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First POST: Half-Orcs and Whips

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, November 6 2013

Half Orcs and Whips

  • Two Google engineers have gone public with their fury at the NSA's hacking into their secure network. Says Mike Hearn, who worked on a anti-hacking system featured in some NSA slides published yesterday by the Washington Post in its follow up story on Google's vulnerability:

    We designed this system to keep criminals out . There's no ambiguity here. The warrant system with skeptical judges, paths for appeal, and rules of evidence was built from centuries of hard won experience. When it works, it represents as good a balance as we've got between the need to restrain the state and the need to keep crime in check. Bypassing that system is illegal for a good reason .

    Unfortunately we live in a world where all too often, laws are for the little people. Nobody at GCHQ or the NSA will ever stand before a judge and answer for this industrial-scale subversion of the judicial process. In the absence of working law enforcement,  we therefore do what internet engineers have always done - build more secure software.

    He ends his post: "Thank you Edward Snowden."

  • The other engineer, Brandon Downey, describes a decade of effort keeping Google users safe from malicious attacks and then says, "But after spending all that time helping in my tiny way to protect Google -- one of the greatest things to arise from the internet -- seeing this, well, it's just a little like coming home from War with Sauron, destroying the One Ring, only to discover the NSA is on the front porch of the Shire chopping down the Party Tree and outsourcing all the hobbit farmers with half-orcs and whips."

  • NSA lawyers are arguing to Congress that if the agency loses its ability to collect and store millions of Americans phone records, that data could end up falling into the hands of many other law enforcement agencies. That is, they're saying Americans' privacy rights could be hurt if the NSA loses this resource, John Hudson writes in The Cable, Foreign Policy's blog.

  • Josh Levy, Free Press's Internet Campaign Director, points out on TalkingPointsMemo that "mass surveillance of innocent people has been a problem for years" in the US, especially among communities of color, immigrants and Muslim Americans.

In other news from around the web:

  • The President and First Lady spent part of yesterday meeting and greeting people on the White House tour visitor's line. They say "Nice to see you," a lot. Bo makes an appearance. The whole thing was live-streamed on YouTube. We assume this will be a Saturday Night Live parody skit by this Saturday.

  • President Obama told a group of donors and supporters of Organizing for Action at a dinner Monday that he would pursue new reforms in federal procurement practices in the wake of's disastrous launch, the Hill reports.

  • Alexis Madrigal didn't like Dave Egger's new novel, The Circle, for the obvious reason that Eggers basically doesn't get any of the poetry or pathos of how people actually use social media.

  • Shel Kaphan, Amazon's first employee, rebuts MacKenzie Bezos's critical review of Brad Stone's book The Everything Store. He give the book a four-star review. On Amazon, of course.

  • National Geographic's interactive "If All the Ice Melted" maps are turning a lot of heads.