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The Cayman Islands Agrees to Share Tax Data with the Five Eyes Countries

Screen shot 2013-11-29 at 5.18.17 PMApparently, the people at Treasury don’t need to take advantage of the Black Friday sales. Instead, they’re at work and announcing that the Cayman Islands (and Costa Rica) will share information on US taxpayers with the IRS. The move comes after the Brits rolled out a similar agreement earlier this month.

I assume we’ll see other advanced countries demand similar agreements. But for the moment, just the NSA and GCHQ’s home countries will be able to learn which of their citizens are stashing money in one of the world’s most important tax havens (and one that has been important to Anglo-American financial dominance).

There are two submarine cables serving the Cayman Islands. One — Maya 1 — carries telecom traffic to Hollywood, FL. It is owned, in part, by NSA spy partners AT&T and Verizon. The other carries traffic to Jamaica. Another of the cables that serves Jamaica lands in Boca Raton. A third carries traffic to British Virgin Islands. From BVI, cables carry traffic directly to several other landing spots in the US, as well as — by way of Bermuda — Canada.

Earlier this year, someone leaked massive amounts of data on BVI’s tax shelter clients and habits (though curiously, no US persons were identified among the most prominent culprits). As far as I know, no one has ever discovered how that data got leaked, and there seems little concern from the powers that be about this leaker who, after all, was as audacious as Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden.

Now, I’m not saying that the US and UK were already stealing Cayman Islands’ data. I’m only saying that doing so would be perfectly within the known practices of America and Britain’s spy agencies.

The Institutional Subjectivity of the White Affluent US Nation

In a really worthy read, Bill Keller and Glenn Greenwald debate the future of journalism.

Sadly, however, in his first response to Keller’s self-delusion of belonging to the journalistic tradition of “newspapers that put a premium on aggressive but impartial reporting[] that expect reporters and editors to keep their opinions to themselves,” Greenwald seemed to cede that such journalism constitutes, “concealing one’s subjective perspectives.” That permitted Keller to continue his self-delusion that his journalism — at both the level of reporter and that reporter’s larger institution — achieved that silence about opinions until they started fighting about the role of national allegiance and national security.

That argument developed this way.

Greenwald: Former Bush D.O.J. lawyer Jack Goldsmith in 2011 praised what he called “the patriotism of the American press,” meaning their allegiance to protecting the interests and policies of the U.S. government. That may (or may not) be a noble thing to do, but it most definitely is not objective: it is quite subjective and classically “activist.”

[snip]

Keller: If Jack Goldsmith, the former Bush administration lawyer, had praised the American press for, in your words, “their allegiance to protecting the interests and policies of the U.S. government” then I would strongly disagree with him. We have published many stories that challenged the policies and professed interests of the government. But that’s not quite what Goldsmith says. He says that The Times and other major news outlets give serious consideration to arguments that publishing something will endanger national security — that is, might get someone killed.

For what it’s worth, I think Keller is clinging to the first thing Goldsmith said,

Glenn Greenwald complained that “the NYT knew about Davis’ work for the CIA (and Blackwater) but concealed it because the U.S. Government told it to” (my emphasis).  That is inaccurate.  The government asked the Times not to publish, as it often does, and the Times agreed to the request, which it sometimes does.  The final decision rested with the Times, which listens to the government’s claims about national security harm and risk to individual lives, and then makes its own decision.   The Timesdoes not, in my opinion, always exercise this discretion wisely.

And ignoring what Goldsmith went on to say,

I interviewed a dozen or so senior American national security journalists to get a sense of when and why they do or don’t publish national security secrets.  They gave me different answers, but they all agreed that they tried to avoid publishing information that harms U.S. national security with no corresponding public benefit. Some of them expressly ascribed this attitude to “patriotism” or “jingoism” or to being American citizens or working for American publications.   This sense of attachment to country is what leads the American press to worry about the implications for U.S. national security of publication, to seek the government’s input, to weigh these implications in the balance, and sometimes to self-censor.  (This is a natural and prudent attitude in a nation with the fewest legal restrictions in the world on the publication of national security secrets, but one abhorred by critics like Greewald.)  The Guardian, al Jazeera, and Wikileaks, by contrast, worry much less, if at all, about U.S. national security interests.

That is, Goldsmith noted both that at an institutional level US news outlets entertained the requests of the government, and that at a reportorial level, individuals prioritized US “national security.”

And from there, Keller repeatedly ignored or dismissed the efforts Greenwald, in his Edward Snowden reporting, or WikiLeaks, in its Cablegate publications, made to protect lives of individuals.

It’s not until Greenwald’s response where he gets to the crux of the issue.

As for taking into account dangers posed to innocent life before publishing: nobody disputes that journalists should do this. But I don’t give added weight to the lives of innocent Americans as compared to the lives of innocent non-Americans, nor would I feel any special fealty to the U.S. government as opposed to other governments when deciding what to publish. Read more

The Spooks Will Never Have Their Software Self-Spying Working

Mark Hosenball seems to have gotten as obsessed with the Intelligence Community’s inability or unwillingness to implement the automated Insider Threat tracking software mandated by Congress (see here and here). After reporting last week that the Hawaii NAS location where Edward Snowden worked didn’t have insider threat detection software installed because of bandwidth problems, he reported earlier this week that DOD will miss the new Congressionally mandated deadlines to have it working, again partly for bandwidth reasons.

But the intelligence agencies have already missed an October 1 deadline for having the software fully in use, and are warning of further delays.

Officials responsible for tightening data security say insider threat-detection software, which logs events such as unusually large downloads of material or attempts at unauthorized access, is expensive to adopt.

It also takes up considerable computing and communications bandwidth, degrading the performance of systems on which it is installed, they said.

[snip]

The latest law requires the agencies to have the new security measures’ basic “initial operating capability” installed by this month and to have the systems fully operational by October 1, 2014.

But U.S. officials acknowledged it was unlikely agencies would be able to meet even that deadline, and Congress would likely have to extend it further. One official said intelligence agencies had already asked Congress to extend the deadline beyond October 2014 but that legislators had so far refused.

If the Intelligence Committees were unable to get the IC to take this mandate seriously after the Chelsea Manning leaks, I don’t see any reason they’ll show more focus on doing so after Edward Snowden. They seem either unable to back off their spying bandwidth draw far enough to implement the security to avoid another giant leak, or unwilling to subject their workers (or themselves?) to this kind of scrutiny.

This is why I made the Ozymandias joke the other day. Parallel with our headlong rush toward destruction via climate change, the IC doesn’t seem able to reverse the manic demand for more data long enough to protect the collection systems they’ve got, or at least the mission critical ones. That is not a sign of an organization that can survive long.