Thursday, September 12, 2013

Those whom the Gods would destroy (*cough* the NSA *cough*)

... first they drive mad:
A Johns Hopkins computer science professor blogs on the NSA and is asked to take it down. I fear for academic freedom

A professor in the computer science department at Johns Hopkins, a leading American university, had written a post on his blog, hosted on the university's servers, focused on his area of expertise, which is cryptography. The post was highly critical of the government, specifically the National Security Agency, whose reckless behavior in attacking online security astonished him.
Professor Matthew Green wrote on 5 September:
I was totally unprepared for today's bombshell revelations describing the NSA's efforts to defeat encryption. Not only does the worst possible hypothetical I discussed appear to be true, but it's true on a scale I couldn't even imagine.
The post was widely circulated online because it is about the sense of betrayal within a community of technical people who had often collaborated with the government. (I linked to it myself.)
On Monday, he gets a note from the acting dean of the engineering schoolasking him to take the post down ...
Happening in the heart of the so-called "University" (so named because the study of all knowledge was though to be its mission), hilarity ensues:
The professor says he was told that someone at the Applied Physics Laboratory, a research institute with longstanding ties to the Department of Defense and the National Security Agency, determined that his blog post was hosting or linking to classified material, and sounded the alarm, which led to the takedown request from the dean. He says he thought Johns Hopkins University, his employer, had come down "on the wrong side of common sense and academic freedom", particularly since the only classified material he had linked to was from news reports in the Guardian, the New York Times and – information available to the public.
Word gets around, and by late afternoon, the press starts asking questions. Now, Johns Hopkins is worried about how it looks in the media. The university bureaucracy scrambles the jets and comes up with a statement
[bureaucratic ass covering redacted]

For the life of me, this smells like the whole Global Warming thing, where the Establishment is so bought by sweet, sweet Gubmint cash that any deviation is met by a knee jerk response.  I blogged long, long ago about the need of Climate Scientists to be seen as loyal to Orthodox Received Wisdom:
You can almost smell the fear - the article discusses a series of climate changes over the centuries (not a surprise to either of my regular readers), strongly correlated with changes in Solar activity. But the author feels the need to add a non sequitur about Carbon Dioxide. E pur si muove, indeed.
Anyone receiving big NSA contracts will feel a similar need to keep their "noses" clean.  I know people who have forbidden their employees from accessing any of the Wikileaks documents, even from home.  They are in the business of "weaponizing" exploits for US Government agencies unspecified, but not really unimaginable.  It's unclear whether they intend to do this as a matter of policy, or whether they've lived in their own once-private-now-unexpectedly-public bubble that it's all autopilot.

But we see the NSA crack down is throwing gasoline on what is already a fire blazing out of control.  The more it blazes, the more gasoline they pour.  Err, to keep the rest of the Faithful err, faithful.

Listen particularly starting around 4:15.  Johns Hopkins is climbing the church tower:
Through the tall blades of grass he heads for the Jubilee
With a bucket in his right hand full of rags soaked in gasoline
He lifts the shingles in the dark and slips the rags there underneath
He strikes a matchstick on the box side and watches the rags ignite
He climbs the bell tower of the Sacred Blood to watch the flames
Rising higher toward the trees sirens wailing now toward the scene
They had to burn down the Academic Village to safe it's Grant Funding.  A real Profiles in Courage on display, right there.

I must say that The Guardian is a bunch of leftie Com-Simps (as is author Jay Rosen), but their reporting on the NSA has been simply outstanding, and precisely what we would hope for from a free press.  Kudos to The Guardian and Rosen.

Hat tip: Six, via email.  You do read him every day, don't you?  He covers the security (and gunnie) world, which I must confess is a lot of ground.  You're missing out if you rely on me, sad to say.


R.K. Brumbelow said...

Sadly, it seems that most of the anger today is directed at the National Security Agency and not directed at the culture and politics which have driven it to its current location. You can destroy a TLA and another 2 will pop up in its place more nefarious than the original. I would even be surprised at this point if the NSA does not become the sacrifice to greater surveillance and control.

Americans obviously do not care about being surveilled at every point in their lives. I visit sites every day that have 20+ difference tracking beacons embedded in them I saw one with over 60. Facebook and twitter are everywhere people post the most mundane detritus on both regularly to the point I could know how many bowel movements someone had yesterday it seems. Photos are published with GPS data embedded of children , people leave GPS data broadcasting turned on so GTE/ MCI/ Ma Bell not only know within a few feet of where you are, but know it 24/7/365.25. i do not know for a fact but I suspect that Google+ Yahoo+Microsoft combined provide a majority of email services in the US so every one of those emails is treated as public domain to advertisers.

Encryption is worthless if you do not use it. (And many forms are useless/ no better than rot13 anyway) For that matter I am not convinced right now that anything short of a OTP is worth anything.

TANSTAAFL. Americans think they get all sorts of things for free. What they cannot understand is that gmail/ ymail/ hotmail etc cost us in every product that they buy. The money to run such things has to come from somewhere and it is paid for in the form of advertisements. Those advertising payments have to come from somewhere and they come from the advertising budgets of products raising the base cost, which then raises the wholesale cost and the retail cost.

Ubiquitous surveillance on the government side has to be paid for also, by taxes. So yes we are forcing our grandchildren, children and ourselves to fund the government watching everything we do. How long till, as a cost saving measure mind you, all the big government data is combined together and every thing you do is mined?

Old NFO said...

This one's not over... Just sayin...