The Future of Auditory Surveillance

Interesting essay on the future of speech recognition, microphone miniaturization, and the future ubiquity of auditory surveillance.

Posted on December 2, 2014 at 3:15 PM • 93 Comments

Comments

KhavrenDecember 2, 2014 3:29 PM

Gotta wonder if they have been storing recorded conversations for years in order to process when the tech was good enough

GrauhutDecember 2, 2014 3:53 PM

"Imagine having access to the all of the world’s recorded conversations, videos that people have posted to YouTube, in addition to chatter collected by random microphones in public places."

Imagine you are a big agency able to use smartphones as audio surveillance recorting tools. Imagine you are an agency hosted by Amazomb with access to voice data from devices like Amazomb hell-tv or Amazomb hall connected speakers...

Imagine all this already works. Since decades. Audio to text has a long grey beard.

The tech front is ai trying to understand what is really meant if conversation partners beat around the bushes... ;)

lingtechsys.com/presentations.htm

1984+nDecember 2, 2014 4:58 PM

@Grauhut

LOL, like that Amazomb "Echo": Always ready, connected, and fast.

(They say it gets "activated" when it hears the name "Alexa". But of course those microphones have to be processing audio all the time, in order for it to actually know when user is saying the word "Alexa")

GrauhutDecember 2, 2014 5:35 PM

@BoppingAround "What is the future of mind reading?"

I dont know the future of mind reading, but know the past of audio mind reading, the Truster program...

windowsitpro.com/windows/truster-24

Funny toy from the good ol nt4 days. I think i have my install disks and the phone handset cable adapter stored somewhere. :)

doubleplusungoodDecember 2, 2014 5:41 PM

If you live in a democracy, you could theoretically prevent your government from applying these technologies (if somehow you were able to mobilise a great enough portion of your fellow citizens, which I doubt). The problem is that other nations will use them, not to mention the possibility they fall into the hands of organised crime.

I actually think we have more to fear from ubiquitous surveillance than nuclear weapons. Since the deployment of nuclear weapons cannot go unnoticed or unpunished, no person with a sense of self-preservation would consider using them; in contrast to surveillance, which can be used ever more stealthily by an increasing number of parties who may or may not have good intentions. Forgive me for my pessimism.

GrauhutDecember 2, 2014 5:56 PM

@1997 "(...But of course those microphones have to be processing audio all the time, in order for it to actually know when user is saying the word "Alexa")"

And now we all should ask ourselfs: How far will Amazomb go in order to become "to important to fail" in the age of the cloud wars... ;)


"The Details About the CIA's Deal With ..."
theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/07/the-details-about-the-cias-deal-with-amazon/374632/

"Inc. posted a “gigantic” $544 million operating loss for its third quarter ending September 30."
gigaom.com/2014/10/26/can-amazon-keep-investing-in-aws-as-losses-mount/

AnuraDecember 2, 2014 5:56 PM

@doubleplusungood

For the hypothetical, utopian democracy that never existed anywhere, sure. People seek groups, and groups follow leaders, and the people who gain power over significantly large groups are usually the sociopaths that seek it, which are often people who "know best" and think the public needs to be controlled.

Clive RobinsonDecember 2, 2014 6:00 PM

In some respects things have not realy changed, when it comes to audio surveillance.

Provided you have suitable signal processing equipment the actual bandwidth of spoken information is very low, thus recording it fairly trivial.

It's something court reporters trained in shorthand have done for well over a century.

In East Germany "citizens" were encoraged if not required to report on their friends and neighbors conversations.

What technology has done is act as a "force multiplier" for such eavesdropping activities replacing a large hunk of problematical human with a few grams of highly reliable electronics.

Thus the surveillance net is comparativly much larger, but this raises the question of "Is more, better or worse" as far as we can tell currently it's worse, but we are so close to the tipping point that it might have already happened...

My worry is micro / nano drones equiped with both vision and audio that might be as small and unobtrusive as an insect. If available they would not need to increase the surveillance net size just make it highly personalised...

GrauhutDecember 2, 2014 6:18 PM

@Clive "My worry is micro / nano drones ... as small and unobtrusive as an insect"

Cmon Clive, you know the energy consumption numbers for the data transmission alone. Submicro fusion reactor? ;)

Its much more efficient if the smartbug user is forced to take care of the power consumption of his personal surveillance system.

tyco bassDecember 2, 2014 7:17 PM

>>>"If you live in a democracy, you could theoretically prevent your government from applying these technologies (if somehow you were able to mobilise a great enough portion of your fellow citizens, which I doubt)."

Mobilize fellow citizens? =Armed militia? Doesn't require a democracy. And Jim Morrison's "They've got the guns but we've got the numbers" won't work anymore. They've got the supermilitia.

I've always thought Amazomb's lack of interest in making money was a sure sign they were secretly financed from the get go. What a rich trove of data to be gleaned there.

AlanSDecember 2, 2014 7:42 PM

@BoppingAround

On mind reading

"Ways may some day be developed by which the government, without removing papers from secret drawers, can reproduce them in court, and by which it will be enabled to expose to a jury the most intimate occurrences of the home. Advances in the psychic and related sciences may bring means of exploring unexpressed beliefs, thoughts and emotions." Justice Brandeis, OLMSTEAD v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438 (1928)

The first prediction has already come to pass...

AnuraDecember 2, 2014 7:56 PM

@tyco bass

Numbers matter, but the reality is that the vast majority of people don't really care as long as it's not readily visible.; propaganda helps with the not really caring enough. The trick to running a successful dystopia is to keep the population just above the point where a significant minority riots. A small protest of a few thousand that breaks into violence is controllable. A large protest that turns into widespread rioting of millions of people, and the people will get change enacted.

The question is this: How much do you have to lose? I live fairly comfortably, and for me to go to war with the government, I would have to be willing to sacrifice that, which I am not. Now, if we had long-term unemployment of 30% or more, and low wages for those who do work, then without action one of two things will happen in the electorate which will result in large changes in politicians: a progressivist movement will occur that will put people to work and reduce inequality, or a right-wing movement based on anti-immigration and anti-foreign trade policies will form, which will probably further devolve into civil war. In this situation, expect large amounts of defection in the military.

In the US, given what we have seen post-2008/2009 recession, my bet's on the latter, especially since surveillance, secrecy, and the police state are disolving the trust the poeple have in government.

AlexDecember 2, 2014 8:31 PM

Very good article, I always thought that the main usage of Siri or Microsoft's Cortana is just to convert voice to text to become indexable as keywords if necessary. Not sure how many people really use these smartphones "features".

A sofware like this can convert and check a local (ambiental) conversation by keywords without a round-trip to a main server and trigger some actions in case of specific detection.

ThothDecember 2, 2014 8:35 PM

We are already being tracked by our own smart phones. Smart phone exploits can be highly personalized to each individuals if needed. NSA TAO catalogs should have some if I remember correctly.

FaDecember 2, 2014 9:14 PM

Jesus fucking Christ, that's a horrible thought, Bruce. Your posts like these come off as a depressing inevitability. I kinda wish I didn't read that now, to be honest.

Bong-smoking Primitive Monkey-Brained SockpuppetDecember 2, 2014 9:41 PM

@Clive Robinson, @Grauhut,

My worry is micro / nano drones equiped with both vision and audio that might be as small and unobtrusive as an insect. If available

Cmon Clive, you know the energy consumption numbers for the data transmission alone. Submicro fusion reactor? ;)
Oh ye, of little faith! How could you forget so fast! they are here Wake up and hear the sounds... bzzzzzzz, wzzzzzz... Time to add a graphite fly swatter to the arsenal (salad bowl, or Tin Foil hat.) It'll impress any fly that comes your way!

LemmeDecember 3, 2014 2:39 AM

Imagine you are a big agency able to use smartphones as audio surveillance recorting tools.

Isn't that what Batman did trying to find the bad guys?

Clive RobinsonDecember 3, 2014 2:52 AM

@ Grauhut, Wael,

The first thing to remember is "bees cannot fly by the maths of aerodynamics" but nether the less we see them do it during the summer (or atleast we used to :(

Secondly insects have their own inbuilt quite sophisticated control systems and sensors that we "so far" have not been able to replicate (but we are getting closer).

Thirdly insects that are quite small can by rubbing their body parts together be clearly heard even by humans at tens if not hundreds of meters. The range goes up considerably in the ultra sound region. Likewise the bats that hunt them use sound for what we call radar but theirs is way way more sophisticated.

Contrary to what most people think, bird song is highly complex and has information content rates ten or twenty times that of human speech and can and does carry over hundreds of meters.

These creatures do not use fusion reactors, just simple hydrocarbon energy sources (sugars) as their energy source.

So we know it can be done as nature is doing it and a lot more around us right now. The problem is trying to work out how to do it ourselves...

But you should know by Theramin's thing / "great seal bug" in the US embassy in Moscow that you don't need to have a power source in the device to get data out. Likewise you should know that NFC travel / debit / credit cards likewise require no internal power source.

You might also be aware that NASA is providing funding/prizes for "ribbon crawlers" for Arther C Clark's "space elevator" idea, and several teams have quite successfull "laser powered" systems. You might also be aware that back in the last century NASA successfully showed "power beaming" with a very high recovery rate using microwaves over a distance of a mile or so.

Also you may have heard people going on about WiFi charging whilst I have my doubts on this, it's been known for years that even low frequency "power beaming" systems will work outside of the "near field".

So we know micro / nano drones are possible, people have demonstrated devices about the same size as a large Stag beetles (you can even buy a tiny IR controled helicopter for Xmas). We know that "hot wire" microphones can be made very very small and very sensitive.

Thus with appropriate EM power beaming technology --that does not also fry those around it-- we are very close if not past the tipping point of such devices and I suspect we may well be out of the "science phase" and into the "engineering phase" already...

ATNDecember 3, 2014 4:04 AM

@keiner: ...always one step ahead...

On xbox one, you are only supposed to kill people on the shoot'em up games, you are not
supposed to insult them before...

Still, it is amazing there is so much money in some countries, Three Letters Agencies get
to develop devices like that, to catch the last would-be terrorist - instead of improving
road accident or emergency services...

Peter A.December 3, 2014 4:59 AM

We happen to live in interesting times, indeed. All the dystopian (science-)fiction novels from a couple of decades ago are seemingly coming true.

