Friday, August 16, 2013

The battle for the world-wide web

I think its high time we took a look at the people who are "handling" Edward Snowden and what their agenda is in all of this. That's because I think the questions are more broad than the one's we're currently hearing about related to NSA surveillance and actually go to the question of who controls the world-wide web. There is a battle raging beneath all this that has serious implications for all of us.

But first its important to recognize that Snowden is being handled. The question is "by whom?" Yesterday we saw that his father (and his father's lawyers) are starting to speak out about what's happening.
More fractious is the relationship among Lon Snowden, WikiLeaks and Mr. Greenwald. Mr. Fein's wife and spokeswoman, Mattie Fein, said Lon Snowden's legal team doesn't trust the intentions of Mr. Greenwald or WikiLeaks and worry they are giving Edward Snowden bad advice.

"The thing we have been most concerned about is that the people who have influence over Ed will try to use him for their own means," Ms. Fein said. "These guys have their own agenda here and we aren't so sure that it has Ed's best interest in mind."
In response, the Huffington Post received an email that is reportedly from Edward Snowden saying everything is cool. But its important to note that the HuffPo article is based on an email (that anyone could have written). I found this portion particularly sad:
Neither my father, his lawyer Bruce Fein, nor his wife Mattie Fein represent me in any way. None of them have been or are involved in my current situation, and this will not change in the future. I ask journalists to understand that they do not possess any special knowledge regarding my situation or future plans, and not to exploit the tragic vacuum of my father's emotional compromise for the sake of tabloid news.
In other words, we should not pay any attention to his father's anguish over what is happening to his son.

So, who are these people that are handling Edward Snowden? To understand the stakes, one of the best examples to look at is the battle that raged between Wikileaks and Bank of America. The story starts with the troves of donations Wikileaks was banking based on their "handling" of the Bradley Manning leaks (20,000 euros a month). Several banking institutions responded by refusing to process these donations. And Julian Assange (founder of Wikileaks) fought back by hacking into the hard drive of an executive at Bank of America and threatening to "take them down."

What we know now is that the Bank of American began working with HB Gary to develop a strategy to go after Wikileaks. We know that because the group Anonymous (which works closely with Wikileaks) hacked HB Gary's system and released 44,000 of the company's emails - including a plan to go after Wikileaks and Glenn Greenwald (who they saw as the critical spokesperson for Wikileaks...interesting).

Personally, I don't have a dog in the fight between Wikileaks and the Bank of America. But I tell that story to point out the agenda of some of the players involved in the Snowden situation. Does it strike you that they're really interested in anyone's "privacy" when their modus operandi is hacking into other people's computer systems? Take just a moment to review that Wikipedia article I linked to above about Anonymous and count up all the private information about innocent people they've hacked and released.  And then take a moment to read the speech Jacob Applebaum (Wikileak's promoter) gave about the importance of the work of Anonymous.

THE ISSUE HERE IS NOT ABOUT PRIVACY!!!!! Its about who controls the world-wide web. The battle has also been engaged in the fight between those who oppose any effort to control piracy and the proprietary rights of creators/artists/entrepreneurs. As with privacy in this technological age, that is a complex issue. But those that are screaming the loudest about government surveillance have planted themselves squarely on the side of open access, regardless of individual/business claims to proprietary rights.

Enter China and Russia. We know that the United States is in a heated battle with China over this issue. We should not forget that the Snowden revelations came out (with Snowden safely ensconced in Hong Kong) just as President Obama was about to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping to talk about cyber security. No one can doubt that the leaks significantly weakened the President's hand in those negotiations. Here's how Catherine Fiztpatrick explains it:
...the purpose is to weaken and discredit America as a champion of Internet freedom; to claim that it is a hypocrite and not true to its ideals; to act as if it is no different than the surveillance states of Russia and China; and to make it seem as if the "sovereign Internet" plans of these authoritarian governments then are justified due to the discreditation of both US commercial and government involvement in the World Wide Web.
By now we all know that Snowden has received asylum in - of all places - Russia. But it is Julian Assange's relationship with Russia that is most revealing. Perhaps the best example of that is that back in April 2012, he got a talk show on Russian-sponsored media. We also know that Snowden's legal issues in Russia have been jointly handled by Wikileaks and Anatoly Kucherena.
...he is a political supporter of Mr. Putin’s and serves on the Public Chamber, an advisory body that critics have long derided as a Potemkin construct of actual government oversight. He also serves as a member of another board that oversees the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B.
When folks like Julian Assange, Jacob Applebaum and Laura Poitras say that they are being surveilled by the US government (and therefore we should all be scared shitless about being surveilled ourselves), this is why. They are not innocent players in this world-wide battle over the internet. And they're fighting back...with the likes of Edward Snowden. Just like they fought back against Bank of America by hacking their secrets.

There are HUGE issues at stake here...privacy, piracy, hacking, who controls the internet, and the international balance of power with cyber security threats. But the idea that the Assange's and Greenwald's and Applebaum's of the world are taking up this cause on behalf of everyday Americans is pure hogwash.


  1. I think we have to be careful here not to fall into the trap of thinking that evidence of connections between individuals and interested parties is evidence of deliberate planning to achieve the state where we are right now.

    What I see happening is more like interested parties taking advantage of situations that arise (and taking advantage of the people that bring them to their attention) in order to maximize their leverage in future negotiations.

