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First POST: Touchy

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, October 24 2013


  • German chancellor Angela Merkel called President Barack Obama Wednesday to demand a clarification of a report in Der Spiegel that the NSA was eavesdropping on her mobile phone. According to the Guardian, her spokesman said Merkel told Obama that "she unmistakably disapproves of and views as completely unacceptable such practices, if the indications are authenticated. This would be a serious breach of confidence. Such practices have to be halted immediately." The White House said her phone was not currently being tapped, but declined to deny that it had done so in the past.

  • The New York Times notes that "after a similar furor with France, this was the second time in 48 hours that the president found himself on the phone with a close European ally to argue that the unceasing revelations of invasive American intelligence gathering should not undermine decades of hard-won trans-Atlantic trust."

  • German email services are "enjoying a jump in demand following the NSA data surveillance scandal," Der Spiegel reports.

  • How many terrorist plots have the NSA's dragnet surveillance programs actually prevented? ProPublica parses the evidence and finds that it comes up wanting.

  • An analysis of major newspaper coverage of the NSA surveillance scandal in the month of July and found that coverage tilted in a pro-surveillance direction. Albert Wong and Valerie Belair-Gagnon write in the Columbia Journalism Review, "Key words generally used to justify increased surveillance, such as security or terrorism, were used much more frequently than terms that tend to invoke opposition to mass surveillance, such as privacy or liberty."

  • The full unexpurgated work of @natsecwonk are here, thanks to Marc Ambinder.

  • Jofi Joseph, the NSC staffer behind the renegade account, was caught after some top Obama advisers decided to intentionally plan inaccurate and harmless information with him to see if would turn up as a tweet reports the Washington Post.

  • Republican tech nerd Patrick Ruffini writes in the Heritage Foundation's blog The Foundry that " Discredits Liberalism." And he's got a point. The current procurement system, he says, is the product of "the modern administrative state that is the product of 20th century liberalism." He zings progressive techies:

    …the governing philosophy they support is at odds with the startup mentality they also embrace. For better or worse, the impulse for a bigger government that makes more health care decisions goes hand in hand with bad procurement laws administered by a unionized federal workforce bullish on routine and bearish on innovation.

  • Reflecting on the problems with's launch, the UK's executive director for digital, Mike Bracken, tells NPR that the US should copy Britain's success with its Government Digital Service, a "go-team" of 300 in-house technologists.

  • 2nd Vote is a new mobile app that tells you how liberal or conservative a company may lean on gun rights, abortion, the environment, same-sex marriage and federal subsidies. The app, which launched at the Values Voter Summit, is aimed at conservatives but is getting liberal users as well.

  • MoneyballForGovernment has launched. It promises to use data and evidence to focus on spending "limited taxpayer dollars" on solutions that get results for young people, families and communities and disinvesting in programs that consistently fail. It would be interesting to see this applied to Pentagon spending, but the focus appears to be social services.

  • The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau's Technology and Innovation Team just released eRegulations, an open source tool that makes it easier to find and understand federal regulations.