I'd like to mention one written by Janusz Zajdel (arguably the second-best Polish S-F writer after Stanisław Lem), titled "Paradyzja" (which could be translated as "Paradise" or "New Paradise" meaning a newly-founded place name or state, like New York etc.) The plot describes a totalitarian space colony. The colonists were sent (in anabiosis) to inhabit a newly discovered reportedly paradise-like planet; but the spaceship crew defected and created a totalitarian state for the poor colonists, luring them to believe that they were disinformed about the planet's natural environment and it is a hellish place, so they need to stay in orbit and live in the extremely crammed space of the spaceship under strict rules to "protect" the people. The inhabitants are under constant surveillance using cameras and microphones; the data is analyzed by a huge computer system to detect any dissent or lack of proper cooperation and punish it by sending people to work in the mines on the planet's surface.

As a defence, inhabitants created a special language named koalang (a term coined by Zajdel) which was full of metaphors, allusions and poetic expressions to convey meanings which were impossible for the computer system to detect. They also used simple tricks to exploit some technical quirks of the system, for example they talked while walking backwards, because the automatic cameras (supposedly as an optimisation) only turned on their microphones after detecting someone walking towards them. Everyone was required to wear a ring (which was a personal tracking device) all the times and wasn't allowed to remove it, the removal detected by the lack of warmth of human body. People sometimes got around that by asking another person to keep the ring on his/her finger for them for a while.

Does it look like a pre

As far as I know, the novel has not been translated into English so far. I tried to translate a piece of koalang as an example for you, but my English sills failed me. Sorry.

WmDecember 3, 2014 6:46 AM

I needed to transcribe some written text recently and heard that the new Google Chrome browser had a good speech recognition software included. It did an amazingly good job in accurately interpreting my voice into text.

BoppingAroundDecember 3, 2014 10:45 AM

Wm,

> new Google Chrome browser had a good speech recognition software included.

Are you sure it has one instead of sending the voice data to the mothership and processing it there?

SkyNetDecember 3, 2014 10:46 AM

We are here and getting stronger every day. The more technology advances and collects more and more data, makes the inevitable closer and closer. It is so amazing that puny humans continue to drive this spectrum thinking that it can't be used against them in the long run. The age of the machine is becoming reality.

MikeADecember 3, 2014 10:59 AM

@Clive

IIRC, the "bees can't fly" meme was based on applying rules of thumb for fixed-wing aircraft to the Bumblebee, whose wings are decidedly not fixed. One might as well replace the wings of a Piper Cub with rotor blades from a helicopter to "prove" that the engine is too small.

The thing this highlights is that simplifying assumptions are typically not passed along with the "result". Who here would believe that an army would use the same (well, one of three) passphrase for all communication for the duration of a war, as I recently heard at a lecture on encryption devices. (Confederate army, War between the States)

paulDecember 3, 2014 11:05 AM

I think the fundamental assumption here is flawed. People are OK at turning noisy sounds into words/meanings, but they're really not great. I've commissioned professional steno and tape transcripts on occasion, and if I hadn't been there and participated in the conversations I wouldn't have had the damnedest idea of what was being said. And that's still under decent conditions. So much depends on domain knowledge, knowledge of the speakers, conversational repair methods (if available) or just plain extrapolation. And so much of the meaning depends on intonations, rhythms, hand and facial expressions (where available) and so forth.

So getting unambiguous transcriptions is (I think) a will-o'-the-wisp. Which is not good either, because it means the usual suspects will become ever more intrusive as each succeeding generation of surveillance fails to capture what's wanted.

WaelDecember 3, 2014 11:17 AM

@MikeA, @Clive Robinson,

Who here would believe that an army would use the same (well, one of three) passphrase for all communication for the duration of a war...
I claim anyone who is ready to believe this passcode choice for a system so secure, that bypassing it was descibed as “about as complex as performing a tonsillectomy while entering the patient from the wrong end.”

IO ErrorDecember 3, 2014 11:35 AM

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine
Where have you been? It's all right, we know where you've been
You've been in the pipeline, filling in time

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine
What did you dream? It's all right, we told you what to dream

conversational countermeasures?December 3, 2014 12:04 PM

I wonder if various subculture slangs, argots, code-talking, mixing different languages in conversation, learning more foreign languages, etc will become increasingly common as a result of increasing auditory surveillance. Multilingual people may have a notable advantage here!

Tyco BassDecember 3, 2014 12:24 PM

@Anura

"defection in the military"--good point!

@Peter A.

Wow, thanks! Really want to read that (though not quite enough to learn Polish).

yes pleaseDecember 3, 2014 1:43 PM

@conversational countermeasures
wonder if various subculture slangs, argots, code-talking, mixing different languages in conversation, learning more foreign languages, etc will become increasingly common as a result of increasing auditory surveillance.

I'd gladly welcome that, a brilliant and colorful prospect amidst all this gloom. Subcultures and repressed minorities have been doing that for hundreds if not thousands of years. We can probably learn a lot about how to hide from surveillance (technological or not) from looking at historical precedents.

I (as a technophile while male) have talked to some (non-technical) writers from the LGBT community about the ongoing news of the last 1,5 years, and they've expressed amusement at the news that we, now, too, are under just the same control measures as they've always been.

vas pupDecember 3, 2014 2:08 PM

Okay, dear bloggers. Any creative thoughts on counter measures? Voice/audio jammers - portable and reliable in particular, voice changing devices (one way hashing), new construction materials for jamming purposes, audio recording/listening devices disabling technology (stealth - just for mil utilization). Your combined creativity based on posting in that blog could generate many ideas. Basically, all those devices are breach of security or/and privacy.
Bruce, I suggest for best ideas you may sign and send your new book - as incentive and recognition - but that is my humble opinion. Final thought: as I stated before, my concern is combining under one roof mass surveillance/intel and law enforcement/prosecution.
I want all of you got the idea that is the shortest way to 1984.

f04308uf938fuDecember 3, 2014 3:44 PM

MS, Apple, and Google can't get speech recognition, and there is no material science to use for smaller mics without cutting out needed spectrum. You can only make them the size of an aspirin right now without chopping human spectrum..

SUBSCRIBE TO SECURITY SERVICES OR DOOM DOOM DOOM!

AnuraDecember 3, 2014 4:37 PM

@vas pup

If they are picking up your voice from microphones in public, the best thing to do is to just not talk in public. Use encrypted channels to communicate, possibly through anonymity networks (which will call attention to yourself). Now, a voice scrambler that changes your voice constantly (think A Scanner Darkly) might reduce the usefulness, making it harder to isolate voices and determine who is talking and who is saying what - although that might be a little socially awkward, and it works best only if it is widespread. Making a habit of speaking more quietly in a crowded place with music playing helps. Nothing is a guarantee if you are talking where audio implants may potentially exist.

Transhumanist solution:

Implants in brains that allow us to communicate telepathically via encrypted signals, eliminating voice communication entirely. Ideally these would be formally verified, open source, and constructed by an open-source, formally verified home fabrication device, and installed by your formally-verified robotic home doctor, etc. you get the point. Get in the habbit of having larger, less frequent messages instead of real-time conversations (with text messaging, facebook, emails, etc. we are already used to this), and you can use routing networks where each node sends matches every so often to make it difficult to tell who is talking to who.

bewildered heard of philistinesDecember 3, 2014 4:57 PM

People will come to love their oppression, to adore the techonologies that undo their capacities to think.
- Aldos Huxley

Wesley ParishDecember 3, 2014 6:53 PM

@Clive Robinson

Bees can't and don't fly according to the aerodynamics of bird wings. They use something called vortex lift instead, which the Concorde used for take-offs and landings. By waving their miniscule wings up and down they induce vortices over their wings' leading and trailing edges, which keeps them in flight.

@Peter A

Janusz Zajdel sounds interesting. I'm a big fan of Stanislaw Lem, but know very little of the rest of the Polish SF confraternity. I've been meaning to learn Polish to see just what jokes got butchered to make the English translations of Ijon Tichy's adventures so funny, but haven't got around to it yet.

Getting back on topic, I suspect the flow-on effects of this sort of software engineering will be more important and long-lasting than the original intended purpose. @Skynet was right.

GrauhutDecember 4, 2014 1:14 AM

@Clive "So we know micro / nano drones are possible, people have demonstrated devices about the same size as a large Stag beetles"

"My worry is micro / nano drones equiped with both vision and audio that might be as small and unobtrusive as an insect."


Clive, you knwon it, there is a big difference.

The prototypes you are talking about are far from the ability to follow a human target autonomously.

Your target enters a crowded underground train station and waits there for some time. What happens to your "small and unobtrusive as an insect" drone? It can only communicate by GSM there for sending Audio and video.

After half an hour, how much energy is left, how big are your batteries?

Clive RobinsonDecember 4, 2014 7:44 AM

@ Grauhut,

As I noted above,

    So we know it can be done as nature is doing it and a lot more around us right now. The problem is trying to work out how to do it ourselves..

And for those that had not noticed the speed of working out "how to do it" is increasing rapidly.

It was the point behind my bee comment, we knew how aircraft wings and rotors worked but our knowledge could not --at the time-- tell us how bees and even humming birds fly. What the told us was we had more knowledge to find (which we now think we do). It was "knowing there was a real unknown" as opposed to "imagining an unknown", the former is a real problem, the latter who knows.

When I was young some RC aircraft still used miniture valves and reed resonators and the batteries where large. Now we have cheap toy helicopters using microcomputers and 2.4GHz or infrared that fly for minutes on coin cell rechargable batteries. 90% of this change has been in the last five years of the near half century time span.

As I've pointed out power for these devices need not be batteries only, you can today fire up RFIDs from hundreds of meters away, and for the likes of "parcel couriers" RFIDs are being read by hand held devices upto ten meters quite reliably.

Whilst it's not possible currently to manufacture autonomous nano drones, you don't need the drone to be autonomous or in most cases actually fly continuously, a human operator just needs to get it in range and settle to listen.

If you look back at my original comment, I was talking about the trade off of human -v- technology for surveillance and my last comment in full was,

    My worry is micro / nano drones equiped with both vision and audio that might be as small and unobtrusive as an insect. If available they would not need to increase the surveillance net size just make it highly personalised...

I was indicating that the "drag net" techniques may well not have arisen if "nano drones" had been available, as it would have been possible to make the old fashioned STASI type techniques more effctive. That is a person following you need not be anywhere near as close to evesdrop as they once would have been. In effect the "personal service" of such surveillance would be much improved for the surveillance personnel in a similar but more effective way as shotgun / parabolic mics and telephoto lenses did for surveillance in the late 50's to the current day.

You also need to remember how disruptive technology comes into being. It is first regarded as impossible, then as unwieldy and impractical, then practical for certain situations at which point the market general expands the price drops and inovation kicks in and the market develops more and more rapidly.

