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Recommended Reading

Top Billing! The Guardian Glenn Greenwald – NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily , The National Security Agency: surveillance giant with eyes on AmericaNSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and othersBoundless Informant: the NSA’s secret tool to track global surveillance dataEdward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations 

Have to say, I never in a million years expected to ever give Glenn Greenwald a “top billing”. I have often, for example, disagreed very strongly on how he has characterized (or, in my view, mischaracterized) the application of the laws of war about US actions toward al Qaida and the Taliban and I still do. It must be said however, that Greenwald has at least always been scrupulously consistent in his criticism when most other pundits were not; and secondly, with the NSA, Greenwald has broken one of the most important stories of the year.

Credit where credit is due.

Haft of the Spear  –140+ Ed Snowden Edition 1.0 

….His Insight. See comment about “context” above. Snowden is not a trained case officer or interceptor, or analyst. In being able to understand how what he had access to fit into the big scheme of things, he’s a lot more bottom-of-the-pyramid Manning than top of the pyramid Ellsberg.

T. Greer  – America 3.0 

It is unusual for me to read a book aimed at popular conservative audiences.  I am something of a disaffected conservative. Crony capitalism and government overreach have proved to be bipartisan endeavors, and I have long lost faith that the Republican party can ever be more than an organ of America’s governing elite. [1] Outside of the beltway the broader currents of mainstream conservatism are so full of angry sound and righteous fury (and nothing else) that I have long stopped paying close attention them. The movement is in desperate need of a clearer vision and more compelling purpose. 

 America 3.0 is the book to provide it. 

 James Bennet and Michael Lotus get everything right that all of the other popular commentators get wrong. In contrast to pundits incessantly focused on the character flaws of the opposition and controversies of the hour, these authors focus on the broad political principles and broad political context – “centuries into the past and decades into the future” (xxv).  Where most popular political creeds are shallow, filled more with hype and platitudes than meaningful evidence, America 3.0 is both respectful in tone and deeply researched (and none the less readable for it!). Few popular political works have any real historical grounding;  America 3.0 possesses this in spades. Even more impressively, the authors manage to convey both their sense of history and their firm belief in American exceptionalism without any of the reflexive chest-pounding sometimes mistaken as patriotism in conservative corners. (As they write in the introduction, “We are attempting to avoid setinmentalility in this book, and look at the record in a cold light. As we write things are not good in America. Being realistic is a matter of urgency (xxiv).”) Most impressive of all is the political platform they lay out. In age where conservatives are too often defined by what they are againstAmerica 3.0 paints a compelling picture of what they should be for.

All in all, a breath of fresh air. 

Nuclear Diner (Rofer) –What Makes a Whistleblower? 

….Daniel Ellsberg exemplefies the last kind of whistleblower. He shared the government’s documents on the Vietnam war that showed that the government’s public claims were lies. Combine that with the investigative journalism of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on Watergate, and you have today’s high journalistic myth, that the press will out government wrongdoing with the help of whistleblowers. We now know that the person who took the chances to out Watergate was Mark Felt, whose identity was long hidden.

Both Ellsberg and Felt wanted to get the truth out. Ellsberg’s motives were honorable, to inform the public. Felt may have been motivated more by office politics. There are an enormous number of motives that someone may have for leaking information. What all the motives have in common is that hardly ever will the leaker be completely honest about his motives; he may not even be conscious of all his motives.

Edward Luttwak – Nukes: Why is Iran different?


Regime security for an ideological state

Abu Muqawama (Elkus) How Not to Argue about Women in Combat 

A brutal Fisking

SWJ – Political Violence Prevention: Profiling Domestic Terrorists  

It comes out a lot like you would expect

Dart Throwing Chimp –How Social Science Is Like Microbiology 

The Ecological paradigm

Duck of Minerva (Nexon) –New Podcast: Interview with Patrick James 

Middle-Earth in IR theory…..

Not the Singularity (Morris) Security expert Bruce Schneier on NSA and why we need whistleblowers

Austin Bay – Protests Change Turkey’s Political Landscape: A Report From Istanbul 

Victor Davis Hanson -Why Some Wars Are So Savage 

That’s it.

4 Responses to “Recommended Reading”

  1. T. Greer Says:

    The full article from which the Bruce Schneier quote comes can be found here. I always recommend his essays and blog.

  2. Gurray Says:

    Edward Luttwak – Nukes: Why is Iran different?

    “Iran certainly has little to fear from its immediate neighbors”

    Disagree. Things are getting dicey for the Persians on all sides.

