back to article Snowden's Big Brother isn't as Orwellian as you'd think

Few will forget learning the truth about Santa Claus. Many also felt deep shock on realising that a hitherto ultra-secret NSA/GCHQ programme, revealed in documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, was constantly rating everyone on a naughty-nice metric based on indiscriminate covert surveillance all their online activity …

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  1. SW10
    Stop

    It's not today's government you need to worry about...

    ...it's tomorrow's

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not today's government you need to worry about...

      that's true in UK, where I do trust the current government and the very personable spooks from Gloucestershire, Bedfordshire etc. You know who you are, so do we, and we think you're working from a sense of responsibility under British sovereign state laws to protect the UK, as is your right.

      "Today's government" has however manifestly been digitally attacking its citizens in the cases of Czech Republic, Hungary, Malawi, Syria, KSA, Bahrain, Iran, Cuba, Turkey, New Zealand etc leading to loss of privacy/discrimination in the mildest cases through 'soft assassinations,' to deprivation of liberty to fully endorsed digitally-enhanced state-murder; don't forget that they all claim to be working from a sense of responsibility under their own sovereign state laws to protect their state, as is their right?

      Some of these states' attacks are inevitably proxy attacks on-behalf-of the military industrial complex, referred to by a senior politician here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y06NSBBRtY [US President Dwight D. Eisenhower's exit speech on Jan.17,1961] relevant text quotation " This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

      In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

      We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. "

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's not today's government you need to worry about...

        "I do trust the current government"

        I might add - I trust them too, but ONLY because they're not competent enough to be more Orwellian. But, as meatware has failed to achieve perfection, whatever the people behind the spooks define as "perfect", hardware and software steps in, and chases the perfection" ever so more efficiently.

        In a sense, what might save us in the short run is that the people (governments) in pursuit of this perfection also evolve, shift (goalposts) and develop their visions into fantasies, being often quite irrational in defining their own goals. This human unpredictability might slow down hardware and software in its race to catch up the above perfection. But then, the hardware and software might pursue parallel venue, by trying to imitate and eventually predict what the "perfection" is - and then it will catch up instantly. Which brings me to the obvious issue of the hardware overlords who will realize - and decide in no time - that humans are redundant (very true). This might be a very rude awakening to us, if any.

    2. Mephistro
      Stop

      Re: It's not today's government you need to worry about...

      Agreed. Give any government such a power without counter-balances, responsibility and accountability and wait for a few decades, and see what happens.

      Now, I think that this process is similar to the one that sent the French nobility to the guillotine and put their Russian equivalents in front of firing squads -and many millions of innocents as well. At some point, the big fish always get so far removed from the consequences of their acts that forget what lots of small fish can do when they're really pissed off.

      What worries me about the current developments is that, thanks to the technology currently available to governments, they may be able to escape the consequences of their acts for a long long time, bringing about the famous 'boot stomping on a human face for a thousand years'. Or a million.

      And I think Mr. Mathieson is wrong/disingenious when he claims that the current situation is not 'Orwellian' because the general populace is not subject to a similar level of surveillance as in '1984'. What the NSA and pals are doing is the same thing any good sheepdog does instinctively, i.e. scrutinize 'normal sheep' very lightly, but subjecting the leader sheep to total surveillance.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not today's government you need to worry about...

      Exactly so. Every single building block is in place to turn the fiction into a worse reality, and the tipping point is very difficult to see. I always think of Sophie Scholl and her brother in this light - as teenagers they were able to see an inevitable future of which few around them took heed, and what signs are we missing at the moment? GCHQ is a weapon of attack more than a defensive agency, and where it has gone wrong is to regard absolutely everyone, even its putative masters, as potential enemies needing attacks in readiness. The Yahoo webcam story should be analysed in terms of GCHQ's morals being so bent that it actually sees nothing wrong in so heavy handed an approach, possibly just to test some techno-gasm it had hoarded. There is a fundamental imbalance in its activities that it and, apparently, the whole of Westminster, seems incapable of seeing. The government's tinkering with "scrutiny" and constant, weak statements of GCHQ operating within the law completely fail to understand what the public concern is all about.

      Recent shenanigans within the UK government of ministers trying to out-right-wing each other, and the announcement of likely secret trials are further signs. The Register's exposé of the Oman listening stations, as close to an act of war in that entire region as it is close to come, is another. Just what else do we need before we do, in fact, find out the hard way that these agencies are indeed as Orwellian as we fear.

      1. RyokuMas Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: It's not today's government you need to worry about...

        It's not the government you need to worry about at all.

        Control of the information about us, and more importantly, the information we are given is increasingly in the hands of big corporations - Google being the chief culprit - not the Government.

        Of course, the government may have it's means of disseminating information - the press, the BBC and so forth. But against the power of the internet, this is just one voice against a roaring mass.

        And the corporations control the internet - to the point where they can all but stick their finger up at international law.

        The government is all but powerless. At pretty much any point, the corporations could switch off the tap supplying them with our information, and they know it.

        1. Captain Hogwash
          FAIL

          @RyokuMas Re: It's not today's government you need to worry about...

          Heard of anyone being incarcerated or worse by Google lately? That's what I thought.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @RyokuMas It's not today's government you need to worry about...

            Heard of anyone being incarcerated or worse by Google lately? That's what I thought.

            Ah, so you don't think that misinterpreted chains of events handed over to the NSA will have any effect on people. Like people mistakenly barred by the TSA from flying. Where do you think they get that data?

            Part of the problem is exactly the judge and jury process taking place outside (alleged) democratic controls. Another part of the problem is bending laws towards "sponsors", but those chickens have already started to come home to roost in a big way: US law is damaged beyond repair, at least in the short term.

            Generically, there is however an additional problem I see showing up: those assaulting our rights are slowly starting to get their way. People are getting tired and are giving up, which was the whole purpose of building this global panopticon: creating the feeling of being constantly under observation without the power to do anything about it. But we're NOT prisoners, so we shouldn't be in one.

            I, for one, will not give up. I suggest you don' do either - this is about basic human rights versus profit.

          2. RyokuMas Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: @RyokuMas It's not today's government you need to worry about...

            @Captain Hogwash

            Heard of Google holding general elections in which everyone can vote for who is in charge and potentially anyone can stand as a candidate? That's what I thought.

            ... and I told you so really doesn't quite cut it here...

          3. Psyx

            Re: @RyokuMas It's not today's government you need to worry about...

            "Heard of anyone being incarcerated or worse by Google lately? That's what I thought."

            Heard of anyone innocent being incarcerated as a result of GCHQ collecting their private data en masse?

            That's what I thought, too.

            The fact that it shits on people's privacy and rights without actually jailing them doesn't make mass data collection ok, whether it by by grubbiment or corporations.

            1. Captain Hogwash

              Re: @RyokuMas It's not today's government you need to worry about...

              @Psyx and an AC or two earlier: You completely missed my point.

              "The fact that it shits on people's privacy and rights without actually jailing them doesn't make mass data collection ok, whether it by by grubbiment or corporations."

              That is my position also. The point I was making was that a corporation doing it is much less dangerous to an individual's personal liberty than a government doing it.

              1. Psyx

                Re: @RyokuMas It's not today's government you need to worry about...

                "You completely missed my point."

                It was rather hard to ascertain that from a sentence, though.

                "The point I was making was that a corporation doing it is much less dangerous to an individual's personal liberty than a government doing it."

                Fair point.

                Although somewhat shaken by recent news that corporations are stumbling over themselves to hand over our data in exchange for millions of pounds in cold, hard NSA/GCHQ cash. Clearly they give even less of a toss about our freedoms than the State, it would seem.

                1. tom dial Silver badge

                  Re: @RyokuMas It's not today's government you need to worry about...

                  In the US, law requires the government to offset the cost of satisfying its orders for production of customer data. That is not quite the same as the companies "stumbling over themselves to hand over our data in exchange for millions of pounds in cold, hard NSA/GCHQ cash."

                  The case in the UK might be different, but I would guess not.

                  1. Psyx

                    Re: @RyokuMas It's not today's government you need to worry about...

                    "In the US, law requires the government to offset the cost of satisfying its orders for production of customer data. That is not quite the same as the companies 'stumbling over themselves to hand over our data in exchange for millions of pounds in cold, hard NSA/GCHQ cash.'"

                    Yes, because private companies doing government work never plump up their invoices to make fat wads of cash.

                    Government work is a big pork barrel. *secret* government work is even better, as there is no real oversight and you can charge whatever you feel like in the knowledge that nobody will look too closely.

              2. RyokuMas Silver badge
                Boffin

                Re: @RyokuMas It's not today's government you need to worry about...

                @Captain Hogwwash:

                "The point I was making was that a corporation doing it is much less dangerous to an individual's personal liberty than a government doing it."

                ... and I think you missed mine. From the lowest level interns to the CEO and the board, Google is entirely an unelected body. In my book, this is far more dangerous than any government could be. Sure, a government can lock you up and throw away the key - but with the amount of information Google has gathered, combined with the sway they have over the web and smartphone arenas, they could hold to ransom, or even ruin, pretty much anyone - from individuals all the way up to the government of small countries.

                1. Captain Hogwash
                  WTF?

                  Re: @RyokuMas It's not today's government you need to worry about...

                  "Sure, a government can lock you up and throw away the key..."

                  Corporations can do nothing as bad as this if they wish to remain within the law. Governments make the law and can do much worse than this. Furthermore, you are free to not use the services of, for example, Google. You are not free to withhold information from your government. This is basic stuff.

                2. Mephistro

                  Re: @RyokuMas It's not today's government you need to worry about...(@ RyokuMas)

                  "Google is entirely an unelected body"

                  I find your argument a little bit disingenuous. Google is a private company, and the public has just two ways of putting pressure on them, which are:

                  - Voting with their wallets: If Google sells your privacy to a government or to the highest bidder, don't use Google services*.

