by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 25th 2011 11:31am
from the attack-on-leakers dept
In one such case, against former NSA employee Thomas Drake (accused of leaking NSA info to the press), the feds are now trying to falsely claim that unclassified documents are classified -- which is actually a key point in the legal fight. Slashdot points us to the latest news in which Drake's lawyers submitted some evidence to the court concerning how the NSA classifies documents. Drake's team is arguing that nothing he had in his home or which was sent to the press was "classified," and that the NSA is falsely claiming unclassified works were classified. So here's the issue: the feds asked to court to seal the exhibits, claiming they were classified:
"As grounds [for sealing the records], the information contained within the exhibits derives from NSA. As the holder of the privilege for this information, NSA has classified the documents as 'FOUO', which means 'For Official Use Only.' This means that the information is not for public dissemination. Until such time as NSA downgrades the information to 'Unclassified,' the exhibits should not be publicly filed,"And, as seems to happen all too often, the judge immediately agreed, sealing the "official use only" filings. Except, here's the thing, contrary to the statement above, "FOUO" documents are, by definition, not classified. As the report linked above points out, under DoD regulation 5200.1-R (pdf) "By definition, information must be unclassified in order to be designated FOUO."
In fact, one "sealed" document, which is still available (pdf) on the Federation of American Scientists web site, quite clearly shows that the document itself is marked unclassified:
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 28th 2011 11:46am
from the going-too-far dept
The latest is the report that came out late last week that the government, in going after leakers, got access to reporter James Risen's phone records, bank details and credit card statements. As the report notes, this is pretty extreme:
Although there have been other public controversies over subpoenas -- real and threatened -- to reporters in recent years, there have been few, if any, cases in which it has been documented that federal prosecutors obtained the bank records and credit reports of journalists.It's not entirely clear if all of these activities took place under the Obama administration or previous administrations, but multiple people quoted in the article say this kind of activity has been much more common in the Obama Justice Department. For a President who has positioned himself as being a big supporter of press freedoms, this looks really hypocritical. Spying on reporters is bad. As the report notes, Risen was subpoenaed directly twice, but both times a judge reasonably quashed the subpoenas. So, for the administration to basically go around all that and get records from others is pretty bad.
Tue, Feb 22nd 2011 12:45pm
from the baby-steps,-baby-steps,-baby-steps dept
Leaks happen. They just do. They're unfortunate, they're rarely complete products, and it's understandable that a content producer would be less than thrilled about it. But they happen. Time and time again, we witness examples of content companies losing their minds over these leaks, whether it's Ubisoft murdering their reputation by reacting to leaks with ineffective DRM, or Fox taking a long hard look at how the leaked version of Wolverine did nothing to stymie huge box office returns and therefore decided to get the FBI involved to arrest the leaker. It seems that when these leaks happen, the reaction is emotional rather than cognitive.
Enter Crytek, developer of the immensely anticipated Crysis 2 game. As was seemingly inevitable, Edge was among others that reported the game was leaked. And not just some early build of the game either, but rather both versions (the 3D version and the non-3D version) were made available via torrent sites. The download included the full games (requiring nearly a full blu-ray disk's worth of storage for the 3D version), online capability, and even the DRM signing keys.
So, we all know what the reaction was coming from Crytek execs, right? Piracy killed them, left them bleeding in a gutter, the victim of a violent crime. The sky is falling. The action allowed a wormhole to open up and demons are now killing our women and children. Puppies everywhere keeled over dead. America has fallen to the terrorists/communists/atheists/robots/Satan/etc. Corn farmers everywhere are committing mass ritual suicide, knowing that they'll never earn a livable wage. Right?
Turns out, not so much. Harken back to what Mike suggested about how Fox should have responded to the Wolverine leak:
"Hey Wolverine fans! We know that you're all looking forward to the release of the movie next month. We're excited too! By now you may have heard that an early totally unfinished version has been leaked online. It's missing a whole bunch of stuff -- including some amazing special effects -- and honestly, this version isn't a finished product at all. We think you'll get a much better overall experience by waiting for the full finished product, but we certainly understand that some of you just can't wait (trust us, we feel the same way!). If that's the case, please, feel free to check it out, but please remember that this isn't even close to the final version. If anything, think of this as a "behind-the-scenes" peek of just what a movie looks like before all the real "movie magic" gets put in there. If you do check it out, we hope you'll join us May 1st to check out the finalized version as well on the big screen the way we intended for you to see this awesome movie. It's just a month away!"
In this case, Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli actually did make a similarly reasonable address to the company's fans on the Crysis 2 forums:
"Despite this unfortunate incident, we can assure you that PC gaming is very important to us and will always be important to Crytek in the future. We are all still focused on delivering a great gaming experience to our true and honest fans. I hope you will enjoy Crysis 2 on PC, as we think it is our best PC game yet!"
Huh. You know what, that actually sounds eerily similar to Mike's suggestion. Maybe not quite so optimistic and glowing, but pretty damn close. And I think this message is perfect. Tell the fans that, while you don't approve of what happened, they're still important to you, you're going to create for their PC gaming needs, and even throw in a comment about rewarding their dedication as real, paying fans. Perfect. And judging by the response from the company's fans in the comments section of the forum, his notes are ringing true with them.
