

    Here’s a clue, Paul: Reagan is no longer President. And what Jordan said.

    And Mr Snowden has achieved nothing.

    Yes he did: he put things out in the open, where they should be. You also seem to be confusing the NSA with the CIA – not the same organization, although they no doubt cooperate.

  • JohnB

    Eric, that is the clergy’s problem – they don’t believe it.

    Re Snowden – without moral integrity, (honesty to themselves – honour – ethics) a person has little to offer.
    He may have achieved something and we can be grateful for some of the facts that have come our way, but what was the intent?

  • moira green

    If I would have objected to having operations blown in the Old Days how can I celebrate about it now?

    maybe you didn’t notice but the cold war is over. these ain’t the old days and this ain’t being done to make us safe, it’s being done to make the people doing it more powerful.

    snap out of it!

  • Paul Marks

    Good points Alisa – although I did say the NSA (and the CIA). I do know they are different organisations.

    I also know that Mr Snowden would have had no problem in betraying either one – or both.

    That is my problem with him.

    If Mr Obama was going to suffer for this – fine (GOOD).

    But it will not be him.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Ed – are you saying that Mr Snowden did not know what he was doing?

    That he was under some form of mind control?

    Perry – yes I quite agree that I do not understand what the wonderful thing is.

    Mr Snowden confirmed that the government spies on everyone it can spy on regardless of the law – which everyone knew anyway.

    What people did not know is how exactly the government did this.

    This Mr Snowden (for good and ill) has explained (although, doubtless, new methods are being worked out).

    The most important consequence (so far) is that the sale of American computers (an operating systems) in some markets has collapsed – for fear of NSA backdoors.

    People will use Chinese ones instead.

    Will they respect privacy more?

    “This is about changing the way people regard states in the internet age”.

    But that is exactly what it will not do.

    People already knew what the state was doing.

    But let us say I am WRONG – WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

    So now the people will be outraged and will show their outrage.

    Oh dear – we are back to the Virginia Governorship election.

    Will they show their outrage?

    Will they?

    Or is it all “sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

    We shall see – this time next week.

    It is empirical matter – subject to empirical test.

    My guess (is no more than that) is that the people could not care less.

    That they will shout and scream – and then vote for more of the same.

    I hope (I hope very much) that I am wrong.

  • If Mr Obama was going to suffer for this – fine (GOOD).

    But it will not be him.

    I say again… SO WHAT?

    The NSA is not the creation of Obama. This is not about Obama. This is not about the Democratic Party. It is not about party politics at all in fact. If John McCain or Mitt Romney was in the White House, I very much doubt the NSA would be in any way, shape or form be doing anything different than what it is doing under Obama.

    It is about the American state institutionally. It is about the very essence of what the American state has become and calling that into question, because without these revelations there is not even the faintest possibility of changing anything.

    And when an organisation is turned to doing evil things, “betraying” it is not a bad thing, it is a very good thing indeed. When Oleg Penkovsky ‘betrayed’ the GRU, he became a true Russian patriot. I suspect history will see Snowden in a similar light, though hopefully gets the Hollywood ending rather than the one Penkovsky got.

    Mr Snowden confirmed that the government spies on everyone it can spy on regardless of the law – which everyone knew anyway.

    No they didn’t.

  • Midwesterner

    Paul, your tribalism is showing. First, “betraying the NSA”!?!? “Betraying the CIA”?!? Is it to be “Our team Rah! Rah! Their team Boo! Hiss!” now?

    I am unaware of any oaths taken by government employees to “preserve protect and defend” the NSA or the CIA. I am quite clear that an oath to the Constitution trumps loyalty to any spying agency.

    Mr. Snowden would understand the point I am making here. Snowden is fighting a rogue spying agency in the only way that it can be fought. I hope more employees of that agency chose to honor their oaths to the US Constitution. I hope our Congress passes, by a veto proof majority, immunity for Mr. Snowden.

  • Paul Marks

    Mid – where are the words “Barack Obama” in your comment?

    Looks like we are being given the “rogue spying agency” B.S. again. – so nothing will change.