                  - Putting pressure on the government -with votes and if that fails, with protests and demonstrations- to change the laws in such a way that these acts -by Google or whoever- are made illegal.

                  Seriously, if one of the parts -the American government- can order Google -or any other private company- to hand over our private data without proper judiciary oversight and then cover their requests with gag orders, the biggest culprit -quite obviously- is not Google.

                  *: Disclaimer: I use Gmail for routine communications with my customers and friends, i.e. anything that doesn't seriously compromise their security/privacy or mine. For more sensitive communications, I have a 'safe' and well protected account, and the data and email text are encrypted using several open source tools. My customers usually keep in a safe one of those 'computers in an usb stick', with printed instructions and passwords.

                  1. RyokuMas Silver badge
                    Stop

                    Re: @RyokuMas It's not today's government you need to worry about...(@ RyokuMas)

                    "Voting with their wallets: If Google sells your privacy to a government or to the highest bidder, don't use Google services"

                    Fine. Until you stop and think about the near stranglehold that Google has over the average, non-technical public. Android powers somewhere between 70 and 80% of all smartphones. Google search has become so integral into the way modern life works, it actually has become synonymous with web search: "just Google [whatever]". Google analytics are present in the vast majority of high-traffic sites.

                    Getting the general public to vote with their wallets will take one of two things - a credible alternative of similar capability, or a massive failure on the part of Google. The first of these is unlikely - how does one gain enough capability to be a threat to Google when Google can control a large chunk of what people see on the web? So that leaves Google to have a Microsoft moment, and fall victim to their own hubris.

                    "Putting pressure on the government -with votes and if that fails, with protests and demonstrations- to change the laws in such a way that these acts -by Google or whoever- are made illegal."

                    For all the good that will do. Ultimately, money talks - and Google have a shedload of money. A government wants Google to pay the tax they owe? Google will just wriggle out of it, or make a counter threat - how easily could they lower the priority of search results and/or adverts for companies in the country making the demand?

                    Sure, the American government has the power to order Google to hand over data. But for how much longer? Already Google are trying it on with the European courts, and Indian government - how long until they're big enough to turn on the U.S. - home of consumerism which, via their control of search results and advertising revenue, Google have massive power over? How many laws have Google had passed or thrown out through lobbying?

                    At the end of the day, unless something changes very soon, we will all be at the mercy of an unelected, profit-motivated private enterprise that sees people as it's property to do with as it chooses, and with more than enough money and influence to ensure that world governments sing to their song.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's not today's government you need to worry about...

        What you need to watch out for is demagogues and those seeking power at all costs

        I am a councillor and what I have seen small town politicians do to get power and influence is absolutely shocking. Ordinary people who get elected start off as some who is reasonable and decent, however power then really corrupts them and you then see the inner demons :(

        Plus it is amazing how Journalists are often involve so that no bad news come out

    4. Psyx

      Re: It's not today's government you need to worry about...

      "It's not today's government you need to worry about...

      ...it's tomorrow's"

      Though surely, if a government is voted into power which is far-right, despotic and evil we must have wanted them their and have only ourselves to blame.

      That's trite and inflammatory, but we - the voters - have to take our share of responsibility for ticking boxes and letting things lie sometimes. When a terror attack occurs, the public wants heads, but does not consider the price on wider freedoms that the swift vengeance they (rightly) desire will cost. We need to consider human rights across the board, rather than point to the worst case scenario, demand that they have no rights, then flail and wail when those same rights are lost to themselves and more wholesome types as well.

    5. Schultz

      Re: It's not today's government you need to worry about...

      It's not just tomorrows government, but tomorrows governing system. A government that aims for all-encompassing knowledge but keeps as much as possible from its citizens is simply incompatible with democracy. Such a system will always create people that will try to make undemocratic decisions simply 'because they know better'.

      Democracy only works among equals, there can't be a class of people that are better (informed), more powerful (information is power) ... else democracy will fail. There also can't be an open market in a secrecy-based society: a market requires trust and only openness creates trust.

  2. Google

    In short...

    We're not living in 1984 yet so we're ok? Nevermind constitutional rights being trampled on and rive abuse http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/08/05/sod_squad_found_feeding_nsa_surveillance_info_to_drug_enforcement/

    1. Psyx

      Re: In short...

      "We're not living in 1984 yet so we're ok? Nevermind constitutional rights being trampled on and rive [sic] abuse "

      We're better than most of the world.

      Shame we don't get as upset about civilians being rounded up and tortured for speaking out on distant shores nearly as much as we care about our email getting read without knowing about it.

  3. Gordon 11
    FAIL

    and 40 years after the year it is named after

    Wow! How the last 10 years have flown by....

    1. William Towle
      Alien

      > Wow! How the last 10 years have flown by....

      In the space of half a sentence, no less :/

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Yeah, that made me feel suddenly very old!

    3. Midnight

      ElReg 12.6.14 miniplenty misquoted date rectify

      "It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank The Register for raising the number of years since 1984 to forty. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that 1984 was thirty years ago. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it."

  4. Naich

    What a load of apologetic nonsense. "You are reminded that under GCHQ’s offensive material policy, the dissemination of offensive material is a disciplinary offence,” oh, how nice of them not to upload the nudey pics they look at to /r/gonewild. That makes it perfectly OK for them to gawp at random people's webcam images. And so on. I was going to pick the whole article apart, but it's just more of the same hand-waving dismissals of perfectly valid concerns.

    1. Vic

      What a load of apologetic nonsense.

      Indeed.

      I think it's very nice of El Reg to allow our shadowy watchers the opportunity to pen an article from time to time...

      </sarc>

      Vic.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I think it's very nice of El Reg to allow our shadowy watchers the opportunity to pen an article from time to time...

        Is this El Reg or this specific author? One thing I noticed of late is that different authors on El Reg can dissent considerably on the same topics. That does make for a better diversity of views (whatever your opinion of them :) ), but can at times be confusing.

      2. Psyx

        "What a load of apologetic nonsense."

        Actually, I believe it to be a well written and balanced article. It's not apologist, and it's it's a quite centralist view, as opposed to the 'spying on people is good, think of the children' and 'We're living in 1984!' polar sides of the debate. It's fair and factual. We might not like those facts, but that does not change its essence.

        Don't get annoyed because you're reading something that you're not just nodding along to for a change.

        It's a GOOD thing to read stuff that you don't like, because it challenges and forces one to consider the other side of the debate. If The Reg only printed stuff I agreed with, it would be utterly shit; no better than a tabloid.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Go

          Re: Psyx

          ".....It's a GOOD thing to read stuff that you don't like, because it challenges and forces one to consider the other side of the debate....." Notice the lack of upvotes on that idea? Message for all the sheeple that raced to upvote the most ridiculous paranoid bleatings posted in this thread (and many others) yet hesitate to upvote a simple truth - conflicting points of view are not verboten, no matter what they tell you in the flock.

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: Psyx @ MAtt

            Ummmm ... 5 upvotes at the time of posting. Your point is ..??

            1. Psyx

              Re: Psyx @ MAtt

              "Notice the lack of upvotes on that idea?"

              Nope.

              "...sheeple..."

              You might want to wait until the votes are in before grasping onto something as evidence that the everyone except you is stupid...

    2. big_D Silver badge
      Big Brother

      The article is a posterchild for the word ironic.

  5. jesterscup

    Yeah but what about santa?

    Yeah ok so you stated that he doesn't exist at the start of the article......

    BUT If we assume that's just a cover story, things start to make sense.

    1. He know when you are sleeping

    2. He knows if you've been bad or good

    3. He gonna find out who's naughty or nice

    you watch, project "north pole" the next shocking Snowden revelation!

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Terminator

      Re: Yeah but what about santa?

      He knows if you've been bad or good, and he's got an axe!

      1. Captain Hogwash

        Re: Yeah but what about santa?

        On every corner there's a giant metal Santa Claus who watches over us with glowing red eyes.

        They carry weapons and they know if you've been bad or good.

        Not everybody's good but everyone tries...

        with thanks to JoCo

  6. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    The last time I played Pictionary, I had to draw GCHQ. I failed. Or at least my team failed to interpret my scribblings. I thought it was most unfair...

  7. John Deeb
    Big Brother

    Between a "Brave New World" rock and an "Orwellian" hard place

    The article displays a rather convoluted and paradoxical approach on the subject. On the one hand the "abuse" factor in the Snowden files is downplayed in favour of praising some degree of self-restraint these same files appear to suggest. On the other hand it ends by admitting there's now the start visible of NSA reform and as well the potential of much needed GCHQ reforms. But all of this is hard to imagine without Snowden's decision to do exactly what he did, where he did and how he did it. Alternative but sane options open to him at the time I'd love to hear!

    Or is perhaps the case being made these reforms could have happened without Snowden since "its theoretical extent has been obvious for many years". This is a giant leap, asserting with now almost (and assumed) perfect hindsight that large complex organizations could change somehow by spontaneous inner pressure or political oversight. This line of thinking has zero historical credibility.

    And then a defence like: "in an Orwellian world, Edward Snowden would never have made it to Hong Kong" sounds pretty desperate, considering all the rather well documented hoops Snowden had to jump through to make sure he was not taken out even before he got his information out properly and particularly his flight out of Hong Kong, getting involuntary stuck on a Russian Airport, between a "Brave New World" rock and an "Orwellian" hard place.

    Any implication that Snowden's own success somehow would prove that all those warnings about the largest security agencies might be overblown is an argument collapsing under its own weight. As are perhaps these overweight security agencies themselves are already doing under all the increasing pressure and scrutiny.

    1. Psyx

      Re: Between a "Brave New World" rock and an "Orwellian" hard place

      "And then a defence like: "in an Orwellian world, Edward Snowden would never have made it to Hong Kong" sounds pretty desperate"

      Mate, if you genuinely believe this country to be Orwellian, I suggest that you've been overly pampered with your human rights up until now. Try living somewhere like the KSA, DPRK or similar for a true taste of the medicine.

