Brazil gives go-ahead to 31 solar parks in push for new energy
Author: Marcelo Teixeira of Reuters
Brazil finally entered the solar power sector on Friday, granting contracts for the construction of 31 solar parks as it tries to diversify its sources of generation amid an energy crisis caused by the worst drought in eight decades.
Brazil’s energy regulator, Aneel, concluded its first exclusive solar power auction on Friday, clinching 20-year energy supply contracts with companies that will invest 4.14 billion reais ($1.67 billion) and start to feed the national grid in 2017.
The 31 solar parks, the first large-scale solar projects to be constructed in Brazil, will have a combined installed capacity of 1,048 megawatts (MW). Market expectations were for projected total awards of 500 MW.
“This auction is a mark, not only because it signals the entrance of solar power in the Brazilian energy mix, but because it was one of the most competitive to date,” said Mauricio Tolmasquim, head of the government’s energy research company, EPE.
The auction lasted more than eight hours. The final price for solar power came at around 220 reais ($89) per megawatt-hour, against an initial price of 262 reais ($106), an 18 percent discount.
“This is one of the lowest prices for solar energy in the world,” Tolmasquim said.
According to Tolmasquim, costs were reduced because of the strong solar radiation factor in Brazil and because many solar parks would be installed in areas that already have wind farms, reducing the amount developers would spend on land and transmission lines.
In Brazil’s power auctions, the government sets a maximum price for the megawatt-hour and companies bid down the price at which they are willing to sell energy. Companies that offer the lowest prices win the contracts.
Solar power developers have participated in previous auctions, but because they were competing against cheaper sources, such as wind and hydroelectric plants, they never succeeded in winning contracts.
This time, the government allocated a specific amount of energy to be produced by solar parks, trying to spur development of a local industry and in the long term reduce costs for projects, as it did with wind power some years ago.
Currently, wind power companies win most of the contracts in the regular auctions, with prices per megawatt-hour that are lower than thermal projects fueled by coal or natural gas.
Brazil’s power system has traditionally been composed by a network of large hydro power plants, but almost three years of well below-average rains have depleted reservoirs and sent the country scrambling to diversify its energy matrix.
An expensive, fossil-fueled emergency network of thermal power plants has shored up supply, but at the cost of tarnishing the country’s reputation as a renewable energy producer and consumer.
The government has been criticized by environmental groups for taking so long to enlist solar power in its energy matrix, because of Brazil’s excellent potential for solar.
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With Interference from Breaking News from the battle fields in the Ukraine and the Muslim World – the US and Russia are at Cold War level; Israel has already 20 dead (two civilians) and dozens wounded – Fareed Zakaria on CNN/Global Public Square did his best this Sunday July 20, 2014, to try to make sense from the present global wars.
I will try to reorganize the material into a neat tableau that can be viewed as a whole.
Fareed’s own introduction was about what happened in recent years is a “democratization of violence” that created an asymmetry like in Al Qaeda’s 9/11 where each of their one dollar generated the need for 7 million dollars to be spent by the US in order to counter-react.Thus, before, it was armies of States that were needed to have a war – now everyone can cause it with a pauper’s means.
Then he continued by saying that this is NOT what happened in Ukraine. There Putin was trying to fake it, by using his resources large State resources to create from former Russian soldiers a “rebel force in the Ukraine.” The Kremlin is operating the rebels in a situation where the military expenditures by Russia, which are 35 times larger then those of the Ukraine, take care of the expenditures of this war.
But where Vladimir Putin miscalculated – it is that he did not realize that when he takes the ginny of Nationalism out of his dark box, he will never be able to cause it to go back. Putin unleashed both – Russian and Ukrainian Nationalism and it might be that by now he is no boss over the outcome anymore.
Let us face it – G.W. Bush played a similar game in Iraq and Afghanistan and the US will not be master in the Middle East anymore. Zbigniew Brzezinski was asked on the program what should Obama do?
He thinks this is a historical defining moment that allows still to Putin to redeem himself. It is for him – rather then somebody else – to call for an International tribunal and allow open investigation by telling the pro-Russians in the Ukraine, whom he supported and provided them with arms, that they crossed the line. Brzezinski says this is a situation for Europe like it was before WWII.
The issue is that the Europeans are not yet behind the US. London is a Las Vegas for the Russians, France supplies them military goods, it was a German Chancellor before Merkel who made Europe dependent on Rusian gas. Without being clearly united behind the US, the West will get nowhere.
On the other hand – Russia, seeing the sanctions coming, sees the prospect of becoming a China satellite if sanctions go into effect. Not a great prospect for itself either.
So, the answer is Obama leadership to be backed by the Europeans and Putin making steps to smooth out the situation and redeem himself. This is the only way to save the old order.
Steven Cohen, Professor on Russia at Princeton: The US is in a complicated situation by having backed fully the Ukrainian government.
It is the US that pushed Putin to take his positions. The Ukraine is a divided country and the story is not just a recent development. Putin cannot just walk away from the separatists in the Ukraine – they will not listen to him.The reality in the Ukraine, as per Professor Cohen, is very complex and there are no good guys there – basically just a complex reality that was exploited from the outside.
Christa Freeland, a famous journalist, who is now a Canadian member of Parliament, and traveled many times to the Ukraine, completely disagrees with Cohen and says a US leadership is imperative.
Our feeling is that all this discussion goes on as if it were in a vacuum – the true reality is that in the Globalized World we are far beyond the post WWII configuration that was just Trans-Atlantic with a Eurasian Continental spur going to China and Japan. What has happened since is the RISE OF THE REST OF THE WORLD – with China, india, Brazil, and even South Africa, telling the West that besides dealing with Russia the West must deal with them as well !! The BRICS meeting in Fortaleza (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) where this week they established a $50 Billion alternative to the World Bank and a $100 Billion alternative to the IMF, ought to be part of the negotiation in the US and at the EU Member States when talking about a post-Ukraine-flare-up World. The timing may have been coincidental – but the build-up was not.
These days there is the celebration of 70 years (1–22 July 1944) of the establishing of the Bretton Woods agreements system that created the old institutions that can be changed only with the help of US Congress – something that just will not happen.Those are the World Bank and the IMF – but In the meantime China has become the World’s largest economy and they still have less voting power at the World Bank then the three BENELUX countries. The BRICS do not accept anymore the domination of the US dollar over their economies. If nothing else they want a seat at the table, and detest the fact that three out of five are not even at the UN Security Council.
So, the New World Order will have to account for this Rise of the Rest having had the old order based just on the West.
Further on today’s program, Paul Krugman a very wise man, a Nobel Prize holder in Economics, was brought in to show a quick take on the economy. He made it clear that there is an improvement but it is by far not enough.
It is more half empty then half full because by now it should have been better. But he stressed that despite the interference, Obamacare works better and ahead of expectations. Even premiums rise slower then before.
Yes, there are some losers, but this is a narrow group of young and healthy, but people that were supposed to be helped are helped.
On energy – yes – renewable costs are lower then expected.
Obama’s grade? Over all B or B-, but on what he endured from the opposition A-. Yes, we can trust Obama to decide the correct moves – and on International and Foreign Policy the White House has freer hands then in Internal, National, policy. His presidency is the most consequential since Ronald Reagan – whatever we think of Reagan – but in Obama’s case, he will leave behind a legacy of the country having been involved in less disasters, but leaving behind more achievements – be those in health-care, environment, finances, energy, migration, etc. then any President of the last 40 years. But where does this leave him in relation to the Rest of the World?
As reported by Irith Jawetz from the Vienna Seminar., July 1, 2014.
Seminar: “Brazil’s Nuclear Kaleidoscope: An Evolving Identity.”
On Tuesday, July 1, 2014, The Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) hosted a seminar by Dr. Todzan Kassenova, that had the above title. It was both – important and informative.
Dr. Kassenova is an Associate in the Nuclear Program at the Carnegie Endowment based in Washington DC. She currently works on issues related to the role of emerging powers in the global nuclear order, weapons of mass destruction, non proliferation, nuclear security, and strategic trade management. She also serves on the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament matters.
Prior to joining the Carnegie Endowment, Dr. Kassenova worked as senior research associate at the Center for International Trade and Security in Washington DC, as a postdoctoral fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, and as an Adjunct faculty member at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
Previously she was a journalist and professor in her native Kazakhstan.
Today’s seminar focused on Dr. Kassenova’s recently published a research paper on this topic – on which she worked for two years – it focuses on focusing on Brazil’s Nuclear program.
In order to do some justice to that very involved topic, we would just highlight a few points from that research study.
For the electronic copy of the report please visit CarnegieEndowment.org
An important point Dr. Kassenova stressed at the very beginning of her talk was that negative past experiences explain why Brazil seeks nuclear independence. Brazil tried first to obtain nuclear technology from abroad, i.e. France, Germany, the USA, prompting Brasilia to develop domestic capabilities.
Currently Brazil mines uranium, produces nuclear fuel, operates two nuclear power plants and is building a third.
The Brazilian navy is important in the nuclear field as well, it developed uranium conversion and enrichment technology, and since the 1970s has been working on a nuclear powered submarine.
The nuclear submarine program is essential in order to protect Brazil’s coast and offshore natural resources, and to stave off potential enemies from the sea. Brazil wants to bolster its international standing with that program.
Rivalry with Argentina was initially a drive of Brazil’s nuclear program. Today both countries work together in a bilateral nuclear safeguards regime to verify their nuclear activities are peaceful.
Brazil has not signed an IAEA Additional Protocol on nuclear safeguards because it is reluctant to accept additional non proliferation obligations as long as nuclear weapon states do not achieve meaningful progress towards nuclear disarmament.
Brazil’s nuclear policy, especially its advanced nuclear fuel cycle and its nuclear powered submarine project generate attention internationally, but little is known about the domestic drives behind that program. Dr. Kassenova based her study on numerous conversations over two years with Brazilian policy experts, academics, former and current officials, and representatives of the nuclear industry.
For more information, please log on to Dr. Kassenova’s full report at: carnegieendowment.org/2014/03/12/brazil-s-nuclear-kaleidoscope-evolving-identity/h2rx.
Our week-end update is Bravo Colombia for eliminating Uruguay that advanced thanks to one of their players biting an Italian player before that game was over – then scored one more goal. We did not see any clear excuse on part of Uruguay for the misdeed – that is for the third time a repeating crazy activity on the part of that player.
Brazil failed by not taking clear stand on a crime committed on its territory and on its watch as hosts of these games.
FIFA failed miserably by eliminating only the culprit player and this only for the rest of this com petition. They did not even make the minimum effort of recommending psychiatric treatment for the player who was left rejoining a British or Spanish team that might think they can now bask in his increased fame. Only decent reaction we found from advertisers that used his fame as a player for their TV adds. Some already pulled of those advertisements hitting him in his pockets. But how long will this last?FIFA must be restructured and the fact that there are allegations of bribery against their executive just increases the call for personnel change in that organization. Only clean sport should prevail. The present situation is not sustainable.
Luis Suarez Apologizes For Biting Rival At World Cup
by Krishnadev Calamur
Luis Suarez holds his teeth after biting Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder during last week’s World Cup match between Italy and Uruguay in Brazil. FIFA has banned Suarez for nine games and four months over the incident.
Ricardo Mazalan/APUpdated at 2:14 p.m. E
Controversial Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez apologized Monday for in last week’s World Cup soccer game between their two countries.
FIFA, soccer’s governing body, for nine games and fined him 100,000 Swiss francs (about $112,000) for the act, and banned him from any soccer activity for four months. Uruguay, playing without their star player on Saturday, in the knockout stage of the World Cup being held in Brazil.
Chiellini himself said he thought the ban was “,” and on Monday, responding to Suarez’s tweet, he tweeted: “I hope FIFA will reduce your suspension.”
——————————– THESE ARE REACTIONS IN THE WORLD OF THE BUSINESS OF FOOTBALL/SOCCER NOT IN THE WORLD OF ETHICS.
Why Luis Suarez should be banned from the remainder of the World Cup
World Soccer Spotlight
Why Luis Suarez should be banned from the remainder of the World Cup
Iran makes arrests for World Cup celebration video
Uruguayan media makes no mention of Suarez bite
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — As the world was judging Uruguay‘s Luis Suarez for biting a player in the World Cup, his teammates, coaches and fans in World Cup organizers scrambled Wednesday to quickly decide on a punishment before Uruguay plays Colombia Saturday in the round of 16.
”We have to resolve it either today or tomorrow,” FIFA disciplinary panel member Martin Hong told reporters Wednesday.
