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You’ve heard that Germany’s Angela Merkel rang up Obama to complain after German intelligence determined that the NSA “may have” listened in on her cell phone. Subsequently the administration has denied that it does now or ever will surveil her private phone, but has ducked questions about whether it has done so in the past.
Well, the Guardian’s James Ball has just posted another revelation from a Snowden document. A classified memo says that the NSA collected phone numbers of foreign politicians from the Rolodexes of officials at State, the White House, and the Pentagon. (One official supplied 200 numbers.) Of those it obtained, 35 were of world leaders and the NSA immediately started monitoring them.
Presumably three of these are Merkel, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, and Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto, as we’ve heard before that they were targets. (Maybe FDL should sponsor a lottery where the person with the best guesses as to the other 32 wins a prize when we eventually find out who they are.)
Ball predicts that “the revelation is set to add to mounting diplomatic tensions between the US and its allies.” But of course not all of the 35 will necessarily be allies, so the problem may be even broader than that.
Let no one underestimate how angry Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is at the “Five Eyes” spying on the most sensitive of her country’s communications.
In recent weeks it has been revealed that the NSA tapped into the communications of Brazil’s ordinary citizens, of Rousseff’s private network, and of the state oil company, and that for good measure its Canadian counterpart went after the Mining Ministry. (It also probably didn’t help Rousseff’s mood that the “Second Eye” harassed one of her citizens, David Miranda, at a London airport for nine hours under a “terrorism” law.)
As previously reported, Rousseff has responded by calling on the United Nations to essentially take over the internet, and despite domestic opposition by initiating a series of measures designed to insulate Brazil from the surveillance. One might be skeptical of the chances of either of these moves being ultimately successful, but that will not stop Dilma herself.
And that she means business is illustrated by an item in today’s Folha de São Paulo. Specifically, Brazil’s Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo has announced that a decree will be published in a few days directing that for federal communications Microsoft’s Outlook e-mail system will be replaced by the already developed indigenous system Serpro (Serviço Federal de Processamento de Dados). (corrected Google translation):
“The president called me in [last] Thursday [the 10th] and said she plans to make it a rule for the federal public administration,” he said. “For public companies generally it will not be required, at least not at the moment. But it will be mandatory for all federal administration.”
How secure will this system be? According to Bernardo:
“We have no notice of leaks from the emails in the private networks. Of course it can happen, but it has to be a much more sophisticated system. At least Serpro is not going to hand it over on a platter for guys to read anytime they want.”
He estimates that the changeover will be completed during the second half of 2014.
I think some phones are ringing in downtown DC with calls from Redmond, Washington.
I’ve previously reported that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s initiative to respond to extensive NSA internet spying on her country by, among other things, requiring countries doing business in Brazil to store their data there, has stirred up negative comment among so-called experts, mostly based in the US (comment #26 here). They have invoked the bogeyman of “balkanization” of the internet, a concept originally introduced by the head of Google.
There are somewhat different objections in the home country, but they do exist. Folha de São Paulo introduces them in an article posted on Wednesday whose title translates as “Brazilian response to internet spying can go wrong, industry says.” It begins (corrected Google translation):
For Brazil’s technology companies, the government’s decision to target companies in response to American espionage is as smart as sending an angry email in the heat of an argument.
President Dilma Rousseff’s plan to force Internet companies to store user data within the country will not stop at concerns about cyber-security in Brazil, and can increase costs and jeopardize future investment in an important emerging market for companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter, analysts and industry executives said.
“You can end up having the opposite than intended effect, and drive away companies wanting to do business in Brazil,” said Ronaldo Lemos, a professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), who helped formulate Brazil’s internet rules.
The opinion of Lemos, an internationally recognized expert on IT and intellectual property law, is not lightly dismissed. Nor is he a pushover for the big telecoms, having previously opposed a 2011 deal for Foxconn to build iPads in Brazil. And a little later the article says:
An industry source, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that many companies are still waiting to see the law and how it will be implemented, before deciding whether to continue with plans to invest in the country. Some might even leave Brazil .