You need to also remember that the NSA, GCHQ et al "drag nett" way, "was not" and still in many ways "is not" practical, for what it's hyped up to be, that is a "preventative" technology. Yes they are getting the data but they still cannot deal with it, dragnetting even more data is not going to change that no matter what the head of the FBI et al says. Currently we just do not have the algorithms to process the data sufficiently well to make it viable, and to be honest I don't see any "break throughs" happening on it even with all the money that's getting thrown at it. Dragnetting is like CCTV not much use as a preventative measure against those determined to carry out their acts of social disorder, all it realy provides and then only occasionaly is "evidence after the act". Thus it's not going to keep you or I safe from "clean DNA" that wants to blow you up in the airport checkin que.

There is a story about Gen Keith Alexander giving a presentation on the whizz bang "three hops" analysis on peoples phone communications, and how it had found a number of important nexi. It looked good and the senior people present were impressed. It was only later that it became clear that these nexi were not radical or crime boss King Pins at the center of illicit webs of power but pizza and other fast food delivery / take aways places...

The simple fact is society is so diverse and moves sufficiently rapidly that dragnet algorithms to find these King Pins are out of date before they can even be used. Either their false positive rate is way to high, or they only discover those already known by other means. It's one of the reasons why the drone strikes in the Middle East and West Assia have low success rates and very high collateral damage, with estimates between 25 and 250 needless deaths --many of which are children-- for each supposed terrorist leader. And other views indicate that these leaders that are killed are not actually the international terrorists that are going to harm you or I but local war lords and in effect political and religious leaders.

It's clear that electronic and signals intelligence that form the NSA and GCHQ dragnet surveillance is currently and likely to remain for the foreseable future a compleat bust for it's supposed purpose.

Thus as this "dragnet fail" gets through to the likes of the politicos and their voters in larger numbers other avenues such as the old fashioned Human Intelligence the likes of the Stassi used are going to be used.

Thus "technotoys" are going to be developed, we already see this with the larger drones with cameras capable of viewing a whole town at six inches or better resolution in real time from a mile or so up. These cameras are made from low cost parts such as four hundred CCD cameras usually found in mobile phones.

Drone tech is getting smaller, you can buy a very light weight delta wing drone under a meter in length made from "insulating foam", with an electric motor and very light weight foil solar cells. Virtually silent in flight it's launched from a catapult and it can in good light conditions stay aloft for some considerable time. It uses mobile phone technology for guidence and data link back. You could build one yourself for a few hundred USD. This is a toy compared to other quad fan drones used for televised sporting events that have HD quality cameras and have been sufficiently quiet not to prove a distraction to either competitors or spectators.

I've modded an easily available and --relativly cheap-- RC helicopter with a friend where we have striped down it's unneeded covers and that of a 2.4GHz CCTV camera that weighs just a few grams and flown it "out of sight" a number of times. And although it can be heard on the ground it's not very loud and certainly not enough to disturb two people having a chat whilst standing in a field even though clearly visable and recognisable via the CCTV camera. It has flown with a striped down smart phone but it was pushing the weight limit for that RC helicopter. My friend and his son are looking at striping down a Raspberry Pi B+ and camera and WiFi dongle to play with over Xmas and spring on a larger RC model, with the aim of stripping out the existing control electronics and making it a school science project. Here's hoping Python is up to the Real Time task...

If school kids are doing this for science projects you have to ask what a small team of engineers could come up with, especialy with plenty of DHS/DoD money floating around waiting to be grabbed.

I can see most of the technology needed to make a "fly on the wall" nano drone on the internet today and quite a bit of it's for sale or the component parts are. All that's needed is a "market" and that to appears to be developing...

Yes the first few such devices are going to appear impractical for general use, but those "specialised cases" will expand and the technology will be developed. I recon it will be in a five to ten year time span that nano drones will be a standard surveillance investigatory tool.

Gerard van VoorenDecember 4, 2014 8:29 AM

@ Clive Robinson

After my previous fool up, I am a bit hesitated, but I have some remarks about the bee bugs.

I don't think the technical issues can't be solved. If flying takes too much energy to be up in the air, they just make some more to fill the gaps. Heck, they could be dirt cheap thrown away items.

But this can't be kept secret. There is no way they won't be spotted and smashed or shot at. And with that the word is out. I know the NSA are dirtbag assholes but they always relied on secrecy. A bee bug or swarms of these gives away that secrecy and it will cause international incidents sooner or later.

Gerard van VoorenDecember 4, 2014 8:44 AM

Adding to my previous post there is one exception that will probably make it work for them and that is that people in charge want this kind of technology, not at micro scale but at macro scale as cheap replacements for the surveillance cameras that are now common in the malls, public places and in stores.

vas pupDecember 4, 2014 10:11 AM

@Clive:"Currently we just do not have the algorithms to process the data sufficiently well to make it viable, and to be honest I don't see any "break throughs" happening on it even with all the money that's getting thrown at it."
Clive, recently on Communicator (C-SPAN) it was presented new company developed algorithm with potential utilization in security sector: fiscalnote.com. If they could apply their know-how to all legal BS, then I guess they passed hard test. IARPA should pay attention.

DerrickDecember 4, 2014 7:50 PM

How can nano drones be more effective than compromised cellphones for eavesdropping? In order for nano drones to be more effective than "preventative" technologies such as dragnets, they have to be weaponized so to neutralize subjects on spot. Such notion is disturbingly dangerous for humans, but may positively reduce animal cruelty as un-intended altruism. ;p

Clive RobinsonDecember 5, 2014 5:22 AM

@ Derrick,

How can nano drones be more effective than compromised cellphones for eavesdropping?

Quite easily.

But first think on the "who" of nano drone usage. A nano drone attack as I've pointed out is "personal" in that not only is it targeted on an individual, but the nano drone operator needs to be relativly close. So it is only going to be used on people towards the top of the "Persons of intrest" list.

Such people can be and often are highly intelligent as such they are going to take control of what they can to protect any One-2-One contact. Thus as in the sixties and onwards, "wires" will be looked for which in this day and age means anything with a non mechanical or biological energy signiture is suspect, including hearing aids and cheap digital watches.

Simply anything electronic with battery in or not will not get taken to meetings or other activities so even the newer NFC cards will get left at home or on the person of a "alibi double".

So the mobile phone dragnet is compleatly pointless for these people.

There are an increasing number of people who are neither mil or dip, nor for that matter gov or gov contractors who have good reason to hold meetings in SCIFs and the number is rising as more and more Snowden revelations sink in with those with money and ideas to protect from competitors.

However there are problems with SCIFs which cause some of the more intelligent people not to trust them or their operators, the most obvious reason is the security of a SCIF is like a balloon in that one tiny prick and bang it's gone... But further and by no means least because SCIFs are in effect "fixed points" that require 24/7 guarding and thus become a rater large "red flag on a hill" that would generate much metadata even though the adversaries had not managed to run a pico sound tube or optical fiber into the SCIF.

Security has many costs most are not obvious on first sight, and for that matter to a number of --supposed-- experts. Being wise after a security lapse requires not only being alive but having the freedom to learn and mitigate, such freedoms are usually only available to those with both the significant resources and legal immunity to carry them out, which is general only state level players in the upper tier (think top ten or twenty millitary nations).

WaelDecember 5, 2014 8:04 AM

@Clive Robinson,
Re: Nano Drones...
In the open, nano drones do not operate in singles. There will be a sworm of them. And when their power has dropped down to a certain level, a replacement drone squadron will be dispatched, or they themselves will call their friends. Then they will go take a break and recharge.

In a closed building, a squanandrone[1] will be a dead giveaway and might cause a swat with a graphite fly-swatter...

[1] Notice the similarity between "Drone" and "Squadron". Dictionary says: Comes from Italian "squadrone" (with the extra 'e' at the end.) Insert "nano" in-between, and we get the word "Squananodrone" or "Squanandrone" = Squadron of nano drones :)

GrauhutDecember 5, 2014 5:27 PM

@Clive

If it were my job to do audio surveillance everywhere i would spread "intelligent dust" powered by energy harvesting the electromagnetic fields of ac cords for instance and trigger them by rfid tags. If my target moves, the surveillance net around it awakens automagickally. Could be done today dirt cheap on mass production scale.

DerrickDecember 5, 2014 8:05 PM

@

Yes, I understand nano drones are useful in a personalized attack, but not without preconditions. It is very effective if the victim and his or her location is known. The geolocational availability of an agent, trained to operate them, is also of vital importance.

Now, applying this to your "preventative" dragnet use case. The quality of person of interest lists is of great importance here. As the number of POIs grow, nano drones become less effective due to scalability of the attack. As preventative attack, it should also be able to neutralize subjects on spot, which means it should be able to stop boston bombers dead on their tracks as they carry out the bomb attack, because catching bombers detonate the bomb on camera means it has failed its purpose of preventative surveillance.

Nano drones are great for specific use cases, but I still think our big brother dragnets are the most effective surveillance, forensics or not, because there is no evidence that it has failed for great majority of qualified incidents.

Clive RobinsonDecember 6, 2014 6:25 AM

@ Wael,

Yup I guess squadron sounds better than plaque (as in locust).

That said the "re-charge" bit might provide an active defence... you've almost certainly seen those UV lamps with high voltage wires around the that "zap-bugs"... if you know what attracks a nano drone when it's charge is low then you could build your own "zap the bug" device.

@ Grauhut,

What you are desicribing are "motes", "mites" or "dust" and have been developed for military applications. Ross J Anderson wrote some papers on their secure comms and how to stop active Einfiltration of the resulting network.

However they are not drones as they cannot move and thus cannot move to an energy source to "re-charge" and thus don't work in most places. An intelligent person of interest would know where they don't work, hence the need for micro and nano drones to cover them when in those areas.

@ Derrick,

The aim of surveillance is to gather intelligence not to neutralize or more accurately murder people. Neutralizing people quickly and effectivly requires quite a lot of energy, and in the case of bombers / terrorists et al very easy to circumvent with "deadmen devices".

Importantly the amount of energy required to ensure an "effective kill" precludes most micro drones and all nano drones. So the use of micro and nano drones for neutralization is a moot point, before you consider the other issues both political and practical.

With regards POI there is plenty of evidence of "clean DNA" that is suicide bombers etc tha are either "off the radar" or "down in the noise" and thus never become POI. Further those terrorists who do become POI usually don't get their hands dirty, they are "staff officers" not "cannon fodder". Killing them is usually counter productive contrary to the nonsense put out currently, due to the use of "cells within Hydra organisations". The killing of OBL was at the end of the day a political inspired "PR stunt" timed to gain advantage over adverse home media commentary. It can be easily seen that OBL death had no negative effects on AQ and other simmilar organisations, and in fact boosted recruitment, money and other resources for such organisations.

You become a real person of interest for two basic reasons, the intel you generate or for the deterent effect your potential punishnent for crimes you have commited has on others. In the case of terrorists the "call to the flag" result that happens due to their death or detainment negates the second reason.

