Industry Professor of Information Technology and Management at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Retired Naval Officer with 3500 flight hours and over 600 helicopter small-deck landings at sea.
Because of USC 17 Circular 92 Section 105, works prepared by employees of the U.S. Government are in the public domain. When I was the Admin Officer & Information Systems Officer for a large Navy training squadron back in the 80s, the Naval Air Rework Facility in San Diego opened a software shop. They were handing out disks with maintenance management and flight scheduling software at an event on the base as a "free trial", with the caveat that we'd have to pay them if we kept using it. I told them we'd use it if it was any good, but we wouldn't pay them. They told me we had too, that they couldn't produce the software if units didn't pay. I asked if they were all civil service folks writing the code and they said yes, and I pointed out to them that by Federal law, every line of code they wrote was in the public domain. They were a bit taken aback by this as I guess it hadn't occurred to them that this was the case, and finally they came back with "Well, if you don't pay you won't get any support!" To which I replied, "Well if your software and documentation are any good, we won't need any!"
Currently most HTTPS Federal web sites use self-signed certificates, which causes browsers to label them as unsafe. I see no issues with the U.S. Government registering as a Certificate Authority (CA), but until they either do that or purchase certificates from registered CAs, this move will actually weaken consumer security by encouraging them to overrule what otherwise is a very sensible warning and limitation.
...but in the Public Domain. "A work prepared by an officer or employee" of the federal government "as part of that person's official duties," under section 105 of the Copyright Act, is not entitled to domestic copyright protection under U.S. law, placing it in the public domain. So all code written by Federal employees as part of their job is in the public domain, even better than Open Source.
Pardon me, but isn't getting up and walking out of a Congressional hearing contempt of Congress? Last time I checked, this was a crime. Any bets on no charges ever being filed? If I were the chair do the committee, I sure as hell would be filing charges...
It's my understanding that ever since the U.S. Navy has had the ability to deliver nuclear weapons from ships, or from aircraft on the ships, the only allowable response to inquiries as to whether or not U.S.S. Whatever is carrying nuclear weapons is "I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons aboard U.S.S. Whatever." That certainly was the case during my entire Navy career.
The stance of the NY Public Library is interesting. As I understand the law, having physical possession of an item in the public domain give you no rights or control over reproduction of that item. A photograph of a painting that is in the public domain, if only the painting itself is displayed is in the public domain and no amount of claims of copyright or "physical rights" can change that fact. The only way the NY Public Library can legally prevent reproduction of an item in the public domain is to refuse to make it available for reproduction, which sort of defeats the purpose of a library. I think I'm going to go copy a bunch of images of public domain material from their website and post them on my blog just to make this point.
While the argument can be made that it is a shaky interpretation of the law, the only property-type rights to digital data--which all of the Snowden documents are--is copyright, and guess what? None of these documents so far are copyrighted, as (at least all I have seen) have been produced by employees of the U.S. Government acting in an official capacity which are, by law, in the public domain. They may be classified, but they're still in the public domain. You can't steal a virtual copy of something in the public domain. Were it a printed copy, Rogers would have an argument, but not for a digital copy. Once again, thanks to the efforts of our 'buddies' at RIAA and MPAA, someone conflates making a copy of a digital object with theft.
When I was deployed as the Air Department Operations Officer aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Indian Ocean in the early 80's, I used the French Navy's daily intelligence summary for my mission planning, because I only had a Secret clearance. The U.S. Navy intelligence summary was Top Secret, not because the information in it was much different from the French report, but because of the methods used to collect the intelligence--mostly advanced electronic intelligence, or ELINT, tools. So it was more important to protect the sources of the material than it was to get the material to the people who needed it to do their jobs. It sometimes seems that nothing ever changes in the DOD.
In all my years as a Classified Material Custodian and as a Security Manager in the Navy it was pounded into me that having a particular clearance level does not give you access to material classified at that level, i.e. having a Top Secret clearance does not give you access to ANY Top Secret material. You must also have a NEED TO KNOW, as defined by whoever is authorized to grant access. Both Snowdon and Bradley Manning clearly had access to huge volumes of material through networked infrastructure that they had NO Need to Know. Why in the world would a PFC in the Army have access to terabytes of classified State Department documents? Both of these instances clearly represent a complete breakdown in the military's ability to enforce THEIR OWN RULES regarding access based on Need to Know. There is a huge oversight issue in the design and construction of information systems that clearly cannot ensure proper segregation of data with access based on proper criteria.
The Librarian of Congress does not work for the President and IS NOT part of the Executive Branch. The President appoints the Librarian of Congress but the Library is a part of the Legislative Branch and always has been; their budget is not a part of the budget proposed to Congress by the President but rather are submitted as Congressional Budget Justifications directly to the Congressional Appropriations Subcommittee for the Legislative Branch. The Librarian is responsible to the Congressional Joint Committee on the Library.