    This was not (and has never been) a “rogue” operation.

    This is why I turn Perry’s comment against him.

    Yes Mr Snowden did X,Y,Z.

    SO WHAT?

    If people just come out with the “rogue agency” B.S. then nothing of importance has changed.

    As for the Constitution – that was shredded long ago.

    Perhaps as far back as 1935 (the Gold cases) – but we do not have to go back that far, let us go back to the Obamacare case.

    To “defend the neutrality of the court” Chief Justice Roberts decided to bend over and touch his toes.

    He did not have to defend limits on Federal government power – the people would do that for him.

    No they did not – they (in 2012) did exactly what he did. Just as the people (in 1936) followed what the Supreme Court did in 1935.

    “Well if the S.C. says there is no real problem with this……”.

    To please Perry I will take the Mr Snowden thing seriously for once.

    Have a judge draw up an arrest warrant for BARACK OBAMA (the Commander in Chief is where the “buck” actually stops) and have armed U.S. Marshalls arrest Barack Obama.

    Not going happen is it?

    No some low level people will be hung out to dry (betrayed – as always) and new people will carry the spying (on orders from the top) as before.

    And the people DO NOT CARE.

    This will be proved next week – in Virginia.

  • What happens in Virginia is utterly and completely irrelevant.

  • Paul Marks

    To put this in a British context……

    Who thinks that GCHQ is a “rogue agency” and that Mr Cameron and Mr Haig (and so on) do not give instructions (in the normal vague way) as to what they would like to know?

    If anyone actually believes this – then I have a nice bridge to sell you.

    Be honest people.

    Either arrest the political leadership for what Laird would call (quite accurately) their “blatant breaking of the law” or do not, but do not talk about “rogue agencies”.

  • Paul Marks

    “What happens in Virginia is utterly and completely irrelevant”.

    So it does not matter that the people are so outraged by the spying that they are going to show their outrage by…….

    Voting for the candidate of the man who ordered it.

    Someone who is financed (massively financed – he has a two to one money advantage) by the usual suspects – of political business as usual.

    It does not matter – it is “utterly and completely irrelevant” that the people do not give a toss about the whole thing.

    There is an Italian saying.

    “He who puts his trust in the people builds his house upon sand”.

    The people do not care – they are lying when they say they care. The fact that they are lying will be proved in the “utterly and completely irrelevant” election in Virginia next week.

    They have a chance to send an message (over this and all the other things – the IRS, Bengazi, Obamacare….) – and they are not going to do so.

    Again – I hope I am wrong, I passionately hope I am wrong.

    Sadly (tragically) the people see the whole spying matter as soap opera entertainment.

  • Midwesterner

    Mid – where are the words “Barack Obama” in your comment?

    Looks like we are being given the “rogue spying agency” B.S. again. – so nothing will change.

    Paul, implicit in your comment is an assumption that the NSA was not systematically breaking laws on Bush II. Frankly, that is a preposterous assertion.

    Get your facts straight. Substantial sectors of government have gone rogue. You may not understand the dynamic I addressed in the Institutional Will article and thread, but hopefully other readers do. You do not need to have “bad guys” to make rogue agencies, only employees who follow their agencys’ rules without respect to their own oaths to the Constitution.

    What we are talking about is an agency that systematically lies to the courts and to Congress. Because of this, no investigation or account holding of it is possible. Its representatives lie under oath to the courts and to Congress. There is no enforcement mechanism left but for its own members to go public. Lying and lawbreaking is widespread within the DHS, DOJ, DOD, etc law enforcement and spying community and I have zero doubt that other ‘federal’ law enforcement agencies would do the NSA’s bidding in a quid pro quo.

    Short of an act of Congress giving him immunity, there is no way that Snowden will ever be allowed to testify in open court. Period.

  • Mid, invoking the rogue-agency argument does sound to me a bit like a shot in one’s own leg – and Paul is not one to pounce on an opportunity:-P It implies a legitimate and functioning government where one or two agencies have gone ‘rogue’, which clearly is not the case and has not been for many years, just as you described. Other than that caveat, I fully concur with you and Perry.