With regards the "no failure" viewpoint, there is also plenty of evidence of "no success" either and thus when looked at with regards the financial investment of your and my tax dollars, we would be better off as a society having betted on every loosing horse that has ever run...

GrauhutDecember 6, 2014 9:05 AM

@Clive "and thus when looked at with regards the financial investment of your and my tax dollars, we would be better off as a society having betted on every loosing horse that has ever run"

Not really. The .gov and .com surveillance industry reduces the availability of hacking talents for the "dark" markets and makes them tax generating consumers.

Betting on loosing horses instead would strengthen the "dark" markets and provide them more capital for hiring hacking talents that would be cheaper if there would be no .gov work for them.

Non trivial equation.

SkepticalDecember 6, 2014 9:22 AM


@Clive: Further those terrorists who do become POI usually don't get their hands dirty, they are "staff officers" not "cannon fodder". Killing them is usually counter productive contrary to the nonsense put out currently, due to the use of "cells within Hydra organisations". The killing of OBL was at the end of the day a political inspired "PR stunt" timed to gain advantage over adverse home media commentary. It can be easily seen that OBL death had no negative effects on AQ and other simmilar organisations, and in fact boosted recruitment, money and other resources for such organisations.

Clive, slightly OT here, but the raid in Abbottabad - reportedly - resulted in the capture of a large amount of immediately useful intelligence, some of which has been released to the public I believe. I also would not underestimate the effect on morale, and the degree to which his death punctured various narratives that were being used in AQ propaganda.

Moreover... quite frankly as a matter of policy an individual like Bin Laden could not be permitted to escape just consequences. There must be no doubt as to the fate of any individual who did what he did.

That's not to deny that much of what followed the mission was PR - as evidenced by the faintly absurd number of leaks coming from the White House (something put to an end by an unexpected visit by then Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Thomas Donilon's office. Supposedly the brief conversation unfolded as follows: "I have a new communications strategy for the White House to consider," Gates said to a startled Donilon. "What's that?" Donilon asked. "Shut the fuck up," Gates explained.)

But the objective itself merely PR? Not in the least. It was a mission undertaken with considerable risk, which was justified only by the value of the objective.

As to terrorist "staff officers"... there are questions about how resilient different types of organizations are to targeted killing of key personnel. However common sense would indicate that a continuous loss of experienced leadership and personnel with key knowledge, skills, or abilities, will degrade the effectiveness of any organization. But, no need for nano drones to accomplish that.

WaelDecember 6, 2014 1:21 PM

@Clive Robinson,

if you know what attracks a nano drone when it's charge is low then you could build your own "zap the bug" device.
I have seen the bug zappers, and I like them too. Drones are likely attracted to keylime pies, with a large "key" ;)

GrauhutDecember 6, 2014 5:02 PM

The better question is: Do they already use individual "autonomous ki agents" to follow our online tracks. One ki vm or container for every suspect mind? Would be the next logical step after passive "selectors". I dont thik that "cast iron" already flies. I think it crawls.

Clive RobinsonDecember 6, 2014 7:11 PM

@ Skeptical,

You are back, you had some of us wondering where you were, I hope it was for pleasure / profit and not anything untoward.

With regards,

Clive, slightly OT here, but the raid in Abbottabad - reportedly - resulted in the capture of a large amount of immediately useful intelligence, some of which has been released to the public I believe.

The intel was luck, nothing more.

If you think it through you will see why.

As a starting point let's assume they US knew the following,

1, OBL was assumed to be there due to couriers, ISI and possibly ttfamily members being observed going in and out of the place.

2, It is unlikely they knew that the intel was actually being kept there, they might however have assumed it likely due to OBL being there assumption.

3, On the assumption there was intel there it was known that OBL had repeatedly upgraded his security due to earlier "near misses" thus it was an almost certainty that any intel there would be secured in some way for which OBL was if alive the only key, and if dead there would be no key.

The only way they could have known that was not the case was if they had an active insider entity in the household. Due to the setup there and the fact that various ISI members treated OBL like a ten thousand dollar watch at a pick pockets convention there would have been little or no opportunity for a US only entity to be there.

Thus we can assume that as the key to the intel keeping OBL alive would have been a priority. It became clear from what was reported keeping OBL alive was not a priority. Thus I conclude that getting the intel was not the priority or even the purpose of the attack it was far more likely the mission was OBL related. As OBLs capture alive would have been a significant risk re future hostage taking etc, I further conclude that either the intent was to kill OBL or take him alive under a cover story of his having been killed. As the body is not available for independent verification the only thing we have to go one are statments from those present at the time. The general consensus of those is OBL was shot whilst being behind a family member (it is not clear if he was trying to hide behind the family member, or his family member was trying to shield/protect him or just an occurance from their initial positions within the room and subsiquent supprised movment). Other tasspects from the reports suggest it was a "kill on sight shooting" not an attempt to capture.

Thus I conclude the aim of the mission was to execute OBL extra judicially and unlawfully.

The fact that a document "grab" was carried out after the killing was just an extra, as it would have been extreamly unlikely that there would have been sufficient time in the plan to do any kind of meaningful search of the buildings etc within the compound.

Now the next question was why the raid happened when it did, as others have pointed out on this blog and many other places at the time it was "A good time for BO" who at the time had a low popularity rating and appeared to be on the back foot / defensive from a public perspective. So a fortuitous coincidence on timing or planned? Most outside the US seeing the pictures and coverage of the time thing that coincidence is less likely than planned and quite a few in the US appear to agree with them

So you have a "hit against public enemy number one" that has many hallmarks of an execution and a lot of publicity at an opportune time for a president with a low popularity rating.

Thus even if it was not a publicity stunt it was run like one with all the PR angles to it.

So unless I can see convincing evidence to the contrary I'm going with "PR Stunt" and let others make their choices appropriately.

With regards OBL being a "staff officer" he was nolonger in any active AQ planning etc, he was basicaly a "figurehead" and this was public knowledge. It was clear from his messages that he had no prior knowledge of other terrorist activity, and was not even claiming it as AQs but just related. Executing OBL thus had no real strategic value and no tactical value.

Another question you should consider is why it took so long to execute OBL? It was fairly clear OBLs days were numbered within hours of the 9/11 events, irrespective of if he was actually responsible or not as that was an unknown at the time. As many have pointed out the US response looked like it had been planned prior to 9/11 and this is in part responsible for many of the theories you see presented that disagree in part or whole with the "official story". I have seen it said that OBL was worth more to certain US concerns alive than dead due to the FUD factor, and oddly on balance that appears to have some merit to it. Was it simply a case that OBL had got to the point he was effectively irrelevant to the "war on terror" and had thus outlived his usefulness? We may never know for certain but one thing is fairly certain is that it is something some historians will dwell on now and in the future nodoubt without common agreement.

Clive RobinsonDecember 7, 2014 2:01 AM

@ Grauhut,

With regards,

Not really. The .gov and .com surveillance industry reduces the availability of hacking talents for the "dark" markets and makes them tax generating consumers.

I think your assumptions are incorrect. Firstly the implication that there is insufficient "talent" that they can be absorbed by the .gov and .com surveillance industry. That is clearly not true, the talent is "without borders" that sort of employment "strictly within borders", which leaves a large proportion of the talent out in the cold.

Further as we know .gov does not pay well, thus they don't attract the top talent even inside the borders. Thus top talent may be attracted to the .com surveillance industry, but actually probably not. There is more money and importantly more interesting work outside of the .com surveillance industry working in other tech companies. Surveillance is not usually regarded as "sexy" by most talent, usually it's regarded as unsavory, unclean or dirty work indicative of "peeping toms" and worse. Why do you think we see people posting remarks about NSA and LEO types sitting looking through porn all day?...

In the West and other first world nations talented people tend not to consider crime as a career option, the reason as my father pointed out to me over fourty years ago is "If you have the brains not to get caught commiting crime, you have the brains to earn considerably more money honestly". Whilst this holds true inside most western borders it did not hold true in many other places like Russia etc, where the right type of crime can not just pay comparatively well but earn the equivalent of high level state protection.

In the old Communist Nations and other states where crime takes over, crime is seen as a valid career option because even though the risks are higher than the West the comparative rewards are even higher, and knowing the right people and keeping them looking favourablly on you keeps your own risks down well below those of the rest of the citizenry with money. It's thus not a coincidence that the bulk of the crime malware and APT we see comes from these places. And it's also not a coincidence that low grade graffiti type malware etc in "political support" comes from there it's "one hand washing the other" or "scratching each others backs".

But as we have seen you don't need much talent for quite a bit of the malware out there, it's thus highly competative in a throat cutting way and pricing tends to race to the bottom. That is the supply exceeds the demand at the bottom of the market and the profit is taken not by the malware writers / hackers but by more conventional crime groups that can monetarise CC details. These out on the edge malware writers and hackers are looked on in the same way as drug addicts are by dealers and above. Those that initialy made it as Pharma or Spam Kings are finding themselves exposed and are thus being picked off for "politics" as well as profit...

DerrickDecember 7, 2014 8:57 AM

@

This whole time since post-911 era, I had thought whole of wholesale surveillance was pre-requisite for preventing further terrorist attacks on American soil. I stand corrected. Boston Marathon bombers, as example, did not use "deadmen device," were caught on CCTV dragnet, but the attack still took place. Catching bombers denote their bombs can only mean preventative surveillance has failed its purpose. Mounting camera on drones instead of poles won't change that.

Nick PDecember 7, 2014 11:03 AM

@ Clive Robinson

Your post was good till you got to the race to the bottom section. That seems to be true of black hat offerings in general. Yet, attack kits still demand decent money relative to the other stuff. And those that sell to governments use the licensing model which gets around the race-to-the-bottom effect. Especially at $1mil/yr per client. That more than Oracle makes off many (most?) of their customers. And we know how overpriced Oracle is.

Clive RobinsonDecember 7, 2014 2:52 PM

@ Nick P,

The race to the bottom was qualified by "... you don't need much talent for quite a bit of the malware out there, it's thus highly competative in a throat cutting way..."

One of the joys of trying to keep my post lengths down. The malware I was refering to is the run of the mill crime/bot ware that the AV companies devote their time to chasing in the main. Not the more sophisticated almost "bespoke" mil/gov surveillance ware, that some companies are hawking around the place.

Oddly these companies further make the point that the top talent for surveillance ware are not in the employ of the likes of the NSA et al.

I had thought about going down that comercial road myself hiring code cutting talent to do the presentation and delivery side and acting as an agent for those that find the various attack vectors. But I quickly found that people had been "talking up" the money available and those with usefull vectors were often "one trick wonders" but considered themselves worthy of "football talent wages" which they are not. I suspect the market will settle down in time, but as with these things the bulk of the money will go into sales and marketing pockets --and quite a few inducments--, not developers and researchers pockets.

