DoJ forced Google to turn over Jacob Appelbaum's email, then gagged Google

800px-Jacob_Appelbaum_in_2010 (1)

Google's lawyers fought strenuously against the DoJ's demands for access to the Gmail account of Jacob Appelbaum, a journalist, activist and volunteer with the Wikileaks project; they fought even harder against the accompanying gag order, arguing that Appelbaum had the right to know what was going on and have a lawyer argue his case. Read the rest

FBI tells tech companies offering encryption to reconsider “their business model”

FBI Director James Comey, 2014.  [REUTERS]

Despite zero indication the people responsible for recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino used encryption, the FBI is launching an all-out PR war on crypto.

Now, FBI director James Comey is making tech firms that offer end-to-end encryption tools an offer they can't refuse: they should reconsider “their business model,” he said today, and instead adopt encryption techniques that let them intercept communications, and hand them over to law enforcement when asked.

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New crowdfunding campaign to help local independent journalists hold police accountable

Reuters

Today Freedom of the Press Foundation is proud to announce a new crowd-funding campaign that will fund local journalists around the United States to file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and other transparency lawsuits aimed at uncovering video evidence of police misconduct and brutality against unarmed men and women. You can donate to the fund here.

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Research files on El Salvador stolen from human rights group suing CIA over El Salvador

image: Reuters

Confidential research files on human rights abuses in El Salvador were stolen from a human rights organization in Washington state, just weeks after that same organization sued the CIA for refusing to release documents related to those very same abuses.

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Algorithmic guilt: using secret algorithms to kick people off welfare

A wrenching and beautifully argued essay by Virginia Eubanks describes the inevitable consequences of letting secret, unaccountable algorithms decide who is eligible for welfare. Read the rest

Obama’s Justice Department secretly helped kill FOIA transparency bill

U.S. President Barack Obama looks toward Attorney General Eric Holder. Justice Department investigators have engaged in aggressive tactics against journalists in recent months. [Reuters]

We’ve long known the Justice Department’s stance on transparency has been hypocritical and disingenuous. But they’ve really outdone themselves this time. Read the rest

US official backs Marines' request to classify photos of forces urinating on Taliban corpses

A still from a 2011 video posted online that showed Marines urinating on dead bodies. [Reuters]

"In an apparent expansion of the government’s secrecy powers, the top official in charge of the classification system has decided that it was legitimate for the Marines to classify photographs that showed American forces posing with corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan," reports the NYT's Charlie Savage. Read the rest

House approves 'media shield' amendment, as reporter reveals 2011 subpoena fight

The House of Representatives today voted 225-183 to approve an appropriations bill amendment that bars the Justice Department from forcing reporters to testify about their confidential sources.

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Obama administration proves why we need someone to leak CIA Torture Report

image: Reuters

It’s now been over a month since the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to force the Obama administration to declassify parts of the Committee’s landmark report on CIA torture, and the public still has not seen a word of the 6,000 page investigation. Read the rest

US intel chief's insane new secrecy directive forbids intel employees from "unauthorized" contact with reporters

U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The US Director of National Intelligence has issued a Directive [PDF] that forbids most intelligence community employees from talking to journalists about “intelligence-related information” unless they have explicit authorization to do so.

Intelligence community employees “must obtain authorization for contacts with the media” on any intel-related matters, and “must also report… unplanned or unintentional contact with the media on covered matters,” according to the Directive signed by James Clapper.

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London Heathrow customs agent interrogates Edward Snowden's attorney Jesselyn Radack

Jesselyn Radack, an attorney who represents NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, was detained and interrogated while transiting customs at Heathrow airport in London. Kevin Gosztola reports:

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UK Tories send "WebCameron" YouTube channel down the memory hole, too

Yesterday, we learned that the UK Conservative party had purged its website of 10 years' archives of David Cameron speeches and set a robots.txt file in place that triggered purges on Google and Archive.org's caches. Today, the Guardian reports that the party has removed the videos from the "WebCameron" YouTube channel, that were originally billed as "behind-the-scenes" access to Cameron, and marketed as part of his campaign for political transparency. The party has declined to comment on the deletions.

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Secret Cold War docs show NSA spied on senators

President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with members of his civil rights cabinet on 18 January including, from left to right, Martin Luther King Jr., Whitney Young, and James Farmer. King and Young were both future targets of the NSA watch list system. (Photo from Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, On-line Photo Archive, W425-21).

New, historic NSA weirdness, as reported by Matthew M. Aid and William Burr at Foreign Policy:
As Vietnam War protests grew, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) tapped the overseas communications of prominent American critics of the war -- including a pair of sitting U.S. senators. That's according to a recently declassified NSA history, which called the effort "disreputable if not outright illegal."
The identities of the NSA's surveillance targets were kept secret for decades, but an Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel decision in response to an appeal by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, has resulted in the declassification of these NSA records for the first time.

Read more at the National Security Archives (not to be confused with the National Security Administration, also known as the NSA).

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Worth reading: NYT on jailed 'journalist-agitator' Barrett Brown, and silence surrounding his case

"Barrett Brown makes for a pretty complicated victim," writes David Carr in his recent profile of the Dallas-based journalist "obsessed with the government’s ties to private security firms." Brown, 32 has been in jail for a year. He faces charges that carry a combined penalty of more than 100 years in prison. Why does the gag order on his case matter to all of us? Carr explains. Read the rest

DNI chief and FISC judge agree Snowden leaks prompted important civil debate

Even the NSA's boss and a lead judge in the secret intel courts admit Edward Snowden's leaks were in the public interest. “The unauthorized disclosure in June 2013 of a Section 215 order, and government statements in response to that disclosure, have engendered considerable public interest and debate about Section 215,” wrote FISC Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV in an opinion today. And yesterday, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said, “I think it’s clear that some of the conversations this has generated, some of the debate, actually needed to happen." [Secrecy News] Read the rest

What Is ‘Top Secret’?

David E. Sanger at the New York Times: "When far too much information gets classified, nothing is really classified. Respect for the system erodes when information readily available in open sources is ostensibly guarded with high-level classification." Read the rest

The argument for a "secrecy beat" in news organizations

Dan Froomkin at Columbia Journalism review: "It’s hardly been a secret among national security reporters and civil libertarians that the sort of intelligence activity we’re hearing about via the leaks was long part of the Bush-Cheney surveillance regime, and that the Obama administration picked up the ball and ran with it. The Washington press corps just no longer considered such activities newsworthy." Read the rest

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