”It’s our duty to see justice done.”
The disciplinary committee meeting was already underway on Wednesday evening, FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer said.
Wilmar Valdez, Uruguay football federation president, told the Associated Press shortly after midnight local time that the disciplinary hearing will continue Thursday morning.
”What we know is they (the disciplinary panel) met for a long time,” he said. ”We don’t know if that’s a good or a bad situation.’
”Luis is fine. He’s been through 1001 battles,” he told the online site Tenfield.com on Wednesday. ”We all know who Luis is and that’s why we have to defend him.”
The bite – just before Uruguay scored the clinching goal to eliminate the four-time champion Italians -will now test FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s often-stated commitment to ”fair play, discipline, respect.”
Blatter, who was in the crowd for the Uruguay-Italy match at Natal, has pledged a zero tolerance for the darker side of the game.
Many are questioning where that leaves a player like Suarez, who has a history of disciplinary problems including separate bans of seven and 10 matches for biting opponents in the Netherlands and England.
Valdez said Uruguay officials were sent a video of the incident by FIFA, and would respond with footage showing Suarez – a striker for Liverpool and last season’s player of the year in England’s Premier League – as a victim of Italian aggression.
”When he falls, several substitutes insult him on the ground and some members of Italy’s staff even came out of the bench to try to hit him,” Valdez said, suggesting FIFA could investigate Italy.
Uruguay also will cite Brazil star Neymar getting only a yellow card in a clash with a Croatia player, Valdez said.
Uruguay federation board member Alejandro Balbi, who is Suarez’s lawyer, blamed European media reporting.
”This happened because there have been campaigns launched by the media in England and Italy,” Balbi told Uruguayan radio Sport 890.
Uruguay’s Luis Suarez holds his teeth after running into Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini’s sho …
”The British media has a vendetta against Suarez, and everyone knows that,” he said. ”It’s obvious the vendetta sells newspapers in England, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Uruguay and Italy played yesterday. On Saturday Uruguay plays Colombia, I don’t know why there’s a British journalist asking about Suarez.”
Lugano said he had seen ”much more violent plays” than the bite at the World Cup.
”It was a normal taunt in football, and the world press ends up talking about something totally trivial,” he said.
FIFA’s case against Suarez – announced early Wednesday – will be managed by a Swiss lawyer, Claudio Sulser, chairman of the FIFA disciplinary committee. A former international forward himself, Sulser has worked for four years at FIFA, first as head of its ethics court.
10ThingstoSeeSports – Uruguay’s Luis Suarez holds his teeth after running into Italy’s Giorg …
Sulser can choose to judge the offense within the scale of typical red-card incidents: A three-match ban may then be appropriate, banishing Suarez at least until the World Cup final should Uruguay advance that far.
The maximum penalty would be a ban of 24 international matches.
FIFA can also choose to ban Suarez for up to two years. That would cover club and international games and would ruin a widely speculated transfer to Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Suarez and the Uruguay football federation had until 5 p.m. local time Wednesday (4 p.m. EDT/2000 GMT) to present a documented defense.
Completing the case ahead of Saturday’s match could be complicated if Suarez appeals. That challenge could go direct to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland for an urgent and binding ruling.
Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini displays his shoulder showing apparent teeth marks after colliding wit …
However, one option open to FIFA and Sulser to avoid that scenario is that a suspension of ”fewer than three matches or of up to two months” cannot be appealed, according to FIFA rules.
Already, one of Suarez’s sponsors said it was ”reviewing our relationship with him.”
”We will not tolerate unsporting behavior,” 888poker said in a Twitter message.
Last month, the firm announced a global endorsement contract with Suarez, a poker enthusiast.
adidas, which also has Suarez as a client and is FIFA’s longest standing World Cup sponsor, said it was monitoring the case.
Meanwhile, Suarez was criticized by a Uruguay football great Alcides Ghiggia, the last survivor of the team which defeated Brazil to win the 1950 World Cup.
Suarez ”plays well but he has done things that are not normal for a player nor for a soccer game,” Ghiggia told The AP. ”I think FIFA can sanction him.”
AP Sports Writer Rob Harris in Rio de Janeiro and Associated Press writer Leonardo Haberkorn in Montevideo, Uruguay, contributed to this report
PRESS RELEASE: Brazil Kicks Off Carbon Neutral Goal for FIFA World Cup.
(16 April 2014) – The globe’s biggest sporting event – the FIFA World Cup – is aiming to offset its greenhouse gas emissions this summer in a move that should inspire more event organizers to undertake high-profile climate action.
The Government of Brazil has announced an initiative encouraging holders of carbon credits from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), called certified emission reductions (CERs), to donate them to organizers to offset emissions from construction and renovation of stadia, consumption of fossil fuels from official and public transport, and other sources.
By some estimates, offsetting these sources of emissions – just during the days of the Soccer Championship games – would require above one million CERs or more, depending on what was covered in the calculation. That would be equivalent to taking nearly 300,000 passenger cars off the road for a year.
“Brazil’s call for carbon credits to offset emissions from the world’s largest mass spectator event is a welcome move and part of a global trend by organizers to green big sporting events like football tournaments and the Olympics,” said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) after being informed of the news.
It has also been reported that FIFA is planning to offset the emissions of officials and fans by perhaps buying carbon offsets.
”I wish Brazil and FIFA every success in their endeavors and look forward to a rigorous assessment after the final whistle blows on what was actually achieved in respect to climate neutrality. Big sporting events are increasingly winning green medals for their environmental performance. In doing so they can inspire the wider society towards climate action in support of a better world,” added Ms. Figueres.
All donated credits must originate from Brazilian CDM projects. Nearly 150 Brazilian CDM projects have issued more than 90 million CERs; an estimated 14 million of these could be available for donation. Each CER is equal to one tonne of avoided carbon dioxide. The smallest accepted donation is 5,000 CERs and donors will receive an official certificate acknowledging their contribution to offsetting the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Since being established as part of the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s first emissions reduction treaty, more than 7,600 CDM projects and programmes in 105 developing countries have been approved.
These range from projects that reduce emissions by replacing inefficient wood stoves and ones improving energy efficiency to solar, wind and hydro power projects. The CDM to date has generated more than 1.4 billion CERs and has driven climate-focused investment worth $396 billion.
“When emission reductions come with other benefits, such as technology transfer, sustainable energy, increased household prosperity, clean air, education, or spur other types of sustainable development, then clearly this is in the best interest of everyone, in developed and developing countries,” said Hugh Sealy, Chair of the Executive Board that oversees the CDM. “The CDM delivers these kinds of benefits, so companies that use CDM offsets are doing the right thing and have a great story to tell.”
The Executive Board Chair made the remarks at the close of the Board’s most recent meeting, which gave the green light to an initiative intended to increase CDM’s use by environmentally aware emitters in the private and public sector. The initiative will include a range of outreach activities and communication efforts in the coming two years, including encouraging events like the FIFA World Cup to offset emissions using the UN-certified emission reductions.
“Measuring and reducing emissions is the responsibility of all companies
and significant emitters. Investors, customers and a fast-growing
proportion of the public expect it,” said Dr. Sealy. “The use of offsets
offers a cost-effective way to approach climate neutrality by going outside
the company boundaries and investing in emission reductions elsewhere.”
The value of CERs has in recent years gone down as demand has fallen, due ultimately to countries’ level of ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A new universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015 could make mechanisms like the CDM indispensable as a means to mobilize investment to reduce emissions and spur development.
More information: www.mma.gov.br/governanca-ambiental/copa-verde/nucleo-mudancas-climaticas/item/10076
News release from the Brazilian government: www.mma.gov.br/informma/item/10081-mma-chama-empresas-interessadas-na-doa%C3%A7%C3%A3o-de-cr%C3%A9ditos-de-carbono-para-copa
About the CDM:
The CDM allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to earn
certified emission reductions (CERs), each equivalent to one tonne of CO2.
CERs can be traded and sold, and used by industrialized countries to meet a
part of their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. With
more than 7,600 registered projects and programmes in 105 developing
countries, the CDM has proven to be a powerful mechanism to deliver finance
for emission-reduction projects and contribute to sustainable development.
About the UNFCCC: With 195 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 192 of the UNFCCC Parties. For the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments. In Doha in 2012, the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol adopted an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, which establishes the second commitment period under the Protocol. The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.
Professor Timmons Roberts and I would like to share with you our new policy paper published by Brookings Institution on Chinese-Latin American relations in a carbon constrained world.
The paper can be downloaded here: www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2014/03/carbon-partnership-china-latin-america-edwards-roberts
Below we include the executive summary:
China’s rapidly increasing investment, trade and loans in Latin America may be entrenching high-carbon development pathways in the region, a trend scarcely mentioned in policy circles. High-carbon activities include the extraction of fossil fuels and other natural resources, expansion of large-scale agriculture and the energy-intensive stages of processing natural resources into intermediate goods.
This paper addresses three examples, including Chinese investments in Venezuela’s oil sector and a Costa Rican oil refinery, and Chinese investment in and purchases of Brazilian soybeans. We pose the question of whether there is a tie between China’s role in opening up vast resources in Latin America and the way those nations make national climate policy and how they behave at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations.
China and Latin America have a critical role to play to ensure progress is made before the 2015 deadline, since they together account for approximately 40 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Several Latin American nations are world leaders in having reached high levels of human development while emitting very low levels of greenhouse gases. Several have publicly committed to ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. Staying on or moving to low-carbon pathways is critical for these countries, but substantial Chinese investments in natural resources and commodities—when combined with those of other nations and firms—run the risk of taking the region in an unsustainable direction.
Chinese investments and imports of Latin American commodities may be strengthening the relative power of political and commercial domestic constituencies and of “dirty” ministries (e.g. ministries of mining, agriculture or energy) vis-à-vis environmental and climate change ministries and departments. These “cleaner” ministries are traditionally weak and marginalized actors in the region. China may thus be inadvertently undermining Latin American countries’ attempts to promote climate change policies by reinforcing and strengthening actors within those countries and governments that do not prioritize climate change and who have often seen environmental efforts as an impediment to economic growth.
China has stated that it is interested in cooperating with Latin America on combating climate change, but official bilateral or multilateral exchanges on the issue outside of the UNFCCC negotiations have been limited. Both China and Latin America could benefit substantially by refocusing on opportunities for low-carbon growth such as renewable energy. China’s growing influence in global renewable energy markets presents excellent opportunities to invest in clean energy in Latin America.
China and Latin American countries could launch a climate change initiative through the newly created China-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Forum, focused on financing the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry, energy and transport, as well as sharing technology and strategies for adapting to climate impacts. Chinese-Latin American relations should also mainstream environmental protection and low-carbon sustainable growth into their partnership, to avoid pushing countries in the region towards high-carbon pathways.
Research FellowCenter for Environmental Studies
Co-Director of the Climate and Development Lab
135 Angell Street
Providence, RI 02912
Since 2006, the price of quinoa has tripled and in Lima, Peru, the once unheard of grain now costs more than chicken. Overseas demand for the grain continues to grow which is all putting pressure on land in Peru and Bolivia that once produced a diverse range of crops to simply harvest quinoa. Writing in the Guardian, investigative journalist Joanna Blythman states: “the quinoa trade is yet another troubling example of a damaging north-south exchange, with well-intentioned health and ethics-led consumers here unwittingly driving poverty there. It’s beginning to look like a cautionary tale of how a focus on exporting premium foods can damage the producer country’s food security. ”
Another example that Blythman highlights is that Peruvian asparagus which is grown in the arid Ica region has depleted water resources on which the locals depend. She also adds that soya production is now one of the two main causes of deforestation in South America along with cattle ranching. It is worth pointing out however that according to a UN report in 2006, 97% of soya production was used for animal feed and not to fill vegetarian’s fridges. Even so, the food insecurity caused by the rising popularity of Quinoa is troubling and highlights the need for a more localised approach to food production and consumption. Especially when we are importing from countries with high poverty rates.
FROM COHA – The Washington DC based Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
Photo Source: AP.
NOW IT IS THE TIME FOR A WASHINGTON—CARACAS DIALOG, NOT SANCTIONS.
By: Larry Birns, Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs; Frederick B. Mills, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and Professor of Philosophy at Bowie State University.
February 28, 2014
At a time when Washington ought to seize upon overtures from Caracas for the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations and direct talks, the champions of the antiquated embargo against Cuba in the Senate are calling for sanctions against Venezuela. Such an approach to diplomacy with Venezuela would be detrimental to the development of a more constructive and mutually respectful US policy towards the region. Now is the time for a Washington—Caracas dialog, not sanctions.
