Laura Poitras speaks!

The notoriously publicity-shy documentarian is making the rounds promoting her Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour (see my review here) and she appeared on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart makes the same point that I did, that the picture of Snowden that was painted by his early critics has no resemblance to the person seen in the film and that he seems to an earnest, idealistic young man who realized that he had information the people needed to know and was willing to take the risk to tell them. Poitras thinks that history will vindicate Snowden like it has with Daniel Ellsberg
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What the defeat of the NSA ‘reform’ bill means

Last evening the US Senate failed to break a filibuster of the “USA Freedom Act”, the now-common grandiose patriotic name given to legislation that usually signals the opposite of what its intent is. This was supposed to reform the abuses of the intelligence agencies that have been revealed by Edward Snowden and it did tinker with it at the edges but the fact that the bill was supported by the Obama administration should be a good clue that it was pretty much a toothless tiger.
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In praise of whistleblowers

Back in 1981, the US Justice Department did an inquiry into possible criminal activities of the National Security Agency, which in those long-before-Snowden days was a little known agency. Veteran investigative reporter James Bamford, now writing for The Intercept, got from a whistleblower one of the only two copies of the report and describes how he had to fend off all attempts by them to prevent him from publishing it. They failed, partly because at that time the Justice Department was not as subservient to the national security state as it has since become.
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Second whistleblower identified?

When reports emerged back in August that there was at least one other whistleblower, motivated by Edward Snowden’s actions, who was revealing secrets to the investigative team at The Intercept that has broken most of the stories, I was sure that the government would put all its resources into identify and throw the book at them. I was surprised that so much time had passed without this happening, given the extensive nature of their surveillance apparatus.
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What your metadata reveals about you

With a great deal of nervousness, Ton Siedsma agreed to an experiment. He would load an app on his smartphone that would send all its activity metadata for one week to Dimitri Tokmetzis who works on datajournalism projects and who would in turn forward it to the iMinds research team of Ghent University and Mike Moolenaar, owner of Risk and Security Experts. All three would analyze the metadata to see what they could learn about Siedsma.

The amount they learned was shocking.
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Encryption going mainstream

In an extremely important and positive development triggered by Edward Snowden, Yahoo announces that like Google they will begin to encrypt email. It was clear that the only way that government spying could be thwarted is if the big companies started including sophisticated encryption methods into their software and made it easy to use, because ordinary people would be too intimidated by what is required to do so on their own. We cannot depend upon Congress to rein the NSA in.
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