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First POST: Solely

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, July 10 2014


  • "It is entirely false that U.S. intelligence agencies conduct electronic surveillance of political, religious or activist figures solely because they disagree with public policies or criticize the government, or for exercising constitutional rights," the Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a joint statement responding the yesterday's story in The Intercept about the NSA and FBI's surveillance of Muslim-Americans.

  • In a joint letter to President Obama organized by the ACLU, more than 40 civil rights, human rights, privacy rights and religious organizations asked for a "full public accounting" of the targeting of Muslim community leaders.

  • One of Congress's sole two Muslim members, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), issued a statement expressing his concerns, calling The Intercept's report "particularly troubling because it suggests that Americans were targeted because of their faith and civic engagement.  Unfortunately, the NYPD’s spying on Muslims with the CIA's help and the FBI's use of hateful anti-Muslim training materials makes this concern legitimate."

  • The silence from the rest of Congress is deafening.

  • In a reddit AMA with his co-author Murtaza Hussain, Glenn Greenwald notes that "Muslims, while the prime target of post-9/11 abuses, are not the only ones targeted by them, and there is definitely more big reporting to come from the Snowden archive." He also revealed that "many, many people do not want to be publicly identified as NSA targets. In the prior weeks, my email inbox has been full of people literally pleading not to be named if they're on the list."

  • Need a refresher? Timothy Lee of Vox Media offers "13 Ways the NSA Spies on Us."

  • Snowden has applied for an extension of his asylum in Russia.

  • Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) has asked the Federal Trade Commission to examine whether new regulations are needed to police companies like Facebook in how they use big data. Facebook told Kurt Wagner of Mashable, "It’s clear that people were upset by this study, and we take responsibility for it. We want to do better in the future, and are improving our process based on this feedback. The study was done with appropriate protections for people’s information, and we are happy to answer any questions regulators may have."

  • Revolving door: Cybersecurity is the hot new way for government officials to cash in other service and expertise, report Darren Samuelsohn, Bryon Tau and Joseph Marks in Politico. The Snowden disclosures and security breaches at companies like Target are driving the trend, they report, with former National Security Agency director Keith Alexander just the latest to set up as a top-dollar consultant.

  • Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) is a critic of the trend. In letters to several financial trade industry groups, he wrote, "“I question how Mr. Alexander can provide any of the services he is offering unless he discloses or misuses classified information, including extremely sensitive sources and methods. Without the classified information that he acquired in his former position, he literally would have nothing to offer you."

  • Brian Knappenberger's op-doc for The New York Times pits "net neutrality" pioneer Tim Wu against HBO"s John Oliver, and then it gets serious.

  • Zeynep Tufekci explains the connection between the "revelatory cascades," the collapse of Brazil's soccer team in its match against Germany, protest movements in Turkey and Egypt, and why Nate Silver's 538 site got its Brazil prediction wrong.

  • The British Parliament is rushing legislation updating the government's right to keep personal digital data, and Labor MP Tom Watson is trying to stop it in its tracks.

  • Worth contemplating: Tech entrepreneur and strategist Lauren Bacon writes, in "The Invisible Campfire of Online Communities" that it's time to recalibrate how we spend time online. She writes:

    Even before the recent revelations about Facebook’s manipulation of users’ news streams to conduct a massive social experiment, I’ve been feeling increasingly… itchy about Facebook. It’s part of a larger itch I’m feeling about where I choose to devote my time, attention and personal data online. Increasingly, I notice just how deeply I’ve committed my data to applications, platforms and companies that are advertising-driven – Google, Facebook, Twitter and the like – where in my analog life, I tend to think pretty carefully about where I’m putting my dollars and energy….I don’t want to make the internet more advertising-driven. I want to contribute to an internet that fosters real community and personal freedom. 

Note: This post has been corrected to reflect the fact that there are two Muslim members of Congress, Rep. Ellison and Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN).