John Kerry Claims US Is On The 'Right Side Of History' When It Comes To Online Freedom And Transparency

from the might-still-making-right,-despite-technological-developments dept

Once you've ceded the high ground, it's very difficult to reclaim it. At this time last year, the Secretary of State could have gotten away with the following remarks, but just barely. The NSA documents had not yet been revealed, but the US government had been giving up chunks of free speech high ground for quite some time.

Now, with the NSA's programs exposed, along with this administration's quest to punish whistleblowers and maintain the opacity left behind by the Bush administration, there's no approaching the high ground. But that didn't stop John Kerry -- in his remarks to the Freedom Online Coalition Conference -- from planting a flag halfway up and declaring it the summit. (h/t to Dan Froomkin of the Intercept)

[L]et me be clear – as in the physical space, cyber security cannot come at the expense of cyber privacy. And we all know this is a difficult challenge. But I am serious when I tell you that we are committed to discussing it in an absolutely inclusive and transparent manner, both at home and abroad. As President Obama has made clear, just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should do it. And that’s why he ordered a thorough review of all our signals intelligence practices. And that’s why he then, after examining it and debating it and openly engaging in a conversation about it, which is unlike most countries on the planet, he announced a set of concrete and meaningful reforms, including on electronic surveillance, in a world where we know there are terrorists and others who are seeking to do injury to all of us.
First off, almost every "cyber security" bill has pushed for security at the expense of privacy. CISPA has done this twice. The new CISPA, being presented by the Senate, does the same thing.

Second, the reforms set up by the administration are hardly "concrete and meaningful." They're shallow and limited and do very little to walk back the expansive readings of outdated laws (something Kerry references earlier in his remarks) that have led to these programs being declared "legal." There is a review currently underway, but almost everything the review board has suggested has been ignored.

As for "examining and debating" domestic surveillance, the president only did so because he could no longer ignore it. The leaks weren't simply going to stop and so he finally "welcomed the debate" he'd been making stand out in the foyer for the past several years.

But here's where Kerry treads deepest on his faux moral high ground.
And finally, transparency – the principles governing such activities need to be understood so that free people can debate them and play their part in shaping these choices. And we believe these principles can positively help us to distinguish the legitimate practices of states governed by the rule of law from the legitimate practices of states that actually use surveillance to repress their people. And while I expect you to hold the United States to the standards that I’ve outlined, I also hope that you won’t let the world forget the places where those who hold their government to standards go to jail rather than win prizes.
That last sentence is incredible, in the most pejorative sense. This administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers -- the people who "hold their government to standards" -- than all other administrations combined. And this administration isn't done yet. The infamous "Insider Threat" program, one that tells US government employees to look for warning signs like "dissatisfaction with government policies," began during this administration. Further efforts are being kicked around in the wake of Snowden's departure from the NSA with thousands of documents, including the Director of National Intelligence telling employees they can no longer speak to the media. The CIA spies on the Senate while a Senator sends the DOJ on a mission to find out who leaked bullet points from the still-secret CIA Torture Report to journalists.

As for the prizes, I presume Kerry is referring to the awarding of Pulitzers to journalists who reported on the Snowden leaks. If so, that's a very self-serving statement, considering the government had exactly nothing to do with awarding these prizes and if it was in the administration's hands, those prizes would not have gone to The Guardian and the Washington Post.

Kerry caps it off by casting the internet freedom fight as a battle between right and wrong -- which it is -- but portrays the US government as being firmly on the "right" side.
[T]his debate is about two very different visions: one vision that respects freedom and another that denies it. All of you at the Freedom Online Coalition are on the right side of this debate, and now we need to make sure that all of us together wind up on the right side of history.
This is a very chilling statement, one that suggests the Freedom Online Coalition needs to side with the US government if it wishes to "wind up on the right side of history." As it stands right now, the "right side of history" is almost diametrically opposed to the administration's protection of abusive agencies and persecution of whistleblowers. Kerry's words read more like a subtle threat. Fight the good fight, he says, but never forget history is written by the winners. Your "privacy" will never be worth more than your "security," not when those values are determined by the government.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 5:33am

    Let me be amongst the first to say,
    Ha, ha ha , hahaha, ha ha
    ah
    haha
    ha
    cof
    haha

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Gaming_Geek (profile), May 5th, 2014 @ 5:37am

    Nothing surprising here. Kerry is just following his marching orders.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 5:48am

    Just another dinosaur in charge

    Kerry is just another dinosaur who has no clue what is going on and cant see the anger that is in front of him.

