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First POST: Verbed

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, September 9 2013


  • Overturned: The Washington Post reports that in 2011 the Obama administration successfully got the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to reverse a 2008 ruling and allow the NSA to search its databases for American communications without a warrant and to extend the time they can keep those communications.

  • Shafted: Jack Shafer digests the latest news about the NSA's efforts to get around most encryption standards and finds a huge irony:

    Can somebody explain to the NSA that Snowden has merely done to the NSA what the NSA has been doing to U.S. citizens and business for decades? Snowden deceitfully ignored the legally binding promises he made to the NSA; the NSA similarly runs roughshod over both the letter and the spirit of surveillance legislation (and systematically lies about it, something Snowden doesn’t do). Snowden stole secrets; the NSA steals secrets (and encryption keys, according to yesterday’s reports), only at a more colossal level. Snowden took it upon himself that he, not the NSA or his government, knows best; the NSA and its governmental partners believe they know best; Snowden creatively exploited the technical weaknesses in the computer matrix to accomplish his goals; so does the NSA.

  • Exposed: Yahoo released its first government transparency report Friday, covering the first six months of 2013. It received more than 12,000 requests from government agencies in the United States, by far the most from any country.

  • Accelerated: Google is speeding up its efforts to improve the encryption of the information that flows through its data centers, in response to all the revelations about dragnet government surveillance programs.

  • Proposed: Rep. Rush Holt is pursuing legislation that would stop the NSA from installing back doors into encryption.

  • Suggested: Cory Doctorow offers this idea to help "foil NSA sabotage": a kind of digital "dead man's switch" that would allow web sites and services to alert users to when their resources become compromised by government intrusions.

In other news around the web:

  • Previewed: The Verizon v F.C.C. case goes before the US Court of Appeals today, wherein Verizon is challenging the FCC's authority to write rules insuring that internet service providers maintain an open internet. Verizon is arguing that the agency's efforts violate its constitutional rights, claiming that it should be considered a media company and not regulated under the First Amendment. Susan Crawford, author of the industry-critical book Captive Audience, argues that this is "absurd."

  • Leaked: Speaking of net neutrality, the underlying issue in the Verizon case, go check out "The Internet Must Go," a 30-minute mockumentary directed and produced by Gena Konstantinakos, which purports to expose the plans of the big telecom companies to kill off the Internet. It's a subtle satire, but not a joking matter.

  • Launched: The Shorenstein Center and the Nieman Journalism Lab have released "Riptide," an oral history of the "epic collision between journalism and digital technology, from 1980 to the present." There's 50 hours of interviews, but to download the essay, written by the project's principals John Huey, Martin Nisenholtz and Paul Sagan, go here.

  • Purchased: Capital New York, founded and edited by PDM friends Josh Benson and Tom McGeveran (and incubated in quasi-shared office space with us in their early days), has been bought by Robert Allbritton, the owner of POLITICO. Benson and McGeveran's note to their readers says that Allbritton has "the intention of establishing and growing [Capital] as a freestanding sibling publication in New York." Mike Allen's Politico Playbook reports that Politico co-founder and executive editor Jim Vandehei will "expand his duties to include serving as president of Capital New York" and that "The original POLITICO gang--John Harris, Jim Vandehei, Mike Allen and Kim Kingsley--will all be instrumental in advising and helping guide the expansion of the new company."

  • Profiled: "Journalist-Agitator" Barrett Brown, in prison for a year already and facing decades more, gets the David Carr treatment. He is being prosecuted for posting a link to leaked files from Stratfor, the controversial security firm, that included credit card data. Carr notes Brown's activist profile and sometimes erratic behavior, but points out that journalists link to stolen information frequently, and that "by trying to criminalize linking, the federal authorities in the Northern District of Texas — Mr. Brown lives in Dallas — are suggesting that to share information online is the same as possessing it or even stealing it."

  • Recused: Newark Mayor Cory Booker, the Democratic nominee for the US Senate from New Jersey, has ended his relationship with the tech start-up WayWire.

  • Wanted: San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced the launch of an "entrepreneur-in-residence" program to bring Silicon Valley style innovation into government. The 16-week program will give entrepreneurs with products or services that address public sector "pain points" the opportunities to test their ideas against the reality of government operations.

  • Anticipated: Secretary of State John Kerry is doing a Google Hangout on Tuesday with the NY Times Nicholas Kristof and Syria Deeply's Lara Setrakian.

  • Dashed: Julian Assange's quixotic bid to make it into the Australian Senate fell short, with his WikiLeaks Party obtaining just 25,667 votes, or a little more than 1 percent of the vote. But Assange says he's "pleased" with the result.

  • Deleted: Twitter has cut off an account used by Somali militants.