Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New Yorker's Ryan Lizza does PR, a.k.a., Read This Piece (of shisse)

I bumped into the article below when I was searching for news on the reasons why Brazil has been a major target of NSA spying. I suspected - and I still do - that it has nothing to do with terrorism. The first reason for my suspicion is what could be called an overwhelming absence of terrorist acts in the country. The second reason is that Brazilian companies are an obvious threat to US largest corporations.
But I didn't need search for long. Here was the New Yorker, with an article signed by a man I had never heard of, Ryan Lizza. His piece was entitled "What the NSA Wants in Brazil." He read my thoughts. 
And he answered them exactly as the NSA would have. This is, thus, one excellent example of how a New Yorker reporter acted like a PR flack. There is one conclusion I take from this, or rather two: This guy is either extremely naive (retarded, if you prefer the medical term), or he is on the payroll of someone. There's no other way in which I can interpret this piece of crap.

You may want to read the full article first:
My comments are in red.
And yes, I am very aware this page design sucks, so do the colours. 

July 24, 2013
What the N.S.A. Wants in Brazil
Posted by Ryan Lizza

Well, the awfulness started early: Ryan Lizza is not asking what the NSA wants in Brazil – he is telling you what they want. And he should know – he asked them.

Of course, the question is completely pertinent: Why was Brazil the second major target of NSA surveillance in January? But if the answer was ‘to fight terrorism’, we wouldn’t need Ryan Lizza to tell us, would we? That’s the government’s job. That’s their version. But, of course, some help from the New Yorker is always welcome.  

Lizza starts by quoting an article by Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian:
“In the last decade, people residing or in transit in Brazil, as well as companies operating in the country, have become targets of espionage National Security Agency of the United States[..]. There are no precise figures, but last January Brazil was just behind the United States, which had 2.3 billion phone calls and messages spied.…”
And then he starts an ‘analysis’ that is so empty, so truly shallow yet so absurdly reliant on official sources (and boasting about them) that it makes me wonder if any editor at the New Yorker actually read it.

Here is Lizza stating his legitimate puzzlement.
“In a way, the N.S.A.’s focus on Brazil seems puzzling. Why would the United States care so much about communications traffic in a friendly South American country?”

Now guess what he does to “dig” for the answer to that conundrum?

Investigation, you say? Journalism? FOIA requests?

No. Intrepid Lizza wants to have nice lunch in Washington. What he chooses to do is go talk to the very men accused of conducting illegal espionage. Journalistically speaking, this is like relying on the wolf to understand what happened to Red Riding Hood.
“But last week, at the Aspen Security Conference, General Keith Alexander, the director of the N.S.A., made a little-noticed remark that helps explain his agency’s interest in Brazil. [[Notice Lizza turning a mundane remark into something falsely important. The technique is an old one: announce an irrelevant phrase as “a little-noticed remark” and your pretentious audience will make sure they noticed the remark AND its purported relevance.]] During a question-and-answer session with an audience of journalists and current and former government officials, a German reporter rose and asked Alexander this: “Why are you focusing so much on gathering data also from Brazil, since there’s not too much terrorism going on in Brazil as far as I know?”
Alexander’s answer was somewhat elliptical (emphasis mine):
You know, the reality is we’re not collecting all the e-mails on the people in Brazil nor listening to their phone numbers. Why would we do that? What somebody took was a program that looks at metadata around the world that you would use to find terrorist activities that might transit and leaped to the conclusion that, aha, metadata—they must be listening to everybody’s phone; they must be reading everybody’s e-mail. Our job is foreign intelligence. I’ll tell you, 99.9 and I don’t know how many nines go out of all that, whether it’s in German or Brazil, is of no interest to a foreign intelligence agency. What is of interest is a terrorist hopping through or doing something like that.

[[Yes, you just read that, allow me to reconfirm. Lizza calls that most tiring of all repeated arguments a “little-noticed remark”, trying to give it a false aura of secrecy when that’s the only thing we’ve heard from the government since the NSA scandal surfaced. But now, behold what Lizza wants you to believe is the General’s slip.]]
Alexander’s answer doesn’t seem terribly revealing. But embedded in it was a major admission, which is alluded to by the portions, “metadata around the world that you would use to find terrorist activities that might transit” and “a terrorist hopping through.”

“Admission?” Lizza, have you got a dictionary? Admission has to be something truthful, and more than that, it must have been given reluctantly. If one is dying to say it, or is paying PR flaks or journalists to say it, then it’s not called admission, it’s called spiel.

Who needs Hill and Knowlton when they have Ryan Lizza?

Also, notice how he uses the deemphasising “not terribly” while saying “surprising.” You confuse me, Lizza.