    Western flank:
    The so called Arab Spring or whatever you want to call it has shifted the balance of power to Sunnis and threatened Persian influence in the Levant. 

    Even before the Syrian civil war, Assad was flirting with rapprochement with the West, such as with Sarkozy’s Mediterranean Union and certain members of the US congress. The war may have thrown the Alawites back into Iran’s corner, but their relationship was always more like partners in crime than an alliance (especially since Syria functions like a gangster state that would put Batista’s Cuba to shame).

    Hezbollah can ill afford to fight in a drawn out conflict. Protracted civil war will push Syria away from Iran and closer to Russia. Palestinians have already defected from Iran’s camp due to the ideological divisions.

    In addition, new energy deposits in the Eastern Med Sea will push the Levant closer to Europe economically. 
    Increasing cooperation between Turkey and Kurdistan in politics and energy should peal away influence on their NW border
    Cumulative result is Persia in retreat.

    Northern & Eastern flanks:
    Here’s where it gets tricky. Obviously Iran’s best international patrons have been Russia to some extent and China to a large extent.  

    The things to keep an eye out for are shifting developments along their immediate border. They’ve always been in conflict with Azerbaijan which has close ties to Western energy interests. They have been on far friendlier terms with Turkmenistan. However, Turkmenistan is increasingly cooperating with Turkey economically and militarily.

    Stratfor threw up this <a href=”https://fbcdn-sphotos-g-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/600490_10151503499613429_1481039626_n.jpg”>graphic</a> the other day.

    Protests have occurred in western oriented regions
    As the internal political turmoil grows in Turkey, they could be forced closer to allies to the east who are friendlier to their authoritarianism. Far from being “utterly impotent” their intentions are increasingly relevant to Iran who now see them soak up their regional influence.

    Iranians will ignore their northeastern border at their own peril. A lot is made about their vaunted historical independence and resilience, but that route is the one place that holds their historical <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongol_invasion_of_Khwarezmia_and_Eastern_Iran”>vulnerabilities</a>

    China is increasingly desperate to find western passage to their energy supplies. The sea routes are looking less hospitable due to our “pivot to Asia” clogging up the East Indies choke points. The pipeline through Burma has so far been less than a <a href=”http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/asia-pacific/china-to-tap-into-burma-with-1-9bn-oil-and-gas-pipeline-1.1413907″>slam dunk</a>. They may be tempted to try for a Silk Road route next. Ally or not, if/when China starts throwing its weight around in Central Asia, there will be unavoidable rumblings.


  3. Mr. X Says:

    These slides look like the type of gov wonkspeak Zen may be familiar with:


    And note these released slides all say ‘metadeta’ even though William Binney has insisted NSA has had TOTAL playback capability for years, developed right after 9/11 or thereabouts. Not that everyone is insisting that the NSA has either the time (all eternity) or the personnel to listen to every call. It’s the <i>capability</i> to do so, and to be ‘tasked’ for dubious purposes (as Judd Apatow of Knocked Up infamy no less pointed out, like in the Tony Scott movie <i>Enemy of the State</i> where the Gene Hackman character says telecom has been in bed with the feds since the 50s!).

    And the idea that the feds could mine NSA intercepts for dirt on political adversaries/kompromat on Congress seems far more plausible post-IRS proctology exams for Tea Partyers and pro lifers. That is what has people freaking out now, despite this being long rumored/suspected and Binney saying it’s been the case for years.

  4. zen Says:

    Thanks for linking to that, Mr. X. It was extremely interesting
    The chance of genuine “strategic decision makers” -i.e the key “customers” of IC products like the SECSTATE – using this program is extremely remote (supervisors in the IC chain are not “strategic” except maybe the DNI and DCIA if they are allowed to be). Or if it isn’t it should be because unless the “strategic decision maker” is an intel analyst by training like Robert Gates they are likely to latch on to something the program can find for purely idiosyncratic reasons unless they devote an enormous amount of time to mastering the program and understanding it’s structural limitations. They don’t have that kind of time.
    The real value here for this kind of tool is spying on Americans because it will produce the data that is the most easily comprehended quickly and accurately by American analysts. Inferring the reasons for the patterns of foreigners is harder and takes more time because their reasons might easily be very different than the reasons of an American with a similar pattern.
    I’d also be curious how the mostly quantitative-minded programmers opted to *weight* various forms of SIGINT data related to human behavior in a fusion program to evaluate a “pattern”or “trend”. The devil is in the premises
    Were I a “customer” I’d ask to see how the program interprets a variety of real life scenarios with known variables. We might find, as with mathematically complex climate models, that the highly touted model does not accurately predict the past 

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