Democratic Senator Bob Menéndez and Republican Senator Marco Rubio have introduced a proposed resolution in the Senate that would call on the Obama administration to study sanctions against Venezuela. The sanctions would be aimed at punishing “the violent repression suffered by pacific protesters” by targeting individual Venezuelan government officials. Of course, any state actors responsible for the repression of pacific demonstrations ought to be held accountable not only in Venezuela, but anywhere in the world. Indeed, the Venezuelan government is already taking steps to address this. The problem with the resolution is that it reflects a very myopic view of political violence in that nation. It also reflects an unproductive approach to diplomacy towards Venezuela as well as the region.
Not all demonstrations have been pacific. A significant amount of the violent demonstrations are ostensively anti- government. The “exit” strategy being sought after by the ultra-right in Venezuela has generated violent anti-government demonstrations that have called for regime change through extra constitutional means. In other words, through a coup or by creating the escalating violence on the ground that might provoke a coup or an international intervention.
No doubt opposition demonstrators are not a homogeneous group and many prescribe to non-violent means of protesting. Yet it is indisputable that elements of anti-government protests, using the slogans of “exit,” have deployed incendiary bombs, rocks, guns, barricades, wire, and other instruments of violence against government and public property as well as people, resulting in injuries and death. But those who have resorted to violence are most often portrayed in the press as responding to repression, as if the government has no legitimate recourse in response to violent attacks on persons and property. To be sure, violence is generally condemned by the State Department, but accountability is selectively applied predominantly to government actors.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has been calling for a change of course in US policy towards Venezuela and the rest of the region based on mutual respect and dialog, not imperial intervention and subordination.
It was Caracas that instigated the tit for tat after the expulsion of consular officials, and COHA called the expulsion of US consular officials into question at the time. But now President Maduro has proposed a new ambassador to the US and direct talks with the Obama administration. The State Department has also, on occasion, expressed an openness to rapprochement, so now is the time to seize the moment, not wait to see which way the political winds will blow in Venezuela.
There is obviously a great ideological divide between nations that prescribe to some version of neoliberalism and those engaging in various experiments in 21st century socialism. Yet such differences need not translate into either hard or soft wars. At the January CELAC meeting in Cuba, the member states, despite their political differences, figured out a way to declare all of Latin America a region of peace and mutual respect. Meanwhile, there is a national peace conference underway in Caracas, called by the government, that commenced two days ago and includes an increasingly broad spectrum of opinion in the opposition, and seeks to overcome the boycott of the MUD. This will take a pull back against war and for political competition through the ballot box.
Surely, in this context, there is room for Washington-Caracas diplomacy. Rather than impose sanctions on Venezuela, Washington ought to accept the proposed Venezuelan ambassador and enter into a dialog with Caracas based on mutual respect and the common goal of regional peace and human development.
Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution.
UNITED NATIONS, February 25 — When Bolivia’s Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera spoke to the media on February 25, he was setting the stage for the Group of 77 and China summit set for Santa Cruz in June.
Inner City Press asked him if at the Summit G77 will adopt a position on what should be in the Sustainable Development Goals, and for his response to comments about Bolivia by the International Monetary Fund which Inner City Press reported back on February 10.
He replied that Bolivia doesn’t much care what the IMF says, that if they criticize the country for being too pro-poor, that’s a matter of pride, they are going to do more of it. [Tweeted photo here; higher resolution photos by Free UN Coalition for Access member Luiz Rampelotto, to follow.]
Back on February 10, the IMF had just released its Article IV review of Bolivia, in which it criticized the country’s new Financial Services Law, specifically that
“the law’s general thrust is to subordinate financial sector activities to social objectives with instruments that could create risks to financial stability. Main features of the law include: (i) provisions to regulate lending rates and set minimum lending quotas for the productive sector and social housing; (ii) discretion to set floors on deposit rates; and (iii) mechanisms to enhance consumer protection and financial access in rural areas.”
The IMF Article IV staff report says they met with “Minister of Economy and Public Finances Arce, Central Bank President Zabalaga, Minister of Planning Caro, other senior public officials, and representatives of the private sector. Mr. Tamez and Ms. Kroytor (LEG) provided inputs on the new Financial Services Law at headquarters.”
The IMF staff report also says that “the instruments chosen (interest rate caps and minimum credit quotas) could reduce the profitability and lending funds of financial institutions, over-leverage target beneficiaries, and complicate the conduct of monetary policy.”
Ms. Corbacho of the IMF, on the February 10 embargoed press conference call, largely in Spanish, on which only three media asked questions, replied that Bolivia for example capping interest rates might impact financial institution’s profitability and thus “financial stability.”
She said the government responded that financial inclusion has not progressed fast enough and so they are taking these steps. She the Article IV discussion, which are held with each IMF member, were “very open and frank” with Bolivia, and thus positive.
To Inner City Press, the IMF’s willingness to criticize consumer protection in Bolivia stands in contrast to the IMF’s deference to the US on the how to manage and communicate the Federal Reserve’s tapering, the debt ceiling — anything, essentially.
On February 25, Bolivia’s Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera,with his UN Permanent Representative Sacha Llorenti translating, described this is a key time for sustainable development, and that the G77 and China will play a key role, since it has 133 members (2/3 of the UN membership) and represents 70% of the world’s population.
Given that, it was noteworthy that the pro-Western “United Nations Correspondents Association” did not send a single one of their 15 Executive Committee members to the briefing by Bolivia’s vice president about the Group of 77 and China. Tellingly, UNCA last July used the big third floor room the UN gives them to host Saudi-supported Syria rebel leader Ahmad al Jarba for a faux “UN briefing.”
In the same room, also tellingly, the outgoing UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky will hold his farewell on March 7. His deputy Eduardo del Buey held his farewell, more appropriately, in the UN Spokesperson’s office. But this UN is going more and more Gulf and Western, with its spokesperson’s job now passing to France.
We’ll have more on this — for now, we will link to Bolivia’s Vice President’s comments on G77, and on the IMF.
SustainabiliTank actually expected the Bolivian VP to touch also upon the meetings of the SIDS, but seemingly there wee no questions to him on this topic.
*Vijay Prashad is the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.
With Bashar Assad arguing that this is a war against terrorism, and the rebels arguing that this is a war against authoritarianism, no agreement can come of the peace talks on Syria.
Geneva 2’s mood mirrored the sound of mortar and despair on the ground in Syria. Not much of substance came of the former, as the U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi tiredly indicated that diplomacy continued despite the lack of a breakthrough. He hoped that the United States and the Russians would pressure their clients to remain at the table, from where, for three weeks, little of value has emerged. No agreement can come of these peace talks for at least two reasons. First, the government of Bashar Assad and the rebel coalition do not agree on the interpretation of the conflict. Mr. Assad argues that this is a war against terrorism (Al-Qaeda), while the rebels argue that this is a war against authoritarianism (the Assad government). Second, the rebels themselves are deeply fractured, with the Islamists in Syria who are doing the brunt of the fighting indisposed to any peace talks.
Mr. Brahimi hoped that humanitarian relief would be the glue to hold the two sides together. Residents in the old city of Homs and in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Yarmouk in Damascus have been under siege for two years. It was hoped that safe passage could be provided for food and medicine, but this was not accomplished. U.N. and Islamic Red Cross workers bravely avoided snipers and shells to transport food and medicines to the Syrians; children among them stared at fresh fruit, unsure of what to do with it. Absent momentum from Geneva, the options for a regional solution are back on the table.
Role for India, China?
In 2012, Egypt convened the Syria Contact Group that comprised Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — unlikely partners. Pressure from the U.S. and Russia at that time closed down the Group. Today, the regional partners seek an exit from their exaggerated postures over Syria, but there is no diplomatic space for them to act. It falls to powers that are untainted by the war, perhaps China and India, to call for a meeting — a Beijing or New Delhi summit — to craft a serious agenda to pressure all sides to a ceasefire and a credible political process.
The war is now fought less on the ground and more over its interpretation. Expectations of a hasty collapse of the government withdraw as the Syrian Army takes Jarajir, along the Lebanon border. Islamists groups continue to fight against each other in the north, weakening their firepower as the Syrian army watches from the sidelines. The emboldened Syrian government has now stepped up its rhetoric about this war being essentially one against terrorists with affiliation to al-Qaeda. Ears that once rejected this narrative in the West and Turkey are now increasingly sympathetic to it. As the Islamists suffocate the rebellion, it becomes hard to champion them against the government. Focus has moved away from the prisons and barrel bombs of the government to the executions and social policies of the Islamists.
A year ago, the West and Turkey would have scoffed at talk of terrorism as the fantasy of the Assad government. The West and the Gulf Arabs had opened their coffers to the rebels, knowing full well that they were incubating the growth of the Islamist factions at the expense of the secular opposition. Turkey’s government of Recep Tayyip Erdog?an micromanaged the opposition, provided bases in Turkey and allowed well-armed fighters to slip across the border into Syria. By early 2012, it had become a common sight to see well-armed Islamist fighters in the streets of Antakya and in the refugee camps in Hatay Province. The seeds of what was to come — the entry of al-Qaeda into Syria — was set by an opportunistic and poorly conceived policy by Erdog?an’s government. It did not help that his otherwise well-spoken and highly-regarded Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutog?lu began to refer to Syria’s Alawites (Mr. Assad’s community) as Nusayri, a derogatory sectarian term. Turkey joined U.S., Europe and Gulf Arab calls for Mr. Assad’s departure well before the numbers of those dead climbed above the thousands. Nervousness about the spread of al-Qaeda to Syria has made the rebels’ patrons edge closer to the Damascus narrative. The U.S. government wishes to arm the Iraqi government with Hellfire missiles and drones to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq’s Anbar Province. Britain has said that any fighter who comes back from Syria will be arrested (last week, a Sussex man — Abu Suleiman al-Britani — conducted a suicide operation in Aleppo). The Saudi Royal Court decreed that any Saudi found to have waged jihad abroad could spend up to 20 years in prison.
General Mansour al-Turki of the Saudi Interior Ministry said: “We are trying to stop everyone who wants to go to Syria, but we can’t stop leaks.” The Turkish Armed Forces fired on an ISIS convoy on January 28 inside Syria, and told the government in a report prepared jointly with the Turkish National Intelligence agency that al-Qaeda had made credible threats on Turkey.
Mr. Erdog?an hastened to Tehran to meet the new Iranian leadership — their public comments were on trade, but their private meetings were all on Syria and the need to combat the rise of terrorism. What Mr. Assad had warned about in 2012 came to pass — for whatever reason — and led to a loss of confidence among the rebels’ patrons for their future. Even al-Qaeda’s putative leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has sought to distance himself from ISIS. These signs indicate that on Syria, the “terrorism narrative” has come to dominate over the “authoritarian regime narrative.”
The fractious Syrian opposition that came to Geneva does not represent the main columns of rebel fighters on the ground. These are mainly Islamists — with the al-Qaeda wing represented by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and the rest represented by the Islamic Front. They have no appetite for negotiation. Mr. Abu Omar of the Islamic Front said that Syria’s future would be created “here on the ground of heroism, and signed with blood on the frontlines, not in hollow conferences attended by those who don’t even represent themselves.” A U.S. intelligence official told me that when the U.S. went into Afghanistan in 2001, “We smashed the mercury and watched it spread out slowly in the area.” Al-Qaeda was not demolished in Kandahar and Tora Bora. Its hardened cadre slipped across to Pakistan and then onwards to their homelands. There they regrouped, reviving the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, al-Qaeda in Yemen, Ansar al-Sharia, Ansar Dine, and ISIS. The latter slipped into Syria from an Iraq broken by the U.S. occupation and the sectarian governance of the current government. There they worked with Jabhat al-Nusra and fought alongside other Islamist currents such as Ahrar ash-Sham. It was inevitable that these battle-tested Islamists would overrun the peaceful protesters and the defectors from the Syrian Army — the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — who scattered to the wind in 2012.
The FSA troops either joined up with the Islamists, continued to fight in small detachments, or linger precariously as twice defectors who are now homeless. The barbarism of the ISIS pushed other Islamists — with Gulf Arab support — to form the Islamic Front. The hope was that this group would run ISIS back to Iraq and remove the stigma of “al-Qaeda” from the Syrian rebellion. The problem is that one of the constituents of the Islamic Front — Jabhat al-Nusra, arguably the most effective of its fighting forces — sees itself as the Syrian franchise of al-Qaeda and has largely abjured the fight against ISIS. Another problem is that the in-fighting on the ground seems to have tapered off — one of the Islamist groups, Suqour al-Sham signed a truce with ISIS and pledged to work together.