  • Paul Marks


    People broke the law under Bush for exactly the same reason that they broke the law under Obama.

    Because the PRESIDENT makes demands that can only be met by breaking the law.

    A President or a Prime Minister does not have to say “break the law”.

    All they have to say is “I want to know X”.

    Everyone knows what they mean.

  • Oops, that should have read ‘and Paul is not one to forgo pouncing on an opportunity’…:-)

  • Laird

    Paul, as far as I can tell here no one is calling the NSA a “rogue agency”. The NSA is symptomatic of a much larger problem; it is the operational wing of a rogue government. What Snowden did is helping to bring that to light to a large number of people who otherwise would have remained blissfully ignorant of their own government’s transgressions. Whether enough people will get angry over this remains an open question. The vote in Virginia is a small part of the answer to that, but we won’t really have one until next November.

    You do seem fixated on the Cold War era, where disclosures such a Snowden’s would have been dangerous, but we are long past that. Today there is no existential threat to the US. None. Nada. Zip. Moreover there is no reasonable expectation of one arising in the foreseeable future. There is thus no justification for the NSA’s collection of just about every phone call and email on the planet. As Jordan said, the NSA is a far greater threat to my liberty and security than is Russia or China. Or, for that matter, Iran, North Korea or even al Qaeda. It must be reined in. Snowden’s revelations may just be the catalyst for that to happen. And even if they fail in that regard, he at least made a valiant attempt to shake us out of our lethargy, and he is paying a steep price for his courage. My hat is off to him. He deserves to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Freedom (I would have said the Nobel Peace Prize if that award hadn’t been so completely degraded). And complete immunity from prosecution.

  • Midwesterner

    I have never before imagined Paul as either naïve or utopian. But anybody that thinks “if we just had the right president we could make these problems go away” is both naive and utopian. Even if we elected Rand Paul and Ron Wyden to run the Executive Branch and they made a genuine effort to rein in the rogue legions, the institutional leviathan would turn around and destroy them before they could do it any existential harm.

    How can you call the police on the lawbreakers when the police are the lawbreakers?

    Aside from the ‘no Santa Claus’ moment when we learned that Smoky Bear and the National Park Rangers are in fact hit squads inflicting deliberate pain to punish their enemies, the latest example that demonstrates what perniciously corruptive forces are at work is when I realized that even the US Coast Guard has been corrupted by its affiliation with the Dept of Homeland Security. On a warrant to confiscate her husbands guns and ammo, they removed and examined a reporters handwritten notes and confidential sources for stories she had written that were critical of them. The warrant had nothing to do with searching for papers or for leaks or anything of that kind, it was just an excuse to get into her house and conduct and illegal search.

  • John K


    David Cameron is obviously possessed of enough intelligence to gain a First, but he has always struck me as someone who is intellectually incurious. He seems to have no particular ideological base, and could well use a phrase such as “social justice” simply because it is written in his briefing notes, with no further effort of thought. He is an essentially managerial sort of Tory, of the sort who ruled the party in the 1945-1979 period, and who are now back in power. They essentially managed what they had inherited as best they could, keeping the seat warm for the next Labour government to advance the socialist ratchet another notch.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    You’re ALL wrong!!! The European Spy agencies gave that information to the NSA, when asked politely! If someone gives you information, you are not breaking the law. I want apologies all round, and promises to vote for Obama in every election from now on.

  • Paul Marks

    Mid – if you want to deliberately misinterpret what I said, that is your business.

    As for what you say about “rogue” actors – that is complete and total crap, and you know it is complete and total crap.

    John K.

    You may be right.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Laird – it s rogue government. It has been for many decades.

    Civil servants (even in the British Home Office) just want to drink coffee and eat cake (I know – I was such a Civil Servant).

    They receive orders (nice VAGUE orders) to do bad things – and the orders come right from the top.

  • Yes Laird – it s rogue government. It has been for many decades.

    Quite so Paul.