“It’s a horrible idea,” said the source, “but even if the government knows this, it feels a need to keep pushing and send a strong political signal.”
To be sure, the phrasing “speaking on … of the issue” raises alarm bells at least to this reader: it sounds like the US government floating a trial balloon by the familiar technique of leaking. And for their part the Rousseff forces show no signs of backing down. Their point man in the legislature Alessandro Molon, the rapporteur of the Civil Internet Framework, is quoted in the article as saying, “I do not believe that these companies will stop their lucrative activities in Brazil,” since building local centers would be a small cost for them.
And another official, the Secretary for Information Technology Policy of the Ministry of Science and Technology, avers that Brazil is the second largest market for Facebook even though it has no infrastructure in the country, thus implying that the good Mr. Zuckerberg could spare some of his millions to build a bit there.
The article is quite long and also speaks of the possibility of tax incentives to get telecoms to invest in Brazil, as well as the pros and cons of a proposed fiber optic cable from the port of Fortaleza to Vladivostok, Russia, linking the other BRICS countries along the way.
And this little tidbit: It turns out that on a recent trip to the US the Justice Minister proposed that requests for surveillance in Brazil be referred to courts in Brazil instead of the FISA court; of course this idea was rejected.
But Rousseff’s initiative itself is one of two active acts of international resistance I know to what the NSA has been up to abroad, the other being an effort in the European Parliament, spearheaded by Dutch member Sophie in’t Veld, to change certain sharing of banking data between the European Union and the US. The Brazilian case is probably the weightier, and it stands to reason that powerful interests will try to thwart the initiative.
You’ve heard of PRISM and XKeyscore? Get ready for Mainway.
A couple of hours ago the New York Times put the newest nugget from Edward Snowden on line, in an article by NYT regular James Risen and Snowden confidante Laura Poitras. They begin:
Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.
The program works by augmenting the phone and e-mail logs that we learned in June the NSA collects with “material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data.” The part that connects phone and e-mail data is called Mainway.
The program has been live since November 2010, following a policy decision in the last year of the Bush administration to stop restricting such information correlating to foreigners, which had in turn followed a Supreme Court decision denying constitutional protection to metadata.
To be sure, an NSA spokeswoman insisted for the article that “All data queries must include a foreign intelligence justification, period,” whatever that might mean.
Using these correlations the NSA collates people into 94 “entity types” and networks into 104 “relationship types.”
I will refrain from comment. For the rest, read the article.
Dilma Rousseff gave the opening address to the 68th General Assembly of the United Nations today (since Brazil traditionally is the first to speak by virtue of it being the first to ratify the UN charter). As expected, and as widely reported, she denounced the recently revealed NSA surveillance of her country as illegal and unjustified. However, she also spoke on a variety of other subjects of topical concern, including Syria, a Palestinian state, etc. But what is most interesting to me is what she said about the future of the internet.
The following is a corrected Google translation of the relevant portion. (O Globo gives the full Portuguese text, preceded by a summary.) After criticizing the spying on her own country:
Mr. President, Brazil will redouble efforts to equip itself with legislation, technologies and mechanisms in order to protect ourselves from unlawful interception of communications and data. My government will do everything that lies in its power to defend the human rights of all Brazilians and all citizens of the world and to protect the fruits of the ingenuity of our workers and our businesses.
However, the problem transcends the bilateral relations of two countries. It affects the very international community and requires a response from it. Information and telecommunication technologies cannot be the new battleground between states. This is the time to create the conditions to prevent cyberspace being implemented as a weapon of war by means of espionage, of sabotage, of attacks against systems and infrastructures of other countries.
The United Nations should play a leading role in the effort to regulate the behavior of states with respect to these technologies and the importance of the internet, this social network, in order to build democracy in the world .
For this reason Brazil will present proposals for the establishment of a multilateral civil landmark for the governance and use of the internet and of measures to ensure effective protection of the data that travels through it .
For a global network we need to establish multilateral mechanisms:
1 – For freedom of expression, individual privacy and human rights .
2 – For Democratic governance, multilateral and open, exercised with transparency, stimulating collective creation and participation of society, of governments and of the private sector .