    Either that or he is so delusional that he should be locked away for his own safety.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 5:48am

    Every Government Ever...

    We are the nice people, we are the good guys, we are always on the right side of history, and we have the mandate of heaven.

    We have YOUR best interests in mind. There is no corruption here!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Dave Xanatos, May 5th, 2014 @ 5:51am

    It's almost like he's had his fingers in his ears saying: "LA LA LA, I CAN'T HEAR YOU, LA LA LA" for the past year (or longer).

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 5:56am

    Goebbels at work. But times have changed...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 5:57am

    Send them to jail instead of giving them prizes? Oh, you mean like giving Obama a Peace Prize? Right? I can't think of any other instance he might be referring.

     

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  8.  
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    Michael, May 5th, 2014 @ 6:04am

    we need to make sure that all of us together wind up on the right side of history

    Am I the only one that is asking what that means? What is the "right side of history"? Don't you HAVE to be on the right side of history? Isn't history in the past and we are (well, most of us) in the present? Is he speaking about being on the winning side of things so we get to re-write history? Is he saying that if we aren't on-board with the US government we will "be history"?

     

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  9.  
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    Ninja (profile), May 5th, 2014 @ 6:06am

    Right side as in the side that is not the left? Because if it's opposed to wrong then I will have to laugh.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 6:13am

    Despite the promises of reform, the only thing likely to change is ... making the domestic spying apparatus more leak-proof. Then it's full steam ahead.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 6:26am

    This is like the ugly person who doesn't have a mirror, and calls other people ugly.

     

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  12.  
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    Ramon Creager (profile), May 5th, 2014 @ 6:26am

    Just 'cause he says so, it's true.

    That is the mentality of these ruling elites. Remember this gem?

    ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 6:27am

    Make room on the right side

    U.S., China, Russia, North Korea, Iran

     

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  14.  
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    mcinsand, May 5th, 2014 @ 6:36am

    analogies

    Kerry is to the US Government what Krugman is to economics or John Steele is to the legal profession.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 6:59am

    we need to make sure that all of us together wind up on the right side of history

    I am sure all the rulers that lost their heads in various revolutions thought that they were working for the right side, right up to the axe or guillotine falling.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 7:04am

    Re:

    I'm sure Hitler thought he was doing the right thing.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 7:21am

    Re:

    Correction - this is more akin to the Emperor smacking his family around in the open, then stabbing whoever calls him on his BS.

     

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  18.  
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    NoahVail (profile), May 5th, 2014 @ 7:22am

    John Kerry:
    "[T]his debate is about two very different visions: ... we need to make sure that all of us together wind up on the right side of history."

    Translation:
    'It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again'

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Ac, May 5th, 2014 @ 7:23am

    Kerry need to take his foot out of his mouth and put it up his ass.

     

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  20.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 5th, 2014 @ 7:28am

    Re:

    The far right side of history, yes.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 7:42am

    Re:

    ha ha... funny!

    I would tell him, don't bother removing your foot from your mouth, I happen to have a foot to put in your ass! This won't hurt a bit...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Paul Renault (profile), May 5th, 2014 @ 7:42am

    He might be right, depending on how you define the US...

    Is the US its people, its ethos? Or its government?

     

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  23.  
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    limbodog (profile), May 5th, 2014 @ 7:48am

    History book written by Kerry, that is.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 7:51am

    [T]his debate is about two very different visions: one vision that respects freedom and another that denies it. All of you at the Freedom Online Coalition are on the right side of this debate, and now we need to make sure that all of us together wind up on the right side of history.


    WTF do you think everyone else is screaming about Kerry? You concede that the position that people the Freedom Online Coalition represents is the "right" side yet the side you represent keeps fighting against that. Only your side can change that to make sure you are also on the "right" side. Everyone else is already there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    David, May 5th, 2014 @ 7:54am

    Re:

    Indeed, times have changed. This time, no American will stand up to fascism.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Just Another Anonymous Troll, May 5th, 2014 @ 7:55am

    I'm going to move to North Korea. They may have almost nonexistent civil rights there, but at least they are open about the fact that you have no rights. The honesty will be refreshing.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    David, May 5th, 2014 @ 7:57am

    Re:

    This is like the ugly person who doesn't have a mirror, and calls other people ugly.

    Actually, he calls the mirror ugly as well. That's why he had it removed in favor of transparency.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    bgmcb (profile), May 5th, 2014 @ 7:57am

    doubleplusungood minitrue quackspeak.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 8:15am

    sounds good coming from a person that is all for stifling as much as can be for citizens, removing privacy and freedom of speech in favor of big industry!

     

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  30.  
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    Ramon Creager (profile), May 5th, 2014 @ 8:19am

    Re:

    Yes, this is a rather muddled statement. Given that he says "All of you at the Freedom Online Coalition are on the right side of this debate", the rest of the sentence reads more like an incoherent attempt at shoehorning the US gov. position into the "right side" ("if only you knew what we know you'd see we're on your side", etc. etc.), rather than as a subtle threat. It's as if he thinks the problem is a PR issue, not that the government's position is really at odds with civil libertarians.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 8:27am

    John Kerry at Freedom Online Coalition Conference - gives "Let me be clear" FOCC privacy speech.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 8:43am

    Kerry's Just Doin' His Job as the Boss at State (lying, that is)

    My dad carried out special ops for Uncle Sam for decades (Cold War Era). His advice was to "take a bead on what the State Dept says and then do an about-face - you'll be starting truth dead in the eye."

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 8:45am

    Re: Re:

    Except those leading us in that direction. You know, the corporatecrats? They claim not only to be the REAL 'mericans, but that anyone in opposition is a traitor, a terrorist, or an IP thief.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 9:15am

    Re:

    As refreshing as a course through...

    "Me police, I hate, you take beating"

    might be, I will take my chances with a government still afraid enough to keep lying to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    saulgoode (profile), May 5th, 2014 @ 9:20am

    As President Obama has made clear, just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should do it. And that’s why he ordered a thorough review of all our signals intelligence practices.
    The time to decide whether you should do something is before you do it, not after ten years of doing it (without telling anyone, and then getting caught).

     

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  36.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), May 5th, 2014 @ 9:41am

    JFK did it too

    PT1 - watch?v=GuvGEdR0THc
    PT2 - watch?v=9tzZhPPVMdU
    He "asked" the media to self censor.
    -
    You're either with us or against us.

     

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  37.  
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    Chris-Mouse (profile), May 5th, 2014 @ 9:48am

    The USA is indeed on the right side of the issue. Waaay, waaay waaaay to the right of the political spectrum.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 11:40am

    Re:

    So far in fact that the entirety of the actual left right political spectrum looks like one thin red shifted line.

     

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  39.  
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    Baron von Robber, May 5th, 2014 @ 11:52am

    Re: Re:

    It's like that Eddie Izzard joke, when Europe looks at America and says, "What are you doing?!"

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2014 @ 12:01pm

    And they said Bush was an idiot

    Reminder that people actually wanted this man to be the President of the United States.

     

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  41.  
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    gorehound (profile), May 5th, 2014 @ 12:47pm

    LIAR ! Kerry you were once cool around 40 years ago but you sure are not that man anymore...........you are now a total fool.

     

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  42.  
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    bshock, May 5th, 2014 @ 12:59pm

    Mr. Kerry may not be wrong

    As the old cliche goes, the victors write history.

    If the oligarchs who control the U.S. government win final, irrevocable victory over the American people, they will certainly write self-congratulatory history books about how their doublespeak version of "online freedom and transparency" was the only good and proper way things could have been.

     

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  43.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), May 5th, 2014 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Mr. Kerry may not be wrong

    "final, irrevocable victory"

    Such a thing has never existed in history, and seems unlikely to start existing now. For better or worse.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, May 5th, 2014 @ 8:13pm

    Re:

    Yeah, 'cause if we were on the left side of history, we'd have travelled back in time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, May 5th, 2014 @ 8:15pm

    Re: He might be right, depending on how you define the US...

    Pretty much all the freaking same.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
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    Anonymous Howard (profile), May 6th, 2014 @ 6:23am

    Re: Every Government Ever...

    Well, they're Right Side in a sense. Like 'Nazi Party' right side.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, May 6th, 2014 @ 9:28am

    Re: Re:

    Thank you. And may I add, the Far Right are radicals, not conservatives.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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