    Which is why it has nothing to do with Obama really as he is just the latest in the long line of leaders at the head of a vast machine of official criminality… and voting Republican in Virginia, voting for the party of Dubbya, McCain and MittRomneyCare, would make not a damn bit of difference and mean nothing whatsoever. It is about Snowden confronting America, and indeed the world, with the reality of what America has become… and keeping that on the front pages of the world.

    And that is why his ‘betrayal’ of the NSA makes him a hero and why you are so shockingly wrong about him.

  • Paul Marks

    Perry are you saying that Mr Snowden gave his information to the Daily Telegraph (not the Guardian and NYT)? And that he fled, like Bobby Fisher, to Iceland (not to China and Russia).

    As soon as I found who he had leaked to, and where he fled to, I lost sympathy with the man.

    He chose his new friends (if they really were “new” friends) – he made his bed and now must sleep in it.

    As for the government.

    I already thought it was too far gone for reform to be likely – either in Britain or the United States.

    Has Mr Snowden made reform more likely?

    We shall have to see, but I do not believe so.

    If the people wanted reform – they could have it.

    In the civil liberties area it really would be as easy as Mid suggests it would NOT be.

    A President Rand Paul (or other such of the same view) ordering “no more of this” would be obeyed.

    People would be HAPPY to obey him.

    More time for coffee and cake – and when the President asks “what is so and so thinking” they could reply…..

    “I do not know boss – no idea” and get back to the coffee and cake.

    If that is what the people really want – they can have it, they really can.

    Actually most people just see this a soap opera (as ENTERTAINMENT).

    I make no apology for using my previous example.

    If people are really upset about this – they can send the President a message in a couple of days.

    In the election for Governor for Virginia.

    If you are correct Perry (if large numbers of people are really upset about the spying) they will not vote for the candidate (for the classic establishmentarian candidate) of the person who ordered it.

    If they do not care (if they actually enjoy the story) they will vote for the candidate of the man who ordered the spying.

    Let us see what they do.

    It is a empirical question – let us wait for the answer.

    “It is nothing to do with Obama really”.

    Bullshit Perry – bullshit.

    If Obama was not actively in favour of all this (which he is) he could have stopped it on January 20th 2009.

    As I have already said – people would have been HAPPY to obey him.

    Less work – more coffee and cake.

    And it is the same in Britain.

    Mr Cameron and Mr Haig could stop this in a day – a minute in fact.

    The people in GCHQ only work because they are told to.

    I am sure they would be much happier visiting interesting places in Somerset.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way I do know that GCHQ is in G-shire.

  • Paul I have the greatest respect for your views on most matters but on this you are nothing less than a fool. Are you seriously suggesting that Iceland would be a safe haven for him and they he could continue his ‘timed release’ strategy from there?

    In fact I would categorise your views as “he cannot be one of the Good Guys because in order to actually do something effective, he had to consort with Bad People. In order to remain his Good Guy status he had to ”

    This is a strain of libertarian thinking that explains a lot about our failure to spread our ideas more effectively… we do not have enough Snowdens willing to do what it takes. It is also why I stopped using the word “libertarian” in the title of this blog some years ago.

  • Laird

    “If the people wanted reform – they could have it.”

    True, but the key word is “want”, and in order to want it they first have to be persuaded that reform is necessary. This is what Snowden has provided: the smoking gun showing unquestionably and irrefutably just how reprehensible and dangerous our government has become. The transformation was slow and gradual, occurring over many decades, and such incremental changes are usually unnoticeable to those living in the moment. (And there is also the fact that for a large part of that time the US had a real, existential, enemy in the form of the Soviet Union, making some of its government’s activities understandable, if not always acceptable. That excuse is no longer valid.) Snowden is forcing us to step back and examine ourselves, to ask “what have we become?” If we are still an honorable people we will demand such reform. Time will tell. But if reform happens it will be largely thanks to Snowden’s sacrifice.

