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How authoritarian governments act: Britain offers a good example

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Authoritarian governments really do not like a free press. And Britain shows how an authoritarian government responds to the threat a free press represents to it. Duncan Campbell reports in The Intercept:

I stepped from the warmth of our source’s London flat. That February night in 1977, the air was damp and cool, the buzz of traffic muted in this leafy North London suburb, in the shadow of the iconic Alexandra Palace. A fellow journalist and I had just spent three hours inside, drinking Chianti and talking about secret surveillance with our source, and now we stood on the doorstep discussing how to get back to the south coast town where I lived.

Events were about to take me on a different journey. Behind me, sharp footfalls broke the stillness. A squad was running, hard, toward the porch of the house we had left. Suited men surrounded us. A burly middle-aged cop held up his police ID. We had broken “Section 2″ of Britain’s secrecy law, he claimed. These were “Special Branch,” then the elite security division of the British police.

For a split second, I thought this was a hustle. I knew that a parliamentary commission had released a report five years earlier that concluded that the secrecy law, first enacted a century ago, should be changed. I pulled out my journalist identification card, ready to ask them to respect the press.

But they already knew that my companion that evening, Time Out reporter Crispin Aubrey, and I were journalists. And they had been outside, watching our entire meeting with former British Army signals intelligence (Sigint) operator John Berry, who at the time was a social worker.

Aubrey and I were arrested on suspicion of possessing unauthorized information. They said we’d be taken to the local police station. But after being forced into cars, we were driven in the wrong direction, toward the center of London. I became uneasy.

It was soon apparent that the elite squad had no idea where the local police station was. They stopped and asked a taxi to lead them there. We were then locked up overnight, denied bail and sent to London’s Brixton prison.

Aubrey had recorded our interview. During three hours of tapes that the cops took from Aubrey, Berry had revealed spying on Western allies. When the tape was transcribed, every page was stamped “SECRET” in red, top and bottom.  Then, with a red felt-tip pen, “Top” was methodically written in front of each “SECRET.”

Our discussion was considered so dangerous that we — two reporters and a social worker — were placed on the top floor of the prison maximum security wing, which guards told us had formerly held terrorists, serial murderers, gang leaders and child rapists. Meanwhile, police stripped my home of every file, every piece of paper I had, and 400 books.

Our case became known as “ABC,” after our surnames: Aubrey, Berry and Campbell. We hoped it would end quickly. We knew that the senior minister responsible, Home Secretary Merlyn Rees, had announced three months before that the “mere receipt of unauthorized information should no longer be an offense.” The day after we were arrested, I was told he was furious to be woken with news that the security agencies had delivered a fait accompli. Historian Richard Aldrich found an official letter from the head of MI5, Britain’s Security Service, saying they considered me at the time theperson of the greatest interest to see incarcerated.

In my 40 years of reporting on mass surveillance, I have been raided three times; jailed once; had television programs I made or assisted making banned from airing under government pressure five times; seen tapes seized; faced being shoved out of a helicopter; had my phone tapped for at least a decade; and — with this arrest — been lined up to face up to 30 years imprisonment for alleged violations of secrecy laws. And why do I keep going? Because from the beginning, my investigations revealed a once-unimaginable scope of governmental surveillance, collusion, and concealment by the British and U.S. governments — practices that were always as much about domestic spying during times of peace as they were about keeping citizens safe from supposed foreign enemies, thus giving the British government the potential power to become, as our source that night had put it, a virtual “police state.”

A decade later, in a parliamentary debate, Foreign Secretary David Owen revealed that he was initially against our being prosecuted, but was convinced to go along after being promised that we journalists could be jailed in secret. “Everybody came in and persuaded me that it would be terrible not to prosecute. … I eventually relented. But one of my reasons for doing so was that I was given an absolute promise that the case would be heard in camera [a secret hearing].”

In the face of this security onslaught, the politicians collapsed and agreed we should all be charged with espionage — although there was no suggestion that we wanted to do anything other than write articles. I was alleged to be “a thoroughly subversive man who was quite prepared to publish information which was secret,” my lawyer later wrote in his memoir.

My lawyer saw it differently. “Campbell is a journalist … a ferret not a skunk,” he told the magistrates’ court in Tottenham, North London. But when he inquired about the possibility of a misdemeanor plea and a £50 fine (about $75), he was cut down: “That course might be acceptable for Berry and Aubrey. But the security services want Campbell in prison for a very long time.”

