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First POST: Contained Fury

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, October 30 2013

Contained Fury

  • Reuters reports that President Obama has ordered the NSA to stop its electronic surveillance of the United Nations.

  • NSA director Keith Alexander told the House Intelligence Committee yesterday that phone records from France and Spain were collected by their country's intelligence services and shared with the US, denying that his agency was collecting millions of phone records directly.

  • Yesterday's hearing of the House Intelligence Committee was marked by the spectacle of committee chair Rep. Mike Rogers claiming that the NSA had kept the panel fully informed on its activities, and verbally sparring with other committee members who insisted they had been kept in the dark on things like spying on foreign leaders, Mike Masnick of TechDirt reports.

  • The USA Freedom Act has been introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), along with 16 cosponsors in the Senate and over 70 in the House. It would end bulk collection of phone records, make it harder to target Americans' communications and push the government to delete information accidentally collected on Americans. Here's an oped by Leahy and Sensenbrenner making their case for reform.

  • "If, say, the Chinese had behaved like this toward the Internet and toward social platforms used around the world, there would be barely contained fury in the West," writes the Guardian's editor Alan Rusbridger in an essay in the new issue of the New York Review of Books on "The Snowden Leaks and the Public." He also explains why, unlike Bill Keller, he felt comfortable letting an opinion columnist (Glenn Greenwald) help write the Guardian's news coverage of the Snowden leaks.

  • Veteran journalists Dan Froomkin and Liliana Segura are joining Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill on the as-yet-unnamed "NewCo" being funded by Pierre Omidyar. Details here. Follow #newconews to keep abreast of developments.

  • A question: One government agency is tasked with keeping Americans safe from threats that, to date, have taken, at most a few thousand lives since 2001. The other one is tasked with keeping Americans safe from threats that, to date, annually kill hundreds of thousands well before their time. Which one gets all the funding it needs and hardly any Congressional oversight?

In other news around the web

  • Susan Crawford checks out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's new eRegulations portal.

  • Is Senator Rand Paul a serial plagiarizer from Wikipedia? Rachel Maddow found the first example of him cribbing from the free encyclopedia for a speech; BuzzFeed found a second one. Details here.

  • After Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) lifted his hold, Tom Wheeler was unanimously confirmed as the new chair of the Federal Communications Commission. Wheeler reportedly assured Cruz in a private meeting yesterday that "tougher requirements for the donors behind political TV ads are 'not a priority' for him," The Hill reported.

  • "Big data is bullshit," Obama 2012 CTO Harper Reed told college leaders yesterday at a State University of New York conference on "Building a Smarter University: Big Data, Innovation and Ingenuity." The 'big' there is purely marketing, he said, according to Marc Parry of the Chronicle of Higher Education. "This is all fear…This is about you buying expensive servers and whatnot. The exciting thing is you can get a lot of this stuff done just in Excel."

  • Don't know the difference between a "senior White House official" and a "senior administration official"? Ryan Grim and Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post give you their guide to "decoding Washington's anonymous sources."

  • It's a month away, but BlackFridayProtests.com is live.

  • What can civil society expect from the Open Government Partnership summit? Susannah Vila and Christopher Wilson get some answers from Paul Maassen.

  • Blending lower power radio and real-time reporting via Twitter, citizen media is taking off in Greece.

  • Greenpeace's Mobilization Lab reports on ActionAid and its Global Platforms training for youth organizers around the world.

  • An antidote to yesterday's item about technolibertarianism: Why have tech companies stopped trying to solve big problems? Charlie Kim, the founder and CEO of NextJump, says it's because they are mostly "run by young engineers" who are easily seduced by "the dark side of power, fame and money." He adds, "There is an imbalance in tech companies and therein lies the problem. Power without responsibility corrupts."

  • OpenCongress.org, a flagship project of the Participatory Politics Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation since 2007, is being taken over and run solely by Sunlight. An updated version of OpenCongress launched yesterday. Here is Sunlight's post on the news; here is PPF's. Since its launch, Open Congress has received 27 million visits, 69 million page views, and garnered 300,000 registered users. Sunlight was OpenCongress's primary funder, and acquired the site from PPF for $450,000. Next up for PPF: the coming launch of AskThem.io. Your's truly is a senior advisor to Sunlight and is a member of AskThem's volunteer advisory board.

  • Upcoming: November 9-10, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University is hosting the "Single-Subject News Network," a series of panels and discussions focused on news sites that serve specific verticals, looking at how they fit into mainstream media, highlighting best practices, exploring funding potentials and learning from the experiences of twenty single-subject study participants. I'll be on a panel focused on US political sites, representing techPresident. Details and RSVP here.