Streetwise Professor

October 26, 2013

Rendering Unto Caesar What Is Caesar’s, And Unto Putin What Is Putin’s

Filed under: Economics,Military,Politics,Regulation,Russia — The Professor @ 5:19 pm

The Economist has come a long way since Bagehot.  I said long way, not good way.

The latest case in point: its support for two “whistleblowers”, Edward Snowden and Hervé Falciani:

WHAT Edward Snowden is to mass surveillance, Hervé Falciani is becoming to private banking. In 2008 the now 41-year-old native of Monaco walked out of the Geneva branch of HSBC, where he had worked for three years, clutching five CD-ROMs containing data on thousands of account holders. The theft lobbed a bomb into Europe’s private-banking market, spawning raids and tax-evasion investigations continentwide. In the latest, this week, Belgian agents swooped on the homes of 20 HSBC clients, including some with ties to Antwerp diamond dealers.

I am having a devil of a time trying to reconcile this simultaneous boosterism of Snowden and Falciani.  The pro-Snowden narrative is that he has revealed a vast program of government collection of information on private individuals.  So what did Falciani do?  He stole information on private individuals from his employer, HSBC, and provided it to governments.  So if you are hung up on the government having access to your private information, maybe-maybe-you could lionize Snowden.  But then you’d have to hate on Falciani.  But not The Economist.  It loves both of them.

And here’s a big difference between them. A huge difference, and one that makes The Economist’s position even more bizarre.

In the US and UK, there are extensive measures in place to prevent the information collected by NSA and GCHQ from being used in criminal prosecutions.   Indeed, one of the most recent Snowden leaks is that GCHQ waged a long fight AGAINST using intercepts in criminal prosecutions. (The Guardian is pathetically spinning this as another huge scandal.  WTF?)

But governments, notably the French and German governments (doesn’t that peg the irony meter?) are gleefully using the information Falciani stole from his employer to prosecute individuals.

So I guess intrusive surveillance of your private information, including your financial information, is A-OK with The Economist as long as it is for the purpose of ensuring that you render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.  But collection and retention of some private information (e.g., metadata) that may be used if it is subsequently connected with known terrorists, and only then under rigorous protocols, is somehow an outrage.

Look, people. If you are concerned about your liberty and privacy, you have far more to fear from your country’s tax authorities than its intelligence services.  Quite frankly, the NSA couldn’t give a rat’s ass about your financial affairs, unless those somehow intersect with the financial affairs of terrorists.  The IRS, on the other hand, cares very much.  Very much.

And let’s get one thing straight right now.  Let’s drop any pretense that Snowden’s actions were driven by his deep, deep, deep concern for individual privacy.  Yeah, that was the teaser in his original disclosures: and those disclosures weren’t really news.  That’s the story that he uses to wrap himself in the mantle of righteousness. But virtually every Snowden leak since June has been about US government intelligence operations directed at other countries.  Which is, you know, what intelligence services do.  And which you should be damned glad the NSA, CIA, etc., do in fact do.

If you have any doubts, consider the following.  Snowden stole 30,000 documents from the Defense Intelligence Agency. How is that related to US civil liberties and privacy?  It is infinitely more likely that such documents would be related to the US military’s attempts to monitor and understand and analyze US enemies and potential enemies.  What was my first clue? Maybe “Defense” in the title of the agency whose documents Snowden stole.

And lo and behold, what is the first piece of information released from this ill-gotten trove? A revelation that a NATO country is collecting information on the Russian military:

In one case, for instance, the files contain information about a program run from a NATO country against Russia that provides valuable intelligence for the U.S. Air Force and Navy, said one U.S. official, who requested anonymity to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation. Snowden faces theft and espionage charges.

Let’s shave with Occam’s Razor again, shall we?  Snowden hides out in the Russian consulate in Hong Kong. Snowden decamps to Russia. Snowden hides out with the FSB. (Spare me the BS about him not being in control of Russian security services. I didn’t fall head first off the cabbage truck.) Snowden’s lawyer is a well-known FSB apparatchik. Snowden steals US military intelligence documents. One of these documents is released revealing the cooperation of a NATO country with the US in an intelligence collection operation directed against Russia. (Good!-and I mean good that we’re collecting such information, not that this is being revealed.) Not to mention that many of Snowden’s revelations are wreaking havoc with America’s relationships with its allies.  And never forget Putin’s zero sum mindset: what hurts the US, helps Russia.

