I found myself laughing out loud when President Obama said, The government isnt listening to your telephone calls. The government just looks at phone numbers and duration of calls. What kind of phone call of what duration prompts a listen-in? And what about emails? More mumbo jumbo.
Americas media isnt sure how to report this story. A British publication, The Guardian, broke the story, and apparently resisted American efforts to prevent publication. Now the various American intelligence and enforcement agencies are banding together to figure out how the hell a British publication got hold of the story in the first place, so they can file criminal charges. You dont deal with the message, after all, you shoot the messenger. I saw the reporter, who broke the story, Glenn Greenwald interviewed and he said the source(s) come from deep within the National Security Agency (NSA). Good for him–great story. And apparently more to come.
Theres an excellent analysis in The Wall Street Journal, which points out all the inconsistencies in the government and media rationalizations. Its main point: History teaches that the temptation for the government to use information, once gathered, is irresistible.
I cant help but feel a sense of deja vu, knowing that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state agriculture and public health agencies have been collecting names and data about raw milk drinkers and members of food clubs for years now. And theyve been using the data.
As just one example, I document in my new book, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights, how Los Angeles County prosecutors accessed the emails of several individuals associated with the Rawesome Food Club case–Victoria Bloch, Aajonus Vonderplanitz, and Sharon Palmer. In fact, the prosecutors asked a judge for a delay in lifting a seal that had been imposed on search warrant documents because, they said, there was such a huge volume of emails that they needed extra time to read them all.
We know that each time the authorities execute a search warrant on a farm or people associated with a food club, which has been quite a lot of times over the last five years, they grab first the computers and cell phones. Then those devices seem to disappear, never to be heard from again.
But at Vernon Hershbergers trial, we heard from a Wisconsin Department of Justice computer forensic specialist that he spent two full weeks or more, over a period of a couple years, going through Hershbergers data, even using specialized software to recover deleted emails so as to document that Hershberger told members of his food club that he had intentionally cut the seals and tape used by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to shutter his farm on June 2, 2010. This was something Hershberger had told anyone who asked, including me, at the time it happened.
Its been fine for the authorities to go after farmers and food club members and dissect their business and private lives, with nary a peep. But now that its potentially happening to anyone–well, thats another matter.
There have to be some people in high places squirming just a little knowing that the gumshoes at the National Security Agency, and their pals at the CIA and the FBI are combing through cell phone records and emails, and likely their text messages as well, and sharing it among themselves.
The notorious head of the FBI for much of the twentieth century, J. Edgar Hoover, used to have to work to get the dirt on presidents and senators so he could blackmail them and get job security and whatever budget appropriations he wanted. Now, the spooks can just point and click and, presto, they can see whos talking to whom, and follow up with views of emails, text messages, Facebook postings, and such for any linkages that pique their curiosity. Hoover would appreciate the new technology.
Part of the reason its funny to hear Obama trying to reassure people that everything is on the up and up is that the spooks are no doubt monitoring his phone and texting. Obama has apparently never seen a security recommendation he didnt like, so the security people know they have free reign to probe, listen, manipulate data, to their hearts content. Maybe the apologists who claim those of us concerned about all the privacy invasion are just a bunch of conspiracy nuts will quiet down…and start looking over their shoulders.
Wish I had been able to listen in on the calls being received by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval the last few days, before he decided to veto legislation to legalize raw milk sales in the state. Promises of campaign contributions for a reelection campaign…or threats to choke off contributions if he signed the legislation? Promises of federal grants of various sorts? You know, in a state that allows prostitution and gambling that the governor couldnt have had serious concerns about peoples health.
Next place to keep an eye on for financial and political shenanigans in connection with raw milk is Maine. There. the state senate passed legislation to allow small producers of raw milk to operate without licenses, essentially replicating an important part of the Food Sovereignty ordinances passed by ten towns, and struck down by a judge.
Someone asked me what I thought would happen to Michael Schmidt now that he was convicted, together with Gordon Watson, of contempt of a British Columbia court. He was given a three-month suspended sentence, with the threat of three months in jail for the next violation.
My response was that Schmidt has been fighting this battle for nearly twenty years now–hes successfully maneuvered to keep the milk flowing for that time–with nary an illness–and hell no doubt figure out how to do it ongoing. I have a lot of faith in Schmidt, and his ability to do what needs to be done in the toughest of circumstances.
The Bovine has a good wrapup of the case.