By early 2014, these groups found their supply lines cut off. Iraq’s attack on ISIS began to seal the porous border that runs through the Great Syrian Desert. Jordan had already tried to close its border since early 2013, having arrested over a hundred fighters who have tried to cross into Syria. Lebanon’s border has become almost inaccessible for the rebels as the Syrian Army takes the roadway that runs along the boundary line. Last year, Turkey closed the Azaz crossing once it was taken over by the radical Islamists.
On January 20, the rebels attacked the Turkish post at Cilvegözü-Bab al-Hawa, killing 16. This is what spurred the Turkish Army to attack the ISIS convoy a week later.
As the Islamists saw their supply lines closed off, the U.S. announced that it would restart its aid to the rebel fighters. On February 5, the Syrian Coalition chief Ahmad Jabra told Future TV that his rebels would get “advanced weapons” — likely from the U.S. The FSA announced the formation of the Southern Front – with assistance from the West — to revive the dormant fight in Syria’s south-west. All this took place during Geneva 2, signalling confusion in U.S. policy. Does Washington still want to overthrow the Syrian government? Would it live with an Islamist government on Israel’s borders? Or, perhaps, the U.S. is eager for a stalemate, as pointed out by former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, “The rebels lack the organization and weapons to defeat Assad. The regime lacks the loyal manpower to suppress the rebellion. Both sides’ external allies are ready to supply enough money and arms to fuel the stalemate for the foreseeable future.” This is a cruel strategy. It offers no hope of peace for the Syrian people.
Road ahead for Syria group:
A senior military official in West Asia told me that one of the most overlooked aspects of West Asia and North Africa is that the military leaderships of each country maintain close contacts with each other. During Turkey’s war against the Kurdish rebellion in its eastern provinces, the military coordinated their operations with the Syrian armed forces. These links have been maintained. When it became clear that Mr. Erdog?an’s exaggerated hopes for Syria failed, and with the growth of the Islamists on Turkey’s borders and the Kurds in Syria having declared their independence, the Turkish military exerted its views. The Iraqi armed forces had already begun their operations against ISIS. Additionally, Egypt’s new Field Marshal Sisi overthrew the government of Mohamed Morsi when the latter encouraged jihadis to go to Syria. This was anathema to the Egyptian military who acted for this and other reasons to depose Mr. Morsi. The military view of the political situation leans naturally toward the terrorism narrative.
It appears now that the regional states are no longer agreed that their primary mission is the removal of Mr. Assad.This view — shared by the militaries — is evident in the political leadership in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.With Egypt, these three states would be the core of a rejuvenated Syria Contact Group.
The 2012 group also had Saudi Arabia, which might be enjoined to come back to the table if they see that their outside allies — notably the U.S. — are averse to a policy that would mean Jabhat al-Nusra in power in Damascus.
Without Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even Qatar, the Syria Contact Group would be less effective.
If the Syria Contact Group is to re-emerge, it would need to be incubated by pressure from China and India, two countries that are sympathetic to multipolar regionalism.
Thus far, neither China nor India has taken an active role in the Syrian conflict, content to work within the United Nations and to make statements as part of the BRICS group.
But the failure of the U.S. and Russia and the paralysis of the U.N. alongside the continued brutality in Syria require an alternative path to be opened up.
Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have indicated willingness for a dialogue — China and India need to offer them the table.
Goa Carnival expects to attract more than 250,000 visitors this year.
GOA was a Potuguese Colony that was ceded to India. The people are mainly christian and still carry Portuguese culture.
Published on : Friday, February 14, 2014
West India Goa’s state annual Goa Carnival is expected to attract more than 250,000 visitors this year, Press Trsut of India (PTI) reported.
The non-stop festival will be held from March 1 to 5 in the main cities of the coastal state beginning with a float parade in state capital Panaji.
“Tourists are expected to arrive in droves to witness colourful parades scheduled in various cities,” said State Tourism Department director Nikhil Desai.
“Occupancy in several hotels across the state is high. People have booked their tickets to participate in the festival,” Nikhil said.
A float parade organised by the Tourism Department will be led by King Momo, a ceremonial figure who proclaims the decree of eating, drinking and merry making during the carnival.
The Goa Carnival is celebrated throughout Goa and ends days before the season of Lent that precedes Easter.
THE MOST BRAZILIAN OF ALL SPANISH CARNIVALS.
The Greatest event is THE FUNERAL OF THE SARDINE OF TENERIFE.
Actually – the climax comes on Carnival Tuesday with “el Coso”, a spectacular parade which will amaze everyone who sees it. The next day the Burial of the Sardine marks the end of the festivities: the spirit of Carnival, symbolised by the sardine, is carried through the streets on a funeral bier, and is then set on fire and consumed by the flames to the despair of the entourage of inconsolable and “grief-stricken” widows, widowers and mourners. The final ending, however, is really the celebration of the “Piñata Chica” at the weekend, with shows, dances and parades. If you are planning to come to the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival you should make your arrangements well in advance. This already popular destination, with its year-round attraction of sun and beautiful beaches, is in even greater demand at this time.
Date: From Feb 28, 2014 to Mar 9, 2014
Place: Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Tenerife. Canary Islands)
Tips to find a comfortable bed in Brazil during the World Cup 2014
Published Tuesday, February 11, 2014 by Travel and Tour World.
Football fans have another reason to be anxious about their coming to Brazil, since accommodation prices have indeed soared.
But there are still ways to find a comfortable and reliable bed, especially if you count on the knowledge and experience of major local tour operators, such as Passion Brazil. Follow some tips that the director Mariana Rosa gave on planning your trip to find an easier road for a great stay in Brazil!
12 host cities in Brazil are selected to host qualifying rounds for 32 teams from different countries, which will vie for that coveted spot in the finals, held in the worldwide famous Maracanã. Due to the large distances, make sure to guarantee internal flights and accommodation first, and then move on to tours and restaurants issues.
Let go of the near-to-the-beach convenience and consider hotels in alternative neighborhoods, such as Flamengo or Santa Teresa in Rio de Janeiro. Alternative housing such as apartment rentals and guesthouses are an option as well, but be careful with who you book from. Passion Brazil has negotiated some beautiful reliable options, ranging from 1 to 5 bedrooms.
Also consider close by cities that can be reached within a couple of hours by car, such as Búzios or Niterói for games in Rio de Janeiro. Other options are: Praia do Forte for games held in Salvador and Ouro Preto for Belo Horizonte games.
It is easier to get available and still affordable rooms in those neighbor cities. Besides, those cities are beautiful tourist spots, worth the visit.
But if you do want to get the most of the experience, a nice hotel in Copacabana or Ipanema are still the best choices. In the trickiest of all cities, Rio de Janeiro, Passion Brazil has confirmed rooms in two of the nicest 4* hotels in Rio, Ipanema Plaza and Best Western Plus Sol Ipanema. Ipanema Plaza is a really nice hotel, displaying a rooftop with beautiful view and swimming pool. Sol Ipanema has a superb beachfront location, close to many bars and restaurants. Bright contemporary décor, nice service and rooftop pool.
Brazil is one of the most passionate country for football in the world and Brazilians are looking forward to hosting this amazing show. Their happiness and joyful attitude are sure to brighten the party. At the end, the experience is sure to make up for all the hassle the previous planning requires.
At this time, when the World watches how the President of Brazil shows full indignation in the news for the fact that her private phone was hacked by US pseudo-Security services for BUSINESS reasons – and the same was done to the phone of the German President, but she does not complain about it in public, here comes an important German paper and provides us the explanation about this difference.
What Die Welt writes amounts to an ode to the United States for having given Germany its present Democracy.
It even goes so far as saying that Elvis Presley was the real German Revolutionary.
We are sure that Germany does, like Brazil, work hard at building a Cyber-wall with technology intended to keep out foreign snoopers including the US – but the Germans just do not talk about it out of respect for a very shady past and the reality that the US helped them free themselves of themselves.
In the case of Brazil there are no thanks to any favorable past as every Brazilians will tell you that it was the US Intelligence services that held them down for many years, and it was the United States that backed the Brazilian home grown dictators and helped depose any signs of democratization.
Brazil is sort of in the position of Iran – only that they are much nicer about it – but nevertheless have no reason to hold back their indignation at discovering that it was snooping related to their oil industry – the Petrobras company – that propelled the US activity – not any different to what the US did in its relations to Iran – albeit explanations mentioning Cold War reasons just do not hold the water in either case.
We post here the German original article that provides the background for the German side of this difference in attitude.
Links der Woche
Papst Franziskus hat in seinem Apostolischen Schreiben ein Programm seines Pontifikats entfaltet, in dem er für Freude und Begeisterung für das Evangelium Jesu Christi wirbt. Vor allem seine Kritik an den Auswüchsen eines schrankenlosen Marktes hat in Deutschland Aufsehen erregt und eine Debatte über eine dem Menschen dienliche Wirtschaftsordnung ausgelöst. Das vorliegende Papier der Konrad Adenauer Stiftung gibt zunächst den Inhalt des Schreibens in groben Zügen wieder, um danach die drei wichtigsten Fragen – Kapitalismuskritik, Kulturkritik und Kirchenkritik – im Spiegel der deutschen Presse zu erörtern. Mehr dazu unter Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.Seit dem NSA-Skandal droht uns Amerika fremd zu werden. Dabei vergessen wir, was wir Europäer den Vereinigten Staaten verdanken. Weil wir im Geiste alle Amerikaner sind, haben wir es besser. Mehr dazu unter Die Welt.Der Philosoph John Stuart Mill meinte, der Kapitalismus kann glücklich machen. Damit das funktioniert, forderte er Bildung, Gleichberechtigung und Erbschaftssteuern. Mehr dazu unter FAZ.net.
Meinung15.01.14 – OPINION IN DIE WELT – re-posted by the Political Academy of the Austrian People’s Party – OEVP.
Deutschlands Freiheit kommt aus Amerika
Seit dem NSA-Skandal droht uns Amerika fremd zu werden. Dabei vergessen wir, was wir Deutsche den Vereinigten Staaten verdanken. Weil wir im Geiste alle Amerikaner sind, haben wir es besser. Von Richard Herzinger
Foto: dpa Freundschaftliche Geste: Angela Merkel und Barack Obama beim Besuch des US-Präsidenten 2013 in Berlin
Seit dem NSA-Skandal droht uns Amerika fremd zu werden. Dabei vergessen wir, was wir Deutsche den Vereinigten Staaten verdanken. Weil wir im Geiste alle Amerikaner sind, haben wir es besser. Von Richard Herzinger
Eines der erregendsten Filmdokumente des vergangenen Jahrhunderts kursiert derzeit auf relativ verborgenen TV-Dokumentationskanälen wie ZDF info. Wann und wo immer es wiederholt wird – ich kann meine Augen nicht davon lassen. Und wenn das Amerika-Bashing, im Zusammenhang mit der NSA-Affäre oder bei irgendeinem anderen Anlass, in der deutschen Öffentlichkeit wieder einmal hoch schlägt, wünschte ich mir, diese Aufnahmen würden in regelmäßigen Abständen im Hauptprogramm der größten deutschen Fernsehsender ausgestrahlt.
Unter dem Titel “Als der Krieg nach Deutschland kam” zeigt die mehrteilige Dokumentation eine Auswahl aus hunderten Stunden Filmmaterial, das Kameraleute der US-Armee – darunter später berühmte Regisseure wie Samuel Fuller und Russ Meyer – von deren Vormarsch in Deutschland im Frühjahr 1945 gedreht haben. Man kann virtuell dabei sein, wie die GIs sich mühsam und gefahrvoll von Dorf zu Dorf, von Stadt zu Stadt vorarbeiten, um auf deutschem Boden die verbliebenen Bastionen der NS-Herrschaft zu zerschlagen.
Und man kann nachvollziehen, dass auch dieser letzte Akt des Krieges alles andere als ein Selbstläufer oder gar ein Spaziergang war, sondern den abgekämpften US-Truppen das Letzte an konzentrierter Kampfbereitschaft abforderte. In ihrer planen Nüchternheit, frei von jeglicher Heroisierung, führen diese Schwarz-Weiß-Aufnahmen vor Augen, was wir nachgeborenen Deutschen den Amerikanern zu verdanken haben.
Ich jedenfalls empfinde das so, mehr denn je. Das wird mir spätestens klar, wenn ich die Originalbilder von der Eroberung meiner Geburtsstadt Frankfurt am Main sehe, die als Resultat der NS-Barbarei einer Trümmerwüste glich. Mir kommen diese Bilder vor wie ein unabtrennbarer Teil meiner ganz persönlichen Vorgeschichte.