They meant it. In March 1977, one month after our nighttime arrest, we were all charged with breaking Britain’s Official Secrets Act, for the “unlawful receipt of information.” Then we were charged with espionage. Each espionage charge carried a maximum of 14 years. I was also charged with espionage for collecting open source information on U.K. government plans. In total, I faced 30 years.

The interview, and then our arrests, were a first encounter with the power of Government Communications Headquarters, better known by its acronym, GCHQ, Britain’s electronic surveillance agency. . .

Continue reading.

Notice the chilling idea that it’s okay for the government to lock people up if that is done secretly, so that the people simply disappear.

Read the article to see where the US and the UK are headed. It’s an interesting but frightening story.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 August 2015 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Government, Law, Media, NSA

German journalists investigated for treason for practicing journalism

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It’s a very dark sign when government goes after journalists for publishing reports that are demonstrably true. I understand that the German government does wish that a person in government (the fault here lies within the government) leaked a classified document, but it should recognize that journalists took no oath to respect government secrecy. That’s the job of the government.

Morgan Marquis-Boire reports in The Intercept:

Two journalists at the prominent German news website Netzpolitik are under investigation for treason after publishing details about the planned expansion of the German Secret Service’s Internet surveillance program.

On Wednesday, the organization received a letter from the Federal Attorney General of Germany confirming ongoing investigations against reporters Markus Beckedahl, Andre Meister (pictured), and an “unknown source” for the articles, one of which waspublished in February and detailed a secret budget plan for surveillance activities, and another, from April, describing a new surveillance unit for monitoring social networking and online chats. Meister has characterized the plans as being part of Germany’s “post-Snowden” internet surveillance push.

Netzpolitik, which reports on politics and technology, learned within the last several weeks that Federal Attorney General of Germany was investigating the stories, but believed its sources were the target of the investigation rather than its journalists, Meister said in an interview. Only yesterday did it became clear that Meister and Beckedahl were also under investigation.

“This is a direct attack on freedom of the press, such as hasn’t been the case in around 50 years in Germany, since the ‘Spiegel scandal’ in 1962,’” Meister told The Intercept, citing an incident in which the German newsweekly Der Spiegel was searched and some of its journalists were arrested on treason accusations stemming from an article questioning the preparedness of West German armed forces.

“These charges are an intimidation against media and against potential sources — which are an integral part of investigative journalism,” he added. “The public needs whistleblowers to find out about what’s done in their name and with their money. So the original investigations against our sources were already a direct attack on freedom of press and freedom of information.”

The attorney general’s letter cites a section of the German penal code that states:

Whosoever … allows a state secret to come to the attention of an unauthorised person or to become known to the public in order to prejudice the Federal Republic of Germany or benefit a foreign power and thereby creates a danger of serious prejudice to the external security of the Federal Republic of Germany, shall be liable to imprisonment of not less than one year.

Meister railed against the implication that he or his publication have attacked the German state, saying that, as part of a “fourth pillar” in German society, their job is to “dig deep, investigate, and provide the public with information that has not previously been public … providing the public — and thus the sovereign — with information for public debate that’s integral for informed consent.”

“Germany won’t be invaded because of our reporting,” he added. “On the other hand, one could argue that the pervasive mass surveillance of the digital world is an attack on the basic freedoms of a free society. Without privacy, there can be no freedom of thought and freedom of association without a protected, un-invaded private space. We want to enable a public debate about these integral issues.”

The charges have generated significant attention in Germany. A public demonstrationhas been organized in support of Netzpolitik, and today they received high-level support when the Heiko Maas, the German Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, expressed doubts to the Attorney General that journalists intended to harm Germany or aid a foreign power.

Asked if Netzpolitik would continue to report using materials gained from whistleblowers, Meister replied, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2015 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Government, Law, Media, NSA

Unintended consequences: Spain’s Aggregation Tax Has Screwed Over the Media It Was Made to Protect

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Kari Paul reports in Motherboard:

A law Spain passed in October 2014 charging online aggregators like Google News a fee for linked content has backfired, according to a new study.

The legislation, which went into effect January 1 of this year, requires aggregation sites to pay a fee to original publications when posting links or excerpts from them online. The law, which caused Google News to shut down in Spain, was pushed by the Association of Editors of Spanish Dailies as a means to protect the print industry. But the study commissioned by the Spanish Association of Publishers of Periodical Publications (AEEPP) found it has been harmful to Spanish media at large,

“The negative impact on the online press sector is also very clear, since a very important channel to attract readers disappears, resulting in lower revenues from advertising,” the study said.

