Friday, June 14, 2013

The Third Circle of Daisies

There are already two daisy chains in the Five Eyes (USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand)  that collude to share information and avoid oversight:  military liason and spook liason.

Now a third level has appeared (only it was there all along) - interception of signals.  Not that you can separate all these things, but there are institutions at all three levels, and they all form circles that can't reveal anything in case the revealing upsets somebody else in the circle. Naturally, people outside the circle are by default precluded from knowing what is really being shared, even the members of elected bodies who have responsibility for oversight of these unelected, undemocratic, secret institutions.

So now we have this third daisy chain of institutions whose business is the interception of communications, legally or not. Again we have equivalent institutions in all  Five Eyes.  They are not exactly equal partners to be sure, the NSA being significantly larger than the other four combined and not shy with it. But here they are:

Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC)

New Zealand
Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)

Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) 

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)

So now what?

The question is are there any real secrets worth this amount of money and erosion of civil liberties?

I can see why you wouldn't want to publish the location, floor plan, and phone number of the Canadian Ambassdor in Kabul. Or the codes used by the Canadian government to talk to its diplomats abroad, unless they're on strike. This is common sense, I think.

Another question is why Canadian Ambassadors in Beijing are safer than in Kabul.  "You may well ask that, Mattie.  You may well ask that but I couldn't possibly comment."

But what we're talking about here is the existence of huge international networks of secrecy and spookery that have no real purpose in the world other than to perpetuate themselves. As opposed, say, to actually talking to the the Government of Iran, just to pick an example at random, and establishing normal diplomatic relations.  This is also opposed to serial hissy fits by John Baird, melodramatic at the best of times, unless you like irrational shouting. Or recognizing that the King of Saudi Arabia is not our friend, and is in fact a despot who rules absolutely and uneasily on a Wal-Mart throne that his clergy regard with disdain, and in fact who aided and abetted Osama bin Laden.  The clergy, not the King.  We think.  

Also, we have John Baird lecturing Palestinians on the foolishness of their UN bid, which they won decisively and which Canada voted against "on principle" and left Canada in a minority of nine. The principle was never defined. Then he sucked up to some guy in Qatar in the newly established Timmy's which is in direct competition with Kim Kardashian.

What would be fun would be to have all the Five Eyes' data on  the web in searchable form, just like Wikileaks provided very usefully, and nobody died.  Well, the civilians in Iraq who were machine gunned from the air died, but that was an honest mistake and happened before Bradley Manning treacherously revealed it and Wikileaks infamously exposed it.
In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification
-George Orwell, 1946
Politics and the English Language