Weil US-Soldaten sich unter Einsatz ihres Leben Straßenzug für Straßenzug durch mir wohl bekannte Frankfurter Schauplätze vorkämpften, konnte ich zehn Jahre später in dieser Stadt in Freiheit geboren werden. Einer Stadt, die dank der Anwesenheit der US-Armee sowie amerikanischen Finanzkapitals und Big Business’ rasch zum Turbo der Verwestlichung der Bundesrepublik aufstieg.
So konnte ich in einem Land aufwachsen, in dem unter amerikanischer Anleitung Demokratie und Rechtsstaat durchgesetzt wurden, das durch den Schutz der USA davor bewahrt wurde, dem kommunistischen Totalitarismus in die Hände zu fallen, und das 1990 seine Einheit niemals so reibungslos gewonnen hätte, wäre ihm nicht das Vertrauen und die vorbehaltlose Unterstützung der Vereinigten Staaten zu Teil geworden.
Elvis war der wahre deutsche Revolutionär!
Ich wurde hineingeboren in ein Land, in dem die sich entwickelnde Zivilität im Wesentlichen gleichbedeutend war mit der Amerikanisierung der Gesellschaft. Rock’n'Roll, Hollywood-Kino, legere Kleidung, ungezwungene Umgangsformen, fast alles, was das Leben in Deutschland lebenswerter machte, war dem kulturellen US-Import geschuldet.
Der Transfer klappte so gut, weil nur die amerikanische Massenkultur wirklich universell ist. Gut, auch die feine englische Art und das französische Savoir-vivre mag manchem Nachkriegsdeutschen aufgeholfen haben, doch nur die amerikanische Lebensart war so leicht und voraussetzungslos von jedermann adaptierbar.
Elvis Presley, der 1958 als Soldat in das Provinznest Bad Nauheim kam und mit “Muss i denn zum Städtele hinaus” demonstrierte, wie man auch einem biederen deutschem Volkslied eine Prise Sex einhauchen kann – dieser Elvis, und kein neomarxistischer und spätleninistischer Doktrinär der 68er-Bewegung, war der wahre Anstifter zur Auflehnung der jungen Generation gegen den Muff des deutschen obrigkeitsstaatlichen Autoritarismus.
Raubt uns Amerika die Freiheit?
Doch nicht nur die Trivialkultur, auch der große Einfluss amerikanischer Kunst, ernster Musik und Literatur trug wesentlich dazu bei, Deutschland in kürzester Zeit in die demokratische Moderne zu katapultieren. Und dieser Zustrom kulturellen und zivilisatorischen Know-hows hat ja bis heute nicht aufgehört. Kaum ein Musikstil, kaum ein Unterhaltungsformat, kaum eine technische Innovation, die sich hierzulande durchsetzt, die nicht aus Amerika käme. Selbst die Formen der Protestkultur, vom Sit-In bis Occupy, wurden und werden von dort übernommen.
Aber Dankbarkeit gegenüber den USA? Ist das nicht nur ein sentimentales Gefühl nostalgischer Transatlantiker, die sich unbelehrbar an der Vorstellung eines unvergänglichen deutsch-amerikanischen Freundschaftsbandes festklammern? Glaubt man publikumswirksamen Kommentatoren wie Jakob Augstein, dann sind Leute, die das tun, bestenfalls naive Vorgestrige, die von kitschigen Reminiszenzen blind gemacht würden für die vermeintliche Wahrheit, dass die USA längst zu einer feindseligen Macht geworden seien, die uns qua Totalüberwachung die Freiheit rauben wollten.
Augstein ärgert sich deshalb darüber, dass Angela Merkel und Joachim Gauck die russische Autokratie kritisieren, statt die Amerikaner als die “viel größere Bedrohung unserer Lebensweise” zu begreifen. Sie seien aber dazu nicht in der Lage, weil sie aus dem Osten stammen und daher ein “Russen-Trauma” hätten, an dem sie sich abarbeiteten, statt sich “auch mal um unsere Rechte zu kümmern” – die, versteht sich, von den bösen Amerikanern mit Füßen getreten würden.
Die Autokraten sitzen immer noch in Osten
Augstein ist nur ein besonders krasses, leider aber bei weitem nicht das einzige Beispiel dafür, wie weit es mit der Verwirrung der politisch-moralischen Maßstäbe hierzulande bereits gekommen ist. Im Gegensatz zu deutschen Intellektuellen, die unter dem amerikanischen Schutzschirm unbegrenzte Meinungsfreiheit praktizieren und sie ohne Risiko zur USA-Kritik einsetzen konnten, mussten Merkel und Gauck erleben, was Unfreiheit tatsächlich bedeutet.
Womöglich kennen sie daher viel besser den grundlegenden Unterschied zwischen einer Demokratie, in der geheimdienstliche Aktivitäten bisweilen auszuufern drohen, und einem Staat wie dem heutigen Russland, in dem die Geheimdienste an der Macht sind und der von ihnen mit rechtloser Willkür beherrscht wird. Und sie ahnen vielleicht deshalb viel besser, was wir verlieren würden, kündigten wir den USA tatsächlich die Freundschaft – oder würden vielmehr umgekehrt von ihnen tatsächlich nicht mehr als Freunde betrachtet.
Was Wladimir Putin kürzlich mit der Ukraine veranstaltet hat, sollte als Illustration ausreichen. Dass wir keinen Erpressungen und Nötigungen einer autoritären Macht ausgesetzt sind, verdanken wir in letzter Instanz dem engen Bündnis mit den Vereinigten Staaten. Ohne dieses wären wir, auch nicht im Verbund mit der EU, auch heute nicht stark genug, um um uns in einer Welt rüder Machtpolitik und globalen Terrors zu behaupten.
Ein moralisches Idyll sind die USA nie gewesen
Dankbarkeit mag keine Kategorie knallharter Interessenpolitik sein, im zivilisatorischen Band zwischen Nationen und ihren Bürger spielt sie jedoch sehr wohl eine entscheidende Rolle. Umso beängstigender ist die Vorstellung, dass die Erinnerung daran, was die Deutschen den USA zu verdanken haben, im Zeichen einer neuen deutschen Selbstzufriedenheit verloren gehen oder für wertlos befunden werden könnte – in der hybriden Annahme, den großen Bruder jenseits des Atlantik nicht mehr zu brauchen. Angesichts der weltpolitischen Rückzugstendenzen der USA müsste man sich aber doch eher sorgen, dass sie an uns wie an Europa insgesamt ganz das Interesse verlieren könnten.
Dabei sind die USA nun wahrlich nie das Gelobte Land oder der fleckenlose Träger des moralisch Guten schlechthin gewesen. Das Sündenregister der US-Außenpolitik ist lang. Im Vergleich zu dem, was die westliche Führungsmacht einst in Korea und Vietnam, aber auch Lateinamerika, angerichtet hat, erscheinen ihre heutigen machtpolitischen Methoden geradezu harmlos. Es ist daher heuchlerisch, wenn Amerikakritiker anführen, gerade jetzt überschritten die USA, etwa wegen des Drohnenkriegs, rote Linien von Recht und Moral, die es uns nicht mehr erlaubten, ihnen die Treue zu halten.
Seine Amerika-Kritik ist dem Deutschen heilig
Und absichtsvoll naiv ist es, zu suggerieren, die US-Geheimdienste hätten früher niemals deutsche Politiker abgehört. Überhaupt war das deutsch-amerikanische Verhältnis nie frei von zum Teil handfesten Konflikten. Irak war nicht das erste und letzte Mal, dass die Deutschen den USA die Gefolgschaft verweigerten, nur das Getöse darum war nie so groß, zum Schaden gereicht hat es der in der weltpolitischen Nische florierenden Bundesrepublik nie. Mag es Völker geben, die unter der US-Dominanz zu leiden hatten. Die Deutschen, die stets von ihr profitiert haben, gehören nicht dazu.
Dankbarkeit bedeutet bestimmt nicht, dass man sich deshalb etwa erwiesene Verstöße der NSA gegen deutsches Recht gefallen lassen müsste. Etwas Differenzierungsbereitschaft wäre freilich angebracht. Wie man die Privatsphäre im Zeitalter der totalen Internet-Kommunikation vor Geheimdienst-Ausspähung schützt und gleichwohl gegen den Terrorismus gewappnet bleibt, ist ein gemeinsames ungelöstes Problem aller westlichen Gesellschaften.
Stutzig wird man, wenn die Überwachungspraxis der NSA in der deutschen Öffentlichkeit zum Generalangriff auf Demokratie und Freiheit hochgespielt wird, die systematische Spionagetätigkeit Russlands und Chinas jedoch keinerlei Empörung hervorruft. Der Spaß hört aber ganz auf, wenn suggeriert wird, die USA, der politische und kulturelle Stifter und Garant unserer Freiheit, seien gar keine Demokratie mehr und sie führten irgendetwas Sinisteres gegen uns im Schilde. Etwa, deutschen Kolumnisten ihr Liebstes zu verbieten: die Amerika-Kritik.
BRUSSELS – US President Barack Obama has said he will not spy on EU leaders or conduct economic espionage, but will continue snooping on ordinary US and EU citizens.
He made the pledge in a TV speech on Friday (17 January) in reaction to the Edward Snowden leaks.
“I’ve made clear to the intelligence community that unless there is a compelling national security purpose, we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies,” he said.
“We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to US companies or US commercial sectors,” he added.
He justified the mass-scale collection of information on ordinary US or foreign nationals’ telephone calls, however.
“Why is this necessary? The programme grew out of a desire to address a gap identified after 9/11 … [It] was designed to map the communications of terrorists so we can see who they may be in contact with as quickly as possible,” he noted.
He promised to create a data privacy tsar to implement new safeguards.
The measures, enshrined in an executive order, centre round the future storage of intercepted phone data by an independent agency, which can only be accessed “after a judicial finding or in the case of a true emergency.”
Obama also ordered one of his spy chiefs, James Clapper, to draft better protection for US citizens whose internet data is caught in the NSA’s overseas operations.
He did not give non-US citizens any right of redress in US courts, however.
He also made no reference to the NSA’s most controversial exploits.
He said nothing on its introduction of bugs into commercial encryption software, on burglarising undersea cables, on hacking internet and phone companies, or bugging EU officials.
He also defended America’s right to spy in general.
He said: “The whole point of intelligence is to obtain information that is not publicly available.”
Counter-terrorism aside, he added: “Our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments … around the world in the same way that the intelligence services of every other nation does. We will not apologise simply because our services may be more effective.”
He noted that some foreign leaders “feigned surprise” on the Snowden leaks, while others “privately acknowledge” they need the NSA to protect their own countries.
He also claimed the US handling of the Snowden affair shows its respect for democratic values.
“No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programmes or Russia to take privacy concerns of citizens in other places into account,” the US President noted.
For its part, the European Commission welcomed Obama’s words in a communique published shortly after he finished speaking.
“President Obama’s remarks and action show that the legitimate concerns expressed by the EU have been listened to by our US partner,” it said.
It promised to push for more, however.
It said it will seek “an improvement of the Safe Harbour scheme,” an EU-US pact on data handling by US firms.
It will also seek “the swift conclusion of an umbrella agreement on data protection in the area of law enforcement that will guarantee enforceable rights for EU citizens, including judicial redress.”
The European Parliament, which held an inquiry into the NSA affair, was more sceptical.
British centre-left deputy Claude Moraes, its NSA rapporteur, said Obama’s reaction is “substantial” but “weighted towards … a concerned US audience.”
He added that “lack of clarity” on the new safeguards mean “his comments may not have been enough to restore confidence.”
German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, who also took part in the NSA inquiry, was more critical.
He told EUobserver: “My impression is he [Obama] is making a change in rhetorical terms, not in substance.”
Albrecht said almost all NSA programmes, including Prism, which intercepts data held by internet firms like Google and Microsoft, “will be the same as before, there are no changes.”
He also said people should pay attention to the small print in Obama’s language.
He noted that the ban on spying on friendly “heads of state and government” leaves the US free to spy on lower-rank officials, such as foreign ministers.
He also noted that Obama included numerous “security carve-outs.”
For instance, the NSA can still bug German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone if “there is a compelling national security purpose.”
“European leaders will have to decide if they want to follow him, and lose the trust of their citizens in their ability to safeguard their basic rights,” Albrecht said.