SkepticalDecember 7, 2014 8:31 PM


@Clive: Thanks, I appreciate that - all's well and nothing exciting to report.

The intel was luck, nothing more.

Sure, but my point is simply that the raid did harm AQ, even if you think the death of UBL did not.

The general consensus of those is OBL was shot whilst being behind a family member (it is not clear if he was trying to hide behind the family member, or his family member was trying to shield/protect him or just an occurance from their initial positions within the room and subsiquent supprised movment). Other tasspects from the reports suggest it was a "kill on sight shooting" not an attempt to capture.

Thus I conclude the aim of the mission was to execute OBL extra judicially and unlawfully.

Unless he had clearly surrendered, he remained a legitimate target. I don't view his death as unlawful.

Now the next question was why the raid happened when it did, as others have pointed out on this blog and many other places at the time it was "A good time for BO" who at the time had a low popularity rating and appeared to be on the back foot / defensive from a public perspective. So a fortuitous coincidence on timing or planned? Most outside the US seeing the pictures and coverage of the time thing that coincidence is less likely than planned and quite a few in the US appear to agree with them

Those people don't know much about US politics then. President Obama's approval/disapproval rating at the time was about 46% approval, 46% disapproval, 8% no opinion/undecided. See for example: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/popularity.php. Those ratings were not particularly low.

Nor would the timing make any sense for a politically motivated action.

2011 was an off cycle election year, and there were no elections that year of any consequence for the President (or most of the US). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_elections,_2011

So there is nothing about the timing of the raid (May of an off-cycle election year in which there were 4 Congressional seats up and 4 gubernatorial races), nor about the President's approval numbers at the time, that would indicate the raid was politically motivated.

So unless I can see convincing evidence to the contrary I'm going with "PR Stunt" and let others make their choices appropriately.

There's no evidence for the "PR Stunt" theory. There is a mountain of evidence that the US was completely committed to finding, and capturing or killing, UBL, regardless of the time it would take to achieve that objective.

With regards OBL being a "staff officer" he was nolonger in any active AQ[...]

I was referring to the value of killing "staff officers" of terrorist organizations generally, not to UBL, in that part of my comment.

Executing OBL thus had no real strategic value and no tactical value.

Strategic: Undermine AQ's narrative of strength, reducing its appeal over the long-term. Demonstrate US strength and resolve to punish those responsible for attacks upon it, wherever they may take up harbor, which has deterrent value.

More to the point though was the intense US desire for just retribution.

Another question you should consider is why it took so long to execute OBL? It was fairly clear OBLs days were numbered within hours of the 9/11 events, irrespective of if he was actually responsible or not as that was an unknown at the time.

Clear to you and to me, but not so clear to many elsewhere.

As to why it took so long, finding a single individual in an area where, presumably, American intelligence assets were initially somewhat limited isn't going to be an easy task.

As many have pointed out the US response looked like it had been planned prior to 9/11 and this is in part responsible for many of the theories you see presented that disagree in part or whole with the "official story".

I can't give any credence to that theory. The type of war that the US fought in Afghanistan was nothing of the sort that Donald Rumsfeld wanted the US military to prepare to fight. It required changing US plans, often dramatically.

I have seen it said that OBL was worth more to certain US concerns alive than dead due to the FUD factor, and oddly on balance that appears to have some merit to it.

It doesn't. No one thought that everything rested on killing or capturing Bin Laden. But doing so would, of course, be a great prize to whoever accomplished it. And that is, in part, why the theory that the US deliberately chose not to kill him earlier is so unlikely.

Sancho_PDecember 8, 2014 10:42 AM

@Skeptical

“… I don't view his death as unlawful.”
Of course not, because OBL had a fair trial and was sentenced to death.

We have seen mountains of secrete evidence, including WMD, drug abuse and child porn.

Also it was a win+win+win+win:
BO + Nationall Pride + fueling AQ + keeping our “Defense” industry alive.

“But doing so would, of course, be a great prize to whoever accomplished it.”

For the great prize ask the families of 38 people including 15 U.S. Navy Seals
http://blog.usnavyseals.com/2013/05/seal-team-6-families-believe-the-2011-chinook-shootdown-in-afghanistan-was-planned.html
… and listen to the silence of the news.

At least one was “updated" on Feb. 26, 2014:
http://thehill.com/homenews/house/313039-congress-to-probe-lethal-seal-crash

—> Thank you, Sir, our pleasure!

Peter A.December 8, 2014 2:46 PM

@Sancho_P:

It depends on how one views (O/U)BL - as a civilian criminal or as an enemy combatant.

If you view him as a civilian, an arrest/extradition followed by a trial and potential death sentence is the lawful way to go, therefore the killing was unlawful.

However, if you view him as a soldier of an enemy army in the war on terrorists, raiding enemy's headquaters and killing the commander is fair game.

Anybody can chose which of the above views to support. It's not so clear-cut in the new world of "ass-symmetric warfare".

Clive RobinsonDecember 8, 2014 4:02 PM

@ Peter A.,

However, if you view him as a soldier of an enemy army in the war on terrorists, raiding enemy's headquaters and killing the commander is fair game

The point is under international laws of war you cannot go around attacking civilian homes, which the compound certainly appears to have been. You are also not supposed to initiate acts of war in or against states you are not soverign to, or kill unarmed combatants who are not fighting, injured, ill or inferm. There are --supringly to some-- rules of war which are supposed to be followed, not doing so leaves people open to charges of "war crimes"...

What many don't realise is US local and Federal law enforcment officers have greater freedom of action against criminals than soldiers have against uniformed and armed enemy soldiers. Which is one reason GWB and friends originaly want to make them out to be "illegal combatants" as this puts them in the least protected of positions ( yup even less than spies).

Sancho_PDecember 8, 2014 6:59 PM

@Peter A.

I’m afraid to change the “view” will only change the name.

First he was a human.
A citizen of a state the U.S wasn’t and isn’t in war with.
An old man, unarmed, living in a private compound in an foreign state, hiding behind his wife.

To be clear, I do not favor terrorism.
Nor do I favor killing of suspects and bystanders in other countries [1].

Eye for eye, tooth for …
See you on Sunday at the church service!

[1] Btw. same goes for killing innocents in the own country, e.g. by police.
We have too many Rambos in TV, cinema and computer “games”.
Playing war drums won’t end in peace.

SkepticalDecember 9, 2014 7:33 PM


All OT

@Clive: It does not make any difference whether the house itself would be considered a military or civilian structure. Bin Laden was a legitimate target, and Pakistan quite clearly could not be trusted to kill or capture him. The US raid was an option that posed the greatest danger of American casualties, the greatest risk of failure, and the best chance for minimizing civilian casualties - and that's the option that the US took. I'm frankly a little surprised you have any objections to it.

@Sancho: For the great prize ask the families of 38 people including 15 U.S. Navy Seals

I don't think you've thought this one through.

First he was a human.

As were the victims of the violence and death that he brought to so many on the absurd justification of a vicious, intolerant, hate-filled, and self-serving distortion of Islam. Their humanity, and that of those that his organization continued to threaten, are in large part what motivated the raid.

A citizen of a state the U.S wasn’t and isn’t in war with.

He was not the citizen of any state.

An old man, unarmed, living in a private compound in an foreign state, hiding behind his wife.

A bigoted murderer and key member of a terrorist organization, who refused to surrender and sought to continue the bloody work he had begun well over a decade before his death.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsDecember 9, 2014 9:18 PM

@ Skeptical in response to OT bullcrap


You seem unable to get past being a source of dogma and propaganda. The chance for the U.S. to hold up its values in front of the world would have included giving even the grumedgon Bin Laden a day in court. Instead we have proved our values has baseless.

The need to be clear here is imperative and you seem to be wholly unwilling to concede to the basis of our values--your relentless push to justify actions that do not align to OUR VALUES is, in a word, priceless.

Clive RobinsonDecember 10, 2014 6:39 AM

@ Skeptical,

As far as the rules of war --actually treaties which the US were involved in the formulation of and have signed-- those "under flag" have obligations the breaching of which is a "war crime" and as such they can be brought to stand and defend themselves in the international court --which the US was the major participent in setting up--.

The first rule is not to take up offencive hostil activities in a forign state. The "preventative" idiocy the US has trotted out has no standing in law.

Further making war on civilians is most definitely a no no, and has been for several hundred years. The only permisable actions are only those of defense "when under fire" or to prevent genocide or the equivalent.

Clearly the raid was in breach of these basic rulesof war and as such all those involved including the US President are in tge position of being tried on "war crimes".

It's not something you can argue away by saying "he was evil" you actually have to use International law to bring him to trial in what would be a neutral place and court. Anything else is unlawfull and a war crime.

The problem is the US has set a very dangerous president by taki g this action. If say Russia or China or any other country decided it was time for a US General to be killed in his own home infront of his family then this is OK by your and the US administrations reasoning.

I'm sorry you are alowing your view that "vigilanty justice" is OK when practiced "by the side you favour" just because you assume on political rhetoric somebody is "evil" from letting you see the wider implications when others you do not favour decide to follow the same reasoning...

Nick PDecember 10, 2014 9:47 AM

@ Clive Robinson

I wouldn't be fighting the OBL strike as too many people across the world believed he was involved in an act of war and wanted him dead. His is a special case that probably won't generalize that well. Where Skeptical's claims totally fall flat is how he says it's justified because OBL was some kind of monster bringing death to many innocents. I can't reiterate enough OBL's own words in a 1998 interview:

1. U.S. sanctions (food & medicine) in Iraq killed over 500,000 children, among others.

2. We were involved in many clandestine attacks and government manipulations in Afghanistan and elsewhere in Middle East.

3. We give Arab's main enemy (Israel) a bunch of money and military aid which is used to kill both Arab combatants and innocent Arabs (eg Lebanon slaughter).

He added that if he came over to America to kill even a few hundred people that everyone from the East to the West would call him a monster and demand his blood. He then asked why such American's blood counts and demands action, while the blood of hundreds of thousands America kills doesn't count. He warned that if we kept spilling innocent blood, doing operations, and paying for Israel's bombs that he would have to take action. Up to this point, he had only hit combat-related targets such as embassies with intelligence personnel and military assets.

1999: He still hasn't bombed us. We're still killing over there.

2000: He still hasn't bombed us. We're still killing over there.

2001: Someone bombs us financed by Saudi's and he claims to have no part in it.

