Watch Thy Neighbor To prevent whistleblowing, U.S. intelligence agencies are instructing staff to spy on their colleagues. BY JAMES BAMFORD MARCH 11, 2016
Obama’s SXSW appearance included the president’s stupidest-ever remarks on cryptography: he characterized cryptographers’ insistence that there is no way to make working cryptography that stops working when the government needs it to as “phone fetishizing,” as opposed to, you know, reality.
In a rhetorical move that he would have flunked his U Chicago law students for, Obama described a landscape with two edges: “Strong crypto” and “No crypto” and declared that in the middle was a reasonable territory in which crypto could strong sometimes and disappear the rest of the time.
This is like the territory in which you are “Pregnant” or “Not pregnant” where, in between, you are “a little bit pregnant” (or, of course, like “Vaccinations are safe,” vs “Vaccinations cause autism” whose middle ground is “Vaccinations are safe, but just to be sure, let’s not give ‘too many’ at once, because reasons, and nevermind that this will drastically increase cost and complexity and reduce compliance”).
Obama conflated cryptographers’ insistence that his plan was technically impossible with the position that government should never be able to serve court orders on its citizens. This math denialism, the alternative medicine of information security.
He focused his argument on the desirability of having crypto that worked in this impossible way, another cheap rhetorical trick. Wanting it badly isn’t enough.
If decades of attending SXSW (I leave for the airport in 30 minutes!) has taught me anything, it’s that someone will be selling or giving away “phone fetishist” tees with PGP sourcecode on one side and a magic pony on the other before the week is out.
NSA data to be available for general LEO use
Surprise! NSA data will soon routinely be used for domestic policing that has nothing to do with terrorism By Radley Balko March 10
The US Air Force now has two fully operational cyberspace weapon systems
WhatsApp Encryption Said to Stymie Wiretap Order – Matt Apuzzo
WASHINGTON — While the Justice Department wages a public fight with Apple over access to a locked iPhone, government officials are privately debating how to resolve a prolonged standoff with another technology company, WhatsApp, over access to its popular instant messaging application, officials and others involved in the case said.
No decision has been made, but a court fight with WhatsApp, the world’s largest mobile messaging service, would open a new front in the Obama administration’s dispute with Silicon Valley over encryption, security and privacy.
WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, allows customers to send messages and make phone calls over the Internet. In the last year, the company has been adding encryption to those conversations, making it impossible for the Justice Department to read or eavesdrop, even with a judge’s wiretap order.
As recently as this past week, officials said, the Justice Department was discussing how to proceed in a continuing criminal investigation in which a federal judge had approved a wiretap, but investigators were stymied by WhatsApp’s encryption.
The Justice Department and WhatsApp declined to comment. The government officials and others who discussed the dispute did so on condition of anonymity because the wiretap order and all the information associated with it were under seal. The nature of the case was not clear, except that officials said it was not a terrorism investigation. The location of the investigation was also unclear.
To understand the battle lines, consider this imperfect analogy from the predigital world: If the Apple dispute is akin to whether the F.B.I. can unlock your front door and search your house, the issue with WhatsApp is whether it can listen to your phone calls. In the era of encryption, neither question has a clear answer.
Some investigators view the WhatsApp issue as even more significant than the one over locked phones because it goes to the heart of the future of wiretapping. They say the Justice Department should ask a judge to force WhatsApp to help the government get information that has been encrypted. Others are reluctant to escalate the dispute, particularly with senators saying they will soon introduce legislation to help the government get data in a format it can read.
Roger Bohn ~My favorite sentence is”Overall, this move is part of the long-term trend toward redistribution of profits from “labor” to “capital” — the subject of Thomas Pickety’s recent book.
My explanation: This is a continuation of a decades-long pattern, starting IIRC with DEC having an entire building of programmers in India, and a dedicated satellite dish on the roof. IBM has long viewed itself as an international company, not American in particular, so this is not new in any way.
The value for IBM is probably two-fold. First, IBM’s fastest growing markets will be in the BRICs and similar places. (Brazil, Russia[no longer],India, China). So shifting its employment in those directions is logical.
More important, IBM has essentially perfected the model of international sourcing of consulting, IT services, programming, and the rest of its businesses. So it can pursue low cost skilled labor almost anywhere. Poor “business climate” in many other countries, including India, is still relevant, but are less important for companies that are not locally buying, selling, transporting, paying tariffs, etc. In other words, IT services.
There certainly are countermeasures available to the US, but many of them are long term (better education, better infrastructure, taxes, etc.) and beyond the ability of the current US political system. Quality of the work force is very important, and IMO many manufacturing companies were seduced by low hourly wage rates that did not account for differences in effectiveness of workers in different countries. But that’s probably no longer an issue for IBM, which must have very good data on differences in productivity.
Overall, this move is part of the long-term trend toward redistribution of profits from “labor” to “capital” — the subject of Thomas Pickety’s recent book.
Prof. Roger Bohn
Associate Dean, School of Global Policy and Strategy
UC San Diego