— FEATURED —
— FOLLOW US —
— POLICIES —
Except where indicated, Boing Boing is licensed under a Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution
— FONTS —
As we think about the postmortem on security procedures following from the Boston Marathon attack and plan on new procedures, Bruce Schneier has some crucial security design advice: don't forget transparency and accountability. Without these two crucial elements, security can't work:
Long ago, we realized that simply trusting people and government agencies to always do the right thing doesn't work, so we need to check up on them. In a democracy, transparency and accountability are how we do that. It's how we ensure that we get both effective and cost-effective government. It's how we prevent those we trust from abusing that trust, and protect ourselves when they do. And it's especially important when security is concerned.
First, we need to ensure that the stuff we're paying money for actually works and has a measureable impact. Law-enforcement organizations regularly invest in technologies that don't make us any safer. The TSA, for example, could devote an entire museum to expensive but ineffective systems: puffer machines, body scanners, FAST behavioral screening, and so on. Local police departments have been wasting lots of post-9/11 money on unnecessary high-tech weaponry and equipment. The occasional high-profile success aside, police surveillance cameras have been shown to be a largely ineffective police tool.
Sometimes honest mistakes led organizations to invest in these technologies. Sometimes there's self-deception and mismanagement -- and far too often lobbyists are involved. Given the enormous amount of security money post-9/11, you inevitably end up with an enormous amount of waste. Transparency and accountability are how we keep all of this in check.
Second, we need to ensure that law enforcement does what we expect it to do and nothing more. Police powers are invariably abused. Mission creep is inevitable, and it results in laws designed to combat one particular type of crime being used for an ever-widening array of crimes. Transparency is the only way we have of knowing when this is going on.
Larry Lessig presented at TED his new project, an effort to curb the corrupting influence of money in American politics with a reform to campaign finance, so that the government depends on the people alone. It's a wonderful talk:
There is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens. That's the argument at the core of this blistering talk by legal scholar Lawrence Lessig. With rapid-fire visuals, he shows how the funding process weakens the Republic in the most fundamental way, and issues a rallying bipartisan cry that will resonate with many in the U.S. and beyond.
A reader writes,
GovernmentAttic.org, a noncommercial independent website, announces the publication of thousands of important government documents obtained through proper channels using public records access laws such as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Government Attic includes fascinating historical documents, oddities and fun stuff about government programs, and government "bloopers". Browsing the site is like rummaging through the Government's Attic -- hence the name.
Among the notable holdings:
- Tens of thousands of pages of FBI files on important events and famous people;
- Weird items seized by customs inspectors at airports;
- A listing of movies, books and TV shows available on the International Space Station;
- Air Defense System audio recordings of the events on 9/11;
- Lists of investigations performed by dozens of agency Inspectors General;
- Internal newsletters from the National Security Agency;
- Complaints to the FCC about various television series, including The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, and Law & Order; and
- Documents from most federal agencies, including those with responsibilities in law enforcement, intelligence, and national defense.
One of Aaron Swartz's more epic hacks was the liberation of $1.5M worth of caselaw from PACER, the US government's proprietary court-records database, pushing them into RECAP, the free/open alternative that gives everyone access to American law.
The Think Computer Foundation produced a set of grants in Aaron's memory to accomplish a pair of long-sought features to RECAP, and they've announced that these features have been added:
Ka-Ping Yee, a Canadian software developer living in Northern California, has created a version of RECAP for Google’s Chrome browser. This gives RECAP a much larger base of potential users. Previously, RECAP had only been available for the Mozilla Firefox browser. The RECAP Chrome extension can be downloaded at recapthelaw.org.
Filippo Valsorda and Alessio Palmero Aprosio, both from Italy, have improved RECAP to support the version of PACER used by the U.S. appellate courts. This new functionality helps to dramatically expand the scope of citizens’ free access to United States case law. This improved Firefox version of the extension is also available at recapthelaw.org, and appellate functionality will be available soon for Chrome as well.
These awards recognize work that furthers Swartz’s ideals of information freedom and openness. The remaining grant involves visualizing data available on Think Computer Foundation’s PlainSite web site (the deadline for which has been extended to May 31, 2013 as work on PlainSite continues).
Today, I was luck enough to get another one of rogue archivist Carl Malamud's boxes of awesome. It's a copy of the municipal codes of DC, which are laws that you're required to follow, but aren't allowed to see without paying. As with the last time I got one of these packages, it's because Carl has scanned and OCR'ed and cleaned up these codes, and has now published them for all to see. Here's the unboxing pics.