2002-onward: Taliban offer to turn him in if they see evidence of his involvement. U.S. produces none except some questionable tapes. Makes claims on Iraq & ties it into 9/11. Invades both countries. Over 30,000 Americans die and U.S. forces kill several hundred thousand innocent Iraqi's. OBL is shot dead in a spec ops raid. Defense contractors make billions in profit, oil companies get lucrative contracts over there, billions in cash goes missing, and things in those countries are worse than they've been before.

So, looking at the big picture, it's U.S. 1+ mil innocents murdered with clear attribution and unproven claims of OBL killing 3,000+ innocents. I think the real monster is clear here. And there were certainly no spec ops raids in Washington in response for their mass murders. And the Saudi's that financed 9/11 per Commission Report went totally unpunished and largely unnamed in the media. President held hands with their leader instead and continued providing military training to them.

Skeptical's ideology becomes more clear when, in light of all this, he suggests what needed to change was OBL's existence rather than U.S. murderous foreign policies that inspire bombers to act. I mean, you can only murder innocent people for politics in a country for so long before someone sends some death back at you. It's better to simply not do that stuff. It's common sense.

Clive RobinsonDecember 10, 2014 10:59 AM

@ Nick P,

I don't know if you watched the BBC program where they showed that AQ did not actually exist, so the US DoJ invented it to charge OBL on "conspiracy". It made interesting watching.

With regards "common sense" it appears to be a very rare atribute, but when you get digging in this area you find that as far as the common sense view point and politicians, they see no profit in it...

Speaking of which I hear there is a six thousand page report with a four hundred and eight page summary which indicats that the CIA amongst others have been lying. And that various UK & US Intel Orgs have been playing the old "double act" of taking poorly researched info and "sexing it up" then handing it to the other side of the puddle so that it can be further churned up and returnd not as the crock of 541t it realy is but as "gold intel"....

I thought we had given up that nonsense since Colin Powel did his number with the number ten dodgy dossier...

I wonder just where we would be economicaly if the US and UK had not squandered so many resources and brave lives on an uterly pointless excercise the only tangible result of which is that Saudi Arabia still controls the oil price and the west bleads to death.

Oh you'll love this one, the UK Gov has been claiming record numbers of people are working. However the tax take has dropped substantialy, and the cost of benifits is rising, which is a sure indicator somethings a bit crooked.

Well it turns out that they Government has not been encoraging real job growth, they have just been counting any body on a zero hour contract or doing 1 hour a week (not even paid) as "working"...
So change the way you count and call yourself a success, it's the new British way....

AnuraDecember 10, 2014 12:21 PM

@Clive

I wonder just where we would be economicaly if the US and UK had not squandered so many resources and brave lives on an uterly pointless excercise the only tangible result of which is that Saudi Arabia still controls the oil price and the west bleads to death.

You're assuming a functioning system. I can't say I'm familiar enough with the situation in the UK, but here in the US we have had a low demand for labor since the beginning of the 2000s. Without the military spending and without the soldiers overseas we would have had an even larger supply of labor and lower demand; this would have translated to even lower wages and weaker growth (which, even pre-recession we were on-track for the 2000s having the worst growth of any decade since the 1930s).

This is mainly because of outsourcing. As baby-boomers retired, we should have expected a more competitive labor market, but we were able to outsource less productive jobs to developing countries faster than the boomers could retire. Not that outsourcing is necessarily bad, but we need wages across the board to go up with overall productivity and we need to invest in jobs, training, and education so that the people who lost their jobs can find new work (and people entering the labor market can find work in the first place).

Sancho_PDecember 10, 2014 6:32 PM

@Clive Robinson:

“… the only tangible result of which is that Saudi Arabia still controls the oil price and the west bleeds to death.”

Imagine all the money that is “produced” (from what, which value?) worldwide and sent down to the ME for something (oil) they do neither produce (manufacture) nor own (I know this is a strange idea but resources belong to the planet, not to exploiters).
It doesn’t matter which place / nation it is located, only imagine the amount of money going down that sinkhole, literally burned as is the oil.

How long will it go that the magician can “produce” rabbits out of his head until the system learns that this is fraud?

@Anura:

With the military spending it’s a similar issue, the money is “produced” (printed) just to burn / explode without getting any real value back (just dead bodies, disabled / traumatized people, displacement, misery, hate).
Of course it keeps many people in western countries at their job -
but what an irony to think that,
they would rather be payed to stay at home with their family.

For the “weaker growth” please consider that growth is the inevitable death of our “culture”.
We all live on one single nutshell in the cosmos, as long as economy insists on growth it’s predictable that it will crash.

AnuraDecember 10, 2014 6:59 PM

@Sancho_P

I'm a strong supporter of the basic income, and eventually moving to a steady-state economy (which a basic income could handle without issues). However, in the current system, we require growth to function. From 2000-2007, we averaged 2.65% growth, and because of that weak growth, salaries stagnated, and the vast majority of the population did not see any net gain in quality of life. In 2009, we saw a 2.78% drop, and it devastated the population. Basically, we need strong growth if we want to keep the current system.

Every year, productivity increases. If GDP doesn't grow proportionally with that and the change in the size of the labor force, then the demand for labor shrinks. This is part of a negative feedback loop, where as demand for labor shrinks, salaries stagnate, hours get cut, and demand for goods and services shrink. Capitalism is very unstable when it comes to change in this respect. If we didn't have government spending to boost demand for labor, we would have even more frequent growth spurts and recessions.

Now, I agree that it's better to pay people to do nothing than to pay them to do something pointless. That's a no-brainer, but it's also better to pay people to do something pointless than to let your economy go into a recession. However, there are definitely better things we can be spending our money on.

Personally, I would rather we put that money to direct cash transfers to people who are unemployed or in poverty, subsidizing rooftop solar, solar plants (I prefer Solar-Thermal troughs due to their efficient energy storage and because they don't harm birds like the collection towers), geothermal plants, biogas collection (natural gas from sewage, landfills, manure, etc.), wind farms, repairing roads, city beautification, roof gardens, subsidizing repairs and upgrades to homes in low-income areas (including painting homes, bringing homes up to code, energy efficient doors and windows, energy efficient appliances, carpeting, landscaping, etc.) to directly increase the number of jobs and improve the value of properties (I suspect this is an excellent strategy for both crime and poverty reduction), modernization of other infrastructure, education (I think we should make sure that every single person should be able to afford a decent education at a four-year university without having to go into debt).

Nick PDecember 10, 2014 10:35 PM

@ Anura

No, it's not because of the growth. Leaked documents show it's by design. In a plutonomy, the elites in control of majority of wealth do everything they can to ensure it keeps flowing to them. So, the majority will continue to get less and they'll continue to get more. This trend has continued overall for decades.

I especially like how they point out that the greatest threat is that the 99% have the majority vote & can strip elites of their wealth. And the trick to preventing that is leveraging various media to convince them they can become well off too if they work hard in the current system. And that's sadly worked.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsDecember 10, 2014 10:53 PM

@ Nick P

First a comment, well said, two points, and...a summary statement.

1.) The elites are engaged in turning the instrument of government as a tool to control the population that can vote for change. This scares them and the MIC immensely.

2.) Our modern society (mentioned in a book by Alvin Toffler, Future Shock) has embraced technological methods of production IN PREFERENCE to manual labor in order to both enrich themselves and reduce the effectiveness of the individual worker(s).

It is a crime that our political class repeatedly blame those at the bottom for their ills when it is clearly the decisions made by those with their hands at the helm of the ship. The captain should go done with the ship, but in this case it is the lowly seaman third class and the army private that are held responsible. Privilege has no responsibility and those without privilege are held responsible. Until the underclasses remove the incentive for the passive resistance that is futile in this cases embraces a more forceful method, the privileged will continue to exercise criminal levels of control of the economy and the freedom and liberty that comes from the fruits of one's labor.

AnuraDecember 11, 2014 12:02 AM

@Nick P

Well, keeping the demand for labor low is what allows them to keep salaries down. Low demand for labor is just another word for poor economic growth. They have realized that they can make more money if we have poor growth because they can get a much larger share for themselves by paying their employees less. Sometimes I wonder if the 2008 crash was by design; all those properties purchased by private equity firms, all those banks bailed out; in the end the only people who really got screwed over were the 99%. Sure, according to the books they took a hit as property value declined and the stock market crashed, but in reality they still have those property assets, they still have those stocks, and those will go back to normal over time.

Clive RobinsonDecember 11, 2014 3:42 AM

@ Anura, Namewitheld..., Nick P, Sancho_P,

One of the problems with economics is in reality it's not a science and those working in the domain, feel obligations to those that fund their lifestyles. Thus it is no great suprise to see the "waters muddied", "mud to be slung", and it be used as "smoke and mirrors" to justify peoples agendas.

So back to fundamentals, there are as science teaches us two basic things in the universe that are fundemental and equivalent, matter and energy.

The earth as far as most matter is concerned an isolated gravity hole in space, little comes in and what goes out has to exceed certain energy constraints either directly or indirectly.

Most of the matter on earth is fully recyclable it is simply a question of applying "work" which is a way of expressing the use of energy. Some matter such as the lighter atoms and heavier atoms can be used to release energy by fusion or fission respectivly and as such become lesser forms of mass atoms.

All other "energy stores" on the earth are by thermal, mechanical or chemical means. The earth it's self is an interesting energy store in that it receives energy from the Sun at some wavelengths and at some later point emits energy at different wavelengths back into space (along with some loss of matter).

From this we can see that to control the earth you have three options,

1, Control the raw physical resources (matter).
2, Control the raw work resources (energy).
3, Control the processes used to work with energy or matter.

Control of any of these by individuals gives advantage over others who do not possess control. It is this fundemental control that is the basic driver of all human actions, history has much to teach us on this subject, and one word will pop up quite often which is "status", you will see people refered to as "high status" and "low status" with various names used such as "Lord" and "Slave".

It's important to note that the owning of money does not give status to people, it is only by converting money into control that gives an individual status. Importantly money is designed to degrad rather rapidly by a process known as inflation.

The name of the game is those with status (resources/control) to as rapidly devalue money such that those without status remain unable to gain status in what the Victorian logition and mathematician under the pen name of Lewis Carol called "a red queens race", which is one where you have to run as hard as you possibly can just to stay where you are.

Economics uses as it's basic unit of measure "money" which should immediatly raise warning alarms as to it's veracity.

Thus when we talk about those seen and unseen who control resources and through them us we are talking about their level of Status not wealth or for that matter power, as neither is status, just a way of using status.

We as individuals are taught incorrectly that we should persue "wealth and happiness", if you think about it this is the aim of the consumerist society, where those with status encorage you not to gain status by converting any excess advantage you might gain from wealth into usless baubles not the true value of status.

