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Belmont Club

The Age of Faith

June 18th, 2013 - 2:42 pm

Barack Obama to Charlie Rose

So point number one, if you’re a U.S. person, then NSA is not listening to your phone calls and it’s not targeting your emails unless it’s getting an individualized court order. That’s the existing rule.

The Atlantic

3 Former NSA Employees Praise Edward Snowden, Corroborate Key Claims … Thomas Drake, William Binney, and J. Kirk Wiebe each protested the NSA in their own rights. “For years, the three whistle-blowers had told anyone who would listen that the NSA collects huge swaths of communications data from U.S. citizens” …

Congressional overseers “have no real way of seeing into what these agencies are doing. They are totally dependent on the agencies briefing them on programs, telling them what they are doing.”…

Asked what Edward Snowden should expect to happen to him, one of the men, William Binney, answered, “first tortured, then maybe even rendered and tortured and then incarcerated and then tried and incarcerated or even executed.”

CNET

The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls, a participant said.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed on Thursday that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst deciding that.”

If the NSA wants “to listen to the phone,” an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. “I was rather startled,” said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee. …

Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, being able to listen to phone calls would mean the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.

Washington Post, emphasis mine

Two of the four collection programs, one each for telephony and the Internet, process trillions of “metadata” records for storage and analysis in systems called MAINWAY and MARINA, respectively. Metadata includes highly revealing information about the times, places, devices and participants in electronic communication, but not its contents. The bulk collection of telephone call records from Verizon Business Services, disclosed this month by the British newspaper the Guardian, is one source of raw intelligence for MAINWAY.

The other two types of collection, which operate on a much smaller scale, are aimed at content. One of them intercepts telephone calls and routes the spoken words to a system called ­NUCLEON….

Current NSA director Keith B. Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. have resolutely refused to offer an estimate of the number of Americans whose calls or e-mails have thus made their way into content databases such as ­NUCLEON.

The agency and its advocates maintain that its protection of that data is subject to rigorous controls and oversight by Congress and courts. For the public, it comes down to a question of unverifiable trust.

As the earlier posts Flow of Mistrust and the Destroyer of Worlds argued, a world dependent on information requires trust to work. How can we deal with the quantity called unverifiable trust? Well what is it in the first place? It’s an unavoidable part of the trust process.

One of the properties of a trust relationship is that the trustor cannot always know whether the trustee is telling him the truth. If trustor actually knew, then no trust would be involved since the facts would be evident to both. Trust involves the trustor not knowing everything about the trustee’s actions.

One party (trustor) is willing to rely on the actions of another party (trustee); the situation is directed to the future. In addition, the trustor (voluntarily or forcedly) abandons control over the actions performed by the trustee. As a consequence, the trustor is uncertain about the outcome of the other’s actions; he can only develop and evaluate expectations. The uncertainty involves the risk of failure or harm to the trustor if the trustee will not behave as desired.

In an age when the media routinely mocks notions of ‘faith’ it amusing to realize that the world actually operates on something very much like it. The Obama administration — and the every administration before it — is saying: “you don’t know that I’m telling you the truth. And I can’t show you the facts. But take my word that if you walk over that cliff you will not fall.” Trust involves uncertainty. It involves the “risk of failure or harm to the trustor if the trustee will not behave as desired”.

So to those who say: “‘you are a fool to believe in a God you can’t see’ you can quite legitimately respond: ‘you are fool to believe in a President whose words you can’t verify’”. How do we verify what we are not allowed to see? The verificationists would argue that we can’t. Asking questions to which there are no empirical answers or worse,  for which no answers will ever be forthcoming is a exercise that is often dismissed as ‘unscientific’ or metaphysical.

Here’s a song title for Madonna: “we are living in a metaphysical world and I’m a metaphysical girl.”

Fortunately, mathematics has come to our rescue. Although we cannot verify what we are not allowed to know, we can verify the statistical reliability of the trustee. This is called “evidence of trustworthiness”. We can infer the probability of what we do not know from what we  know. Thus, if a person has a track record of truthfulness, of being a faithful agent or trustee in the past then our confidence in a grant of unverified trust is relatively high. On the other hand, if a person has habitually lied to us then the claim to unverifiable trust is weak.

Another alternative approach is to pose challenges to the trustee and from it infer his reliability. “The idea is to intersperse questions (“challenges”) for which the correct answers are known. By evaluating the answers to these challenges, probabilistic conclusions about the correctness of the unverifiable information can be drawn. Less challenges need to be used if an information provider has shown to be trustworthy.”