The report found clear evidence news aggregators actually expand the market for original sources rather than diminish it. It also showed the law disproportionately hurt smaller publications that relied on Google News and similar aggregators for traffic.

In addition to Google News, other aggregators including Planeta Ludico, NiagaRank, InfoAliment, and Multifriki shut down for fear of legal and financial liability. Companies that don’t pay the tax could face fines of up to €600,000 or $654,480.

The shutdown of these sites, particularly NiagaRank, was a blow to innovation in Spain, the report stated. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 July 2015 at 11:46 am

Posted in Business, Law, Media, Technology

NY Times screws the pooch

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The NY Times has never liked the Clintons, and the animus is reflected in its reporting—e.g., Bill Keller’s endless rehashing of the Whitewater nothing-burger when Clinton was president. Now the paper of record has been caught running a completely false story, trying to fix it on the fly by changing the on-line version of the story (covertly, with no acknowledgement of the changes), and finally by declaring to Margaret Sullavan, their Public Editor, that it wasn’t the fault of the Times because some government meanies lied to them (as anonymous sources) and that the Times must always print what people tell it, without going to the trouble of exercising judgment, seeking corroboration, or the like.

In other words, the Times defense is that their reporters are simply stenographers, recording and reporting whatever they’re told. That is an unimpressive defense, to say the least, but it’s very important to Times editors and reporters that we understand that it’s not their fault. Contemptible, and it is their fault, but until they own it they will never fix it.

Josh Marshall comments at TPM:

There are felony and misdemeanor mistakes journalists can make. If a reporter has trusted sources who give him or her information and it turns out to be false, assuming they made solid independent efforts to confirm it, believe me, any journalist is going to feel that reporter’s pain. That’s every reporter’s worst nightmare. But it’s never the source’s fault. You might as well say it’s the fishes’ fault if you have a bad day fishing. When you get something this wrong there is always a breakdown in verification.

But what I really want to zero in on is this quote from Baquet. “You had the government confirming that it was a criminal referral. I’m not sure what [the Times reporters and editors] could have done differently on that.”

This is a telling statement. The ‘government’ didn’t tell the Times anything. Anonymous peoplein the government told them something. Big, big difference. It’s not a semantic distinction.

When the government says something, it’s news – whatever its accuracy. If the government says something and it’s a lie, it’s news. Journalists should report it and explain why it isn’t true. The fact that the government says something makes it news in itself. Relatedly, the government has obvious authority to state explain what it is doing. So if the Department of Justice issues a press release saying it is conducting a criminal investigation, a reporter doesn’t need to independently confirm that. If the White House Press Secretary says the President is traveling to Great Britain, no need to confirm. Now, obviously there are various permutations of these scenarios. The government, for better or worse, often does communicate through anonymous sources. And in many cases, that information is similar, though not the same, as a formal public statement.

But the information the Times was dealing with obviously did not fall into that category. And I don’t think Baquet’s statement is an accident. When you’re the Times, you’re first at the trough. You get the favored leaks. Your reporters get the call because they’re at the Times. Don’t get me wrong. I know many Times reporters and in almost every case they’re there because they’re extremely talented journalists. But the pattern I’m describing is just the reality of being a reporter at the Times and to a lesser degree places like the Post, the Journal and other major papers. And that gets you in the habit of a certain kind of access journalism that can let the normal level of checking, confirming and a reporter’s biggest ally, fear, atrophy.

Reporters from most news outlets almost never get information from that close to the heart of power. So you’re piecing information together from random sources, ones with indirect lines of information to where the action is, outside experts, documents, FOIAs. You almost never have, well, the President’s top advisor told me. So it breeds a level of double and triple checking because you almost never have the story from the horse’s mouth. . .

Continue reading.