    Moreover, he did it by the most honorable means available to him. He delivered the documents only to one journalist, whom he trusted and who (so far) has shown that he deserved that trust. The understanding was that no information directly dangerous to any specific individual would be divulged, and none has. All that has been disclosed is the programs and processes employed by the NSA, which we deserve to know. Snowden gave his only copy of the data to Greenwald; he took no copies with him to Hong Kong or Russia, thus ensuring that neither the Chinese nor the Russians would have access to it (thus belying your claim that he is providing sensitive intelligence information to Putin). He willingly, and at extreme personal risk, divulged his name, so there was no hiding behind “anonymous sources” and no question as to the veracity of the information he provided. And once the information was released he fled to one of the few places in the world where he had a reasonable hope for his personal safety. (His original plan seems to have been to seek asylum in Venezuela, but he couldn’t do that due to a [reasonable] fear that the US would have [illegally] intercepted him en route. Would you have felt better about him if he had gone there rather than Russia?)

    One could not have asked any more of the man.

  • Paul Marks

    It is an empirical matter Laird.

    The information of Mr Snowden has been presented to the people – again and again and again (even on comedy shows such as that of Jon Stewart).

    Now let us see they respond – next week in Virginia.

    This is why I was so depressed by some of Perry (and Mid’s) comments that I had to put a knife (that happened to be on the table in front of me) back into the kitchen and put it away – for fear that I would cut myself with it.

    If it is really nothing much (“really”) to do with Barack Obama then there will be no PUNIHSMENT – not even an electoral punishment.

    If political leaders can order this (illegal spying) and then GET AWAY WITH IT (because people say it is “rogue elements” or “the military industrial complex” – or whatever) then they will CARRY ON DOING IT.

    It is pointless to expose such activity if there is not a PUHNISHMENT (a political PRICE) for the political leaders who order it.

    No more “it is not really Obama” or “rogue agents”.

    I can can not stand any more of that.

  • Paul, I regard your views very highly but I am flummoxed this time. Your position seems to be “the state has been out of control for decades, under Republic and Democrat administrations… but if voters vote Democrat in Virginia in the impending election, Snowden is one of the bad guys because he ‘betrayed’ the out of control state, and Obama will not be punished”.

    Is that a fair summation or am I misunderstanding you?

  • Paul Marks

    Perry if there is no PUNISHMENT, not even a POLITICAL PRICE for ordering illegal spying, then the “exposure” is (at best) a waste of time.

    Nor is just the spying.

    Have you forgotten Bengazi – “it was a Youtube film” then even said to the families of the dead as the bodies came off the aircraft.

    And I mean said it IN PERSON – Barack said, Hillary said it, they looked into the eyes of the relatives and they LIED. And Barack was personally present at the key meeting on September 10th 2012 – the day before the attack (it was his choice to do nothing).

    Just as they are lying over the Snowden business – “I did not know” – LIE, LIE, LIE.

    And they lied over Fast and Furious – “I did not know, this made me very angry” – LIE.

    And they lied over using the IRS against people and private organisations “I did not know this made me very angry” – LIE.

    The spying is the same.

    Middle aged civil servants do not do illegal spying for kicks – they do it because that is what their instructions point them to do.

    Unless the POLITICAL LEADERSHIP pay a price for it – then it will just carry on.

  • Paul Marks

    I repeat.

    Ideally it should not just be a political price.

    If you agree with Mr Snowden that illegal spying has taken place, then you should support a judge signing a warrant for the arrest of BARACK OBAMA. Armed Marshalls should then arrest Mr Obama.

    But you seem unwilling to support a political price for this conduct.

    I repeating blaming “the government” is pointless – unless the political leadership pay a price it will carry on.

    And as for “well other Presidents have ordered illegal spying”.

    How is that a defence?

    If the law has been broken then a price must be paid – by the Commander in Chief.

    Let us say (for the sake of argument) that President Johnson was a rapist.

    Does “well President Johnson raped people and he never paid a price for it” justify Barak Obama not paying a price if he decides to rape people?

    No price paid – no chance that the behaviour will stop.

  • Unless the POLITICAL LEADERSHIP pay a price for it – then it will just carry on.

    And there is the problem I have. It is not about THE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP. The entire institution of state is rotten to the core and the political establishments, not just the leaderships, of BOTH PARTIES are entirely culpable… so voting Republican in Virginia is so utterly irrelevant to this I just do not know how else to explain it. It is not about Obama, or Bush, or McCain… it is about ALL OF THEM and the entire fearsome edifice they preside over, the Congress, the Government, the Courts… the whole damn thing. What happens in Virginia does.not.matter in this regard.