With this framework in hand the crisis of confidence that President Obama is facing is easily understood. Since the public will never be told enough about the NSA to compare the statements against the facts, the public will in the end be asked to extend unverifiable trust to the administration. The reason the trust crisis exists is because the administration has lied voluminously in the past. Benghazi, IRS, EPA, Syria etc etc etc.

There comes a point in the life cycle of the administration when the voters begin to withdraw their trust in it. It is sometimes called the ‘loss of legitimacy’ and  is usually the cumulative effect of past betrayals, disappointments and contempt for public intelligence.  The process of massaging the narrative and spinning the truth exacts an eventual price, what might be termed the Wolf Problem. That is the problem the administration is facing and there is no easy solution.


The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99

Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99

No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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Top Rated Comments   
"All those relatives, neighbors and "friends" you have that voted twice for Obama and you thin are basically good people but just a bit wrong about politics? Yes, they absolutely would let it happen to you, and they might even be happy about it. You are lying to yourself if you believe otherwise. at this point there are simply no facts or data that I can see that indicate otherwise."

Permit me to offer you a slight change in perspective.

I too are among those whose religion and, philosophy about the size of government might someday result in my being hauled off to a domestic internment camp where those judged beyond reform are 'disappeared'.

Despite my vociferous efforts at persuasion, both my daughter and father voted for Obama in 2008 and, in 2012. Nothing I said mattered and facts and reason were simply dismissed. Both have been so thoroughly indoctrinated in the memes of the left that despite them both being highly intelligent, for them everything is filtered through the left's narrative.

That said, both love me deeply and neither would ever silently look away as I was led off to a domestic internment and reeducation camp. BUT...they would look away if it was you, a STRANGER being led away.

Conversely, your liberal relatives, neighbors and "friends" would look away if it was ME being led away.

The banality of evil requires that a moral and emotional distance be available. That it is happening to 'the other', to someone we do not care much for or even better, do not know.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why?

There is no reason. To trust Obama. He has hidden so much. School records. Birth certificates. And exposed so much. Other peoples sealed divorce records. Other peoples tax records. Etc. Etc.

He is what the founders warned against.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
So some people are losing trust in he Big O? Isn't it a bit late for that? A lot of damage has already been done, many would say irreparable damage.

The relationship between the manifest failure of a totalitarian regime and popular opposition to it don't necessarily run parallel. In "Fascist Voices: An Intimate History of Mussolini's Italy," author Christopher Duggan , documents how,

[A]s far as the cult of the Duce [Mussolini] is concerned, there was no simple link between disappointment and the withdrawal of support or trust. Indeed, the more people suffered the more they often seem to have looked towards Mussolini for hope. It was probably only in the course of the second half of 1942 .  .  . that the talismanic appeal of Mussolini began seriously to wane, at least on the home front.

In a review of this book, PJMedia's own Michael Ledeen writes "Charismatic leaders are not immediately blamed for the failures of their regimes: 'If Stalin only knew' was a commonplace during the worst years of the Soviet era. The ruling party is blamed—whether Communist or Fascist—as are underlings, but the supreme leader is long given a pass."

Mussolini and Obama - in many ways very different, ... yet in many ways the same.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (55)
All Comments   (55)
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If you want to know what they're doing, go and look. That's what IG's are for.

Well, unless you fire them and don't replace them.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Superlative post, wonderful comments, thanks to all. It's my fondest hope that one day we will all have the opportunity to laugh about the scouring of this country and the final ejection of the lowlives responsible. 'Til that day, keep a full heart and trust in God.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
The US should maintain the capability to know everything imaginable. Like nuclear weapons, that capability should not be used domestically. A dedicated and professional corps safeguards the use of military weapons; a less dedicated and mostly civilian force wields the information gathering capability. The private benefits of domestic use and the more subtle consequences thereof demand more rigorous safeguards. A misused bomb is blatantly obvious, while abuse of information gathering is las subtle as sabotage and rust.

In former times, civilians (even bureaucrats) maintained some dedication to ethics and standards, even against their own immediate self-interest. With the last two generations reared in leftist cynicism, those values are less compelling to people in positions of responsibility.

