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Tim Berners-Lee scolds 'hypocritical' West over spying (nbcnews.com)
170 points by titlex 1634 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 23 comments



Secret courts, secret judges, secret police, secret torture, secret wars...

These acts are not what one would expect of a nation which was once the bastion of freedom for all the world, and I agree that the US & UK have been acting hypocritical for far too long now.

Can the "American Dream" survive the current state of affairs?


The nation that:

* inflicted syphilis on unsuspecting black people,

* tapped MLK Jr.'s phone calls while conducting continuous surveillance on him,

* imprisoned thousands of Japanese and Japanese-Americans for the crime of being on the West Coast at the wrong time,

* forced the Chinese and Irish to work under horrific conditions building the nation's railways,

* evicted the Native Americans from their native lands, which they had inhabited for thousands of years,

* disobeyed a direct ruling from the Supreme Court in order to do this,

* brutally (brutally!) put down a rebellion in the Philippines after "liberating" the archipelago from the Spanish,

* oh, and held millions of black people in abject slavery, and later poverty and the constant fear of death,

does not warrant your label of being more "the bastion of freedom for all the world" compared to even our modern state.

I get it, you're mad, but if you're going to talk about American history could you at least know a little about American history?

FISC (and its judges) have been around since 1978. I don't even know what "secret police" you're talking about. Torture is always wrong, but America has been there before (e.g. aforementioned brutal Philippine wars). Somehow the "American Dream" survived that.

So what's your goal? To give up? Just to say that America sucks (if so, you'll need to take a number, there's about 200 million Americans ahead of you in that particular line :P)? Or do you want to make it better?

Because making it better requires meaningful political advocacy, of the kind that helped make parts of DOMA unconstitutional today, and not simply whining.


True, we learned from these mistakes.

Slavery is an unforgivable stain on our souls, something we'll have to live with for eternity. The same goes to the relocation and genocide campaigns against Native Americans. We've never allowed ourselves forgiveness for those sins and we never should.

The brutality in the Philippines sickened Americans to that point that the old colonialism had be traded in for quiet skullduggery. We also learned from the internment camps. When cries came out to round up everyone of middle eastern descent after 9/11 we ignored them and made new mistakes.

Deep down we Americans know that if there is a Hell we probably deserve to go to it, but that doesn't stop us from trying to learn from our mistakes. We are fatally flawed, not essentially evil.

That is the real battle over all of this. It isn't state secrets, but a generational shift. The young live with the cynicism and pain of past mistakes and can't figure out why the old continue down broken paths. Unfortunately, today's young will have to let the generations that follow walk with the knowledge of our mistakes. And what doozies we've handed them: Eternal War, torture and deep resentments and distrust between state & citizen and citizen & state. I wish them luck.


> We are fatally flawed, not essentially evil.

That's my point. And I wouldn't even claim that we deserve to go to hell or that we are fatally flawed.

We are in the spotlight in the world and I swear I wish people would remember that when they evaluate the USA vis à vis other nations.

We should set the highest of standards for ourselves. And like any good 'American exceptionalist' we should achieve those high standards we set for ourselves.

But when we fail to achieve that standard we need to remember to evaluate ourselves in the context of the world at large, and in our own nation's history.

If the worst thing that our government did to us today was to `tee` our Reddit memes to /dev/utah and then not look at them then maybe, just maybe we're not as screwed as HN thinks we are. Even my own grandma knows that the Internet Never Forgets.

As I've said before, we may look at these programs and decide to switch up the controls, gut them all, or something in between. But this place can be such an echo chamber sometimes... and the cynicism is absolutely toxic, especially as it mixes and interferes with the very-necessary skepticism that should be often employed.


> Deep down we Americans know that if there is a Hell we probably deserve to go to it

You don't speak for me. All countries do horrible shit. Mao killed, what, 80 million? Hell is crowded.

The issue here (as in: the thing I am furious about) is the hypocrisy of the bureaucracy running the country and the incompetence of our leaders, regardless of party.


  | The same goes to the relocation and genocide
  | campaigns against Native Americans. We've never
  | allowed ourselves forgiveness for those sins
  | and we never should.
Not that much learning. Natives were forced to relocated as recently as the JFK administration: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seneca_nation#Kinzua_Dam


I agree with everything except "forced the Chinese and Irish to work under horrific conditions building the nation's railways." The conditions were terrible, but I don't think the laborers were forced. They were paid, voluntary labor. Perhaps you would say that they were exploited by their employers, but they weren't "forced" in quite the same way as, say, African laborers prior to 1864.


Fair enough, though I would say that there wasn't much of a choice presented to them once they reached our shores because working the rails (or other beyond-menial tasks) or starving. :-/


Well yeah, that goes without saying. Obviously they wouldn't have taken such a dangerous job if they had better options. They probably wouldn't have left Ireland or China in the first place if they weren't facing poverty and starvation.