      I am genuinely sick of people claiming that we live in 1984. It's like spoiled, fat kids wailing about only getting six bars of chocolate a day. Things aren't perfect, things need improving and our rights are being edged in on. But to call it Orwellian is shitting in the faces of everyone who lives under a genuinely unpleasant dictatorship.

  8. Shady

    So porn images were filtered out?

    So all the cyber terrorists had to do to maintain security was wear fake boobs. Sorted.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Shady Re: So porn images were filtered out?

      "....all the cyber terrorists had to do to maintain security was wear fake boobs....." Unless they were wearing the fake boobs on their face it would be a bit pointless. Hmmm, how to explain facial recognition software to the sheeple?

      1. Shady
        Joke

        Re: Shady So porn images were filtered out?

        There - fixed it for ya :)

  9. Gray
    Devil

    Not gonna happen

    "Both the British and American governments should do much more to protect whistleblowing..."

    Ayup, they should. They won't.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Orwellian" isn't an absolute

    The article seems to be making the case that since the extremes described in 1984 haven't (all) happened in Britain (yet) then we should all be jolly grateful and get on with our lives.

    But that's missing the brilliance of Orwell's vision. The book isn't supposed to be a literal prediction of our future; rather it's an allegory that shows us what might happen if we aren't careful.

    It's good that the article mentioned other regimes that have veered much further into totalitarianism than we have (the former East Germany for example), but just because other people have had it worse doesn't mean we have nothing to worry about.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: "Orwellian" isn't an absolute

      I would recommend El Reg actually visit the Stadtssicherheit (Stasi) Archives. Maybe they would then realise why such surveillance should not be allowed.

      If what the Stasi managed to accomplish without modern electronic surveillance is anything to go by, I hate to think what the US and British (well, the whole 5 eyes) governments could do and now there is an arms race of "me too" going on with other groups, such as the BND also wanting their share of the toys...

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: "Orwellian" isn't an absolute

        One of the article's points seems to have been that there is in the UK (and I would add, the US) what must be, to some, a fairly distressing lack of evidence that either government has attempted to emulate East Germany, let alone actually done so. That seem to be true also for the remaining Five Eyes, Germany, France, Sweden, and Israel, to mention some whose names have come up in a context of collecting telecommunications data.

        All of these are stable democratic regimes with regular electoral options to change personnel in charge. They also have a comparatively free press to raise the alarm when the government steps out of bounds. The chance of anything like this uproar over government surveillance happening in East Germany would have been about zero, and I suspect it would not happen many other places today.

        As one of the first posters noted, the risk seems not to be from present governments but from ones that might be installed in the future. In the countries named above, communication (and public video) surveillance or not, we voters will have ourselves to blame if that happens. It is well and good to talk of reforming the government's surveillance, although I haven't seen evidence that is likely to happen in the US, but it is a plain fact that a government intent on establishing a police state has little need for communication surveillance. As the East German experience demonstrates, it will not lack informants to provide it precise and timely information about dissidents.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Re: "Orwellian" isn't an absolute

          Whilst the fears about future governments are valid, I think the real risk is now.

          No government changes 100% personnel with a change of winner at general election time - government is run by the civil servants and they are lifers.

          The biggest risk in my opinion is the gradual change of attitude overall. If someone with power gets away with something that should have been stopped, it sends a subtle message to others in similar positions.

          If they are of a similar ilk then it gives them a green light to do it themselves.

          If they aren't bothered either way, they will continue to be not bothered.

          If it bothers them and they perceive that the system won't allow them to do anything about it (attitudes towards whistle blowers for example) then it can lead to defeatism and the turning of blind eyes.

          It is the last group that empowers the first group and can create a powerful feedback loop. If we want to break this kind of cycle we need to ensure that the first group are actually prevented from performing such actions or punished when they transgress - and the only way to do that is to have enough oversight and threat to act as a preventative and to hold people personally accountable for their actions.

          Power corrupts, but it doesn't do so in one fell swoop. The experiments using the prisoner/guard setups show us what people are really like and how even the people who object to such extreme behavior become sidelined.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Orwellian" isn't an absolute

      But that's missing the brilliance of Orwell's vision. The book isn't supposed to be a literal prediction of our future; rather it's an allegory that shows us what might happen if we aren't careful.

      It's also building on a concept called "panopticon" developed by social theorist Jeremy Bentham many years earlier. If you keep that in mind, you are much better equipped to examine the consequences of what is happening today, because it's not just about wanting information, it's about influencing how you think in everyday life.

      The panopticon was a prison designed to obtain (I quote) "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example". The idea is to place prisoners in an environment wich would make them feel watched all the time by watchers unseen (sounds familiar?) and thus change their behaviour.

      This is why the mentioning of 1984 is actually distracting as it's just a story, you should look at the end goal of the panopticon strategy instead. The panopticon is a deliberate, in my opinion brutally malicious strategy to "grind down" people who have been found to work outside the boundaries set by <insert favourite megalomaniac>. Granted, it's not exactly waterboarding, but more like Scientology or the sort of disinformation you see in places like North Korea - long term pressure to make you comply with a set of rules, a set of rules you had no part in shaping (so much for "democracy" - that has become IMHO somewhat of a joke in this context).

      Now look around you. CCTV everywhere. State surveillance which is now more or less sanctioned (nobody has really been punished anywhere), companies that gather deeply personal data about you without being subjected to any real punishment - I can already see people give up the idea that they can have any sort of privacy, despite that being an acknowledged human right which was in some cases is even codified into law (for example in EU law).

      You have done nothing wrong. You are not a prisoner, therefore you and your friends, children, family and everyone else you know does not deserve the treatment like you are one. Be very careful that you don't accept by acquiescence - losing your privacy is a one way street. Fight.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon
        Mushroom

        Re: "Orwellian" isn't an absolute

        One aspect of the panopticon is that we are all talking about our rights and privacy etc. when we really should be asking..

        "What right have they to do this?"

        1. scrubber

          Re: "Orwellian" isn't an absolute

          Rights are taken, not given.

          This is why civil rights disputes end up in civil war or civil violence, usually perpetrated by those in possession of those rights who don't want to see others granted them.

          It is also why the might of state has to be fought at every turn because even when they claim new powers/rights in order to help us they will always, eventually, turn that round against us.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Nice article ...

    This seems to be a very balanced article about the Snowden revelations. Perhaps the most telling comment from my perspective is:

    In an Orwellian world, Edward Snowden would never have made it to Hong Kong, and if he had, his stories would never have been heard by those living under the boot of Big Brother.

    Something all the tin hatters on here might bear in mind.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Re: Nice article ...

      "In an Orwellian world, Edward Snowden would never have made it to Hong Kong, and if he had, his stories would never have been heard by those living under the boot of Big Brother.

      Something all the tin hatters on here might bear in mind."

      That the world is not yet Orwellian? Oh yes, I'm bearing that in mind. I do find it amusing that you think the fact that we've not quite run out of time in which fix this is cause for celebration though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice article ...

        I think you'll find he means that if GCHQ / NSA were intercepting and monitoring everyone's comms to the level some of the tin hat brigade think then we would never have heard of snowden at all. He would simply have fallen under a bus on the way home from work one evening.

      2. Psyx

        Re: Nice article ...

        "That the world is not yet Orwellian? Oh yes, I'm bearing that in mind. I do find it amusing that you think the fact that we've not quite run out of time in which fix this is cause for celebration though."

        So what are you doing about it beside moaning on forums about it, if it's so crucial to you?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nice article ...

          "So what are you doing about it beside moaning on forums about it, if it's so crucial to you?"

          Nothing more than that. Which is still substantially more than saying nothing, or worse still suggesting that it's somehow all OK.

          1. Psyx

            Re: Nice article ...

            "Nothing more than that. Which is still substantially more than saying nothing, or worse still suggesting that it's somehow all OK."

            No it's not.

            It's pointless bad karma. It's worse than nothing really: You are aware of the threat enough to get hot under the collar about it, but take no action. If it matters enough to cause a raise in blood temperature it's worth doing something about. Otherwise you might be sat there in ten years in a worse situation than you are now.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nice article ...

      In an Orwellian world, Edward Snowden would never have made it to Hong Kong, and if he had, his stories would never have been heard by those living under the boot of Big Brother.

      The absence of total control is not evidence of absence of lesser controls. If Snowden had suffered any delay on his flight I suspect the story would have ended very differently. You may recall that his ability to travel pretty much ended the moment the US woke up to what had happened.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice article ...

        ... is not evidence of absence of lesser controls. If Snowden had suffered any delay on his flight I suspect the story would have ended very differently....

        And yet the story would have still got out, and published by the Guardian .. a media outlet under the repressive jackboot of UK Government and GCHQ, or maybe not?

      2. a53

        Re: Nice article ...

        You may recall that his ability to travel pretty much ended the moment the US woke up to what had happened. === And did our American cousins deliberately time the removal of his passport rights so that he was stuck, in of all places, Russia ? Thus allowing them to further demean him.

    3. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: Nice article ...

      "Something all the tin hatters on here might bear in mind."

      I seem to recall something about a flight being forced down because they thought Snowden was onboard. That suggests to me that they were just not quick enough off the mark, rather than not trying.

      I also think that "Tin hatters" might end up being less and less of a derogatory remark as time goes by.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Loon Re: Nice article ...

        ".....I seem to recall something about a flight being forced down....." No-one was 'forced down', despite what the more hysterical sheeple want to claim. Morales' personal jet was refused permission to overfly several countries as it was presumed there was a discrepancy between the manifest and the actual number of people onboard, which is an international crime (effectively people-smuggling). Rather than force the jet to land and be inspected, permission to enter airspace was denied. The jet was then too short of fuel to return to Moscow so had to divert to another airport, where the local authorities exercised their right to confirm the manifest. Once this had been done the jet was allowed on its way. Morales and co made much political hay from the event but the jet was not 'forced down' and nothing 'illegal' was involved, all the authorities concerned were well within their legal rights.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon
          FAIL

          Re: Loon Nice article ...

          "Morales and co made much political hay from the event but the jet was not 'forced down' and nothing 'illegal' was involved, all the authorities concerned were well within their legal rights."

          Force doesn't have to be applied at the point of a gun. Refusing the aircraft permission to pass through various territories had the net effect of making them land where they didn't want or plan to, that's being forced. I didn't say they did it with military jets and gesitculating airforce pilots.

          Whilst their actions weren't illegal, it was because they thought Snowden was onboard - which was exactly my point. They went to a great deal of effort to get hold of him, and failed.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            Pirate

            Re: Loon Nice article ...

            ".....Refusing the aircraft permission to pass through various territories had the net effect of making them land where they didn't want or plan to, that's being forced....." No. The countries that chose to refuse overflight did so because it was less politically messy than directing the aircraft to land at an airport for a manifest inspection, which they could have legally done and which they would have done with a non-VIP flight. In effect, those countries passed the buck. It was Morales' hesitation that then prevented him returning to Moscow, if he had turned back at the first refusal (France) then he could have made it back to Russia on the fuel they had left.

            ".....I didn't say they did it with military jets and gesitculating airforce pilots....." Forced down is a very emotive term, with implications of the 'victim' complying against their will due to the threat of violence (being buzzed or shot down by fighters). The reality was Morales had the choice not to land Vienna and allow the Austrians to search the plane, he could have refused (though his remaining fuel would have seriously hampered his choices). He put himself in the position of needing to land in Austria because of his political grandstanding. As I pointed out, if he had turned around when first advised he could not cross French airspace then he could have returned directly to Moscow. Morales wasn't forced to do anything, so the term forced down is completely unjustified.

            ".....Whilst their actions weren't illegal, it was because they thought Snowden was onboard...." Agreed.

            "......They went to a great deal of effort to get hold of him, and failed." I think it was more of a case they wanted to make it clear to Snowjob and his supporters that he would not be allowed to just bolt for cover, that all LEGAL avenues would be used to block that. It would have been a bonus if they had found Snowjob in that they could embarrass Morales and Putin, but they would not have been able to actually remove him from the aircraft anyway. At best, they could refuse Snowjob entry to Austria and they could insist Morales turn around and take him back to Moscow, which is hardly the same as 'grabbing him'. Snowjob would have to actually leave the aircraft and put feet on Austrian soil in order for an International Arrest Warrant to apply, and I'm pretty sure even Morales would have the smarts to work out the Austrians would not risk the political fallout of storming the jet and grabbing Snowjob. As to the 'great trouble', all it would have taken is one phone call to each country on the route, it only needed one to buckle for the trick to work. Germany was one country earlier on the flightpath that did not deny Morales overflight, it was the French that did. I suspect it was more an exercise in keeping Snowjob bottled up and far from those, like Greenwald or Castro, that would use him for propaganda appearances, rather than an attempt to 'grab him', and in that respect it worked just fine.

            1. Sir Runcible Spoon

              Re: Loon Nice article ...

              "if he had turned back at the first refusal (France) then he could have made it back to Russia on the fuel they had left."

              Ok, I didn't realise that.

              "Forced down is a very emotive term"

              Agreed. Not intentionally used to add drama but re-reading my post it does imply the use of fighters etc. due to common parlance.

              "I think it was more of a case they wanted to make it clear to Snowjob and his supporters that he would not be allowed to just bolt for cover"

              I think we'll have to agree to differ on that one. Speculating as to what might or might not have happened if Snowden had been found on the plane is just that, speculation. You might be correct, it's certainly not impossible for their motives to be as you describe (especially if they *knew* he wasn't on the plane) but if he was there I think the scenario would have played out quite differently - but that's my opinion.

  12. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Typical.

    This thread is a great example of exactly why it is pointless trying to debate with the sheeple. The responses here are the typical response - 'how dare anyone insist we calmly and rationally examine the issue!' To do so is verboten as it would undermine what they so desperately want to baaaah-lieve, that their own personal failings are not their own fault but are due to some nefarious, capitalistic Big Brother that seeks to oppress them at every turn. So much easier to baaaah-lieve in The Man.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Typical.

      > it is pointless trying to debate with the sheeple.

      Well, characterising people as 'sheeple' isn't the best way to converse with anyone.

      1. Flyberius

        Re: Typical.

        Sheeple is a good way of describing them.

        "Intelligence agencies are baaaaaaaad. UK gov is baaaaaaaaad. Glassholes are baaaaaaad."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Typical.

          2 out of 3 isn't, umm, baaaad, though

          :)

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Typical.

      I've got a self-protective filter in my brain that means I stop reading almost any post when I come to certain words. As it's almost certainly going to be drivel, bollocks or self-regarding rubbish. There are exceptions, where someone's gone overboard halfway through a well made argument, but you have to have been making some sense first to get me to keep reading once I meet one of these keywords:

      sheeple

      LibLabCon

      shill

      EUSSR

      New World Order (though I haven't seen this in a while)

      Positive Money

      HAARP (another one you don't see much these days)

      I'm thinking of adding:

      Piketty

      bitcoin

      fractional reserve banking (which really doesn't mean what some people seem to think it means)

      Could someone build a Firefox plugin to automate this, and build a good blacklist? Or maybe have a spam scoring system. So any post that has bitcoin, gold, fractional reserve banking, end of Wester capitalism combined can be filtered out. Admittedly if you operated this, The Telegraph comments sections would suddenly be almost totally empty - the Guardian still appears to have some sane commentards trying to survive in the screaming chaos.

      Pluspoints if this filter can also automatically downvote people who call anyone who disagrees with them sheeple of shills.

      1. Psyx

        Re: Typical.

        Oooh..ooh.. can we add 'sheeple' to the list?

        I hate that word. It basically means 'I'm looking down on everyone because I think I'm special and know something they don't, and I have zero empathy'.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Re: Typical.

          Well, if we're making a list I'd like to add

          Obambi

          Snowjob

          1. Graham Marsden

            @ All of the above posters - Re: Typical.

            You know, with a little work, we could use this list and a few other bits and pieces to create the Matt-o-Tron!

            Firstly it needs to come up with an "amusing" variation on someone's name.

            Then it needs to be set to cherry pick bits of arguments which it can "win" by ignoring any facts that it can't counter and introducing a selection of mobile goalposts.

            Next add in various references to sheeple, comments about baaaah-lieving, assorted irrelevant straw-men arguments (and a whine or two about those who comment on this behaviour aren't adding anything to the debate) and season to taste.

            Finally chuck in an ad hominem or three and BINGO: Instant Matt Bryant post!

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Marsbarbrain Re: @ All of the above posters - Typical.

              You missed out a very key bit - the facts and arguments the sheeple can't disprove so ignore or deny. I would have thought even you with your goldfish-like attention span would be able to recall how recently you had been proven wrong by exactly such points you attempted to deny. BTW, show me the 'chilling of liberty', as you claimed you could, or are you going to deny that too?

              1. Graham Marsden

                @Matt Bryant - Re: Marsbarbrain @ All of the above posters - Typical.

                BINGO!

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @ All of the above posters - Typical.

              You know, with a little work, we could use this list and a few other bits and pieces to create the Matt-o-Tron!

              You do realise that by concentrating and commenting on an individual instead of the topic at hand you're actually amplifying the problem? If you have a problem with a PERSON, downvote them but shut up otherwise, that's much more effective. Focus on the discussion, not on the person.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @ All of the above posters - Typical.

                Good point. And a more effective one is to report abuse when he kicks off. I've done it a few times recently and made his rude ravings go away.

            3. BlueGreen

              Re: @ All of the above posters - Typical.

              > You know, with a little work, we could use this list and a few other bits and pieces to create the Matt-o-Tron!

              Matt can sure generate long crappy posts in a hurry. I wondered if it was all handmade so I've kind of made a mental list of entries in his possible sed script

              .

              s/ sp / sheeple /ig

              s/ bv / baaaah-lieve /ig

              s/ msf /. This is my surprised face, honest! /ig

              s/ s / stupid /ig # note to self - saves a lot of typing does this one

              s/ hb / hysterical bleating /ig

              s/ pf / paranoid fantasy /ig

              s/ dya / debunked you yet again /ig

              s/ imyg / I AM YOUR GOD /ig # Need even more(!?) proof before I use this one or might be mistaken for delusional

              .

              Any I've missed?

              (You are actually quite fun, plumpness. Keep it up!)

              1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                FAIL

                Re: YawnGreen Re: @ All of the above posters - Typical.

                ".....Any I've missed?..." Well, as usual, you have not posted any arguments, facts or references to do with the actual thread, instead concentrating on a rather sad personal attack (presumably because, once again, you cannot argue the points I raise). Hey, I'm sure it helps keep the spirits of the flock up but it does illustrate how desperate you are to avoid both independent thought and views that challenge your Faith.

                1. BlueGreen

                  Re: YawnGreen @ All of the above posters - Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                  Wonderful suggestion plumpkins!

                  s/ wauyhnpaafortdwtaticoarspapboaycatpirhisihktsotfubidihdyatabitavtcyf / Well, as usual, you have not posted any arguments, facts or references to do with the actual thread, instead concentrating on a rather sad personal attack (presumably because, once again, you cannot argue the points I raise). Hey, I'm sure it helps keep the spirits of the flock up but it does illustrate how desperate you are to avoid both independent thought and views that challenge your Faith. /ig

                  Nice one lambchop, thanks!

                  1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                    FAIL

                    Re: YawnGreen @ All of the above posters - Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                    A script to replicate your endeavours would be more along the lines of make statement, deny statement, repeat. Throw in a few childish insults and pretend it makes an argument. So, where's the proof of 'harm' you promised?

                    1. Graham Marsden

                      Re: YawnGreen @ All of the above posters - Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                      > A script to replicate your endeavours would be more along the lines of make statement, deny statement, repeat. Throw in a few childish insults and pretend it makes an argument.