    In other words, Russia and China didn't create Assange, Greenwald and Snowden, but they are certainly happy to use them in order to get a leg up on the US in any future negotiations about the operation of the internet.

    1. I totally agree. All I'm doing is pointing out how their interests are aligned and how they're working together now.

      I do - however - have tons of questions about the involvement of Assange/Applebaum in creating Snowden.

    2. "Creating" Snowden... Good verb.


    "Today, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange gave an interview to Campus Reform and revealed that he’s a “big admirer” of the craziest libertarian racists in US politics: Ron and Rand Paul.

    Assange says the far right (represented by these two bigoted kooks) is America’s “only hope.”

    College-aged support for libertarians and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) represents the United States’ “only hope” in politics, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange told Campus Reform early Friday morning.

    “The only hope as far as electoral politics… presently, is the libertarian section of the Republican party,” said Assange, in response to a question about the recent swell of college-aged and youth-based support for libertarianism.

    “The libertarian aspect of the Republican Party is presently the only useful political voice really in the U.S. Congress,” said Assange. “[I] am a big admirer of Ron Paul and Rand Paul for their very principled positions in the U.S. Congress on a number of issues.”

    And he didn’t stop there; Assange also lavished praise on the ugliest race-baiting right wing news aggregator in the US, Matt Drudge:

    Assange, who was speaking in an online video forum, hosted by the transparency organization, also praised American Journalist Matt Drudge saying he is responsible for breaking down the “self-censorship” of the American mainstream media.

    “Matt Drudge is a news media innovator… It is as a result of the self-censorship of the establishment press in the United States that gave Matt Drudge such a platform and so of course he should be applauded for breaking a lot of that censorship,” said Assange.

    It’s not really surprising to see the wacko libertarian left meeting up with the wacko libertarian right, out on the fringes where they belong. But this is Assange’s most direct statement of support yet for the US radical right wing."

    I've been telling folks for a very long time these folks are Right Wing.

  3. What has fascinated me about this whole NSA episode is the power of the rhetoric used by Greenwald to build a picture of the little guy (Snowden) vs the scary giant behemoth know as the U.S. government. It’s so appealing to many people, including my husband who is a lefty (not a libertarian) and a big fan of Chris Hays’ show. I try to point him to your blog along with Bob Cesca and Charles Johnson at LGF, but Greenwald’s story is so enticing. Greenwald basically says a whole bunch of nothing in a way that generates terror among some.

    Personally, I think you’re onto something. This seems like such a perfect way for China/Russia to weaken the U.S. by dividing democrats/liberals. What if a Rand Paul gets elected President? It’s basically lights out for the U.S. Anyway, good job!

  4. Assange, Applebaum, Poitras, and Greenwald interests are cemented by the same hate towards the US government and its allies. As a results, they are prone to ally themselves with the enemies of the US (Russia, China, etc.) by following the simple logic of " the enemy of my enemy is my friend". For example, it's no surprise that Greenwald does not consider islamists' violent attacks against the US government and its allies as forms of terrorism but legitimate forms of "resistance" (see or
    @Smartypants you are right, the issue here is not about privacy but who controls the WWW. Assange/Applebaum/Poitras/Greenwald want the WWW to be left unregulated so they could continue using it freely as a powerful weapon against the US and its allies.

  5. The idea that the Internet should be "free" is only possible because a) the US government created it in the first place; and b) created the governing standards. Which is something all the "libertarians" like Assange & others have managed to quite blithely wave aside. The idea that there's any "privacy" on the Internet is ridiculous on its face. I can, using a quick search, pull up web pages I created over 15 years ago, along with USENET posts from even further back. What the younger generation doesn't seem to grasp is the fact that once it's on the Internet, it's there for anyone to look at, whether it's a government agency, or someone who is just "curious." So the idea that the government shouldn't ever look at something you posted publicly is ridiculous, particularly since anyone else can. That every government with any capability is "spying" on other countries' communications shouldn't be a surprise either. In fact, it'd be more surprising if they weren't. About the only "news" that seems to be coming out is that this President has been instituting ever stricter controls protecting the citizens of this country from unwarranted intrusions by government agencies, unlike other countries. For example, China, Russia, Venezuela, and Ecuador, to name a few.

  6. The irony of learning that Assange "hacked" into someone else's personal computer because they wanted to get revenge ... is all anyone needs to know about how to understand what these crackpots are really all about.

  7. I just think they're a bunch of self-involved nihilists who didn't count on a President who would actually follow through with reforms to the way intelligence is gathered. They were banking on creating chaos and feeding their need for attention, and they might have succeeded in some fashion we may never know about, but in the end the President pretty much de-fanged them by facing this problem head on.

    It's kind of hard to be a glorious martyr when your perceived enemies don't even bother to take you seriously.

    Seriously? Control of the Internet? I just don't see it. The Internet is a massive beast of a thing and a handful of narcissists and hackers can no more control it than I could.

  8. What would be helpful in all this is to find a money trail linking various of these people. If one exists.

    And I don't believen the goal is to get a Libertarian candidate elected POTUS. It's more how to create the newest version of Nader.

    Greenwald is on record supportive of Nader's tactics of getting Republicans elected.

    And we know Jane Hamsher had no problem teaming up with Grover Norquist.

  9. You're quoting that fascist Fitzpatrick? Wow, now I know not to trust a thing you say. You all will rally against any abuse so long as the US government isn't the one committing it.


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