Why There Will Be More Edward Snowdens

Cyrus Nemadi’s “open letter” to the NSA:

Now, what happens when you raise a generation on a steady diet of data, and then try to keep naughty secrets? They’re going to ask questions. They grew up in a world where information was free, and they took advantage of that fact. They learned more about the world around them than could ever be learned in school, and they went online for the answers to the questions their parents and teachers wouldn’t answer. They grew up not just appreciating that information was free, but expecting information to be free.

It gets worse. Not only are you hiring millennials, for whom secrecy is anathema—you’re hiring millennial hackers. And hacking, as you well know, means finding ways of turning technology to serve a purpose other than its intended one. When information isn’t free, these people have the ability and the will to free it.

So the very people whom the NSA (and other top-secret agencies) have to rely upon to conduct their work are the very people who — at least in this generation — are also more likely to divulge the information they gain access to.

Let’s face it: This isn’t going to be the last time your secrets are aired to the public. It’s probably not even going to be the last time this year that your secrets are aired to the public by another Edward Snowden, because you’ve got countless Edward Snowdens on your payroll whose first—not last—instinct is to blow open your information infrastructure.

Maybe that’s why websites like this exist.

Your communications aren’t private, and you shouldn’t be shocked

The Washington Post: The NSA and FBI know everything you do online, except for Twitter:

PRISM was launched from the ashes of President George W. Bush’s secret program of warrantless domestic surveillance in 2007, after news media disclosures, lawsuits and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forced the president to look for new authority.

Congress obliged with the Protect America Act in 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection. PRISM recruited its first partner, Microsoft, and began six years of rapidly growing collection beneath the surface of a roiling national debate on surveillance and privacy. Late last year, when critics in Congress sought changes in the FISA Amendments Act, the only lawmakers who knew about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.

Nine of the largest U.S. internet companies, comprising Silicon Valley’s murderer’s row and the hubs of the vast majority of online communication for the U.S. and the world, are cooperating or have been compelled to work with the NSA and the FBI on widespread surveillance of Americans and ‘foreigners’ in the War on Terror. And that comes on the heels of a report from The Guardian that the NSA has been collecting metadata for every call made through Verizon, and then more revelations that the data collection extends to essentially all telecommunications providers.

So the NSA knows that you call your Mom every other Tuesday. And they probably have a log of that ill-advised Facebook chat you had with your ex-girlfriend three years ago at 2:30 in the morning, even though you hoped that everyone forgot. Apparently this helps catch terrorists.

Hopefully these programs being somewhat out in the open will spark real debate, but the immediate response of top Senate and House officials to the Verizon controversy – full support – does not bode well. And since the Administration’s first response was to announce a hunt for The Guardian‘s source, right in line with the actions that have gotten them in hot water in the past few weeks, it’s doubtful that we’ll see any change to the White House whistleblower policy any time soon.

That President Obama once publicly criticized the executive branch’s monitoring of innocent Americans and then changed his position after gaining access to that power demonstrates an age-old warning of civil libertarians and privacy advocates: once such “temporary” powers are granted or rights taken away, it’s much harder said than done to turn back the clock. In fact, it only makes it easier to erode rights and liberties a little more.

DEA Leaks Memo Falsely Implying Apple’s iMessage is Untappable

Julian Sanchez, deconstructing a DEA memo leaked to CNET yesterday:

The DEA memo simply observes that, because iMessages are encrypted and sent via the Internet through Apple’s servers, a conventional wiretap installed at the cellular carrier’s facility isn’t going to catch those iMessages along with conventional text messages. Which shouldn’t exactly be surprising: A search of your postal mail isn’t going to capture your phone calls either; they’re just different communications channels. But the CNET article strongly implies that this means encrypted iMessages cannot be accessed by law enforcement at all. That is almost certainly false.

Why, then, would the tight-lipped DEA leak a memo which purportedly instructs drug dealers on how to evade surveillance? It’s quite possible, as Sanchez speculates, that this is a push in the lobbying efforts of law enforcement agencies to require that companies like Apple and Facebook install backdoors to allow surveillance of encrypted communications. The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 already requires this for phone companies — and the DEA’s memo doesn’t amount to much other than complaining that CALEA doesn’t apply to Apple. But that doesn’t mean that law enforcement agencies can’t get access to iMessages at all, and in some ways the service is more prone to surveillance:

In fact, all Apple has to do is provide the cops with an appropriate authentication token and they should, in principle, be able to turn an ordinary iPhone into a de facto clone of the suspect’s own device—so that iMessages show up on the police phone in realtime just as the suspect receives or sends them.

Add in the fact that Apple stores iMessages indefinitely — rather than just for a few days like SMS providers do — the DEA might want all ne’er-do-wells to switch to the iPhone.

Mahmoud Tabei Brings the Harlem Shake to Politics

 Tunisian Harlem Shake Protest - Feb 27, 2013

From Amar Toor at The Verge:

After months of political unrest, Tabei says he and his friends see the “Harlem Shake” meme not only as a platform for their message of reform, but as a way to “raise the hopes and spirits” of an increasingly frustrated opposition movement.

Tabei isn’t alone, either. As the nonsensical trend passes its saturation point in the West, it’s evolving into a distinctly more political phenomenon in both Egypt and Tunisia, where students and opposition movements have re-appropriated Baauer’s bass-heavy anthem as a rallying cry for reform — much to the chagrin (and perhaps befuddlement) of conservative authorities.

This is certainly a case where the medium is the message

While the excessive virality of the “Harlem Shake” and Gangnam Style can make them all too pervasive in Western media, dissidents like Mahmoud Tabei and his compatriots raise hope as they appropriate the web’s tools and culture to promote social and political change.

Of course, the fact that these gatherings lead to arrests and tear gas, as in the case of 75 Tunisian high school students, show just how much work still needs to be done in the name of an open political and civil society in much of the Middle East.

Ultimately, though, Tabei remains realistic about the chances of a viral video resulting in any substantive change. After having already seen seven of his friends killed since the beginning of the Arab Spring, the teenager is markedly disillusioned with his country’s revolution. Publicity aside, he says a fundamental goal of his group’s “Harlem Shake” movement is to simply build morale — a way to “refresh our minds in order to continue with our larger struggle.”

That last point is where the “Harlem Shake” protests become fundamentally different from many other acts of civil disobedience: mixing fun and freedom with political expression.