                      Erm, Matt, that's a mirror you're looking into...

                      > So, where's the proof of 'harm' you promised?

                      You mean *apart* from the multiple examples I and others have already given that you've ignored or moved the goalposts on?

                      What *would* you accept, Matt? A voice from the heavens? Carved stone tablets? It's clear that nothing is good enough to convince you that there may be another viewpoint other than yours and past evidence has shown that there's no point in wasting more time on trying to remove your blinkers.

                      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                        FAIL

                        Re: Marsbarbrain Re: YawnGreen @ All of the above posters - Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                        "....You mean *apart* from the multiple examples I and others have already given that you've ignored or moved the goalposts on?...." All of which I debunked and all of which you have desperately tried to claim 'moving goalposts' to avoid admitting you were wrong. Like your classic claim that you could demonstrate how the NSA was 'chilling liberty' only to fail with some trade association report about Occupy given to the Washington DC fusion center that had NOTHING to do with the NSA. I would say 'try harder' but that might only encourage your denial.

                        ".....What *would* you accept, Matt?...." The verifiable proof you stated you could easily provide. It has nothing to do with viewpoints, just with you actually supplying some evidence to back up the farcical claims you use as the basis for your whacky viewpoints. Don't be so surprised when people laugh at you when it becomes obvious your claims have no basis in reality.

                2. Psyx

                  Re: YawnGreen @ All of the above posters - Typical.

                  " instead concentrating on a rather sad personal attack "

                  Welll heeellllllllloooo pot!

    3. BlueGreen

      Re: Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

      Hello plumpness. The reason many of us don't want to argue with you is you pick and choose facts like jelly babies, that is, those presented to you that you dislike get scornfully discarded, and in their place you can at times get a little... creative with reality, shall we say. And you can plain misrepresent what they say when convenient. That's not how it works, lambchop.

      Then again maybe it's your manners. Who said this "...or STFU you boring, repetitive, lying, moronic sheep". You can find it here if you can't remember.

      That people can sincerely and with good reason hold different opinions to you isn't something you seem to understand.

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        1. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

          Rudeness and name calling turn most people away from any valid points you might have made. Hence the down votes.

        2. BlueGreen

          Re: Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

          > I choose facts that illustrate the stupidity and denial of your sheeple baaaah-liefs

          You sure do. Very selectively. Ignoring the inconvenient ones (remember your crap about high speed text reading through envelopes? Man that was funny!)

          > which you always are unable to counter.

          So true!

          > Oh, BTW, still waiting on you proving the 'harm' done to you after you insisted the NSA were doing so.

          Did I say that, did I lambchop?.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: YawnGreen Re: Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

            ".....Did I say that...." I challenged you to show the harm you claimed the actions of such organisations as the NSA and GCHQ were having on you or anyone to you know, seeing as you claimed they were gathering secrets on everyone for the distinct purpose of oppressing everyone. You have danced around and avoided the issue ever since, because you know, even in your deluded state, what you claim as fact is just paranoid bleating. So, post your proof of harm or admit you can't. Or, more likely, you will just continue avoiding the question and posting more dribbling, fact-free insults.

            1. BlueGreen

              Re: YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

              > seeing as you claimed they were gathering secrets on everyone for the distinct purpose of oppressing everyone

              but plumpkins, as before, I didn't say that. That ridiculously misrepresents and over-simplifies my concerns. I even provided a nice linky for you but it appears your got a case of butterhooves (and such delicate little hooves they are too! Beautiful!) and didn't manage to click on it. Shall I paste it all in here in full, would that help?

              1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                FAIL

                Re: YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                ".....I didn't say that...." Yes you did, and you still are avoiding posting anything to support your claim.

                1. BlueGreen

                  Re: YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                  > ".....I didn't say that...." Yes you did

                  Post a link please my little plumpgasm, as I don't recall doing so.

                  1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                    FAIL

                    Re: YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                    IIRC, I challenged you to prove the 'harm' you claimed was happening to 'everyone' in the thread on the Bahaman wiretaps (http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2014/05/19/latest_snowden_leak_claims_nsa_bugged_all_mobile_calls_in_the_bahamas). You have been avoiding it ever since, despite the question being posted in other threads where you made similarly ridiculous claims. Quit avoiding or admit you were talking bollocks.

                    1. This post has been deleted by its author

                      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                        FAIL

                        Re: YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                        So you're still not going to post any proof of the 'harm' to 'everyone' you insisted was happening right now? This is my surprised face, honest!

                      2. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

                        Re: Re: YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                        Matt Bryant. Stop abusing the "report post" button to get this comment off display because you seemingly can't/don't want to argue with it.

                        One and only warning.

                        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                          WTF?

                          Re: gaz Re: YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                          " ....Stop abusing the "report post" button to get this comment off display because you seemingly can't/don't want to argue with it...." I have clicked the abuse button when I see comments that contain abuse. As stated in your own guidelines (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/02/01/register_comments_guidelines); '....we have a mechanism for readers to report comments. The moderators will continue to deal with any comments and/or commenters reported to them, and decide whether the comments breach the house rules and should be removed from the site.....' So how could I hope to 'get this comment off display' when it is yourselves that have the power to remove it and only if you decide it contains abuse? All I can do is bring the comments to your attention, if the editorial staff disagree then the comment remains. Surely you're not suggesting I have some control over the editorial staff?

                          1. gazthejourno

                            Re: Re: gaz Re: YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                            The reported comment does not, in my judgement, breach the house rules.

                            Moreover, the reported comment does not, in my judgement, even come close to being a breach of our house rules. What material in the comment that could be construed as abusive is, in fact, as mild as soapflakes.

                            I've warned you before about your misuse of the report post button. As point 14 of the Reg Comments Guidelines, which you have helpfully linked to yourself, states:

                            "...don't abuse [the report post button]. A differing opinion does not make reasonable grounds for reporting a comment. You may end up getting flagged if you continually file unwarranted reports."

                            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                              Pint

                              Re: gaz Re: gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                              "The reported comment does not, in my judgement, breach the house rules...." So the system is working as intended, the editorial staff are in complete control of comment visibility, and your assertion I was trying to hide comments was simply... Well, incorrect, I suppose? Made in the heat of the moment, perhaps? A slip of the keyboard, maybe? I assume it's merely because you've had a long and tiring week, and are looking forward to beer-o'clock.

                              Everyone please show your appreciation for gaz and his thankless task of moderating us in his unflinching, unbiased and humorous manner. Long may his overwatch continue.

                              1. BlueGreen

                                Re: gaz gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                                > So the system is working as intended

                                Look matt, if it upsets you so much, if you really think it's so harsh, I'll repost with the offending line removed and delete the original.

                                I'll do that now.

                                Following that, please answer the question ie. show where I've used the words you claim I have.

                                1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                                  FAIL

                                  Re: YawnGreen Re: gaz gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                                  "Look matt, if it upsets you so much, if you really think it's so harsh, I'll repost with the offending line removed and delete the original...." But, as expected, you won't post any proof of the 'harm' you claimed the NSA was doing to 'everyone'. So, you're just avoiding again.

                                  1. BlueGreen

                                    Re: YawnGreen gaz gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                                    > I have clicked the abuse button when I see comments that contain abuse

                                    That's you, matt. Your words. I removed the 'abuse' as a gesture to you. Having done so, please answer the question - show me (as specified in my post) where I said what you claimed I said.

                                    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                                      Happy

                                      Re: YawnGreen gaz gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                                      You make the assumption that I clicked the 'abuse' button for your drivel, when the reality is I would have clicked a button for 'laughable stupidity' if that was available. Or a button for 'constant repetition' which is against the house rules. Because that's all you do, repeat, deny and divert. Once again, post the proof of 'harm' you insisted the NSA's actions are inflicting on 'everyone', you said you could do so. If you are finally realising that what you stated you cannot prove, I'll make it easier for you - simply show the proof that the NSA's activities are 'harming' you. Surely if what you claim is true then that should be so easy for you that you won't even need your usual, abusive diversions?

                                      1. Psyx

                                        Re: YawnGreen gaz gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                                        "Because that's all you do, repeat, deny and divert. "

                                        Whereas name-calling is far more constructive?

                                        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                                          Happy

                                          Re: Psyx Re: YawnGreen gaz gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                                          "Whereas name-calling is far more constructive?" At least my name-calling comes with verifiable facts and arguments. YawnGreen wouldn't know a fact if it bit his fat backside. Indeed, it seems the sheeple are much happier bitching about name-calling rather than admitting the article has a point, and that their fervent bleatings about big Borther Now are just hysterical melodramatics.

                                          1. BlueGreen

                                            Re: Psyx YawnGreen gaz gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                                            Well, plumpness, you seem repeatadly disinterested in anything constructive, or indeed in fulfiling your side of the agreement, I guess I'm going to have to go back to sheep-baiting. You love it. Or maybe you don't love it but can't resist answering. Well, except when you've posted something silly you can't back up then you go quiet and scuttle off to another thread to piss off another crowd and hope I don't notice your absence. But I do.

                                            BTW keep annoying gazthejourno. There's a scene in a film when a rather unwise goose (or maybe it was a swan) angrily attacks a tiger, pecking it hard in the face, twice. Then it goes for the hat-trick and the film cuts immediately. Can you guess why? Hint: you're not the tiger.

                                            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                                              Happy

                                              Re: Psyx YawnGreen gaz gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                                              "....you seem repeatadly disinterested in anything constructive....." So, I post verifiable facts and arguments, you just post blather and froth, but you say I'm disinterested? Your denial really is quite exceptionally developed, at least your social services team can reflect that you have finally excelled in something, even if it is being pointless.

                                              "....then you go quiet and scuttle off to another thread...." What, you're complaining I haven't exposed your stupidity enough? Are you some kind of psychological masochist? Are you labouring under the mistaken assumption that your posts are somehow a contribution?