Read the whole thing. His conclusion is rock solid (and ominous):

. . . Does this happen because reporters get too in the habit of accepting opposition research leads and leaks and the stories are just too good to be true? Is the hunger for the big blockbuster too great? These are genuine hypotheticals because the reporters on this story are not hacks by a longshot. But the errors in this story seem so dramatic and so easily checkable that I feel like there’s something up at the Times. Not something nefarious, I don’t think. But some unexamined institutional bias, some over-haste to push out stories based on leaks from interested parties. Something. Because as it stands, it’s not just that the story doesn’t add up. We know that. They’ve admitted that. How this mistake got made doesn’t add up either.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2015 at 10:29 am

Posted in NY Times

NY Times screws up totally in trying to do a hit piece on Hillary Clinton

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The NY Times has always done poor reporting on the Clintons, apparently from personal dislike and nothing more. Bill Keller flogged the Whitewater “scandal” for months if not years, despite nothing coming from it. And now this, as Emily Atkin reports at ThinkProgress:

The New York Times broke a big story on Thursday night. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the Times reported, could be the subject of a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice because of the personal email account she used as secretary of state. The Times reported that two inspectors general had asked for the criminal probe.

This would be a pretty big deal if true. Clinton’s personal email account has already been under intense scrutiny, as many speculated Clinton was using that account to avoid congressional and Freedom of Information Act requests for disclosure. But Clinton publiclyreleased her emails from that account, and insisted nothing was improper or unlawful. A possible criminal investigation would suggest otherwise.

But as the story unfolded, things became a bit more complicated. Most importantly, the Justice Department has said that it never actually received a request for a criminal probeinto Clinton’s email, contradicting the New York Times story. Prior to that announcement, the Times made small but significant changes to its copy, and a high-ranking congressman said the Inspector General’s request was about something entirely different.

The whole thing has been a bit scattered, so it’s worth taking each detail step by step to understand the full picture. Here’s what we know so far.

The Story Breaks, And Clinton Comes Under Fire

The Times’ story was published Thursday night, citing “senior government officials” who said that the Justice Department would be asked to perform a criminal investigation into Clinton’s emails. It asserted that the personal account may have contained “hundreds of potentially classified emails,” and that Clinton herself may have improperly handled the sensitive materials.

The internet then promptly exploded. As a barrage of aggregated articles piled up, pundits put the candidate under fire. On CNN, John King called the allegations “very troubling,” while Michaela Pereira called the story “pretty damning” for Clinton’s presidential campaign. “It feeds into a kind of narrative she can’t quite be trusted,” Earth Institute director Jeffery Sachs said on MSNBC.

Clinton has already faced political lashings over her use of her personal email while at the State Department, mostly from Republicans who imply the emails contain answers to their questions about whether Clinton mishandled the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. So far, Republican investigations over Clinton’s handling of that attack have come up largely empty.

The Times Quietly Alters The Story

Amid the hubbub, it was discovered that the Times had quietly altered the story. “Small but significant” is how Politico described it, and noted that the headline, among other things, had been changed. The first headline, “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email,” had been changed to “Criminal Inquiry Is Sought in Clinton Email Account.”

The change reflects something very important: that the possible criminal inquiry was not necessarily about Clinton’s direct use of her own email. The potential criminal inquiry, then, could now be read as not being focused on Clinton herself. The correction was made in response to pushback from the Clinton campaign, Politico reported.

A Congressman Clarifies The Situation

Things got even more confusing when Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said he had spoken directly to the State Department Inspector General. According to Cummings, the inspector general said he had never asked the Justice Department to perform a criminal probe of Clinton’s email.

Instead, he said the investigation was about something entirely different. According to Cummings, the inspector general had identified classified information in a few emails that the State Department had publicly released in response to outrage over her personal account, and told the Justice Department about it. Those emails had not been previously marked as classified, though there was no evidence that Clinton had marked them as classified at the time they were transmitted.

“This is the latest example in a series of inaccurate leaks to generate false front-page headlines — only to be corrected later — and they have absolutely nothing to do with the attacks in Benghazi or protecting our diplomatic corps overseas,” Cummings said in a statement.

The Justice Department Says No Criminal Probe Was Requested

Later on Friday afternoon, Reuters reported that the Justice Department said that it had indeed received a request to look at Clinton’s email, but that it wasn’t a request for a criminal investigation. Instead, the story suggested that the requested investigation may be about how the emails were handled as they were being prepared to be released to the public, alluding to concerns that they may not have adequately censored classified information.

If Cumming’s statements are correct, however, those emails would not have been previously marked as classified, meaning Clinton would not be held responsible.

The Clinton Campaign Responds

As the details continue to unfold, Hillary Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill issued a statement speaking harsh words to the Times.

