I am not a spy

 “Charlie Wilson’s War”

“I am not a spy”

Five words I never, ever thought I would have cause to say.

Sometimes I think in metadata.

No one like me can help it. And just in metadata terms, I cross-hatch at a whole lot of points that necessarily place me in a fairly narrow pool. But I don’t need to assume, because  last summer I was made aware that I am “selected.”

It almost sounds flattering. Instead, it makes me concerned that my friends and allies around the world might get hurt or compromised by their proximity to me. It makes me afraid to communicate with them because I know that could put them at risk, and these are courageous people who have already put themselves at risk and don’t need me adding to it.

Even though I am not a spy.

It’s hard to believe that only a year and a half has passed since I was asked to review an enormous amount of Putin media – stretching back to his Munich speech nearly a decade ago – causing me to became extraordinarily concerned at how intently “we” were ignoring Russia and Putin. The media never mentioned Russia. No one did, except for the occasional jab at him shirtless on horseback or his repugnant repression and aggression toward gays and women.

And until I spent that month or so watching and listening to Putin so much that I couldn’t turn his voice off in my head even as I went to sleep, I hadn’t noticed that we were ignoring him. Because you don’t notice that. And now, for anyone without that  “X” of demarcation in place and time, I understand that me simply stating the opinion that we were ignoring him and Russia probably carries little weight. And for me to go one step farther and say that it was purposeful must seem quite thin, indeed.

However, there is no way for anyone, even an American with no knowledge of Russia or Putin, to take even a small sampling of Putin over the last decade, translated into English – as much of it is – and not be fully convinced that to not cover Putin as anything but a caricatured villain could be nothing but purposeful. Because he has been making a case to the world at large during that time, and it is a damning one, because it is true.

Let me repeat that. The case that Putin has been making in any and every forum possible, is damning. And it is damning because

 it is true.

So when Russia, who I understood we were fighting in proxy-wars across the Middle East – as, of course, did every Russian and Middle East scholar – finally came rushing back into the headlines in the way that it did, it was scary.

Most Russia experts were both dismissive and concerned about the sudden turn and propagandist tone of the media following the election. For anyone still harboring even a shred of trust in our supposed “news” outlets before the Democratic primaries, after them, we had no doubts about just how venal and untrustworthy our sources of “news” were. They proved it with their shameful and duplicitous “coverage” of the election. They were not, and have not been actual “news” for a long time.

And as they now continuously – and rightly, by the way – point out in referring to Donald Trump, once you’ve lost your credibility, it’s a bitch to get it back.

With hindsight, I recently decided to go back and watch some of the coverage I was too disgusted to watch before, beginning around the time of the inauguration, and it wasn’t just bias and anger on my part that made it seem so over-the-top propagandistic.

It really was bad. The only reason that it appears better now is that they aren’t forcing a story, they’re covering a story. Sort of, at least. Of course, they’re ignoring really important things and fanning flames that need not be fanned, but nonetheless, there is “there” there.

But even that requires some context. From the start both media and politicians alike acted with a ridiculous amount of self-righteousness for a country that has been overthrowing leaders, rigging elections and staging bloody coups since at least the mid-20th century. But of course, one need not go back that far. Our fingerprints are all over the death and destruction in the Middle East. We overthrew Saddam Hussein because we wanted to.

Which leads me back to where I started.

First, a disclaimer. Although I think the demonization of Russia for succeeding in doing what we do all the time in other countries is hypocritical bullshit, that does not translate, in any way, to Americans helping, approving of, or having knowledge of any foreign government or non-foreign actor seeking to act in any way contrary to the best interests of our country and its institutions, fucked up though they may be. And I have no doubt at this point, from my own sources and the overwhelming barrage of public evidence, that that is exactly what happened in this case. 

So, we are through ignoring Putin, but appear more determined than ever not to understand the situation, and understanding the situation is vital. 

As usual, instead of taking on all the data points to make my case, I will choose just one big, bold target that most Americans actually know about, at least in passing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin: Speech on Crimea


Кры́мская речь Влади́мира Пу́тина
Crimean speech of Vladimir Putin
March 18, 2014

I remember him making this speech live, and I remember it so well because I happened to be online when it began streaming – in Russian with no translation – and remember my ex demanding to know what the hell Putin was saying, and demanding it of me. 

(He had a PoliSci degree from Boston College with a focus on Russia. Yeah, totally useless, I know. Nevertheless, I guess it explains why we were both too riveted to leave it and go in search of the same speech, live, with a proper translator.)

So that’s how I ended up frantically attempting to translate a speech by Putin that the U.S. would “cover,” but not really. Because the meat of the speech was directed right at America. 