3 – For the universality that ensures social and human development and the building of inclusive and non-discriminatory societies.
4 – For cultural diversity without imposing beliefs, customs and values .
5 – For net neutrality to cover only technical and ethical criteria, making restrictions on motives of a political, commercial, religious or any other nature impermissible.
Thus, by a responsible regulation exploiting the full potential of the internet passes to guaranteeing simultaneously freedom of expression, security and respect for human rights.
This part of the speech will come as a surprise to many (although it should not; planning for it had been previously announced, in English). There has been a certain amount of concern expressed that Brazil is fomenting “Balkanization” of the internet by virtue of such proposals as requiring companies who use Brazilians’ communications to store their dat in the country. But this new initiative sounds like the very antithesis of dividing the internet into mutually exclusive zones.
Now let’s see how receptive is the UN itself.
If we accept the premise that a meaningful rollback of NSA surveillance is not in the cards (and so it seems, since progressives are occupied with another issue and the libertarians who are opposed to it probably don’t know how to transform sentiment into meaningful political action), then the existing internet is too compromised and is to be replaced.
In a previous post of mine and in the comments thereto one model emerged of how this might come about. It is essentially based on the vision of Rick Falvinge to “rebuild [web security] from the ground up.”
More specifically, a commenter (#5) on my earlier post says that in discussions of the issue that he has heard, this idea has emerged:
A centralized internet backbone in a Switzerland-like location overseen by an international congress of privacy guards. The world’s trusted telecoms would be located here, as well. There would be nodes in Asia and the non-US Americas — also overseen by the privacy congress. I imagine Vatican-style industrial zones outside the control of any nation where they might be located.
But as also noted in that post another vision has been feared by Google boss Eric Schmidt, who warns of a “balkanization” of the internet, where as a result of (in his view) the publicity about the surveillance, individual countries will implement “very serious encryption,” so as to split the internet into one internet per country.
Enter Dilma Rousseff.
As everyone has now heard, the President of Brazil or her advisors has/have been sufficiently incensed by the NSA spying on their country to “postpone” her state visit to the US that was to take place next month. But what has garnered less publicity is that she has also set a series of measures in motion to require companies operating in the country to store their data there and to lay a new underwater fiber optic cable to Europe in order to bypass the US, through which most of the country’s global internet traffic now passes. The official in charge of implementing the first measure has confirmed it (h/t/ wendydavis).
In another development, first the two Defense Ministers and then the two Foreign Ministers of Brazil and Argentina have met to to discuss how to counter NSA spying on Brazil and the rest of Latin America, and the latter pair in particular have said that they will work specifically to “advance the development of cyber tools to protect communications and strategic information storage.”
So it would appear that we are going to get Schmidt’s “very serious encryption” at least at a regional level, if not at the level of individual countries. One can also easily imagine those two countries drawing most of South America (if probably not Chile or Colombia) into their orbit on this.
IT experts in the US have already wrung their hands over this development, but who in Latin America is going to listen to them? And as for that vision of “a centralized internet backbone in a Switzerland-like location,” that sounds like Western Europe. You know, that place that stood by sheepishly while the US forced down Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for Dilma to listen to folks there.
So it looks like it is going to be hard to get your signal into the countries around the Brazil-Argentina axis if there is the slightest chance it includes malware. The same goes for your telecoms and software developers and, once they figure out down there that their computers are already infected with stuxnet, your hardware manufacturers as well.
South America is going to have its own internet and IT industry, and that situation is going to pertain for the foreseeable future.
As everyone should know by now, not quite two weeks ago the latest nugget from Edward Snowden via Glenn Greenwald and co-authors was revealed, and was that the NSA and its UK counterpart the GSHQ “have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails.” The measures used to accomplish this include covertly controlling the setting of encryption standards, more powerful brute force code-cracking, and inserting backdoors into commercial encryption software.
This is very bad, and has led more than one observer to declare that the internet as we know it is dead as a secure medium of communication. That of course leads to the question of what is to be done about it.
One might ask first if it is possible for the NSA to be reformed so that it stops doing such things. To me it appears that the domestic anti-surveillance movement, which looked so promising in late July and early August, is now effectively dead, or at best left to Republicans to mold in accordance with their interests.
