Tag Archives: Julian Assange

Tropical Topical

I’m at the stage in life where people can be themselves (within reason) around me. I may listen and interact with people who hold entirely different opinions and ideas than I. I may contend with those ideas if I believe they’re something I find significantly wrongly directed. It’s not out of the ordinary for others to disagree with me. I find this wholly satisfactory as long as we can be civil and the person I’m involved with doesn’t go off the rails.Image

A civil society should be able to agree to disagree but at the end of the day, we have to figure out how to get along and work out things for the better. It’s interesting to see what really puts a burr in the collar of some people. Generally speaking, even though I may engage in offering an opinion, I don’t always have a strong commitment to it because it doesn’t directly affect me. I’m sorry, I may sound a mite selfish there, but I can’t get overly concerned about things which have little impact on my life. Here’s an example…

“Coast Guard Academy has first same-sex marriage announcement”.

love birdsThis falls into the category of whooptydodaday
What I mean by that is, how does that affect me? Why should I be concerned? As far as I care, if these two women lived next door to me, I couldn’t be bothered by their choice. Perhaps if I were gay, homosexual or lesbian I might have cause to celebrate on their behalf. As it is, all I can say is, I wish them well, I hope they have a nice life together. Yes, I’m a conservative person in a general sense, but that’s really more about financial matters and having honest responsible government. If two people love each other, that’s a lot better than two which are hateful. We’ve got enough of this hate thing going around. I suggest, let them alone, don’t try to convince me that western civilization is on the brink of an apocalyptic collapse due to about 2% or 3% of the population claiming they want to be intimate with the same-sex. It’s just not any of my business. No harm, no foul.

“NSA officials consider Edward Snowden amnesty in return for documents”

I have more interest in this story because of the background and context it has for everyone in this country. While we live in a “free society”, the world around us is a dangerous place. We have enemies from within and without and the NSA is supposedly responsible for a goodly portion of staying close to understanding what  threats are significant and must be thwarted. It’s a very broad mandate.

NSA Fort Meade MD headquarters

NSA headquarters in Fort Meade MD. – able to decrypt routine SSL and banking transactions

Ever since September 11, 2001 the United States was placed on a higher alert status when it came to possible terrorist activities. It more or less placed us on a war footing. An entirely new vast government entity was established under the title of “Homeland Security”. In some respects it more closely aligned us with the world described in the novel by George Orwell, “1984.” The rules of privacy and individual liberty were rewritten. It happened under a Republican administration and seemingly joyously accepted by the Democrats. Curiously, there were many of them decrying the heavy-handed nature of surveillance and the broad powers used by the NSA and Homeland Security when the Republicans occupied the oval office, but somehow this is much more acceptable even under more aggressive activity once the Democrats became the dominant executives in charge.

Edward Snowden became a bigger public anathema to the NSA than WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. His public statements about the voracity and scope of NSA eavesdropping put them in the spotlight of the world community in a manner to which they never wanted. Besides the obvious media revelations about all U.S. citizens as well as many foreign nationals, have their phone, email and text conversations recorded. In the midst of constructing larger facilities in Utah, they have found themselves temporarily in the cross hairs of a public outcry on a range of indiscretions. Further revelations from Mr. Snowden include the admittance he absconded with a lot of supportive material revealing their electronic spy tactics.

This latest story suggests that some compromises have been entertained amongst the community to retrieve those documents, even if it might require amnesty. If they get the documents, they can squelch any story counter to their own PR. Of course the State Department, an official arm of the administration wants no deal and would like to see the man locked up without any foreseeable release date.

New NSA Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah

NSA Data Center under construction in Bluffdale, UT – Photograph owned AP

You can rape your sister, kill your brother, but when you mess with the ruling class, you’re going to get the full onslaught of those in charge. It’s always been that way. It threatens their ability to be in control. We like to think we live in modern times, but all societies treat national secrets whistle blowers as a pariah. Full understanding of those facts combined with the integrity of one’s word, should guide decisions of others contemplating this type of activity.


The National Security Agency is vacuuming up records of millions of phone calls made inside the United States. A court order reveals Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC ), whose proceedings rarely become public, was signed by Judge Roger Vinson, a federal judge in Florida.

Vinson’s order relies on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, 50 USC 1861, better known as the “business records” portion. It allows FBI agents to obtain any “tangible thing,” including “books, records, papers, documents, and other items,” a broad term that includes dumps from private-sector computer databases with limited judicial oversight.

This story contradicts that of the NSA when they sat down with CBS News to explain how they function.