The whole point, really, of the speech – which can be read in full at a million sites by anyone –

was an indictment of America.

It was Putin, saying

“Who in the hell are you, America, to condemn us for this?”

(I don’t think we have an answer for that. If we have one, I’ve yet to hear it.)

Putin went down a laundry list of American wrongs. American arrogance. American aggression. And unlike some other times in history, he didn’t need to make any of them up. He didn’t need to inflate the facts. The facts were damning enough on their own.

So, now, with a few years having passed, and with our wondrous and free internet of information, surely all this is easily found by just going to Wikipedia, right?

No, not really. This is as close as the English Wikipedia article comes:

Putin condemned the West’s reaction to the events in the Crimea and sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian politicians. Russian President expressed gratitude to the people of China, praised the restraint of India. Appealed to the U.S. freedom-loving people, stressing that freedom of the Crimean population is the same value. Referring to the fact that not all allies sympathized with Germany in 1989, it merged with the German Democratic Republic, Putin said that while the USSR supported the Germans sincere desire for national unity. The President expressed confidence that German citizens support the aspirations of the Russian world to restore the unity of ‘Crimea will remain Russian and Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar. It will be home to the representatives of all the peoples living there. But he will never Bandera‘.

Putin assured that Russia will not seek confrontation with the West and the East, and stressed that Russia and Ukraine — are one people. Ukraine will continue to live millions of Russian citizens, which means that Russia will always defend their interests.

Putin’s speech lasted 45 minutes. During the speech, Putin used the term “natsional-predateli” (“national-traitors”) which is a calque from the German term Nationalverräter.[6][7][8] The refusal to accept the new Ukrainian government he explained in the unlawful events on Euromaidan: Groups “wanted to seize power and would stop short of nothing. They resorted to terror, murder and pogroms. Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites executed this coup. They continue to set the tone in Ukraine to this day.” Nevertheless, he expressed appreciation to those protesting peacefully against corruption, inefficient state management and poverty.

So, as a non-Russia hating, radical, subversive hacker whose formal education was in Chemistry, speaks the wrong languages, thinks Israel commits war crimes and that America does as well, is embedded in the center of the proving grounds of the Military Industrial Complex and whose entire life was spent under the tutelage of a father that essentially made the Surveillance State possible, I just want to say, for the record:

I am not a spy.

YouTube: Vladimir Putin’s Speech on the annexation of Crimea

Translated speech, starting part way into the “fuck you, America” section, because it’s pretty much all “fuck you, America.” I just trimmed off some of the windup.

Internet Archive Received National Security Letter with FBI Misinformation about Challenging Gag Order – & a slide into a revere on the heroism of Aaron Swartz


Internet Archive https://archive.org

The Internet Archive received their second National Security Letter (NSL) in August of this year containing numerous mistakes about the law on both the requirement of the “gag order” that demands absolute secrecy, as well as misinformation about the methods and frequency allowed to challenge NSLs. The FBI, after being notified of this mistake, allowed the order to be published and admitted that it had sent National Security Letters with this same misinformation to potentially thousands of other communications providers since the law was changed in over a year and a half before the Internet Archive received this letter. (Over 13,000 NSL’s were sent to communication providers in 2015, alone, and from the FBI’s own statements, it appears that all of the NSL’s issued during that time had the same harmfully erroneous language.)

In 2007, when the archive received their first National Security Letter, they successfully contested it with help from EFF and the ACLU.

The Internet Archive, if you are unaware of it, is an amazing idea come to life, but not without a fight, and not without some costs that can never be measured. But first, a bit about what the Internet Archive is, because learning what it is is learning why it is so vital to humanity.

More information can be found on The Internet Archive’s about page, but here’s a quick primer from that page:

The Digital “Library”

Why the Archive is Building an ‘Internet Library’

Libraries exist to preserve society’s cultural artifacts and to provide access to them. If libraries are to continue to foster education and scholarship in this era of digital technology, it’s essential for them to extend those functions into the digital world.

But without cultural artifacts, civilization has no memory and no mechanism to learn from its successes and failures. And paradoxically, with the explosion of the Internet, we live in what Danny Hillis has referred to as our “digital dark age.”

No more “Error 404 – Page Not Found”

The Internet Archive is working to prevent the Internet – a new medium with major historical significance – and other “born-digital” materials from disappearing into the past. Collaborating with institutions including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian, we are working to preserve a record for generations to come.

Open and free access to literature and other writings has long been considered essential to education and to the maintenance of an open society. Public and philanthropic enterprises have supported it through the ages.