We are facing the consequences of putting the stupid and unethical in charge of the government, as was done in 2008. I suspect that an attempt will be made to curtail domestic use of government information gathering for political or private benefit. However, there is no safeguard from the electorate and an incompetent leftist media.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment

Sandy Daze
Did you catch the Clintonian non-answer?
"ROGERS: Does the NSA have the ability"
"ALEXANDER: No, we do not have that authority."
Rogers queries 'ability' and Alexanders responds regarding 'authority.'
Also Rogers asks if they can 'flip a switch' and the answer is "No." But if they can do it by turning a knob or clicking a mouse then the answer could still be Yes. In the real world or in a sane court room these differences may not matter. With the giggling preening children who delight in playing games with human lives these differences do matter.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
All of this discussion of trust relates to our Islamic friends.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ah Der Wolf Problem! Plus I would hazard the impossible odds against the unpopular from day 1 Obamacare problem if it crashes and burns. That seems likely to me built as it is on a healthcare system that is absorbing 17.5% of GDP when even the expensive Swiss system does the job for about 11%. What Bush did for the Republican brand, Obama may well do for the Democrat brand with even greater domestic and foreign disasters.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I would suggest that the Swiss medical supply system does not have to contend with 11 million illegals and excessive government. Medical costs in the US have been driven up, largely, by the 50 plus year old Hill-Burton Act.

Otherwise, I am growing concerned with the 'brand' concept of party. It is not about Coke vs Pepsi anymore.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't forget our tort system. The malpractice premiums (especially for some medical specialties) that Doctors have to pay are exorbitant and the costs are passed on to everyone else.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts" that were available on each operator's computer.
"Hey, check this out," Faulk says he would be told, "there's good phone sex or there's some pillow talk, pull up this call, it's really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, 'Wow, this was crazy'," Faulk told ABC News. …"

(http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=5987804&page=1#.UcGXd_bF29V)
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Still, House Intelligence chair Mike Rogers wanted Alexander to settle some basic questions.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS: Does the NSA have the ability to listen to Americans' phone calls or read their emails under these two programs?

ALEXANDER: No, we do not have that authority.

ROGERS: Does the technology exist at the NSA to flip a switch by some analyst to listen to Americans' phone calls or read their emails?

ALEXANDER: No."
(http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=193194566)
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ah but blimpy Naddler recanted! So that makes everything else in the CNET story Wretchard cited false! And we can ignore William Binney et al too!
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
MONTOYA: "You keep using that word, I don't think it means what you think it means."

(www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2y8Sx4B2Sk&;)
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
A favorite copied long ago from some internet site, that I use to show that "ad hominem" originally flatters the opponent rather than "contra hominem" attacking him, on faith and knowledge, applies:

``Some time since I had a pleasant discussion with a university professor who held that faith and knowledge are in inverse ratio. As the area of knowledge enlarges, he claimed that of faith diminishes correspondingly. Once people accepted by faith what has since become known, and science has thus made faith superfluous in all such things. The professor admitted, however, it was not likely that knowledge would ever entirely banish faith; there would still remain some unexplored regions where faith could find room, and so preachers could still find a field for their activities. I came back at this professor with an argumentum ad hominem, "Is it true," said I, "that the more knowledge your wife has of you, the less faith she has in you? And is it true that the more you know of her, the less faith you have in her? In your home are faith and knowledge in inverse ratio? If so, I pity you both." It is not true that knowledge excludes faith. The more you know of your family physician, the more faith you have in him. The more soldiers know of their general, the greater their faith in him; else the army is in a bad way. The more we know of our friends the more faith we have in them. The greater a man’s knowledge of nature, the greater his faith in nature. Intelligent faith is not weaker than ignorant faith.''
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Internet gods (Google) are still interdicting my attempts to get to the Belmont Club.

The program keeps morphing.

When you consider just how 'in bed' Google is with the Wan...

Sheesh...

Is anyone else running this gauntlet?



44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
RSS is your friend. No Google required.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Same problem. First it works, then it doesn't. I go to a separate browser then that doesn't work. Try using a proxy browser to view the page in between.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Feed Demon is flawless in accessing Belmont Club. I see no drawback to using an RSS aggregator.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
"We can infer the probability of what we do not know from what we know. Thus, if a person has a track record of truthfulness, of being a faithful agent or trustee in the past then our confidence in a grant of unverified trust is relatively high. On the other hand, if a person has habitually lied to us then the claim to unverifiable trust is weak.

Another alternative approach is to pose challenges to the trustee and from it infer his reliability."

This is still a clumsy, cumbersome solution to the problem of lost trust. Once he had all the facts, Othello believed that Desdemona was chaste. But by then, it was too late.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
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