That is to say, President Obama proposed that Congress approve a measure he cannot have believed they would, to go to war in Syria, and many progressives responded by dropping everything other than organizing opposition to the war (at times accusing those who declined to follow them of insensitivity to human life), so that any action against the NSA surveillance was put on hold.
True, there is a national protest against the surveillance scheduled for October 26 in Washington, sponsored by the coalition StopWatching.Us, composed of Restore the Fourth, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, and other organizations. However, in the first place, that date (chosen because it is the anniversary of the Patriot Act) is rather far off. Secondly, the organizers are speaking in terms of “thousands, not hundreds” of protestors. That is, they are not speaking in terms of hundreds of thousands, which is what is needed for a protest to get any appreciable attention on a national scale.
The situation might be better at the international level. In a post a few days ago I noted some developments in Brazil and in Europe, of which the former seems the most promising. President Dilma Rousseff has demanded a meaningful explanation of the recently revealed extensive NSA snooping into her country’s affairs, and threatens to cancel her state visit to the US next month if she does not get it. Other public figures there have spoken in terms of excluding the US from some important commercial transactions.
Yet at this writing the US has evidently not responded beyond some rhetorical gestures, whereas Rousseff has other problems in the country (such as sustained anti-government protests in Rio de Janeiro) that she might ultimately decide have greater priority.
So given the possibility or probability that the spying is going to be left as it is, or perhaps will get even worse, what do we do?
One answer, or at least the outline of one, is given by Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the first of the up-and-coming European Pirate Parties. In an article apparently written on September 12 (that is when its comments thread begins), he avers that the internet must be rebuilt from scratch. As he explains the situation,
It’s been a tough week for General Least Untruthful. He had already been pretty much reduced to material for the late-night comics, but they will probably drop him as old hat now that he merely sounds like a broken record.
For in issuing a statement designed to head off an immanent new Snowden-Greenwald revelation as not being noteworthy, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper merely offered an excuse for international spying so lame that the revelation in question could quote it without skipping a beat.
The revelation in question was offered on the Brazilian TV program Fantastico last Sunday and, as is now well known, included among other things the information that the NSA has been spying on Brazil’s largest commercial entity Petrobras as well as other groupings such as an entity called SWIFT (which I’ll get to below). Specifically, a May 2012 PowerPoint presentation, used to train new agents on how to penetrate private computer networks, cites Petrobras and the others as examples.
Towards its end the TV program stated:
Lastly, another document obtained by Fantastico shows who are the spies’ clients – who gets the information obtained: American diplomats, the intelligence agencies, and the White House. It proves that spying doesn’t have as its sole purpose the fight against terrorism. On this list of objectives are also diplomatic, political and economic information.
The NSA has sent a statement attributed to James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, declaring that the agency collects information in order to give the United States and their allies early warning of international financial crises which could negatively impact the global economy and also to provide insight into other countries’ economic policy or behavior which could affect global markets.
The cited NSA statement goes on to deny that “trade secrets” are being stolen for the benefit of US companies, but is not “other countries’ economic policy” proprietary information that could be helpful to the US financial industry? To be sure, Greenwald and co-author Sonia Bridi do not make this connection explicitly, but it seems clear.
To say that Brazil has been pushed out of shape by this news would be the understatement of the year. It came on the heels of a Snowden-Greenwald revelation in July that the NSA has surveilled the Brazilian people generally by means of the linkage of its telecom industry and our heavily compromised one, and of another just a week before this one noting that the spooks have cracked the private network of President Dilma Rousseff (and of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who, however, seems to have since smoothed things over with Los Gringos), congratulating themselves on this achievement.
Rousseff has demanded an explanation before confirming her state visit to the US scheduled for October 23, and her Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo was supposed to receive one yesterday from National Security Advisor Susan Rice. According to Rio de Janeiro’s paper of record O Globo, the US released a statement on this meeting which said (I re-translate)
Rice expressed to Minister Figueiredo that the U.S. understands that recent revelations in the press, some of which distort our activities and some of which have raised legitimate questions for our friends and allies about how these potentialities are employed – created tension in the strong bilateral relationship that we have with Brazil. The U.S. is committed to working with Brazil to address these concerns, while we continue to work together on a common bilateral, regional and global agenda.