    If in the future, a Tea Party revolution (and it may have to be a literal revolution) change the political landscape, with people like Cruz and Rand Paul in control, then maybe, just maybe, the result of elections might actually matter. But as things are now, the best thing anyone can do is hold up a mirror in the face of as many people as possible and show them what the *reality* is.

    And Snowden has done this like no one else I can think of in recent decades. The status quo needs to be delegitimised before there is any realistic chance of change, in any good ways at least.

    Laird has it exactly right.

  • Laird

    Paul, first of all that information has not “been presented to the people” before. Sure, many of us suspected it, but Snowden’s revelations confirmed it. The US government’s perfidy is no longer the domain of easily-dismissed conspiracy theorists.

    Second, why do you think I don’t favor Obama (and other elected officials) paying a price for their crimes, political or otherwise? I would certainly support Obama’s arraignment and arrest, but that isn’t going to happen. I would even more enthusiastically support his impeachment (his litany of “high crimes and misdemeanors”, including those you listed, is impressive), but that’s not going to happen, either (at least, not as long as the Democrats control the Senate and probably not even if that were to change). As to the Virginia governor’s race, while I suppose defeating McAuliffe would be a rebuke of Obama (of sorts) Cuccinelli is no prize either (he’s the current Attorney General and mostly a statist himself). Until we see the large-scale election of small-government/libertarian/Tea Party types nothing much is going to change. And that won’t happen until the people get sufficiently fed up to make a massive change in our government. Which, in turn, won’t happen until enough people are forced to take notice of the transgressions of the current government. Which brings us back to Snowden. We need many more like him to shake us out of our torpor.

    You started off by asserting the Snowden is a bad guy. Now you seem to be arguing that he is simply ineffective. Which is it? Obviously I disagree with the former characterization, and as to the latter we just don’t know yet. But I give him full marks for the attempt. There is no shame in failure, only in doing nothing at all if you have the ability to do something. Snowden has done what he could. Whether we take up the torch and force some needed changes in our government and its security apparatus is wholly a reflection on the American people, not on him.

  • Paul Marks

    Laird – people already knew that the government spied on the population generally (I have known that since I was a young child).

    However, on the off chance that someone somewhere did not know……

    The information has now been presented day after day, week after week, month after month.

    If there is no real PRICE to be paid now – then there never will be.

    Indeed I believe most people are now bored of the story.

    I did not comment before when this matter has been raised on the blog (many times) – and I wish I had not commented now.

    Or course Mr Snowden is a bad guy – he is one of Putin’s boys now (even if he was not a bad guy before) but that does not matter.

    What matters is what practical use can be made (for good) of his actions.

    And the answer to that appears to be “bugger all”.

    I am not asking for Mr Obama to be arrested (although that would be nice) just for some political price to be paid for his conduct.

    But I am told “the election in Virginia is not relevant”.

    So no price at all then – none.

    So the whole Snowden thing is a utter and complete waste of time.

    There will be no punishment (no price) for the political leadership. And the conduct (after a brief lull perhaps) will continue.

    Fair enough – then I will not waste any more time discussing the matter.

  • John

    FWIW, I’m a US Citizen and feel ambivalent about Snowden. Having said that, a few points from my perspective:

    1. It is hard to express how positively looney the idea that the government was collecting data and spying on private individuals was in most social circles in the US until Snowden’s revelations. “He thinks the government is tracking his email” was a kind of short hand for “an extreme right wing nut”. It was used pretty much the same way “tin foil hat” or “black helicopters” was. Just knowing that the NSA existed seemed wacky to many.

    I have to give Snowden some credit for changing that. It may be that Mr. Marks is too accustomed to the idea that “everyone knows” this spying is going on. Actually, amazingly, most people I know didn’t. Snowden has split them into two parts, one group is clinging to the idea by trying to believe things like “it was just meta-data and meta-data doesn’t count” (never mind many of them are a little vague on what meta-data is…) the other group is having to re-adjust their world view and their assumptions. That will take some time and it is hard to say where it will shake out.