Now, dear reader, I bet you will not imagine what dangerous and inhospitable places Lizza goes dig up the truth:
“I asked General Michael Hayden, the former director of both the C.I.A. and the N.S.A., what he found most interesting in Alexander’s remarks. “He committed two acts of declassification,” Hayden told me, using a euphemism for when a senior official reveals secret info by speaking in public. The first revelation Hayden flagged was not terribly surprising: in an earlier portion of his remarks, Alexander mentioned that the N.S.A. knows precisely what documents Edward Snowden accessed. [[Another “revelation”, yet not “terribly surprising”. But - who would have guessed: the “revelation” is, again, self-serving. The government, via Alexander and Hayden (and via loyal Lizza), is ‘revealing’ that it knows what documents Snowden accessed. And Lizza says that like it was something he ‘extracted’ from Hayden after drugging him with pentothal. Here is a primer for you. Liz: there is no such thing as a “former” MI6, or a “former” CIA. If you think these guys cease to work for their agencies and stop complying with their vow of secrecy, well, I’ll have to say you are not terribly intelligent.]]
But Alexander’s second act of declassification was much more interesting. [[“Second act of declassification”… I swear, I’m hiring this Lizza when I open my own Hooey and Known.]]
Hayden pointed to Alexander’s comments about Brazil, and his point about not being interested in the communications of Brazilians. [[Got it, Brazilians? He is simply NOT INTERESTED.]] He asked me to think about the geography of Brazil, which bulges out eastward into the Atlantic Ocean. [[this is getting too technical for you, Lizza.]] I still didn’t understand. [[Told ya.]] “That’s where the transatlantic cables come ashore,” he finally explained. 
Indeed, they do. [[WHAT? Wait a second, Lizza. You mean to say that transatlantic cables actually need to cross the Atlantic, and for that they need to “come ashore”? But please do not be distracted by my sarcasm. This absurdly obvious line is not a sign of Lizza's stupidity - it's much more likely a sign that this "reporter" has an agenda. How else to explain "indeed, they do"?]] According to a map of the network of submarine cables that transmits our voices and our Internet data around the world, Brazil is one of the most important telecommunication hubs on earth.
(Here is a more detailed, interactive version of this map.)
[[Readers (yes, you two) do check the map, and tell me if you see anything particularly extraordinary about the cables. If you can tell a colour from another, and you can count, this map proves absolutely nothing. But Lizza saw that bunch of coloured lines interconnecting off Brazil’s bulge and got an epileptic attack.]]
Teleco, which collects information about telecommunications in Brazil, has additional details on the major submarine lines that run through the country. It reports that one of the lines, Atlantis-2, which connects South America to Europe and Africa and was created by twenty-five telecommunications companies, is part of a network that, when complete, “will form the infrastructure of the global information society.”
[[That’s what I call journalism, folks. Any doubts about what those cables are doing around that bulge? Just go to the PR firm servicing the cable company and ask! But Lizza went even further, took some time off and read the company’s brochure. Where else would he have gotten the incredibly precise and technical explanation that those cables “will form the infrastructure of the global information society.”]]

While the idea that the N.S.A. is tapping transatlantic cables is hardly shocking—there have been excellent recent stories on the subject in the Washington Post and The Atlantic—as far as I’m aware, Alexander and Hayden’s remarks last week represent the highest level of confirmation of the practice, and they help to explain Greenwald’s report on the N.S.A.’s interest in Brazil.
[[Folks, the paragraph above is a masterpiece in doublethink. It deserves an award. Please observe: NSA tapping cables is “hardly shocking”. By which we can conclude, of course, that Greenwald’s story was probably less revealing that Lizza’s very article (hard to say who wins between ‘hardly shocking’ and ‘not terribly surprising’). Greenwald’s story is not a scoop, of course, and the proof is the fact that the government itself confirmed the “hardly shocking” practice. Now the cherry on that pile of dunk: the government’s confirmation of that practice “help[s] explain Greenwald’s report on the NSA’s interest in Brazil.” Did you get the jamming of those two statements? Because the government confirmed they are tapping the cables, we know why they are tapping cables in Brazil. Lizza knows it. It’s because there are too many coloured lines on that map, and one of those could be used by a terrorist.]]
They also help shed light on an N.S.A. slide recently published by the Guardian, which appears to show that the umbrella program for this type of “upstream” collection is called Fairview and/or Blarney.
[[Now Lizza is using a revelation by Greenwald (a real one) to validate the government’s allegation that it is spying on Brazil to fight terrorism. Basically, Lizza is trying to use Greenwald unrelated stuff to confirm the government’s spiel. Mind you, this slide doesn’t show ANY indication that the government is fighting terrorism instead of, say, engaging in corporate espionage.]]
The map on this slide is a less detailed version of the one above, but it indicates the many submarine cables going to and from Brazil, and explains that the N.S.A. uses these programs for the “collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past.”
Finally, Greenwald has reported that Snowden downloaded N.S.A. documents described as the “crown jewels” of the agency.
[[And now, the final gem in Lizza’s PR for the government:]]
There has been much speculation about what these sensitive documents might be.
[[What are they, Lizza? Please reveal it to us!]]
Three former government officials told me [[Yes, shameless Lizza again goes to the wolf]] that they likely contain details of our relationships with foreign intelligence agencies, and, if so, that there might be explosive revelations about surveillance practices undertaken by Western allies that violate privacy laws and other statutes within those countries.
[[Bra-vo. That’s how you use the New Yorker to tell those foreign leaders complaining about espionage that if they but make a peep, heads will roll. And cute detail – heads could roll even if the foreign country was not cooperating with the USA. It could roll because of a penis on twitter, an occasional mistress, or even from fear of having a secret revealed.]]
Vanee’ M. Vines, a spokesperson for the N.S.A., said, “We’re not going to elaborate on remarks that Gen. Alexander made in Aspen,” and added that the agency also had no comment on speculation about other documents possessed by Snowden.
[[Ooooh, this sounded so serious. It almost made me believe that Alexander slipped. But it’s really quite intelligent, if you are very stupid: Lizza goes to two ‘antagonists’ that are actually both official sources, working for the same master. They play along well. Makes me wonder: who assigned Lizza this piece?]]

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