If that sounds to you like Rice engaged in her favorite activity of offering talking points supplied to her, without saying anything of substance, it does to me too. In any case, the article says Figueiredo canceled his plans to go to New York, in order to stay in Washington for unspecified further talks with US officials today.
And to be sure, for its part the Folha de São Paulo puts a positive spin on the development, saying that the talk with Rice was considered sufficient, and implying that that is why Figueiredo stayed over for further talks. In a later paragraph, however, the story says he only decided to do so after arriving at the train station and discovering that trains to New York were delayed by electrical problems. (Welcome to Amtrak in the NorthEast corridor, Senhor Figueiredo.) So I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, over on the other side of the pond, a day before that TV program aired there was a rally in Berlin against NSA surveillance that drew 15,000 to 20,000 protestors according to its organizers, the well known Green and Left Parties, and the seven-year old German Pirate Party. (The latter more or less follows the Swedish Pirate-Party model stressing revolution through the internet, and now has parliamentary representation at the state level in four of Germany’s 16 states.)
By all accounts this event was a properly lively affair (RT report with video), but what is really interesting about it is that the next federal election in Germany will be on September 22, and the NSA surveillance is very much an issue. Angela Merkel is perceived by the opposition, led by the Social Democrats with standard-bearer Peer Steinbrück, as having been too insensitive to the need for privacy vis a vis the country’s relations with the US.
And a complication for Merkel’s Christian Democrats is that their coalition partner the Free Democrats, who control the Foreign and Justice Ministries, disagree with them on the issue. In particular, the FDP Justice Minister has said that the US must supply more information on the surveillance of German citizens, revealed not long ago by the publication der Spiegel from Snowden documents, than has been the case. Moreover, younger members of the FDP had a presence at the rally last Saturday.
The German media have been predicting that Merkel’s coalition is in no real electoral danger in spite of the surveillance issue, but there is over a week left to campaign. One has the feeling that another Snowden-Greenwald revelation could make a big difference.
Staying in Europe, Sunday’s revelation that SWIFT is a NSA target, mentioned above, has ruffled some feathers. “SWIFT” is an acronym for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. According to the wiki it “provides a network that enables financial institutions worldwide to send and receive information about financial transactions in a secure, standardized and reliable environment,” among other things. However, “secure” was a bit of a misnomer even before the 2012 NSA training presentation.
For as the wiki later explains, early in the previous decade some US agencies other than the ΝSA gained the ability to access the SWIFT data base through a program called the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP), a fact that has caused debate in Europe since it was exposed in 2006, To make a long story short, an interim agreement was reached between the US and the European Union for the latter to cooperate with the TFTP, subject to the former’s observance of European privacy laws, but was rejected by the European Parliament in February 2010.
However, the wiki omits the point that the EP approved the agreement later in 2010, although that is now being questioned in the wake of last Sunday’s revelation that the NSA is accessing SWIFT. Several EP members are now calling for suspension of agreement with the TFTP as a result. For example, Dutch member Sophie in’t Veld says
It is increasingly evident that the NSA data tracking programmes go far beyond the fight against terrorism.
She goes on to say that if the specific accusation that the NSA has direct access to EU citizens’ personal financial data is proven true, then she doesn’t see how cooperation with the TFTP can be continued.
It would appear that the NSA culture, where it is a badge of honor to gain access to the most secret communication yet regardless of the implications for civil liberties, international relations, or plain common sense, is beginning to infringe on US corporate interests themselves. While it would not be the end of the world for them if, for example, a less friendly Social Democrat-Green coalition returned to power in place of the current CDU-CSU-FDP grouping, neither would it be helpful. Loss of financial cooperation with the European Union would be a significant blow. As for Brazil, a $4 billion Brazilian purchase of fighter planes from Boeing could be lost to a competing bid from France or Sweden and, while the last time I looked an October auction of a field in the “pre-salt” oil exploration area was still on schedule, that could change.
