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17 July 2013


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It is unreasonable to have expected a response from folks who, for the most part, share my skepticism. And two hours is certainly not a reasonable period of time. Anyway, we will hear nothing from our masters since - in my view -there is no answer to be given. So, I'm going to jump the gun and address the really big issue; how do we explain this dereliction of historic proportions? Let's concentrate on our leaders even though the citizenry as a whole are accesories - especially the political class.

Theoretically, there are four conceivable motivations at work: a compulsive drive to accumulate power for some diabolical purpose; career ambition and/or greed; the instinct to go along with the herd; psychological disturbance. As to the first, there are few evil people discernible in and around our government. Lots of liars. unethical characters, and cowards - but no one of importance who seemingly has any idea of what to do with all the power (info included) that has been stockpiled. They're like misers who enjoy counting their money without any plan as how to use it. Mediocrity of ambition is our saving grace.

As to careerism and greed, here where find the source of the energy that impels the whole process. Titles, insignia of rank, offerings galore to the self-important and status deprived are made available in abundance. So is money. We give about $55 billion a year to private contractors out of the intelligence budget of a supposed $83 billion. Since 9/11, that comes to half a trillion. Even by current standards, that's an enormous amount of potential corrupting power. Hell, you can buy a Chairperson of a Congressional committee for $50,000 donation into his campaign chest and a job for his girl friend/wife-in-waiting. Political ambition is another dimension. We've had two presidents since 9/11 who have accomplished damn little (for better or worse - although the structural financial crisis and the absence of any serious attempt to get on top of it is an indisputable sin) but who have extended their leases on the White House by milking the "war on terror" for all it's worth.

As to the go-alongers, they are legion and everywhere. They are the dead weight that adds to the momentum and inertia.

When we turn to the psychological factor, things get more interesting - and more troubling. To argue the proposition that a significant fraction of our leaders are emotionally unbalanced, behaviorally off-kilter, or deficient in reason one needs lots of space. Still, the flight from logic, the systematic evasion of evidence, the phasing into virtual reality whenever convenient, - all accompanied by signs that this is only partially calculating - indicates that there is an element of psychopathology that should not be ignored. People who dwell in a world of delusion have something wrong with them - wherever exactly the source of it is located. President Obama is numbered among them. His speech on drones last month was unsettling is his address to the President in the 3rd person almost throughout. As was the contradiction between what 'he' said to that 3rd person and what he as President actually has been doing. This, by the way, is a sign of clinical narcissism. Now. after months of disappearing from the scene and ignoring deep seated crises at home (while following an avoidance strategy abroad)the White House plants a story in the NYT that in fact Obama has discovered the clever rick of influencing things via "the invisible hand." Unknowable are the ways of the Lord. This is sick.

There are other weird characters on the scene - but space allows only a notation. There is General Alexander who according to reports seems to have become a captain Queeg when it comes to compulsively amassing data for its own sake. There is Brennan, whose flights into fantasy go back years. But that is enough for now.

Some of you may take this essay as itself pushing the envelope of reasonable analysis. So be it if, at the same time, the ideas expressed above are taken at least halfway seriously.


The idiots who respond "I have nothing to hide" apparently have very little historical knowledge. At least it does not seem to have occurred to them that there were centuries in which Protestants and Catholics were persecuted simply for being Protestant or Catholic.

It not what you think about the morality of what you are doing that matters, it's what the powers that be think about what you are doing that makes this information collecting such a threat.

Mark Logan


All we have to do is elect people who swear to revoke the Patriot Act, even though it's got a name which will give their next opponent a wonderful sound bite.

It was renewed almost unanimously in the Senate, and just a couple votes shy of a veto-proof majority in the House. When we "WTFU" we can expect our government to, not before. As far as "they" know we like the laws they way they are. I find it hard to blame "them".


Great writing, really appreciate your thoughts and analysis.

The only other item I would consider is the potential of an "invisible hand" behind the scene controlling our politicians. A hand that knows every "youthful indiscretion", racial slur, sexual partner... A simple whisper in the ear after the oath of office would suffice.