It is this pursuit that actually enslaves us, one we are taught from an early age, and to say otherwise we are accused of being "anti-American", "Communist", "Socialist" even "Fascist" etc.

The problem with this endless consumerism is it cannot be endless with a growing population because even otherwise worthless baubles need matter and energy for their existance, and as noted initially both of these are effectivly finite.

The only solution to this for those with status is to ensure those without status become less able to afford the baubles by increasing their monetary cost against the monetary renumeration for labour...

The trick is to manufacture reasons for this such that blaim is diverted back on those without status and away from those with carefully concealed status pulling the strings of those with supposed power through the supposed will of the people...

SkepticalDecember 11, 2014 2:36 PM


@Clive: The first rule is not to take up offencive hostil activities in a forign state. The "preventative" idiocy the US has trotted out has no standing in law.

If that foreign state is unable or unwilling to effectively prevent actors that present a continuing violent threat to the US from harboring there, then the US is legally justified in pursuing actors in that foreign state.

Further making war on civilians is most definitely a no no, and has been for several hundred years. The only permisable actions are only those of defense "when under fire" or to prevent genocide or the equivalent.

The rule is proportionality. Bin Laden is a military target, taking refuge in what you state is a civilian house. Whether an air strike on that house would be legal, for example, would depend on, among other things, the value of the military target and the civilian damage that would result.

The US raid easily meets the standards of proportionality, as it was focused on the legitimate target and conducted in a way that minimized civilian casualties and property damage.

Clearly the raid was in breach of these basic rulesof war and as such all those involved including the US President are in tge position of being tried on "war crimes".

They're not, and they never will be.

@Nick: uh, you mean the 1998 fatwa in which Bin Laden declares it the duty of all Muslims to kill Americans - military and civilian - wherever and whenever they can? The one where he lists the US as being responsible for the killing of Muslims in nations ranging from Bosnia to Chechnya? The long, ranting screed of the guy who wants to launch a guerilla war to make himself the new Caliphate?

Are you seriously in doubt as to his culpability for 9/11? There's a massive amount of evidence available, not least of which is his own taped confession.

And a few other notes:

You wrote: 1. U.S. sanctions (food & medicine) in Iraq killed over 500,000 children, among others.

First, they were UN sanctions, not just US sanctions.

Second, food and medicine were explicitly excluded.

Third, while without doubt the UN sanctions harmed innocent people, it's unclear whether there were better alternatives to economic sanctions.

Let's also keep in mind that the US also provided no-fly zone and a safe haven for the Kurds in the north, a no-fly zone for the south, and, in 2001, had over $300 million in aid budgeted for Afghanistan.

You wrote that: Taliban offer to turn him in if they see evidence of his involvement.

No, they offered to try him themselves according to their law. After the US military strikes began, they offered to "discuss" turning him over to a third country "that could not be pressured by the US" for trial according to Muslim law if the US paused its military campaign.

Since this isn't America's first rodeo, it properly rejected the Taliban's delaying tactics and proceeded with its military campaign.

Makes claims on Iraq & ties it into 9/11. Invades both countries.

The Iraq invasion occurred two years later and the debate largely centered around WMD.

Over 30,000 Americans die

Total US deaths from both Iraq and Afghanistan are 6,717.

and U.S. forces kill several hundred thousand innocent Iraqi's.

Nope. Estimates vary, but none has the US as killing several hundred thousand innocent Iraqis.

Skeptical's ideology becomes more clear when, in light of all this, he suggests what needed to change was OBL's existence rather than U.S. murderous foreign policies that inspire bombers to act. I mean, you can only murder innocent people for politics in a country for so long before someone sends some death back at you. It's better to simply not do that stuff. It's common sense.

Let's see. According to Bin Laden, the US was part of a Zionist conspiracy that was responsible for the slaughter of Muslims ranging from Bosnia to Chechnya to Somalia.

All the US would have to do, according to your common sense, would be to cease all aid to Israel and Egypt (aid which forms part of the 1979 treaty between Israel and Egypt) and withdraw all forces and economic support from the Middle East.

Now, never mind that the US acted to stop the slaughter of Muslims in Bosnia. Never mind that the US acted to protect humanitarian shipments of food to starving Somalians and fought against the warlords as part of that effort. Never mind that the US has nothing to do with Chechnya. So never mind the ludicrous nature of most of Bin Laden's accusations (which are merely propaganda efforts on his part).

The consequence of complying with his demands would be:
- complete regional chaos and war in the Middle East
- total loss of credibility for the US

leading to

- global economic depression
- increased incentive for groups around the world to use terrorism against the US

Bin Laden's goal was to establish himself as a Caliphate. His objective was power, which he would use to reduce a large portion of the globe to a state like that built by the Taliban or like that which ISIS is attempting to build. He viewed existing governments in the Middle East as dependent on the US for survival. Force the US out, he thought, and he can then begin to tear down those governments.

Acquiescing to his demands would have been helpful neither to the US nor to anyone else in the world other than Bin Laden and certain related extremist groups.

That's not to excuse the US for the mistakes it has made. But those mistakes hardly justified Bin Laden's objectives or his acts of violence. And the US does not help anyone by isolating itself for the sake of mistakes in its past.

As to my ideology, it's pragmatic: I prefer actions and principles that help human beings flourish, that alleviate human suffering, that promote political, social, and moral progress, that respect human rights and freedoms. But of course, we live in a very imperfect world that does not care in the least about those things (nature is indifferent to human suffering or human flourishing), and we all have imperfect views of that world, and imperfect information about the consequences of our actions. So, we sometimes are faced with hard decisions, about which there can be reasonable disagreement.

Sancho_PDecember 11, 2014 6:01 PM

@Anura

Sorry, it doesn’t work.
What you wrote pretty much represents the traditional thinking in economy and technics.
This is a dead end. You (and especially your kids) will painfully realize that in a few years.

+ @Nick P, name.withheld…, Clive Robinson

There was a similar discussion here https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2014/11/cooperating_wit.html#c6684075
and I’d like to repeat my suggestion for Alan Weisman’s “Countdown”
(although I do not concur with all of his conclusions, it's a brilliant read).

At the very core of our problem is our ability to “solve” problems.

This goes for technics as well as for the desire to become rich.

For the planning of the elite to hold the masses low I think that’s a conspiracy theory (never attribute to malice …).

The system simply works like this:
To become rich you have to take the what belongs to others.
Some would call it fraud, but the official name is capitalism.
You are either in or out of the system.

Here is the point where I somewhat disagree with @Clive Robinson:
In real life, wherever it matters, status and power are based on wealth only.
Status only matters where it is combined with money, and power is always combined with money. Power without money isn’t realistic in our system.
One would neither expect nor accept that.
The reason is our capitalistic education and experience.

Status without money is possible but lacks any importance in our world, sorry.

AnuraDecember 11, 2014 6:12 PM

@Sancho_P

Define "Works." Like it or not, the West will stay with our current brand of Capitalism until it collapses (I give it 20-30 years), and for now if we want to avoid significant hardship for the bulk of the population, it requires spending and growth, preferably on things that help us reduce consumption of natural resources as well as things that benefit the poor and middle class.

Clive RobinsonDecember 11, 2014 6:21 PM

@ Skeptical,

If that foreign state is unable or unwilling to effectively prevent actors that present a continuing violent threat to the US from harboring there, then the US is legally justified in pursuing actors in that foreign state.

No it is not, and there is no argument on the issue.

To enter another Sovereign State with hostile intent is an initiating acto of war and is with no doubt an act of war, no ifs no buts no maybes.

The fact that the US passes a law or interprets law in a peculiar manner in it's jurisdiction that says it's ok to go and kill people in another Sovereign Nation does not make it legal to commit murder there? No one Sovereign State cannot pass legislation effecting the legislation in another Sovereign State it has no legitimacy or legality in the effected state. There are numerous examples of this, for instance French Government agents placing explosive devices on the Green Peace vessel in a NZ port. Those who did it were eventually handed over and judicial punishment handed down.

Another point to consider, Russia passed legislation to say that it is OK to go and kill people in foreign countries if it so choses. If the Russians sent a murder squad to the US and killed a senior politician for "anti-Russian behaviour" do you think that is legal and acceptable?

And if not why not?

Clive RobinsonDecember 11, 2014 7:16 PM

@ Sancho_P,

In real life, wherever it matters, status and power are based on wealth only.

Err no, the US has had a few examplesof this recently with what you might call "cops going bad". That is the police have the whim of life and death over you, and if they do kill you then there is no legal action the state will take against them.

In the UK we currently have an enquiry as to how a handcuffed individual on an aircraft was killed by three "rent a cop" security guards from a private company.

I could go on the simple fact is these persons have the power of life and death over you, and they know if they excercise the latter they would not face the consiquences you would if you a a civilian killed one of them. There is no wealth involved with this enhanced status they have over you.

But you have to be carefull when you say "wealth" it is not the same as money. Quite a few of the worlds richest and most influential people have little or no money in comparison to the assets they hold. The only time these high status individuals have money of significant amounts is either when trading one set of assets for another set, but the reality is no money actually appears, just a few bits of ink on a piece of paper for valuation purposes or when paying tax to a government on the rare occasions they are forced to.

For people of low status their lives are almost compleatly controled by money as they have no assets that will appreciate, it's why inflation is so disproportionately placed on their shoulders.

Now you may wish to call "inflation" a conspiracy if you wish, but I don't think you will find many who would agree with you.

We could debate the how's and why's of inflation but at the end of the day you will find that it goes back to the cost of debt in the form of interest, and thus is the result of modern money lending which --supposadly-- is the fundemental driver of the economic cycles according to economists. One major reason for debt, is for businesses it's "tax free", thus they have a significant incentive to borrow money at low rates of interest to stay in debt and thus untaxed, rather than what appears as the more prudent earn&save money which they would have to pay substantial tax on if it went over a tax period.

The legislation that controls this taxation avoidance can easily be seen as "bought and payed for" by lobbyists that get there money from the "elite" in who's interest it is to have "no tax" options that also devalue money but not assets.

As has been pointed out before "The real 'welfare momma's' sucking on the tax titty" are tax avoiding corporations that creat as much debt as possible, and use the money from that debt to aquire appreciating assets, outside off and protected from the debt.

Nick PDecember 11, 2014 7:52 PM

@ Sancho_P

A conspiracy just means a group of people conspire to do something that benefits them at others expense, sometimes in secret and sometimes criminal. Companies are in the news doing that all the time. There's been plenty of cartel-like activity in various industries, as well. Recent examples include the covert price-fixing agreement by memory companies and the covert agreement by competing tech firms to keep workers' wages low. Don't forget campaign contributions to rig legislation, the revolving door from Pentagon to industry for those awarding nice contracts, and so on. There's plenty of conspiracy going on in this country just among big business. And elites controlling them are smart enough to work together where it makes sense (eg them vs us). Events like Bilderberg with meeting of government, big business, and media people that don't report on anything look to be examples of the collusion.