                                              "....BTW keep annoying gazthejourno...." What, by clarifying the rules? Oh, I forgot - for you there is no 'understanding', no rules, you simply obey the shepherds unquestioningly. How quaint.

                                              Oh, BTW, you still didn't post the proof of 'harm' you claimed you could provide.

                              2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                                Stop

                                Re: gaz gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                                Was that down vote because someone doesn't want gaz to remain as Moderatrix? I admit, he's not Ms Bee, but there's no going back, she dumped us and moved on. You'll just have to quit moping and accept gaz is it, she ain't coming back.

                            2. Vic

                              Re: gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                              > I've warned you before about your misuse of the report post button

                              First there was Eadon ...

                              :-)

                              Vic.

                          2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                            WTF?

                            Re: gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                            Was the down vote because someone actually thinks I do have power over the editorial staff?

                          3. Graham Marsden

                            Re: gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                            > I have clicked the abuse button when I see comments that contain abuse.

                            Hmm, I wonder how Matt would describe the comment: "STFU you boring, repetitive, lying, moronic sheep"?

                            1. BlueGreen

                              Re: gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                              > Hmm, I wonder how Matt would describe the comment: "STFU you boring, repetitive, lying, moronic sheep"?

                              I think the little plumpgasm would describe it as factual and verifiable. If you were matt bryant Plump & Bleaty wouldn't you? I certainly would and I know you wouldn't disagree.

                              Incidentally lambchop, consider the number of sheep who inhabit this domain, who disagree and downvote you and generally don't treat you as the demigod you are. Perhaps one might venture to ask why you keep coming back here only to be so despicably treated yet again. It's clear us sheeple don't like you (no, I don't know why either) and can't learn to bask in your clear rays of wisdom, perhaps it's time to move on to another part of the interwebs. Howsabout the daily mail <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/index.html>. It's simply loaded with petty minded terrorist-fearing right-wingers who know what's right and haven't the mental flexibility to change either.

                              But wait... there your precious posts would be drowned in the dross and no-one would notice you at all, and that's unacceptable because it's not about being right, it's about being noticed; centre of attention; upvotes/downvotes, information content, who cares, it's just ego pumping which keeps you going.

                              So settle in and keep posting cotton-bud, we treasure each perfectly composed patronising worthless insulting rave.

                              1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                                FAIL

                                Re: YawnGreen Re: gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                                "...consider the number of sheep who inhabit this domain, who disagree and downvote you..." As I have pointed out to you and the other sheeple before, I am completely unconcerned about 'fitting in with the flock'. After all, it is a natural law of nature that the herds of herbivores outnumber the carnivores that prey upon them. Or, for a simpler example that might make it past your reality filters, the number of sheep in New Zealand far outnumbers the number of humans, yet the New Zealand Government don't ask the sheep for their views. But I suppose it helps you cope that you like to baaaah-lieve your views are 'popular' if only in the tiny circle you move in.

                                "...why you keep coming back here...." Apart from the fact I was here when it was a respectable technical website, long before the majority of the sheeple arrived, I also find exposing your stupidity quite amusing. Unlike you and your unquestioning acceptance of what the herd tell you is 'fact', I am quite happy to think for myself and more than equipped to debate the facts with you I'll-equipped sheeple. I know you have been inculcated with the idea that independent thought is 'bad', that any divergence from what you have been told is 'The Truth' is just verboten in the flock, but I think it really is in your own best interest to realise those here that post alternate views (backed by verifiable facts) are actually doing you lot a favour. Oh, and we get to laugh at your frothing responses. Enjoy!

                                Oh, and BTW, that little spittle-flecked tantrum was yet another post with nothing to do with the thread, just more diversion, and you are still avoiding posting the proof of 'harm' you claimed you could show.

                                1. BlueGreen

                                  Re: YawnGreen gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                                  > herbivores outnumber the carnivores

                                  And you're the carnivore? Farmer's very own scampering pet? Plump "this is my surprised face" & Bleaty? You? (mega giggle!) I am sooo going to save that one up for later. But I think that's it for this thread.

                                  Ewe boring now, plumpkins, TTFN.

                                  1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                                    FAIL

                                    Re: YawnGreen gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                                    "....And you're the carnivore?...." Going on the evidence you present in your posts, compared to you I'm a cross between Einstein and a T-Rex. Now stop evading and procrastinating and post the evidence of 'harm' you insisted it was so easy for you to prove.

                            2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                              Happy

                              Re: Marsbarbrain Re: gaz YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                              "....I wonder how Matt would describe the comment: "STFU you boring, repetitive, lying, moronic sheep"?" As an accurate description of YawnGreen's posting habits.

                      3. BlueGreen

                        Re: YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                        As promised, repost with offense removed (I hope)

                        ++++++

                        > IIRC, I challenged you to prove the 'harm' you claimed was happening to 'everyone' in the thread on the Bahaman wiretaps (http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2014/05/19/latest_snowden_leak_claims_nsa_bugged_all_mobile_calls_in_the_bahamas).

                        Oh dear, I do believe you recall incorrectly.

                        Please post a link to the PRECISE comment where I claimed that 'harm' was happening to 'everyone'.

                        Because I've looked on that thread and I did not use the word 'harm' (although you did repeatedly), and the only use of the word 'everyone' was by two other people.

                        Now, please post a link to the EXACT comment on that thread. Don't post a general link and expect everyone to be taken in. If you actually don't know how to link to an exact comment let us know we'll show you - we're here to help!

                        The EXACT comment, please.

                        Where I said these things.

                        Because I don't recall doing so and will retract them if I did. You want a public retraction? You got it!

                        Just post the frigging link to where I (not another person) used the EXACT words 'harm' and 'everyone' in MY own words (not quoting someone else) IN THE CONTEXT OF NSA INTERCEPTIONS.

                        ++++++

                        So, is that acceptable now?

                        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                          FAIL

                          Re: YawnGreen Typical. @Plump & Bleaty

                          "....So, is that acceptable now?" No, because you are still just avoiding posting any proof of the 'harm' you claimed the NSA was doing to 'everyone'. It doesn't matter if you use abuse or not, all the forum readers get that all you are doing is trying to divert attention away from the fact your mindless claims have no basis in reality.

    4. Creamy-G00dness

      Sheeple, baaaah-lieve

      Sheeple, baaaah-lieve, Sheeple, baaaah-lieve, Sheeple, baaaah-lieve, Sheeple, baaaah-lieve, Sheeple, baaaah-lieve, Sheeple, baaaah-lieve, Sheeple, baaaah-lieve, Sheeple, baaaah-lieve.

      Whatever fire you were trying to ignite when you first started with this crap, you must surely know by now that your efforts have been wasted. You post nothing but opinionated, hatred filled dross simply looking for someone to disagree with you so you can kick into personal attack mode.

      Troll on keyflinger you are taxing only on the eyes.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Sheeple, baaaah-lieve

        ".....you are taxing only on the eyes." Well, it is obvious that some sheeple, such as yourself, have very under-taxed brains. In particular, you demonstrate a clear inability to exercise logical thought processes, preferring a more religious-like, unquestioning attitude.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great journalism

    You're right, the UK gov't has not been oppressing its citizens.

    As long as you overlook three decades of spying, bribing, assassination and collusion with murderers on all sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland .

    And four decades of inserting spies and agent provocateurs into striking unions, CND, anti-war and environmental campaign groups.

    And the campaign for justice for Stephen Lawrence.

    And suspects detained in Belmarsh near indefinitely on evidence that has not been released to the defence.

    Other than those misunderstandings, its all been rosey.

    The UK is still far better than just about anywhere else in the world. But we should always be looking to improve, not fall back on the grounds that we'll still be among the best places to live even with a little tweak here and there.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So everything is alright then

    So everything is alright then, and we don't need to worry about anything? Is that the message of this article, which compares very real wrong-doings of government agencies with fiction and draws some weird conclusions for our very real lives and future from it?

    As the author repeatedly assumes that everything is within legal boundaries, and mostly ignores ethics, maybe a short reminder as to who makes laws might help. Hint: it's not Joe Public, you or me. This means, it's very hard to stop this.

    It's the creeping changes and ignorance of people, which have facilitated snooping. Heck, even after a year of revelations most people will still shrug it off and give less than a shit. In other words, 1984 may not be reality right now, but it's a question of time when it will be.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: So everything is alright then

      And generally, it is all against the law. All of the surveillance that was performed by the NSA and GCHQ against European citizens is illegal... In Europe.

      That is the problem, which many Americans especially fail to see, that saying that it was aimed at Americans makes it okay. No, it doesn't.

      We were, in the past, thankfully limited in what the spy agencies could spy upon, so they had to have good intelligence to work out who they needed to spy on, because they simply didn't have the resources for mass surveillance. It was self limiting. Now they don't have that 'problem', we have the resulting problem.

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: So everything is alright then

      In other words, "we have met the enemy and he is us." (Pogo, 1970)

  15. big_D Silver badge

    Spin

    can we spin up the GCHQ hard disk doughnut up to 7500rpm and see what happens?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spin

      I suspect a head crash - of everyone inside.

      It would be much more fun if it could actually fly.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Russia stop-over

    "Edward Snowden is now in Russia, a country that is rather closer to Orwell's dystopian future than Britain or America. Some see this as evidence that he has been working for Russian intelligence. "

    The article overlooks the fact that Moscow airport was an in-flight stop-over. A seat was apparently booked for an onward flight via Cuba. It was the USA cancelling his passport at that point which made it impossible for him to travel to his presumably intended sanctuary in South America.

    Was it also the case that the USA arranged for another plane to be intercepted and searched in Europe in case he was being secretly ferried to South America?

    1. emmanuel goldstein

      Re: Russia stop-over

      precisely. he is in Russia through necessity, not choice. important to bear that in mind.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Russia stop-over

        No that seems to have been arranged by the FSB, and WIkileaks.