“It is now more clear than ever that the New York Times report claiming there is a criminal inquiry sought in Hillary Clinton’s use of email is false,” he said. “It has now been discredited both by the Justice Department and the Ranking Member of the House Oversight Committee. This incident shows the danger of relying on reckless, inaccurate leaks from partisan sources.”

The Times Story Remains In Place

The story itself is still in place, but on Friday afternoon, the Times added a correction saying the original version “misstated the nature of the referral to the Justice Department regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was secretary of state.”

“The referral addressed the potential compromise of classified information in connection with that personal email account,” the correction continued. “It did not specifically request an investigation into Mrs. Clinton.”

You can read the [current version of – LG] Times’ story here. [They keep changing it. – LG]

Written by LeisureGuy

26 July 2015 at 6:56 pm

The NY Times gets a well-deserved blast from Glenn Greenwald

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Greenwald reports in The Intercept:

One of the very few Iraq War advocates to pay any price at all was former New York Times reporter Judy Miller, the classic scapegoat. But what was her defining sin? She granted anonymity to government officials and then uncritically laundered their dubious claims in The New York Times. As the paper’s own editors put it in their 2004 mea culpa about the role they played in selling the war: “we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged.” As a result, its own handbook adopted in the wake of that historic journalistic debacle states that “anonymity is a last resort.”

But 12 years after Miller left, you can pick up that same paper on any given day and the chances are high that you will find reporters doing exactly the same thing. In fact, its public editor, Margaret Sullivan, regularly lambasts the paper for doing so. Granting anonymity to government officials and thenuncritically printing what these anonymous officials claim, treating it all as Truth, is not an aberration for The New York Times. With some exceptions among goodNYT reporters, it’s an institutional staple for how the paper functions, even a decade after its editors scapegoated Judy Miller for its Iraq War propaganda and excoriated itself for these precise methods.

That The New York Times mindlessly disseminates claims from anonymous officials with great regularity is, at this point, too well-documented to require much discussion. But it is worth observing how damaging it continues to be, because, shockingly, all sorts of self-identified “journalists” – both within the paper and outside of it – continue to equate unverified assertions from government officials as Proven Truth, even when these officials are too cowardly to attach their names to these claims, as long as papers such as the NYT launder them.

Let’s look at an illustrative example from yesterday to see toxic process works. The New York Times published an article about ISIS by Eric Schmitt and Ben Hubbard based entirely and exclusively on unproven claims from officials of the U.S. government and its allies, to whom they (needless to say) granted anonymity. The entire article reads exactly like an official press release: paragraph after paragraph does nothing other than summarize the claims of anonymous officials, without an iota of questioning, skepticism, scrutiny or doubt.

Among the assertions mindlessly repeated by the Paper of Record from their beloved anonymous officials is this one:


Leave to the side the banal journalistic malpractice of uncritically parroting the self-serving claims of anonymous officials, supposedly what the paper is so horrified at Judy Miller for having done. Also leave to the side the fact that the U.S. government has been anonymously making these Helping-The-Enemy claims not just about Snowden but all whistleblowers for decades, back to Daniel Ellsberg if not earlier. Let’s instead focus on this: the claim itself, on the merits, is monumentally stupid on multiple levels: self-evidently so.

To begin with, The Terrorists™ have been using couriers and encryption for many, many years before anyone knew the name “Edward Snowden.” Last August, after NPR uncritically laundered claims that Snowden revelations had helped The Terrorists™, we reported on a 45-page document which the UK Government calls “the Jihadist Handbook” written by and distributed among extremist groups that describes in sophisticated detail the encryption technologies, SIM card-switching tactics and other methods they use to circumvent U.S. surveillance. Even these 2002/2003 methods were so sophisticated that they actually mirror GCHQ’s own operational security methods for protecting their communications. . .

Continue reading.

The NY Times is unfortunately on the decline so far as actual journalism. Do read the entire article at the link. From later in the article:

The New York Times‘ claim that ISIS learned to use couriers as a result of the Snowden revelations is almost a form of self-mockery. Few facts from Terrorism lore are more well-known than Osama bin Laden’s use of couriers to avoid U.S. surveillance. A 2011 article from The Washington Post – more than two years before the first Snowden story – was headlined: “Al-Qaeda couriers provided the trail that led to bin Laden.” It described how “Bin Laden strictly avoided phone or e-mail communications for fear that they would be intercepted.”