    2. It matters who the threat is. In the “old days” the threat was primarily the Soviet Union, they had the capacity, and as far as I can tell, the inclination to kill or enslave me and the people around me. They were the ones threatening my life and my liberty. Sure the US gov was a long way from pure as the driven snow, but when one talks of a blown operation, it is with the idea that it was an operation against them. The operation Snowden blew (?) was against the people of the US. It does matter which way the operation, or the gun, is pointing.

    3. I, too, only know the circles I travel in, and I don’t live in Virginia, but my view is that most Americans don’t see beyond the two party system. It is only a question of D or R. They figure, quite realistically, that both parties have done this in the past, and — more importantly — would do it again in the future. Taken together this takes any idea of electoral punishment off the table. What good does it do to have the Republicans spying on you instead?

    4. I don’t know how things are in the UK, but here the tendency to identify with a party is extreme. Most people I know don’t vote by weighing options, or because they are upset about something, or even their pocket books, they vote for the party to which they “belong” because so doing is part of their self-image. It has become deeply cultural. Even social and commercial interactions are beginning to fade across the divide. There is a tendency developing to live in different places geographically, ranging from the coastal split, to the “Urban Archipelago” to the local neighborhoods. People have been talking about Gerrymandering but really it isn’t necessary, the population is Gerrymandering itself. I find all of this rather worrisome.

  • Paul Marks

    John – as you are a new person to the thread I can make a final comment to you.

    “Right wing nut” – hundreds of Hollywood films and television shows have taken it as a given that the government spies on everyone (for decades). These films and television shows do not tend to be made by right wing people (although a few are).

    If people care about this there will be a political price to pay for it – in Virginia on Tuesday.

    If there is no political price – then the political leadership will continue to give its vague instructions.

    Future Presidents are unlikely to order “do not break the law” if there is no price for the existing President for the breaking of the law.

    Notice I said “Virginia” – not a place which belongs to one party or the other, it is a “purple” State.

    That is why I mentioned it.

    If Barack’s candidate wins – the message will be…..

    “The spying does not matter”.

    “Bengazi does not matter”.

    “The use of the IRS does not matter”.


    “Obamacare does not matter”.

    All these things will continue to matter to ME – but I am not an American.

    If the VOTERS in a “swing State” do not care – then Mr Snowden (and everything else) is unimportant.

    And I would advice you to leave the country.

    Not an “anti American” point – I would advice people who can to leave Britain also.

  • No Paul, you are really just convincing me with every post that you are just not thinking about this very clearly for some reason. And your contention “everyone knew” is simply baseless. It is simply not the case. I know senior *technical* senior people at Google and facebook and THEY were stunned by the Snowden revelations.

    Or course Mr Snowden is a bad guy – he is one of Putin’s boys now (even if he was not a bad guy before) but that does not matter.

    Frankly that is a disgraceful thing to say. He risks everything to blow this open (and contrary to your claim, hardly anyone outside the security services knew the sheer extent of the mass surveillance) and then he goes to one of the few places he will not get extradited and that makes him “Putin’s boy”? By your logic, any resistance to the panoptic state that is actually effective makes you a bad guy. I doubt ending up in Russia was the idea but there are fairly few places you can really go if you need to stay out of the reach of the US state.

    And as you keep going on about demanding political leaders from the almost entirely fungible political parties “pay a price”, when it is the entire system that is rotten, not merely this or that party or any party’s leadership, I cannot see any point in continuing to point out the depth of your misunderstanding of this topic.

    And yes, “Obamacare does not matter”. That is correct, it has nothing WHATSOEVER to do with THIS. NOTHING. NADA. ZILCH. ZIP.

    Fair enough – then I will not waste any more time discussing the matter.


  • John

    Perry, Does your “good” above mean drop the topic completely? I had a couple of minor questions but they certainly are not important enough to risk giving offense.


  • Do what you wish John but I think Paul and I are now generating heat rather than light.