So cheers to you, Cevat. You could have gone crazy and reacted emotionally, but you didn't. You made a reasoned statement. While it's sad that such level-headedness is rare enough to deserve note, I salute you nonetheless.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Feb 10th 2011 6:21am
Leaked HBGary Documents Show Plan To Spread Wikileaks Propaganda For BofA... And 'Attack' Glenn Greenwald
from the this-is-like-out-of-a-bad-movie dept
Once again, as I've said before, I really don't think this is a good idea. The potential backlash can be severe and these kinds of attacks can create the opposite long-term incentives that the folks involved think they're creating. It also gets people a lot more focused on the method rather than the message and that seems unfortunate.
Still, the leaked emails are turning up some gems, with a key one being that Bank of America (widely discussed as Wikileaks' next target) had apparently been talking to HBGary Federal about how to disrupt Wikileaks. That link, from The Tech Herald, includes tons of details. The full proposal (embedded below) feels like something straight out of a (really, really bad) Hollywood script.
It appears that the law firm BofA was using as a part of its Wikileaks crisis response task force, Hunton and Williams, had reached out to firms asking for research and a plan against Wikileaks. HBGary Federal, along with Palantir Technologies and Berico Technologies put together their pitch. According to the emails discussing this, the firms tried to come up with a plan as to how they could somehow disrupt Wikileaks , see if there was a way to sue Wikileaks and get an injunction against releasing the data.
There are two key slides in the presentation. The first is a totally bizarre plan of attack on Salon journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has been an outspoken supporter of Wikileaks. However, these three companies seem to think that they can pressure him to give up supporting Wikileaks in this case and that will somehow solve a big part of the issue.
Later on in the presentation is the plan to further disrupt Wikileaks, which is basically to create a propaganda campaign around the organization -- as if the press wasn't doing that already. They also have the idea to upload bogus info to Wikileaks, hope the bogus info gets released and then discredit Wikileaks by showing that it publishes bogus info.
It's not known whether or not BofA actually agreed to this proposal (or ever actually knew about it), though apparently HBGary Federal employees were hopeful they'd get the deal to provide these services. If so, going on to blab in the press about infiltrating Anonymous probably wasn't the best way of keeping out of the spotlight on these issues...
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 27th 2011 12:05pm
from the complex-actors-in-complex-situations dept
Keller's final suggestion that Wikileaks' impact has been "overblown" is belied somewhat by the fact that Keller just spilled so much ink on the background of the paper's association (and subsequent blacklisting) with the organization. There are other points that could be nitpicked, but it's not surprising that Keller seeks to position the NY Times in the best possible light, and perhaps minimize the contributions of Wikileaks itself. But, just the fact that the NYT's is now considering its own Wikileaks, shows that the idea certainly has changed the way many people think about this aspect of reporting.
I'd argue -- as some others have -- that the impact of Wikileaks has actually been both over- and under-estimated. And part of the problem is that so many people are quick to conflate the idea of such an organization with the single organization itself (or worse, with a single person in the form of an easily dislikable Julian Assange). But it's a mistake to think that just because the particular organization itself is flawed, that its existence and what it's accomplished so far won't have profound effects on secrecy in organizations (government and corporate), the practice of journalism itself (which has suddenly gotten a hint of what's possible), and the idea of distributed or "stateless" organizations as enablers of information flow. It's that last point that I think many are ignoring, and that will later prove to be a mistake.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 27th 2011 1:14am
from the catching-up dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 11th 2011 10:00pm
from the connecting-with-fans dept
So, Sunday night Dallas radio station KDGE played "Smarter". The song was apparently ripped from @AdvClub podcast and by yesterday it was everywhere as if we'd made available a new free track for download haHa:@observerdallas http://bit.ly/hpU84h, @ABSOLUTEPUNK http://bit.ly/hpU84h, @altpress http://bit.ly/hnarVS and others including our fan site:http://bit.ly/gvZNA1, who said, "sorry, we were too excited. We had to post it". We laughed.Nice to see more bands recognizing this is a marketing opportunity, rather than "theft." Of course, it would have been a stronger response if they actually offered a download of the song, rather than a highly limited streaming version. But it's better than nothing... Update: Aha. After putting up the streaming version, they also put up a free downloadable version of the MP3 according to folks in the comments. Very nicely done.
We never intended that to happen but honestly don't care. It's sorta awesome actually. We appreciate any social site who loves us so... yeah.
Anyway, our label was like, "oh well when you get a lemon, make lemon juice; so should we, at least, stream the quality version on your fb page?". (us: "Yup").
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jan 5th 2011 8:03am
from the not-quite-getting-it-yet dept
Of course, the main thrust of the document isn't to question whether or not so much secrecy is really necessary, but to send out a memo to various government agencies suggesting they use psychiatrists and sociologists to sniff out workers who might be disgruntled (full memo embedded below). Among a variety of (pretty unsurprising) suggestions for keeping confidential information confidential, the checklist of things that organizations are supposed to do includes:
- Do you use psychiatrist and sociologist to measure:
- Relative happiness as a means to gauge trustworthiness?
- Despondence and grumpiness as a means to gauge waning trustworthiness?
Not that it's a bad thing to try to figure out if there are disgruntled workers or to make sure secure systems really are secure. I'm all for that. I just think it's a bit naive to think any of this will actually prevent future leaks. You just need one person to get the info out, and there's always someone and always a way to do so -- as demonstrated by the fact that this document itself "leaked" so quickly. It seems a better situation would be to focus on making sure that any damage from such leaks is minimal.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Nov 12th 2010 2:37am