And the NY Times acts unethically as well:

As has been documented many times, Edward Snowden never publicly disclosed a single document: instead, he gave the documents to journalists and left it up to them to decide which documents should be public and which ones should not be. As I’ve noted, he has sometimes disagreed with the choices journalists made, usually on the ground that documents media outlets decided to publish should have, in his view, not been published.

One of the newspapers that published documents from the Snowden archive is called “The New York Times.” In fact, they are responsible for publication of some of the most controversial articlesoften cited by critics as ones that should not have been published, including ones most relevant to ISIS. When it comes to claiming credit for Snowden stories, The New York Times is very good at pointing out that they published some of these documents. But when it comes to uncritically publishing claims from anonymous officials that Snowden stories helped ISIS, The New York Timessuddenly “forgets” to mention that they were the ones that actually made many of these documents known to the world and, thus, to ISIS. What The New York Times is actually doing in this article is accusing itself of helping ISIS, but just lacks the honesty to tell their readers that they’re the ones who did this, opting instead to blame their source for it. In the NYT‘s blame-their-source formulation: “The Islamic State has studied revelations from Edward J. Snowden.”

When I was first told about The Sunday Times‘ now disgraced story claiming that Russia and China obtained the full Snowden archive, my initial reaction was that the story was so blatantly inane and so journalistically corrupted – based exclusively on unproven, self-serving accusations from anonymous UK officials – that it wasn’t even worth addressing. I changed my mind anddecided to write about it only when I saw huge numbers of journalists sitting around on Twitter that night uncritically assuming that these claims must be True because, after all, government officials said it and a newspaper printed it.

I went through exactly the same process when I saw this Snowden-helps-ISISclaim laundered yesterday in The New York Times. I assumed that the “journalism” here was so glaringly shoddy that nobody needed me to write about it, and that a few mocking tweets would suffice. Everyone knows by now to treat anonymous government claims like this critically and not accept them as true without evidence – or so I reasoned.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 July 2015 at 10:04 am

Posted in Government, Media, NY Times

A ‘Golden Key’ for Encryption Is Mythical Nonsense

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In Motherboard Sarah Jeong points out what should be obvious, but something the Washington Post editorial staff cannot seem to grasp:

Last year, the Washington Post editorial board called for tech companies to create a “golden key” that would decrypt otherwise secure user communications for law enforcement. Apple, Google, Facebook, and others ignored the editorial, coming out with end-to-end encryption for iMessage and Facetime, end-to-end encryption for Gmail, and PGP for Facebook notification emails. Now, the Washington Post isdoubling down on its call for a “golden key.”

The problem noted by many last year is that a backdoor to encryption, even if euphemistically rebranded as a “front door” or a “golden key,” is by definition a vulnerability. Building in backdoors threatens consumers and makes them vulnerable to criminals and hostile foreign governments alike. See, for example, the FREAK andLogjam vulnerabilities, discovered earlier this year. The FREAK attack can allow a malicious hacker to “steal or manipulate sensitive data” in transit—think, a password for your online banking, a credit card number, a compromising photo.

Both FREAK and Logjam originate out of 1990s “export-grade” cryptography—purposefully weakened encryption from the last time the government was pushing for the kinds of “golden keys” that the Washington Post is now advocating for. These days, not a week goes by that another major hack makes the news: OPM, Hacking Team, Ashley Madison. All this, even without a federal mandate to purposefully make things less secure.

The newspaper’s editorial board last week called for the National Academy of Sciences to examine “the conflict.” In other words, the Post thinks we had better hear both sides. “All freedoms come with limits,” the board writes, “it seems only proper that the vast freedoms of the Internet be subject to the same rule of law and protections that we accept for the rest of society.”

But it’s not illegal to lock your door at night. It’s not illegal to have a whispered conversation in a park. It’s not illegal to walk out of sight of a CCTV camera. It’s not illegal to carry cash.

Certainly, it is a great blow to law enforcement that some encryption cannot be broken for them, just like it is a great blow to law enforcement that we don’t have the telescreens from 1984 installed in our bedrooms. There are some things law enforcement do not get to see and do not get to have, even with a warrant. That is how things have always been, and our society has yet to fall apart because of it.

For a long time, the fight around online privacy has orbited around the phrase, “Get a warrant.” But that does not mean a warrant is a magic incantation that should conjure any information imagined and desired. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 July 2015 at 9:52 am


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