Obama is draping the banner of change over the NSA status quo. Bulk surveillance that caused such outrage will remain in place
n response to political scandal and public outrage, official Washington repeatedly uses the same well-worn tactic. It is the one that has been hauled out over decades in response to many of America’s most significant political scandals. Predictably, it is the same one that shaped President Obama’s much-heralded Friday speech to announce his proposals for “reforming” the National Security Agency in the wake of seven months of intense worldwide controversy.
The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to vail 18 January 14 and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are “serious questions that have been raised”. They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic “reforms” so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge.
This scam has been so frequently used that it is now easily recognizable. In the mid-1970s, the Senate uncovered surveillance abuses that had been ongoing for decades, generating widespread public fury. In response, the US Congress enacted a new law (Fisa) which featured two primary “safeguards”: a requirement of judicial review for any domestic surveillance, and newly created committees to ensure legal compliance by the intelligence community.
But the new court was designed to ensure that all of the government’s requests were approved: it met in secret, only the government’s lawyers could attend, it was staffed with the most pro-government judges, and it was even housed in the executive branch. As planned, the court over the next 30 years virtually never said no to the government.
Identically, the most devoted and slavish loyalists of the National Security State were repeatedly installed as the committee’s heads, currently in the form of NSA cheerleaders Democrat Dianne Feinstein in the Senate and Republican Mike Rogers in the House. As the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza put it in a December 2013 article on the joke of Congressional oversight, the committees “more often treat … senior intelligence officials like matinee idols”.
As a result, the committees, ostensibly intended to serve an overseer function, have far more often acted as the NSA’s in-house PR firm. The heralded mid-1970s reforms did more to make Americans believe there was reform than actually providing any, thus shielding it from real reforms.
The same thing happened after the New York Times, in 2005, revealed that the NSA under Bush had been eavesdropping on Americans for years without the warrants required by criminal law. The US political class loudly claimed that they would resolve the problems that led to that scandal. Instead, they did the opposite: in 2008, a bipartisan Congress, with the support of then-Senator Barack Obama, enacted targeta new Fisa law that legalized the bulk of the once-illegal Bush program, including allowing warrantless eavesdropping on hundreds of millions of foreign nationals and large numbers of Americans as well.
This was also the same tactic used in the wake of the 2008 financial crises. Politicians dutifully read from the script that blamed unregulated Wall Street excesses and angrily vowed to rein them in. They then enacted legislation that left the bankers almost entirely unscathed, and which made the “too-big-to-fail” problem that spawned the crises worse than ever.
And now we have the spectacle of President Obama reciting paeans to the values of individual privacy and the pressing need for NSA safeguards. “Individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress,” he gushed with an impressively straight face. “One thing I’m certain of, this debate will make us stronger,” he pronounced, while still seeking to imprison for decades the whistleblower who enabled that debate. The bottom line, he said, is this: “I believe we need a new approach.”
But those pretty rhetorical flourishes were accompanied by a series of plainly cosmetic “reforms”. By design, those proposals will do little more than maintain rigidly in place the very bulk surveillance systems that have sparked such controversy and anger.
To be sure, there were several proposals from Obama that are positive steps. A public advocate in the Fisa court, a loosening of “gag orders” for national security letters, removing metadata control from the NSA, stricter standards for accessing metadata, and narrower authorizations for spying on friendly foreign leaders (but not, of course, their populations) can all have some marginal benefits. But even there, Obama’s speech was so bereft of specifics – what will the new standards bewho will now control Americans’ metadata– that they are more like slogans than serious proposals.
Ultimately, the radical essence of the NSA – a system of suspicion-less spying aimed at hundreds of millions of people in the US and around the world – will fully endure even if all of Obama’s proposals are adopted. That’s because Obama never hid the real purpose of this process. It is, he and his officials repeatedly acknowledged, “to restore public confidence” in the NSA. In other words, the goal isn’t to truly reform the agency; it is deceive people into believing it has been so that they no longer fear it or are angry about it.
As the ACLU’s executive director Anthony Romero said after the speech:
The president should end – not mend – the government’s collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans’ data. When the government collects and stores every American’s phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an ‘unreasonable search’ that violates the constitution.
That, in general, has long been Obama’s primary role in our political system and his premiere, defining value to the permanent power factions that run Washington. He prettifies the ugly; he drapes the banner of change over systematic status quo perpetuation; he makes Americans feel better about policies they find repellent without the need to change any of them in meaningful ways. He’s not an agent of change but the soothing branding packaging for it.
As is always the case, those who want genuine changes should not look to politicians, and certainly not to Barack Obama, to wait for it to be gifted. Obama was forced to give this speech by rising public pressure, increasingly scared US tech giants, and surprisingly strong resistance from the international community to the out-of-control American surveillance state.
Today’s speech should be seen as the first step, not the last, on the road to restoring privacy. The causes that drove Obama to give this speech need to be, and will be, stoked and nurtured further until it becomes clear to official Washington that, this time around, cosmetic gestures are plainly inadequate.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you so much, please have a seat.
At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee, born out of the Sons of Liberty, was established in Boston. And the group’s members included Paul Revere. At night, they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early patriots.
Throughout American history, intelligence has helped secure our country and our freedoms.
In the Civil War, Union balloons’ reconnaissance tracked the size of Confederate armies by counting the number of campfires. In World War II, codebreakers gave us insights into Japanese war plans. And when Patton marched across Europe, intercepted communications helped save the lives of his troops.
After the war, the rise of Iron Curtain and nuclear weapons only increased the need for sustained intelligence gathering. And so in the early days of the Cold War, President Truman created the National Security Agency, or NSA, to give us insights into the Soviet Bloc and provide our leaders with information they needed to confront aggression and avert catastrophe.
Throughout this evolution, we benefited from both our Constitution and our traditions of limited government.
U.S. intelligence agencies were anchored in a system of checks and balances, with oversight from elected leaders and protections for ordinary citizens.
Meanwhile, totalitarian states like East Germany offered a cautionary tale of what could happen when vast unchecked surveillance turned citizens into informers and persecuted people for what they said in the privacy of their own homes.
In fact, even the United States proved not to be immune to the abuse of surveillance. In the 1960s government spied on civil rights leaders and critics of the Vietnam War. And probably in response to these revelations, additional laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not be misused against our citizens. In the long twilight struggle against communism, we had been reminded that the very liberties that we sought to preserve could not be sacrificed at the altar of national security.
Now, if the fall of the Soviet Union left America without a competing superpower, emerging threats from terrorist groups and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction place new and, in some ways, more complicated demands on our intelligence agencies.
Globalization and the Internet made these threats more acute as technology erased borders and empowered individuals to project great violence as well as great good.
Moreover, these new threats raised new legal and new policy questions, for while few doubted the legitimacy of spying on hostile states, our framework of laws was not fully adapted to prevent terrorist attacks by individuals acting on their own or acting in small ideological — ideologically driven groups on behalf of a foreign power.
The horror of September 11th brought all these issues to the fore.
Across the political spectrum, Americans recognized that we had to adapt to a world in which a bomb could be built in a basement and our electric grid could be shut down by operators an ocean away. We were shaken by the signs we had missed leading up to the attacks, how the hijackers had made phone calls to known extremists and traveled to suspicious places. So we demanded that our intelligence community improve its capabilities and that law enforcement change practices to focus more on preventing attacks before they happen than prosecuting terrorists after an attack.
It is hard to overstate the transformation America’s intelligence community had to go through after 9/11. Our agencies suddenly needed to do far more than the traditional mission of monitoring hostile powers and gathering information for policymakers.
Instead, they were now asked to identify and target plotters is some of the most remote parts of the world and to anticipate the actions of networks that, by their very nature, could not be easily penetrated by spies or informants. And it is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the men and women of our intelligence community that over the past decade we’ve made enormous strides in fulfilling this mission.
Today, new capabilities allow intelligence agencies to track who a terrorist is in contact with and follow the trail of his travel or his funding. New laws allow information to be collected and shared more quickly and effectively between federal agencies and state and local law enforcement. Relationships with foreign intelligence services have expanded and our capacity to repel cyber attacks have been strengthened. And taken together, these efforts have prevented multiple attacks and saved innocent lives — not just here in the United States, but around the globe.
And yet, in our rush to respond to a very real and novel set of threats, the risk of government overreach, the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security also became more pronounced. We saw in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 our government engage in enhanced interrogation techniques that contradicted our values. As a senator, I was critical of several practices, such as warrantless wiretaps. And all too often new authorities were instituted without adequate public debate.
Through a combination of action by the courts, increased congressional oversight and adjustments by the previous administration, some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11 were curbed by the time I took office. But a variety of factors have continued to complicate America’s efforts to both defend our nation and uphold our civil liberties.
First, the same technological advances that allow U.S. intelligence agencies to pinpoint an al-Qaida (sale ?) in Yemen or an email between two terrorists in the Sahel also mean that many routine communications around the world are within our reach. And at a time when more and more of our lives are digital, that prospect is disquieting for all of us.
Second, the combination of increased digital information and powerful supercomputers offers intelligence agencies the possibility of sifting through massive amounts of bulk data to identify patterns or pursue leads that may thwart impending threats. It’s a powerful tool. But the government collection and storage of such bulk data also creates a potential for abuse.
Third, the legal safeguards that restrict surveillance against U.S. persons without a warrant do not apply to foreign persons overseas.This is not unique to America; few, if any, spy agencies around the world constrain their activities beyond their own borders. And the whole point of intelligence is to obtain information that is not publicly available.
But America’s capabilities are unique, and the power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do.
That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do.
And finally, intelligence agencies cannot function without secrecy, which makes their work less subject to public debate. Yet there is an inevitable bias, not only within the intelligence community but among all of us who are responsible for national security, to collect more information about the world, not less. So in the absence of institutional requirements for regular debate and oversight that is public as well as private or classified, the danger of government overreach becomes more acute. And this is particularly true when surveillance technology and our reliance on digital information is evolving much faster than our laws.
For all these reasons, I maintained a healthy skepticism toward our surveillance programs after I became president.
I ordered that our programs be reviewed by my national security team and our lawyers. And in some cases, I ordered changes in how we did business. We increased oversight and auditing, including new structures aimed at compliance. Improved rules were proposed by the government and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And we’ve sought to keep Congress continually updated on these activities.
What I did not do is stop these programs wholesale, not only because I felt that they made us more secure, but also because nothing in that initial review and nothing that I have learned since indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens.
To the contrary, in an extraordinarily difficult job, one in which actions are second-guessed, success is unreported and failure can be catastrophic, the men and women of the intelligence community, including the NSA, consistently follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people. They’re not abusing authorities in order to listen to your private phone calls or read your emails.
When mistakes are made — which is inevitable in any large and complicated human enterprise, they correct those mistakes, laboring in obscurity, often unable to discuss their work even with family and friends — the men and women at the NSA know that if another 9/11 or massive cyber attack occurs, they will be asked by Congress and the media why they failed to connect the dots. What sustains those who work at NSA and our other intelligence agencies through all these pressures is the knowledge that their professionalism and dedication play a central role in the defense of our nation.
Now, to say that our intelligence community follows the law and is staffed by patriots is not to suggest that I or others in my administration felt complacent about the potential impact of these programs. Those of us who hold office in America have a responsibility to our Constitution. And while I was confident in the integrity of those who lead our intelligence community, it was clear to me in observing our intelligence operations on a regular basis that changes in our technological capabilities were raising new questions about the privacy safeguards currently in place.
Moreover, after an extended review in the use of drones in the fight against terrorist networks, I believe a fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step in our effort to get off the open-ended war footing that we’ve maintained since 9/11.
And for these reasons, I indicated in a speech at the National Defense University last May that we needed a more robust public discussion about the balance between security and liberty. Of course, what I did not know at the time is that within weeks of my speech an avalanche of unauthorized disclosures would spark controversies at home and abroad that have continued to this day.
Given the fact of an open investigation, I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or his motivations. I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets. If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy. Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we might not fully understand for years to come.
Regardless of how we got here though, the task before us now is greater than simply repairing the damage done to our operations or preventing more disclosures from taking place in the future.
Instead we have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections our ideals and our Constitution require. We need to do so not only because it is right but because the challenges posed by threats like terrorism and proliferation and cyberattacks are not going away any time soon. They are going to continue to be a major problem. And for our intelligence community to be effective over the long haul, we must maintain the trust of the America people and people around the world.
This effort will not be completed overnight, and given the pace of technological change, we shouldn’t expect this to be the last time America has this debate.