The Internet Archive is opening its collections to researchers, historians, and scholars. The Archive has no vested interest in the discoveries of the users of its collections, nor is it a grant-making organization.

Reviving dead links: A few services – such as UC Berkeley’s Digital Library Project, the Online Computer Library Center, and Alexa Internet are starting to offer access to archived versions of Web pages when those pages have been removed from the Web. This means that if you get a “404 – Page Not Found” error, you’ll still be able to find a version of the page.

This goal, and the work the archive does, complies with that highest goal embodied in the Latin motto, NIL MAGNUM NISI BONUM.


The Internet Archive and the work they do is both great and good, but goodness will always be fought by greed and graft, and so the costs in the achievement of this goal continue to be high; and as I said, some costs are immeasurable, like the cost to all of humanity of losing Aaron Swartz who had a major effect on the life of The Internet Archive, Creative Commons, the internet itself, and most of all, everyone whose lives he touched.

Tim Berners-Lee  –  tim-berners-lee

– the man responsible for the fact that I can write this today and that you can read it – because he invented the internet and, in one of the most important sacrifices of greed in human history, chose to make it free – said of  Aaron: “Blazing across the dark sky of ordinary people, broken systems, [he was] a shining force for good, a maker of things.”

Aaron was intensely committed to making knowledge free and open to all. And intensely committed to the work of the Internet Archive.

The government has fought this free and open collection of knowledge  at each and every turn; not only by National Security Letters, but by costly and dubious criminal investigations and prosecutions in which our government is nothing more than a shill for private, “for profit” companies, like PACER, who profits by a paywall that charges the public, the public whose taxpayer dollars pay for the public records they now “hold;” as well as  JSTOR, a company that has decided the storehouse of all the world’s knowledge and discovery, from Galileo to Genomic Sequencing, is theirs to pr0fit from. Aaron wanted to help make this information free to all, as it was to him with his M.I.T. library access. In his fight to make this knowledge free, the cost was his life.

From Rolling Stone:

The Brilliant Life and Tragic Death of Aaron Swartz

He was a child prodigy, an Internet pioneer and an activist who refused to back down – even when the feds tried to break him

…the conviction that Swartz was a victim of a government that has, in recent years, stepped up its pursuit of “cybercrimes” in ways once reserved for terrorists, prosecuting even minor transgressions with increasingly harsh punishments. Wikileaks claimed him as an ally, while Anonymous, the vigilante hacker collective, took over a number of websites, converting them into makeshift shrines. Visitors to the site for the U.S. Sentencing Commission, for instance, found the home page replaced by a statement: “Two weeks ago today, Aaron Swartz was killed. Killed because he was forced into playing a game he could not win.”

Swartz himself had been among the most eloquent thinkers about the free- culture movement and the rifts it had created between old and new, analog and digital. “There’s a battle going on right now, a battle to define everything that happens on the Internet in terms of traditional things the law understands,” he stated in May 2012, in a keynote speech given at the Freedom to Connect Conference. “Is sharing a video on BitTorrent like shoplifting from a movie store, or is it like loaning a videotape to a friend? Is the freedom to connect like the freedom of speech, or like the freedom to murder?”

At 21 years old, after leaving Reddit, the company he helped found, Aaron… (continued from Rolling Stone)

…hooked up with Carl Malamud, the founder of Public.Resource.Org, a nonprofit devoted to pressuring the government to stop charging money for access to public documents. Swartz was interested in Malamud’s latest endeavor, a liberation of the government’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records system, or PACER, which charged at the time eight cents a page for court documents, generating a surplus of $150 million a year from material not protected by copyright. When the government started a pilot program offering free access to PACER from a limited number of public libraries, Malamud envisioned uploading the entire database and placing it onto an independent server, one that would offer the same material but be better organized, easier to search and free, anytime and anywhere.

That fall, Swartz wrote a script designed to crawl through the PACER system, sucking up documents at high speeds. From his office in Cambridge, he downloaded an estimated 20 percent of the database, or 19,865,160 pages of text…

At eight cents a page, the documents had a value of more than $1.5 million – and the fact that they were no longer controlled solely by the government did not sit well. In April 2009, an FBI agent contacted Swartz, interested in talking about the downloads. It turned out the agency had been investigating him for months, at one point conducting surveillance on his parents’ home. The investigation was eventually dropped – no laws, after all, had been broken – but Swartz was now on the government’s radar.

I didn’t mean to make this into a monument to Aaron Swartz, but it’s not a bad thing. We desperately need heroes, now. Heroes give us strength, hope, and belief that we too, can be heroes.

And we must be. We must be heroes. Time is running out.

So find your inner hero. And fight the good fight.