I know some people will argue that this stuff is off-topic, and maybe it is in a certain sense. But there are a lot of younger readers on HN who probably aren't familiar with a lot of this history, and it helps explain why some people are so quick to distrust the US government. In light of the recent news about the NSA, IRS, etc., I think this is worthy of discussion.
It doesn't matter if they were us citizens or not. Take for example the Tuskegee syphilis experiment . I don't know if you wrote that in order to make those experiments look even worse, but it shouldn't matter the nationality of those people. The fact that they were experimenting with them without their consent, it's just terrible... And they were doing it for 40 years! It looks like something taken from Josef Mengele's research book (and I can't think of a better case than this to appeal to Godwin's law).
Yyyyes and no. It depends on what you're discussing, and in what context. Medical experiments like Tuskegee and MK Ultra, I agree with you entirely.
Wiretapping, it's a little different. I mean, non-Americans who're being spied on the by US government should be offended, maybe, but not quite the same level of outrage.
It seems reasonable to demand that your own country follow its own law. If/when they break that law, there's an extra type of outrage that's appropriate. And American elected representatives purport to be agents of the citizens of the US (and they do not purport to be agents of humanity at large.. well, not as literally, anyway). If/when they act against the interests of the US citizenry, there's an extra type of outrage that's appropriate.
Further, the harm that the NSA can do to a random citizen of, say, Germany, by spying on them, is modest. The harm that can be done to Americans, by being spied upon by hypothetical corrupt agents of their own government, is much steeper, I think.
The only thing that makes it worse that the NSA is spying on Americans is it seems completely contrary to any ordinary reading of the US law (and some reasonable readings of the constitution) and the NSA's remit. If the law (and constitution) was properly amended to allow it it would be less bad than spying on foreigners.
> "If the law (and constitution) was properly amended to allow it it would be less bad than spying on foreigners."
I would expect governments to try to protect their citizens from foreign spying (and to try to spy on foreigners). I would expect them to regard other countries efforts as illegal and prosecute (or revoke diplomatic status and send home where applicable) those trying to spy on their citizens.
Internally there are several different issues with the recent NSA:
1) The high level of intrusion offensive and dangerous at the apparent levels that it is currently occurring.
2) The democratic process seems to have been poorly followed, NSA is far exceeding its stated brief (foreign inteligence).
3) Constitutionally the situation seems at best dubious.
Issue (1) applies internally and externally. The others are US internal issues.
 See Echelon etc. and other actions as cases where this expectation is wrong.
There are also non-legal actions that can be taken from insider trading on call patterns of company execs planning mergers to blackmail or straight industrial espionage.
That said, experimenting on people without their knowledge or permission is wrong, evil, and abhorrent regardless of their nationality (or any other attribute!).
But I have to say:
> recent news about the NSA, IRS, etc.
To paint recent stories about IRS with the same brush as the recent news about NSA, or to put IRS on the same level as COINTELPRO/MKULTRA... They're not nearly in the same ballpark. There's this trend on HN right now to say that anything government related (I hear they're putting floride in the water! Don't get me started about the post office!) must be in on the crazy conspiracy, and I find that attitude disappointing. It's not all the same.
...which demonstrates that the executive branch wields a disproportionate amount of power, does it not?
In this most recent iteration of the NSA story it seems like all three branches failed, with congress not giving enough of a crap and the courts rubber stamping everything.
That's one of the reasons he's a suspect in the JFK assassination. The best part of this theory is the implication that discreetly disclosing each new president on exactly how JFK was assassinated tends to get them in line.
The CSPAN meeting on Wednesday started out unpleasantly devoted to public-private cooperation and other back-patting but it very quickly took a sharp turn into a grilling and -- dare I say -- public flogging of General Alexander.
Here is a short excerpt of the first shot across the bow of the NSA surveillance programs: http://pastebin.com/pqMxP0s6
I recommend reading the transcript along with the video: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/event/220078
It starts at 49 minutes.
After reading it now it looks very dry and uninteresting but the tonality and the volume of their verbal exchange was certainly reassuring.
Senator Leahy (D, Vermont): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Leahy
Other senators also ask some pointed questions, notably:
Senator Johanns (R, Nebraska): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Johanns
Senator Merkley (D, Oregon): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Merkley
Senator Tom Udall (D, New Mexico): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Udall
Also, Senator Feinstein -- despite being a bit of a wind-bag and despite her enthusiastic support for gun-control -- directed Wednesday's NSA/cyber-security hearing pretty well.
The video offers some very interesting contrast between assumptions that all of congress is bought and paid for, and that voter apathy has translated directly to congressional apathy, but it's simply not true. Senators that look beyond the next election cycle (or their retirement) may be few and far between, but they're out there.
NOW I understand why the allegations of misconduct around contracts awarded to husband are getting a lot of hype again today. Makes sense - if she's successfully speaking out against the NSA, what better time to highlight anything potentially negative about her!
See for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Gladio
Nobody would have doubted surveillance then, in the way that some young sophisticated people nowadays believe BS like official statements.
The government, police etc was "the Man", etc, and they were tied with big corporate etc interests. And those "pigs" where against the blacks, the Vietnam war protesters, leftist students, workers etc etc.
Those views might have been naive (in the utopian, free love and dope aspect), but were also very pragmatic (in the those in power are not using it in our favor) aspect.
Then the Reagan eighties happened, and all those "hippy" stuff were scorned in favour of greed and careerism.
Now, with Wall Street getting a trillion for their services in fucking up the economy, the middle class in worst prospects than ever, and the country in more abused mode than even during Nixon's reign, this "greed" didn't seem to have served the people well.
Because the program is so secret, I have zero faith that there are sufficient safeguards. America was founded on a distrust of unchecked power, and I think we should keep it that way.
Exactly, it happens every time.
I'm all for cypherpunk/tinfoil hat stories on HN. I just expected the stories to be of a higher caliber and more interesting/nuanced than something as rudimentary as wikipedia's coverage of COINTELPRO.
You had a very special teacher if you learned about it in High School.
Some people who were known demonstrators ended up on the no-fly list.
Ctrl+F "Bomb" ^^
And the irony? Well, the FBI played no small part in the fracturing of SDS. COINTELPRO planted agents who acted as infiltrators, agitators, disruptors, and agents provocateur, with the explicit goal of destroying SDS.
So those bombs put more than a smidgeon of blood on the FBI's hands as well, and the FBI were every bit as much a malign anti-American, subversive influence as the Weathermen.
What the fuck kind of justification is "some were accurately targeted"?
(alt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5_qnnqyxQk )
So the only way to progress is...how again?
I wonder how they view innovation, startups, and Silicon Valley.