But I want the American people to know that the work has begun. Over the last six months I created an outside review group on intelligence and communications technologies to make recommendations for reform. I consulted with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by Congress. I’ve listened to foreign partners, privacy advocates and industry leaders. My administration has spent countless hours considering how to approach intelligence in this era of diffuse threats and technological revolution.
So before outlining specific changes that I’ve ordered, let me make a few broad observations that have emerged from this process.
First, everyone who has looked at these problems, including skeptics of existing programs, recognizes that we have real enemies and threats and that intelligence serves a vital role in confronting them.
We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyberthreats without some capability to penetrate digital communications, whether it’s to unravel a terrorist plot, to intercept malware that targets a stock exchange, to make sure air traffic control systems are not compromised or to ensure that hackers do not empty your bank accounts. We are expected to protect the American people; that requires us to have capabilities in this field.
Moreover, we cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies. There is a reason why BlackBerrys and iPhones are not allowed in the White House Situation Room. We know that the intelligence services of other countries, including some who feigned surprise over the Snowden disclosures, are constantly probing our government and private sector networks and accelerating programs to listen to our conversations and intercept our emails and compromise our systems. We know that. Meanwhile, a number of countries, including some who have loudly criticized the NSA, privately acknowledge that America has special responsibilities as the world’s only superpower, that our intelligence capabilities are critical to meeting these responsibilities and that they themselves have relied on the information we obtained to protect their own people.
Second, just as our civil libertarians recognized the need for robust intelligence capabilities, those with responsibilities for our national security readily acknowledge the potential for abuse as intelligence capabilities advance and more and more private information is digitized. After all, the folks at NSA and other intelligence agencies are our neighbors. They’re our friends and family.
They’ve got electronic bank and medical records like everybody else. They have kids on Facebook and Instagram. And they know, more than most of us, the vulnerabilities to privacy that exist in a world where transactions are recorded and email and text and messages are stored and even our movements can increasingly be tracked through the GPS on our phones.
Third, there was a recognition by all who participated in these reviews that the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone. Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data and use it for commercial purposes. That’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically.
But all of us understand that the standards for government surveillance must be higher. Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: Trust us. We won’t abuse the data we collect. For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power. It depends on the law to constrain those in power.
I make these observations to underscore that the basic values of most Americans when it comes to questions of surveillance and privacy converge a lot more than the crude characterizations that have emerged over the last several months. Those who are troubled by our existing programs not interested in repeating the tragedy of 9/11. And those who defend these programs are not dismissive of civil liberties. The challenge is getting the details right. And that is not simple.
In fact, during the course of our review, I’ve often reminded myself I would not be where I am today were it not for the courage of dissidents like Dr. King who were spied upon by their own government. And as president, a president who looks at intelligence every morning, I also can’t help but be reminded that America must be vigilant in the face of threats.
Now, fortunately, by focusing on facts and specifics rather than speculating and hypotheticals, this review process has given me, and hopefully the American people, some clear direction for change. And today I can announce a series of concrete and substantial reforms that my administration intends to adopt administratively or will seek to codify with Congress.
First, I have approved a new presidential directive for our signals intelligence activities both at home and abroad. This guidance will strengthen executive branch oversight of our intelligence activities. It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances, our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of American companies, and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties. And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by my senior national security team.
Second, we will reform programs and procedures in place to provide greater transparency to our surveillance activities and fortify the safeguards that protect the privacy of U.S. persons. Since we began this review, including information being released today, we’ve declassified over 40 opinions and orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which provides judicial review of some of our most sensitive intelligence activities, including the Section 702 program targeting foreign individuals overseas and the Section 215 telephone metadata program.
And going forward, I’m directing the director of national intelligence, in consultation with the attorney general, to annually review for the purposes of declassification any future opinions of the court with broad privacy implications and to report to me and to Congress on these efforts.
To ensure that the court hears a broader range of privacy perspectives, I’m also calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates from outside government to provide an independent voice in significant cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Third, we will provide additional protections for activities conducted under Section 702, which allows the government to intercept the communications of foreign targets overseas who have information that’s important for our national security. Specifically, I’m asking the attorney general and DNI to institute reforms that place additional restrictions on government’s ability to retain, search and use in criminal cases communications between Americans and foreign citizens incidentally collected under Section 702.
Fourth, in investigating threats, the FBI also relies on what’s called national security letters, which can require companies to provide specific and limited information to the government without disclosing the orders to the subject of the investigation.
Now, these are cases in which it’s important that the subject of the investigation, such as a possible terrorist or spy, isn’t tipped off. But we can and should be more transparent in how government uses this authority.
I’ve therefore directed the attorney general to amend how we use national security letters so that this secrecy will not be indefinite, so that it will terminate within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy. We will also enable communications providers to make public more information than ever before about the orders that they have received to provide data to the government.
This brings me to the program that has generated the most controversy these past few months, the bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215. Let me repeat what I said when this story first broke. This program does not involve the content of phone calls or the names of people making calls. Instead, it provide a record of phone numbers and the times and length of calls, metadata that can be queried if and when we have a reasonable suspicion that a particular number is linked to a terrorist organization.
Why is this necessary? The program grew out of a desire to address a gap identified after 9/11. One of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar, made a phone call from San Diego to a known al- Qaida safehouse in Yemen.
NSA saw that call, but it could not see that the call was coming from an individual already in the United States. The telephone metadata program under Section 215 was designed to map the communications of terrorists so we could see who they may be in contact with as quickly as possible.
And this capability could also prove valuable in a crisis. For example, if a bomb goes off in one of our cities and law enforcement is racing to determine whether a network is poised to conduct additional attacks, time is of the essence. Being able to quickly review phone connections to assess whether a network exists is critical to that effort.
In sum, the program does not involve the NSA examining the phone records of ordinary Americans. Rather, it consolidates these records into a database that the government can query if it has a specific lead, a consolidation of phone records that the companies already retain for business purposes. The review group turned up no indication that this database has been intentionally abused, and I believe it is important that the capability that this program is designed to meet is preserved.
Having said that, I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs in the future. They’re also right to point out that although the telephone bulk collection program was subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and has been reauthorized repeatedly by Congress, it has never been subject to vigorous public debate.
For all these reasons, I believe we need a new approach. I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently exists and establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.
This will not be simple. The review group recommended that our current approach be replaced by one in which the providers or a third party retain the bulk records, with government accessing information as needed. Both of these options pose difficult problems. Relying solely on the records of multiple providers, for example, could require companies to alter their procedures in ways that raise new privacy concerns. On the other hand, any third party maintaining a single consolidated database would be carrying out what’s essentially a government function, but with more expense, more legal ambiguity, potentially less accountability, all of which would have a doubtful impact on increasing public confidence that their privacy is being protected.
During the review process, some suggested that we may also be able to preserve the capabilities we need through a combination of existing authorities, better information sharing and recent technological advances, but more work needs to be done to determine exactly how this system might work.
Because of the challenges involved, I’ve ordered that the transition away from the existing program will proceed in two steps.
Effective immediately, we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization, instead of the current three, and I have directed the attorney general to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court so that during this transition period, the database can be queried only after a judicial finding or in the case of a true emergency.
Next, step two: I have instructed the intelligence community and the attorney general to use this transition period to develop options for a new approach that can match the capabilities and fill the gaps that the Section 215 program was designed to address, without the government holding this metadata itself. They will report back to me with options for alternative approaches before the program comes up for reauthorization on March 28th. And during this period, I will consult with the relevant committees in Congress to seek their views and then seek congressional authorization for the new program, as needed.
Now, the reforms I’m proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe. And I recognize that there are additional issues that require further debate. For example, some who participated in our review, as well as some members of Congress, would like to see more sweeping reforms to the use of national security letters, so we have to go to a judge each time before issuing these requests.
Here, I have concerns that we should not set a standard for terrorism investigations that is higher than those involved in investigating an ordinary crime.
But I agree that greater oversight on the use of these letters may be appropriate. And I’m prepared to work with Congress on this issue.
There are also those who would like to see different changes to the FISA court than the ones I’ve proposed. On all these issues, I’m open to working with Congress to ensure that we build a broad consensus for how to move forward. And I’m confident that we can shape an approach that meets our security needs while upholding the civil liberties of every American.
Let me now turn to the separate set of concerns that have been raised overseas and focus on America’s approach to intelligence collection abroad. As I’ve indicated, the United States has unique responsibilities when it comes to intelligence collection. Our capabilities help protect not only our nation but our friends and our allies as well.
But our efforts will only be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries have confidence that the United States respects their privacy too. And the leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to know what they think about an issue I’ll pick up the phone and call them rather than turning to surveillance.
In other words, just as balance security and privacy at home, our global leadership demands that we balance our security requirements against our need to maintain the trust and cooperation among people and leaders around the world. For that reason, the new presidential directive that I’ve issued today will clearly prescribe what we do and do not do when it comes to our overseas surveillance.
To begin with, the directive makes clear that the United States only uses signals intelligence for legitimate national security purposes and not for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the emails or phone calls of ordinary folks.
I’ve also made it clear that the United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent, nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity or race or gender or sexual orientation or religious beliefs. We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies or U.S. commercial sectors.
And in terms of our bulk collection of signals intelligence, U.S. intelligence agencies will only use such data to meet specific security requirements: counterintelligence; counterterrorism; counterproliferation; cybersecurity; force protection for our troops and our allies; and combating transnational crime, including sanctions evasion.
In this directive, I have taken the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have for the American people to people overseas. I’ve directed the DNI, in consultation with the attorney general, to develop these safeguards, which will limit the duration that we can hold personal information while also restricting the use of this information. The bottom line is that people around the world, regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security and that we take their privacy concerns into account in our policies and procedures.
This applies to foreign leaders as well. Given the understandable attention that this issue has received, I’ve made clear to the intelligence community that unless there is a compelling national security purpose, we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.
And I’ve instructed my national security team, as well as the intelligence community, to work with foreign counterparts to deepen our coordination and cooperation in ways that rebuild trust going forward.
Now let me be clear. Our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments, as opposed to ordinary citizens, around the world in the same way that the intelligence services of every other nation does. We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective. But heads of state and government with whom we work closely and on whose cooperation we depend should feel confident that we are treating them as real partners, and the changes I’ve ordered do just that.
Finally, to make sure that we follow through on all these reforms, I’m making some important changes to how our government is organized. The State Department will designate a senior officer to coordinate our diplomacy on issues related to technology and signals intelligence. We will appoint a senior official at the White House to implement the new privacy safeguards that I’ve announced today. I will devote the resources to centralize and improve the process we use to handle foreign requests for legal assistance, keeping our high standards for privacy while helping foreign partners fight crime and terrorism.
I’ve also asked my counselor, John Podesta, to lead a comprehensive review of big data and privacy. And this group will consist of government officials who, along with the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, will reach out to privacy experts, technologists and business leaders and look how the challenges inherent in big data are being confronted by both the public and private sectors, whether we can forge international norms on how to manage this data and how we can continue to promote the free flow of information in ways that are consistent with both privacy and security, for ultimately, what’s at stake in this debate goes far beyond a few months of headlines or passing tensions in our foreign policy.
When you cut through the noise, what’s really at stake is how we remain true to who we are in a world that is remaking itself at dizzying speed. Whether it’s the ability of individuals to communicate ideas, to access information that would have once filled every great library in every country in the world, or to forge bonds with people on the other side of the globe, technology is remaking what is possible for individuals and for institutions and for the international order. So while the reforms that I’ve announced will point us in a new direction, I am mindful that more work will be needed in the future. On thing I’m certain of, this debate will make us stronger. And I also know that in this time of change, the United States of America will have to lead.
It may seem sometimes that America is being held to a different standard. And I’ll admit the readiness of some to assume the worst motives by our government can be frustrating.
No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programs or Russia to take privacy concerns of citizens in other places into account.
But let’s remember, we are held to a different standard precisely because we have been at the forefront of defending personal privacy and human dignity. As the nation that developed the Internet, the world expects us to ensure that the digital revolution works as a tool for individual empowerment, not government control. Having faced down the dangers of totalitarianism and fascism and communism, the world expects us to stand up for the principle that every person has the right to think and write and form relationships freely, because individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress.
Those values make us who we are. And because of the strength of our own democracy, we should not shy away from high expectations. For more than two centuries, our Constitution has weathered every type of change because we’ve been willing to defend it and because we’ve been willing to question the actions that have been taken in its defense. Today is no different. I believe we can meet high expectations. Together, let us chart a way forward that secures the life of our nation while preserving the liberties that make our nation worth fighting for.
