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First POST: Secret-Spilling Machine

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, February 24 2014

Secret-Spilling Machine

  • The news from Ukraine, where last week's violent anti-government protests have ended, seemingly, with the collapse of President Victor Yanukovich's regime, is heartening and suggests that even in the age of hyper-surveillance and police forces willing to use live ammunition against civilians, authoritarians don't always prevail. Some questions I'd love to see more reporting on:

    • How did the "sotni"--the irregular but well-disciplined groups of roughly 100 street fighters each--get organized and what holds them together?
    • Unlike other recent protest movements, which have been more adept at using social media to organize to dissolve power than to build counter-power, how have did #EuroMaidan coalition get built?
    • What happened to the Yanukovich regime's use of mobile phone tracking--recall those intimidating text messages it sent to protesters in January? Why didn't it shut down or throttle the Internet when it saw how protesters were using it?
  • Instead of spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the NSA has increased its snooping of other senior German officials, the Bild am Sonntag paper reports.

  • Eli Lake has a long, sympathetic profile of James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, in the Daily Beast, adorned with photos from Clapper's personal collection. Read it if you want to understand how a child of the "deep state" (Clapper's father was a career army intelligence officer and the two of them bunked together in Vietnam) thinks.

  • Glenn Greenwald parses Lake's profile of Clapper with his usual brio, concluding: "James Clapper should look in the mirror every morning and be extremely grateful for the corrupted political system that has shielded him from the consequences of his crimes even as he tries to criminalize others for doing things that the U.S. Constitution guarantees them the right to do."

  • Speaking of the "deep state," longtime Republican budget committee staffer Mike Lofgren, has a lengthy essay on on the "anatomy of the deep state."

  • Gawker's Nick Denton tells Playboy magazine (link is SFW) that he thinks as the Internet reduces privacy, society's attitudes about once previously shamed behaviors like drinking or homosexuality are being forced to change more quickly:

  • Andrew O'Hagan, the writer hired to ghost-write Julian Assange's authorized autobiography, has written a 26,390 word essay describing how the whole venture went south, with more details than anyone could possibly want on the dysfunctions of the WikiLeaks founder and his menagerie of acolytes. If you want to save time, these two excerpts, summing up O'Hagan's view of his subject, can suffice:

    He was in a state of panic at all times that things might get out. But he manages people so poorly, and is such a slave to what he’s not good at, that he forgets he might be making bombs set to explode in his own face. I am sure this is what happens in many of his scrapes: he runs on a high-octane belief in his own rectitude and wisdom, only to find later that other people had their own views – of what is sound journalism or agreeable sex – and the idea that he might be complicit in his own mess baffles him. Fact is, he was not in control of himself and most of what his former colleagues said about him just might be true. He is thin-skinned, conspiratorial, untruthful, narcissistic, and he thinks he owns the material he conduits. It may turn out that Julian is not Daniel Ellsberg or John Wilkes, but Charles Foster Kane, abusive and monstrous in his pursuit of the truth that interests him, and a man who, it turns out, was motivated all the while not by high principles but by a deep sentimental wound. Perhaps we won’t know until the final frames of the movie….
    The impulse towards free speech…is only permissible if it adheres to his message. His pursuit of governments and corporations was a ghostly reverse of his own fears for himself. That was the big secret with him: he wanted to cover up everything about himself except his fame.

  • The EC-Council, the ethical hacking organization that trained Edward Snowden among tens of thousands of other security professionals, was itself hacked this weekend, and Snowden's US passport photo posted on its homepage.

  • The Blackphone, a high-end smartphone designed for security and privacy, is here.

In other news around the web:

  • The Republican State Leadership Committee will soon be launching .gop, Kendall Brietman reports for USA Today. The group expects it will be a successful branding opportunity, and intends to make money selling specific domain names to the general public as well as party groups and leaders.

  • Facing re-election, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) is spending about $100,000 a month on digital outreach, the Texas Tribune's Jay Root reports. He writes:

    Mr. Cornyn’s fan base on Facebook has exploded, rising at last count to more than 250,000 from about 27,000 in August. Since the summer, the email list has grown by some 250 percent, and the number of online donors has increased by more than 200 percent, according to figures provided by the campaign. The campaign has merged the information it gathers online with offline voter history. That lets the Cornyn campaign track behavioral trends and create 15 different subsets of Republican primary voters based on propensity to vote, issues that move them and level of support for the senator.

  • Kenneth Vogel and Maggie Haberman details Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina's growing business empire.

  • The New Republic's John Judis writes that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's new proposals to protect net neutrality won't be upheld by the courts and therefore amount to little more than "wheel-spinning."

  • An important European Parliament committee is voting on a net neutrality proposal today.

  • Timothy Lee argues that Netflix's new peering deal with Comcast is bad news for net neutrality.

  • Dan Rayburn, who writes the Streaming Media Blog, explains why the deal has nothing to do with net neutrality.

  • Richard Bennett of HighTech Forum agrees with Rayburn.

  • Communities with high levels of police activity often have lower levels of civic engagement, Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow reports for Next City.

  • ElectionLine profiles Democracy Works pilot project in ballot tracking.

  • danah boyd, author of the terrific new book "It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens," talks to Andrew Leonard of Salon. His sum up of her message: "The kids are all right, but society isn't."

  • US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power is doing a Facebook Q+A today at 3:15 PT.

  • Mark Kaigwa explains why #KOT (Kenyans on Twitter) are mocking Facebook users in their country for joining "Mukuru kwa Zuckerberg" (a nickname that mirrors the name of a slum in Nairobi).