Wednesday, 3 July 2013


The saga of Edward Snowden the whistleblower who dished the dirt about Prism and who has spent the last couple of weeks looking for somewhere/anywhere that will allow him asylum continues.

Reading the papers and the various blogs on the subject I get the impression that there is a lot of sympathy for Snowden and that the US administration’s attempts to have him extradited back to the States are considered a trifle excessive. This has been compounded by the nonsense when the jet carrying the Bolivian president was refused permission to enter the airspace of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal this on the grounds that there was a suspicion that Snowden was aboard the plane.

But is the reaction – the over-reaction – of the US authorities so surprising? They have invested billions in creating the most pervasive covert surveillance system in the world, one which seems to skirt the edge of legality and good-neighbourliness (at least as far as the Germans are concerned). Now the weak link in this system ( in all systems for that matter) is the people running it so when one of them goes AWOL (as Snowden has) it is essential that those running the system move heaven and earth to bring him to 'justice'. Not because he might have done something wrong (the morality of whistleblowing has to be judged on a case-by-case basis) but because of its deterrent effect on those toying with the idea of following the whistleblower's example.

It is a sine quo non of those organisations that have been betrayed that they bring the miscreant to ‘justice’ otherwise the old adage ‘who watches the watchers’ will be answered with ‘by the watchers with a sense of morality’ and that would never do. Surveillance and morality are the oil and water of the modern world.


Started to play around with ideas for the cover of Invent-10n. As the novella is concerned with the effects surveillance can have on society Nigel (Nigel Robinson, the designer I work with) thought that a series of monitor screens might be the way to go. We knocked the concept around a little and that's when I remembered the montage painting called 'Myra' created by the artist Marcus Harvey so I pitched the idea to Nigel of forming the image of an eye from a collage of monitor images showing pictures of one of the novella's principals, a singer called Jenni-Fur.

Fortunately I had a whole raft of photographs of Nelli (my jazz-singing wife) in performing mode so we used those. The result is this:
I'm really quite pleased with it. The debate now is how best to show the Book Title/Authors' Name. the radical approach would be just to have the 'eye' on the front cover but it's early days yet.

Monday, 1 July 2013


Der Spiegel’s revelations that the US National Security Agency has been surveilling European embassies and EU offices has generated the usual knee-jerk reactions. Luxembourg Prime Minister is quoted as saying, ‘The United States would be better off monitoring its secret services rather than its allies. We must get a guarantee from the very highest level now that this stops immediately.’ President of the EU parliament, Martin Schultz, said he was ‘deeply worried and shocked’ by the allegations.

Yeah, right.

Now the EU is either being led by the most naïve and out-of-touch bunch of bozos since the dawn of parliamentary democracy OR the EU is being led by the most naïve and out-of-touch bunch of bozos since the dawn of parliamentary democracy.

What did they expect?

The whole premise of surveillance, especially the deepnet surveillance practiced by the NSA, is that its aim is to prepare a full 360⁰ portrait of enemies extent and enemies future. Now seen through the NSA’s eyes the EU must be a rich vein of real and present threats. European capitals – London and Madrid – have been the target for attack by Islamic extremists and this sort of extremism is readily exportable and therefore a potential threat to the USA. Moreover, the impression I’ve always got when dealing with Americans is that they have a somewhat paternalistic view of European competence (understandable seeing as they had to dig us out of the mess created by two world wars) and hence would be loath to rely on European security services to monitor and control their indigenous terrorists. The temptation to give us a surreptitious hand must have been overwhelming.

Secondly, the best surveillance is that which has no gaps. If China or Russia believed that in order to protect European sensitivities Europe was a surveillance no-go zone they would have a field-day. Europe would become the soft underbelly of the USA. Moreover, to provide its leaders with a full view of what is going down in the world vis-à-vis China and Russia the NSA needs to know what is happening between the EU countries and these two super-powers.

So the Europeans can vaporise all they want but the NSA is going to go right on surveilling us … just, I suspect, as we are surveilling the Americans.