And if you want to push the "envelope" maybe the "influence" has already occurred.

robt willmann

To make matters worse, on 17 July, the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals (New York, Vermont, and Connecticut) handed down an opinion in the case filed by Chris Hedges, Birgitta Jonsdottir (a member of Iceland's parliament), and others that challenged section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, that permitted the indefinite military detention of people without trial "until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization to Use Military Force" (AUMF) (the one right after Sept. 2001). The court of appeals vacated and cancelled the permanent injunction issued by the trial court that had blocked the use of section 1021. Here are the 60 pages of the "reasoning" by the court of appeals--


The common duck and dodge was used ... the people bringing the lawsuit had no "standing" to file it, meaning that they did not have a sufficient connection with the subject matter of the case, or were not harmed enough by it, or any harm to them was not apparent or imminent. Thus, the court of appeals did not even consider whether section 1021 was constitutional.

Since the written law of a government deals only with words, anything is possible. Section 1021 is internally contradictory, as it duplicates the AUMF, but then expands its scope, but then says that nothing in section 1021 is intended to limit or expand the scope of section 1021. How does the court of appeals "write around" that intractable problem? Well, it is as easy as pie. Just read pages 33-38 of the opinion for a pathetic example of sophistry.

Section 1021 claims to not change "existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens", but the court of appeals does not say what all of that existing law is, and admits that the "existing law" can have quite different interpretations, but the court is not going to say what those possible interpretations are and is not going to try to resolve them. In other words, keep guessing folks, and roll the dice on your possible detention without trial.

Getting back to reality, it is quite impossible for you to have "standing" to file a lawsuit challenging section 1021 of the NDAA on the basis of the imminent or impending danger of being detained because you will not know that your detention is coming, since the government will plan it in secret before snatching and grabbing you ... at 4:00 a.m., of course.

And by the way, section 1021 does not require the government to say that they have detained you indefinitely or where you are being detained. In other words, you can be "disappeared", unless "existing law" requires such a disclosure and notice to the public. Do the judges with their lifetime appointments so they can be "independent" and "courageous" deal with this issue?

What do you think?

joe brand

Adding substance to the case against James Clapper, the deputy director of the NSA told the House Judiciary Committee this week that the agency does "triple-hop analysis" of phone and email metadata when it identifies a potential terrorist:

"For the first time, NSA deputy director John C. Inglis disclosed Wednesday that the agency sometimes conducts what's known as three-hop analysis. That means the government can look at the phone data of a suspect terrorist, plus the data of all of his contacts, then all of those people's contacts, and finally, all of those people's contacts.

"If the average person calls 40 unique people, three-hop analysis could allow the government to mine the records of 2.5 million Americans when investigating one suspected terrorist."

So Clapper told a Senate committee that the NSA stores everyone's data, but only opens files and looks at it in association with particular, narrow suspicion. Not mentioned: that supposedly particular, narrow suspicion leads the NSA to open and analyze the personal data of a few million people.


Alba Etie

Its 'Brave New World & 1984 " knocking at our door - if not already in our living room .

Alba Etie

How much money did Booz Hamilton & KBR make in Iraq ( these are but two examples of many corporations profiting from ill conceived 'wars ' re-Iraq & GWOT ). Which Congress Critters got money from KBR & Booz Hamilton for their respective reelections ? But for the window dressing sophistry of the SCOTUS Citizen's United ruling -much of this abuse of power looks to me to be exactly what Congressman Cunningham got sent to jail for - bribery plain & simple. Corporations rule our government , and no Corporations are not people whose free speech needs to be protected .


Professor Brenner-

Interesting analysis and I always enjoy your writing, but I can't help but think you are more describing the symptoms than the causes. As a Clausewitzian strategic theorist, I would focus on the political relations and how they have changed. Changes in our political institutions would reflect this.

Who exactly are the "citizenry" of the US currently? People who can vote, or rather people who exercise political influence? I suspect that for those who exercise political influence the dominate emotion/trait/reflex is fear . . . fear especially of "the people" should they finally realize how fundamentally the system has changed/been rigged against them . . . ?