Course, there was a lot of Nativist sentiment against the Irish and the Chinese that kept them from getting better employment, and that certainly is a mark against the US. But not necessarily in terms of "freedom", as that was a ugly part of civil society and not of government policy.

Now, the Chinese exclusion act, on the other hand ...


Not sure about the Chinese or railroad workers in particular but most Irish arriving in the USA prior to the mid-1800s were indentured servants.


Not to be critical, but off course the Chinese laborers were for all intents slaves. After the railroad was built, they were put to work digging 1000 miles of cancels that became the Sacramento delta region.


Many of the Chinese were probably in debt to the Chinese mafia (triads, if they were Cantonese). It's a very common con - you take out a loan to get transported to a richer place (often with bait-and-switch jobs), then have to pay back the guy who took you there. In some cases, family can be held hostage.

It still happens (though it's different nationalities).


"evicted the Native Americans from their native lands, which they had inhabited for thousands of years"

"Evicted" is a very soft word. Go visit north America and see how many native Americans you see, go to South America or even Mexico and compare, given that native Indians had way more children per woman you could guess what happened.

It is very interesting that people from the USA call people of Indian origin "Hispanic", when people from Spain is European.


My goal is to not let this issue die and get swept under the rug. I want to see a return to government adherence to the Constitution.

My reference to "the bastion of freedom" is supported by the facts that people have been clamoring for "the American Dream" for at least 150 years now, they continue to do so, and our current president is a prime example of that dream being realized. If a former pot head can come from a broken family, gain education, enter politics, and make millions of dollars as an author before ascending to the office of the presidency, then it proves that the "American Dream" is still attainable. People are still arriving on our shores in hopes of having a share in that American Dream. However, in light of these latest revelations regarding the willful abrogation of our Bill of Rights by non elected bureaucrats, that "American Dream" is truly threatened.

To insinuate that I am ignorant of American history, merely because I chose to omit portions of said history, is an insult. You forgot about the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy... My grandson's great grandfather, on his mother's side, was one of the original (Nisei) 100th Battalion soldiers during WW2, and I also served in the same unit decades afterwards. I am aware of all the crimes you've mentioned above, yet I will stand by my words. The USA has traditionally been a beacon of hope for oppressed peoples all around the world, until recently, and we are still a lot more free than many other nations, but we have been trending towards fascism lately, and the domestic surveillance program is proof of that claim.

Just because we know of the FISC that doesn't mean that it's not a secret court. The proceedings of the FISC are secret. We don't get to know what goes on in that court, thus it is a "secret court."

Secret police equals any of the entities that take part in the domestic surveillance program. The situation is synonymous with the NKVD/KGB/Stasi. Anyone can be targeted with "Extraordinary Rendition," held indefinitely, and subjected to "Enhanced Interrogation," without anyone knowing what happened. If that's not "secret police" activity then I don't know shit from shinola.

I have been engaging in this dialog for years now, and if you want to call it "whining," you are free to do so, but no matter what you call it I'll continue to call a spade a spade. I'll continue to engage in these discussions, be it here, or with my elected representatives.

I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies, foreign, and domestic, and have petitioned my government for redress regarding these violations of the Bill of Rights, but my words carry little, if any, weight on their own, yet if we all make it known that we refuse to sit idly by while our government oversteps its mandate then maybe, just maybe, things will be corrected.


Don't forget:

* Has a larger portion of its own population behind bars than any other state in recorded history

* Is the largest exporter of torture equipment in the world


> Has a larger portion of its own population behind bars than any other state in recorded history

Which comes down to (essentially) marijuana and bad drug laws in general. OK, cool, we agree.

Is the USA still the worst on Earth? Is it worse to imprison people instead of executing them in death camps or gulags?

> Is the largest exporter of torture equipment in the world

Is that the best you've got? I didn't know that torture equipment was an export-controlled category!

I suppose it's a good thing that America can't even find domestic purchasers for what little torture equipment she builds then.


Tim Berners-Lee's opinion on this matter is as valuable as yours or mine, that is to say indeed valuable, but not to be made the subject of a news report.


The more people standing up to call bullshit on the NSA, the better.

I'd like to live in a world where ideas are discussed on their merits and not based on the people proposing them, but we don't live in that world. When the "creator of the web" says something, it makes news in a way that it does not when you or I say something.


This may well be true, but it's hard to reconcile with Hacker News's latest meme of "It shouldn't be about personalities, it should be about facts".


Consider the use of the word "scolds" instead of "blasts", "criticizes", etc.


TBL himself is also hypocritical: British people read other people's mail at CERN without their (even posterior) knowledge. I would be surprised indeed, if he wouldn't know a thing about it -- yet he kept shut about it too.


He implicated "The West" which very much includes the United Kingdom. He is a citizen, like you, who is just now seeing proof of what one of these governments has been up to. He knows that the UK is doing it as well.


Are you suggesting, that it is plausible, that -- sitting at MIT, like RMS -- he is naive enough not to be aware? (The first sentence is a fact.)




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