  17. Adam Inistrator

    Boiling frogs

    This article is trying to settle down the frogs ... jostling uneasily in the pan as a rather hot bubble wells up.

  18. codejunky Silver badge

    So

    We dont have to worry about the increasing abuse of powers (particularly anti-terrorism powers) being used against the ordinary? We dont have spy agencies breaking the laws and then lying to their superiors about doing so? We dont have people being detained, secret courts, abusive prisons/extraordinary rendition? We dont have a right to privacy in the hunt of an intangible (terror)? Snowden didnt have his passport cancelled to stop him from escaping and he hasnt already been convicted as a traitor by every US politician trying to grab him?

    But at least we have media who can openly report to keep the gov in check. Oh apart from secret courts and intimidation efforts against the newspaper reporting on these law breaking abuses.

    And we dont continue to get further revelations of the spying activities and their abuse which is denied outright... then weasel worded... then admitted but all for the good of the people? Sounds great

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So

      @codejunky: Very good summary.

      Presumably the author's name "SA Mathieson", means speacial agent? Okay, joking, but you catch my drift. The article is full of "close your eyes and all will be okay" attitude.

  19. breakfast

    Will nobody think of the T1000s?

    People worry a lot about government, but with all this monitoring set up so everyone can be watched by any computer anywhere we're totally opening to door to hostile AI, should it ever come knocking.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is a big difference between a whistleblower and a traitor who had his ego slapped professionally and decided to"show them" how smart he was. Most of his revelations are things the agencies are supposed to be doing. If he had constitutional concerns, the document release would have been very narrow and specific. This is a classic case of firing an arrow and then painting a target around it...now he's styling himself as some kind of civil rights champion. Ha...Ha...Ha.

    1. dogged

      I think the important thing here is that Edward Snowden is not important. The information is important.

      Those attacking the man and ignoring the crimes (yes, crimes) might perhaps wish to consider this.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        "Edward Snowden is not important. The information is important." Most of the information has been publicly available, with somewhat less detail, for years, and the activities described have been going on in various forms since before World War II. Books and articles have been written and published describing them. Bulk communication collection at places like Menwith Hill and the potential tracking use of cell phones (mentioned in a later post) are widely known for quite a while. Not much has happened.

        So perhaps Edward Snowden actually is important. Perhaps, but the pace and degree of change underway suggest otherwise. "Reset the Net" might have an effect, but even with that skepticism is in order.

        1. Psyx

          To be fair, there is a big difference between being told by third-hand sources and that there are listening stations everywhere intercepting stuff and with seeing an NSA powerpoint presentation on the subject.

          The information has been there and *some* people have known about it, but it was never cast-iron-front-page stuff and was known to a minority. Snowdon dragged in a dead yeti, rather than some photos of footprints in the snow.

  21. Identity
    Black Helicopters

    Was ist das?

    Seems to me a semantic argument to foster stage two of the denialist triad*: 'OK, it's happening, but it's not as bad as you say.' Those of you in Blighty may have grown used to constant surveillance, what with the cameras and all, but on this side of the pond we are supposed to have a right to privacy. Today, it was reported on National Public Radio** that your cell phone (mobe, if you prefer) is leaking all kinds of information about you, even if you're not using it!

    *The other two are 1) "It's not happening" and 3) "OK, it's happening, but it's somebody else's fault."

    **http://www.npr.org/2014/06/11/320882348/project-eavesdrop-what-passive-surveillance-collects

  22. Squander Two

    No, no, no.

    He should also ditch the agency’s name, "Government Communications Headquarters," a long-blown Second World War cover story.

    Got to disagree with this bit. It's the popular mistake of thinking a name's origin and it's meaning are the same thing. GCHQ isn't Government Communications Headquarters; it's GCHQ. In the UK's national consciousness, GCHQ's heritage and pedigree are embedded in its name. Keep it.

    1. Levente Szileszky

      Re: No, no, no.

      " it's GCHQ. In the UK's national consciousness, GCHQ's heritage and pedigree are embedded in its name. Keep it."

      Are you high?

      1. Squander Two

        Re: No, no, no.

        If you explain what your actual problem is, I'll respond.

  23. druck Silver badge

    I used to get that view of GCHQ everytime I flew in or out of Staverton airport (2 miles down the road), it's quite amazing they allow anyone to fly over such a sensitive building at under 1000ft.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Oh, don't worry, they know you're there.. :p

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Winston Smith the terrorist ..

    "If you want both, go back 30 years, when a civil servant in London started writing a diary about his hatred of the government. Influenced by a new girlfriend, he got involved in radical politics, pledging to commit acts of terrorism in order to advance the cause"

    I don't recall reading Winston Smith wanted to 'commit acts of terrorism'. Lucky for the party that O’Brien got him into room 101 for some re-education. "radical politics" .. haarr harrr ... 1984

    --

    "Orwell’s masterpiece was not in place by 1984, and it isn’t now"

    "Operation BOHAN Lies and more Lies"

    --

    What is this propaganda piece for the state security apparatus doing in a technology mag?

  25. MacGyver

    What's the worst that could happen?

    Does anyone remember J. Edgar Hoover? Do you remember all that he did with only the craptastic tech he had available in the 20's to the 70's? He was the top FBI man for 50 years right up until the day he died because presidents were afraid to fire him for fear of reprisal. Now imagine what it would have been like if he had access to the internet history of everyone in the U.S., email, web searches, sites visited, transcribed voice calls, and online purchases. Not just for 2014, but all the way back to 2001, and continuing on until the day you die.

    I don't worry about the good-guys maybe doing bad things so much as I worry about the bad-guys doing what they will do. Someone could sit behind a desk and control everyone in the United States if they had uncontrolled access to that information, and if someone can, someone will.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's the worst that could happen?

      Someone could sit behind a desk and control everyone in the United States if they had uncontrolled access to that information, and if someone can, someone will.

      I would move house if I were you. Schmidt and co. will not appreciate you uncovering the Google master plan.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    PanOpticon

    The fact that Snowden (quite correctly in my view) decided that he needed to decamp to China, then Russia, in order to guarantee his personal safety, tells us that the US is closer to Orwell than some here believe.

    Guantanamo Bay still stands as a testimony to how the US government will evade its own laws in order to detain people without due process, somewhere far from prying eyes. Before he was elected, Obama said he would close it. But it's still there.

    The campaign finance laws in US ensure that the political process there is bought and paid for, rather than subject to democratic change. How else to explain why Obama has reinforced the police state he inherited from Bush, rather than dismantled it.

    The UK is not nearly as bad, due in part to much stricter political finance oversight. However, the Assange saga suggests that exposing the truth to the light, is still not welcomed, by those who misdeeds get aired.

    Contra Capt Hogwash, Google is at least as large a threat to an accountable future as our venal politicians. They have shown themselves willing in China to censor accurate political history at the behest of a repressive government. They have suppressed their commercial rivals by excluding them from their search results. Give it a few years, and you can be sure that any previous journalism hostile to Google will be deprived of oxygen, hidden from the search results and effectively suppressed. Their landgrab for the book market will have a similar effect. What's the difference between Winston Smith job for MiniTruth and the editors of the Google search results?

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: AC Re: PanOpticon

      "....in order to guarantee his personal safety...." Snowjob moved to guarantee his not being extradited and tried for treachery. There never was any proof of any attempt to harm him other than his own Wallter Mitty-esqe claims. If the CIA had really wanted to kill him it would not have taken much effort, he was never really hidden, not in Hong Kong (where the CIA could have used his contacts with Chinese journos and/or Greenwald to find him) and definitely not whilst he was stuck in the transit lounge in Moscow. It was all part of the big sales job done by the Wikidicks and Greenwald that Snowjob's life was 'at risk', but there has never been any proof of it.

      ".....Guantanamo Bay still stands as a testimony to how the US government will evade its own laws in order to detain people without due process...." Gitmo is an example of how laws designed for combat between civilised countries do not work well with terrorists. The convoluted legal discussions since it opened, even under Bush, demonstrate that the US does want to deal legally with the detainees and is not just trying to lock them away without due process. I'd also have to ask how much 'due process' has the Taliban every given anyone, especially the thousands of Shia they ethnically cleansed (and continue to attack daily)?

      "....somewhere far from prying eyes...." Bullshit. Apart from the fact Gitmo has always been the subject of sustained comment inside the US administration and public, the jail and the prisoners have been given access to lawyers and other organisations such as the Red Cross. Copious amounts of information on Gitmo and conditions therein are available on the Web (plus a large amount of conjecture and propaganda), so to claim they are 'far from prying eyes' is just hysterical bleating.

      "....Before he was elected, Obama said he would close it. But it's still there...." Agreed totally. But then Obambi has desperately tried to keep his electioneering promise, most recently by releasing five of the worst mass murderers in Gitmo in exchange for an alleged deserter that was causing him political trouble at home. Obambi would close Gitmo tomorrow if he could. Obambi's problem is not that he wants to close Gitmo to keep his promise, even though it means risking the release of those that have shown no intention of giving up violent jihad, it's that he can't find countries willing to take the jihadis. Why do you think the recent five went to Sunni-jihad-funders Qatar? Because even Pakistan and Afghanistan did not want the trouble they would have brought with them.

      "....How else to explain why Obama has reinforced the police state he inherited from Bush, rather than dismantled it....." Apart from the fact that, if you really think the US is a 'police state', then you really need to get out in the World a lot more, maybe Obambi found that he actually needs to keep the security apparatus largely as it was in order to protect America and allies from those that would seek to do them harm, steal their secrets, or commit crimes? No, you much prefer the spoonfed idea about 'Nazi Amerika', right?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: PanOpticon

      It strikes me that Obama hasn't got the ability and support to change anything, which suggests that Bush well and truly nailed the door shut to any recovery of that situation.

      Having said that, Obama doesn't seem to be WILLING to change anything either, to the point where I actually talked to the Norwegian Nobel price committee to ask if they took back Nobel prices. Sadly, they don't.