If they didn't want to be cooked, they shouldn't have gone and decided to taste so good with melted butter.


Add to the list of NSA offenses the chilling of First Amendment rights. How else to explain over twice the comments in response to the Martin/Zimmerman case than the possibility of hundreds of million of Fourth Amendment violations by the NSA?

Do people not realize the gravity of the offenses or are they afraid to go on a List of potential terrorists? "You are either with us or with the terrorists." Chilling statement.

A separate issue: Do you really think they are just collecting "meta data" and not recording all conversations? Would that surprise or upset you?


Senator Stabenow of Michigan assured me and other that she would work to overturn this piece of legislation. That was in 2006.


Yes, the terrorist called the same pizza joint you did. Obviously you were having a combined pizza/terror planning party.

William R. Cumming

robt willman! I agree with your righteous indignation! The judiciary has never fully evaluated the changes wrought by the Executive Branch post 9/11/01! Even the LAWFARE blog now supported by Brookings fails to be independent analysis since many of its contributors hoping for more chances at the gold ring in the National Security State.

The ultimate corruption of the legal profession is now fully represented by a President that once purportedly taught Constitutional law but failed to read closely and understand that Constitution.

Instead the fine line-drawing by the Judiciary is now largely devoted to protecting the Corporate Socialist state in all its finery.

IMO a largely corrupted Congress maintained by legal fictions that have false premises and gerrymandering undermining the power of the voter is largely to blame.

Vote the ins OUT!

robt willmann

Haste makes waste, as my fingers and alleged brain were not in sync in the third paragraph, second sentence of my comment, where I put, "Section 1021 is internally contradictory, as it duplicates the AUMF, but then expands its scope, but then says that nothing in section 1021 is intended to limit or expand the scope of section 1021". It should read--

Section 1021 is internally contradictory, as it duplicates the AUMF, but then expands its scope, but then says that nothing in section 1021 is intended to limit or expand the scope of the AUMF.

The Twisted Genius

Alba Etie,

You asked "What should be the consequences for DIA Director Clapper & General Alexander for outright lying to Congress?" Fire them both. Let them retire, but revoke their security clearances. That last step will be like denying them oxygen.

no one

It's not just the NSA. Local LE is up to some of the same tricks. They know every where you've been and they keep those records for more than a year (I imagine the length of time the data is kept will increase as more and cheaper storage capacity is obtained). http://dailycaller.com/2013/07/17/aclu-decries-the-use-of-license-plate-scanner-systems/

The next step will be for the locals to supply this data to the federal level to be tied in with phone, email and other data. It will happen. DHS incentivizes local LE to participate in data sharing with generous grants for all sorts of paramil. toys and funds that can put $ directly into the pockets of the local higher ups.


When I awoke, the Dire Wolf
Six hundred pounds of sin
Was grinnin at my window
All I said was "come on in"
Don't murder me...

Charles I

au contraire my Renaissance man, I think I have some measure of your extraordinary sensitivity and civility. Its testament to my enduring facility at repeating anything non-lawyer/criminal I have ever heard when the mangled metaphor demands.

Cue the violins, I AM allergic to shellfish so as usual I really don't know what I'm talking about.

Still I don't think the regime is going to be rolled back. Might be completely bought out, but never voted out.

Charles I

gotta love the cloud, I still don't even use wireless

Charles I

France's services are notorious for serving industry but surely every one is at it these days, actual politics being so meaningless.

Charles I

Bit different than targeted collection of the victim d'jour but a lot of Stasi material is open to the public. One can go and see who informed on who the mundane drear of communist existence Been a few political scandals and comeuppances, but the sad, somewhat reassuring fact is that virtually everyone informed on everyone just to get along.

Charles I

Um, compare reactions to never-ending criminality and and a day long internet outage and its a no brainer. The people are sovereign and they'll let you their status soon as the web's up.

Charles I

not enough, the specific types of collection must be made illegal but much more importantly defunded.

Charles I

only a tiny fraction of those hackers have your interests at heart, and they have no interest in destroying the golden goose of backdoor access.
They will cause little incidents that in no way discomfit the directing minds of these ops.

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