Thank you. God bless you. May God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you.
President Obama criticized Edward Snowden’s method of revealing classified information about the NSA’s intelligence gathering during a speech Friday.
Three changes that were bigger than anyone expected — and what’s still left unsaid.n. 17.
1/17/2014 10:35 PM GMT+0100
Ok, as a critic of the NSA domestic metadata program: this will do for now. Excellent speech. But speeches, and even presidential directives, are not laws or Supreme Court opinions. The domestic surveillance is too serious a matter to leave to the whims of this or the next president. So yeah, work with Congress to find a formal solution. In the meantime, Congress should simultaneously go ahead and end the current program (doesn’t have to be immediate) and the Court should decide whether it’s even constitutional.
1/17/2014 8:58 PM GMT+0100
Summary: Basically, the U.S. is involved in creating terrorism and counter-terrorism technologies, many of which have eventually become adopted by industry. A LOT of these technologies are being used today on YOU, and anyone can purchase them just by owning a business. It seems to me (and a lot of other people), that this is too much of big brother, and it seems like a good time to get out while there is still time.
1/17/2014 8:51 PM GMT+0100
So what did Mr. O just demanded of the world? “Trust us”?It’d be hilarious if it is not so sad.
President Obama, acknowledging that high-tech surveillance poses a threat to civil liberties, announced significant changes on Friday to the way the government collects and uses telephone records, but left in place many other pillars of the nation’s intelligence programs.
Responding to the clamor over sensational disclosures about the National Security Agency’s spying practices, Mr. Obama said he would restrict the ability of intelligence agencies to gain access to phone records, and would ultimately move that data out of the hands of the government.
But in a speech at the Justice Department that seemed more calculated to reassure audiences at home and abroad than to force radical change, Mr. Obama defended the need for the broad surveillance net assembled by the N.S.A. And he turned to Congress and the intelligence agencies themselves to work out the details of any changes.
“America’s capabilities are unique,” Mr. Obama said. “And the power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do. That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do.”
Noting his own record of opposition to intrusive surveillance and the “cautionary tale” of unchecked state spying in countries like the former East Germany, Mr. Obama said the disclosures raised genuine issues of the balance between liberty and security.
The president gave Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. 60 days to come back with recommendations; the government, for the time being, will continue to collect the data until Congress decides where ultimately it should be held.
Civil-liberties groups and lawmakers who have been critical of the N.S.A.’s practices appeared divided over whether Mr. Obama’s proposal on bulk phone records should be greeted with applause or wariness.
Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico — three Democrats on the Intelligence Committee who have been outspoken critics of government surveillance — jointly called Mr. Obama’s embrace of that goal “a major milestone,” although they said they would continue to push for other overhauls Mr. Obama did not endorse.
But Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, was more skeptical, noting that Mr. Obama had warned of hurdles with moving the data into private hands. “The bulk collection and retention of data in government warehouses, government facilities, seems to still be an open question,” he said.
While nothing in federal statutes explicitly gives the court the authority to grant requests to obtain the data, the Justice Department decided that it would most likely consent to doing so, in part because for a period several years ago, the court signed off on each query, officials said.
Two strong defenders of the N.S.A., the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, focused on that change as a potential problem.
“If instituted, that approval process must be made faster in the future than it was in the past — when it took up to nine days to gain court approval for a single search,” they said in a joint statement.
Mr. Obama also said he was taking the “unprecedented step” of extending privacy safeguards to non-Americans, including requiring that data collected abroad be deleted after a certain period and limiting its use to specific security requirements, like counterterrorism and cybersecurity.
“The bottom line,” he said, “is that people around the world — regardless of their nationality — should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security.”
Google, which briefly considered moving all of its computer servers out of the United States last year after learning how they had been penetrated by the National Security Agency, was looking for a public assurance from President Obama that the government would no longer secretly suck data from the company’s corner of the Internet cloud.
Microsoft was listening to see if Mr. Obama would adopt a recommendation from his advisers that the government stop routinely stockpiling flaws in its Windows operating system, then using them to penetrate some foreign computer systems and, in rare cases, launch cyberattacks.
Intel and computer security companies were eager to hear Mr. Obama embrace a commitment that the United States would never knowingly move to weaken encryption systems.
They got none of that.
Perhaps the most striking element of Mr. Obama’s speech on Friday was what it omitted: While he bolstered some protections for citizens who fear the N.S.A. is downloading their every dial, tweet and text message, he did nothing, at least yet, to loosen the agency’s grip on the world’s digital pipelines.
White House officials said that Mr. Obama was committed to studying the complaints by American industry that the revelations were costing them billions of dollars in business overseas, by giving everyone from the Germans to the Brazilians to the Chinese an excuse to avoid American hardware and cloud services.
“The most interesting part of this speech was not how the president weighed individual privacy against the N.S.A.,” said Fred H. Cate, the director of the Center of Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University, “but that he said little about what to do about the agency’s practice of vacuuming up everything it can get its hands on.”
Then – In fact, he did more than that: Mr. Obama reminded the country that it was not only the government that was monitoring users of the web, it was also companies like Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo that had complained so loudly, as members of an industry group called Reform Government Surveillance.
“Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes,” Professor Cate said. “That’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically.”
Translation: Corporate America wants to be able to mine Americans’ data, but fears business will be hurt when the government uses it for intelligence purposes.
In fact, behind the speech lies a struggle Mr. Obama nodded at but never addressed head on. It pits corporations that view themselves as the core of America’s soft power around the world — the country’s economic driver and the guardians of its innovative edge — against an intelligence community 100,000 strong that regards its ability to peer into any corner of the digital world, and manipulate it if necessary, as crucial to the country’s security.
But as Mr. Obama himself acknowledged, the United States has a credibility problem that will take years to address. The discovery that it had monitored the cellphone of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, or that it has now found a way to tap into computers around the world that are completely disconnected from the Internet — using covert radio waves — only fuels the argument that American products cannot be trusted.
That argument, heard these days from Berlin to Mexico City, may only be an excuse for protectionism. But it is an excuse that often works.
“When your products are considered to not only be flawed but intentionally flawed in the support of intelligence missions, don’t expect people to buy them,” said Dan Kaminsky, a security researcher and chief scientist at White Ops, an antifraud company whose clients include many of the nation’s biggest data users,
Mr. Obama will have to address those issues at some point. Every time he meets Silicon Valley executives, many of whom enthusiastically campaigned for him, they remind him of their complaints. But at the Justice Department on Friday, he reminded them that the battle for cyberspace runs in all directions.
“We cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies,” he said at one point in the speech. “There is a reason why BlackBerrys and iPhones are not allowed in the White House Situation Room. We know that the intelligence services of other countries — including some who feign surprise over the Snowden disclosures — are constantly probing our government and private sector networks, and accelerating programs to listen to our conversations, and intercept our emails and compromise our systems.”
Cyber Risks When Doing Business in Brazil, the US, and Around the World
“The expectation is that the government, in three different spheres, academia and civil society can map the social demands; discuss, present and improve policies and public services involving technology; and expand forms of citizen participation in monitoring decisions of public administration. It all comes with the promotion of the use of free software, a strategic resource for knowledge generation and savings for the public purse.” (Marcos Mazoni, President of Serpro)
Recent important developments in the cyber space environment have prompted a comprehensive discussion on “Cyber Risks When Doing Business in Brazil, the US, and Around the World.” This half-day program is designed to help organizations developing practical solutions to cyber investigations, digital forensics, threat management, legal challenges, and asset protection with doing business in cyber space, whether in the US, Brazil, or around the world. We invite data privacy, compliance, and cyber professionals to attend this program, which will include presentations, peer-to-peer exchanges, and panel discussions. More details on this program, including confirmed topics and additional speakers, will follow.
Ty Francis Vice President and Associate Publisher Corporate Board Member Magazine
Confirmed Speakers Include:
Nelson Murilo de Oliveira Rufino
IT Security Advisor, Banco do Brasil
Brian Fox Cyber Security Specialist PricewaterhouseCoopers Marcos Mazoni Director-President SERPRO- Brazilian Federal Data Processing Service Kellie Meiman Managing Partner McLarty Associates Carolina Paschoal Assistant General Counsel
DIRECTV Latin America Neal Pollard Director, Forensic Technology Solutions
PwC Irina Simmons Chief Risk Officer EMC Lisa J. Sotto Partner
Hunton & Williams LLP
Date: Thursday, January 23, 2014
8:00 AM – 8:30 AM: Registration, Breakfast & Networking 8:30 AM – 12:00 PM: Presentations and Q&A
Location: PwC Auditorium 300 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Please click here to register online or download the registration form.
NEW SPEAKERS JOINED! Cyber Risks When Doing Business in Brazil, the US, and Around the World, Jan. 23rd
RIO DE JANEIRO — When I visited China in June, my trip happened to coincide with the discovery that Edward Snowden was hiding out in Hong Kong. By then, Snowden’s revelations about the voracious data-collection operation by the National Security Agency was front-page news all over the world. Snowden hadn’t yet been charged for the leak of tens of thousands of pages of classified N.S.A. documents, but it was clear that it was coming. So it was only natural to ask — as many journalists did — would Hong Kong give Snowden asylum if he requested it?
Now I’m in Brazil, where I’ve spent the last few weeks, and wouldn’t you know it? A question very much in the air here is whether Brazil would grant Snowden asylum once his temporary stay in Russia comes to an end. In recent weeks, Snowden had twice expressed publicly his desire to gain asylum to Brazil, once in an open letter published in a newspaper in São Paulo — in which he said he would cooperate with Brazilian authorities investigating the N.S.A. once he was safely inside the country — and then, somewhat more cautiously, in a television interview.
With the possible exception of Germany, there isn’t another nation as publicly irate over the eavesdropping on its citizens and its government as Brazil. Upon learning that the N.S.A. had spied on her personal communications, Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, canceled a state visit. Then, during a speech to the United Nations, she excoriated the United States, even as President Obama stood in the wings.
Along with Germany, Brazil has rekindled a long-stalled effort to create a new structure for Internet governance, one that would be less dependent on American companies and American networks. Virgílio Fernandes Almeida, a government official who is chairman of the country’s Internet Steering Committee, told me that there is no question that the Snowden revelations helped jump-start the effort.
Indeed, two weeks ago, a $4 billion contract for a fighter jet, in which Boeing was said to be the front-runner, went to a unit of Saab instead. Although Saab was the lowest-cost bidder, “The N.S.A. problem ruined it for the Americans,” a Brazilian government source told Reuters.
“Brazil was one of the most targeted countries,” said Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who is based here and is closest to Snowden. “It was more than even Russia or China.”
What is also true is that Greenwald, who has published dozens of stories in The Guardian based on the documents Snowden supplied, did his best to stoke Brazil’s rage. After every print revelation — O Globo, a large Brazilian daily, was his vehicle of choice — he would appear on a popular show similar to “60 Minutes” to talk up his latest bombshell. “Snowden became almost a household name after that,” said Maurício Santoro, a Rio-based human rights advocate for Amnesty International.
And then Greenwald found the document about the surveillance on Dilma’s phone calls, text messages and emails, and all hell broke loose. “It wasn’t a supertechnical document,” Greenwald told me. “It was written for an idiot. It was like, ‘Great news. We have had great success eavesdropping on Dilma.’
Perhaps just as infuriating to the Brazilian elites was the discovery that the N.S.A., along with Britain’s secret spy agency, GCHQ, had apparently succeeded in penetrating the private computer network of Petrobas, a giant state-owned oil company and a source of national pride.
“Why did they have to do this to us?” asked Santoro, posing the question many Brazilians still want answered. “Of course we have our disagreements with the U.S., but we are not enemies. What has also been maddening has been the lack of a clear explanation from the Obama administration,” he added.
Yet for all that, Santoro doesn’t think that Brazil will give Snowden asylum. So far, the government has been coy, saying that because Snowden has not applied for asylum through the proper channels, there is nothing to talk about. The way it was explained to me, though, Brazil prefers to use what it likes to call “soft power” on the world stage — global consensus building, that sort of thing. Helping to create an Internet governance system fits nicely in that model. Giving Snowden asylum does not.
Meanwhile, the American government shows no signs of softening its stance of trying Snowden for espionage if it gets its hands on him. It’s worth remembering that another important whistle-blower, Daniel Ellsberg, was eventually put on trial for leaking the Pentagon Papers. The case was thrown out of court largely because of government misconduct, starting with the break-in of the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist.
At least as it concerns the N.S.A., government misconduct is now official policy. We know that thanks to Snowden. He needs a place to live. Why not you, Brazil?