PROCLAMATION OF DIGITIZATION
“No Codification Without Promulgation”
WHEREAS, the District of Columbia has published the OFFICIAL CODE, containing the laws, general and permanent in their nature, relating to or in force in the District of Columbia; and
WHEREAS, the OFFICIAL CODE is only available for purchase for $803.00, plus tax and shipping, from the designated official publisher, the West Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Thomson Reuters Corporation, a foreign corporation; and
WHEREAS, the OFFICIAL CODE contains a prominent notice that the material is “COPYRIGHT 2001 by the District of Columbia” and “All Rights Are Reserved”; and
WHEREAS, in a nation governed by the rule of law and founded on the principles of freedom of expression, due process, and equal protection, people must have the right to freely read, know, and speak the laws by which we as a people choose to govern ourselves; and
WHEREAS, the Supreme Court of the United States has unequivocally ruled that the law cannot be subject to copyright in Wheaton v. Peters (33 U.S. 591, 1834), when the Court unanimously held that “no reporter has or can have any copyright in the written opinions delivered” by the Court; and
WHEREAS, the Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly reaffirmed this principle, stating for example in Banks v. Manchester (128 U.S. 244, 1888) that “the authentic exposition and interpretation of the law, which, binding every citizen, is free for publication to all, whether it is a declaration of unwritten law, or an interpretation of a constitution or a statute”; and
WHEREAS, the United States Copyright Office has unequivocally stated “Edicts of government, such as judicial opinions, administrative rulings, legislative enactments, public ordinances, and similar official legal documents are not copyrightable for reasons of public policy. This applies to such works whether they are Federal, State, or local as well as to those of foreign governments.”
THEREFORE, it is hereby proclaimed by this notice that any assertion of copyright by the District of Columbia or other parties on the District of Columbia Code is declared to be NULL AND VOID as a matter of law and public policy as it is the right of every person to read, know, and speak the laws that bind them.
By the People and For the People on March 25, 2013
The idea of forcing Congresscritters to wear NASCAR-style coveralls with the logos of their financial backers has been bandied about before, but here it is in official White House petition form.
Since most politicians' campaigns are largely funded by wealthy companies and individuals, it would give voters a better sense of who the candidate they are voting for is actually representing if the company's logo, or individual's name, was prominently displayed upon the candidate's clothing at all public appearances and campaign events. Once elected, the candidate would be required to continue to wear those "sponsor's" names during all official duties and visits to constituents. The size of a logo or name would vary with the size of a donation. For example, a $1 million dollar contribution would warrant a patch of about 4" by 8" on the chest, while a free meal from a lobbyist would be represented by a quarter-sized button. Individual donations under $1000 are exempt.
As funny as this is, it would be easy-ish to turn this into a browser plugin that looked for politicians' names in the pages you looked at, and automatically surrounded them with a semi-opaque halo of corporate logos that you could click on to see more.
HINKLEY, CALIFORNIA—We all love a neat, tidy Hollywood ending to a David and Goliath story. Sadly, in the real world, they are hard to come by. More often than not, the little guy might win a battle, but Goliath prevails over the long haul -- winning the war.
Before I went to Hinkley, I did, of course, watch the movie once again. As it turns out, Erin Brockovich is accurate in many respects.
You might remember the woman who gets a big check at the end of the movie after the down-on-her-luck, crusading legal assistant has brought a giant utility to its knees for polluting the groundwater beneath the tiny desert town half way between L.A. and Las Vegas.
In the movie, she was known as Donna Jensen (and played by Marg Helgenberger). There is no real-life Donna Jensen -- the details of her story are a composite of several real-life travails. Read the rest
Read the rest
Various politicians -- MPs and former MPs from Iceland and Tunisia, two Pirate Party MEPs from Sweden -- have nominated Bradley Manning for the Nobel Peace Prize. Anyone can nominate anyone else for the prize, but this is a particularly good one, especially given the torture Manning faced for his brave efforts, and the ongoing persecution he is experiencing. As the nominating letter points out, Obama has already publicly announced his belief that Manning is guilty, which makes rather a mockery of a fair trial.
Manning is a soldier in the United States army who stands accused of releasing hundreds of thousands of documents to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. The leaked documents pointed to a long history of corruption, war crimes, and a lack of respect for the sovereignty of other democratic nations by the United States government in international dealings.
These revelations have fueled democratic uprisings around the world, including a democratic revolution in Tunisia. According to journalists, his alleged actions helped motivate the democratic Arab Spring movements, shed light on secret corporate influence on the foreign and domestic policies of European nations, and most recently contributed to the Obama Administration agreeing to withdraw all U.S.troops from the occupation in Iraq.
Bradley Manning has been incarcerated for more then 1000 days by the U.S. Government. He spent over ten months of that time period in solitary confinement, conditions which expert worldwide have criticized as torturous. Juan Mendez, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, has repeatedly requested and been denied a private meeting with Manning to assess his conditions.
The judge, Col. Denise Lind, asked the prosecutors a brief but revealing question: Would you have pressed the same charges if Manning had given the documents not to WikiLeaks but directly to the New York Times?
The prosecutor’s answer was simple: 'Yes Ma'am.' The question was crisp and meaningful, not courtroom banter. The answer, in turn, was dead serious. I should know. I was the expert witness whose prospective testimony they were debating.
That "Yes ma'am," argues Benkler, makes Manning's prosecution "a clear and present danger to journalism in the national security arena." Read the rest.
Manning entered a not guilty plea to the government's more serious charge of "aiding the enemy," which carries a possible maximum sentence of life in prison. In a statement before the military court today, Manning said he leaked the classified information to "spark a domestic debate."
Ed Pilkington at the Guardian reports Manning first contacted the Washington Post about providing them with some of the classified material while he was on leave in January 2010; the the woman who answered the phone said the "paper would only be interested [in the documents] subjected to vetting by senior editors."