    3. Squander Two

      Re: PanOpticon

      > Guantanamo Bay still stands as a testimony to how the US government will evade its own laws in order to detain people without due process

      What due process? The only process due to enemy combatants is that they give their name, rank, and serial number, at least one of which Al Qaeda don't use. They are not entitled to a civilian court case to establish whether they really are enemy combatants, and never have been. Guantanamo doesn't evade US laws, which apply to US citizens. It's basically a POW camp, with some convoluted legal shenanigans to avoid calling it that for political reasons related to Al Qaeda not being a nation-state. But there has never been any law against capturing fighters on a battlefield and locking them up without trial, in the US or any other country; it is in fact the civilised humane alternative to simply killing everyone, and the fact that it is an option means that enemies are not afraid to surrender, which reduces the casualty rate of battles.

      Worth bearing in mind that Al Qaeda fighters don't wear uniform or insignia, and the internationally and historically accepted punishment for being a combatant on a battlefield out of uniform is summary execution. There's no legal grey area there: it's just absolutely undisputedly legally acceptable under the established rules of war. So would you prefer that the US do that? Then there'd be no detainees with worrisome disputed legal status. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

      > The campaign finance laws in US ensure that the political process there is bought and paid for, rather than subject to democratic change.

      I suggest you look up the relative budgets of Eric Cantor's and David Brat's campaigns.

      > Before he was elected, Obama said he would close it. But it's still there.

      Well, Obama said a lot of things. Fact is, he had no executive experience. Senators who stand for President usually have been on some defence committees and so on, so they have some idea of the top-secret stuff -- but not Obama. He made all sorts of promises, got into office, got handed the usual pile of stuff that's for the President's eyes only, and -- I strongly suspect -- thought "Holy fuck, these guys are some seriously dangerous bastards. I had no idea. I can't let them out." His mistake was in believing his voters when they told him that Guantanamo was full of innocent goatherds who'd been in the wrong place at the wrong time -- or, more accurately, his mistake was in standing for office with too little experience to know what the voters were wrong about. It would have been nice if he could have explained to the electorate after he changed his mind, but he's a typical politician: can't bear to be seen to do a U-turn. As if changing your mind in the face of new evidence is a sign of stupidity.

      1. Psyx

        Re: PanOpticon

        Upvote, with reservations.

        "What due process? The only process due to enemy combatants is that they give their name, rank, and serial number."

        There's a lot more to it than that, but essentially agree that Gitmo is a POW camp, designed to try to side-step the legal awkwardness of fighting ununiformed fighters in a third-party's territory.

        "There's no legal grey area there: it's just absolutely undisputedly legally acceptable under the established rules of war. "

        Actually there is. Put a round into the head of a civilian who has taken up arms against you and you're looking at a warcrimes trial at worst. At best the Intel bods will be really pissy with you for shooting an asset. If said 'combatant' is not a 'combatant out of uniform' in the sense of having a service number and being an official member of the armed forces and choosing not to wear uniform, then you just shot a civvie.

        Gitmo is fairly well documented now. Red cross/cresent can get a look in and it's essentially a POW camp. However, there are plenty of sites which are far less seemly.

        "He made all sorts of promises, got into office, got handed the usual pile of stuff that's for the President's eyes only"

        Very possibly. That's no reason to condemn him. I'd rather a rational human changed their mind when presented with facts than persevered on the wrong tack.

        It rather reminds me of Reagan: He got in with a bunch of warmongering 'We'll kick commie ass' speeches and then got a clip round the ear from Thatcher, realised nuclear war wasn't cool after all and helped end the Cold war. Good on him for having the sense to make changes to his course, instead of sticking with a dumb option.

        1. Squander Two

          Re: PanOpticon

          > There's a lot more to it than that

          Agreed. I was oversimplifying to keep the sentence snappy and make the point. The idea that they're due a civilian trial is the popular nonsense I was really arguing against.

          > Actually there is. Put a round into the head of a civilian who has taken up arms against you ...

          Agreed again. And that's where the big problem lies and why Gitmo has an odd legal status: these rules of war were designed to be used by nations who put their armed forces into uniform, because doing so allows the enemy to tell the difference between soldiers and civilians. Indeed, enforcing that distinction is a large part of why being on a battlefield out of uniform is considered such a heinous crime. If an enemy decides to use your rules against you by forgoing uniform completely, you can either roll over and lose or start trying to improvise new rules based on honouring the spirit of the old rules but without hamstringing yourself.

          > That's no reason to condemn him.

          Absolutely not, which is why I made the point that my main criticism of his campaign promises is not that he broke them but that making them in the first place indicated that he didn't have the knowledge or experience to be standing, and he should have realised that.

          > Reagan: He got in with a bunch of warmongering 'We'll kick commie ass' speeches and then got a clip round the ear from Thatcher, realised nuclear war wasn't cool after all and helped end the Cold war.

          I don't agree with that. Reagan realised that, in order to win the Cold War, the Russians had to believe you meant it. A major reason the Cold War ended was (as we now know from documents released after the USSR's collapse) that the Russians genuinely believed Reagan was ready and willing to launch a strike against them. Something that they certainly didn't believe about Carter. The warmongering rhetoric and the peace accords weren't opposites: they were the same strategy.

          1. Psyx

            Re: PanOpticon

            "The idea that they're due a civilian trial is the popular nonsense I was really arguing against."

            I believe that they are due some form of due process, as that is what separates decent nations from despotic ones. We must strive to be morally better than our foes. However, the concept of a traditional civilian trial using existing precedent seems next to impossible. America does need somewhere to sling enemy combatants, but I'm not sure that slipping between the gaps and doing so on non-US soil is the most open and ethical way of doing it.

            "but that making them in the first place indicated that he didn't have the knowledge or experience to be standing, and he should have realised that."

            I don't believe anyone is truly *prepared* to run America until they do. On paper the most prepared to run nations are those who attended highly prestigious universities studying political science and economics, but look where that got us [the UK]! To be honest, I would prefer my leaders to be as unsullied by Capitol Hill / Westminster taint as much as possible and owing the least number of favours as possible.

            "I don't agree with that. Reagan realised that, in order to win the Cold War, the Russians had to believe you meant it. A major reason the Cold War ended was (as we now know from documents released after the USSR's collapse) that the Russians genuinely believed Reagan was ready and willing to launch a strike against them."

            However, Reagan wasn't. But he was willing to throw away his pre-election threats in the name of a complete change of tact and disarmament [well...stepping down in hostilities, at least]. So I think it's fair to say that he changed his pre-election course based on emerging information and a changing situation: something I am more than happy to see.

            1. Squander Two

              Re: PanOpticon

              > On paper the most prepared to run nations are those who attended highly prestigious universities studying political science and economics

              You think? Really? That's like saying "On paper, the best fighter pilots are people who've read lots of books about aerial battles." I suppose it depends who wrote on the paper.

              I'd say the most prepared to run nations are people who've run organisations, the larger the better. Both in theory and in practice.

              1. Psyx

                Re: PanOpticon

                "You think? Really? That's like saying "On paper, the best fighter pilots are people who've read lots of books about aerial battles." I suppose it depends who wrote on the paper.

                I'd say the most prepared to run nations are people who've run organisations, the larger the better. Both in theory and in practice."

                The Civil Service can and should do the 'running' on a day-to-day basis, and the leadership concentrate on strategy. That said, Ministers should have a skill-set in-line with portfolio. I don't really want my defence minister to be an ex-teacher with a degree in sociology. People with experience of running large organisations can get a little set in their ways (specifically, politically: Business leaders sway to the right, union leaders to the left. I'd like more free-thinking), but in principle it's a good idea.

                I'd also be a fan of history graduates in positions of power. If you want to know what's going to happen, look at what happened before under similar circumstances. No end of screw-ups would have been avoided. "Hey: Let's invade 'Stan!" "Yeah, because that worked so well every other time someone did it.".

                1. Squander Two

                  Re: PanOpticon

                  > People with experience of running large organisations can get a little set in their ways

                  Absolutely, yes, but people with no experience of running large organisations have no fucking idea how to run large organisations, including governments and nation-states. Competence is the lesser of two evils.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So..

    if you are worried by a trend to an Orwellian Future and if you do nothing you effeftively agreed with it or do not truly believe it is happening.

    Blathering about it here might slow such a process (a bit) but it does not stop it.

    As for Gov versus Corp there are lots of novels about that e.g The Cold Cash War (Robert Asprin?) like 1984 all such speculative fiction is a warning of possible dystopias. But then one mans dystopia is another mans Utopia.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You are right it's not like 1984 more like Brave new world by Aldous huxley.

    1. Psyx

      No it's not. At all. Have you read it?

  29. Levente Szileszky

    Sounds like a desperate attempt to trivialize...

    ...the most scaring revelations about clearly illegal gov eavesdropping ever - for some reason the author clearly unable to grasp the issue which is that the gov NOW HAVE ALL THE CAPABILITIES IN PLACE FOR A FUTURE ORWELLIAN ENDEAVOR, that's all Snowden is warning us about.

    Considering that it's a rather pathetic attempt to downplay the issue.

  30. EUbrainwashing

    Assuring Freedom in a Statist Society

    Civil liberties stand as a defence from whatever future holds. To assure an enduringly free society the balance must always be; government must trust people and not demand legislation that requires the people to trust government.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They wasted billions and instead of defending us, made us weaker

    My two basic gripes against both GHCQ and my own country's NSA.

    The factual basis for both is well established now.

    Hundreds of billions pissed away in building a global electronic surveillance beheamoth that covered the world -- and still they couldn't foil the Boston bombing. In fact they were utterly clueless regarding the plot.

    Weakening encryption standards and setting loose malware to to compromise the security of systems that were being lawfully used by their own citizens. Akin to the farmer's helper kicking down the henhouse door and then leaving it hanging by one hinge for the wolves outside to pass through.

    This isn't

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