So what’s more likely?  That Snowden (and his enablers Poitras and Greenwald) are oh-so-concerned about the privacy of Americans and Europeans and Brazilians? Or that this lot is-and likely has been all along-tools of Putin and Russian intelligence, and are revealing information that is damaging to the US and beneficial to Russian interests?

The Romans had an expression for this: cui bono? The answer in this instance: Putin bono. So Snowden is either a useful idiot, or an active collaborator.  As Orwell would have put it: He is objectively pro-Russian, and pro-Putin.

Snowden and Poitras and Greenwald are rendering unto Putin.  Every damned day. It’s beyond obvious.  But it’s never pointed out, particularly by those who should know better. And yeah.  I’m looking at you, Luke Harding.  Why won’t you investigate the nexus between Snowden and The Mafia State?  It seems a natural.  What are you afraid of?

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  1. Great post. I’m so tired of all this naive, “he’s a hero” BS. You most definitely shaved with the correct razor.

    Comment by AJ — October 26, 2013 @ 7:07 pm

  2. I subscribed to The Economist for about 8 years, and gave up on it altogether in about 2008. Whereas I could see that it may once have been an advocate of small government, free trade, and liberal social values, it’s pretty clear that it’s now a bunch of self-selected elites who think things would be so much better if only they were in charge, but are quite happy for all the regulations and other state apparatus to remain at their disposal. As such, I couldn’t see what they were saying that was so different from a thousand other mainstream commentators – ones that you didn’t need a subscription to read. As I wrote back in 2006, they are as much the Establishment as the BBC:

    Bill Emmott became editor of The Economist in 1993, and on March 31st this year retired from the post.

    Bill Emmott was a graduate of Magdalen College, Oxford and will be replaced by John Micklethwait, who also went to Magdalen College, and before that Ampleforth. The Economist‘s editor between 1974 and 1986 was Andrew Knight, who also went to Ampleforth and Oxford, only he was at Balliol College.

    The only editor to break this pattern was Rupert Pennant-Rea (1986-1993), who went to Manchester University.

    The other reason was that when I moved to Russia I realised their coverage of the country was utter bollocks; they were criticising things which did not happen, and were missing stuff that would have been obvious to anyone that was living there. It pained considerably to find myself agreeing with the blogs which arse-lick Putin when they broached the subject of The Economist. And so I realised that, like I did with all other media sources, that if they get the stuff I know about wrong, the rest of their output is likely to be bollocks as well.

    Comment by Tim Newman — October 27, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

  3. @Tim-very interesting. It all sounds very incestuous. And your inference based on your comparison of what you knew to what they said was almost certainly correct.

    I am only a superficial observer of the UK, but what you describe re the Economist would seem to apply with equal force to the Tory Party. A self-referential, self-promoting, self-protective elite, living in its own bubble and doing everything it can to keep that bubble from being burst.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 27, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

  4. It’s not just the Tory party, it’s what I loosely call the Ruling Classes, or the Establishment. They are a group of individuals who have remarkably similar backgrounds: privately educated, went to Oxbridge, from privileged backgrounds, etc. who then go into politics, media, law, or corporations favoured by the government. In this regard, those who make up the upper ranks of the Tory party are indistinguishable from their counterparts in the Labour party, and equally indistinguishable from those in the BBC, for example. Most have never done a proper job in their lives, and those who go into “business” usually choose corporations which are hog-tied to government regulations or hand-outs, before moving into a consultancy role with the government to drum up more business for their mates in the company they’ve left behind. Regardless of how badly these elites fuck up, they *never* fall: within 6 months, they’re back in another cushy role somewhere. The Economist is as much a part of this as they pretend otherwise.

    It’s not a conspiracy as such, it’s simply that people born into a certain elite class are helped by others just like them, and selected over and above any outsider. This is why the fuckwittery you see in the UK is repeated across government, media, and business alike. As you say, it is very incestuous with very little diversity.

    Comment by Tim Newman — October 27, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

  5. “Snowden and Poitras and Greenwald are rendering unto Putin.” Unfortunately it does seem so, more and more as time goes by. Even though Snowden’s intentions were completely different at first (perhaps).

    Comment by Alex K. — October 30, 2013 @ 10:11 am

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