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First POST: Public Enemies

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, August 13 2014

Public Enemies

  • In a long cover profile for Wired magazine, Edward Snowden tells James Bamford, the author of several seminal books on the NSA, that "he actually intended the government to have a good idea about what exactly he stole."

    Before he made off with the documents, he tried to leave a trail of digital bread crumbs so investigators could determine which documents he copied and took and which he just “touched.” That way, he hoped, the agency would see that his motive was whistle-blowing and not spying for a foreign government. It would also give the government time to prepare for leaks in the future, allowing it to change code words, revise operational plans, and take other steps to mitigate damage. But he believes the NSA's audit missed those clues and simply reported the total number of documents he touched—1.7 million. (Snowden says he actually took far fewer.) “I figured they would have a hard time,” he says. “I didn't figure they would be completely incapable.”

  • Bamford also shares his belief that "a second leaker" is also releasing NSA documents to the media, and reports that a botched NSA effort to install a snooping program on a major router in Syria caused that country's Internet service to go down in 2012. "If we get caught, we can always point the finger at Israel," NSA staffers reportedly joked.

  • Bamford also reports that among the discoveries that "most shocked" Snowden when he was working inside the NSA "was learning that the agency was regularly passing raw private communications—content as well as metadata—to Israeli intelligence. Usually information like this would be 'minimized,' a process where names and personally identifiable data are removed. But in this case, the NSA did virtually nothing to protect even the communications of people in the US. This included the emails and phone calls of millions of Arab and Palestinian Americans whose relatives in Israel-occupied Palestine could become targets based on the communications. 'I think that's amazing,' Snowden says. 'It's one of the biggest abuses we've seen.'”

  • The word "hashtag" finally makes it into a front-page headline in the New York Times, appropriately for a story about the power of "Black Twitter" to marshall opinion in the aftermath of the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri.

  • For more background on Black Twitter, check out this profile of author Kimberly Ellis, and her talk at Personal Democracy Forum this past June.

  • Anonymous has launched #OpFerguson, targeting the city's police, reports Matthew Phelan for Gawker.

  • Of the 1.1 million comments that have come in on the FCC's Open Internet proposal, approximately 15% emphasized that a "pay to play" system will harm the Internet's diversity; 7% focused on how "fast lanes" would destroy the Internet; and another 7% spoke more about the "need for equality in promoting the American dream," according to an analysis by data firm Quid that was shared with Elise Hu of NPR. About half the comments were "derived from templates," Quid found, which is less than typical, and there were too few anti-net-neutrality comments to register in the analysis.

  • The NRCC, the House GOP's campaign arm, is launching about two dozen websites designed to look like local news sources or legitimate fact-checking sites but filled with content designed to undermine Democratic candidates, reports Shane Goldmacher for National Journal. He writes, "Political strategists on both sides of the aisle say voters have generally grown weary and dubious of political attacks that are accompanied by dark clouds and ominous music. Wrapping an attack in the innocuous language of fact-checking, then, makes it more likely to sink in."

  • Apple is slightly more ethnically diverse than Google, Facebook or Twitter, according to its just-released diversity report, notes Brian Chen for the New York Times.

  • Boston's HubHacks challenge took on the city's outdated and badly designed online permitting system, with some promising results, reports Tod Newcombe for GovTech.

  • Red Hat's Gunnar Hellekson raises some good questions about the newly-announced US Digital Service. We'll have a complete story on this up on techPresident later today.