An Attempt to Understand

ImageI’ve been away from my writing for a while. Part of it due to business travel and later an accident involving one of my children. My youngest daughter was driving with probably little care in the world on Tuesday August 13th. On that date she made an over correction in her directed path and used her beautiful KIA Soul to take out a telephone pole. She rolled the vehicle as well. The picture on the right shows the damage. She was alone in the vehicle and miraculously walked away from it. I’ll say one thing about a KIA Soul, they have good crash protection.

There’s been quite a bit to write about over the past couple of weeks and today I’ll start with a historical perspective. I’ve previously given my opinion on Private Bradley Manning. He was sentenced today to serve 35 years in prison for the thousands of leaked documents to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. In recap, having spent 4 active years in the Marines and giving an oath to protect the country as well as keep secret and confidential information, I know I wouldn’t have done what he or Edward Snowden did.

I think that the best way to understand their actions is to examine them against a completely separate period of time in our nations history.  For some, this may seem obtuse however, if you understand how history is filtered through the eyes and hands of those ultimately with a dominant voice, you may see the actions of Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange with WikiLeaks from a different perspective.

A Nation at War with its Indigenous People

The U.S. government wanted to contain Native Plains-Indians to reservations, especially focusing on this after the Civil War. After gold was discovered in 1875, in South Dakota’s Black Hills, the U.S. Army ignored previous treaty agreements and began with Calvary incursions into the region. This betrayal led many Sioux and Cheyenne tribesmen to leave their reservations and join Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse in Montana.

By the spring of 1876, more than 10,000 Native Americans had gathered in a camp along the Little Bighorn River, which they called the Greasy Grass. They did this in defiance of an order to return to reservations.

I find this Native story and another written from a soldier’s perspective to be both revealing and congruous with each other. The Battle of the Little Big Horn has been retold in several movies but none seem accurate.

These reports reveal a lack of command and control over the situation by the Calvary.  Each Army group operated independently and seemed to lack understanding of battle tactics against their attackers combined with unfamiliar terrain and an inferior force which led to their defeat. It appears the Calvary expected a rout but got into a fight with larger numbers and better coördination of attack. Once engaged with the Sioux, some of the soldiers wanted to just give up or panic. Both of those actions are readily exploitable by an enemy prepared and willing to fight.

George Armstrong Custer: (b) Dec 5, 1839 ~ (d) Jun 25, 1876

George Armstrong Custer: (b) Dec 5, 1839 ~ (d) Jun 25, 1876

In June of 1876, three columns of U.S. soldiers were gathered and prepared to march against the Uncpapas, Santee, Oglala’s, Brule, Minneconjou, Sans Arcs’, Blackfeet, Cheyenne and few Arikara among the larger contingent of Sioux. A smaller force of 1,200 Indians pushed back the first column on June 17th. General Alfred Terry ordered George Custer’s 7th Cavalry 5 days later, to scout ahead for enemy troops. On the morning of June 25th, Custer led a force of 600 men near the encampment and decided to press on ahead rather than wait for reinforcements. His direct force of about 210 men were wiped out in less than an hour by a superior force of approximately 3000 in an open indefensible area. In addition to Custer, two of his brothers, a brother-in-law and nephew were killed.

These battles were the high point to Native American victories but they were falsely portrayed as blood-thirsty savages attacking our heroic defenders in newspapers throughout the U.S. It demonstrates to me how those who have the power will write according to their own viewpoint.

Native American Heritage Day (photos of my anc...

Native American Heritage Day (photos of my ancestors in background) (Photo credit: Neeta Lind)

If you were living in a country attacked by invaders, perhaps you might fully understand the Native point of view. Additionally, when you examine the results of the revelations by WikiLeaks and Snowden, you might ask, how did this harm our nation? Did these leaks compromise national security or did they show how our national leadership routinely demonstrates very little concern for the welfare of others? Do these current stories seem all too familiar with our history?

Time to set things right

Valley Forge panorama

Washington’s headquarters Valley Forge – photo courtesy of johnsmilitaryhistory.com

We are approaching July 4th Independence day and with that as a backdrop, let’s review current events.

Let’s begin by a small understanding of what patriotism is or should be in my estimation.

Patriotism – pa·tri·ot·ism
[pey-tree-uh-tiz-uhm or, esp. British, pa-]
A devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country. A loyalty based on national identity.
Identification in feelings of pride for a country’s merits and achievements.

Sometimes our nation has lost sight of the original ideals from which it was founded. These principles may be considered old fashioned however they have served several generations well. Over the past centuries our country has strayed from the foundational doctrine expressed by our Constitution and because of it has found itself in crisis. The Civil War was one of those times, due to a lack of recognizing all men are created equal.

These lapses of conscience or crimes should be brought out in the open to discuss, and when so doing they have historically been corrected through freedom of speech, the press, the ballot box and our courts.

Stepping beyond the above points are where the vision becomes contested; using the words of Salman Rushdie.

Salman Rushdie (b. 1947), British-Indian writer

Salman Rushdie (b. 1947), British-Indian writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ignorance leads to arrogance
“I do not envy people who think they have a complete explanation of the world, for the simple reason that they are obviously wrong.”
– Salman Rushdie talking with David Frost (1993)

I believe in the foundational principles of our Constitution. I’m proud to be an American and having served several years as part of it’s armed forces. I’m appreciative of being able to openly criticize as well as support our nation. I make it a point to stay informed and to apply what I know.

It’s significant to review a few things about what it means to be a patriot. I like to examine what are loyalty and fidelity. Fidelity suggests by it’s wording you go beyond just being loyal. For example, the swearing in of a new member in the armed forces or the President of the United States in doing their duty with complete trust and devotion. For those of us who served in the military under additional responsibility of secrecy, we signed papers which authorized the government to research our background and once we were accepted, we gave an oath to not reveal things pertaining to the defense of our country.

“Our lives teach us who we are.”

– Salman Rushdie, London Independent, Feb. 4, 1990

Edward Snowden and Pfc Bradley Manning also were required to accept or reject oaths in the performance of their duties. This was a requirement for their respective jobs and in doing so essentially stated, you can trust us, we will not divulge information harmful to our nation.

I want to point out that neither of these men have been the first people to provide leaks containing sensitive classified data. One of the most famous occurrences was ‘Deep Throat’ during the Nixon administration. Years later it was revealed, W. Mark Felt, then the No. 2 man at the FBI, was Deep Throat.

Private Bradley Manning – The New York Times February 28, 2013
Pfc. Bradley Manning on Thursday confessed in open court to providing vast archives of military and diplomatic files to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, saying that he released the information to help enlighten the public about “what happens and why it happens” and to “spark a debate about foreign policy.”

Edward Snowden carries with him, 4 laptop computers containing classified information which hasn’t been publicly released. He has disclosed information and made accusations concerning the collection methods in use by NSA and it’s contractors of telephone, email and other private communication of U.S. citizens. Additionally he made claims as to knowing the methods which the U.S. collects data about allies and against specific targeted countries. Snowden in Moscow has stated the President and Vice President are not honoring international asylum law, are not afraid of him but rather the reaction by the now more fully informed electorate.

Manning was a prominent source for information to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks posted 391,832 secret Pentagon documents on the Iraq war. Twelve weeks earlier, Julian Assange posted 77,000 documents on the Afghan conflict. The most damaging of these leaks weren’t so much tactical as they were about how the U.S. allowed systematic torture, civilian losses and in some cases murders by private contractors working as surrogate for the U.S. military and how badly the war was proceeding in Iraq. Coupled with that, were embarrassing communique from senior State Department members disclosing their candid assessments of International leaders as well as the lack of confidence Afghanistan leadership has in the U.S. keeping them safe.

In reading and doing my best to understand what is really at play here, it’s not easy to make a cut and dry assessment of whether Pfc Manning or Edward Snowden are heroes and patriots or disaffected traitors to their country. It is clear however, Pfc Manning will have his day in military court and probably not have a very bright future. Edward Snowden is currently in political asylum limbo. He has sought asylum and rejected by Russia as well as 20 other countries. This suggests to me other countries have considered his actions and rejected supporting him in his cause for personal liberty after his going public with classified material.

I can’t tell someone else what their values should be because they are personal and often only fully understood by the individual. I know what I would have done if I were in their respective positions. I would have kept my mouth shut and my USB flash drives secured from any breech of security. While touching on breech of security, I hope the organizations responsible for security and employee procedure recognize they have some serious holes to plug. They need to ask human resources at Booz-Allen Hamilton, to find people with a proven track record of keeping secrets. Their procedures for access to sensitive classified data should be as strict as missile launch procedures in nuclear silos. In other words it should take 2 or more people to download any file unless they are very senior. Additionally, upload of data procedures should be locked down because it’s just as damaging to inject a worm or virus into a data system.

The Information security policies and actions by senior officers where Pfc Manning worked, are partly responsible and therefore complicit in Manning’s leaks. It hasn’t been that long since either event however the military, civilian and defense contractors need to make changes immediately if not sooner.