We Are At War
We Are At War
(But no one notices)
The media is full images of the Seven Bore combined with high tides and strong winds adding to the flooding of Somerset’s lowlands, which now resembles England’s largest inland lake. The impact of this is yet to be realised but many are sure that the bill will be in the billions of pounds, with farmland under water for over a month, homes and businesses destroyed. Yet more Atlantic low ‘depression’ storms roll in on the jet stream, aptly named as they add to the gloom they cause as they empty yet more water on the flooded lands and saturated ground of Somerset and the west lands of the UK. But for me the message that has stuck with me is from a flood expert who stated it would take a month of dry weather to all 40 square miles of flooded Somerset to drain and waters recede. When on earth do we get a month without rain in the first half of our UK year? Then of course the Prime Minister tries to be the hero of the people (like some warped superhero with some magical drying solution) after his Environment Minister is heckled and near lynched by angry Somerset residents demanding a start to the dredging of their rivers, screaming at him that this flooding was caused by Government cuts that stopped the dredging in the first place.
So what does the PM do to help? The PM, without asking anyone or gaining advice from the emergency services on the ground (or water in this case) sends in the Marine Commandos to help. So there in front of all the cameras of every news station you can think of in the UK, are two Commando Officers doing little more than scratching their crew-cut heads as they look out onto the vast lakes before them. You see our Armed forces are the best in the world when given a mission, a set of objectives, a briefing by their political masters to go forth and achieve ‘x’. But this is exactly what the PM hadn’t done, he hadn’t given them a briefing, he hadn’t given them a mission objective, so they stood there looking bemused and somewhat ridiculous thanks to the PM. And what was the icing on the cake for these mighty warriors of war? To be told by the emergency services on the ground, very wet ground, that actually they weren’t needed, that unless they can stop it raining for a month there wasn’t a roll for them. So these poor heroes of ours went away again and nothing has changed, it rained some more and the floods extended even further.
The floods dominated the media’s attentions, and will continue to do so, leaving other news in a very poor second place, and I do not include the horrific images and news from Syria, the stuff of nightmares. No, I am on about the Tories making immigration one of the non-flooded grounds to fight on come the election, leaving Labour to bleat like sheep as they find out the grass isn’t greener for them on the other side of a recovering recession. It is almost pitiful to watch Labour trying to get the upper hand with the Tories, especially since there are statistics to prove things are getting better, funny how no one I know thinks things are getting better and in fact cost of living goes up and up. But nevertheless Labour cannot seem to find traction to draw the Tories onto issues where Labour are more assured, and so the Tories ride higher than Sunday’s Seven Bore and beat little Miliband to death every Wednesday at the PM’s Question Time. I do watch it every Wednesday and it has become more like a blood sport now the recession has turned. Labour are just empty voices now and Ed Balls (Shadow Chancellor) is very quiet these days, unable to taunt the Chancellor with his ‘flat-lining’ gestures about the economy now. Yes the official opposition party is really not fit for purpose and is looking like a very lame duck, which is quite apt considering the weather.
Amongst the floods and the damp squid which is our political systems you would have been forgiven if you missed a minor article/segment on the news but one which has global impact far into the future. Now I am sure everyone has heard of Edward Snowden, who is currently stuck in Russia avoiding capture by the US Government for treason, as he was a former computer analyst of the CIA and is now a pain in their nether regions as he keeps disclosing the extent of spying on texts, emails and other communications. Snowden released to the world issues such as the US spying on European Leaders and listening in on mobile conversations such as those of the German Chancellor. He also released details about the CIA and NSA of the US Government trying to get back door access to email & phone providers, as well as a programme called Dishfire (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/16/nsa-collects-millions-text-messages-daily-untargeted-global-sweep) that collected text data at the rate of 20 million a day. None is denied by the US and even our GCHQ is embroiled in all this, completely by passing UK laws.
But for me the worst of it all is how USA depicts itself as the land of freedom, the land of the right of free speech enshrined in the very foundation of its laws, with the right of privacy given equal treatment, the home of true democracy that is to be spread throughout the world. It is total hypocrisy, freedom of speech but we will spy on you, right of privacy except we will look at all your emails, texts and eavesdrop on your calls, a total democracy except there is a secret service, CIA and National Security Agency that spies on people and nations they have peace accords with, and the ruling executive of the USA doesn’t even know what they are up to. Is this any different really from the nations the USA decries as being dictatorships, isn’t it the trait of all dictatorships that there is a secret state monitoring every word of those that live within and outside of their nation. Are not extreme acts, such as:
- ‘Rendition’ which directly leads to torture of people to gather evidence and sees people kidnaped from countries (http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jan/30/spy-agency-lawyers-emails-libyan-torture-uk);
- Guantanamo Bay US Military Prison where people are held without trial for decades and refused any rights given under the United States of America’s Bill of Rights (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/apr/25/guantanamo-files-lift-lid-prison);
- Where torture such as waterboarding is acceptable (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/01/hugh-muir-diary-michael-gove);
……are all acts of a dictatorship and not an accountable democracy.
Amongst all this background it is easy to forget what we are talking about and it doesn’t register against the news of floods, but the Dishfire programmes and the abuse of basic rights to freedom and privacy are symptoms of a war raging without being seen, raging without being heard. Part of this war was a little known battle currently taking part in the USA but which affects us all. There was a secure and encrypted email provider service called Lavabit which the US Agencies were not able to decode or gain a back door to, so pressure was put on the designer and owner of the service, extreme pressure. So rather than handover the encryption key the owner, Mr Levison, closed the company and deleted all the data it held. He is now appealing to the courts in Virginia to stop the secret services of the USA forcing him to hand over data, sighting this is a gross Constitutional violation. I can hear people thinking that actually such secret agencies need access to fight things such as terrorism but this isn’t what it is about. There are laws giving judicial oversight if such secret services want to spy on a person, allowing them to do so if there is due cause. Such laws are supposed to protect us and control these agents of the state. So what do they do, these agents ignore the state and its’ laws, because they can, but this doesn’t make us safer at all.
What we are talking about is the wholesale harvesting of people’s information, people’s communications, and people’s right to have some privacy in a so called democracy ignored. They can get away with it because, simply speaking, politicians come and go but secret services continue regardless. How would you feel if you found out that all your letters (yes I do still write letters) were read or your bank accounts analysed without any reason for doing so? I suspect you wouldn’t be too happy. Well, this is exactly the same thing, the gathering of private information for the sake of snooping and no other reason than this. This is a huge fishing net that captures all our information without due cause. They, the secret spying agencies, do it because they can get away with it. This really is a war over the right of privacy and Mr Levison of Lavabit (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25980669) is to be admired for his stand against a huge machine that is determined to break him, his code, and that of other providers of services such as texts and emails. This is a war that if we lose we really will have taken another step forward into a Clockwork Orange state that no one really wants.
Yours most sincerely
Smiling Cat Ventures (www.smilingcatventures.org)
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