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Observations on Evasiveness, Featuring Glenn Greenwald

Revealing
Opinion • Views: 17,604

As Vladimir Putin shuts down dissenting media outlets, cracks down on dissidents and brings Europe to the brink of war, some observations on Glenn Greenwald’s very noticeable evasiveness when the subject turns to Russia’s propaganda machine:

Make of it what you will.

If You Read Down to Paragraph 18, You Discover That Glenn Greenwald’s Latest Article Has No Evidence

Extraordinary claims without extraordinary evidence, or any evidence at all, really
Opinion • Views: 17,373

Glenn Greenwald’s latest headline screams: How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations.

But again we find the article itself does not support the almost comically paranoid headline, and again the source for the claim is a series of PowerPoint slides with very little detail and no context.

The documents appear to be British studies and training documents about online manipulation and social engineering techniques (also known as “trolling”), to be used internally by GCHQ. There is not a single shred of evidence in these documents to show that any GCHQ agent is “infiltrating” anything; no programs, no cases, no reports, nothing.

And Greenwald acknowledges this — but as usual, you have to read down to paragraph 18 after tons of overheated commentary to find it:

We submitted numerous questions to GCHQ, including: (1) Does GCHQ in fact engage in “false flag operations” where material is posted to the Internet and falsely attributed to someone else?; (2) Does GCHQ engage in efforts to influence or manipulate political discourse online?; and (3) Does GCHQ’s mandate include targeting common criminals (such as boiler room operators), or only foreign threats?

As usual, they ignored those questions and opted instead to send their vague and nonresponsive boilerplate: “It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All our operational processes rigorously support this position.”

Yes, that’s correct — Greenwald does not know whether any of the techniques explained in these documents were ever used by GCHQ in the real world. There’s certainly no evidence of it in the PowerPoint slides he published here; so how can he justify the statement made by his headline?

But he actually goes even further in the conclusion to the article:

Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.

In reality, the documents show no proof — or even any evidence — that “government agencies” are infiltrating anything, but Greenwald has done his best to obscure this crucial point with his usual reams of exaggerated verbiage.

But I do have to admit it’s more than a little ironic that someone who was himself caught red-handed using sock puppets (false identities) to manipulate online communities is pointing fingers at “government agencies.”

Misleading, hyperbolic headlines totally unsupported by evidence — is this the future of journalism?

UPDATE at 2/25/14 1:54:06 pm

Bob Cesca points out another problem with generalizing and leaping to conclusions from PowerPoint slides:

Fred Kaplan at Slate: Edward Snowden Doesn’t Deserve Clemency

What to do with Edward Snowden should the Russians spit him out
Opinion • Views: 15,714

Slate’s Fred Kaplan is leaving the media reservation and telling it like it is about Edward Snowden and the push to grant him immunity from prosecution: Edward Snowden Doesn’t Deserve Clemency: The NSA Leaker Hasn’t Proved He Is a Whistleblower.

Is a clear picture emerging of why Snowden’s prospects for clemency resemble the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell? He gets himself placed at the NSA’s signals intelligence center in Hawaii for the sole purpose of pilfering extremely classified documents. (How many is unclear: I’ve heard estimates ranging from “tens of thousands” to 1.1 million.) He gains access to many of them by lying to his fellow workers (and turning them into unwitting accomplices). Then he flees to Hong Kong (a protectorate of China, especially when it comes to foreign policy) and, from there, to Russia.

This isn’t quite what it would have seemed in Cold War times. Russia and China are no longer our sworn ideological enemies. But in the realm of cyberconflict and cybersecurity, they are our chief adversaries; they hack, or try to hack, into American computer networks more than any other countries (and we hack, or try to hack, into theirs as well).

Did the Times editorialists review the statement that Snowden made to a human rights group in Moscow this past July, soon after Vladimir Putin granted him asylum? He thanked the nations that had offered him support. “These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, have my gratitude and respect,” he proclaimed, “for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful.” Earlier, Snowden had said that he sought refuge in Hong Kong because of its “spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.” He also said, in his interview with the South China Morning Post, that he hoped to spread his cache of documents to journalists in every country where the NSA had operated. “The reality is,” he said on another occasion, “that I have acted at great personal risk to help the public of the world, regardless of whether that public is American, European, or Asian.”

Whistleblowers have large egos by nature, and there is no crime or shame in that. But one gasps at the megalomania and delusion in Snowden’s statements, and one can’t help but wonder if he is a dupe, a tool, or simply astonishingly naïve.

Or simply a libertarian.

Read the whole thing.

The Most Insane Holocaust/Nazi Analogies and References of the Year

Opinion • Views: 18,838

2013 saw quite a few politicians and prominent people abusing the English language, and specifically using the absurd argument that events and actions in the present are just like what Hitler and the Nazis did during the Holocaust. It’s Reductio ad Hitlerum and in the process it debases the terminology referring to the Holocaust and the Final Solution. These people have little understanding of history, let alone current events, and they conflate the two to suit their political objectives. Facts fall by the wayside. And the horror of the Holocaust is eroded in the process of making these absurd claims.

Just so we’re working from the same dictionary, here are some actual facts about the Nazis.

Despite the singular nature of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust, there are a whole lot of people who think that making analogies to the Holocaust is acceptable.

I’ve boiled the analogies down to four general themes - based mainly on the focus of the analogy.

The first deals with health care reform, otherwise known as Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act.

Continue reading…

How I Figured Out That Lee Harvey Oswald Killed JFK

by Marc Ambinder
Opinion • Views: 17,813

How I figured out that Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK
by Marc Ambinder

Confession: I am a JFK assassination buff. I never much liked the term, but it describes me well. I’ve read just about every book ever published on the assassination, watched every documentary, mock trial, and dramatization. And for a long time, until about 14 years ago, I was a conspiracy theory believer. Too many loose ends. Too many coincidences of propinquity. And since I had no understanding of physics, or ballistics, or medicine, or of the world, really, I was fascinated with Oliver Stone’s enormously influential JFK. I remember writing somewhere, and bear in mind I was 14 at the time, that the third act scene with “Mr. X” was one of the most dramatic moments in modern film history. That might have been true to a kid who hadn’t scene many movies and who had no idea how awful New Orleans prosecutor Jim Garrison actually was, or how utterly absurd his theories were.

Lee Harvey Oswald

A year later, the day that Gerald Posner’s Case Closed came out, I remember sitting in my high school library waiting for my chance to page through U.S News and World Report, which was serializing the chapter on the “single bullet.” I was nervous. Part of me didn’t want to read a book that concluded something that was precisely the opposite of what I believed. But, clearly, I wasn’t totally convinced, because I wanted to read it in the first place.

I took the magazine and began to read. I can pinpoint the moment when my blinders came off, when my childhood assassination conspiracy fantasies dissolved. Posner pointed out that (a) the president’s row of seats inside the presidential limousine were built to be higher than the row of seats where Gov. John Connally and his wife Nellie would sit; and (b) all the photographs of the motorcade entering Dealy Plaza showed Connally sitting closer to Nellie, away from the edge of the car.

Continue reading at The Week.

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 Frank says:

Well Mike, I'm abnormal. -- When FZ appeared on the Mike Douglas show (solo, playing guitar with recorded backup), Mike said "Your latest album is called Zoot Allures. How do you come up with such names for your records?" (or something equally banal!) Frank's succinct reply is printed above.