Former NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker
Yesterday, Reuters reported that Yahoo secretly built software to scan its customers’ emails for keywords provided by the NSA and FBI. One can only imagine the number of recipes for bars this program uncovered. Among Americans, at least, a Yahoo account is a badge of unfamiliarity with the contemporary internet second only to Hotmail. But this remains a massive breach of trust. Your aunt might not have signed up for Yahoo mail if she knew all her messages would be scanned and turned over to law enforcement. This may be the secondary infection that kills Yahoo’s ailing business, but I’m more interested in the argument this discovery prompted from Stewart Baker, former general counsel at the NSA. I quote:
“[Email providers] have the power to encrypt it all, and with that comes added responsibility to do some of the work that had been done by the intelligence agencies.”
Does it? Close reading after the jump.
The quote on the picture above is not from Bernie Sanders. It’s from a manifesto by Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber. I ran across it on Twitter, where Anne Thériault observes with inscrutable emoji that it has been shared 11,000 times on Facebook. But just because the Unabomber said it, is it wrong? The Unabomber is definitely wrong in his position on mailing bombs to people. But his position on antidepressants, at least in this quote, echoes an idea from Sartre, who argued that depression is the only sane response to modern life. It’s worth thinking about the fact that millions of Americans must consume drugs to tolerate daily life. On the other hand, context matters. If the next sentence after this one in the Unabomber manifesto is “that’s why depressed people should be allowed to die,” we should probably withdraw our tentative concession that the murdering Luddite has a point. I was going to look it up, but then I realized that if I type “Unabomber manifesto full text” into Google, I’ll probably end up on a list.
The National Security Agency headquarters just looks like freedom.
Using documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the Times wrote Saturday that the NSA’s ability to spy on US internet traffic “has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T.” NSA documents praise AT&T’s “extreme willingness to help” and remind contractors visiting the company to be polite, since “This is a partnership, not a contractual relationship.” I think we can all agree that a partnership between one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies and the federal government to secretly monitor our communication is an exciting direction for America to go. As if this relationship did not smack of corporatocracy already, there’s this refusal from an AT&T spokesman to discuss any of the findings: “We don’t comment on matters of national security.” It’s subtle, but it’s the subject of today’s Close Reading.
Combat! blog will be flying to Chicago very early tomorrow morning, and the last thing I’ll want to do is assemble links on the plane. But we didn’t do Friday links last week, either, on account of we were firing explosive projectiles into the air, and three weeks without a FriLi would hardly meet the exacting standards of our readership. So I shall fire up my specula-scope and peer into a future where everything is dark and gross yet strangely compel—oh, wait. I accidentally fired up my speculum. The actual future looks much more like the present. Today is Thursday, and Friday seems a comforting inevitability. Won’t you tempt fate with me?
Good news, you
guys terrorists: the foreign intelligence surveillance court order that authorizes the NSA to collect calling data on every American expires Friday. Also, ambiguous news, you guys: President Obama plans to ask FISA to extend the program for another 90 days, but he will also ask Congress to end it. The secret domestic surveillance program that for the last decade has been totally legal and okay will go away now that we know about it. I’m pretty sure that means the terrorists won. Thanks a lot, Edward Snowden.