In short, at the international level the NSA’s propensity to exceed its anti-terrorism mandate, to engage in what appears to be all-out espionage on all countries, is becoming a serious problem for the US 1%.
That may be why Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has suddenly gotten religion. As Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee he is mostly known for pursuing anti-Democrat activities, such as earlier this year chastising the IRS for allegedly targeting specifically conservative groups for review of their tax-exempt status. In july he voted against the Amash Amendment to an appropriations bill that would have defunded the NSA’s telephony metadata collection. However, on Tuesday he sent a letter to the House leadership calling for introduction of legislation “as quickly as possible” to ensure that “the NSA and the rest of the intelligence community cease” activities that “violate [Americans'] Fourth Amendment rights,” with specifically the Amash language included,.
Rep. Issa says that his concern is motivated by revelations since the defeat of the Amash Amendment, but it is not clear specifically what information he means. It seems strange that someone with no particular history of championing civil liberties has suddenly latched onto the issue, but then one perhaps should not look a gift horse in the mouth. If anyone has the clout to get the Leadership to bring up a bill it is Issa.
Now that President Obama’s proposed attack on Syria and his request for Congressional approval thereof have been “postponed” (that is, postponed if one believes there was a serious intent to attack in the first place), one can ask if there is indeed room in the legislative calendar for action “quickly” on such legislation. Evidently it would have to be squeezed in, given the prospect of a government shutdown at the end of the month if Congress does not pass at least a so-called continuing resolution.
But assuming that NSA rollback legislation is indeed introduced, what are the prospects for its passage given the forces against it that were on display in July when the Amash Amendment was defeated? Or to put the question more bluntly, what are the prospects for progressive activists getting behind such legislation with call-your-congressperson campaigns and the like?
Not great, it would appear. In particular, the FDL and RootsAction leaderships seem to have taken the suspension of the proposed attack as occasion to redouble their focus on pressuring Congress with respect to a vote that may not happen, because, as I understand it, the issue “affects the lives” of the Syrian people. One prominent blogger offered his opinion yesterday that our absolute top priority now must be to “stop the war in Syria,” and that issues like TPP, abortion or guns are “not important.” (NSA surveillance does not even make his list of also-rans.)
That is to say, the prospect of improving the situation on an issue that arguably “affects the lives” of progressive activists (as illustrated by the surveillance of Occupy in Boston a couple of years ago, for example) may go by the boards due to lack of interest.
I don’t like that possibility, but (and given that my personal situation does not allow taking a leadership role against it) I don’t see what to do about it beyond pointing it out.
Apart from pleasantries about the affinity of the US and Swedish peoples, the main focus of O’s statements (delivered after Reinfeldt’s) was of course Syria, how he and Reinfeldt allegedly agreed that there was a need to act, and how important it was for the international community to support this.
However, there is an issue that will not go away internationally, even if O may have succeeded in shunting it aside domestically by referring the Syria matter to Congress: NSA surveillance. The very first reporter’s question was
As you might know, the NSA surveillance affair has stirred up quite a few angry reactions, even here in Sweden. What do you want to say to those upset? And how do you think the affair affects the relationship between our countries?
To this our erstwhile leader began:
…this is a question that I’ve received in previous visits to Europe since the stories broke in The Guardian, and I suspect I’ll continue to get, as I travel through Europe and around the world, for quite some time. Like other countries, we have an intelligence operation that tries to improve our understanding of what’s happening around the world. And in light of 9/11, a lot of energy was focused on improving our intelligence when it came to combating terrorism.
And so on, eventually getting to this statement:
And I can give assurances to the publics in Europe and around the world that we’re not going around snooping at people’s emails or listening to their phone calls.
This assertion comes three days after Glenn Greenwald’s latest revelation from the Snowden cache, that the NSA has tapped into private communications of the very Presidents of Brazil and Mexico, congratulating itself on the achievement (as discussed here).
So far the best comment I’ve seen on this statement is Margo Schulter’s (comment #91 in the link just given): It compares favorably with Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook.”
But what do you think?