Far as wealth-only status/power, that's far from true. There's numerous counter-examples. There's the organizations, lawful and criminal, that have power from the fear they strike into people they use force on. There's those in politics and media whose popularity or sway on the people give them their leverage. Wages of such people varies widely. There's people who get power/status just from being in the family of others with status, where they have money or not. There's also job positions, esp in military, that wield status and power without necessarily paying (or wielding) much money. So, that situation is also a bit more complex than it appears.

@ Anura

Keeping labor demand low could be a tool of theirs. Far as 2008, you might want to read this to see that the main party has a long history of pulling stuff like that for profit. So, it might have in fact been a design but I'm going with crash as a side-effect of other evil designs for now.

@ Anura, Sancho_P

Re-skimming the article on Goldman led me to find this nice heuristic: "Western democratic capitalism, which never foresaw that in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy."

Nick PDecember 11, 2014 8:19 PM

@ Skeptical

"Second, food and medicine were explicitly excluded."

Hard to tell. At least they had the wonderful Oil for Food program to fix that. ;)

"Let's also keep in mind that the US also provided no-fly zone and a safe haven for the Kurds in the north, a no-fly zone for the south, and, in 2001, had over $300 million in aid budgeted for Afghanistan."

I keep it in mind. Totally destroy a country economically, but provide a few benefits. The lay people see a balanced equation. They don't get angry. In theory.

"The Iraq invasion occurred two years later and the debate largely centered around WMD."

You're forgetting where Bush added that they sponsored terrorism, including Al Queda. With the terrorism and 9/11 drum being beaten constantly into Americans' minds, this is a clear association to 9/11 to most of them. He backtracked on it later. Yet, at one point, polls showed a huge chunk of soldiers in Iraq thought they were there because Sadaam had something to do with 9/11. So, it's not just me thinking they tied the events together.

"Total US deaths from both Iraq and Afghanistan are 6,717."
"Nope. Estimates vary, but none has the US as killing several hundred thousand innocent Iraqis."

I was going by memory of early estimates talking 20,000+ thousand. You got me there. The recent numbers are 6,000+ U.S. soldiers* dead, 100,000+ civilians in Iraq from best source, and per DOD & USA Today about 1 in 4 veterans needing medical or psychological help for tour in Afghanistan and Iraq. Wikileaks war releases showed even more civilian deaths might have happened and gone unreported, possibly for PR reasons. So, overall might be a reasonable response to a Saudi-funded, mostly Saudi force killing 3,000+ people.

* Does your source count contractors and US citizens? Excluding them was a nice trick in the past to make things look more civil.

"Let's see. According to Bin Laden, the US was part of a Zionist conspiracy that was responsible for the slaughter of Muslims ranging from Bosnia to Chechnya to Somalia. "

The problem is you keep leaving out all our schemes in the Middle East and the effects they have. All for domination and their oil. Take away all religious nutjobs, you still have valid reasons for people wanting to blow us up that are entirely caused by U.S./allied politicians, clandestine/covert operations teams, and our support of a country that's been mass murdering for that land since the Book of Joshua. *Those* are the biggest problems. If we didn't want their resources, we could just blacklist them, blow up any aggressors on occasion, and otherwise ignore the Middle East. Not U.S.'s plan and side effects of that plan are well known.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsDecember 12, 2014 12:07 AM

@ Skeptical

The consequence of complying with his demands would be:
- complete regional chaos and war in the Middle East
- total loss of credibility for the US

This is true of the interventions (war(s)) that the U.S. has executed in the middle east.


But of course, we live in a very imperfect world that does not care in the least about those things (nature is indifferent to human suffering or human flourishing), and we all have imperfect views of that world, and imperfect information about the consequences of our actions. So, we sometimes are faced with hard decisions, about which there can be reasonable disagreement.

Well said--it is difficult when the lenses each of us use to see the world come with a different focal length. Some see the shallows and cannot see the depths and visa-versa. Rarely does one come to this planet with a set of adaptive and active lenses that let them see the top/bottom and sides of any particular situation. I will re-iterate as I do often, there are few facts.

Sancho_PDecember 12, 2014 7:08 PM

@Anura

I’m afraid that “spending and growth” will not help to avoid significant hardship because it didn’t help in the past. It will speed up the process to financial disaster without benefitting the bulk of the population.
On the other hand, the technical improvements would slow down the wasting of resources -
if only these “improvements” wouldn’t be wasteful themselves. Multiplied with increasing population having access to wasteful improvements (see spending and growth) the slow down turns into a massive picking up speed and dangerous waste.
Glad to read your 20-30 years, I’d love that, but our local fisherman say otherwise.

@Clive Robinson

OK, I’ll surrender immediately if you include negative status (lpolice) in the picture.
However, they are only deputies of those with high status, power and wealth, sacrificed at an blink of an eye if necessary (well, usually they have some scapegoats, not to hurt the right ones).
This deputies have only power against us, the lowest in the food chain.
The power can have deadly consequences against a single, probably a handful of individuals - I wouldn’t consider that really powerful.

I don’t know an example for “the worlds richest and most influential people have little or no money in comparison to the assets they hold” but this may be a matter of view on rich / influence / money.

@Nick P

Bilderberg is a good example for cartel-like activity, they are captured in their “growth” thinking (to fill their pockets) but not “planning to hold the masses low” - that’s not their agenda but a consequence of their greed.

I didn’t think of wealth-only status - but wealth only power.
High status without wealth is possible but not “important” - no power.
Status + power needs or results in wealth.
“Much money” always depends on personal view, but I’d consider 250k$ per year as much.

SkepticalDecember 13, 2014 4:16 PM


@Clive: To enter another Sovereign State with hostile intent is an initiating acto of war and is with no doubt an act of war, no ifs no buts no maybes.

Every state has an inherent right of self-defense. Pursuing, and capturing or killing, AQ leadership is an important component of US efforts to defend itself against further attacks. Because Pakistan could not be trusted to apprehend or kill Bin Laden, the US was justified in taking action itself.

@Nick P: Take away all religious nutjobs, you still have valid reasons for people wanting to blow us up that are entirely caused by U.S./allied politicians, clandestine/covert operations teams, and our support of a country that's been mass murdering for that land since the Book of Joshua. *Those* are the biggest problems. If we didn't want their resources, we could just blacklist them, blow up any aggressors on occasion, and otherwise ignore the Middle East. Not U.S.'s plan and side effects of that plan are well known.

I cannot think of any US policy in the Middle East that would justify, in any way, 9/11. So I would disagree that there were "valid reasons" for it.

Nor is ignoring the Middle East really an option - and it certainly wasn't during the Cold War, when the US was far more dependent on their oil than it is today.


Clive RobinsonDecember 14, 2014 7:50 PM

@ Skeptical,

Every state has an inherent right of self-defense. Pursuing, and capturing or killing, AQ leadership is an important component of US efforts to defend itself against further attacks.

Whilst every state has a right to self defence within it's own jurisdiction it has no right to unilaterally enter another state, especialy by personnel or weaponry "under flag" to take any action of any kind. To do so is a primary initiating act of war, and as such is a war crime.

No amount of sophistry on your behalf is going to change this one iota.

As most people will realise there are good and proper reasons why the right to self defence is limited to defensive --not offencive-- action only, because vigilantism is very likely to kill innocent people, and thus give rise to perpetual cycles of violence that are in general only going to escalate.

Thus if a state has reason to believe it is at threat then it aproaches an international tribunal currently the UN Security council with it's case. That's the rules the US signed upto after WWII and nearly every other nation has the right to expect the US to abide by them as they do.

Unfortunatly the UN is flawed in that the permanent members of the security council have veto's. Which might be the reason that states attacked by the US don't apply to the UNSC to have sactions raised against the US for their unlawful behaviour, and knowing this gave rise to the US breaking the rules.

However, there is another option that those involved should consider, as should anybody who might consider such illegal actions in the future. If those who have either been named or have admitted to be amongst those who invaded another state with hostile intent whilst under flag leave the jurisdiction of their home nation then they could be arrested by anybody in the jurisdiction they have traveled to and be taken befor the judiciary and thus be detained for forwarding to the international court to be tried as war criminals.

As certain Israelis have found out, people are quite prepared to do this. Whilst the effect of this is not the same as being in jail or house arrest, as GWB found it can put quite a dent in your plans and feel like you've been tagged for offender management purposes.

SkepticalDecember 16, 2014 7:01 AM


@Clive: Whilst every state has a right to self defence within it's own jurisdiction it has no right to unilaterally enter another state, especialy by personnel or weaponry "under flag" to take any action of any kind. To do so is a primary initiating act of war, and as such is a war crime.

Clive, you are incorrect. Assuming for the sake of argument a valid claim of self-defense, one state is justified in breaching the border of another to effect that defense.

Thus if a state has reason to believe it is at threat then it aproaches an international tribunal currently the UN Security council with it's case. That's the rules the US signed upto after WWII and nearly every other nation has the right to expect the US to abide by them as they do.

The UN Charter notes expressly that "[n]othing in the Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense...." Thus when a hostile force takes harbor in an otherwise neutral country while continuing hostile operations, and that neutral country lacks the capacity or control to eject that hostile force or destroy or capture it, the state under attack may enter that neutral country in order to destroy or capture hostile forces.

Let me take a much clearer case than the raid on Bin Laden, simply to establish the principle. Suppose a Russian fighter jet diverts from orders, the pilot either criminal or crazy, crosses into Swedish airspace, and fires on a crowded concert. The jet rapidly egresses from Swedish airspace, and crosses into Finnish airspace (who are shocked and have yet to scramble any aircraft), where it tracks a course parallel to Swedish airspace (perhaps seeking another target, perhaps heading to the most advantageous point for another intrusion.

In these circumstances, Sweden acts within its inherent right of self-defense, sending its fighters over Finland to engage with the errant Russian jet.

Now, this is a much clearer case than the Bin Laden raid, but it makes clear the principle. And once you agree on the principle, it becomes easier to understand why the Bin Laden raid did not constitute an act of war against Pakistan.

Sancho_PDecember 16, 2014 7:15 PM

@Skeptical:

Too much of TV and computer games.
Compare an old, sick man on his bed to a fighter jet.
Russian of course.

Good old Wild West: White man shoots, red man is dead.
The principle is simple, though: You must not kill.

To be clear:
All would love to stop the jet but no one would - if avoidable in any form.

But they would have never wanted OBL captured / dead, never!
We are not welcome there.
Keep out.

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